Friday, March 2, 2012

The Gilded Cult of Us

How's my mental health today?

I am blessed to have a loving, supportive wife that understands me and what I'm going through. She patiently walks beside me and very gently suggests helpful options for me to consider. The bulk of today's blog post was actually part of what I had initially written for yesterday's post. I forwarded my draft to Heidi and asked her to review and critique what I had done because I knew my perspective was off. She quietly and lovingly pointed out that it would be better to split what I had written into 2 posts so that neither message would be diluted or over ridden by the other.

I proudly and confidently boast that my wife is the best!!!

Now, on to my 2nd theme from yesterday's frenzied writing.

Last Friday evening at the 1st annual Soul Sanctuary Monk's Retreat I was struck by one of the first statements made by our Pastor, Gerry Michalski. He said, "Superficiality is the curse of our age."

That statement resonates so clearly with what I have gleaned out of my reading in the past week. There are so many descriptions and examples to be found in current literature, and observed in the world around us.

I came across this quote in a book by Chris Hedges titled Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and The Triumph of Spectacle. (2009)

" Celebrity culture encourages everyone to think of themselves as potential celebrities, as possessing unique if unacknowledged gifts. It is, as Christopher Lasch diagnosed, a culture of narcissism. Faith in ourselves, in a culture of make-believe, is more important than reality. Reality, in fact, is dismissed and shunned as an impediment to success, a form of negativity. (As an aside, I was working as a commission sales rep in the music industry during the economic recession in the early 1980s. I can vividly recall one of my bosses telling everyone that would listen, "Apparently we're in a recession. Our sales guys are refusing to participate in it." I must have really bought into that - I outsold all the other sales staff (scattered in three retail locations) put together.) The New Age mysticism and pop psychology of television personalities, evangelical pastors, along with the array of self-help best-sellers penned by motivational speakers, psychiatrists, and business tycoons, all peddle a fantasy. Reality is condemned in these popular belief systems as the work of Satan, as defeatist, as negativity, or as inhibiting our inner essence and power. Those who question, those who doubt, those who are critical, those who are able to confront reality and who grasp the hollowness of celebrity culture are shunned and condemned for their pessimism. (Maybe there's a label in the DSM-IV that is applicable to them? * Note my sarcasm.) The illusionists who shape our culture and who profit from our incredulity hold up the gilded cult of US. Popular expressions of religious belief, personal empowerment, corporatism, political participation, and self-definition argue that all of us are special, entitled and unique. All of us, by tapping into our inner reserves of personal will and undiscovered talent, by visualizing what we want, can achieve, and deserve to achieve, happiness, fame, and success. This relentless message cuts across ideological lines. This mantra has seeped into every aspect of our lives. We are all entitled to everything.

Wow! I hope I'm one of the shunned and condemned!

 I like to accumulate knowledge - some of which I have difficulty remembering for any length of time. I also absorb a lot of information that isn't of much more practical use than having success in trivia games. Michalski said something else on Friday evening that pierced me - "Knowledge without an exciting relationship with God is BOREDOM".


Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4: 7-8

'Godless myths and old wives tales' sounds eerily similar to celebrity culture and the gilded cult of us.

Last weekend I also heard and read the following:

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22).


Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45)

I choose the reality taught by Jesus rather that the grand illusion so prominent in our culture and society today. It provides me a solid ground to stand on; life giving principles to apply in my day to day activity, relationships, and sense of purpose; and best of all - truth and hope to share with others.

I'll take a pass on the Gilded Cult of Us, thank-you.

When science discovers the center of the universe, 
a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it. 
~ Bernard Baily

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