Thursday, August 9, 2007

A thought on Community.

A few things in life has lead me to be writing about this topic, but for now let’s skip the reasons and go straight to the heart of the matter; The importance of community within our lives.
In my life I have met a few “Lone Ranger”, “Casanova” types who profess to need no one for anything and claim that they are completely self-reliant. Well, I don’t believe it. Knowing from personal experiences, personal observations, repeated/documented case after case of psychological un-health due to loneliness, not to mention the countless media attempts to explain and describe the natural human desire for companionship there is an inherent need that we all have for the presence of other people.
As an RA we are told that the community is the most important thing that we can create on our individual floors. In Church we hear about how encouraging it is that we live in a “body” or community of believers. In families we hear that no matter what happens, we’re still family. In schools there are small communities of people (sometimes not all that healthy) called cliques. Starbucks even has a company mission statement to build relationships between the Baristas and the customers. So, what is it about community, about relationships with other people that make Community such a universal goal? Why is it so important that we live, work, love, play among people; among other humans that deeply desire the presence of others?
I have been reading a book recently, one that I highly recommend, that has several personal stories about what the author, Don Miller, experiences in his life that have lead him to a faith in Christ. [The book is named “Blue like Jazz” if you’re interested.] Even outside of the context of the larger message of the book, there is a section about community. He talks about a time in his life where he was living outside the city with a friend of his. His friend was rarely around because he had a girlfriend that lived on the other side of the city. Don spent most of his time alone. He goes into how he began to make up conversations with imaginary people, even to go so far as to imagine that Emily Dickenson was alive and living in his apartment with him. After this story Don goes into why he thinks his hallucinations happened.
In Genesis, God created woman because “it is not good for man to be alone.” Obviously this is not the ONLY reason the women was created, but there is a fundamental need for all people to have other people. So, in a purely biblical take on the topic, it’s clear. It is not good for man(humans) to be alone, therefore God created others for our companionship.
In prison, one of the most severe punishments is solitary confinement. Now I might have my incarcerated-persons profile a bit off here, but it seems to me that the folks that are in prison are most likely the “Lone Ranger” go-it-alone types. So, if it would follow that these type of people really do not need the companionship of others, why would solitary confinement be any punishment at all? Wouldn’t it just be a vacation for them?
In Hollywood, Tom Hanks befriended a volleyball due to the lack of human companionship. I dare you to count the number of romantic flicks there are, or how many man-goes-crazy-in-space-from-isolation movies there are… okay maybe that’s mostly on the outer limits shows, but still! Why is that such a captivating and stressful situation if humans could survive completely alone?
Countless men and women remain in abusive relationships out of fear of loneliness, or abandonment. They stay because the possibility of being alone is worse than the reality of their abuse. If it hurts, at least they know they are alive.
People fear being alone. It’s apparent all around. Advertisements will more often than not have several people enjoying the product rather than just one. Tables in food courts are set up with two or more chairs. Airplanes seat you less than the “comfortable public distance” away from two complete strangers. Park benches are designed for more than one butt. Apartments are all clumped together as if you were living in a bee hive. You go to your local, community grocery store. It’s likely that you know the name of at least one of your bank tellers. Even in a society that professes to thrive on individualism and solidarity, the overtones of community and companionship are everywhere.
Yeah, yeah, we get it… right? So why do I bring this up if it’s seems so apparent that people NEED people?
Why do people still believe that they are an island? Why are there Casanovas? – no this is not a ploy for communism or anything like that – this is a simple observation that despite our grave desire to be around people, there is a wall, a boundary keeping us from what it is that we desire most.
Now I feel that I need to clarify, that this desire is for people and companionship in general, to be known by a group of people. There are other desires for romantic and spiritual connections as well; both equally important (spiritual might be more important, but that’s another blog in itself) but what I am referring to is how we interact with others at large.
We learn from people. It’s said that up to 80% of who we are is learned from those we are around between the time of birth until we are dead. Why is it that the school cliques look the same, talk the same, use the same verbal patterns, gesture similarly, laugh at the same jokes, and everything else that makes them a clique? We learn our behavior from those around us. This is why parents and guardians are so concerned with who their child is gallivanting about with. The influences in our lives are pivotal to our personal and social development.
If it’s true that the full 80% of our personalities and values are learned from those around us, the other 20% is what we are left with in solitary confinement, or on the beach with the volleyball. Now I’m a bit rusty on my rehabilitation theory, but from what I can recall, when people have been alone for long periods of time, there is a process of re-socialization that must occur before they can fully operate in the busy world that we live in. The length of re-socialization therapy is adjusted depending on the length of time that they were isolated. In some cases people are hallucinogenic at the time of their re-entry into society and may become violent, or paranoid, or any other variation of traumatic mental instability.
Ok, so that is the worst case scenario. You are isolated and become diagnoseably crazy from the experience. Fortunately, these are rare cases. Unfortunately, there are many people that live in isolation that are not diagnosable as crazy, but who still suffer the debilitating effects of loneliness. Depression, lethargy, crankiness, in some cases eating disorders, social anxiety, even divergent personality disorders.
It is my opinion that isolationistic tendencies are only re-enforced by the society that we life in. Despite the community nature of many things in this culture, there is so much lip-service to individualism that those who desire companionship believe that they are also admitting a weakness by calling out for it. The “do it yourself,” “God helps them who help themselves” “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” cliché party lines become the theme for further isolation of those who need community the most. The power of these words forces the shy, depressed and socially awkward further away from the society that they so wholly desire to interact with.
Unfortunately, the flip side to the party line is that those that are involved with the community seem to feel a barrier keeping them from reaching out to those that are watching community happen without them. The individualism line says that it’s offensive to offer help to those that want to do it alone. And because those that are alone can’t ask for help because it’s a sign of weakness, they don’t ask for help, to be brought into a group, to say that they are lonely. And because they don’t ask/tell, it’s assumed that they want it that way. Therefore, those in community leave them to their isolation.
Now I must comment that sometimes the lack of out-reach is not merely due to a lack of an out-cry, but sadly in many cases it’s because reaching out quite frankly, is uncomfortable. People get their 80% all figured out, and they don’t want it to change, so they stay in their comfort-zones surrounded by all the same people, doing all the same things, singing all the same songs, wearing all the same clothes… this is the point that cliques become unhealthy.
All in all, there is a cycle happening in this society. This cycle keeps the in-crowd in, and the out-crowd out. It encourages the formation of cliques, sects, exclusive groups and elitist clubs. There are ways to break the cycle, but it means one of two things. 1) an in-crowd person reaching to the outside and rocking the boat. Or 2) someone outside calling out for help, with the chance that those on the inside won’t respond out of fear. (this branches into the topic of fear of rejection that is even more convoluted and skews the lines of individualism vs. community… so I won’t go there now.)
It’s really a terrible plight. And there is not much that I personally can do about it, besides talk about it to bring awareness to the situation, and make sure that I’m reaching out to as many people as I can. But in reality, the power rests in the hands of those who think they have none, those on the fritz due to loneliness and depression. Step up, join something, put yourself out there.
I’m calling you out!
Come/go out, and do something with some people. Find something that you’re passionate about, then start doing it. You’ll find others who are passionate about it too. And then, you’ve found a community. Plug in, get connected, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You have more to gain from humility, but more to lose from pride.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A thought about forgiveness.

