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Reality may seem elusive, but it can be found

What strange times we live in. Now, I know that every generation says this and, to some degree, this argument is used as one to dismiss every generation’s saying this but, well, that doesn’t mean its true.  It just doesn’t seem real, some days.  I never really would have guessed that reading science fiction and dystopian futuristic novels would have prepared me for reality this much but here we are. 

Mike Denton

Mike Denton

Sure, maybe we’re not in a post-nuclear apocalyptic wasteland, but instead we seem to be creating a wasteland through greed, arrogance and neglect by slowly gaining momentum that dismantles our water, air and land.  Our own government is killing and intimidating people throughout the world through the use of flying robots—otherwise known as drones—and, as they have admitted, it’s not at all unusual that they don’t get it right.  We have willingly and unwillingly traded in privacy for security in a world where we have all been trained to be on heightened alert for a wide variety of possible threats—regardless of their probability—as real threats are minimized. 

Our economic system and the institutions that support it have become nearly impossible to understand because they cannot really be understood except with through the lens of systems of manipulation and power.  It all seems unreal.

Lauren, Leo and I recently attended a family member’s wedding and, as part of their service, they read this piece of sacred text:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

OK, so maybe this reading from The Velveteen Rabbit isn’t a text recognized as scripture but, well, it should be.  That which is real is being replaced by that which is not.  That which can be loved is being replaced by that which can be desired.  That which feeds is being replaced by that which fills.  That which is wise is being replaced by that which is clever.  That which is knowledge is being by replaced by that which is information and so on.  Its Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, 1984 and Mad Max fit onto the set of “The Truman Show.”

This struggle is not a new one, which is why every generation can claim it.  This is an old struggle.  This is that powers and principalities stuff that Ephesians 6:12 talks about.  Its just that these days is seems like we are, well, losing.

If you are reading this—I mean reading it and not on some computer that merely collects the information—you are real.  You have those possibilities for frayed edges and life and death and hope and resistance and love. 

This is going to take work to resist so, today, see something.  Drink in the sky whether it be dark, cloudy, sunny or stormy.  Take some time to remember who you love and why.  Take some time to remember who loves you, too.  Turn something off that you don’t normally turn off.  Give something away.  Spend 20 minutes with yourself and your brain and nothing else.  Cook something for yourself and others that requires preparation and needs to have some dirt washed off of it.  Pray about a problem in one of your relationships and listen for the possibilities to emerge.  Refuse to compromise on one ideal, maybe two.

Then tell others what you did.  Ask for their support.  Ask how you can support them to do the same.  Maybe you find you’re a family or a church or a weekly potluck.  Maybe you’re a group of friends or a buying co-op or maybe a neighborhood organization.  Then—group to group—start talking to each other.  This may be work you do alone or start to pass on to the children in your lives—with an apology and actions of restitution for not thinking of them earlier.  At some point, maybe this all becomes work we can’t not do.  These problems were slowly built but they need to be resisted quickly and soon.

And, yes, maybe this is idealistic and a little starry eyed but it also just might be true...and real.

Copyright @ June-July 2103 Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News.


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