Identity and idolotry
One of the three books I read while on very looooooooooooong flights this week was Tim Keller’s “Every Good Endeavor”. It was focused primarily on putting work in its rightful place – neither too high (an idol) nor too low (because God made work and it’s going to be around for eternity – just not as broken as it often feels on this earth)
It started me thinking about idols in general – another Keller quote
The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them…
We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.
What happens when an idol is threatened? Despair, fury (extreme anger), denial.
This brings me back to the Facebook article posting yesterday.
NYT: Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives
Customizing our lives – “I want to project the identity I am crafting and desire for myself ” – leads to the envy trend – with a twist…
ABC: People think, speak and live in status updates. We have become short spurts of witty commentary. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to truly connect with a person, rather than just their online character. We are all becoming narcissists…Facebook users project a perfectly crafted image of what they think their life should be, others viewing those nicely cropped photos of happiness end up overestimating how good the lives of others really are.
I’ve often wondered if the people who are on a constant ‘self-customization’ quest (ex: a constantly updated set of tattoos documenting ones’ life story, likes, passions, etc on ones’ person) are crafting the identity they’d like to be, or documenting who they actually are.
Similarly, think of all those on either side of the political aisle who align themselves to a specific train of thought as a type of ‘aspirational class identification.’ For those of the urban, liberal bent – there’s even a set of blog articles at Huffington Post on “how to be an intellectual.” (not clear if it is really a guide book on the do’s and don’ts for those aspiring to the upper middle class caste - or a really well done sarcastic parody).
It explains a lot of the difficulty in healthy discourse between those with different ideals. Identity is no longer secure – but meticulously crafted via alignment with “the right” books, shows, activities, vacations, beliefs, fashion… all necessary to be accepted by ones’ desired tribe. When it is as authentic as modern reality TV shows, as full of actual news as “The Daily Show”, as fragile as an ancient clay idol on a pagan altar, it’s very easy to feel threatened.