Connections

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Our world is becoming that is increasingly difficult to survive in. Now, I realize I live in one of the most privileged countries in the world. By the simple fact that I own a vehicle means that I’ve joined the ranks of the top 1% of the world’s population.

Still, I would argue that “the American dream” is a lure that many folks have taken without a second thought. Yet there are others like myself and my family family who realize the deception but find ourselves often scraping to get by.

Put simply, here’s what I mean. When you think about the American dream, on of the first things you probably think of is owning one older model car. Or perhaps its never having purchased a house in nearly 10 years of marriage. But more than likely, it probably means moving in with family and co-housing just so that we both can make it by. Hopefully you sense the sarcasm as well as truth laced in the previous statements.

Here’s the thing. My family has chosen something alternative, primarily out of necessity. Yet we have also began to make some connections of various activities in the midst of our lives. For example, politics on a large scale is largely inefficient and a waste of taxpayer dollars. So we have found that we can vote/be political each day with our dollar. Do we support slave trade of fair trade? Also, religion is not something worth making war over. We have certain beliefs, but we found that to live more peacefully and holistically, gleaning wisdom and friends from other religions is worth far more than verbally assaulting folks with “christianese” or other religious fundamentalist proselytizing means.

Our whole lives are connected, not simply the activities that fill our day, but the entire scope of our own life as well as the lives of those around us, those with whom we are engaging in community with and those we pass by on the street. We are all connected. The things you do each day can, and most certainly does, have impact on others. The lifestyle you live has dramatic consequences. Sadly many of us are suffering the collateral damage of greed. We scrape by, paycheck to paycheck while others live blindly blissful lives on private islands, with new Apple computers and a seemingly bottomless bank account reserved solely for themselves, with a token charitable donation of course.

There is a bit of cynicism coming out, so I’d better wrap this thing up. I am merely suggestion that eventually our world is going to dramatically change and I hope that I and my family have chosen a path that will allow us to survive because of our dependence on each other and our realization that everything is connected. Our hope is to live together in small community for the purpose of enriching the larger community.

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Creative

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

For the past several weeks, a thought has been haunting me. Where has my creativity gone? To put it another way, why does it seem so difficult, as an adult, to use my imagination?

I am not sure that I can adequately answer that question because, at least in this western American culture, there are more important things to do. And sadly therein, I think the problem lies. Using one’s imagination is seen as a practice reserved for children at play and outside of some relatively isolated pockets of creative professionals, at least in my experience, adults and imaginations are somewhat like oil and water.

Now, I also understand that I often have an awfully narrow view of what it means to be creative or imaginative. But I think our society in general could use a healthy dose of imagination. I need to get better at imagining better stories to tell my son. Stories of our life together as a family, but also as a part of a much larger community of people. I want to participate in a better world, imagining a more just and peaceful existence for this earth and all it’s life.

I want to be more creative in my economics, my art, my parenting, my marriage. Who the hell said the best response in any given situation is to default back to what’s easy? What are we afraid of? I want to create better ways to solve conflict, save energy, care for those who’ve been incarcerated. Why do we isolate ourselves? Why do we setter for mediocre? Why have I far too often settled for mediocre?

As far as I can tell, we’ve only got one chance at this thing we call life and I’m tired of blowing it more often than taking real time to create a different future, a new world, one that is just and peaceful, where we imagine a different life together, where we take care of each other and the life of the planet around us, where we engage in the authentic life of a community. That was a damn long sentence, but I think we need a few more run-on sentences in our world. Not everything is clean, neat and tidy.

Let’s be creative, not just in art or music, but in life. What kind of person do you want to be? I know I don’t want to wake up in 60 years and realize I’ve missed out. So, listen to the birds, watch the clouds, invent, write, make art, spend your money differently than culture tells you, invite people into your home, tell your kids stories, engage in life. May we internalize the words of Gandhi and “be the change we want to see.”

Pedestal

May 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered why it’s almost assumed that part of being human is violently defending your own position on a matter, cause religious or political view? Why is it that we have this innate sense that our primary purpose in life is to prove everyone else wrong?  Does that make me feel better about myself? Is that at some primal level an egotistical and tactical move to elevate myself onto a moral pedestal so I can sling the mud of righteousness at whoever disagrees with me?

