Category Archives: God stuff

What Is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me…)

Easter, Rick and Morty, Warm Bodies, and Asgard.
Just What IS Love, anyway?

Sometimes…what you really need is for someone else to pay a horrible price.

The clip above is from a Rick and Morty episode where Summer works for an independent business owner, at what is basically a vintage thrift store, “selling” items that grant the purchaser their deepest desires, while also cursing them. Needful Things.
Oh, and the shop owner is the Devil.
The idea is that Mr. Needful (the Devil) gives you what you truly want (or maybe…what you think you truly want), but makes you pay a horrible price for it.

The store’s only function and purpose is to curse people. And Summer, all the while aware of what’s truly going on and who Mr. Needful, her employer, truly is, is fine with it. Because, according to her logic, “Fast Food gives people diabetes and clothing stores have sweat shops. Is there a company hiring teenagers that isn’t evil? This is my first job and you’ve been nice to me. You respect me.

Well at the end of the episode, Summer discovers she’s just another con, and the Devil really doesn’t care about her. So feeling used, angry, hurt, sad, taken advantage of, and with no way of getting back at the one who hurt inflicted all this upon her, she turns to her grandpa Rick for help.
And do what it takes to physically punish the one who has it coming to them.

And then others.

“Because sometimes…what you really need is for someone else to pay a horrible price.”

Now you might’ve been a little incensed at the language or steroid use-the content, but admit it: Didn’t part of you relish in the physical pummeling of those who “have it coming”?

Don’t you wish defeating your enemies could be a task so easy as beating them up?

Don’t you wish those enemies could suffer? Don’t you wish those that deserve it, could suffer?
Even just a little bit?

Well anyway, it’s Easter. And last time I wrote about a spiritual holiday, it ultimately posed the question, “What do we do when we don’t know the end of the story?” When all we have is the beginning—the unknown.
When all we have is new life.
And Easter kinda has that air of the end of life. Or…at least when you continue that theme of not knowing or understanding the whole story. The end of all you knew. All you hoped for.
The death of dreams.
The death of hope.
The death of connection.

The death of life.

And it’s a funny year, this year, to talk about death like this, because of all that’s going on in the world.
It kinda feels like death is all around us. Knocking at our door. And all we have been doing is walling ourselves off to the inevitable. Death.

We fight. We hate. We fear.
And we struggle. Struggle to survive. And hold on to any bit of power and control that we can.
All in a bid to stave off death for that much longer.

It really is like being in the start of one of those apocalypse films.

All of them have similar themes: a fight for survival, warding off death, and extreme “othering.”
I have to admit, I love a lot of those films. Be they post-apocalypse, like Mad Max: Fury Road, or vampire apocalypse, like Daybreakers, or zombie apocalypse, like Warm Bodies.
In fact, those are actually my three favorite for each category (let alone in general).

For those that don’t know, Warm Bodies is like a zombie apocalypse Romeo and Juliet story. In fact, the protagonist of the film is a zombie named “R”, because he doesn’t remember his name, who falls in love with one of the living named, “Julie.” (See how close they’re riffing?)

But Warm Bodies isn’t like other zombie films. Sure, zombies pose a threat, they are the undead, and they feast on the brains of the living. But in Warm Bodies, zombies seem to be a metaphor for how society already is. Factioned. Divided.
Othered.
And with many now who already go through life like the living dead.

In Warm Bodies, zombies exist in this limbo state. Undead, but not yet all gone. You see, it seems the only fate for the undead in Warm Bodies is to become “bonies.” When they give up. And lose all hope.
Apollumi

But there’s another reason Warm Bodies is a different type of zombie film. You see, in Warm Bodies, the undead can come alive. Or rather, the living dead, become the living life. More alive than those that aren’t zombies in the first place.
In Warm Bodies, the dead come back to life. And not in the “Night of the Living Dead” sense, where the dead come back as undead.
No.
In Warm Bodies, the zombies hearts start beating once again. They’re…born again. So to speak.

And the old paradigms that had sustained society: walled off cities, social division, fighting to survive, othering; all of it dies with death.

