Shooting Pucks

I’ve been frustrated lately. Because it seems like there is a swirling of ideas that like to exist slightly above the realm where thought becomes expression. As a kid, I would play hockey in the backyard unendingly. There’s this spot in a hockey net. The golden spot. It’s where the crossbar meets the post. If you can hit that little sliver of metal, you’re almost guaranteed a goal. Goalies can’t react in time. I would spend hours in my backyard shooting for this sliver. I’d go above it and the puck would dent the garage door. I’d go beneath it and the puck would go in the net, but at a point any goalie could grab with their glove. Over and over, hour after hour, I’d shoot at this spot. And then it began to click. Ting* Ting* Ting* over and over again the puck would hit that sweet spot. Leaving vulcanized rubber stains on the metal of the post. Of course there were still times the puck went over the net and times the puck would fall below the desired spot. This is the case for even the best of pros. But there was suddenly a greater predictability to where the puck was going. Predictability came from habit. And habit and predictability birthed consistency. 

Preaching is a bit like shooting those pucks. Hoping that they’ll land in the same spot, the spot that rings the truth you are hoping to communicate. But the difference is when it comes to preaching you can only shoot pucks about once a week, maybe. And you’re shooting them in-front of a bunch of other people accustomed to someone who got pretty good at hitting the sweet spot - where cross bar met post, where truth met charisma. 

But you have to keep shooting, I suppose. There’s no other option except throwing the stick down and turning away. But even if you do this, the net will still be there. As will the puck. As will the stick. The you, the message you possess, the people they are aimed to. None of that goes away if you turn away. It sticks around. 

So I suppose the only option, which, quite frankly, is the life giving one, is to simply keep shooting. Put a few dents in the garage door by going over, have a few week misses below the target. It’s fine. It’s the process. You’re learning.

Unknowing as Pleasure

When should I pick you up?

When does the dog have to be taken out again?

Where are the keys?

What’s going on this evening?

Who have I not reached out to in awhile?


These, or some variation of them, are all questions that we probably ask ourselves daily.  These type of questions are largely questions which have a chore-like presence about them. They are questions seeking quick answer so question can turn into solution. Questions without quick solutions tied to them aren’t the type of we let occupy our mind all too often. I’d venture to guess this is because we have become built on notions of efficiency rather than curiosity.


But tough luck. Because the robots are already far more efficient than we are.


Perhaps the reality of being human, being conscious, being aware - or whatever other “being _____” you want to call it, is a reality based on the questions not tied to quick and efficient solution. And perhaps so often feel stuck in monotony, because we ask the efficient solution based questions. Is not a robots life, a life built for these same questions we focus on, a monotonous one?


But we don’t like the big questions as much, do we? The questions of the philosophy class. Instead, we like knowing. We see knowing as the gateway to the efficiency we crave because efficiency has become the housing ground of purpose.


But I’d suggest purpose, as it pertains to human mortality, is actually housed some place else. And I believe that is the realm of wonder.


David James Duncan describes wonder as, “an unknowing experienced as pleasure.”


I don’t know about you, but my day to day routine doesn’t have much of these types of unknowingness built into it.


Even our religious systems nowadays, the places supposed to be catering to things such as wonder, are built on the security of knowing. Knwoing you’re saved. Knowing there’ll be a service every Sunday. Knowing you’ll hear a passage of scripture.


Unknowing as pleasure is foreign. We’ve been rebelling against it for centuries now. The scientist and the theologian both seek to explain, but how often do they sit in the moments where what they are seeking to explain is still unexplainable?


How often do you?


How often do I?


Perhaps it’s in those moments we experience a thawing of the burden monotony forces us to carry. Perhaps in those moments we fold into the vastness of it all. Perhaps in those moments it’s not always about the answer or the question, but the floating space in-between.

