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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I set out to comment on this post by Thom Ingram, and realized instead that his writing had inspired more than just a comment. I’m not going to rehash his post; just read it for yourself because it’s a beautiful mindful struggle with the meaning of life.

I haven’t studied – or even read – multiple spiritual texts as Thom has – but I have this sense that in addition to the commonalities across texts that he mentions, there is also a shared thread of being fully present in the here and now; of living compassionately and empathetically towards myself and all others. And I think that is actually based on – and counterweight to – the commonalites he does bring up – that there is more than we know or sense, that we are more than we know or sense, that so much of what we think we are apprehending is not by a long shot the last word or the ultimate reality.

For me the idea of presence and humble empathy is often embodied in the squirrels I see out my window, just a representative for me of all the small and mindless little creatures living out their seemingly ultimately pointless little animal lives. I imagine what life is like in a squirrel’s mind. I empathize with this tiny furry rodent feeling warm sunlight and wintry winds on its body, its heart racing as it scurries illogically across the street in the paths of roaring automobiles, its simpleminded squirrelly chuckling laughter from a branch high in my backyard tree directed at my outraged terrier below. I think of it feeling hunger, cold, pain, and also delight, contentment, even rodent-level joy.

In the cosmic scheme of things, I am that squirrel. Except that my kind have tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and there can be no unknowing, no returning to the simple thoughtless life of the squirrel. I – and you – live in a cosmos that is beyond even our most-exalted-of-all-species intellectual capacities, but we have this extra level of knowledge that as far as we know, no other animal possesses: we know we’re going to die, that no matter what, every one of us is housed in a body that is falling apart, destined for the dirt. And beyond that, our knowledge fails us**. It appears to be the last word on the reality of the human body, as far as we’ve been able to ascertain through the senses and mental capacities of these bodies.

So we turn to imagination, art, faith, drugs, anything mind-altering, to see if somehow we can transcend the painful reality of the knowledge we can’t unknow, this knowledge of the ultimate decay of all things. And sometimes we can, and do. But that transcendence never gives our intellect the words and ideas it needs to feel satiated.

Thom says in his post, “I want to be in this world. In the here and now. I want to be centered on this place. But it’s all an illusion.”

And that’s where I turn to my powers of squirrel empathy for a little help. Whether it is all an illusion or not, this is the world where I have found myself. It is the reality I know, and you are here too. You are, right? Because maybe if everything is an illusion, then all the people around me are an illusion too, and it doesn’t matter how I treat them or what becomes of them.

I wonder, is this why the Genesis account of the tree of knowledge treats the tree and its fruit as so dangerous? If I understand that the world I think I know to be real is merely a virtual reality created by my senses and fed into my mind, why not seek to rise above it all? Why not make myself a god, the god of my own life, the god of this reality? Why shouldn’t I pilfer the planet and its people for the things I want, since it’s all a sham and even that is ultimately all falling apart anyway?

But back to the squirrel. The humble life of the squirrel. Breathe in, breathe out. Sunshine. Wind. Fear, laughter, hunger, and joy. And then, the human, who asks why? Always why, always, but why, what for, where is all this going, what’s it all about?

I don’t think asking why is ever a problem on its own. Instead, I find it concerning when we stop asking why because we think we know it all and we’ve come up short, disappointed and disillusioned with all we know, and throw up our hands and sigh, who cares, it doesn’t matter anyway.

It’s a hard fight some days, and others it feels small, pointless and never-ending – but I keep trying to faithfully live like a humble squirrel and an inquisitive human. I don’t think the fruit of the tree of knowledge is only bitter poison. Maybe if you squeeze out the sweetest part of it, let it ferment and share it with your friends, it can bring you some joy too.

 

**Of course humans are intellectually much smarter than squirrels, making discovery upon discovery, building wizard-level technological masterpieces – but that to me is just a way more powerful version of the squirrel brain. I’m referring here to consciousness, a sense of me and my place in the world, and its most painful realization of death and decay, that we haven’t knowingly encountered in any other species.

