Here's a brief little definition from answers.com:
i·ro·ny (ī'rə-nē, ī'ər-)
n., pl. -nies.
a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See synonyms at wit1.
d. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: “Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated” (Richard Kain).
e. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity.
The title of this post explains something of the irony that I encountered last week. Our daughter goes to a great school just around the corner from our home and my office, it is the Mount Edmund Christian Brother's College. Last week we had the joy of attending Courtney's prize giving ceremony. It was a wonderful celebration! I can hardly believe that she has already finished Grade 1!
The prize giving is an opportunity for the school teachers to acknowledge the work of the scholars and do so by presenting them with certificates and awards. These included such awards as "Exceptional reading skills", "Above average numeracy and mathematical ability", "Perseverance", and my all time favourite "Tenacity". You have to know that the students who got the award for tenacity gave their teachers hell! It is a polite way of saying "you're difficult". Go on, look up the word 'tenacity' in google, you'll see that it is a noun that means you are stubborn and unyielding! The more I think of it, tenacity would be the award I would be most likely to qualify for!
Anyway, I digress, so students get these awards. But of course, there are those students who don't get awards (in grade 1, these are fairly few and far between). However, so as to acknowledge that the kids turned up for school, did their bit, and gave the teachers a little bit less than hell (i.e., they didn't qualify for the 'tenacity' award), students who did not get a specific award were called up on stage, by name, to collect their report cards!! Yup, you heard me! Thankfully, the headmaster didn't read their report cards to the whole assembly. That sounds like a recurring dream I used to have as a teenager.... But let's not go there.
Here's the irony!
In one of the classes one of the only boys who DID NOT receive an award was named 'Success'. Yup, his name is Success. Heck, he didn't even get the tenacity award!
That got me thinking.... I wonder if he had heard the use of the word success so often that he had simply become accustomed to mediocrity?
You know, this is a common problem. I have encountered it in marriage counselling situations, where couples forget the gift of love, and so take it for granted. I have seen it in work, where people forget the privilege of working (when there are so many persons unemployed) and so they slack off at their jobs. I have seen it in the way that parents treat their children. I have certainly seen it in the way that students for the ministry go from being eager to serve, and called to ministry, to being ungrateful and demanding.
I suppose, it's the irony of success... You get used to it, and so you simply slack off and take things for granted.
In literature the Russian formalists had a word for this, Ostranenie, it means 'defamiliarization', Viktor Shklovsky said that "Habit devours objects, clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war..." However, he also believed that there is an antidote to defamiliarization; the antidote is creating an awareness and appreciation of the giftedness and blessing of all life and living. Shklovsky writes, "Art exists to help us recover the sensation of life".
He is right! Yesterday as I was leaving the hospital I saw people for the first time in weeks. I noticed the evening sky for the first time in years! It was lovely! I came home to my wife and daughter, and thanked God for them.
I find that worship does the same thing for me. When I worship God, I not only remind myself who God is, what God can do, and what God lovingly does in the world, but I also remind myself that I am loved by that all powerful, all knowing, all loving God, and that every detail of my life is important to God. God never becomes so familiar with my life, so at ease with my brokenness and sin, that my 'success' is nothing more than a failure.
With God there is no irony, just grace, hope, and love. At times such as these, I give thanks to God! It is good to be alive, and it is good not to be too familiar with living.