Posts Tagged ‘ hope ’

Frederick Buechner

I happened randomly on this author today through a Jesuit blog. I saw a quote of his on the sidebar and had to investigate. I read through more of his quotes and I quite like them. I love it when someone sees the personal significance behind what we claim to believe, and when someone finds beauty without dismissing the bad things in life.

“Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it. You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is. You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn’t.”

and

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

And then, after reading all these quotes, I found one by someone I greatly respect.

Annie Dillard (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) says: “Frederick Buechner is one of our finest writers.”

Looks like I may have to read some of his books.

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Bible In Five Statements Meme

I was tagged by Laura

Summarize the Bible in five statements (fifteen words).  The first statement – one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.

Well, to be honest I feel a bit pretentious doing this.  Oh well.  Here goes:

Paradox.
Look inward.
Pour yourself out.
Embrace suffering, remain open.
There’s no reason to fear.

I thought about putting something in there about how the Bible is not an historical document.  But then I figured if I stuck to the message, that would be implicit. 🙂

I don’t really know anyone here on WordPress, so I guess I just tag John, since his answer will probably be funny. 🙂

Love, Understanding, Strength, and Patience

Ben showed me this article today.  It is really very interesting.   To be honest, this is the kind of love I aspire to be able to show to people.  I just hope I am strong enough throughout my life to live up to these goals.

Fighting Words

(I copied the text for those who can’t get the link to work)

Modern Love

Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear

 

Published: July 31, 2009

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a
healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more
than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in
your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when
you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two
decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the
children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would
be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure,
you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so
self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never,
in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your
husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I
ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to
be happy.”

But wait. This isn’t the divorce story you think it
is. Neither is it a begging-him-to-stay story. It’s a story about
hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to
believe him. And what can happen as a result.

Here’s a visual:
Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother
doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries
to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t
“reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally
because, after all, it’s not about her.

Let me be clear: I’m not
saying my husband was throwing a child’s tantrum. No. He was in the
grip of something else — a profound and far more troubling meltdown
that comes not in childhood but in midlife, when we perceive that our
personal trajectory is no longer arcing reliably upward as it once did.
But I decided to respond the same way I’d responded to my children’s
tantrums. And I kept responding to it that way. For four months.

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”

His
words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow
in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed
myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He
drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears,
to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to
change his mind.

So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”

Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.

Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”

You
see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with
myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to
exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only
as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside
my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take
responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My
husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had
enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our
family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so
well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d
been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally
and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our
marriage; to be done with our family.

But I wasn’t buying it.

I
said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with
their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents
who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are
times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break.
What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the
family?”

“Huh?” he said.

“Go trekking in Nepal. Build a yurt in the back meadow. Turn the
garage studio into a man-cave. Get that drum set you’ve always wanted.
Anything but hurting the children and me with a reckless move like the
one you’re talking about.”

Then I repeated my line, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”

“Huh?”

“How can we have a responsible distance?”

“I don’t want distance,” he said. “I want to move out.”

My mind raced. Was it another woman? Drugs? Unconscionable secrets? But I stopped myself. I would not suffer.

Instead,
I went to my desk, Googled “responsible separation” and came up with a
list. It included things like: Who’s allowed to use what credit cards?
Who are the children allowed to see you with in town? Who’s allowed
keys to what?

I looked through the list and passed it on to him.

His response: “Keys? We don’t even have keys to our house.”

I remained stoic. I could see pain in his eyes. Pain I recognized.

“Oh,
I see what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re going to make me go into
therapy. You’re not going to let me move out. You’re going to use the
kids against me.”

“I never said that. I just asked: What can we do to give you the distance you need … ”

“Stop saying that!”

Well, he didn’t move out.

Instead,
he spent the summer being unreliable. He stopped coming home at his
usual six o’clock. He would stay out late and not call. He blew off our
entire Fourth of July — the parade, the barbecue, the fireworks — to go
to someone else’s party. When he was at home, he was distant. He
wouldn’t look me in the eye. He didn’t even wish me “Happy Birthday.”

But
I didn’t play into it. I walked my line. I told the kids: “Daddy’s
having a hard time as adults often do. But we’re a family, no matter
what.” I was not going to suffer. And neither were they.

MY trusted friends were irate on my behalf. “How can you just stand by and accept this behavior? Kick him out! Get a lawyer!”

