March Madness and the anxiety of our age

Are you feeling less productive this morning? A little more stressed? You might blame March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament whose participants were announced yesterday. (Villanova, last year’s champion, is this year’s top seed.) Americans will waste at least 84.8 million hours of work fixating on the games, costing us $2.2 billion in lost productivity.

Or you could turn to a medical explanation. The hour’s sleep we lost Saturday night because of Daylight Savings Time has been linked to reduced worker productivity and an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and car accidents.

From the mundane to the esoteric: perhaps the problem is tiny visitors from outer space. Micrometeorites barely the width of a human hair rain down on our planet continuously, covering our planet with ten tons of cosmic dust every day. According to one scientist, “We inhale this stuff. We eat it every time we eat lettuce.” That’s a stressful thought.

Or maybe the problem is that aliens are bombarding us with fast radio bursts (FRBs). These strange radio waves have perplexed scientists since they were discovered ten years ago. Now a Harvard professor is suggesting that they might be leakage from planet-sized transmitters that are powering interstellar probes in distant galaxies. Whatever is generating the FRBs is powerful enough to push around something weighing a million tons, twenty times heavier than the biggest cruise ships ever built.

If you’re like me, you’re not worried about alien radio waves and find cosmic dust more interesting than alarming. You’ve probably adjusted for your lost hour of sleep and don’t have an emotional investment in the college basketball tournament.

But if you’re like me, you also feel a vague sense of anxiety today. It comes and goes, sometimes forgotten and other times palpable. It’s a deep-seated awareness that something’s missing, an intangible longing we cannot define or explain.

Even in our most cherished moments, it’s there—this “something more,” a feeling that all life can offer is not enough. C. S. Lewis says of our best experiences, “They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Our longing for transcendence has an obvious explanation: we were made for the Transcendent One. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) so we can experience God (Philippians 3:10). Nothing less will feed the incessant hunger of our souls.

The material cannot replenish the spiritual; the human cannot replace the divine. God’s answer to the anxiety of our age is simple: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). “All,” not “part.” Monday, not just Sunday. In private, not just in public. In an intimate relationship, not just a culturally acceptable religion. Are there regions of your heart that do not belong to God today?

I recently noted this advice on a church sign: “Know Jesus before you meet him.”