Taking a moment amidst the clutter of my upturned life, I forced myself to stand still and just breath and release the anxiety and stress that this last year handed me. It took me some time to sweep away my initial assessment of the year as one of glass shards, barbed wire, and shit, to one that at its core was remarkable. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in this year of embracing eyes to see and ears to hear is to carefully recognize my own subterfuge and wash it away so that I might see and hear things as they really are. I may not always like the result, which is why we all create subterfuge, right? to try and make the world more palatable, to fit the world into the mold that we think it should be? I’m over that. I was forced to be over that…against my will much of the time. I am not in my own personal Kansas anymore.
So as Thanksgiving draws near, I began to focus on what I am thankful for. I am thankful my husband is not dead, mic drop. I forced myself to relive those moments of his accident and drive across Wisconsin with my youngest son in tow to his aid, his face white with pain and screaming the 5 hrs home, and being absolutely powerless to do anything to take the pain away. The frightful prayers of begging God to please make him OK, and for being sorry for every harsh word I ever said (until I had to clean the commode for the first time and the harsh words came back). I am thankful for realizing that the magnanimity of who he is was able to shine out through all the people who showed up, surrounded, and lifted us up in a time when our livelihood came to a screeching halt and were able to see what a difference he has made to my world and so many others. It embarrassing to admit it took something like this to blast the point home.
I am thankful that God gave me two distinct and unusual sons who, as they get older, leave me verklempt much of the time because of how truly amazing they are. I remember my eldest asking me when he was younger whether the love of God could reach even the darkest corner of hell, and how he broke down at a football game once when he was 11 because he was told there was no cure for cancer. I remember how when he corrected me as a child he would start his sentences with “Actually”and proceed to press his point of view. More importantly, I am thankful for how he has expanded my understanding of a non-binary LGBTQ community and his assessment of what is broken in the world, and deep empathy for those that don’t fit society’s often limiting norms. The fact that he is a computer engineer and never gets impatient when I ask him computer questions is icing on the cake.
I am thankful for my youngest son, who from the get go kept me on my toes as the strongest willed child known to humanity. I dreamt once that I was laying on my back looking up at the stars and knew I could move them around and suddenly he was there and said as he was moving a star, “look mama, I can move them too” I once had to pull over the car because he felt sick when he saw an eagle grab a cat and fly away. His deep empathy and love for animals was a sure sign to me that this strong athletic D2 football player could redefine what true masculinity is. He sees through subterfuge, he sees possibility and what is necessary to move stars. I am thankful he has embraced so many of the challenges he has faced, knowing full well he is the benefactor of all the wisdom that those challenges have brought and will indeed help him move the stars. The fact that he definitely has his father’s “magic hands” as a budding chiropractor is also icing on the cake.
Most of all, I am thankful for seeing and hearing clearly…amidst it all.
This is always a tough one, recognizing we all have a singular perspective and may not see things from every angle. Sometimes we rely on listening to another’s perspective when we are unable, or unwilling to move from where we are standing to see and hear it for ourselves. In this age of so much accessible information, I can understand how easy it is to just fall into to the practice of believing what someone else says is real or true. Except in this world of easily accessible information, it is also way too easy to manipulate someone by feeding them information that supports and perpetuates the bias one already has…especially on the internet, TV and social media.
Algorithms, simply put, are a set of instructions that when followed step by step solve a problem or figure something out. Something like instructions to tie your shoes, or follow a recipe or finding a book in a library are all algorithms. When computers have algorithms built into software, they work via input and output and build on reactions and expectations when you do A, B or C to get a result. It may seem weird that you purchase something or read something online, and then all of a sudden you are inundated in various apps by things that are linked to that purchase or interest. Your interests and biases are tracked and algorithms are built to recognize and link you to your desired result. Many algorithms are built to recognize and cater to a person’s desired result based on reactions to previous input by the user.
I know there are plenty of knowledgeable computer people out there who would snort at my limited expression of what an algorithm is and how it works, but for the purposes of today, I want people to understand why their world view is the way it is, and the potential dangers of it. Like I said in the beginning of this post, we all have one perspective and often rely on others to share their opinions to help expand that one perspective. It is the process of seeking, that can either lead us closer to a larger truth or just enhance the perspective that keeps us seeing what we want that world view to be that is important. For example, lets say a person despises vegetables and by their input on the computer and perhaps social groups, that particular attribute is compounded by being bombarded with information about others who despise vegetables, and even more information you click on as to why vegetables are not important, or even dangerous. Your perspective is more deeply embedded and you soon question other’s perspectives about the worth and necessity of vegetables and their worth as proven untrue by all the many pieces of information in your possession.
The weakness of the the algorithm, is that it doesn’t take much to prove the veracity of any post or perspective. It is the act of inputting requests for checking the veracity of any one perspective that broadens the output of the algorithm to a variety of different perspectives. Let’s say you look for a great recipe for a “great and easy cake” Personally, I would actually try said recipe to see if it was great and or easy before I pass it on to someone else with my endorsement. I have tried certain recipes and they were horrible! (I have a ton of food allergies and am always on the watch for replacements for my favorite traditions options). Just because a recipe says its easy and great doesn’t make it so. I have been inundated with recipes for alternatives ingredients described as the best, when I actually put them to the test, many are not.
The same does not work for information these days about so many deeply felt beliefs. People read something and pass it on as true without missing a beat, just because it appeals to their own personal perspective and justifies a bias they are rooted in, or maybe unaware they even have. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about something read online about a school district putting kitty litter in the bathrooms for kids who are furries identifying as cats, and addressing teachers as cats. Now, in that moment I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. But when I researched on line, the very story caused so much trouble for a real school district the superintendent not only had to address it, but spent an inordinate amount of time diffusing it. THERE WAS NO THERE, THERE. I have learned that the idea of “identifying” as something other than male or female, creates such terror, that there are people who maliciously take advantage by using algorithms to bring people down rabbit holes and increase their fear.
That is why before I commit to seeing and hearing another’s perspective on whether THERE IS REALLY A THERE, THERE. I get out of my comfort zone and check it out for myself. In the process, I’ve not only seen and listened to people with a different identifiers, even furries to see they are nothing like how they are described and defined online. That is not to say that individuals can’t be a reprehensible example of any given group, that is just to be expected because they are human. It is the commitment to the truth that I am most concerned about when it comes to succumbing to our limited perspectives. Who you listen to matters. And as a final caveat…just because you read it on the internet or saw it on TV, doesn’t mean its true, you have to work a little bit to find out first. And Jesus did say there would be plenty of false prophets dressed up in sheep’s clothing who underneath are ravenous wolves.
