Monday, January 26, 2009

The Trouble with Transparency

I'm not sure about you, but this New Year has brought with it some exciting changes and challenges in my life.  For starters, I have realized exactly how divergent my two aspects of my life have become.  I realized that what I feel in my heart had become torn from what I think with my mind.  In fact, this separation has been, probably for a good part of my life, the reason why I am viewed as passive aggressive.  I can think quickly and give nice, pat answers to things, but as a decompress that moment, my heart and mind take more time to process.  Suddenly I am faced with the interesting dilemma that what I had said or agreed to do is no longer inline with how I truly feel.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in this department or not.  One thing I know, is that I prayed from my spirit that my heart would be "true".  I've discovered now that this means an alignment of what I feel and how I act.  The trouble is that this is harder to do than it seems!  Sometimes we feel incredibly upset at someone and want to lash out at them.  Do we repress those feelings? Do we simply communicate with our lips what is overflowing in our heart?  What if we hurt people? How do we handle them?

The answer is simple.  To become transparent and live a life of integrity and authenticity.  And while the answer is simple to say or write in a blog post, the living of this simple truth is less than simple.  I want to look at transparency and how it applies to our lives in modernity.

Transparency is a term that our society will fast need to come to grips with.  As the information era progresses, and social networking venues increase, our awareness of each other is multiplied.  Each day, I get updates from good friends form my entire life, as well as cries for help from complete strangers.  I see embarrassing pictures posted and inner secrets shared through song and poetry and blog posts.  I can chat with them in real time from across the global.  I feel like I know these people better than I ever could have in real life.  Sounds like a good thing right?  Well, yes and no...

Last weekend some fellow high school classmates had a mini reunion.  I desperately wanted to go, but had already made other plans.  As I was looking through the pictures of people, I saw a few people tagged in the photos without Facebook accounts.  I friended the girl who posted the pictures and asked her if they had Facebook accounts.  I wanted to contact the one girl since we sang together in chorus and Madrigals.  But my new acquaintance informed me that she does not have a Facebook account because she is a teacher and it is frowned upon in education.

Then I take a look at so many in the younger generations that have no problem living their lives and exposing their deepest most hearts on the web in places like MySpace and Facebook.  Then parents join these social networks and freak out by the content and level of expression their children express.  Even my own wife has had this issue.  She may have a bad day, or have a deep and dark thought which she expresses through Twitter.  Inevitably, her mom (also on Twitter) will call her immediately to see if everything is alright.  The more I witness this interaction, I realize that sharing these things isn't wrong, it's just that our parents are experiencing incredible culture shock.  They have never been witness to this level of transparency.  They have never lived in a society constructed of so many glass walls.

But transparency is the key to living an authentic life of integrity.  So often, the Christian church has been seen as utter hypocrites.  Why?  Because they portray a level of perfection and polish that is most of the time a facade.  We all mess up and are all tempted.  But if we go out and have a little too much to drink and cover that up and look like the perfect church goer on Sunday, are we not a hypocrite?  Our message can only last so long when our heart and actions are not in synch with our beliefs.  Our hearts are not "true".

There are two options to resolve this conflict.  The first would be to stop drinking and live a life of perfection.  Of course we all know that this is just about impossible, if not for drinking but the countless other vices that we all work against like soaring gravity or holding back the hands of time. In fact, the bible pretty much sets us up for this failure. Well, not intentionally, but more or less clarifies the point that we will fail. The law shows us how unworthy and unrighteous we are.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- we are all professional screw-ups.

So what is the alternative?  Simple, it is to live an honest life.  That we try to do what we ought, but not hide that which we naught.  I'm not going to be ashamed of what I've done.  I laugh about it.  I don't condone certain activities.  I tell people where I have messed up and encourage them against traveling the same roads.  We are all in this life together, why can't we simply learn from each other instead of pretending that we have everything together?  I think this is the truth that the younger generation has brought to the wise.

Moving forward, I plan to speak what is in my heart and do what I say.  I have been writing poetry as an attempt to release those inner feelings at the risk of hurting or concerning others. But this is me, and if you are my friend, or if you love me, you need to love all of me.  The polished and perfected parts as well as the rough and tarnished spots.  In all, in shapes who I am as a living, breathing, organic human being and not a plastic doll of a man.  Be prepared to discover all of me, and I hope that you do the same.  Together we can share in our humanity, and learn to become better people in Christ.

Friday, January 9, 2009


It's been a while since I've written on this blog.  This is due partially to the holidays and writing on my other blog - The Deep Forest.  So, apologies to those who have been wondering where all the wonderful content has gone.  Luckily for me, there are about four of you.  So without further ado I bring you a new insight.

For a while now, my friend Fran has been contemplating some deep and philosophical stuff.  Yesterday, all of the questions that float in his head began to coalesce into a substantial outpouring of ideas.  I have to give credit where credit is due, because this blog post originates from contemplating the questions he revealed.  Take a look at the original post, although it is not required reading.

