I’ve been in a funk lately. Not a P-Funk, but the last few weeks have really been mind bending for me. In some ways, things are great, and in others, it's near total horror as Kelli and I navigate our prickly housing and employment situation.
My buddy Glenn has been here for two weeks because he has an odd marital situation that needs to be dealt with, so he has been a short term roommate here and will be here for another week or so. It comes at a weird time, but instead of adding more complexity to a situation that was already unbearable, it has probably done more to mellow things. He’s been real useful and respectful of the whole mess over here and even though we met as a couple musicians searching for a collaboration, we’ve transcended that and find ourselves these summer evenings out on the porch and talking into the wee hours about all sorts of stuff, and then doing the usual stuff, with he and Kelli and I getting along famously, either in doing house work, moving prep, or cooking, or just chillin' with the movies and talk. I guess he’s been very grounding in a time that has been terribly upsetting for Kelli and I, both as individuals and as a couple. Sad to say, we’ve only jammed twice so far, and now that I have packed up most of my studio stuff, we won’t do much else beyond the acoustic guitar and bass jamming that we have done. Hog Heaven is basically history now, though if somehow I got a wild hair, I could get us a drum/guitar session in an afternoon’s time. But it's hard to think of how that would happen, given that both Kelli and I are looking for jobs and housing, and carrying on with our otherwise normal lives like nothing is afoot, and have taken on a couple things beyond what we considered normal.
Kelli and I just finished an eight week couple’s premarital/early marital group hosted by a couple that we know. The husband is a psychologist and the wife is a minister who has been influential with Kelli, leading her to choose the school she is about to attend. The marriage group just concluded after eight weeks, and it brought us closer to this couple, who themselves are facing a lot of change, with one being granted a new church to start up from nothing. Kelli and I were in their first course, the guinea pigs, as it were, along with three other couples who weren’t married yet, and were at various stages of relationship. Sadly, one of the couples seems to have fallen apart after a miscarriage sent the whole relationship into a tailspin. Kelli and I fared better than that, happy to say, but it was sad to see the group partially dissolved away for that reason.
Kelli and I also have been getting a dose of Martin Buber in yet another group that is meeting on a short term basis, reading Buber’s classic I and Thou. Our pastor and friend Jerry Lawritson is a huge Buber freak, and Buber himself is just a fascinating figure, but certainly this book is a huge milestone in modern thought. Actually, this is the second time that I have taken this class. The first time was back in 1989 when I was in 11th grade. I was oddly cast in that class, but I always took an interest in whatever the adults were doing, so when I was pitched the class in the fall of that year, I dove in. It's hard to say what I got from it then, but this time around, it resonates so much more since my current interests take me into such fields more and more. And to be married now, and to get what Buber is writing about, that is a lot more satisfying. Kelli and I were reading a book recommended to us by our usual couples therapist, and in that book, the author quoted Buber a few times and more than a few things echoed what we now read in I and Thou. For both of us, it's more than a chance to “just” learn about one of the greatest philosophical minds of the last century; it's another dimension in our relationship with Jerry and the others who are in the class. I always just savor the small group setting, especially in the church setting. I swear some of the most fascinating stuff comes out in the small group setting in a church context. I just eat it up. You gotta imagine it though; I was the only 11th grader in the 1989 class, and even now, Kelli and I still are the young pups. But as Kelli goes to seminary, the more time she can spend in this sort of setting, the better. Jerry has helped a number of other seminarians (two women that I know of) get their degrees and see them off into their ministries, so for Kelli to be near that would be good. Jerry of course has been there for both of us since we were teenagers, so it really resonates with all concerned. Jerry has been a major player for me since 1987 though I knew him somewhat before then, and for Kelli since she rejoined this church as a 14 year old in 1990. We’ve both been in and out, but we keep gravitating toward this one church. We were married there, and all that good stuff. So now we gleefully dive in to the various things we have to do there. I do the web site, all their recordings and editing, and am a Trustee. She is the head of the Sunday school and other educational roles.
One of the long standing church members, Phil, has been extremely generous to us as a stand in father for us, either because Kelli’s dad is long gone since 1997, or that mine is such a piece of work. He and his partner Nancy have been quite welcoming to us, sharing their extended family holidays with us. They have done a lot to save our Easters, Thanksgivings, and sometimes Christmases or New Years by working us into their plans. And with each year, we find they invite us to more and more occassions. They even let us have their dog Okua, which I do believe we will have to return soon. Kelli has a longer history with Phil and his family, but I've had some dealings with them. He has been a member of our church since time immemorial, and while Nancy and he are not married and don’t have kids together, between them, they have six kids, with Phil’s kids being more or less like brothers and sister to Kelli in particular, since we all were at the church from way back. Kelli herself was sort of sister to me for years before we started dating. We all go wayyyy back. Phil and his ex Cindy lost a son to a very savage drug related murder a few years ago. Kelli lived at Cindy’s for a while when we started dating, and at that point, Okua lived at that house, so Kelli has some prior experience with the wolf dog (and her perpetually shedding hair!) Cindy still is a guest at Phil’s gatherings, and vice versa, as last Christmas showed. And in both cases, they have been very keen at sharing their homes with us. Phil made a toast at our wedding saying he had basically adopted us over the recent years. It's just really satisfying that we are included in all the things he and Nancy, or Cindy have done. For Kelli and I, it's just our family now.
