testing the waters once more….

Dipping my feet back into the water with spirituality with “The Bhagavad Gita.”

I am fulfilled. the elements of nature, the body and senses, what are they to me? or the mind? what is emptiness or despair?

I am boundless space. the world is a clay pot. this is the truth. there is nothing to accept. nothing to reject, nothing to dissolve.

know you are one, pure awareness.  with the fire of this conviction burn down the forest of ignorance.  free yourself from sorrow and be happy.

you are always the same, unfathomable awareness, limitless and free, serene and unperturbed.  desire only your own awareness.

the ultimate consciousness is always present everywhere. it is always present everywhere. it is beyond space and time with not before or after.  it is undesirable and obvious. so what can be said about it? you are it.

the birth and dissolution of the cosmos itself takes place in me. there is nothing that exists separate me.  the entire universe is suspended from me as my necklace of jewels.

Water for my soul….

Embarrassed

Shortly before one of my favorite bands, Radiohead, released one of my favorite albums, KID A, I remember reading an interview with their lead singer, Thom Yorke in Rolling Stone.  He previewed the albums stark contrast with their previous work.  As the interview progressed it became apparent that many of the signature Radiohead sounds would be missing on this album.  Chiefly, Yorke pointed out, gone were the guitars–or at least guitars that sounded like guitars.  The interviewer pushed to know why the band felt the need to make such a drastic departure.  Why ditch the guitars he asked.  The Radiohead frontman made a comment I’ve never really been able to forget the gist of:  “I guess all of us just hit this point where we’ve become embarrassed that we play them. We need other sounds. Sounds that we’re not embarrassed of. I mean, everybody can play the guitar.”

What struck me at the time is that the boys of Radiohead weren’t just any old guitar players. They were innovative, deeply creative, and technically brilliant.  If anyone had a right to KEEP playing guitar, it was them.  But somehow the baggage of those shitty bands around them, the Radiohead wanna-be’s, the knock-off’s, the un-artful imitations made them hit the wall.  Not only that, but also they felt they had taken guitar playing as far as they could while still being inspired.  It was time to set aside the thing that had defined them and they had also, in part, helped define.

The album that came out of that, KID A, was incredible, and it was, as the interview had promised, devoid of anything that sounded like a guitar.  They managed to reinvent themselves and did so beautifully.

Last year, and several albums later, they came out with the latest and greatest–an incredible work called “In Rainbows.”  Interestingly, the guitars were back.  It wasn’t exactly the original “Brit-pop” sound they had help pioneer.  But there were actual hooks and recognizable riffs.  Fans were happy, and so was the band.  Stepping away from the thing that they simultaneously loved and were embarrassed by, gave them license some time later to return and fall in love again.

Sometimes the sounds that we are familiar with–that we have given ourselves to completely–lose their luster.  Either we find ourselves no longer inspired by them or others have polluted the well we’ve drank from.  It seems, somehow, cheapened.  And we are embarrassed of those sounds.  We need to put them down for a time and simply hear or play with other melodies, other symphonic expressions.  But all in order to fall in love again…

And I wonder if this is happening…somehow, somewhere in me…is this the process I’m in?  Am I learning new languages so to embrace my mother-tongue more fully later on?  There are clearly no guarantees, I’m sure of that.  But perhaps…I suppose time will tell. Until then, I’m not so concerned with the sound making instrument–simply that I make sound at all…I hope that the music is still great.

Rumi, Movement, and Leaving my car a mystery

This morning I was listening to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippetts. This particular show was on the Sufi poet and teacher, Rumi.  The guest quoted Rumi as having said something beautiful connected to the dance of the Dervishes, and it connects to several other thoughts I’ve been having lately. 

If you don’t plow the Earth it becomes hard and nothing will grow on it.  Just plow the earth of yourself–get moving. Don’t ask exactly what will happen—simply begin to move and see what comes of it.

