So I was having lunch the other day with two wonderful women, women who like lunch with vodka, and so I like having lunch with them, because I like them, I like vodka, and I like lunch.
We were visiting about this and that and in the course of the conversation, this little nugget surfaced from the netherworlds of my mind:
The amount of pain in your life is directly related to the distance between your reality and your expectations.
Everytime I say it, I am impressed by how ridiculously simple the notion is, and how awfully true it is nonetheless.
The temptation, of course, upon hearing this bit of wisdom, is to fall toward modifying one’s expectations. Who hasn’t had at least one wildly out-of-hand expectation…in the last day or two, even?
Ramp ‘em down! Be realistic!
Which then, eventually, leads to the realization that the realistic can be affected by one’s reality.
But to a greater degree than one might think, a person has permission and possibility to, get this, change one’s reality.
I grant that sun rises in the East and set in the West, and that two hydrogen and one oxygen molecules make for water, and that it is a Holy Act, a form of martyrdom, even, to be a Twins fan.
Some realities, that is, just are.
But some don’t need to be, even if for all the world they look like they do.
Perhaps it’s rather that some realities have more than one way of being seen.
These illustrations (don’t be fooled by the one-of-these-is-not-like-the-other on the right) are self-portraits drawn by Henri Matisse for a 1947 retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit, for which he wrote a little essay entitled “L’exactitude n’est pas la vérité.”
Exactitude is not truth.
Each portrait is clearly of Matisse, and yet clearly different, one from the other.
Which one captures Matisse? Which three don’t?
Which one is true?
And, to coin a phrase, “What is truth?”
There’s a piece floating around on Facebook lately. It looks like this:
It irks me.
But I don’t want to settle into my reptilian irks, and so I spent some time considering why the thing bothers me.
Significantly bothers me.
1. It’s not particularly nuanced.
I realize that some Christians do look at the Bible as proof for God.
But as many, if not more, see the Bible as an expression of God.
Quite a few (we Lutherans not least of all) even see that significant chunks of it are expressions of its time (women may in fact, nowadays, speak in church, and in leadership positions, even [gasp!]); culture (babies of enemies ought not have their heads bashed on stones, acceptable thought it may well have once been); and context (simultaneous polygamy and concubine-age=jail time and gossip at the coffee shop.).
That’s not even to mention male bias.
Even so, its expression of God’s fidelity and call to care for the poor, the oppressed, the broken, and the outcasts is not too shabby.
2. The pic is insulting to Christians, suggesting that our faith is tantamount to belief in a cartoon.
It’s easy to knock down a caricature. Harder to engage with intelligent people who believe differently than do you.
3. I wonder how many people who post it have read the Bible, vs. how many of these same people have read Spiderman.
With all due respect to the folks at Marvel, we’ve got a different gig going on in the Bible. Actually, we’ve got several different gigs, depending on which book, which author, and which century you have in mind.
4. How many have read -about- the Bible even: its histories, its complexities, its import?
5. All of that said, they do people like myself a favor, by raising the question about what is God.
Some people probably believe that Spiderman is God.
So how do we decide what God is, and what the “so what?” effect of this God is in our lives?
As an aside, it always strikes me as a bit curious that atheists believe in a God enough to disbelieve in it, not least of all to diss it. I’m just not always sure what God it is in which they are disbelieving and dissing. Sometimes, though, I get close, and find myself disbelieving and dissing that same God right there with them.
Is God true?
Is atheism true?
Is my reality true?
What is truth?
Sometimes what is true is based on how one views reality.
It is true that one’s perspective changes one’s view.
The same elements of the whole can be in place, but how they are meshed, fit, blended, focused, patterned, melded, refracted, reflected make all the difference in the world.
So I have a kaleidoscope in my OMG study, a beautiful work of art that is also a symbol.
The colors don’t change, but the way that they are configured do, depending on how you turn the cylinder and how much light you let into it.
That sounds like a perfect set up for a Life Analogy.
One of the things that I love doing at OMG is raising the questions about how we know that something is true.
When someone comes in to assert something about their theology–or purported lack of theology–it’s worth poking around to ask some questions about truth and reality.
There are reasons for everything: it’s just that some reasons aren’t as good as others.
And that some reasons which were held to be true once upon a time, well, don’t any more.
It can be a bit risky; threatening even.
Not just our reality is called into question, but the reasons we have had for believing in it are.
There is some freedom in that, however. Some recognition that we are not flotsam and jetsam.
We can change our expectations.
We can change our reality.
And by doing so, we, ourselves, can be changed.