Pursuit of Percipience

the blog that nobody reads which I write to silence the voices in my head

Tag: religion

Ten Things Your Missionary Will Not Tell You (Reblog)

kids

Having been a missionary myself for nearly a decade, I can relate to this article written by Joe Holman. Give it a read…..

Ten Things Your Missionary Will Not Tell You
Joe Holman

1. Sometimes, most of the time, living in another culture is hard.

Your missionary will talk about the joy of cross cultural missions and going into all the world. What they won’t tell you is that it isn’t fun most of the time. I was first exposed to this while on a short term trip to Ghana. I was invited to a missionary going away party. A nurse from Canada was returning to her home country after serving on the mission field….get this….for 40 years. She had come to Ghana as a 20 year old and was now going ‘home’. During the conversation I asked her how come she was saying that she was going, ‘home.’ If you have lived for all of your adult life, slightly over 40 years, in Ghana and only visited Canada every four years…then isn’t Ghana your home? She told me that no matter how incorporated you are into the culture, no matter how good your ministry, no matter how accepted that you are by the people…you are not one of ‘them’.

I have now been in Bolivia for 8 years. I am fluent and have a great ministry here. I love what I do. But I am not at home. I am not a Bolivian. I do not share their cultural history or family ties. When I go to someone’s home to celebrate a birthday or wedding, I am the white guy. I am the stranger. I am the foreigner. When they begin to laugh about family memories or tell stories about relatives, I just smile at the right time. I do not belong. When I go to ‘La Cancha’ our market place, children stare at me. I had a man visiting us from the States tell me when we were there, ‘This is weird, we are the only white people in sight.’

It gets old being a stranger. It is hard to not be in the group. It isn’t fun to always be noticed.

2. It is lonely and your friends and family from the States have forgotten you.

You won’t ever see this in a mission letter. We will tell stories of fun things and great times. We will be upbeat and happy and post photos of our family Christmas party.

You won’t have us posting videos of us crying or hear us complain about missing friends, but we do; and the harsh thing is that they do not miss us. When we were planing on going to the mission field, we interviewed 10 different missionary families. We talked to people who were single, married, married with kids, and older missionaries. I asked them a question: “What is the hardest part of being a missionary?” Their answer, all ten of them at separate occasions without any knowledge of what others had said replied, “Loneliness. After the first year people totally forget about you. Even your best friend now will not continue communicating with you.”

We decided to fight against this and using Facebook and social media, along with monthly communications and blogs, we knew that we would stay in touch with our friends. What surprised us was how quickly they did not want to stay in touch with us. Oh, we understand that their lives are busy and we have moved. The truth is, that understanding why something happens does not mean that it doesn’t hurt. This goes along with the first thing…not being part of the culture. We don’t feel like we have a home but we do feel like those from our previous home have forgotten us.

3. We are normal people.

People think that missionaries are some super christian. We are one step up from being a pastor, and if you are a missionary pastor then even the Apostle Paul envies your spirituality. You won’t be reading in a missionary letter, “This week I did not spend hardly any time in the Word, got mad at my wife, yelled at my children and was jealous after seeing photos on Facebook.” We won’t report that, but it is the truth. We are normal people seeking to honor Christ even though we are weak and fragile vessels. We sin, repent, sin, repent, and then repeat. We are like you.

4. We never have enough money but feel guilty asking for it.

Missionaries ask for money. We have to. We put it in terms like, ‘opportunity to support’, or ‘be part of the blessing’, or ‘looking for monthly partners’.

What we want to say is, “We are dying here! Please help us! We need money!!”

We can’t do that. We have to appear above money. We need to make it seem like money is something that we could probably use, but no big deal. We are walking by faith and trusting God to provide..that is what we need to display. You see, we don’t want it to seem like all we want from you is your money. It isn’t, but in all honesty we do need money. We need it for our family and for our ministry. We just hate asking for it, and you hate hearing it. So, we keep quiet or couch our needs in spiritual terms.

Another part of this is that we really struggle with being judgmental over money. This just happened this week. I posted a need for our ministry. We would like to purchase some additional dental equipment to help with our evangelistic dental ministry. We need $700. At the same time, a friend of ours in the States who sings occasionally at coffee houses posted that he wanted to raise $4,000 to make a CD. We had $210 donated. He received $4,300. Really? I am not saying that he should not do this nor that it was wrong for him to raise money for it, but really? He got $4,300 to experiment with a CD and we could not raise $700 to help the poor hear about Jesus through dental missions. Really?

