Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thomas Merton and tequila

I have decided to start writing with capital letters because I recently had a conversation with an excellent fellow blogger and friend (http://wordshepherd.com/) that brought to light how seriously I do not take my blog entries. That might not be fair to say. I do take them seriously, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself, or else I wont post anything. The more I believe a post needs to be perfect, the less likely I am to sit down and write it. So, I try to have a somewhat careless approach. Also, I would be lying if I didn't admit that, along with the increased frequency of posting, the careless approach also helps me to avoid disappointment when a piece is not met with the enthusiasm that I had envisioned for it. Avoid a little, anyway.

My new offering to the serious blogging world is capital letters. That, and I am going to try to post more often than I do. It's good for me.

I feel better already.

Tonight, I'd like to speak to you about my life in terms of a Venn diagram.

Throughout my life, I've had the privilege of building relationships with a great variety of people. This was almost entirely due to my constantly changing educational environment: Christian, secular, private, public, boarding, tiny, big, at home, and abroad are all words that describe my education at one time or another. I don't regret this. If you ever see my mother, tell her that I said this. I think she is afraid that I hold some grudge about having been to 8 different schools before high school. I don't. It was, for the most part, fun. If being the new kid is an art, then in my prime, I was Botticelli. Except, without the naked women. That would have been inappropriate. I became pretty good at reading people, discerning what they wanted, what they valued, interpreting reactions, etc. (These skills would later serve me well in customer service-type jobs.)

What does all of this have to do whth a Venn diagram? Well, because I learned how to make the outsider-insider transition at an early age, and with all sorts of circles, I have always found myself drawn to different groups at once, able to see the merit of multiple social codes/sets of values. And right along with these many people have come ideas and interests, as varied and conflicting as the people by whom they are presented. Be it over tequila shots or a Thomas Merton piece, I have found stimulation and growth in expected and unexpected places. For the most part, this is great. I find myself with many friends and even more acquaintances.

And now you're asking yourself "Well then, what's the problem?" Of course there's a problem, or I wouldn't be writing about this. And, further more, I have yet to explain the Venn diagram connection, even though I began this last paragraph in a way that would lead one to believe that an explanation was coming. (In my defense, I thought it was.)

Here it is: I feel like the section in the middle - the oddly-shaped piece that is shared by both circles. This piece represents the common ground. That's all well and good, but what identity does that piece have beyond the fact that it holds the common elements? It has nothing of it's own, and it doesn't really belong wholly to either circle. If it went to a party in one circle, it would belong, sure, but would always stick out at least a little bit.

Like Popeye said, I am who I yam, and I don't want to change it. But, those little pieces of me that don't fit, wherever I am, the ones that always want to be somewhere else, the ones that can make dating and building strong friendships hard, the ones that I'm certain other people always notice, they sometimes make me melancholy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

playing baseball using the rules for chess

one of the most valuable pieces of insight that has ever been given to me was offered by, adorably enough, my mother. i was in high school and our family was experiencing some *ahem* relational turbulence. it was very painful. what she told me was that it was okay not to know what to say, how to feel, or what to do, because the situation in which we found ourselves was one that we were never intended to face. we weren't built to hurt one another.

since then, this pearl has continued to find it's way into my thinking and even, on occasion, out of my mouth for someone else.

i think that it's easy for people who follow a particular teaching or set of teachings to get very caught up in applying principles to situations inappropriately. and then, it's kind of like trying to play baseball using the rules for chess. it just doesn't work.

for example, many people believe that abortion is wrong, and so they blow up abortion clinics and kill doctors who perform them. woah. i don't know about you, but i'm having a hard time finding the connection between abortion being wrong and destruction and murder being right. the passion for one cause grows so large that it spills over, clouding judgement.

i will now introduce the "what now?" concept. let's say you find yourself in a situation that you don't believe you were designed to handle. there's no passage in the Bible that begins: "when your spouse leaves you..." what now? well, in the Bible, along with all of the verses about premarital sex, there are other instructions: love. grace. compassion. forgiveness. justice. it's okay to not know how to respond to situations that are upsetting, but when in doubt, apply these principles and you can't go wrong.