The One Decision That Frees You From Your Circumstances

The Beatles have a song called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. It’s an upbeat tune about a series of cruel murders committed by a young man with seemingly paranormal abilities named Maxwell. Granted, it’s a weird story, but over the years it’s almost become a myth. Today the idea of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” means something a bit different….

6 min read

The Beatles have a song called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. It’s an upbeat tune about a series of cruel murders committed by a young man with seemingly paranormal abilities named Maxwell. Granted, it’s a weird story, but over the years it’s almost become a myth. Today the idea of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” means something a bit different. It means that control over our circumstances is given to some harsh distant being, waiting for the opportune moment to crush us:

Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer came down on her head, bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead…

Many of us believe in Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, be it consciously or unconsciously. And what is our response to this lie? In most cases, it’s some version of the following:

Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! – Isaiah 22:13b

In other words, it’s easy to look at the cruelty of life’s circumstances, and to seek only immediate gratification as a result. I get it. I been there.

I grew up in skateboarding culture. It is a culture of “eat, drink, for tomorrow we die”. But something happened – I started getting older. As I did, I continued to observe those same pro skateboarders that were bonafide heroes to me as a teenager. And what did I notice? Many of them have aged, bearing a thin and sickly appearance due to past drug and alcohol abuse. And more tragic than that – some of them have even lost their lives.

I’m writing to you, because by now you know that “eat, drink, for tomorrow we die” just plain doesn’t work. And for us who know that, we have a responsibility to show that truth to others. By that I especially mean the next generation, the yet “TBD” generation that will follow the millennials.

The Super-Natural to Our Natural 

But why do we feel like we have no control over our lives? Like all we’re doing is escaping the wrath of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer for one more day? The problem with that feeling is that to a degree, it’s true. By the nature of being created beings, we are subject to a nature that is greater than our own.

In the physical realm, we call the shots. We have yet to encounter beings that are more intelligent, developed, and enlightened than human beings. Sure, there are bigger, stronger, and older beings out there. But that ain’t got nothin on us homo sapiens. 

But the inescapable idea that something created us points to the fact that there’s a higher form of existence. The super-natural to our natural. Yes, there are forces like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer floating around there. They’re called “darkness”. And what is darkness? The absence of light. 

Guys, it’s my job to tell you that light beats darkness every time. But we can still choose which of the two will have control over our lives. One of them will crush us one day. But the other of the two has a different way of doing things…

The Great Mystery

Yes, the light is God. And He can claim control over our lives, but He chooses not to. He’s not Maxwell. This is a mystery: instead of squashing us, He chooses to partner with us by giving us stewardship over His creation. In other words, God is sovereign over our destiny, but we’re free to make use of anything in the world in our various pursuits. Good or bad, He allows this. The only hammer that can come down on our head is one that we choose to put our head under.

The first instance of this mysterious partnership with man is found in Genesis 2:19:

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:19

God could have easily told Adam, “this is called ‘duck’, this is called ‘elephant’, this is called ‘goat’.” But instead, He positioned himself in a place of anticipation (not oppression) to see what man (not God) would do. The only description I can find for this is: love. Yes, God is awesome. Both in the biblical sense and in the 1980s sense. 

“I’m not going to die here.”

There is a profound moment in last year’s surprisingly good sci-fi comedy “The Martian”. Mark Watney, the astronaut who is presumed dead and gets abandoned on Mars, realizes his situation, and says the following:

…I’m not going to die here.

Have you had a moment like that in your life? I have. I came to the realization that my generation (I’m an elderly millenial), left in the hands of society at large, is doomed. There were many factors that revealed this to me, but the “aha moment” came when I was reading an article about video games. It said that the average gamer’s age is 35. No, we’re not talking about 12-year-old boys and girls playing Mario Kart on the Wii. We’re talking about parents, bosses, military officers, government officials, etc. playing Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.

This means that there’s a strong economic force that seeks for the budding generation of world leaders to be engaged in fantasy. (Much of this fantasy is ultra-violent and misogynistic). And we all know that strong economic forces have a way of shaping the world as we know it.

Is it so bad for dads to play video games? No, not at all. Please understand that I love video games, and I think they can be an art form. But we must enjoy them in moderation. And hearing that guys like me are the target of such a huge social and economical force concerns me. I cannot reconcile my role and responsibilities as a leader with the extended and immersive pursuit of fantasy. (A quick game of Monument Valley does the trick nowadays.)

Choose Life. Seriously.

So if I’m not going to die here, that means I’m choosing to survive. And survival is not just about food, water, and oxygen. It’s about choosing life. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer doesn’t give you a chance to choose life, God does.

Beyond productivity hacks, beyond life planning, there is a greater story that we’re a part of. Most of us choose to ignore it. Our circumstances lead us to believe we can’t possibly make a difference on a grand scale, so we put big-picture stuff out of our minds. We choose to live our own version of “eat, drink, for tomorrow we die.” That’s not the kind of world we want for our kids. A world ruled by Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Choose life. Do it now.

Is there a unique way in which you’re choosing life? I’d love to hear about it – let me know in the comments below!