Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Speed Bump Question - Chapter 6 - The Longing Way Home

I’m beginning to come to terms with the truth that as we age, we get slower which means that I’m several times slower than I used to be. I know that’s a lame excuse for length of time between posts of chapters of my blog-book, if in fact you’ve noticed. However, I do hope you haven’t stopped following my blog-book and I do know it’s hard to keep up interest over the intervals. So, once again, as a partial antidote to the problem, I’ve decided to post whatever I write as I write it. My intention is to include you in the process and maybe stimulate you to offer comments or questions or suggestions to consider as I write rather than just afterward.

Also, it’s been suggested to me, and I agree, that since the length of the posts of my blog book are much longer than are typical, the easiest way to read mine is to copy the blog version and then paste the copy on whatever your computer version of Word Perfect might be, make the necessary adjustment of print size and then print the copy to read at your own pace. Try it and let me know if it works. Blessings always, Ted

FIRST SPEED BUMP QUESTION - Chapter Six - The Longing Way Home

I’m not sure how to focus the various thoughts that have been tromping around in my mind in recent weeks (June-November 2011). As probably you have, I’ve trying to sort through and understand what’s going on in our country these days. Most of it is summed up by the nasty hassle of the debt ceiling negotiations of political ideologues butting heads like mountain goat’s over rutting rights. And that narrow-mindedness seems to be a growing trend as the 2012 election begins to heat up.

The urgent question is, “How do we track and respond to what’s going on, here?” To answer, begin with what Bill Moyers said about it: “This is the most dangerous moment in American history. Either we’re going to be a nation of, by and for the people, or of, by and for corporations.” (1)

If that sounds too simplistic, too dire or exaggerated, I would still contend that Moyers is very close to the truth about a complex issue. Add to his warning something James Surowieck wrote about the situation: “You might think that there are benefits to putting negotiators under the gun. But, as the Dutch psychologist Carsten de Dreu has shown, time pressure tends to close minds, not open them. Under time pressure. negotiators tend to rely more on stereotypes and cognitive shortcuts. They don’t consider as wide a range of alternatives, and are more likely to jump to conclusions based on scanty evidence. Time pressure also reduces the chance that an agreement will be what psychologists call ‘integrative’ -- taking everyone’s interests and values into account.” (2)

If de Dreu’s insights applied only to the political negotiators and processes, they’d be interesting but limited. But the truth is de Dreu makes two constructively relevant points about us all: 1- The effects of time pressure on our thinking and deciding; 2- That pressure, among other factors, generates outcomes that are not “integrative." Both points relate to Moyers statement. No one can really hold that what’s going on in our nation takes “everyone’s interests and values into account.”

For the most part, the same holds true for what’s going on in our own lives. Most of us collude in generating none-integrative outcomes by the frenetic pace that whips us into non-integrative lives bouncing to the jig of a thousand enticements or the rap of incessant anxieties which drowned out the soft hum of our deepest longing.

Equally, if not more serious, is that non-integrative outcomes do not address the lives and needs of those in the shadows of our society -- the poor, the sick, the aged, the homeless, poor and middle class children, yea, the middle class as a whole --people who are under stress. Not only are too many of us more economically marginalized but we're spiritually shriveling to "non-integrative” obsessive self-interest parties rather than those having “integrative” consideration of the interests of others as well as their own. Increasingly it seems people are buying into the deceit and intransigence of politicians and corporations without realizing that by doing so, they are going against their own and their neighbors true interests. Add the effects of the non-integrative outcomes of our stereotypes and cognitive (and spiritual) shortcuts on millions of poverty stricken people around the world and where does that leave us?

I contend it leaves us in the company of the lawyer and the man beaten by thieves and left half-dead on the road to Jericho in the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke's Gospel. It goes like this, remember? The lawyer steps out from the crowd and asks Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In turn, Jesus asks him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” The lawyer answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ... soul ... strength ... and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells him, “You have answered right; do this and you will live.” According to Luke, the lawyer, “to justify himself,” then asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds to the question with the parable.*(Luke 10:25-27)

In the parable, Jesus makes it clear that our neighbors definitely include not just our close, comfortable friends but those strange, chancy ones in need, like the beaten person by the road who others passed by in their haste to do whatever things they considered more important. To really emphasize how widely inclusive the circle of neighbors is, Jesus makes a Samaritan the prime example of what is means to love them. Remember, Israelites considered Samaritans to be unclean, outcasts, religious heretics, and enemies of the Jewish people. To use such a one as an example of a merciful, loving neighbor, and a destitute, write-off, beaten man as a neighbor to love, was a radical view.

But I think that in his parable Jesus gives two additional messages. One is that it's possible, even probable, that the lawyer’s first question,“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?,” is not just to set a trap to embarrass or expose Jesus as a heretic, but that his question actually expresses something of the lawyer’s human longing, a longing we all share. If so, that adds a broader more inclusive dimension to the exchange, namely, that Jesus is inviting the lawyer to realize he is also a needy neighbor like the beaten man on the Jericho Road, as well as an unloving neighbor who, like the priest and Levite, ignores and walks past the beaten one.

That indicates that the lawyer's problem isn't just his hypocrisy and indifference; it's also his refusal to identify with the beaten man and thus to recognize the flicker of longing in his first question as a key to his real identity. You see, if Jesus’ parable is taken as a vignette of the human situation at large, then we, like the lawyer, are called not only to love our neighbor as he Samaritan did, but to realize we are a neighbor who has a deep longing for abiding love, and so need other neighbors to love us and help us love them and all other neighbors. That means we should see ourselves as part of the human network of neighbors. And yet, most of us know how hard it is do to that, don't we?

The second message is that the Samaritan is a neighbor, too. He is the neighbor who loves and is an example of what it means to love God, and so, to love another neighbor as himself. So the rest of the message of the parable is not just that by his actions the Samaritan is a neighbor who loves, but is also a neighbor to be loved -- and is, at least by himself in attending to the summons of his longing. Think about that. Isn’t that what it means to love your neighbor as yourself? As a Samaritan man, he knows what it is to be despised and rejected emotionally and spiritual. That is another version of being “beaten” in a way we all experience one way or another. So, the Samaritan also longs to be loved just as he loves the other “beaten man” on the Road to Jericho, and by responding to his longing for that, he is loving himself in the process. That kind of loving reflects the first part of the commandment, or invitation, to love God with all your heart in response to God loving you with all his/her heart. To love your self in that way is what it is to begin trusting the grace of God.

