Posted by Michael
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is one of those rare books that can be enjoyed slowly just for the prose. It’s also brilliant storytelling, and the recently released film did a nice job of conveying the force of that story. There have been countless articles written on The Great Gatsby, all of them by people with more literary insight than I possess. That being said, after seeing the film recently I couldn’t help but add a couple of thoughts myself….
The characters created by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby all illustrate in their own way, an imposing challenge faced by most people. That challenge is how to live with the tension of having everything and nothing at the same time. Our guide through the story is Nick Carraway, a Yale grad and WWI vet who has decided to find a job in New York City, so as to be a part of the excitement of the city. Nick is quickly drawn into two lavish and wealthy worlds. The first is that of his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. Daisy is beautiful and engaging. Tom is a successful business man and a former athlete. Before long Nick learns that Tom, not content to only enjoy Daisy’s beauty, has a mistress living in the low rent districts outside of New York City. His financial success is inseparable from his arrogance and insecurity. For all her advantages, Daisy is bored, and haunted by the ever ringing phone that she knows to be originating from her husband’s mistress.
As time progresses, Nick is also drawn into the world of his obscenely wealthy neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Whereas Daisy and Tom began seemingly perfect and were found to be quite empty, Gatsby appeared to Carraway an even more complete picture of perfection. As the story unfolds we are confronted with Gatsby’s obsessive love for Daisy and his hatred for his humble beginnings that he feels he can not escape. Everyone in the story is incredibly fortunate and incredibly lacking.
I’ve found that’s pretty much our story as well. Each of us has some type of amazing blessing or talent or gift in our life. It’s often something that unbeknownst to us, others admire and possibly wish they had as well. It may be a talent for business or a gift for music, or an ability to make people feel at home. Whatever yours is, you likely overlook it or explain it away much of the time. We also each have our own weaknesses, challenges that we have yet to overcome, disadvantages that we feel define us.
Successful living isn’t about embracing the good about yourself, and then compulsively working to remove all of the weakness, or lack of talent, or lack of knowledge. Healthy living comes when you embrace both your gifts and your deficits. It doesn’t mean that we can’t grow, it just means that we will never be great at everything. You may be the world’s most gifted pianist, but what about the flute or the violin? You may be gifted with words, but you can’t paint to save your life. You may build the most durable houses known to man, but the thought of speaking to a large group terrifies you. Here’s the really big secret: it’s ok. We were never meant to be amazing at everything. We were designed to need other people, due in part to our finite limitations and imperfections. More importantly we were created to need a God who takes joy in providing for us. To be grateful for the wonderful things you have been blessed with, and humbly at peace with the things you will never perfect is the beginning of contentment and a healthy life.