Oh, and we do get together with Phil to do a study group around the Urantia Book, which is a pretty esoteric piece of work. Another thing to know about Phil is that he is a mathematician who can throw down with some of the best. His current work as an independent contractor is to rattle Einstein’s cage vis a vis the origins of the universe and the mathematical gobbledegook that goes into all that. Heady stuff. So when a man of his stature embraces the Urantia Book, it gives the UB a lot more cred. Anyhow, we get together at his house for another meeting of about eight people. Kelli is a long standing reader. She got it from her mom, and her mom goes way back with Phil, Cindy, and another family from our church who all were into the UB in the early 70s when it was almost brand new (less than 20 years or so). The Urantia Book is like a hugely developed version of the Bible, but was written under some mysterious circumstances in the mid 20th century. Even Phil, for the 35 years he has been reading it, fesses that possibly, it might all be some huge joke, but as a mathematician/scientist, he keeps coming back to investigate the various things that it claims as being universal structures. But like any other text that is meant to inspire people, it isn’t so much whether it is factually perfect, but if it inspires people to take a deeper look for truth, and everyone I know in the Urantia community take it very seriously in that regard. In fact, the Urantia people I know take their Christianity far more seriously than most who parade around under the familiar Christian banner. My limited exposure has shown me a range of people who really do think. I think the UB is what thinking people turn to when they want to have a religious life. Phil is a mathematician; Dick is a surgeon; Andrew is a biochemist; Kelli is a theology student. I think whatever the confusion or myths about the UB, it inspires people to really dig into their ideas of what truth is, and how to go about meaningful and satisfying spiritually satisfying lives. And that can’t be bad. The UB refers to itself as the new epochal revelation for humanity. Well, it's a big claim, but if you can get past the idea that the Bible itself has the lockdown on truth, it's a perfectly valid thing to consider whether or not 2000 years later we humans are entitled to a new piece of text that might get us to the next level in our spiritual development. The UB charts a clear course and shows a long range of human historical chapters that show us in desperate need to relearn what Jesus showed us life should be. The UB reader community is a diverse bunch. I read an essay from a lifelong devout Jew who came to understand Jesus and chose to live accordingly, while not relinquishing her Judaic background. I think that has to say something. We live in such confusion about what Jesus stood for, or what his people stand for. And of all people to “get” the message and to choose to live in accordance with his noble mission, who would expect an orthodox Jew to lead the charge? She now is a significant figure in the Urantia Book world. But back to my own experience. I find it interesting, because the UB provides an interesting look at a lot of human development on a range of levels. A lot of it does seem far fetched, and I could be in on one of the biggest cosmic jokes around, but when I read stuff that resonates with me about the failures of industrialized society, and the need to realign ourselves with things that are decidedly non commercial, I have to take it seriously. When I get a deeper idea of what Christ was about, or am led to just think more about what he was about, I find that satisfying. When I get to sit and contemplate a piece of text that was technically written in the 50s ostensibly by supernatural beings, but the scenarios described are near total perfect descriptions of current affairs, I just have to think maybe it's not all a joke. More and more, each time I read some of it, I just find it all too interesting to dismiss.
Kelli and I also go to straight up bible study too, now that we are unemployed. Again, some of the same people are involved. And for us, we have the benefit of Jerry’s tremendous knowledge of not just the words and characters, but the history and a great sense of who and what shaped the historical Jesus, and I think that is tremendously enlightening. I read passages that are bandied about all the time, and each time, a whole world erupts from the old words. Get a dose of history, allow a liberal and humanitarian interpretation, get people to think of how people would have taken this in their day—all that richens the experience now. And it's just terrible how people can use this book as a tool to hate other people.
So with our couples therapy to deal with the daily snags and goals as a couple, or the marital group to give us a broader experience in a group setting, or a class on Martin Buber, or bible study, or Urantia Book study. We get some great exposure to things. Kelli’s admission to seminary has been just delightful for us because it has led us to some great minds, and some great community experiences that are just really satisfying. It's crazy. Neither of us are working, and when we add up all these things that we do in our hunger for truth in the face of all the lies that constitute contemporary life, we find it hard to imagine how we could possibly fit a weeks' work into our schedules. But then we end up thinking maybe it should be this way always. I find I get so much more out of life while doing all this than being involved in the rat race. And I really do feel that the rat race is the price we pay for letting this other stuff fall by the wayside. We happen to be lucky enough for the last few months to have had the opportunity to put this study and these encounters where they genuinely belong: front and center in life. If more people did this, we’d all be a lot better off.