Exploring where life and story meet!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lack of vision and the how to implement world peace?

These are all variations on Proverbs 29:18 from four different translations:

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law. (nKJV)

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction. (NIV)

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.
But whoever obeys the law is joyful. (New Living Translation)

It is always interesting to compare the various translations, they all say the same thing but some seem to say it better or more effectively than others, and this varies from verse to verse, even within the same translation and may depend on the reader or even the reader's current mood as to which is "the best."  I especially love the contrast between the original King James and the New Living Translation.  Of course, I have always been a lover of archaic words and poetic prose (an oxymoron?), but I must also admit that the latter translation is quite amusing in how it puts this simple statement and perhaps more effective with a modern audience!

This verse has been on my mind for a time, and I wonder if that is the heart of our modern conundrum.  We have no vision, no purpose, no meaning thus do we run wild/perish, trying to fill the void in our hearts and lives when God has given us the answer to all our questions and deepest longings, but little do we heed them and so do we flounder.  Nothing is truth anymore, everything is relative.  No wonder we walk about dazed and confused!

But how do we change the world?  It is really quite simple.  It is not ending wars, getting rid of nuclear weapons, uniting all countries into a giant global community, or a new government program or educational breakthrough.  All we need do to change the masses is to begin with an individual heart.  Yes, you and you alone, are able to change the world, at least in so far as your own heart is concerned.  You cannot change the country or the world or even your neighborhood but you can begin to change your own heart.  If enough people take seriously this challenge, then truly the world will be changed, but the only thing you can change is yourself, not your spouse, your kids, or the President, but yourself alone.  But what is our vision of change; to what do we aspire?

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (II Corinthians 13:1-6, 13 ESV).

These are words to change the world, if not a heart!  But we cannot do it alone, but there is One who can help us if we but ask!  The Beauty Contest competitors always dream of world peace, but it must begin with us. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Fast and the not so furious?

Lent is upon us and certain traditions hold that one should give something (usually food) up for this period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, which in this age of over-indulgence and hyper-individuality is a very timely practice.  Giving something up because you think it is religiously necessary and you are somehow earning points with God is silly, but a Fast from some beloved pleasure for the sake of going deeper in your faith, spending more time/energy in a more God-pleasing fashion, and for increasing your reliance on God can be a very rewarding experience.  I have not intentionally undergone a fast as it were, but the weather of late and my family's choices in leisure time activities have something of that affect.  The severe winter weather has kept us inside and we have chosen to read a good book or talk rather than watch videos for the last several weeks.  It is amazing how much of your life the television can engulf, how little time you actually spend with your loved ones even whilst watching the same show!  Which is probably the whole point of a ritual fast: we are to learn how much whatever it is is distracting us from God and the most important things in life!  We all complain of having no time, of being far too busy, but what if we unattach ourselves from technology for a time, say a day a week or limit it to a certain amount each day?  What if we could rediscover ourselves, our friends, our family?  What would happen to our relationships, our lives, our minds?  What if we forgo the latest cheesy novel or chick-flick and discover the forgotten, dusty wisdom of bygone days, hidden in some great classic of history?  Life often seems so pointless, so dull, so tedious.  Not so, if we can but remember the great things of life (no, not YouTube or Twitter).  Classic books and music are to the mind and soul what real food is to the body; think what a steady diet of McDonald's would do to your body and know what modern culture has done to your mind!  Even better, find a few friends to share in your literary adventures!  If you need a good book, check the link in the side panel for a few suggestions, many of them are free!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obituaries, lies, and legacy

I have always hated obituaries, for reasons that have nothing to do with death.  First of all, they never tell you how someone died.  People do not just die; they die of something and should that not be an integral part of a death announcement?  I am not sure if we are so afraid of death that we dare not name its allies and thus realize our own mortality or if we think it impolite or traumatic to speak of the cause of death.  When an elderly person dies, it is usually something medically related and the cause not so surprising, but one always wonders what tragic event caused the demise of a young adult or a child.  It is like an unfinished story, something that will forever frustrate our attempts at closure and full understanding. 

The other problem I find with these brief synopses of a human life is their lack of truth.  Everyone dies a much beloved saint, at least according to their obituaries.  While it may be of some comfort to the survivors to say all the great things that were or were not accomplished by the dearly departed, this exaggeration does little to tell the full story of a human life.  Anyone who has ever lived will tell you, no one's life was all sunshine and roses; no one has ever lived so perfectly as their obituary proclaims.  Where there is joy there is also sorrow; where there is life so too is there death.  It is the way of things in this fallen sphere.  We do not understand a story with no suffering, no trials, no struggles.  We turn our loved ones into a mere caricature of themselves and no longer believe that they ever truly lived.  This does a great disservice to their memory and the struggles they have survived or overcome.  It is boring!

I do not encourage gossip or passing along every misdeed or sin perpetrated by the deceased, but if their tale is to be told, it should be the full tale.  Here lived a man who was saint as well as sinner.  Here was a woman who lived and breathed and had a being.  We are not cartoon characters, but people who truly live!  No one reads a book or watches a movie written like that, why do we expect our own lives to be summed up so vapidly?  Sure, it sounds great to remember the dead in such undreamed perfection, but everyone who knew the person knows they never lived that way and no one else really cares, especially the deceased!  So why lie to ourselves and everyone else?  Why belittle the lives of those we loved?  We need not speak ill of the dead, but neither need we lie about them.  Instead, let us live lives worthy of recording and remembering, instead of lying about and exaggerating our meager, drab lives in hopes someone may remember or care.

Why all these grim reflections?  Why focus on such a strange piece of literature?  Life is a story and every story has an end.  I was reminded of this very recently when one that should be dear to me became gravely ill and I wondered how his obituary might read.  This reflection was quite disturbing, for it will tell a tale that never was.  It will never mention the torment and shame he inflicted on others, the lives he ruined, the hearts he broke.  Nor will it dwell upon his own lonely, miserable life.  But this is the tragic tale, his legacy.  And Heaven help him when he must stand before God and give an account of himself, for we shall not be judged by the contents of our obituary but by our every thought, action, and deed.  Have we lived a life where we will not be ashamed on that Day?  Our deeds cannot save us, but they can prove us good and faithful servants to Him who can.  You are in the middle of your own story, how will it end?