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Monthly Archives: December 2010

I was always fascinated with the long distance track events on TV. Mostly they were dead boring.

Long, drawn out chess games played by sweaty, moving stick insects. Not very attractive at all really. In fact part of the fun perhaps was to morbidly watch just in case one or two of the emaciated runners would at last keel over due to the loss of the last few micro-milligrams of sinew, skin and bone which, having finally run out, would leave only a folded heap of skinny sheets and sticky bones on the track where there had once, only seconds before, been an athlete.

But the faithful camera crew would keep the attention of the viewers, following the front runners as they jostled for supremacy, tripping, scratching, clawing, willing themselves in front of each other.

Be that as it may, what really got me interested was the actual winners whom you never really saw featured until almost the closing lap. It would seem as if each lap would go by uneventfully with only the over excited commentators trying desperately to predict who was in front and who not, desperately trying to avoid a self-induced cardiac arrest. Their verbal frenzy would escalate as the first place runner position would change hands every few seconds. With great effort and severe pain the runners would press, even claw for that front spot.

…  and then suddenly, often at almost the very end of the very last lap, the winner would burst out of nowhere, consume the last stretch to the finishing tape, and in the process devour all the opposition as they rolled on home to victory and glory.

The remaining vanquished athletes would stagger and stumble over the finishing line, exhausted and spent, often collapsing into a flood of tears,  sweat and mock disbelief as the camera’s whirred as close-ups captured the anguish and the trauma.

“What the….?” Hey!!” ….”Where the heck did he spring from?” seemed to be the cry on the lips of all. The now hoarse commentators would also follow the masses with the same exclamation. After all, this is journalism at its best and sensation and emotion, not truth sells!

The answer to the eternal “W.T.F.” question actually is deeply woven in the fabric of truth. It’s mostly an extremely quiet presence but when it speaks, it speaks loudly and clearly. The mystery and origins of this illusive voice is very clear for the initiated, the astute and the wise, but completely overlooked, even invisible to the thronging, distracted masses.

You see, the reality is the winner was there all the time. It’s just sans the huffing and the puffing. Their neck arteries never bulged and they refused to watch the big screen close-ups. They never played to the cameras with bursts of wasteful, inefficient speed or attracted attention by pulling vests or bumping someone to the left or the right, …  but they were there, tucked away usually somewhere near the rear of the pack, mostly waiting patiently and storing up the needed perspective and energy for the right moment. They didn’t look like much at all, they seldom ever do. They’re not in any way media friendly, no froth and bubbles here, …. but all along they were just steadily ticking over, getting their timing sorted, doing a lot of intelligent waiting, breathing, thinking, pacing, believe it or not – even resting.

Oh, I think I forgot to mention that they were mainly waiting. Waiting for that right moment. Not just any moment, but that right moment.

Now nobody knows what the right moment is. It’s not a science at all. Perhaps it’s beyond science. Yes, there is a lot of science in the preparation, in the training, in the diet. But that starts months, years, even decades earlier. You see, the right moment is felt, but not felt with hands or feet only, although feet and hands are fairly important in the life of an athlete. The right moment is felt sort of by osmosis if you will. It is absorbed from everywhere, the athletes around, a knowledge of the form of these athletes, the texture and lie of the track, the psychology of all the participants, the temperature on the day, the emotions all round, the energy levels as they ebb and flow, even the winners inner rhythms and energies, inner timing, the competition as it swells about, the inner motivations as they too swell about, the spectators, the value of the prize, the lessons of previous races, even the next race, and much, much more. But most importantly the winner waits, he waits patiently.

Unlike so many who eagerly participate but seldom if ever win he does not merely make it through each lap by the skin of his teeth searching for that mysterious energy boost for the next lap that he is sure will come as the chalk line is crossed. He does not grit his teeth just to get to cross that line and then reminisce the previous lap by singing auld lang syne, huddling over a few drinks with the other runners, making new lap resolutions in the hope that they will all magically leave their exhaustion and fatigue at that spot and put on a new, fresh pair of legs for the next lap all the while making yet another withdrawal from that mystical 110% effort they promised themselves, their coach and all the onlookers in TV land.