Such has been our experience over the last 5 weeks…There is a great parable in Matthew where Jesus talks about those who live by his words are likened to someone who has built a house on rock, which stands against the wind, the rain and floods. My husband and I feel that way right now, our friends and those who love us have helped us hold steady against the unique storm we are facing with his injury. More than ever, we are humbled, honored and celebrate the love extended and shown to us during this struggle. Sometimes, even under difficult circumstances it is important to see and understand the impact of the good fruits we have shared to the community around us and see how they have indeed benefited and sustained others.
In difficult times that we have all faced in the past couple of years it is easy to come to the conclusion that what you offer to the world isn’t significant or doesn’t matter. But when the storm came, so did those whose lives we have touched and they held us up, unconditionally without asking. It’s truly overwhelming at times, to embrace the love that has poured forth from so many people, and it has given us greater stamina to move forward into the future and reestablish and perhaps even produce different and better fruits to our community.
My husband was in a terrible accident that has put us on an unexpected path. Luckily, he will recover, and as much as I am thankful for that, the path ahead looks steep and uphill. Contemplating the changes, I was reminded of a song I heard on my way to the Soviet Union in 1984 by Nik Kershaw called “Wouldn’t it be good.” It’s a song that expressed an individual’s desire to step into another’s shoes, whom he thinks has it easy as he is worn out by his own life, only to have the response in return: “you don’t know how good you have it, stay out of my shoes”. I always remember that song because at that time, I had assumed that I was so lucky and communists were not. I was wrong. Wishing you were anywhere else but your own shoes isn’t helpful. While this new road brings apprehension…God, the universe abhors a vacuum. Our gifts will have a new outlet.
We have people who love us…that is what matters. In the face of all his injuries, Steve found out his roommate from Chiropractic college, whom he just spoke to right after his accident, who was recovering himself from heart surgery they were both talking about career and life changes, passed away this morning. The shock of it is more than close. A reminder to cherish every moment.
It’s been awhile…got me a new hip and I’m walking straight for the first time in more than two years (yes I’m comfortable with the double entendre). Now that I’m on the other side, I realize how pain had become part of my “new normal”. As I sit here, I wonder how the hell I made it (like childbirth, I remember the pain in a remote and detached way… otherwise I wouldn’t have had more than one). I also am aware how that pain challenges perception, response and interaction with the world. I think the same is true for people who are going through all different manifestations of pain, be it physical, spiritual, mental or emotional. Pain changes how we see and hear things, it just does. Like many polarities that exist in the world today, I think in the extremes, pain can take us down a rabbit hole of darkness and de-evolution or upward toward enlightenment and greater evolution.
I think most people fall somewhere in the middle, and have some days better than others. For me, I am in constant awareness of how my pain affected my life, and is one of the reasons that I began to paint, draw, make jewelry, read and do brain puzzles whenever I wasn’t working. I needed something good to come of it, and to save my sanity and the relationships that kept me moving upward and onward instead of down a rabbit hole of pessimism (my great fear), isolation and anger. I had a daily pattern of reprimanding myself every time I started to think, “why me?, or poor me,” or lean into the appalling lack of empathy and stupidity in this world. While you may have other triggers that pain induces, those are mine. I had to willingly work hard to not just let go and fall into the whirlpool that would bring me downward into blame, judgement and self pity. Remarkably, that focus kept the pain abated enough that, hopefully anyway, I never lost my true self.
I also observed that people all react to pain in their own unique way, which like love, makes sense because we are all built of unique stuff and walk a unique path. Different isn’t better than, but it doesn’t take long to see where different responses can become more pathological than proactive. Without passing judgement, my own pain help me see more clearly when another’s pain begins to cloud judgment and then begins to circumvent healthy attitudes and beliefs. While I’m struggling to explain how, this is where application of all I’ve learned over the past years acted as my foundation and direction on how to move through it. Much of what I use to move forward is rooted in Scripture. Love, mercy, forgiveness, hope, etc and all the how to’s that come along with Christ’s teachings were the very mechanism for me to decide on a daily basis if I was moving forward or backward.
The bottom line, is the profound understanding that we all are in, at any given time, different kinds of pain, and that our response to each other should have that very notion in mind, whether it is apparent or not. Kindness, being slow to anger, patience, mercy…all the things any person who declares themselves a Christian should know. If you don’t and can’t see others as if they were Christ, you may be going down the wrong road. That last statement was hard for me because it sounds harsh…but truly ask yourself if your pain is moving you up, or down. No one else can change that direction but you.
Every year, at least for the past few, I take advantage of the anniversary of my birth and offer prayers as my gift to all the other travelers on this planet, to bolster the body of humanity as it moves forward on the evolutionary road forward. The subtle difference this year, is that my prayers are not meant for everyone. This year my prayers are focused on, and dedicated to, those “children of the light” and soldiers of Christ, (for those who embrace him) for it is all of you who will save this world and keep us evolving into the future. The rest, while I continue to pray for you in a general way all year…on my special day, with my special powers, I am reserving the right to focus on those who are blessed to see and hear, devoid of illusion, fear and the need to scapegoat. And as for those of you who seem unable or unwilling to look beyond the lies, fears, vitriol and have weaponized religion to maintain a culture that is anything but the representation of the body of Christ…you made your bed, and you can lie in the false comfort that you are on the right path. As scripture tells us, only good trees produce good fruit, the truth will set us free, and it is how you treat the least among us that determines your eternal future, and my hope is that you figure it out eventually.
I pray for you to honor all the talents you’ve been given and walk down the path that fulfills your greatest purpose in life, and to keep walking despite the fear that may well up your throat, despite any overwhelming feelings of inadequacy that you may face or despite the desire to give into temptation and run in the opposite direction when it feels perilous ahead. I pray that you always have the knowledge that with God and the powers of the universe even the seemingly impossible truly is possible, and that when God is with you nothing can defeat you and that this knowledge brings you the necessary courage and fortitude to forge ahead.
The downfall of most traditional systems is that they try to insulate their body of believers from the rest of the world. Inclusion to a group that is predicated by certain beliefs and axioms will not keep purity in their body of believers. Why? because we are all of the same fabric. A true child of the light, soldier of Christ is motivated by the premise that every person is of consequence, to judge one group as dispensable runs contrary to the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. I pray that you see and hear that as long as there is breath and life there is hope for all, and as shepherds for the future, that you guard and protect the flock that surrounds you.