5. We feel like our children are getting shortchanged by our choice.

You will see cool pictures in my newsletters of my children helping do outreach, being in the jungle, washing orphans, or having a monkey on their shoulder. It all looks so cool. But the truth is, we feel like our kids are suffering because of us. This is compounded by Facebook. Just this week I have seen photos of kids playing football, music lessons, dance, debate, camps, concerts, movies, lock-ins and taking college classes at the community college while in high school. My kids do nothing like that. I know that I can post all the cool things that my kids do, but I simply cannot compete with the options that you have. I find myself fighting jealousy, envying and coveting.

6. I took a great vacation but I cannot tell anyone.

One of the neat things about social media is how we can share our lives with others. Pastors can go on cruises. Friends can go to some wonderful island. Family can travel Europe. They can all brag about their time and post photos on Facebook and social media sharing their joy.

We can save up money. Live on a budget. Spend less than we make. The, after five years of frugality take a much needed vacation. What do we hear? “I should be a missionary, then I could take cool vacations.” Or, “Is that where my donations go?”

Real example. My father passed away and after the initial burial and settling of the estate, I found myself with $19,000 of unplanned income. We prayed about it, and decided to tell the kids that grandpa wanted to bless them. So, with MY INHERITANCE, while we were in the States on a planned furlough, we rented a home outside of Disneyworld and after vacationing there took the whole family on a cruise. We received several snide comments and one donor quit giving to our ministry.

My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. We did something really fun to celebrate. Here is what we did. We told our kids, “This is on the downlo. Do not say anything about it to your friends and do not put anything on Facebook. We don’t want anyone judging us.”

How stinky is that? You can share your joy, we feel like we have to hide ours or people will think and/or say that we are somehow taking advantage of our donors. We would love to post photos of our fun and have you just say something nice…but we can’t.

7. We hate being judged by a standard that our judges do not follow.

Every missionary that reads this will scream “Amen!”, When we meet with mission committees, churches, sending groups and donors they always ask us very specific questions. I have NO problem with that. What drives me bonkers is when someone NOT doing what I AM DOING judges me because they don’t think that I am doing enough of what they are not doing.

The best example of this is when you meet with a missions committee and they ask us about our evangelism. I share how, this year alone, we have shared the gospel with over 2,000 people (true story) outside of the church walls and have baptized 35 adults. The committee talks a little and then says something like, “We are concerned about the follow up of the converts and why so few have been baptized. We would also like to hear more about your evangelistic endeavors. What do you do and how do you do it?” Then, after sharing what you do and how you do it, they have critical comments and corrections about methodology.

The problem is this. The church that this mission committee is a part of hasn’t baptized 35 adults in the last 10 years and does not have a single planned evangelistic event on their church calendar. I often want to say, “We have baptized 35 adults and shared Christ with over 2,000 people…what have you done?” , or, “That is a great idea on evangelism, help me put some flesh on it. How did you guys implement this in your church?’ or, “What do you do for follow up after your community evangelistic event?” I can’t, but I really want to. It is honestly difficult to listen to armchair quarterbacks who have never suited up critique the game that I am participating in.

Another example of this is how people who are doing nothing to help the poor criticize us for how we help the poor. They tell us what we should do, what we should not do, how and when and to whom we should do it. They tell us of the latest book that they have read and/or the latest sermon that they heard. They do nothing themselves, but they know exactly what we should do and if we don’t do it their way, then the threat of cutting support is dangling over our head.

If someone who is actually doing the ministry has advice, input or corrections then it is infinitely easier to accept. It is when we are told what to do by someone not doing anything that we have to constantly check our hearts and put a guard on our lips.

8. Saying good-bye stinks…and it is not the same in the States.

This happens to missionaries our age. Our lives become one of a constant good-bye. We are saying good-bye to fellow missionaries leaving for the States. We have to say good-bye to our children. Denise and I now have four kids living in the USA while we remain in Bolivia. When we visit for furlough and see grandpa and grandma, we have to say good-bye again to go back to the field. It stinks.

