Thirsty People

The only thing more desperate than a person without water is a person without air. If exhalation is not immediately followed by inhalation, we will die within minutes. If we are not given water, we will die within days. Since most of us live with so much access to air and water, we easily forget the fragility of our existence.

A desperately thirsty person is not their best self. We lose brain function, become irritable, have headaches, abdominal pain, and become weak.

I share all of this because thirst is a wonderful metaphor that describes our condition of insatiable longing. Inevitably, we all thirst for something, and that thirst often disorients our soul.

Scripture uses thirst as a soul metaphor too. Thirst represents an aspect of suffering in our life where we desperately seek satisfaction. We either neglect to drink and suffer thirst, or we long to drink but are not satisfied.

 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.” ~ Psalm 42:1

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” ~ Matt 5:6

“whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” ~John 6:35

Is it true that God satisfies the longings or deep thirst in our hearts? This can only be answered experientially. A theory, theology, doctrine, or dogma can only inform us of this kind of thirst, but it cannot quench it. Of course it follows then that two categories of people emerge: the thirsty who have yet to have such an experience, and those who will drink of the experience. Which one are you?

Unmet human need (thirst) takes countless forms. The deepest, soul-level needs, are identity, acceptance, and validation. For example, we think we want that promotion and the big title, but we really want validation. We think we want wealth, but what we really want are options, or power or freedom. A thirsty person is not their best self. A desperate person has wandered from their soul.

The asshole driver who cuts us off to get slightly ahead is thirsty. The thief who stole from us to gain advantage is thirsty. The corrupt politician is thirsty. The abuser, the addict, the isolated, the angry, the manipulator, the lonely, the greedy, the poor, the perfectionist, the rich, the controller, all thirsty. Honesty reveals we’re all thirsty. We can all imagine the world slightly better than it is.

Thirst cannot exist unless a satisfaction for it also exists. Thirst is the negation of satisfaction and as such cannot exist on its own merit. We go through life trying to satisfy our deepest thirst with the strangest things. This search means that a soul-level satisfaction certainly exists and we discover soul-level thirst is not quenched with externals.  We will have to go deeper. (To learn how, visit my post or podcast called “The Descent.“)

Thirst then, is the suffering that results from skimming over the depth that is our life. Thirst is to take our lives for granted. Satisfaction is possible, but it will require an ernest spiritual journey. What all sojourners have discovered is not a puddle, or a pool, or a bottle of Fiji. Below us all lies an enormous aquifer that flows into a fountain, the scale of which is beyond what any of us can possess. Be warned, the best of religion can only point you to its own man-made path, but it cannot take you there. The worst of religion will trap you into systems that Jeremiah describes as “hewed out cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer 2:3)

Upon contact with what Jesus calls living water, one sip will displace the pursuits we once thought would fulfill us. A deep drink will wreck any false notion of ourself.  One plunge and we’ll forever be bringing others to the source. The water and its satisfaction are free but it comes at cost of our surface based self. That can be scary at first and perhaps that is why some will prefer their thirst. May that not be you.

Estrangement

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People are social beings. We always align around each other in the form of teams, tribes, groups, families, and clubs. Smaller social groups give us a sense of belonging, acceptance and approval. These are some of our deepest soul-based desires and for this reason, our tribes become vital to our own identity and sense of self.

Those with the social, economic, political, or religious power get to dictate the rules of the group and define who ultimately belongs. This is true whether we are talking about world religion or a junior high click. For every group, there is always a process of assimilation where an outsider can become an insider. The degree to which we seek assimilation correlates to our assessment of the groups ability to provide us with our deep desire of acceptance and identity.

But what happens when an insider decides to be an outsider? Sometimes the group identity is not what it promised. Sometimes the tribe errors in how it manages issues of social justice. What happens when we simply disagree with or outgrow our group?

Unfortunately, the one who questions the establishment is always cast by the group as a dissident. Those who would leave are viewed as deficient, flunky’s or those who just never “got it.” The result is estrangement. 

