MCDOWELL'S MUSINGS, METAPHORS, AND MESSAGES

The Fun of Process 

Have you ever discovered a two-year-old boy busily coloring upon a freshly painted wall with a delight equaled only when he smears spaghetti in his hair? All his needs have been met (he’s dry, warm and full), so we presume he is fulfilling some non-physiological need such as self-actualization. He probably has no clear goal in mind, save the enjoyment derived from scribbling. All this suggests that it is just plain fun to act, even to the point of becoming oblivious of goals or even disregarding them. This is the phenomena which I want to term, “the fun of process,” which manifests itself in many areas of life and finally has important consequences in theology and practical religion. 

We often find the pursuit of a goal more rewarding than the goal itself. Isn’t it often almost more rewarding planning and anticipating a trip than the actual event itself? Judging from the way some parents want to hold on to their late adolescents, it must be more enjoyable raising our children than having raised them (mothers of pre-school children omitted, of course). Biblically, we ponder why the rich man decided to build bigger barns and we are tempted to conclude that it was because he found little delight in just the mere celebration of his full ones. 

The importance of process prevails in life’s most serious situations as well. That process of “fun” in life as a whole ironically can be demonstrated in suffering. Suffering produces value, in that we seem to prize most highly those things for which we save the longest, pay the most, or give up the most for. Paradoxically, the phenomenon of suffering which is so closely allied with process, is a source of pleasure (fun?) for us if for no other reason that the fact that it causes us to appreciate life more. 

Living is a worthy end, though not a complete or sufficient end in itself. We have been reconciled to God through Christ and thus have the promise of eternal life. Since we have confidence in our reconciliation and that we shall participate in the future existence Jesus prepares for us, we should then turn our attention to increasing the quality of the life we now live, finding satisfaction in the process of living. 

Jesus said much about the quality of life we are to live – that we best love God by loving others (the Jesus Creed), that we love Him by doing as well by verbalizing, and that our love for others communicates His love for them. 

Our problem is largely definitional. We have too narrowly defined the word spiritual, usually limiting it in meaning to cerebral activities relating to the soul’s pursuit of God. In so doing, we simply and easily disconnect our spiritual nature from the matrix of life, forgetting that who and what we are, how we respond to the gospel, and how we express our faith are integrally related to all processes of life including social, sexual, recreational, and the rest. The processes of life can only be affected and rejuvenated by our participation in them, which as Christians must necessarily include the working of the Good News through us. 

We need to view and live life as participation (process) and not as mere preparation for another life. In so doing, the preparation for that life will be made complete by participation in this life, and we’ll have a lot more fun.