No shade in the shadow of the cross

The withering trees at Glenorchy

It struck me over the weekend as I was sitting on a rigid and stained plastic chair, with lunch properly passed and the afternoon lull setting in with a roar, which is to say it struck me on the head like a frisbee tossed from my blind spot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of motivation in recent weeks, about just how powerful it really is and how much more effective the human race would be if it came packaged with an on/off switch and a joystick to point it towards where you want it to go. But alas, motivation behaves more like a herd of wild horses – unsaddled, uncontrollable with the unbridled power to clear new paths or destroy strong existing structures.

Secular dogma would state that the lucky among us are the ones whom our motivation and ambition have decided to flirt with each other. Oh, to feel like you are barrelling towards your desires like the Falcon in lightspeed. The rest of us mortals have to contend instead with an existence where our ambition is more likened to an unloved and underappreciated wife who is trying mostly in vain to rouse her sluggish couch potato husband, motivation, on to his feet.

The intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy is the popular discussion when it comes to motivation. As card-carrying citizens of the human race, we have always been sold the spiel that while we need both to an extent, intrinsic motivation is probably the more stable, mature and balanced brother of the two. In more recent times, as we move excitedly towards increasing individualism, we have all but damned extrinsic motivation to hell as the horned and tailed sibling who is looking to strike you when you are at your weakest.

But yet the basis of most religion is quite the opposite. The concept of an all-knowing, all powerful God has always represented an anti-thesis against our conclusions regarding the intrinsic/extrinsic dichotomy. If anything, religion encourages us to be more extrinsic with our motivation, by trusting God, because intrinsically we are flawed beings. It probably makes sense that people should make themselves the central protagonist of their philosophical short films, while religion would seek to put God as theirs.

But I realised over the weekend that logic dictates that our motivation to do something has to be anchored towards the most unshakable thing in our universe, because that’s the only way to ensure the sustainability of our efforts in reaching our goals. Man believes itself to be the most unshakable thing, therefore it suggests that motivation should come from within. Perhaps that’s why no matter what culture or ethnicity, there always seems to be a quest to find God. That immovable standard of morality that anchors our beliefs and motivates us towards goodness. Because deep, deep down inside we know that if we anchored it on ourselves, it would be led to ruins by the fickleness and weak-mindedness of men.



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