Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the tag “God”

Freedom

Never in my life would I have said that freedom wasn’t a good thing. I was born an American, it’s in my blood to value freedom as one of the greatest things in the world. And yet in that same country, we are not free. We pressure each other to submit to this or this worldview and discount the other side entirely when their idea doesn”t entirely work out, as if this is proof that they are wrong. Wrong as a person, as someone who believes something. Wrong because they, as a person, are not right. Because in our society we have this strange idea that one thing is wrong and one thing is right and that’s just how it is.

Freedom is the ability to be yourself without pressure from others. You cannot force me to believe as you do. Christians cannot make a world of Christians by decrying the actions of others, fundamentalists cannot make heaven on earth by creating hell, Republicans and Democrats cannot make their side dominant by decrying the other side as totally wrong about everything.

The most beautiful thing about every person is their experience and perspective. Each person brings an entirely new perspective to every situation and, my God, how glorious is that? As someone too often trapped by their own perspective, how amazing it is that each person has some knowledge to impart on a situation that is possibly completely different than your own?

Freedom is the ability to express that wonderful thing that is You, Yourself. That wonderful creation. I’ve heard many a Christian tout the wonder that is your individuality. The fact that God cared enough to make you, and to make you just as you are. And more than that, God calls you to be your own fullest self. To “die” for Christ is to receive your own life because when you let go of your own desires and start listening, you find what God really made you to be.

So who wouldn’t fight for the ability to be yourself? Can you really live when you are someone else? No wonder people revolt and fight for freedom, because honestly why wouldn’t you if someone took away You?

The sanctity of You as a person is the reason so many things are important. Equality of the sexes, for one. Objectify someone into something you want them to be, all because it is more convenient for you? Come, come. People are not objects. They are living souls with so many things to offer, so much knowledge to share, so much love to give. We are all people. Full of pain, struggle and love. And we should be free to be ourselves.

I will leave this quote with you from Leonardo Da Vinci. “If this outer body of Man seems to you to be so marvelously worked, consider that it is nothing; next to the soul that formed it. In truth, regardless of what they are, it is always something divine that they embody.*”

*translated by myself. Original quote found in the Clos Lucé. “Si cette dépouille extérieur de l’homme te paraît marveilleusement ouvragée, considère qu’elle n’est rien; auprès de l’âme qui l’a formée. En vérité, quel que soit l’homme, c’est toujours quelque chose de divine que l’homme incorpore.”

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The Christmas Post

This little bit of ADD is all about deep stuff. Just so’s you know.

We see a lot every year about how Christmas is so commercialized and how it brings out the worst in people. Every year some intellectual high school students, college kids and cynical adults,* all post on blogs, facebook, twitter and God knows what else, about this “new” fact. But guys. It’s freaking Christmas. No matter what people decide to do with it, I think it’s one of the most beautiful holidays we have. I get to sit down every year and see EVERYONE in my family. All. At. Once-ish. I get to say “I love you,” tell stories about how I’ve grown and hear stories about others. I get to give not just presents, but silent “I love you’s” to my family. I try to put myself into the gifts I give.

In fact, I’ve given poems or stories to more than one relative. And I think instead of critiquing these crazy super-shoppers, we should take a minute and feel something for them. Because what in God’s name is so important that you really have to tussle for it? Shouldn’t we take a minute and feel sorry for these people who don’t realize that what’s really important is thought and time? Not money or stuff. Thought and time. Somehow they’ve confused the too. They maybe think that this high-tech, high-demand video game is what their children need to be happy. But you know. I don’t think that’s it. Christmas morning, I’ll admit, I always hope for lots of presents. But. BUT. It’s not because I really, really want the stuff. It’s because I know that for each additional present under that tree, there’s five more minutes my family and I can be together and say nothing but “I love you.”

And you know. I don’t think anyone should ever be jealous. And I’ll be honest and say I can be a very jealous person. But think about it. A) the things that make other people happy are GOOD. Think about all those sources of love and security around you. What would you do without them? Why covet if that means taking that happiness from someone else? B) Why not start counting your blessings instead? I mean. Today, for instance, the sun rose. And as a consequence we had a sunrise, a sunset, wind, rain, that breath of warmth you get on your skin in spring, and life. Every day. I mean. Obviously, someone loves you. And isn’t that worth more than anything you could possibly be jealous of? Who else is going to get the sun to rise for the whole world everyday?

*obviously I’m overgeneralizing. LET THE ENGLISH MAJOR STYLE GUYS.

Stop

I want everyone to take a moment and stop what they are doing right now.

And I want them to pray. Or if they aren’t religious, to think or meditate. Not on or about the children killed in Connecticut. Not about humanity. About this one simple thing.

