John Nelson Darby suspects the great moral thinkers of his generation all work in advertising. The shift from helping others do the right thing to helping them buy the right thing was nearly imperceptible. Honestly, he doesn’t blame them. There are so few places left to pursue the art.
Last week, he decided to spend some time walking around asking people whether they thought they were a good person. He had been hesitant, worried these encounters would deteriorate as people tried to guess what the catch was, but eventually he set his hesitancy aside.
Darby was not surprised to find that nearly everyone he asked thought they were a good person. Certainly, the opinion was camouflaged in various ways: many felt they could be better but they were trying their best, others gave credit to their faith or inspiring figures in their life.
As he walked home Darby realized he had asked the wrong question. Perhaps next week he will ask people what they think it means to be good.
John Nelson Darby loved the lake. Some days he would sit along it’s shore to think—few places were better for long, drawn out reflection than that worn bench beside the lake. On these days he loved it’s passivity, how it simply existed, touched now by a light wind working up ripples across it’s surface or (in storms) the violent rush of water crashing about….but always returning to itself. He would sit and imagine what it would be like to be this lake—to meet everything with the same placid acceptance. It made him want to read Marcus Aurelius and make good on his stoicism.
Other days he would watch the play of wind across water and wish he were the wind, caressing the uncaring lake—raising little waves for a moment and then rushing off, leaving the lake to continue being, leave it to continue there without a thought for the wind. These were the days he was most tempted to strip down and jump in, his flailing limbs stirring the water like wind.
More and more, as he continued day after day sitting beside the lake, he would grow angry. He wanted neither to be the passive body, patiently enduring the occasional disruption, nor the breeze stirring an occasional rill in the lake’s placid calm but soon gone. Instead he wanted something else, something not quite passive yet not the pleasure of a passing excitement. He wanted. Simple that…to want, something the lake couldn’t show him.