At its depths, the parable is “good news’ but also it is demanding news, not exactly the kind you'd expect if you think Jesus is essentially "gentle, meek and mild." That's makes it sharply relevant to us and the present social, political scene. For the most part, what we heard during the recent national debt crisis haggle, and since, was and is spouted not only by arrogant politicians and self-declared presidential candidates, but also by temper-tantrum voters, probably including many of us. It consists mostly of stereotypes and cognitive shortcuts. Not many, certainly not enough, advocate for the range of alternatives that justice, compassion and innovation require.

Ergo, the “solution” and its fallout puts most of the burden on the 80% of our society who are the shrinking middle-class and the poor, old, sick, leaving the upper 15% doing increasingly well, 5% of them being billionaires many times over. The “debate” seems less about ideas and trying to solve problems in an integrative and just way than it is about ideologies and grabbing power. How many times does the Good Samaritan parable have to be repeated before we all get it?

But the issue cuts an even wider swath we might first suppose. Though there are many Good Samaritans in our society, thank God, (and surely many of us are among them) and though we certainly need as many more as will step up, the critical challenge is to try to prevent as many victims as we can. The challenge is to try to change the unjust, non-integrative choices and conditions that leave so many “beaten” people tossed aside on our contemporary versions of the Jericho Road we’re all racing on.

That is a hard, complicated, long term challenge. But it’s an unavoidable one if - if - we are to be who we claim we are and want to be, and really are, namely neighbors to love and be loved by, others rather than just being individuals hastily pursuing supposedly "more important things.” I believe this public aspect of the parable is also an essential part of what Jesus is conveying when he has the Samaritan not only rescue the beaten man but transport him to an inn and pay for his care. As I see it,by doing that, Jesus expands the context of being a Good Samaritan from just the personal to the public.

So back to psychologist de Due’s finding that “ … time pressure tends to close minds, not open them. Under time pressure. negotiators tend to rely more on stereotypes and cognitive shortcuts. They don’t consider as wide a range of alternatives … “ Our inclination is to blame others for what’s happening around us, and often to us, but that just doesn’t wash. It disguises both our own accountability for our personal and communal actions as well as our own need and deep longing for true community and meaning.

The truth is many, if not most, of our time pressures are self-imposed and we’re typically inclined to argue they are justifiably necessary, just as the priest and Levite would argue as they hurried past the half-dead man by the side of the Jericho Road. For example, a large majority of us, 87%, are angry at and blame congress and the President for the crises in our country. But only 37% of us voted in the 2010 elections which resulted in the present make-up of that non-integrative congress. How many of us were in the 63 % who didn't vote? How many of us worked for candidates who most closely represented our values? How many of us support organizations who work to change the way big money influences elections?

If this all sounds too politically biased or too concerned with political issues, I do not intend it to be that. What I am trying to lift up is the painful truth that our political hassle and economic squeeze mirrors much of human history as well as our own lives. Isn’t part of that hassle what a large portion of our time pressure is about? Another name for it is the rat race. It’s a dehumanizing race because its first consequence is to misdirect our deepest human longing by promoting lies about what we really long for as well as what really makes us most human.

So, the first speed bump question about the “rat race" is, "Says Who?" Whose voice is our authority? On what basis do we make choices? Amid the din of the day or in quiet times afterward, who guides, challenges, nurtures us, troubles or assures us? To whom or what do we feel or think we’re eventually accountable? It is worth noting, for example, that each gospel records Jesus as having authority. *(Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32 - RSV)

We all have personal beliefs or values we say we try to live by. Yet, those beliefs and values fade under the pressure of time and busy-ness. We make critical choices without realizing that’s what we’re doing. We end up thoughtlessly conforming to society’s hustle and hustlers promoting the market of things to pursue, possess, consume, entertain and the competition for status, money, power. Even as our life styles are already much higher than most of the rest of the world, so are the expectations they engender. We become uncritically loyal to our habitual social/cultural processes, traditions, groups, churches, political parties, institutions, economic systems, our beloved nation, even when they may be functioning in ways contrary to the values and beliefs we profess.

Can these really be the “Says who?” sources to whom/which we feel or think we’re actually, truly accountable? How do they match up to our deepest longing? On second, or third, or thirtieth thought, might there actually be a different authority for our lives? There’s the first rat race speed bump.

A somewhat humorous example of the bind that speed bump puts us in. Once, a friend of mine challenged her beloved mother about her support of the President’s decision to launch our country into a war. My friend pointed out to her mother, a devout Roman Catholic, that the Pope had come out against the war, too. In a snit her mother responded, “Well, the Pope must be wrong.” Anything feel familiar about that scenario?

The point here isn’t whether or not you agree with the Pope or Roman Catholicism. The simple point is to illustrate how easily and often our “values” get lost in the shuffle. More critically, it illustrates how difficult life decisions are often made reflexively and without reflection on the question, “Says who?” Unless we frequently and consistently consider the core question "Says who?," we end up with non-integrative outcomes for our personal lives as well as for our "neighbors" and larger society. Part of our human dilemma is our need for an authority to help us with our finite limitations on one hand, and on the other, to counter our tendencies to give allegiance to those that seem easiest and most self-serving to us, that it, those who reflect the going coin of the realm, and we see our society valuing.

Other compelling dimensions of the "Says who?” question are, "Who am I? What kind of person do I long to be?” Just a consumer? A competitor? Winner? Wealthy? Well known? Or maybe a neighbor, a good Samaritan? Push the question to yet another dimension: "To whom do I ultimately belong? -- ultimately, not just in a time sense but a trust sense, a longing sense. Is it some substitute god like your self? A friend? Spouse? The Company? Employer? Club? Lodge? Cause? Political Party? Country? Mall? Bank? A Christlike God, maybe? Who am I, or Whose? The answer that really matters is the one from our core, our heart, not just our lips? We need to ask ourselves the question very often, probably several times a day. Our answer(s) require struggle, honesty, humility and prayer, lots of prayer.

