Monthly Archives: May 2017

The real problem

Not long ago, I admitted to being a (gasp!) Republican on Facebook. I may have lost a few Facebook friends as a result. So be it.

For one former Facebook friend, though, the magnitude of my moral depravity was too much to bare. Unfollow and block for bigotry, misogyny, and all sorts of other assorted hate. In response, I did what anyone else might do–I told him he needed to work on reading comprehension when interpreting my post.

My response was the wrong thing to post.

We live in a political world teeming with Uncle Robs (if you don’t understand, click this link and watch a brilliant demented pyromaniac with a gasoline fixation).

The last thing we need is someone throwing a little more gasoline on the fire.

The simple fact is that most of the people who reacted, though they may have disagreed, did so with respect. It might’ve been tinged with a touch of anger here or there, but there was respect.

That respect is lacking when:

  • A person running for Congress assaults a media member–regardless of what the media member may have said at the time.
  • People show up conspicuously armed at political rallies. In general, you don’t need a scary-looking semi-automatic rifle to keep safe when protesting the candidate you don’t like.
  • People was poetic about killing the opposition, finding a tree and a rope, or sending everyone they disagree with to another planet.
  • Speakers of with a different political viewpoint are shouted down because the guardians of righteousness can’t allow them to speak.
  • Anyone decides they are somehow subhman. There are hate-filled cretins all over the place, but to decide an entire group is somehow less than because of political differences is little more than intellectual and moral masturbation.

Most people, regardless of political stance, aren’t bent on genocide. They don’t want to starve your grandma to death and they don’t want to turn America into an intellectual police state where you can go to prison for simply referring to the Washington Redskins.

Most people want to get to the end of the day. They want to work hard and pay their bills, take care of their families, and have a little left over for some luxuries.

A lot of people gain money and power by helping us to forget what most people have in common. They do better when we look at what a few of them do, then generalize those actions so we can see the “real threat,” then consume more of the material that made us feel threatened in the first place.

I’ll never be a Democrat. I don’t believe in open borders, free abortion to all, or speech codes. I don’t think we’re worse off than ever when it comes to women’s right, minority rights, or gay rights. I’m not 100% certain that climate change is primarily caused by industry. I believe that Islamists are a clear danger to this country, but that the guy you work with who wears a turbin or hajib almost definitely isn’t. And I don’t think a 70-year-old woman who doesn’t want to share a bathroom with a person with male parts is a hateful bigot.

I’m increasingly not a Republican, either. I think Jesus can manage without us screaming about red coffee cups and what the person at Target says to you on Black Friday. I think consenting adults should be able to enter into contractual agreements about marriage without government interference. I believe that abortion will never be eliminated by making it illegal. And, increasingly, I believe that single-payer healthcare is a horrible solution–but it may be the least horrible option available to us.

According to the people who make the noise, those beliefs qualify me as a hate-filled misogynist Islamophobe who puts religion in front of science and wants to create The Handmaiden’s Tale in this country, while simulataneously hating Jesus and our Christian heritage, selling out to the damn gays, supporting baby murderers, and favoring socialism–maybe even communism.

Problem is, guys like me are the majority. There aren’t easy, checkbox solutions. It’s messy. The truth has many different shades and no matter what we do, people are going to get screwed.

Guys like me aren’t the problem. The guys who make us yell at each other are.

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What if He is not watching?

“Everything you’ve done, you’ve done because you thought I was watching. Because you thought I was judging. But I wasn’t. I’m not.” — God, or some Aussie bloke named David Burton, The Leftovers.

Let’s pretend for a couple of minutes. Let’s pretend that God’s talking to us and he says these exact words, uttered by an actor named Bill Camp. In the context of the television show, if Camp’s character really is God, then he’s a very crotchety, cranky God with a short fuse. He’s the type of God who would throw someone overboard on a ferry from Tasmania to Australia. (He also gets eaten by a lion, so he’s probably just David Burton, not God.)

God. Or David Burton. Or Bill Camp.

