Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Love.

On the surface you think it makes sense.  You love someone because you click, or because it’s convenient, or because they love you.  And you do the things that go with love: you spend time, you give things, you make sacrifices.  But then time goes by and it’s become something else, too…

It isn’t that you’re lost in it; you become something else, maybe.  You go through seasons when you can’t remember any of the reasons.  You feel like you don’t have anything in common. You feel like so much of your relationship has been you hurting the other person, and you can’t take those things back, and maybe all the other love-things weren’t worth it.  You can’t think of anything about the person that inspires you – you can’t even bring to mind things that used to inspire you.

But in the middle of all that – and you feel like you’re drowning, feel like you’ve been crazy to have ever thought differently – in the middle of it, you realize there’s still love.  It’s there with a pulse, abiding even when you have nothing to feed it, no reason to believe in it. And it’s hard to even define what it is that’s present that we name love, but you know it is love.

Opportunities come, and they’re wrenching ones, to see some things that this love does.  The person you love gets sick and you’re surprised that all you can think about is rushing over to hold the puke bucket and rub their back.  Or you’re half awake but the first thing you think about is whether they’re ok. You hear them say that they don’t feel loved, don’t believe they’re lovable – and sometimes they don’t even say it, you just find it out – but you get the sensation that you were made for this: to prove that someone is loved, and you want to prove it with everything you have and are and do.  Or they’re in such a dark place spiritually and you can’t stop praying, and the only things you can pray are that God will rescue them.

There are border-lands of this feeling, where you’re conscious of some reasons, where you enjoy loving them, even though it’s still hazy.  You’re not sure what you’re dealing with, so you’re not sure how to act, but love isn’t about figuring everything out and making a plan.

But you know you’re in this state where whether you get anything out of it or not, whether it seems successful or not, whether there’s hope for things to be better ever again.

Or.

Not.

Youknow that none of those things will change the fact that you care about them more than you care about yourself.

It doesn’t mean that your life will end up entwined with theirs, nor that you’ll be asas significant to them.  It just means that love doesn’t go away. You can choose to start loving; you might be able to choose to quit loving; I don’t know.  I do believe, though, that you can’t just fade out of loving a person. Once you’ve invited it, it’s there.

You can still do the not-loving things.  Your love can be weak or it can be caged by all sorts of other feelings and choices – but if it is, you’re going to be miserable, because the love will still be aching inside you.

It’s like a miracle, like begetting children: you do contribute, but you’re not doing it.  You haven’t a clue where to begin to create love, and you’re not powerful enough to do it if you did.  It’s a grace. God gives it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It’s happened before.  I hear about a friend whose marriage is rough.  I understand the swirling strain the mind goes through, trying to solve problems.  Is there a way out?  I understand the grief when a thing isn’t what it should be.  It may be the only way to stay sane, to hold tight to the fact that God’s design is better than this.  Marriage is good.  God designed it to be good.  He designed it to be better than what anyone experiences.  And though He isn’t out of control, what we do and experience falls short of the glories God designed.  What we do and experience, though, can still bring Him glory.

 

I digress.  Is there a way out?  If God didn’t intend it to be this way, must I still live in it?  God’s design for humanity is health, but we get sick; we feel pain.  Must we still live it?

 

God’s design for fatherhood is to be one who speaks to his children, teaching them the way they should go, demonstrating love and patience. Fathers chasten their children so that they will learn to be good, God-fearing, and productive.  But if a man fathers a child and then walks away, is he still a father?  Our society is all in a rush, with step-parents and father-figures, to give the title of father to those who come closest to fulfilling the design for that role.  I’m not sure I disagree with an analogous application of the term “father” to someone who is doing the work of a father.  What concerns me is when we say that the man who abandoned his family is not a father.  The thing that, in fact, makes a man a father, is his biological participation in bringing a child into the world.  Are we letting biological fathers off the hook by telling them that unless they act like fathers, they aren’t fathers (and, thence, they don’t have the responsibilities of fathers)?  Perhaps a more difficult question is whether God means for “Honor your father and mother” to apply even to fathers (or mothers) who are not living up to the ideals.

