We're all out of shape
Most of us probably know the facts, that obesity is the greatest public health crisis facing the USA and the UK (how embarrassing to be put in the same bracket...) and Sam Wells thinks it affects us all to some degree: he is interested in 'what obesity symbolises in our society'. Broadening out from the church (which is where his professional interest lies), he makes a powerful point about what obesity means for society as a whole, beyond the public health epidemic:
Our culture isn't at all sure what it's necessary to get in shape for, what it's worth making sacrifices for, what it's so important to get ready for. Our culture is obese.
One direction?Referring to what the Greeks called telos, or ultimate direction, he wonders whether our society actually knows 'what all this education and wealth creation and health provision and military protection is actually for'. And, addressing his Christian audience with its tradition from Abraham and Moses onwards:
Jesus' purpose is really no different. He wants the church to be ready to stand before God and to be a channel by which all the world can be ready to stand before God and be with God forever. ... This is what I'm for. This is what you're for.For those with a different affiliation he still has a point: does our society, do we, have any sense of 'such an overarching purpose that it's worth getting in shape for'? Is there anything our society is shaped around, besides money and choice - which Wells here castigates 'as mere holding areas leading to multiple goals that our society is reluctant to name'.
What do you want?It is hard to resist this - at times emotional because heartfelt - challenge to our deepest motivations. We may not be St Paul, whom he sets up as someone who really knows what he wants, nor even church-goers, or 'religious' in any way. But his final words in this chapter bear thinking about for at least the length of a Wychwood Circle discussion:
Look at your life. Is it easy to see what you want? What do you want?Maybe that's a first requirement for answering the overall question: How then Shall we Live?
Join us, having read Part Two of Wells' book (see earlier posts), to discuss this and other issues about 'Being Human', at Wychwood Library on February 11th. Please email in advance to signal your participation.