it seems that each of us have someone to forgive in life. it may be a significant other, it may be a parent it might be a friend or even a stranger. But the thing that i have been pondering for months now, is when is it justified to not forgive someone?

would it be alright to not forgive someone if they themselves were not sorry about the hurtful comment or actions? well, lets first ask why are these people not sorry (repentant if you will)?

is it because they are malicious and intended to harm you? in this case it makes sense to me that your unforgiveness and eventual hatred of this person was the goal of the interaction. in some sick way, the person who tried to harm you is rewarded by being given so much power over you that you would continue to brew on the topic after the harmful event is long over. [now it is understandable that in extreme situations such as assault or other forms of victimization, there are situations where forgiveness is not as easy as i am suggesting. in these situations the forgiver must have another means of help to allow for the forgiveness of their assailant. - but more on this later] Therefore, if the intention of the incident was to breed continued contempt within your heart, by not forgiving... they still win. they hurt you and are continuing to hurt your future. - more on the state of an unforgiving person later -

Now if the incident that caused you harm was unknown to the one who caused it, then unforgiveness in this situation is also unacceptable. If the assailant has no opportunity to feel remorse about their actions they are being held accountable for things they are unaware of. This is not to say that people should not be held accountable for their actions, but rather that people should be informed of the affects of their actions such that they have the chance to alter future interactions with other human beings. Therefore if you are unwilling (or unable) to tell this person what the affects of their actions were, and you are also unwilling to forgive them for their lack of repentance. here lies a catch 22. they cannot be sorry for something they do not know about. and if the unforgiving is unwilling to share the harm done, the situation will not be given the appropriate illumination for the ignorant assailant to be sorry.

