Reta-coloured lenses

Life in the Postmodern Shift

March 2, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 5
Troy Watson | Columnist
(Photo by Bud Helisson/Unsplash)

I’m not sure what happened over the past two years. Maybe I finally accepted that it’s over. We’ve passed the point of no return. Climate change; democracy collapse; and the death of common sense, dialogue and civility. This is our reality and it seems beyond repair.

Perhaps it’s only my illusions about such things that are fading like a sunset in the rearview mirror of reflection and nostalgia. Regardless, I apologize to the next generations for the future they will be inheriting from us. In our defence, I’m not sure we could have prevented this. We did our best. I mean, we stopped using plastic straws and posted our outrage on social media non-stop. What else could we have done? Who could have predicted this wouldn’t be enough?

Am I being sarcastic? Not at all.

Maybe that’s what happened. My sarcastic inner cynic won the battle of my mind to make sense of the times we live in. Or maybe I’m realizing that we’ve been duped by the relentless bombardment of doom and gloom headlines, brainwashing us into seeing only what’s wrong with the world.

Perhaps there is another way of looking at the world and the “other,” that transcends the clickbait noise pollution we are drowning in. Maybe the truth is that our world is constantly exploding with grace and light, overflowing with goodness each and every moment. Maybe this goodness even includes my jaded, sarcastic sense of humour.

Maybe it’s all of the above. Who knows? I don’t know much anymore, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: “Today is the day the Divine has given us, and I can choose to rejoice and be glad in it.”

“Why are you so sure of that?” you ask.

It’s a choice. When I began my sabbatical last October, I discovered I was as close to burnout, empathy fatigue and indifference as I’ve ever been. After years of perpetual rumination on one heavy subject after another, diligently focusing on how unfair and corrupt the world is, and how I’ve contributed to all the injustice, evil and suffering in the cosmos, I realized I needed a time out. I needed to come up for air and breathe. Smile. Laugh.

I needed a break from all the despair and self-flagellation. I needed to switch out the lenses of my glasses to see something other than what’s wrong with the world. I needed Sabbath rest from the Sisyphean rotation of endless issues and causes demanding my attention. I needed to spend more time with people who can help me walk in the collective awareness that there is a staggering amount of divine goodness and light in the world and every person on this planet. I needed people like Reta.

Reta is a wise elder in our church who turned 100 years old last year. She is arguably the most positive, grateful and delightful person I know. I recently asked Reta how she cultivated such a gracious, compassionate and joyful attitude.

She said: “Every morning I wake up, thank God and say, ‘This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.’ And that’s what I do for the rest of the day.”

I’ve decided to try a “Reta retina experiment,” to see the world through Reta-coloured lenses. To let light fill my vision as I tenaciously look for things in the world to rejoice in and be glad about.

Some of you might be thinking, “It must be nice to enjoy such privilege to take a break from the fight for justice and equality.” That’s fair.

My only response is, “Thank God we have you to continue solving all the world’s problems.”

If you’re wondering if I’m being sarcastic again, I can honestly say I’m being both facetious and sincere in equal measures. You see, I’m also learning to rejoice in the paradoxical nature of reality, which includes my own contradictions.

I hope to join you in fighting the good fight again soon enough, and I encourage you to continue righting all the world’s wrongs. For now, I need to focus on what is good, excellent and praiseworthy in the world and in other people. I’m convinced that, if I don’t do this, I may become permanently cynical and indifferent, and I don’t want that to happen.

I want to care about all people; about justice, equality and the environment. But I need to adjust to these Reta-coloured lenses first, so I can see how to do this in a healthy and sustainable way.

Troy Watson is a pastor of Avon Church in Stratford, Ont.

Read more Life in the Postmodern Shift columns:
Solitude and community
She’ll be coming ’round the mountain when she comes
What do I miss about church?
Into the woods
The misplaced pursuit of authenticity

(Photo by Bud Helisson/Unsplash)

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