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Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… Snooze… (get it?) November 29, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, life, Motivation.
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1 comment so far

Holy Moly… I love my snooze button.  Always have… always will.  Well I have to really say that it is a love hate relationship in the end.  There are very few pleasures in life that are as good as the first time you try it: good dessert, a trip to a city, a movie.  The snooze button though?  Always… ALWAYS a pleasure.  I imagine it is the next best thing to that little morphine button they give to patients in the hospital.  And probably just as addictive.

Who doesn’t love to indulge a little in the snooze button now and then?  I set my alarm clock earlier than I want to get up so that I can hit the snooze.  I am pretty sure some kind of wonderful dopamine is released every time I smash my hand down on that little alarm clock. 

First, you get to kill something annoying.  At least with my alarm clock you do.  I bought this alarm during this last summer when I was in Morristown New Jersey for a month.  It was $4.99 at WalMart.  A sweet deal if you ask me.  It has THE most annoying alarm clock sound in the whole world.  I consider myself a wordsmith, and there isn’t an apt description of just how bad this alarm clock is.  I have considered throwing it across the room sometimes.  Instead, I get to swat at it like some annoying bug in my room.  You know that feeling of satisfaction you get from accurate swatting a housefly with a fly swatter?  I know you know what I am talking about- that little rush of adrenaline- that feeling of accomplishment…  I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

(As a side-note, the only thing more annoying that the sound of my current alarm clock was that week in College when I woke up to my radio instead, and that whole week they played Dave Matthew’s band songs. Boy, that was some great snooze buttoning.  This is the reason I hate Dave Matthews.  Plus he tried to kill me. That is another story.)


OK… people love it when I put pictures in of puppies doing anything… here you go.

So you get your little rush of dopamine- a feeling of euphoria sweeps through my entire body, and THEN you get to go back to sleep!!!!  For 9 whole minutes! And how about that sleep?  That 9 minutes of sleep in between snooze button hits is better than the 6 or 8 hours you might have gotten the night before.  You get to stay in that half awake, half asleep place where everything is timeless.  It seems like that 9 minute stretch feels at times like 20 minutes or half an hour.  I have come up with some of my best ideas during that nine minutes of reprieve.

The best part is… you get to do it again after 9 minutes!  SWAT… Euphoria… timeless half-sleep… SWAT… Euphoria… timeless half-sleep.  I can possibly say that the snooze button is the greatest invention that the 20th century has given us.  Nope… not the airplane or the computer… the snooze button.  What did our ancestors ever do?  Wake up with the sun?  You can’t swat that!  I’ve tried!  It is a giant ball of fire, and it is millions of miles away!

It turns out though that I might have a problem.  I might be a snooze-button junky.  Might is not the proper word.  I am Josh Wagner, and I am a snooze button junky.  There.  Now the whole world knows.  I will stand up and admit it.  I had to take certain steps to solve this problem.  I have been known to hit that stupid button for more than a couple of hours.  I mean it would have been easier to just reset the clock, but I would have missed all the fun of the snooze button.


A clock you can throw…

So here is what I did.  I moved the clock into the next room over.  Thanks to the piercing sounds of the alarm clock, it shoots right through the walls and into my cerebellum.  Dogs are awakened miles away by the reverberations of my alarm clock.  This requires me to get out of bed- walk into the next room THEN hit the snooze button.  I still get the dopamine, and the timeless sleep, but by the third hit, I am pretty much awake enough to realize I have to go to the bathroom.  (Too much info?  Truth too hard to take? You can’t handle the truth!)


TWO dog pics in one blog!  Man are you guys lucky!?

I realized that I had a problem a long time ago, and I knew that the solution would be to move the clock, but it took me three weeks to do it.  I think it works that way with a lot of things in life.  A lot of times we know that there is a problem or an addiction or what-have-you, but it sometimes takes us months or years to actually try and find a solution to our particular issue.  It is just easier to live with the trouble sometimes than to try and fix it.