Similarly, though in another vein, I remember someone saying something along the lines of keeping their car a mystery.  When asked for further clarification he said, ” If I take my car apart I’ll probably understand it better, but it just won’t drive any more.” 

This twin sense of simply beginning to move, to spin in circles, to plow the other, to resist taking the car apart, seems noteworthy this morning. 

Who do I say I love when I love my God…a promise…a call…a mystery…a Love and a Lover… and these are the things I myself become as I join that dance.

Thoughts from the Hassadim…

God is both Person and Nonperson for the Hasid. God becomes Person by assuming intellect and emotions in order to become known to man. However, that is NOT God per say, but an emmanation of God.  God is Absolute and unrelating Infinite (Ain Sof) before the contradiction of God’s Light, or what is known. God’s Light is and is not identical with Ain Sof, just as the sunlight is and is not identical with the Sun. In the lower worlds, in “creation” God’s Presence is Shekhinah. Shekhinah is personified as the Divine Spouce, our Divine Mother, who is in exile. The Shekhinah is held prisoner in innumerable little sparks, awaiting redemption in our hands….–Wrapped in Holy Flames: Teachings of the Hasidic Masters

Bono Wants Your Soul…

Bono wants to know where your soul is this year.

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.

The preacher said, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Hearing this, every one of the pilgrims gathered in the room asked, “Is it me, Lord?” In America, in Europe, people are asking, “Is it us?”

Well, yes. It is us.–READ MORE HERE.

Shifting Social Structures

I remember how I used to think about systemic change, even though I probably didn’t use those words.  First, you needed a vision from which you then developed a strategy.  You then, either vaguely or concretely, outlined a time line of what you needed and when, and then you formed alliances.  People who bought into the vision were considered extensions of myself, little mirrors of my identity.  People who did not buy into the vision as outlined, quickly descended down the path of 1) The Other (not quite me…different…) 2) The Stranger (unrelatable…completely removed from my experiences…viewed with suspicion) 3) The Monster (vilified…often necessary to destroy or remove altogether). 

Underlying that kind of “strategic planning” were some basic assumptions.  Change was perceived as being top down and as requiring a level of management or control.  Change was viewed as a slow moving creature with long range implications with behavior as a mandated commodity, enforced by rewards/punishment.  Additionally, large scale changes were seen as depending on large scale efforts. 

But this really is inconsistent with how we view life at work in the world around us.  Margaret Wheatley, writer and teacher, suggests that the complex “emergent” phenomena follow a specific cycle: local action —> connection —->system.  Interestingly, within that little formula the only “controllable” aspect is the conditions for connectivity.  In other words, the thing that happens at the individual or local level is fairly free form and spontaneous.  The large scale “system” is almost unmovable or irreversible by the time it emerges.  This leaves only the middle point, connection, as within our ability to modulate or mediate.  In other words, if we are interested in “global” systemic change we ought not focus on the large system or the local network; we must focus on the place for committed connection.

I’ve been mulling these sorts of thoughts over in preparation for the Emergent Village “re-imaging” event.  How do I apply these types of thoughts to that environment?  As I’ve considered it, some of my brainstorming has included the following directive/suggestive thoughts:

1. Major on connecting:Internet, social networks, forums, conferences, etc

2.  Promote learning: resources, innovations, experiments

3.  Evolve Practice

In order to do these effectively it might become necessary to:

1. Cultivate institutional resources to develop connections

2. Bring practitioners (and curious) together more often for “think-tank” experiments (not unlike this upcoming one)

3. Seek Divergence–bring people from other idea fountains and experiences to share. Provide a space for insiders to become outsiders again…opportunity for conversion.

4.  Support local movements/cohortsthrough providing resources, ideas, on line forums, etc…but also encourage them to gather in regional connections.

In principle create an environment that supports local experiment that watches for and supports supportive dynamics and belief systems. 

All of this falls within the framework Wheately nicely establishes,   “Support diversity AND viability among practitioners”

It’s a tight rope being walked, there’s no doubt.  However, with imagination, authenticity and experiment I believe it can be done.