You see, the real winner is not beguiled to try give more than he’s got just to finish each lap ahead of the others. No lap is underestimated but his eyes are always on the finishing tape, not on the lap line. Also, he never tries to give 110% as he knows he only has 100% so he works his 100% well and simply spends it wisely and then, if his time has come, and if he has added to his quiver the wisdom to wait patiently and to be well prepared and ready at all times, at the right time his 100% is more than sufficient to lift the trophy.

May old acquaintances never be forgot

and always brought to mind

May old acquaintances never be forgot

for the sake of perfect time!

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Kids at kindergarten age or thereabouts are at an appropriate developmental stage. The world for them is an exciting place filled with new adventures at every turn. They explore every facet of the world around them with explosive abandon. We not only allow them to operate at this level, we actively celebrate it with them.
Childhood can be an interesting and even a delightful space – for the child as well as the watching adult. A child’s fantastic story can  fill us with wonder and amazement.

We marvel at the fluency of seemingly random unassociated associations as tales weave in and out of almost seamless fictitious wordscapes which often seem to have their origins in far away realms clearly never previously explored. The adventurous, primitive rendition of these fantasy worlds in artwork delights us as we watch them engaging with new and wonderful concepts. Stick drawings or the bold simple shapes of a landscape are received with joy and praised. We ask the child what they have drawn or painted (often because it can be somewhat indiscernible to us) and when they tell us we can be overwhelmed and we rejoice in their creation. We make them feel safe and adventurous in their creativity. It is not a difficult thing for us to do. We seem to instinctively know that it is good to let them explore creatively and without restraint. We even encourage them to continue and even to increase in their activities. Bold attempts are applauded, failures are down-played. Experimental abstract expressionism is received delightfully and we enter into the joy of the fertility of their imagination even when we cannot really make head or tail of what we are looking at for ourselves.

We delight in the fantastic stories they create. We are overjoyed with the interpretations they make and the stories they come up with. Even their grammar and pronunciation is enjoyed by almost all who hear even a jumbled rendition of something. Even a speech impediment sounds delightful, cute, even adorable to us. We go home and repeat the joy of our experience to our family members and peers and they too can easily enter into the deep richness of the event.

But then something happens.

Before we know it they stop.

Perhaps they are stopped?

… and soon, they become like us.

 
We seem to all but lose the ability to rejoice in dreams and be spontaneously creative. Perhaps something inside dies? Perhaps our thoughts become too tightly formed that we become perplexed by any dream or idea that strays even slightly from our norms, from our agreed upon patterns of the reality that we share?

We get very serious. We become sensible. We seem to lose the ability to rejoice in the creativity of others. Instead of opening up, we instead close down free thinking.

Yes, there is a difference between childlike and childish, but there’s also a difference between cleaning the baby and losing the baby down the bath drain pipe.
When did we get so restrictive? How did it happen? What did we do, or not do, that freed us up to be so imprisoned?
In the biblical narrative it is said that unless we become as little children we will not be able to enter into the kingdom of God.

What will it take to get back?

Can we afford not to pay the price, even if it costs us our very lives?


I logged on to my facebook profile last night and it sort of popped out at me even though I have mostly tried (and succeeded) to blot out a vast majority of those intruding little parasitic media viruses that brazenly seek to pollute my visual field everywhere I look these days. Perhaps I was just tired but this one got through even my cynical, skeptical defense systems.

It was under the nauseating little sub-heading of “Health Travel Tourism” which might have attracted my attention because it conveys the same oxymoronic logic as “Military Intelligence” – well, at least to my mind it does.

