I’m reading another outstanding book by Donald Miller. It’s entitled Searching for God Knows What .
In chapter seven of this book Miller is discussing how an alien might perceive human beings. He says, ” Let’s say I was an alien and I had to go back to my home planet and explain to some head-of-the-aliens guy about what people on this planet were like.” He figures he would say to the head alien, “The thing that defines human personalities is that they are constantly comparing themselves to one another.” He continued to think about this and decided to write his thoughts down on a piece of paper as if he was an alien. Here is what he writes:
Humans, as a species, are constantly, and in every way, comparing themselves to one another, which, given the brief nature of their existence, seems an oddity and, for that matter, a waste. Nevertheless, this is the driving influence behind every human’s social development, their emotional health and sense of joy, and, sadly, their greatest tragedies. It is as though something that helped them function and live well has gone missing, and they are pining for that missing thing in all sorts of odd methods, none of which are working. The greater tragedy is that very few people understand they have the disease. This seems strange as well because it is obvious. To be sure, it is killing them, and yet sustaining their social and economic systems. They are an entirely beautiful people with a terrible problem.
Miller continues by pointing out that even the things we watch on TV reinforce the idea that we are all constantly comparing ourselves to one another. Let’s say we’re watching an NBA basketball game. The alien might ask, “Why do they do that?” It’s a game, a competition… “But why? Why do they play the game? What are they trying to decide? They are trying to decide who is the better basketball team. The alien is perplexed. Why would twenty thousand people show up to find out which basketball team is better than the other?
Feeling judged, we would change the channel. We stumble on the new show on E! called Rank. It ranks celebrities from best to worst based on some random criteria. You know, the hottest couple, best eyes, best smile, whatever. DOH! We’re caught again…all we do is compare or compete with one another.
The alien now says, “You guys are obsessed. You have to wear a certain kind of clothes, drive a certain car, speak a certain way, live in a certain neighborhood, whatever, all of it so you can be higher on an invisible hierarchy. It’s an obsession! You are trying to feel right by comparing yourselves to others. It is ridiculous. Who told you there was anything wrong with you in the first place?
[Maybe this thing that makes us compare ourselves is what happened at the Fall. What the alien is saying makes sense because now that God was gone, now that He wasn’t around to help us feel that we were loved and important and good, we were looking for it in each other, in a jury of peers. It is as though the voice God used to have has been taken up by less credible voices. And when I think about this I know that Genesis 3 is true; I know without a doubt that I am a person who is wired so that something outside of myself tells me who I am. I am not trying to say I have some kind of terrible dysfunction or anything, it’s just that other people’s opinions, after the Fall, have become very important, and if everybody says that Saab cars are cool, then I want a Saab car, and if people say that a certain kind of music is cool, then I am more likely to listen to that kind of music. And all of this made me realize that the alien was right, and that Adam and Eve had it a great deal better before they ate the fruit.]*
Like the alien says, this should be so obvious. However, it feels like an epiphany to me. The reason we all strive to rank ourselves higher and higher on the invisible hierarchy is because we no longer walk naked in the Garden with God. If we did, our soul’s deepest need to be loved and accepted and approved of would be met by God himself.
For now, we as believers, continue to strive to connect with God as best as our fragile, fallen selves can.
*Taken directly from page 95