Thursday, June 28, 2007

If I Went Away

With head lightly bowed and a prayer in our heart, can we see beyond the barrier where the vanished have gone? If I could sing a song designed to bring them home, or perhaps to take me there, what song would I sing? What words would hold the secret?
If I could sing a song to bring my father back, if I could lower my head and concentrate and discover something more than a thought or memory, or if I could touch his shoulder the way I did the evening he died and have him smile; what song would bring him home?
If I could go where he went and somehow come back, I would begin to pack. If I could go now, I would go. If I knew the words to the song that races across the dark and says 'come home', I would sing with all the voice I could find. I would sing today. With rain pelting my roof as I think, and thoughts of what was lost, I would sing with tears in my eyes and a catch in my throat, yet I would sing fully and with all I could find, if I could bring him home.
For the children that died young, I would sing the song.
For the peace seeking fallen soldiers, of any nationality, I would sing the song.
For the store clerk in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would search for the lyrics to bring them home.

Is there no song? No song I could sing that would change the path, and bring them back to their mothers, fathers and friends? Is there a song for my funeral, if I went away? Would you sing my song for me, if I left the words behind?

If I went away, what would I sing? Would I sing a song to bring you across to me?

Would you sing a song for me? Could we sing a song from either side that filled a universe of dark? Could we sing a song that moved us back and forth from what was, to what might be?

If I went away, would I find the words to sing for you? Would you sing for me?

If I Went Away?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Adidas Kim Collins- Impossible Is Nothing

In the video above Kim Collins is the lead voice and athlete in the Adidas commercial. The commercial is a series developed by Adidas to express the timeless thought that there is really nothing impossible.
I had the good fortune to meet Kim Collins during one of my workouts last week. For those of you not knowledgeable about track and field (probably 98% of you) Kim was the 2003 World Champion at 100 meters, and holds other remarkable credentials beyond that race. He is a native of St Kitts & Nevis.
I was working on starts and his coach introduced him to me. He told me he had seen me sprint in a recent local meet. He made suggestions on my starts and then he mentioned something to me that two of you readers have also mentioned. He asked if I knew of ‘The Secret.’ I found that interesting and now since my blog friends, and Kim have pointed me in that direction I will go and have a look.
I want to write about another subject today however and it involves Kim also. His coach Monte Stratton, in an interview after Kim won the World Championship said, "In a world of wildebeests, he is a gazelle, who runs without noise, without friction, almost without disturbing the air around him."
I watched Kim run from the blocks the same night I was there, still under the watchful eye of Stratton and was indeed impressed by the remarkable ease with which he attained eye-opening speeds. I think in a world of wildebeests I wish to be a gazelle as well. Maybe not in track where I am simply what I am, but can we translate that remarkable quote by Mr. Stratton into a life lesson?
Did you ever feel as if you were trying so hard at some task or goal that it impeded your efforts? The ancient Taoists teach somewhat along the lines of letting the flow of life envelop you, a way of ‘going with the flow’ to quote popular vernacular.
The ad says “Impossible is Nothing”. Our typical understanding of impossible challenges is to work with all our might and to induce the strain of our mighty will against the challenge deemed impossible. Translated, our hard work will bring us to the impossible.

I have found two concepts vital to my progress as a track athlete.
One, I must be totally prepared physically. I have to run the enormous workouts my coach deals out and spend ample time in the weight room. I must be physically prepared to achieve what I hope to achieve.
Two, When in the midst of a race I must sprint in a totally relaxed manner. I know that sounds contradictory. I don’t have the space here to explain it (nor you the patience to read it) but it is necessary to sprint in a relaxed manner to achieve high speed. To do this successfully refer to concept Number 1 one above.

I think there is some element of universal application in this small bit of track wisdom. Namely we must always prepare properly for our dreams, but also know we must let the consequences of our work happen without disrupting the natural flow around us. I want to do it that way I think. I want to be a gazelle among the wildebeests, running through life without noise, without friction, almost without disturbing the air around me. Isn’t that a fine vision?

