Peace in Pain

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The ease sets in.
The suddenness of the cold breeze fails to produce the usual sensation of dizziness.
Calamity and chaos produce the undercurrent of the waves that surround—
Yet, paradoxically, serenity internally abounds.
For those with ears to hear recognize the trumpet’s sound
Brazenly playing in the background.
This is where peace is found,
Knowing the one who is worthy of the crown,
Ignoring the deception of what the world renowns.
Relinquishing delusions of helping others from their own choosing,
Has surrendered my will and my fate at the feet of your gate.

God & Money

One general objection I have with some of the messages within the Christian faith is selective emphasis—that is, emphasizing certain verses of scriptures over others—in addition to selection bias: omitting certain verses from scripture.

Recently, there has been one verse that continually keeps coming into my life: “‘No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’” (Matthew 6:24, NLT). While I had heard this verse in messages before, it was infrequent and rarely the center of any serious analysis; however, in my personal life, I recently had felt a great sense of comfort not merely by reading this verse in isolation, but in its complete context, spanning Matthew 6:19-34. It was through the added context of Jesus’ words that I truly understood what was being said in verse 24; moreover, the context and rich examples that Jesus uses provided me with the comfort, guidance, and reassurance of faith that I needed.

In our world, especially in American culture, materialism, work, production, and success are all encultured into you; moreover, they are blended up and somehow attached to your self-worth. As Jefferson Bethke writes (playing off Descartes’ famous words), “America’s mantra is, ‘I produce, therefore I am.’” It seems that our lives somehow have become intertwined with what it is that we produce or can show others. This goes hand-in-hand with our media-driven culture—however, let us return to scripture.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.’” Here, is a clear verse illustrating that we are called to produce fruit, but what kind of fruit? Well, John 15:15 says, “lasting fruit” or “fruit that will remain.” And, how do we accomplish such a task? We do so by following Jesus’ command: “‘Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Store your treasures in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:20-21, NLV).

So, why is this all so important? The issue comes back to what is being emphasized. As Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 say, “‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV). This is a matter of our hearts and, thus, is of remarkable relevance; moreover, it is regarding how our relationship to the material world should be, which is of paramount importance in the current culture in which we live.

Unfortunately, this message seems to not receive as much attention as it deserves—in fact, the attention it has received by some leaders within the Christian faith has been to emphasize the opposite point, and conflate the idea that inner works can be manifested materially. I will speak more on this in my next post as I discuss the emergence and growth of the prosperity gospel.

Doing & Becoming

Living in a constant cycle,
Moving in this perpetual flow.
Continual searching for how to know:
What is truth?
Where to go?
How is it that I grow?
Inundated by information
And cognitive processes of the mind,
I wonder if what I seek to find
Will not be determined through methods of this kind.
Instead, it seems that I am stuck in a state of motion;
Therefore, my devotion to feel comfort in a fixed notion
Is as futile as attempting to cease the tides of the ocean.
Rather, is the solution to quiet my own mind,
And embrace the natural anxiety produced by time?
Putting a halt to my persistent pursuing
And choosing to reexamine what it is that I am proving.
Nonetheless, it would appear that I am still doing,
Yet this reviewing is indeed quite amusing.

The Ebb and Flow of Letting Go

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It’s amazing what can happen once we stop believing in lies:
“I’m not good enough; I’ll fail –
Isolate myself away so that then everything will be okay, today.”
But this isn’t living, nor is it what we are called to.

Yes, it’s true that an unexamined life is not worth living;
Yet, it’s equally important to realize that an overanalyzed one is worthless, too.
It’s not easy to set aside these doubts,
Nor is it to overcome these apathetic bouts.

Nevertheless, it’s of paramount importance to keep on striving.
Neither for the sake of merely surviving or the continual ideal that we must be thriving.
What matters most is that we keep on trying.
Stop the fictional finality of moving goalposts to an unactualized “someday”
When everything is once and for all going to be okay.