Now for the unforgiving person. it seems to me that when i have been in a place on unforgiveness that the bitterness and harbored agitation that is supposedly focused on this one person over this one issue becomes an increased agitation over all other areas of my life. for instance, say that i'm upset at someone that mugged me and took all my stuff. in being angry with that person, i them become agitated that some person cut into my lane a bit closer to my car than i would have preferred. or that a punk kid cut in line at the movie snack counter. or perhaps that my significant other can't help but leave their wet towel in the middle of the floor which you pick up and then walk around on the wet-spot all day while washing their dirty cloths. (that doesn't sound familiar, does it?) I believe that the state of the unforgiving person is really a state of masochism, of self mutilation of your own soul. only you have the power to let things go, and free yourself from being so bogged down with your own anger and preoccupation about other people's actions. by not forgiving others you impair your ability to forgive even yourself. and in a world where there has only been one perfect creature (Jesus Christ) the thought of not being able to forgive yourself for not being everything you expect from yourself is paralyzing! you are angry at every one else for not living up to your standards of how other human beings should live alongside one another. but deep down you are infuriated with yourself because you fail your own standards every day. you didn't get up early enough, you didn't make it to the gym, you had too many sodas, you didn't have time to make a better dinner, you don't know what's going on in your kid's life, you didn't show kindness to the store clerk.... the list could go on forever!
the funny thing is that while raising our standards to that of Christ by fully submitting and following HIM, we are actually liberating ourselves from our own failed standards. Now i know, why would making our standards higher make us any less of a failure? well, honestly, it doesn't. but God is a Gracious God. His Grace is Sufficient for all who choose to accept it. Accepting Grace is a hard thing for people. especially those of us who expect so much from ourselves and those around us. or maybe there has been so many harbored emotions of doubt and disappointment in others, you have no standard for them... only that they will let you down. and admittedly, someone somewhere will always let you down. that's why the prospect of having someone so dependable and reliable that He will NEVER fail you so unbelievable. but there is someone, but not just a someone, your creator. someone who knows how terrible you think you are, and how terrible you really are, but also how incredible, how compassionate, how loving, how inspired you are to be dependable, reliable, loving, caring, and all of those things that we try to express through working hard to provide for your family, of being involved with community activities. He knows the best and the worst... and you know what.... he still wants to call you HIS, he's proud of you. he longs for you to be free from the burdens of unforgiveness. free to love yourself enough to really love others. but most of all, to not be ashamed to love, and associate with perfection; Christ.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Thoughts and Ponderings

I know that God has been telling me this past week that the things that I am dealing with are between me and God alone. And so there is an automatic detachment to what is being said, but the things that are floating around are not wholly off either. Job 18: 2&3 come to mind. But I’m not sure if I need to be silent and listen or if it is that others need to stop their chatter… I’m not sure yet.
The other thing that comes to mind is Job 19 1-10. I feel that God has broken me, and in my brokenness I am continually judged and nit-picked. Granted this may just be the timing of the feedback requested of letters from months ago. But either way, my issues are with God alone.
As far as the other portions of these responses, Job 13:2-3. I know these things and it frightens me as well. It’s not that I am blindly perusing things with ignorance of what I am capable of. I have been burned, and in some disgusting way I have inherited some of the traits that were so harmful to me. I DON’T know why! I hate it. I need to be given the forgiveness by God and the grace of my fellow believers to understand that I AM broken. I have been in a place of Job 15:11-13, not even so far ago! But I have been broken, my life my plans have been taken from me. Job 16:7 “Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household. 8 You have bound me—and it has become a witness; my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.” So my past betrays me, I am bound to my weakness. To be humbled by the sins of my past. I know that I am nothing without the grace that is sufficient for me. 2 Corinthians 12:9. However, even in that grace I am still wanting. I am as in Job 15: 14-16, I am still wicked and in need of a savior. (I can address individual concerns/fights if need be)
So yes. I know that I’m terrible. I know that I’m lacking in the Faith Department but who are men to judge my heart? What can they see that I do not show them? Besides what God Himself has shown to them, they see only what I give up. In my brokenness I feel that I have been open, bare, helpless laying huddled in the corner while I’m being told I’m not good… I KNOW I’m not good. No one is good in their own right. The powers of this world have taken it by force, and well we live here, we are NOT islands we are NOT invincible! I too am not “good” according to the Word. but Job 16:19-21
I want to use Job 15:4, but where? Somewhat in conjunction with Job 16:2-5. Still I don’t know how it is meant to be used, because there is not need to rebuke the air. It would be a Job 15:3.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The eye of the storm are where things are still

