Category Archives: good faith

Like magic, our stories turn something into nothing and nothing into something

There’s a piece of paper on my desk. It measures 2 inches x 3 inches.

Is it valuable, do you think?

Let me tell you more. It has a bar code below the words “Cineplex Cinemas: Admit One. Present this ticket to a cashier to exchange for one admission ticket.”

What do you think now? Is it valuable?

But wait. There is more. “Expiration: April 30, 2016”

So, not so valuable after all.

For a moment, you and I could both believe that a mere piece of paper had power. I could take it in my hand and go places where others could not so easily go. Then, in a magical kind of way, the same piece of paper instantly became worthless recycling.

Nothing physical about the item changed, but the power it held dissipated into the ether. The science remained the same, but the story changed. Like magic.

When my kids were little, they became quite upset when they got “jinxed” by friends; they bought into the “jinx” story. I said to them, “You can only be jinxed if you choose to be jinxed.” They didn’t believe that though, because the stories of friends hold more power for children than a mother’s thoughts on the matter.

The power doesn’t exist in the object or the words, it comes from us. We choose to give it to them.

Everyone has objects to which they transfer their power: sports memorabilia, Beatles artifacts, paintings. The sticky point is: not everyone buys into the same stories. A World Series home run baseball is only valuable to people who don’t say, “Baseball? Who cares?” Beatles memorabilia only counts to those who don’t dismiss them as overrated. How about a painting like “Voice of Fire.” Is it worth 1.8 million dollars to you?

For Roman Catholics the consecrated hosts and wine of communion are much more than bread and wine. Scientific-minded sorts scoff at this. They don’t buy into the commonly accepted story. Those same scientists use money every day, so apparently they readily accept some forms of magic, but not others.

Money is big magic. If I want to go to see a movie—now that we’ve all agreed that my coupon piece of paper is not magical—I have an alternative. I can pull other magical pieces of paper out of my wallet, hand over an agreed number to the theatre and happily enjoy the film.

Of course, it depends which city I’m in at the time. If I were to pull out colourful Canadian pieces of paper at a movie theatre in an American city, they would be viewed with derision. Our paper is not so magical in the US.

The paper itself doesn’t change, but as soon as our car drives across an imaginary, magical line the story does. (Or in the case of our wonderful Canadian money, the polymer doesn’t change, but the story does. We really do have some of the finest money in the world.)

Commonly accepted stories help our society to function. If we all accept the story that red means stop and green means go at a traffic light, we prevent accidents. If we buy into the story of concert tickets, we avoid stampedes at Paul MCartney concert hall doors. (The Beatles are definitely NOT overrated.)

Beyond that, we have to recognize the stories for what they are and choose to delegate our power carefully. I’ll keep this Steve Rogers baseball on display because I love it, but you can bet that I won’t be bidding on “Voice of Fire” any time soon.

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A faith-full Frisbee

frisbeeToday, my eye falls upon a Frisbee—upside-down, silent, waiting—on my family room floor.

I contemplate the restful disc and imagine it cutting through the air—on the air—in a free, arching flight that captures natural forces, submits to them.

It’s beauty. It’s science. Beautiful science. 

The Frisbee needs a hand to set it in motion, otherwise the object at rest would stay at rest. It must have help. It cannot do it alone. When a hand hurls it, the aerodynamic forces of lift and drag, high pressure, low pressure, and spin come into play. The Frisbee soars, graceful in its fulfillment of purpose. The flight doesn’t last forever though. Gravity insists it must land, so the Frisbee touches down to a place of rest once again.

My Frisbee is purpose-built to fly, but that same Frisbee has also served as a doggie water bowl on car trips.  Another Frisbee that hangs on my office wall is a messenger; its happy face brings me a message of joy every day. Frisbees might be built to fly, but they can do other things too.

happy-face-frisbee

And they come in all different sizes, shapes and colours. Some are ring-shaped. Others are even flat and collapsible for ease of travel.

collapsible frisbee

What can we learn from my upside-down Frisbee? 

Maybe we can learn to submit to our beautiful science, the science that says we need a hand to set us in motion. Maybe we can learn to expect and accept that helping hand. Maybe we can learn to capture the forces that surround us and submit to them so we soar gracefully in our fulfillment of purpose. Maybe we can learn to enjoy the flight while it’s happening, and be present in it. Maybe we can learn that we, too, must land. We can’t fly ALL the time. Maybe we can learn that landing isn’t just acceptable; it’s desirable. Maybe we can learn that landing doesn’t make the flight any less meaningful. The landing and the lying around waiting for the hand to set us in motion once again is as natural and acceptable and beautiful and scientific as a soaring flight. Maybe we can learn to enjoy that landing and be present in it.

Maybe we can learn that we are purpose-built, crafted to fulfill a certain function, but that we can do other things too. Maybe we can be messengers to brighten someone’s day.

Maybe we can learn to appreciate all the different sizes, shapes and colours of each other.

Today, my Frisbee didn’t soar through the air on an arching path, but it did travel through the air in a different way—through me, to you, to give us all something to think about.

Now that’s one faith-full purpose I’ll bet the Frisbee didn’t foresee. Maybe we can learn from that beautiful science?

____________

Read about the science of Frisbee flight at Scientific American“Soaring Science: The Aerodynamics of Flying a Frisbee”

 

 

Facing fear: Cost or benefit?

Last week I wrote about a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. The facilitator asked everyone to consider the costs and benefits of saying “YES” and the costs and benefits of saying “NO.”

The group considered financial repercussions, the effect on personal relationships and the overall societal implications—the usual stuff. When listing the benefits of saying “NO” one group spoke up with: “If we say no, we won’t have to face our fears.”

