CBS This Morning does an occasional segment titled, “Note to Self.” In this segment they invite various people to write a letter to their past self. This letter is part reflection and part advice based on the wisdom they have accumulated over the years. This last week they had a very unique character, Russell Brand, write his ‘Note to Self.’ I didn’t and still don’t know much about Brand. I did know that he is a comedian known for being a little crazy and for doing and saying the ridiculous and absurd. I knew he had a short marriage to a pop singer, and that is about all I knew, until this ‘Note to Self.’ Brand is honest with his past self and I think his self-revelation is a helpful guide for everyone as we look honestly at desire and where it can lead, both the good and not-so-good places it can take us. I think as we look at this we will see that desire can be a gateway to encountering the personal and transcendent God.
Brand is very honest throughout his ‘Note,’ and has this revelation halfway through that is particularly insightful of not just his own experience, but also about all of life.
Now I'm not going to tell you to not take drugs or drink or go crazy chasing girls and fame -- you hate being told what to do.
No, take all the drugs you want. Drink yourself into police cells and hospitals. Talk yourself into fights that are going to be hard to talk your way out of as you plunge into the powders and the rocks and bottles looking for something that's not there.
It's going to take you to some dark places and you're going to meet some desperate people, in crack houses and whore houses, in parties so glamorous that they're lit by flash bulbs and other people's envious attention.
In all those places you're gonna see the same sadness and feel the same loneliness.
Do it all. Go nuts. You're gonna do it anyway. Just know that it can't make you happy.
In fact, no externally acquired thing can help you.
Desire can lead us to some unhealthy places. Many of us do not follow desire down the same path that it led Brand, but we know the familiar pull of desire. The desire for control that consumes us to perfect our self and our children. The desire for power that feeds into the adrenaline that we feel as we argue to be always ‘right.’ The desire for a thrill that we let seep out in our fandom for our favorite teams. The desire for connection that leads to pornography for some, and gossip for others. The desire for success that leads us to work long hours and weekends. And as Brand says, “In all those places you’re gonna see the same sadness and feel the same loneliness.”
In response to these dangers of desire many of us have tried to find ways to cope and numb the desire. We just stay busy or entertained, we try to make sure that we never experience boredom for the fear of realizing that the desire we have for life and the life we actually live are not the same.
Brand ends his ‘Note’ by telling himself, “Try to listen to that quiet voice because that's the thing you're looking for. Some people call it love, others call it connectivity and others call it God. It's there, it's always been there, and it will always been there. And if you look after it, it will look after you.” Brand is stumbling upon part of the root of desire. The Christian faith articulates what Brand only sees dimly, which is that we all desire connection with others and God, the God who is love. The Christian story is unique in that instead of trying to give instruction on how we can reach God, we see the story of God reaching down to us. This is what we celebrate during the season of Advent. Preparation for the arrival of the God-child in Jesus of Nazareth and the anticipated return of Christ, when all of our longings will be satisfied. We need help in this preparation to learn how we can allow our desire to lead us to connection with God and others, without it destroying us in the process. This is what we will explore this Advent season, will you join us?