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

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Spirit wrestler


jacob-with-the-angelThis is me taking a risk. I doubt that I am alone but it sure feels like it right now.

Thing is, I recognized yesterday that I am wrestling with something fundamental and HUGE. I admit my biggest struggle is what I will do with Jesus, The Christ. Jesus, the centre, the hinge of Christendom, and I am wrestling with what it means to say yes to the entirety of the Trinity – The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, three-in-one.

My heart has been troubled with this question for some time. Oh, I want to believe. I do believe, many days. Still my guts churn over what I perceive as the exclusivity of Jesus, his life, his death, his atoning sacrifice that right sides me with God, the Father. Because saying yes to Jesus means you can also say no. And saying no means…well, you probably already know where I’m going with this. And this empath with a social justice heart is deeply perplexed by the thought of that.

I hide my perplexity, mostly, because it feels embarrassing. My life indicates my clear Yes! to God, and Yes! to the Spirit, but when I unpack the theology around Jesus, The Christ, I get stuck. I resist. I say “BUT.” But what about those who don’t believe or don’t get it right? But what about those who have a strong belief system of their own? But is hell really real? But what is the limit of God’s grace? But, but, but…

I wrestle with God like I’m the gatekeeper for the eternal well being of all souls. I wrestle on in doubt and then belief and then I attempt to stand under the tiny bit of assurance I can muster up. I am conflicted. I wonder what this makes me?

A wise friend shared a story with me.

There was once a sacred gathering of people who came together to seek spiritual wisdom. Among them was a young man who had a spirit of negativity, of questioning, of smouldering resentment. This man carried that spirit into the holy place of gathering, and began to share his discontent with others. One elder considered him with great love, listened to what he had to say for a little while, and then offered this;

Go outside. Dig a deep hole. Place your head and shoulders down into the hole. Shout your complaints to the earth. Then, when you are done, come back and join us.  

I have been carrying my complaints for several years…too long. I have made them heavy with meaning and power. My complaints stand between me and the freedom of The Way.

Truth is I WANT, but do not NEED, answers from God. Who am I to demand, to arrogantly suggest that God explain himself to me? I am one human, being. Who do I think that I am?

Perhaps here is where I must dig my deep hole?

Part of me resists…LORD, have mercy on me.

Poem for a sunny Saturday afternoon


A predisposition to dark thoughts and negative thinking

Sad and worried old woman

Sad and worried old woman (Photo credit: SalFalko)

I’m convinced there are two types of people in the world

maybe more, at least two. Those who are care-full

glass barely at the half, wearing the gaze of others like a brand sear

the turning of heads like a slap, words spoken or withheld

a sieve with wide holes, draining.

And those who don’t.

(And if this is not true, please stop telling me

you don’t care what others think, stop saying

the world is tinted pink.) Please.

Because the rest of us, we do try

to begin with positive intent, wide mouths

and hearts open in rooms of strangers, for a fleeting hour

feel we’ve got it, found it, sweet notes lingering on

our tongues. We sing, sway tentatively to a song

we know we’ve heard some place before

then doubt what we did, what we saw, what we heard

wake tormented.  Should, could, didn’t do

walk weighted. Long for the lightness

of another world view. The one with the

all things working and all shall be well,

that view, fade to grey.

As if we wouldn’t choose

(our perception of) an easy burden

a way of sloughing off, dancing on, head high.

As if we clench our troubled thoughts in careful fingers

like small candles, barely lit enough

to cast a shadow as we shuffle home.

Midweek random ramble019


Cover of "Pay it Forward"

Cover of Pay it Forward

1. CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Rob Rife, whom you may have met at Buddy Breathing here and here. Rob just launched a brand new blog called ‘Innerwoven’. Rob describes it as, “A place to discuss the intersections among worship, the arts, liturgy, and spiritual formation” Drop by and join in the conversation. I’m certain it will be worth your time.

2. Ever have your world view shift, and immediately make assumptions why, only to find out you are in a completely different galaxy… you are that wrong? Such was a telephone conversation I had the pleasure/pain of experiencing yesterday afternoon. Specifics aside, this individual offered to help us, to give time and energy and focus on an ongoing basis… at NO COST to us!

So here I am, thinking he’s going to tell me he’s a Christian, and then we’ll have this little ooh and ahh conversation around our shared faith. Instead, he said, “Now I’m not a religious man, but I feel we are all placed on this planet to help each other! ‘Cause I think there’s going to be a quiz at the end.” You could have knocked me over with the remote phone! I was blown away. I thought ‘goodness’ like that was out of style, or the thing of experiments like the movie ‘Pay it Forward‘. I was so positive it took divine motivation to cause this type of altruistic thinking… like Mother Theresa… or like my kid volunteering at the food bank! But, here is this guy who is motivated by an inner goodness, because… well, it is just the way he is.

Hmmm… working through what that says to me…

What do you think?

3. And then, on the very same day,  I met someone else who was interested in the people and the place he lived in so much, that he was willing to be a catalyst, align himself to see others succeed, connect people with other people who would help them… again… at NO COST!

Seems like there’s a theme here, folks. I mean, why would I have this somewhat arrogant bias that people are only motivated or inspired to do extraordinary things because of their faith? Especially in the face of this immediate evidence. And is the motivation what matters, or the outcome?

Do you ever wonder what makes a philanthropist tick? Could it be more than the tax benefits? More than the strokes of affirmation? Could it be, that God is part of our original DNA, like we’re soaked in his love and goodness from the day we’re born? Could God be the source of our inner desire to reach out to the less fortunate, to give until it hurts us, to consider others better than ourselves, to sacrifice unto death (of self, or of life itself) whether we believe in him or not?

Of course not everyone is motivated to do good, but many people are. We are often aware of our motivation being wrong… when a selfish, conceited, rising up for the glory, part of us does these things… good things… for the wrong reasons. Reasons like lust for position, power, affirmation, even just attention. So while we are capable of huge acts of compassion… really, dig down deep inside to the motivating factors, and they are an ‘act’. That’s just wrong.

I say I’m motivated to do good by a love for God and compassion for the people that he loves, but is that true 24/7? I mean, really? If I look inside myself and find something less than that, does that make me a HYPOCRITE? I don’t like where this is going. And are my ‘Godly motive’s, when and if they are ever pure, somehow better than these others who do not profess to be faith motivated?  I need to get down off my high horse and check my attitude.

And in this ongoing internal checkup, I quickly recognize my limitations and my imperfections (and my sins). I could get stuck right there and do nothing, but I don’t do that. Because while I recognize my lack, again I see God’s provision and power (yes… this is my default and my viewpoint for everything!). I see and experience a God who takes my less than perfect motivation and talent and availability, and makes something good out of it. Again I wonder if God does that all around the globe, resulting in acts of goodness and love from those who don’t even believe in him?

At the end of the day, I think the only true measure of a life (human measure) is the time tested, maturing, evident character that seeps out of the pores of people like Mother Theresa. You have no doubt what she was about, and why she was about it. I mean, I’ve never heard an unkind word spoken about her, have you? She was the epitome of peace, humility, grace, goodness, compassion, mercy, love… and I attribute that to who she worked for.

How’s that for a ramble? Any thoughts?

4. I’m looking for a poetry editor… anyone have any suggestions? Now that sounds like taking a step toward something… like a book, doesn’t it? But I could be mistaken!

5. And speaking of poetry, and Mother Theresa, here is a poem credited to her. Enjoy.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

 

Soli deo gloria,

Lesley-Anne