In the past I have been VERY uncomfortable with the unknown, and change. I'm not talking slightly or even disturbingly uncomfortable. It’s more the discomfort that comes from doing far too much physical activity in one day, and later on you are unmistakably discontent with the state of your body. It aches and is sore. There are shooting pains that twist your face around when you’re trying to climb stars, or sometimes even pick up your book bag. All that to say that change and the confusion that seems to make me think my life is out of my control, were definitely NOT my friends. Admittedly I’ve been a control freak about a few things in life. (ie: making my bed, class notes, and at times even my CD collection) All of these things matter the most when I don’t think that I have a grasp on what is happening in life, or what direction it is taking.

I realized this week that I have NO IDEA what is going on in my life/future. I don’t know where I will be after May 17th, I have no idea if I will make it into graduate school, I don’t know if I will be single or in a relationship 2 weeks from now, and I don’t have any idea what God is trying to do in my life. God always has something going on, so I know that there is always an element of His plan within my own (mostly because he knows me well enough to know that I’ll just make plans then ask Him about them later, or at least that’s me pattern) But in spite of all of the uncertainty, complications and change, I’m not going OCD on how I’m making my bed, or how I arrange my books; my room isn’t even remotely clean. I guess all of this is to say that even when the control that I thought I had on my life is basically non-existent at the moment, I am still at peace. Now for me, THIS is a peace that passes all of my understanding. At any other point in time in my life, I would undoubtedly be FREAKING OUT. Maybe I can chalk it up to being sleep deprived, or senior-itus, or maybe even the lack of crazy hormones from dorm food; but the fact still remains that God is doing something and this time around I’m willing to sit back and see where things go.

One thing that I have been being taught lately is that God’s plan is far better and more satisfying than any plan that I could muster. Even the most outlandish fairytale that my dreams can produce is pale in comparison with the promises that God has given His children, His Bride. Does this stop me from planning… anyone who knows me at all would chuckle at the idea of me NOT planning out something or another. I am learning to be still and watch what God has in store. It’s almost like the Mary Poppins bag that keeps yielding things that you would never imagine a bag that size to yield. Wait on the Lord and He will renew your strength. This season, I need so desperately to, and am learning how to wait.

So how can I go from wanting changes to waiting? I see these things as compatible in one way. When we wait, God changes things, and when God changes things bigger things are moved than if I alone were to attempt to move a mountain.

Wait, watch, listen.
Anticipate the change that comes when God is in involved.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Maybe I'm a Revolutionary

So, there are some things that require slow incremental changes in order to secure a social and cultural atmosphere of acceptance to the new ideas. This is the case with political science, academic modifications to curriculum and even the shifts within the church... except a few notable moments of total upheaval and modification. And as a person who wants a change in one of these areas, when is the progress of incremental change too tedious? Say that you have a fantastic idea of how to teach a class about world politics. You want to have geography, current events, comparative politics, history and a bit of anthropological culture studies in there, but right now you only have history and comparative politics. So you have the end in mind and the people that you are working with the make the changes are not allowing big enough changes so that you can even see that there is any difference! So they add a Geography quiz requirement to the politics class, and add a book on ancient art in the history classes, but they aren't giving you the big picture. You can't say that there has been NO change, they are giving you some say and accepting a few of your prods, but when are the mediocre scraps of changes enough?!! Will it be enough, or will you fly off the deep end and create your own damn program with all the things that you want already in it.
When is the minimum to get by not going to get them by any longer?
So maybe I'm a revolutionary because little by little is good and shows progress, but how long do people need to wait before all the little baby blocks make for a good enough foundation to JUMP!
It is my theory that there should be smaller steps in the beginning, but there is a point when all of those steps will create a situation that will make the past incompatible with the baby steps that were just taken. So one can chose to return to their former comfort of the old way, or jump with both feet into something that they have seen as worth been building for themselves.
I'm tired of only getting baby steps. It's time for action, and it's time NOW.

