Monday, January 26, 2015

Live Long and Prosper, Spock




I recently read an article (here) which a friend posted from the NYTimes written by David Brooks titled The Devotion Leap, and I found myself connecting with his thoughts.  Both my personal and my Gospel radar were alerted (I wish that they were both the same in a conscious way).

"Being in love can’t be done by a person in a self-oriented mind-set, asking: Does this choice serve me?
When online daters actually meet, an entirely different mind-set has to kick in. If they’re going to be open to a real relationship, they have to stop asking where this person rates in comparison to others and start asking, can we lower the boundaries between self and self. They have to stop thinking in individual terms and start feeling in rapport terms. 
Basically, they have to take the enchantment leap. This is when something dry and utilitarian erupts into something passionate, inescapable and devotional. Sometimes a student becomes enraptured by the beauty of math, and becomes a mathematician. Soldiers doing the drudgery of boot camp are gradually bonded into a passionate unit, for which they will risk their lives. Anybody who has started a mere job and found in it a vocation has taken the enchantment leap. 
In love, of course, the shift starts with vulnerability, not calculation. The people involved move from selfishness to service, from prudent thinking to poetic thinking, from a state of selection to a state of need, from relying on conscious thinking to relying on their own brilliant emotions."

Rationality seemingly rules our world, and maybe, as a result, when a person is under the influence of something even so universally influential as love, it can still be seen as great weakness. Perhaps because it so often results in pain and failure, love is associated with bad choices…something which feeds our tendency to rely on our rationality in order to avoid those experiences we would rather not face.  Connect this with the ‘Theology of Glory’ and our ‘rational control' of our lives easily becomes our modus operandi to get ourselves from point A to point B in as successful (failure free) a way as possible.  Vulnerability is pleasantly avoided, as well as failure, loss of status, identity crises…and more things that I (and probably you) would like to avoid.  But for all of its current fame and lofty position of an almost superpower status, does rationality really work?  Can we use reason to direct the deepest currents of our lives and our very selves in the same way we use it to organize dirty dishes in the dishwasher?

This isn’t to bash practicality, I have definitely spent a lot of time trying to develop a pragmatic approach to many things in life.  But while it seems beneficial and prudent in so many ways, practicality in the context of 'life-development and control' eventually seems to undo itself by the very rationality that it employs.  It offers the hope of control, but in a world that is so obviously uncontrollable.  And it tries to offer simplicity, but it offers it to a being who simply cannot navigate the complex, unpredictable waters of life.  Jack Miller said “Life is not a canal, it is a river,” wisely, I think, pointing out that just like we cannot engineer or tame a river, we cannot rationalize our way into the life that we envision.

Bring in the Gospel at this point, because when life is uncontrollable and rationality seems more like a very weak whip against a very large lion…someone needs rescue, baby.   Not that letting go of the whip in the face of a lion is easy or even possible…but it just might be the lion that gets us from point A to point B anyway, which is something no rational mind would ever choose.  At that crucial point, at our weakest and most vulnerable, the question is not ‘Do I love the lion?’, the question is ‘Does the lion love me?’




Sunday, January 25, 2015

This is the Second One

I forget what I even said in this video, but I am pretty sure I am trying to relate the helpless feeling of alcoholism with needing rescue and not instruction, which is also the theme of the Gospel message and the Christian faith.




Ep. 2 - This is the Second One


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Evening Show- Episode 1

Any time I try something new...it is bound to be really bad...at first.  Then I abandon the project once it continues to fail to improve.  This should be no different...but I am going to keep going until I run out of this creative steam I have right now.

With this in mind...have very, very, high expectations for what you are about to watch...it's like base-jumping...the higher the fall, the more impressive the ending.

Ep. 1 - A Poor Start is a Start Nonetheless  (Unless It's This One)
"What's the fun in failing unless you can share it with others."  -  Mark Pellegrino


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Seriously?

