All crap aside, I have tried in the last couple of days to 1) figure out what exactly drives me as an observer and 2) figure out how to improve and change what drives me as an observer. Truthfully, I am stuck. I’m stuck because there is a part of me, perhaps the part that is rooted in common sense, that absolutely can’t change how I view that portion of the world that is so rooted in illusion that they are convinced it is the rest of the world that is completely insane….I KNOW! THAT VERY EXAMPLE FITS ME BOTH AS AN OBSERVER AND THOSE THAT I OBSERVE!!! It is a bit of a conundrum. So, I have begun to disassemble the illusory elements in my life…which also stands as proof that my willingness to accept that I may just be as crazy as those I’ve been judging, is a sign that I am in fact, not the crazy on in this observer/observed relationship. Also, the fact that I would never go out in public with my boobs tucked into my pants because I misplaced my bra and shirt is a point on my side as well.
As far as what drives me as an observer, I would say first and foremost it is my faith as a Christian….I KNOW! MOST OF THE CRAZY PEOPLE I’VE OBSERVED ALSO INCLUDE CHRISTIANITY AS THEIR BIGGEST DRIVING FORCE! That includes, and is not limited to those horrible spirited people who protest funerals, those that think that a woman’s body has special powers to keep from being impregnated when she is “legitimately” raped, and any or all of the “Real Housewives of Orange County.” So, what happened? Did we get it wrong? I, personally, think we did. This then, is where I will start. Read this verse John 13: 34 & 35 and answer this question…is this how you understand your faith? Actually read the whole chapter, it is the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. A wonderful portrayal of what is expected of authority.
I know that Jesus didn’t just grab a random person off the streets and command them to love like he did and wash their feet. He loved these disciples. He had journeyed with them, spent three years with them…he had tamed them. Because he had tamed them, he knew that they would understand his command. The ties that bound them on earth were so important when it came to building and continuing his church, and he was no longer physically with him. They were responsible to each other, just like the Little Prince taught (see post on Taming). I think is the most important part…I asked myself the same question: How am I responsible to Him?. I didn’t get tamed by Jesus personally…only spiritually, and it was through a disciple that I came to understand what he was all about. It is what made me different from any of the others that have made the same claim. It has put me on a path of not focusing on being better than or being right…but one of being better and responsible to this phrase: “They will know you are my disciple by how you love one another.” The break down of illusion starts there.
I took a step away from deep thoughts for a moment and thought I would step outside my small circle and check out the state of my view on ordinary people out there. It’s not altogether pretty. I’m usually an optimist, but man there is some weird stuff out there, and I found myself spiraling into a deep sense of pessimism that truly is foreign to me. Just perusing through social network sites, (you would be amazed at how many are totally public) was shallow proof that the end of the world is nigh. Seriously, if the observer does has an impact on the state of the world (check the last post), I can understand why we are all slipping into hell in a dirty hand basket. I can’t get over the fact that there actually is a website dedicated to Wal-Mart people…moreover I can’t get over the fact that people on that website actually went out in public like that. I am amazed at the stupid, stupid, STUPID things that ordinary folk take to heart as fact, such as Obama is really a foreign Muslim, or the world is 6000 years old, and Climate change is really Armageddon, so there is nothing we can so do to stop it. This is not good. I am a bit ashamed and feeling a bit self-righteous as an observer and I will ponder on this a bit. Granted there is a lot of strange and stupid things out there, but it is how I, as an observer respond to it that makes on the difference in the world. At this point, I admit I don’t know how to respond…so I won’t. I will, believe me. I just wanted you to understand the silence.