I was invited to speak at a mission conference in the States. The church was a little over an hour from where my 24 year old son lives, so he drove down to see me. After I preached, I went to my mission table in the hall and was chatting with people, passing out prayer cards, shaking hands, etc. My son and his girlfriend came to say hi, and after a few minutes my son hugged me and said, “Love you Dad, see you in….what…two years or three?”

I started crying and people graciously walked away form my table. I realized that I was not going to see him again for at least two years. This week, three days ago, my wife took my 19 year old to start college in the States. She called me from her hotel room weeping and said, “It doesn’t get easier. I hate this! I hate this!”

Now here is where the second part of my point comes in to play. Friend will say, with totally god intentions, “I understand, my son left for college this week also.”

It is not the same thing! Your son/daughter can come home for the holidays and on school breaks. They may be able to snag a $100 ticket and bop in for a three day weekend. At the most they are a quick flight or short drive away. We live on another stinking continent. When we say goodbye, it isn’t “See you on break”. It is “See you for a few days in three years.” My son Jacob moved to the States and was living on his own. He had not been there long and called us and after talking I let him know that he needed to go to the hospital because I thought that he had appendicitis. At the hospital he let us know that it was, and they were doing an emergency surgery.

It took my wife three days to get there. She could not hop on a plane and be there before he left the hospital. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I knew that when the phone call came telling his children to come say their good-byes, that I would not be able to be there. I knew that I would miss his last words, not be able to minister to my family and probably not be able to attend the funeral. It is not the same thing as living in the States. It isn’t.

I would say that out of all the negatives to living on the mission field, this is the worse one. Saying good-bye.

9. Going to the States [or, my home country] is hard.

You would think that returning home on furlough is wonderful. Every missionary looks forward to it. It is the focus of the year that it is going to happen.

That is partly true. However there are two things that your missionary will not tell you. One you probably already know. Logistically it is difficult. Most missionaries don’t have a place to live, a car to drive or a plate to eat off of. All those things that we need in everyday life, from pillow cases to car seats, we do not have. We have to find short term solutions and we HATE borrowing stuff. We also do not want to live in your basement. We want to be a family with our own privacy and family time.

We also want to visit and spend time with our donors and churches, but making that happen is so hard when we have donors in 12 different states. It isn’t cost feasible to spend $1,200 to visit a church in Arkansas that gives you $25/month. But you want to and think that you should. The logistics make home assignment difficult.

The second thing that you probably do not know is that it is hard emotionally. Why? Because we discover that we have changed and that you no longer really want to be around us. I wrote about this one time. Let me summarize that blog here. A man from the land of Blue became a missionary to the people of Yellow. He struggled because he was a Blue man among Yellow people. However, after a while he began to truly understand their culture and become partly assimilated. One day he looked in the mirror and saw that he was no longer Blue, he was now Green. It made being in the land of Yellow easier. Then, after many years, he returns to the land of Blue. To his dismay, no one there in his homeland of Blue wants to be with him because, well because he was a Green person in the land of Blue.

After being on the mission field you are a different person. People perceive you differently. Even people who were friends are no longer friends. They have grown without you. They have had different experiences without you. You are no longer ‘one of them’. When you return, people want to shake your hand and say that they missed you, but they don’t want to be with you. They are also worried that you are going to ask them for money. We actually asked a person out for dinner, a person who had been a friend before going to the mission field. Their response was, “We don’t have any money to give you.” They REALLY said that!

After being in my home church, where I had been a pastor, and was now feeling ostracized, I shared my feelings with a staff member of the church. He told me that he knew why people avoided us. I asked him what it was. He said, “You intimidate people. Not by what you say, or what you do, but by who you are. We look at you and your choice and we feel guilty for being materialist. It is easier to avoid you than it is to repent of our love of money.”

I don’t know if that is the reason or not, but missionaries feel unwanted. We may think that you appreciate us, and we really are grateful for your financial support, but we feel like you don’t want to be our friend.

10. I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to you.

You, whether an individual or a church, give us money. You support our ministry. Like it or not, I now feel like I have to justify to you that giving us money is good. I have to prove myself and my ministry over and over again. My newsletters are not to let you know what we are doing..they are far more than that. They are items that I am entering into evidence as proof that you are making a good investment. And….if a period of time goes by where we don’t really have anything BIG to report….we feel like a failure and live in the fear of you giving your money to someone who deserves it.

