“It’s doctor’s orders…really.”

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“I need a girlfriend! It’s doctor’s orders.” Well. That’s what I told my friends. To some extent, it’s true. What he actually said was that I needed a person or people I could be intimate with. And by “intimate” he meant “real”, “completely open”, “absolute trust”, “totally honest”. I knew what he meant when he said it, and that sexuality and attraction do not necessarily play a part, and he knew I knew what he meant. Which is why he said it that way. Nevertheless, it kind of tickles my sense of humor that I’ve been “prescribed” a girlfriend.

My dating “resume” is pretty short. I’ve only had three serious relationships: one that lasted a couple years in high school, one that ended in several years of marriage before divorce, and recently one that lasted about a year. Suffice it to say, I’ve never been “in practice” at this dating thing. So how does one approach a familiar obstacle that one has very little idea about how to get past it?

Well, there are divorce recovery groups. There are various meetups (through Meetup.com). There are singles groups through church. I’ve tried the meetups. They’re great for doing activity centered get-togethers. Not so great for pure socialization. Of course the problem may be which ones I attend. One of the issues may simply be that most of my interests are not as mainstream as I believed. I’ve signed up for a divorce support meetup. I’ve signed up for a single’s meetup through my church. In fact, today arrived early at the meeting location at Mozart’s coffee shop at Lake Austin. I’ve been writing this blog entry as I wait for people to show up, taking the occasional break to watch the turtles swimming around, poking their heads above water to demand food. We’ll see how it goes.

Marquee

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One of the nearby churches has this as the title of the next sermon: If God is your co-pilot, guess who’s in the wrong seat. Amusing as it is, there’s something at the root of this statement that I find disturbing.

I’ve never liked the co-pilot analogy. My reaction upon seeing a bumpersticker with “God is my co-pilot” for the first time was: Dear Lord, how arrogant. It could be read a couple of different ways. The first: “God is my co-pilot…because I am just that awesome,” is not just egotistical and arrogant, but bears hints of a slightly delusional nature that the world must conform to the driver’s wishes. A second way the bumpersticker can be read: “God is my co-pilot…because he is my shield and my sword.” Really? So you’re using the divine presence as a tool to intimidate? Again, this is an arrogant and slightly delusional view point. The third way it could be read: “God is my co-pilot…he tells me where to go.” Of the three immediate ways I read it, this is the most disturbing to me.

Before I say why it’s the most disturbing, let me define some of my terms:
Egotistical: an exaggerated sense of self-worth
Arrogant: exaggerating or disposed to exagerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner; showing an offensive attitude of superiority
Delusional: a persistent false psychotic (i.e. loss of touch with reality) belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary

Breaking it down, the bumpersticker smacks of an inflated sense of the person’s importance and the idea that rubbing it in people’s faces is a good idea. As for the slightly delusional aspect: most people would say that making a statement does not necessarily make it a fact, yet that’s what this bumpersticker is doing. It is stating that God is manifested in the seat next to the person driving the vehicle.

I understand what they’re trying to say, but I had to think for a bit before coming to the conclusion that no, the driver of that car didn’t necessarily believe he or she was superior to everyone else on the road. What I think the bumpersticker is saying is God is an integral part of the driver’s life. Only “God is an integral part of my life” is not a catchy phrase.

So why is that third interpretation so disturbing to me? Because it sounds like the most reasonable interpretation, and is thus more likely to be true. The implications of the statement, though, is that the person driving isn’t thinking. Driving jokes aside, by “not thinking”, I mean that the driver relies on someone else to provide the answers. And that, to me, is very disturbing. It is disturbing in the sense that by relying on someone else to provide the answers, the driver may lose, or have lost, their ability to think critically about their own fundamental beliefs. (An ironic situation, because they rely on OTHERS to do that in order to bring in “converts”.)