More crucially, our struggle to come up with a core answer to “Says who?” tests our willingness to learn to live courageously and hopefully, even joyfully, without absolute certainty. Our longing for "eternal life" can only be tentatively met in our finite lives. Living without absolute certainty means stepping out on the promises. That's exactly what faith means and our deepest longing calls us to do. Only finite authorities peddle certainty which is why they are so seductive. But true authority is not authoritarian or dominating or tyrannical or controlling or seductive or scheming. It is open, inviting, teaching, challenging, creative, promising and unfathomably loving.

In their book on science and religion entitled Questions of Truth, mathematician Nicholas Beal and quantum physicist John Polkinghorne. who later became an Anglican priest, put it this way: "The creation of the God whose nature is love will not be a kind of cosmic puppet theater in which the divine Puppet-Master pulls every string. The gift of love is always the gift of some due form of independence granted to the beloved ... The history of the universe is not the performance of a fixed score, written by God in eternity and inexorably performed by creatures, but it is a grand improvisation in which the Creator and creatures cooperate in the unfolding development of the grand fugue of creation." (3) Think hard about that discernment of two distinquished scientists. Let it soak in to your very being as one of “the beloved."

I believe our awareness and participation in the "grand improvisation" is rooted in our primal longing and is not about a "fixed score." Suzanne Guthrie tells of leaving a Greenwich Village jazz club late one night and walking toward her train. Suddenly the sound of a single saxophone broke the lonely night. Guthrie says it was a prayer rising to its god on the solitude of a city street. She was deeply moved and remembered the sound. It changed things for her. She says, "The voice (of that saxophone) cries for me to turn every particle of my being toward the loneliness, to orient my life so that I live in a way that accommodates God's existence." The voice of the sax slowed her down to her loneliness and nudged her to make a course correction.

The authority of our deepest longing is something like that, like a quiver of the soul at the urge of a distant pitch note through the quiet of night, or a phrase of a song heard under the rumble of the day. It comes as a dogged reminder, a haunting promise, an unavoidable challenge, calling us to orient our lives its direction in order to find our longing way home - home to a kingdom, to a "neighborhood," by loving our neighbors as ourselves, our very selves. On the way, perhaps we'll learn, if only bit by bit, how a Christlike God loves us fumbling neighbors.

(1) Thom Hartman - Conversations with Great Minds: Bob Edgar - August 5, 2011
(2) James Surowieck - The New Yorker, August 1, 2001 - The Financial Page
(3) Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief - John Polkinghorne, Nicholas Beale - Westminster John Knox Press - Louisville, Kentucky - Pg. 15

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Memoir Supplement - Chapter Five - The Longing Way Home Draft

As always, comments, suggestions, questions and criticisms are welcome as I, or we, continue writing this memoir. Ted

Memoir Supplement - Chapter Five - The Longing Way Home
I’m not much of a planner, at least not the long range kind. I thought that was a serious deficiency of mine until years ago when I read David Herbert Donald’s superb biography Lincoln. In the Preface to the biography, Donald quoted Lincoln on how he approached governing during the Civil War: “The pilots on our Western rivers steer from point to point as they call it - setting the course of the boat no farther than they can see; and that is all I propose to myself in this great problem.” (1) The rest of the bio basically confirms that attitude as Lincoln’s approach to life as well as to governing.

In that way, if in no other except being tall, I’m like our 16th President. I’ve never done much long term planning or strategic planning in my life beyond the next week or two, unless it was in preparation for meeting a deadline that forced me to extend my usual planning process a bit. That has been pretty consistently my MO even in choosing a college, what graduate school to apply to, what profession I’d enter, what career moves I’d make or goal I’d work toward, what sort of woman I wanted to marry, or how large a family I would have.

When, by a zigzag route, I ended up as a minister in, the United Methodist Church, I resisted engaging in the popular Five Year Plan churches used. Instead I urged the congregation to decide on which direction to move determined by the purpose of its Christian mission in response to present “conditions on the ground” -- such conditions being the immediate needs, challenges and opportunities confronting us. I thought we might miss those by adhering to a long range plan. That was my “point to point” way of navigating.

Granted there are serious risks in that approach and some risks lead to sorry outcomes, even painful ones. I know that about my MO through personal and professional regrettable experiences. Among those regrettable consequences was getting married when both of us were too young (barely 21) and quite clueless about all that was involved in that decision, traveling across the country to Yale when relatively broke, having children too soon, our first child being born in New Haven when we were also a clueless 22, followed by three others each born roughly two years apart, my needing to work full time while attending Yale Divinity School full time, resulting in seriously curtailed study time.

Though I was awarded a graduate fellowship, the pressure finally made it impossible for me to continue study for a Ph.D. and a possible teaching career. Necessity pressed me into full-time ministry and two years later I broke down emotionally and was on the verge of suicide for weeks. I tried to hide my breakdown but David Parke, a young doctor in the congregation, picked up my symptoms and helped me find a psychiatrist. Thus began several years of tough therapy during which our marital floundering intensified and finally culminated in divorce.

Since the therapy ultimately put me together in a different way, I suppose it could be argued that my ‘point to point’ MO was justified. But was it? There’s no denying that it also inflicted painful wounds everyone, leaving in its wake many casualties, primarily our four kids whose lives were left indisputably scarred by a mismatched and misguided marriage as well as the divorce. Though I’m grateful for its ultimate outcome, I remain deeply penitent for my bumbling which was related in part to my mode of navigating.

Yet, I’m still wary of professional and/or institutional long range planning because, in my view, it tends to be inflexible, controlling, and inclined toward security rather than the more open, imaginative and innovative possibilities of “point to point” planning. At the same time, I’ve become rightly tempered by the awareness of its limitations and am more appreciative of
longer term planning and and receptive to the need to need to extend my planning time frame.

For the past thirty years I’ve been, and continue to be, happily and gratefully married to a woman who is a long range planner. As a result of some “warm” conflicts and “cool” accommodations, we’ve learned together that there is a time, place and need for both long range and "point to point" planning. I/we’ve learned we can set the direction of our planning and then negotiate when, for whatever reasons, we need to adjust the specifics of out planning,
So, why all this attention on planning? For me, it relates to how I became a "point to point” planner in the first place. I don’t believe it’s an inherited family trait or a neurological glitch, or only a matter of temperament? Nor do I believe it’s a moral weakness or reflection of irresponsibility. I believe to a significant extent the tendency to be a “point to point” planner is a learned process which was etched in my psyche by early life experience.

