That One Piece of Paper: Step 6

 

Step five is all about where I would want to live and work. That particular question is one that needs to be answered as a family, and in order to give us more time to do the exercise, I decided to skip ahead to something that was easy to finish.

Step six is all about your place in the world. It’s about why you’re here. It’s everything existential boiled down into a simple ranking exercise. The question posed says, “What goals or purposes would you most enjoy setting your energies to?”

The book makes an interesting point that we all have our own talents, gifts, and skills. However, it’s a different question as to what we want to accomplish with those skills. Do you use your powers for good? Or evil? (Of course, that’s a matter of perspective.) The book says, “[Your Skills] can be made to serve any goal or value you choose.”

What values do you have in your life? What do you want “the broad outcome of your life” to be? “What kind of footprint do you want to leave on this Earth, after your journey is done?”

The author lists nine, which I think is a pretty complete list:

  • Mind. When you are gone, do you want there to be more knowledge, truth, or clarity in the world, because you were here? If so, knowledge, truth, or clarity concerning what, in particular?
  • Body. Do you want there to be more fitness? Less physical suffering (i.e. more feeding of the hungry, more clothing of the poor, etc.)? What particular issue concerning the human body do you want to work on?
  • Eyes and other senses. Do you want there to be more beauty in the world? What kind of beauty?
  • Heart. Do you want there to be more love and compassion in the world?
  • The Will or Conscience. When you are gone, do you want there to be more morality, more justice, more righteousness, more honesty in the world, because you were here?
  • The Human Spirit. Do you want there to be more spirituality in the world, more love for the human family in all its diversity?
  • Entertainment. Do you want to be part of lightening people’s loads, giving perspective, more laughter, and joy? What kind of entertainment?
  • Possessions. Is the often false love of possessions your  major concern?
  • The Earth. Is the planet on which we stand your major concern? When you are gone, do you want there to be more protection of this fragile planet?

The process to sort them is the same that was used in the working conditions exercise — again, since the chart CLEARLY says copyrighted on it, I’m not going to show the chart or explain the process. But this is how my list turned out:

  1. Will/Conscience. I want there to be more justice. More righting of wrongs — there is no reason why someone should be hungry when there is enough.
  2. Heart. I want there to be more love, compassion, and acceptance. I think this really goes hand-in-hand with justice above.
  3. The Earth. I am convinced that climate change has already occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. I think that we are definitely past peak oil. We need to learn to adapt, and pull back. This is important.
  4. Mind. I want there to be more truth, knowledge, and clarity. This goes with my analytical side.
  5. Spirit. I want there to be more love for the human family. I care less about people worshiping God, and more about people doing the first two things on the list.
  6. Entertainment. I want there to be laughter and joy.
  7. Eyes/Senses. Beauty is important, sure.
  8. Possessions. I want people to be simpler (it’s one of my style statement words), and content with enough, but I dont’ think it’s a major concern.
  9. Body. While I care for suffering to end, I think the real task is justice. And while I think caring for our bodies is important, it’s not the broad goal of my life.

The instructions say to put your top three, in your own words, in a way that makes sense to you on your flower. Here’s mine.

 

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Feminists can be Christians, too

Lot's Wife - medieval stained glass detail, Ca...

Image of Lot's Wife by chrisjohnbeckett via Flickr

I am a Christian. I believe that following Jesus is about kindness, compassion, for meeting people where they are, for practicing empathy. I think the Bible contains metaphorical truth, historical truth, and that it’s a record of human struggle with faith and the human story of encounters with the divine.

As a feminist, I am afraid to admit that I am a Christian, because I’m afraid you won’t take me seriously anymore. That you’ll think that I live my life and govern my relationships with legalism (i.e., using the Bible to make “rules”). Sometimes, those who are also struggling to follow Jesus as a path to following God act in ways that are intolerant, uncompassionate, and inhospitable. These fellow believers make people uncomfortable, claiming to speak for God, claiming to know when another person is sinning, claiming the Bible as incontrovertible truth with a capital T. They use this belief to say that love between two people of the same sex is a sin, to reduce women to objects and servants, and to consume the Earth’s resources.

These people, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are using God’s name in vain. They are speaking for Him without the humility to admit that they may be wrong. I have recently been made aware that silence on the issue of faith and belief may also be using God’s name in vain, because I am part of God’s voice in this world. Silence implies shame.

