Faith

Diversity, the Indigenous and the Limits of Being Human

     It’s impossible to say how many cultures there are on Earth. Lines of division blur, the sheer number of people groups make accuracy impossible and the dynamic nature of societies presents a moving target. What can be said, however, is that distinct social systems are disappearing as trends in globalization indicate shifts toward homogenization.

 

     Which is progress, right? A simpler world is easier to handle. It’s especially helpful if cultures have much to offerpolitical and religious freedom, career opportunities for economic security, civil infrastructure to protect the safety and rights of humans, so on and so forth. These are conceptions often thought to be inherent in Western societies.

 

     The prolific and enigmatic 20th century environmentalist, David Brower, compressed four and a half billion years of Earth’s history and that of its inhabitants into Genesis’ six-day creation. When that time frame is considered, it isn’t until 4:00 p.m. on the last day that dinosaurs walk the Earth. By 9:00 p.m., these dinosaurs are extinct. At 11:57 p.m., humans appear on the scene. Jesus is born forty-five seconds later. The Industrial Revolution occurs 1/40th of a second before midnight. Since this moment of innovation, more resources have been extracted and consumed than by the rest of the people who’ve ever lived combined.

 

     Brower states, “There are people who think what we’ve been doing for the last fraction of a second can continue indefinitely. They are considered reasonable people, but they are stark raving mad!

 

     Humans have existed for an awful long time, yet it wasn’t until recently they began to alter the planet and its ecological balances as significantly and seriously as they do now. It’s no coincidence that 95 percent of the areas identified by the World Wildlife Fund Global 200 as harboring exceptional biodiversity are home to indigenous peoples. This isn’t to paint pre-industrial societies as utopian. Survival entails struggle, and bouts of starvation and disease aren’t to be considered lightly. Today, we think we have answers for these. We think we have answers for everything. We’ve essentially circumvented natural selection. But despite—or perhaps due tothis feat, creation groans.

 

     Lack of clean water, food, medicine and decent sanitation threaten many today. This is well understood. The solution cannot, however, be to bring all into the same conditions that we as Westerners live in today. This “flourishing” is literally impossible, as it would require four Earths to support the world’s population living as Americans, as according to the Global Footprint Network. Developing technology is often brought up as an answer, but gambling on things that do not, and may not exist, may not be the wisest or most responsible choice,especially as it is in our collective power now to make changes with positive repercussions among humanity and creation.

 

     We must lower our conception of ourselves to the point where we can consider that necessary changes, developments and the shaping of lives very well might ask the transformation of ourselves as much as it does others. How do we use technology responsibly? How do we love, interact with and learn from those who live differently than us? And, most importantly, and possibly all encompassing, how do we humble ourselves before God, and find ourselves back in the correct order of creation? We have been given much. We are responsible for much. And for the many cultures, perspectives and ideologies, we are thankful. We have a lot to learn.

 

De Graaf, J. (2015). Black Friday is Buy Nothing Day. Retrieved February 29, 2016, fromhttps://www.prforpeople.com/news/black-friday-buy-nothing-day
 
Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of the World and Ecoregion Conservation (p. 28,Publication). (2000). Gland, Switzerland: WWF International- Terralingua.
 

United States of America. (n.d.). Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/trends/united_states_of_america/

 

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Note: I wrote this quick little article for Spring Arbor’s student paper. Between the day that I submitted it, and the day that it was posted, this took place:

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/3/honduran_indigenous_leader_berta_caceres_assassinated

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/03/americas/honduras-activist-berta-caceres-killed/index.html

The Prominent Environmental Activist Berta Cáceres Has Been Assassinated in Honduras

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My Garden

I’ve come back to this video every few months or so since it came out. Every time that I watch it, it strikes something new in me. It’s an incredible witness of purpose and love being found through brokenness, confusion and pain and is full of parallels regarding our own redemption. I hope that you’re able to find something in it as well, even if you’ve seen it before.

Ed’s Story- My Garden


Why Am I Leaving?

That’s a great question, yet one that I dislike answering in person. I find it difficult to come up with a brief answer on the spot that fully expresses “why” accurately and comprehensively. If I speak at length on the subject, I usually find myself quickly digressing and, again, end up dissatisfied with my own answer.

Truth is, as I’ve included in my response several times, my answer isn’t simple. I don’t have a quick “college is a racket” or “I don’t have the money to stay in school” answer. My decision to drop out has been the result of much introspection, evaluation of values, goals and purpose, input from persons whom I love and trust (some suggesting I stay, some suggesting it may be best not to do so), and reflection upon where I feel I’ve seen the hand of God very much at work.

