Everything is Amazing But Nobody is Happy

A message delivered on May 15, 2016

canstockphoto33491035Comedian Louis C.K.  who is known for his biting, acerbic and sarcastic humor, had a bit that he did on Conan O’Brien that in 2011 went viral on the internet and had over 4 million views. This is the funny part of the message, so you’re allowed to laugh. 

Everything’s amazing right now, but nobody’s happy.  In my lifetime the changes in the world have been incredible. When I was a kid, we had a rotary phone. We had a phone you had to stand next to because it was connected the wall, and you had to dial it.  Do you realize how primitive that was? You’re making sparks.  And you would actually hate people who had zeroes in their number because it was more work. “Oh, man, this guy’s got two zeroes!” And then if you called and they weren’t home, the phone would just ring lonely by itself.

And then if you wanted money you had to go into a real bank—and it was open for like three hours, and you’d stand in line and write a check like an idiot.  And then if you ran out of money, you’d just say, “Well, I just can’t do any more things now.”  And even if you had a credit card the guy would go “Oh!” and he’d bring this whole chunk-chunk and then he’d have to call the President to see if you had any money.

Now we live in an amazing, amazing world, and it’s wasted on a generation of spoiled people that don’t care. This is what people are like now: they’ve got their phone, and they go, “Ugh, it won’t work fast enough.”  Give it a second!  It’s going to space! Can you give it a second to get back from space?  Is the speed of light too slow for you?

I was on an airplane, and there was high-speed internet, and I’m sitting on the plane, and they say, “Open up your laptop, you can go on the internet.”  This is brand new! And it’s fast and I’m watching YouTube clips and I’m in an airplane! And then it breaks down. They apologize, “The internet’s not working we apologize.” And the guy next to me says, “O, great this stinks.” Like, how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only ten seconds ago!

People come back from flights, and they tell you their story, and it’s a horror story. They say, “It was the worst day of my life.  First of all, we didn’t board for twenty minutes.  And then we get on the plane, and they made us sit there on the runway for forty minutes!” And I say, “O, really, and what happened next?  Did you fly in the air, incredibly, like a bird?  Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? You’re flying! It’s amazing!”

Everybody on every plane should be constantly screaming, “WOW!” We’re flying.  You’re sitting in a chair in the sky! “It doesn’t go back enough.”

Here’s the thing: People say there are “delays” on flights. Delays, really? New York to California in five hours!   It used to take thirty years to do that, and a bunch of you would die on the way. And have babies. You’d be with a whole different group of people when you got there!

He’s absolutely right. I could send Chip a text right now, and that message would leave the building, travel to a cell tower, which sends it by fiber optic cable to a Mobile Switching Center, which does some stuff to it and then sends it to a central center, which does a whole bunch of processing to it, and then reverses that course to send it to Chip’s phone. And all that happens faster than I could walk over and talk to him myself.

I teach the Bible or preach and all these people have their cell phones out or a tablet, and while the rest of us are thumbing through these thin pages they are going bip, bip, bip, got it! Zechariah 3:32. They’d kill in the old sword drills. Think about it—the whole Bible on this little thing. And I got it for free.

But now I never know if they’re listening and following along, or texting their best friend: “This is really lame.” A while ago I came home on a Sunday afternoon and Rich Cook had posted something on Facebook I said during my message. And at first I thought, “Cool.” Then I noticed the time stamp—I’m like, “Dude, you were posting to Facebook during my sermon!”

But it’s not just communication. My dad had bypass surgery 26 years ago. They discovered the clogged arteries by hooking him up to an EKG machine and making him run on a treadmill. If they hadn’t discovered it he would almost certainly have died from a massive heart attack, which is what happened to his father back in 1966. I was six years old at the time my grandfather died. If they had had the same technology back then he probably would have lived and I would have more than a few hazy memories of him.

Dad had a pacemaker put it, and the day after he got it some young guy comes in the hospital room and he’s got this box. The guys pushes some buttons and gives it to Dad to take home. All Dad has to do is put it by his bed or under his bed, and every night at 2 a.m. the box wakes up, communicates with his pacemaker, and transmits information about Dad’s heart to his cardiologist’s office. It’ll alert them if something is going wrong.

Isn’t that amazing?

But Louis C.K. is right—everything is amazing, but nobody is happy.

It’s amazing—in a completely different way—to listen to people these days. There’s a lot of unhappiness out there, a lot of anger, and a lot of fear. We have two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, one on the right and one on the left, who as recently as ten years ago would never have made it as far as they have, but both have done well because they are tapping into people’s frustration, their unhappiness, their anger and fear, again from the right and from the left.

And everybody in the middle is wondering what in the world is going on.

We thought we had gotten through the worst of the racial divides through the events of the 1860’s and 1960’s, but the anger, brutality, and inhumanity of racism is still strong in more people than we thought. We thought that it was just holding on in white supremacist groups like the KKK and the Skinheads, but it’s more widespread than we ever imagined. It was hidden, but now it’s come out.