Here’s what I want to make the liberal, feminist blogosphere aware of — the Bible is open to interpretation, and when it is being used as a tool of bigotry, literacy is the only way to educate those whose minds are open, those who are not using God’s name in vain.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis chapter 19, verses 1 through 19, narrates the story of Lot inviting two strangers, angels, into his home in the city of Sodom. The bigoted citizens of the city, who already do not like Lot, because he is also a foreigner, demand him to hand over his guests. Most translations I’ve read demand that the guests be turned over to the mob so that they can “have sex” with them. Lot pleads with them not to do this wicked thing, and offers his virgin daughters to the mob instead. Before this can happen, the angels strike the mob blind, and ultimately, as a result, the city of Sodom is destroyed.

This passage is the source of the word sodomy, which is less judgementally known as anal sex. Those who believe that homosexuality is a sin cite this passage as a proof that God hates sodomites – i.e. those who have anal sex, i.e. gay men.

But, feminist readers, does this not also sound like attempted gang rape?  Complete with rape apologist language of “have sex”? Could this passage be a story about how rape is not to be tolerated? Instead of teaching how a certain kind of sex is wicked, could the passage be teaching that a lack of consent, that force in a sex act is wicked?

As feminists, it is easy to get up in arms and distracted with the way that Lot offered his daughters to be raped to protect his guests. It is not nice to think about, but in the historical context, women were objects — and we must acknowledge this. To apply our current values on historical circumstance is futile — we will always be disappointed. The knowledge that women’s value used to be different can be a source of strength, too. How far women have come, and yet how far we have to go. Just as life is now, the Bible is a mixed bag. There are both wins and losses, victories and defeats.

What I take heart in is that God did not allow Lot’s daughters to be raped either (at this juncture of the story, at least. The ultimate fate of Lot’s daughters is a different story). God through his angels intervened, and did not allow anyone to be raped that day; the city was destroyed for that attempted act of violence.

At least, that’s how I read the passage as a feminist.

The Church is still a human institution, I get it.  Sometimes the acts of Christians are incredibly hard to defend. The Bible is a human work. Not all passages are easy to explain in a way that makes us feel good.  Sometimes humans use God’s name to legitimize their bigotry and privilege. Sometimes people who believe in justice, in tearing down privilege, and are Christians forget to invoke God. Both are wrong.

My mission here is to record my activism. Sometimes that activism occurs in the context of Church. I shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.

#reverb10 – December 7, Community

Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris, reverb10.com)

I think for me to fully talk about the idea of community, I have to back to a community that I haven’t fully let go of — I don’t think I’m bitter anymore, but I think that I haven’t let go because to me, the community I built the first semester freshman year of college, and that continued for about a year’s time, that community is still, in many ways, something I wish to emulate.

We called ourselves “The Midnight Society,” ironically after a television show from our youth. We did meet up at midnights on Thursdays into Friday mornings, a time where we all knew would be relatively free of interruptions. We all sat around in a circle, eating pokeystix and talking about “intellectual” questions. We all lived in the same dorm, shared most of the same classes, and as a result, we learned to take care of one another. I know that I personally benefited the morning I slept through a class where I was supposed to turn in a paper — and they came and woke me up at the end of it, so that I wouldn’t be penalized. I broke up with my boyfriend in sophomore year, and let him have my friends in the break up — but the rest of the group turned rather insular, and it seemed that I was not as important to them as they were to me.

I understand that this kind of community is hard to replicate for a lot of reasons. One, we aren’t always so lucky to live in such close proximity. Two, we aren’t always so lucky to have so much in common. Three, there are always going to be division points, as I found — but they don’t always have to be so permanent.

In 2010, I had made community one of my goals. Perhaps you embiggified the giant list that I brain dumped last January, the one I included on my “letting go” prompt, and you saw that community was one of the things I listed — or perhaps I lamented the lack of community. I didn’t look too closely at the picture before I posted it.

I think my attempts at finding and building community in 2010 were mixed. 2010 was much more about becoming comfortable in my own skin, in my own home, in finding routine, about fixing myself before attempting to support others. And 2011 may turn out that way too, with a baby arriving about a quarter of the way in. But that is not to say that community did not turn up.

Actually, I’m having a much harder time writing about community than I thought I would. I think I hold community in too high a regard, set too high standards on it. I think, perhaps, that perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head again. Maybe I’m thinking about community as spontaneous displays of affection or getting together, or always hanging out. But maybe I can lower my standard here — connect, always connect.

I connected with my old classmate Katie F nee J in 2010. We ran into each other at a conference in 2009, and again in 2010 and for a few months, we were doing lunch every month. She invited my husband and I to her wedding, and I think that we built a small community to talk about the stressors of being twenty-something and seeing the big picture of how the world is imperfect and broken and wanting desperately to fix it — and knowing that we only had so much power individually.

