Tag: purpose

Obey God and do as you please

Photo by Anthony Pepitone

Pete Seeger is probably the most influential man whose name you probably have never heard. A social activist of the 1960s, he wrote songs promoting environmentalism, civil rights, the counterculture, and songs opposing the Vietnam War.

He popularized the song, “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, and his song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” became a major hit for the Byrds, and a musical standard for the 1960s.

The song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” was taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes 3 in the King James Bible. The song itself was used as an anthem to call for an end to the Vietnam War, with the final line stating, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” Those who listen to the song can find themselves transported to a peaceful state of mind, relaxing and just enjoying the moment.

The irony of “Turn, Turn, Turn” is that Seeger rejected the Bible as scripture. He did not believe the Bible is God’s word, and he thought much of the book was a collection of folk tales and poetry. In an interview with Paul Zollo, which later appeared in the book, Songwriters on Songwriting, Seeger discussed his views on the Bible:

I don’t read the Bible that often. I leaf through it occasionally and I’m amazed by the foolishness at times and the wisdom at other times. I call it the greatest book of folklore ever given. Not that there isn’t a lot of wisdom in it. You can trace the history of people poetically.

Ironically, Seeger’s biggest hit came by setting music to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3. The idea came after Seeger’s publisher complained that he was unable to sell the protest songs which he was writing. Seeger, a social activist at heart, put the music to the scripture, hoping that the publisher would hear a Top-40 hit, and that the listeners would hear a call for peace.

Further irony is that a song that became an anthem for peace in the 1960s also proclaimed there was a time for war, a time to kill, a time to hate, and a time to cast away stones. Also, there was a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to love and a time to gather stones together.

The opening lines say it all, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Seeger rejected the Bible as God’s word, and as such rejected the one who could put more power into those lyrics than David Crosby or Roger McGuinn ever could.

Ecclesiastes is a popular book among atheists and agnostics because of its seemingly humanistic approach to life. In many places, the book claims that life is empty, and none of man’s works will last for eternity. Therefore, one should simply enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the fruit of his labor. That approach to Ecclesiastes is extremely dangerous, because it plays right into the error that the writer was warning against.

Taken in its context, words of wisdom from a King who wanted his people to live with the enlightenment of the Lord’s wisdom, Ecclesiastes teaches that life outside of God’s presence is empty. It’s pointless. It is temporary and the struggles of life are futile.

The lesson in all this is that God is in control, and there is nothing we can do to add to, or to take away from, the plan that He is working on this Earth. Therefore, we should be content to live with the blessings God has given us, to learn the purpose of the seasons of life we endure, and to obey and reverence God.

Furthermore, we should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all our labor, for it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). While we do that, we should give thanksgiving to God for that gift.

Or as one theologian put it, “Obey God and do as you please.”

Had Seeger understood this concept, he would not only have seen that the wars, conflicts, and times of peace and prosperity served God’s purpose, but he still would have been free to pursue his social agenda of equal rights and preserving God’s creation. Instead, he will be mildly remembered as the man behind a happy little ditty from the 1960s.

God created you with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them. In giving us that purpose, he gave us passion for that purpose and the talent to pursue it. Do not separate your spiritual/church life from your daily life. The whole of your persona was built in when God formed you in the womb.

Blood, Sweat and Tears: The forgotten formula for long-term peace and prosperity in America

17504623_1425582290846774_1723984855442417737_oDuring a segment on my morning drive talk show on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL, Woody Tasch  of the Slow Money Institute and I discussed the perils of the modern American economy which emphasize short-term profit over a long-term vision of growth and development.

While I haven’t learned enough about the Slow Money Institute to offer any kind of endorsement, the premise of his organization falls right in line with a problem I have with the modern way of doing business in America.

Tasch’s organization raises money to offer no-interest loans to small family farms that serve local communities. His vision seeks to move America away from centrally planned agriculture to local farming by sparking a revival through financial aid.