I certainly don’t enjoy my new-found solution to my snooze button fix, but it is better for me.  After moving my clock I am awake and refreshed, and I can start my day- I am fully awake- not just crawling out of bed, but springing out of bed, a new pep in my step! (Hey that was a clever rhyme huh?!)

Sometimes the solutions to our problems seem worse than the problem itself, but in the long run, when we realize that there is something that is taking our ability to fulfill our potential away, a little bit of pain and sacrifice aren’t a bad thing at all.  Neither is giving up something today that will benefit us in the long run.

I guess there are two themes to this particular post.  The first is habit- not all habit is good, even if it is pleasant.  There are a lot of analogies we can make to the alarm clock example- something that seems pleasant, but can ruin your whole day and make you lethargic.  Something we know we need to change, but it is hard and requires a lot of will power (and grace).  It means that we have to admit to ourselves that we need the help of someone greater than ourselves in order to restore us to right order.  That can be hard for a lot of people, because that means taking a critical look at themselves and admitting that there is something that needs fixed or at least attention in their lives.  That is hard for a lot of people to admit- to admit that they in fact aren’t perfect.

The second theme is procrastination.  Boy that is a problem isn’t it?  I had a terrible time with that in college (and sometimes still do!)  We know we have to do something- we know it is the right thing- and still we put it off.  Maybe we put it off because it is hard or will take a lot of time and energy, much like trying to change a habit.  Or maybe we put it off because we are afraid that we might fail at it.  That is easy to do.

A solution to this problem of procrastination that I have found is to write down the goal, set a date and a time to do it, and get yourself mentally and spiritually ready to do it.  I myself have to get geared up sometimes to take on a big project or effect some change in my life.  Sometimes I just need someone to kick me in the rear to get started.  Don’t be afraid to ask for that type of help.

Good things in life are good if they aren’t overused… the second that the snooze button begins to control us, we begin to lose who we authentically can become.

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Changin’ My Oil… November 28, 2007

Posted by rengawman in cars, Humor with a point, life, Motivation.
3 comments

I was driving around the other day minding my own business, trying to fight the dreary dank of central Ohio, when I glanced up at my windshield and saw that pesky little sticker that tells me it was time to change my oil.  I looked at the date, and according to that, I have plenty of time before I need to take ol Lucy (that is what I named my car) in for an oil change.  A sign of relief escaped my lips, and I turned up the stereo.  Then I looked back at that little sticker in my windshield, and saw the mileage part of the sticker: it read 31,268 miles.  I looked at my odometer.  32,535 miles.


Lucy

Thanks to my dad, I am one of those really scrupulous drivers that the oil companies love: I always try to change my oil every 3500 miles or so.  I love my car (as you may know from previous posts) and I think it is worth 30 bucks every couple of months to give Lucy a transfusion.  Maybe it is in my head, but I think she runs better when I do that. 

I recalled one of my brothers that had troubles with cars in the past.  He shall remain nameless (although I only have three brothers, so I guess it wouldn’t be hard to narrow it down.)  Many years ago, when he was a less responsible young man, he had a very nice Audi.  Rarely, if ever, did he change the oil in that car. You know maybe this is the reason I change my oil so often- this traumatic experience has changed my life forever.

That car never ever ran right- it always sputtered or jerked or sounded funny.  Are care supposed to make a crunching sound when they go past 30 MPH?  This one did.  One day, as I recall, I was in the car with my brother when the car just completely stopped and locked up.  It started smoking.  It smelled of old burned oil.  Something wasn’t right.


Oil change needed… well… overdue

I don’t remember the Audi too long after that.  Moment of silence for the car.

Still being silent…

And we’re done.

 I think that people are a lot like cars- there are a lot of different parts that have to work together for our lives to go smoothly.  If we begin to neglect even one of those important parts, it is going to wear on the other parts of the car- if the engine doesn’t work right, the wheels aren’t going to be going anywhere.  If you have bad tires, the engine is going to have to work overtime to move the car etc. 