Often we don’t feel like we are on the same team as you. We feel like you are our boss and it is time for the annual performance evaluation….and this year someone has to be let go. We are tempted to pad our resume and make it look better than it is. Instead of saying that we go to church, we say, “We are actively engaged in a local congregation”. We don’t say that we buy our fruit from the same seller every week, no, “we are building intentional relationships with those in the marketplace”. We may lead a Bible study but we call it, “engaging in a mentoring relationship with young married couples.” Look at what I just told you. I buy fruit each week, go to church and lead a Bible study. That does not sound worth supporting does it? I mean, you do that. But if I am building intentional relationships while mentoring young married couples as I am actively engaged in a local congregation…then maybe you will think better of me.

So, we say things that make us sound better, holier, busier than we are. We can’t say that we are living in the culture and doing what we can to promote Christ but it is difficult and we really don’t have much fruit to show you this year. That is because of numbers 4 and 7 above. We need money and you are judging our worth…and your evaluation will determine our money. This may not be true, but it is how we feel. We feel like we have to constantly show you that giving to our ministry is a great idea and you should keep it up. It produces a lot of pressure and emotional stress.

Read the original article here.

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Seven Revolutions (Book Review)

7 revs

Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change it Again was written by Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea.

It teaches an idea which I strongly agree with: that Christianity, since its beginnings, has changed the whole world for the better and continues to do so.

The authors focus on seven revolutions; seven ways in which Christianity rearranged the world in new and positive methods.

The first revolution is concerned with Human Dignity. Unwanted life, be it children, or slaves, or cripples, was thrown away in the ancient world, and no one thought much of it. It was the first Christians who condemned this behaviour and openly spoke out against abortion, child murder, gladiatorial violence, and the overall low view of “inconvenient” persons.

The second revolution, which builds on the first, is on Family. In contrast to the Roman culture, Christian homes had husbands and wives who loved each other, and children who were valued and cared for. The marriage was not just a contract, and the wife was not just the property of the husband (she was, but he was her property now too). Sex was seen in a new light as well: not just something for the physical pleasure of the man, but a sacred activity to both marriage partners. As one second century author wrote:

“They [Christians] marry, as everyone does; they beget children, but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.” (Epistle to Diognetus, 5)

The third revolution addressed is that of Work, and how labour became holy. “Shoemakers, cleaners, weavers — these were the people who called themselves Christians. How could a religion made up of such lowly people be anything but contemptible?” (Page 80) Manual labour was despicable to the upper classes in the ancient world, and that type of work was best left to slaves. But Christians welcomed and treated as equal both manual labourers and slaves in relation to the upper class Christians. Manual labour is seen as holy in the Christian faith. God Himself worked with His hands in creating the world. How could a religion like this lead people to salvation when clearly the physical world is dirty and disgusting while the spiritual world is beautiful and pure?

The fourth was a revolution of Religion. Whereas the pagan religions of the past were more so contracts between patron (the god) and people and were seen as a patriotic duty, Christianity focuses on having an actual relationship with God and with fellow believers. A Christian, rather than trying to guess at what makes the gods happy, receives divine revelation which allows for a direct and intimate knowledge of God. And then there is the monotheistic/trinitarian nature of God: God is one, but He is three persons in relationship, and that relationship of love spills over into humanity causing Christians to not only love God, but also to love people. And don’t leave out the Christian view of morality — living a life which pleases God, not to earn salvation, but to live out the salvation already received.

