October 17, 2010

Disease Of Me

Terry Bradshaw on the Fox NFL Sunday show quoted basketball coach Pat Riley's concept of the "Disease of Me," and how an improper inward personal focus by individuals can cause problems for a team desiring to accomplish a stated goal.

In his book “The Winner Within,” Riley warns of the dangers of “The Disease of Me.” He writes how his former team, the Lakers, allowed their egos to cause one of the quickest falls in the history of the NBA.

Bradshaw's talk about attitude and how dangerous ego satisfaction/self promotion can be to a team effort (re the New Orleans Saints) got me thinking about the sermon I heard this morning. The Disease of Me is running rampant throughout our nation and it is not isolated to high profile professional athletes. The focus of so many Americans is wrong and it is causing problems at every level of our society. In our homes, our schools, churches, workplace, places of leisure, sports - everywhere - many individuals are more concerned with their own interests.

Of course not all self interest is bad. We must provide for ourselves and our families. But we live in a society where we must work with others in order to produce goods and services and to live in harmony with fellow citizens.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the failure to realize the difference between significance and fame. In much of today's media offering, the desire to be famous is fed by irrational, farcical behavior that will hopefully garner attention, no matter how misguided. The motto of so many is "Look at me!" and fifteen minutes of fame

Today, fame is found in the likes of movie stars and other celebrities; to this end, Paris Hilton comes to mind. She is perhaps the archetype of what ails our society with respect to what is significant and what is not. She is the beautiful, spoiled daughter of a wealthy family who draws media attention like a dead horse draws maggots. Her escapades are shameful, bordering on criminal at times. Lindsay Lohan is another. Both come from privileged backgrounds where self discipline was never taught. They troubles are of their own making: DUI arrests, promiscuous sex, drugs, violating their terms of probation.
Like so many other celebrities, they are famous, but they have never really produced anything of lasting value - of long term significance to others. Their fame will only survive as footnotes on bad behavior for a generation or so. Then into the dustbin of history for the both of them.

Compare them with significant figures in history, giants among men if you will. The Founding Fathers for one. Men who truly sacrificed their fortunes, their families, even their lives for an ideal that birthed the greatest nation of modern times. But these men were guided by a belief that was forged under great duress. The belief that a nation could rule itself guided by the dictates of a Sovereign God. That an Almighty Creator endued Men with inalienable rights and that government should be formed in order to protect and maintain these rights rather than grant these rights themselves.

As so much of our culture was based on a firm belief in Christianity, I think of the Apostle Paul and his Letters to Timothy - in particular his second letter, for this was the last letter he wrote before his execution by Nero, circa 67 AD. Paul did not write this letter from a position of privilege and comfort; according to Christian tradition he wrote 2nd Timothy from the Mamertine Prison in Rome.

The Mamertine was converted to a church in the 17th century, but as early as 700 BC it was a prison used to house condemned criminals until their execution.
The Mamertime Prison is mentioned by several ancient writers, including Livy, who dated its construction to the 7th century BC under King Ancus:

"It was found that in so great a multitude the distinction between right and wrong had become obscured, and crimes were being secretly committed. Accordingly to overawe men's growing lawlessness, a prison was built in the midst of the city, above the Forum." (Livy 1.33.8)
The lower room of the remaining part is known as the Tullianum after its builder Servius Tullius (6th century BC). This part served as a place not of punishment but of detention and execution for condemned criminals. The ancient historian Sallust said it was 12 feet below the ground and "neglect, darkness and stench make it hideous and fearsome to behold."

Prisoners were lowered into what were former cisterns - cold and dank - and there were no considerations for sanitation. Everything had to be handed down or hauled up by rope. It was from here that Paul wrote his last pastoral letter that has resounded through two millennia for priests, ministers, pastors and chaplains. He wrote it to encourage Timothy to persevere through hard times. Significant? Amen. Famous? Who cares. We'll meet him some day.


Anonymous said...

I admire a post that compares Saint Paul with Paris Hilton. Good job.

Doom said...

Save for the few Christians who dotted the lands in his time and for a great time afterward, I should think that he was more infamous than famous? I have to wonder if, then like now, what passes for fame will fade and die and what passes for infamy may well be the only claim, should a good Christian receive note, good men may know in their time. Thankfully there is history... heaven... and hell.

sig94 said...

Zio - comparing the fleeting now with the timeless past is always risky.

sig94 said...

Doom - At the time of his death Paul was virtually unknown in the popular Roman culture. That's the point. And if Mohammad had been strangled at birth we'd probably now be fighting the Sinn Fein in Norway.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sig. That's a great post, and it contains an eternal truth that I have been wanting/trying to convey to my children and young people that I come in contact with -- the meaningless of fame in this world.

Pursue what is right, and let the chips fall where they may ... by His grace, of course.

And by the way, thanks for the work/research on these. I know it takes a lot to put something like that together. I am going to go back and read the link re: "Disease of Me."

sig94 said...

DC - Wisdom comes from many sources. The problem is in appropriating it for ourselves, internalizing it. Psalm 1 tells us that Wisdom seeks us and the simple minded ignore Her.

I know I need to reassess and refocus quite frequently. I blame the Irish in me; I'd rather break heads and then see if there was another way.

Anonymous said...

Great post

Anonymous said...

Paul offered guidance, encouragement, warnings, hope and concern for others to Timothy from that filthy pit.

Better stuff. They were made of better stuff.

Opus #6 said...

The freedom of capitalism is like the free will offered by God. Our actions of charity and cooperation mean more when they derive from free will. We enhance a good society by teaching character to our children.

Subvet said...

Very good. We've become soft, self-indulgent and increasingly immature regarding our behavior and willingness to face facts and responsibilities. Your post hits a lot of important points.

sig94 said...

Fuzzy - thanks. I need to do this stuff to calm me down. We live in perilous times, but that is pretty normal given the times we're in.

sig94 said...

Nickie - I honestly believe we're the same stuff; Paul and many others had a better focus. In 2 Timothy we also read how others abandoned Paul with things got tough "...Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica."

We are too much with the gimcracks and geegaws of the world. Too many shiny things catch our eye. Paul had focus.

sig94 said...

Opus - capitalism is the free will market place. Even when tainted with Man's proclivity towards larceny, it is still better than any managed system. Why? Because it only takes a few thieves in a managed system to ruin it for everyone. In a free market system it takes many more. Tens of thousaands at least, maybe more.

sig94 said...

Subvet - Thank you. It hit a few. The more I think about this the more applications I see.

T. F. Stern said...

How we treat those who hate us is as important as how we treat those who love us, isn't that one of the lessons we are supposed to learn?

sig94 said...

Man's conscience is a funny thing. Does that premise mean that we should still be loyal subjects of the King of England? Are there then no inalienable rights such as posited in our founding documents? Do you turn the other check in love when another man is about to slaughter your children?

I am not saying that you are wrong, you're not - it is something we are supposed to do. Rom 12:18
"If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men." Does this mean that Christians are not to enter the military or law enforcement because they might use deadly physical force against someone?

This is something I have struggled with. Especially when effecting the arrest of a violently resisting felon.

But in any event, the post was not about showing love, but how standards have been corrupted.