Once you start living in higher definition, it may become easy to judge others who live with less clarity as stupid, and that they have nothing to offer you on your journey forward. I pray you realize that everyone and everything that crosses your path is an essential element for sharing the light of truth. You will be known and appreciated by how you love, not how much you know. I pray that each moment is a gift that you can be grateful for, even those dark moments because they create opportunities to illuminate the stark contrast between light and darkness. Gratitude builds hope, and hope guides us forward.
It is often a lonely experience to see, hear and understand a truth that others do not. In many ways it is like seeing a color, or an added sense that others do not share. I pray you find each other to add support and community to your journey. While self containment is important to the development of your own unique gift, it is not necessary to be isolated to nurture it. All of us need sustenance, and communities are like oxygen to the soul.
I pray that you take time along this journey to celebrate the moments that truth and justice bring. Celebration is as much a part of evolving as is the hard work of building. I pray you have many moments where success and the fruits of your labor shine for all the world to see and bring healing, hope and encouragement to others who are not as far along on the journey as you are.
And finally, I pray that you remain constantly vigilant as new truths unfold. There is a reason that children of the light, soldiers of Christ are given only as much as we can handle at any given time (the Old Testament tells us that prophets would die if they gazed upon the Lord directly…its just too much). I pray you continue to see and hear the many dimensions of truth as they unfold and are unveiled to you and that you can revel in its ever broadening beauty and power and it gives you strength
It is amazing what people will talk themselves into. I’ve felt pretty speechless over the last few weeks. Struggling to find the perfect analogy, I remember reading Plato’s allegory of the cave, which in a nutshell tells the story of prisoners in a dark cave all chained with a fire behind them that reflects on the cave wall in front of them. Also behind the prisoners are prison masters waving puppets to create shadows on the wall. To the prisoners this is their reality, the shadows define their reality. Lets say one escapes and turns to see the puppet masters making the shadows on the wall and realizes that the world they’ve known is an illusion, and also sees an exit that leads outside. The world is blinding bright and beautiful, and for few minutes the light blinds them.. When the now freed person goes back inside to free the other prisoners and tell them about the true world out side, the freed person can no longer see in the darkness and the prisoners become afraid that the freed person can no longer see, so the keep their chains and shadows out of fear, regardless of how beautiful the description of the outside world, or the explanation that they are just being manipulated. In truth? That is how I feel much of the time. I feel like the person who has escaped. I see things the way I do, not because I am better or smarter, but because I recognized chains that held me, and once freed actually turned around and challenged my perspective and moved outside to another world view.
How do you convince people that what they believe to be true may be nothing more than an illusion held and rooted in shadow and the machinations of others defining their reality? You can’t. What you can do, like Jesus did, is calm fears, challenge weaknesses, show them hope (many in the miracles he performed) and promise a greater life and future, teach people to pray for God’s ample help to assist you in moving out into the light. And still so many people are rooted into always staying, believing what they are looking at without question. What is most disturbing are those charlatans who having heard the escaped prisoner’s story, pretend that they’ve been unchained and gone outside and twist and turn the message to suit their own ills and pressure those stuck in shadow that the message of the outside is wrong and not to listen. There are plenty out there who stand in the name of life, who are more concerned with control, political will and power. It makes me angry and sick to my stomach listening to their self righteous blather., and how many believe that they are telling the truth.
So, who do you believe? Well, perhaps its time to get up off your butt and turn around to see what’s behind you, what you’re rooted in and get some new information on your own. Going outside your comfort zone and chucking what you’ve always thought you knew for something completely new is scary, It’s scary because it requires us to use our own eyes and ears instead of staring at shadows in the darkness created by someone else. The light may be bright and painful at first, but the reality is so much better. I’d rather learn to see in bright light than suffer in the shadows.
Today is Good Friday, and I’m reminded that to Christians, it is the holiest time of the year. It is the day that traditionally, the crucifixion narrative is read. Beyond the obvious, that is, that it is a horrific way to die, it is the hatred and fear of the mob who stood against him that frightened me the most about this story. What was it that could turn a crowd, who just days before were singing songs of adulation and waving palm fronds in his wake as he entered Jerusalem? Was it the machinations of the church leaders and Romans who turned the public against the one who had healed and supported, taught and fed them during his short ministry? I often asked myself the question, “Would I have been like them, or like Peter who denied him three times?” Perhaps it is because of the grace I have been given that I see and understand the reasons why mob rule is so dangerous, and the horror and evil that individuals en mass are capable of when fueled with angry rhetoric (especially if the source is religious). All of us are susceptible, and if you think you’re exempt and never worried about how you would respond to mob anger, I don’t think you’re being totally honest with yourself.
So with Jesus’ great sacrifice, where are the effects of this super power we celebrate on Easter Sunday? Is the extent of it held in the future promise of eternal life? Or is there a mechanism we gain to transform the world around us in the moment? I continually struggle with what makes me, as a Christian, so different than other humans, religious or not. What makes me visibly different? I truly believe, that with seeing and hearing through the gospel message I am meant to, challenged to, radiate heaven in a way that shows I fully understand what Easter means: that they will know I am his disciple because of how I love. We understand Jesus sacrifice because we are gifted with holding the Kingdom of God within us…
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”
This is where it gets tricky for me. There is so much noise and dissonance from churches around the world that not only contradict the idea that “the Kingdom of God is within” and what it is supposed to look like, but actually subvert it by redefining what heaven is through exclusive and authoritarian methods, not unlike those in power did at the time Jesus was crucified. The corruption that often lies hidden behind the righteous in power is why I continue to look to how Jesus radiated the Kingdom…extending mercy, the relinquishment of earthly power, the focus on those in need, loving your neighbor and enemy, loving God more than money, and kind civil rhetoric. That isn’t the rhythm of many professed Christians who radiate superiority, judgement, and yes, mob anger and hatred, the kinds of behaviors that Jesus deplored in his day. I think of Jesus’ quiet power standing broken and beaten in front of Pontius Pilate, refusing to be bated and justify his questions and ignorant assumptions, his quiet strength in carrying the cross and his mercy once on the cross to those criminals beside him. That is how in the worst of circumstances we radiate heaven.