The pitch went like this:

“Receive expert medical treatment and make your recovery in the beautiful Garden Route of South Africa”

I must confess that I had to look twice and still then I simply had to also click on the link just to make sure it wasn’t simply a joke. Seriously, this is actually a genuine advertisement, I kid you not!

But not only that… the covering picture graphics shot looks a Hollywood ER series poster.

My first thought was, …. “are they serious?”  … and indeed they are.

I must admit that I had never thought of planning my annual heart attack or surgical procedure to coincide with a holiday trip to the coast. I must also say that I can’t think of anyone I know who does actually plan their major sicknesses and surgical procedures like this … (but then I am a musician……)

Ok, my brain is also not your normal soft-corn, cauliflower look-a-like Farmers Weekly centerfold pin-up, but this immediately reminded me of the old Sci-Fi movie “Soylent Green” where in order to alleviate the global food shortage people would be lured into ‘electing’ to be “euthanised” in luxurious settings with the bonus of seeing the last remaining colour movie reels of the long lost natural beauty of the world on big screen just prior to being ‘put under.’ Their bodies were then harvested and turned into protein feed for human consumption. Sort of like the original “Stepford Wives” – only this time with stethoscopes.

Apart from the usual medical services offered there is also: The organizing and booking of outings and visits to tourist attractions and visits to the beach in the area, including rides in their exclusive beach wheelchair in order to aid in rest and recuperation. … er, ok … and: Assisting family,  friends and next of kin with administrational duties, shopping, banking, running errands, rental of mobile phones etc. … But hang on, if I were to plan my next heart attack surely I’d also have the administrative fortitude to take my own barrage of cell phones along? … and if I was family, friend or next of kin to the suffering and/or convalescing patient I cannot think I’d want to focus on outings to tourist attractions and visits to the beach … er, … even I would think that would be perhaps just slightly a bit,  .. er … tacky.

I know we have let ourselves slide radically and we really do fit the “consumer” label snugly, but isn’t this a bit much, even for us? I mean, what is this? What are they now trying to sell us? Is this some new sort of a “Disease Boutique” idea?  Are they now trying to make medical trauma and chronic illness a luxury affair? Are we next going to see ads that say, “Die Like the Stars” – “Perish in Pleasure” or “Decay Deliciously.”

Us faithful consumers have been all but stripped, exposed and undignified for over a century now. Isn’t it enough? Can’t they at least let us totally lose our dignity in a dignified manner without stooping to this depth?

Maybe I’ve said too much already? What do you think?

Consciously or unconsciously I think we all seek after significance. I’m pretty confident that there is no one who doesn’t want their lives to count, to make an impact, to have some relevance. I think we all need to feel like we are making a difference and that we will leave behind some significant mark, some impact. Hopefully this will be positive and constructive and hopefully we will be missed (in the nicest way). I’m also pretty sure that for most of us, even the most ‘normal’ of us, being just a normal person is simply not enough. The big questions are with us all even if we don’t think they are. Directly or indirectly we all try to answer them; What is life all about? What is the meaning for my existence? What am I here for? Where am I going?

We are by no means alone in this. Perhaps one of the untruths about significance is that it is an individual thing. I think that significance is never in isolation. It is at least linear and very possibly multi-dimensional. Perhaps to really begin to understand this increases our potential to be significant.

Significance speaks of a sign, something that point somewhere, to someone or to something.

sig·nif·i·cance (13th century)

1 a : something that is conveyed as a meaning often obscurely or indirectly

b : the quality of conveying or implying

2 a : the quality of being important : moment

b : the quality of being statistically significant

synonymy see importance (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993)

We may not all be important in terms of national, let alone international or global impact, but we all are important to at least one or two close to us. And in turn those whom we have been significant to or for will in turn extend that significance forward, to other people, other places, other ideas. There are no great people who have not in some way stood on the shoulders of some other person or situation in order to make their point.