The road will be long, and will require substantial investments of money, time and effort before any return is realized, let alone the realization of his dream. But Tasch realizes that, and forges ahead anyway.

And, without knowing his political or religious views, I wish him well, because I know that if America is truly to become great again, it will need a generation of Taschs to rise up and plant trees beneath whose shade they may never sit.

America overcame all odds to win World War II and become a world superpower. We enjoyed unprecedented prosperity in the 1950s, survived an economic recession in the 1970s, enjoyed more unparalleled prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s, and, thanks to technology, enjoy a convenient, peaceful and prosperous lifestyle never before experienced in the history of man.

This way of life was not won in a single stock market rally. It wasn’t won in a lottery, and while World War II propelled us to superpower status, our success in the 1950s had as much to do with the ground that had been tilled in the progressive era as it did with Eisenhower’s leadership in the war and as President.

The proverb, previously referenced, that a society becomes great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they’ll never sit, was the basis for American culture for more than 300 years. The colonists knew they would never enjoy the blessings of the nation they worked to build, yet they worked to build it anyway.

The revolutionary war soldiers knew that the nation of which they dreamed, where all men are regarded as equal in the sight of God and the law, would never mature in their lifetime, yet they took to the battlefields anyway, losing life and limb at the hands of the British army.

The founding fathers knew that their effort to shape a free and prosperous nation wouldn’t be completed in their lifetimes, yet they worked to create that nation anyway.

Men built farms, businesses, communities, towns and cities, dreaming of the greatness those things would become long after they passed. Fathers left legacies and inheritances to their children. Factories were built. Companies started. New inventions sent to market. Through this great society that arose on the premise of planting trees for the next generation, we saw the industrial and technology revolutions arise, which not only lifted America out of poverty, but much of the world as well.

Today, we enjoy the shade of those trees planted by our forefathers. We stand on the shoulders of giants. However, we have become so accustomed to enjoying prosperity, we’ve forgotten how to build it for the future.

You will rarely find a CEO of a publicly traded company that looks beyond the next quarter’s earnings report. After all, that’s the benchmark by which his performance is measured. The board of directors want to see an increasing stock price, strong earnings reports, and good coverage in the media.

A temporary drop in stock price, earnings, or public perception can be the end of a CEO’s career, even if that temporary downturn could lead to a brighter long-term future for the company. Therefore, few look farther than 3-6 months out. There’s no reward for planting trees for the next generation. In fact, it can be penalized.

It’s not just Wall Street CEO’s. Politicians rarely look past the next election, therefore long-term solutions are never offered. The Interstate Highway system, Civil Rights legislation, Social Security, and Women’s Suffrage would never pass in today’s political climate. In times past, politicians would risk their political careers if they thought it would better the country long-term.

Consumers rarely look beyond the next iPhone, smart screen or automobile. What legacy are we building and leaving for the next generation? Where are the trees we are planting?

We need a new generation to rise up, and we don’t necessarily have to wait for that generation to be born or come of age. The Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Y, or the Millennials can do this. We need a generation to rise up and plant trees for tomorrow, trees under whose shade they may never sit.

The opportunities are there. Wall Street has sucked up the big money in most industries, leaving a vacuum on Main Street that can be filled by the right breed of entrepreneurs. We can build America into a great country. We can do what generations of great Americans did before us.

The question is, are we willing? Are we willing to begin a project that will not be completed in our lifetime? Are we willing to make the sacrifices to benefit the generations to come?

I hope I am.

The Sun Also Rises

ErnestHemingwayPreface: During my college days, I lacked the proper appreciation for the education that was afforded me. Therefore, over the past several months, I have been reading up on the classics that I missed out on by skipping English class. My latest venture has been in the works of Ernest Hemingway.

