Recently I have had to consider my future career and my work in quite some detail. I find myself considering things that I wish I didn't have to consider, namely self-promotion. This is something both very uncomfortable for me to do and yet very attractive.
Unfortunately my career, and really any research career, is highly dependent on being noticed. But nonetheless life currently feels like a struggle to be noticed. I think that this is really a continuation of a lifelong struggle many of us have, trying to seek validation for our existence through the responses of others.
I believe as children we struggle for the attention of our parents, to be comforted, loved and cared for. As we age the more basic needs evolve into a struggle for an identity that we can call our own and to be socially acknowledged for who we are.
Eventually as adults we struggle for the affections of others, as well as acknowledgement by our colleagues and employers. This struggle to be noticed I believe lies at the heart of so much of our culture. It is the targeting of immense amount of marketing and trends, and underlies so much of the chronic discontent in society.
In Western society celebrity and renown are considered as important and obscurity is seen as terrible. We have more opportunity than ever before to be known to others. Anyone can upload a video or write a post and become a star for even the most mundane reasons. We have entire websites dedicated to publicising our lives, which is constantly reinforced.
Yet we are reminded on a regular basis of the discontent that the most famous and popular people experience. This is because being famous is not the same as having a loving relationship. No matter how famous and renowned I become, it can never be a substitute for really being understood as a complete person. This is because the secret to contentment is doing all things through the love and strength provided by God (Philippians 4 verses 11-13).
Life can only have meaning through meaningful interaction, where people express their mutual interest in each other. When we start to think that we are important it creates a level of pride that makes any real relationship, yet alone one with God, impossible. The Pharisees in the Bible had no relationship with God, yet were known as righteous. Many people may know about you, but it is quite different from someone knowing you.
I believe that contentment lies with the knowledge that you are loved despite how difficult you are to love. When I am loved by my wife it is important to me not because she thinks highly of me, but because she knows all my strengths and weaknesses yet still loves me. Whenever I think that I am good enough is when the relationship starts to fail.
With God it is even more so, as any amount of pride puts a distance between us and God. As such we are commanded to: "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5 verse 5).
Because God knows us the best he is more aware of our inadequacies, which is why the need for humility is so great. Nobody knows us so completely, faults and all, and thus nobody else provides such a complete and meaningful relationship. I believe only complete knowing, love, and recognition by God through Jesus can ever provide the meaning in life we crave!
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist completing a PhD in the neurobiology of schizophrenia
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html