“Don’t let the bastards grind you down” — Bono
Norbert at BCC recently shared this reminiscence about his wilder days at BYU. What struck me most was the conversation in the comments between Norbert and his friends and acquaintances from those days. I caught glimpses of magical people from a mystical (or mythical?) time.
It made me sad, though, to see that these wild, confident individuals have turned out just like the rest of us. One is a university professor. Norbert does something out in Finland. What happened to the unearthliness that made them such compelling characters in college? (My apologies to Norbert and his friends — I don’t mean to imply that you are not compelling characters now, only that you are now compelling on a human, not a trans-human, scale.)
Of course, the obvious question is, What else could they become? We can’t live forever as supreme beings of leisure.
We identify ourselves in four spheres: My relationships, My job, My hobbies, and My affiliations. I feel that an important sphere is missing, and that this missing fifth sphere is the realm where magical figures of wonderment dwell. I find the best exemplification of it in Jesus. He had brothers and sisters, but we don’t remember Him for His family. He had a job, but we don’t remember Him for His woodworking. I suppose He had hobbies, but I’ve never thought about that before. So where do we find the divinity in Him, and how can we explore that space in our own lives?
I don’t have a definitive answer, but I do have a suggestion. Perhaps the fifth sphere of identity is vision — a grand vision of the way the world could be. This vision extends beyond the bounds of family, job, hobbies, and affiliations. The great work of the Savior was not limited to any of these four spheres — it was a vision that transcended them all. To use the words of my previous post, Jesus was an obscene character. We share in His obscenity and His divinity to the extent that we refuse to be limited to the identifying spheres our culture is comfortable with placing us in.
Why is nostalgia for youth so compelling? Is it just the result of rose-colored vision? Perhaps in part. But I believe that youth is fecund soil for passionate vision. The magic of those years is not just that they are gone, for they were magical while we were in them.
One fascinating attribute of vision, passion, and dreams is that they are invisible to all but the one in whose mind they dwell. I think of Joseph’s words, “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle.” He knew the frustrating work of bringing to life the visions of his mind, striving to help others see the things they could not see, which he could see. It is a work sometimes like assisting in the delivery of a child, and sometimes like pressing the pus out of a zit. It is the work of bringing forth the kingdom of God on the earth.