 

So I’ve been pondering the difference between what is essential to a thing, and what makes a thing “good”.  A marriage is one man and one woman covenanting and becoming one flesh for this life.  A good marriage is more.  A good marriage has good communication, good teamwork, is productive and pleasurable.  A good marriage involves each helping the other become closer to God.  A good marriage is a testimony of love to the world.  Do God’s expectations for marriage only apply to healthy, thriving ones?  If one spouse isn’t living up to the ideals of a “good” marriage, is the other spouse free to claim this isn’t going to work out?  Or does “What God has brought together, let no man separate” apply even to marriages that just meet the bare bones definition of a marriage?  (And what are the bare bones of things, in God’s eyes – as He has revealed them to us?)

 

It’s a hard road, but I believe that we are called not to escape the things and people who are broken, but to love them and to mourn over their/our brokenness.  I believe we are to hope for the good, even when it looks impossible.  I believe that when we read the Bible, we must do so submitting to God’s revelation for our understanding of the institutions God instructs us about.  A father begets a child. Those children are commanded to relate to their father with obedience and honor.  Such a father is commanded to treat his children in certain ways.  Marriage is a thing, even if it is a different thing from what we imagined or hoped for when we started it.  Being a Christian is a thing, with responsibilities that we don’t escape by failing to live up to them.  Being a friend is a thing that I’m wrestling with right now, trying to understand what God teaches are the bare-bones essentials of friendship and also what He delights for it to be.  Church is a thing.  Gender is a thing.  How well we live these things doesn’t change what they are.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I was with my friend the other day, watching her two young sons play.  On this particular summer day, the six year old was standing on the couch with a large foam ax, knocking his four year old brother on the head.  The younger one gave a delighted laugh and begged, “Do it again!”  Both brothers demonstrated their foolishness in what followed.  The one with the ax did it again, but harder, and the one on the floor, less delighted, kept hoping for a repeat of the first delightful tickle and kept asking, “Again!”  And that’s when their mom intervened, warning the armed brother to stop.

 

The little vignette reminded me of our culture.  We think that as long as someone consents to it, there are no limits to what we are justified in doing to them: fornication, assisted suicide, and high interest loans are some examples.  But just like my friends, consent wasn’t enough to determine morality because there is a higher authority.  Their mom hadn’t consented.  She was wiser about the dangers to her sons.  God is wiser about the ramifications of our choices.  And what’s more, He has the ultimate right to our lives.

 

But so many people in our society are in rebellion against His authority.  They actively deny that He has any say over what they do.  We have lost the fear of God, and with it lost wisdom.

 

And this is why I want to celebrate what my friend did.  It seems like a little thing, letting her sons know that she was in charge, and that even their own wills did not overrule that fact.  It is a big thing, pushing back against the philosophical tide made of millions of people and layers of lies.  It is a sweet thing, leading her children in the ways of true wisdom.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Love

It is sometimes true that the most loving thing to do is to hide your love.

 

This truth barely makes sense in a society that tells us that self expression is the reason for our existence.  There is a sense in which love is the expression of our feelings.  But the expression doesn’t make the love.  The love waits behind the doing and the saying and the sharing.  And even when there is no doing or sharing, it can still be there, that feeling that makes what happens to another person matter more than what happens to yourself.

 

If you are lucky, or if you are reckless, you will get to express your love.  What impulse is inside you: to dance with joy (or cry alone), to leave a love note, to give a gift, to plant a kiss, to meet an other’s eyes with shining esteem – will rise to the surface and exist as this event in the world, something for history if history concerned itself with such details.  It has been known to happen that these gestures have, though sincerely manifesting love, been missed or mistaken, and the object of love has not known the heart behind them.  Love can be real, and can be acted out, without being communicated.

 

Communication is precious in love! One person is enabled to make another person know some part of their heart.  When they do, the beloved must choose to receive the love or else stiffen and fight against it.  It is an everyday treasure too much taken for granted, that received love can bloom into reciprocation.  The beloved doesn’t just say, “I know,” or even, “Thank you”; they say, “I love you, too.” They join the embrace.  Sometimes this sharing is the only thing we have in mind when we use the word love.

 

“I love you,” doesn’t exist only as a tender voice to thrilling feelings.  It can be a battle cry, a resolute declaration of will, and it can go on being said and meant when feelings slacken or are buried beneath a hoard of life’s other matters.  These words then, and the choices that accompany them, are just as truly love as the fluttering heart or the passionate heat the movies portray.

