We are all oddballs, we are all unique. We are all original, and there is no one else quite like me, or quite like you. In life, and certainly in modern wealthy countries, we are all meant to fit in, to be part of the crowd, to subsume our personalities to something greater than ourselves, perhaps to the idea of a society, the society we live in. We dress, for the most part, normally, we try to be normal and not weird, for the most part, and in many cases we don’t dare stand out, for fear of ridicule, or losing our jobs, or being rejected. We all want to fit in, but the dichotomy is, we all want to stand out, for any number of reasons.
It is beaten into most of us, one way or the other, that we are limited in some way. That we have limitations imposed on us in some way by greater society, and somehow and in some way we have to swallow this and accept our fate. For some, those who are wealthy or at the top of society, this can be a lesser problem. However, for the big majority of people perceived to be at the bottom, or near the bottom, of society, this can define a person’s life. Even in societies that are considered democracies, where freedom and free speech supposedly flourish, it seems by all accounts that millions of people are, when it boils down to it, dissatisfied in some way. Why should this be? Why are millions of people even in wealthy countries unhappy or unfulfilled? I suppose for a start that in countries where the majority of us don’t have an enduring struggle to find food or shelter, and where our basic needs are met, we simply have the time to reflect on our often unhappy lives. And when people are unhappy, they can then proceed to make themselves even unhappier by reaching out for things like drink or drugs or pornography, making a bad situation worse.
So, we are living in societies where in one kind of ideology we can do anything and rise to any height and have any kind of success and make ourselves richer than everyone else, and on the other hand we are hemmed in by a kind of inevitable reality where we have to accept third-best and do a job we don’t really like and live in an area we aren’t comfortable in and also struggle to make sense of it all and find meaning for our often seemingly futile lives. What does it all mean, after all? Does it mean anything, or is life just a bleak mistake formulated by accident billions of years ago, with no real purpose at the end of the day? Who can really say?
We then struggle on, trying to make sense of everything, when maybe there is no sense to anything anyway, and then we get older. It’s a fact of life. And, sometimes when we get older, we get set in our ways, we accept bad habits, putting on weight, we drink too much, eat too much, do little or no exercise, become opinionated and obstinate, even narrow-minded and aggressive. We get caught up in all kinds of vicious circles, usually all bad for us, and finally we accept our lot in life, whether it’s good or bad. Usually bad.
So, we’re oddballs. Speak for yourself, you might honestly say, but listen me out. How many of us do feel we could have achieved something, something beyond ourselves, beyond the role life has seemingly cast us in, beyond even our wildest dreams? Don’t we all dream, now and again? Don’t dreams in the end make the world go around and around? Everything you see, a pen, a mobile phone, a debit card, a tower on a church, a skyscraper, a bottle of beer, everything in fact that humans create with their hands and sheer brain power, was a dream before it became reality. Someone had to specifically think about something before it was a physical thing you could see, pick up or use. Even some human beings were created this way! So many of us struggle on, sometimes against the fate seemingly nature, or whatever you want to call it, has assigned us, or we struggle on against our own unhealthy mind-sets or unhealthy lifestyles. All kinds of struggle, and even suffering, seem such a great part of the woes of mankind in general, wherever we are, whoever we are and whatever our life consists of.
So, we struggle. We struggle to find work, and if we have work, we struggle to find a better job. Such is life. We struggle to lose weight, and usually fail. We struggle to give up smoking, and then reach for another cigarette when we fail. We struggle in so many things, and we might not even know that we are for the most part struggling, we just find ourselves unhappy or generally unfulfilled in some way. So, again, we are oddballs, struggling to be normal, even to find a normal life to call our own. We are weird because we don’t reach out for what will make us truly happy, we don’t give up the bad habit, we don’t get ourselves educated, we don’t do that particular thing or pursue that particular hobby that we have always wanted to do, and then we settle for much less than we could really be, whatever that might be. But, what will make us truly happy? That is, indeed, another question.
We think that winning the lottery and becoming super-rich will ultimately make us happier, more fulfilled, able to let us move on, and generally ease the heartaches of life. Or being beautiful or handsome, even if we aren’t particularly, will make us feel happier. Or getting that dream job, the one that pays a fortune, enabling us to live the lives we can only read about in gossip magazines or see on reality TV shows of one kind or another. Whatever it is we think superficially will make our lives wonderful, is always tantalisingly out of reach, and far from mere mortals like us. Sometimes the dreams are what keep us going, and at other times the dreams we might have just depress us by showing just how far we are from living that dream. A dream is a dream after all. But the question that begs to be asked is should we hold onto our dreams? And then other questions come from that such as what sort of dreams should we have, and what are realistic dreams that we could truly achieve. There are little dreams and big dreams. Most of us will never win a fortune on the lottery, but most of us can learn to drive, or go on holiday, or get a better education, and so on. And then of course, we come on to that most vexed question, if you like, of money. It’s a brutal fact of life that some people are very rich and some people are very poor. For some people, like a number of us, we are neither super-rich or dirt-poor, we might just find ourselves nearing the middle.
We’re weird, but we want to be normal, we’re normal but we want to be weird. We don’t know what we want to be quite frankly. That’s our biggest problem and maybe our greatest strength; we’re mysteries and we’re ever looking for the truth.
