What if I told you that you’ve been lied to? That the American Dream is a myth meant to enslave you to a life of consumption that makes you dependent on systems of control and the illusion of personal choice. That the ‘good life’ is not good at all; not for our health, our sense of peace, our experience of joy or our personal power to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Living the ‘good life’ was what it meant to be truly American. It is this idea that has grown like a virus in the American worldview; the American dream is now a benchmark cultural assumption about how the world works. . . . As the narrator says in Fight Club: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” But it doesn’t work, because getting a paycheck is not a big enough idea.
The existential questions of humanity are the same at any point in time within recorded history. They are the same in any economy, in any political system and within the context of any particular culture. The questions may vary in importance, however they typically carry the thematic structure of the following: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Where do I find meaning? Is this all there is? What happens when I die?
These questions outline the longings of our human hearts; they dictate what we organize our lives around. The answers to these profound ponderings become formative attachments psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and then deeply influence the pragmatic choices of our physical lives. We organize our lives around what we believe to be true and meaningful, the cost is really high about how we answer these critical questions.
You get a paycheck to live, but what do you want to do with your life? How do you want it defined? You get to choose your attention and investment, what do you want out of it? For the love of God, don’t let the stupidity of our culture and consumer markets dictate that for you. You get to choose, so what do you want to do? You want to earn up enough over a lifetime, save up enough so that you can stop working for the last 30 years of your life and collect shells on the beach? Nothing wrong with that, it’s just boring. 😉
I think you were designed to count, and count quite uniquely. You are wired to matter. Dallas Willard said it this way: “As water is meant to run downhill, so you were destined to count.” A Paycheck doesn’t make you count or matter, it just helps you live. It’s the choices of your life that help you experience meaning, purpose and well-designed empassioned mission. Our consumer culture is a system of control and it doesn’t satisfy; it is designed to keep you wanting more because in the end, it’s a bankrupt set of ideals. It’s all the wrong dreams, all the wrong goals and all the wrong living. You were meant for more giving, not getting, and it’s at your fingertips to choose and experience. Don’t settle for anything less. You have one life, one chance for real living, a paycheck is not a big enough idea for you.
My wife and I have re-designed our entire life and budget. Today is the last day of my severance pay from my full-time job. We are now embarking into the reality of purpose and life in the hands of the God who made us, designed us and calls us to live a life of purpose and great meaning. We are no longer defined by a paycheck, we are free to work at the callings deep on our heart for justice, community, truth, love and a dangerous call of hope. A paycheck is not a big enough idea when there is a call to love the orphan, the widow, the lonely, the oppressed, the poor, the captives etc. We want to live life on purpose, not for a paycheck. Income helps us live, it doesn’t define us, our life defines us. How do you want to live?