Domingo, 03 de Março de 2024
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“The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile”(1 Cor 3:20).

As far as I can see, there are three types of futility: verbal, occupational and mental.

Verbal futility is often expressed in empty speeches, in advice that is nothing but tired clichés mechanically enounced, in memorized recitation, in ribs and double sense jokes (often malicious) and especially in silly talk that brings nothing good to its participants.

Occupational futility is seen in the execution of ventures that are good for nothing. Religion is full of this kind of futility. Climbing stairs on your knees, praying on top of mountains or in the woods, practicing fasting of television, music or red meet, building “holy” temples, going to hospital to anoint the sick, anointing cars, objects or rooms in the house… examples in the field of religion are endless.

Occupational futility, however, is also seen in entertainment. Not all leisure is futile, but in order for recreation to be meaningful it must bring restoration, closeness and edification. As a rule, restoration occurs when leisure brings rest and relief instead of uneasiness and vexation. To watch a good movie, for instance, may alleviate stress. Closeness becomes real when leisure brings families, friends and brethren together instead of isolating or splitting them – dinner, church retreats, harmonious meetings or a chit-chat at Starbucks help people getting close. Yet, edification takes place when leisure improves character, encourages virtues, brings learning and makes one a better person – trips, sports and reading are edifying types of leisure.

Nevertheless, there is the futile labor, that consists of leisure that is enslaving and sterile, turning people into hollow beings who throw away the best years of life. Wasting hours on end in front of a TV or endlessly surfing social networks are the most common examples of this kind of leisure. Before, this kind of waste of time used to be more commonly seen among the youth. Today, people about any age surrender to that.

Finally, there is mental futility, which consists of futility in thinking. This kind of futility prevails in our time and spreads among educated and uneducated people, rich and poor, believer or unbeliever. It means housing and nourishing vain ideas. Mental futility overvalues stuff of secondary importance such as clothing, haircuts and the biceps’ size. It also welcomes untruthful message implied in TV commercials, soap opera and Hollywood movies.

It is largely because of mental futility that many spouses leave home saying they have the right of “seeking happiness” or “doing whatever they like”, for instance. It is also due to mental futility that many kids who once were “normal” change their haircut, dress awkwardly (the “alternative style” type), act in a flippant way and embrace heterodox causes (the frustrated and unhappy women’s old-fashioned feminist is still in vogue) stating they must value themselves, stand out and impose where they live, no matter that other people may think – futility over futility… plain nonsense.

Mental futility is also expressed in self-pity, self-indulgence and pride. Men who nurture self-pity look at themselves and get upset by thinking how things could have been different. He does not intend to arouse pity in other people. In general, he is OK with his own pity and enjoys it to the point of not leaving it. He likes seeing himself as someone who suffered life’s injustice without rebelling. Instead, he underwent it and now suffers in silence. How virtuous! On the other hand, the self-indulgent is someone who makes up explanations to all of his faults (“I’m compulsive, “I was raised in a harsh way”, “I’m going through some issues”). He clings to these explanations in his mind and turns them into a couch for his conscience. The proud man, in turn, is the one who is high in regard for himself. It may seem odd, but self-pity and self-indulgence are pride. Both think they are too good.

What is dangerous about futility in all if its forms? Well, verbal, mental and occupational futilities are able to transform someone, throwing them into uselessness. The one who embraces the manifold aspects of futility becomes hollow, incapable of giving good advice. He becomes a silly person, who only replays what everyone says. Besides being empty, the one who embraces futility also becomes insensitive and indifferent. He does not react before apparently “small” evils and gets to the point of stating that some sins are “normal”. He plays the tolerant, but is actually a coward – a person who is full of air and does not  have the strength to face sin and fight it, no matter if such sin is in or out of his life.

Being a puppet full of air, the men who attaches to these kinds of futility, becoming useless and coward, is, so to speak, a masterpiece of Satan, the murderer who is pleased to turn people into nothing at all.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

Strength and faith

Soli Deo gloria

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