Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Being Lost and Being Found

It's been almost a month and a half since Malaysian Air Flight 370 disappeared, and it's been interesting to our reaction to this bizarre event which is both mystery and tragedy. For the families of the passengers, there's surely an agonizing numbness and lack of closure it all. Clearly, there is realistically no possibility of the passengers having survived, but without proof positive of wreckage, the glimmer of hope of life still glimmers, arguably unhelpfully. Those left behind are left to not quite mourn and not quite hold out hope. It's a painful place to linger which wrestles between the guilt of losing hope and the foolishness of believing in a miracle.

For the rest of us who watch from a distance, the emotions more likely pivoted from alarm, shock, sadness, curiosity, perplexity and eventually a vague fascination, probably more similar the way we're suckers to slow down and rubberneck in front of a freeway car accident than we'd like to admit. The Daily Show's Jon Stewart hilariously (and rightfully) skewered CNN for it's over-the-top coverage of the missing flight. But can anyone blame CNN? Like any media and advertising-driven outlet, they're out for ratings, which driving up the price at which they can sell their advertising. If people weren't glued to the set watching, CNN wouldn't broadcast it.

So what is the fascination? Part of it can be the aforementioned garden-variety fascination with accidents, either with slice of morose "could it have happened to me?" on the side. I think there's also a bigger thing at play here, and that is the fear of being lost.

When you think of it, being lost is awful. In many ways, it's worse than being hated, disliked or despised, because at least in those cases, you're at least relevant. If you're lost, it can feel almost as if you don't matter. Being lost is terrifying because your safety, your security, even your very sense of direction are all stripped from you. There's a paralyzing helplessness.

I was thinking about this during Easter Weekend, and was buoyed by hope in remembering that at least spiritually, my state of being lost does not overwhelm God's desire and power to find me. This is and should always be a great comfort.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Child-Like Affections

When I went on vacation with my kids a few weeks ago, I found that we enjoyed a lot of things together. That is, we uniformly had strong positive feelings towards restaurants that we ate at and venues which we visited. Given the difference in age, preferences, tastes and life experiences between me and my kids, you might have expected a handful of things which they like which I found boring or vice versa. It never really happened. From the Alamo to the Riverwalk to the Witte Museum to SeaWorld, we all walked out glowing about how enjoyable our experience was.

The one thing for which we probably had the greatest divergence of opinion was our hotel.

Hotels are interesting that way. I have yet to meet a kid who didn't go nuts with joy with the prospect of staying at a hotel. I remembered being so jazzed up at staying at a Holiday Inn during a childhood visit to Washington, D.C. that I boisterously sang that hotel's commercial jingle as I sat in the tub. What is it about hotels? Is it the novelty of sleeping in somewhere besides your own bed (the same thing which make kid sleepovers similarly enticing)? Is it the prospect of having cable television (which obviously isn't a big treat for many kids who already have it at home)? Is it the free toiletries? Is it the thought that mom and dad won't yell at your as loud with strangers on either side of your hotel room only being separated by thin walls? Admittedly, part of it for me with the ability to take baths instead of a shower, where I could do tidal wave and boat adventures. My parents' were too cheap to be so wasteful of the water used for a tub bath (I love you mom and dad.) Anyway, I'm getting off topic here...

I travel some for my current job, but I used to travel crazy amounts during my management consultant years. The silver-lining to that travel was two-fold: First, I had ridiculous amounts of hotel points and airline miles, some of which were used to fully fund our honeymoon to Aruba. Second, despite our firms disregard to any sort of lifestyle stability, they at least had the courtesy to ensure that we were staying a nice hotels, so we were staying at upper-level Marriotts, Westins and Hiltons with an occasional Four Seasons stay sprinkled in.

Unfortunately, like a lot of heavy business travelers, this leads to a certain internal standards around overnight accommodations which contrast markedly from my childhood affinity towards any hotel room had a television with ESPN. Frankly, you might say that one becomes a bit of a snob. One takes for granted that the hotel ought to furnish soap, shower gels and shampoos made by The Body Shop and that the bed should be at least Westin Heavenly Bed quality. So as a snobby business travelers who was once fond with the prospect of a night away from home, what happened?

I bring this up because I think there's a bigger lesson and warning about losing that child-like gratefulness of the small things which make life terrific - and it happens naturally as we grow up. As toddlers, we used to find great joy about ripping open wrapping paper. As children, we used to love the toys which were inside the gift boxes. Now as adults, we fret that we shouldn't have been suckered into buying that extended warranty.

Jesus talks about the importance of being "child like" to enter the Kingdom of God, and Christians are constantly coming to grips with this exhortation. The common and correct interpretation speaks of the need to run to God as a child - in that we come to Him offering nothing but ourselves, completely bereft of anything we could possibly give an Almighty and Benevolent to earn His favor. His favor is a gift of grace, paid by Jesus on the Cross.

But I think there's another lesson how we live life gratefully with enthusiasm. In our lives which are increasingly marked by escalating means of entertainment, comfort and convenience, I wonder if we're getting increasingly hard to impress by anything anymore. We've experienced entertainment so stimulating and technological advances so mind-blowing that in the words of Marie Antoinette, "Nothing tastes." What might help is for us to recapture our child-like appreciation, and in the process recapturing our appreciation for the finer little things in life.