Greatest Hits

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:13-14

I don’t know how we watched TV before Netflix. After binge watching several series, it is so hard to go back to waiting weeks to see the next episode. There is something about watching the whole story at once that makes television so much easier.

Last semester I watched the show Lost. I never followed the show when it was on ABC a few years back, but I got hooked on it when it came to Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend giving it a try. The story about a plane crash on a tropical island in the south pacific is not only suspenseful and captivating, but filled with very unsubtle religious overtones. It touches on themes of family, faith, destiny, and redemption as each of the characters comes to terms with their troubled pasts and fears of the future.

One episode that still stands out to me is from the end of Season 3, called “Greatest Hits.” In the episode, the character Charlie is facing a bit of a crisis and starts comprising a list of his favorite most significant life-changing events (his “Greatest Hits” list.) He includes memories such as when his career took off and when his family grew. In the end, he decides that his number one “greatest hit” was when the plane crashed on the island. He reveals that even though this was ultimately the disaster that set the chaos of the show in motion, it was a moment that took away everything he was focused on in life and allowed him to rediscover both himself and the ability to love.

As I am approaching graduation, I’ve been doing a lot of processing about what the past four years of my own story have meant. I’ve been thinking about things like “What did I learn from this whole college-thing?” “Besides a piece of paper, what did I get out of it?” “What can I offer society after going through this higher education system?”

I decided the “Greatest Hits” exercise was a great way to process these ponderings. So I composed my list. I came up with ten events from the four years I’ve been at school. I included things like first jobs and international travel. As I looked over it, I realized a few significant takeaways. For one, the things I expected from college, are different from the things I got. The highlights have very little to do with my degree and so much more to do with life experiences.

This is true not just of academia, but life in general. So often, our greatest moments are not the ones we plan; they are the unexpected twists and turns that surprise us. Sometimes it’s for the better, others for the worst, but they all remind us that we are on a journey over which we have no control. The lesson is that we should take each adventure as it comes.

I think that what James probably meant when he wrote the verse above. We can make all the plans we want, but nothing in life is certain. It would be great if we could see the story play out all at once, but we have to take it episode by episode and see what happens next. And in reality, that’s what makes life so fun!

In closing, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes with you. SNL alum Gilda Radner Wilder once said “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”

She calls it “Delicious ambiguity.”
James called it a vanishing mist.
I say it’s a “Greatest Hit” in the making.

Zach Herzog

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