What, me worry? A question for the ages

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

Alfred E. Newman, the fictional comic book character of “Mad Magazine,” and bane of the parents of the later mid-century, could hardly be called a philosophical giant.

Yet, in the oft-repeated tag line, “What, me worry?” the attempts at disjointed satirizing of our society’s foibles, brought forward a certain disingenuous attitude towards life.

In the pulp pages of the effort, this fellow grotesquely challenged the concerns and issues of the day, much to the consternation of some. Remarkably, there were those who believed the magazine was corrupting America’s youth and had its origins in Communist circles.

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By today’s standards, some of the controversies now seem rather silly. It appears that the “worries,” of the time, were overblown. Mostly, they seem to have been a result of the lack of conformity to the norms and the challenge of the current social mores’ and behaviors. Yet, in their satire, they covered deeper issues which concern us today and, worry itself, which is a large challenge to us and such a great debilitator in our lives.

The popular author J.K Rowling, in penning the latest script for the Harry Potter-esque film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” has the character Newt Scamander quietly remark, “My philosophy is worrying means that you suffer twice.”

Here, we have the polar opposite of Alfred’s view of his world. Instead of abject cynicism, Newt suggests a life-view which serves him well, and could well serve all of us.

We are told that Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, told us, “Be not anxious about your life, and which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to his span of life?” However, we must acknowledge this is a tough direction to follow.

We seem to be naturally anxious and worry about so much. How are we going to pay the bills? My health is not so great, what is going to happen? The kids are not doing well and my relationships are falling apart. What am I going to do, as I am all stressed out?

The great pitfall, in all of this purposeless worry, is poorly focusing upon what really matters. In other words, we so easily lose sight of what is really important in our lives. Consider if we were to take this “worry effort,” this debilitating and draining negativity, and put it to better positive use. Should we do so, we may discover a fresh purpose in our direction and a different internal response.

Some may argue that his is easier said than done. Yes, it is not easy and, likely, would result in many failures. However, the reward is clear.

By decreasing our worries, about lesser things, we are able to clear out the confusing clutter, and present a clearer view to our minds.

With a clearer view, we have a clearer path. Such refreshment leads us to a new understanding of who we are, returns us to what our Creator seeks from us, and a return to what he seeks for us.

“What, me worry?” Thank you for the question Mr. Newman. For in the question, we have our answer. Yes, we worry, mostly about the mundane and trivial, and we should worry about what He thinks of us.

Remarkably, inexplicably, we have the secure knowledge that what we give up to our Creator makes us so much less anxious, as we seek the guidance, comfort and consolation of His truths.

By Fr. Jonathan J. Filkins