I suspect I am more or less always well behind the crest of the wave of fashion and popular sentiment. It is a comfortable place in many ways, for what I choose to indulge has already been tried in the fires of the this world and at least some of the dross has been burned away.
It is also a detriment, however, in so far as I am not necessarily able to respond to current thoughts insofar as they are current. Often times, at the point a modern popular idea strikes me as problematic or useful it is no longer popular, and there are few who are interested in its advantages or disadvantages. I hope that in this case I am not too fare behind the trend and that, should I be so, this post will still prove itself useful to those who take the time to read it.
I have no idea as to how long the YOLO phenomenon has been going on; I have been aware of it only recently. For all I know, it is already passe. For the uninitiated, YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.”
As far as phrases go, it is quite true, at least from the Christian perspective. Each person is given only one life to live. Yet this phrase is often used in a very particular way, a way which is, at best, questionably Christian, or even human. It all comes to down to a way of emphasis.
In most occurrences, YOLO is used with the emphasis on the “once”. Go skydiving, learn this skill, kiss that girl, etc., because it may be your only opportunity to do so. Life rolls past quickly and he who hesitates is lost.
Yet he who acts may be as lost, for the parachute may fail, the skill be a waste of time (like learning phrenology), or the girl turn out to be a manipulative liar. Of course, this isn’t the usual case, but a little bit of hesitation, particularly in important things, can be highly valuable.
The most valuable part of the phrase is, conversely, “live”. It should surprise no one that I am going back to my catch phrase “the glory of God is man fully alive.” We are given one life to live and are called to, must fundamentally, live it. Our great dilemma is that we do not know how.
For various reasons the modern world has determined that to live is the same as to experience. Thus we demand the doing of things so that we may have as large of a slice of the life-pie as we can get our grubby little hands on. Yet we are constantly dissatisfied, constantly hunting out that next experience, the new girlfriend, the bigger car, the faster thrill, the more beautiful vista, the intenser high. We do not enjoy because we do not live.
Living properly is an indwelling with life himself. We suffer no lack of ‘experience’ if we are pursing the infinite One who holds within himself all things. Our very being was made to find its fulfillment in him; thus we live when we pursue him. To live is to have the only fullness that can truly fill us.
This does not mean we must withdraw from the world and all it offers (even if such a thing was truly possible). Rather, we enjoy the things of the created world (ergo created by God) in a manner which is oriented toward proper humanity, proper personhood. We do not abuse the good he has given, but we come to learn how it properly serves man qua man.
This is a task of discernment, to find the proper role of creation, and we are far from complete in it. But we are aware that it involves rejecting an experience simply because it is pleasurable and determining whether it offers a true, human good. Only then can we really live.