the art of rhythm

The Art of Rhythm (Part 4)

Really think about why we have such a hard time slowing down. Why is it so hard to enjoy rest? Why do we feel so guilty doing it? Mostly we are conscientious people. We know there are so many people enduring such awful things in the world. We essentially say to ourselves, “I am not going to allow myself to rest until all the major problems of the world I feel strongly about are solved.” It sounds heroic. And of course there is also the guilt of justifying enjoyment when some such things can be fixed.

It’s the perfect lie. It’s perfect because it sounds so sincere and really does start from a place of compassion. Soon it leads somewhere else. It’s like Judas rebuking the former prostitute Mary for pouring the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. “What a waste. What an extravagant waste...that money could have been used for the poor.” How beautifully evil. It essentially iterates the notion that we can not rest until all the world’s problems are solved.

If we are a god, we have to earn our rest. The great news is that there is already a God, and we are not Him. If people kick and scream at that idea, there is at least a Universe with order and rhythm. Life goes on without us. What we think of ourselves so highly may not be the case.

But, the counter-intuitive reality of rest is that when we get ourselves out of the center, what we care about and value most gets put correctly in the center. In other words, we get out of the way of ourselves and things start to line up.

Manifest destiny is not merely will power. We don’t just will something into being. That would be, in most cases, putting ourselves in the center (making ourself God). What we are uniquely able to manifest is the vision to which we aspire. The clarity of our vision comes when we get the right things in the right order. When we entrust things out of our control to somehow get to their needful destination, we are liberated then to focus on the things actually within our capacity to change.

Separating the two is life’s greatest challenge. Though we remember the familiar Serenity Prayer we need to add a category to it: not just courage to change and serenity to accept, we also need wisdom to let others do some things. In other words, I could change something. IF I really wanted to, IF I had the time, IF I made the time. But I’m not. And someone else is, or someone else could. Part of serenity is entrusting to others things I could change but don’t need to.

There are a precious few things I have time to change. There are precious fewer I am called to change. Picking up trash on the sidewalk is this way. Many will say, “what’s the point? There is so much other trash you didn’t pick up.” True, but maybe I didn’t need to pick up those other pieces. Maybe those other pieces have someone else’s name on it. Maybe if I do my part others will be inspired to do theirs. That’s all we really got.

Do what you can, allow others to do the rest!   

The Art of Rhythm (Part 3)

The Art of Rhythm (Part 3)

Why are we obsessed with towers? With building up? Sure, limited space is often an issue and perhaps an initial concern, but there’s more. Think of church steeples, clock towers, and other buildings painting the modern skyline.

We love to look upward. We love to see the limitless space of the sky. The sky reminds us, no matter our theological bent, there that is more. There is hope. There is room to grow (even in the most crowded of cities). We have options.

Like the Old Testament tale of the people building a tower all the way to heaven. How could such primitive culture with such limited tools build such a thing? Why would they bother? What did it really represent? Was it defiance or exploration?

Perhaps it is best explained as too much too soon. But what about now? As we survey any modern city we see the same efforts to get beyond the crowdedness of earth to the limitlessness of the sky. We are wired to long for a city in the sky.

It is this inclination toward expanse and space that drives us to new and creative solutions. It is this hunger for peaceful space that drives us toward initiative. It is our desire for peace that drives us to look up and find hope.

The sky, or the heavens, also drive us toward rest. They represent a timelessness. Anyone who has ever flown and looked out the window knows this to be true. Above the clouds there is just something very different. Very still.

Sometimes when life is draining and the problems overwhelming, the sky is our only hope. Of course most religions understand God to be in the heavens, safely detached from the chaos of this world, dispensing hope to those who seek it.

The Christian God is unique in that He is both detached and resting (since the 7th day) but also working for us (Christ interceding for us) and also here with us (in the Holy Spirit). He represents everything we need for a God to be.

Still 2/3 of the Trinity is not currently on earth. The Lord of the Air or the Prince of the Age is not God or Jesus, it is usually the Evil One. So earth generally is seen as the domain of the One who causes chaos, strive, lies, murder, grief, etc.

And they are abundant. The wickedness of the world is breathtaking. Seeing the homeless out and about reminds us there is a kink in the system. There are losers. And they usually “stain” the shopping districts of big cities ironically.

The problems quickly seem overwhelming. The whole system is holding on by a thread. Yes, it is. That’s sort of the point: take away electricity, demand credit payback, cure cancer, a whole system topples over in days. We are hanging by a string.

It’s no wonder we are drawn to the sky. It’s no wonder we look elsewhere for help. If it is only this world hope may truly be illusive. How do we push through? Endure another day without the sky? This is not it. We are not alone.    