Number five: a revolution of Community. The authors, perhaps unnecessarily, start this chapter with an overview of the Augustine/Pelagius controversy. Augustine believed in original sin and total depravity, while Pelagius believed in free will and humanity’s ability to live a perfect life. The Church (the Catholic Church) decided the truth was somewhere down the middle of those extremes — not all depends on God, and not all depends on us. Therefore we must work with God in His mission to “extend His love to others.” (page 137) The debate of free will vs. original sin still rages on in Protestant circles, but the point of the book is clear: “the revolution of the community is that God calls us to love our neighbour.” (Page 137) The focus here is on working with the poor, and the contrast of Christian charity (loving others for the sake of love) against pagan charity (doing good to others to be seen doing good). Christians are not to build up treasure in this world, but rather in heaven, and “the storehouses of heaven are the stomachs of the hungry.” (Page 141)

Next, a revolution in Death. This is a Catholic book, and while I don’t think it’s too Catholic for non-Catholic readers, this chapter on death does hold much of the theology, particularly concerning relics and patron saints. While I’m not Catholic myself, I do agree with the premise of this chapter, which has to do with resurrection and Christianity’s conquering of death itself. Death has no more sting and the horrors of death are nothing more than a temporary sadness. A new body and a new life await those who belong to Christ.

The final and seventh revolution is about the State and Religious Freedom. Again, being a  Catholic book, there is no mention of the Reformation’s contribution to the western world and to how individual liberty grew out of that movement influencing so much of western politics. The book mainly focuses on the influence of Constantine and his edict of religious tolerance. “By the time the Church was in a position to influence government in the fourth century, a Christian idea of government had emerged — that those who governed should be the protectors of those whom they govern. Leadership was not a right; it was a responsibility — one that included serving the ‘least’ of society. To govern was to be entrusted with something very valuable — human beings created in the image of God and the resources to sustain them. In other words, Christian leadership is a form of stewardship” (page 183). That’s good in theory, but fast forward 1000 years and the Church’s rule wasn’t doing so great. Much was corrected by the Reformation.

The final two chapters talk about how the Church can change the world again. Several “to-do” items are given for the Church:

  • Reject isolationism
  • Respect the value of every human life
  • Reject the culture of celebrity and humiliation as entertainment
  • Respect the humble, the labourer, and the poor
  • Reject the creation of a secular religion of the state
  • Respect religious freedom (freedom of religion, not from religion)
  • Reject a defeatist attitude
  • Respect your neighbours

All in all I thought it was a good book. I give it 3.5 out of five stars. I think the Catholic authors focused too much on ancient history, neglecting the huge changes made in the last 500 years. But, there is much to be learned from those ancient centuries as well so that we need not repeat the mistakes of the past.

“The seven revolutions of the Church can be broadly grouped into two categories: the protection of all human life, and the protection of each person’s dignity and freedom.” (Page 204)

“Just like the early Christians, we may find ourselves facing a choice between two kinds of sacrifice. We will either sacrifice our place of comfort within society to speak up for life and freedom, or we will sacrifice our convictions and accept the current definition of freedom (that is, absolute freedom of convenience for the individual, and freedom from having to be confronted with expressions of religious faith that may convict one of selfishness).” (Page 217)

***

Jesus and Godel’s Theorem by Richard Bledsoe (Re-blog)

babel

Here is a thought provoking article written by Richard Bledsoe on Theopolis Institute….

Jesus and Godel’s Theorem

“Religion” is an attempt to create or build a tower with a top, or to build a temple that is self-contained. The story of The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 is the story of mankind’s attempt to create a world that is self-contained and does not need God. All ancient pagan temples were renewed attempts to complete the Tower of Babel. These were termed “ziggurats,” and were viewed as connecting points, or umbilical cords between heaven and earth. Heaven and earth were in the ancient pagan cosmology, part of one eternal entity.

The Temple in Israel was purposely built with a similarity to the ancient ziggurat, and as an answer to the ziggurat. It was built on the top of a mountain, and was a “connecting” place to the God of Israel. But the God of Israel was not encompassed or contained within it, nor was His liberty compromised by it, as were pagan gods by their temples. Never-the-less, Israel was constantly tempted to believe that their temple was like the temples of the nations. The destruction of Shiloh, the capture of the Ark in Samuel’s time (1 Samuel 4), and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 36:15-21) contradicted Israel’s constant temptation to “religion”. The theology of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark is quite accurate. The Nazis, like Israel at Shiloh, believed that possession of the Ark entailed possession and control of Jehovah. In this they were wrong.

Arend Theodoor van Leeuwen says that the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 A.D. was in principle the destruction of all temples. The last 20 centuries of Christian history have progressively undone one temple after another. But, Christians themselves are tempted to new temples. Byzantine was an attempt to recreate on a Christian basis, at least a partial “ontocratic” or self-contained church/state, to use van Leeuwen’s terminology. The Roman Catholic Church has constantly been tempted in this way, and Protestant sectarianism is guilty in these ways as well.