It’s my blog and my exercise in Let’s Play Pretend, so let’s assume that God isn’t like David Burton. Let’s pretend he’s not arrogant and self-serving and that he wouldn’t make 2% of the world’s population disappear just because he can. Let’s pretend he’s the God of the prodigal son, who runs to his son–the one who wished him dead–when he finally comes home.

And let’s pretend that God says that to you.

If you’re a parent, did you linger just outside your kids’ awareness, observing and waiting for that child to forsake you? Did you actively seek opportunities for them to fall short of your expectation, so you would swoop in and dispense some fiery, well-deserved parental justice?

What if we didn’t do things because we thought God was watching–because God was judging? What if we did them because he is the father of the Prodigal Son story? What if we did them because he was pouring his love into us so abundantly that we can’t hold it all?

How would we act if we weren’t worried about some Cosmic manifestation of the Elf on the Shelf?

 


Adorn yourself accordingly

When I get deep into a television show, I think and write about it a lot. Right now, I am deep into the Damon Lindeloff HBO show The Leftovers. In one episode, the male lead, Kevin Garvey finds himself transported to a hotel room having to get dressed.

The closet door includes placard with the Epictetus statement First know who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly. Kevin gets to choose from among a priest’s garments, a white t-shirt and pants (favored by the show’s cult, the Guilty Remnant), a police uniform, and a black suit and white shirt.

He chooses the black suit and white shirt. A bit later in the episode, he finds he’s chosen the clothing of an International Assassin. After getting dressed, the first thing that happens is that he has to kill someone while defending his own life.

Too often, when things go poorly, I decide to be the International Assassin. Without really thinking about it, I pick those clothes and then everything becomes a battle to the death.

In the show, Kevin’s father tells him, “You’re no assassin.”

Me, either. But sometimes I don’t think it through before I adorn myself. And the resulting mismatch resulting from not adorning myself accordingly makes it hard on me and others as well.

Before the episode is over, Kevin smashes a guy’s head against a vanity, shoots several other people (including the woman who–it turns out–wasn’t really his target), break’s a fat guy’s neck, and pushes a little girl down a well. (It makes sense in the context of the episode, mostly.)

As he’s on the way to push the little girl down the well, a man stops him and says it’ll change him forever.

You have to wonder, how things would be different it he’d understood his father’s statement that he wasn’t an assassin?

How often do I pick clothes before knowing what I am? I’m no assassin, either. You probably aren’t either. Yet we pick the assassin garb sometimes without thinking, or because maybe we feel we need to.

It’s all a fancy way of saying that we have only one choice to make in life–how to respond.

As I suit up in the coming days, I plan to know who I am–to put thought into it–before I adorn myself, rather adorning myself inappropriately and then having to move foward with that choice.


I AM not

In the Bible, Jesus is sometimes called I AM. In fact, at church, we sometimes sing a song called The Great I Am. Given my penchant for irreverence, that always brings to mind Sally calling Linus her Sweet Baboo in Peanuts.

Then again, maybe that’s not irreverence. Maybe it’s a statement on childlike love.

Either way, my journey has brought me to the place where I think I’m understanding it’s not about me. The true path to happiness, maybe, lies along the path of caring about yourself less and caring about the other more.

(Please note, I said caring about yourself less, not caring less about yourself–huge difference.)

In other words, if God is I AM, it’s entirely possible that the route to happiness requires me to say I AM not. I AM not God. I AM not the center of the universe. I AM not all that. Incidentally, God is all of those things.

Maybe the Declaration of Independence has it wrong. Maybe it’s not the pursuit of happiness–for that implies that happiness is not here. It’s elsewhere and you need to go get it.

Maybe happiness is something you accept rather than pursue. Maybe the very act of pursuing happiness guarantees that you’ll never truly find it.

Or, you know, maybe not.

Happy Friday.


Morning prayer

I’m sitting here, dripping with good intention, ready to start. And still, I’ve done this long enough to know that I’ll probably fail in what I want to do today, and it’s probably not going to take very long.