At the end of the film, R bleeds. And he becomes fully alive. And he isn’t the only one.
The film ends with a summary of what happens in the aftermath. R comments that from one perspective, getting shot in the chest hurts him, like a lot. But ultimately, for him, it felt good to bleed, to feel pain.
To feel love.
To feel.
And for the rest of the zombies, they all learned how to live again. R comments that for a while, it seemed like everyone had forgotten what that meant: to live.
And the cure? The cure to death, to bring life?
Connection.
R goes on to say how scary it was at first, painful even. But that every great thing starts out a little scary, and might even hurt to begin.
The final shot is of the massive dividing wall being destroyed, and collapsing.
No more walls. No more divisions. No more others.
All are one. In a new life. A new world.
A kingdom that’s conquered death.

This is how the world was…exhumed.”

Many see Easter as the beginning of this new world. Or just like how they see Christmas through the lens of Easter, they view Easter through the lens of their dogma about a Second Coming.
A Reckoning.
Justice.

“X gon’ give it to ya!”

And yet…all too often, they miss the bigger meaning.
Sometimes when you stare at something massive, you actually run the risk of oversimplification, and of missing the actual scope of it all. Seeing only half the picture.
And so for Easter, this new life, this new world, has turned into one that is to come. It’s removed, distant. A hope for some kingdom to come. A promise at the end of a long bridge.
A place far away from here, that death seemingly can never get to; never reach, never touch. There are those on the inside, and those on the outside. And each “deserves” what they get. “Those bad people? They had it coming. And now we’re safe away from them, and from death.” It provides comfort. Stability. Perhaps even an assurance that you did right, did good, and that you’re right where you should be. (Maybe that’s why we need others to suffer. It’s easier to see we’re the good guys then…)

But…when faced with the whole picture, well then it very often feels like all hope is dead. Because the place that you hoped in, that you kept thinking was someplace else. Behind walls. Protected. Safe.
Well now it’s threatened.

To discover the whole picture can feel like Death has infiltrated the Kingdom; infested the place. Corroded it.
It may even make you feel powerless.
Broken.

Death is too strong.
And it can make you feel like nothing.

…Maybe the Cross makes you feel that way.

I would imagine it did for those in history, on that day. To see Him up on the Cross, it may have felt like Death itself had taken Heaven and…sundered it in two.

Asgard is not a place, it never was.
It’s a people.
Heaven (or the Kingdom of Heaven) is not a place, it’s a people.
And because it’s not a place, anywhere could be Heaven.
This could be Heaven. This could be the Kingdom.
But it might just take you being broken to see it.
A Kingdom here. Now. A new type of Kingdom.
A Kingdom of Life.
A Kingdom of Love.

It’s not a place. It’s people. And it’s here now. All around you.
Do you witness Heaven? Or do you fear Hell?

You see, it’s not the pain which ruins you, it’s what you do to avoid the pain.
If you’re afraid only of breaking, let yourself be broken.
BREAK.
Let spirit crack you open to discover (living) water springing forth like it did for Moses. Discover yourself being forged.
Transformed.
And discover that living water. Discover life.
Which can only come from the rock (of your hardened heart) being broken, its wall destroyed, collapsing.

I titled this message, “What is Love?” And I have to admit, I’m still trying to sort out a definition that sits well with me. What I can say is that I find myself in agreement with lyricists of the past as to what love is not.
Love is not some victory march.”
It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

True love is precisely this:
Forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual.

Love is something that breaks you.
But it’s a good break. It breaks you TO LIFE.

Jesus was broken by love.
And I think on a certain level, that is what we really needed: For someone else to pay a horrible price.
Perhaps this time away from each other, isolated and alone, is a lot like being in a tomb. But there’s the other thing Easter promises:
The stone rolls away. Walls fall.
And when that happens in your life, may it lead to so much more.
Instead of looking to break others in the name of “protecting” life, be broken.

Let love break you this Easter Sunday.

Discover life. Feel your heart beat. (Perhaps even for the first time.)

And see how glorious it is to hurt in your chest.
How good it feels to hurt, to be pained, to bleed (into one another, even).
What I mean is, see how good it is to feel love.

 

Ultimately…see how glorious it is, when everything is new.

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Filed under Celebrating, Celebrations, Easter, God stuff, Holiday, Uncategorized

There Is No Secret Ingredient

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”
Viktor Frankl.