The first 14 years of my life were during the Great Depression, the ongoing drought and Dust Bowl of the Midwest, followed by World War II. It was a time when life was necessarily pretty much a hand-to-mouth, day-by-day process. No one could plan much past the weekly pay check, women wearing dresses of stitched together flour sacks, abandoned farms in the wake of mass emigration or, after the war began, the strict limits of the rationing of many food and hardware products as well as gasoline, all set in the fog of chronic anxiety over the war news. Growing up in that context left an imprint on me that was deep and abiding. During those years I learned how tentative all planning had to be, and so, to be grateful for daily bread and to focus only on immediate challenges and small delights. I’ve already sketched out some of them.

Added to those overall conditions was the family pattern of frequent moves which precipitated changing neighborhoods, towns, schools. Those changes were increasingly anxiety charged. As I’ve reported, because of my Dad’s work, we moved from Huron to Aberdeen, South Dakota in March of 1943 and the months though that spring and summer were hellish for me. But when school started again that fall, things changed for the better. I became integrated into eighth grade society, blossomed in school, liked my teachers, loved the Y, valued the church Youth Group (with reservations), won increasing recognition for my athletic ability and began to deal, somewhat awkwardly, with the heightened appeal and daunting mystery of girls. The beginning of that school year was a very happy one for me.

Then it happened again. Just before Christmas, my Dad decided to leave his Nash Finch Co. job and go to a suburb of Portland, Oregon to join his father in the insurance business. He left in early January to begin his transition to another profession while I, Mom, my sister, Rosemary, a High School Senior that year, stayed behind to finish the school year.

Oregon? It seemed like another country. What would it be like? Where would we live? What would school be like in such a different place? Would I have any friends there? All my hopes and dreams of playing on the Aberdeen Eagles basketball and football teams crashed. My sister had to completely rethink her college plans, apply to the University of Oregon, which she’d never heard of or seen. and leave her adored, talented piano playing boy friend. Her emotional dilemma rightly marginalized and overwhelmed mine. I retreated further into introspection and anguished over how I, or we, could ever get through the next week or month or half year, or moving again? There was no counting on anything. Like it or not, that’s what I learned about planning. About living. Gnawing anxiety took up residence in my spirit.

We left Aberdeen for Oregon on my 14th birthday. The night before I visited the basement apartment of the prettiest girl in the 8th grade, the one I, and every boy in class, had a crush on. When I left, she went into the hall outside her family’s basement apartment and we kissed, my first kiss of that kind. I ran home, feeling guilty, rubbing my mouth all the way to wipe off, any possible incriminating trace of lipstick. Guilt, anxiety, flickers of gratification, dismay, sadness, anger, confusion were churning uncontrollably in me. I felt quite lost; homeless, somehow.

Here’s the kicker. The morning of the day before we were to leave for Oregon, I was riding my bike in front of the main Aberdeen Post Office, a couple blocks from the Y where I was headed for the last time. A man from “Youth For Christ” who had spoken at the church and a couple of older kids were standing there. The man called and motioned for me to stop. So I did. He one of the kids began talking to me about God’s plan for my life and how everything that happened was part that plan. They said God planned we’d be meeting and talking as we were. I asked, “You mean God planned for me to be right here, at this minute? And where I’m going next?” The man said, “Absolutely. That’s what it means that God cares about you.” I replied, “I have no choice in the matter?” “Not really,” he said. "Just accept that, accept Jesus, and you’re saved and joyful. It’s all part of God’s plan.” he said, I started to cry and yelled, “Why do I have to be saved? From what? I don’t believe God’s like that. We’re not robots.” With that I rode away toward the Y and Oregon in anxious confusion.

As I peddled along somewhat aimlessly at first, a new level in my awareness began to dawn in me that sparked a life long struggle with issues of love, faith, ethics and eventually theological exploration. However, that morning, on my bike, I had only a vague notion of what was involved in what had happened in my sidewalk exchange with those people, or what it any of it meant. What I did know was that I just couldn’t accept the idea that God plans everything for everyone. Why would God do that? Such planning that way didn’t make sense to me. I felt in my bones that having choices, not being controlled, is what love is about and that we, not God, were responsible for the consequences of what we did or didn’t do. Wasn’t that what Jesus meant about loving our neighbors as ourselves? Why else would he teach us to pray for God to forgive us as we forgive others? Wasn’t that more or less what Church Confirmation Class was about?
I just couldn’t have gotten it all wrong. Damn it,I just couldn’t have.

When I got to the Y, I sat for a long time on the entrance steps thinking about what our moving to Oregon was really about. Was my Grandmother Alice’s death in a car accident part of God’s plan? Did God arrange for my Grandmother to be killed so her youngest son, Dwight, who was driving at the time, would feel guilty enough to leave law school and become a minister? Was it God’s plan for my Grandfather to be so shattered by grief that he wandered aimlessly around for two or three years until he ended up going to Oregon to help his cancer stricken brother in his insurance business? And when his brother died, did my Grandfather really have no choice but to stay in Oregon because he didn’t have any place else to go? If all that was a grand plan ahead of time, how explain all that heartache and lonely caring? Was human courage and compassion just a sham? Was that what our moving amounted to? That notion deeply upset me. I couldn’t believe God was like that or did that, was no matter who said otherwise.

Sitting there, it began to occur to me that there had to be some distinction between a plan and a purpose. From what I’d learned from family and church, it felt better to say God had a purpose in creating us and sending Jesus to us than to believe it was all some empty game with every move determined ahead of time? If it was all a foregone conclusion, why would we go to church and say a prayer of confession for things we did wrong or good things we didn’t do? Or why say any prayers if that was the case? What purpose would there be in anything then?

Dimly I began to sense there had to be another way for life and God to be than everything being all planned out ahead of time. Why bother, if that’s how it was? Strangely, I started feeling a little better when I started thinking that way. Maybe our family moving to Oregon had a purpose, but wasn’’t just a pretend kind of plan we had to follow like dimwits. It helped to imagine there was a real purpose in our move, like my Dad’s choosing a different and maybe better kind of kind of work and we making a better family life and not moving all the time. Maybe for that purpose and we could all do things to help make that happen even though right then I didn’t have a clue about how to do that. I had to wait and see and that was the hard part. Isn’t it always? But as I sat there that morning, with tears on my face along with a sort of smile, felt some of the same way I remember feeling the long ago Christmas, a feeling I later realized was longing. That’s what I felt there on the Y steps, a longing to longed to belong somewhere, to belong to a family without having to perform perfectly, which I couldn’t do, to just belong, that was all. Often I feel that way all these years later

When I was growing up, my family prayed before every supper. We joined hands and said together, “Thank you God, for this food and all our blessings. Give us health and strength and courage and patience to do your will. In Jesus name, Amen.” Not fit your plan but do your will. It meant choice, responsibility. It meant asking for strength and courage and patience. And for the faith to pray.