At first glance, The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, was a pointless novel following the misadventures of Jake Barnes, a World War I veteran working as a foreign correspondent in Paris for a New York paper. His misadventures go from dining in restaurants, to drinking in bars, to having coffee in local cafes, to his fruitless pursuit of the Lady Ashley, (or Brett, as her given name is).

There’s a love interest between Jake and Brett, but due to some undefined injury, Jake cannot consummate a romantic relationship with her. So, he aimlessly eats, drinks, and wanders in Paris, repeatedly coming into contact with Brett, who always seems to be in a relationship with someone she doesn’t love.

Seriously, that is the plot for, like, 75 percent of the book. The day ends, Jake and his “friends” go out to eat, then out to drink, then out for coffee. Then, the next day comes. The same routine ensues, until Jake and his friends take a trip to Spain to go fishing, and then to watch the bull fights in Pamplona.

Upon reaching the end of the book, my first thought was, “What was the point of all that?” Did Hemingway really waste two weeks of my time to tell me a series of bar and fishing stories? I mean, seriously, the book only described my last two years of college.

Perhaps the book was autobiographical. Perhaps Hemingway wrote the book merely to explore his own thoughts, emotions and struggles. Hemingway himself drove an ambulance in World War I, was seriously wounded, and worked as a journalist in Paris. He was a known drinker, carouser, and lover of pleasure.

Perhaps, unlike authors Ayn Rand or Harper Lee, Hemingway was not writing to convey a certain wisdom upon us. Perhaps his writing was a selfish attempt to self-counsel, and to work out his own insanity.

Or, perhaps there was meaning to The Sun Also Rises. Starting with the title.

The Sun Also Rises could be a tongue-and-cheek jab at Jake’s lifestyle of late night drinking and carousing. A lifestyle like that does not witness many sunrises. Usually, the sun is already up, the man begins his day, and continues until long after the sun has set. No doubt Jake saw many sunsets, but not many sunrises. Having witnessed many sunsets, perhaps the title is a reminder to Jake that “the sun also rises.”

Or, perhaps there is more meaning to The Sun Also Rises, and that Hemingway is more covert in conveying his messages to us.

The Sun Also Rises takes place in Paris during the roaring 20s, as young veterans of the first World War seek meaning to life, but wander aimlessly as members of “the lost generation.” Indeed, having won the war, one would expect the 1920s to be a time of great hope and prosperity. And to an extent it was, but after having survived the bloodshed and ensuing famines and plagues of World War I, many wondered, “What’s the point?”

In a time of great hope and prosperity, the lack of meaning and purpose lead many down a road of hopelessness and despair. Though the allies had won the war, the sun was setting on the glory of France and western civilization. Dreams had been shattered during the war. Friends and family lost, lives ruined. The sun was setting.

This was captured in the hopelessness that Jake felt in The Sun Also Rises. He could never marry the woman he truly loved because of what the war had done to him. His abilities were limited, and he was relegated to being a foreign correspondent in Paris. After life in Paris, Jake knew that life would never be the same if he were to return to his hometown in the mid-western United States. His sun was setting.

Yet, through the labyrinth of bars, cafes, restaurants, inns and bullfight arenas, Jake comes to clarify his feelings toward his friends, Brett, and his career. As the novel ends, he begins to find peace in this clarity, thus, “the sun also rises.” In this clarity there was hope, and reason for optimism. His wounds were not miraculously healed, nor had his dreams come true, but there was peace and clarity, and therefore hope. “The sun also rises.”

While The Sun Also Rises is completely devoid of spiritual insight, there is still a lesson to be learned.

Victory and prosperity do not equal happiness. The Sun Also Rises takes place during the prosperity of the 20s in the aftermath of victory in World War I, yet the characters found themselves depressed and hopeless.

Happiness does not come in wealth or achievement. If you cannot be happy now, you will not be happy if you obtain more. Happiness comes in having purpose, and living your life by that purpose. That purpose is found in the Lord, for He was the one who created you with it. Learn this precept, and you will see that the sun also rises.