Looking back at that sermon title (“If God is your co-pilot, guess who’s in the wrong seat.”) it seems to be the next step on that third interpretation. That is to say, if the third interpretation is more true than I could wish, this seems to escalate the message. Now instead of “God tells me what to do,” the sense is “God is driving and I have no choice.” Doubtless, some would say that’s exactly how it should be. Me, I question that answer. It seems counter to one of the central concepts believers often espouse: choice of whether to follow or not (granted not following has its…disadvantages, but the choice is there).

Personally, I’ve always liked the imagery of “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. God as Companion. And not in an enclosed, man-made vehicle, but in a wide open vista. As with any companion, you can wander away, you can wander back, you can talk, you can be silent. A companion shares the ordeal and helps you through, provides opportunities or a supportive hand. And if necessary, will carry you when you can’t make it on your own.

Who wants a “God is my Companion” bumpersticker?

I Have Had Enough!

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“Self-righteousness is the root of all bad behavior.” –Meg Barnhouse

And the words of meditation just keep on coming. This weeks words that came to me during the meditation time seems to invoke the unseen strength everyone feels from time to time.

May this flame of a single, fragile point
Join the wall of fire
And forever burn
In friendship and love and hope.

May this flame upon a tiny candle
Be strong enough to light my way
Through turbulent darkness
And bring others with me.

May this flame of delicate light
Shine endlessly in the storm
That I may help others
When they reach for shelter.

Today’s sermon topic was “enoughness”, a Quaker concept of balancing lack with acquisition. With such a topic, one would expect the sermon to boil down to: “Seek moderation, stop buying what you don’t need, and be content with what you have.” But no. We are Unitarian Universalists. Our sermons are never that easy. “Enough” is a concept that varies from person to person. How much is “enough”? How can you tell too little from too much? These are questions that everyone needs to answer for themselves.

What “enough” is not is complacency, apathy, neutrality. Enough is the balance each person must find in order to put forth the appropriate amount of effort. Enough provides both a motivation and a solid foundation from which to act. Enough is the amount of action necessary to achieve a goal…however much that might be and whatever the goal is. Enough is a solid center a person can rely on without being smothered with a surfeit. I am reminded of a quote from Marry Poppins: “Enough is as good as a feast.”

As my words of meditation may indicate, there are some things I have had enough of. I have had enough of darkness. I have had enough of pain. I have had enough of doubt. I have had enough of the storm. I say this not as a frustrated cry. I do not regret what I’ve been through. I see it as a necessary series of events. When I say, “I have had enough!” it is a simple statement of “enoughness.” I have no wish to enter the danger of wallowing in pain and doubt and darkness, so I say, “No thanks. I have had enough.”

No Wonder

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I was driving home, when on the sign outside a church that announces the sermon topic for the week, I saw: “Beware of your thoughts, they might become words”. Wow. It took me a while to get over the shock of seeing that. When I finally did, my first thought was “No wonder people are starting to be okay with a police state.”

I may not always agree with the churches in the area, but I’ve always respected them. I’m not so sure I can do that for this church any more. It seems the pastor believes that thinking and acting are the same thing, that if you disagree with someone, you will inevitably come to dislike them. Carried further, this simple statement is the foundation of George Orwell’s “thought crime”. If you think it, the belief goes, you will act on it. So to prevent disrupting the status quo for good or ill, the act must be stopped at the thought. And what makes it really scary is that people listen to their pastor/minister/priest/etc. They put faith in what the person says, and try to follow the strictures set down by such an authority.

I realize that, since I do not attend that church, I do not know what the sermon is actually about. On the other hand, when putting something on display to draw people in, it is probably best not to announce that you will try to control their thoughts and beliefs. Just down the street, there is another church that has as it’s announcement: “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” This, to me, is a much better draw. It says to me that God will take care of you and give you the tools you need to face the unrest in the world. I don’t attend that church either, but on the whole, they tend to be more positive in their approach. I don’t always agree with the messages they put up; but then, agreement isn’t necessary to get along–respect is. And they have my respect.