I
walked my line with them, too. This man was hurting, yet his problem
wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he
could solve it.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m a pushover. I’m
weak and scared and would put up with anything to keep the family
together. I’m probably one of those women who would endure physical
abuse. But I can assure you, I’m not. I load 1,500-pound horses into
trailers and gallop through the high country of Montana all summer. I
went through Pitocin-induced natural childbirth. And a Caesarean
section without follow-up drugs. I am handy with a chain saw.

I
simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my
husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital
fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so
that wouldn’t happen.

Privately, I decided to give him time. Six months.

I
had good days, and I had bad days. On the good days, I took the high
road. I ignored his lashing out, his merciless jabs. On bad days, I
would fester in the August sun while the kids ran through sprinklers,
raging at him in my mind. But I never wavered. Although it may sound
ridiculous to say “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells
you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to
do.

Instead of issuing ultimatums, yelling, crying or begging,
I presented him with options. I created a summer of fun for our family
and welcomed him to share in it, or not — it was up to him. If he chose
not to come along, we would miss him, but we would be just fine, thank
you very much. And we were.

And, yeah, you can bet I wanted to
sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what
we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to.

But I didn’t.

I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar.

And
one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man
doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he
fixed a door that had been broken for eight years. He made a comment
about our front porch needing paint. Our front porch. He mentioned
needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started
talking about the future.

It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.”

He was back.

And
I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe
that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize
we’re not as young and golden anymore.

When life’s knocked us
around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The
truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a
spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those
achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but
happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can
be lethal.

My husband had become lost in the myth. But he found
his way out. We’ve since had the hard conversations. In fact, he
encouraged me to write about our ordeal. To help other couples who
arrive at this juncture in life. People who feel scared and stuck. Who
believe their temporary feelings are permanent. Who see an easy out,
and think they can escape.

My husband tried to strike a deal. Blame me for his pain. Unload his feelings of personal disgrace onto me.

But I ducked. And I waited. And it worked.

Discussion

So, I’m having an interesting discussion with a friend on a message board.  He belongs to the Orthodox Church, believes that no one goes to Hell when they die, and thinks that Jesus’ message was primarily about *this* life and not the next.  So far I agree.

Our discussion is centered around the events in Christ’s life, and whether them actually taking place in the time line has any affect on the meaning derived from them.  I’m quite enjoying this discussion, so I’m going to paste some parts of it here for remembrance sake…and for anyone who wishes to continue it. 🙂

*****

So, it’s important to you
because it gives you a warm feeling that you’re on the right path? lol,
I don’t mean it that harsh of course, but if it was important to the
apostles, *why* was it important? Surely this seems to be a question
worth exploring, right?

I guess I find so much meaning in the story that I’m not sure what affect its historicity would have on its impact?

I
mean, say we had the bible, but the names were all changed…would it
still have the same power? If it doesn’t, is it a meaningful
difference, or does it just have less power because it’s not what we
are used to? Or, say someone came up with undeniable proof that Jesus
never existed at all, would that shake your faith?

I think it was important to them for a number of reasons, including
validation of Jesus’ claims, encouragement in their sorrow, hope that
they share the same fate, and confidence that they could now risk their
lives and do anything they dreamt of.

I see your point here. And I know for a great many people throughout
history it has been somewhat of a security blanket that gives them
courage and strengthens their faith. But, I guess, that’s exactly my
point. It’s a huge comfort, and since when did Jesus tell us to seek
comfort? Again, I’m not arguing that the story *wasn’t* historically
true, I just think that we tend to be way too attached to that aspect,
and it can limit our understanding so that we miss some of the most
profound and meaningful things in the story itself.

I guess I am just wary of attachment to particulars. smile.gif

For
me, even thinking that the story may be entirely myth, I still find
incredible power in it. My life experience validates Jesus’ claims. The
concepts in the story give me encouragement in my sorrows and hope for
my own resurrection (mainly in my life here, but sure after death too).
It doesn’t always give me the courage to risk everything and follow my
dreams, because often my vision is clouded by fear. But when I am calm
and centered, I see clearly and that courage comes to me in waves. I
worry that a courage based on a particular historical event is a way to
deny that fear. It’s a subtle underlying aspect of human life, and it
cannot be denied.

The only way to be rid of it is, as through
Jesus’ example, letting it in and not avoiding it. It’s a subtle thing
I’m talking about, how someone might push down a feeling of fear
because of their unshattering faith in a particular event…versus
understanding what that event tries to show us (regardless of whether
it happened that way or not) and listening to that advice and being
open and receptive…even to fear and suffering.

Let’s not forget though that it was important to Jesus too. For some reason, it had to happen, he predicted that it would, and told his followers to look forward to it.