My future and the Emergent Church

In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world or creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections.  We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad based change.–Margaret J Wheatley,  “Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale”

This next week I have the opportunity of participating in a conversation taking place regarding the future of Emergent Village, a central voice within the larger emerging church movement.  The quote above is part of the reading we were asked to do as we prepare for the intensive time together.  It’s encouraging because it invites people into relationship–and that’s what this upcoming time (and really the whole of the emerging movement) seems to be about.  I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I imagine there will be a deeper experience of the stories of God’s creative energy moving in and through people.  I hope that the relationships built during this time will begin to help create a ferment for meaning and hopeful engagements going forward, in many of our lives. 

I have to confess, in some ways Ifeel like an outsider to “the conversation”.  I’ve spent the last decade taking a “time out” from sexy culturally relevant “church”.  Instead I embraced a deconstructed “primitive church” model, filled with “flat leadership” and intentional proximity community.  It’s been a great ride, but it also makes me feel as if I’m playing catch up on “what’s going on”.  On the other hand, perhaps this last chapter in life might provide a context to share more deeply from.  I feel like, in some ways, many of the ideals being touted today, can come across as high intentioned theoretics.  But part of my life has been trying to “work those out” and take them to their logical conclusion. God, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I feel like an 80 year old man sometimes.  At times I’m too exhausted to imagine “what next”.

Whatever these next steps are for me, they will be ones laced with a sense of being compelled forward.  They can’t be the next thing, or the cool thing, or what seems right…they must truly be a propelling ahead.

Certainly things are shifting, all over the world, I don’t think it can be seen any other way…People are exploring the lines of intersection between faith and culture, between content and container, between the things we thought were essential but were just applicable to an other time…Now, that’s an interesting dialog to be a part of.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Impossible Now–Part Four

This is the final installment of an introductory position paper I’m calling “The Impossible Now” or “Towards a Theology of the Impossible.”  There are three previous parts.  You can find them here, here, and here.  In this final installment I talk about “the religious question.”  Cheers!

…The im/possible is refusing, as it always does, to be pinned down and become a part of someone’s strategic planning. It will always retreat from our view, from our expectation, from our massaging of what is possible, and back into the realm of the unexpected and truly unimaginable….

The Event of the im/possible cannot be prepared for and at the same time cannot be depended on. These are horrible words to hear for strategic planning! How then do we live with such (non)knowledge? If authenticity, imagination and experiment are the tools that we shape the relative future with, what are the tools we use to embrace the wildcard future—the im/possible? What can we possibly do or say or prepare in reference to something that lies so completely out of our ability to do or say or prepare for? It is for this place, this absurd, unexpected, undeterminable place that a different set of internal reservoirs are needed. Religion, good religion, seeks to address this sort of question.

Having done all to encounter the present in a meaningful way, we are still often left with seemingly meaningless events that continually take us by surprise, disturbing our best laid plans. This realization is, at its highest, a religious experience. It doesn’t require belief in a Personal Origin, or First Cause. But it does require something of us. That much is certain. The “what” is actually rather well-known. The attributes I’m going to mention are in many ways universals. They’re what philosopher’s might call “un-deconstructables,” in that they are ideals—almost always un-fully-realized urges that keep us reaching toward them. The most famous of Jesus’ early followers, the apostle Paul, said it best, in my opinion, “…in the end, these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.”

This simple three word formula provides the basis for the intersection between the im/possible and the real. Faith isn’t so much a mental adherence to theoretical propositions about the nature of truth, but rather living today in the light of the future as it should be. Faith sees the idealized Peaceful Tomorrow, the future where swords have been beaten into plowshares, and tanks made into tractors, and determines to live peaceably today, even while the world is filled with wars and rumors of wars. Faith is an active, aggressive leap forward toward the Good, the Just, and the Best in spite of evidence contrary. Faith is an investment in particularity and locality, refusing to be theoretical and (merely) universal. Faith is always personal, though hardly private.

