Tag Archives: The Last Dragon

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.

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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The Fellowship of the Ringos… (Ringoes? Ringo’s?): A Tale of Forming Community

If only it were as easy as those Beatles make it out to be…

Why is it that “Help” feels like another four letter word we’re not supposed to say? No matter how much and how far we’ve progressed forward, it fascinates me how we still correlate helplessness with weakness.
No, not all of us. And I’ve spoken often of how vulnerability is truly a strength. So why can we agree with that statement, but still feel the need to cover up our helplessness? Why can we agree that vulnerability is truly a strength, and still feel shame when it comes to asking for help?

Helplessness tends to speak to failure (on our part), and failure (on our part) tends to speak to worthlessness.

and [they] were naked and felt no shame…” – Genesis 2:25

It’s interesting that the verse above tends to correlate the bit about feeling shame with the bit about being naked. As if it was their nakedness that they weren’t ashamed of, until they were. As if they didn’t have any self consciousness about their nakedness. Perhaps this has to do with what happens later, when “their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Gen. 3:7)” and made clothes for themselves. And then later, Adam’s response to God as to why he was hiding: “I was afraid because I as naked; (v.10)” But it doesn’t mention shame in correlation to these verses. Simply that they “knew” they were naked.

So what if the story actually means to convey that they were naked, and also that they felt no shame? What if those two facts were separate truths?

Or what if it wasn’t their nakedness that they were trying to cover up after “their eyes were opened,” but instead it was their shame? (Maybe they were just too “young” then to understand or comprehend that that’s what they were doing.)

I think the confusion of correlation with that Genesis 2:25 verse conveys the same sort of confusion of correlation we have between helplessness and worthlessness. And so to ask for help isn’t to expose our nakedness, but expose our shame.

If you watched the music video at the start of this post, did Ringo Starr stand out to you like he did me? Sitting in the back, doing nothing productive but holding an umbrella? Constantly trying to get his face in view of the camera?
To me, Ringo was the only one in that video that truly displayed, truly manifested, the message of the song. Not hiding in the back. Put in the back. And striving to be seen. Help. I need somebody.

You ever feel like Ringo?

Personally, shame and coverups are a recurring theme in my life. Being physically and sexually assaulted on a bus in middle school, I was left with scars on my chest and torso. These were specifically done so that every time I saw the scars, I’d remember everything else that happened.
Every time I was naked and exposed, I’d see those scars.
And remember my moment(s) of utter helplessness.

And it worked.
And I did everything I could to cover up.
Not my nakedness, but my shame.
(I’ve preached a sermon on the full story years ago, so if you’d like it, click here)

Here’s what I find interesting about the close of the story of the “Fall of Mankind” in Genesis. We so often feel like it’s our fault that we’re not what we “should” be. We hear God calling and we hide. We see ourselves naked and exposed, and we cover up rather than be reminded of the truth. We don’t want to be around God because being around the Divine means that we (have the opportunity to) continually see ourselves as we (think we) are—incomplete, imperfect; inhuman.
We are the reason we’re in this helpless spot. It’s our fault. And we would rather cover up than be reminded of that shame.
But is that the story?
Is that how the close of the Genesis story of the “Fall” ends? With shame? And a nakedness and exposure that constantly serves to remind us of all that happened before?
If you’re John Edwards—or anyone that adheres to and follows the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” doctrine—you are. It’s our fault. We screwed up. God came a’lookin’ for retribution. And God WILL get the pound of flesh owed.
Except…
God didn’t leave the humans naked and exposed. Nor did God leave them to their own devices to try and continue clothing themselves.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21

It’s as if the very shame they themselves continued trying to cover up, God covered for them.

In 1985, Berry Gordy released “The Last Dragon,” a Motown karate film. It’s been one of my favorite films since childhood. The protagonist, “Bruce” Leroy Green, has been training his entire life in martial arts to reach “the final level.” To glow (both metaphorically, and, it turns out, literally) by being a Master.

The problem is, he doesn’t believe in himself. And the whole movie is a quest for him to realize that he is what he’s been seeking all along.

 

I moved to Colorado Springs to get my Masters in Divinity in the hopes of pastoring a church. Not because I knew what it’d look like to do so, but because that was the path I believed I was to follow. The path I believed was mine.

I took the long way ’round.

I got my Masters, just not in Divinity. And began teaching almost immediately at the collegiate level. And the more I did that, the more I realized how closely it resembled what I had longed to do.
Eventually, I got ordained (online), and became a Reverend. And have sense been striving to convey to everyone just how much they matter. How much worth they truly have. And to begin to form a community of those who—as I do—seek that reminder.
A “church,” if you will.

I effectively forged my own path to what I’ve been longing to do.

And yet…

It wasn’t. And isn’t. Not quite.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know that this semester I’m not teaching. Which is giving me a lot of time to think and process. What I’ve come to is this: I believe I’m being asked to willingly board that bus again from so long ago.
And I don’t know how it looks, or what it’s going to entail. But I’m willing. And I’m doing so.
And I think I’m finally ready to begin actively forming what I’ve longed to do for as long as I can remember.

So this is my call for help.

I’m asking for help.

But not just help. I’m asking for participation. The home page to this website has a call to join me in “Dreaming the Impossible Dream.” But it was never more than that. Never more than a call.
This time I’ve begun laying the groundwork.
I began a Patreon page, and this is my call to you to become a patron. Help support me, and honestly, lets form this community together.
It’s unconventional. And I still don’t know how it’ll look, or what form it’ll take. (Twitch live streams? Chats? Videos? Podcast? More writing content?) All I can say is that this is the beginning.
And I’m willing.
I’m surrendering to getting back on that bus, powerless and vulnerable, and into the unknown.

And this time, I mean it when I say this: “Will you join me?

All this time I’ve been looking and searching for that community, I’ve talked about it as if it were some far off “someday.” But it’s not. It’s “at hand.” There is one place I have not looked, and it is there, only there…
So it’s time to start.
Though…I do not know the way.

 

Will you join me? Will you help me bear this? Might I have your sword? Your bow? Your axe? Maybe just your company.
It will be…a community of those who find themselves always in the back.
It will be…

A Fellowship of the Ringos.

And let us figure out What Happens Next, TOGETHER.

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->and the world will be better for this…

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