It did have to happen, in the story, because of what it means. Because
of how it teaches us. It would make sense that Jesus would acknowledge
that it has to happen, because part of his point is that even seeing
something like this looming up ahead in our future, we must not be
afraid, for there is nothing to fear. If you imagine Jesus’ prediction
as a literary device in the story of the resurrection, it makes a lot
of sense. Not that it can’t be real as well, but it seems that the
meaning is there regardless.

But as to why it should be important historically, I guess I don’t
really have an answer right now, but it seems inseparable from the
story, to me anyway. Perhaps they are pat Christian answers, but if
it’s just a story, and never happened, and the Son of God didn’t exist,
and the Incarnation didn’t really happen, I’m forced ask what the point
would even be then? Besides just trying to be a better person by
modeling your life after a character in a story. And the Gospels, as
well as the other NT writings, and the writings of those shortly
thereafter, place great importance upon these events really happening.

Do you really think the Bible becomes empty and meaningless if these
events didn’t happen? Acknowledging that the events may not have taken
place in real life does not take away from the profundity and the
*truth* found in the story. This story puts into beautiful and precise
terms what so many other stories try to get at…some with better
success than others. It speaks directly to our hearts the way only
stories can. And there are echoes of these truths in almost every story
we write, in almost every life we live. But here we have it unclouded
by the fear in our normal stories. Jesus is a character without fear
(or rather, who does not act of fear), without sin, and the huge
tragedy in his life puts God’s lessons to us practically in neon
lights. smile.gif

It’s
so much more than just trying to be a better person. It’s discovering
the path to truth, to life. It’s trusting in the process, even if it
looks like it is leading you toward death…because the path to death
is a path to rebirth. It teaches us that there is no need to fear,
ever. And that love is a never ending spring; the more you pour out of
yourself the more you have. It is about letting go.

Stories are
meant to teach eternal truths in such a way that we can resonate with
them on the deepest level. Christ’s story is one of, if not the, most
profound of all. I don’t know about you, but when I talk about these
things my heart fills with excitement and joy at the sheer *truth* of
it all. It’s incredible.

Question for you, what was Paul meaning when he said if Jesus didn’t
really die and rise again, our faith is in vain? If it’s not important
as an event that really happened, why do they all place so much
importance upon it?

Well, I’m not a bible scholar,
so I can’t tell you what his original meaning was. I can only tell you
what I gather from it. Why must Paul be talking about a concrete event?
In the same passage he talks about the reflection between Christ and
Adam. But you don’t believe Adam existed. You have no attachment to the
particulars in that story. Yet somehow what Paul says is true, isn’t
it? That what was introduced with Adam is now overcome by Christ. Is it
an event that somehow canceled out a prior event? No, because the
prior event never happened in real life. It was a myth. But the meaning
of it is still strong…and the eternal aspect of the myth, the truth
of it…is now reflected and expanded on in the story of Christ.

I
don’t think he’s really talking about Christ being risen on a concrete
level (though again, it may be concrete as well), but on a personal and
existential level that goes much deeper. If Christ is not risen, if
there is no rebirth after death, then your faith and your preaching are
worthless. You do not fully believe in the meaning you preach. You do
not truly have faith. You are still in sin because you are still in
fear of death and suffering. And in your mind, those who are asleep
(notice he doesn’t say dead, interesting) have no hope of awakening, so
why preach? I think he’s showing how their point of view is reflective
of an inner state of despair and fear, when it should be one of hope
and life.

Anyway, just my perspective. wink.gif

*****

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Humans and their Hearts

From The Alchemist, a conversation between the boy and the alchemist:

"My heart is a traitor…it doesn't want me to go on."

"That makes sense… Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."

"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"

"Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet.  Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and about the world."

"You mean I should listen to my heart, even if it's treasonous?"

"Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly.  If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you.  Because you'll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.  You will never be able to escape from your heart.  So it's better to listen to what it has to say.  That way, you'll never have to fear an unanticipated blow."

"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer…."

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."

That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World.  It said that all people who are happy have God within them.  And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said.  Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it.  "Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him," his heart said.  "We, people's hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them.  We speak of them only to children.  Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate.  But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them–the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness.  Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

"So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."

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The Day the Earth Stood Still


Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Last night Ben and I went and saw the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.  I have never seen the original, so I didn't know what to expect, but it had Keanu Reeves in it (as an alien, which requires no emotion, so we figured he might actually do well) and it was about aliens, so we had to see it.