What I really want to do is write something that is really funny.  Clever…and probably rebellious.  Or risqué.  Well, that might mean dirty…I don’t mean that…although it could be.  Maybe something that could be bad, but you’re not sure…so you try to stifle your laugh and it comes out anyway.  I did that once when watching something on TV in which some guy passed gas…but I was in company where that might not be acceptably funny.  So I did the cool thing…and blasted out an incompletely suppressed snort, ironically sounding very much like the gas being passed on the TV, and ended up feeling like the clown who showed up at a funeral…waka waka.

I read something recently about comedians and how they seem to “get it”.  They seem to be tuned into this frequency where the hypocrisy of life is so obvious to them, and it just needs to be pointed out to those of us who have the veil over our eyes.  The sadness is more obvious too, and the pathetic irony of it all compels them to laugh at ourselves, and our helpless situation.  Or at the fact that we seem to not realize that it is helpless.   That can be even funnier, at least if you are able to observe it.

I like being tuned into this frequency.  I like not having to worry about being a clown at a funeral.  I cannot help but see helplessness and frankly…it’s hilarious.  It’s sad too…but I can’t stop laughing.  Or…I don’t want to stop laughing. 

But seriously…seriousness is dangerous.  It smells like delusion.  The delusion that one is powerful…in control.  It makes things that we do, accomplish, create…into things that they aren’t.  An iPhone really isn’t any more important than a banana slicer.  The promotion you got that was going to change everything?  Didn't really change all that much.   That new town that you moved to?  Your problems came with you.  The GI Joe with the Kung Fu grip?  Ok…much better than the non-Kung Fu grip…but still…not very important.

But I think this is where the Serious People have me off of their bandwagon…watching them roll down the street like some silly float in a very dull parade.   Throwing crappy gifts of calculators and old palm pilots...pamphlets on how to refinance your mortgage...gift certificates to the organic farmers market, Mens Health magazines, three different kinds of dental floss, rolls of prepaid stamps and a book of coupons to Pet Smart and a local Gym.  They really lose me when they seem to think that their seriousness is important and the person laughing doesn't understand.  It seems to me to be just the opposite.

The comedian who sees the hypocrisy and the helplessness….he knows that stripped from all of its distractions and illusions…life is deadly serious.  It isn’t a walk in the park.  But he also understands that he cannot control it.  There is something of "surrender" in the laughter, of letting go, of a big sigh that says, well...I'm not so strong after all.  There is a sadness mixed in, but there is a crumbling of delusions about us and about the world.  

So is it mere escape when I take particular joy in the way that Will Ferrell says, ”I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”  Or when Larry David is a victim of road rage (in a hilarious way) and consequently can’t get anyone to help him fix his car’s flat tire, and resorts to offering, “Ten dollars for a verbal response!”  as people pass by him, ignoring his pleas for help?  It is escape, but it is also escape from the Float of Seriousness that tells me that I am in control.  It is a step into a world of freedom, faith and trust...trust in something much bigger than myself.  It means that I don't carry my fate around in the palms of my hands...because that is truly the funniest concept of them all.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Freed

There is a prison that you have been released from…and you are never going to have to go back or even need to fear going back to that prison.  The prison cell already had a prisoner…a different prisoner from yourself…who served your time and went down that long lonely hallway and was put to death for all the crimes you have or ever will commit. 

The freedom from that prison is really a freedom that means…you can live the life of a reformed prisoner, who contributes to society and works to right all of your previous wrongs.  But it also means that you can screw it up (like a lot of real prisoners do) and find yourself doing things you did before.  You may even be trying not to do those things, but some habits die hard if they ever die at all.

