"For every complex problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong."-- H. L. Mencken
"Men love death because real death is better than living death. That is why men like wars, of course. Bad as wars are and maybe because they are so bad, thinking of peace during war is better than peace. War is what makes peace desirable. But peace without war is intolerable. Why do men settle so easily for lives which are living deaths? Men either kill each other in war or in peace walk as docilely into living death as sheep into a slaughterhouse."
-- Walker Percy
"On reflection: You must slow down and be still. You cannot see your face in running water."
"Television is the first truly democratic culture--the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what people want. The most terrifying thing is what people want."-Clive Barns, The [New York] Daily News
I just spent a week in New Orleans with friends trying to help a few people cope with the tragedy of life on this unpredictable planet. I am still processing the whole experience. There are so many needs, so many people whose lives have been devastated. There is still so much confusion about what the future holds for most of them. I tore through walls of mold infested sheetrock wanting to find someone to blame but only discovered how little I care for those outside my walled, mold free world.
It is amazing how I protect myself until tragedy strikes and then all that stuff that seemed so important ends up in someone else’s hands or in a trash heap. Home is redefined in terms of relationships. They take a long time to build and there is even more time necessary to rebuild on a regular basis.
All nature seems to speak... As for me, I cannot understand why everybody does not see it or feel it; God does it for everyone who has ears to hear and a heart to understand. -- Vincent Van Gogh
This is where I hope to be standing tomorrow afternoon.
Philosopher/Playwright Gabriel Marcel has some great thoughts on how to move beyond self absorption.
1. Become aware of yourself as a person only in relationship to others. (We are conscious of ourselves as persons only because we are in relationship with others)
2. Pop the bubble of illusion that you are the center of the universe. (Everything we are is a gift, the nature of a gift is that they are useful to us only on behalf of others, we exist for others)
3. What makes you a person is not this illusion that you are the center of the universe, but rather, 2 things: you behave as one who assumes responsibility for his or her actions, and you believe in the existence of others and permit this belief to influence your actions. (We must assume responsibility of our actions by being honest and not continually explaining our behavior in an effort to influence others to accept the image of us that we want them to have. We must be able to see that others exist apart from our need of them, and allow that to influence the way we treat them.)
4. You were meant to oppose this illusion, of being the center of the universe by giving your self to others. (We must have a greater cause than ourselves).
This quote may be the more accurate indictment of the church than the whole film itself. The reason so many people seem to fear this movie, 'Da Vinci Code', is because they believe it teaches bad theology; that people will see this film and have a more blurred view of what they believe to be true. Which I would agree with somewhat, but could it be that it is partly because many churchs have conditioned people to believe the best way to understand truth is to do lots of advertising, gather together in a big auditorium, and have the top performers, up on the stage, tell people what the truth is? Originally, I'm sure this seemed like a better and faster way to present their truth to outsiders. Efficiency is important, right....
I guess I wonder what shapes a persons view of Christian theology more; a 2 hour film or spending 2 hours with people who call themselves Christians. It seems to me that somewhere many churchs started to believe that the best way to teach theology was to make it kind of like going to a movie theater rather than to encouraging people to study the Bible with a few friends and go out into the world, live in the way of Jesus and share how their reality is being shaped by him.
I think The Cosby Show is a bigger threat to creating bad theology than the Da Vinci Code. The Gospel according to the Cosby show is that all your problems can be solved in less than 30 minutes and you never even need God. You just need a sense of humor and some occasional words of wisdom. I had that preached to me one evening a week for nine years. (I found this to be untrue by the age of 16.) But "Christians" like the Cosby show because it teaches "good morals". And everyone knows that good morals are what change the world. If everyone would just be moral. If we could somehow get everyone to behave. We wouldn't have to worry about being "left behind", cause it wouldn't be that bad here anyway.
I don't see that as the primary teaching of the Bible, but then again I did not grow up in one of the churches I described. I see that the primary people God seems to be mad at are the ones that say they worship Him, and Jesus only seems to yell at the moral religious people. Once again I feel caught in the middle; between the people who say "believe in nothing!" and the people that say "be moral!". I wonder if that is how Jesus felt.
I am convinced one of my biggest problems is an immature imagination. I look at the world through such a narrow lens and can't enjoy the possibilities and opportunities that lie before me at every moment. I can't envision things making more sense some day, so I get mad at stupid stuff and I feel guilty about the wrong things. I demand that my life make sense now! Every once in a while, I have a mature enough imagination to actually enjoy the life I have been given. I contently ponder where my life is going rather than demanding that life work. Maybe there is a reason the chain saw wont start.
This morning our beloved "PaPaw" died (C's grandfather). He was the truest gardener since Adam. He was the original "constant gardener". It was his passion and joy to nurture and bring things to life. His smile and laugh I will never forget. He has been searching for Eden for many years. My guess is he woke up there this morning and is apreciating things that few others would... and is probably already making a few improvements for those of us who will come after him.
Perhaps passing through the gates of death is like passing quietly through the gate in a pasture fence. On the other side, you keep walking, without the need to look back. No shock, no drama, just the lifting of a plank or two in a simple wooden gate in a clearing.
- A Soldier of the Great War - Mark Helprin