Some Thoughts-

Every once in a while, when asked what my reason for leaving is, I hear instead someone accusing me of doing something foolish rather than someone looking to understand my motivations (the chances that I’m speaking of you are slim- rest easy). That’s fine. The fact that this might offend or upset me makes myself more aware that I may be a bit prideful. Maybe more than a bit. Anyway, in their eyes, I am doing something foolish. A column in this morning’s Jackson Citizen Patriot states, “All of the data says the same thing: getting a college degree is about raising your standard of living over a 40-year career.” The fact is, raising my standard of living over a 40-year career isn’t high on my list of priorities, let alone on it to begin with. I’ve lived in a trailer without heat, a canvas tent in the woods and a camper without electricity at different points in my life, and I didn’t feel like I was particularly suffering. Each were wonderful experiences that I look back upon with fondness. It’s funny thinking about times in my life when I felt “displeased” by my surroundings or “trapped” in a sense and the conditions I was living in. I’m a fairly flexible person and don’t require much. I understand that I’m young, but won’t always be and I understand that I don’t have a family to provide for, yet may someday. Matt. 6:31-34.

I also know that my main focus in finishing my degree at this point in time wouldn’t be in order to better prepare myself to live in the way that I think God wants me to live. My aim moreso would be attaining a degree in order to gain the security of being able to more easily find employment and esteem in the eyes of others. I don’t think that those are good enough reasons. I don’t want my story to be one of pursuit of security, comfort and man’s approval, although I absolutely get caught up in those from time to time.

 Where Am I Going?

Life is something unfolding, something to be experienced. At the beginning of March, I’ll be flying to Puerto Rico and staying at Juana Diaz’s Campamento del Caribe for a period of time yet to be determined. My uncle is the executive director of the camp. I’m really looking forward to seeing him and his family there.

I don’t know how indicative of the camp as a whole these pictures are, but they were my favorites of those that I looked at:

(campcaribe.com)

After that, I’ll most likely be heading back to the U.S. Chances are good that I’ll first head back to Yosemite National Park or possibly to Mt. Rainier National Park. After some time there, I’m thinking of joining the Americorps (much like the U.S.’ domestic Peace Corps) for a year, and I also think living in a L’Arche community for some time would be beneficial as well. Of course, this is all tentative and absolutely subject to change. There are plenty of other things, groups, and endeavors that I’d like to get involved with or pursue, but there’s no sense in trying to live that far into the future.

What do I want to do or plan on doing? Live simply and holistically. Appreciate and be grateful. Use what I’ve been given responsibly. Gain understanding. Cultivate something beautiful. Be open to leading. Love. Things like that. When I think of persons whom I most admire and respect, I see gentle people living in uncommon ways. People who look others in their eyes and listen and take time to be thankful and breathe and care.

Also

Erich Fromm says, “One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often.” I think he’s right. But this pain and sadness and sacrifice is something that God can work through so powerfully. A humble, broken, and contrite spirit is fertile ground for making a difference upon the world.

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I hope that this answers some of the questions that some of you have posed. If there’s anything I should elaborate on or any more questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.

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Listen/ W.S. Merwin

Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is

 


Embarkation

“Life is a succession of crises and moments when we have to rediscover who we are and what we really want.” -Jean Vanier

Image

Sailing off again…

I’ve come to a place where I think that it’s better for me to not continue to attend Spring Arbor University. This, of course, isn’t without mixed feelings. I’ve learned much while I’ve been here. I’m so thankful for the experiences and people that have led to that happening. I’ll miss much and for that reason will be leaving with a heavy heart. You guys really have been a blessing…  Students, professors, friends, people I’ve only recently met, don’t know too well or even just see around. Thank you..

God prepares us, teaches us and shapes us in varying ways and as unique individuals we have different roles that we are best suited to fill (1 Cor 12:12-27). When we find those thing that we’re passionate about, I think it’s our responsibility to chase after them and allow God to fully work through us. You find that wave and simply let it take you. If anyone is curious as far as where I see this wave possibly leading- just ask.

In regards to the post I wrote about staying not too long ago- I can honestly say that it wasn’t without reason that I stayed here until now rather than leaving a few weeks ago. I feel I’ve gotten the go ahead to “go well”. There are reasons why I want to go and reasons why I want to stay, but it simply seems I’m to leave at this point.