Hope isn’t the spindly sickly stuff of fantasy; it’s longing contentment. Hope sees the possibility of renewal and resurrection where others see lifelessness or death. Hope believes in commonality, compassion and a desire for connection with the Other where fear informs us that only Strangers and Monsters await on the other side of the unknown.

And love…Love is the greatest of these. Even faith and hope must give way before love. What can be said of love? Those who have known both Love and God have said that God is Love. If God can be spoken of and said to be anything at all, God is spoken of as and said to be Love. The substance of the divine is bound up in love. Concrete love. Active love. Visible, tangible, touchable love. Love, which covers a multitude of sins. Love which walks the extra mile. Love which gives up the second coat. Love which willingly lays down its life for another, for the Other. Love, of whom we may sing a thousand songs.

Our deep need to account for the unaccounted for, forces us to build up, to work on, a different skill set entirely. The things that are simply cannot prepare us for the things that are not. For those sorts of im/possible occurrences we must draw on the deep fountains that lurk at the corner of our being, not quite yet realized, still in formation, and dependent on some previously unforeseen happening to unleash their potential in our lives. In some strange way, these too, carry the stamp of Artistry. Art, in all of its forms, somehow allows to us to look upon, and hint at, those things which we cannot view in a straightforward way. Artistry gives birth to the Encounter of im/possibility which we are able to meet with arms open, acting out of faith, hope, and love.

God, rid me of God

I’m on a journey.  Since having left the wild and wacky world of “primitive Christianity” (house church with a splash of new-monasticism and a strong sprinkling of fundamentalism) I have essentially been searching high and low for a place to hang my hat.  It is taking me across some interesting places.  Many of the posts I’ve thrown up in the last several months are themed towards this.  It isn’t exactly a worldview, but I am attempting to come to grips with both the content and implications of the places where I am.  In response to a recent comment I posted the following, and I think it’s a fitting description of where I am currently and what interests me:

The Project: Religion With/Out Religion

For the past while, I’ve been attempting to find some sort of working model for what Bonhoeffer called “religionless Christianity” and Derrida called “religion without religion”. Those seem, to me, to be very important concepts–and they resonate with me, they speak to me. Can God be the good news of the religionless without converting them to being religionFULL?  I would say, yes…and I’m trying to flesh out what that means. Part of what my war on certainty has affirmed is that almost everything requires a choice–a value decision. There really isn’t anything that is just “plain truth”, no matter how much science (or their kissing cousins fundamentalists) believe so. They are choosing the narratives that make sense to them. I believe this is Polkinghornes point from my last blog post of quotes(by the way–his charge was, i believe, more or less leveled at rationalists who come up with a utilitarian model of a clocklike universe…that lacks any sort of life, beauty, mystery, or wonder…).

The (Un)Wholly Other

I have also been meditating on the im/possiblity of God.  Or rather the impossible as God.  One way of thinking about this is that God is wholly other. In other words, we mostly fail to see God. Our intellect, our very ability to perceive God, is what is ill-equipped to witness God. Another way of thinking about this is that our imaged thoughts of God do not allow for God. This is why Meister Eckhardt cries out, “God, rid me of God!” Our concepts of God prevent us from experiencing God…often. However, God cannot be wholly other…else we would miss God altogether. There is, admittedly, an element that lies within our constructs causing an awareness. We are not totally oblivious to God.  There are aspects of the unknowable which, surprisingly, are  knowable. 

Here comes the first critical choice…on one hand you could say that the human species has evolved this collective consciousness of God…it cannot exist without having an Other to live with…This view seems to say that there is a God construct that our survival instinct depends on.  But that is a supposition, an interpretation, and hardly the only assumption to be drawn (I would also add it’s not even an assumption that bears out in our normal existence.) Far more common sense, frankly, is that the thing which we desire, and can sense (if not altogether perceive) is communicated by that which desires us (and wishes us to sense it). Just as hunger testifies to the dependence on and the existence of food, so too our own awareness to the wholy other speaks of the wholly other which is in relationship to us.   This to me, makes God, once more–loving, relational, and personal. God as being, or more than being, or less than being (I don’t know) is engaged in whispering and wooing.  Our awareness describes not constructs but communication.  I recognize that this is as a subjective choice, a value decision…but to me it paints a much more beautiful picture than the other subjective choice that opts for the other side of things.