For me, a sign points to something. A sign is not the thing it points to. This might sound obvious, but if we consider a sign board that points to a destination, for e.g., a sign on the highway that points to the city of Capetown, this sign board would probably also have markers or symbols indicating direction and possibly even distance to the city of Capetown. Now we would agree that the sign is not Capetown but merely points to the place called Capetown. The sign conveys the existence of an actual place yet it is not the place itself. Even in the centre of the city a sign declaring Capetown is not Capetown. Capetown is much more than the sign even though the sign might very well be accurate in its placement and context.

Perhaps in our overly self-centred, self-promoting, marketing dominant, modern societal systems we might tend to forget this? Are we aware that we are pointing away from ourselves even in our significance, pointing away and off, possibly into other time zones and spatial contexts, towards another destination that calls for change before it can be reached?

Significance is rarely if ever about us. In understanding this we might well become so much more significant in our part of the journey.

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Many times I have sat with people who are bruised with themselves and others. They have anguished over life and all its frailty, their sufferings, the sufferings of others as well as their part in all of this.
Sometimes I have been asked, “What do you think? … You can’t fall out of grace can you? Isn’t grace what catches you when you fall?”
“…. and what about a believer who’s heart is hardened by sins deceitfulness and is maybe filled with anger and walks away from God?”. “Can it be that somewhere, somehow, grace dissipates ?”
This is mostly a very controversial issue and it is sure to raise a storm but I am going to post an answer I gave to these kinds of questions which may or may not help some. You see, I too have wrestled with these self same issues more often than I can recall to count. I am an expert, not in my theology or my success in the matter, I am merely an “existential expert” – one who has walked this road many times – alone, and with others over the decades. … and if you disagree… that too is ok… as long as we all keep learning.

 

….there is strong implication in the biblical text that the ‘faith’ we live by is not really ours but God’s.

Galatians says, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. …..”
A learned and great theologian as well as a scholar of classical Hebrew and Greek told me once that the original text here is not very accurately interpreted in the bible. It should read, “The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith OF the Son of God.”
It’s God’s faith that sustains us not ours. We just use the little faith we have to respond to his call to ‘come’ towards him – he does the rest and then he sustains the contract by his integrity … the contract is in no way sustained by our ability to understand the smallprint. That would reduce the act of grace immediately to a lower order legislated process of works.

The Gospel of John says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH; NO ONE WILL SNATCH THEM OUT OF MY HAND. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (CAPS mine)
For me that sort of sums it up more succinctly – it’s God’s strength and not ours that is the operative dynamic in this.
This is grace as I believe the bible tries to portray it. Mostly the church has not seen this clearly at all and instead has had to develop a legislated code of conduct in order to prop up their sense of religious pride and sustainable collateral power to ratify their existence. A tragic state of affairs if you ask me.
My view is that we can fall out of our perceived notion of grace which is usually linked to socio-religious doctrinal formatting endorsed by cultural and social pressure…. even the concept of ‘sin’ is socially negotiated to a large extent.

However, the radical argument could be that those who have been ‘impregnated’ by God’s ‘seed’ cannot produce thorns or briers. Genesis, Jesus & then Paul all go on about the concept of a seed producing after its own kind… etc. Paul even charges us to “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” – note: we are to examine “ourselves” – others, leaders, the church, whoever, are not the jury, WE are, for ourselves, ….  as the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are sons of God. All the institutionalized control does is to reduce the righteous holiness of the Living God to a commodity, a measurable, negotiable, trade-able, malleable currency much like a bathplug or a toothbrush.
Our passion can grow cold
Our love can grow cold
Our focus can wane
Our attention can be diverted
… but even these are mostly socially determined values.
Look at most if not all of the greats in the bible… most were psycho-social basket cases. Defective in and at various aspects (sometimes key aspects) of their character… Moses was a murderer, Abraham and Jacob misrepresented the truth. David was an adulterer as well as a murderer, Samson, Gideon, Paul, Thomas, etc. etc. yet God had other ideas and used these frail, often faithless, cowardly, even sinful individuals significantly. It is clear to me that God’s view or ethics, morality, sin, righteousness, virtue, social appropriateness, etc is far removed from ours…. Read Ezekiel 43: 6-12 for a snapshot from God’s perspective on our values vs His. (but wear a crash helmet when you do – it can get quite bumpy) 🙂

