Happy New Year and welcome to 2015. The fact that you are reading this tells me you have a lot to be thankful for. If nothing else, the very life that you have suggests you have hope for a living dog is better than a dead lion. However good or bad it was, 2014 is now gone and part of history. This would be the right time to forget about the past and look to the future. It has been my custom for many years now to write a note to my immediate circle (close friends and family members) on the 1st of January however with the coming alive of this platform, I share my thoughts with you as we commence 2015 in lieu of the typical Bible expository post.
Two phrases that keep ringing in my mind as we ring in the New Year are ‘independent thinking’ and ‘conscious living’. These two partially interwoven yet distinct concepts are my mantras for 2015 and most likely beyond.
The best description that fits our world as we know it today are the words of President Barack Obama; we live in a complex world and at a challenging time. Bluntly put, we live in a crazy world. In 2014, we experienced strange things such as the disappearance of a massive 777 plane out of the sky and the shooting down of another plane for no justified cause. This is an era in which it is trendy for famous people (supposed role models) to splatter their nudity on every available media and we are largely fine with it evident by the lack of protests against such conduct. Moral standards are being depleted and we are being desensitized to the events. Ours is a world where a woman who refuses to display her bare pregnant body is castigated for not being a feminist because apparently feminism and depravity are essentially the same thing.
We are seeing governments play politics with even the most basic issues from terrorism to immigration and healthcare. This is a time when leadership is at an all time low and politicking is at its highest. We have seen what we call terrorism rise to alarming levels and has of late taken on a dimension that was previously unimaginable. To my shock, western born and raised individuals, some with Ivy League education pick up their G7 passports and travel east to fight a gory jihad that closely resembles something out of a horror movie. These events are difficult for me to reconcile. The world is increasingly chaotic. However, in my humble opinion, none of these trends is a more serious threat that the trend of ‘not thinking’.
There is a severe deficiency of original thought in the world today. Consciousness has been lost even in thought which to me is most tragic. Independent thinking is just too hard these days. Independent thinking is the practice of soaking in information, processing it in isolation and offering a fresh thought. I believe one reason for this is the vast amount of information we consume today. The various forms of media and barrage of newsfeeds constitute an assault on our minds thereby taking away the capacity to think. Previous generations were not exposed to as much information as we are hence they had room to process what little information they took in effectively. Evidence of this abounds in the salience of their words. We quote men of old because they were deeper thinkers. We are experiencing what I believe to be symptoms of diminishing returns on information whereby information ordinarily meant to make us brighter is making us feeble-minded. As a result, the media thinks for us and forms our worldview. We have become worse than lazy thinkers – non thinkers.
How can we live in a world where independent thinking is almost extinct? The media spins a story a certain way and after a few hours, we are all saying the same thing. Not a conspiracy theorist or an anarchist but just an advocate of independent thought. Not everything that’s being said and done is right. The voice of the majority is not the voice of God.
Also, conscious living is at the forefront of my thoughts for 2015. The concept of conscious living has interested me of late because I discovered originally from my life and from observing others that the majority of human beings are robotic in many areas of life. We do a lot of things unconsciously or subconsciously. For example, a religious person wakes up every Sunday and heads to church, he puts money in the offering bowl, sings the hymns and returns home. It takes no thought from him therefore the essence of the action is lost. Only actions taken deliberately profit us.
Naturally, when you have been doing something for a while, it becomes spontaneous and that is the inflection point where we start to lose the benefits of the practice and lose the utility of the decision making process. When decisions are made after a deliberate process, they tend to be more effective. We are told automation is good. The world is moving towards automation in every area. Machines are replacing humans and humans are behaving like machines. This is one area where automation is not profitable. Consistency is necessary but without automation. What makes consistent action automated is the absence of thought or deliberateness. You want to aim for consistency but never automation. We want to be live consciously in two broad areas: relationships (God, family and friends) and work (job, career, ministry and business)
Our service to God must become more conscious than automated. I believe we stand to enjoy our Christianity better when time is taken to remove automation. Those who have been serving the Lord for a while or were raised in religious households tend to be susceptible to this pattern. We have been doing it for so long that it starts to lose its meaning.
Our relationships with family and friends also need to become more conscious. We routinely take our kids to school and games, hug and kiss our wives, call friends to hang out but rarely apply thought to these activities. Why do you do the things you do? What is the desired outcome?
In our careers and jobs, we need this consciousness as well. Most people go to work every day because they have become programmed to – almost like zombies. Seriously, who puts serious thought into going to work every day? Sounds ridiculous yet we ought to.
As a practical example, let me lay out one of the activities I plan to practice consciousness in this year; church attendance. Before going to church every Sunday, I will now engage myself in a dialogue of sorts. “Deji, why are you going to church?” “I am going to church because I love God and want to be in His presence this morning. In His presence is fullness of joy and I ought not to forsake the assembly of the saints says the Word of God. I expect to hear a word from God that is relevant to my situation. I expect to be fed spiritually and to return stronger in spirit than I am now. Today, I will worship the Lord with my whole heart and show gratitude for seeing me through last week and in faith for the week ahead. I bring my sacrifice of praise, worship and offerings before You, Lord. Please accept me.”
This simple exercise will change the experience and fulfillment you feel from attending a regular Sunday service. Such conscious approach to the seemingly mundane activities you do such as going to work, spending quality time with family and friends, paying your tithe or giving offerings, and many more can yield significant benefits. Conscious living helps reveal meaningless activities, makes it obvious when the purpose is not being fulfilled, helps us be more engaged without growing weary. Monotony bores. Conscious living gives us new life and fuels passion. It also ensures that we reap the benefits of the actions we take.
In 2015, I have put conscious living and independent thought at the top of my working plan. I plan to be very deliberate about what I say, what I do, where I go, how I spend my time, and with whom I spend my time. If we all conform, we rob the world of originality and the blessing that is your uniqueness. You’ll find that the greatest contributors to mankind have been outliers; a group known for original thought and conscious living. Have an amazing 2015. Shalom.