Last Saturday was a somber day for the Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as he announced his retirement from the NFL and a bad day for the Colts team in general. Some of the fans at the game vented their feelings in age-old fashion by booing Andrew as he left the field for what would be the last time in the role he had. I say age-old because booing has its roots in antiquity. Crowds in ancient Greece at the Festival of Dionysia in Athens, applauded to show its approval and shouted and whistled to show displeasure. In ancient Rome, jeering was common at the gladiatorial games, where audience participation often determined whether a competitor lived or died. While people have expressed displeasure publicly since ancient times, the English word boo was first used in the early 19th century to describe the lowing sound that cattle make. Later in the 19th century, the word came to be used to describe the disapproving cry of crowds.
Moses and Aaron faced disapproving people in the dessert. We read in the book of numbers that the crowd raised their voices shouting and weeping. “Why did the Lord bring us to this land only to have us die?” We would be better off back in Egypt. Pope Francis, in a recent sermon, spoke of how the spirit of desolation saps the energy of the Christian. He said of the people in the dessert “They did not bear the journey.”
It seems to me that in the US a lot is going on around us that we might want to express dissatisfaction about. This spirit of tiredness leads us Christians to sometimes be dissatisfied, and everything goes wrong. Jesus himself taught us this when he said we are like children playing games when we are overcome by this spirit of dissatisfaction.” (Matt 11:16) The sense of tiredness takes away our hope, and tiredness is selective: it always causes us to see the negative things in the moment we are living, and forget the good things we have received.
‘The people did not bear the journey.’ What is valid for the Israelites in the desert appears to be true for us today. It seems that the people of today cannot bear the journey. We do not bear hope. We do not endure healing. We do not bear consolation. Society today seems more attached to dissatisfaction, fatigue, failure.
Yet, the truth is those Israelites did get to the land promised to them in spite of their complaining and dissatisfaction. Who knows, maybe the Colts will go on and win big the coming season? I do know that when we remain faithful and positive weariness, we do feel better and live longer. Research published last Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science said, “Our results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11% to 15% longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving ‘exceptional longevity,’ that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond.” So perhaps Eric Idle and Monty Python have it right when they say, “Always look on the bright side of life!”
Go on, you’re whistling and singing it in your head now, aren’t you? Its better than booing!
Shalom to you, my friend,