I’ve spent a long time writing about the sources and emergence of my point to point temperament and the continuing struggle of it. I’ve intended it a section of my memoir though it may seem dense and pedantic. But I’ve written it to intentionally invite you into one of the deepest recesses of my spirit, of the way I’ve lived my life, and at least something of its why.
Let me close the loop of it by going both back to the beginning and the Lincoln biographical quote and to how it applies to my present state.

Remember how in his preface, David Herbert Donald quoted Lincoln’s explanation of his way of governing being like the river boat’s captains steering from point to point and setting their course no farther than they could see. I had the audacity to claim I was like Lincoln in that regard, and I am. But not completely. For Donald goes on to add that Lincoln’s point to point way of making decisions and taking action reflected another quality of what defines an exceptional person. Here is an excerpt of Donald’s additional description: "Lincoln in his own distinctively American way had the quality John Keats defined as forming 'a Man of Achievement,’ that quality which Shakespeare possessed so enormously … Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’” (2)

Not meaning to quibble, I’d suggest that the key word in this description of “negative capability” is “irritable” - i.e. “irritable reaching …” I think irritability in that context is the basic reaction to the lack of certainty, and that is what drives not so much the reach after fact and reason, but rather is the underlying blind passion and fear that reaches toward illusions, delusions, premature closure, denial … anything to achieve a sense of certainty though certainty be unachievable. I think that sort of reach is the greatest temptation, if not failure of nations, institutions and religion. Or conversely, I think negative capability is the essence of faith, the fiber of trust, the foundation of honesty, the fuel of hope, the fruit of love in the midst of uncertainties, doubts, Mysteries (capital referring to those of God).

It is also a capability I have only to an inadequate and incremental degree. I keep praying for it and trying in every way I know and can, to enlarge that capability as a Christian person. That is my purpose for myself and which, I passionately hope, is God’s purpose for me and for us all as we live our lives as finite beings. How about you?

Now, on to Oregon and further but next time. I hope your up for the trip.


(1) Lincoln - David Herbert Donald - Simon & Schuster Paperbacks - New York - 1995 - pg. 15
(2) Ibid

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Promises To Keep - Chapter Five -The Longing Way Home -

Once started, even a blog-book takes on something of a life of its own. What's been written poses the ever new question, "Where do I/we go from here?" Sorting that out requires a lot of wondering and thinking. And time. At least for me.

Since I excerpted the title of this chapter from a Robert Frost poem, I'll use a quote from another in this little preface. "The Road Not Taken" begins, "Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood/ And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveler, long I stood/ and looked down one as far as I could/ To where it bent in the undergrowth…" The final stanza is: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --/ I took the one less travelled by,/And that has made all the difference." (1)

As in life, so in writing, there are always choices to be made, diverging roads to take, and Frost is right, it makes a big, though not necessarily"all," the difference, which you choose. As did the poet, I "... looked down one as far as I could …/Then took the other as …/ having perhaps the better claim…" The path I chose constitutes this chapter. You may decide I should have chosen the other one. If you do, let me know why. I'll try to address it the next chapter.

Thanks for hanging in with me. Ted

You probably recognize that the title of this chapter is from a familiar Robert Frost poem,
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. It closes with these evocative lines: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep./ But I have promises to keep./ And miles to go before I sleep./ And miles to go before I sleep."(1)

It seems like a prayer, doesn't it? Who can't relate to the almost reverential feeling and tone of the verse? Who doesn't identify with pressure of feelings gathered in the pivotal word, ""But …" on which so much in the future turns, one way or another. "But …" carries the critical weight of choosing, again and again, between the enticing lure of "lovely, dark and deep," and the hopeful call of "… promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep." Don't you imagine that repetition of the last phrase is a whispered awareness of the strange power and mystery of promises?

Frost's poem speaks to our hearts. These feelings, this decision, this seminal realization are profoundly familiar to us. In some compelling way this is our recurring inner conflict, our struggle, our dogged, if mostly sub-conscious, determination: "But I have promises to keep./ And miles to go before I sleep."

And yet, even as we identify with the poet's promise keeper, a tumble of questions follow: "What promises do we have to keep?" "How do we keep them?" "Why do we make them?" "What happens if we don't keep them?" The list could go on, along with our answers. So would an inevitable joust of comparisons, conflicting judgments, confusing arguments and turbulent frustrations. Our proposed answers wouldn't necessarily be wrong. But they would be premature, partial and shallow because we'd be missing the basic question.

That question is: "What is a promise?" That question ushers us into the mystery of our deepest longing for, and our elemental connection to, God and each other. It's a connection that can be ignored, muted, disguised, dismissed but never totally broken. A promise is an echo of our longing for that elemental connection. It's a move in a direction which meets our primal need to be truly with an "other" or "others," just as a young tree in the shade begins to lean toward the sunlight in order to live and grow.

Even more enigmatically, a promise signifies a reflexive response to a sense, however dim, of longing's reach toward us as well as ours toward it. The more heartfelt the promise, the greater it manifests both of those dimensions of longing, though we may remain mostly unaware of that. A promise is not a specific legal contract. Spoken or unspoken, a promise is a commitment to a direction toward connections that are indispensable to life's deepest meaning. Nor does the probability that we are only dimly, if at all, aware of those elements being involved in a promise mean they are not intrinsic to what a promise essentially is.

What I'm getting at is this: a promise is an undertaking entered into by at least two persons. Certainly one of those "persons" may be, in some way must be, that essential part of one's own self which is accessed through that inner dialogue we often refer to as "talking to yourself." Even so, a promise can be made within one's self, by one's self, for one's self but it inevitably relates one to others as well.