I find this especially true in religious circles. This whole notion of “I’m right and you’re wrong, therefore we cannot possibly grow to love each other, much less stand to be in thee same room together,” is a horrible infection that most of us seem quite content to let it rot our souls. Why do we insist on living this way? What possible benefits are there for, not only the whole of humanity, but this entire planet and everything therein? How can we build a just and fair society if we are always pushing folks to the fringes? How can you love people if you call upon religious right and biblical authority to avoid certain demographics of people? How can you engage in the life of humanity if you are sitting in a five star restaurant, completely removed from the fact that you are spending hundreds of dollars on the backs of slaves (yes there is still slavery today, check out change.org for info on the tip of the iceberg) to provide for your lavish living?

Now, I realize I often highlight extremes, but the truth remains. I would contend that if you desire to live a more fully, engaged life, you might resist temptation to elevate yourself, even proving your or violently defending your position on________________ (fill in the blank).

Try recklessly loving everyone for a while and see where that gets you. Yes, our society may label you as a doormat or pushover, but if you are more concerned about the sustainability of your lifestyle and living life to it’s fullest amidst a community of people, then try actually listening to people like Jesus and resist the societal norms, push back when government is unjust and refuse to fight and degrade people with your words. Live differently. Not many people truly love and care for the whole of this created (or evolutionary) order, but I assure you that when that is something you work toward, life changes for the better for everyone and everything around you.

The universe does not revolve around you. You are not always right and it’s okay to admit that.

Just Ask

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

As I get older, I’m beginning to discover things that most people in this country (USA) either don’t seem to understand or simply refuse to accept.

In particular, I am referring to the idea of dependence, which I would argue, at the heart of our inability to grasp this concept, is the often viral infection of pride. To say it another way, we in this country deem it weak or absurd to stoop to the level of asking someone for help. I’m not sure at what point along the continuum of existence this became the norm, but I suggest that it is slowly killing us, at least those of us who are still stubborn enough to refuse aid.

As I suggested earlier, I’m discovering some things about life that are particularly interesting to me. For starters, I am finding great joy in humbling myself enough to ask for help. I understand that in our current economic climate, I simply cannot make it without others surrounding me in a community of support. I’ve also began to realize that people want to help, they just have never been given the opportunity because we are all so tightly sealed that most people can barely break into each others’ lives to share a meal much less be part of some sort of good and lasting help.

Why must we suffer alone? What is it about asking for help that so many of us avoid it without question? Indeed, why are churches often hiding places for people in desperation? Why is asking for help a show of weakness? I would argue it is the other way around. Those of us who insist on self-sufficiency at all cost are the ones who suffer. Those of us who are beginning to discover the intense satisfaction of sharing and caring for each other are, by my estimations, living more fully and joyfully.

So why not give it a try sometime. Ask for help, and not just the kind where you need some muscle to move a couch. Be creative.

Facebook vs. (real) Facetime

April 7, 2012 1 comment

Something that has intrigued me over the past several years is this notion of social media. By my estimations, it’s really not social in any sense of the word.

Here’s one of the biggest problems with social media, especially Facebook. Often someone will post a thought, either offensive or not, depending on the mood of whoever is reading, for the world to read. Since the said thought, statement or opinion is stated public ally for most anyone to see, others feel like they can say anything they want.

As one of my coworkers said the other day; “texting and email (and in my opinion, Facebook) are information, phone calls and face to face are communication.”

Thus, if one wants to engage in real communication, texting, email and Facebook probably isn’t the way to go about it. However, my feeling as of late is that folks aren’t really interested in a real communication, they are more interested in providing a set of information, making sure to get their point across, much like I am doing here. There is no interaction. I cannot gauge the temperature of a conversation based on what I write, and how people respond.

