“I want to go to South America.”
“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
“But I’ve never been to South America.”
“If you went there the way you feel now it would be exactly the same. This is a good town. Why don’t you start living your life in Paris?”The Sun Also Rises p. 11
Robert Cohn wants what so many of us want: to feel differently. And the lie he believes was that a change of scenery would accomplish this desire. But Hemingway (through the character of Jake) knows better. Wherever you go, there you are. Contentment can not be found in a place or a bottle or a relationship, as this novel shows.
So what advice does Jake give? Start living your life now, here, right where you are. Now The Sun Also Rises is a book whose characters are all morally bankrupt. What Jakes means by living life might not be what you or I should choose. But the sentiment is correct. It’s the cut out words around a flower in a pot on the bulletin board of a 6th grade classroom: Bloom Where You’re Planted.
We are convinced by the world’s wiles that the next thing, the next place, the next job, the next relationship will be the one. But if we have not learned contentment where we are, if we have not learned to live today, the next anything won’t be any better.
That’s what Paul meant when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He was talking about contentment, not evangelizing a continent. He was satisfied that where he was was where God wanted him, where he was supposed to be at that moment: easy or hard, prosperous or in desperate need. Paul had learned to live in Paris and had no need to go to South America.