I want everyone to stop and think about one beautiful thing they saw this year. Just one. And I want everyone to pray that something just as beautiful happens every moment of every day.

Because, while I don’t think we’ll ever get to that level of perfection. It’s a hell of a lot better than where we are. And people, no matter how much crap they decide to do, are some of the most beautiful things about this world. And they deserve to have a good sunrise and a comforting sunset. Whether that come from the sun, or from us other, more momentarily able people.

Don’t Mind Me, I’m just going to do some thinking

So you should read this article, because it’s very illustrative. It got me thinking, actually. Because, Murdock is actually right about something here. “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

If you think about the logical conclusion of most “pro-life” supporters, this is really what you get. God intended it to happen. I should clarify too and say that Murdock is not at all saying God wants rape to happen, but it does raise an interesting theological issue to the fore: how much say does God have in birth and what is he saying about it? And what’s really interesting is going to be how people deal with what I think is going to become something of a religious crisis. Because everyone knows rape is bad and God is good, so what does it mean if God intended for the woman to get pregnant? God doesn’t like rape either. Okay good, logical God. Makes sense. But the next step: to get pregnant you need God, so God must have somehow given his approval for the pregnancy: problem. Logical problem, moral problem, etc.

What I think is going to happen rhetorically in the U.S. soon is that someone is going to try and explain either a) why God promotes rape pregnancies (that’s not going to go down well. at all.) or b) someone’s going to try and be a little more precise about how God is involved with pregnancy. And therein lies the real danger for more conservative Christians. Because if they distance themselves from this idea (which I think they will soon have to), they open a door to something that I think is a bit more extreme than it needs to be.

Because I’m not sure that the right question is being asked. The assumptions aren’t necessarily correct. However, I find it unlikely that the politicians who will likely lead the rhetorical backtrack on this issue will backtrack far enough and that could pose a major problem for God in the modern Christian sense. Because maybe if God isn’t so instrumental in abortion, what does he do exactly? I personally hope things don’t swing that way, and I suppose looking at it more closely it is more likely that these christian politicians will quietly change their opinion, whatever they believe about God’s influence on birth is or is not. But either way, I think this poses an interesting problem for the Christian church. A philosophical dilemma, if you will.

I’ve spent way too much time on this. I think I’m just avoiding homework. Oh boy.

Hallelujah! It’s Raining…Soccer

This is the song I was thinking of when I made that title. I encourage you to laugh, either at the song, me, or my poor attempts at humor.

The important thing! However, is that I played soccer today! In the rain! With lighting. And hail…

Okay it got rained out towards the end there, BUT I did get to play for a good while before the weather went to complete crap! It took me most of our play time just to get back in the swing of things, but I felt like I was finally starting to get back into it towards the end. Of course, it didn’t help that I don’t really know what the soccer terminology is in French, so I felt just a little bit useless.

Lots of Arabs too which I found really cool and interesting. The immigrant population isn’t always super obvious here, but I think it’s really cool when it is. There are a lot of interesting people to hear, watch and learn from.

The Bathroom Window

There are sometimes a few REALLY random things that just make life better for entirely inexplicable reasons. I personally believe that God put them there for you, but even if you don’t, you have to admit that they exist.

Lately (and strangely), this has been the bathroom window for me. It’s about a foot across each way and really high up off the ground. Really, it’s an old, chipped-white, super-standard and otherwise hilariously ordinary thing that lets our bathroom air out (I fear the winter when we will have to close that little guy).

But I’ve taken up looking out the window lately. And, I don’t know, it’s beautiful out there. And I find that no matter how crappy I’m feeling about whatever. It’s a little piece of calm. Every time.

It’s really a blessing.

Last Post for the Day

I don’t know how to end today, but I think it should end in peace. And in something greater. So here is the Avett Brothers and one last idea from me.

The one thing I would ask of the world is to not allow the particulars of religion prevent you from seeing the love of God. Or even if you refuse God, to see the love that permeates the fabric of this world and gives those in the most impossible situations the strength not only to survive, but to rise high enough out of the flood to reach back and extend a hand to someone struggling behind them.

Prayers for all of you.

Calling All Angels

Philo Post

I was at some of my program friends’ house and the subject of religion briefly came up somehow. It’s interesting for us Americans because unlike the French, I think we just sort of slip into discussions of politics and religion as opposed to just going for it. Anyway, one of my friends cited a study wherein people prayed and their brains were scanned for activity. In those people, the areas related to two-person communication were activated, so it was as if the brain was having a conversation with another being. However, when the study asked atheists to pray to a deity, the brain was found to have none of the two-way activation that was found in the religious fellows.

