Two uncorrelated thoughts.
First, for all of you who find yourselves speechless regarding Mr. Trump, know that that is how some of us feel every time the president speaks. The two of them stand on opposite sides of a continuum that capitalizes on the power of vocal inflection.
Second, I sold my television a few years ago. If you have been waiting for a reason to dispense of yours and also to reduce your monthly expenditures, allow Mr. Trump’s popularity to be the catalyst that prompted you to finally do so. If Kim Kardashian broke the internet, Donald Trump broke television. Use this moment to turn it off–for the last time.
My first thought when I visited www.wemadeamillionaire.com was to vomit. A social experiment where some anonymous person becomes a millionaire because a bunch of gullible suckers have nothing better to spend their money on than anonymous website builders? Right. A beggar is a beggar is a beggar. No, thank you–get a job like the rest of us.
More than that, just a few short months ago I’m pretty sure this entire world was sick of the 1%. Why would we want to create another one? And the idea that it would be interesting to see how this person would spend the money? Again, no, thank you.
But then I stumbled across something truly brilliant: www.wemadeacatmillionaire.com
Here’s something I can get behind, I thought. Poor Manther! Removed from his life in the urban wilds and placed into virtual solitary confinement. Tssk, tssk. And the pictures. Manther is one handsome feline and yet he can’t catch a break, it seems.
Someone, we may never know who, has taken up Manther’s cause. Someone, a clearly benevolent soul, has recognized injustice and was moved to action. Someone, a lion for the animal kingdom, has finally come to their senses. Because of that someone, we can all help Manther become a cat millionaire–perhaps the first cat millionaire.
Now I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking the same thing. Who even likes cats? And you’re right. I don’t like cats. But even I can’t deny the power of the photos. And the video! Oh emm gee. Manther just wants to do yoga.
Like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, Manther doesn’t want to be fed, he wants to hunt.
Want to be a part of THE social experiment of 2015? Then visit WEMADEACATMILLIONAIRE. More than visit, DONATE! DONATE like I donated. I didn’t think I could scrape together the money, but there comes a time when each of us must silence our reason in order to hear our hearts. My heart said donate. Donate to Manther. Listen to your heart, people. Donate to Manther.
Yes. Three posts in one day. And it’s not even my day off. Crazy. Like a friend said, word volcano.
It’s probably odd that I’m only a few months into my current job and already writing about dreams for another job. No matter. I’m happy at my current job and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of an even better job.
So what’s this better job? Right now I’m dreaming about becoming a preacher. Or maybe a priest. Or a monk. I don’t know the specifics, but I know that I want to be a “man of the cloth” as they say. I want to be a part of a profession of men whose goods are solace and listening. I want people to seek me out. I want people, everyday people from all walks of life to come to my door or invite me to come to theirs. And I want to hear what is going on with them and their life. I want people to share the state of their soul with me. I want that opportunity. I want to do it over food too. Breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners, desserts. That’s the ideal job to me. I want to hear from people who don’t necessarily understand the depth of their courage for sharing the most intimate aspects of their eternal struggle on this journey called life. But more than that (yes, there’s more. I dream big when I dream.) More than that, I want to be able to hug these people. Or maybe just hold their hand. And more than any physical comfort, I want to be able to look them in the eye and with the most sincerity and conviction I am able to muster, I want to tell them, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Because everything is going to be okay. Right?
I recently responded to a friend’s seemingly angry comment to my favorable views of Christianity by suggesting she calm down. She did. Then she asked that I watch a presentation (that you can find here) in which a speaker essentially claims that my asking this friend to calm down was an example of me unwittingly antagonizing the social change movement known as atheism. News to me.
The presentation, by a woman named Greta Christina, is very generalized and therefore incapable of doing much more than rabble rousing. However, I would like to address one topic that I find fascinating. Here’s her claim:
“I get angry when believers say that the entire unimaginable hugeness of the universe was made entirely for the human race, [whereas] atheists by contrast say that humanity is this infinitesimal eye-blink in the vastness of time and space. And then religious believers accuse atheists of being arrogant.”
As I see it, we’re all guessing. We’re all looking at the data and drawing conclusions. More than that there are two levels at play here that she doesn’t seem to recognize. One level is the idea. The other is the proponent of the idea. If I expound the believers’ idea, I can also humbly admit that it’s just my best guess. No different than an atheist can admit that they are not certain. However, when the atheist or believer declares that for certain they are right, there is naturally, in both cases, an additional off-putting arrogance. And I am no more a fan of religious zealots who prematurely end the dialogue with claims of certainty than I am of atheists who do so. But in my experience, including this woman, while believers can be annoying in their certitude, atheists rue the day when it comes to arrogance. It’s inherent to their argument, the argument that goes something like,
“There are objective, scientific facts to be known. I know them. As facts are synonymous with truth, I know the truth. Moreover if you disagree with me, you’re disagreeing with the truth and consequently you are wrong. (And stupid).”