Hold on...wait a minute....I think I just recommended going through life without breaking wind? I guess that's a good idea too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Devil Made Me Do It

I used to have the spirit scared right out of me by Baptist preachers. Now many religious bloggers and strangely enough secular bloggers are starting to scare me a little. The reason they scare me is that they insist on the presence of a Satan. I am comfortable enough in my beliefs that I am not concerned I will be converted, but instead concerned that a figure known as “Satan’ can be blamed for so much in the world.

I heard all about Satan as a child. I once dressed as Satan for Halloween. I suppose if there is an actual red Halloween costume complete with pitchfork and long tail, then the reality of the rascal is oddly difficult to dismiss.

However I have managed to reason the devil out of my existence. I trust in a natural law system of belief. I believe man is already complete and perfect in concept. The key phrase of course is ‘in concept’. I find it intellectually small to imagine that across our universe a loving God is doing battle with a Satanic force. It defies credibility if we observe the natural pattern of our world. Why wouldn’t Satan simply pull the sun from the solar system if he were real and possessed powers enough to torment the Creator? It would shorten his work load here in a dramatic and creative way, and certainly it would be evil and demonstrate his equal powers.

If we were created to be complete in perfection, how would an evil force be co-created? Over the years I have convinced myself that our world is one of natural law and natural order. It will not surprise you to know I think the perfect harmony is grounded in our ability to love not only one another, but all things that surround us. Simplistic? Yes.

Inside all great beauty lies simplicity. Even when we unravel the remarkable complexities of biology we simultaneously discover the remarkable simplicity of evolution and adaptation.

Can the world be so simple that Satan is made up to explain away the fallibility of human choice? I believe this is partially true. I also believe Satan has been created to control other humans. There is no Satan, there is merely the function of free will imperfectly executed. We are granted free choice by the Creator for a simple reason. If we were not, we would be mere slaves to a steady state of nothingness. With free choice we become an experiment in learning the good way, the natural law of our world. When we fail it is only because of inappropriate choice.

Amid all of this preaching of mine a signal is arising that life is easy and all we need do is go out and make the correct choice. Having fallen many times in my life I know the weaknesses of my theory. It is one of those difficult thoughts that send us forward into complexity only to emerge years later with an understanding of the simplicity. It can resemble a tangled string that we labor to unravel from the middle rather than searching for the two ends before we begin. Once we have it all untangled, we see the ends of the string clearly. Or are we seeing the beginnings of the string?

I believe all the things that surround us that we call evil or we attempt to attribute to a Satan are nothing more than failures in the perfect exercise of free choice.

This is the natural law I embrace.

If I walk across the street tonight and murder my neighbor, is it permissible to blame it all on the Devil? I think not. It is permitted within the design of free will to make disastrous and unnatural choices, and that is all.

Satan does not exist.

I could go on and on and on. Perhaps you would move to your links and click ‘next’ if I did? Still I want to make a point to you about something I have learned. There is no Satan. There is no evil that operates in an absence of human choice. Perhaps we can fear choice and maybe we can seriously fear the choices of others. But, can we please quit absolving ourselves of the responsibility for our searches and our choices and quit scaring the children in church?

Satan does not exist. If we concern ourselves with expressing our innate perfection, we can transcend such shallow thoughts as believing in evil forces at work on us, but we must begin with purging ourselves of such an easy excuse for our failure to search.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

You Aint Nobody

"You are what you are in this world

That’s either one of two things

Either you’re somebody

Or you ain’t nobody"

Those words come from the movie American Gangster. They are more powerful if you hear them spoken by Denzel Washington the prime actor of the movie. You can do that here.

I got hung up on those lines midway through the trailer. The words spit in the face of gentler philosophies such as Taoism or Christianity. A gentler way says we are all important, one of us is just as important as the other.

What do you think?

