In the first part of this series, we examined an alternative way of keeping time. Rather than seeing time as being composed of the identical units, we are hoping you begin to see time as a contrast between ordinary/sacred moments. If all time were sacred, none of it would be. To feel how truly special a sacred second is, it must be surrounded by weeks, months or even years of ordinary days.
In the second part, we saw that sacred moments are becoming increasingly rare because their nature contrasts with what we value in our culture. Sacred time is out of our control, it is mysterious, it is risky to pursue and above all, it is terribly inefficient. As a substitute for sacred moments, our society offers us other ways to experience time that are more in line with its beliefs. In this post, we will examine what we are calling “False Sacred Time.” False scared moments mimic the play between ordinary and sacred time by contrasting different moments in our day to give the false impression that something extraordinary is happening.
Normally, when we post on social media, it has a predictable outcome – we get some likes, a few comments and maybe a couple of shares. Occasionally, the response is different. A post might generate more feedback, or prompt people who rarely participate in our feeds to like, comment or share it, or it might lead to action in our offline lives, or it might get a response from a celebrity. Social media copies the ordinary/ sacred interaction with ordinary/sacred posts and its one of the reasons it is so addictive. When we see the increase in attention that a sacred post receives, it leaves us wanting more. Social media is a false sacred because it simplifies our existence to some pictures, videos and a little dialogue. When we settle for sacred posts instead of sacred moments, we do get to experience something unique but at a price. It costs us our depth, uniqueness and individuality.
Another way we experience counterfeit sacred moments is when we succeed. The contrast in this false sacred is losing/winning or failure/succeeding. We experience it personally or vicariously through our sports teams, corporations, churches, etc. This past Sunday millions of people around the world participated in one of the main religious festivals in the United States, the Super Bowl. In San Diego, where we live, 1984 and 1998 are special years because the Padres went to the World Series. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans are ecstatic when their party is in the White House but are depressed when they are out. They feel this way despite the fact the President hardly affects our daily lives. Our culture loves to tell rags to riches or over-coming adversity stories because it wants us to find meaning in success. Thus, we spend our entire lives trying to be just a little better, a little richer, a little more successful than our neighbor. Despite the euphoria, success proves to be a false sacred because significance is often gained at the expense of turning someone else into failure. Winning only feels good when we can compare ourselves to “someone less fortunate.”
Obsessed with the New
The last false sacred we will examine is the contrast between the routine and the new. When we buy something new, go on a vacation, change our job or enter into a new relationship, there is a tangible feeling of excitement. Our lives, typically so passionless, are suddenly reinvigorated. While we all know this wears off, we still chase it with everything we have. Our fixation with the new is much deeper than being capitalist consumers. Every day we face the reality that our lives are boring, prescribed, ordinary and we want something else to break in to make it all seem worth it, meaningful. The old/new contrast proves to be a false sacred because of the great cost to find new experiences. It often costs us our families as we seek after a new, exciting lover. It costs us giving the best of ourselves to pointless work so we can afford a vacation. It costs our weeks, months, year and decades as we chase the illusion of the new experience.