Instead, embrace how you truly feel.
Validate that these emotions are indeed real.
Life is like a Ferris wheel, with some highs and some lows.
While this pattern is predictable,
The pace at which the cycle goes is a constant unknown.
Accepting this brings us to a choice:
Do we moan and groan seeking safety in being alone?
Or, do we change the tone, accept and atone, viewing each moment as a stepping stone?

Smoke & Mirrors

Let the smoke fill the air.
Carry forth the pretense that we do not care.
Refrain from addressing the tensions inside.
In masked desperation – attempting to maintain our pride –
The world confronts us now with nothing to hide.
Our eyes look to the sky for a guide.

“Oh Lord, give us a sign!”
Is it finally the time –
Or, is this just another war over some pipeline?
Bombarded by constant headlines of calamity,
My only taste of serenity,
now comes from the breath I breathe.
After all, I am free;
And you, my God, have always been my destiny,
Regardless of the haze I see.

 

Warning: Contains Political Content

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I have refrained from talking about the current political climate in America because the polarization of the “Us vs. Them” mindset seemed impossible to surmount. Out of fears of my inadequacies, I have chosen to remain silent, rationalizing to myself that my silence was justified: Peoples’ minds have chosen sides, and there is nothing that can be said or done to sway peoples’ opinions.

Upon recent reflection, I realized that I had let my cowardice get the best of me. Moreover, I discovered that within this presumption outlined above was the implicit acknowledgement of the “Us/Them” false dichotomy. However, even after this revelation, there still have been persistent beliefs within myself that allowed me to continue to bite my tongue: “You have nothing to offer, and, even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. No one would read it, even if they bothered to read it, it wouldn’t change their minds.” It was this last part that has compelled me to break my silence and finally write.

I am a counselor by trade, even so, it is still fascinating to discover irrational beliefs that produce internal (psychic) tension. The last part of this negative self-belief is where I illuminated a fundamental error in my line of thinking. Similar to the counseling process, the goal is not about changing someone’s mind, rather it is about providing new perspectives, experiences, reflections, etc. that further inquiry and help to refine and better define their beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Furthermore, this shift in my perspective about the starting point for political discussion has also allowed me to reflect upon the array of experiences I have been collecting. I am a member of groups and organizations that would be deemed “far-right,” as well as ones which lean towards the “far-left.” Initially, these group experiences produced a great sense of tension within me that was further exacerbated by the division being portrayed within the American news. However, through maintaining the delicate balance between being open-minded while, simultaneously, having the courage to hold to certain deeply held convictions, I have been able to resist the pull of absolutism; that is, the tendency to want to resolve my internal discomfort produced by the tensions of both sides and foreclose on one of them as the absolute truth and guiding principle that all people should adopt.

This has been a difficult endeavor to undertake, especially considering the political and cultural climate of America growing more rigid and extreme by the day. However, I am grateful for being able to be a part of the “in-group” for both groups of the left and the right, because it has allowed me to understand some of the more mundane experiences, issues, and concerns that are at the root of the larger movements and politics that flood the internet and media. It has provided me with faces and verbalized expressions of the people who hold certain ideologies, instead of the abstract, dehumanized, and dogmatic view of such ideologies that are often portrayed through media. The importance of the medium through which information is absorbed is often overlooked. When ideologies are provided, devoid of any relation to actual experience, it allows the individual’s assumptions, preconceptions, unconscious biases, and a host of other psychic content to be combined with their imaginative capacity. In turn, this perpetuates ideologies and beliefs as having a sort of life in and of themselves, outside of the lived experienced of individuals.

Moreover, this separation between ideologies and actual experiences is doing damage to our democracy, for many individuals have become so certain of the absolutism of their beliefs that there is no room for common ground. While the overt differences in beliefs are emphasized, the nuances within the ideologies of either side are overlooked or disregarded. Furthermore, these nuances have become beyond reproach, since they are entirely overshadowed by the perceived irreconcilable schism of the defining features of each ideology.

