Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sacred Emptiness Mark 16:8

"On Easter we find the tomb of God empty. To me the tomb is for Christians what the Holy of Holies is for Jews, and the Ka’aba is for Muslims: an empty space speaking to the ineffability of God. In the Abrahamic religions God cannot be imaged, so of course their sacred space should be empty of images." Rabbi Rami

Growing up in the church I always found the imagery, or lack thereof, of the empty tomb much more powerful than the ascension of Christ. I'm sure many in the early Christian community thought so as well as Mark, our earliest witness, ends his tale at 16:8 with the women fleeing from the tomb. What a way to end a story! But there is something alluring and terrifying of that sacred emptiness, and in the end we give in and fill the sacred space. Maybe it's our creative drive kicking in urging us to create an answer (i.e. a god, a gospel, a religious symbol) when we can no longer deal with the existence of a question. Maybe it's much easier dealing with something tangible than living with an empty space.

Rabbi Rami posted his new reading on Easter today: God died for his sins so that we may be free of the old images/gods which sanctioned evil. This empty space draws us in to create and terrifies us of the lack of creation. Like an exploding star, it is pregnant with endless possibilities and that infinite emptiness scares the shit out of us (pardon my french). It is no wonder that the early Christian community had to believe that the Christ had to return some day to once again save us, this time from the empty space. I admit it is too much to sit and ponder the immensity of the destruction and creation happening throughout the cosmos for billions of years. As Named things we give into the urge to Name, including naming the Unnameable, the eternal Tao. Maybe that is simply our nature(or maybe destiny?), to become in harmony with the destruction and creation of all things, to find our part in the cycle and destroy the emptiness by filling it with our presence only to one day create emptiness by our departure. Last week I pulled up the weeds in my flower bed so that next week I can fill it with flowers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Digital Fatigue

I'm not sure if "digital fatigue" is the actual term for what I'm feeling, but let's just say it's recently hit me like a ton of 01100010 01110010 01101001 01100011 01101011 01110011! My fatigue is the main reason why I haven't been blogging as much as I used to before I started working at my current job. Until now I have never worked at a job more nerve wreaking and demanding then as a customer service representative at a local call center (which will not be named). Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do not just because I get to help customers with their concerns but because the demanding environment and company expectations has driven me to excel. All of my previous jobs never demanded as much mentally either. Answering phone calls sounds like a relatively simple job except for the fact that you have to stare at a computer screen for 10 hours a day till midnight trying to calm down irate customers. At work I HAVE TO be in control of my time, words, and my systems when resolving the customers concerns. There is no off time in between calls (except for breaks, maybe), no time to simply be. I have to remain at the edge of my seat, two steps ahead of the customer and always with a smile in my voice. By the time my weekend rolls around my mind is too frazzled and exhausted to blog. I feel my blog has become more of a chore than a place of reflection which is why I've cut back to about a post a week. I want to get back to writing more meaningful reflective posts than commenting on random religious video I happen to stumble upon earlier in the week. I want to get back to what it means to participate in the universal cosmic dance, to discover my place in the interconnected tapestry we live in and share with one another. But most of all I enjoy simply being on the weekends. Sure I still have chores, yard work, and kids to tend to on my days off but these are experiences I breathe in and not tasks to be accomplished.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Aha! Moment or How My Children Saved My Soul

In the last 5 years since I began my spiritual journey I've looked back and tried to pinpoint the moment when I realized I was on a journey, that Aha! moment. That moment when you realize you've been more than curiously researching outside of your personal worldview/belief bubble. It is the moment when things began to make more sense to me and the complexity of reality itself began to sink in. My Aha! moment began with the news that my then girlfriend (now happily married going on 5 years) and I were having our first baby. Cliché as it may sound, my whole world changed that day. My thoughts began to revolve around everything from daydreaming what physical characteristics I would pass on to my children to considering changing majors (I was a junior in college studying audio engineering) to find a more reliable job. It was a tough first few years but we pushed through and now we have a house, two beautiful kids, and thankfully both of us are employed. What inspired me to look beyond my worldview bubble wasn't a "love for sin", a negative experience with Christianity, or even a "misguided" attempt to create my own religion, all three of which I've been accused of for leaving Christianity behind. No, what inspired me to leave behind title and tribute to my religious tribe was my yearning to love a completely brand new human being as unconditionally as possible. I never appreciated the interconnectedness to my fellow man until my wife and I brought our son into the world.