In 1946, Viktor Frankl—a Holocaust survivor and an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist—wrote his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl wrote the book over the course of nine consecutive days, with the original intention of publishing it anonymously, but upon his friends’ insistent advice, he added his name in the last minute. In the introduction to the 1992 edition, in reflecting upon the millions of copies sold in the half-century since the original publication, Frankl pointed out:
In the first place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.”

If hundreds of thousands of people are looking for an answer, the question must be one that…burns under our fingernails.
So…
What’s the secret ingredient?

Have you ever made Kool-Aid? It’s pretty straightforward, add the Kool-Aid mix to water and stir. But what makes Kool-Aid Kool-Aid, and not the generic stuff? Can you taste the difference between the two? What does that mean if you can? What does that mean if you can’t?
What makes the Kool-Aid Man, the Kool-Aid Man?

kool aid

Some of you have seen this photo circulating the internet recently. And from a philosophical standpoint, this is actually a great and simple introduction to the differences between physicalism (or materialism): that is, he’s “the jar”; spiritualism (essentialism, essence): he’s “the liquid”; or dualism: he’s both.

What about you. What are you?
Is that the same as asking, “Who are you?”

Think about yourself presently. What thought occurs? A description? Perhaps you’re thinking of your reflection in a mirror.
Is the thing that you are thinking about called “myself [yourself]” limited? That is, a limited form? Or is it boundless?
Is it stable? Or unstable?
Ordered? Or chaotic?

Is there completion? Or infinite possibility?

When you look in a mirror, is that you?

More than that, does your mirror image of “you” portray anything of the you beyond the reflection? Your thoughts, your hopes, your emotions? Do all the words you currently know do justice to describing the thing that is “you”? Or is the gap between your linguistic description of “you” and the “you” you truly are, something that seems…nontranscendable?

You see, the image in the mirror is—by necessity—far more one dimensional than the entity that beholds it (you!).

Jacques Lacan came to the conclusion that we cannot—truly, nor fully—describe us, describe ourselves; both personally and collectively. However this is not a personal failing, but an existential truth.

You are so much more than you could ever describe, or be described.

…So why are we so obsessed and consumed with figuring it all out?
Why do we need an answer?

Why does life so often just feel like one big, neverending quest for answers?

Who am I?
What’s my purpose?
What does it all mean?
Can I figure it out?
Maybe because we think that if we can find the answer, we can give it meaning.
And in turn, we ourselves can have meaning.

What if you were given a scroll and told that it contains all the answers you need to become who you are, who you’re truly meant to be. And you open it, and it’s blank. Empty.
What if you’ve spent your entire life in search of that scroll, struggled and toiled for it, suffered for it, been ridiculed for it, doubted it yourself even, and then you find it. And you open it, and it’s blank.

Empty.

There’s no answer.

What then.

Who are you then. In that moment?

Or what if it’s an answer you don’t understand?
If it were as easy as googling “the answer. To life, the universe, everything,” would you do it?

google search

But again, what if the result is an answer you don’t understand.

google search result

This of course, is a reference to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In which a species very similar to our own built a giant computer called Deep Thought, to workout the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. (Something similar to what we’re after as well.) After millions of years, Deep Thought had reached an answer. And responded with, “Alright. The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42.”

And since then, people have been figuring out just what 42 means.

One of my favorite interpretations comes from computer coders, in reference to American Standard Code for Information Interchange (or ASCII), which is that 42 is the designation for an asterisk. And an asterisk is computer code as a sort of “whatever you want it to be” symbol. A wildcard. Whatever you need it to be. It’s a fill in the blank.
Deep Thought, a giant computer, was asked what the true meaning of life, the universe, and everything is. It answered as a computer would.

Anything you want it to be.

The meaning of life is to give life meaning.

That’s a great answer. Even if you may not fully comprehend what it means.

Except…that’s NOT why Douglas Adams picked 42 as the answer to “the ultimate question.” In interviews, Adams said he was thinking of a boring number, a funny sounding, boring number, and came to “42.”
So even here, there’s no meaning. No clever reason. Just a number. A silly, ordinary number. With no hidden meaning behind it’s selection.

So WHERE is the MEANING?!
Confused travolta GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Well, for Adams, Deep Thought responds after giving “42” as THE answer by saying, “It would’ve been simpler, of course, to know what the actual question was.
What’s “the ultimate question?” IS the question.

