Into the Shattering… a call to examine.

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What is this call to examine?

Cornel West calls it, “Socratice questioning.”  He says that, this questioning, is way we work through the various forms of death present among us, both of a personal and societal nature.  Rather than escapism, we practice bravery, sitting amongst unsettling, perplexity, and shattering worldviews.  And in this process, we as West puts it, “confront the night side of reality, of history, of morality.”

And out of this practice, this confrontation we merge/emerge with center.  When we come home to yourselves, aware of reality, aware of our plight, only then can we know and fight for what we hold dear.  Neuroscientist Simon LeVay calls this the formation of attention or awareness.  I love that LeVay calls uses the word formation, as that speaks to the process that is Socratic questioning, awareness by examination.  This way of coming to terms with and learn to embrace the messiness of existence.

As I mentioned before, I think great artists really understand this call.  They bring us before darkness, where we sit together and breath as one.

Lauren Zuniga puts it well in her poem Opening,

I can’t believe someone pinned my stomach to a canvas. This is why we (artists) do this.  This is an invitation to stop swallowing the art in your mouth.  This is an invitation to stop ripping yourself apart.  This is an invitation to be a live nude.Let them draw you dirty, flawed, and glistening.  This is an invitation to your opening. (from the Smell of God Mud)

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The Un-Instragrammed Life… a call to examine.

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We all know the famous words of Socrates,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

But wonder if we know the true weight this claim, as told in the words of Malcolm X,

The examined life is painful.

It is not easy, any part of this process, but I hold to its freeing.  For only through examination do we truly see ourselves, others, and the gravity of situations.

Lent has been a season of intense examination.  I am learning about pain.  I am learning about honesty.  I am learning about the beauty that comes out of the collision of these two words.  The potential for growth (the shoot coming up from the stump) that can only be realized when we sit for a long time in the despair of moment.

I keep coming back to this reflection, I made after an Atheism for Lent post…

I am haunted by the duty of the poet/singer/songwriter because you have to face your shit. The poets, I love do not mince words, they do not run from feelings, doubts, etc. They have mastered the art of proclaiming their humanity (shit and all) something I am too quick to hide. Great poets make peace with the darkness, showcasing raw reality. As I write poetry, I become more and more aware of my hangups with embracing me (thoughts, feelings, pains, doubts, longings). And God apart from the projections of the church.

I am called to examine, to question, to interrogate, to wrestle, to be with.  And all of this makes me uncomfortable because it is the practice of shattering daydreams.  Of facing the stark reality, of coming home to actual state of things, and it’s hard.  It’s not flattering.  It’s what I like to call the un-instragrammed life.  Life without the filters, that make everything seem altogether glorious, epic, and vivid.  It’s sunsets only eyes memorize, it’s Oprah without makeup, it’s those who sit with their demons long enough to know their names and stories.  It’s realizing that “we are all haunted houses” as Peter Rollins says.

I am not a quick pilgrim to this path, though I pursue it for the sake of wholeness.  This rawness, the filter of all depth and beauty.  In this call, I am thankful for the words of
Thich Nhat Hanh

I have arrived I am here my destination is in each step.

Hanging On

57.  Yep, I counted them.

57 black plastic hangers.

Shirts, pants, coats, 57 items, no more.

I have become very intentional about simplicity, especially as I move into a new house.
The week’s constant has been a question of what do I really need and therefore not need.

Back to the hangers, 57 should be enough right?  Honestly, I don’t want to buy any more thus furthering this vicious cycle of consumption (more hangers, more clothes, and so on and so on).  It then becomes a question of essentials.  A question much bigger than hangers, as it encompasses all that I am willing to live with and without.

And so begins this ever present task of simplifying and then sticking to the essentials.

Stuff often has a way of complicating life, adding additional factors into moving and traveling.
Factors that I really don’t want to ever have to worry about.

I am discovering this love of less. 
And so today, I begin a journey to make 57 hangers work, to make do with less,
so to heighten the value of that which I keep and those with whom I share it.

