Facing the Dark Suffering of the World (Part 2)

Some will, with razor sharp intelligence and precision, associate suffering with poverty, and poverty with injustice. They will compelling point out how the wealthy few make decisions in their self-interest that negate the needs of the many.

They, in most cases, decry this phenomena as obscene and unnecessary. In so doing they will often either employ some faith roots (often Roman Catholicism) or point out the feebleness of piety-driven religions aimed mostly inward.

In both cases they are usually quite accurate. Still most themselves fall quite short when it comes to envisioning solutions that could actually work in the real world. Most are meant not to provide answers but to provoke passion about the problems.

Is there something to this almost prophetic approach? Let’s help the people feel the unfairness at a visceral level. Let’s let that anger and passion rouse a future-response that will be far more suited to long-term solutions and steps toward change.

God Himself tried to prohibit super-rich and super-poor in the Hebrew Scriptures. The year of Jubilee was set everything back, keep people from cyclical poverty or extreme wealth and acquisition. Did people find ways around the system?

Surely. But fundamental to it was the idea that it’s not about all that. No matter what was coming. Everything would be reset. Certainly that would effect the way people were driven. Would it be worth pursuing more in year 48?

Can we get to that point today, where somehow the rich are challenged to stop amassing? Or at least to give generously? Of course, those with the money can dictate to those without how the money will be used or shared.

Can the rich find ways toward innovation? Can we find ways to connect the rich (the money) to those doing innovative things to help the poor? Could we create a system or process that would accomplish that very thing?

We do not go blindly into compassion.  We cannot afford to be so emotional about things that are so complex.  If we do we end up hurting the very people we aim to help.

If we are so set on "fixing" a problem than likely we will go to any length to make it happen.  We can lose sight of the people.  We can lose sight of our humanity.

When we reduce humans to social problems with systematic issues we can clinically go into a situation aiming to help and simply replace one tyrant for another: ourselves.

Instead we need to listen to the people.  We have to work slow, and humbly.  There are no shortcuts. That's no excuse for being lazy.  We are deliberate, patient, watchful.

Facing the Dark Suffering of the World (Part 1)

Sooner or later we are confronted with abject horror in the world. It is everywhere, but particularly certain places. When discovered, it can totally wreck any ideologies built on hope that we have constructed. When found, everything else adjusts.

When one discovers that 1/3 of the world is so poor that selling their sons and daughters into slavery sounds like a good idea, it is overwhelming. How can this be? And why on earth do I have it so well? How can it be so unfair?

It’s been said 1/3 of the world is dying of causes related to starvation and 1/3 to overeating. Those kind of realities will fundamentally mess with who we think we are and what life is all about. We go from thinking one way to having to think another.

All the joy, beauty, and hope we find to be so binding and needful in our existence seems to deflect meaninglessly for these realties. There seems to be no intersection, or that the reality of our world can only remain in the ignorance of theirs.

Yet surrendering to suffering has a counter-intuitive effect. It does not bring us closer to caring for and serving the person in need. Ironically us being miserable does the world no good. We must internalize the suffering then transcend it.

I personally will never forget playing guitar music for a homeless shelter once. I was feeling the weight of their situations and what was coming out was darker blues music. A teenager rebuked me: “man this is a homeless shelter, we don’t need blues.”

What I thought was an attempt to connect was actually getting me the exact opposite. I was pushing away, and ultimately thinking very selfishly about the whole thing. I was feeling the blues, but that is not what was needed.

*Somehow it is incumbent upon the leader to look square in the face of the suffering but not be swallowed up by it. God is good. There is always hope. If some chose to find none there is nothing we can do. Find hope. We must find hope.

Where can hope be found? That is the only question. Where can we find hope in the places of such suffering? Where can we hear and see progress being made, despite what appears like only cyclical patterns of poverty?

That is where a new sort of hearing comes in. It is not the kind that hears and sees only what is there, but what could be. It starts with what is good, it sees potential, it harnesses the power of vision, it is the heart of a new generation.

It doesn’t have to stay the same. We can retain the essence of what is good without accepting the necessity of what is not. We can realize the mercy of God in the now and the power of God in the future. We can trust in transformative process.

But it will require suspending immediate belief. It will require not accepting what seems inevitable. It will challenge our sense of calling, our scope of responsibility. It will lay things at our feet we once thought had no business there. Are you ready?

Art as Entrepreneur (Part 5)

Art creates melodies that run through our minds when we wake up. It creates images that we dream about. It creates imaginary worlds that we see our own existence through. Art haunts our world with another.

That’s why it is so powerful. It gets beyond our rational defenses. It gets seeded deep into our imaginations. There is almost breeds without our permission. It clones and spreads and before we know it there is a mutiny.

Why is this melody stuck in my head? Why am I so drawn to this or that movie? What about this picture is so compelling? We don’t even know. Our rational mind can not figure it out. It’s because someone else is in charge for the moment.

That someone else is the imagination. The imagination, fueled with the great art, is given a certain power to take off and run with things. This may be scary, but we can trust the imagination, even though it does not seek our permission.

The imagination is our ability to dream about a world that could be. It helps us remove barriers that are not really there. It helps us to see an enduring world that actually is, somewhere, just not yet. Imagination inspires vision.

Without it we are restricted to what is. We are forced into a limitation that is self-imposed, but carries the weight of universal banishment. We see something as impossible. It is. We must strategically fight this false impulse.

Imagination always believes. It endures the insults expected for one who sees what others do not. It literally is that: seeing a world that is not yet. It is not science fiction as much as vision, or the ability to see into the future.