Look at the life of John the Baptist (read Matt 11 where John is disillusioned, doubting, confused, humbled, devastated, crushed, imprisoned and in this extremely low point of despair he sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is the one or if they must look elsewhere (the very Messiah he personally heralded as the ONE, the anointed Christ of God) – a very clear picture of failure, unbelief, loss of faith, disillusionment, etc, etc. – a very, very broken man!
Jesus responds to them and in an indirect, careful way rebukes John by reminding him of his destiny and then turns to the masses who most probably heard this potentially damning exchange….. and said to them,
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

John was a great man. He was an offender of the religious elite. He tended to offend almost everyone he spoke to. Yet he eventually became one who himself became offended by the circumstances that overtook him. In simple terms the circumstances never turned out the way he had thought they would. He was beaten and possibly even hopeless. Perhaps he had doubted profoundly whilst chained to the cold walls in the cell that was eventually to be his execution chamber. Perhaps he had said things to God, about God, about himself, his calling, about everything, that he had now deeply regretted, but could not recall?

… but just read again the accolade that Jesus gave him. Soak up the honour if only just for a moment. Absorb the aroma of pride in the mouth of the one whose words really count. Try to get into the mind of Jesus as he dealt with this wonderful forerunner of his. What might have been Jesus’ feelings? Were his words perhaps clumsily spoken as he choked back the tears? Did his heart swell with admiration at the picture of a broken, defeated, beaten man, now desperate and lost, who had nevertheless done a worthy task well? Perhaps to the watching eyes of the multitude John was a failure who started strong but did not end the same. A loud mouth which was now shut up and stilled? But was this what Jesus thought?

So go in peace.
Don’t let their poison drip into your ears.
Ask the Lord himself to speak to you – he will, trust me on this. Don’t go ‘via’ – go direct. I have cried out many a time in deep, anguished despair and doubt and I have yet to be disappointed. It might not necessarily at first be the words you would want to hear, but afterwards they will be the words you are glad you did.

The answer may not come in articulate words (it very seldom does so for me – I have yet to recall hearing an audible voice of God), but it will come. Prepare yourself to be free to hear in strange ways, think of the process of osmosis, plants do great with this and we are a planting of the Lord, are we not?

Listen to the words of friends, perhaps more so those of enemies, for they often speak more truthfully to us than our friends. But whatever you do, don’t stop listening nor asking questions.

Go in peace.

So what is it about persuasion? Are we really able to persuade others? Can we be presented with or present an argument ourselves that can change the course of ours or another’s life?

What is it with our seemingly innate drive to attempt to try to persuade others of our views?

There are some who are addicted to narcotics or fermented or distilled liquids. Others are addicted to chemical reactions that accompany dangerous or extremely challenging exploits or even painful, life-threatening acts of skill or even endurance. Some are addicted to visual stimuli of various kinds, sexual exploits … the list goes on….

Maybe there are far more of us than who are prepared to admit it that are addicted to the rush of persuading others about our own ideas and concepts? … an addiction to a strange kind of “success”?

Or could persuasion be a primitive, basic, deeply rooted drive to stamp our dominance in a social setting?

Could persuasion be a weapon? Maybe just like a cheetah uses speed, a leopard uses stealth, and a lion uses strength, we simply use our most fiercest weapon, our mind? In conjunction with our mind maybe we use that most dangerous weapon of all to run a victim through and bring them down, our tongue.