I connected with a writing group, which originated in NaNo2009, particularly with Sarah, and her husband Matt. It hasn’t been the easiest connection to make, as both Sarah and I are more the introverted types, who worry constantly about if someone wants to be friends with us, really, or if we’re being too pushy, or etc. But we’ve slowly been building up a rapport. Sarah takes care of me on Saturdays when Tim is off playing D&D with his friends, and we chat online. As writers, we can cover a lot of different topics — from awesome movies and TV shows, to awful books, to questions about existence and religion and church. I’m going to be part of her group blog, come January, and we’re going to be awesome Geeky Wives together. 😀

I reconnected with my friend from college, Alex, who introduced me to the people she grew up with at her childhood church: now, young adults, spiritual seekers, people willing to become our friends and be understanding of our plights. These young adults, in turn, introduced us to the wider church community at Central Woodward, and as a result, Tim and I joined the church this past Sunday. It seems like a good place to learn, and grow, to explore my relationship with God — and to continue to have supportive people surrounding us, including two other couples expecting children in the first half of next year.

In 2011, I want to reconnect with Katie F. Even if we only get together every other month, I think we can be good buddies about career stuff.

I want to spend more time cultivating the fraternity community — my husband’s fraternity and those men’s wives, and their children. They’re great people, a lot of fun, and they seem to accept kids just fine.

I want to become a contributing member of CWCC, and for the Young Adult group to take off and become really community oriented. I’ve volunteered to become the “point person” for the community, so hopefully I can use that unofficial position to my advantage in making sure the community continues and gets stronger.

#reverb10 – December 4, Wonder

Prompt: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeff Davis; reverb10.com)

My knee-jerk reaction is to say “cultivating a sense of wonder is the same thing as cultivating mindfulness,” but in reality, that would not be a very mindful answer. It would be an answer from my reaction-self, instead of my observing-self.

It’s the season of the year where everyone talks about child-like wonder, much like the scene in The Christmas Story where Ralphie and his family go to look at the department store window display. “Wow,” the children breathe, and they are in awe and wonder at the spectacle.

I was thinking a couple of Sundays ago, as I was reading “The Heart of Christianity,” I began to think about what it would mean that God is transcendent. The best analogy that I can access, really, is one that exists in one of my favorite series of young adult books. The Young Wizard Books, by Diane Duane, are set in a universe with a Supreme Creator, generally referred to as The One. There are other Powers that Be, and The One is generally left undescribed, but one thing which is generally mentioned is Timeheart.

Timeheart is a place where everything is perfect; everything is perfection. When we die, we go to live in Timeheart — one of the most quoted lines from the books is, “If time has a heart, it’s because other hearts stop.” The idea is that this was the original universe, the one created by The One, by God, and all other universes are reflections and corruptions of that first one. And the wizards, throughout the universes, are working with the Powers that Be, including the One, to restore and repair our universes, so that we may move closer to the perfection that is promised us in the fulfillment of time. Or, at least, that’s how I choose to interpret the books, and how I more easily understand the idea of a Transcendent God.

I think that all of this explanation is to talk about how I experience wonder.

I experience wonder in nature, in perfection. While I drive in my car and observe the landscape that I’m speeding past — the colors of the fall, the skeletons in the winter, the lime green new leaves in the spring. God is in those trees, and through that transcendence, they are perfect.

I experience wonder in change. I went and voted this past November 2, and thought about how the next time I vote — next August, probably, in a primary — I will bring my infant with me. I wondered at time and circumstances marching on, how things we think of as routine can change in texture and meaning as our life marches on.

I experience wonder when I take the time to notice — to notice the crowd at an outdoor concert, and the little girl wearing glittery chuck taylors, knee-high stripped socks and her red hair in pigtails. When I look into my husband’s eyes intentionally, meeting them for long moments, as we both smile and yet don’t look away — wonder and comfort and love from this particular interaction.

I experience wonder when things are no longer abstract, when they become a reality before me. Seeing my baby, my Rocketship, have a head and arms and legs and vertebrae — I fell in love, in open-mouth wonder.

What have I done in the last year to cultivate my sense of wonder? I have quieted my soul, and I have begun to see. I have noticed things as they are, and know that they are fleeting, that moments are not to be grasped.  This isn’t a skill that I have perfected; it’s not a skill I can even claim to be an apprentice in. But it is a practice, and a way of life that I wish to continue in the new year.