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I am not meant to be a machine.  A sophisticated construction pre-programmed to accomplish specific tasks efficiently yet coldly.  A machine is created to be able to operate, often times, without the direct involvement of its creator once activated.  And although machines can accomplish much and be beautiful in their design, I am not meant to be a machine.

I am meant to be an instrument.  Capable of great beauty, nuance, feeling, expression.  Capable of moving people.  Yet only when actively manipulated by the hands of a skilled artisan.  I need my Maestro.  I have the capacity for wonderful things, yet lack the ability to produce them all by myself.  I was not meant to be left alone to produce large volumes of output at high efficiency.  I was meant to be under the influence of my maker constantly.  And only when under the influence of my maker can I be what I was designed to be.  Only when being played am I what I am meant to be.

Marriage relationships require three things, the absence of any one of which will cause an imbalance that in most cases results in a failed marriage.  While there are a number of different ways of labeling/describing the three, i prefer to call them attraction, empathy, and conviction.

Attraction is the most obvious and often seems like sorta the ’cause’ of marriage.  Attraction we understand instinctively without a lot of need for definition.

Empathy is certainly emotional but it also includes the concept of feeling together.  Emotion by itself can just as easily harm marriage as help it.  But feeling that is for our partner and with our partner is an essential element of successful marriage.

Conviction is the backbone, the element that provides stability.  Both attraction and empathy tend to have cycles and waves.  Conviction (our set of beliefs about our marriage and our partner that are based on knowledge of them, ourselves, and what is important to us) provides the value system or context in which we can understand our attraction and emotion/empathy and choose to act based on knowledge and values rather than purely in response to instinct and impulse.

It is tempting to try to create a hierarchy or order of importance for these things.  Most religious traditions including Christianity in it’s more orthodox forms tend to downplay the importance of attraction and emphasize the other two.  I’m not at all convinced it is necessary or even important to decide which are most important.  I think the most important point is that all three together make for the most healthy and, frankly, enjoyable marriage relationship.

Let’s take conviction first, as it’s the one most often left out in decisions to marry someone.  What happens in most cases of a marriage with little or no conviction behind it?  This one is obvious and constantly observable in marriages all around us (or maybe i should say in divorces all around us).  If there is attraction and empathy without true conviction that this marriage is the RIGHT one for me and this person is the right one for me or, better yet, i BELONG with this person (which is a very different conviction indeed from i LIKE being with this person – which in the end is no conviction whatsoever but rather just an observation of our own emotions), this attraction and empathy will wax and wane.  And sooner or later the will to stay in the relationship during the periods of less empathy and less attraction will evaporate.  The marriage is very, very likely to fail without conviction.

What about empathy?  Certainly a marriage can last with just conviction and attraction can’t it?  I think we’ve probably all seen (and maybe do see) examples of this –  relationships with a good belief system, strong physical attraction, but little emotional content.   It is true, but quite painful, that marriages can survive in this condition for a long time.  However, no one with much sense would describe such a relationship as successful.  More like, painful and distant.  And in most cases like this, one or the other partner eventually will get to the point where the lack of empathy overwhelms the conviction and attraction put together and . . . it’s over.  Or, what is probably more common, the lack of empathy can very easily lead to an attenuation of the attraction as well (since our bodies are directly effected by our emotions).

Finally, can a marriage be healthy with just conviction and empathy with no attraction?  How to put this delicately . . . this is a healthy friendship relationship but it isn’t a healthy marriage.  With all due respect to the puritans in my spiritual heritage, why get married at all if attraction is irrelevant?  Friendship in marriage is essential, vital.   But marriage is also supposed to be more than friendship.

Healthy marriage is one-ness.  Oneness of mind, soul AND body.  Trying to take any two of those three and be one in just those areas while leaving the other element out creates an imbalance or gap in the marriage relationship and prevents it from being all it can and should be for both partners.

So, assuming you buy all of the above, what can be done if any one of the elements is weak or missing? – That will be Part 2 of this topic.

From Part 1 it should be obvious that i’m a fan of fully exercised diversity (above and beyond a lip service to the societal value of diversity).  So, what is brilliant about it?  Why did i choose the word ‘brilliance’ to describe diversity?

Well, brilliant has a couple meanings.  One is glittering or resplendent and another is displaying mental keenness or striking intelligence.  I believe rightly exercised diversity is brilliant in both senses.  It is ‘shining’ and it displays someone’s mental brilliance.  The latter of these, of course, begs the question “Whose mental brilliance?”

