All the Things...
How familiar are you with "memes?"
The word "meme" is short for memetics. You can read more about it by clicking the word "memetics."
The short version is that it is a concept that replicates itself throughout culture through words, images, actions, beliefs, etc. Internet memes are images or sayings or videos that end up being spread from user to user across the internet so quickly that they are considered to have gone "viral." Among the many things the internet helps us do is discover that we are not the only person in the world who thinks and feels the way we happen to think and feel. Internet memes help countless people to find ways of expressing things they might not have known they were feeling previously...and they also discover they are not alone in that experience.
So, from the blog Hyperbole and a Half, we get this particularly catchy meme called "All the Things." The original cartoon (depicted below) seems to have resonated with a lot of folks who primarily experience adult life as "overwhelming." The character in the cartoon has to clean all the things...as do we...and we also have to buy all the things, attend all the things, fix all the things, protest all the things, save all the things, teach all the things, eat all the (right) things, care for all the things...and we feel like we're doing it all on our own. So this meme has spread around the internet...resonating with every person who feels personally responsible for "ALL THE THINGS"...helping us to vent our exasperation and frustration.
The next logical question is: Why are we so overwhelmed by all the things? Didn't previous generations raise kids while also working and also being good neighbors and responsible citizens? Did they feel this overwhelmed? If so...how did they manage it all?
Asking this series of questions leads us to a clearer understanding of the cultural, historical moment in which we live. While it is definitely true that human life has always been overwhelming for people at one time or another, people of my generation (roughly 45-50 years of age and younger) are the first generation in American history who are expected to do more with much less. We make less money than previous generations, we have more debt, our environment is less stable, and in the last 30-40 years there has been a sharp turn away from Public Services--goods and services provided for all people, regardless of income or background--toward Privatization. Don't take my word for it. Read any of the books listed in the Bibliography below (and join us every Thursday morning at 10:00a.m. to discuss one of those books "An Other Kingdom"). I have spent my entire adult life reading books about this trend. It's an unfortunate reality of our time. It's why younger adults feel the need to do "all the things" all on their own...because the world has slowly become one in which essential programs have been turned into "privileges" for those who can pay for them. We are expected to do a lot more, with a lot less, all by ourselves.
The Good News, friends, is that this does not have to be the way of things. Like any other problem in life, the solution begins with naming the problem. The problem of "overwhelm" is currently unavoidable...but it need not be so forever. This is one of the ancillary benefits of participating in a Practicing Faith Community like First Congregational Church of Kittery United Church of Christ: together, with God as our Provider, we can stop feeding into the constant loop of "overwhelm"--too little, never enough, too little, never enough--and begin living into the rhythmic flow of the Gospel: loving-kindness and service in abundance, Agape through and through, Love in all the things-.
This week is a busy week. They all are. They will only get busier, and we will get more burnt out.
OR...you can come enjoy a day of crafting, music, play and blueberries at our Festival all day this Saturday, August 11.
You can then join us for an hour of centering, prayer, music, silence, and poetry on Sunday August 12.
And then next week we can decide together how we will stop being busy with all the things...and begin living lives of meaning.
God's Grace and Peace be with you until we gather again,
Bibliography for this post, and all the work ahead:
"Overwhelmed" by Brigid Shulte
"The Spirit Level" by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
"Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam
"Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" by Robert Putnam
"An Other Kingdom" by Peter Bloc, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight
The Bible written by God's People since the dawn of time, still being written today.