Musings on a Coffee Cup

A journey worth taking should take us somewhere worth going

My daughter’s coffee cup is big and brightly colored, with a charming picture of a girl on a bicycle holding a flower bouquet. What’s the message on the cup? It’s the heartening sentiment that “Life is a journey!”

Hold on, now. Is there a question on the tip of your tongue? There is on mine, and I’ll ask it. “Where are we going?” Well, there’s another coffee cup that says, “It’s the journey that counts!” That won’t do, will it? Any journey worth taking should take us somewhere worth going. How we take the journey matters, too. Do we set off as wanderers or tourists? Many of us seem to be one or the other. It’s much better, though, to journey as pilgrims. We’d have a destination in mind that’s worth reaching. For believers, that destination is home, and home is with the Creator who brought us into being.

Of course, lots of people (and we often tag along) are busy about a journey that makes progress in the here and now. Folks have schedules, after all, and need to submit progress reports. The boss is sure to ask, “How’s it going?” Our answer better fit with a no nonsense spreadsheet.

Back in the good old days, when things (supposedly) worked, General Electric bragged “Progress is our most important product!” To my ear, that “brag” has a tinny sound. TVs and toasters, cars and cables and coils, pools and patios, they’re all products. Taken altogether, even if we add all the toys we can imagine, they give us sadly limited goods.

Well, then, what’s real progress? Nicholas Kristof’s recent New York Times op-ed piece, “Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History!” improves on the old General Electric boast. More people than ever have electricity, but that’s just a start. More people than ever have clean water, internet access, and access to family planning. Plus, both absolute poverty and the infant mortality rate are dropping.

On the other hand, human slavery was higher than ever. There was an “updating” of nuclear arsenals. Religious persecution escalated. Worldwide, there were about 45 million abortions last year. Efforts to mainstream homosexual unions gained traction. In this country suicide rates increased among the elderly. But Kristof makes no mention of any of these “signs of the times.”

Musings that began with a cup of coffee suggest that we’ll need a fresh pot even to keep on the road a bit longer. But keeping on the road isn’t enough for our journey. We need to check whether we’re on the right road. We need to be on the road home. Chesterton worried that many of us had lost our way home–and its address. And those of us who, by God’s grace, haven’t? Let’s pray that our light shines more brightly.

 

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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