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Life is hectic. Life is nicely paced. I’ve been getting nothing done. I’ve been busy doing everything. I write because I feel like writing, because if I don’t write I don’t exist. That is, if I don’t produce, create, express, then I am just subsisting. In my mouth out my ass and so on until I am dead.
I see your love is
Bold and underlined
You know the one thing you’re fighting to hold
Will be the one thing you’ve got to let go
These little wars in my mind
The ones I always lose
They keep me in my seat
Take me out of the game
I lose by fighting them
I wonder how you give
I wonder how you pray
I wonder how you live
And drive your demons away
Am I hurting anyone by all this?
Is this the evil in the world?
Am I miserable in it?
I read Romans recently and I got stuck around chapter 6 or 7. Bummer, a friend of mine said, I didn’t move on to chapter 8, that’s the good stuff. I had another conversation with a friend the other day about the evil in the world, and the evil in a person, and then the evil in me. He was with me on the first two, but when it came to the third I entirely lost him. How could my demons be harming anyone?
Either he is right
And my demons are imaginary
Or they are not
And I am still miserable
Or perhaps they are not imaginary
But less important than I give them credit for
Perhaps they are not the point.
David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement address in 2005 on the challenges of living an intentional thought life, and rising above the default settings of a me-centered life. “It is unimaginably hard to do this,” he says, “to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.” I recommend listening to Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube, though the transcript certainly digs at you just as much. For example:
Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.
None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.
The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
I was struck by this post, called An Open Apology, which Joe also read in church this week. He essentially proposes that the best form of apologetics is apologizing – demonstrating that God is real by apologizing up front for the things people have done in his name, rather than by careful reasoning and arguments (which also have their place). I identify with this expression of faith much more than what the word evangelism is typically taken to mean.
I found this quote today, attributed to Gandhi:
“The message of Jesus as I understand it, is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole. If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘Oh, yes, I am a Christian.’ But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.” ~Mohandas Gandhi
I really like this quote (and other similar things he said). Gandhi seemed fairly adept at calling a spade a spade when it comes to the hypocrisies of Western Christianity. In that regard, I am totally with him. From an outsider’s perspective it sums up pretty well how we Christians aren’t quite living up to Jesus’ call, and have headed down our own paths to the Kingdom of God enough that the term “Christian” tends to call to mind someone pretty well opposite of the kind of person the Sermon on the Mount describes.
On the other hand, I think in saying this he may be understating Jesus’ message. The Sermon on the Mount is a picture of how followers of Jesus should live, a personal and cultural code of conduct showing them how to relate to God and be the “light of the world”, a people who embody God’s love on the earth. Jesus was calling a new people out from Israel just as the Mosaic Law called Israel out from the nations. (To be fair, Jesus was calling all of Israel, whoever would listen to him.)
But to say Jesus’ message ended there misses the point I think. I am thinking (and rethinking) through many of these things, but here is where I am at right now. Jesus didn’t just say “here is how to live, now everyone go do it,” he actually showed the way, which involves a whole lot of humility, holding your tongue, and putting yourself after other people, among other things. And, most importantly, Jesus went first down the path through death and resurrection. The promise of his teachings isn’t just a moral and loving society but a world reconciled to God in a complete and permanent way. His message in the Sermon on the Mount (and everywhere else he taught) is “the kingdom of God is here.” His message in the cross and his resurrection is “follow me to enter it.” His actions paved the way for everyone else to follow, and somehow provided the ability for us to do it.
This is an incomplete thought right now. Jesus made statements and actions that I think pointed to himself as inexorably connected with his message but I am still sorting those out. And then there is the question of why he seemed to knowingly march straight into the custody of his murderers as if his death was not just inevitable, but chosen and necessary. In any case, he doesn’t seem to consider himself as just a moral teacher, but something more than that, and by extension he wouldn’t consider his teachings to be separable from his life.
I am not big on “what if” as a bottom line. I went to a church once for several years where it seemed every sermon ended with a what-if appeal. “What if we all acted this way? What if every one of us prayed daily for such and such? What if everyone in the world was able to know…”
These fall for me in the category of daydreaming or inspirational chain mail. “Pass this on – think of the difference it would make if everyone did this.” What-ifs are powerful in the right context. But on their own they leave you gazing into the sky, until you shake it off and get back to life.
What-ifs are probably more aptly put in the category of dreaming and visions. Can you imagine a future where… But on their own they have no power to take anyone anywhere. If I am trying to change your mind or inspire you to join up with something, I need to give you more than just a compelling vision. I need to suggest how we get there. If leadership is essentially all about getting someone from one place to another, it does only so much good to describe just how great the other place is. I need to show you the way there, and be heading there myself.
image courtesy of emplifya on deviantart.com
I am lonely at my job. That is not my job’s fault. I want more out of life, that is the problem. What I want out of life is not the big, life-dream, I-was-made-for-this-moment event. I want connection. And reality. Something meaningful to someone else, or several someone elses. This week I thought I would probably feel pretty fulfilled as a stay at home dad. Not because I got to stay at home but because I would be investing my days in something that really matters to me.
Alas, that’s not an option. But a nice thought.
Conversation is key to my spiritual experience. Like the life dream, connecting with God is not the big calling, leave thy home and go forth to a land I will show you connecting. It is every day. Like a friend of mine put it this morning, it is another relationship I make time for and maintain. It is the accumulaion of a lot of little things over time, not a big one-off Word From God that changes the world. He never does that, I think, Jesus included. He wants relationship before obedience. Am I writing theology here? I better move on.
Life is crazy when no one is home in time to make dinner. Not that dinner is the point, but it is the last stop on the road of mantaining the house during the day. And lately we have had popcorn and corn chips for dinner about once a week. Which actually has been strangely freeing. Family movie nights are becoming a regular event, mostly because there are precious few other family events in our week. So tonight we are eating Dominos in the living room and watching Snow White. And maybe Toy Story 3 after that.