While we were in high school, my friend Ken sold his soul to another one of our friends, Luke, for 35 cents. Ken was short 35 cents for a can of Mountain Dew. Luke wrote out a contract and Ken signed it, trading spirit for shiny. Ken got his Dew and Luke got Ken’s eternity. (Don’t worry. Ken got his soul back later. Luke became conscious-stricken at having been a merchant in the devil’s trade and gave it back to Ken out of remorse, which meant that Ken got 35 cents for free and all he had to do was risk his immortal soul. Business students, take note.)
For those doing the math, my friends implicitly valued a soul at .7 of a Mountain Dew. (A full can would have been worth just under 1.43 souls.) I thought of this story when considering what to write for an opinion piece. What opinion should I have, and even worse, what opinion should I share? My current experience with opinions is of crowd-chasing noise and posturing, with a strain of passion addiction. I am nauseated by opinions. I feel saturated. Telling a story about trading souls for the green lightning seems like a more useful proposition than stating an opinion.
But the thing is, even though I know better, I am frequently lured into giving my opinions, and the worst part is that I lure myself. But what is it that captures me?
Local professor has the perfect response! You won’t believe what happens next!
Sub-headings like this are part of the reason. I want to win. I want to see if I could respond. I want to have the mic-drop moment.
But that isn’t the whole reason. I don’t just bump into those headlines. I choose what I look at, what I contemplate. Every time I sign on to Facebook or read comment sections, I get opinion after opinion for free. It’s like scratching at a scab. I know what will happen, but that initial feel is enough to let me get away with excusing the damage to myself. So really, what I do is marinate myself in comment streams or commentary demonically disguised as analysis and then wait for something to trigger me.
Also, one other exacerbating issue is that in some ways, opinions don’t seem so bad. An opinion can seem like just noise meant to induce passion in oneself and in one’s hearers. With this, yelling out an opinion can seem a bit of meaningless fun. On the other end of the scale, an opinion can seem important. But the world needs my input! And here broadcasting an opinion can be a noise meant to convince even oneself that one is passionate. People seek out that sense of passion, that sense of power. People hear the noise around them, get stuffed full of nonsense, and then howl to join the wind. But here’s the rub that makes opinions more than just mere noise, no matter what excuse the opinioner gives: Opinions are communicated through words, and words have meaning.
Sometimes, while I seek to lose myself in the rush of an attack, I accidentally hear myself and come to the uncomfortable realization that I am marking myself with the frenzy I am offering. Am I that sort of person? Opinions have an effect upon oneself and one’s hearers. Words do not just fade away. An opinion is a vote. It is an insistent request. It is a demand. Look here, value this, fight! Opinions ask others to join with, to share, to sign on to the speaker’s project. The speaker might offer the project just to feel like they are the head of the crowd, but that plan, that opinion or belief or action, has a reality that goes beyond their, or my, desire to feel good for a moment.
An opinion is communicated through words. A word is a public projection of a private thought. When struck by something, perhaps something even only vaguely related to my private thought, my heart burns and the anguish opens my mouth with what words I can use to sweep you away with me. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. What we have stored in our hearts is revealed.
So here is my opinion:
1. Let us be very careful with what we program our hearts.
Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
2. Let us control our tongues.
As Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
And 3. Let us rejoice, and drink Mountain Dew.
P.S. Does anyone have 35 cents? I have a really good offer for them.