So, I’m done with Facebook outside of providing actual information, such as the state of the new chickens we’ve got, a good recipe, or a book review. My challenge is that if you have a slanted opinion of a certain subject don’t assume that you can simply blast someone on Facebook and come away a better person. If you’re interested in engaging in real, authentic conversation and relationship with someone, call them up or take them out for a cup of coffee. Have them over for a beer, something that says “I care more about this relationship than just getting my point across over by horribly impersonal avenue in social media.

“Cristos Victor”

November 19, 2011 1 comment

It’s been several months since I’ve ventured back into writing. I’ve said it before, but I’ve been on a journey of sorts, especially over the past several months during this hiatus. There has been an engine for my blogging/journaling in the past that is no longer appropriate. I’d write mostly out of anger or frustration and I’m sure it probably showed, yet it was never questioned. No one has ever confronted me about the fundamental root of that frustration. To put it another way; there is a part of my socialization into this country and western religion, among other things, that has never been addressed.

Which leads me to the title of this post. (I must also mention that the majority of these thoughts are not entirely mine, but rather are built on a lifetime of work by Marcus J. Borg and Dominic Crossan, among many others.) Cristos Victor. A latin term, as you can well imagine, translated generally as “Christ the victor” or “victory of Christ.”

Here is my assertion today. I would argue that many in western religion do not, at the very core of their being, believe that Jesus was actually victorious. In short, I believe there has been a fundamental oversight in the life and teachings of Jesus. There is no amount of proof-texting that can convince me that Jesus Christ was anything other than a non-violent, peaceful revolutionary who fully intended those who claim to follow him to do the same. Further, I am willing to suggest that the myth of redemptive violence, or that Jesus lived a peaceful life but will come back with an army ready to slaughter all who oppose him is completely contrary to the character and will of God.

All of this leads me back to my original claim that the world in which most of us live has an extremely flawed view of the means to bring peace. Call it “Pax Romana,” call it “Rules of Engagement,” call it “the Constitution.” (which contrary to popular belief is not a christian document…I’ll save that for a later post) All of these at their core believe violence to be the answer to peace.

If Christ is victorious, it sure doesn’t seem like it. Our world is saturated in violence. It’s glamorized into blockbuster movies and video games where the good guys vanquish evil through brute force and killing all those who oppose them. Instead of one coliseum, we have thousands of them all over with 65,000 people cheering the most brutal tackles, a connecting right hook, the most gruesome arm-bar… See what I’m getting at here?

It’s time to start telling a different story. It’s time to start living a different story. Redemptive violence is a myth. When will we learn that peace is not actually achieved through military action? When will Christ be victor? When will his love saturate our psyches more deeply than violence, even the sugar coated kind of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings? I believe that compassion and justice are far stronger forces for good in this world. I will live and tell those stories because I believe they speak the language of a God of compassion, justice and equal distribution. As Gandhi so aptly said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He, Martin Luther King Jr. and others have been killed, like Jesus, because they opposed the normalcy of civilization’s violence. That violent paradigm knows no other way to counter someone who stands in opposition to its “peaceful” rule, so it eliminates the thorn. Are you willing to die because you stand against the violent normalcy of civilization? Or is it simply easier to conform to the patterns of this violent world?

Similar

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

This post has, so far, been about two weeks in the making. Over the past several weeks, even months, I’ve been thinning about the notion that in my mind, there seems to be several differences that folks often highlight between Christians and those they (Christians) would traditionally define as “the world.” (translation: everyone who isn’t “in.”) Some of those differences being that most Christian folks pretty regularly wake up early on a Sunday morning to head to a church building, as well as make another trip at some point during the week. Most, not all mind you, Christian folks don’t season their language with “profanities.” Like I used to do, people probably internalize certain expletives, and somehow that’s taking the moral high ground. Many Christians would claim to, by virtue of their “relationship with Jesus,” have a higher ethical standard than their worldly relatives. Those are just some minor differences of which I highlight not to create an “us and them” mentality, but rather to illustrate a fascinating irony, as I hope to clearly describe.

What I am particularly interested in for this post are the similarities that Christians share with their “worldly” counterparts. Here are a few examples. And bear in mind, these are merely my own observations which are not based on any sort of measurable data.