The point is that in every instance a promise is relational, made by one person with or to him/her self and/or another person. It is confirmed by one's self and the other or others. In some sense it is kept and/or broken by both parties, however unequally. A promise establishes a bond or coherence between the persons who are party to it and who trust that it will be kept. If, or more accurately when, it isn't kept, all the parties involved suffer some degree of injury or loss.

Here's the heart of the matter: redressing and working through the injury or loss of partially kept, or totally broken, promises is a crucial part of the ongoing process of making and trying to keep promises because no human promises are fully kept, nor do they ever completely satisfy the need for which they are made.

That is so because the persistent but myserious longing that suffuses our finite promises is not slaked by either the partial keeping or breaking of them. That truth does not diminish the importance of promises or our need to make them. In fact, the very partialness of the keeping or breaking of our promises tends to amplify our longing. That is what takes promises out of the realm of the inconsequential or trivial. Promises are intimations of our inborm longing for those sustaining, meaningful connections which are the essence and energy of hope, love, joy, justice, life and a relationship with God.

Now on to point 1A of this chapter which so far as been mostly an attempt to clarify the nature of longing itself and to introduce promises as one expression of that longing relative to human connections. Herb Reinelt is my very dear friend going back to our days at Yale Divinity School where we began our shared experiences and theological dialogue. Herb got his Ph.D. in Philosophical Theology at Yale and went on to be a university professor while, for family reasons, I had to give up my fellowship and drop out after one year of Ph.D. study. That tilted the scale of theological proficiency Herb's way. But it also unleashed my own less academically constrained theological imagination. The result has been that over the years our friendship and dialogue have been a treasured gift and an abundant blessing to me.

With that background, I quote the following except from what Herb recently wrote to me about my blog: "I think … we yearn (long) for what Royce called the Great Community. That community would be the home that we yearn for beyond our individual homes. It would included the joy of reconciliation with God (which HRN* saw as the work of Christ and the church) and the reconciliation of ourselves with others and the whole creation. I suspect that you would agree … *H. Richard Niebuhr, a seminal theologian/professor at YDS

"You say that 'best friends' can't cure being lonely, I agree, they are not a complete cure, but they are a partial cure. They are real (though partial) answer to loneliness and, insofar, a foretaste of the Great Community. We really do long for them, not just for God. One might say that we can't get right with others unless we get right with God, but I think it also works the other way. Your emphasis is on longing as the way home to God, but I want to say that the longing for God is not all we long for; we equally long for each other and the longing for the other can be the way home to God."

As always, Herb makes thoughtful and stimulating comments. For the most part, I agree with him, with one key exception with two related parts:
1st, I do not contend that “… longing is the way home to God, only that it is a primal connection to God and that and paying it attention is crucial;
2nd, I agree "that the longing for God is not all we long for…" but I don't agree that "we equally long for each other …" I think longing itself reflects a primal connection to God and thus is the genesis of all other corollary forms of longing as well as pervading them, however faintly. I agree there's an inseparable connection between the longing for God and all other longings, but I don't agree that they are equal or identical. That may seem to b a relatively insignificant difference but I don't think it is.

Here's why I don't: To make longing for any finite other equal to our longing for God sooner or later results in nagging disappointment and disputation In response to the fear and anger of our disappointment, we are prone to ramp up our investment and loyalty to the finite objects or subjects to which we attach our longing until our investment and loyalty becomes blind, idolatrous. Our over investment frequently results in the kind of destructive behavior and dogmatic claims which are corrosive to the "Great Community” which I view as essentially the whole human family. Consider, for example, the partisan rancor and divisiveness that is tearing at the fabric of our country and the world right now.

As I see it, it isn't possible for any finite subject or object to fully satisfy a longing for an eternal being or relationship. When that truth is ignored, tit can, and often does, result in idolatry, generate arrogant claims and counter-claims of certainty about the particular, finite subjects or objects of our"longing." Thus, in the service of our little gods we fall into divisive conflicts between persons, members of families, groups, religions, causes, political parties, social or economies classes, nations.

The problem is that our anxiety driven claims of certainty make us self-righteously defensive and evokes destructive reaction to, and from, every other "particular, finite claims made for the objects or subjects of longing." Part of the destructiveness resides in our refusal to openly acknowledge our disappointment over finite broken promises we make or are made to us in response to our longing. So we stop short of "addressing and working through the injury or loss of (those) partially kept, or totally broken, promises …" - i.e. our particular, finite expressions of our "longing." Rather than doing that, we become increasingly dogmatic about our claims and hostile to those of others, and via versa, ad nauseam. And there's sin's fertilizer.

I believe that all we finite beings need to acknowledge that we cannot claim infinite truth for ourselves or our dogmatic positions or promises. Something, Someone, namely God, is more, and in crucial ways other, than any or all our finite longings or promises.

Realizing and accepting that can lead us to a process of reconciliation; that is, of addressing and working through the injury or loss resulting from our partially kept promises and the inadequacy the objects of the misplaced attachments of our longing. That is the ongoing challenge of being, or becoming more human as creatures who carry the image of God but not the fullness of God's being or truth. I believe most, perhaps all, expressions of longing and the promises they generate carries a trace of our longing for God to varying degrees, if and when we pay it attention.

It is paying attention to those varying degrees, some more basic and compelling than others, that enables us to discern the value, direction, integrity of the longing and its consequent promises or intentions. For example, to say that nothing totally satisfies our deepest longing is not to say that the longings we have or the promises we make are irrelevant and unimportant to our decisions or how we attempt to live by them. On the contrary, the efforts we invest in making and trying to keep promises keep us linked to our deepest longing if we keep evaluating the direction they take us.

Recognizing and accepting the claim of that if are the work of trust and love . Ignoring that if leads to hypocrisy. self-righteousness and dogmatism. Our capacity to keep setting and resetting the direction we take in our lives forges a link to Grace. It focuses and shapes our thinking, deciding and actions in intensely relevant but not totally explainable ways. It is a fundamental ingredient in reconciliation with others, and God.

The directions we choose to take are the most essential component in life. The efforts we invest in making and trying to keep promises keep us linked to our deepest longing if we keep evaluating the direction they take us. Recognizing, accepting and implimenting the claim of that if are the work of trust and love . We may long for others in ways that are destructive to them and to ourselves when we make them objects, when we use them, exploit them for our own gratification or advancement.

