I do not know, I know


DSC_0020My brain and heart are being stretched as I listen to conversations around me. Social media, dinner table, coffee shops, gatherings, it appears we are attempting to land something, to nail it down, agree on revised societal ground rules for a new way forward that rights all the wrongs of the past.

Disclosures are bringing dark to light, gutsy public unearthing of stories hidden for years. Courage is on the upswing. A groundswell of activists for social justice is rising, challenging, demanding change. Finally there will be a balancing of the scales, equality for everyone, banishment of archaic ways of thinking and engaging in the world. Everyone will find their place. Happiness will come to all of us. Suicide rates will drop. Inclusivity and peace will rein.

I wonder…

In this desire to right the wrongs are we growing closer together or further apart? Are we trading one brand of exclusivity for another? Are we attempting to erase our own history and all that it represents? What if all questions cannot be answered, and all needs cannot be met, and agreement is impossible?

Because what I’m wondering is, as one group rises up, does another fall, and not to a position of equity, but an overcompensating tilt downward? As one voice speaks, is the other silenced? I am not saying we shouldn’t ask, even demand, certain things at certain times. I’m not saying the way things are are good enough, and we should accept status quo. No. But how do we approach these issues of justice and equality in a world as complex as ours?

I’ve witnessed online interactions within animal rights forums where passion and love for voiceless beings morphs into murderous hate toward any perpetrator of ill will or action towards animals. I’m equally horrified by the crimes and the suggested punishments. Trolling? Maybe? What we do with our anger matters, doesn’t it?

So I’m wondering if rich white maleness is identified as a pervasive evil, what happens to them, what will we do with them? If all corporations are bad, greedy, and run by RWM, who will supply our beloved stuff? If all media lies, who will be the purveyor of truth? If all developers are tree butchers, land grabbers, with no social conscience, where will we all live? If money is evil, how much shall we each be allowed to have and remain righteous? If academic institutions preclude certain world views and topics, what of freedom of speech, and where will higher thinking take place?

I am concerned as I do not see gracious mutuality within complexity, but hints of new ways to qualify, label and ultimately destroy that which does not conform. Doing bad things to an identified oppressor and calling it good, does not make it so. Does it? These are incredibly complex issues, aren’t they?

I also find a wide gulf between the hurt feelings of today’s students on N. American university campuses, and, for example, the students who protested in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Don’t think me insensitive, rather I’m truly asking what are we becoming? Was I being honest or wise with my kids when I told them how extraordinary they were at art, music, sports, everything! Were they truly? What about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Have we lost our perspective as we gain emotional intelligence? Is it actually possible to keep all the difficult, dark and hurtful things at bay if we legislate it to be so?

Remember Finding Nemo, the scene with the seagulls crying mine mine mine? I have to wonder if personhood and my right to feel safe, heard, understood, accepted, desired, intelligent, capable, right, could be a taste of me me me? While a healthy self image is a good thing, where it tends to go off the rails is when I discount anyone who thinks differently, anyone who has the audacity to hurt my feelings or reject what I have to offer. Where did I ever get the idea that I can customize my world like a playlist on Spotify?

I know I’m not the only one asking. Still I’m asking. I do not know the answers, and the questions continue to rise up.

Academics and intellectuals are providing healthy discourse for consideration at great cost to them (see articles below), while I simply try to articulate my sense that there are mysteries that may not have answers. Fr. Richard Rohr describes a non-dual world view, both/and rather than right/wrong. Rohr holds out that the way to peace is through acceptance, love, and non-dualistic ways of engaging in life. Rohr says unless you come to terms with dualism, you will just process any new ideas with your old operating system:

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets.”
Richard Rohr, The Dualistic Mind

More and more I’m seeing the both/and woven into my life, but it is not easy to understand, and not easy to not know the one right answer. I push back against updating my old operating system. It is not easy to not strive for rightness. But I think it may be more true.

“Then how can I know which is the right one?” Aye, there’s the rub. We can’t. But one thing I’m learning is that I do not always have to be right. Or maybe we can look at two different interpretations of a story and understand that they are both right.”
Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock that is Higher

And so I have to wonder if the core desire to deconstruct old ways with hopes of establishing a new order is an old, binary, dualistic approach? Might we again be at risk of recreating the issues of prejudice and exclusivity, only with new people groups? Is there actually, really, only one way? I wonder if there is a new way that is truly new?