Like any superpower, grace must be continually exercised, and expressed. Jesus made clear the road to heaven was to treat others as if they were indeed him. He also promised that he will come again and until then we must radiate the Kingdom of Heaven like children do or never expect to exist there. Beyond righteous behavior, we must be willing to sell all we have and follow him, and when we feel unworthy, be reminded that what is impossible for humans is forever possible with God.
Sometimes I think of that moment in the story of Adam and Eve, when they both become aware of good and evil and what that must have felt like. Their sense of innocence was gone and they were keenly aware that they are naked, exposed, and were immersed in a world of sin. And then, I remember a line from the Easter liturgy that says: “Oh happy fault of Adam which gained for us so great a Savior” So, while none of us ate a bite of that damn apple, sin is in the world, its consequences glaringly apparent (at least to those who aren’t blind, metaphorically speaking). The good news is that we are not without hope, without help, without guidance; we were blessed with such a Savior. Which is why I’m confounded to think that there are those who think that sin isn’t their problem and that if they simply sanitize what they see and hear in the world then some how that becomes an acceptable response in dealing with its ugliness. Sin is here, that ship has sailed. It’s presence and legacy is unavoidable and is something we all have to deal with, even our youngest and most innocent. With the interconnections and expanse of social media, we are literally running out of places to sweep things we don’t want to see and hear under the rug. I also am acutely aware that one person’s definition of what is unconscionable is vastly different than another’s. And while accepting the gift of grace by following Christ has opened my eyes and ears, it doesn’t make me any less of a sinner or any less susceptible to its temptations. I think the Gospels lay out pretty clear criteria on how to go about dealing with sin. There is a clear conversation, though, about why Jesus teaches the way he does through parables:
This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it
Jesus used story telling as a mechanism to teach us about sin, love, sacrifice, and who God is. It is clear from Jesus’ perspective that many people wouldn’t get it, because they refused to be open to it, even the Pharisees. So from where I stand, I do not believe that book burning, or banning is the answer. I must admit, on a list of banned books, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Wrinkle in Time” are why I am a reader…and I read them when I was 11…and was not tainted by them in any way shape or form. As a matter of fact, I learned a lot about the horrors of the world without needing direct experience in how to face or understand those horrors. I also learned a lot about standing in someone else’s shoes and more often than not I was left hopeful. Sometimes, though, I learned very hard lessons about myself, that changed the way I moved and behaved in the world. Regardless of the discomfort one may feel reading a book like “Lord of the Flies”, which I hated and yet still learned a great deal about bullies and the nature of power, I learned about sin and what havoc it can create in this world, and what can happen even in the most unexpected circumstances. I think books like the ones I mentioned are necessary, not as an approval of, but as an awareness of the destruction that evil and sin have brought into the world without having to have first hand experience. Utilizing our eyes and ears and exercising what hopefully are evolving ethics and humanity in a safe environment are a way to contain the sin that need not be perpetuated as an inevitable result of being human.
I am in no way saying that any parents don’t have the right to guide their child’s education, but I am clearly saying that burning books or banning them in righteous indignation could also mean that you are afraid to see and hear uncomfortable truths about the world. Sin affects not just those who commit bad acts, but those who are victims of it as well. And most importantly ignorance of the sin is never an excuse to say you can never be responsible for it. I’m not saying this cavalierly at all. Reading a book like “Schindler’s List” was devastating for me, but knowing atrocities like the holocaust happened, opened my eyes and ears to a kind of hatred that designates a whole people as unworthy. That’s why there are those out there who would have you believe that none of these atrocities are real, and to block that knowledge so ignorance may abound and the sin can continue. I have also spent much of my lifetime working among righteous Christians who were wonderful reflections of Christ and at the same time, in the same environment Christians who were the worst kind of sinners. Hypocrisy abounds among those who believe they are above the decay of sin and refuse to acknowledge their own sin and portray themselves like wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Claiming moral superiority about how to address the nature of sin is the kind of hubris that Jesus despised. He hated the kind of hypocrisy that existed in the temple at the time of those who proclaimed a moral superiority but spent much less time living as God expected all of us to. You don’t have to like a book to appreciate it and understand its value, or believe that the very act of reading a banned book is a tacit approval of its content. There are many great books that simply depict, honestly, albeit sometimes harshly, and horrifically the character of our sinful world…but to pretend that somehow you and yours simply by the act of knowing about a sin, will be tainted by it somehow suggests you can remain free from its corruption magically in the first place. Like I said at the beginning, that ship has sailed. We are in the same boat. I will leave you with the man born blind who Jesus healed, and was booted out of the temple for being a sinner. Thinking you see, doesn’t necessarily make it so
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, ” Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he”. He said, ” I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came to this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind”. Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have not sin; but now your are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
Faith unchallenged is dead, and so it goes with institutions. A while back I wrote a post about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and breaking from that idea resulted in seeing human institutions for what they are…human. If the “whole” remains static, held in place by those who refuse to challenge, move, evolve and then impede any moving “part” from functioning to keep the “whole” great…then its time to do one of two things: 1) remember what the function of the “whole” is supposed to be and work to change and or remove any parts that impede its function, or 2) Decide the “whole” no longer represents you as a “part”, and find another “whole” that does. I tend to choose the first option over and over because at heart I’m a fighter and feel so much more effective and powerful as a part of a greater “whole”, many of whom have truly maintained a strong presence and were created by incredible individuals.
I think the greatest blindness people have regarding institutions and the bubble they create is that we hold them as sacrosanct…and above reproach. If you challenge the church your commitment to the church and its authority is questioned, regardless of any atrocity witnessed, whether its abuse, embezzlement or any other infraction that has been committed and seen by eyes and ears of one of it’s “parts”. If you challenge a law that is rooted in draconian ideas or in practice is on its face is immoral, often your patriotism or citizenry is questioned. And so prevalent today, when a political structure no longer represents the ideals it was founded upon, and challenge the road being followed, you are often called a traitor and punished for it.
No institution is above reproach, be it the church, the police, or our political structures. We were given eyes to see and ears to hear for a reason, to keep the whole true to its foundation, keep the moving parts functional and to participate actively to keep correcting when they go astray. An institution founded in love or freedom, safety of the public, or liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be measured in great part in whether the sum of its parts is successful in its chosen endeavor. If not, the “whole” itself must shift. That’s simply how evolution works. Those that refuse to see and hear the flaws in any institution because in their mind they are beyond challenge or reproach, are the greatest sickness any institution can face.