Movements versus categories

About two years ago, my then girlfriend, now wife, bought me a shirt. She was down in San Diego and saw it at a beachside surf shop. The brand was called Vissla and it had the words “creators and innovators” printed on the back. Vissla is a surf “company.” I put that word in quotes because Vissla doesn’t brand itself as a company but as a “movement.” A movement designed for those who create and those who innovate. Or those who like being associate with such things. They partner with artists, surfers, and others who innovate and create in their field which then gets others, like me, excited about the story their brand is coelscing itself around.

I’ve bought in. If you look in my wardrobe, you’ll see more Vissla clothing than just about any other brand. I like creation and innovation. I want to be in line with that trajectory and theme.

Vissla realized it could be a clothing company or it could be a movement that produces clothing. And the movement has caught steam and has worked.

There are a lot of things that are created to make something. But perhaps the successful mentality is the Vissla mentality — being something that happens to create.

You can have you pond or you can have your river. Ponds have boundaries on what and where and how they can be. Rivers carve and flow and move. I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of a movement far more than a stagnant monotony

The Coney Island Church

Growing up in Detroit, I was surrounded by Coney Islands. Athens Coney Island. Leo’s Coney Island. Kerbie’s Coney Island. Coney Islands were everywhere. And, if you’re outside of Detroit, you probably have no idea what I mean by any of this...

Coney Islands are a series of different restaurant chains. Each has, as you might expect, their own take on a “Coney Island” which is a type of chili-dog.  

But what Coney Islands are known for are their highly generic menus. You know what you are going to get when it comes to eating out at a Coney Island reataraunt. And it likely isn’t all that adventurous.  

Christianity in an organized sense, also known as “church,” often seems very Coney Island esque to me. For all the denominational variety (there are over 30,000 congregations now...) the presentation and feel is really quite similar.  

If you were to ask someone who is highly tied to the reality of church if all churches are similar, they’d surely say no. A Catholic service and Baptist service to them are polar opposites.  

In the same sense, if you ask a loyal patron of Leo’s Coney Island if it’s the same as Athens, they’d scoff and explain how they’re not even close. When really, whether church or Coney Island, it can all tend to be the same  

You need to experience something different than the Coney Island in order to realize how similar all the Coney Islands are. Just like you need to experience something different in order to notice how similar all churches can be.  

Theres a restaraunt in Chicago called Alinea. They have made desserts that you breathe in,  food that’s cooking on the plate in front of you but you don’t know it because it’s hiding under other food, and numerous other creative cuisine. They’ve reinvented what it means to eat at a restaurant.

Alinea is no Coney Island.

What would Alinea look like in church form? I’m excited to find out. 

Greyscaling my phone

I have a phone problem. I check it in any lull in conversation. If there are no notifications, I’ll seek out the dopamine they would’ve provided by opening an app and refreshing it. If there’s no new content, I’ll search for it in another app.  

It’s bad. And I sense the toll it takes on me. I feel exhausted and neglected when there’s nothing new.

I was with a friend the other day and we discussed this. The tendency we have to refresh the page, get the notification, etc. The dopamine that hits when we see something new on our phones is addicting. We’ve all heard this. We’re almost taught to be ashamed of it.

But by itself that feeling - that rush - it’s beautiful. It’s a powerful and transforming thing. But we’ve made it so common place via technology, that we’ve lost the depth of the beauty it is.

This friend of mine told me to try greyscaling my phone. To set it all in black and white essentially. You can do this fairly easily in your iPhone setting. Supposedly, a large part of the rush is the colors tied to notifications.  

I did this and went back to the home screen on my phone and something literally seemed to empty out of me. It was a physical experience. Like a long satisfying exhale of emotion. All the red little numbers counting notifications in apps were dull and colorless. There wasn’t urgency. I felt relaxed and free.  

Think about how many colors you see on your phone screen. And how those fake colors, the digital lights, take away from the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, the yellow of the flowers.  

Something as simple as letting color only exist when we look up from our phones has had a profound impact on me. It’s a simple thing, but makes reality all that much more inviting and intriguing. 

the end and the beginning

The beginning of something is obviously not the entirety of its existence. Where would the end fall if that were the case? But using just those two words, beginning and end, is too narrow a scope. Because nothing is ever truly over just like nothing has ever truly begun. (Okay, maybe the universe. But that's it.)