Frankl, paraphrasing Frederick Nietzsche, said “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

I think we all too often confuse the questions “how” and “why,” or think the two are synonymous.
I disagree. I think “how” is an answer. “Why” is a question. (Perhaps even “the ultimate question.”) And I think we want answers more than questions. We want resolution rather than longing. We go through life wanting to sort out the How. This is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. One has “answers.” Like a “how-to” book.
How do I do x?
How do I “succeed”?

See, we don’t actually want meaning. We want dance steps. We want a formula. A recipe.

We want a secret ingredient that explains everything.

But just like in Kung Fu Panda, there is no secret ingredient.
It’s just you.

There is no “how.” There’s only “why.” And why is not a question anyone can answer. Why is a question you have to come to yourself.
“Hows” are very specific. But “Whys”? Why is a universal question we ask. Or at least we’re all capable of asking. Not everyone can follow a “how.” But all can ask, “why?”

If hundreds of thousands of people are looking for an answer, the question must be one that…burns under our fingernails.

Answers are everywhere. But questions? They’re only discovered inside you.
There is no secret ingredient.

It’s just you.

To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

So what do you believe in? Do you believe you exist?
WHY…are you here?

See, in Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl outlines three areas for one to find meaning in life:

– Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others.
– Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression.
– Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

All of these have a common thread: YOU. The greatest mystery of all isn’t life, the universe, and everything, it’s yourself. Or rather perhaps, the mystery of life, the universe, and everything is contained within yourself.

YOU ARE THE ULTIMATE QUESTION.

Abraham Maslow once said, “What a man can be, he must be.

So what can you be? And don’t you think it’s worth finding out? More than that, don’t you think it’s worth being?
You see, I don’t believe that most people are actually afraid of dying, or of death. Death has a sense of finality to it. It’s an end. It’s an answer.
No. Most people aren’t living and afraid of death. Most people are dead and afraid of (the) Life—for living is the death of death.

When Viktor Frankl wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning,” that wasn’t the original title. The book’s original title (in German) was “…trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen” which roughly translates to English as “…Nevertheless saying ‘Yes’ to Life”.

Nevertheless.
Saying ‘YES’ to Life.

Life, the universe, and everything is the ultimate question, the ultimate mystery, because you are the ultimate question, you are the ultimate mystery.

And you may not have an answer. Because YOU are the “why?” And you are so worth asking. You have FAR more worth than you could ever possibly imagine. And your life matters far beyond what you could ever possibly know.

Nevertheless.

Will you say ‘YES’ to Life?

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What’s Your Pacifier? (Acting Like The Child You Are)

“Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom like a child will never enter it.”

Today was a milestone for my 3 year old. She said “thank you, goodbye” to her pacifiers, and we threw them out, never to be used again; and then celebrated with ice cream.

Now—a little backstory. My daughter has been leaning a bit more heavily on her pacifiers since she was weened from breastfeeding about a year ago. Whether it’s for sleep or when she needs emotional comfort, she’d readily and confidently proclaim “I need to get my pacifier to help my body.”
And today we said goodbye to that aide.
It’s not that they were actually pointless. No, they did, in fact, help her self-sooth when she recognized she needed that.
And it’s not that she won’t require “help” for her body going forward. She most definitely will.

No.
It’s that now—as she’s growing older—it’s time to move forward and find other ways to “help her body” when she catches herself needing emotional comfort; another outlet for her to self-sooth.
(As I said, we celebrated by eating ice cream afterwards, so I’m HOPING she doesn’t jump to “I need ice cream to help my body”…)

Here’s the thing: We ALL have “pacifiers.” And they’re not bad. And they’re not wrong. And they don’t make us weak simply because we need them to “help our bodies.” I think what has happened is we’ve associated growing up with doing away with pacifiers. And maybe that’s true. But I think what it moreso comes to is that we highly value being a grown-up. It’s holds more standing in a social hierarchy.
But here’s the question I have: is getting older the same as growing up?
Or can you get older, and yet still be childlike?

See, there’s many of us who (in some form or another) experienced trauma from a young age, and were—in a sense—forced to “grow up” quickly.
Grown-up children.

And yet, equally so, there are also many of us who never got older, even though we grew up.
Immature, “childish” adults.

