Saturday, February 23, 2013

Return To An Old Friend

I just informed my wife that I've fallen back in love.

David Dark is an incredible thinker and writer. My first encounter with him was when I bought his latest book because I was captivated by the title: The Sacredness of Questioning Everything. After I devoured that one I ordered his other two books. I quickly finished his first book, Everyday Apocalypse (which I quoted on my blog a few years ago), but then I shelved his second book, The Gospel According to America. If I liked him so much, why wouldn't I go right to the third? Because, unfortunately, life just doesn't work that way. No disrespect to Mr. Dark, but I had other pressing concerns (I'm assuming here, I don't actually remember).

That, and I have this other little mechanism that I've put in place. Sometimes I'll binge on an author, and it becomes easy to think that everything they're saying is the gospel truth. Because of this tendency of mine to be so swayed, I've found it helpful to back off the author and read someone else that could be considered a "balance" to the former. I think it's a good method that helps temper my passions and opinions.

But I could resist The Gospel . . . no longer--and boy is it ever a happy return. I've just finished the introduction, and through it I was reminded of all the things Dark gifted me with. Reading that first book was truly a mind altering drug. He expanded my sphere of consciousness, gave me permission to question myself and everything more, challenged me to consider the damage I am willing to do to others in my thought life. And that's just scraping the surface, of course.

So here is a gem from the intro:

"Politics is how we govern ourselves. It's the way we conduct our lives. To say, "I'm not a political person" is to claim an above-the-frayness that isn't possible for actual human beings. In the same way, we often say, "I'm not a religious person" to avoid being pigeonholed as a fanatic or someone who's needlessly offensive and incapable of thinking properly. But neither religion nor politics actually work that way. And the mythology we've constructed to keep them separate in our descriptions of ourselves and others is slowly falling apart."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Distracting Myself To Death

Tonight, like many nights, I set out to blog.

And tonight, like many nights, I willingly let the effort be choked out by not a small amount of other people's blogs, You Tube videos and endlessly, halfheartedly scrolling through my news feed on Facebook.

This internet thing is great--but good god can a life be wasted pursuing third rate entertainment simply because it is there.

Actually, what the hell am I saying? I want you to read my blog, right? So forget everything I said--internet content is a wonderful, life-giving thing--the more hours you can devote to it, the better off you'll be!

And to thank you for troubling yourself to read this post, here's a picture of a puppy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Were We Born To Do?

Look, I think it's a legitimate question. Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 36 (adjust accordingly depending on your culture) you realize there is a maddening tension that has been set in the heart of your existence: Life is more enjoyable when you are enjoying yourself, but enjoying yourself does not tend to pay the bills.

So what are we to do? Should we pursue a life of pleasure? Definitely a noble pursuit, but sooner rather than later the flies begin dropping into the ointment. For most of us, enjoying life tends to involve forging a meaningful romantic relationship. But to do this requires you to sacrifice some of your freedom, what you heretofore defined as one of the great joys in your life. But the sacrifice is worth it, we often think.

And down the road of increasing obligation we do joyfully bound.

It's a trade off. The fun loving bachelor life doesn't go on forever. That image is charming in your early 20s, and grows increasingly sad as your numbers climb into the 30s and beyond.

Choices get made; they invariably result in more debt to your name (or to your matrimonial union, depending on how you choose to structure yourself, tax wise). Out of necessity you grow eerily practical--how can you make more money?

You do the things that put the bread on the table, but lucky is the man who finds his joy and his work one and the same. Most seem to plink away at their mop or their keyboard or their assorted trade, wishing they were enjoying themselves more.

Which is more noble? Are you being more true to yourself to do whatever pleases you? Or is it the higher thing to sacrifice your pleasures to make a living and a way for all who depend on you, and in so doing perhaps find a deeper, more satisfying joy? Or is there still a third way? Is it the proper thing to not cease striving until your joy and your duty become one and the same?

I've made my choices and I more than stand by them. I was scared to death to marry my wife; it took a long time to muster the courage to commit to the leap. The only nervousness that I now feel about the choice is the scary idea that I might have chosen differently--I hate to wonder how my life would have turned out if I had gone in another direction.

But acceptance of where you are doesn't mean where you are is exactly where you should be. Do we sacrifice hope for reality, or should we always be striving for the better concoction? Is ambition the cure to our ills, or the ill that needs curing?

I'm doing what I was born to do--which seems for all the world to be wondering what it is I was born to do.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spiritual Violence

So I was rooting for Baltimore. I even had a $50 bet on them with my dad, just to show myself and the world that I was serious. And I am fine with Ray Lewis. Yes, he is a dramatic attention hog, but like many people like that, he's charismatic and therefore likable.

But Lewis said something to the world from the victory stage of the Superdome that really bothered me. He said: “It’s simple: when God is for you, who can be against you?” This is a direct quote of Romans 8:31.

The church has trained its legions to think this way. You came down with a cold? Satan is trying to get you. Didn't get that job promotion? The spiritual forces of darkness saw to that. Problems in your marriage? The devil does not want to see God's elect prosper, so he will do everything in his power to hold them down.

Christians allow themselves to be wrapped up in their own little bubble, and they don't see the ridiculous implications of their thinking. So when a non-believer is passed over for a job, or some other tragedy befalls them, does the Christian's line of thinking not fall apart in their hands like so much cheap Chinese stitching?

And the implications of Lewis' words are painfully, embarrassingly evident to anyone with a functioning brain: So God was FOR the Ravens, but AGAINST the 49ers. Really?

I'll just say it without pulling any punches: I think that modern American Christianity is intellectually bankrupt. I don't single out Lewis, he's only speaking into a microphone the way most Christians, in my experience, speak to their friends and family and like-minded compatriots.

And it's wrong, because it's so silly, and so insulting to the idea of reason and intelligence. I wish my tribe knew better, but for now we are saddled with an anti-intellectual mentality that thinks that faith and reason are mutually exclusive, instead of complimentary.

Friday, February 1, 2013