Does anyone remember the end of The Matrix Revolutions? (That’s the name of number three). The machines are trying to once and for all defeat humanity. Their agent, Agent Smith, asks our agent, Neo, who won’t stop fighting, “Why? Why, why do you persist?” Neo’s answer: “Because I choose to.” Smith’s question embodies the same argument as the atheist’s, just more eloquently. And it is arrogant. As if life is a computation to be solved and afterwards things will be normal.
Is it an arrogant idea that the unimaginable universe was created for little ol’ me? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it. It’s just my freely chosen conclusion–as of today–after studying the historical record and living among you for thirty-three years. Is it an arrogant idea that an infinitesimal eye-blink or even a very numerous group of them have accurately and finally recognized a system of knowledge that answers, “Why?” or “What for?” in a way that demands unquestioning allegiance? Yes. Yes, I’m afraid it is.
One person presents/reads/speaks uninterrupted for up to twenty minutes on any topic of their choosing. Up to thirteen other people listen while they eat dinner. (We do spaghetti). Then those thirteen folks (even the women) each take a turn at responding–also uninterrupted–for up to ten minutes. Then we break for dessert. Then the speaker gets a ten minute follow-up window, after which the others get their own up-to-five minute responses. That’s the Mark Twain Listening Club.
With the enthusiasm of some friends, I began the Mark Twain Listening Club (MTLC) over two years ago. We meet twice a month (give or take) and while talking for twenty minutes or ten minutes seems daunting, it does not take much thought to realize that it isn’t about talking, but listening. You share for up to ten minutes and listen for one hundred thirty. Now, what, I wonder, do you suppose happens when people listen to each other? I’ll tell you. Empathy. Understanding. Fun. Friendship. And witty witticism’s.
Last dinner a friend wanted to talk about manifesting reality. She had recently watched What The Bleep Do We Know? She loved the ideas presented within that film but was a bit nervous that she would be ostracized for misunderstanding them or oversimplifying them. But when one of her conclusions or take-aways or bottoms lines was “Consequently, if I’m manifesting my reality, and for example trying to make a new friend, then I don’t have to focus on their negative qualities. Instead, I can choose to direct my attention towards the positive qualities,” you can’t help but want to be closer to someone with such heart. Even her husband, the scientist, couldn’t find fault with the argument.
Naturally, the phenomenon known as The Secret, not to mention a certain more ancient book, was introduced during the pursuant discussion. While it is impossible to recreate the power of the moment, when one friend had his turn and asked, “What the bleep is the secret?”, I couldn’t help but think that there is no social setting that fosters such simple creativity than table dinners of this nature.
You know what the neatest thing about the Mark Twain Listening Club dinners is? I chose the goofy name to pay tribute to Mark Twain because I got the idea from his autobiography (and women attendees weren’t allowed to speak in his day). But about a year into it, someone pointed out the acronym could also be “More Tender Loving Care.”
Back to the good stuff, if I do say so myself.
I don’t take advice on life from my younger brother. Actually, I don’t take it from any immediate family members.
When we discuss life, we mostly just fight. All parties are to blame, of course, but when pitted against my younger brother I’m always ready to accept more blame because I’m older and should know better, the theory goes. Amidst our current unpleasantness I have been thinking about why I never listen to him. This naturally led to me contemplating how I decide to ever listen to anyone. In other words, which criteria do I use to seriously consider another person’s invariably well-meaning advice? As always, I’m curious to read how others would answer this question too.
For me, however, it boils down to loss. The more loss a person has experienced, the more I listen. If a person has experienced less loss than me, then I don’t listen. After all, what do they know?
So mom and dad, brother and sister, I hear you, but your life choices haven’t resulted in much loss according to my all-seeing eye. Sorry. If I’m missing something, please share. At this point, what do you have to lose?
Loss is important to me because it demonstrates risk. Taking risks demonstrates belief, which demonstrates passion, which, in turn, demonstrates that you are alive. At least this is how I see things. I’m not prescribing this to you. I just want you to know this is how I am. I don’t mean any disrespect. We’re just different. I live the inverse of: “You won’t fail if you don’t try.”
Actually, come to think of it, since I hold the “lost most” card, I do want to prescribe this way of life to the four of you. Live a little. All four of you play it too safe.
