Sunday, June 20, 2010

What about Habit?

June 20, 2010

Hello, friends,

My grandfather would say from time to time, "What you are doing is speaking so loudly I can't hear what you say." At such moments, his tone of voice indicated no question as to the priority in significance he was assigning my behavior.

If we want people to hear us--both our verbal and nonverbal communication--we must speak from a platform shaped by congruence between saying and doing accompanied by an earned credibility.

I wonder: is the untimate significance of what we do determined by this complex congruence with who we are, and the resulting credibility (or lack of it)?

Aristotle wrote, "We are what we repeatedly do."

Considering the doing/being dichtomy in this way can produce some sober self-assessment. However, with due respect for the great philosopher, I'm still not convinced that the relationship between the two can be stated this simply. I'm even less convinced that this idea, at least as Aristotle phrased it, provides hope or incentive for change.

What do you think?



Sunday, June 13, 2010


June 13, 2010

Good afternoon, friends,

The time in the mountains was filled with wonderful things--watching the clouds drift up the valley lower than the craggy mountain peaks that towered above them; a contented elk chewing his cud in the shade of some aspen; the rushing flood of the Big Thompson River only inches beneath the bridge; the scent and taste of coffee in the early morning chill; the laughter, food and stories shared with friends, the sense of the goodness of God's creation and the urgent need for our careful stewardship of all that God has given--I was grateful for each hour, and came home with slow reluctance.

We talked about the being/doing question, and laughed at the ways in which at times our individual "doing" seemed like a sturdy reliable (and, admittedly, amusing) shadow of who each of us was. More seriously, we agreed as we were packing to leave that it had been a nurturing, productive time at a level difficult to describe. Who we were together made what we did together assume a weight of meaning beyond the activity itself. We did what we did because of who we were; yet, what we did was in one sense only a shadow of who we were--the life together we had shared was certainly more than a sum total of what we had done.

I have a chronic distrust of the dualism that unconsciously creeps into our thinking from our Greek ancestors. How useful is the being/doing dichotomy in understanding ourselves and our life journey?



Sunday, June 6, 2010

Naming the impact?

June 6, 2010

Dear friends,

Am spending some time in the mountains with friends this week resting, thinking, talking.

Plan to take Stafford's poem with me along with N.T. Wright's book on the resurrection, Surprised by Hope. You might rightfully think that I am planning time to do nothing. And yet-

When I write next week, how will who I am carry the impact of these days of being with others? And--sobering question-- how will the being of others be altered by my being who I am and becoming in their company?

In the ending couplet of the poem, Stafford alludes to both the hidden current of the river and the stillness of the river held in ice. He then concludes abruptly:

"What the river says, that is what I say."

A student once said irritably, "What Stafford said and the river said was the same, all right--nothing." While I understood this particular student's frustration , I didn't agree. Do you? Is there nothing to say when we are asked about the significance of who we are in the context of what we have done? Rephrase Stafford's last line in the sturdy everyday language we might use while drinking tea on the porch.

In case you wonder, I do think there are other things worth thinking about in addition to Stafford's poem. I plan to go to some of those other places soon.