You do not need me to remind you of much of the utter aimlessness of the present life of many folks. The absence of purpose, with its associated symptoms, constitutes one of the bitterest fruits of these times.
In spite of the inventive capacity of our age, we seemingly have failed to produce anything that exceeds our fathers to give us satisfaction and fullness in living. To be sure, we possess great learning. Science has often opened our minds, but not our hearts. The airplane has made our world a neighborhood, but we are not neighborly. Medicine with its wonder drugs has prolonged our life, and we have filled it with boredom because we do not know what to do with our leisure. Science has taken the drudgery out of daily toil and left us free to follow many pursuits. But we exhaust ourselves running to and fro from meetings that encourage herd activity.
The fact is we are desperately searching for point, purpose, and promise behind our actions. Multiple indeed are the frustrations we witness because there are no mainsprings to support the superstructure of our being.
What I beg to suggest is that we assemble for ourselves a fit motif for living. What do I mean by motif? It is a dominating idea to give purpose and stability to our lives; an arresting concern that so completely absorbs us until we find ourselves discarding the disturbing, disastrous, disintegrating forces, and becoming instead unified, one-directional persons. By motif I mean also a guiding principle that will always – in fair weather or foul – be the hallmark of our behavior.
Let me hazard an illustration or so.
In classical music Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” is a good example. The theme, or motif, of the first movement is: “Da Da Da Da-a-a; Da, Da, Da-a-a.”
In poetry, these lines from an unknown author:
If all my ships go out to sea
And never come back home to me,
If I must watch from day to day
An empty waste of waters gray;
Then I shall fashion one ship more
From bits of driftwood on the shore,
I’ll build that ship with toil and pain
And send it out to sea again.
That motif is “perseverance.”
In popular music, the late Nat King Cole’s motif was said to be his distinctive styling of “soft, soothing, syncopation.”
Albert Schweitzer – teacher, philosopher, musician, and medical missionary was asked “If you had your life to live over again, would you go to Africa as a medical missionary?” He thought for a moment and replied: “Yes, indeed I would, but I am confident that I would place more emphasis on answering the question as to the meaning of life in this secular age and how one can have a reverence for life and seek with honor the best.”
In other words, Dr. Schweitzer was saying that one should formulate for oneself a motif, a purpose, a main theme for one’s life. He was saying, in addition, that such a motif should include seeking for the best, living with honor, and committing oneself to the highest that one knows. Let’s take time out to look more closely as how to create a motif for living.
Someone has said, “There are only two ways of getting through this world of ours. One is to stop thinking, and the other is to stop and think.”
Many people don’t want to stop and think so they keep going, rushing about into all kinds of activities and wasting precious hours of time simply because they don’t want to think. They dare not stop. As Leslie Weatherhead, English Christian theologian, said, “When they stop they make a silence and in the silence God speaks.”
We have a horror of silence. This is illustrated in our radio and television programs. The unpardonable sin in broadcasting is what is called “dead air,” that is a few seconds of silence. It simply mustn’t happen. Every second must be filled with sound.
This is an age of rush. More speed is the cry. People want to go faster. We say that we haven’t time to think. Yet we find time – make time if you please – for the trifles of the day. We can always find time for a game of bridge, time for a movie, time for a drink with friends, time to read the latest best seller, time to read the newspaper, time for any number of things which in themselves are not wicked but which make no eternal contribution to our lives.
Why is that we do not think our ways? Why are we so afraid to ponder our way of living, to ask ourselves what is this getting me? … What am I seeking out of life? ... What is I want? … Am I living right? … What kind of life am I living? …. What kind of character am I building?
“I thought on my ways,” says the psalmist, but he was also practical and that led him to do something about. “I thought on my ways and turned my feet into Thy testimonies (Psalms 119).