Consider what I see may be the both/and in;

freedom of speech and the offence culture

scientific fact and mysticism

perfection and grace

art/beauty created by monsters

art/beauty created out of atrocity

public safety and personal freedom

true love and speaking the truth in love

the common good and the evil that is common

reconciliation and forgiveness

the power of silence

Articles I’ve had the privilege to read of late, and for your consideration;

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/12/06/the-warlock-hunt/

http://nationalpost.com/opinion/lindsay-shepherd-wlus-interrogation-revealed-how-university-has-lost-sight-of-its-key-purpose

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/

How I Learned to be Afraid of Men

https://www.ravenfoundation.org/montessori-remedy-plague-sexual-harassment/

Videos and articles by https://jordanbpeterson.com

And another really, really great article which I cannot find at the moment…

 

 

Truth be, I do not know much. Yet I know something. I’m paying attention to the niggling feeling I have that we are not resolving complex issues in a way that will ultimately lead us to a better place, because the old operating system does not work. And I’m attempting to put my feelings into words as I watch and listen and ask and wonder.

For what it’s worth, these thoughts, and a poem,

Lesley-Anne

How Did We Get Here

When it becomes intolerable to hold a differing opinion and have the audacity to speak of it, if nothing other than a satiating of me-ness feeds my hunger. When I see your you-ness with the phantom of hate lurking in every word, when your tongue is tied and your pen is cramped in your atrophied hand. When your love conforms to a theology of diction, then we will no longer be safe, my friend. Safety is not sameness. I cannot promise to be a safe place, I can promise you I will need your grace at some point in this relationship, because I will not be safe. Save me from me. I don’t understand what you require of me?

Shall we trade in our luminousity, abandon the teeming sea of wild thought for the tepid waters of only that which we agree on? Is that safety? I do not believe compromise of either one of us is a foundation for true love. Love does not win here. We will be less than more. We will be less than our identity of beauty and uniqueness that we celebrate, can we celebrate instead of legislate to be? What will we talk about when we agree on everything? No need for speech seasoned with salty kindness, or wisdom that offers itself through experience of terror and of grace. No need for forgiveness, or patience, when we weigh every word count as watershed and cannot speak for fear of what will be misinterpreted.

How shall we speak? What shall we say of value or of truth and how will I know you and you know me if we only say what makes the other happy? With the dull roar of truth in our ears we will bite our tongues or swallow them while gagging on our inauthenticity, our lack of integrity, or please just brainwash me, so I no longer have to struggle with this issue of only saying what is acceptable or thinking a certain way, to fit in, to conform, to be uniform… borg… I will be assimilated… No!

No, I do not believe that will be my destiny, the end of my individuality! Just as the big bang is still heard in deep space, just as the universe continues to be formed, so too our thoughts, our words must rise up and escape our mouths, no matter the cost. What say you? What say me?

Lesley-Anne Evans, 2017

And they wrestled all night


My intention is to continue unpacking what I began yesterday, talk about it, bring it into the light, consider what it means, consider how being at this juncture is where I’m supposed to be.

Today I opened The Good Book, which led me to a commentary by Alexander MacLaren, and there I discovered his wonderful essay about Jacob wrestling with…a man…an angel…the divine presence…God!

Alexander Maclaren (February 11, 1826 – May 5, 1910) was an English non-conformist minister of Scottish origin. “Called the “prince of expositors,” Alexander MacLaren was a renowned preacher of the 19th and 20th century. [The published collection] Expositions of Holy Scripture brings together many of the sermons over his fifty years in ministry.”(https://www.ccel.org/ccel/maclaren)

Here are some highlights from MacLaren’s commentary on Genesis 32 :

So this failure of natural power is the turning-point in the twofold
wrestle, and marks as well as symbolises the transition in Jacob’s
life and character from reliance upon self and craft to reliance upon
his divine Antagonist become his Friend.

How interesting to land on this particular story, and these particular insights now. Spiritual formation study and practise have been part of my life for over ten years. My recent studies have led me to the teachings of Contemplative Christianity (Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Margaret Silf etc.) with distinctions between living from the false self vs the true self. I am beginning to understand my longing for authenticity and integrity, and my unique place as an artist/poet in the world. I have begun to look at The Enneagram as so much more than a diagnostic justification of identity, rather a starting point toward spiritual transformation, balance, and healing. These teachings are rich, impacting. I continue to sense the draw toward this way of being.

And yet, ironically, I find myself wrestling with certain fundamentals of faith…and perhaps wrestling is what is required of me to continue on The Way with God. Do I truly desire to be transformed? Do I?

Further highlights from MacLaren’s expository on Jacob’s encounter with God (bold text by me);

God desires to go, if we do not desire Him to stay. He will go, unless
we keep Him. Then, at last, Jacob betakes himself to his true weapons.
Then, at last, he strangely wishes to keep his apparent foe. He has
learned, in some dim fashion, whom he has been resisting, and the
blessedness of having Him for friend and companion.

The desire to retain God binds Him to us. All His struggling with us
has been aimed at evoking it, and all His fulness responds to it when
evoked. Prayer is power. It conquers God. We overcome Him when we
yield. When we are vanquished, we are victors. When the life of nature
is broken within us, then from conscious weakness springs the longing
which God cannot but satisfy.

