What I’m Doing…and stuff…

I’ve been out of the blog world a bit these days. It’s been unintentional…I just feel like I haven’t really had that much to say. I’m in a weird place–strangely.  I don’t know what to say about it actually. So here’s life right now–in some small dim snapshot.

Bummers

* Impending financial ruin

* The continued recognition of the END of a community that I spent a decade pouring my energies into creating and continuing.      The exhausting realization that many of the people who I dedicated much of my life to, will simply not remember me fondly–and God THAT HURTS.

*Needing faith for the same reason that it’s hard to find (thanks for the words JR)

*watching things that should inspire and give hope–current religious movements etc–follow the same pattern as other movements…and not being surprised or even disappointed–but still wondering if there is anything that transcends humanities arching cycles.

*Bored out of my mind in my current job in a job market that is “in a midlife crisis” (but thankful to have a job)

*bla bla blah…

Huzzah’s

* Reinvention possibilities–it looks like we may very well be moving to Portland, SE, to be closer to many of our great friends who have serendipitously cropped up within the last year.

*Helping organize and then even performing again at HOMESPUN SUMMER CONCERTS, together with friends

*The little network of stragglers, adventing adventurers, refugees who have somehow gathered…not towards any specific end–but rather locked in a mutual recognition of the places that we have been and where we are, this is truly refreshing.

*Our vegetable garden

*Rediscovering music, my passion for writing and performing it.

*Seeing myself for myself and being ok with who that is–in my worst…i don’t know if i’ve ever been quite so honest with myself or quite so accepting.

*Enjoying our two wonderful boys Ransom and Judah.

*Pursuing my Master’s degree in something related to systemic thinking, strategic foresight, community development and organizational psychology.

*Discovering music that I never had but probably should have…such as Josh Ritter:

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

Two events: past and future, community

Today, through a mutual friend, I ended up randomly meeting up with two beautiful people.  Tamara Park, author of “Sacred Encounters” and one of her traveling companions.  I have not read the book but now want to.  It bills itself as a bit of a travel journal as she treks through terrain between Rome to Jerusalem, and covers territory such as faith and doubt in between.  I suspect she picked up many stories along the way–she listened intently in the little half hour we had together, and while I wanted to hear more about her and her life she continued to simply encourage my own sharing.  What a marvelous quality to discover in some one else.  I hope to encounter her more and emulate the beautiful way of engaging the world around her that she seems to have.  Cheers!

The second event. Tonight Jessie and I embark on a seven week book club adventure reading through “A Theory of Everything” by Ken Wilber together with a group of fellow “post-Christian” adventurers.  I read the intro last night and found myself excited for the voyage ahead.  There were two things that stood out to me.  1) He talked about the “de-throning” of post-modernism by other more viable stories.  While post-modernity emphasized the nurtured cultural models of the beliefs we have concerning the world, making them little more than embedded myth and accepted fables; such discoveries as evolutionary psychology, chaos theory/complexity, and M-Theory/String Theory, have helped us realize that while things may not have readily apparent reasons for why they are…they still ARE!  In other words there are bigger stories than post-modernisms particular one, at work.  That intruiges me.  Another thing that Wilber said in the intro was particularly good: “we may not be able to get a view of EVERYTHING but isn’t a little bit of wholeness better than none at all?”  And I found that hopeful and redemptive.  All in all, I’m excited to take the journey together with my wife and other friends who all seem to find ourselves in the same space.  What dreams may come?  It will simply be good to gather around a challenging text and be stretched again. 

These are little blips of community that I see taking shape again… Receiving the stranger, creating space of sacred encounters, and then allowing others into the place of concept and stories to encounter something Other.

A Thought

The death of metaphysics, the end of an objective “out-there-ness” that we could analyze the “right-here-ness” with, has left us with the realization that all we have are stories, ideologies, and myths.  And even that is its own story, ideology, and myth.  “The knife that Nietzsche slew God with is the same one that he slit his own wrist upon.”  But that’s not my thought…

My thought is this: if relativism is created in the wake of the death of certainty–isn’t fundamentalism also?  Could it be that fundamentalism is the shadow side of relativism?  Doesn’t a person simply feel even more entitled to live into their own story knowing that no one can tell them otherwise?  And isn’t communitarian-ism (the idea of particular communities deciding what is right for them) the democratic form of fundamentalism?

I’m just realizing that there are always consequences for what we buy into…or don’t…

We do not live in a vacuum, as it were.