A priest once told me that the movie in my head was much better than real life and I was just setting myself up for disappointment. I actually felt sorry for him…and, hopefully, now that he is not restricted by human limitations any longer, he sees things differently. I don’t know if it a blessing or a curse, but I do believe the movie in my head is fantastic…because it’s inspired by God and God has an even better imagination than I do. I do admit, though, that priest’s words have challenged me throughout my life to understand the importance that perspective ( the movie in our heads) has on shaping reality. While the theological essence of perspective has been my choice of study…I wanted to enlarge my focus to include a scientific perspective as well. As a non scientist, though, it’s been an exciting challenge to understand the process of observation within the context of quantum physics. but I do so because it opened my eyes (pun intended) to the important position of being an observer, and my personal impact on the world. The first part may seem unbearably dry, but bear with me, it’s essential in understanding how important observation is in bringing the movie in our heads to fruition. Just as important, in a time where fame and infamy give credibility and notoriety to a select and often undeserving few, I think a pitch for the ordinary Joe or Josephine is crucial.
It is tragic that in my study of theology, we never looked at science to broaden our understanding of God. Reflecting back on my own experience with science, it always made me uncomfortable. There was always an unspoken understanding that science was diametrically opposed to religion (just look at the controversy between evolution and creationism, or “divine intelligence” as its now called). Somehow, since God transcended the material world and couldn’t be proved by extrinsic evidence, science existed in some subterranean dimension. Many scientists and theologians appear to lie in wait to challenge, as fallible, the fundamental suppositions of either discipline (although there are plenty of religious leaders who believe there is plenty of extrinsic evidence that proves the existence of God, the majority of scientists I’ve met generally, keep faith and science separate).
During my early studies, the discovery that religion hadn’t necessarily represented my role as a woman in the world fair or accurately, led logically to understanding that perhaps that the conclusions they made about other things were flawed as well. History has many sad moments when the church harshly closed a door on a scientific discovery. It didn’t seem like an in-congruent step, then, as a result of all the historical animosity that scientists were not giving religious truth a fair shot either. It appears to me, anyway, that many on both sides would be perfectly happy to cancel the other out. Nothing like throwing out the baby with the bath water, don’t you think? Let us hope that cooler heads prevail and we learn to utilize the language of the empirical and language of the spiritual to create a broader understanding of reality: where theology can nurture the observer, and science the observed.
In my own experience, I recall a conversation with a scientist about my belief that science and religion, like light, are the same thing, just observed differently. By his reaction, not only was he offended that I would reduce quantum physics in such cheap layperson’s terms, as a theology teacher, I obviously didn’t have the level of intelligence necessary to further the discussion. Unfortunately, his snub left me speechless. While hiding in a bathroom stall to hide my watering eyes and embarrassment, I began to wonder if, in terms of science anyway, his observations would always be superior to mine. My embarrassment turned out to be a good thing, however, because it also made me angry enough to begin yet another search for truth (OK, it also included the desire to prove him wrong—regardless of my motivation though, I did learn a thing or two).
It is sad that most people, like my conversation with the scientist, never get to fully understand how someone arrives at a certain perspective. Not everyone just pulls things out of thin air. I had spent countless hours studying and preparing for a class with the physics teacher at the high school where I taught: an investigation of theology from a scientific perspective and science from a theological perspective. What happened was something I could have predicted. From the onset it appeared as if the idea had its own agenda. When my colleague and I entered into the world of quantum physics (I still get a tingle up my spine thinking of that moment), I knew my life would never appear the same again.
In the world of quantum the observer, or the means by which “something” is observed, means everything. Its form depends on how it’s observed. For example, light can exist both as a particle or a wave, depending on how it is observed, which, until quantum physics, was considered impossible. Physicist Werner Heisenberg, gave even more importance to the observer via the uncertainty principle, which states that the exact position and velocity of a particle cannot both be known at the same time—the more precisely one value is known, the greater the range of possibilities that exist for the other. Even the act of observing something changes the reality of what is being observed. In the classical view of the universe, science taught that by eliminating subjective influences nature could be revealed as she really was. Quantum physics changed that classical viewpoint by exposing a dichotomy between experienced and un-experienced reality. The idea that the mechanism of observation could actually affect what form matter took forced science into a new paradigm, besides giving great weight to the observer.
