Is all of life banal? Me thinks it’s justified to ask so, as the non-banality is nowhere obvious at first glance. To find it, one should define it. I propose here the following definitions:
Each situation defines one or some actions as appropriate (or: wise, adequate, necessary, essential) answers to the situation. To act non-banally means to do this resp. one of these. To act banally means to do something different. So banal actions are those which miss the point, are secondary, are irrelevant.
It follows from this that actions are not banal, but tuples of situation and action are. For example: to party is mostly banal where one faces a significant relationship problem, but is non-banal where one realizes God’s blessings and wants to express one’s gratitude and joy. Another example: all of life is banal where one does something different from the purpose of living, which is, in my view, to live life in loving communion with God.
Some more observations. Equating appropriateness and non-banality serves an interesting understanding of some bible passages. Look here:
“(5) Behave wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of your time. (6) Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” [Col 4:5-6 ISV]
Wise is, as stated above, a synonym for “non-banal”. Because there is limited time, we need to act appropriately to the sad condition of the world we found it in. Which includes especially to live appropriately (i.e. inviting) in relation to those who are not yet Christians. And not to spend all of our life on private affairs, i.e. on a banal life, on irrlevevant activity in the context of a lost world. Note also that one’s action are limited by the available possibilities: one does not act banally if one does not help where one cannot. So banality is probably better determined by a triple (requirement,possibility,action), in this way: the difference between possibility and action, not between requirement and action, is a measure for banality.
“(29) This is what I mean, brothers: The time has been shortened. From now on, those who have wives should live as though they had none, (30) and those who mourn as though they did not mourn, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they did not own a thing, (31) and those who use the things in the world as though they were not dependent on them. For the world in its present form is passing away. (32) I want you to be free from concerns. An unmarried man is concerned about the affairs of the Lord, that is, about how he can please the Lord. (33) But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world, that is, about how he can please his wife, (34) and so his attention is divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the affairs of the Lord, so that she may be holy in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world, that is, about how she can please her husband. (35) I’m saying this for your benefit, not to put a noose around your necks, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.” [I Cor 7:29-35 ISV]
Not that crying or rejoicing (both about worldly things), buying, using technology or marrying is a bad idea, or should or even could be really avoided. But living for one’s private worldly affairs only while there is so much important stuff available is simply banal. Important stuff includes one’s relationship to God, personal sanctification and a missional lifestyle (for the latter, that was the point in Col 4:5-6).
Last meaningful change: 2007-08-21