And I’m still wrestling with Sartre’s “I cannot simply go on a moral holiday.”

Everything effects everything…

Portland’s Ethos?

my brother-in-law and i were debating the movie “sicko,” that we both actually enjoyed.  the topic under the microscope was how to impliment the ideas.  he urged for sweeping medical reform.  “change the system!”  i pushed back and advocated that individuals take responsibility for their neighbors, for their communities, then ultimately for the world.  i said that instead of needing a vast new ideal, we simply needed to personally and then communally take practical steps.  he commented dryly, “how oregonian of you.” 

————

recently i was talking with a friend of mine who’s a lobbyist here in Salem, OR.  she actually just transferred from washington, d.c. to be in local oregonian politics.  having only been here for 6 months she made an astute observation.  “Everyone in Oregon politics is plagued with utilitarianism” she reported.  To grossly simplify–the ends justify the means.  my friend let out an exasperated sigh at the end of her complaint and asked, “aren’t there such things as The Good, and the Right, and the Beautiful that we seek after…even if it doesn’t work?!?” 

————–

one of the top tier executives who oversees the college i work for told me that in her experience oregon (and particularly portland) is a tough market.  “here,” she said, “employers don’t want transferable skills–and they certainly don’t value career growth.  employers want you to have done the same job in the same industry to the same end result they need.”  I said i thought that was interesting and wondered how any one got a job here that was slightly different.  she snarkily remarked, “google out of state employers in the portland market.  hopefully they’re not thinking with the same, ‘just-get-‘er-done’ mentality that EVERYBODY here does.”

————

is it possible that a local philosophical leaning in this region is utilitariansism?  jeremy bentham. epicurus. and portland.  oddly enough, portland was also just recently described as the unhappiest city in the nation.  a connection?  i don’t know.  but i do think my lobbyist friend has a great question…is there more to life than utility?

Passion

It’s interesting because I know of some people who probably feel the exact opposite as what I’m about to say…but I’ll say it anyway.

Life is meaningless without a shot of passion.

—–

When I was a kid I remember idolizing certain bands. I won’t bother telling you which ones because you’d laugh (as I am,  just remembering some of them).  Some of them were amazing, others less than that.  The sounds were ecclectic.  But they all shared one common theme.

Passion.

My friend Steve and I used to talk about this endlessly then.  As we aspired to forming our own band (which, yes indeed we did), we took note of the core commonality that we most admired among others.  That sense of a passionate and engaged performance was, for us, EVERYTHING. 

Don’t confuse passion with thrashing around on stage.  Movement wasn’t neccesarry.  There were shoegazer bands that, as their name implies, stared at their feet without moving an inch for an entire two hour set. But they were furiously intense. Their focus was their passion. 

Neither did we confuse passion with talent.  I remember going to see one of the first State side performances of a now MAJOR rock outfit.  I loved the music but the bass player literally sat down in the middle of the set.  He was bored out of his mind.  In the end, no matter how engaging the music was, I got bored too.  It was staggeringly tiring just watching him be so disinterested. 

And I’ve got to say, today–still–there is nothing more important to me in life than that single quality of passion. 

Passion is being there.

Passion is full committment to the moment.

Passion is up and it’s down and allowing oneself to go both places without needing to temper the two.

I realize that passion has it’s draw backs. I think of the passionate religious fundamentalists of 9/11–not so good.  And, sometime’s passion is a lot of good feeling bluster without much productive birthing.  It’s masturbation. 

Balance is beautiful. No doubt. I need it in my life. 

Still…be passionately balanced… Be there…sit with it.  Try it on, wear it around…Passion doesn’t require “movement” per se. Passion doesn’t need great talent.  It just needs space to breathe and bleed and laugh and cry. I need…

—-

Portland is sunny today.  It’s one of the few days in the last, seeming, 9 months.  I’m tired of the drab.  I’d rather have it dark and stormy or bright as it is now.  This in between thing can, like gravity, wear one down.

Taking the Leap

Simone de Beauvoire, the famous French existentialist, described a series of human reactions to “the anguish of freedom”.  What she means is that when faced by a panorama of choice, overwhelming option, humans have a tendency towards certain actions, because this is a very confusing place to be.  Without getting into detail she isolates five reactive categories:

1).  The Sub-Human–imagine a guy who pokes his head out the door one morning, sees his car, the bus driving down the road, a sidewalk for walking, and a bicycle laying in the grass.  This creates a set of options for transport.  But what’s he do?  He is so confused as to the correct or best decision that he closes the door and goes and lays on the couch, cracks open a cold one and turns on the TV.  He avoids choice.  The reason why she called this person “a little less than human” is because they are denying the most basic of human activities…choosing…the will to power.  By denying this trait and living in fear, they are escaping freedom and living in slavery.