And God prevails when we prevail. His aim in all the process of His
mercy has been but to overcome our heavy earthliness and selfishness,
which resists His pleading love. His victory is our yielding, and, in
that yielding, obtaining power with Him. He delights to be held by the
hand of faith, and ever gladly yields to the heart’s cry,’Abide with
me.’ ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,’ is music to His
ear; and our saying so, in earnest, persistent clinging to Him, is His
victory as well as ours.

This is far from being tied up with a bow. I will continue to lean into what is revealed…in word, deed, circumstance, and the world around me. I don’t yet know what it means…this seeking and longing for…answers…peace…justice…love…God?

I continue to read and consider the the new name “Israel” that Jacob receives from God after morning comes and wrestling ends. I admit there is a teeny shift for me when I read MacLaren’s words;

To impose a name is the sign of authority, possession, insight into character. The change of name indicates a new epoch in a life, or a transformation of the inner man. The meaning of ‘Israel’ is ‘He (who) strives with God’; and the reason for its being conferred is more accurately given by the Revised Version, which translates, ‘For thou hast striven with God and with men,’ than in the Authorised rendering.’

A true Christian is an ‘Israel.’ His office is to wrestle with God.

jacobwrestlesgod

An encounter with the Divine…

Wrestling as worship, leading to transformation…

I wonder…

Tending to things…


I wonder why it’s so easy to find fault with others and so hard to recognize faults in myself? I wonder why I am so endowed with a judging attitude and yet come up short in grace and mercy? Why do I do the things I don’t want to do, and not do the things I want to do? (an ancient question that hits the nail on my head today) I wonder…

I also find that having perspective for someone else is easier than for myself… I can look at the tapestry of someones life and say, “Aha, look at that, un-be-lieve-able!!!” and, “I can’t believe he said that!” and, “What was she thinking?” rather than to look at my own unattractive pattern of slipped and broken stitches, and take responsibility for being the one who made the mess, even do the hard work of beginning over to make it right.

Sometimes God has a way of jamming some perspective down my throat, and though I cough and choke and try to spit it back up, it’s the very thing I need to swallow, digest, and make a regular part of my diet. For me, perspective is always easier looking back that looking forward, but I’d like to have visionary perspective more often. A casual porch conversation with my hubby last night led him to voice an innocent enough comment, “Well, she was tending to things.” And just as I was about to launch into a commentary rant on why this particular person was tending to what was unimportant, why she should have done this or could have done that, suddenly, like a smack in the side of my conscience I thought, “Hang on a second… what am I tending to instead of ________ (whatever, you fill in the blank)?” It was like God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You—follow me.”

One lusty, rugged fisherman called Peter once asked Jesus about details on another disciples life… right after Jesus had given him some very specific direction for his own life. Peter turns and looks at this other disciple and basically says, “Yeah, but, what’s going to happen to him, Jesus?” Jesus looked at Peter and says, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” (John 21:22 MSG) Oh drat… again I see that I need to get introspective and personal, rather than engage in the impersonal and nasty fun pursuit of bantering about other people’s shortfalls… Jesus asks me to look inward at myself and then upward to him… stop with the comparing game, and deal with the areas of my life where I may be lacking in ______________(whatever, you fill in the blank).

I remember reading this verse once about being a follower of Jesus, and becoming ‘slaves to righteousness’ and that really bugged me at first because it sounded, well, like slaves… prisoners, tied down, out of control etc. etc. Now I see that RIGHTEOUSNESS is a good thing to seek after, to be bound to, because it can save me from so much unrighteous stuff that is bad for me, bad for my character, bad for the people I live among. In the words of Bob Dylan,

“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, You’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

And I’d rather serve God and tend to his things, than tend to drugs, alcohol, materialism, jealousy, pride, self-righteousness, hate, greed, _______________ (whatever, you fill in the blank).

I get this picture in my mind of tending a vegetable garden… you know, the way one would carefully prepare the soil, till it for seeding, plant the seeds, water them, pull out the weeks, thin the seedlings, fertilize, water, watch and then, suddenly… fruit begins to appear on the plants and before long it’s harvest time. That type of tending to produces tasty results. I’d like a life like that.

So, that brings me back to the place where I’m feeling this pull to look at what I’m tending to and not tending to, and without disclosing my whole messy life, let’s just say I’m reminded that I need to keep a constant eye on what I choose to tend to… daily, almost hourly… to reel myself in, to ask God to help me to make the best use of my time here, to tend to the flesh and blood humans that he has placed me into relationship with rather than the tasks, or the time wasting activities I sometimes serve. Doing things Gods way means I need to focus on my own shortcomings, not theirs, and then, tripping and stumbling and getting back up again, to follow him.

Photo image taken from Telegraph.co.uk