Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Me?

Today I will meet my parents at their bank to do the necessary paperwork allowing me to start paying their bills every month. From there I will drive across town to attend the funeral of the mother of one of my good friends and business partners. Then I will plunge further into the murkiness inherent in the process of changing Broker-Dealer affiliations, with the mountains of paperwork and the Byzantine complexities that await me in that unhappy place. Then I will pay the bills at work, transfer money from one of my checking accounts to three other checking accounts that require attention. When, in the name of all that is holy, did I become an adult?

For most of my life after age 40 I have looked around at my contemporaries with a mixture of confusion and pride and confidently told myself that I wasn’t like them. I was different. They were older somehow. They had surrendered to middle age and the muddled thinking that goes with it. They were stuck on the upwardly mobile treadmill that is America in the 21st century with its quest for bigger homes, flashier cars, nicer stuff. They were all into country clubs and beach houses and the tyranny of keeping up with it all. But not me. Instead of becoming chairman of the deacons at church, I worked with the kids in the youth department. Instead of networking with like-minded professionals, I preferred the company of pimple-faced teenagers at summer camp. Instead of reading business magazines and trade publications, I read everything else , from PJ O’Rourke to Dostoevsky. Instead of falling in line and becoming a Republican, I somehow became weirdly libertarian. All of this, I convinced myself, was good because I never wanted to become a boring conformist. Its not that I disliked my contemporaries or even that I felt superior to them. I was just determined not to end up like everyone else, living a life sucked empty of joy and spontaneity by the demands of abundance. I didn’t want to wake up one day and find myself consumed by the plodding details of middle age….but wake up I have.

Another thing, when most of my Christian friends read the New Testament it brings them comfort. They find in the life of Christ validation of their view of the world. For me, the New Testament troubles me and the life of Jesus feels like a stunning rebuke. The strength of my belief in him has, if anything, increased. But my understanding of what my life should look like in light of his teachings has taken a few blows. How does my increasing prosperity square with his admonition to provide for the “least of these”? What cross do I take up every day? If Jesus founded the church and we worship a risen savior why does church bore me so? Why can I not shake the feeling that the couple of hours I spend in church are the most inconsequential hours of the week?

For me, age has not brought clarity. It has brought only more questions. Any wisdom that has fallen on me through the passage of time has been the wisdom of greater humility. With many people age and a measure of success brings the bad seed of pride. For me, it has brought questions. Primarily…why me??