And what’s come out is fear and anger. Racism is less about hatred of another race than it is fear—fear that we will lose freedom and power if another group gains it.

We live in an amazing time, and yet there is so much unhappiness, anger, fear, and division.

But you know what? The more things change, the more things stay the same. Jesus dealt with the same thing in his lifetime.

Think about it. God himself became human and lived among them! He did all sorts of signs and wonders, and everybody should have been amazed and thrilled. He fed 5,000 with two fish and some bread! He healed sick people with incurable diseases! People who had been crippled since birth or blind and now they could walk and see! He even raised someone from the dead!

But how did they react? Take out your cell phones and turn to Matthew 11:16-24.

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”

The people who rejected Jesus were the ones in Israel who had power and wealth, and anyone who challenged their power and wealth was a threat. Rather than being amazed at Jesus’ power, they were intimidated by it. They were threatened by it. It was a challenge to their place in society.

If Jesus had become one of them, they would have been all right with him, because his power would make them stronger. But Jesus hung around with the likes of tax collectors and sinners, with poor people and sick people, and he empowered them to live fruitful lives.

And that was threatening, because to them power was a zero sum equation—the more power one person had, the less someone else had. The more freedom one person had, the less someone else had.

So all the amazing things that Jesus did, rather than engendering belief and faith, did the opposite.

Many of the regular people wanted to be entertained. Jesus was a great show, and they followed him all over the place. But when he started talking about suffering and dying, they left. Not much entertainment there.

Others followed him because they thought they could get power, which would lead to wealth, and they could become the elite of society. They didn’t want to change the system in Israel, they just wanted to replace those who were currently benefiting from it so they could enjoy it instead.

They didn’t care about righteousness and justice, they just wanted to get theirs, even at the expense of everyone else. So, again, when Jesus started talking about suffering and dying, they left. They denied him. They betrayed him.

And some, of course, never followed him. He was a nuisance at the beginning who became a threat, and so they killed him.

They killed their messiah. They killed the son of God. Amazing.

What’s amazing is that everything is amazing, and nobody is happy.

What’s happened is that we are losing our humanity.

We are more connected than ever before, but ironically, there’s less real connection between people. Our heads are down, and there’s an artificial interface between us. We walk around seemingly connected but superficially so, separated by screens.

A week or so ago Pam and I went out to eat, and near us was a couple of teenagers on a date, a very attractive couple. The young man was good looking, and the girl was very attractive. She had an exotic beauty, and the most amazing eyes. And she had gotten all made up for their date, did the thing with the eye makeup that girls do now, and she really looked great.

After we finished eating and were waiting for the check Pam went to the rest room and I looked over there, and the guy has his phone out. The girl is sitting there looking amazing and he’s looking down at his screen. Now, maybe the president was texting him and asking what he should do about ISIS or something, but I doubt it.

I thought about sitting down next to him and just saying, “Dude, stop. Look up. Look at those eyes. How can you take your eyes off of them? I don’t know what is on your screen right now, and maybe you’re texting something really important, but she is real, and she’s right here, and she’s waiting for you to pay her some attention.

“And if you don’t pay attention to her, pretty soon she’s going to find someone who will. He may not be as handsome as you are, or as athletic, or as smart, or whatever, but he’s going to pay attention to her, and she’s going to give him her heart, and you won’t even notice.

“So put the phone down, OK?”

This is where the spiritual discipline of solitude comes into play. Ironically, the way to get more connected with others is to spend time in solitude, but it’s not just being alone. When you’re alone you fill up the time watching TV or reading or surfing the net or texting.

Solitude is that time where you are alone but focused. You are thinking, you’re reflecting, you’re praying, you’re listening. It’s in solitude that you come to realize what’s really important in life, and that’s relationships.

But not lot’s and lot’s of them. It’s OK to have lots of relationships, lots of friends, but that’s not the goal. The goal isn’t quantity, it’s quality. You can have thousands of friends, but if you don’t have some, just a few, that are at the close, intimate level, then you are a mile wide and an inch deep.

You may be connected, but what you need is connections. Think of it this way. If you were to die, how many of your “friends” would come to your funeral? Maybe a lot.

But the real question is, how many of them could speak at your funeral? Who would be able to stand up and talk about the real you, more than just the data, the things you did, the things you accomplished, the things you liked? Who could talk about the real you, the part that most of those sitting in your funeral wouldn’t know about?

Who would be able to do that? Is there someone outside your family? Some people would have a hard time finding someone in their family to do it.

The key to living an amazing life in this amazing world can be summarized in one word: less.

We have more connections with more people, but to be truly connected you have to concentrate on spending more time with less people. You can’t really be connected with more than just a few people.

We live in an amazing world created by an amazing God who filled it with some amazing people. It’s time we stopped fearing and hating and yelling and fighting and seeking to win, and time we start trusting and loving and forgiving and living.

Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / NicoletaIonescu

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