Monday, April 29, 2013

Spirituality and the Market

The title of this inspirational reflection suggests two different academic disciplines or departments.  On my campus if we were to talk about spirituality and the market, we think Religion Department and the Business Division.  In most cases the two would not be in conversation.  In my own case, however, I have done a great deal of collaborative work with a colleague from the Business world.  It has been productive work and surprising where our joint efforts have made a difference.

I have often said that it is only on college campuses that artificial divisions exist.  Sometimes I think it is unfortunate that we make students choose majors.  And too often, the students operate with the illusion that a particular major leads to specific kinds of jobs.  Of course, there are times when that does seem to be the case.  If a student is an accounting major, then it is true that he or she can probably find a job as an accountant after graduation.  But that does not mean he or she will be an accountant the rest of his or her life.

Surely the time students spend in college should help them prepare for some kinds of careers.  They need to make a living.  Many will have families.  And those like myself know that people need to save some money so that they will be able to take care of themselves when their working career are finished.  But career is just one aspect of life.

I also am clear a major facet of life is figuring out the meaning and purpose of life.  Unless someone figures out a way to make his or her life significant, his or her life will not be healthy or worthy. There are many ways to bring significance to our lives, but we do need something.  Careers may or may not do it.  Families may or may not do it.  I have been fortunate to have both career and family.  While they have been good, I would not say they bring ultimate purpose and significance to my life.

My ultimate significance is tied directly to God or the Holy One.  I have had children and I love them to death.  But I would not say they are my ultimate significance.  I am a child of God and so are my two kids.  There is where my ultimate significance resides.  I have had a role as father of two daughters.  But being a child of God is more than a role. 

Being a child of God is a core identity issue.  It defines me and destines me.  My real job in life is not being a college professor.  My real job is to figure out the deepest meaning of my life as a child of God.  And when I know my deepest identity as such, then the requirement is to live out of that identity in this world God has created.  To know that one is a child of God is to know that one is loved.  And to know that you are loved means that you go into the world to love as God has loved you.  It’s that simple.

All that I have said so far is pretty typical for a guy who spends significant time thinking about and writing about spirituality.  But I also am mired squarely in the culture in which I live.  And in that culture there are always odd things happening and funny things being said.  I love it when one of the odd or funny things happen and give me a chance to relate it to the life of the Spirit as I am trying to live it.
 
Just the other day one of those things happened.  It is a story that comes out of professional football.  Once a year there is a big event in professional football.  Over a three-day period the pro teams draft players out of college.  I know this is of interest only to those serious about the sport.  Perhaps the most fascinating thing to me is the fact that many millionaires are instantly made.  And some of them say dumb things.

For example, the University of Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan was picked by Miami.  He proceeded to announce to the nation, “Overall, I’m a great guy.”  This may be true; I don’t know the guy.  But it is certainly brazen self-promotion. I doubt that this has anything to do with the Spirit.

And then he continued by saying, “I always felt Mother Teresa didn’t sell herself enough.”  This clearly was spiritual or, shall we say, the lack of any spiritual understanding.  Dion Jordan feels the need to market himself---to be self-important.  I am sure Mother Teresa felt no need at all to market herself.  Self-aggrandizement vs. self-surrender.  It could not be more clear.  For Dion it is marketing…a business, selling himself.  For Mother Teresa it is service…spirituality, selling nothing.

I will watch football and endure the marketing.  I will admire Mother Teresa and hope to emulate her to the best of my ability.  And I hope in the process not to become rich and famous.  I would prefer being a saint…one of God’s holy ones.

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