People nodded. True. So true. The status quo—the comfort zone—is very appealing. The people in the room agreed that saying “NO” would, in many ways, make life a little easier.

But it only took a second or two before there was a reflective pause and a murmur. “Wait a minute,” the murmur said. “Not facing fears would also be a cost.”

We realized that not facing fears is an ingredient in recipes for stagnation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, guilt, depression, anger and lots of other unpleasant aspects of life.

It’s not the easy choice. It’s not the comfortable choice. But sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun, and it’s better than getting stuck between the cracks of life.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, April 16, 1991

Up close and personal with the other side of the story

Yesterday I took part in a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. It is the kind of decision that touches people in a deep place, so we know that no matter what the result will create some uneasiness.

The facilitator for the group asked us to consider this: If we say “YES,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “YES,” what are the costs of that decision?

I have an opinion on the matter, so I knew that listing the benefits would be a breeze. Easy-peasy. No problem. But I thought I would struggle with pointing out the costs. I was wrong. I was surprised by how readily I was able to come up with both costs and benefits.

We were also asked to look at the situation from the “NO” side. If we say “NO,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “NO,” what are the costs of that decision?

the-two-oneAgain, both costs and benefits came easily to mind. I didn’t have to dig around in the recesses of my mind to find them. I didn’t have to struggle with them or make something up. Both sides of the issue were ready for plucking off the surface of my brain once I chose to look for them.

I was surprised by how up close and personal my relationship with the other side of the issue was. 

I realized that I had already, subconsciously or unconsciously, weighed the costs and benefits. I had arrived at an opinion having considered the costs but seeing the benefits as more important, on balance.

It made me wonder, how many people hold strong opinions on a matter without any awareness of how up close and personal they are, or have been, with the other side of the issue?

 

 

The pixels, the picture and the story: A faith mosaic

canadian mosaic july 7th smallSince 2008, photographer Tim Van Horn has been travelling across Canada to photograph Canadians, and he will continue to do so into 2017. Each one of his photographs will become a pixel in a giant Canadian flag mosaic portrait to be completed in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. The portrait will tell the story of “the collective history and energy of 40,000 of Canadians from across the land . . . weaving together a colourful, diverse, true life look at the Canadian cultural tapestry.”

Van Horn’s Canadian Mosaic Project takes the faces of Canadians and creates a picture. The picture in turn tells a bigger story of a culturally diverse country.

Life is in the details, and life is in the big picture.

To really appreciate his masterpiece, we need to know about and consider the 40,000 unique citizens at the heart of it—the people pixels. But if we were to spend all our time microscopically dissecting the pixels without stepping away to appreciate they way they blend together, we would miss the big picture. We don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that the pixels are the only thing. Sure, we need to study the details, but we also need to enjoy the big picture and, more importantly, ponder what greater story they work together to tell.

Faith is like that.

We can study the bible. We can closely examine the many intricate details therein. But we don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that those details are what faith is all about. We need to step back and look at the bigger picture. And, more importantly, we need to ponder the greater story they work together to tell.

The faith story for me is:

  • All people are of equal value. Each unique face forms a vital part of the whole. All are one.
  • The collective history and energy of billions of people of different faiths weave together to form a colourful, diverse, true life tapestry.

_______________

Find out more about The Canadian Mosaic Project on Facebook.

 

 

 

You can’t skip Day Two: Where the magic happens

Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re ‘in the dark’—the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.” —Brené Brown in Rising Strong

Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, leads and participates in three-day workshops that encourage people to dare greatly and accept vulnerability. On Day One, people arrive bright with curiosity and anticipation. Day One is easy. But not Day Two. Day Two is hard. That is when participants really need to delve into the “unavoidable uncertainty, vulnerability, and discomfort of the creative process.”

No matter where people come from, or how much money they make, or what level of experience they have, everyone finds Day Two of the workshops challenging. Everyone experiences the doubt and discomfort that make up the middle space. Sometimes people want to give up and flee. They want to skip all the difficulties but yet, somehow, miraculously arrive at a happy ending.

But you can’t skip Day Two.

“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

Daring greatly to fill the empty pages on Day Two

Daring greatly to fill the empty pages on Day Two

Day Two takes many metaphorical forms. It’s the time of not knowing in between times of knowing. It can be the journey between the bright curiosity and anticipation at the outset of a project and the satisfaction of its completion, as in Brown’s workshops. It can also be the painful struggle between tragedy and triumph.

Day Two lives in the space after death or divorce and before life re-created in a new way. We find Day Two in the scorching pain of labour, after the first twing of contraction and before the birth of a child. Writers know Day Two well. Our Day Two is the long, doubt-filled period between Idea and Book.

There is a big Day Two coming up this weekend for those who celebrate Easter. Those who don’t celebrate Easter can look to it as an example too.

The Saturday that follows Good Friday, might look like an empty day, but it’s an important day to contemplate, because it’s the part of the story that we most often need to bring to mind. It represents all the difficult times we face when we don’t yet know about the joy to come. In Jesus’ time, on the Saturday following his death people only knew grief. They thought he’d be lost to history forever. They couldn’t have imagined that thousands of years later we’d still be talking about the guy.

During our times in between when we can’t see the happy ending—whether those times come after a divorce, or while working on a school project, or while waiting to hear if we got a job—Day Two reminds us that wonderful things beyond our wildest imaginings could be around the corner.

The time in between is a messy time of grief, or doubt, or confusion, or anger. On Day Two we do all the work without knowing where it’s going. It’s not fun, but you can’t skip it either. It’s where the magic happens.

Day Two sustains us and reminds us to keep a flicker of hope alive.

wishing-for-wind

 

 

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