The discovery of the wave/particle duality has taken us beyond the limitations of Newtonian physics. There are two levels of reality which can be said to exist: reality as experienced, or as it exists in relation to the observer; and reality that is un-experienced, or as it exists in the absence of an observer (sort of like the old question does a tree falling in a forest make a sound when no one is there to hear it?). Un-experienced reality, then, is reality as it exists before or beyond human experience (perhaps in a dimension beyond height, width, weight, depth and time). Un-experienced reality relates to experiential reality in that it forms the basis or context of experienced reality like an archetype or prototype. The issue that is of central importance to me is the relationship between what is experienced and what is not. Naturally, since human beings, as observers, are confined by certain dimensional and subjective limitations, it would seem obvious that the un-experienced dimension has the greater control over what we perceive. I’m not so sure of that anymore; from my theological background I know the power human beings have to be co-creators of the universe, and therefore color every experience with personal meaning. What I have begun to worry about in this age of information overload, is the effect that all the negativity and violence has on the observer. On a microscopic scale, are we turning into that priest that I talked about in the beginning? Are we killing the movie in our heads and living a life of fear and disappointment? Stay tuned.
When it comes to understanding power, the last temptation that Jesus faced in the desert (at least in Luke), is the greatest show of strength and power by doing absolutely nothing at all. It was a challenge from the devil to Jesus, to prove that he truly was the Son of God by jumping off the highest parapet of the temple. If he truly was God’s son, God, “would command his angels concerning you, to guard you lest you dash your foot against a stone.” To which, Jesus, unimpressed that the Devil can quote scripture, responds: “It also says you should not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Booyah! Oh yeah! Take that sucka (gestures included)…That, of course, is what I would have said as the Devil skulked away, because Jesus is that hefty of an adversary even after starving in the desert for 40 days! Most of all, though, it tells me real power is not defined by or proven by show and tell. Think about it, I don’t know anyone who even has a tiny bit of that kind of power and doesn’t use it…including the Son of God because he chose not to. The conundrum for me is this: Since no one else was there, how do we know that the devil wasn’t just a figment of delirium resulting from starvation, and none of these tests ever happened…should it even matter? Even if the story is pure conjecture, it did affect how Jesus understood and utilized God’s power throughout his ministry. Obviously, history tells us of his great miracles and his great authority and ability to command a crowd. Most important to me, however, was that he remained true to all three lessons. He is the most powerful figure in human history because he satiated our spiritual hunger first, showed us by example and parable that true power has nothing to do with amassing temporal kingdoms and controlling others, and most importantly, that trust in God is the true cornerstone, even if it means being subjected to torture and death.
I think about the temptations in the desert a lot, and I worry that as a Church, we are failing the three tests. I am worried that amassing worldly wealth far outweighs the need for spiritual fulfillment. I am worried that controlling the faithful by determining who is fit for everlasting life is more important than empowering people to be just who God created them to be…which is to be a part of the body of Christ, where every part is just as important as the next and not just the ones that hold a higher place. I am worried that we constantly put God to the test by demanding that he answer every prayer the way we want him to…and use the result as proof that he really does love us, or is punishing us for something. As a result of our failure, I’m worried that while the devil may have not been successful in tempting Jesus, he has been successful in tempting the Church…the whole Christian Church.
