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Category Archives: learning

there were no instructions to take notes

nor any commands to record anything

there was no time frame given

nor any specific direction offered

 

there was no course duration

nor any curriculum revealed

and no season for evaluation

no diplomas

no certificates

 

there was no expectation to remember anything

and no demand to be anything

other than what they already were

…only more

 

even suggestions came scarcely

and clear, detailed answers were rare

 

there was just this simple statement…

 

“follow me”

 

and then he turned around and walked…

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The old “King James” translation of the bible had a phrase that popped up fairly often.

 

“…and it came to pass that…”

 

Whatever it is,  it will come, and in time it will pass.

 

Whether it is bad and hurtful, even unimaginably destructive and terrifying …

it will come … and it will eventually pass.

 

It may be good and indescribably beneficial, even truly wonderful….

… but it too will come, … and it too will eventually pass.

 

The word eventually is also an interesting turn of phrase.

It speaks to me of events.

Whatever it is, it is merely an event …a singular happening in a long line of other happenings.

And as we know events happen.

They come and they go.

They too will come … and they too will pass.

 

And our God, we choose to believe, … is eternal, … infinite.

 

The same faith we extend to our universe … we choose to believe that it too is eternal, … infinite.

 

As scary as this might or might not be, this to me speaks of movement.

Whichever way I look at it, it speaks to me of always moving on, of not staying in the same place…

 

It also speaks to me of ever expanding horizons.

As we move on new horizons will come and go…  and each new horizon will come, … and it will pass … into and on to the next new horizon.

… unless we stop.

 

It suggests to me that if we pitch our tent anywhere … literally, figuratively, theologically, doctrinally, politically, scientifically, culturally, socially, relationally, emotionally, or in any other way… we forfeit the wonder that could be ours.

We will forfeit the privileges of pilgrimage.

 

Perhaps all we can do is hold on lightly to the present … very, very lightly.

… and with all the joy we can muster, enjoy the ride…

 

And us?

We know this, that the physical life we live is not at all eternal.

We came, … we have a fairly good idea how, but we have no real idea why…

And we fill this gap with many beliefs… religious, scientific, meaningful, meaningless…

But this one thing we do know for sure… that we will all pass.

 

In the greater scheme of things we too are an it.

A good friend recently wrote a blog entry on entitlement (http://sevencitys.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/entitlement/) and it got me thinking of the word “entitle.” – It means ‘to furnish with a right or claim to something’ but it also means ‘to give a name or title to…’

I was thinking how we seem to need to put things in a box, to sum them up, to define them, to measure them and give them a definition, a tag, a name …

Perhaps we do this to try overcome our insecurity? We seem to need to have things all measured up and sorted out.  We seem to need to be in control.

So maybe the opposite of entitlement could be seen as letting go and like a child, being a perpetual explorer.  Like one who holds things lightly yet respectfully, with awe and also with a great deal of fun and playfulness as well, allowing our horizons to shift and change as each new experience challenges and changes the shape and texture of our playing field.  A position of humility as we acknowledge that we are only little and there is so much to grow into and to discover.  As a result we would then perhaps tend to refrain from closing things down too quickly … maybe even not allow things to be closed down at all … even though everything inside of us screams for stability and definition, measurability and full understanding.

A title is a very formal thing.  It can tend to say too much and too little about what something is all at the same time.

We live in a vast place of space and from every angle, the scientific as well as the theological, it seems to be as best we can tell, infinite.  Whether we like it or not there is no measurable end or beginning in any direction.

So why start closing things down now?

There’s this last sentence in the Gospel of John that says that Jesus did many other things as well as those recorded in the written texts of the Gospels.  The author goes on to say and that if every one of them were written down he supposes that even the whole world would not have enough room to contain the books that would be written to record all of them.

For those who have a fundamentalist view this poses a few interesting challenges.

Either the author was speaking speculatively based on the limited perspective of the times or he was writing somewhat persuasively using ‘poetic license’ and deviating from actual fact to achieve a desired effect.

In either case it begs to be asked what bearing this might have on the accuracy of the events declared as facts in the prior text of the gospel of John as well as the other gospels and epistles.  In other words, when were they being 100% specifically accurate and when were they speaking broadly or even metaphorically to achieve some degree of lateral effect?