Hopefully, it is increasingly clear that there is no top to the towers of this world, as we saw demonstrated in the 20th century when we saw all of the great ideologies fall. This opens the door to nihilisms, but also makes more clear than ever that it is only the Sovereign Triune God who is the I Am that I Am, and I Will Be that I Will Be. Only He is self-contained.

The modern city, and indeed, the modern world as a “global village,” is a “tower without a top.” Religion is done for. Bonhoeffer glimpsed this possibility in what he termed a “religionless Christianity. The story of The Tower of Babel sets the theme for all of God’s redemptive work in history. Fallen man’s idolatrous desire is to make for himself a self-contained world of complete adequacy.

When Carl Sagan says, “The Cosmos is all there is, or all there ever will,” he is stating the sentiments of the builders of the Tower of Babel. For them, the upper emporium was the realm of the gods, but it was by human effort and construction, a reachable realm, and that was itself a part of one cosmos. As one moved up the tower to the realm of the gods, one’s own being could also be “divinized”. Man’s being was potentially divine, given the right techniques and methods, amongst which “tower construction” was foremost. But God frustrated them and left them off with an incomplete tower, a tower without a top.

Click here for full article (2400 more words)

BS’rs and Liars

Smells-Like-Bullshit_fb_99704

A liar is someone who knows that what he’s saying is not true, and he wants to deceive you for his own personal gain and/or to protect himself. He doesn’t necessarily want his lie to be true. He just wants you to believe it so that he can get on with his plans.

A bullshitter, however, while not speaking the perfect truth, wants what he’s saying to be true, and he wants you to want it to be true as well. He will over exaggerate his statistics to make things appear to be better, or more worthy of praise, than they really are. He knows it’s bullshit, he feels it inside, but he convinces himself it’s true just long enough to blurt it out. He hopes that you won’t look too deeply into what he’s saying, and he knows most people won’t.

Letters to the Third Millennium (Book Review)

Letters to the Third Millennium: An Experiment In East West CommunicationLetters to the Third Millennium: An Experiment In East West Communication by Clinton C. Gardner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’re into Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy you’ll like this one. This book goes well with ERH’s Out of Revolution and certain sections of his I Am an Impure Thinker.*

Gardner focuses much on ERH’s ideas of The Four Phases of Speech and The Cross of Reality.

The Four Phases of Speech

4 phase

When I read literature from the past, I am not just reading it in a detached analytical way. Take the book of Isaiah for example. When I read it, I am there with Isaiah when he says, “Here am I! Send me.” I am there when Isaiah carries out his calling, preaching to and warning the people of Israel. I am there when Isaiah completes his task and is able to say, “Lord, for better or for worse, we have completed our task and have spoken to the people.” And I am there to see Israel dragged off into captivity into Assyria because they did not heed the words of the prophet, and I can stand back and analyze that result. I am connected and in relationship with Isaiah and Israel. I am the last part of the story.

“Human speech never was intended for expressing platitudes like ‘the weather is bad,’ or ‘come,’ or ‘I am happy,’ or ‘the moon rises.’ Human speech corresponds to the construction of our brain so as to permit the transfer of acquired experiences to the race. Speech enables us to gain times and spaces for ‘settling’ a question. Speech connects the departments of experience. The event which is expressed can only be expressed in four phases.”†

“Thou must” is looking forward to the event. “I am” is living in the event. “We have” looks back on the event. “He did” looks at past, present, future as one.

In the first stage, one sees himself, not as “I”, but as “Thou”. My four year old son often refers to himself in the third person: “Noah ate a lot today!” He does this because he sees himself through the eyes of others, namely me – his father. But, as he grows and matures, and his ego develops, he will see himself more and more from within: the “I”. However, no matter how old or mature he gets, whenever a higher power calls on him, he will at those times see himself from the point of view of the higher power — he will see himself from without: the “Thou”. “The hero never is: he is prejective because he is made over into a new realm of experience and has not yet any ‘feelings’; hence the hero is ‘Thou’; to himself the hero appears as the instrument of God…”‡

When one is called by a higher power (which might be God, a powerful idea, a passion, lust for a woman, or whatever drives a person), one is singled out for the calling, he is alone, but it can’t stay this way — he must bring others into his world. He does this by courting, convincing, pleading, and prophesying. He doesn’t know if he will be successful, but he must try. He goes from being the “Thou” to being the “I”, driven by his own emotions and ego. He calls people into his own experience.