Loving Love

Having said that, I’ve taken up the Augustinian question, that Caputo alliterates, “who do I love when I love my God?” And I’m trying to find a working articulation of what exactly I mean when I speak of God. Personally, I am coming to the Johannian (as in the epistle writer) view, that the first name of God, is love. That love, in all its forms, pure love is God. Love is something intangeble…always drawing us into action, but never quite resolving in that event…it requires more of us. God is that which we desire, but also that which desires us and pulls and propells us towards the event of love. Love in this case is so deeply intimate that to describe it impersonal, or unrelational, would be to demote it. Love requires such relating and such personhood.

If God is Love…Then Who Are We?

“If Love is the first name of God, then ‘of God’ is the name of those who love”. We’re always looking for who’s in and who’s out… To me, love, is the dividing line…always. This is why a secular person who’s life is for the other, is always a religious or God filled life. And a religious person who is only for themselves and what they consider right and wrong is not at all religious and God filled. The people of God are those who are lovers.

The (non)Spiritual Journey

The spiritual journey then is discovering that love…both in terms of our own sense of Belovedness and in terms of being a channel through which that love may flow.

So…these are the places I am coming to…I’m using, perhaps, overly vague language…and doing so because I deeply believe that the Christinese that we have so often used, no longer has place in this world. It has lost the right to speak. it has, to often, been complicit in evil for to speak of lofty good. It’s words are poison. This is the project I’m attempting to develop. I recognize that both cardinals and ordinary Christians alike may not be very happy about the direction its going. I suppose that’s the price I’ll have to pay for thinking about Christianity without Christianity.  But, I have to try…I can do no other.

+ Some Quotes +

A trinity of quotes today. 

One from a scientist. One from a philosopher. And the final from a priest. Somehow they speak to the foundation I sense I’m standing on. It is, to be sure, a weak foundation.  I’m not looking for a strong or obscenely certain one.  The weakness of the foundation is as weak as Love itself–something that calls to us, that draws us, urging us to be fall forward, to take the leap, propelling us ahead, but without force. In the end my affirmation is a simple one, to quote Gianni Vattimo when asked if he still “believed”, he answered “I believe so.”  I believe that I believe. 

You have a choice… I don’t think anyone can prove that God exists or that God doesn’t exist–we’re in an area far to deep for mere proof…a big fundamental question like belief in God (or disbelief) is not settled by a single argument. It’s too complicated for that. What one has to do is consider lots of different issues and see whether or not the answers one gets add up to a total picture that makes sense–but also gives meaning, beauty, depth, joy and hope.  In other words do you like the panting that you’ve just created or not?–Polkinghorne, pg 36

 

Who do I love when I love my God?  I love this question because it assumes that anybody worth their salt loves God. If you do not love God what good are you?  You are too caught up in the meanness of self-love and self-gratification to be worth a tinker’s damn. Your soul soars only with a spike in the Dow Jones Industrial average; your heart leaps only at the prospect of a new tax break. The devil take you.  Religion is for lovers, for men and women of passion, for real people with real passion for something other than utilitarian gains, people who believe on something, who hope like mad in something, who love something with a love that surpasses understanding…but again, we must ask then “Who do I love when I love my God?”(Caputo, pg 2)

 

Dear friend, being beloved is the origin and fulfillment of the life of the spirit.  I say this because as soon as we catch a glimpse of this truth, we are put on a journey in search of the fullness of that truth and we will not rest until we rest in that truth.  From the moment we claim the truth of being beloved we are faced with the call to become who we are.  Becoming the Beloved is the spiritual journey we have to make. (Nouwen, pg 41)

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