On Saturday mornings, I attend a contemplative retreat. Long periods of silence and meditation aren’t everyone’s bag, but they are certainly mine. The pace and noise of life very easily prove overstimulating and leave me exhausted and empty, to check out for even an hour on Saturday mornings are like water in the desert.
This week was no different, but it is a seemingly throwaway comment made early during the hello’s and how are you’s that I wanted to talk about today. The woman, Susan, quoted a tv show called Northern Exposure: “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.”
I never watched the show, don’t remember the context she provided, and honestly couldn’t care less about either. The quote is absolutely perfect and vital to our every moment of every day, no matter if the show was great or terrible, no matter what they were flinging or why.
I might amend it slightly, to say “it’s not the thing you fling or where it goes (if it goes anywhere at all), it’s the fling itself.”
If I write this post for the likes or comments, with an eye towards potential advertisers and income… well, so many things will happen. I’ll probably, on some level, conscious or not, begin to tailor it to reach the most eyeballs. It will cease to be 100% honest, because authenticity is usually packaged with sharp edges. I will drift into what I think you want to read instead of who I am, carefully crafting the image of taste-making, (insert popular characteristic I can pretend to possess here), supercool famous blog rock star. I will shoehorn the “thing to fling” into the popular trend.
And if I don’t get enough response, then what? I’ll quit or I’ll put on some new clothes and opinions and try again to fit the current to achieve an imaginary idea of success. Either way, it’s superficial and fake. It’s what we used to call, back in the day, “selling out” and the internet is lousy with it.
As you may or may not know, I am the pastor of a small church and as far as I can tell, the Bible is (among other things) a library of books connected by the Art of Subtraction. We subtract all of the ways we invent to manufacture an image – in the Scriptures, it’s called hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is meant to describe actors on a stage, bending themselves into a role to be what the audience wants them to be. Except in this case, our lives are the stage and we bend ourselves so much and so often that we forget who the person is under the mask. It’s a focus on the ends, the responses, the rewards, instead of the life-giving passion and fulfillment that only comes from stripping the expectations until we are left with exactly who we have been created to be. We subtract all of the extraneous layers until we are left with the genuine true us.
Now, maybe that includes gigantic paychecks from YouTube and fame beyond your wildest dreams. Maybe I’ll be driving a fleet of Rolls Royce’s by next summer due to an avalanche of social media adoration. Maybe I’ll be the next darling of Instagram or TikTok. But if that pseudo-success includes any hint of pretense or masquerade, it’s going to feel hollow and leave us wanting more and more, trying to fill the hole that all of our different costumes can’t plug.
It’s the fling, the process, the naked transparency of being exactly who we are and doing exactly what we’ve been made to do (whatever the thing to fling or where it is flung), that tears down walls of division and builds something new, inspiring, significant and undeniably awesome.
The fling is what builds a beautiful life.