 

So sometimes that will, with or without emotions, must choose to do what is good for the other, even if that good is to give space, to keep quiet, to deny the fulfillment and gratification of one’s own being – so that the other person can be and do and find out and focus on what they need, on what God is doing in their life at that moment.  It can be like that for a short time, a long time, or forever.  I do not believe it is wrong to love like this, though I believe it would be wrong for a marriage to harbor this kind of love.  Often it is so secret that no one will laud it.  It is so noble that our culture despises it.  This is an act of love.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Ok, so there’s this thing going on in the NFL, a gesture of disapprobation for something some players view as a national problem.  The phenomenon is actually in other sports, too.  I’ve seen it in the WNBA, and heard quotes from an NBA player in support of the right to protest.  It takes the form of kneeling during the national anthem or standing with arms linked as an expression of solidarity for a cause.  The cause, as I understand it, is racial equality and justice, with the related concern of police brutality.  And a lot of fans don’t appreciate these protests.  I have observed several reasons that people object.  First, people object to the means of the protest, that it is not showing traditional honor to the United States during the national anthem.  Second, they believe the context, sports/entertainment should be free from political statements (but usually these same people want the political statement of the national anthem being played and honored to remain).  Third, they disagree with the cause for which the players are protesting – not necessarily that they don’t believe it is an important principle, but because they don’t believe the problem is as pervasive as some consider it to be.

 

On some level, I agree with each of these reasons to oppose what these athletes are doing.  However, I have some concerns with the ways people like me are responding.  These concerns are what this post is about.

 

There are three instances I have in mind, which I have encountered this week, that are at the top of my list of reasons to be concerned.  I don’t feel comfortable repeating the language used in these responses, so I will summarize them.  President Trump used profanity to describe people who, as he and many others perceive it, disrespect the national anthem, flag, and country by protesting in this way.  A caller to a talk radio program suggested that those who want to “take a knee” should get a knee, in a way that would cause them pain or injury.  A Facebook post “liked” by a friend used a few different curse words to curse the athletes who were kneeling during the national anthem.  This Facebook user also specifically identified one athlete and hoped he would, in the course of the game, have to be taken off the field on a stretcher.  To this I say, Whoa.  Some people are doing things we don’t agree with and don’t like.  Since when is the correct response to use profanity to describe or curse them?  It is morally inferior to wish violence on peaceful protesters.  There isn’t a lot more to say.  I can’t believe this isn’t obvious common decency.  I can’t believe the people who agree with me are wishing violence on those we disagree with.

 

While I’m on the subject of peaceful protesting, let me make my next point.  A lot of people whose views I mostly share on the subject of race in America are concerned at the escalating violence committed by the malcontents, however legitimate their grievances.  It has been pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t burn buildings, overturn cars, or get into street fights with the white supremacists and segregationists he was campaigning against.  There are peaceful ways of raising awareness for your cause, and pursuing the changes you believe are necessary.  I find it disheartening that when a movement arises that is peacefully trying to draw attention to the same issues, it is squashed with as much indignation (and, as mentioned above, threat of force) as the violent movements are.  Let me just say, that while I don’t advocate violence, I know history and humanity well enough to recognize that when people feel desperate, like there is no other way to be heard, they tend to resort to violence.  Should we really be silencing their peaceful statements?

 

On the other hand, at this point, the NFL players who have been protesting ought to recognize that their message has been lost in their method.  Whatever their actual reasons for kneeling, and whatever cause they hoped to highlight, the only thing people who didn’t already know and agree with them are getting from their protests now is a provoking perception that these people hate America.  And honestly, however unintended, the way their actions are being received was not unforeseeable.  I understand that it feels a little like giving in, but as one commentator mentioned, a real protest doesn’t plan to go on forever; it has goals and engages in a process.  So I believe that now, at the very least, they should switch methods.

 

Let’s talk, for a minute, though, about how unfair it is to assign motives to people, in direct disregard for their testimonies about their own motives.  I can think of a lot of more disrespectful actions one could take if they intended to communicate the disrespect ascribed to them.  I have not seen any of these players spitting in veterans’ faces or stomping on the flag.  I have not heard a single athlete say that what they are protesting is the United States’ stand for freedom, nor that they are protesting the soldiers who have served to protect those freedoms they enjoy.  To consistently characterize their protest as against these things is pretty dishonest and egocentric (that is, behaving as though our own perceptions are the most valid).  Let’s not be angry about what they’re not even saying.