Now, I know at least mom is rolling her eyes and asking “Why should I listen to him again?” “What’s he lost?” I’ve lost half of H-‘s childhood. Half. How’d I lose it? By passionately rushing into a marriage that K- and I should’ve seen wasn’t ever going to work. And let me be clear: It is no good that neither K- nor I can ever get back the time lost because of our decision–no good at all. But the flip side to that coin is we each get half of H-‘s childhood. And we would’ve never got any of it if we would’ve played it safe. And without H-, well, we’d all be worse off. You know that’s a fact.
I just smiled after writing that. Because it’s true. I’m actually excited now. (I love writing.) So until you convince me that you’ve lost as much, I’m not taking your advice to play it safe. I’m not going to pad the walls by considering all the outcomes or what strangers or relatives will think. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m going to do–and do it better. Forever. So there.
I had no idea.
I haven’t had any ideas for this blog since learning this on Thursday or Friday night. That is, I can’t think of anything else to write except to share my slightly embarrassing astonishment at what I learned.
When I have H- I usually spend all the time she is asleep writing posts or writing books. But when I don’t have her, I am able to finally catch up on some reading. One book is (as I’ve mentioned before) N.T. Wright’s Jesus and The Victory of God. It is book two in a five book series on first century Jewish-then-Jewish/Christian history. From what I have been able to discern, it is tier one as far as historical critical scholarship goes. I say tier one to attempt to convince you that I am aware there are many good researchers who all come to different conclusions about such things, but to be honest, I’m kind of falling for the arguments Wright is making. Anyhow, I’m writing this now because I want to move on and write fun things again.
The information I was shocked to discover was that the temple Jesus of Nazareth displayed anger towards and overturned tables at etc. shortly before the crucifixion, this temple was not just the local baptist church in Jerusalem. It was the Temple. Capital T. The one that has been fought over for thousands of years. The one that has been destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed and now there is a Muslim structure on it blah, blah, blah. I had no idea. I feel pretty foolish. I grew up as a bible memorizing, save the world one non-believer at a time Southern Baptist and somehow totally missed this. I just thought that he picked one of the many mega churches that surely existed back then to make an example of. I think that’s some variation of projection and ethnocentrism. Oh well.
The real question is, of course, does any of this matter?
“What is the deal with the traffic?” he muttered, alone in his car. It was 6:44pm and that meant he only had sixteen minutes to drive the twenty minutes of pavement that separated him from his destination. “I wanted to be there right now,” he continued.
As predicted, twenty minutes later he arrived. Transforming what should have been a three-point turn into an eleven-point turn, he finally came down off the curb and shifted to park.
“Oh man. I didn’t expect anyone to be dressed up. Oh well,” he thought, seeing a few other stragglers walking up to the building.
Not knowing what to expect, he approached the door and was yet again immediately greeted with a welcoming handshake from a stranger.
“This place is amazing,” he thought.
He knew some of what was going on. He wasn’t dumb. He sat in pews like these week after week for a decade as a child. “It’s just muscle memory,” he could hear the critics say. It felt familiar and familiar feels good. “You go to what you know,” Hollywood wisdom taught about behavior during trying times. But he didn’t care.
“So what?” he thought. “Who cares if I only like this place because it is familiar? Why is that wrong?”
Then he heard it. It couldn’t have been louder than a whisper, but boy was it distinct. When the church was a little fuller on Sundays, it wasn’t as audible. But on this night, it sounded like the crack of thunder.
“Tonight’s,” a pause, “scripture reading,” the man looked up, “is from the Gospel of Luke,” the man stopped. “Turn with me,” he continued, “to Luke chapter eleven,” he took a breath, “where we’ll read,” and another, “verses one through two.”
Well, that’s a lie. It’s not my church. I’ve only been there once. But it was wonderful. And I will be returning every chance I get. The search is over. Finally.
For the record, I am a human. This is worth articulating because, especially when it comes to churches, I want to be treated like a human and not a farm animal. I don’t need to be herded, nor do I want to follow the herd. That said, as I walked into the building I was greeted and I watched as a woman took my name down on some sort of ledger with a pencil. Remember pencils? While there were no children-specific activities that day, I’m certain H- won’t have to be processed and tagged to take part in them next time.
Quickly finding George, I suggested we move closer to the front than where he had chosen and we did. Next thing you know, he and I are standing wide-eyed amidst the seated congregation at the behest of a young women who read off the names of all the guests. Little H- remained seated until our kind neighbors in the pew in front of us urged her to stand when the young woman asked for any guests whom she may have missed to also stand. H- stood proud.