Estrangement is defined as no longer being on friendly terms with the group. Despite the best intentions of those who outgrow their container, those who are in power within the system can only sustain their power and the security of the group if the one who leaves is viewed as deficient or in someway a problem. Those in power can then withhold any provisions for validation, acceptance, and worst of all identity. It tremendously unloving.

The main reason so many people who question their system end up staying in it, even though they are not fully convinced by it, is the requirement to find a new identity. The fear of the unknown is far greater for many than the limitations of the group. And even though the tribe gives sparingly, it does give something and for many that is better than not knowing. Often its just easier to stay in a bad relationship, dead-end job, dysfunctional church, or unsatisfying group than to build our life outside of it. So we talk ourselves into staying because that is what the group would have us do.

The ministry of this blog and podcast is designed specifically for those who find themselves in this liminal space (transitional period). Estranged people are everywhere and that is because people are constantly outgrowing one system and entering another. The world is full of malcontents because consciousness is on the rise, not the other way around.

It’s unfortunate that systems lack the ability to see liminal space as a graduation into bigger things and resort to name calling and withholding kindness. This is because a system is always looking out for its own best interests, it is the nature of the beast. When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he was talking about a community of people who were called-out of small systems into one with a new set of rules that governed people from the inside-out. The called out ones (ek-kaleo) is where we get our word for Church (ekklesia).

I would like to encourage you to not lose heart during your journey through estrangement. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your pursuit. Something much bigger than you is calling you into a bigger, wider, and more inclusive space. There are many, many people out there waiting for you to join them, who can and will embrace you. Furthermore the identity you gain will be one of freedom and authenticity. It is always a spiritual path.

The journey through estrangement is the Christ journey even if you don’t recognize it as such or even care to call it that.  Throughout all of scripture and many sacred texts, the leaving of the kindred or the abandonment by those closest to us is the basis for the humiliation of our pride. It’s when we finally shed our false identity (the one imposed by the system) that we find our true self. It is the epicenter of faith and trust in that voice or power that inspires us beyond the walls of our system.

I’m convinced that this is the only path to God. Its a constricted path and not the easy wide road. It’s via dolorosa. It’s the walk to Emmaus. It’s the night under the Bodi tree, and it’s a thousand other metaphors, stories, and locations.  If you find yourself there, count yourself very lucky, for you are graduating into your truest self and deepest soul.

You are in good company.

Quantum and other kinds of Entanglement.

Science needed to scrap newtonian physics in order to gain new understandings of our quantum universe. Let’s not skim over this. Science, that benchmark of stability for so many people’s worldview, is not a fixed framework. Remember, science once told us that the sun traveled around the earth. I grew up in a world governed by the laws of physics, and now we are entering the quantum universe.

All true science keeps reinventing itself. The scientific theory causes ideas to be tested and evolve over time. Science presses the frontier of discovery, and thus is in both a state of wonder and confusion. Science is an endless pursuit of a wider grasp of the truth.

Quantum mechanics has forced science to go beyond empiricism to apprehend a reality that works on an entirely other level to physical science. Quantum entanglement is where a sub-atomic particle is linked (entangled) to another particle (potentially separated by light years). The mere observation of one particle alters it and instantaneously alters the linked particle. There is no lag in time nor space and observation alone is enough to influence it.

Science scratches its head and has no clue as to how this works, because science does not possess the categories or labels for such phenomenon. There is no scientific language to describe that “thing” that entangles or links two particles.

Science is finally coming around to acknowledge what spirituality has always grasped. The person who prays was always seen by science as “wishful” thinking yet scientifically ineffective. Now we know that conscious awareness, can cause an entangled particle to react by our observation of it.  While science has no name for the force that entangles two particles, religion has always known this as the love of God.

However, we aren’t quite at a place where science and religion can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, most faith systems are full of religious entanglement and not willing to widen their field of view in the way that science has. Too often it prefers the way it was to something new.

