Sunday, May 25, 2014

II Job

"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.  His children gave him a long list of food, each one demanding their own specialty, and so Job spent five hours in Wal-mart, finding only two thirds of his list and at least one hour in line behind a screaming woman with three screaming children and an angry man who would repeat every five minutes, 'Would you just shut up!' at the top of his voice.  Job returned home, where his children ate up all his purchased goods and complained that he didn't buy what they really wanted.

"The sons of god all gathered to heaven to report to the Most High, and Satan also came.  God said to Satan, 'Have you noticed my servant, Job?' and Satan replied, 'Yeah, you know God, I think you've been too hard on that guy.  Why don't you give him a break?'  God said, 'You're right, there's only so much suffering one man can take.'  So God sent an angel to Job's children in their dreams, hypnotizing them into wanting only beans and rice to eat.  From that time on, Job only had to go to the local Asian store where the nice check-out woman would tell him how fine his beard looked today."

II Job 1:1-5

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Use of Words and Reverse Racism

A friend of mine recently posted an article about "reverse racism" and about how it doesn't really exist.  This is in conjunction with a number of posts about reverse racism, especially this kinda-funny, kinda uncomfortable stand up routine:

I see the points that these folks and many other people make.  Racism isn't just about prejudice and discrimination.  It's about long-term systemic abuse of a race as well, and whites just don't have that.  I get it.  But I think most people don't.  And that has to do with the dictionary.

The World dictionary defines racism as:

racism or racialism  (ˈreɪsɪzəm, ˈreɪʃəˌlɪzəm) 
— n
1.the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows
some races with an intrinsic superiority over others
2.abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief

Thus, the dictionary definition of racism has more to do with prejudice than systemic causes.  This doesn't mean that systemic racism doesn't exist.  It only means that the word "racism" doesn't convey that meaning by itself.  It also means that, if you define "racism" as only having a systemic meaning, you can say that "reverse racism" doesn't exist.  But the rest of society, that sees the word "racism" to mean "racial prejudice or discrimination" reverse racism can exist.  To deny this is to deny the common meaning of the word. 

I have to say that although it sounds petty, this subject of the use of words is very important to me.  Language is the most populist medium ever, and words are owned by the people.  The purpose of dictionaries is not to say how a word *should* be used, but how it is used.  This is why dictionaries are at the forefront of clear communication, because they explore the use of words in the world and report it back to us.

When a person says, "This is what the word really means", in opposition to a dictionary meaning, what they are doing is imposing an elitist definition upon a word that is already popularly used.  I don't think any of us have that right.  And when we insist upon our narrow definition that is not used in a popular way, then our statements are confusing to most people, and it leads to arguments.  "Racism" according to the dictionary, is not used primarily in a systemic way.  To insist that this is the "real" meaning of the word, is not to change the word, but to create confusion. When I say "popular" I don't mean just Anglos, but PoC as well.

The Oxford English Dictionary has a half million words in its volumes, and modern English has the broadest vocabulary of any language that has ever existed.  We use words in combination to create concepts that have never existed before, especially when we draw on other languages.  So we have all the tools available to us to clearly communicate what we mean.  Why change the meaning of a word that is already there, and already means something different?

For this reason, I want to advocate for the use of three terms:
-Racial prejudice
-Racial discrimination
-Systemic racism
The majority of our conservative friends don't even recognize the idea of systemic racism, because those communicating it only use the term "racism" which means "racial prejudice" to most people.  If they would say "systemic racism" instead, then people might be able to understand what was being talked about.

Again, this isn't a matter of the idea.  The idea is an important one.  It is how we communicate the idea in order to change thinking.  As long as the term "racism" is used in a narrow sense, understood to people only who have been educated in that use, then we are only speaking to the choir, and the majority of people won't understand.

Some say, "Well, they need to be educated as to what the word really means, and then they'll understand."  Actually, the word really means something already.  What some are doing is using a narrow definition of the word to be the key to enter some kind of moral or cultural "club",  and if you don't use the word the right way, then you don't belong.  But our goal should be to have EVERYONE understand systemic racism, and to realize what it's about.  To do that, we need to set aside our ownership of certain words and allow it to mean what it means to most people and to clarify what we, those who do understand, with clearer terms.

