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LIFE MATTERS: Worldly Success

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By Dr. Dencio S. Acop

The world is obsessed with ‘worldly success’. What is worldly success? Succeeding in the world of course means rising up to attain the most wealth, power, pleasure, and honor we can achieve through the course of our earthly journey. But what is wrong with this definition? It is SELFISH. To secular thought, there is nothing wrong with selfishness. After all, doesn’t the liberal order protect freedom? But what is actually being protected is not ‘selfishness’ but the freedom to choose or free will. Back in the day when new-found democracies were built upon the backbone of the moral order, freedoms always meant the dominant will of the good over the bad, the clear distinction of right from wrong. Many among us may not be aware of it, but this concept of good and evil didn’t just happen out of magic or the universal law of gravity. Open up your books and you’ll see that all good comes from God who is the source of all positive forces in the universe. Every now and then, God allows some bad (even the real bad) in the world, in order to bring about an even greater good. But, don’t we also need to be selfish when we take care of ourselves and stay healthy and happy? Yes of course, but not to the extent that our selfishness plays out at the expense of SELFLESSNESS. 

Which brings me to my next point. What is ‘selflessness’? We cannot define selflessness without first fully understanding selfishness. When we prioritize ourselves over anything else; when we satisfy ourselves at the expense of others; when we adopt a ‘live and let die’ attitude towards our neighbor; then, we exist ethnocentrically caving in upon ourselves until we discover the futility of what we’ve done. We find ourselves staring at nothingness even if we’ve lived like the gods we chose to be. Even the arguments of cynics and demagogues will not justify the case for selfishness when the sub-order of death comes knocking. For death is a crucial part of the universal order of creation. Death, in fact, traverses the natural and supernatural divides of a man’s life. Selflessness makes sense of death, but selfishness doesn’t. Selfishness mocks the eternal message of the carpenter son of God by proclaiming that man is his own creator who can then create his own meaning according to his own likes and dislikes. Selflessness, on the other hand, echoes the eternal message of the humble servant of the Lord proclaiming that the earthly life of man ought to be the imitation of Christ’s life in obedience to the will of His Father. 

Which is why selfishness and selflessness cannot go together and certainly do not mix. Life on earth is ultimately and predominantly a life of one or the other. Each traces its roots to either the author of life or the author of death. The world is rife with the narratives of practicing believers, un-practicing believers, practicing un-believers, and un-practicing unbelievers. One group of believers put all their faith and talent in what the material world dictates. Blind to the non-material, the forces of the material world have dominated the lives of many to view their destiny as nothing but consequences and derivatives of political and market forces. The ‘live and let die’ syndrome is normal and beating the competition at all costs is applauded. Ultimate self-absorption becomes the desired end-state and making it to the top despite all the odds is eternal. Another group of believers put all their faith and talent in God more than anything else. Mindful of the presence of God in their lives, they view their earthly lives as just the natural segment of their continuing journey with God which is supernatural. The ‘live and let live’ philosophy living life following the will of God dominates their daily life. Naturally, this community-centered lifestyle imitating Christ may be good for the simple majority but it does not bode well for succeeding in the politics of material privilege. Many faithful followers therefore choose to be ‘selfless’ sacrificing lucrative careers and glorious ambitions and finding peace even in partaking of Christ’s cross to bring more souls to heaven. Many faithful are the ‘losers’ of the material world. Their chosen paths have been those of truth, humility, honesty, poverty, self-denial, powerlessness, and suffering. Great examples are the lives of the saints if we only care to read them. Worldly success they did not have. But the glory of heaven while still in the world they most certainly did.                       

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