I ended up liking it a *lot* more than I expected to.  I just read a brief synopsis of the 1951 version of the movie, and from what I can tell, this is a similar creation, but in a modern and perhaps more profound language.

Plot Summary
The US government becomes aware that there is a large space object heading directly for earth and so gathers together the best scientists to try to help avert the situation.  Helen (Jennifer Connely) is an astrobiologist.  She studies microbiology, theorizing about other planets. Anyway, as they all brace for impact they notice that nothing happens.  No great tragedy.  Instead, a bright light slowly decends over New York City, and eventually a globe of swirling light lands in Central Park.

Helen is at the scene, and when the alien walks out of the "ship" she walks towards him.  Just as they are about to reach out and shake hands, one of the many military soldiers there shoots the alien.  His alarm system, a giant robot that shuts down all electricity in the area, comes to his defense, ready to destroy the military, until the alien whispers something that makes him shut down.

The government is first and foremost concerned with finding out if there is going to be an attack on planet earth, and the fear guides them.  It's clear that almost everyone in this film is guided by fear and the need for security.  It turns out that the alien, Klaatu, has come representing a leauge of alien civilizations coming to assess the threat of humans to the planet earth, and if necessary, to exterminate them.

One of my favorite scenes is when Klaatu comes to a McDonalds, where he meets with an old Asian man who happens to be an alien who has lived on the planet for 70 years.  He says that without question humans are a destructive race, and should be dealth with.  But then he refuses to leave the planet.  As destructive as we are, there is something about us.  Life for a human is hard, he says, but there is another side.  He can't explain it, but somehow, he loves them, and cannot leave.

Another part that I really love is when Helen takes Klaatu to a nobel prize winning mathematician's house (played by John Cleese), and Cleese's character asks Klaatu what the turning point for his race was.  Klaatu responds that their star was dying, and they had to evolve.  Cleese used this to make a point.  Yes, we are a destructive race, but it is always at the precipice, the moment of devastation when all seems to be lost…that is when we change.  Please, don't take this moment away from us, it is our moment, the moment of truth for our race.

And yet while seeing and hearing these things, those in power continue their actions out of fear, hunting the alien down, trying to destroy the robot that came with him.  And every time they do this, things get worse.

My Thoughts
And afterwards I was thinking about how incredible life is, because if you take these things together, every action we make out of fear and the need to protect ourselves makes things worse, but at the same time, when do we change? When things reach the brink of despair.

And so it's almost like salvation is built into the system, even in the darkest of times.  If you can relax and trust and love, that's great.  But even if you threaten or don't take time to understand and you act out of your reactionary mind…eventually you yourself, by your own actions, will make things so bad that it finally gets through to you.

At the end of the movie, Klaatu gives his life to save the human race, convinced that the good in us is worth saving.  And so he stops the device that had already wiped out much of our infrastructure and many of our people, but it comes at a price.  The destruction stops, but we are left with no electricity, no power.

And the reaction is brilliant.  The people stop.  Stop moving, stop struggling.  A moment of pure calm decends on everyone.  They open their eyes and just look at everything.  People in offices open the blinds and let the sun in.  To me it looked like they had opened their eyes for the first time.  It's a profoundly beautiful moment.

Of course, I suspect that the moment will be short lived and that people will fall back into fear shortly enough, but while it lasts, it's so beautiful. 

I think that's what gives me hope beyond anything else.  Not that the bad times make you stronger, it's not about that.  It's that even *through* the bad times, it's like there's some sort of aim of existence to bring us to the light, by whatever means possible.  Every single moment is an opportunity to stop fighting and be still, to open our eyes for the first time.  And each moment that we don't take it, we build up towards a tragic moment where we finally can see it.

It doesn't erase the tragedy, but I definitely feel that it gives the tragedy a kind of purpose and that perhaps there may even be, at the heart of existence, something motivated simply by love.

“Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of being, beyond
all data, beyond all inventories and all calculations, a mysterious
principle which is in connivance with me, that cannot but will that
which I will, if what I will deserves to be willed and is, in fact,
willed by the whole of my being."

– Gabriel Marcel

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Falling Apart

"Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of
healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the
problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They
come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and
fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting
there be room for all this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for
misery, for joy. When we think that something is going to bring us
pleasure, we don't know what's really going to happen. When we think
something is going to give us misery, we don't know. Letting there be
room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do
what we think is going to help. But we don't know. We never know if
we're going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there's a big
disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may be
just the beginning of a great adventure."

Pema Chodron

Seen elsewhere on Vox…had to borrow it.  I've been flirting with buying one of Chodron's books for some time now.

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