Before I offend…I am aware of the visceral reaction this word causes, and at this point in the game of my life, I don’t really mind. I could have used a euphemism like, “awareness” or “evolved” but I really think that to move beyond our own personal bubbles and being uncomfortable is essential in coming together as a people, so I don’t think I want to mince words. I absolutely believe that I am still stuck in the groggy bit between waking and sleeping, so I have a way to go before I am fully awake, or “woke”. Not because I don’t want to be, but because of the singularly small perimeters of my solitary life. I am, to use the modern vernacular, a cisgender, white, educated, Midwestern woman…I guess you could say that by nature I am pretty vanilla. And yet, regardless of the privilege of that status, I am very aware that I am so much more than that and have the scars to prove it.
For me, I am not offended by the phrase “woke” whether its used as a description or an epithet. I am only interested in what it means to me, and what has been part of my journey over the last seven years…to put into practice what God called from the heavens when Jesus was baptized, “This is my beloved, my son…listen to him.” So I have tried, sometimes harder than other times, to take the conversations, parables, teachings and actions of Jesus in a way that keeps pushing me outside of my bubble and become fully awake:
This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.
I can’t comment on anyone else’s “wokeness”, except, according to Jesus anyway, that some absolutely won’t get it, he’s made that very clear. The stepping outside of one’s bubble to really see and really hear is just too uncomfortable and threatening for some so they vilify anyone else who does. I am of the “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” school of evolution and when I jumped on this train I did so willingly with utmost faith and the promise that I would absolutely go where God put me and keep walking regardless of the discomfort (even though now its with a gimp instead of a dance…see original post of starting this journey, “dancing naked before the Lord”). The sad truth after all this time? You can never un-see or un-hear those painful moments that pull you out of your comfortable slumber to witness the harsh realities (and some beautiful ones too) that are out there in this world. And it has changed me and moved me beyond so many people who are happy with the bubble they are in, because I know I can’t go back to whatever it was that I thought I knew before. I just don’t have anything to say to them any more (nor they to me if I’m being honest).
I used to think that what I wrote on this journey might…I don’t know, help others in some way. I don’t think about that much anymore, because the only thing I’m sure of is what I, myself, have learned…and its been a lot, with so much more to come. So this year is dedicated to seeing and hearing beyond the bubble and by listening more to God’s beloved.
Everyone knows that freedom isn’t free. Just ask a veteran, a suffragette, advocate for social justice, or one who simply wants the freedom to be and love who they choose. I live in a place that claims as a central tenet that all people are created with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therein lies the problem in a diverse republic where each person has one voice, one vote…no one has the same definition of what those rights mean and what obligations it places on the individual in support of the whole country. Because while we do have freedoms in this country, it doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want.The framers were aware of the potential disasters of what can happen when a civilized republic that stands for unified rights and freedoms becomes secondary to individual wants, desires and hierarchies of power. And yet, remarkable as these men were (and future influential powerful women) the document that governs us is fluid enough to adapt and grow with time and cultural advancement. It is the responsibility of all who serve and hold leadership positions in our “government” to be dedicated to the republic as a whole, and the individual needs of its diverse populace to nourish and sustain it.
It wouldn’t be a lie if I said that I believe that most in Washington were more concerned with their individual needs and perspectives than the health of the body as a whole. The obsession for re-election and power of their positions and moneyed lobbyists take more precedence than the needs of the people and the tenets of the nation they serve. The hubris with which many roll around in moral righteousness while engaging in the same exact behavior or worse that they are whining about and has become so common that we don’t even react to it any more, is a sure sign we are on the precipice disaster. Those cancerous voices who decry that those who don’t think the way they do are akin to evil and traitors are the antithesis of the freedoms our country promises every citizen.. I am appalled at how far its gone and yet I understand (to a certain extent) why this has happened. Life has been hard for many people, whether it is a pandemic, financial crises, unemployment, being disenfranchised or being treated like a second class citizen, or in many cases as if you weren’t human at all. It’s devastating to look down a future road with hopelessness in your heart. The easy way, however, is to listen to those voices of chaos who demand that we choose one camp or another, that there is only one way to move forward and its theirs and anyone else be damned. It is the lies those voices of chaos tell that are dismantling our hard fought freedoms. They sow discord and divisiveness and refuse to remember who we are and what we’ve fought for and refuse to engage in the often daunting challenge of actually talking to one another and negotiate terms. They refuse to embrace compromise that is an inevitable consequence of diversity.
The role of any good leader in continuing the work of freedom is to be a force for a republic that balances the needs of the many and with stalwart commitment amidst the cacophony of voices that demand the opposite in directing us into the future. A leader must listen and observe the multiple perspectives of the many even amidst the vitriolic atmosphere that they are presently mucking through. We cannot survive on the vilification of “difference” that has paralyzed the nation right now. I look to leaders who refuse to be pigeon holed into party over country. I refuse to listen to leaders who tell me I’m evil because I think the last president was the most destructive force to our country and democracy that we have EVER seen. I refuse to put my common sense aside and particular expertise on the many things I am particularity schooled in for some rabbit hole internet site that would state otherwise and then throw epithets my way to undermine my perspective.
As a citizen I recognize and accept that I have obligations that are necessary to sustain the freedoms of the many (kind of like the Body of Christ example I pontificate about). It is childish and morally repugnant to think otherwise. So those in leadership…model what a good citizen is, be accountable to the tenets of this great land, and work together and appeal to the citizenry’s higher angels that we do the same.Stop the hate, stop the childishness, stop the lies and start working for a better nation and world
I’ve written several pieces since my last post…none of them seemed necessary because either the message wasn’t new, or the message wouldn’t necessarily change anything (in my opinion). Some of the pieces I wrote about were misinformation and its effect on leadership (glaringly apparent already), the conundrum of the phrase “cancel culture” (those who need to understand don’t want to), obstruction and etc., etc., etc., (“King and I” reference). Then I suddenly realized, that, there are those in this world whose mission, goal, dogma is to sow seeds of chaos so profusely that confusion, lies, fear, polarization would keep any leader or group of leaders who would evolve us forward from doing so. Misinformation, cancel culture, and obstructions are simply mechanisms to accomplish that.