We can make corrections in our directional course and the relative state of our promises by referring to our spiritual orientation's GPS. That orientation is linked to our longing for God however dimly or falteringly we might discern it as being. Through the process of referring to that GPS, or spiritual orientation we are able to keep resetting and going in a direction toward some gripping vision of the good, or of what matters most even when we never quite get "there" because we're not exactly sure where or what "there" is." We just sense* when were heading in the right direction, when it's "right" or "just" or "peaceful" or "beautiful" or "loving" or whatever is truly precious to our hearts. *See references to David Brook's book coming up later in this chapter.

The truth is that never quite getting "there" and yet with an innate urge to keep "pushing on" is what it means to be finite, mortal beings. The process of "pushing on" is what is profoundly hopeful about us and life. As we go, our lives are laced with , experiences, hints, intimations, interludes of wonder, of joy, of sacredness, of grace. All of them are transitory but none-the-less genuine, powerful, encouraging, inspiring and real. Moments when we're aware of "The Great Community," as Royce and Herb put it, are not occasions to stop but inspiration to go on.

Okay, okay, I agree that this chapter has become increasingly abstract, dense, murky, somewhat irrelevant, not very helpful and needs a good editor. Truth is that I've spent many weeks going back over this draft and trying to edit it which proves that I need a good editor. This is not meant as a some kind of obsequious apology. It's a sincere explanation. You have my hearty permission to do whatever editing on your own that might help me out here. Meantime, I’ll try to clarify my thoughts by first repeating three key ideas from a few previous paragraphs which may have been lost in the screech and screen of words around them:

1) "I believe most, perhaps all, expressions of longing and the promises made by them carry a trace of our longing for God to varying degrees, if and when we pay it attention";

2) " The directions we choose to take are the most essential component in life. The efforts we invest in making and trying to keep promises keep us linked to our deepest longing if we keep evaluating the direction they take us. Recognizing, accepting and implimenting the claim of that if are the work of trust and love …"

3) "We can make corrections in our directional course and the relative state of our promises by referring to our spiritual orientation's GPS. That orientation and process is linked to our longing for God ... we can keep resetting and going in a direction toward some compelling vision of the good, or of what matters most even when we never quite get 'there' because we're not exactly sure where or what 'there' is."

In the context of those statements, I'll try to lay out some more specific ideas about what I mean by them. *I start by referring to David Brook's recent, fascinating book, 'The Social Animal". Among other pursuits, Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times and a weekly commentator on PBS Newshour. The sub-title of his book is "The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement" and the examination of those sources constitutes the purpose his book. If that purpose seems vaguely reminiscent of my purpose in writing The Longing Way Home, you're on to the reason I'm referring to it. I'm not above hooking my tail to a celebrity's kite.

In an article on his book, Brooks writes;"Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologist, economists,and others have made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the human mind … A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking. The conscious mind gives us one way of making sense of our environment. But the unconscious mind gives us other, more supple ways. The cognitive revolution of the past thirty years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract logic, perceptiveness over I.Q. It allows us to tell a different sort of success story to go along with the conventional surface one." (2)

In the Introduction of his book, Brooks further sketches out the profile of that "different sort of success story." This is what he writes: "If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the importance of passions and perception. If the outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people. If the outer mind hungers for status, money and applause, the inner mind hungers for harmony and connections -- those moments when self-consciousness fades away and a person is lost in a challenge, a cause, the love of another or the love of God." (3)

There's an intriguing connection between Brooks' commentary on the unconscious mind and my exploration of longing. The basic connection is reality and nature of love and it's time to make that clear. From shared experience, we might agree that love is an obvious form of longing. But are we now also ready to see that longing is itself a form of love, a love that is not so much romantic as it is the principle direction we are strangely or mysteriously summoned to seek. Longing is the form of love that is the source of "the invisible bonds between people” because it is a element of creation itself and an invisible bond between human beings and God.

When we respond to our longing by choosing a direction that rejects, distorts or dismisses those invisible but real bonds we violate ourselves and others. I believe the lives of all of us, certainly including mine, are scarred and marred by the many occasions when we have foolishly or selfishly chosen a damaging direction for ourselves which has also hurt others. In so doing we become less than human to some lesser degree. In the long history of theological discussion about whether Jesus was fully human or fully divine, or how much of each he was, more recently some have proposed that Jesus was the most fully human of us all, and the rest of us struggle to become more fully human. The love of God that haunts our longing and is revealed in Jesus helps us in our struggle.

Let me clarify my understanding of love. Love is a feeling, of course, but more than that it action. Love is what we choose to do, how we choose to live, how we choose to relate to others even when we don't "feel" drawn to them. We can choose to love our neighbor as ourselves and love our enemies, even when we don't like them, just as we don't like ourselves sometimes. Love is work in all aspects of life, from intimate family relations to close friends to neighbors to anonymous people who are poor, sick, hungry, of a different gender, age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, belief system or lack thereof, the whole human family.

I've long insisted that justice is love with its sleeves rolled up. That's one of my most felicitous statements and succinct ways of putting it. Love is most fully revealed in the life of Jesus who is mistakenly portrayed elsewhere as meek and mild because that is not what love is or how it acts. Love is gentle, tender, patient, humble and kind. But love is also direct, honest, bold, assertive and forceful. Love is risky, brave, creative, innovative and holds itself and others accountable. Love is longing for the fullness of life with God which issues in just, peaceful, joyful relations with others. felicitous

Moving toward the end of this chapter, I refer to another of Herb Reinelt's views of longing: "The "Great Community" is the redeemed community in its relationship to God; it is not just human to human relationships … But I do want to hold that sometimes we get closer to God by following out our longing for God and sometimes we get closer to God by following out our longing for others … I think that the longing for God can arise and be felt in our human relationships. And that seeking loving relations to others is a way to become aware of God."

I agree with my friend but with a question or two. One is, Doesn't using the word "redeemed" to define human to human relations, or the "Great Community," unnecessary, even unfortunately, raise issues about the limits of that community and who determines those who qualify to be included in it. I put that question, and implied answer because in utter disregard of the mysterious reach of God's grace, so many persons and factions presume to claim that right for themselves? Hence, because of that mystery, I believe loving neighbor and enemy as ourselves means that we should recognize that all human beings, the whole human family, are to included in that community, at least is so far as the direction, concerns and actions that emanate from our primal longing for God are concerned. Justice seems to me to be an imperative applying to all of us, even though in our finitude we fall short in its implementation. I pretty sure Herb agrees. If he doesn't he should and owes me a cup of coffee for his dissent.

