Friday, December 21, 2012

Sitting in the Living

Biblical exegetes have a nice little German phrase that sums up the way we are to encounter the texts of the Bible: sitz im leben. Translated literally, the phrase means “sitting in the living.”  The original meaning in German more accurately translates into something like: “the way the story is told.”  Hence, the texts of the Old Testament are the way in which the story is told by the people of Israel; the sitz im leben of the Old Testament cannot be understood outside of the sitz im leben of the Jewish Tradition, for this is the way that their story is told. 

I chose this phrase as the title of my blog because I am captivated by the double meaning that it holds.  On the one hand, I am literally “sitting in the living”—we all are—we cannot step outside of our experiences and oftentimes we fail to recognize the importance of the present “living” moment.  On the other hand, blogs are the way in which our stories are told.  This blog will be nothing more than an authentic quest for the truth as I journey through life in this chaotic world.  My intention is to take a step back and reflect on current events, with the hope of discovering meaning in them, no matter how banal or irrelevant the everydayness of life can oftentimes seem.

Admittedly, I did not plan on writing this blog for some time.  I decided to reserve the domain name a few days ago, but I did not intend on writing anything for quite a while, at least until I felt that I had something good to say.  However, it quickly dawned on me that it would be inauthentic of me to wait for an epiphany of sorts, especially since it would be contrary to the purpose of this blog (Sitting in the Living not Waiting for Some Stroke of Genius).  It also occurred to me that it would be very appropriate to write this blog today, for this is the day that the world was supposedly coming to an end. 

As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I was unsure how to feel.  At first, I was laughing to myself at the remarks that were being made about still being alive, but as I scrolled further, my emotions shifted drastically.  I began to grow more and more disturbed as I realized how obsessed everyone was with this Mayan “prediction” (which actually was not a prediction at all but merely a failure of language, in which the Mayans did not possess the numerical potential to keep counting after today) and saddened by how subjective and pragmatic our culture has become.  This was evident by the way everyone was so quick to assume that the world would end when it reached midnight in their particular time zone, or that somehow, their region of the world was spared from the “apocalypse.” 

I do find it quite ironic that in a world filled with religious skepticism and sensitivity, millions of people can be so quick to believe the assumptions of an ancient dead religion that they know absolutely nothing about, other than what they have seen on the History Channel—which only televises the truth, of course.  I find it intriguing that every few years or so, someone, somewhere, comes up with some sort of scheme on how the world is ending on this or that particular day.  Not only do many people jump on these “end of the world” bandwagons, but some even stockpile on canned goods and bottled water with the hopes that they will somehow survive these apocalyptic events.  Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there is the YOLO mentality (You Only Live Once, for those who are not familiar with the term) which has the mindset that, if we are going to die anyway, we might as well have as much “fun” as we can right now—detached from any moral reflection, because life is all about “feeling good.”  I find it funny that this form of “New Age Epicureanism,” is miles and miles away from the way of life that Epicurus actually envisioned (which included seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but in much more complicated ways than we understand this today).  Perhaps it is time to pump the breaks and ask ourselves how we got to this point?  When did our culture become so na├»ve? How is it that in our world, which is so overly concerned with cultural identity, we have essentially bred a generation of people who have lost any sense of culture?

I do not claim to have an answer to these questions, but they do raise some interesting points that should not be overlooked.  One would think that if the world were truly coming to an end, people would be more concerned with their salvation, or the moral state of their soul, rather than how much promiscuity and drunkenness they can accomplish in one night.  I guess that is the heart of the problem though: we have forgotten that we are eternal; we have forgotten that our actions have consequences; we have forgotten the purpose of our lives.  In our effortless attempts to find satisfaction in the most convenient ways, we have somehow become disconnected from that which we were actually looking for.  For example, many of us would rather settle for McDonalds than cooking a gourmet meal.  So, as I am sitting in the living, I will leave you with these questions to ponder: what are you looking for? And what is the purpose of your life? 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I don't know why my comment didn't post at first, but here it is: I often notice the way our culture has changed as well...We live in a world that forces us to believe that the next person is supposed to hand us everything in life, requiring zero to little effort...This has caused society to become lost, dependent fully on everyone else...If one person does not have the answer, we move onto the next...what happened to the self-exploration of the truth you speak of seeking? Society does not care about this "truth," rather people believe what is told to them...We have lost the desire to find things out for ourselves; I'm not talking about scientific data where we are always trying to find the next molecule or a habitable planet, etc. Rather, I am speaking of the ultimate eternal truth to this world and why we are on it...I struggle with this on a daily basis and it pains me to see how little people care about the world around them....BTW, I began thinking about all this with the show, "The Walking Dead." If you get a chance, look for the parallels between the zombies and society today. Great post Cavs!