But if I’m to do my job, then the first part of that job is to accept a mindset that puts me in the position to accomplish what’s required of me.

So as I sit here, I acknowledge that as well as I’ll do today–and I’m pretty good–I’ll inevitably let it all get under my skin. I’ll let it detract from the true nature of the job, which has little to do with accomplishment and tools and checking off the to-do list.

Anyone can do those things.

The real job is deeper and harder than that. And in order to do that, I need to acknowledge that I can’t do the job alone and that I won’t be remotely perfect. And then, having acknowledged those inevitable facts, go forward with the idea that my best–and it has to be my best–is enough. And that demands for more, from myself or others, are unrealistic and sometimes ego-saturated abuses.

By concentrating on the real job at hand, I’ll be placed in a circumstance where the nuts and bolts will work themselves out.

Mostly, because I never, ever have to do it alone.


Prisons

There’s a quote from a devotional website I sometimes visit:

“Leave me here freely all alone
In cell where never sunlight shone
should no one ever speak to me
This golden silence makes me free.”
Part of a poem written by a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp

Although there are physical realities to freedom and imprisonment, there are also conceptual realities. I don’t want to romanticize prison; it’s not a nice, fun, or happy place. It’s difficult and confining and that’s by design. If you’re in there, it’s tough. That’s by design, too.

But there are a lot of different prisons. Some of them are real and involuntary, with guards and rules and razorwire. Some prisons are crafted very carefully by those who come to be imprisoned in them–built up day-by-day, block by block. We attend to them, making their walls higher and thicker and more impregnable with each new addition.

We build them and stay in them so long that we don’t know anything else. If the doors were thrown open to those prisons, we wouldn’t know to run out. And, in many cases, we wouldn’t want to run out.

True freedom is hard to maintain. We confine ourselves behind walls of fear. We chain ourselves to heavy weights of expectation, guilt, regret, and stuff.

It’s possible, as seen in the poem above, for someone to be free even when they’re confined in the deepest, darkest cell. And it’s equally possible to be confined in a virtual body cast, even when the world seems to be cradled in the palm of your hand.

There’s nothing profound in this, though I like to think I wrote it real nice.

But it’s still true and it’s still a central riddle of life.


Prayer for when you lose your shit

Dammit.

I’m doing it again, Father. I’ve got too little to accomplish too much and I can’t make it.

I’m not smart enough. I’m not fast enough. I’m not competent enough, pretty enough, articulate enough. I can’t read minds and I can’t undo the things they want undone.

I’m just not good enough.

And so Heavenly Father, remind me to breathe. Remind me to breathe in deep and breathe out long. And do it again. And again.

Remind me that you love me and though you expect a lot of me, you have never expected me to do the impossible.

You have never expected me to be you.

I may have just lost my shit Father. Again. I know I promised I wouldn’t. And I know I did–just as you knew I would.

I’m sorry, Father. It came from a good place. I’m trying.

So pick me up, brush me off, and please say you love me. Remind me that I’m not you and you don’t expect me to be. Hug me a little, if you can fit it in. And let me feel your kiss.

Help me to get it, Father, because I really want to, though I failed today.

And please help me to feel the love that you give me–the love that I can’t and don’t have to earn. Help me to remember how that love feels, so the stupid, temporary problems don’t distract me so easily.

You’re my Master. My Father. My Daddy. Help me to remember that, too.

And help me revel in, but never take for granted, your patience as I keep trying and failing.

I’ll do my best, Daddy, but I know I’ll fall short again. Probably sooner than I want to.

Thank you for letting me take the chances that lead to those petty failures and for picking me up and consoling me when it happens.

Thank you for your love and for your tender hand. Help me drink it all in. Imprint me with it.

And then, when the next person loses their shit, help me to try to create a shadowy model of the perfect love you’ve shown me.

Help me to wallow in your peace and love and then give others direction to the happy, joyous mud pit you built special for me.