One thing Fran brought up was the notion of the consciousness, soul, identity and the meaning of life.  Yes, these are topics that have befuddled humankind for centuries.  But my friend has this amazing desire to solve these riddles and a pretty good noggin' to make it happen.  As he poured out what was rampaging in his head, he unraveled some truths that I'd like to highlight.

Life is Knowing God
This is an interesting point that he brings up about what life is exactly.  Outside of breathing, eating, and generally consuming resources, what is the measure of a man or woman? How can one say they have truly lived if they take their bodies, memories, belongs and experiences to the grave?  Through works of our hand or our offspring we live on in memory, but very rarely are we remembered as who we truly were.  Fran noted that Jesus defines eternal life as "knowing God".  There are other portions of the scripture such as 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul writes of knowing God face-to-face.

In pondering this paradigm, I came up with an answer to the good 'ol "meaning of life" question.  Are you ready for this? Here it goes...

Life is Learning to Know God
Bear with me here.  We often times wonder why life "has it out" for us.  We have this notion that things should be easier.  We blame God for bad things that happen to us and spend most of our time frustrated with politics or people problems.  But, what if life - defined from the time you are born until the time we die - is simply an incubation period in which we learn to know our Maker deeper.  As we walk through this physical reality, perhaps these forces shape and grow a soul inside of us just as our environment and upbringing shape our body and mind.  This is all for the endgame of doing what we are intended to do... commune with God.

My friend also began to split a human life into various parts.  To simplify, I believe we are comprised of four basic aspects... body, mind, soul and identity.  Fran splits things a little more granular than I do, adding consciousness and memories.  For simplicity's sake, I lump both of them under "mind".  As I evaluated each of these aspects, I realized another truth.

The Soul is the End Product
Our bodies are physical entities made of meat.  I mean, we are 70% water and a few dollars worth of chemicals.  It is a shell that allows us to exist in space and time.  With our body we are able to move around and transcend distances.  We can roam the world in three dimensions.  Thanks to the fourth dimension of time, we have a finite period of time on earth.  Without time, we would have no movement.  Our bodies exist only because of these dimensional limitations.  We would be hopelessly trapped in a bad Star Trek episode.

Our minds also dwell in this time/space matrix.  I can remember what happened yesterday and use that information to "predict" what will happen tomorrow.  I recall people's attitudes and change my actions accordingly, often times with prejudice.  I can share memories of my childhood or recall lessons learned.  In all actuality, or minds act as a way to steady our bodies in an ever changing world.  Sort of like a buffer against the harsh whirlwind of time.  If we did not have memories, consciousness or experiences... our lives would fall apart.  With our minds we remember the past and perceive the future and rarely consider the present, but they allow us to exist in time and space and not be ripped to shreds by it.

Our identity is merely a reflection of how people perceive us at any given time.  Buddahism has the notion that "you can't step in the same river twice".  In otherwords, the river is in a constant state of change.  The only reason it looks the same is because it doesn't move from it's physical boundaries.  We too are in a constant and dynamic state of change.  All of us are flying around the sun at incredible speeds.  We experience new things every day that shapes us.   Our cells are constantly dying and regenerating.  It is only a miracle of God that we retain any semblance of "sameness".  Our identity is just the lingering memory of ourselves as perceived through the eyes of others.

Souls are Precious Pearls
So what is a soul then?  A soul is the end product of the process of living.  As we traverse this physical reality on a temporal plane, relating with God and others, everything around us is changing.  We experience pleasure and pain, sun and rain, hard times and good.  Life is a chaotic, unpredictable state of messiness.  But yet, there is a part of us that stays the same.  There is a part of that we keep and that cannot be altered or taken away.  It grows inside of us but it can't be viewed on an x-ray because it is not physical or temporal.  Our soul is something special.  Our soul is a gem.

Someone asked me if I knew why pearls are different from any other precious stone in the world.  I was at a loss for a response.  They told me that pearls are different because it is the only precious stone that is birthed out of pain from a living thing which must die to give it up.  Ouch.  Think about that for a little.  Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a pearl of great price.  Why did he make such a comparison?  Why did he use a pearl in His metaphor?

I think that the soul of a man or woman is absolutely beautiful.  It is birthed from the pain and the trials in our lives.  It grows in us on top of our weaknesses with the utter desire to know God.  I've seen the beauty of this pearl in the eyes of special people in my life.  I love looking into their eyes.  I can see the hurt and I can see the painful trials, but what I see is beautiful because I know that inside, a soul is forming.  It glows in a swirling opacity of deep crying out to deep.  It is in us desperately striving to commune with other souls, and with ultimately, with God.

Death is Only the Beginning
Lastly, I understood that the soul is the end product of life.  When life ceases, the soul moves on to be with God forever.  This brings new meaning to death because it is the point when the pain ceases, and the jewel is plucked from it's containment shell and set free to be drawn to it's sole desire.

The question I have for you is... what is the desire of your soul?  Are you living your life in a way to grow that soul into a beautiful work of art that has been bought at a great price?  What will the pearl diver see when he or she peers inside?  Will you let your pearl glow to others around you?  Will it's joy dance before the Lord like the smooth finish of a perfect orb?  Will it's desire be to adorn the crown of the King of Glory?