Sunday, September 28, 2008

Default Setting

If you click on the title of this post you will get to read a commencement address that the now deceased author David Foster Wallace gave in 2005 that a church friend of mine emailed to me. Up until Wallace's death I didn't know him from Adam and I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Now I think I might understand a little bit better. I'll give my quick opinion in the hopes that you will read the address afterwards since it is quite good. Actually, go read it now. I'll wait.....

Done? Good.

So, the theme of the address was that our natural disposition is to think only of ourselves; to think we are the center of everything (self-centered, self referential); that this condition is our *default setting*. This is not so earth shattering. However he goes on to say that our ability to think outside of this default setting -- the key act of making a choice in how to see the world and those in it -- is the hallmark of the mature adult life. It's this ability that makes a life worth living. He also goes on to say that everybody worships something. The question is *what* we worship. We have a choice in what to worship. Again, the default setting is to worship ourselves (or something that relates to only us) and so be absorbed in ourselves that we think of nothing else. Luther would call this navel gazing.

Wallace's take on how we treat others struck a cord with me because this is exactly how I've lived most of my adult life. If asked, I wouldn't have been as clever as Wallace describing it but I would have said something to the same affect.

A couple of thoughts about this address from a Christian perspective:

This default setting is, in fact, nothing but the consequence of humanities fall from grace; that
is sin and death.

Even the mundane events of everyday life can be just as challenging and rewarding for a Christian as great feats of faith but it's a matter of seeing all of God's creation as worthy of respect. Even if they don't deserve it.

We get to choose the path of sin and death or of righteousness and life -- that is belief in Christ Jesus as our salvation from this default setting.

This choosing for a Christian is: to pick up our cross, deny ourselves the lazy and sinful path of the default setting and follow the path our Lord made for us. This is the call of discipleship.

It alway surprises me when I come across stuff like this. You never know where the most helpful insights into faith will come from.

1 comment:

  1. to think we are the center of everything (self-centered, self referential); that this condition is our *default setting*

    I would not say that this is inherently sinful in and of itself. For example, if an infant weren't self-centered it wouldn't live very long. It's a childish view which, as you note, most peopl eventually outgrow.