Dualism and Doritos: 18-Wheeler, What’s in Your Truck and What Are You Doing with It?

Whatcha haulin'?

What with all the trans-fat bans in the news, I wonder if it gets the Doritos people down.  If it’s your job to haul Doritos all over the country in an 18-wheeler, do you feel discouraged that you’re delivering something death-inducing?  Okay, that’s a mite hyperbolic.  Let me rephrase that: Do you feel discouraged that you’re delivering something lacking in nutritional value or likely to be voted “least nutrient dense?”

Does it even matter what you haul if you get your job done, meet the deadlines on delivery and get back on the road?  Does a truck driver delivering roses feel better than a truck driver delivering Doritos?

Long hours on a road trip allowed me to spend considerable time musing on such weighty matters as they relate to our labor.  And I’m of two minds: all work is holy, and yet most of us could stand to put our talents to better use, if only in our off-duty hours.

When I was younger and first writing, I told a wise friend that I felt like I should always be writing spiritual things (whatever those are, really).  And he replied by saying something like this: “What if you gave your children some blocks and then every time they built something you knocked it down and chastised them because they built something besides a church?”  I laughed, seeing the lunacy and realizing how dualistically I was thinking.  For God really does delight in seeing us use our gifts in ways that we enjoy.  After all, the oft-quoted Zephaniah 3:17 phrase, “he rejoices over us with singing,” doesn’t come with this addendum “if we are being spiritual.”

We writers don’t have to have a certain number of Jesus-y phrases interjected into every song or article we write.  Designers don’t have to create fabric that has crosses woven into the pattern.  Architects do valuable work in building public housing or municipal buildings and not just cathedrals.  Christians aren’t required to be cheesy and say “Bless you” every four minutes; we can and should operate normally and intelligently at the highest levels of any arena we are drawn into, and with great freedom to choose most any work that is not violating God’s law and oppressive to those He loves.

All work should be undertaken to the glory of God and to the best of our ability; the secular and the sacred are intertwined, not separate.  So when a truck driver is doing his given work with excellence, he is glorifying God.

Yet sometimes I meet Christians who are frittering away their talents on things that are less than what they could be doing. I’m preaching to myself here, so if your toes are squished (as readers have been both thanking and blaming me for doing lately) so are mine.

Since I like to be for things and not against things, let me say it in a more positive way: you have some awesome ability that could be put to powerful use for God’s purposes.  Too often we downplay our own skills and don’t realize how important they are, and thus things go undone that could and should be done because modesty, laziness, or lack of imagination keep someone from dedicating their skills to valuable, redemptive work that needs doing.

Maybe you can edit and could do pro bono work for an organization you love.  Some of you are hysterically funny, but your material is the equivalent of Doritos.  People are attracted to you but the “food” they receive leaves them wanting, whereas using your humor for positive purposes could change lives.  A retired doctor can see patients in a free clinic.  As in Acts 2, where everyone’s needs were met by the community of believers, we can collectively do a lot.  But we don’t.

With all due respect to some of my friends who have these obsessions, but golf and television are robbing the world of a lot of what it needs.  There are huge problems in the world, and many of the people with resources to address them are on golf courses or in front of televisions.  With people living longer and retirement years thus spanning decades, think what could be done by able-bodied people with skill sets, health and resources.

And our teenagers are dying of affluenza, with suicide rates soaring, depression rampant and meaningless abounding. They spend hours watching television and playing Wii and (often violent) video games, when they could be a part of something really critical in their communities, all of which are drowning in needs unmet.  People magazine is quick to feature teens who do good things, as they well should, but kids engaged in solving real-world problems could be the norm instead of the exception.

Instead we try to keep them from knowing about the realities of the harsh world while meanwhile they are performing oral sex in middle school bathrooms and wandering through malls looking for something to ease the pain of their meaningless, affluent lives.

And that’s just the preteens and teenagers; what about the middle-aged women?  Many of them spend their days cleaning out their closets, trying to declutter homes that have turned out not to be the castles they’d envisioned but prisons that have kept them shackled to Sisyphean chores related to taking care of all the stuff.  There’s a cadre of women who are spending their days decluttering and berating grocery store managers who have dared to not stock some esoteric ingredient that is guaranteed to make the dinner party.  And they (we) should be paired up with the mothers on the other side of town who are scrounging to try to buy winter coats for their children and who wish for nutritious food to give their children instead of those much-maligned Doritos from the 7-Eleven.

