Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
The earthy, mercenary lust for gold, silver and precious stones drove prospectors to the California Forty-niners gold rush and the Klondike gold rush, and it pushed conquistadores from the Old World to risk everything – even life – in their quest for cities of gold in the New World.
It made no difference that mushrooming gold rush towns were rife with crime and immorality.
Changed only in venue and outer appearance, the gold rush syndrome lives today and thrives in virtually every corner of the planet. Mercenaries of every stripe abound in every nation and in all human activities. We have come to expect the gold rush multimillions routinely tossed about in negotiations and contracts of the National Basketball Association, the National Football Association, Major League Baseball, professional golf, hockey, soccer and entertainment.
Oddly, those outsized salaries are frequently dwarfed by multimillion-dollar endorsements made by famous athletes like Michael Jordan who continue raking in the megabucks decades after their heyday as athletes and retirement from the battlefield of world-class competition.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” is the chant that describes but a small part of all that goes on in the erstwhile dusty townlet of the western desert that became Glitter City built on the human hunger and thirst to derive great profit from as little outlay as possible. But, lo, in magic Atlantic City and thereabouts, big names like Showboat Atlantic City and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino are set to close within two months, mainly due to tough regional competition.
With all that, the gold rush fever sometimes invades, undermines and destroys our most intimate and precious relationships in marriage, among family members, and with our friends. We even call those involved in such relationships gold diggers, because their mind is never far from lucre and gain.
Mark 8:36-37 extends the challenge of a stiff rebuke to people who drop all other interests and go all out for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life?”
A few days ago, an extraordinary rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” stopped me in my tracks and lifted my mind and emotions to a place beyond the everyday reach of our human understanding. Although it is frequently symptomatic of lazy distractions, daydreaming is a not uncommon subconscious indication of a transcendent longing of our hearts and minds.
Yearning and imagination fog the stardust and physical allures of people like Judy Garland who seem to have so much more of the good life than most of us have. But there seems to be an inverse relation of the good life to real transcendent values in perhaps most of those who are gifted with the good life. In other words, the good life does not deliver what its goods claim to embody. The more the good life is present, the less true values and happiness seem to thrive.
Whether the near mystical transport of our human being results from hallucinatory drug accelerants or from a clear mind uncluttered by drugs of any kind, the end product is invariably a most desirable place tantalizingly beyond our mortal grasp. Thus, we have a contradictory huge attraction to the divine and simultaneously to the vanity of human longing for worldly things.
Our longing for the spiritual wonderland beyond all earthly barriers must be stronger than the terrible condition of the world summed up by St. John the Evangelist in 1 John 2:16-17, “All that is in the world, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” Sadly, we remain suckers for what is so obviously passing away.
However, the proverbial pot of gold may not be conventional gold at all for some blessed people whose “gold” in life is something even more precious. For instance, true friends are worth more than gold, and, of course, our relatives should be worth even more than that, although such is, tragically, not always the case. Relatives are often the gold unappreciated until they are gone.
“Somewhere over the rainbow… dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.” The lyrics go on to portray the intense desire to see clouds and troubles melt away. However, ironies demonstrate that the lack of clouds spell troubles in lands stricken by severe drought. Not every cloud is your enemy. Not every blue sky or Easy Street day is your friend. At times the hot cauldron of hardship and pain forges your mind, heart and soul into a fit instrument of service.
Our dreams must far exceed the worldly parameters of the so-called American dream. Of itself, that dream is earthy, hard limited by some decades of time, and too easily conducive to an attitude of selfishness, snobbishness, attachment to material things, and a drift away from God.
The stellar intellect of St. Augustine shares with us, “Our hearts are restless, oh God, and they will never find rest until they rest in you.” Augustine shares again, “Too late have I known you, Beauty so ancient yet so new!”
“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)
Reflections on Life