Ok, imagination is basically time travel to a preferred future. It is the catalyst to a road there that otherwise would not exist. We don’t create that road, we discover it, but only as we allow ourselves to see that future end. See it!

Of course it is possible that our imagination gets out of line, so out of touch with life that it becomes a distortion of reality. But that is not really imagination at that point, it is fantasy, specifically escapism. It is avoidance of reality.

True imagination is not the ignorance of reality, it is the full acceptance of it and through it. It is seeing a life possible within and without it. It is life fully realized, current reality fully redeemed. It is everything we think that life can become.

Some will certainly see it as wishful thinking. They would be wrong. That is something entirely different. At best, it is imagination that is completely lazy. More accurately it is the lack of thinking, or at least the lack of imagination.

Pure imagination is beautiful, a ride into the truest forms of reality. Real stuff. Stuff that has been created. It came from imagination. We came from imagination. Life has always come from imagination. It is a beautiful gift of God.  

The End of Hope (Part 5)

The End of Hope (part 5)

So in the end the end is joy. Joy encompasses everything: the pleasure of attaining a personal goal or dream, the experience of great community and culture, and the mystery of the zeitgeist, knowing is good right now.

Joy is capable of withholding immediate knowledge, a skill very important to the joyful. There will be many occasions where the rationale for certain things won’t be there. At this level, things are self-justified, or beyond justification. They just are.

And the authority for doing such things is self-evident. It comes from within, ultimately from God if you can swallow that. No man can bestow it upon another. It is completely independent. Joy in this sense is for the brave individual.

But courageous individuals in this experience can share it with others. That is the real beauty. Our joy must be found within us, but can be shared and amplified outside of us. There is a rich tapestry of share joy, which ultimately becomes hope.

**But it must start within us. And unfortunately evidence of the gift is usually found in restlessness and passion. It is the consistent feeling of being off balance, without the comfort of a home. It is a necessary restlessness.

This is the dying to oneself that must be first. This is the dedication to the process. This is the allegiance to the end. At the time it does not feel good. It does not have a sense of hope and ultimate purpose. It feels rather horrible and hopeless actually.

There is a grieving process. We must lose our “right” to getting something “out” of the process. We are simply committing our whole selves to it. We have no idea at the time what that means. There is no master plan or career path highlighted.

It is simply death to oneself and commitment to one’s gift, to the thing that was implanted in us without us. It is a surrender to the process of growing this fledgling seed into whatever it is to become, which we can at best vaguely intuit.

***That may sound like a deterministic sort of will power. “I will do this come what may.” It sounds like a fierce sort of discipline. But for the creative the journey through death into life is not a matter of mere will power. There is much else going on.

First of all there is the obvious call into the process. Where does “it” come from? “It” is not some idea we conjure up. Though some may try to take credit for “it.” The truth is we do not create the invitation. “It” comes from another.

And not everyone hears “it.” No matter how hard we try to explain to someone who has never heard this call we come up short. It is very similar to the attempt to explain a vivid dream. No matter how soon after we wake up, the brain can’t piece it all together.

Even if we can, it sounds ridiculous. The other person may politely listen but there is absolutely no way they can feel the intensity of the thing we just experienced. That’s how the call to create comes. It overwhelms us then sneaks away.

The End of Hope (Part 4)

The End of Hope (part 4)

For most creative people the answer to that question (see The End of Hope Part 3) is governed by your imagination and gifts. Woven into your fabric is sort of a pesky dream, a lofty one seemingly out of the realm of possibility or reason (thus secluded to the imagination). Most mistakenly assume that's a place of “make-believe.” On the contrary the imagination is the home of reality before its public debut. The imagination alone is the human faculty capable of vision, seeing outside of what currently is.

Our gifts also help focus this intent dreaming. Although we did not ask for our gifts they are there, and they are demanding. However dormant certain ones may lie, the imagination has a way of rekindling them, utilizing them without our permission.

It’s almost as if the imagination has free access to mobilize our gifts when we are asleep. They conspire together to #StartAWar in us, to shake us out of our dormant comfort and securities, to mess with us - in the best way possible.

The gifts in us will not always make sense. Some will seem completely disconnected from the others. We will think we have figured out everything there is to know about a certain one, but then another develops and the context is completely changed.

Our gifts do not always match. An intense love of rock music with intense curiosity about entrepreneurism, for instance. Many would look at the two things and say either “pick one” or “those two things are interesting but unconnected."

The good news is our job isn’t necessarily to connect them. We do not force some strange intersections (in this example “how to ‘start up’ your band project”). We simply pursue each interest area to see where it may lead us.

It will not always be a sensible place with a clearly defined path. It shouldn’t be. If we are intently listening to our gifts it will lead to some strange new territory. And the divergent paths may not connect nicely to one another.

*That’s where life itself sort of picks up the difference. At times we will get consumed in discovering and almost “producing” our gifts for the world. It is work in the best sense of the term. But, it is still work. Work without rest is exhausting.

There will be rest! And play! These things done in community give life the layers that creative people need in order to sustain “gift production.” We willingly exhaust ourselves for our self-defined goals and initiatives.

That is not the point. The point is the sustained cultivation of a creative life. We don’t want to be one and done. We don’t want to be one-hit wonders. We also don’t want to be meat-grinder artists who for commercial exploitation are put through the ringer.

That leaves life in all its beautiful mystery. The exploration of beauty, friendship, community, God, love, support, truly caring for and encouraging one another. This is and has been the only key to sustaining creativity since the dawn of time, literally!