I’d like to ask a simple question to those I’ll be leaving behind (in presence). Actually, anyone reading this-

                                                         “Why are you here?”

     “Why have you been placed on this planet? Why are you living? Why are you doing what you do every day? Why are you saying what you say? Where is meaning found?” These are questions that have profoundly changed my perspective and I find that I daily need to reexamine myself in light of them.  Answer them every day and live accordingly. They cut to the core of our true beliefs and values (think Phaedrus, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).

Much like the past, I’m sure I’ll be updating this intermittently. If you’d like, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the page.

I’ll be around for a few weeks and would love to take anyone out for coffee who’s interested. As usual, onward and upwards…

                                                               Much love,

                                                                                Taylor


While reading this morning…

Paulo Freire

I noticed that:
Proverbs 1:19 (ESV)
“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”
=
Freire’s Dehumanization of the Oppressor.


How To Go Well, part one

     I had been going back and forth for quite some time trying to figure out whether I wanted to stay here at Spring Arbor or go. My plans regarding leaving were super variable. I thought of heading out to California and getting into graphic design and photography on my own, of spending an extended period of time in Puerto Rico working on my Spanish and then hitting up South America, or heading to Hawa’ii to intern on a tea farm.

     Today, I’m in Jackson, MI and will be attending my first two classes of the Spring semester.

     To take off and leave. I think that desire in me is part of my personality, a soul bent if you will, and also strengthened in part by living as a missionary kid. I recently heard that missionary children are much more apt to be flighty and such. Knowing a few of them myself, I can see it. I also heard some other statistics on MK’s, but I’ll keep those to myself for fear of putting off anyone who may be considering taking their kids overseas.

     One of C.S. Lewis’ most famous quotes states, 

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

     Another world. Whether Lewis was speaking of a world across the void or this planet devoid of rejection of God and all that that brings, I think we can find solace in these words as well as a compulsion to bring this world closer to its’ intended state.  Although groups and societies are less civil, as individuals we’re generally compassionate and responsible, right? So how are things the way that they are? And in the face of “the way that things are”, how are we- as Christians, and as humans- to respond?

   A past issue of Sojourners had an article by Isaac S. Villegas and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove entitled “Stability vs. Mobility”. The tagline- “Should we stay or should we go? Being rooted in one place is a good thing, but faithfulness doesn’t end where the road begins.” I found it to be a very fair, sober look at the issue. In the end, the main point was that either could be good, so long as for the right reasons and with right understanding. Total truism. We have examples throughout the Bible and church history of persons living rightly through both manners. What’s important is the “why” of it, which absolutely affects the “how”. When the “why” and “how” meet in the right spot, you’ve found it.

An excerpt:

“Shortly after The Wisdom of Stability was published, I got a call from the director of a mission agency who’d read the book. He asked if I’d come and speak to the global gathering of the group’s staff. I’d love to, I told him, but wondered why they thought a word on stability was needed. “Well, we have a problem in missions,” he said. “We keep sending people who’ve never belonged anywhere. They don’t seem to have much capacity to connect with the places where we send them.”

In a hypermobile culture that has maxed out our technological ability without much attention to the long-term social and ecological consequences, I’m convinced that we’re in desperate need of some Psalm 1 witnesses: people of faith who are like trees, planted by the waters, putting down roots in particular places, and building communities that advocate for the common good. On the other side of peak oil, everyone is going to be desperate for wisdom about how to stay well. The good news is that we have a treasure trove of wisdom in the literature of monastics, who’ve made vows of stability for more than 1,500 years.

But as I’ve continued to advocate for a recovery of the wisdom of stability, I’ve emphasized more and more that I don’t think Christians should stay instead of go. Rather, I think we need to learn how to stay so that we can go well. The stability that’s at the heart of scripture and the Christian tradition isn’t opposed to mission. It is an integral part of it.”

There’s depth in those words.

(cont. later)

*Sojourners. July, 2012. Villegas, Wilson-Hartgrove.


“A Responsory, 1948”

Suppose the dead could crown their wit

With some intemperate exercise,

Spring wine from their ivory

Or roses from their eyes?

Or if the wise would understand

And the world without heart

That the dead are not yet dead

And that the living live apart

And the Wounded are healing,

Though in a place of flame.

The sick in a great ship

Are riding. They are riding home.

                                             Merton


On The Anvil (#2)

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GR.

Thoughts with some reservations. Get them out- and then aim for clarity and centeredness.