The other question is, How can we get closer to God by following out our longing for God? I’m not sure I know how to do that as an independent enterprise. I think Herb is persuasive in suggestion that our longing for God necessarily involves following out our longing for others and I agree as long as the two are not seen as separate, or equal. For another example: A life devoted to prayer and meditation, either solitary or in a reclusive community, may be a calling for some, but even in such instances, the prayers are at least partly for others, thus confirming the invisible bond between people.

Though prayer is essential for all of us, we also need to be part of the answer to our own prayers if we are to live the direction of our longing and love. To do that necessarily involves making choices and taking concrete actions to extend justice to everyone. Yes, we live in a complicated world in which our choices are mostly in the gray area. But that is not a reason to defer or bow out. Most often unjust conditions and those who suffer them are clear and compelling enough for us to risk action to try to address them. But love without risk is empty.

As I said earlier, in long past moment of inspiration, I came up with the insight that justice is love with its sleeves rolled up. I've insisted there is a priority and distinction between longing for God and longing for others, but there is not, indeed cannot be, any disconnect or separation between them. If there is, it leads to a misdirection of life and the risk, if not inevitability of idolatry, of raising some non-God to the level of God. In case you don't remember my reference to Martin Luther’s definition of our “gods’ and the constant risk of idolatry, here it is again: "Whatever you give your loyalty to and get your sense of worth from, is properly your God."

That said and that distinction made, I hold. as I think Herb does, that longing is first a stirring in us of love for God which, either faintly or intentionally, moves us toward loving others as ourselves by working toward justice for all. Loving some others is certainly easier and more enjoyable than loving others as well as enemies, for God’s sake -- and there you have it, “For God’s sake”. Genuine spirituality, or the persistence of longing, necessarily has a social application. All good subjects or objects of our loyalty don't have to become idolatrous if we keep alert to how easily that can happen.

The possibility, yea, the probability is that in working in the direction in which our longing calls us, we can nurture and expand relationships, community. We can at least limp on in the direction of our longing and partially our promises to love one another. But longing unheeded or disavowed, or its elusive quality yet holy persistence reduced to dogmatic certainties, will curdle it and diminish us as those seeking to become more human.

The "promises we have to keep" are claims of justice and compassion and peace to which love summons us in all our human relationships And always, "There are miles to go before (we) sleep. And miles to go before we sleep."

Please know that I am not naive or innocent. I do not in any way believe, think or claim that what I propose is easy, or simple, or a cure all for the challenges, complexities, hostilities and conflicts of our society, our country, our world. (More on that in the next chapter.) What I am attempting to do is present a way of seeing ourselves and each other, of recognizing glimmers of the longing we experience as bearing some degree of what it means to throw the "little ounces of our weight, to tip the scales of humanity toward justice" and leave the outcomes to God.

So this last question, perhaps the key question of all: "What are the promises made to us that keep us?" That's an enormous question and we'll keep encountering it as we move on toward the "home" alluded to in the title of this blog-book. Essentially, I believe the short and concise answer is the history of Israel and the life, example, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are the promises that keep us. From those two reveal sources come other dimensions of awareness just as daylight reveals what darkness covers.

I am deeply moved and strangely sustained by Marilynne Robinson's beautifully written and spiritually inspiring novel, Gilead which has rightly been called “a hymn of praise. Two brief images she shapes for us carry, at least for me, what I mean by those “dimensions of awareness f the mystery of the promises that keep us in our Longing Way Home.

Gilead is essentially the reflection on his life by an old Baptist minister, Reverend John Ames, who has spent his life in Gilead, a town in rural Iowa. It is full of awesome insights. One of them is this written in a letter to his prodigal son: “They say an infant can’t see when it is as young as your sister was, but she opened her eyes, and she looked at me. She was such a little bit of a thing. I know she didn’t really study my face … But I know she did look right into my eyes. That is something and I’m glad I knew it at the time, because now, in my present situation, now that I am about to leave this world, I realize there is nothing more astonishing than a human face … It has something to do with incarnation. You feel your obligation to a child when you have seen it and held it. Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness of it. But this is truest of the face of an infant. I consider it to be one kind of vision, as mystical as any.”(4)

I don’t think we have to be as old as John Ames to grasp, or be grasped by, the powerful longing and love this old pastor expresses in that scene. “… nothing more astonishing that a human face,” the faces of those you naturally love, the names faces of those you see every day, faces of neighbors, even of enemies, your own face. Each face, each person “has something to do with incarnation.” Each is the embodiment and challenge of what life is about, what it means. Each reflects at least a little of what we long for, and the promises of God that keep us.

The other awesome insight John Ames writes somehow follows on the first. “This morning I have been trying to think about heaven, but without much success, I don’t know why I should expect to have any idea of heaven. I could never have imagined this world if I hadn’t spent almost eight decades walking around in it. People talk about how wonderful the world seems to children, and that’s true. But children think they will grow into it and understand it, and I know very well that I will not, and would not if I had a dozen lives. That’s clearer to me every day. Each morning I’m like Adam waking up in Eden, amazed at the cleverness of my hands and at the brilliance pouring into my mind though my eyes …”(5)

Like Adam? Maybe partly, as in Adam’s amazement at creation, and of course, Eve’s as well, and that’s what old Ames is directing our attention to, really. And yet, perhaps not necessarily like Adam who missed the point of it and lost his direction. I confess that too many days, I stumble as he did. But not every day. Not when I pay attention to my longing and try to follow it as best I can, not being like God, or trying to be. But trying to be more fully human by rolling up my sleeves and embodying love of self, neighbor, enemy, the whole human family by trying to do justice. That’ what I think it means to trust the promises that keep us.

How about you?

(1) The Poetry of Robert Frost Edited by Edward Connery Lathem Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1969 p.224
(2) The New Yorker magazine, p. 27, January 17, 2011
(3) The Social Animal - David Brooks - pg. xi - Random House, New York Copyright 2011
(4) Gilead - Marilynne Robinson - Farrar Straus Giroux / New York Copyright 2004 pg.65-66
(5) Ibid - pg. 66