If he is successful, he reaches the perfectum. “The subjective pressure of a deep emotion is transformed into the narrative of a past whenever the hero’s ‘thou’ and the subject’s ‘I’ can be tranquillized into a ‘we’.”§ He can now look back and say, “We have accomplished something together.” His declaring of an event completes the event. “Thus, the tale of an event is the tail light of the event. Nothing has happened which is not reported back as having happened. History is not arbitrary staring at bygone things. History is the articulation of the event itself in its participants; as the event goes by. It proves its passing by being told as a tale. The historian certainly is not the onlooker of an event but the last man whom the event produces.”||

“The fourth phase of speech is the spirit’s death.”¶ Once I’ve completed my task, what left is there to do but to look at it objectively from the outside? There is no more calling from the higher power, there is no one left to convince, there is no job left undone. I am free now from the first calling. “If we call the impetus by which a total experience subjects one man to the four phases through which the experience is realized ‘spirit,’ i.e., a breath of life, then phase four is the phase in which the spirit dies but the specimen recovers. If phase four did not abstract us from our spells, freedom could not exist to start a new phase. In phase four we expire one act of faith so that we may be inspired again.”#

These days, especially in western thought, we tend to live in the fourth phase. We look at light and analyze it scientifically — “Light is made of waves and particles.” But we ignore the first three phases: 1) “Let there be light;” 2) “Let us praise the light;” 3) “The sun has risen.” When we do this, we disconnect ourselves from the relationship we have with the past, and consequently the future as well.**

A helpful illustration is to think of a great piece of music, like Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Most people I think have never listened to the whole symphony, but I’m sure everyone would recognize the opening notes. Those opening notes are a powerful call: People! Listen to this. When you hear those notes for the first time you are not analyzing, you are not feeling anything yet — your reaction is much like Moses’ reaction when seeing the burning bush: What is this? I will turn to see. Then, once you’ve settled in to listen, your emotions come into play; you are drawn into the music and you feel the passion of Beethoven with Beethoven, with the orchestra. Thirdly, the piece comes to an end, and it does not end on a strange note leaving you wondering what happened to the flow of music — it ends precisely when it should end; the final notes cry out, We are finished! It is complete! And finally, the fourth phase allows you to look back on the whole piece and say, That was good. What’s next?

You cannot enjoy Beethoven’s 5th if you don’t experience the piece through all four phases. You cannot be connected in relationship to the past if you do not experience the lives and events of your ancestors through the four phases of speech. Speech connects us all.

Every time I study history, if it is good history, I relive the four phases with those people who came before me, and because of that I am connected in relationship to those people. This is why stories are so good for learning history. This is why the Bible is written as story.

Unfortunately, most western history books written today are written by historians who believe that they can have no bias. They are stuck only in the fourth phase. It’s not possible to have no bias, so, to hide their bias, they use the most dry and unimaginative language possible in their writings. For example, here is an excerpt from a contemporary history book describing the introduction of Christianity into the Roman world:

“In the first centuries of the Christian era, while Christianity was expanding in the Empire, it was increasingly the speech of much of the population on the western borders of the Mediterranean. A religion which employed Greek and Latin, and especially Greek, had advantage over rivals which did not and might gain an Empire-wide hearing. Important also was the religious and moral hunger which characterized much of the populace of the basin of the Mediterranean in the centuries in which Christianity was having its early development.”††

Now, here is another excerpt from a history book, concerning the same time in Christian history as the example above, written in the 19th century, by an author who didn’t care about his bias:

“In the cheerless waste of pagan corruption the small and despised band of Christians was an oasis fresh with life and hope. It was the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Poor in this world’s goods, it bore the imperishable treasures of the kingdom of heaven. Meek and lowly in heart, it was destined, according to the promise of the Lord, without a stroke of the sword, to inherit the earth. In submission it conquered; by suffering and death it won the crown of life.”‡‡

Notice how the second history draws you into the story and life of the early Church. In this one excerpt we see the call of God on the Church, we see how the Church would carry it out, and we see what the final result will be, and putting that all together we can objectively analyze it. In the first excerpt, however, all we see is the analysis.

