The Marque of Marquees

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Religion is a sensitive subject for many people. It is always a risky business to deal with beliefs. The very nature of faith and belief precludes rational critique. Yet people insist on attacking beliefs as if they were a debatable point, and therefore cause people to further entrench themselves. Maybe it’s my UU background, but it seems to me that that is an excellent way to generate hate.

Rather than debating beliefs, it seems as though looking at what people say and comparing that to what they do may be a more productive activity. I’m not event talking about specifics like birth control or response to the LGBT community. I’m talking overarching ideas.

For instance, one of the church marquees near where I live has the following message: “Nothing is stronger than the power of God’s love.” I find this a positive message no matter denomination, religion, or lack of either. Yet the denomination the marquee is in front of is known, not for spreading God’s love, but for threatening the results of his wrath. These are the same people who are out there holding “God hates (fill in the blank)” signs and insisting if you don’t follow their way exactly, you will go to Hell. How do they expect to attract people with words of love when their actions spread discord?

Looking at the alignment of spoken beliefs with observable action is the best way to evaluate a group of people from a committee or ministry to an entire denomination. It is also the best way to make yourself a better _______ .

Another marquee, down the street in the other direction, has this message: “If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it. To me, this is much more in line with professed belief. If you put faith in God to lead you through your life, you will also be open to the tools He puts there for you to use. It is a message about the benefits of faith, rather than a statement of strength that comes off as simplistic or braggadocio.

The irony between these two marquees is that they are from two separate congregations of the same denomination. I wanted to point that out since in every discussion there needs to be an acknowledgement that the words “all”, “every”, and “none”, are as inaccurate and divisive as “never” and “always”. I have friends whose political and social beliefs I abhor, yet when it comes down to it, on a one on one basis, they are good people who genuinely try to live with the love in their heart that their religion dictates.

“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.

Transition is Difficult

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I didn’t actually get a chance to light a candle today. The choir provided the candle meditation music (“Cantique” by Faurre). But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going through the motions in my mind during the reading. Without the candle and flame directly in front of me, I had to work at the words which usually come easily. This week’s meditation is at the end of the post.

On this day of transition, I’m spending time thinking about the effort it takes to move from one state to another. Today is Easter, the day of the ultimate transition in Christianity. And yet transition is with us every day. The forming or breaking of a relationship. A drastic change of mood. A switch of careers. Transitions bring pain, and yet there is promise of a new life with each. Keep in mind, I am not talking about the simple changes that life forces upon us. I’m talking about alterations in the very foundations of character and personality.

The day my last relationship ended, I died. The period of transition was hard to work through, and yet looking back at it, I do not regret it. Change hurts, but the penalty for not changing is the death of spirit. With every transition, two forces fight within me: the transformative force wars with the impulse of stubbornness. Thus far, with every major transition, I have been able to change and accept it…though rarely without a struggle. It is that struggle that causes a transition to be so painful.

And yet after the transition, there is a sense of completeness. Not happiness or contentedness, but a feeling that something has definitively ended for good or ill. Whether that ending is positive or not, it provides a solid foundation on which to continue life. When the ending is negative, it is often extremely difficult to begin building again. It is tempting to keep that chapter open and keep writing, hoping for a happier ending. But in doing so, the foundation for continuing life remains in flux, and the impossibility of building a future is overwhelming.

Transition can be broken into three broad periods: the initiating event, the interregnum, and the resolution. Sometimes the initiating event can be predicted, sometimes it can’t. I could predict that my last relationship would end (though the timing of the actual event was a bit awkward), but the request for a divorce several years ago came as a complete surprise. I’m not sure which is worse. I don’t think I really care. In both cases, it launched a period of wailing and gnashing of teeth, which eventually led to a period of self evaluation and exploration as I sought to reestablish my foundation. In the case of my divorce, the resolution occurred after years of the interregnum; but when it came, it came suddenly, like the breaking of a fever. After the more recent relationship, the interregnum was much shorter, but the resolution came slowly, like the healing of a broken body.

I look around and see people in all three periods of transition. Given my personal history and propensities, it is no surprise that it is very easy for me to see which people are still reeling from the initiating event, or are still on the downswing of the interregnum. It takes a little more effort for me to see when people begin the upswing, but there are fewer pleasures more poignant than being with someone (or even helping them) as they reach their resolution.

I saw one person in church today who appeared to have just gone through an initiating event. I won’t use exact words, but when I asked if this person was okay, s/he thanked me for my concern but couldn’t yet say that s/he couldn’t talk about it, much less actually talk. Given what I know about this person, I have a couple of guesses I think are pretty close. In any case, my thoughts, my love, and my prayers go out to this person in transition.

Today’s Meditation:

Let this beacon burn bright.
Light it be a guiding light
To those who seek.
Let it be a shelter
For those without peace.

Let this beacon burn bright.
Let it give warmth
To those in the cold.
Let it give strength
For climbing from the valley.

Let this beacon burn bright.
Let it promise hope
To those in despair.
Let it promise life
To dying souls.

Note to Self

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When recovering from a broken heart, listening to or reading Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love” is a bad idea.

Unfortunately for me, I am almost incapable of NOT finishing a book I started. *reluctantly puts the headphones back on*