Jesus is recorded to have walked for about three years proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God, making contact with the world, performing miracles, doing good and healing all kinds of people of all kinds of diseases.

The people who followed him all the time must have had an amazing experience as they saw these things happening before their very eyes.  As they walked with him they saw things happening that had never been recorded before and a lot of the time they were as shocked and amazed as those who were actually healed or set free.  Even right up till the end there is clear indication that most were baffled and even confused by it all.

At the end of his time with them Jesus told them that he was going away and that he still had so much more to reveal to them but that they were not able to receive it.  He made a strange statement wherein he said that something else would happen.

He told them that another comforter would come because he was going away and that he would personally send this comforter to them to reveal more and more things and would effectively lead them deeper and deeper into all truth.

However, this comforter was not another human being, but a spirit.

But Jesus never stopped there.  He went on to say that because of this they would do even greater things than they had seen him do up till that point.

That’s a mind blast considering that Jesus amongst many other things, walked on water, raised the dead, fed multitudes seemingly out of thin air, commanded evil spirits to leave people, confounded the greatest legal minds of the day and healed every kind of sickness and disease.

And the disciples saw it all as they followed him around.  They were there, all day, every day, absorbing it all, letting it all sink in.  They never really understood most of it intellectually, but they learned by just being with him as he went along.

Communication research has revealed that only 7% of human communication is verbal.

Now they might be out by a percentage point or two either way so let’s cut them some slack here, so even if human communication is not exactly 7% but let’s say as much as 20% verbal, it still tells us that at least 80% is non verbal.  And this is just what the researchers can ascertain.

That’s pretty amazing especially in the light of how textually based we have become as a modern culture.  Literacy rules and it’s only very recently that other ‘intelligences’ are being recognised as playing a role.

The reality is that almost all wisdom and understanding these days is textually rooted and bound.  Even in our everyday speech if we want to emphatically stamp the veracity of something we will insert the word ‘literally’ (e.g. “He literally spat at me!”).  Mostly we’ve done away with learning a “trade” or doing an “apprenticeship.”  In fact education is almost exclusively ‘academic’ these days.

 

So, if Jesus did so many things not even recorded and told us that he could not tell us everything he wanted to but that the spirit he would send would take it on from there and lead his followers into all truth by taking what was essentially his and making it known, why do we lock all truth about Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the written scriptures as we have them recorded for us in text?

Why do we pride ourselves when we boldly declare ourselves as exclusively “bible based” believers?

What about the Spirit Jesus is recorded in the texts as saying would come and do the job of taking it all further and lead us on where his own teaching and practical demonstration was not the full picture?

Jesus himself said that any blasphemy against him could be forgiven, but if anyone blasphemes against the Spirit there was no forgiveness.

I know we sincerely desire to be obedient to God and serve the purposes of the Kingdom as fully as we can, but what might this reveal about our fundamentalist proclamations and tendencies?  In our desire to be textually accurate have we closed the door on our reliance of the Spirit and being led as was always the intent?

And does all truth only come through the academic, literal scripting and encoding of the ideas presented in the biblical texts or might there be an 80% portion as yet mostly, if not completely untapped?

 

He went about doing good and healing all who were under heavy pressure from negative, evil circumstance.   As he went along amazing things seemed to happen around him.  It was clear that a force much more powerful than himself, the words he spoke, or the deeds he did was tangibly present with him.   Lives were marvelously changed as he made contact with all manner of people and as a consequence they sought him out and followed him virtually wherever he went.   They thronged around and asked him questions and he graciously spoke back to them in response.   He taught them what the sacred texts had hidden in them, presented a revolutionary, fresh angle on ancient truth and opened the eyes of the blind.   He demonstrated by way of his own lifestyle, a way of life that had never been seen before.   As a result lame legs were restored, withered arms were straightened and for the first time enabled to reach out and touch, caress and even heal.

Other than the twelve he officially called to be his personal disciples, to leave their homes and families and to walk with him he never asked anyone else to join him or follow him as he walked.   He never developed unrealistic expectations in the hearts and minds of those who met him and instead seemed rather to make it more difficult for them to follow him than that which first was apparent.   He was unpredictable in almost everything he did and when expected to ‘zig’, he ‘zagged.’   He extracted no payment for his service of kindness but often met the needs of the poor instead.   His only charge was for all to honour God and do as he did – to follow his example of giving up his own life for those of his friends.  In fact, he more often than not forbade the recipients of his kindness their passionate request to follow him and even had the emancipated fortitude of wisdom, personal conviction and divine sense of purpose to amongst many other seemingly controversial acts,  inadvertently cause a very wealthy man with all his worldly resources, to turn away from following him by lovingly revealing the great poverty of the mans extreme wealth and success.

