Saturday, February 28, 2009
Raising three boys has made be very cognizant of the concept of fairness. Each of them, over the years, has measured what they have got - be it Christmas presents, bowls of ice cream, or time with mum or dad - versus what their brother's have got. If somehow, something seems out of balance - or not 'equal' - they've been quick to point out that fact that it just isn't fair. Lisa and I played that game for a long time before we finally realized its tyranny. By attempting to be fair we reduced our relationships with the boys to being the same which, of course, they aren't.
When something isn't fair for us, its because we think we are not getting the same as someone else, the calls by the referee seem far more in the other team's favour. When we recognize unfairness on behalf of others its usually because they don't have the same as us. There have been many well intentioned protests, groups, and activities that have all worked to right the unfairness of situations or circumstance - people either wanting the same as someone else, or wanting someone else to have the same as them.
The problem is, life isn't fair. Opportunities, chances, circumstances, consequences all seem to be doled out like unequal pieces of the same pie. I know there are people that work in Hospital laundries for a living, it doesn't seem fair compared to how I make money - but there it is.
On a world scale this problem of fairness is even more acute. In the developed west, the world is tilted in our favour. Geography alone makes things unfair. We can't make the world fair, no matter how much we try. But, we do need to recognize that we have a much bigger slice of things here, and that there is a responsibility that goes a long with that.
We can also look at situations and circumstances that at first blush seem unfair - but in fact are much worse, they are unjust. Whether by Government policy, corporate greed, prejudice, or individual self interest oppression of people is happening, in our neighbourhoods, and around the world.
I get to enjoy the circumstances of an unfair world - by the consequences of where I was born. I recognize though that I am also enjoying the circumstances of an unjust world. While I don't consider myself an oppressor I potentially validate those who do from the clothes I wear, to the food I eat, to the investments I make.
I am concluding that the real responsibility that comes with living on the right side of the scale in this unfair world - is to do whatever I can, with the resources I have, to live justly, and seek justice on behalf of others.
Friday, February 27, 2009
The definition of community, for my purposes, is a group of people who find themselves connected through either choice or circumstance. Involvement in the community can be either active or passive.
I like this idea. I am all for active community involvement. In fact, its part of my personal mission statement "to build communities of interest with the goal of increasing meaning and authenticity in people's lives". But community makes me uncomfortable a lot of the time.
All communities have unwritten norms. The first is: to know and be known. Active membership demands engagement at a personal level - members want to know who I am and what I am about. Without even trying that puts me in a place of accountability, which I find pretty damn uncomfortable. Am I who I say I am?
The second norm is that communities work together based on mutual agreement. I am fine with that if it means there is mutual agreement that my ideas are best. I find it hard to give up control. I find it hard to defer.
The third norm is that communities take care of each other and share. I really love this. I do. But I find I have a limit and unfortunately my limit for caring and sharing stops short of what others may actually call caring and sharing.
So, here's a live example of me in community. I like to swim. A couple of times a week I join the community of swimmers. My greatest angst when I swim isn't my stroke, or getting tired, its being a member of a lane swimming community, having to share the water with others who don't necessarily think, or swim, the same way I do. There are ways and means to get along with each other in the water, but I immediately worry that the others in my lane don't know the 'rules'. It would be a lot to assume that everyone can , or chooses to, swim at the same speed - my speed. Invariably you have to either pass someone, or they pass you. But the stress attached to this whole exercise can drive me crazy. (and don't get me started on the back stroke!)
I wreck my own time in the water just stressing about if a) I am doing it right and b) more importantly, is everyone else in my lane doing it right. I have been known to arrive at the pool, look through the glass and see a number of swimmers in my lane and decide I can't swim that day and leave.
One day, after coping with a particularly slow breast stroker, I realized that my feelings and attitude might not be only manifest in the pool. Anytime I willfully put myself in a situation where others may do things differently than me, or may have ideas that don't line up with mine, or where there are expectations on me, I don't like it and I find it hard.
But, if I avoid those situations, like I avoid the pool, I do myself a disservice. Putting myself in community makes me a better person for the very reasons I find it hard. Knowing and being known, working together, and caring and sharing...now where are my swim goggles?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
It's a basic human desire - meaning. We want to know our life counts. "We humans are creatures who spend our lives trying to convince ourselves that our existence is not absurd" - Albert Camus. People talk about finding meaning in different places - work, family, church. We derive meaning from service. We certainly know we don't want the opposite - meaninglessness. I know when I have a sense of meaning in my life - it moves my soul. But what is meaning? Where does it come from?
