Friday, September 7, 2012

No quick fix, so . . . buckle down

            A few weeks ago, my 9-year-old son asked me why babies cried as soon as they were born.  We were in the car going somewhere, and this question came out of the blue; it must have had something to do with some TV show he'd been watching.  Happy that I didn't have to address the "other" question about babies, I did my best to talk about the shock of the move from womb to cold air, as well as the upside down spank that helps clear the air passages.  And then he said, "It would be great if there were a pill for that."
       Not too long after that conversation, I heard an advertisement on the radio for some new weight-loss pill.  "No harsh diet regimen!  No exercise required!" the ad claimed.  In short, all of the benefit, trouble-free!  Just buy the pill!
       On top of these "quick-fix pill" incidents, I read (and heard news reports on) former Pres. Clinton's statement at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday that "no president, not even me" could, in only four years, solve the problems the country faced in 2008. Yet we, as an electorate, seem to want immediate change in a system that, almost by design, resists such change.  And, of course, we want the change to be painless for us; someone else can make the sacrifice.
      And then I also heard a news report on some experiments about learning (from an audio source) while we sleep--no work required!  As we anticipate the start of another academic year at the University of Denver, I'm sure that there are some on campus who wish that the research behind this study would translate into hard reality . . . NOW.  Learning made easy; few demands!
       I suppose it's not just "we as an electorate".  It's part of our natural make-up that we avoid pain/suffering.  But most of us know, too, that becoming better at something requires practice, some exercise, maybe some long hours devoted to a task.  Losing weight via a pill is not the same as becoming healthy, which that awful "diet regimen and exercise" might help achieve.  We've bought into a story that "looking good" is the same as achieving health.
      The same phenomenon may be true in religion/spirituality.  Some folk are highly conscious of following all the rules of a particular tradition (i.e. they appear "religious"), but have no depth of compassion.  Others might want to "feel good" spiritually themselves, but find no compulsion to change unjust systems.  Most historical traditions, however, recognize a variation on the old exercise adage:  "No pain, no gain."  The real benefits -- both for the individual and for others -- are found in practice, self-discipline, and service.  How counter-cultural!
      If we truly want change -- political, social, spiritual, emotional -- we're going to have to leave aside the wishes for a quick fix, for a magic pill, for a feel-good moment, and dedicate ourselves to do what it takes for the long haul.
      All the best for a great academic year!


Chaplain Gary

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