Unconscious, Insidious Worship

[An excerpt from Damien Jourdan’s talk this past Friday at the Work + Faith Forum:]

. . . Work can take on a double meaning, a double purpose. On one level it is absolutely a good thing. The Bible for example describes how God created human beings to work in Paradise, to bring out the untapped potential hidden in the universe. In this sense work is as much a human need as food, rest, friendship. It provides for our families and gives us the opportunity to exercise our unique abilities to serve others and society at large. 

[But] most of us have [a] sense of insignificance, consciously or unconsciously, and we all seek to chase it away somehow, again, consciously or unconsciously. It can be in raising a family, in sport activities, in friendships, in religious activities. And one place where this quest manifests itself vividly--at least it does for me--is work. It's an important question, because whatever it is that gives you significance, that becomes your functional god, whether you’re religious or not. It becomes central and essential to your life, because it defines who you are. It becomes an object of worship, in that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living for. Someone recently pointed me to this quote from David Foster Wallace (not a Christian, as far as I could tell - somewhat of a sometimes-theist):

In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship [...] is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things--if they are where you tap real meaning in life--then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already [...]. Worship power--you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart--you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is [...] that they are unconscious . . .

So it’s something worth thinking about.