When a person has a transcendent experience, too often they fall prey to the religious  systems that want to validate, define, control, and manipulate that experience. I like theology as much as the next geek, but it is not God, it is our contrived best estimate of what we think God is like, because we (just like science) lack categories for authentic experience. If we are not careful, religion will sweep in and explain everything with its categories and labels, and we will move from experience into a tribal group think. We need religion to be willing to widen itself too, so that it can relearn what it knows in new ways just like science.

Science is not immune to its own entanglement. Science has typically been reluctant to use any categories from religion, but now in the face of quantum entanglement, we need science to acknowledge that it has entered the spiritual realm and to be honest that it has moved into a faith based system rather than empiricism.

Regardless of how we arrive at this truth, we still find ourselves facing the awareness that we and our world are intimately connected (entangled) on a level we don’t fully appreciate. It is what we do with this awareness that changes everything. You see, while I am not you, and you are not me, we are also not completely other than each other either. Otherness disease is the first illness we must cure if we would usher in the new world. We are all deeply entangled and the force that holds it all together is called love.

It turns out that quantum entanglement might just be the scientific way of saying the worlds greatest commandment; “Love God with all your heart and neighbor as yourself.”

Striving and Limping

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Our lives are full of countless headwinds. Very few things in life come easily. When they do, we are usually right to be skeptical. Some theologies attribute this to the fallen state of the world. This may be the case, but I would add that it is fallen by design and thus the struggle we all face in life is not a punishment for the sin of an ancient grandfather, but the necessary context through which we can experience life and beauty.

Jacob was the younger twin of his brother Esau. His name implies the grabber of the heel because Esau was born with his brother Jacob still striving and clinging to him. Though born into a lineage of great promise, Jacob was the second born (even by minutes) and thus he played second fiddle to Esau who had the right to receive all the blessings of his father Isaac. Genesis 25-27 depicts how Jacob deceives his father and tricks his brother Esau and receives the blessing due his brother which sets up the ultimate family feud.

Jacob later is tricked by Laban (his father in  law) in like manner and lives most of his life striving against him until one day he manages to escape with all his wives and kids.

I share this backstory to enable us to see that Jacob is striving or fighting on all sides. He is striving with his brother whose land he is now entering and fearful of what may happen to him. He is striving with is father in law and fearful of what may happen to him when his is found.

Jacob is in the midst of tremendous struggle. This is when he goes off alone in the wilderness and ends up wrestling with what he first thinks is a man. The struggle goes all night and Jacob refuses to let go until this “stranger” blesses him.  Finally, Jacob is struck in the hip socket and he realizes that it is God with whom he is fighting.

Jacob is striving with both man and God.

At this time Jacob is given a new name. He is no longer called Jacob the trixter or heel grabber, he is called Israel, meaning strives with God.

So often we think that our struggles mean that God has abandoned us. In fact, one of the main causes for atheism today is that people look at the world and all its suffering and they determine that if there is a God, then he/she must not be very good.

Strangely, many religions and theologies promote this idea that if God is for you then you won’t have struggle, or they teach that God’s blessing means the end of our striving.

This story reveals a theological window through which we can see how suffering and struggle are the path to God. So much so that God names his people “Strives with God.

If we would see God in the world and possess a fresh experience with the transcendent, then we must begin to see, as Jacob did, the blessing contained in the struggle, not the eradication or avoidance of struggle. The new name of Israel, cost Jacob his hip and his old identity. In like manner finding God will cost us our old name and identity.

Our strivings and sufferings wear us down. They humiliate us and expose our own stupidity, arrogance, and self-reliance. If we still think we can circumvent them by sheer effort, determination or strategy, then we haven’t yet come to point of throwing in the towel, nor a trajectory where we can see God working. Some of us never will because we are too prideful, but remember, faith is birthed in the moment of surrender.

If we walk with a limp because of all we have faced, it may be that we are blessed beyond measure. How sad it would be to miss this because we were looking for it somewhere else. Ironically, when Israel’s promised messiah finally came, the people didn’t recognize him because they could not accept this paradox. Our modern religious world is not much different today.