Each breath is possible because of the previous breath. Each death ends up being the organic matter for new life. The end of one song on a playlist is the lead into the next. Beginnings and endings mean very little. Influences weave themselves into every new beginning and ultimately are what lead to the pursuit of a new end. 

With releasing a book, I've been thinking a lot about this. About how, by the time my book was made public for people to consume, I was so over it. It felt stale to me. I felt like I was beyond what I had said in it. I thought that phase, the phase I described in the book, was done and that I was onto something new.

There was trepidation tied to it being released. I almost didn't even publish it because I was so focused on the next thing. The new beginning. The idea as opposed to the physical pages before me.

But I realized that if that is how I would chose to view creativity, I'd never end up creating anything I would be able to put out in the world. Because what once was the focal point of my creativity inevitably will wash away in time to be replaced by the next thing. 

There is no end when it comes to creativity, and there is no beginning. The end of one phase or focus is what leads to the birth of the new phase or focus. And to disregard an ending is unfair to the new beginning. It is good to grow and evolve and become. But it is irresponsible to neglect where we have grown from to just focus on where we're going.

Doing so puts too much pressure on us to always move and never reflect. Action and contemplation must walk side by side. 

So if you're stuck wondering about the next thing, what is the thing that you are moving to the next from? What is the current? What is so tied to you that it almost feels stale? Whatever that is, it's probably a more improved version of what that was three years ago. Which makes it worth sharing. Which makes it worth publishing or painting or singing. 

Life is a series of steps. Not an end and a beginning. There are moments in-between way too nuanced to be labeled by such simple categories.

Uni-verse

The term verse is derived from the Latin word versus which means, “in the direction of.” Then the English and the French took this words and shaped it to mean, “a line of poetry or song.” Which essentially means the same thing. Because a single line, when seen in context,  ultimately points to the larger trajectory of a prose or song. 

And then there’s this term uni  which comes from the latin word unus which means, as you might have guessed, one . 

Which, when you put the two of these together you get the term uni-verse which is what we use to describe the very farthest scope we can fathom when it comes to existence.

Given what the roots of the word universe mean, we here on earth are somewhere in a far reaching trillion upon trillion light year wide reality that is a part of a single trajectory. A single direction. A single pursuit. 

But what is that pursuit? What is the one direction in which all of this is headed? 

Love hope freedom joy potential? 

Hurt pain shame anguish inability?  

We thought slavery was okay. Now we (mostly) don’t. We thought the demeaning of women was okay. Now we (mostly) don’t. We thought segregation based on ethnicity was okay. Now we (mostly) don’t. 

That one direction seems to be one of more acceptance. More unity. More affirmation.

And it also seems to leave the ones not willing to evolve, physically or in this new evolution of consciousness, behind. Buried somewhere in the fossil records of memory and shameful bigotry.  

 

Be like Auston Matthews

It’s playoff hockey season. Which, if you know me, you know is the time of year where I dance around the television yelling at the Washington Capitals. I’m Capitals obsessed. It’s borderline unhealthy.  

With that obsession comes listening / reading / watching any news I can about them. And today, while listening to NHL Network radio, I heard a blip about the Caps, and then the guy transitioned to the birthplace of a new Hockey creativity found in a player on the Toronto maple leafs.  

He talked about Auston Matthews, who grew up in Arizona without coaches that could coach to his talent. So it gave him the ability to learn and create himself. Without the bounds of what one is “supposed” to learn in their development as a hockey player. Which is, according to this Hockey analyst, what has allowed Matthews to be a premier player in the realm of creativity.  

Which made me think about this idea. About learning to do something without the bonds of learning how  to do something. Being interested in something but without the baggage of all the dogma that’s accumulated over the years of other people doing that same something. 