He had no personal empire of material or political wealth.   He never drew attention to himself nor promoted his service.  If anything, he underplayed the accolades of the crowd and preferred to call himself the ‘son of man’, a lowly, unpretentious description for someone who performed such incredible feats of miraculous kindness.   He never owned any form of personal transportation nor any building with attractive, socially trendy décor to accommodate the masses who pressed in.   Instead, he chose the dusty footpaths, market places, the homes of often socially inappropriate people, taverns and once a week, the small, traditional religious gathering spots to make contact with people.  He had no permanent roof over his head other than the stars, no place to call his own nor to hang his hat or raise his banner.   He tended more often than not to profoundly offend the established religious order and the prevalent leadership of the day and they too pursued him relentlessly, but for other reasons than respect, admiration and gratitude.

Eventually Jesus was murdered for this, as are any who follow his example and do as he did.

 

If I walked into a totally darkened lounge area and stumbled into sharp edged coffee tables and fell crashing over chairs and couches, it would not serve me in any way to raise my voice in anger and curse the darkness. The best I could do might be to spend my efforts on finding the light switch and simply flick it on. Yes, this might well expose all manner of dangerous obstacles perhaps but it would surely enable me to navigate my way through the room far less painfully.
What I am trying to explore as a possibility for discussion here is to suggest that darkness could be seen merely as a realm without light (illumination, revelation, perspective, whatever sounds better to you), rather than exclusively an evil realm that is out to destroy us.  And that perhaps if we are really battling to shift in our thinking in this it could well be an indication of just how strong these culturally agreed constructs can really be.  To try shed a bit more light on this it might be interesting to cast our minds on the multitudes of nocturnal creatures on earth who thrive in life in the same darkness that was mentioned in the genesis story.

However, in keeping with the chronology of the Genesis narrative, darkness was in a sense exposed when light was introduced. The narrative then seems to suggest that these two contrasting realms were moved away from each other, or separated. Perhaps this was done by them being actively pulled apart (personally by God, perhaps) or maybe it happened naturally as both realms struggled to maintain their own integrity in the presence of each other and naturally moved somewhat forcefully away like two positive (north)  terminals of two separate magnets being held together?

Or maybe the entrance of light simply chased the dark space away, making it much less relevant or powerful?

So, again, at least to my mind, it is worth considering the possibility that darkness does not necessarily need to be ‘evil’ or ‘bad’. Darkness could perhaps be dark merely because it is inaccessible or undisclosed – in part or in total.

What shall we say, then? Is the darkness evil? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what darkness was had it not been for the commandment, “Let there be light”… and … so perhaps we find that the very commandment (“Let there be light”) that was intended to bring light, actually brought darkness (or at least our painful awareness of it).

Could it be that the biblical narrative of the creation account could also be a direct metaphor of the dynamics of the human dilemma and condition?

Is it possible that God could be a whole lot more clever than we ever thought?

And if so, what might this suggest for us?

__________________________________

 

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?

Of late I have been foraging for input around our freedom. I am still turning every stone I come across but up till now I seem to have only come up with some unexpectedly strange stuff lurking in the dark, shady cracks. Freedom of speech, freedom of choice and other related issues like self-determination, independence, autonomy and others are such key issues to many in these times we live. Wars have been fought over such and much blood has been spilled. Maybe I’m searching under the wrong rocks but I seem to be starting to think that perhaps we have not really been seeing the whole picture at all. It has surprised me as I have become aware of just how much emphasis I have placed on the ability, even the right and responsibility to make correct decisions. We live in a very cerebral age where control and accuracy is so important to us. Perhaps as a resistance to the impersonal, dehumanising age of the industrial revolution we have reacted and have somehow missed the plot? Do we really have the ability to think independently? Are we actually as autonomous as we would like to believe? Do we make our own decisions? Can we decide for ourselves? What do you think? or perhaps more to the point, what does your mother think? ·  ·  http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html