 

Bonus material – here’s a song I wrote last year and the origin of this post’s title:

 

 

 

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This week in the Christian church season of Advent centers on love. I didn’t even think about that when I wrote this song for my dad’s birthday, which also happened to be this week (and for week 48 of #songaweek2016). But here we have it, an accidental tie-in:

The road you walk is a pulsing clock
Each day you live shapes the world
we are all making
These things are relative
and it’s love that moves them on

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

The faith you keep needn’t fear the dark
Each word you choose shapes the silence
we are all breathing
These things are relative
and it’s love that holds them together

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

Each moment we are standing
at a gracious convergence
of who we were and who we are and who we can be

The rocks you climb hardly feel you there
Each hand you hold will eventually
let go
These things are relative
and it’s love that outlives them all

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

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Be the love you wish to feel in the world.

I believe in the infinite power of love, and I also believe that I can’t just wait around for love to rise and save the world. Love will always rise again. And I can be one of many who give it legs. Even when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Especially then.

Here’s my song for week 47 of #songaweek2016. Apologies for its very rough draftiness. I wanted to finish early this past week so I could enjoy my parents’ visit for Thanksgiving (which I did!).

When the ugly words of angry men come screaming on the wind
Love’s gonna rise again
When the comfortable complacent ones keep keeping quiet
love’s gonna rise again
when you can barely believe it, keep singing anyway
love’s got to rise again
when you can’t really feel it, keep hanging on anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

out of the mud, out of the ruins
out of the rotten remains
love’s gonna rise again

when you lay her down into the ground and feel your heart stop
love’s gonna rise again
when days are dark and nights are long and cold sets in
love’s gonna rise again
when you can’t see the point, get out of bed anyway
love’s got to rise again
when all seems lost, keep reaching out anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

love paints the world in vibrant colors and sings in many voices
love’s gonna rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

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Sundays are usually tiny vacation days for me, in which I don’t check email or go on social media. So I didn’t hear the news about the Orlando shooting until I was checking email at breakfast this morning. Tears with my coffee.

The song I wrote for Week 23 of #songaweek2016 was submitted on Saturday, but I offer it here as a little lullaby in the face of the tragic news we are all processing.

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In spite of everything, I still believe . . .

Here’s my song for week 10 of #songaweek2016.

You’re the wind and

I’m the good girl

trying to keep her skirt in place

You’re the music

I’m the stoic

fighting the urge to dance

you are the light

but I’m trying to hide

You’re the bread and wine but I have to fast

you’re the question I’m afraid to ask

you’re the letting go, I can’t hold you in my grasp

but over, under, and right through everything

your still small voice still calls

You’re the road and I’m the traveler

you lay your body down

you make a way through wilderness

draw me to the next horizon

spread your spirit out

You’re the paper I’m the pen

you give me space to think

let me bleed all over you

and you wear the mess like it means something

You’re the wave and I’m the sand

I’m trying to stand firm

but you keep on changing me

 

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So the poet Rumi, the novelist Mary Shelley, the comedian Bill Maher, and the Apostle Paul all walk into a book . . .

It’s a book for, about, and by members of the Christian church, and it finds some helpful instruction in things each of these people (among others) have said or written.

The book is called Frankenchurch, and I cowrote it with my father Larry Tindall and our friend Matt Bissonette. It’s a unique conversation grown from a reading of Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein and comparisons we three see with the story of the church.

You can buy the book or download samples for iBooks and Kindle; and the book is available in print version at Blurb.

Here’s a little sample quote from the book:

Many new-to-church people are excited about life, like the newly-made Victim [the name we gave to Frankenstein’s nameless monster], and eager to create a strong and healthy church, like the young and brilliant Victor [Frankenstein himself].

And many jaded church people, including former church leaders, cannot stand the sight of the church they had a hand in creating, the church that also had a hand in creating them.

All of us church folks are both Victor and Victim.

It’s been nearly five years since we began working on this book, when I was still living in Owatonna. Matt conceived the idea, and invited my dad and me to help him with the actual writing and publishing of it. The first drafts were drawn up in my parents’ backyard garden and around their kitchen table as we three met to talk through the bones of the book itself.

I have fond memories of reading Frankenstein on my front porch swing and writing much of the content of Frankenchurch in the early morning hours before the rest of my family woke.

My dad, ever the pastor-teacher and life coach, poured his mentoring care of others into the discussion questions and revisions and additions to the text of the book; and his business acumen into learning and entering the world of self-publishing.

It’s been a true team effort, and we’re excited to finally send our monster creation out into the world!

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Here’s a solo album I recorded in 2005, that I re-released last month on Noisetrade where you can download it for free.

http://noisetrade.com/juliabloom/a-human-called-woman

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