Too often I feel that an interest or way of thought I’d given a prescription. But think about how much more creative and fruitful a world where people who had interests could pursue those interests untethered. What would we learn? Whatever it is being pursued would certainly have to evolve. Just as Hockey is doing with the likes of Auston Matthews. 

Theology, painting, hockey, all of these things need people who are intrigued but are not bound to the way it’s supposed be done. Because it’s precisley those people who allow for evolution, growth, and a whole new paradigm to be birthed. 

That bbq Guy

 “If you want to be one of the best, you need to be evolving. And understand that you don’t know everything”

This quote isn’t from Elizabeth Gilbert or Michael Jordan or Elon Musk. This quote is from a man who specializes in making bbq in North Carolina.

No matter where you are now, you’re not where you once were. Which is obvious. You move.

But in a more metaphorical sense, you are not the person you were five hours ago, let alone five years ago. Our perspectives change. They shift and grow and transport us to a place of better understanding.

This is true in writing. This is true in basketball. This is true in rocket science. And this is true in bbq.

Because this is true in life.

Where were you? Where are you know? Where are you headed?

These are the questions.

The pleasant donut seller

The other day my wife and I stopped at a local donut shop we both like. We go there semi frequently, maybe a couple times a month. The guy who owns the place is shorter, a bit stocky, and always has just a tinge of sweat on his brow.

He is, at least based on my stereotype inspired mind, a quintessential donut seller. 

But he’s also extremely pleasant. You know the type of person that you only encounter from a distance but every time you do you just really, really enjoy them? 

Maybe a barista or a waiter / waitress or a pharmacist?  

That person for me is my donut salesman. He is, as I put it to Emily, one of my favorite people who I don’t know.  

When we were in there just the other day, this man’s pleasant vibe was in full force yet again. Emily and I spoke softly about just what a great demeanor he had. And then, when we were chatting with him about our order, I just went for it.  

“This may sound strange, but I was just telling my wife... you have to be one of my favorite people who I don’t know,” I said to him.  

His eyes immediately glossed. “Gosh, you’re making me misty,” he replied. “Thank you so much.” 

Its funny how much we interact with people yet how little time we spend putting into words what those interactions speak to. Because all interaction is tied to some type of emotion. But we largely just burry it down or keep it to ourselves.

And when we do respond vocally to our interactions, it usually manifests itself in negative ways.  

I’m way quicker to shout in disdain in my car over getting cut off than I am to be sing-songy with praise when someone lets me merge. 

But maybe vocalizing the positives is a simple place to begin in creating more harmony, hope, and happiness.

And maybe that sounds cheesy.

And maybe that’s a shame.  

i wrote a book

I wrote a book.

It's called Freeing the Firefly and it's about a shift from having God contained within a framework to letting God be whatever God may be wherever that may be however that may be and whenever that may be.

I'll have more info soon.

But for now, if you want to help launch the book / reserve yourself a copy, I just launched a Kickstarter for it. I'd so appreciate any and all help! Here's the info:


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1920031261/freeing-the-firefly

A few prayers

God of haunted houses and ghosts, let us feel your presence in the dark spaces. As we seek out the light your garner within them.

God of the hope in small places, let us remember that when we always expect and anticipate the sunshine and light of day, we miss out on the infinity of light from the stars.

God of wholistic water rather than individual pond, give us the image of your way in all places. One river here, a pond here, and lake over here. Let us not focus on one stream, but see your living water as a whole.

God of love for creation, let our theology never lose sight of the reflection housed in the eyes of Jesus -- this world.

God of the breath within our lungs, of moments microscopic and infinite, let our minds come back to a place of now. here. and this. Rather than then. There. And that.

God of mysticism rather than dogma, may we always make room to substitute the either or for the both and. The black and white for the grey. The us versus them for the all.

God of love for neighbor over love for tribe, let us always place the human beside us ahead of the ideology within us.

God of progress as opposed to regression, let us be at the cusp of your evolution, having the eyes of you, ones of greater inclusion, possibility, and love.