So how does one lead in the midst of chaos? With great difficulty, of course. As much as I could write about all the specifics…I tried to step into the shoes of one who is charged to lead through this mess, and as much as that is a near impossible task, I do listen, read and research other perspectives. There was a time early in my career, where I was the source of a vicious rumor that wasn’t true. I wanted to burn everything in my path because of righteous indignity. My father, a true source of wisdom simply said to me to hold my head high, keep working with truth, dedication and skill to the best of my ability and people would see the truth eventually…and they did, well most did, the others didn’t matter after awhile because I discovered it wasn’t about me, especially those that had the time to come to know me but still chose to believe lies. It was about the chaos those lies created and the energy it gives certain people I will call Lords of chaos. Seriously, there are those people in the world who thrive on watching people fail, for a whole host of reasons but the same result is limiting that person’s ability to bear good fruit.
After the whistle blower came forward from Facebook, the evidence they brought forward showed that the algorithms that perpetuated negative reactions were the most popular and profitable. So what does that have to say about us? Is it more exciting to throw stones and hate, than actually dialogue and face our problems and make changes together, or just decide to throw stones and point fingers and avoid personal responsibility, or remain comfortable in a narrative that only supports beliefs presently held and remain unchallenged? All of us have an important choice to make, regardless of any bias. Are the people we are listening to moving us forward to a better place, or are they simple lighting on fire and burning up any and all those whom we disagree with by negative means and prohibiting any accurate portrayal of who our leaders are because it is easier than making difficult changes?
It’s funny, there are those in religious communities (in America) who use scripture to perpetuate the Lord’s of chaos, by misrepresenting information whether it be about the pandemic, human identity, race, financial inequities, or religious freedoms all to serve one purpose: their own superior power and beliefs. They forget that the preamble of our Constitution supports that all people are created equal in the eyes of God, and Jesus, truly loved all people who lived according to simple truths: to love God with all your heart and mind, love your neighbor as yourself, and treat the least among you as if they were he. There were times when he was angry and spoke clearly about who he believed the Lords of chaos were in his time, and spoiler alert he is PISSED, from Matthew and Luke:
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna?
But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way
You know what I also find curious? Jesus never condemned most of things the Lords of chaos condemn today, he condemned lies and hypocrisy, extreme wealth and those who lacked mercy. Even Jesus was a victim of the Lords of chaos and was condemned to die on lies. He simply held his head high, because he knew what his sacrifice would mean, and that after a time people would know him for the truth and not the lies that condemned him to death. We do have a right to demand the truth of those who would sow chaos over growth. Jesus said the truth will set you free, so why are so many people afraid to tell it? It’s because the Lords of chaos are experts at turning truth on its head and manipulating it to build anger and hatred. So lets decide not to buy into all that rage, anger and hatred. I would bet if every person out there decided that truth matters, that love supersedes hate, that anger and rage don’t move us forward, that connecting and truly seeing each other and sharing the good fruits we bring to the table will keep us moving forward, the Lords of chaos would lose their power over us.
When the Lords of chaos lose their power, the environment for true leadership prevails
There is a song that I used to love to sing during Mass, called “Be not Afraid” by Robert Dufford, a Jesuit. The refrain goes: “Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me and I will give you rest.” It is a reminder to me that throughout the whole of the Old and New Testament, the message is clear; God is always with us and will pave the way forward, regardless of the circumstances. It’s a difficult concept to embrace in these troubled times, given a pandemic, climate catastrophes and political upheaval (all the products of accumulative human free will and not God’s punishment, by the way). And yet, for me anyways, it is the most essential quality of any great leader that fear is never the guiding principle for any action and that the trust, hope and faith in the ideals and principles one stands for run so deep that nothing will impede their progression forward in bringing them to light. A leader must be the voice that rises above fear, and reminds us of who we are and what we stand for. A leader must not be swayed by the darkness that threatens us but be that hopeful voice that challenges us to stop hiding our light under a bushel basket and to uncover it for all to see and shine so bright the darkness cannot and will never win. They must remind us that we are not alone, and that together, with our combined light and talent (and for people of faith the presence of God) will guide us all to a better place.
I’ll end this short post with one of my favorite lines from scripture from the first letter of John in which we are reminded that love is the opposite of fear:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates their brother or sister, they are a liar; for whoever does not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. This is the commandment we have from God: whoever loves God must also love his brother or sister.
As it sometimes happens, with me…my normally indomitable spirit has been laid flat. It doesn’t matter how or why, but only that I had to scramble to find something to hold on to so I could climb up from the darkness. Then, I had a dream about my father; we were in my childhood home’s basement. I was standing in front of our old piano and he was standing in front of his workbench, which had been moved to the foot of the stairs, and he had his back to me. In my dream I knew he had passed, and I asked him what he was doing. He said, as he was building or working on something, “hopefully not making a mistake.” Then I woke up and remembered a post I had written right before he passed away, called “letters from my father.” It helped me rise up a bit, and I offer it to you. Read them as if he were talking to you, even if the context of them don’t fit, I hope the wisdom will.
While it may appear that I’m being swept away by alliterations, I think that this is the most apropos way to end my discussion on leadership and lies. Think for a moment, why would anyone remain loyal, pledge their fidelity to a leader who lies to them? There are many of us who have given our fealty to people who didn’t deserve it, whether it is due to ignorance, willful or not, fear of violence, retribution or loss, perpetuating an environment that supports our own personal illusions, or because stepping away they would lose any advantage they believe they might have as a result of an association with them. I completely understand there are a myriad of reasons why people do what they do, but this isn’t about that, this is about not wanting to remain loyal to a liar. If you don’t care, move on…but if you want to grow and evolve, it would seem to make sense that any loyalties you have should grow and evolve too. This is about analyzing and letting go of loyalties that are just not good for you anymore…and while it should go without saying, the first step is to recognize and acknowledge when you are being lied to.
While I can’t comment on anyone else’s reasons for choosing who to be loyal to, I can tell you the reasons I choose. I remember a long time ago when discussing codependency, I was challenged to look into those relationships that had, but did not deserve my loyalty. Initially, standing on my “strong woman” platform my gut reaction was that that my circle was not huge and that everyone in it was already worthy of my loyalty and I theirs. I thought it would be an easy task and like many of my initial conclusions, I was so wrong. Instead of seeing who certain people really were, I saw them as who I needed them, or wanted them to be much of the time. Without going into detail, I had to decide what criteria was necessary for me to choose who to be loyal to, and secondly, based on that criteria, did the people already in my circle deserve it. And finally, was I deserving of their loyalty too, it is a two-way street after all.
