Yesterday, the first split sermon speaker gave a message that discussed health in both a physical and a spiritual sense and in discussing the problems of stress he commented on the constant state of unease that was present in the world. While his message was more focused on replacing stress with peace towards God and others, I think it is worth commenting on the constant state of unease that exists in this world and some reasons why this continual state of unease exists. There are reasons why the world is in a constant state of unease, and understanding those reasons can better help us to understand and to master the times in which we live.
It is little surprise that if we take a critical look at marketing and advertising that there is a continual desire on the part of those who are selling a product to provoke and inflame a sense of unease on the part of an audience that can be motivated to purchase a product or service as a way of reducing that discomfort and irritation. This is by no means accidental. People dislike feeling a sense of unease and are willing to do a great deal to get rid of it. This is going to be a common theme as we discuss the reasons why there is a constant state of unease in this world and the biggest reason is that a wide variety of people with very different purposes have all sought to capitalize on that sense of unease for various motivations. We may unkindly call this sort of effort manipulation, and not inaccurately, but we must also recognize that if we have ever sought to motivate or manipulate someone into taking some sort of action by doing so, we are no better in terms of our behavior than others who have done so, and it therefore behooves us to be charitable to others so that it is easier for us to obtain a generous judgment in our own cases. Be that as it may, the appeal of unease when it comes to selling things is straightforward and easy to understand. If we can be motivated to see the purchase of a good or service as providing a means to reduce our lives of unpleasant things that we do not want to do, or of unpleasant aspects of our lives that make us feel worse or make us look bad to others, then we will be highly motivated to buy such things and increase the profits of those who are willing to do things that make us uneasy.
But companies are not the only institutions that benefit from provoking in us a sense of unease. Such motivations are continual in the world of politics, which ought to surprise no one, and are strongly present in the sort of stories that we find ourselves exposed to no matter what sort of news sources we have. There is a shared commitment on the part of political parties and their various wings as well as within competing sources of news to provoke and capitalize on the sense of unease that others have. What differs is what people feel uneasy about. If we feel uneasy about the threat that a given person or political movement has to some aspect of our lives, we will be highly motivated to vote against them and vote for those who position themselves against them. Who we will be motivated to support or oppose will strongly vary based on the specific aspect of our lives that is perceived as being at threat, but the motivation to oppose that which threatens us and support that which positions itself as defending us is the same. This sort of motivation both away from something and towards something is so strong that it is not very difficult for people who are subject to fears and longings of the same strength as we are can easily be motivated against each other based on the fact that the specific fears and longings they have are different and therefore manipulated differently by different institutions or factions. What makes this all the more tragic is that it is very easy to forget that those who are motivated differently than we are still human beings not very different from ourselves, although it is easy to think of them as some sort of enemy that needs to be destroyed if we are to be at peace.
Nor are businesses and political interests the only people who motivate us by creating in us a sense of unease. It is, indeed, so universally known as a source of motivation, that just about everyone can get in on the act on using the unease of others to provoke them to some sort of action. After all, some of us are hard to motivate normally and are not particularly self-motivated, and so we use this as a way of lighting a fire under people who may otherwise not be prone to do much of anything at all. Do we have an adult son or daughter that needs to be motivated to work a bit harder and pay more rent and see about moving out? Motivating to unease is one way of doing it. Do we have a partner who has a bad habit that frustrates us? Then we have likely sought at least some of the time to nag them as a way of motivating them to change through being uneasy about the nagging, although this can frequently misfire. Likewise, any call to action that we strive to do as part of religious institutions or not-for-profits tends to involve creating or seeking to manipulate a sense of unease. Do we feel uneasy about the prospects of divine judgment or congregational discipline? Do we feel uneasy about suffering animals or children? Then we may be motivated to take some sort of action to aid those who are suffering. And so it goes. It would be hard to find any of us who have not stooped to engage in this sort of motivation at least on a few occasions, and as much as we hate to feel uneasy, we have likely all made others feel uneasy, even accidentally. What to do about the unease we feel is another matter.