In England, we are all supposed to fit snugly into the class we were born into; Working class people are meant to watch football, drink in their local and be uneducated factory fodder. Middle class people are supposed to lose any regional accent they might have, pretend to listen to and like foreign Opera, and be constantly competing with everyone they know, and everyone they don’t know. And Upper class people are I think in the worst straitjacket of them all, having to constantly pretend to be role models for the rest of us, pretending to be cleverer, wittier, wiser and generally better and superior than the rest of us, for no good reason at all. Does any of this make people happy? I firmly believe that it doesn’t, it actually alienates us from each other, can alienate us from our family and friends, stops us having meaningful relationships based on genuine and mutual concern and friendships and ultimately might even alienate us from God.
We put up too many defences, and then we wonder why people don’t want to bother with us; then, we let down our defences, and we get hurt by someone. Sometimes, whatever we do, we just can’t win, it seems. Are we meek and mild, or angry and vengeful, like King David, God’s chosen?
As modern humans, we know so much, and, yet, we still know so very little. We don’t fully understand our nature, what drives us, what gives us meaning, and we often do all the things that in the end harm us, or are detrimental to our wellbeing, our wellbeing spiritually, emotionally and even physically. We see the wonders all around us, and yet fail to see the wonder of ourselves, and the sheer wonder of the human race.
We compete to be the best we can be, and then we feel we have somehow failed, so we get down and depressed and lethargic, and then we squander what talent we might have.
If God had the strength to create a perfect world, where trains run on time, and every one could be paid a good wage and everyone had enough to eat, then why isn’t the world perfect? We are full of questions, but lack so many answers. It is the human condition to question everything, if we are honest, but the human reality not to know the answers.
Is it good that everyone we know agrees with us and is like us, or is it good to know people and have friends who sometimes hold completely opposite views? I think it is in accepting opposing opinions, and people who differ from us, that we really learn to understand and come to terms with what we ourselves believe, whatever it is we believe.
We are at best lost in a fog, where we might struggle totally to understand anything, and finally being left confused, because one person says one thing, and another person says categorically the opposite, but both with conviction; who do you believe?
Jacob was seemingly a regular guy, an ordinary bloke who perhaps in another age might have enjoyed a pint of beer in his local pub; a man much like many other men. Until he had his vision of angels climbing a ladder to Heaven. Then he might have come to the conclusion that there was much more to this life than meets the eye.
I’m a guitarist; every guitarist has always wanted to blast away like Hendrix, but most of us fail to do so. God is always testing us; do we like Jimi Hendrix more than we like Him? Do we like getting drunk more than we like Him!? Do we like getting stoned more than we like Him?! I don’t like getting drunk anymore; that’s a start anyway. I don’t get stoned either, for that matter!
We’re all the same in so many ways, and, yet, we’re all so different in many ways; how do we relate to each other? Are we on the move and going places, or are we going nowhere fast?
Love our enemies? How are we supposed to do that when some of us can barely get on with our families and the friends we have? We want the perfect family and perfect friends, and have to put up with the ones we’ve got.
We don’t know what we want to be; we want to be serious and to be taken seriously and then we want to laugh and mess about and not be taken seriously at all. We want our life to have meaning, then perhaps we think of the seeming futility of it all. We are often caught between all kinds of complex emotions, contradictory emotions, and we cut ourselves off from our emotions because we don’t understand them or can’t deal with them, and in ignoring our emotions, we cut ourselves off from part of what we are, part of just what it means to be human. We are happy, then sad, and we don’t know why.
What is this thing we call life? What purpose does it have?
God has straitened me out, and many times too. He has punished me in ways I couldn’t really explain. As God is merciful, and He has shown me mercy many times, He can be wrathful and angry too. I’ve learned the hard way, that it is best to keep on God’s good side! On reflection, I now understand that the only way God could deal with a hardened sinner like me, was to take me to task and, frankly, teach me a number of hard lessons. I now have the wisdom, all after the fact, to try to live everyday as a Christian, though like most people, I have my ups and downs.
Just what sort of person does God want to be a Christian anyway? Rather polite, well spoken, dressed in a blue suit (or sensible skirt if you are a woman), super-educated, someone who knows the Bible backwards? Just what does God want from us anyway? Do Christians come from a particular class of people? Do they have to fit into a particular ‘mould’, acting and behaving in a prescribed manner, and all being the same? Does God want to churn out ‘identikit’ Christians, talking the same, wearing the same clothes, all being nice and rather polite? Do we shy away from God, and Christianity, because we fear that we might end up being strange or acting in ways that our friends will think odd, or do we fear being in a church and being over-emotional in a weird way, or singing flowery hymns we don’t particularly like that don’t seem to have any relevance to our lives? Is this the reality of Christianity, or is there a truth out there we might not yet have come to realise? Is God a bearded bloke in the clouds, forever wagging His finger at us because we don’t understand Him and continually mess up, or is He something far beyond what we can ever dare imagine, and yet who came amongst us and walked amongst us and shared our troubles?
We are super-confident about everything in our lives, confident of realising our dreams, and then for some reason we fall to pieces, and everything we touch seems to turn bad; and we wonder why. Why does nothing seem to go right for us, and if it does, why don’t we continuously float on cloud nine, carried away with our wonderful feelings or our success or whatever it is we are ecstatically happy about? In the end, sometimes ugly reality always forces its way in.
We struggle to make a difference, and we decide that if the seemingly indifferent human race is going to go one way, we will go the other way. And we do try to make a difference, but find that whatever we do is a splash in the ocean; a small splash.
What’s to become of us, our dreams, our struggles, our hopes, our visions of a better world, our yearnings for knowing the unknown, perhaps even our struggles to find meaning in the world, and in our lives? What is to become of our walk with God, if we have one that is? We are one, among billions, and everyone else has their dreams, and their problems too!
Me? I am an oddball; I admit it.