I had an acquaintance, a gifted writer and journalist, tell me once—in the midst of a mid-life crisis—that failing to publish a second book is one of his life’s major regrets. For him it was a question of personal significance: he said he wanted to leave his mark on the world, to create something that would outlast him.
I said, “It wouldn’t help, you know? Even if you had written that book, no one would remember it, or you, a hundred years from now. After all, who’s the greatest writer ever? Shakespeare? Who reads him anymore?”
Before you throw rotten tomatoes at me, I’m not at all disparaging Shakespeare. It’s just that any number of contemporary authors, few of whom could touch Shakespeare artistically, are winning hearts and minds of people more than him. And if he weren’t (still, one hopes) required reading in school, relatively few would read him at all!
Obviously, his impact on the English language has been profound whether anyone reads him or not, but that influence is covert.
The point is, if even someone like Shakespeare can’t achieve “immortality” through great literature, what hope does anyone else have? “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
We better find our significance elsewhere. As I preached about in yesterday’s sermon, I have a good idea where we should look!
As I said, if we look for significance somewhere other than in Christ, we risk committing idolatry.
With that in mind, I consider David Letterman’s recent comments about the perspective he’s gained in retirement a step in the right direction. Would some people find them depressing?
Looking back on his more than three-decade long career, Letterman says he has realized that his work in TV is probably irrelevant. “And because of this introspection, you believe that what you are doing is of great importance and that it is affecting mankind wall-to-wall. And then when you get out of it you realize, oh, well, that wasn’t true at all,” he says, laughing.
“It was just silliness. And when that occurred to me, I felt so much better and I realized, geez, I don’t think I care that much about television anymore. I feel foolish for having been misguided by my own ego for so many years.”