Most Christians and non-Christians share these things in common: they drive the same sorts of vehicles, work the same kinds of jobs. They all watch the latest Oscar, golden globe nominee, or American idol. Music selection is largely the same. Starbucks is an addiction that isn’t particular to any group of people. Clothing is also similar, especially the stuff that is cheap (Old Navy, Walmart, or likewise) and made by children earning only pennies a day. Of course, the cheap clothes aren’t the only unethically produced and traded textiles. So essentially, both groups, across the board, still support and even enable modern day slavery. Both will eat whatever food they like without considering where it came from, who labored to prepare it, or what sort of ecological and global impact their eating habits have.

I’ve also noticed that both camps harbor ravenous sports fans. Both shop at Ethan Allen or IKEA and make room for the new furniture by putting the old stuff in a storage unit. LCD or Plasma screens are the same size, accompanied by the Blue-ray player, Playstation 3, xbox 360 or HD receiver. The alarming amount of time spent brainlessly mesmerized by the above list is largely the same. Violence permeates to the core of each’s psyche, whether it be manifested in “self defense” classes, lauding UFC as sport in it’s purest form or lashing out with uncontrolled and unfiltered verbal assaults to co-workers, peers, or worse, children. Both would argue women are inherently inferior. Christmas time and vacations offer unrestrained opportunities to spend absurd amounts of money. The divorce rate is pretty much the same across the board.

Oil is an erosive addiction to both and it seems most everyone will ignore any sort of ethical boundary lines when it comes to securing the supply. Both unflinchingly send their sons and daughters off to become puppets for the American war machine, “fighting to protect our freedom” at the expense of massive numbers of American and non-American lives and livihoods (spelling?). Ignorance of global suffering and decay is the norm, and what’s worse, few people really care at all to understand or alleviate any of it. American entitlement is pervasive across the board. iPhones, iPads, facebook, Twitter and MacBooks rob most everyone from any sort of authentic human interaction. Each seems to fill up the trash can just as rapidly and “throws away” it’s fill without accepting the reality that it’s not really being thrown away, rather saved for my son to deal with in a few years.

Everyone breathes the same polluted air. Everyone has the same red blood tracking through their bodies. Both sides will argue their own position/opinion until they are blue in the face without having heard, or listened to, the other side of the story. We all cut our nails, give money to homeless folks on the street and make really stupid mistakes. Everyone helplessly gropes to grab hold of the illusion of control. Both camps recycle, commute to work on bikes and love their parents.

If you haven’t gathered by now, my point in this now lengthy discourse is that we are all in fact human beings, who participate in the same kind of life and are, really, not all that different from each other. Essetially, at least in my mind, there are really no significant markers that differentiate a “Christian” person from his/her “worldly” kinfolk. Thus, If I’m to understand the person of Jesus correctly, there must be something more.

Now, please understand that I am no expert, merely an observer. Yet I suggest again, there must be something more. Was Jesus really interested in starting another church? Probably not. Did he call into question the fundamental building blocks of the society (both religious and secular) of his day? Yes. Did he rub people wrong? Absolutely. If we were to honestly listen to the teachings of Jesus and some more of his contemporary friends, I am confident there would be a multitude of people chomping at the bit to take a swing at him, which, strangely enough, is fundamentally counter to the Jesus way.

So, for now, I am interested in living the Jesus way, which is likely far different than we would like to define it, especially among religious circles. I would further suggest that if we would allow Jesus to exist outside those same circles, we might actually begin to understand him a little more fully. It is in the midst of that contention that more questions arise. Who is Jesus, really? What exactly did he come to do? Could the spirit, the essence of Jesus, be found in those who preceded him and followed him as full participants in this humanity? Why do I feel the need to control and/or convince everyone around me that my way is better? Is that an example Jesus set? Where do I get the gall to claim complete understanding on anything having to do with this life? Why can’t I just figure out what it means to live fully engaged in this moment without any sort of agenda, whether that be political, religious, social, etc. The only agendas I subscribe to are those that fulfill a law of love, limitless love that knows no boundaries.

I feel like I could continue writing, but I think it’s time to call it quits for the time being.