-I’m sitting in a Panera Bread in Grand Rapids, MI. There are some very classy people in here. I mean- fantastic scarves and overcoats and it all seems so European chic. But it also seems so cold. Some people have recently remarked- my thoughts are interrupted by,  judging from the looks of it, a wonderful elderly couple. Back to what I was saying, I’ve heard more than one person talking about the “coldness” of people and interactions here in Michigan, especially certain parts. I hadn’t ever really given that any thought, but- after hearing it- I can see it. With awareness… perception changes. But not everyone here is cold. Not at all.

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-I finished my first semester at Spring Arbor. It was good. Someone asked me last week if I regretted coming here.
Nope. I don’t. Not at all.

I haven’t enjoyed all of my time there. In fact, I’d say most of the time I haven’t necessarily enjoyed. This is due mostly to 1.) the atmosphere and 2.) the concept.

I’ve always found myself more apt to truly pursue the meaningful in settings that aren’t necessarily considered “Christian”. I don’t want to get into the nuances of that statement. The effect that the setting oftentimes has on me is very sterilizing- I tend to forget things because they’re taken for granted.    It’s difficult at times.

And the concept- I’ll just use an M. Scott Peck quote to summarize my thoughts- “To be organized and efficient, to live wisely, we must daily delay gratification and keep an eye on the future; yet to live joyously we must also possess the capacity, when it is not destructive, to live in the present and act spontaneously. (Road Less Travelled, p, 64)”    The struggle is in the balance. Which is true for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Facets of this experience have pushed me and stretched me in several key areas, and I’ve met people that I’m so thankful to know. I see so much room for improvement in my own life and, in all honesty, though I’m constantly pining for the mountains or “freedom”, I’m looking forward to the challenges… opportunities… that lie ahead.

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-I saw Kenneth Thomas last night. He did well. He definitely didn’t stick to melodic progressive trance or house which is unfortunate in my eyes, but it was a fun evening. He did drop Hot Mouth/Chris James- “Totally Worth It” though- which I was so down with… It’s so far from his roots, but that bassline… yeah. Was really blessed with good company as well…

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-I’ve got some Thomas Merton in front of me and a whole day to spend with him. And Adam Haslett. And M. Scott Peck. And God. Good deal…

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-I pick Trevor up from the GR airport at midnight tonight. Really looking forward to that and his time here.

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– I slept in my car last night. It was absolutely wonderful. It’s no fluke that I was so very much into “vandwelling” in High School. I wonder how my old inspiration Two Knives Katie and her dog Mutt are doing…

Anyway-I hope that one day travelling aimlessly but absolutely meaningfully by vehicle will somehow not be as morally repulsive  from a resource management perspective as it is to me right now. Waking up and driving off, not knowing where I’m going but fully taking in the warmth of the glowing sunrise, sleeping bag on my lap, pillow at my back. It was so nice… Someday…

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-Listened to Michael Moore speaking on “Democracy Now” this morning.  He absolutely killed it. So much of the reaction from notable recent events has been that of calls for treatment of symptoms- gun control law and reform, better contingency plans for chaotic happenings, etc. These are absolutely on topic and debateably useful, but so much is left unsaid about treating the root causes of many of the maladies that cause such happenings throughout the world. “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” J. Krishnamurti. It was nice to hear someone taking a look at the whole rather than isolated events and actions- absolutely a sociological perspective. Totally off topic, but I’m going to bring it up anyway-  “Want to stop terrorism? Stop participating in it.” Noam Chomsky. Anyway- I’ve read some of Moore’s books and while I’m not his biggest advocate, I really appreciated his perspective this morning.

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-As of about a week ago, I have a kitten 🙂 Her name is Tazo and she’s wonderful. I think she looks like a little brown lynx. When I get back to Jackson I’ll have to put up a picture. She’s staying there now- a friend is visiting the house at intervals to take care of her.

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“I have suddenly woken up to the fact that somebody needs to be teaching theology the way St. Augustine did and not the way textbooks in seminaries do. Someone should be able to find the Living God in scripture- and this is his word- and then lead others to find him there and all theology properly ends in contemplation and love and union with God- not ideas about Him and a set of rules about how to wear your hat.”  -Thomas Merton, The Road to Joy (p.172)

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A Heart Without Words

I feel very much aware of God working in my life.

    For much of the time this past three days, I didn’t feel anything from God. If anything, I felt what seemed to be absence. A heavy, pointless absence.