Granted life seems to make itself the most complicated when it is time to jump, and so you just stand there. Like if you were on top of the pole and some silly ropes course... it's time to jump, but you cant just yet. You have a hand full of people back on the ground telling you that you will be fine and that you will make it, and that you need to jump. And sometimes you can't even hear them because as you stand on the brink of something so big, (or at least when I do) all those voices are good to know, but they fade away. I need to know that I'm ready and that I can make it, it's not good enough that they know I can make it... because I need to know.

So you are at the top,

Is it your time yet?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

the First of many

The first of many blogs, stories, challenges, secrets, hopes, disappointments, hurts, holidays, birthdays, school days, Wednesdays and years to come. Granted not all of those will show up here, but there is a good number of then that might. First off, I blog for me. sure there may be a few updates here and there for the general readership, but more often than not i write because there is something to be said and instead of keeping myself up late thinking about it over and over i'll write it down and get it out of my head.

Today i will be trying to decide if i should still like my birthday.
It was this last Sunday.. the 11th in fact.
This year, i worked, saw a movie ate with my folks and began to think of breaking off my 2.5 year relationship with the boy. I suppose that it wasn't that bad of a birth -DAY but the weekend before kinda sucked too. I had received 2 birthday cards by the eve of my birthday, one of which was merely a venue for my grandmother to tell me with three different notes within the birthday card that i never talk to her, and that it makes her upset. The other was a legitimate Happy Bitrthday card. My folks had talked to me that day (the 10th) and had not said a word about my birthday or that they wanted to see me for it, they only talked about how much money i'm usurping with college and what i need to help with for my sister's wedding. [ok so don't take me wrong here, weddings are a big deal, and deserve attention... but, it's the day before my day and not a word about ... hey you were Born 22 years ago tomorrow!] AND i had worked the 10th too and was not too thrilled about getting up at 530 again on my birthday.
So the day of i worked, stopped some old crabs from fighting over the fact that one person decided to wear pajamas to the lounge. [i'm a concierge at a hotel in Fort Collins.... not exactly the most upper-class vacation spot, so i think it's unrealistic to be offended by pajamas] The PJs that this younger guy was wearing were grandpa flannel jammies, Not exactly scandalise!
Anyway, so i break up a fight, talk to the boy who is long distance at this point, go to a movie -Pans Labyrinth ... it's good but the scary scenes were not so much.. i mean needing to put your hands to your head for eyes... i mean really! - Got a call from my folks saying they were coming up to see me, cleaned my room and went to dinner. So not super different from other days of the year. and maybe now that i'm 22 that's how things will be for the rest of my life.
i hope not.
In years past, things haven't exactly turned out my way.
I never had a sweet 16 party because i was grounded. (i had, and still do have, a knack for being grumpy around my birthday because i figure that it will turn out like it always does and so because i'm grumpy i used to get in trouble for it.)
I did have a 17th birthday party but i had just moved schools so the new friends didn't know me well enough and the old ones i guess didn't remember me well enough to actually come, so it was like 8 of us when i think i invited more than 20.
My 18th was the year the my dad told me that i couldn't go to the prom. (i still don't know why)
My 19th, my love interest' mother died.
My 20th was good because i learned how to ski, but it was a big trip so no one remembered that it was during the trip. But i did get a happy birthday kiss from the boy on the top of the mountain, that was nice.
My 21st me and that boy broke up but he and one obscure friend from high school were the only 2 people to go out to the bars with me on my 21st!
and now we are at my 22nd and me and that boy are on the rocks again and well i had to work!
So it looks like i have one good birthday about every three.... so i guess next year's should be great! or at least not terrible!
Now the funny think is that i still like my birthday! i want it to be special and happy and fun, like the all day events that were the case when you turned 8 or 10... you know the younger years when parents believe that making a fuss is a great idea, then by the time they have made a fuss for 17 years, they figure it's just another day like it is when you are between (in my case) the ages of 18 and 64. After that people just celebrate the fact that you are still alive!
So i like my birthday, but it seems that i might be having a hard time with it in the future seeing as though i have about 42 more shitty ones to go before i get the good ones.

* Total side note, i really don't like that the space when you are typing doesn't show up until you have another character after it. . . it really freaks me out.

Arhg! and the enter button too!!!
ok that's too weird, i have to get to bed.