This next part is probably a little too personal, but this is my blog so I’m writing it. It’s been a while since I’ve had much physical contact with anyone but H-. And she’s in that tight spot where I think she does it because she recognizes this. Anyhow, I’ve been thinking this probably needs to change. Touch is important, they say. Well, during an amazing baby dedication that lasted about ten minutes and crowded seemingly an entire extended family at the front, like thirty people, we were asked to stand and next thing I knew my hand was being touched by the lady next to me. I looked down before moving my hand out of her way and noticed that she was simply reaching out to hold my hand during the dedication thing. It was then that I looked around and quickly noticed that everyone was holding their neighbor’s hand. I joined suit and grabbed H-‘s little hand. Next thing I noticed (George too), H- was placing her limp hand in George’s. At the end, my kind neighbor gave my hand a squeeze before she released it.
Did I mention that the three of us were the most under-dressed folks in the entire building. I measured by layers. I had two. All the other men were at least at two, most at three. Probably half the women had hats on. These people dressed with a purpose. And yet they were naked. Can you understand that?
I thought the roof was going to come off at one point during the worship. Talk about Holy Ghost power. A real piano, an un-amplified small drum set, and an organ accompanied a real, though small and old, choir. Though I’m sure no one could hear us, George and I both sang.
Finally, we came to the Word. And here’s where I discovered what I have been looking for all along in a sermon. A sermon shouldn’t be smug. A sermon shouldn’t cause my mind to distractedly go academic on it. A sermon shouldn’t teach beyond its speaker’s–nor audience’s–intelligence, nor should it dumb down that which cannot be in order to meet the audience. We’re talking about a sermon. A sermon shouldn’t be chocked full of witticisms, nor jokes. The preacher needn’t prove “even though I’m a preacher, I can be funny, see?”, nor should he tell some inside joke that requires his giving a politician’s knowing nod to some poor soul who will undoubtedly feel a little too special for the rest of the afternoon and at the same time causes me to wish it had been me. Most important, I realized that I want a sermon which is a sermon. Not a presentation. Not death by powerpoint. Not a motivational speech. And the sermon that day was none of those things. It was more than those things.
Afterward, we lingered. People lingered. We met the pastor. Oh. And did I mention the service’s total duration was over two and half hours? 10:30 start, when it was over I pulled my phone out and it displayed 1:15. And it did this without filler like Broncos mentions, professional videos with floating words, or hollywood movie clips.
Walking to our cars, George said it best, “Pete. This was by far and away the best church yet.”
I’m at a loss. I thought I knew what to expect before going, but there are just some situations in life that can’t be prepared for apparently. Most recently, the situation I’m referring to is attending a mega church. Now you know as well as I do that I’m not talking about anything that has to do with a church’s size. As an example, recently while I was visiting family in Kansas City I attended the largest United Methodist church in the USA. It is not a mega church.
Back in Denver, I visited a mega church last Sunday. What a joke. Seriously. There is no possible way someone can read a single verse from the Old or New Testament and conclude that a mega church is what any of those folks envisioned. The only people I can think of who envision a mega church as having something to do with the gospel or first or second century churches are tenth-graders who just got back from a week-long church camp. Oh, and people who were never taught that it’s okay to have a lot of money. (If you happen to be one of these wealthy heathens, check out Peter Drucker’s idea about profit in his book Management. It explains your dilemma most succinctly, I think. Profit equals responsibility–nothing more. And, yes, we’re all watching you and evaluating your decisions. So please lead by example).
Most church services have a specific routine. They begin with worship, pass the offering plate, preach, sing one final song, and release people in time for football/nascar. Conversely, the mega church begins with preaching. The preaching seems genuine, is crazy professional, and refers to bible verses a few times to help us remember the reason we showed up in the first place. Then, after the preaching comes the worship. It’s a rock concert. Super professional. It’s also difficult to imagine it is at all authentic. I couldn’t help but picture the musicians practicing putting their hands in the air at specific moments in the songs much like Kirk Hammett of Metallica does in the tuning room before he takes the stage. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess. Next, only after the crowd is softened up for an hour does the offering plate get passed around. Finally, as if seventh-graders embarrassed to be seen at Kmart with their mom, the auditorium crowd disperses quickly. Now, you might be inclined to think this is because they’re busy people, what with having to painstakingly decide how to spend all that money, but I think it’s because they know what you and I know. That it’s a lie. The whole thing. One. Big. Lie.
But if it makes you feel good and no one gets hurt, what’s the harm in doing it, right?