Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Everyone says it, everyone seems to believe it, in business, church work, teaching and communications: relevance is what matters. And it seems clear they’re right. If you aren’t relevant, then what are you?


Webster’s defines “irrelevant” as: not important or relating to what is being discussed right now.

All well and good. But the problem is, this is often used in a completely shallow and subjective manner, as if we’re discussing relevance on the Jerry Springer show. Businesses, churches, schools and non profits of every stripe sense that they need to be relevant. But there are some questions we should ask if this is going to get us anywhere. The first being...

1. Relevant to who? And why?

Relevance is extremely relative, and can be horribly short sighted. For example: A lot of younger people today have a hard time watching older, black and white movies. They think these films are irrelevant and, on a surface level, they make it true by their own preferences. It’s not intrinsically true, it is practically true for them. And the result? They miss out on over fifty years of film history, including some of what are arguably the best films ever made. It’s like going into an art gallery and saying, “I don’t like photos that are in black and white. Ansel Adams sucks.” Many things these days are dismissed out of hand, with no thought for, or serious attempt at, appreciation. And the individual responses must be what? Fate? Destiny? How about stupidity? I do know this: dismissing things out of hand because they don’t fit your narrow paradigm is a clear path to ignorance and mediocrity. And we can feed that mediocrity with blind catering to relevance.

And there are other related questions:

2. What if “what is being discussed right now” is a self indulgent, self aggrandizing pulp of cheap values? What if “what is being discussed right now” completely misses the point of life? What if we mistake relevance for meaning or value?

Trust me, you are surrounded by people who mistake relevance for meaning and value. It is how too many people do life right now. Paired with Materialism, it is the curse of the modern world.

The concept of relevance can be a powerful tool, or a very destructive force. Relevance can help you be heard, but it can also cause people to stop thinking. When you only hear what you want to hear, you stop thinking. Relevance is often the realm of the incorrigibly incurious.

And beyond these things, what if what matters to the Creator is not relevant to us anymore because we simply don’t care? What if what could really make a difference, to make the world a better place, isn’t accomplished in the world because no one thinks it’s important? What if we fill our lives with what we think is relevant – so much of which is driven by selfishness or self pity or hedonism or pettiness – and it ends up being a path to...


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011


  1. Harold and Maude isn't irrelevant. I remember watching this movie with Will and Joe after many months of coaxing and being so blown away by it. Just needed to give it a chance.

  2. That's a great example. Of course, this doesn't apply to the thing that is universally reprehensible in all circumstances in all places at all times: Ambrosia. And Satan. Who, I think, invented Ambrosia.


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