In the midst of a frenzied few weeks, when breathing into a paper bag is my stress reliever, I have tried really hard to FOCUS…(the caps are me, telling myself to focus right now at this very moment because even in writing about focus, I seem to lose it). Anyway, there are many lifetime events swirling around me right now: death, new driver, graduation, major home projects, none of which has sent me over the edge. I tell myself that I’m handling them like a trooper. Except not really. So what threw me over the edge? Taking out my warm weather clothing, only to realize that while my psyche may have withstood the longest winter EVER, my body has not. Nothing fits. Stomping around like a 14-year-old didn’t make me feel any better, especially since I only felt winded. Finally getting back to the gym this week only validated what poor shape I’m in. And while body consciousness is usually irrelevant in my day-to-day musings, today it is LOOMING AT ME LIKE OBNOXIOUS WORDS ALL CAPS. Do you know how hard it is to suck in your stomach when you’re doing planks, or how disconcerting it is when your boobs bump into your gut rendering it almost impossible to complete a crunch? I tell myself, that this too will pass, that my butt will be back where it’s supposed to be in no time at all. I will face all these major changes in life with a body that is as tight as my spirit. Right?
While my momentary body consciousness may be the expression of the challenges I’ve faced as of late, I think the root of my anxiety lies in the fact that while I am fine with life moving forward, I am not always fine with how well or effectively I’ve lived thus far. Note, that this statement comes from that guilt ridden, Irish Catholic school girl inside me who will never be satisfied with how well I’ve done anything until I’ve earned a feast day. But as life will have it, something extraordinary happened. While Steve and I were bickering about which depressingly expensive pool liner we were going to purchase to replace the one that lived 3 years beyond its life span, the young man behind the counter asked me my name…(to which Steve used this momentary distraction to vacate, to make his tee-time) when I told him, he smiled and said, “You were my teacher at Holy Angels” It was lovely to catch up, but even more so that he actually remembered some things that I said in class that stuck with him. A simple moment, but remarkable given the funk I was in. It was nice to know that I did make an impact on a life. Sometimes it’s just nice to know. We should all be better at letting others know how they’ve impacted our lives. I know I will.
The stasis is over. Steve and I were present when his father, John Edling made that solitary journey to the Kingdom of God. As sacred as those moments of passing can be, it wasn’t without a desperate feeling of finality. John loved life and frankly just didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to miss a thing and I feel that he wanted to share the journey with all of us. I can only imagine his joy when he saw the legions of people waiting for him to arrive, his father and uncle and his champion basketball team and countless others. The stories and the laughter and reminiscing has no limit there as well as the joy of being in a body that was no longer broken. He can watch over all of us without pain and now has a bird’s eye view to all the comings and goings on in the lives of those he loved…because for those of us who knew him, he always had to know what was going on. His love is transcendent now and I know he will always be watching over my sons when they get behind the wheel of a car, or are nervous, afraid or need a helping hand. So he was in life, so now even more in heaven. I know he worried about things he may have failed at in his life, but his children and wife all did such an exceptional job of reminding him of the color and largess of his life and that brought him peace. I also appreciate so deeply the care he received at Christian Community Home in Osceola, Wisconsin. They too noticed how much he was loved by the constant trail of people in and out of his room to offer their love and support. He led a full life, a remarkable life, a life that is tightly and subtly woven into the fabric of the lives of many others. He will be missed, yet always loved.
So, while this may have started as a note to my sons, I think it is a message that everyone can take away something from. Nothing drives the need to focus on health like watching someone else lose theirs. Our bodies are the only tool we have to empirically bring our purpose for being on this planet to life. Scripture tells us that our bodies are temples…except not as something to worship, like so many do in this body-conscious world we live in, but because our bodies hold our spirit, our soul. It is the greatest part of what makes us human. For those of us who were born with a body that is in tact, functioning, and whole, it is our responsibility to take care of it to the best of our ability. When I think of how much more information is available today than when I was a child, it is almost mind-boggling to me to see how much more unhealthy we are. We have developed a keen ability to rationalize away our poor choices. We have taken short-cuts to avoid changing our life style by using quick fixes, focusing on short-term results, and popping pills to cover symptoms, or achieve weight loss, or bigger muscles or just to defy the aging process.