Sorry .  I've had to deal with this same issue with other terms.  I really believe that people own the language and that we have to listen to the people.  In this one area-- probably this only one-- I believe in democracy. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Internet Wins Again!

Today, the Metropolitain Museum of Art made available almost 400,000 images of classic art, which anyone can access for free, free for reposting and general use.  This means that works of meaning and beauty are available for a huge part of humanity, ready to use and to love.

This is what the internet is about.  It's not another commercial opportunity, although some use it as that.  It is an open door to a new economy without money, without limits.  This is happening more and more.  We are able to connect with others and love others and share beauty and the most important ideas ever thought, and no one has to pay any extra.

 Classic works of literature are being made available to all.

Great and popular movies available for free on youtube

Even as Facebook is not the place to post private items, the internet is becoming the place to not post things you want to make money off of.

I am so happy.

31 Questions for a Marriage

Take some time together as a couple to talk about your life as a couple.  Some of these questions are breezy, some are deep and difficult.  Have fun with each other, but take the answers seriously.  If you ask all 31 questions of each other, and answer honestly, I guarantee that your marriage will not be the same.  I don't recommend that you ask these questions all at one time.  Get some time alone with each other on a regular basis and ask one or two questions at a time.

What is the happiest moment we had together?

What do you think are our greatest strengths as a couple?  Our greatest weaknesses?

What person, apart from me, has most influenced your life?  How?

What friends would you like to hang out with more? Or less?

What one way do you think you are different since we first got together?

What is something about our sex life you’d like to tell me?

What would be your ideal living situation?

If we could spend a long weekend doing anything together, what would you like that to be?

If we could retire anywhere, do anything, what would you like that to look like?

What would you like to change about our finances?

What are your biggest fears about our relationship?

Do you think we have enough dates?  If we could spend more time together out, what would you want to do?

What are a couple ways that I could be more understanding?

What things attracted you to me before we got together?

What two or three problems, if solved, would make the most difference in our life together?

What is your favorite romantic song or movie and why?

Is love the basis of marriage?  Is commitment? Is mutual support?

How can we build our friendship up?

What is the state of your love for me?  Getting stronger?  Waning a bit?  Going through a bumpy time? 
Does your love for me feel different than it used to?  How?

At what times do you feel the most love for me?

How can I improve as your partner?

What one or two things about you do you think I don’t understand?

How can we improve our communication?

Do you feel like I listen to you enough?  How can I listen better?  At what times do you want to be listened to more?

When we argue, what is the one thing about how I argue that bugs you? 

Are there times that our disagreement should be postponed?  How can we communicate that when it happens?

What is your best memory of our time together?

What is the best way for me to encourage you? 

What do I do that best communicates my love for you?

What do you think are my three greatest strengths?

What three goals would you like us to accomplish in the next five years together?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Wedding Sermon for Jimmy and Kristyn

There is more going on here at this wedding than simple words.  This is more than a ceremony, more than a party, more than a meeting of minds.  We hear familiar words here that could be spoken in any romantic comedy, and that makes it seem less than what’s really going on here.

All around us are forces.  Our minds are forces, our spirits and our wills.  We create with these forces, and we can destroy.  But creation is the greatest, because some creations never end.  Suppose you wanted to create a table, and you put all your effort into it, fashioning it out of wood, and the fibers weave together and it is a new, firm entity—a table.  Then someone else came along and decided to destroy it.  With great effort, they took a sledgehammer and attacked the table.  It took them a half hour to destroy what took many hours, perhaps days, for you to create.   But a stranger could come by after the destruction and the tears were over and say, “Hey, someone broke a table here.” 

Even after the destruction, the idea and the fine strokes of creation remain.  They don’t disappear.
That is the work of one person.  Each person, with our wills, our imaginations and our spirits can create something powerful, something that cannot be destroyed.   We can write a book that remains in the imagination of people long after every copy is burned.  We can take a picture that keeps the image of a building a century after the building has been torn down.  We can do an act of kindness that remains longer than the life we originally touched in the hearts of those who see it.  This is the power of a single, frail, faulty human being.