God of insisting love, may we be your existing flesh.

elder ocean

I went to the oregon coast last weekend. While I was standing on one of the many cliffs that tower over the pacific along it, I looked up out of curiosity how old the ocean is. 

Get this... 4 billion years old. 

Which is about 50 million human lifetimes.

Or, put another way, if you were to stand on the shore of the ocean for the entirety of your life and watched it, you would have witnessed a mere 0.0000002 percent of its existence. 

Your entire existence being only 0.0000002 percent of something else's existence... that's humbling. 

And we get to interact with this 4 billion year old thing. We swim in it and boat on it and dive beneath it. Think about that! When you swim in the ocean, you are being embraced by something 4 billion years old. 

Which begs the question... what in an existence that averages a mere 79 years (the average human life expectancy) is worth fretting over? Is worth spending an 20 extra hours at the office for rather than 20 more hour with your family? Is worth being an mad at other people about?

The world we occupy likely laughs at our self-prescribed seriousness. 

Meanwhile the waves break. Over and over again as they always have. Inviting us to their shores for a chance to recenter and realign with the rhythm of life. 

Whale songs and unconscious ideology

Whether through Finding Nemo, National Geographic, or some scuba diving experience of which I’m undoubtedly jealous - you’ve probably heard whale songs. 

What you probably didn’t know though, is that you were much more likely to prefer the whale songs of the 1960’s than the 1970’s. A study showed that humans, when presented with whale songs from these two decades, strongly preferred the songs of the 60’s. 

Ironically, just after the turn of the decade in 1972, the UN put a moratorium on whaling. It of course took a few years after the dominant music of the whales for the government to move toward action. This is the same way things work up here on land.

Maybe the whales below were singing about peace and harmony just like Dylan and the rest of the counterculture folk up here on land were doing. Whatever their noises were focused on, we preferred what they had to say during the 60’s.

Which goes to show that we all have preferences that we never could’ve imagined having. There are things that we are naturally inclined to think or feel or prefer that we aren’t fully conscious of.  

Sometimes these things are funny like the overwhelming preference of 60’s whale songs to 70’s, but sometimes they are bias’ that get in the way of human potential.  

In my experience, a lot of my unconscious preference comes from a place of confirmation bias. And this largely comes from my ideologies.  The ideologies I hold can often force me into a narrow minded and shallow view of reality. Which forces me to ask myself questions.

What are my ideologies? What are the ways in which those ideologies are seen outside the context of being within the ideology - both positive and negative? Do I fall into the faults? Do I live into to the life they give? 

We all have preference. And that’s okay. But in my experience when I hold preference without remembering why, sometimes I end up becoming callous to different ways of thought.  

And that can create scars and wars and dead whales.  

the me versus the all

There are ponds that come from tributaries which come from rivers which come from water.

A lot of us like our ponds and don't care much for water. 

A lot of us like our ideology and don't care much for humanity. 

Ponds and tributaries and rivers run dry. They go away.

But there's always water somewhere. 

human

The name for human is derived from the word hummus which means of the earth. Which follows the same idea of creation stories spanning from Paraguay to the Middle East. The Judeo-Christian tradition calls humans adama (we say Adam) which translates to dirt person. The indigenous people of Paraguay have a language called guaraní. Their word for person is yvyipora. Yvy meaning dirt. Ipora meaning spirit.

Humanity understands that our origin is from the dirt. We are gardens. Each one of us. Who with time, patience, and care have the ability to become abundantly lush with life. Not through the constant drive of do do do. But in a way mirroring the consistent stillness of the earth. A way of being. And a way of letting time begin to reveal all that we need, spanning from the days of rain to the ones of sun.

And through this process of being, life bursts forth fuller or more wonderfully than we could've ever possibly imagined otherwise. 

It's one thing to live in this world, but it becomes a whole different experience when we choose to exist.

existence is enough

We celebrate things because they exist. The birth of a child. The serenity of a natural landscape. The joining of two stories to one at a wedding. The greatest appreciation we as humans have is largely tied to moments of the simple recognition of things that exist. And these things are what they are because of no other circumstance than the simple but profound act of being.

