P.T. Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Of recent years I’ve come to appreciate his meaning as being far more axiomatic than cynically disparaging. I don’t take his point as offering a critique of the baseline intellect of the general population, as much as him offering a rather astute observation about the human condition – namely, that we all live with some measure of discontent, making us all susceptible to accepting various impermanent remedies, without question.
This is the very psychological vulnerability that the conman, grifter, flimflam artist seeks to exploit – either by playing on our fears, or by enticing our desires . . . all the while, feigning a sincere interest in our well-being. So what are we to do? Are we to distrust anyone taking an interest in our well-being? Are we to assume we’re just too smart to be taken in by someone who has been perfecting their skills at preying on our specific emotional vulnerabilities? Or are we to address our discontent at its source, and reduce our vulnerability?
So when I hear, what are normally reasonable people, debating politics – all I can hear is “My flimflam politician is far more credible than your conman politician”. No doubt, on some level such people have already accepted the dubious premise that it’s possible for a politician to offer us the best political solution, which only has our best interest and well-being in mind. But you don’t have to listen for very long to any political speech to have your fears played upon, and your desires enticed, all under the rubric of your best interest as being their driving concern. This is why I look elsewhere for a remedy for my discontent.
Ever since our exile from Eden, we’ve experienced a persistent longing to live in a world made right – to finally reconcile what is, with what ought to be. So whatever your definition for contentment, it likely includes some expectation of how things ought to be. But intuitively, there will always be the nagging realization that true contentment will require more than a cosmetically favorable altering of our present circumstance . . . because true contentment isn’t really wired to our circumstances – it’s wired to our heart’s desire.
Colossians 3:2 says – “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth”. Most misinterpret this verse in at least two ways. They either take it as saying we should focus on some future destination, instead of where we are now – or they entertain a form of Gnosticism, creating a hard dichotomy between spirit and flesh. But I take this verse as working more like a compass, correctly orienting me on the path of my life. Because the verse before (vs 1) invites me to seek Christ where he is . . . and what he is already doing.
It is the confession of my faith that Christ is the redeemer of all things. So this is how the world is made new – it is also how my personal world is made new. So if you are to dream dreams, let your dreams be consumed with imagining his kingdom come, his will being done – not just in the world around you . . . but in your heart, as well. And this will give a fresh meaning to the adage “be the change you seek in the world”
This is a song I wrote a few decades ago during an election year . . .
and recently recorded at my daughter Jessica’s house.