2).  The True believer (my wording)–Faced with the paradox of decision and plethora of realities, this person throws away their freedom by essentially asking someone else (someone in authority usually) to make the decision for them.  This person asks God or political leaders or religious guru’s to choose.  “Tell me what to believe” they scream.  Rather than question through the endless minutia of this or that, they bypass it all and have another dictate.  Often, she suggests, the true believer is benign, but at worst becomes a fanatic or a fundamentalist…think The Inquisition or Nazi Germany. 

3).  The Niehlist–The end road of a true believer can often lead to dissapointment.  The authority let them down. The politician didn’t keep their promise.  The preacher was unfaithful.  And so anger, frustration, and crushing sadness results.  Where do they end up?  Back on the couch channel surfing.  But not out of apathy…rather, out of dissapointment.  They have ceased to believe because they believed so strongly.  You can always tell a Niehlist because they are in constant deconstruction.  They are the perpetual cynic, always critisizing everything but never spelling out an alternative.  Sadly, this stage forgets that reality is defined not by negative reaction but by positive momentum.  In other words…it’s easy to be against something…difficult to be truly for something.  Enter…

4). The adventurer–Realizing that all is meaningless, they grow tired of staying at home on a Friday night and instead invest themselves in (knowingly) meaningless activities or actions that feel good.  Their own personal pleasure or good will is of maximum importance.  The downfall of this stage is that this person ultimately becomes a slave to their own positive experience and they enslave others to accomplish their wishes.  (Pizarro and his conquest/massacre of South American’s etc…)

5).  Finally…The Passionate person–for me, I mesh this with Kierkegaard’s own belief in passion and the leap of faith.  It is the final stage of maturation in relating to the anguish of freedom.  This is a person who has wrestled with the complexity of the world.  They have understood rightly that there are NO inherent values around them…that nothing comes as prepacked answers.  They know, through hard fought experience, that all things are in many ways different but equal.  However…however…they choose a course.  They choose a path. They invest themselves, head first into one of the channels or opportunities in front of them, saying “I may be wrong…I might have this all amuddle…but THIS I believe with my life!  I will live into this reality!”  She says, in a beautiful turn of the pen, “at this final place of true freedom we arrive, where I concern others and I have concern for them as well”.  In other words this place of complete clear headedness committed to also assisting others to live in a clear headed way as well, no longer enslaved to the anguish of freedom.

For me, that final stage is the life of faith in our post modern culture.  As I look at the world today, and have been for the last 6 months, things have become incredibly grey. I have passed through each of the middle three points of progress.  From True believer, asking another man or set of men to dictate belief, to Niehlist, dissapointed in the institutions I had created and I had been given, to Adventurer caught in a reckless pursuit of my own priviledge.  And now, I stand on the edge of a great precipace.  Behind, the shadow lands of muddled thought and minimal action.  Ahead, the kingdom, God’s good dream rolling from the mountain tops that surround our valleys and even now which is beginning to encompass our cities, towns, neighborhoods, and families. 

Knowing, that we are easily as wrong as we may be right…not having to convince another person in the known universe…but finally at ease with the relationship I’ve been brought into. A Way of Peace and of Community and of Justice and of Compassion.  Life pursuing radical discipleship in the way of Jesus in submission to His words and actions, the best articulation of humanities collective and enduring theme: Divine Spirit inhabiting Human form.  This is hardly about a new narrative of beliefs, but actually a way of living an integrated spirituality.  Spirit as my relationship with everything around me. 

The Spirit is moving…she is stirring…and  we feel this in our lives, we KNOW that something (and maybe EVERYTHING) must change. Nothing can remain the same…and yet I alone am different, and I’m alright with that.

I’m taking the leap…I’m living into the Light I see.

Portland…New York but with nice people

“I visited Portland in May and I fell in love with the city. It’s everything great about New York, but the people are very nice and approachable. Also there’s the mountains. I’m very interested in what seems to be a thriving community of Christians. It seems like the community has and gives a lot of respect to and from the city.”

I loved this quote…it’s great to hear that someone perceives what’s happening here in the Portland area this way.  I trust that it is true…I’m praying it is.

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