But what if there are two?  What if two minds, two wills, two imaginations, two spirits join together to do one task?  What a great task that should be!  One can write a book, but two can create a manifesto.  One can climb a ladder, but two can reach greater heights.  One can rejoice, but it takes two to love.  One can paint the Sistine Chapel, but it takes two to create a world.

When two people join together, become unified on this adventure that we call a marriage, they are not just creating a new life together, they are creating a new world.  A world that never existed, that could never have been imagined, suddenly pops into existence.   It isn’t just two people, two communities, two families that are forced together into a single world.  The marriage itself is the first conception, the first offspring of the couple.  And what we see right now as a seed, a bare beginning, is not just a life together, as wonderful as that is, it is a new culture, a new tradition, a new world.  The adventure of Jimmy and Kristyn will produce not just a life, but a world that no one has ever seen before.

The best thing, I think, about love is we see a whole other person, not just bits and pieces.  And that person is complex and intricate and contradictory and often confusing, but wonderful.  And we want to explore more of that other person, and all the strangeness that it offers.  I think that this is God’s trick: love.  It is His way of tying us together to the strangest, most alien thing in the world and we love every minute.  And every moment with this opposing force changes our very being, and our love of the Other, makes us a stronger person, able to deal with every crisis because we love the strangest animal that ever existed.  And we are beginning to understand that animal.  It’s tough work, but we enjoy every minute.   That’s God’s plan to make us better people through struggle and we love that struggle.  Because we are fighting to create a new world with the object of our love.

And as we understand the object of our desire more, with their complexity, we change and so we change them.  We aren’t ourselves anymore and neither are they.  We are both different because of each other and we do things and say things and think things that no one has ever done or said or thought.  We are a new creation, and together, we are born anew.  Pretty soon, no one gets us except our other, because no one went through our experiences.

That is, until someone does.  Get us, I mean.  Until we let another into our new culture, our new world.  More than likely that’s a baby.  But it could be a friend who’s down on his luck.  Or a stranger who needs a place to crash.  Or a relative who is having a hard time.  And the longer they spend in our new world, the more they are influenced and warped by that world.  If they stay long enough, this new world encompasses them, and they are a part of it.  They may stay or they may leave,  but they will take that new culture with them.  Parts of it.

And it all begins with the simple words: I do.   To say “I do” is to simply say, “I promise” or “I will.”  To make a promise is an act of creation.  It is the beginning of a new direction and in some cases it can be the beginning of a new world.  And to have two people say “I do” to a new world is a powerful thing.
But a wedding isn’t just two people saying “I do” to a new world.  We are all here to not just recognize that these two are going on a great adventure together, creating a new culture, but we are affirming that decision, we are saying “I do” with their “I do” and setting them off on their journey.

Wait, didn’t you get to say “I do”?  I heard Jimmy and Kristyn say it… didn’t you?  Well, let’s give you a chance.  “Family and friends of Jimmy and Kristyn, and even strangers if you just happen to walk in the door, do you affirm the joining of Jimmy and Kristyn?  Do you approve of them making a new world?  Do you rejoice in their adventure in creating something that has never been seen before?”  If you approve, then say, “I do”, on the count of three:

Now think about this.  If the force of two minds is powerful… if the force of two spirits and two wills and two imaginations is powerful, what about fifty or sixty?  Jimmy and Kristyn, all of these people together affirm your life.

Only one more thing to make it amazing and mindblowing.  The God of the universe, Jimmy, when you said, I Do, so did He.  And Kristyn, when you said I do, so did God.  And you guys in the audience, when you said, I do, God said it with you.  God’s hands are around your new life, your new culture, your new world.  His Spirit is the incubator in which your new world will grow.  The spirit of Jesus will make it grow in love, in heart and in power.   From this moment, God is the Great Force that will make you guys grow together.

And what God has joined together, no human being can take apart.