The thing is…if you really don’t believe that you can screw things up again, and again, and again…and you still won’t go back to that prison…

…if you still have an uncomfortable feeling that if you were to go off the deep end, you might wake up behind bars with the warden looking at you, shaking his head in disappointment…

…if you just want to be seen and be known as a good person because you just can’t take the idea that you might be a bad person who would be in prison in the first place.  Your sense of self would be devastated by this kind of admission that you aren’t as good as you should be and that you can’t really work your way into being that good…

…if you really have reservations like this that linger, even small ones that are buried deeply into the inner working of your emotions and shadowy, fearful doubts that maybe you aren’t 100% safe no matter what you do…

…if anything but absolute freedom from ever possibly being found guilty and setting foot in that prison again is alive in some tiny spark of a way… 

If these “ifs” are there…than any work that you do to be good and to be that reformed prisoner is actually work that you are doing to keep yourself from going back to prison.   You are actually trying to save yourself by your behavior from that deep, tiny, seed of a fear that you and your goodness is what keeps you out of that prison.  In other words…in Christian words…you don’t believe that you are really saved by what Christ accomplished.  You believe that you are free but only if you maintain a standard of goodness.  That you’re actually on some kind of spiritual probation that can be revoked if you step out of line.

What if I don’t look like the reformed prisoner that I SHOULD be?

What kind of valuable life would I be living if I didn’t work to make my life mean something? 

What will other prisoners think if they see me acting like I did before I was freed?

The thing that these kinds of fear based questions forget…is that the freed prisoner was freed while he was guilty.  His worth and status and innocence are not something he accomplishes AFTER he is free…they were accomplished WHEN he was freed.  Already given…already acquired…already forever bestowed.  Free status can never be revoked.  Innocent status can never be changed back to guilty.  Valuable status was given before he had accomplished a penny’s worth of success.   And the other prisoners desperately need to know that they can be freed from their prisons while they still have their current status as prisoner.   They are still guilty…they need to see that it is free because they have no other way out! They need to see that the freedom being offered is not the freedom that results in the prisoner running for his life again.  They need to know that the replacement prisoner died for them and that the sentence has been served.  There is therefore now no need for any more sentencing.  Freed prisoners are guaranteed to never be imprisoned again.

But there is another way.  You may simply want to be a good person in order to do good.   The problem with this approach is that all of us, every one of us has been put into prison.  The only exit is to walk through the open cell door and deal with this idea of freedom and the debt being forever paid.  Because simply being a person who is good has a major problem.  Only the most perfect, blameless, absolutely goodliest (my word), spotless record will be acceptable.  I mean infinitely better than Mother Theresa herself.  Nothing less will do. 

So you may find yourself doing a whole lot of good in your life, and accomplishing some pretty great things, thinking that you are in freedom…only to find in the end that you have still been in that prison the whole time, while others have long since been dancing in real freedom.  The only thing that keeps freed prisoners from waltzing out of their prisons is the continuing idea that freed prisoners aren’t really free.  That “being good” is, on the whole, just as important a part of the story as the whole “prisoner dying for and freeing the prisoners” part.   There will be a lot of prisoners who sure looked a lot like they deserved to be free and a lot of free prisoners who sure looked a lot like they deserved to be in prison still.  That’s because deserving is not a part of the whole “prisoners dying for and freeing the prisoners” story. 

So what do you do about this prison thing?  The only answer is that the prisoners don’t do anything…but they are given everything.  The good that the reformed prisoners do comes as a result of the work that has been done for them, not their selfish, fearful efforts.  The freedom that is lived in is the soil which love uses to build love within the freed prisoners, not the fear of return to prison, nor the desire to look like what a “good person” looks like.

The reality about freed prisoners is that they often still look like undeserving prisoners.  What glorifies the one who freed them more than for them to say…yes, I am guilty and undeserving…and He saved me anyway.  It points to Him…and never to the freed prisoners, to their lives and accomplishments, to their work and commitment, to anything but their need for the One who freed them and took their place. 

Simply put…freed prisoners were loved before and after they were in prison.  The difference now, first and foremost…is that they’re free…forever.

So if you’re really free, you can live in that freedom…whether you get it right or get it wrong.  And you can do it all in freedom and not fear.