A Sower of Presence

To one place they flocked, to one space they gathered.  An assembly of the unlikely, an assembly of one and all, an assembly not bound by religious boundaries, racial differences, or social status.  This particular group included a former lost boy, a skinhead, a teacher, a stay at home dad, a professor, a young man with an anger problem, a tiny asain woman, several pastors, a cable repair man, an amway presenter, and several students studying.

This was my Sunday experience.
This my church.
This my sanctuary.

A place where the roles of a barista and pastor intertwine.  This beautiful and complex assembly, came in throughout my shift at the coffee shop where I have worked for almost four years.  Some came for food, others drinks, or conversation, and most often for free wifi.  And like always, we provided space for all of those things.

As their pastor and fellow pilgrim, it was privileged to give and live the sermon.  A simple message, delivered through eye contact, a smile, and genuine concerned for the people I served.  A sermon encapsulated by the word presence.

 Prayer: Help me be present today… receiving each moment, receiving each person. @stevenargue

And out of these encounters with customers, I wonder if truly being present is the simplest way of communicating gospel?

Ode to the Brave Ones

We give doubters a lot of flak but I am beginning to think they are the brave ones… as they are able to own up to their lack of understanding, trust, and sense of security.  Those daring enough to expose doubt, give light to the inner realities of the common consciousness.  For whatever reason, its scary to expose uncertainty.  As if talking about it makes it all the more real.

We give doubters a lot of flak but I am beginning to think they are the brave ones…   as they are those daring enough to start a cheer, to dance like no one is watching, to walk confidently with a style and swagger all their own.  They are the children who leap unto vehicles of uncertainty without reserve, as the training wheels come off their bikes for the first time.  They are those convinced they can fly, and they will, because they are not afraid to look into every possibility and to search around every corner.  They know truth precisely because they are not afraid to expose the shallowness of their prior understandings.  They are the lucky ones, able to question, to wrestle, and to let go of excess.  For them, nothing is too sacred to question or too well established to reexamine.

“to believe is human, to doubt is divine” -Peter Rollins

It is a divine art to be able to sit with the tension that is doubt, uncertainty, and questions.  Most of us are not able to hold our ground in this space very long as we are creatures begging for certainty, security, and understanding.  We want things to be black and white, right and wrong, when all too often that is not the case.  After all, life is more vibrant with colour draped over a messy canvas than neat lines drawn in the sand.  In this, I am beginning to see beauty on a whole new spectrum.  A spectrum not visible to the unwilling eye.  A spectrum all to easy to miss.  Indeed it is a brave occupation to question and doubt the full spectrum of truth.

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  For an entire afternoon, I was a complete mess because of one small act.  It happened on a Sunday afternoon just before nap time.  For me, this day will go down in history, as the day my Papa took away my beloved binky.  I was no longer able to settle quickly into my bed for a nap.  I was no longer able to find the comfort that was my trusty pacifier.  In this, my security was literally ripped from beneath my baby teeth.  I had to experience things anew without the security, I had come to cherish.  That same raw emotion accompanies us when doubt snatches at the foundations of all that we have come to know and believe.

I have to admit, at first glance doubt seems rather grand but then it quickly morphs into something utterly appalling.  It becomes especially grotesque when one has sat with it long enough to begin voicing that uncertainty in community.  As if voicing our various uncertainties makes them all the more concrete.  So I wonder, what would happen we took the time to learn of the inner doubts of others and were able to hold them in concert with our own uncertainties?  I wonder what would happen if we allowed doubt to sit among the topics of everyday conversation?  I wonder what would happen if we normalized uncertainty, as a necessary part of the journey?  Honestly, it scares the shit out of me even entertain the thought of this sort of practice.  As with the pacifier story, I am increasingly aware of how hesitant I am of anything that threatens my sense of grounding.

And so I step out timidly into the world of doubt to expose even a glimpse of my own inner wonderings.  Could this be the beginning of deeper understanding?

We give doubters a lot of flak but I am beginning to think they are the brave ones…  for they step out in courage voicing what so many of us wrestle with privately.

This post serves as an introduction to a series about voicing doubt, a series I have entitled Dancing with Doubt.