Sunday
Jan012006

« 2005—Weaving A Fabric »

There is so much I want to say about 2005.

It could be the misery of the ordeal of moving from a place I called home. It could be activist/educator stance I took regarding energy related matters and a culture of materialism. It could be that Glenn and I connected musically, and that he became a new best friend. It could be that I turned 32. It could be that even before my first anniversary, my marriage seemed ready to fall apart. It could be that I rejoined the world of event production. It could be that I lost my studio of seven years. It could be that I regularly went to counseling sessions for self and couple. It could be that I drove up to northern California twice in two weeks. It could be that I was laid off from my favorite job and spent six months unemployed. It could be that I didn't wash my truck once in the calendar year of 2005. It could be that I went to Florida for Christmas.

It could be a lot of things because a lot of things happened to me. But what really resonated for me across all this and more is that I have come to know love more and more, and have come to find I really like the things that can't be weighed, measured, or counted. I've been utterly savoring being married. I love my dear wife like nothing before. She keeps astounding me in ways I hardly imagined possible. But so does our relationship, because for our relationship to amaze me as much as it does means that maybe I have something to do with it, and frankly, it feels good that maybe I've contributed something.

Kelli has always been a light in the window for me. My return to church activities after about a decade off in my personal wilderness fell about two weeks after we started up the relationship we now have, and that date began in earnest on the first of January, 2002—exactly four years ago now. But for years before that, she had been one of a few people who was there to remind me that the church existed and that I would be welcome when it was time to come around. So, my relationship with Kelli and my relationship with my church is really intertwined. They feed off each other. Both of us fill different roles within the church. This year, she started seminary after almost 20 years of pondering such a move. Her grandfather was a minister in our denomination, and she drew a lot of inspiration from him early on. Right now, just standing in her shadow as she goes to seminary is amazing to me. Part of it is just that she is in her Masters program, but by far it is so much more inspiring that she is on her way to self actualization in a very noble field, and one which she has envisioned herself in for more than half her life.

But it's more than that. For me, being in her "zone" of influence, it's really amazing to absorb a lot of things from her studies, either as I am one of her proofreaders or that we just hunger for a lot of the same things and find ourselves in fabulous discussions about a great range of topics, theological and not. Just yesterday and today we sat and watched DVDs that just struck to the core of what we both want to be a part of. We watched films on The Underground Railroad and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We also watched one on Miguel Pinero. The common theme really was something that we find ever more irresistable: redemptive action in a complicated and harsh world. The Underground Railroad and the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer of course are almost the same: struggles to do justice at any and all costs because justice is just what needs to be done. The Pinero story is one of defying pain and injustice and maintaining a sense of self in the hardest times, and the redemptive quality of art to lift the soul out of prison, either the concrete one or the abstract ones.

Kelli and I are fueling up on the start of a journey. We are filling up our reserves with all manner of stories of people who stand in defiance of injustice so that dignity and humanity can reenter the world. They take all forms and come from all walks of life. In fact, our role models come almost exponentially to us; we follow a few we know of and find more, which leads to many more. Bonhoeffer is one tremendous model. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are huge. But the master is by far Jesus. The more I find out about him, the more amazed I am at what a radical he was, and how necessary it is for him to haunt modern hearts. Bonhoeffer called him the "man for others" and established that Christ was really community itself. And, in this fractured world, I find it hard to believe that we can fix the mess with anything less.

It dovetails nicely with my peak oil and consumerism concerns. Really. I came a long way in settling my heart about the traumatic future peak oil will probably bring us when I realized that community relations are what will be the answer if one exists at all. Not divisiveness. Not more individualism. Not escaping to the country to live as hermits with a stockpile and a 12-guage. No, the secret to the worst problems that could ever come is in community. And Jesus exemplifies the notion. Bonhoeffer was a modern echo of that sentiment. Peak oil activist (and my hero) Richard Heinberg provides an even more modern refrain of that theme. As I flew to Florida for my Christmas holiday, I read Joseph Campbell's interview with Bill Moyers The Power of Myth and had this reinforced still more. Humanity knows better than to split itself off from itself—we've failed miserably when we've done so. The themes in our various mythologies all speak to the benefits of community, self-restraint, and giving. These notions span clear across eons of human history, but we still insist on trying to live outside these parameters, only to find their truth magnified in our failures.

It's said that marriage is the cornerstone of society, and I am starting to know what it all means in a very personal way. I find that marriage is just that. I come from a small family that fell apart in a big way such that I feel little or no relation to anyone to whom I am related by blood. Not one of my blood relatives attended my wedding. I've known pain. I've been suicidal. I've feared. I've hated. I've tried to solve problems by creating more. I've lied. I've stolen. I've lived out of balance. I've tried to justify all this, rather erroneously. I've missed the mark. In religious language, missing the mark is known as sinning—in fact, that is what it really means. Fine, then I've done that. But my relationship with Kelli is one that has provided me with a chance to be redeemed, and to work to build community in its smallest unit: between two people. Kelli has been a catalyst for growth and redemption for almost all of the time I've known her, which this year will be 16 years, and as I said, four years in our current relationship. From the practice I get in relating to another human being, accepting failure on both our parts, and revelling in success, it's the stuff that prepares us to take that sort of thing to the world. We consider the Bonhoeffers, Gandhis, Tubmans, Kings, and others of their sort as saints and prophets who lead the way for what will eventually be our world to make better in any way we can. Kelli will find her way in ministry as an ordained minister one day; I find that my work to change minds about consumerism and to prescribe community effort in the face of our energy crisis in the making is where I must be right now. Those are our lofty big goals, but we also try to do the smaller things that matter as often as we can, given that we must still struggle to make a living, and must conduct our lives in a world that would just as soon leave us dead by the road if we let it.

One of our favorite biblical quotes (and one of the very few that I can rattle off at will) is Micah 6:8 where we are told what is asked of us by God: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. All else is subservient, really. It foreshadows what Jesus would come to model for us. It speaks to me like few other things in this age of confusion, dissonance, tumult, pain and suffering. It's a recipe for stewardship of society and environment alike. It strikes out hatred and greed. It demolishes egotism and brutality. This is the basis for community living and success in the face of everything. It's love of self and neighbor. It's the anti-war statement of anti-war statements. It's a prescription for success of the human project. It comes for free but not without a price. Bonhoeffer made a distinction between cheap grace and expensive grace. The expensive variety is demanding. My heroes are people who speak truth to power, who are spanners in the works of corrupt and unbalanced society who speak what they speak or sing what they sing so that redemption may occur.

The things I endured in 2005 are pretty insignificant in their own way. I don't think any of it is unique. I guess I can only hope that what I do with these experiences is somehow for the good. It's hard to hang on to hatred and fear. It is terribly unhealthy. In 2003, the experiences of 2005 might have snuffed me out or would have called out the worst in me. But this year it's been easier to take it in stride while I've decided that all of it must happen for some reason, and that it's all easier to cope with if Kelli is there to help with the load, and the same in reverse. The mission of marriage as one to redeem and heal old wounds is one that we've been working on because I think we both know the world will be a demanding place that needs people who have enough of whatever it takes to cope, and I think we are both just savoring the things we have to draw on, either in the stories of the saints and prophets, or the great thinkers, or the people around us.

On reflection, this is the stuff that mattered in 2005, no matter what the details were. I feel compelled that 2006 will be an improvement upon all that.

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