Monday, January 25, 2010

So I fence, a sport where the object is to hit another person with a sword, and yet largely it does not hurt if done properly. In fact most of the pain caused in the sport is accidentally or the result of poor execution. By contrast, football is a sport where the object is to carry a ball across a goal line and yet causing injury seems to be built into it. While there are ways that you are not allowed to hit a person, and times that such actions are penalized, there are a lot of "clean" hits that leave a person in a great deal of pain.

I have always justified my participation in fencing as being ok, because the intent is never to cause harm. As a proponent of non-violence I would find it hard to be a part of an activity that encourages violence. I spent last night watching the Vikings Saints game. In general it was a very good game, but one thing was unsettling to me. For the second week in a row the Saints went into the game with a strategy that to win they were going to cause as much harm as possible to the aging quarterback they faced. They were not doing it out of malice (I assume) but simply under the theory that an injured person gets a little nervous the next time someone is flying at them and might make a mistake. It all is "legal" and in that sense a valid strategy to win. But for me it is unsettling.

Is it morally justifiable to cause harm under the auspices of a game. On the one hand the Saints could argue they were just as open to being hit, that the Vikings could do the same to them, and so there was nothing wrong with it. But there is a part of me that feels at a deeper level it is wrong to normalize causing harm. In addition to creating an atmosphere of aggression, it can lead to glorifying the very same things. The recent concussion scandel in the NFL can maybe be traced to this same atmosphere that encourages players to slam into each other as hard as possible, to ignore pain at all costs and to do what they can to cause pain to the other side. I recently heard one annoucer decrying a penalty for an excessive hit, implying that some of the players might as well be wearing skirts. Even if you ignore his appalingly sexist remark, the implication that some players just are not tough enough was a problem. The sport needs people who will handle more pain.

Now I am "picking" on football because I just watched it last night, but the reality is that video games, other sports, movies, etc, all do the same thing. They all find ways to normalize harm, to encourage a culture of violence. If a person, such as myself, does consider it wrong to encourage acts of violence should we find other sports to watch, other movies, other games? They exist. Even movies like Harry Potter do a good job of allowing for violence to exist, but showing it in a way that does not glorify it, but instead raises the question if there is not that "still better way."

I like watching football, I like the strategy, I like the excitement, I like the plays. But is that enough ... does the violence seemingly inherant in the game mean I need to find something else to watch? Or is there another way to play?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

God of Silence, God of Noise

When you look at the Bible, God seems to be presented in one of two ways, abundant noise, great light, complete vastness, such as how Moses tended to experience God, a God that is too awesome to behold. On the other side of the coin is the God of Elijah, the still small voice, the God that exists not in great fire or earthquake but in the silence behind the wind. That still small voice can be seen in other religious texts as well, such as the Tao Te Ching, which talks about how the Tao is found in the emptiness, the silence, the void. The bottom line is God does not tend to be found in the middle or maybe in the middle we find Jesus, but that sounds like a different topic so I am going to ignore it for the purposes of this blog.

Do we tend to find God in the noise or do we find God in the silence? I imagine it is different for different people. I know people who have heard or seen God in a visual or audible way, others I think find God the most in the midst of noise, hymns of praises, songs that rock with the beat of the spirit.

In general I find God in the silence. When I talk to God I do not hear the answers, but I do get a reply. I find my heart being turned, my mind pushing against something that redirects me, that leads me to look at it in a different way, to me that is the silent prompting of God, a way that God communicates even in the silence, even just in my mind. These last few days I have found God over and over again in streets of glistening white, trees silvered by the frost. In the still and the silence of that beauty, my heart is enlarged with the presence of God.

Where do you find God? Does God appear in noise and in brilliant fashion, or in stillness, silence, peace? Or fine, does God appear in that middle form, that balance of silence and noise that is Christ? Where do you find God? When do you seek for the divine?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Insert profound thoughts here

I have been staring at this blank page for about ten minutes ... clicking over to Facebook or email in hopes of a distraction thinking "what can I say today." I have wanted to get back to blogging for a while so I am trying to build back up good habits, but the challenge I face now is what in the world do I say. What I think makes it hard for me when it comes to all social media sites, blogs, facebook, etc, is the need to feel profound. Maybe I take Mark Twain's comments about opening your mouth and proving you are a fool to seriously. Maybe its the fact that I hear to many criticisms from others about the inane nature of these new forms of communication and want to make sure I am not feeding into that. Maybe it is just that I want everyone to think/realize how smart I am, so I only want to say something if it is really profoudn. Whatever the reason it tends to create a certain amount of writer's block when it comes to things like blogging.

I know that I am not the only who struggles with this either. Often I am at the other end of, people not wanting to say to much to me because they do not want me to know how much they know, or do not know about the Bible or faith. I think we have all heard the expression "there are no dumb questions" or "no wrong questions." Do we take this to heart?

Maybe the real question is are we better off with the information deluge we are currently faced with, having to sort out the nuggets of useful information from the vast sea of stuff that is just not helpful or relevant to us. Or are we better off losing some of that information, because people like me are unsure we have somehting to contribute or do not think what we do have is worth offering up. Given the interesting "rabbit holes" I have followed by clicking on links and reading blogs and posts, I would say more is better than less. So whay do I always air on the side of less?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Two Sides Not So Far Apart

I grew up in a family passionate about issues of peace and justice. As such I a grew up listening to people like Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, and other less known folk singers like Charlie King. We did not really listen to pop music and certainly did not listen to country. Our music focused on causes of social justice at home and abroad, and the plight of workers and the everyday guys kept down by governments and corporations.

When my older brother graduated high school he worked for a couple of summers at my aunt and uncle's business and while there he picked up some country music habits from our cousins. What he brought back proved my "worst" fears that it really was all about drinking and women and pickup trucks. (okay, not really, but enough to at least confirm my own stereotypes.) I continued in my own preferences for "better" music and neer really gave country much more thought ... except I still associate Garth Brooks with playing Golden Eye 007 on the Nintendo 64, which my brother and I did a lot that year.

Since marrying a woman who was born in Tennesse, sister lives in Texas, and parents live an hour north of Nashville, I have obviously had more occasions to once again encounter the genre that is Country. This Christmas I went to a concert at the Rymen (home of the Grand Old Opry). I have to admit I cannot remember the name of the group we listened to but they again went a long ways to confirming my concerns about the message of country ... which at its worst seems to be about drinking, the glorification of alcoholism, some questionable treatment of women, and jingoism. Now that is not to say I did not hear some great songs, some funny songs, or some talent musicans as well, but some of the negatives did stand out as well. Buried in those "negatives" was something else as well, a great respect for the blue collar, hard working, individuals. What surprised me the most was that late in their set they began singing a song "I Shall Be Released" by Bob Dylan ... a song I knew from listening to Peter, Paul and Mary.

There are a lot of differences between folk singers and country singers ... especially when it comes to politics and such, but deep down at the bottom both them hold this same fundamental passion for the everyday person. It gets approached in different ways, we have different ideas of what is right and good and all, but in the end we all want the same thing, we all want freedom. It is easy to get stuck on our differences, the "negatives" we see in each other. What I was reminded of at the country music concert was that we also have the a lot fo the same values at heart as well.

I was also reminded that next time I go to a country music concert I am sitting in the non-alchohlic section.