Well, that would need to apply to anyone who thought of the idea, but more so to whoever originated the idea.  Certainly there a lot of modern proponents of diversity, but what if we look back more than a few hundred years?  I don’t claim to know all of the people throughout history who might have proposed the value of diversity, but I do know of one who predates all modern philosophy and sociology.

The author of the biblical books of Romans, 1 Corinthians & Ephesians instructed Christians to value diversity about 2000 years ago.  This being the case, i’d like to propose that valuing diversity was God’s idea before we became ‘enlightened’ later in history.  (If you don’t buy that God is the source of the bible then either it was just Paul’s idea or some anonymous writer of these books fictitiously attributed to Paul, but still it is not just a modern idea!)

I think the passage that best illustrates my point is Ephesians 3:10.  This passage is fairly well known but usually taught out of context.  Here the author says “His [God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” Excellent so the church is supposed to display God’s wisdom – this would seem obvious to Christians already.  But what is the context?  He talks about a gospel and a mystery, and it would be easy to just assume he’s talking about the general gospel message and leave it at that.  But look more carefully at the context – what comes before and what comes after.  Especially verse 6 where he tells us straight out what the mystery is: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The mystery was that God was bringing ethnically and culturally diverse people TOGETHER through Jesus.

If that doesn’t make HOW God’s wisdom is to be displayed in the church clear enough by itself let’s put all of chapter 3 in context.  Chapter three starts off with ‘For this reason . . . ”  For what reason?  Clearly he’s building on what he just said before that which is:

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

And if this isn’t enough, what does Paul talk about in chapter 4 – the stuff that comes right after chapter 3?  He talks about unity and serving each other and diversity of talents and ministries and how God wants to use diverse people working together to make all of us stronger.

So, let’s get back to 3:10 – HOW is the church intended to demonstrate God’s wisdom?  Through it’s diversity AND unity at the same time!  Brilliant! God is wise.  But he wants to demonstrate this wisdom (at least in part) through diversity rightly and fully exercised.  The church is to be brilliant (resplendent, shining) in order to display God’s brilliance (amazing wisdom, dazzling intellect).

But this can’t happen if diverse people simply choose to live separately ‘in peace’, claiming to think diversity is important, but never actually sharing life with people who are different from themselves.  If we are to demonstrate God’s wisdom and experience all the benefits he designed we can’t just be diverse, we have to be diverse AND together.

In the budget debates this week Paul Ryan said “If you tax something more you get less of it.”

Lovely sound byte that is completely misleading when applied in the real world.  This statement is true in world with only 3 objects: stuff, taxes on stuff, and 100% rational consumers.  The problems with this should be obvious:

1) consumers are not 100% rational, and

2) there are way more factors at work in the real world equation

All that is needed is one example: roads (as a placeholder for general ‘infrastructure’).  If we don’t tax anything to keep the costs down and because of not taxing don’t build any transportation infrastructure do we get more stuff?  Absolutely not.  We get less of it WITH less taxes.

The same is true of providing for an orderly society in which commerce can run effectively (read – $ to fund military and law enforcement).  The same is true for providing protections for the stuff itself (read fire departments and drafting and enforcement of laws against theft and vandalism).

In a complex society, zero sum game theory is still possible and a valid way of analyzing some social and governmental challenges.  But only if you include all the variables.  And that is very hard to do in the real world.

Point of fact, taxes do tend to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ that people can purchase, but what we DO with the tax revenues can have a wide range of effects from further reducing production & consumption to offsetting the production/consumption limiting effects of the taxes to actually increasing production & consumption.

Harry Reid says “the Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there is nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings.”

Now apart from the amazing arrogance of the claim to be able to determine what is most important to an entire group of other human beings (I guess Harry Reid has ESP too), this sound byte is disingenuous for another less philosophical reason. If what liberal politicians really want is for women to be able to get cancer screenings that could be done NOW in a way that conservatives would sign on to in a heart beat – fund an organization that provides that service without also providing abortions. What’s more – there already are such organizations.

If this were really about cancer screenings for women, Harry Reid and conservatives would have been in agreement on this issue all along!

The real truth which he doesn’t want to say because it scores fewer political points against his political enemies is that liberal politicians want federal funding for abortions.  But it takes more guts (and a willingness to take your political lumps for what you really believe) to admit that then to claim something that is false but sensational sounding.

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