 

That said, if their method offends you because of its unintended belittling of things you hold dear, I have a couple of recommendations.  I suggest you recognize that these people are not injuring you, nor encouraging others to do so.  They’re not preventing anyone else from showing honor to the anthem or flag.  If you wanted, you could change the channel and not even see whether they’re kneeling or not.  You could calmly and humbly admit to them that the effect their actions has on your feelings is to irritate you. (This is known as an “I statement”.  It defuses tension because it comes across as less judgmental and more open to their side of the matter, while still inviting them to show consideration to you.)  In that case, rather than believing that all things that irritate us should be forced to go away, you could attempt to engage those with whom you disagree (a little tricky with celebrities, I admit) in respectful dialogue in order to persuade them of your way of thinking.  I advocate for this because one of the great things about people is that they can change.  Even if they haven’t shown an inclination to change, God can change them.  Or, we might be surprised and change a bit ourselves.

 

Another option is to suggest alternative methods of getting the word out or taking a conscientious stand.  This could be challenging.  I’ve tried to consider how I would abstain from showing an honor I don’t believe is presently justified, without being disrespectful?  What if the cause was something nearer to my heart than that which we’re discussing?  If some current and distressing aspect of the USA (abortion, international aggression, government mandating immorality, [insert your pet concern here]) was the most prominent thing to me, so eclipsing the things I value and honor in America besides (sacrificial soldiers and officers, unique freedoms, Christian history, etc.) that I could not in good conscience risk communicating that I’m showing honor for the dishonorable things about our country, yet I still want to respect those things that I sincerely value – how would I act during the national anthem?  I saw a player this weekend, who was participating in the kneeling, but who still placed his hand over his heart.  Is that a good way to communicate both?  Or would it fail to satisfy the outrage many are feeling?  Is it necessary to hold a press conference ahead of time to explain the complex motives informing the decision?  Anyway, I personally am not offended by their method, so it is not for me to say what tactics would be less offensive.  I’d love to hear feedback on this question if you have constructive ideas!

 

Aside from how to handle the expectation of honoring our country before each game, there are some more obvious alternatives for using the platform they have as professional sports stars to engage the public on behalf of their communities and the causes that are they prioritize: They can use social media.  They can call press conferences.  They can organize events.  They can donate to organizations.  They can serve in their communities.  They can meet with influential people who disagree with them, and start a dialogue.

 

When this topic resurfaced this week (months after Colin Kaepernick initiated his kneeling protests), one thing I thought of was the historical abolitionists.  They incorporated their causes into their private businesses.  In an industry that didn’t have much to do with slavery directly, the Wedgwood company wanted to be involved in ending slavery.  So they printed abolitionist symbols on their ceramic medallions, to raise awareness, to bring the cause from the fringes to the mainstream.  The image from the medallion came to be also put on vases and snuff boxes and bracelets.  I think this is an excellent means of promoting social justice, and that the NFL, if it so chooses, could employ such methods for causes they believe in.

 

That said, if their customers or employees don’t believe in their cause, the NFL may find themselves with a choice between profits and activism.  I believe it ought to be any private business’s right to put any (non-sinful) condition on their employees for keeping their jobs.  So if the NFL wants to demand that players stand for the national anthem, they can.  If they want to demand that they kneel, they can.  If they want to allow their employees the option of joining either cause (pro-patriotism or pro-reform), they can.  And we, as the patrons, can decide not only if we like the product, but if we want to indirectly support the causes the companies are promoting, and these conditions for their employees.  I really value this aspect of free markets, and for that reason, I’m reluctant to discourage the boycott that many are engaging in since the NFL declined to take disciplinary measures against players who kneel.

 

But I do.  I discourage the boycott because of the following four reasons:  First, the boycott has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the protest, a protest whose whole point, from what I can tell, is to garner attention.  Second, if a bunch of people with mostly conservative values stop watching the NFL, and if the NFL doesn’t comply with their wishes, football will become a smaller part of our culture, but it won’t go away, and it will be left to people who don’t share our values.  Not that this would be a huge tragedy, but there are too many parts of our society that we retreat from.  Do we really want to give over news media, storytelling industries, arts, higher education, the medical fields, cake-making, counseling, and charity to people whose values we oppose?  It is hard work, surely, to keep them and keep them well, but I hope some things are worth it to us.  Third, really? The national anthem and the players standing for it is an integral part of the experience of being a football fan to you?  I don’t even know why we have the national anthem at sports games, and most of the time I don’t get around to tuning in or paying attention until kick off anyway.  And what the players do during the anthem is not affecting the actual game, which is what I want to see.  Finally, while I’m proud of Americans for being able to eschew the conventional obsession with football, I’m disappointed that this is what provokes people to boycott – not scantily clad cheerleaders or players who sleep around or whatever other, more demonstrably wicked behaviors the sport tolerates in its employees.  In addition to football, there are many other businesses whose employees promote all sorts of ungodliness, yet most Americans still patronize them.  Is patriotism such a superior cause?