On the other hand could persuasion possibly be rooted in deep insecurity? …is it perhaps a need to get as many as possible thinking along the same lines as we do so as not to feel personally isolated and in error in our own beliefs? If this is the case perhaps we really are only like dreary, dull, mindless, sheep who have an instinctual drive to blindly follow the herd and the safety we believe it offers us? Could this all be mixed with a cocktail of fear that behind the next bushel there lurks a viscous predator? Or is it perhaps a brilliant and intelligent statistical strategy that the greater the size of the herd, the less the chances of us being picked off as the next meal? Maybe that’s why we so passionately pursue the art of persuading as many as possible to join us – self preservation?

Maybe persuasion is an essential tool for survival. So much of our world is devoted to the act of trying to persuade others to buy something from us that they possibly don’t really need. In order to succeed we trick them into believing that they really do need something and then we persuade them into parting with their resources to get it from us. Could this make persuasion the artful skill of parasitical predators!

Gathering in groups as a result of persuasion may be an apparent possibility in issues of faith and belief, but isn’t it equally true in other less obviously ‘faith’ driven social activities. Perhaps I can suggest fashion, sports clubs and teams, music genre preferences, political party politics, just to name a few. Don’t we just love being ‘right’ or simply just perceived as on the side of the ‘victorious’?

People in groups have their own issues. It doesn’t take much to find trauma and tragedy even loss of life resulting from like-minded groups blindly aligning to ‘group think’ and conformity due to the persuasive nature of a leader or two. Just thinking of how many wars were declared as a result of divergent political views, groups whipped up into frenzied riots, lynch mobs, mass suicides, the crusades, jihad’s, genocides, … I could go on and on ….

Many belief systems have the persuasive sharing of their faith with ‘outsiders’ with the specific intent of gathering converts as central activities for worship and spiritual service. Yet there are many belief systems who do not actively try to persuade others to join their group. These groups believe that their faith is something one is born into and not something one can choose. Some of these are  flexible and make space for a few ‘outsiders’ to become proselytes but often these are as a result of intermarriage and the social requirement of conformity to the practices of the faith is very often the driving force.

It would seem to me that the views of these types of belief systems do not have a high regard for individual personal choice as pertaining to their religious orientation. Being born into a Jewish or Islamic family automatically makes the child a member of the faith and the expectation is that compliance is a given, a non-negotiable. The proselyte who joins the faith of that group through marriage could say that they made the decision themselves and even believe so, but did they really? It is very difficult to draw a clear conclusion. Had they not met the partner they desired to marry would they have tried to join the religious order anyway? We believe we can change our core value but could it be convenience and our amazing ability to adapt that is at play here rather than a core value shift?

I suppose a key question might be whether we really can choose for ourselves or not? http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html

One could possibly argue that the various faiths and belief systems that are based on the “Christian Bible” (and alarmingly there are many) are amongst the most active in evangelising for converts. Yet even in the Christian bible there is an idea set forward that the gift of God is manifested and that those who receive it have the power to become God’s children, but not by natural descent or human decision. The decision maker in this idea is that of God alone. Jesus himself is recorded as saying that no one can come to him unless God the Father draws them.

Core values are very deep. We think we make independent decisions based on our intelligence or acquired wisdom. We believe that we are independent thinkers, sophisticated, educated and informed, deductive, technologically equipped. But are we really?

The dictionary definition of persuasion is: persuade – to induce to undertake a course of action or embrace a point of view by means of argument, reasoning, or entreaty.

So, again I am stumped by a question. What motivates us to try to persuade others? Is it really for their sakes? ….  or ours? Is all the effort exerted in this process merely smoke and mirrors? Is it all to confuse and disorientate and by so doing blend into the safety of the herd or even to sneak up and move in like an ace predator?

Can we actually effect a change? …. and if we believe we can, how would we know or measure this change? Yes, it is said that we will be known by our fruits, but fruits are external things and are directly a product of the root and rest of the tree which is far more substantial than the fruit itself. And let’s face it, we are often more adept at changing colour to blend into our environments than chameleons themselves. Even that could be seen as an act of persuasion.