Now obviously, I have no specifics on the study. I doubt it has been repeated and I don’t know what level of deviation or criteria were used. However, I am going to assume that the study is correct.

My friend interpreted that information to mean that people who believe in a diety create the being by the simple fact of believing in it. This is a theory I’ve come across in literature (if anyone ever read the Everworld series). My immediate reaction was to recount another experiment called “Spooky Action at a Distance” which I can post about at request.

But now I’m thinking. Does it really mean that we “create” God? I mean, on a really basic level I think all it really can be said is that the person believes themselves to be having a conversation…but we already knew that by the very parameters of the study. So what does it mean, if anything?

Here’s another sidenote. There has been discussion about “uploading” oneself into a computer. Some people even claim to be able to perform the feat within the next few decades. But here’s the thing: no one knows how to program emotion. Or, get this, a conception of the self. Here’s an article about that: click here.

Chew on it. Think about it.

Really, stop right now and take thirty full seconds to let that sink in.

I don’t believe anyone really understand how that works in the brain either. It just happens. But stop there for a minute. We don’t know where our conception of self comes from or why we have one exactly. We don’t know why we feel certain emotions (yes, I understand that there are a lot of identified mechanisms, but why). How do we know that we’ve been programmed “correctly” in regards to ourselves? How do we know that maybe there’s not another way to conceive of “self” that is “higher” than what we do now.

I know that’s all fairly disconnected. And I don’t have a conclusion yet, but think about those two things in relation with one another. And maybe take a minute to wonder about it.

Je suis sans internet pour le moment.

There is no wi-fi, or really internet at all, in my apartment. Which wouldn’t be a big deal if the only way I could contact my friends or family was NOT the internet. However. Nothing I can do about that so…cyber café it is!

So. My adventures of the past day. We went to “Les Gorges du Verdon.” It was absolutely beautiful. Regardez!

Really though, it was awesome. I even went on a little adventure by myself to the bridge to see the gorge. That was cool. It went way back into the mountains. The water was a green-blue (you can see that, obviously) and apparently this is mostly because of the clay found in the region. The lake itself is actually man-made so that they could build power-plants along the way. Apparently the Verdon river is really, really strong and fast. Normally I might complain about damaging the landscape and such, but a) the French seem to be generally much more environmentally aware than we are in the states and b) that lake is frickin’ beautiful. Sorry. Just is.

And the clay is good for your skin.

The clay is also good for pottery. We went to a town called Sainte Marie that is well-known in the area for its pottery production. And ALSO, for a chapel near the summit of one of the mountains that back the town. Now there are a few interesting stories about this chapel. HOWEVER, to be honest I’m really unclear on exactly what’s cool about it. Because the lady guiding the tour was speaking in somewhat accented French and using a bunch of fairly obscure words. And I was tired. Might have a lot to do with that last one.

ANYWAY, apparently it’s a place for miracles and a bunch of really cool things. Barren women have been known to conceive after praying there (or at least one woman who went on the tours ha). Anyway, it was awesome. In all seriousness. I feel like I’ve gotten much less religious in a traditional sense over the years, but there was definitely something powerful about this place. First of all, it was quite a hike.

Second, it sits almost at the top of some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. They’re really incredible.

Third, it’s designed like a cathedral, as in the same style. But it’s a lot simpler. Like, it’s not built to awe in the way a cathedral is. I don’t see someone pointing to the awesome power of God who made this gigantic, towering building. No, it was something so much purer than that. It was a quiet space. It embodied what a place of worship should be: something quite, beautiful and thought-provoking. I’m not catholic, but I did buy a candle and say a prayer. And that’s a lot for me. I feel like it’s something I’m not supposed to do or shouldn’t because I’m just a tourist, but the sheer beauty of that place stripped me of all that. And I took one moment to calm myself.

After that we went to where the great Provencal lavender fields are. It’s all been harvested already (thank you abnormally hot summer), but we learned about how lavender is grown and processed. I bought a bar of honey soap and a honey sucker. Yeah, not very lavendery I know. However, the lavender stuff was fairly expensive. I spent a little over 2 euro for my delicious sucker and absolutely fantastic soap.

Oh. And some other mini-adventures for the day. I bought ½ kilo of candied ginger. For any of you who don’t know how much a half kilo is. IT’S WAY TOO MUCH GINGER. I’ll be eating that stuff for a year. Oh well.

And finally, on our way to the gorges, we passed an experimental thermonuclear reactor.

…um…what?

Really though, it’s fine. It’s supposed to be just like all-around better. So I guess that’s good. But still. THERMONUCLEAR.

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