Amen (Hebrew for “let it be (so)”) I say, unless you are “strepho” and “ginomai” children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life attempting to pass as a grown adult.

 

Most of this stems from deeply rooted issues and a need to protect myself (re: childhood trauma). And in my life, I’ve been both a grown-up child and a childish adult.

But here’s the quandary that Jesus presents: just what does it look like to allow yourself to be changed and become a child? What’s being a child look like when you’re an adult if not one of the two options mentioned above?

What’s it mean to be “childlike”?

Now, I love Spielberg’s 1991 film, “Hook.” And I was going to tie this post in with the film, but upon re-inspection of many of the ideas presented in Hook, I’m not sure how fully behind the message I am, as I once was.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot that’s right in what the message conveys.
And so rather than get into what it gets wrong, I’m simply going to stick with the points that I think encapsulate what I’m trying to convey.

In the course of the film, Peter Banning (actually THE Peter Pan) comes to realize why he left Neverland in the first place.

And it wasn’t to grow up.

It was to become a dad.

This comes after countless interactions with his children, angry at them for being, well…children. For not being grown-ups themselves.
And further, this comes after entering the previously thought to be imaginary world of Neverland. A place designed for children to escape to and never grow up. Except Neverland isn’t a place solely for actual children.

We see adults there too. However…“All Grown-Ups are pirates.”

So who are these grown-ups that have also escaped to this imaginary world? What exactly do the pirates convey? What are they obsessed with? What do they want? Who do they follow?
What do they live for?
And what were they escaping from?

They’re not children. But they act like children. Children with “grown-up”, adult preferences, desires.
Pacifiers.

So does that qualify the pirates in Neverland as being “childlike”?

Either way, there is, nevertheless, this stark difference between Neverland, and the “real” world.
Peter left Neverland not to grow up, but to become a father. And somewhere along the way, he grew up. The “grown-ups” in Neverland, the pirates, act like children, and perhaps would do so in the “real” world as well.
Maybe that’s why they escaped the real world for Neverland.
They’re not childlike, but they’re closer to what I think Jesus is looking for and requiring than the grown-ups in the real world. Some part of them knows that the real world is less real than Neverland.

The real world is more constructed and imaginary than Neverland.

And while the pirates are childish and not childlike, as I said, I think they’re closer and more ready to accept a Kingdom of Heaven as a child than most “grown-ups” in the real world.

So again, what’s it mean to be childlike?

Does it mean never letting go of your pacifiers?
Does it mean hating vegetables?
Pretending to be a baby?

You see, we weren’t having my daughter throw away her pacifiers in a bid to get her to grow up and be more adult(like). Because I believe that vulnerability and a need for comfort isn’t a weakness. I think the thing is, pretending that you’re invulnerable, and are want for nothing, that is weakness. And yet isn’t that what we’ve characterized what being “grown-up” is? Invulnerable. Strong. Independent. Self sufficient.
No weaknesses.
No need for help.

“I don’t need the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven needs ME.”
Image result for king kong got nothing on me gif

 

My daughter is growing older. But I don’t want her to grow up. Nor my son.
Because I’ve experienced what it is to be a grown ass man.
And I much prefer being childlike.

So what does it look like for YOU to allow yourself to become childlike?

Because I believe it means being vulnerable. It means knowing you’re just a kid. That there’s still SO much to experience. SO much to learn. SO much to discover.
It means not being so concerned with self. Not being self-conscious.
Not worried.
Carefree.
Maybe even to the point of being uncouth. Brazen.

 

Ultimately, to be childlike doesn’t mean to never leave Neverland.
To be childlike is to remember Neverland. To keep Neverland locked away in your heart, and treasured.
Because while Neverland isn’t the Kingdom of Heaven, perhaps it’s a close representation of what the Kingdom is.

Throw away your pacifiers.
Only when the time comes.
But don’t ever think you’ve grown up beyond pacifiers.

Because you are not a Pirate. AND you are not a Grown-Up.

But you’re also not a Lost Child (a Lost Boy), because you’re not Lost. Even if this world tell you you are. Even if you sometimes believe it.

However…see and believe that you are still a child, nevertheless.

Image result for you are the pan gif

So act like it.
ACT LIKE A CHILD.

BANGARANG.

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