What if core values are really that deep that changing other people’s minds is actually getting them to be dishonest? Possibly even getting them to violate the integrity of their own reality and even plunge them into a cauldron of internal, hypocritical turbulence?

Perhaps we may or may not be able to change peoples minds but we can share the way we see the world with each other. And hopefully in this sincere act of grace it may well happen that deep might call to deep and we could end up being surprised by peace and joy?

How will we ever know unless we go?

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For some years I was involved in a premiere brand international motorcycle franchise. One of the strange yet interesting challenges I came across almost all the time was when employees offered unrealistic service promises to customers. Whether it was a promised delivery time or the qualities or capabilities of the products, the availability of product or whatever, it all had the same effect. I’m sure they were thinking they were doing good by being enthusiastic ambassadors of the brand and its products and in so doing hopefully securing a deposit towards a sale, but it inevitably turned toxic when we clearly could not deliver what was unrealistically promised.

The disappointment and disillusionment of the failed expectations of the customer was very often, in fact almost totally irredeemable.

As a consequence I used to coach employees to rather under promise and over deliver – rather tell the truth as the reality of the situation would dictate it regardless how bleak or frustrating it might be and then hopefully surprise them if we are able to exceed this somehow.

What amazes me is how this same problem seems to saturate our thinking in almost every arena of our lives.

I constantly hear people trying to communicate their full commitment to something by declaring that they are 110% committed.

A: “So, are you in?”

B: “Absolutely! I’m 110% committed”

A: “Are you sure this will work?”

B: “totally, I’m 110% sure!”

Sometimes I have even heard people say that they are 1000% committed. It would seem that the higher the number the greater the commitment.

Now again, I believe that we are not usually being intentionally devious, untruthful or misrepresentative, but the actual state of affairs is that this is exactly what is being done (devious misrepresentation and falsitude) and the consequences are usually devastating when the promised performance is not adequately met. Sadly, this is common marketing practice.

Many times people can see that what we promise is undeliverable yet on principle they will hold us to it and the results are never pleasing or helpful to anyone.

As unnecessary or obvious as it may seem perhaps we need to remind ourselves that 100% is 100%.

It is accepted that 100% is synonymous with everything – it represents the total package, all there is, the full monty.

The way I see it is that logically we only are what we are and we only have what we have. We have no more and no less. Whatever we have, regardless of its comparative relationship to what others may or may not have, is our 100%. It is therefore impossible to have more (or less) than 100%.

Strangely, in our present world we who are so educated, so enlightened, so scientific, so rational, seem to have shifted our reality to include an excessively dominant realm of make believe and the strangest thing is that the illusion is so effective that many I have spoken to of this don’t, can’t or won’t see this.

As a consequence this form of thinking seems to have entrenched a norm to over promote ourselves rather than to honestly and accurately represent our standard of production or ability in any given situation. In marketing ourselves or our product we tend to inflate our abilities, to over sell, to expand on even the limited qualities or aspects of the products we have created or are trying to sell.

110%?

Where on earth did we get the extra 10%? It seems to have been created out of thin air.

This might seem trivial but in fact, it’s probably the primary reason why the whole world is facing what could be the greatest economic, social, political, cultural, meltdown in recorded history (if you want to find out more Google “fractional reserve monetary banking system” or check out one of my previous blogs at http://wp.me/p10VG6-3d)

In our quest for understanding of the reality around us have we somehow been led astray to wittingly or unwittingly create a totally new unreal reality? A reality that defies rational, logical, scientific thought, or even simple reasonable validity? A reality that defies honesty, integrity, perhaps even truth? And have we somehow shifted standards to accommodate this new unrealistic reality?

Could this be as true of the spiritual aspects of our belief systems in our world as it is for our thinking and activities in the so called natural world? One would think that the accumulation of more and more knowledge about ourselves and our world would have moved us in the opposite direction. Somehow it appears that this is clearly not the case.