Waves don't choose to break on the sand, but they do.

The sun doesn't attempt to set in such a brilliant display of colors, but it does.

A forest doesn't plan on having it's trees leaves decorate our line of sight every fall, but they do.

Nearly all wonder is a process of nothing more and nothing less than living into what is most natural. Living into the natural way of existence. 

And yet every day we wake up with the driving question of what is it I have to do because the question of what is it I am able to see is seen as careless and a waste of time.

Which has done nothing but make us machines to the machines we build. Creating them for the purpose of giving us a purpose. We have largely become a cog in some massive way of the world that has blinders on to all the rest of existence. 

It's been said that we are human beings, not human doings. And that most of us fall into the trap of the latter of the two. Not living into our true names. Motivated by what is next as opposed to what is now

But what is now?

What is the wave break

or the sun set

or the autumn forest in your life in this very moment?

What is the thing that is existing and worth celebrating but has been missed by the distraction of the doing? Because it is there. And in my experience, giving whatever it may be recognition over the next temporary task brings a lot more life.

Idealism and a puppy

On Friday I bought a puppy. It was a early birthday gift to my wife. I had person after person warn me about the life shift that would come from being a dog owner. The moving from personal freedom to having something to be responsible for.  

And I shrugged it all off. It’s a puppy, I thought, how hard could it actually be?

But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. And my ability to just act on an idea and run with it has been stifled by ankle biting, pissing, and wire chewing.  

What is the truth we shy away from with idealism? Because whenever something is seen through the lens of the ideal, it isn’t seen through the lens of reality. And therefore, it can never actually be the ideal. Because ideals are best possible realities. Which is a state nothing can live in all of the time. 

Shedding the blinders of the ideal can often be the place where reality can speak. And learning the tenor of difficulty and frustration paved the way for hearing the tenor of the good and the beautiful.  

 

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You are a cast iron skillet

My wife and I received a cast iron skillet for Christmas from her sister.

We love it.

The sizzle and crackle of vegetables on it is a sure sign that you’re  cooking  . Just last night we threw on some peppers, onions, brussel sprouts, and green beans. Then topped it off with some 21 seasoning salute from Trader Joe’s and we were LOVING LIFE. 

But what’s especially interesting about a cast iron skillet is that the taste you get from it isn’t just the taste you’re currently consuming. It’s that taste, but also all the tastes from meals past. Cast iron skillet hold onto what they’ve held and let the remnants of meals past influence meals of the present. 

So you, me, and all of us - we’re really just a bunch of cast iron skillets.  

We hold onto those things that happened to us however many years ago. The hard things, the beautiful things, the things inbetween. We carry them. And they impact the reality we experience every day, whether we know it or not. What we are cooking is enhanced by the flavors of times past. Each moment rolls itself into the next.  

This is freeing or frightening. But the beauty of it all is that we get to pick which of those trajectories to follow. And at the end of the day, I think all of us have the end goal of pursuing what tastes good.  

You Are 60% Banana

When was the last time you ate a banana? You and that banana you consumed share 60% of the same DNA.  

Think on that for a second.  

Only 40% of your essence is unique from that yellow fruit you pair with peanut butter on your toast.  

Think of someone that you hit it off with 60% of the time. They probably aren’t your best friend but you don’t dred being around them. 60% is a fairly sufficient number for bonding and common ground. There’s quite a tangible amount of crossover when there’s 60% commonality.

And yet, even with how much more similiar we are to our neighbors than we are bananas, we’re still assholes to people.

Is not you essence significantly more than 60% similar to someone you find frustrating or irritating or unlike you? The answer is yes. Because, as I’ll repeat over and over because it’s mind mindending, 60% is the commonality between you and a banana  

We as humans are, in the large scheme of things, ridicously alike. And yet we are very acquainted with polarization.  

Why? 

What is the motivation we all tap into that encourages discovering differences over commonalities?