We have a health care system that is broken. We can’t fix health by focusing just on disease. We have to ask better questions about what are the root causes of ill-health. Then, we have to be willing to hear the answers. You would be surprised how many people don’t really want to hear the answer to what they need to do to be healthy. I have watched many people turn away because the thought of actually having to change their lifestyle is just too daunting. I hear phrases, like “I can’t sign up for this because my insurance won’t cover it.”, “well that’s just my genetics”, or “it costs too much to be healthy” and it literally makes my blood boil. I would like to say to them, “if your car broke down would you pay to fix it?” “what good is saving for retirement if you’re dead?’ “do you really think your insurance company gives a crap about doing what’s best for you?” and I usually don’t, because I know that they are just not ready to accept the truth yet. Why is it that people find it so hard to take responsibility for their health? Is the answer more frightening than the disease? Please, if you think it comes down to philosophy…that isn’t the problem. I hear the same frustration from all different kinds of doctors all with different philosophies. We do not see our bodies as temples. If we did, we would avoid all packaged, GMO altered, trans-fat- to empty calorie fake foods (for weight loss). We would make the necessary changes to our priorities, that put our bodies ahead of recreational purchases (your car should not cost more than the food you’re willing to put in your body). We should not subsidize the foods that we should avoid, rather, we should subsidize the foods that our bodies need to thrive. We have given in to what is quick and what feeds that pleasure part of the brain to the point that we disregard what we may know to be true…that what we’re eating just isn’t good for us.
To start, I would say nature made is best…which does not include genetically altered foods, or livestock that isn’t raised humanely and is full of antibiotics. Fruits, vegetables and lean meats…avoiding grains which are inflammatory foods (and genetically altered). Move every day, get your heart rate up and drink a lot of water. Change your life-style to avoid stress, which may mean living simpler lives, but I guarantee you will sleep better, which is also a necessary part of health. Make taking care of you body, mind and spirit the top priority of your life. It will make you better able to share your unique gifts to the world.
When it comes to influence, sometimes I think we underestimate the simple things, those simple gestures that may not seem so significant at the moment, but whose gentle influence has somehow altered the path we walk in life. My father-in-law is like that. He is a central figure in our small hamlet of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. My husband’s family ran the funeral home in town, and everyone knows his father John. I always laugh when my husband answers the phone with the phrase “Who died?” because I know he is talking to his father, who mentally keeps record of the people in his community. He’s the kind of guy, you could meet once, and I don’t know if it was because he was a mnemonic master, but he would not only remember you but have pertinent details about your family and life events as well. We’d travel all over the country and, it happened all the time, we would be at a gas station in Texas, or some other far out place and someone would come up to him and say, “Aren’t you John Edling?” and talk about how he had helped them, or how he knew a family member of theirs. When I was in Law School, my torts professor had to miss a class because of the death of his mother and when he came back and found out I was married to an Edling, he told me that my father-in-law had arranged the funeral and what a wonderful person he was…(his father had been the butcher in town). Things like that happen a lot. John was voted the best athlete of all time in St. Croix Falls a couple of years ago, his high school basketball team still holds the record for the greatest point spread in Wisconsin state high school tournament history. He in turned passed that passion forward through his children, and countless other town athletes. Even after he stopped driving, he would still find a way to stand on the side lines of every varsity football game.
Right now, John is sick, and he is moving closer to the Kingdom of God. His mortal life may be coming to a close, but the ripples of his influence will go on and on forever. To him, it is effortless to help and comfort people, which is why he is so beloved. Simple gestures are what make him a great person, gestures that touched more hearts than he will ever know, and will ripple outward through others who learned how important those gestures can be to someone’s life. I hope it makes him happy and gives him comfort to remember that. I also know it will give comfort to My mother-in-law Rayola, to Steve and his siblings, Jude, David and Barbara to remember how many lives he has influenced. He is a true character, and in many ways, Steven is just like him…generous to a fault, kind and altruistic, passionate about sports and feels totally comfortable in hanging out in boxer shorts. Blessings John, fear not…I see a heavenly ticker tape parade in your future soon.