Therefore, the impetus for my writing about the topic of politics in America is to emphasize the aspects that are being overlooked. While the differences in ideologies and beliefs between the right and the left are being magnified–and, in fact, personified through the attack or defense of President Trump– the similarities of experienced shared by being a human being living in a world of struggle, change, uncertainty, with feelings of isolation, desire for belonging, and striving for purpose and meaning, are being entirely overlooked. Insofar, that these aspects that comprise life are being eliminated from communal discourse, unless both parties identify with one another politically and ideologically. This lack of communication between members of opposing sides will only deepen the divide that is already present, and it will erase the opportunity to live and interact as fellow citizens of a democracy, learning from one another and enriching each other’s lives through the sharing and celebrating of differences, as well as those of similarities.

Life Entangled

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Relax in the fragmentation of the senses.
Breathe in, allowing the recession of your defenses.
Freeing the mind from its proclivity for assessment
And the constant association of judgment.

Permit the authorization for amusement in uncertainty.
Ending the persistent cycle of modernity –
Replacing the world of urgency with that of harmony.

As tension melts into psychic malleability,
Refrain from the urge for mobility.
Refusing to flee from the onset of tranquility,
Erase the unquenchable desire to find utility.

Working to Live

Believing in dreams is as strange as the belief in things that are seen.
Capture its essence and measure its substance through the division of parts —
Only then may it be allowed to dwell in the depths of our hearts.
Proof is what we prize;
“Seeing is believing” is not as true as “Seeing is perceiving.”

A culture of empiricism mixed with a need to customize our eyes
To fit the correct narrative that we consider an imperative.
Internal contradictions lead to increased inflammation;
Therefore, we work ceaselessly in a state of constant agitation.
Always waiting for that day of jubilation
When we are launched into our genuine aspirations.

In the meantime,
We work at our vocations dealing with daydreams of our next vacation
When we can put a stop to the rumination
And celebrate the ceasing of our continual fixation.

A Self in Society

Conditioned to be polite,
We converse wearing our social decorum.
But, is this for us or for them?
Moreover, since when did disagreement become synonymous with intolerance –
If we all agree, will we still be free?
To some degree, it would appear that the fervent desire to unify as one
Is causing our nation to become undone.

With that said, there are issues on which we must agree:
Some form of common sense logic must be present as foundation to stand upon.
This does not dictate any issue,
Rather it provides us with a necessary tool to engage in discourse.
Embarking on these sorts of endeavors without common ground
is predestined to forever circle round and round.
Therefore, remember that it is okay to have some remorse;
It’s okay to change your mind in light of new evidence.
This is not something to feel ashamed of though –
It is, however, a test of letting go,
The pieces of one’s ego necessary for growth.
Through taking this oath,
One may become flexible enough to tolerate viewpoints of both.
This requires great vulnerability, and without this there is no true strength –
Only an inflated self-esteem kept afloat by the desperation of others
Who, too, refuse to change and prefer to remain the same.

This is the what it means to be enslaved to oneself, ensnared by pride.
Terrified to be denied, one chooses to continually lie.
For the sake of pride, one cannot hide;
Therefore, the fear of mortification leads to emotional amplification.
Allied together under a noble cause: Defend this nation, at all costs.
However, the lack of insight veils the perception of one’s self,
Instead, projecting outward blaming others for their rage.
Not knowing that it is a manifestation of residing in a cage of their own making.

Fitting the Fragments

As emanations, time disjoints us from the center;
Diluting the potency of essence invites a greater acceptance.
Working towards excess is perceived as the epitome of best.
While rest is vilified, even futile work is praised as paramount.
The haze of uncertainty breeds sentiments of apathy.
Lingering questions of doubt constantly circulating about:
To what does this all amount?