Summary: Discovering and applying what Jesus taught about self.
Pleasing Ourselves - Godless Objective (POGO)
Some of you will remember the cartoon strip named Pogo. About a half century ago, back in the fifties, a favorite comic strip of many people was about an assortment of animals living in Florida’s Okefenokee Swamp. The cartoonist, Walt Kelly, referred to them as "nature’s schreechers." By the way, this is not the Gospel according to Pogo.
We will, instead, be looking at what the Gospel says about Pleasing Ourselves.
Walt Kelly did that comic strip for about 20 years before his death in 1973. The most famous quote from all of that 20 year history was created by Kelly in 1971 as part of an Earth Day Emphasis and its subject was related to littering. You probably have seen this quote:
"We have met the enemy and he is us."
Some of you are probably thinking “That ain’t good English.” There was not a whole lot of what Walt Kelly wrote in that comic strip that could be called “good English” but it communicated in its own way. If there were a “Gospel According to Pogo,” then this quote would be a key verse. In fact, “We have met the enemy and he is us” sums up a lot of the message of the New Testament. Admittedly, Walt Kelly did not have a “spiritual message” or agenda in this particular saying. However, each of us could apply this idea to ourselves and the internal spiritual warfare – that life-long inner struggle against those soul- destroying tendencies we have variously called passions, desires, or whatever.
These are emotions that are generated in that part of us we loosely refer to as SELF. If these tendencies and desires are left unchecked and we do not properly deal with them, then we find that we are enslaved to the demigod of self that winds up on the throne of our lives. And we wind up working in order to bring endless offerings of sacrifices to satisfy the insatiable appetite of that demigod that is on the throne.
The problem is that SELF is never satisfied and the more we try to satisfy it, the more enslaved we become to debt and materialism, to seeking after fame and popularity, to trying to control everything and everybody around us. It never gets any better. It is somewhat akin to borrowing money to pay off debt - most of us realize that is a downward spiral into the abyss of bankruptcy.
Often we do not realize that trying to appease self is a no-win situation and we end up in the Abyss of Self Importance. We think we can control the demigod of self by educating it and civilizing it. What we wind up with is a stronger, better educated and more socially-acceptable demigod on the throne of our lives. And yet, despite the education and civilization, we are still enslaved. We can identify with the plaintiff plea from song that Tennessee Ernie Ford sang back in the 1950’s – “16 Tons” - we are just “another day older and deeper in debt” or, in this case, deeper into the abyss of self importance.
As a society and culturally we have tended to think that if we can just better educate and better civilize humanity that humanity will improve and become better and better. That is nothing more than thinly veiled “humanism.” That idea has been around since mankind has been around. This misconception about what civilization can do for us is not new. About 100 years ago S. L. Clemens wrote the following in the “Papers of the Adam Family.”
[Ours] is a civilization which has destroyed the simplicity and repose of life; replaced its contentment, its poetry, its soft romance-dreams and visions with the money-fever, sordid ideals, vulgar ambitions, and the sleep which does not refresh; it has invented a thousand useless luxuries, and turned them into necessities; it has created a thousand vicious appetites and satisfies none of them; it has dethroned God and set up the shekel [materialism] in His place.
What Mark Twain may not have realized was that materialism (as well as fame or control) is just an outward manifestation of what Walt Kelly referred to as US and what the writers of the New Testament referred to as SELF.
In the past decade or more, we have see an increasing interest and emphasis on self esteem and its importance concerning a person being able to function in a world where relationships with others are essential. We cannot think of many situations in which interpersonal relationship are not essential. It could be in family, work, church, school, or the neighborhood. A balanced perspective of self, an understanding of basic human needs regarding self, and a knowledge of what our Creator intended for us can help us function effectively in whatever culture we may find ourselves.