I am from a Christian tradition. It offers an answer to the question: meaning is derived from a) an understanding that we have been created by a loving God, and b) through the Bible we have a guide on how to build further meaning through a personal relationship with Him.
The trouble is, my life experience challenges those ideas. I can't rest easy in those answers anymore. Frankly, the common language of faith makes less and less sense to me as my days go on.
Yet still I seek, I pursue, I yearn, and I do find meaning, deep meaning in my life and for my life. I have a very difficult time articulating it. Is it God? If so, he is manifest for me in the 'spaces in between': art, poetry, music, film, theatre, conversation, affection, nature, relationship, love - those times I feel 'fully human and fully alive'.
I don't think that meaning is the end but rather the means. My experience is that meaning fuels my life, it pushes me out the door to engage, to wonder, to try, to risk. Meaning makes me more curious. Meaning is what encourages me to be generous and give of myself.
The source of meaning may be singular or it may be plural - I don't know.
Is meaning my sense of purpose? Is it my reason for being? Is it my understanding of my own humanity and that of those around me? Is meaning me being awake to the world? I think it's all that, and probably more. Reading over this, maybe other words could be put in the place of meaning - but that word works for me. Defining what meaning is, and where it comes from, is often very elusive for me. But I do know, when it happens, it moves my soul.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Its said that 'curiosity killed the cat'. I am more inclined to think that curiosity kills the dogma. How can you be curious and have a closed mind? At one point, explorers chose to be curious about what was beyond the horizon, even though the common belief then was that the world was flat.
If I am curious I hold my resolves with an open hand. Rather than believing that I know the truth, instead my curiosity makes me a pursuer of truth. If I am curious I am open to new ideas, new thought, new people. If I am curious I am seeking to understand, to know, to learn.
Curiosity is a cornerstone attribute in children. Exploring, trying, building, creating, experimenting, learning. Yet, somehow with age, it fades. We aren't so much curious as we are certain. Over time we've decided the way things are, or aren't. Why is that? "Because I say so".
We celebrate the curious - DaVinci, Einstein, Eddison, Newton, Bell, Pasteur, etc. Art is the expression of the curious. It seems that to be curious means to want to know what's on the other side.
I want to be more curious. I want to be slow to judge, slow to decide. I want to be an explorer, an adventurer in life, a pursuer of truth. I have lots of horizons that define my universe. I would like to get in a boat and sail towards them, on the off chance that once reached, I won't fall off the end.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Blogging is in itself somewhat presumptuous. By posting, I assume that what I have to write is worth reading. I do. However, I don't believe that you have to agree with what I have written, or that what I have written is the least bit definitive. Its nothing but a start.
The idea behind Lent is that it is a time of austerity, the removal of things that may distract from the matter at hand - preparing for Christ's Passion on Good Friday, and anticipating his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Whether or not you subscribe to those Christian beliefs, you can't escape their historical, philosophical, and cultural impact - both good and bad.
If the basic premise of Lent is to encourage adherents to pay attention, or increase their focus, then that is in and of itself a good thing. We would all do well with some of that. So, as I pondered what I would do, or not do, for Lent - the idea of giving up something - especially good stuff like chocolate, or red wine, or even Facebook didn't seem like it would have its desired effect - rather the opposite, I would probably just get grumpy. So, I have taken some license with the idea and chosen instead to DO something, and that is write.
A sidebar here. I am coming to terms with the idea that I am a writer. ( Gack, even writing that down gives me the willies). The odd thing is, I don't write. In the words of a great friend " I am not obedient to my urge to create". So, in fact, to write for Lent is giving something up - my apathy, and my insecurity.
So, the writing. I have chosen 40 words, one for each day ( Lent doesn't include Sundays - a nice little loophole that). The words have all got weight for me, and are words that I have been meaning to get to understanding better, and maybe even incorporating into my life. However, they come in no particular order, or with any particular agenda. I can't even say beyond that what my plan is for each day other than to tap out at least a couple of paragraphs on my thoughts and ideas.
Once written, and hopefully read - It would be great if conversations started and new ideas were added. I am not too interested in debate and devil's advocates as I am the broadening and deepening of understanding and appreciation of the concepts and ideas as they are presented and discussed. That's not to say you can't say I am wrong, but there is little interest in engaging in intellectual jousting back and forth in the comments.
I have no idea if this will work. I may have a readership of one - me ( I really do admire my own work). We'll see.