Catching?

Have a watch of this video. It’s awesome.

I don’t know what he is saying, but he’s just so stoked. His name is Aleksander Gamme, and he’s [i.e. was] down in Antarctica, on a south pole expedition. He’s left food caches along the way, but not recorded what is in each. To come across some trashy, tasty food after 86 days of healthy stuff just makes him lose it. So much stoke.

The reason I blogged it is this: It just made me stoked as well. That’s the premise behind this whole post. If it doesn’t have the same effect on others, then I’m a whacko and the following is pretty baseless. Anyhow, I’ve chucked together a few disparate musings. Hopefully it will give you some thoughts to chew on. Proceed.

I was just pumped for this guy! Most of us have absolutely no idea what it would be like to be in his situation. I’ve been in NZ for a few weeks, and just a 20 minute walk up a snow road to the ski field had us almost quitting. And we were eating huge meals of awesome food, as well as plenty of junk to keep us happy. Maybe some of you have done big stuff: big walking tours, expeditions, mountain climbs. We can’t really identify with the training, commitment, and sheer determination that gets this guy going. But his joy at finding some junk food is just so catchy. Hype catches easily, it would seem.

His excitement is totally understandable, but there’s this weird dynamic; we feel his vibe, but we don’t really catch his feeling. How could we. And how does that work out in other situations. When we feel empathy for someone, how much can we actually understand what they are feeling? If you’ve been there before, how much does it help? How much is merely channelled emotion, read and then subconsciously stimulated in us also? I think it’s fascinating that I didn’t really even understand the context before watching. I couldn’t understand what he said, and I only read the explanatory details once I had seen it, and caught myself grinning like a fool. Or a wolf. [Note: why do we have that concept of the wolfish grin? Does it actually look anything like a wolf? I suspect it’s entirely socially constructed, but I can’t help associating grinning with wolves.]

There’s a short essay by CS Lewis which describes something like this. He recalls a beam of light shining through a crack above the door. Think of your garden shed: a little sliver of light sneaks through and spreads out. From inside the shed, there are two ways you can perceive the light sneaking in. Standing adjacent, you get the beam cutting through; in the dust and dark, the beam itself can be observed. Or else you can stand in the brighter space, and peer out through the crack. You are seeing from within. It’s different: here you are still seeing the light, but you are looking through the beam, into the world outside. You can’t really see the shape of the beam, the way it comes in but fails to spread throughout the shed. But you also gain a new perspective: you can see out. You see where it comes from, a glimpse of the sky, something beyond the shed. Each view is different. The way I understand this video is different to how he might feel, looking back on it at the end of the expedition. It is probably a far cry from what other antarctic explorers would feel; their empathy would be of a very different sort. They may understand better, but when it comes down to it, empathy (in this case, catching the hype) doesn’t need common experience. The excitement catches, and then you want an explanation. Though it is the story which makes sense of the experience, the experience still transferred before the full gravity of the story was realised.

As followers of Christ we are told to have empathy. To mourn with those who mourn, but also share in the joy of others. To be all things to all men. To share in the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a solidarity we are to have with humanity; we long for something more, and we all fall short. There’s an empathy we have with the whole created order, as we yearn for liberation from decay. There could be interesting thoughts to draw out there, but here I’m concerned with how it works the other way. How our attitude is felt by others, before they have an explanation. 1 Peter 3 assumes that people will see our behaviour and ask questions. We’re told in a few places – the sermon on the mount and Colossians 4 spring to mind – that we are to speak and act in ways that are salty and light-bringing. There’s this notion of Christians offering a different experience, one that grabs people’s attention. There is something conspicuous and intriguing [even enigmatic?] about Christianity. I feel as if this emotionally-charged empathy may play a part in that. If we are stoked, might people notice that, and might it rub off? Might it cause people to seek the story behind the stoke? Or perhaps more simply, do we have joy that overflows to other people?

Feeling can catch; the hype just jumps across. I wonder, though, how often we feel this sort of joy. We have far better reasons to be stoked than this guy. Sure, cheese doodles after 86 days must be amazing. But how great is our Lord, and our salvation. At times, it can feel like Christians need to just calm down, or that it would be uncool to get excited about Christ. Sure, you don’t want to weird people out, or force things, or jump in without working out why and how God is using you in a particular situation.

But excitement is contagious. You don’t have to lose your gumdrops, scream out, and lie on the ground. But if people saw someone stoked about Jesus, could it affect them? Could it catch?

I feel that I need to be more genuinely grateful and stoked with how God does things; stoked that we have the bible, stoked at God’s plans and character, stoked about the way he is using you, stoked about what we have been blessed with. I guess that includes being stoked about the gift of junk food (of course, taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise).

I’m no expert theologian or pastor: I haven’t got this all worked out. I’m not sure how it quite works with people who are introverted and/or quiet. I’m not sure how you show excitement to people that don’t know you or your emotions. I’m not sure how to feel and to transmit this joy without feeling and looking like a loony. It is something to consider, though. Are we stoked about Christ? Are we stoked about our place in him, and in his world? Are we stoked for what God has in store? We have good reason to be, and if we are, it just might catch on.

[I’ve just looked up the Lewis essay mentioned above. It’s called “Meditation in a Toolshed”, and is in a few different collections of his essays. I’d definitely recommend  it, even just for the way he writes. He infers much more well-reasoned conclusions, and ties it all together nicely. My reference doesn’t do it justice at all, or follow where he went with it. See if you can hunt it down.]

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One comment on “Catching?

  1. […] wisdom that challenged me today. I chose this top run with, as it picks up an untied thread from THIS POST a little while ago, which considers the role of joy in witness. Bear in mind that I’m tired […]

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