 

What would you do if the president of the United States said that you or your coworkers should be fired for declining to participate in some morally significant activity?  Would you feel threatened?  Would you relent in fear, or take a stand against a dangerous use of the bully pulpit to compel patriotic uniformity?

 

Some people think these players should be fired, among them President Trump, according to a statement he made last week.  Fellow athletes who may not agree with the cause of the protest, nevertheless respect their teammates’ views and believe they should not be forced to make a political statement they aren’t presently sincere about, just to keep their jobs.  In order to deter their organizations from firing them, these additional players join the protest, because it is much harder to fire half a team than one or two members.

 

Even before President Trump’s comments, to teammates and coaches and owners, the question was not so simple as whether or not they love their country.  The represented cause matters to a lot of the football players and – though you may not be aware, from being in a bubble of likeminded people – a lot of fans.  They had to consider what message it would send to those teammates and fans, to not join in their protest.  If they valued unity and peace – like I do! – they had to make an attempt at a choice that had potential to bring people together, or to demonstrate an example of unity, at least.  I believe this is why some teams chose to stand together with linked elbows, and even why some people joined the protest, who wouldn’t have started it on their own.  They don’t want to be seen to say that they don’t care about things that matter to others.  And even if we disagree with their conclusions, I don’t want ordinary people, myself included, to disregard the things that are inspiring people to take these bold stands.

 

I’m disillusioned enough to realize that some of the participants in these protests are just doing it because it’s popular, or because they’re emotional.  But I also believe that many of them hope for good things for their country.  They see problems.  Not as bad as they have been at some points in our history, and not as bad as the problems in other parts of the world, but they care about what is theirs, their country, here and now.  And they want to contributed to improvement.  That’s why I was disheartened to read that some, even among my friends, suggest that dissenters should expatriate.  If you don’t think America is perfect, move somewhere else?!  If I believed that, I’d have to be living in another country!  And if everyone believed that, no one would have anywhere to live, because every country on earth has problems, and every country on earth has the gift of citizens who haven’t given up on seeing them overcome.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Ethnic Privilege

Frequently when I’m reading/hearing about white privilege and minority cultures, I struggle to understand. One reason I think this is true is because I don’t relate to a lot of this dominant white culture that I’m supposed to be benefiting from. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be ashamed of liking hamburgers and pizza, folk music and blue jeans – if those are included in my white privilege.

 

I like to think about the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of our personal cultures: hospitality, hard work, musical rhythm, pace of life, family values, adventure, foods, medicines, styles, baby-wearing, theology, inventiveness, compassion, education, skills related to geography (surfing, snowboarding, fishing, farming, jay-walking, driving, catching a bus, biking, climbing trees). I like to think about the influences of family histories, like grandparents going through the Great Depression or immigrating from another country. I like to think about those other countries that shaped our specific families, and how we let go of some inheritances, held on tightly to some, forgot and found things again, picked up practices along the way. I think there is similar value to considering birth orders, the financial status of a family you were raised in, how large or small your family was. Did you travel? Did you move a lot? Who were the friends that shaped your grandparents, parents, and your own childhood? The diversity of these stories is fascinating.

 

On the other hand, I reject sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness in any cultural context. I reject rudeness, but I think most of the rules about politeness (in many cultures) are silly reasons for offense unless they happen to be rooted in actual selfish inconsideration. I believe in Jesus and that His sacrifice is the only means of salvation. I reject demonic spiritism that is at the dark heart of pagan religions. I take a stand against rebelliousness in the hearts of people no matter our color or background. I judge lying and stealing; they have no validity in any culture, since they are opposed to the righteousness of God and the love of one’s neighbor.

 

I love the redemption stories, of individuals and of larger groups turning away from evil: becoming undeceived; turning away from division and hate and greedy war; learning to love and serve and create and eat and drink to the glory of God. I love that so many stories are in-progress, people still learning and repenting and growing.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

Read Full Post »

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »