Category Archives: modern faith

Failure to communicate: A lesson for our galaxy from Sesame Street Martians

As a child I giggled out loud every time the Sesame Street Martians encountered another Earth object and tried without success to understand it or communicate with it. The ringing phone? Still cracks me up all these decades later.

But these days, when I despair about the harmful actions people are taking in the name of hate-driven agendas, I think those Sesame Street aliens illustrate part of the problem. Groups of people from the same galaxy but different neighbourhoods can’t figure each other out. Research in books leads to wrong or incomplete conclusions. Even if two groups stumble across a common word or phrase, the true meaning of what that sound communicates is misunderstood.

Sometimes the misunderstanding and miscommunication leads to a distrust so profound that people murder each other because of it, without remorse and sometimes with glee. 

Sesame Street doesn’t provide the solution, and guaranteed there is no fast and simple one. But if the Martians spent a little more time on the ground with the Earth objects, instead of just descending now and then in their spaceship, they would figure out what a cow, a cat and a chicken really look like.

Perhaps the modern transportation and communications system of our big galaxy will allow people from different neighbourhoods more time to just be together. Then, perhaps, in time, understanding will grow and everyone will learn that a ringing telephone needs to be answered.

Take time for time

Exactly three years ago, on July 12, 2013, I posted a piece called “No time for time.” Perhaps mid-July fosters impatience in me, because lately incomplete projects irritate me. I have no time for time! I repeat the silent mantra, “I want it done now!” 

The long-term writing project I’ve been working on? I want it done now!

My overdue house cleaning and decluttering? I want it done now!

Incomplete renovation work? I want it done now!

Any change in plans, setbacks or unexpected obstacles set my teeth on edge. On Saturday, for example, I drove home from my work at a local library with the firm intention of spending the afternoon performing a white wizard cleaning job on my house. I arrived there to discover we had no power; the passing winds of a thunderstorm had knocked a huge tree onto power lines nearby. I didn’t realize how dark our house is during the daylight hours of a stormy day. I could not see well enough to do an effective cleaning job. The cleaning had to wait. Grrr . . . I had no time for time. I wanted the cleaning done now!

I grumped and muttered and stomped around for the afternoon (my family dutifully staying well away from me) while I worked at allowing time for time and accepting what “was” in place of what I thought “should be.”

My thoughts turned to “coconut time” and the piece I had written about it before. Here it is again, in case you have any projects in the works that need time to ripen.

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No time for time

When my son was 10 years old, his first zit appeared on his chin. Offended by the mar to his perfection, he pointed at it with a jabbing finger. “What is that?” he demanded.

“Well, now, I’d say that’s a zit.”

“How do you get rid of them?”

“Time,” I told him.

“Time!” He was alarmed. “I don’t have time for time.”

We live in a hurry-up, I-want-it-now world. We want to control what happens when, and manipulate the world to our convenience. We have no time for time—except when we have no choice.

Polynesian countries know the wisdom of “coconut time.” We can’t rush a coconut to ripen; it happens in “coconut time.” What’s more, we don’t need to pick coconuts; they fall when the time is right.

We can’t grow old before our time. We can’t rush a coconut to ripen. And zits, they just take some time.

time

For the Light: Something to aspire to

For Canada Day, for Independence Day, for those figuring out how to deal with Brexit . . . a poem I wrote for my friend, Ellie Barrington, who is for the Light. Something for us all to aspire to.

 

the-lightFor the Light

For the Light
She sees in all people.
Divine Presence glowing in Every Body.
Accepted. En-Couraged. Embraced.

For the Light
She shines on ancient stories.
Enlightened Insights illuminating Ancient Wisdom.
Explored. Excavated. Evaluated.

For the Light
She makes for hurting souls.
Healing Compassion lightening Heavy Hearts.
Comforted. Soothed. Carried.

For the Light
She channels in a spirit community.
Raised Hands receiving Flowing Grace.
Transmitted. Shared. Reflected.

For the Light
She is called to be in a needful world.
Engaged Advocacy targeting Wounding Injustice.
Balanced. Restored. Righted.

For the Light
She encompasses in her very being.
I AM permeating her Sizzling Presence.
Blessed. Brilliant. Be-Loved.

 

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.

BtbrewGCcAE9Dk4

 

 

 

 

 

The parable of the shovels

Two men stood on opposite sides of a field. An Overseer said, “Dig.”

shovelThe first man said “Okay! I can handle that. I’ve been preparing all my life to dig.” He selected his best shovel from five shovels leaning against a large storage shed, and he set to work. He had no trouble digging; his parents had paid for digging lessons when he was a child, and he had a college degree in shoveling. He was so good at digging that sometimes this man wished he had more shovels. The families of some of his friends had so many shovels they needed more than one storage shed. They had more than they could ever use, and this man knew his life would be better too, if he amassed a larger supply.

The second man across the field heard the “Dig” instruction and set to work. He had no shovel, so he dug using his bare hands. He had never had a shovel, so he wouldn’t have known what to do with one if he had it. He believed that shovels were something only other people had, and they were a dream he would never attain. He was a little afraid of shovels, truth be told. And the people who had shovels didn’t treat him nicely at all, so he didn’t want to become like them. Because he didn’t have a shovel, he had to dig longer and work harder than the other man, and he still didn’t get as much done. But he kept working. One day he fell ill, but he dug anyway. There are no such things a sick days for people with no shovels.

The first man didn’t pay much attention to what was happening on the far away side of the field, but one day he decided to take a well-deserved afternoon off and go for a walk. When he came to the side of the field where the second man was working through his lunch hour, he saw how little progress the man had made.

“Look at that,” he said. “He’s hardly done anything. He’s waiting for me to pick up the slack.”

He shook his head and walked away. “He’s just lazy and riding on my coattails.” He didn’t notice that the man had no tools to work with. It didn’t occur to him to share any of the shovels he wasn’t using.

The Overseer came back to check on progress. He visited the man digging with his bare hands, and he complimented him on his progress. “You have done well,” he said. The digger knew he had worked hard. He felt proud of the results of his hard work, even though he knew it wouldn’t look like much to others.

hand-tool

The Overseer went to visit the man with many shovels. That digger said, “Look at what I’ve done.” He waved an arm to show off the large area of ground he had worked. “I’ve done so much more than that guy over there.” He pointed to the small patch the other digger had worked on the opposite corner of the field.

“You have done well,” the Overseer said, “But do you think you might have a shovel to spare?”

Startled, the first digger replied, “Why, sure, I guess.” He’d never thought of that before. He looked down at the shovel in his hand. It had a sturdy handle, and it was just the right length. He really loved it. He didn’t want to give that one away, so he kept his favourite shovel. He gave the Overseer one he’d forgotten he even had out of the back of the shed.

The Overseer returned to the far side of the field and placed the shovel into the dirty and calloused hands of the second digger. The man held it out from his body, overwhelmed at first. He had never handled shovels, so it felt awkward. He didn’t think he deserved such a thing.

“Use it. It will help you,” the Overseer said.

Eventually the second digger gained confidence and became quite comfortable with the new tool. It worked so well for him, he even enjoyed some time off every once in a while.

  • There will always be people with more or fewer tools.
  • Don’t judge people who don’t have tools.
  • Don’t be afraid of tools; master them and they will help.
  • Everyone is worthy of tools.
  • Consider the needs of others and get them some tools, if you can.
  • Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have more tools than we really need.
  • It’s okay to keep your favourite tool.

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.

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Find out more about The Canadian Mosaic Project on Facebook.

 

 

 

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