        I’ve been working on allowing God to work through me in a way that is beyond my comfort zone. I’ve specifically been thinking a lot about how much of me is changed when I try and serve God in this way. I am an introvert and I do appreciate quiet. Reaching out isn’t something that I’d say I naturally desire to do. That being said, I do think that God stretches us and He does want us to do things that we ourselves may not naturally feel inclined to do. I think this has much to do with dying to ourselves everyday, taking up our crosses and finding ourselves dependent on God and his provision. But I do also think that He instilled us with unique mannerisms and personalities and wants us to be true to who we are and who He created us to be. I believe that He intends that we live our lives in a holistic manner. I don’t think that God wants us to be superficial. I do think He wants us to be honest with both ourselves and others.

    But I digress.

         I had been quite intentional about doing what I thought I should, whether I wanted to or not. I certainly failed many times. One instance I can remember specifically. It had to do with someone making themselves vulnerable to me. This wasn’t during a conversation or any drawn-out situation. It was a split-second happening and a split-second decision. I could have made myself vulnerable as well- which would have been the right thing to do- yet I chose not to. My flesh was pleased- no embarrassment there- but I had fallen short.  Which is what we as humans tend to do.

           I apologize for the ambiguousness of that example.

But now that it had been done- what was I to do?

     “Should I beat myself up over my choice? Should I just forget about it?”

                   I think that Tozer’s approach is beautifully correct.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” 

                     Later that day, I was a bit frustrated. I wasn’t seeing any positive results from putting myself out there and days of doing this was wearing me out. I went to God with it and resolved to let it be.

               That very evening, I was blessed by an amazing woman’s words. A visiting professor spoke in our night class. Of the many things that she said that really resonated with me, one was that if we believe something, we’ll be willing to put our bodies out there for it. She said this in reference to a march that she had attended protesting South Africa’s apartheid policies. She marched with her child clinging to her back. She did this because she wanted him to understand the truth of the physical outcomes of genuine beliefs.

            That brought about a small amount of understanding in my mind.

                 This morning in chapel I was once again blessed by important words. The man who spoke talked about the importance of understanding that there is not a perfect Christian. But there is a perfect Savior. This is why there is meaning in looking towards Christ- keeping your eyes firmly set upon Jesus. He is the source of our strength and our peace and, ultimately, He is where we find the lives that we are to live. We find affirmation in Him, not in others.

             That again brought an amount of understanding.

      This evening I had the chance to go to Lansing for ESL as I do every week. As we headed out, I felt fairly powerless. I did find solace in the fact that I truly was powerless myself, and if anything was going to happen, it’d be through God.   The night really went well. I felt that I was able to connect with the guys in my group. It went smoothly. It was a blessing to be part of.

               What really hit me, however, happened afterwards.

    I was speaking with the lady in charge of the program, the pastor of that particular church. She asked me how I was and I gave her an honest answer. I was well. And I asked her how she was.

               Truly inquiring of persons how they are has been something that I’ve really been working on. Asking is easy but asking with intention is tough. To care, to listen, to simply be aware- I think that’s powerful and meaningful. Like I said, I had been working on that. But as with the other things that I had been doing, I felt my actions had brought about no positive effects. There were no signs that anything was happening. Nothing was telling me that it was worth the effort.

            But when I asked this lady how she was, I could immediately see that that was the most important thing that I could have done all day. One simple question. So easily overlooked. I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice when she told me that no one else had bothered to ask her how she was. When she told me she didn’t even know how she was.

She had focused on others and asked others and cared about others and put herself out there and- nothing. And it was really wearing on her.

          And I knew exactly where she was coming from.

                 I felt what she felt.

I pray for her. I pray for all-encompassing peace, strength, renewal and direction for her.

         Henri Nouwen says that no two humans experience sorrow in the same way. I think that he is right.

            But I also think that we can truly empathize with others. And that moment with that pastor made all of those other moments- all of those other times when I felt that I sacrificed to no avail- make sense.

                 You don’t know when you’re going to get through.

                 But God wants us to be willing to put ourselves out there.

                 To put others before ourselves.

                 To depend on Him.

                 To grow in Him.

                 To move over and let Him.

I think that this is what God is working on teaching me. To do good, even if it isn’t appreciated. Because it often won’t be. But that doesn’t make it “not good”.

I can only do so much. But when I give my aims and intentions to God, He is able to accomplish things so much more beautiful and pure than anything driven by my own selfish ambition.

       Thank you for your presence today God.

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“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” 
                                                                                            -Mahatma Gandhi


in humility, value Others above yourselves

Phil. 2

Even if it’s difficult.