Now that I’ve been at this for well over a year, I’m beginning to realize a few things about publishing my thoughts for people to skim on the internet:
1) It is most definitely as glamorous as you think it is. There are few things that stoke the white-hot flames of my raging ego quite like: “Hey, I meant to tell you, I made it through your blog the other day and it wasn’t nearly as long as the others I quit reading half-way through!” Or, my personal favorite: “Wow, there were WAY fewer typos this time, your writing is DEFINITELY improving.”
Or, as ‘Ye* puts it: “I guess every superhero needs his theme music.”
(*NOTE: this is a short-hand moniker Kanye West uses to refer to Kanye West, specifically.)
2) The world is filled with people that are better at this than me. From 17 year olds working on their 2nd novel, to 77 year olds rediscovering a long-left-dormant love of the written word, the internet has-in true Gutenbergian fashion (the press, not the Steve)-leveled the walls between creator and the consumer. With that said, I enjoy the chance to participate in however small and borderline incoherent ways, moving our art form forward, even if I have to pander to the 600 word Huffpo Side-Boob-Intelligentsia in the process. So, if you’ve bothered at some point to read even one of these hurriedly edited blogs, I appreciate it. Because honestly, there’s way better stuff out there.
3) Most of what I end up writing about is saturated, soaked, soiled even, with the residue of my faith (or oftentimes, lack thereof). Usually, these conversations venture into complaints about what it’s like being an associate pastor in a small Baptist church in East Tennessee. Or, about the failings of Evangelicalism specifically, and/or the Christian faith in America generally, to say anything compelling whatsoever about the way of Jesus. However, I find I’m growing somewhat tired of talking, writing, thinking, reading, and dry-heaving over my toilet about the subject. Professional Christianity has run its course for me, and try as I might, the once sensitive gag-reflex to conservative, narrow-minded, and celebrity driven approaches to the faith I love dearly, has significantly lessened to the point that now, I can’t even muster mild disdain for plagiarizing machismo bullies in Affliction t-shirts currently topping New York Times bestseller lists.
In short: as I get older, as it becomes harder to recover from exercise and yard work, as it becomes easier to wake up without the aid of an alarm clock on a pre-9:00am Saturday morning, and as I un-ironically find myself making lists even including words like: “yard work,” I realize just how brief our time on Earth truly is.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, we only get so many beats and breaths, why waste even one of them concerning ourselves with the worst versions of our faiths, our lives, our celebrities, our families, our relationships, our politicians, or, even, our god?
Instead, I’d like to invite you to step away from the keyboard, the smart phone, or whatever those window tablets are called, in order to pay attention to the beauty unfolding right in front of you. Because despite the waste and the toxicity and the pain and the loss and the abuse and the dreary Monday marine layer, there is this hum quietly playing in the background of human existence.
“There’s some spirit, I used to know, but it’s been drowned out by the radio.”
Despite the differences existing between our respective religious traditions and proclivities, this hum manages to fill our ears in those few moments we bother to lift our eyes above the chaos of unmet egoism in order to exclaim, together, almost univocally: “wow, that’s beautiful, truly.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in an interview with NBC ten days before his death, as he faced the end of an illustrious career writing, speaking, dreaming, and teaching about this hum, said:
“Remember, there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art…I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.”
I asked for wonder, and you gave it to me.
The internet, if it teaches us anything, it’s that life can be managed, can be understood, can be explained, and that if we search long enough on wikipedia, we can discover the answer to our problems.
The internet is life devoid of wonder.
Certainty is life devoid of wonder.
Cynicism is life devoid of wonder.
Blogs succinctly making lists of experiences to be had and things to do are devoid of wonder.
Meaning, that if your orientation to the world does not open you up to the boundless bigness of the world, it is, in the least playful sense of the word, deeply heretical.
However, the Christian faith as I understand it, teaches the opposite: that the only word, the only answer, the only truth residing at the bottom of the well, is slack-jawed-standing-at-the-edge-of-the-grand-canyon-levels-of-awe. Which, put another way, is the overwhelming realization that the ground upon which you’re standing (or in my case, typing) is sacred and beyond explanation. In the most orthodox sense of the word, it’s the idea that true life isn’t to be escaped or survived, but to be cherished, marveled at, and mourned upon its conclusion.
Why else would God waste time inhabiting the existence of a dusty, wandering, executed rabbi, if not to remind us that the things in front of us matter most?
So, if you’ve met anything in the midst of my ramblings, I hope it’s wonder. Or at least, an admittance that the one proof-text for the existence of God is that you’re still breathing, so there must be something interesting to do about it.
I may not always be the best, or the funniest, or the most successful, or certainly not the most faithful, but I am convinced that God grants wonder.
That is, if we ask for it.