The Ideas of The Shipwrecked
The other day I read this amazing quote from the Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega y Gasset, who said this:
These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.
It's taken me a while to internalize just why that particular quote was so meaningful to me. There's a truth embedded within it that I find all at once both refreshingly freeing, and also incredibly hard to hear.
Ortega's point is quite simply this: The way toward progress isn't forged in the lap of luxury and ease.
According to Ortega, the way toward progress is forged after your ship runs aground on the rocks, and you find yourself face down on the beach with a faceful of sand and a bellyful of seawater, wondering what happened.
Then you stand up on wobbly legs and look around at the smashed pieces of your ship washing up on the beach, and you realize there's no going back. Wherever you were going is irrelevant at the moment because a new plan is required.
Following Ortega's lead on this...
This is the moment when you find yourself in the kind of creative space that is often only discovered out of necessity. It's a moment when you are able to let go of what was---a moment when genuinely new ideas can be formed, and a new way of being can be imagined.
One of the most difficult exhortations that Jesus gave to his followers was when he said, "If anyone wants to follow me, then they need to take up their cross and follow."
This was the worst thing you could think of as a first-century Jewish person because the only people who were called upon to carry their cross were those who had been condemned.
What Jesus was suggesting was that you had to start thinking of yourself as a person with nothing left to lose. His use of metaphor was slightly more dramatic than a shipwreck, mind you, but the idea behind it is the same.
When you realize you can't go back the way you came... when all of your plans have come crashing down... when your life has been turned upside down, and will never be the same...
According to Jesus that is the precise moment when you can begin to live more fully than you could have ever imagined.
Because then and only then will you be able to admit that you were never in control, no matter how hard you tried to be. Then and only then will you be able to imagine a new life where you are marked by surrender to God's purposes and the release of unhealthy attachments.
The world has changed forever over these past 18 months. And yet nothing has changed when it comes to the choices we have before us.
Here's what I mean...
We ran aground and landed face-first on the beach. The ships we were in are gone--reduced to kindling. The direction we were heading is immaterial and irrelevant, and quite frankly the imagined future that we were journeying toward then was more of an illusion than we'd like to admit.
And now we find ourselves with a choice: We can keep sitting on the beach, filled with the longing to put our ships back together exactly as they were, and determined to wait as long as we need to until all the pieces wash ashore.
Or we can decide to explore the place where we've landed to see what new worlds we might discover.
The shipwreck gives us the chance to think something new, imagine a better world, move forward into an uncertain future with courage and hope. It gives us that chance because it forces us to let go of what was, and to believe we're going to be all right.
May this be so for you today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.