My first criteria is the foundation for any and all of my deep connections I have in my life, any loyalty has to be founded in truth. Liars, carnival barkers and gas lighters need not apply. I had to evaluate whether my associations worked to my detriment or to my sustenance and growth. Did I like who I was as a result of this association, did it bring out or stifle my potential, or did it bring out my better angels and in turn, did I bring out the best in that association as well. It was and still continues to be a long and harrowing journey, because some of the constructs and people I held onto for dear life, began to dissolve before my very eyes when they didn’t hold truth anymore, and the road ahead became more ambiguous and challenging without those comforting landmarks that no longer gave me confidence and hope. I have learned that while life’s journey is filled with many people, most moving beautifully in and then out of ours lives, more often than not our personal journey is a solitary one. And after awhile, I felt comfortable seeing my sojourns as solitary ones, even in the presence, direction and companionship of any leader I choose to follow along the way. Ultimately, where I end up at the end of my life is on me. I feel as if I can see, hear, feel and understand God much better once I stopped trying to see, hear and feel God through someone else’s construct. I think that is why I have such a visceral reaction to those lying liars who lie. Loyalty to these types of leaders is inviolate, never to be questioned or challenged, and more times than not is not reciprocal.
My second criteria is responsibility. Any leader who blames everyone else for their problems, or scapegoats other groups when they get caught up in a lie, making a mistake, or acting in a way that is contrary to what they say they believe, is unworthy of my loyalty. Leaders, regardless of their effectiveness make mistakes…period. If they admit them, take responsibility for them, and learn from them, it is a sure sign that they may indeed deserve my loyalty. The phrase “the buck stops here” has so much more meaning to me now, given the state of blamers our there. I am firmly of the “those who have not sinned throw the first stone” kind of attitude when it comes to responsibility. When a leader understands that they are not infallible, I think they work harder to get it right.
My third criteria is courage. It takes courage to stand in the forefront, share your vision and ask people to follow you even when you may make mistakes, even when you tell them the road may be hard, and there will be challenges and sacrifices along the way but that a renewed commitment to those fundamental building blocks, and axioms that hold us together as a group will set our path toward success. It takes courage to say that one leader doesn’t have all the answers and that we all need to work together and use our individaul gifts collectively. It also takes courage to make choices that help foster unity and not divisiveness, regardless of how hard it is. As the apostle Paul said so eloquently:
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
So all of you leaders out there who have deemed me as inconsequential and unnecessary, or anyone else who you blame for the word’s ills because you are too cowardly to take responsibility for your own actions…you will never have loyalty from me.
For the past few years, I’ve been making a dedication on the anniversary of my revolutions around the planet to all my fellow world travelers out there who could benefit from a simple gift of prayer. It’s one day where I can do what I want and not worry about any other agenda but my own. This year has been a bit harder to bear, the pandemic, economic strife, physical struggles etc., but they are nothing compared to the growing level of anger and hatred that has risen its ugly head in this world . While I know in such difficult times as these, anger is a natural response, it is difficult for me to see history replay itself before my very eyes when hateful acts become justified. Unless you truly live a charmed life, or live with your head in the sand, this kind of hatred isn’t new, and now more than ever, with so much access visually to happenings in the world, we all have to make a decision… will the driving force moving us forward be love, or will it be hate? Personally, I know I am exhausted by those who feel the freedom to spout and act out their anger and hatred in a singular and pointed manner toward a self determined group of sinners who are responsible for all the world’s ills. Whether you are justified or not in your anger, throwing stones won’t solve the problem. Even in the face of my own individual failures at throwing a stone or two along the way, I still have the wherewithal to recognize that its a personal failure to do so and then rectify it by choosing love. I know I may fail again and again, but I will keep getting up, brush myself off, and recommit to love, because despite my imperfections, my faith demands it of me. And for those of you who smirk and roll your eyes at that last statement, today’s set of prayers are dedicated to you, because everyone else on love’s train already receives the benefit of my daily prayers.
To the angry, fearful and hateful men and women out there who really believe the lying liars that lie as they stoke and provoke your anger and fears about people who are different, who may see things differently than you but want the same good things in life you do, I pray that whatever hurt, anger or fear that drives you be removed, like the thorn from the foot of the beast, and that you can see “those” people you are encouraged to judge, be angry with and are afraid of more as children of God than an impediment to your happiness.
To those of you who use words like “woke”, “conservative”, “liberal”, “cancel culture” etc. as epitaphs so you don’t have to listen to a different perspective, I pray you shut off the negative commentary and force yourself to go beyond labels and polarizing attitudes. And for God’s sake shut off the TV, podcasts, YouTube or any other mechanism that fuels anger and fear. Start simple, treat others like you want to be treated and you may be surprised at the results.
I pray for the dismantlement of those companies, groups and individuals who disseminate news and information based on lies and conspiracy theories by stoking peoples’ fears for their own power, and financial gain. I pray for their embarrassment and exposure so people can see they truly are wolves in sheep’s clothing
I pray for our political leaders who bend to the power of lies and hatred for their own survival, that they find the courage necessary to do what’s best for all the people they represent rather than just what’s in their own self interest. I also pray that these leaders be held to account for every word spoken and deed done.
I pray that the democratic structures built around the world can withstand the attacks against freedom and justice by autocracy and authoritarianism and any who participate in these attacks. Let the souls of the many who died for freedom burgeon these structures up and hold them strong.
I pray for those who believe that they are fine and everyone else is the problem, I pray your bubble bursts and you are put to the test.
I pray that those of you who choose hatred over love look in the fucking mirror and see what hate really looks like. You my fellow traveler are the problem, not me. No amount of rhetoric or scripture can justify your hateful and angry words and deeds that are committed in the name of patriotism or religious ideology. And when you see the hate looking back through your own eyes as you think of whomever you determine is “lesser than”, I pray your better angels come through and show you what love looks like instead.
Finally, I remind everyone that freewill comes with responsibility, Each individual choice has a ripple effect. We all independently choose how to respond to any given situation, regardless of its difficulty, and not one of us can avoid responsibility for how we move forward. God or the devil doesn’t make you do anything…you choose, and I pray you choose love.