I know that I’ve veered off the highway strewn with 18-wheelers carrying Doritos and crashed into a soapbox, so let me wrap up with a summary statement:

Whatever work we do should be done with excellence and to the glory of God, and most work is valuable (even if it’s not overtly “spiritual” work).  Yet on the other hand, think of how many of the world’s aches and pains could be addressed if more people simply took a look at what is in their toolbox and asked what needed fixing.  Or looked at the load in their truck and got on with hauling it.

I know I need to ask that question and haul my load myself.

~ by Cary on November 22, 2010.

3 Responses to “Dualism and Doritos: 18-Wheeler, What’s in Your Truck and What Are You Doing with It?”

  1. Nice piece, Cary. You raise some good questions.

    A couple of random thoughts:

    — My bag of Doritos says it contains no trans fats. Not saying it’s health food or anything, but still.
    — Unfortunately, the economy is going to take care of a good bit of our “affluenza.” Many, if not most, Americans have lost big chunks of their home values and retirement/pension savings — traditionally, two of the three legs that constitute what one lives on in retirement — and now the Peterson crowd is going after the third leg, Social Security. We’re not as well off as we were, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better, and a lot of us will be working longer than we thought we would be as a result.
    — Teen suicide isn’t “soaring.” The rate per 100,000 teens declined steadily from the late 1980s through 2003 before ticking up a bit in 2004. (If there are reliable figures for more recent years, I’m not finding them.) It’s getting more attention lately, as are the underlying causes, primarily because of that videotape case in New York. As someone who regularly got his rear end kicked by bullies in the late ’60s and early ’70s, I say it’s about damn time.
    — Almost all work short of toting a weapon for the SS Einsatzgruppen or making cigarettes is spiritual if you look at it right. That’s not to say we’re all making optimal use of our God-given talents, but if we choose to be just a little more intentional about how, given our place, time and talents, we might act as Jesus in the world, I suspect we can do a lot of good.

  2. I retract my association of Doritos with trans-fats. I label them, from here on out, as simply “not as healthy as quinoa.” And I am delighted that teen suicide isn’t soaring, though I’m really sad that it happens at all. I lead with my feelings sometimes and appreciate you real journalists who deal in real statistics. And I’m damn mad that you got bullied; where are those jerks now? Ok, never mind. I’m moving into territory that will violate my “for vs. against” rule unless I say, which I now will, “I’m FOR you and AGAINST their behavior.” And I’m glad we’re 50 and not 15. And I’m putting trafficking in the “not sure God loves how this work is transpiring” pile. And I love your comments, which are always thoughtful.

  3. Since I’m not afraid of being “against”–in fact it’s one of my favorite activities–I will take Lex on. As someone who has had experience of “third-world” cultures, it is absurd for me to hear anyone saying that the loss of “home values, retirement/pension savings and Social Security” constitutes a waning of Americans’ “affluenza.” When the majority of Americans have to worry about where they’re going to live and how they’re going to get money to eat their next meal (much less make sure they have money to enjoy when they “retire”), I’ll start listening to people who whine about the American economy. Your whole comment, Lex, reveals a gross lack of perspective about what poverty really means. The few people I know who have lost their jobs in this economy have had to make very few noticeable lifestyle changes thanks to unemployment compensation and parental and family help; no doubt there are hundred and thousands of people in the working class who really are worried about their next meal right now but the situation is still nothing like the Great Depression our grandparents endured, and that was still nothing (I imagine) like the situation of the people of Haiti.

    Secondly, I would go further than Cary and argue that we are responsible, to the extent that we have knowledge, to do jobs that support ends that are human goods in themselves and not merely means to an end. A truck driver who’s carting medical supplies for the needy is doing a much more worthwhile job than someone driving around food that serves no purpose beyond indulging our tastebuds at the expense of our health. Not everyone can be a doctor or a minister, but every truck driver can be a responsible one who’s doing his best to make sure his job maximizes human flourishing for his community, culture and planet to the best of his knowledge and abilities.

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