I took the news rather well, at first. In fact I had been mentally preparing myself for years to have children. All that preparation meant nothing, you really can't prepare yourself for such life changing news. "I'm going to have a baby", I thought to myself, "and one day they might have a baby." And that's when my mind blew a gasket.  For weeks on end all I could think about were the endless parade of descendants I will never get a chance to meet. I remember the sleepless nights where I obsessively tried to picture how they would look like, what they would do, and who they would become.  Looking back my obsession sounds silly but at the time I desperately wanted to connect with those who were yet to be. I wanted the chance to share with them all the beauties of life and also comfort them through the dark times. Why? I have no earthly idea! I simply felt it was imperative that I communicate with them somehow. I thought about leaving behind a journal, a collection of my thoughts, as a way to "speak" to them. But then I realized my obsession was turning into a desire for immortality, to be remembered long after I pass. So I decided that I should focus on being a good and loving father to my children in the here and now. I didn't know where to start, so I began by examining myself. I was 22 and I didn't have a clue who I was.

Raised in a conservative Christian home I began with the one part of myself that I knew well: my faith. Well, at least I thought I knew well until I began examining my faith. It wasn't until I began my examination that I realized I didn't really have faith at all. All I had was a collection of beliefs that were passed on from my parents. I didn't really believe them, I simply inherited them. This is not to say that I didn't believe them at one point. In my youth I had accepted Jesus into my heart and spoke to him everyday. I truly believed I was saved. I was a Christian. Now, when my family and friends hear me use the phrase "examined my faith" they jump to the conclusion that I dissected Christianity as if I were conducting an autopsy, carving away at a carcass to see what made it tick. What I really did was ask questions, A LOT of questions. Some were your basic run of the mill questions of curiosity into the history of Christianity, which were quickly answered by perusing through a few history books. But the vast majority were reflective questions that demanded more time and energy to wrestle over.  

Does God hate homosexuals? What happens to the unbelievers who never get to hear the gospel? Why is the divine portrayed as distant and separate from mankind? What IS the divine? Why is hell even necessary if God IS love? etc, etc, etc.

All I had were questions and no answers. At this point in my post any Christian reading this would be thinking, "well duh, stupid, the answers are in the Bible". And that is exactly where I first looked. But I didn't stop there because at that point I believed God (which at the time I still believed to be a supreme being) could not be contained in one book. So I read the Qur'an from cover to cover, I read parts of the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita. I read nonstop everything from comparative religious books to science fiction books with religious themes. [I have to say that Philip Jose Farmer's Jesus on Mars has to be one of my all time favorites. I highly recommend it!] I even changed my Minor from Music to Religious Studies. All my readings and reflections on religion, faith and God led me to the answer I already knew: to be a good and loving father, husband, and human being I just need to love. Simple, no? I didn't need to turn to religion to instruct me how to love my new family or my fellow man. Love is as natural as breathing, all we have to do is breathe in and breathe out, love and be loved. My children saved my soul not from hellfire but from a life devoid of love. Now don't get me wrong, I love my friends, family, and my darling wife but the love and connection one experiences when holding your newborn for the first time is so overwhelming all other relationships pale in comparison.

The main reason for today's post is inspired by the incredible news that the Mrs. and I found out last week that we are 8 months away from having baby number 3! The house is filled with excitement (especially the kids because they get a bunk bed) as we begin preparations for the new little one. The secondary reason is that I'd also like to hear from you and your Aha! moment. If you've already written one then please share the link in the comment section, and if not I encourage you to write about your story. I'd love to hear them.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Tattooed Faith Healer

I've written and read on faith healers enough to make myself nauseous, but it's one of those subjects that will always break your heart. Here is Todd Bentley in a recent interview with Lisa Ling. Note how she phrases her questions around Todd's "power".

The Indonesian woman with the "exploding tumor" is on of the craziest stories I've heard, but a quick search on Youtube reveals several crazy Todd Bentley videos. Now I don't have any beef with Pentacostals, if they believe the Holy Spirit is coursing through them while they speak in tongues and thrash violently around on the floor is fine by me. Different denominations express their faith through different practices and I have no problem with them until "preachers" like Todd Bentley start conning the weak, poor, and desperate out of their money. Take for example Lisa's interview question from the above video.

Lisa Ling: Do you think that anyone can learn how to heal?
Todd Bentley: I think you can help people to have faith to believe in healing. I think there's, you can teach people how to pray for the sick. And you know how to be more effective maybe when they do pray for the sick. Yeah, I think anybody has the ability to pray in the name of Jesus and God answers prayers.

Bentley's response demonstrates his shockingly lack of connection to his fellow man. I believe that he believes that he's doing the right thing by praying for and laying on hands on his followers, but the divine healing that Bentley dishes out is conditional: you'll be healed on the strength of your faith and if God wills it. Of course the level of medical treatment one receives at a hospital also depends on the size of your wallet but at least medicine is based on tangible research (if done properly). If Bentley wants to participate in a tangible good he should raise money to donate to foundations researching the incurable diseases he states he has cured with his "power".

Of course without Bentley and friends to remind us what craziness looks like we wouldn't be inspired to create gems like these.