There is a lot of good information in the first history book, but how long can one read a book like that and stay awake? To be forever trapped in the fourth phase is to be forever dead.

In his essay, Politics and the English Language,§§ George Orwell points out this problem much better than I have…

I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This type of speech is purely objective. When the living experience of time is ignored, and the only goal is to objectively analyze in the present “objectivity (becomes a) god. It would treat all realities as things external to the mind, things in which we as thinkers have no roots, and which may accordingly be touched, weighed, measured, and manipulated without reference to the common destiny in which we and they are jointly bound. This may do for physics. It will not do for human society.”||||

God could have just written the Bible as a textbook, explaining everything we need to know and do objectively. But instead, He wrote a story. When one reads the Bible, he is put into that story. He becomes a part of the story. The story’s past is his past, the story’s future is his future. And when one knows his past and future, one knows what to do in the present.

“When man rises above his future, which is imminence of his death, and beyond his past, which is reminiscence of his origins, he enters the present. From the conflict of end and origin, of death and birth, the present results for those who have the courage not to blink but face the abyss before and in back of them… Without participation in the life of the Word through the ages, we remain ephemeral.”¶¶

I am constantly in relationship with all those who came before me, and all those will come after me. This relationship spans across and conquers time through my speech and everyone else’s speech. We are all connected through the stories of our lives told and retold, lived and relived, throughout all the ages.

The Cross of Reality

Cross of Reality Diagram 002

The Cross of Reality shows us the four parts of life pulling on us in four different directions. You stand in the middle of the Cross and each element is pulling at you. In order to have a healthy life you need to be pulled equally by each element. If you are pulled by one or two too strongly your life will be unbalanced and confused. For example, a 35 year old single man who lives in his mom’s basement and has a video game and porn addiction is a man who is pulled much too strongly by the Past and Inner Life elements. While another man, being very charismatic and well loved by many people, but can’t commit to anything, is a man being pulled too strongly by the Outer Life and Future elements.

Also, as illustrated above with the Four Phases of Speech, one must progress through each element in its turn to have a healthy balanced life. Starting with the Future, then moving to Inner (subjective), then Past, and finally Outer (objective): one hears the call, contemplates the options, makes the decision, and observes the results. If one element is skipped over, there will be conflict.

“Emotional disturbances may be described as getting stuck in one particular phase [or element] or the result of an attempt to skip one. The speech method reveals four basic phases in any significant experience: 1. Inspiration  2. Communication  3. Institutionalization, finally,  4. History… [W]e see this sequence when we fall in love and get married. Our falling in love cannot be an objective or logical experience. We must be swept off our feet, inspired. Then we enter a subjective phase in which we must communicate our new relationship through love letters, singing, and talking. In the third phase, institutionalization, when we marry before witnesses, our experience has begun to enter recorded history. Finally, usually after our first child is born, we experience ourselves as an objective family unit. In each phase we had new and different emotions.”##

The book was published in 1980, and the “East” referred to in the subtitle is the U.S.S.R., which of course doesn’t exist anymore. The author is too sympathetic to Marxism for my taste, and he actually takes it seriously enough to think it works. Well, the fall of the U.S.S.R, and other communist/socialist failed experiments, have taught us otherwise.

Good book.

Notes

* I Am an Impure Thinker can be read free with PDF download here.
† Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, I Am an Impure Thinker: The Four Phases of Speech, pg. 55
‡ Ibid., pg. 57
§ Ibid. pg. 57
|| Ibid. pg. 58
¶ Ibid. pg. 59
# Ibid. pg. 59
** Ibid. some of this taken from pg. 59
†† Latourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of Christianity (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), pg. 22
‡‡ Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002, originally published in 1858), pg. 335
§§ Read Orwell’s essay here
|||| I Am an Impure Thinker: Teaching Too Late, Learning Too Early, pg. 93
¶¶ Ibid. pg. 94
## Gardner, Clinton C., Letters to the Third Millennium, pg. 131

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