a few words

Month: June, 2007

moral (in)formation

The obsession with information in our culture has left us with a situation in which we each choose our own elders and role models.

Previously, your parents, your extended family, or your community would pass lessons on to you about the meaning of life and the proper way to exist in the world. One went through years of an “apprenticeship” watching one’s parents interact with all sorts of people, work in the field or the pasture, distinct from the vocational institution.

These days, we throw kids in front of a television, give them a library card, and put them on the Internet. The flow of information is relentless, and formative. We learn as we grow, but there are so many voices. Out of the cacophony one voice strikes a particular chord, or one piece of advice is particularly poignant. And for the moment, that voice, that advice is our pole star. We may be utterly disconnected from its author, but if it rubs us the right way we take the information to be revelation, and we are prepared to live for the idea.

This leads to the situation where our cultural “wisdom” consists of the patchwork quilts each of us assemble from the endless flow of “good ideas” we come across.

On the one hand it is a relief to think that we haven’t lost the practice of mentorship and eldership altogether. We still pass on wisdom. It’s still important to learn how to live. On the other hand it is disturbing that the whole process is so disconnected – and so individually selective. We listen to the voices that we want to hear and shape our behavior accordingly. Nothing compromises our personal sovereignty. Truth is what I want to hear – what sounds good to me.

twenty-six times around the burning mass of incandescant gas

Out here in the physical world, it’s my birthday!

the quest for security is the way to war :: peace and wholeness

There is no path to peace by way of security; behind the quest for security there lies the same distrust and defensiveness which is the root cause of war.
Bonhoeffer – 1934

When it becomes controlling, the desire to rest in safety and avoid risks entails violence, even when it comes under the guise of peaceable language. At bottom, it is the desire to be free from others’ impingement upon me – free from their demands, free from their interference, free from their coercion. My longing to spend time in my own backyard and have a nice garden is honorable – right up until it becomes a way to escape my neighbor’s need. Privacy won by exclusion is violence, albeit a more subtle form.

Real peace does not exist apart from real freedom – and real freedom is hard won indeed. But real freedom is not won by weaponry, nor is real peace the absence of threats and interference. Biblical peace is synonymous with wholeness; the freedom that this peace brings is not mere independence. Freedom means the ability to serve and love others; it happens in the midst of relationships, in the midst of vulnerabilities, in the midst of one’s friends and enemies. The idea of freedom as the absence of obligations, demands, and interferences is a lonely path. The trajectory of perfecting that kind of freedom points in the direction of absolute solitude – and hell is the only place where creatures can get as far away from other beings as they might like.
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summer road trip :: stage one

Yesterday Carolyn and I left Vancouver (sigh) and drove south to Lincoln, Oregon. Lincoln is a wee little town just outside of Ashland, right above the border with California. For the next four weeks, we will be sequestered away in a cabin in the woods – a welcome respite after a months of hub-bub.

Leaving Vancouver is a really hard thing to do – especially this time of year (flowers and sunshine!). We had grown close with a lot of wonderful people – especially the folks in the house where we lived for two years. The Regent community is one of a kind – irreplacable. Both Carolyn and I feel like it is too soon to leave; we would like another year if it were purely up to us. But we have set wheels in motion and we are excited about what the future brings.

It’s also frightening to leave when I’m halfway through a thesis (and Carolyn is in a similar position with her comprehensive paper). We are leaving behind all the resources of the library, and what is even harder, the group of people with whom we’ve been sharing the conversations that inspire the writing process. Read the rest of this entry »

room for humans :: the words of God

Reading Telford Work’s book Living and Active, I’m recognizing the amount of breathing room available within the biblical tradition. We often speak as if there were only one way to be “biblical” people. We imagine that there is one cookie cutter mold for how to be faithful (and not surprisingly, that cookie cutter looks an awful lot like our own silhouette). But even within the Bible there are traditions at tremendous tension with one another, and in the world that Scripture describes, there is room for many different sorts:

Wisdom literature portrays a world where the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. The wise are blessed and saved, the wicked judged and condemned. God’s mercy is then a kind of converse of God’s justice. The apocalyptic vision turns this conception of salvation on its head. In a world where the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, one is not saved from God’s eschotological judgemnt. Rather, one is saved from injustice and wrath, through God’s eschatological judgment. God’s justice is itself a dimension of God’s mercy. (159)

There is a breadth to truth that acknowledges the validity of many perspectives. What a relief that God speaks through many voices. The “American Dream” wisdom of Proverbs (work your tail off and you’ll do alright) stands side by side with Daniel’s very different version of wisdom. Daniel reminds us that beastly and inhuman empires have their way on the earth only for a time, but that in the end, God’s power and God’s judgment are ultimate. As Ghandi says – every oppressor dies someday. Read the rest of this entry »