Love that will not betray, dismay, or enslave you,
it will set you free;
be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design, an alignment,
a cry of my heart to see
the beauty of love as it was made to be.
—Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More”
Are you past-, present-, or future-oriented? When someone asks you to explain why something is the way it is, do you envision would it could be (future), should be (present), or do you dig deep in the past to see the string of events that brought about the present? Like, when asked, “What’s the deal with the housing market?” how do you process an answer? Are you prone to think of how bad it is right now (perhaps if you are selling a home), or where the market could be going, or the myriad factors that brought us up to this point?
(I am past-oriented, by the way, prone to consider the history of successive events up to the present. More on past-present-future-orientation here.)
We are all born present-oriented hedonists. Think about it: we crave food (milk), must be cared for constantly, and cannot even fathom what shall be in the future and quickly forget what just was. We live according to our strong cravings. Somewhere along the line, we must be weened off our self-centered nature and develop into responsible, mature adults. Plenty of factors play into this, such as encountering difficulties and overcoming them, devoting ourselves to faithfulness and perseverance. Though we try to find them, there are no shortcuts to true maturity. Parents may try to enter their kids into the best schools, pay their way onto the optimal select sports teams, and protect them from the big, bad, dark world.
You cannot do all of that and properly school the human heart, or train yourself to unselfishness by taking the easy route. Environment alone, however refined and optimal, does not produce a refined and optimal man. Again, there are no shortcuts.
How many times have you watched a movie that displays all our vein attempts at the great life — of success, power, money, and pleasure? Consider the popular Limitless, and the more critically-acclaimed Lincoln Lawyer. The latter, starring Matthew McConaughey highlights the attempts of Ryan Philippe’s character to live a secret life of perverted pleasures. Philippe’s journey shows how pride destroys a whole family as they refuse to deal honestly (and personally) with their inner evil. The former stars the upstart Bradley Cooper chronicling a desperate grasping for significance and riches. (What if you could take a pill and instantly become awesome?) Both men lived in the fast-line, greedily trying to ADD a new life to their present one. Instead of confessing their faults and building a new life by turning from their sins, they sought to hide their former self and pretend their new awesome lifestyle was their true self.
Both characters — Philippe’s and Cooper’s — came across as future-oriented mature men in society, though they were secretly present-oriented hedonists. These were not men; they were juveniles not challenged in life to move past their childhood folly. Every pursuit was for pleasure — their own — and in the one more legally-minded tale, justice was served in the end. I think the reason we make, and watch, movies like this is that they reflect a deep longing in our souls. And a reflection of our arrogance. We want to be like them, because we are like them. We are thirsting for more, and wish we were more.
Too bad we cannot set aside our old lives and live new and better ones.
… to be continued …