Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!!!

I had a birthday in recent weeks and the youth group I help with had a surprise belated birthday party for me last Sunday.  I got a bunch of stickers to decorate my laptop.

I also got a DVD with the following two creative interpretations of my life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not as seen on TV

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

1 Corinthians 12:14-26


I enjoy the TV show Bones .  Its not one of those fanatical devotions like I border on for  Serenity/Firefly("I aim to misbehave!").  I enjoy the geeky side of with all the 'squints' using there various scientific disciplines to bring different information to the situation until they catch the bad guy.   

Even more than that I enjoy the interplay of the characters.  Most of the characters are prototypically left-brained analytical types, with a couple of right-brained intuitive types thrown in to balance them out.  You have a religious character and a specifically nonreligious character, a socially impaired intellectual and a interpersonally savvy artist, a nice cross-section of personalities and capabilities. They are presented with complicated problems that require them to all bring their gifts to the table and provide a piece of the puzzle that none of the others can touch.  None of them can get the job done by themselves.  They need each other.

One of the things I appreciate the most about the show is the situations in which a point is glaringly obvious from one character's viewpoint, but the others can't see it unless it is explained to them in detail.  One of them might pick up a behavioral cue, or a subtlety of the physical evidence, and another character simply does not have the frame of reference to even understand the point, much less understand its significance.  They're specific places in the world allow them to see some things with crystal clarity, leaving them completely blind to others.   Despite this, they all get along.  They don't seem to take deep offense at another's observations, or lack there of.

I don't know about you, gentle (or not so gentle) reader, but living in community doesn't seem to be this consistently clean and pleasant in real life.  I'm occasionally involved in a situation that the different players present experience in different ways. One person may see a particular interaction as particularly profitable, while another might think it laughable or even negative in nature.  What one sees as being of value another one sees as ridiculous or meaningless.  

Now, I'm not saying this to dismiss those that can't understand what I'm saying.  I've been the one devaluing the thoughts of another before.  Sometimes I hear people say things that are no doubt meaningful to them, and even others present, but I have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about.  Or I may view their thoughts as ignorant or unevolved, and consequently not worthy of my consideration.  Ok, who the hell am I?  Just because I can't see the value or rationale behind something that in no way means that it doesn't exist.

I need these people.  I'm not even close to being omniscient (yet), and they all bring something to the table that I can't.  They all provide pieces of the puzzle that I can't get a hand on myself.  Just because I can't see something on first blush does not mean it doesn't have value. Hell, if God can speak through a jackass, I imagine God can use a friend or coworker.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I'm a gadfly.

"You should have eyes that always seek an enemy, your enemy. And some of you hate at first sight.  Your enemy you shall seek, your war you shall wage--for your thoughts. And if your thought be vanquished, then your honesty should still find cause for triumph in that.  You should love peace as a means to new wars-- and the short peace more than the long." (page 159)

"In a friend one should have one's best enemy. You should be closest to him with your heart when you resist him." (page 168)

"He loves his enemies; this art he understands best of all whom I have ever seen. But he takes revenge for this on his friends."  (page 415)

Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (The Portable Nietzsche)

Sometimes I wonder if I talk too much. I can remember, when I was younger, actually choosing to talk, not so much as to add to a conversation, but more to seem intelligent. I'm better at judging my motives now, but I don't pretend to be perfect. Now I try to weigh the actual benefit and necessity of my interjection of a new idea or perspective into a conversation before I open my mouth. There are times when, even if I disagree with what is being said, there is no net positive impact to be had from my questioning of or disagreement with others.

Lately I've been speaking up in various contexts a bit more than I have in the past. One situation that I was particularly worried about, actually turned out very well. I was in a group of people discussing church finances and participation in congregational life. When we began to discuss "Best Practices" in getting people to commit I was the final one to speak. I told them that for people of my generation (I was the only person under 40, and just barely at that) it was meaningless to speak of commitment to supporting the congregation outside the context of Mission (what does the congregation stand for and what is it doing in the community?). I was initially gently and gracefully deflected by the leader of the meeting, and then she had to step away for a few minutes. Others present then began to talk about Mission and when the leader returned she began to speak to it's importance as well. I was surprised. If I had done that in my previous religious context, conservative evangelicalism, it would probably have elicited a pretty lively disagreement.

There are those in my life that I do this with on a one-on-one basis, and I can be brutal in my deconstruction of sacred cows. One of my problems is that I enjoy the process. I like to analyze positions and see if I can find cracks in them. I then proceed to see just how big of a crack I can create. I also think turn-about is fair-play. I appreciate those that show me where my blind spots are, where what I have assumed was solid rock is nothing more than paper. A way I describe it to some is that sometimes compassion comes at you with a big knife. I will additionally purposely expose myself to views with which I know I will disagree. I'm not talking about watered down representations, but intelligent, educated, articulate proponents of positions that I disagree with. I figure that if my faith, or view on another topic, is really based on anything of substance it will stand up to the onslaught. I've seemed to survive thus far. I've had to jettison some minor pieces of my world-view that I no longer believed that I could in good conscience support, but I seem to be better for it so far.

When I provide this "service" to my friends I like to think I'm doing them a favor by showing them the weaknesses in their world-views. However, sometimes I wonder if I'm not just going into someone's house, the only place they have to live, and tearing down a few walls, some of them exterior, and then walking away. This is not to mention the fact that I might simply be better at rhetoric than some people, and totally lack the self awareness to know I'm dead wrong.

To speak, or not to speak...?  Am I contributing to people's lives, or am I causing destruction, either in self deluded compassion or for my own entertainment?  The tension can be taxing.  That being said, I think it would be more worrisome if I readily 'knew' the answer.