The Art of Rhythm (Part 2)

The Art of Rhythm (Part 2)

Think of seasons, patterns in nature, day and night. The simple fact that we have day and night every single day. Our bodies were created in such a way to need a significant amount of sleep. Rhythms of nature were created into our world.

Thankfully these rhythms allow us the opportunity to explore certain things. Life in its very nature drives us to be curious. “Why is there night? What about the day? What are dreams? Why do some places not experience seasons?”

The world was created in such a way as to be investigated. Written into it are revelations about the One who created it, but also about us and the nature of humanity. Sleep is one of the primary examples. Many have tried to overcome her.

Many for a time will think they have escaped her need. They will plow through, arrogantly boasting of their power to overcome her. They will pay the price. Eventually their bodies and brains will shut down until they give her what she wants.

Sleep is that mistress which reminds us there is a whole un-tapped universe we simply can not yet fully enter. The world of dreams and downloading our short-term into long-term memory is a beautiful mystery. It is one beyond our rational ability.

But this is where the imagination comes in. Where reason ends something else begins. Some will scoff that anything not grounded in reason is anemic and corrupt. They may assume it is “ir-rational.” But what if there truly is a third category: “non-rational”?

In other words, what if this world of beauty and imagination is grounded, but is grounded in the non-rational (that which is beyond our reason currently). Perhaps another term for it would be pre-rational. Someday will figure it out, right now we can’t.

But there are SO many good things in this category of non- (or pre-) rational. Eventually there will be some quantifiable metrics to measure the results of such things, but their creation can not and must not be relegated to the world of reason alone.

That is the beauty and mystery of foresight. What we call vision is really the ability to suspend the need to know for the power to know. In other words, we temporary give up knowing in the cognitive sense in order to know with the intuitive sense.

Only intuition can envision, or see into the future. It is already there, though the cognitive world can not see it. It is very real. In faith it can be seen perfectly. But so few have this gift to see without seeing, to enable this intuitive foresight.

That is the artist at a glance: one who trusts the intuitive process. The artist does not “see” in the sense of rational certainty. They do not start with the end in sight. They start, though, with a distinct and powerful drive to create.

Where will it lead? The artist has learned to be comfortable not knowing. Trusting the process really means trusting the intuitive foresight, which sees something already our cognitive eyes can not. We come along for the ride, if we dare.  

The Art of Rhythm (Part 1)

The Art of Rhythm (Part 1)

Ok, once we have learned the art of enjoyment, contemplation, and entrepreneuring, we must learn the art of putting them in their proper places. Which gets our attention and focus at what times? How do we know when to do what?

This is where rhythm is essential. Anyone of the these good things out of proportion becomes a bad thing. Too much entrepreneuring without enjoyment leads to burnout. Too much enjoyment without contemplation leads to excessiveness.

Too much contemplation without entrepreneuring leads to spiritual laziness. These things in proper alignment can do unbelievable good in a person, small group and community. How do we begin to put them in their proper order?

Which comes first in other words? Contemplation. We must start by honing the ability to see and hear. Life is very short. Unfocused goals means distracted work. Most people never make it out of the dock with clarity of vision, the result of contemplation.

Once we begin discovering our vision (it is already in there), we are not invited to navel gaze in the cloistered protection of paved roads and street signs. We are lured off the map, out of our comfort area (that which we know), to a whole new thing.

This transition phase of getting off the map to get on it again is sometimes called entrepreneurism. It is the visionary starting to do something before it is absolutely clear. It can not be that clear. It has not been done (no mater how clear the business plan is).

We go into the woods. We go into the desert. Think of Jesus for a second. He enters the desert at the age of 30. Does he not already know his life’s vision? Does he not already have a strong sense about the direction he should go?

Yes, of course. Then why the desert? He knew, but he didn’t know. True discovery requires a certainty that is not available on the map. It requires that we get free. It requires that we absolutely lose all false senses of self we thought were us.

Only that kind of freedom can prepare us for the ride ahead. Once we are truly freed from the mirages and open to the creative Spirit’s work inside us, great things begin to happen. We begin to hear a Voice we had not heard before.

This Voice begins to teach us about rhythm and patterns. We learn from following within earshot of that Voice. The Voice is luring, comforting, yet exciting and new. Although we are protected the Voice sometimes leads us out of comfort.

The Voice definitely has a bigger agenda than only us. Learning to listen to it is not a burden or a chore, it is actually a privilege and honor. Somehow it doesn’t feel like following. It almost feels like we are partnered with the Voice in a single yoke.

The Voice awakens us to ourselves again and again and again. The call awakens and enlivens us. It brings us back to life literally. It animates us, inspires us, encourages us. We have hope in earshot of the Voice. We are tethered to Life by it.