A Long Journey, with Much Pain, and No Guarantee of Arrival


I realized something today about all the things I want to change about myself: 

Every one well be painful and long.  None will be accomplished overnight. They will require me to hurt for a fairly long time. 

Muscles will ache. My mind will wrack  with ideas and extended effort, long after inspiration has passed. 

And not a single one of them comes with a guarantee of success. 

There are smarter ways to work, tactics to prevent injury and burnout, and tips to lighten the load, but there will be no more easy victories. Becoming vegan was the only one of those I’m likely to get. 

The sooner I accept this,  the sooner I can really get started. 

Heh. Does this mean I’m finally growing up? 


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Resistance

Every time I’ve tried to get my stuff together, I’ve always faced resistance. 

When I started exercising,  I would soon get sick or hurt. 

When I started trying to go to bed earlier, 1,000 things would come up to keep me up (a student distraction each night,  it seems).

And when I do get to bed earlier, I always feel worse at first, moody, as if sleep deprivation were an emotional anesthetic. 

When I started writing consistently,  life seemed to explode with physically and/or emotionally draining mini-crises, until I was so ragged I could hardly even think straight. 

Resistance.

It’s why we don’t succeed, why we let our dreams remain dreams instead of bringing them to life. 

Resistance. If I am really going to get my act together before this year is out, I’m going to have to learn to resist back. 

Steven Pressman literally wrote the book on overcoming resistance – two books,  actually: The War of Art and Do the Work.

The Great American Persecution

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1883

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1883

Let me start by saying one thing:

Losing our privileged position as the default religion and arbiter of culture is not the same as enduring persecution.

Let me repeat that:  Losing our privileged position as the default religion and arbiter of culture is not the same as enduring persecution.

This sentiment bothers me, because it not only promotes an ugly, us-versus-them mentality among American Christians, but it cheapens the blood of actual martyrs worldwide.

According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as quoted in 2011 in Catholic World News each year approximately 105,000 Christians are martyred.

That means they were killed.

Some were hacked apart with machetes (common in sub-Saharan Africa).  Some were shot (common everywhere).  Some were tortured to death, even raped (unfortunately, that’s also common everywhere).  Some just “vanished” thanks to repressive governments and their secret police.  That is persecution.

Not being able to have mandatory school prayer, or even authority-figure-led school prayer at government-run, tax-funded schools is not persecution.  It’s the government actually taking the First Amendment seriously.  Students can still lead prayers, so long as other students’ presence is not mandatory.  Religious student associations can still meet and pray or study the Bible (Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for example).

I grew up in a small southern town, surrounded by grandparents and great grandparents, an unincorporated community that time forgot.  So don’t get me wrong, I understand how much of an adjustment it can be to go from a safe, comfortable set of small differences (Baptist vs. Methodist jokes, all in good humor, and told over cold, tangy coleslaw and crispy-hot catfish breaded in cornmeal) to a wide world that defies such easy categorizations.

Interracial marriages?  Gay couples?  Immigrants with brown skin and “strange” religions?  Body alterations, online communities, people creating new categories to put themselves in, satire-religions like the Pastafarians, the Dischordians, and the Church of the Sub-Genius?  Is anything ‘normal’ anymore?

No, and it never was.  Homogeneity can become an idol, and we end up worshiping the time when our cultural brand reigned supreme, unchallenged by tides of immigration, litigation, and information.  Losing that isn’t persecution.  Losing that stranglehold on culture isn’t persecution, but it might feel that way sometimes.

Losing our cultural supremacy may even be the beginning of authenticity, of being more like the Apostles:  a dozen good Jews who’d been raised in their Judean monoculture, but who carried the Gospel to Greeks and Asians and other foreigners who spoke with strange accents, ate strange foods, and followed strange customs.

It may even make us more like Jesus, who actively engaged with and loved people society placed as outsiders – racial and religious outsiders like the Samaritans, social outsiders like the tax collectors, and economic outsiders like the poor and disabled.