An argument is logical and valid, only if the truth of the conclusion is based on the truth of each premise supporting that conclusion, if not, the argument is unsound, illogical and invalid. Make sense, right? You can’t base a method of leadership on lies and untruths. Any future purpose becomes illogical and invalid and possibly dangerous. I don’t know why that idea is so hard for people to wrap their heads around. And while we are all flawed and sometimes fall for arguments that are questionable and then create intricate methods sometimes of creating validity where there is none, whether it is questioning the foundation of a relationship or ideology, it doesn’t make our behavior any less dishonest or illogical because we double down on the illusion or a premise we want to be true. So if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and behaves like a duck, perhaps the logic flows forward that there is a great chance it is a duck. That is the simplicity of logic
I think its important in this day and age where truth becomes suspect when leaders tell us: that if it walks, sounds and acts like a duck, it is really entirely something different, and if you really were a good person you would jump on board with that otherwise you are the one with the problem…its even more important to challenge these lies. Why is it when there is clear evidence to the contrary that a premise is untrue, the usual response is more akin to gas-lighting (like the phrase we used as kids…”no you are”) and the allegations are blown off as a hoax, or mechanism of evil, or the most dangerous: the actual definition of what a duck walks, sounds and looks like is completely changed to contradict the evidence of its untruthfulness? For example, when evidence is brought forth in our legal system (the checks and balances AMERICA is known for), it seems perilous to vilify the very system people have built, fought and died for almost 250 years rather than hold to account what the evidence says about a particular person accused. Even having said that, this country includes even more checks and balances to effect how the legal system works via our legislature, because truth and logic are so important to our structure of government.
I don’t want to move too deeply into my bias, but COME ON people! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if any particular leader’s messages are truthful or not…you do have to use your eyes and ears and cognitive thinking to determine the veracity of what they are posturing. It does take a little effort to move from premise to premise and determine whether or not they are logically sound…but not impossible. Before I choose to follow anyone, I am obligated to use my due diligence to find the truth. It’s also true that you can follow anyone you like…but it will never be logical if what they are saying isn’t true. Like Pat Moynihan famously said: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts”
As for my spiritual take on it…Jesus said that the truth will set you free, not your opinions…
This particular issue is going to take multiple posts. First, I don’t think its helpful to call people liars because I don’t think it does anything except further polarize us. However, lies exist everywhere, from simply lying about the size of whatever, be it your brain or your bank account, the amount you drank during quarantine, lies about relationships, to lies about elections and race and gender. Whether it is just telling someone what they want to hear even though you believe the opposite to avoid conflict or judgement, or the many lies we tell ourselves and the people we choose to be around to the help us sustain those lies to keep up the illusion of being other that who we really are, we all live in a culture that is far from truthful. If you can’t see yourself in any of the above examples, then I absolutely don’t know what to say to you except you are in a vulnerable place that the lying liars who lie have a special ability to pick up on, and you best be careful what band wagon you jump on.
I think its human to rationalize away our faults, weaknesses, fears etc. but I also know you can’t evolve if you spend all your energy doing so. My father taught me that in order to grow and evolve, you must continually challenge yourself and the beliefs you hold dear, to see if they still remain a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. As I’ve started this blogging journey with God, I have learned to recognize those who rationalize their way out of and refuse to change and adapt by finding someone or something else to blame or choosing institutions that allow you to believe that you have a leg up on everyone else. It isn’t enough anymore to simply say that everyone does it, or the little white lies we hide behind are no big deal…because they obfuscate the simple truths that are supposed to push us through those illusory patterns, better enabling us to recognize these deceptions and weaknesses in the future. This isn’t a push to walk around emotionally exposed, it is a push to see with your own eyes those truths that help you evolve and face your weaknesses, fears and darker side. Jesus always said that the truth will set you free, and I, for one, take him at his word. The greatest threat of leadership today are those leaders who represent and feed on the lies that perpetuate a false narrative of control, righteousness, and privilege above others who are different. These are the kind of leaders who convince you that anyone who doesn’t support them doesn’t deserve the same abundance of what the world offers their followers. They do it by undermining those champions of light who try and shed light on the lies they tell to keep people in a deep state of fear. It’s happened over and over throughout history. Let’s not let it happen again.
Goodness isn’t relative to the happy thoughts you have and just a desire to be a work in progress…it is relative to the effort you put forth to be that tree that bears only good fruit that Jesus talks about. It is relative to your ability to allow the truths that are present to remove the illusions we cover ourselves with. Truth knows that the best of who you are doesn’t need all those coverings and trappings that the liars who lie tell you that you need. Facing your own truths better enable each of us to choose those leaders who not only do the same, but will ensure that we all become trees that bear good fruit.
In the first book of Kings in the Old Testament there is a story I love when the Lord speaks to Elijah who is in crisis, and tells him to stand outside a cave where he will be passing by. The Lord is not in wind rending the mountains and crushing the rocks, it was not in the earthquake, or next a great fire that pass Elijah by. The Lord was in a whisper that Elijah had to be still to hear. I love that story, because it goes to the heart of the matter of God’s influence. When we shut down the chatter and move away from the noxious drama and all the noise…we will be in a better position to hear God, that is if we really want to hear what God has to say. Listening, while not as flashy as some of the other qualities of a great leader, is, for me anyway, the most essential quality. How can you lead anyone if you can’t hear their pain, their fears, their concerns, their hopes, their passions about the journey ahead? The role of a leader, contrary to many of those who presently act in leadership positions, is not to forge ahead with their own agenda, with everyone else be damned. It is to do what is in the best interest of those who are following you. That being said, the listening only comes after your commitment to what it is you stand for and proclaim, because I guarantee, in the listening process that follows, there will be those who will try to convince you to sway from those ideals to pursue an agenda that will not benefit the whole.
I know I’ve used this before, but in the the first book of Corinthians in the New Testament, Paul creates an apt analogy of the Church being the Body of Christ, with all the many members having different functions to sustain the body, and those differences should be celebrated, because it is their interdependence that allows the Body to fully function. Knowing that in any hierarchy there is a tendency to give greater power to those members that seem more honorable like a foot or hand, and less power to those more unseemly parts, Paul would have none of that and he states logically, if all parts were the same where would the body be? He declares if one part suffers, all parts should suffer, if one part is honored, all parts should share it’s joy. What a beautiful image, right? Sadly it is one where we have failed miserably…and perhaps it is because no one has taken time to listen to the parts of the body that suffer, or to listen to God in the whispers to tell us what to do.
I seem to be in tears a lot these days…a reflection of a developed sense of empathy and artistry, I hope. I hear the pain of those parts of the body of our country, and the scramble of those who try to convince us the pain isn’t real, or those who would damage the rest of the body just so they will listen. So lets all be better at listening, for a start, before we write off a part of this body that isn’t like “our part”. None of us can function if can’t work together and see the value of each gift an individual brings that will keep this body functioning. It need not start from the top down, it just needs to be a reflection of who we are and what we stand for.