In seeking to be wise have we merely succeeded in becoming fools?

And in seeking to be spiritual have we merely succeeded in becoming fleshly, carnal, locked into a boxed world of make-believe?

So in this story there’s this African woman who’s been kicked out into the desert with a 13 year old son. Driven away by the father of her son and his whole family, she and her boy are now rejected, outcast, and left to wander in the desert, inevitably to die alone with no provision or protection as well as no place or portion of inheritance or promise of care or wellbeing.

The little water and food they had at first is now completely finished and the heat of the desert overcomes them both. The boy gets left by his mother under some bushes, exhausted and at the cusp of certain death. His mother is beside herself and leaves him because she simply cannot bear to see him die. She continues to walk a few hundred meters away from him and like the boy, she too falls to the ground, bursting into bitter, anguished sobbing.

The story goes on to tell us that suddenly God speaks to her and asks her what the matter is (as if it is not clear). He then continues to tell her that he has heard the boys sobbing and that she must go back and gather her son up as he is very important to him for the future of the world and is indeed even destined for international, cultural, political and historical greatness.

And then something really strange happens. The story goes on to reveal that God suddenly opens her eyes and as a result she sees a well that must have been quite close to her but that she had not been able to see at all up until this point. So she gets up, fills the empty skin that she still has with her with water from this well then walks back and gives the boy a drink.

From that point on they wander around, living in the desert and they not only survive, but they positively thrive even to the extent that the boys direct descendents are with us still today and are a noble, massive, nation, a force politically, culturally, economically and religiously to this day.

God watched over the boy as he grew up and protected and directed him into greatness and into his God appointed destiny.

Now here’s the fascinating thing for me. You see, this young child was not the child that was promised to his father as a blood heir by God himself. In other words, the boy was not the chosen first-born son in God’s plan for the father and for humanity at large. He was, in fact, the product of an apparent deviant action that was an attempt to make something happens in human strength. One could even say that the reason the boy was born was because of faithlessness and possibly even presumption and unbelief. Now how’s that for a beginning to life?

Yet even though the boy was not the promised heir and even as a consequence, a child of scorn and rejected, outcast, even chased out to perish, God not only saves him, but cares for him and weaves him into the whole eternal tapestry of his own documented history in time and space.

The other thing that intrigues me is that his mother could not see what was clearly there (the well) until God opened her eyes to do so. In fact, had he not opened her eyes she and the boy would surely have perished and we would most probably have never even heard their story. Their bones might well have been discovered sometime later and most probably regarded as unidentified “John and Jane Doe’s” long after they had fallen and rotted in the relentless, unforgiving wilderness.

So here I sit, asking myself another of those questions that begs an answer: what are we not seeing that is right before our eyes? And who is it that we and even God may seem to have cast out and rejected? Could they possibly be key players in the tapestry of eternity?

How are we treating them? how do we regard them?

Could they be eternally important to God?

Could they even be those we have outcast as people excluded from the promises and purposes of God?

And those of us who claim to have access to abundant, fresh, clear water…. who’s wells are we drinking from?

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living seed

agitating the soil

growing

breaking the surface

ploughing up the fallow ground

uprooting bitter foundations

toxics expelled

dislodging alien life forms

 

not spinning fanciful yarns

nor tickle the ears

to stimulate the sensually indulgent

nor saying things the lukewarm masses demand

to hear without ears

nor casting spells of peace and prosperity

where there isn’t

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deck the malls with signs of folly

fa la la, la la, fallaciousness

 

’tis the season to make money

fa la la, la la, fallaciousness

 

forget the poor, and stuff your tummy

fa la la, fa la la, fallaciousness

 

abracadabra sounds so jolly

fa la la, la la, fallaciousness

 

join the throngs of mindless nations

frolic in sensual divination

 

fa la la, la la, fallaciousness

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