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An Incomprehensible Enchantment

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

 

I see it every day. Men and women completely absorbed by the daily grind, their focus squarely on the here and now (or at least the relatively close and relatively soon.)  Completely awake, yet completely asleep in a seemingly amazing dream-world

In fact, I see it when I look in the mirror.

Why do I get so consumed with stuff, experiences, moments that are not going to last? This is not an uncommon thing. In fact, it’s a reality. Pascal captured it well:

Nothing is so important to man as his own state, nothing is so formidable to him as eternity; and thus it is not natural that there should be men indifferent to the loss of their existence, and to the perils of everlasting suffering. They are quite different with regard to all other things. They are afraid of mere trifles; they foresee them; they feel them. And this same man who spends so many days and nights in rage and despair for the loss of office, or for some imaginary insult to his honor, is the very one who knows without anxiety and without emotion that he will lose all by death. It is a monstrous thing to see in the same heart and at the same time this sensibility to trifles and this strange insensibility to the greatest objects. It is an incomprehensible enchantment, and a supernatural slumber, which indicates as its cause an all-powerful force.

What a powerful and prophetic message from Blaise Pascal.  I find great comfort knowing this realization is not new.  It tells me humanity is at war.  We are afraid “of mere trifles,” and we battle that fear daily.

 

Yet we lose all in death.

 

Why then do we strive for honor, possessions, title, social or economic status?

Because we’ve been told a lie. And that lie comes to us in multiple forms.

Form One: The world tells us we come from dirt, evolved from primordial goo, and we believe it. If we come from dirt, and return to the dirt (or to dust if cremated), is there a better way to live other than grabbing as much as possible? If that was my focus (grab it all), then I’d be completely consumed by both grabbing it and then holding onto it!

Form Two: It’s not just the world… it’s a “supernatural slumber” as Pascal defined it. There is a supernatural distraction from the eternal. If the idea of an eternal existence (that we are more than dirt and we will not go back to dirt or dust) is completely nullified, then I will just go on believing lie in Form One.  Form Two is much deeper. It cuts to our core beliefs, our worldview.

I believe we are created beings, with an intelligent creator. I believe we have a common enemy, an enemy that betrayed the creator and now seeks to distance us from our creator. The enemy’s goal is to hurt the creator, and he can do that by eliminating even the most remote consideration that we are created beings.

These three questions will reveal much about what you believe:

  1. Am I a created being?
  2. Am I meant for an eternal existence?
  3. Could there be an adversarial force bent on negating the very questions I just considered?

If you’ve remotely considered the above three questions, you might be asking yourself “what if the answer is yes?” That is a troubling question, indeed.  If the answer is yes, so what? The so what only leads me to more questions:

  • If I am a created being, I wonder if the creator is good.
  • If I am an eternal being, I wonder if eternity is a good thing. (Or, at least, what does it offer in comparison to here and now?)
  • If there is an adversarial force, why would that force be so bent on my focus on the here and now?

Form Three: This world is better than the eternal one. Growing up in the world of super Western Christianity (Midwest United States farming community), a few things are fueling this agreement. The primary fuel is comfort. In the West we have so much wealth, so much comfort, so much prosperity.

I don’t mean everyone is Beverly Hillbillies rich, I just mean we are quite comfortable compared to the majority of the world. You’ve heard that famed holiday shopping season saying “what do you get someone who already has everything?” That saying is the quintessential dilemma in large pockets of Western Christianity. When we have so much that we need nothing else, why would we care about the promise of eternity?

Ask these same questions to someone who doesn’t have much and you’ll find the promise is life-changing. There is a belief that this life has nothing on the coming eternal life. If you believe in a creator, one capable of creating you and everything around you, including the most brilliant and amazing moments, places, and people you’ve experienced, would it be far-fetched to believe something greater could be available in a non-temporal world? Yes! It would be illogical to conclude otherwise. And when we do conclude otherwise, the enchantment is, well incomprehensible!

Lean In

Lean into this question:

Why do I strive for honor, possessions, title, social or economic status?

Push and Pray Through

Push through the answer. As I pushed through, I had to develop a simple prayer: “God, help me wake up from this supernatural slumber.” Waking up is certainly eye-opening. (This reminds me of the scene from The Matrix when Neo is first freed into the real world.)

I don’t want to  be a slave to the enchantment. No. I want to be fully focused on things that matter most, cognizant of their temporal value while aware of their eternal significance.

I hope you are awakened!

What is wrong with this picture Staples?

 

staples-diversification

What is wrong with this picture Staples?

I just saw this add on Pandora and could not resist. I literally did a double-take. “Why in the world did they put a sprayer attachment in their logo?” was an immediate question that ran through my head. Since when does Staples offer gardening tools? Aren’t you violating your own brand?

This is an example of diversification. In my estimate, in a bad way. I would never expect to find “sprayers” at an office supply store. Not even from their website. For example, here are the results from the search term sprayer:

staples-60-sprayers-found

I personally champion distinction and specialization. In a world of way too much information, and way too many “you-are-a-consumer-so-consume-more-stuff” messages, I rely on specialization to find what I’m looking for.  When I need everything quickly, I’m going to hit a one-stop-shop like Target or Walmart. Otherwise, for home theater I’m going to The Sound Room, for office supplies I’ll go to an office supply store. When I want garden tools, I go to Lowes or Sears Hardware. Bottom line: I want to shop at a store that specializes in the type of product I want.

Scott McKain is an author who champions distinction. He is an expert who writes, speaks, and consults about creating distinction. One of McKain’s distinction principles smacks Staples in the face:

“The organization that fails to create distinction will fall to its competitors.”

In the end, I believe this move to diversify will hurt Staples. Maybe they will earn a few dollars on purchases beyond paper and pens, sure. But could they have invested the same effort (time, creativity, and funds) towards further creating distinction for their own brand?

How about you?

  • Where have you found a store violating it’s own specialization?
  • How do those extra products or services change your perception?