It’s possible to embrace both sides of the discussion. I think we can make a solid case for the power of the individual that controls his or her environment. I think this is especially true if this mastering of our circumstance is accomplished in a benevolent manner. The great inventors, philosophers and scientists fit Washington’s professed ideology. That is to say they are ‘somebody’ on the world stage. The man or woman that buses the tables at the local restaurant, diligently wiping off table tops, is obviously less known to the world on an individual basis. Is the bus boy a nobody? Is he less important than Monty Jones?

I am reminded of the line from Jack Nicholson in The Departed where he declares he ‘does not want to be a product of his environment, but rather prefers that the environment become a product of him.’ (paraphrased)

I think the truth of our existence occupies a precarious place of balance among such rash statements. These are statements that can land us in large trouble, and ironically it is also the attitude that might deliver us to greatness as a society and as individuals.

What do you believe?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Turning Stones

We all have some origin that we hold no responsibility for. We didn’t get to choose our landing place. Of course I don’t know all of your circumstance and what you may have been granted that you never asked to receive, so as usual I am left to talk about myself.

I was born into a family that took its Baptist religion straight-up. It was like ordering coffee black; you had to be man or woman enough to handle it without any artificial sweetener. Sometimes bitter, sometimes less so, but just like coffee, always very real to the senses, particularly if you were not crazy about coffee in the first place.

My spiritual immersion was the Southern Baptist version of Christianity. I think when Jesus worked his message to the first listeners he did not exactly have the Southern Baptist church in his vision, but like all things that we think about in our biologically mandated individual manner, mine is only an opinion of one.

The subject comes up because I have been lately stuck on random thoughts about the churches in my area of Dallas-Fort Worth. Everywhere I look in the bible belt that surrounds me I see churches. We have 3 churches per four corners in North Texas. There are gigantic ones and little tiny ones about a block apart. My professional work is currently overwhelmed with churches requesting what my skills provide; the estimation of construction cost for new facilities. A facility I estimated last week will take 20 million dollars to construct. This leads me to my central thought for the post. Churches that were birthed to spread the message of Christianity are now business centers. We have churches that (if you will grant me some small allowances for generalization) have become business centers. What is the business? Too often I am seeing the funding of salaries, construction of facilities and non-religious education as the central, and certainly unofficial, mission statement.

When I was young I was sent to church every Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Each service lasted approximately 2 hours. Add the weekly Wednesday evening service and the twice yearly week-long revivals and, well you see my point that I have seen the inside of the southern Christian church and therefore I am not a pretender in writing about the same. At the age of separation from my parents I simply rebelled. No more church. Please God, no more church. I retained my spirituality. I even dared expand it while in the middle of my ‘church rebellion'.

I am struck today by some thoughts worth exploring. Is the 2007 version of the ‘business of church’ still conducive to Christian education? With potential exposure to sounding old and dated I will tell you that by the time I was 14 years old I had read the New Testament 3 times, the entire Bible once and listened to countless sermons on both texts. Does the new ‘business model’ church of 2007 require its youth to read the Bible? Maybe they do, and maybe like so much of life it simply depends on the individual church/teacher in question. Whatever the facts, I have become a questioner of the ‘business model’ approach to the development and continuation of the Christian message. It is always easy to question isn’t it? Too often we ask questions because we want a sure and quick answer rather than having to think, so I will turn the frontal attack on the church on its head and suggest that if the Christian churches are ignored, no matter their ‘model’ status, who is left to move the message forward? Is asking the question dangerous in this way?

What’s next? While Muslims hate and kill and those Muslims that do not hate stand by idly without admonishment for those that do hate, what next for Christianity? Are big business and Crystal Cathedrals all we have to offer the world?

I am full circle to the opening thought that each of us has some origin that we hold no responsibility for. Some of us were born Muslim, some Hindu, some southern Baptist Christians and some were born into the poverty of spiritual absence. As we grow older and learn to discern and think for ourselves, will we gravitate to the message that reaches us; or in contrast, will we move toward the message we have reached out to find?

When we begin to reach, do we reach toward the ‘businesses’ of Christianity, or do we reach for the truth and the peace of knowing something finer, something more meaningful than who might have the largest sanctuary and most televised pastor?