I am as big a Marvel fan as anyone (I had actually read the Infinity Gauntlet decades ago) but realized recently that in a culture which offers less and less opportunities for meaningful action we are being fed no less than 40 major superhero franchises (if you add DC) to live vicariously through.
That is a lot of heroism.
A film like The Infinity Wars feeds our fascination with heroism and meaningful action. But in reality, we have just spent $14 and watched a flat screen for 150 minutes. We have done nothing meaningful or heroic at all.
Our cubicles (if we are fortunate enough to be employed) often have objects of meaning or to remind us of meaning – just check that out next time you are at work.
A lot of people are down on others for a variety of reasons. That is not what this is about. This is an invitation – you see I am stuck in exactly the same situation you are. I am looking for a primary sense of meaning in a universe that does not just spell it out for me or dispense it.
But I have noted a few things like it is universal. Everyone gets at least a temporary sense of meaning from something. Some of those things can be pretty unhealthy and damaging – even lead to evil, and others just the opposite. They can be good, fun and even helpful.
But do they really slack the thirst for primary meaning?
I saw it best revealed in a recent episode of Westworld in a face-off between one of the creators of the park (Anthony Hopkins) and one of the owners (Ed Harris) who has been in a sort of chess-match battle with him:
In a very real way, this is like us. We are at play at the various social and professional games and roles we all must play looking for meaning and purpose – but there is the suspicion that underneath these games lies the real questions of meaning and purpose – “the Truth” as Ed Harris puts it and we are meant to get to that.
This Fall. we at humanmeaning.org are continuing to experiment with what I am now calling “Exploration Groups” – groups of people who do not passively watch things alone but are gathering to actively explore different aspects of Truth, Being, Service, or Spiritual Practice together.
Superhero costumes are optional.
It is very broad as you can see. Last semester our first Exploration Group tackled Adventures with Dr. Luke – a 12-week immersion into 1st Century Palestinian culture to re-view some of the parables and narratives of Jesus with fresh and less Western 21st Century lenses.
It was fascinating and great fun as we unpacked the dinner Jesus was invited to in Luke 7 while we ourselves all ate Middle Eastern food “reclining at table” and explored the words of Jesus about the woman who broke open the alabaster vial of perfume to anoint His feet causing a huge ruckus.
Next (for us) comes Mr. Lewis – this Exploration Group reopens his classic God in the Dock (“God on Trial”) to explore new subjects each week as well as field current questions.
Lastly, we have Thomas Merton and his classic New Seeds of Contemplation. This Explorative Group is for those who already have some experience of Christ under their belt (the others do not) and are wanting a deeper and more meditative experience.
Doing this work in Exploration Groups is crucial as so much more is brought out and shared in a dynamic group setting once the paramount issue of trust is established. Safety and confidentiality for each member are demanded of all. Respect is the third and only other condition. People are utterly free to think and believe what they will without fear of being unloved or not accepted.
Exploration Groups take you out of being a passive viewer and make you an active investigator for your own life alongside others.
Coming this Summer and Fall – All THREE Exploration Groups once we find a sponsor.