Also in need of an oil change

 To really maintain a car in road worthy condition you have to make sure all the parts of the car are in working order.  The same with us.  If our spiritual life is out of whack, then our health might also be out of whack.  If our social life is in the dumps, it may affect our working life.  Life is really about finding out what the little thumps and knocks are in our lives, and fixing the problem.  Sometimes that is simple as “changing our oil.”

There are lots of ways to do that- sometimes it is as simple as scheduling some time out for ourselves (and yes, sometimes you do have to schedule it).  Maybe it is going on a retreat, or a long drive.  Maybe even hitting a few golf balls or calling a friend.  Taking care of yourself in these most important areas of your life is not selfish.  In fact, it is the very opposite!  How can you take care of the people you love in your life if you are yourself a wreck?

I think a lot of people try and change their oil on their own, and if they know what they are doing, that is OK.  I don’t know what I am doing- if I were to change my own oil, I would probably mess up the car.  Likewise, I need to find people and supports outside of myself- spiritually, socially, and even physically that can help me to change the oil in my life.  Again, there are a variety of “garages” out there that can help us to change our oil so that our lives run smoothly.

You know, if would be nice to have an “engine light” or a mileage sticker for our lives to let us know when we need to change oil, but it unfortunately doesn’t work that way.  It is really easy to let one part of our life slip away and deteriorate, and before we know it, we are sitting stalled out in the intersection of life, smoking and burning oil.


Oil change in progress… you quiero Taco Bell!

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The Modern Day Coliseum November 27, 2007

Posted by rengawman in life, Motivation, philosophy.
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7 comments

When I was living in Rome, I used to do some tour guiding around the city so that I could afford a random plate of pasta, or a crust of bread every now and then.  It was a tough life.  One of the best things about guiding was that I got to meet interesting people, and know lots about interesting places.  I would offer free tours to English speakers, make them laugh, tell them things about the sites that they didn’t know (and sometimes I didn’t know) and at the end I told them that if they liked my tour, and wanted to give me a gratuity, I would gladly accept it.  I then told them that if they didn’t I hope they got hit by the 64 bus.  OK I never said that last part… but maybe I thought it every so often.  Most people either liked my tours enough to give me some money, or they just sort of felt guilty because I made that statement with the saddest puppy dog face that I could make.  It was pretty pathetic.

 Anyway, one of my favorite places to tour was the Coliseum in Rome.  When you go there, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the magnificence of the structure of the Coliseum.  The high archways, the impressive passages, the fact that there is really nothing but gravity holding the whole thing together.  All of modern Rome buzzes around this ancient structure as if it weren’t even standing there.  Amazing.

The Coliseum, along with the Circus Maximus, were the entertainment center of ancient Rome.  For almost half the year there would be spectacles for people to watch ranging from wild animals brought all the way from Africa to be slaughtered in front of the crowds, to mockeries of midgets and “giants” (of which I would qualify at 6’3″ by the way), and of course the gladiator competitions.  Gore, and conflict were the life breathe of the coliseum’s daily activities, and tens of thousands of people would flick in day after day to witness it.  (By the way, my favorite part of my tour of the Coliseum was the so-called vomitoriums, which were basically drainage pipes that people would, well, throw up in, when the gore got to them.  Those Romans thought of everything).

I can only imagine the roar of the crowd in the midst of these blood sports, how they were driven into a frenzy each and every time something dramatic happened.

Then just over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I was flipping through the channels, and I happened upon the Jerry Springer show.  I knew what it was like to watch the gore and the mayhem of the Coliseum 2000 years ago.

The same thing was happening- midgets and giants were literally being made fun of.  Male and female gladiators, now wearing flannel shirts and miniskirts instead of armor, wrestled each other to the ground in an epic battle.  Again the crowd roared with delight at the spectacle that had formed on the stage, and Jerry, the ringmaster of this sick circus stood proudly watching.  Luckily, I was at the end of the show, and it was over all too soon with a little bit of “wisdom” from Jerry Springer right before Maury Povich came on with his daily paternity test results.

I guess in some respect human nature hasn’t changed that much in 2000 years since the glory days of the Coliseum in Rome.  I would wager that this sort of thing didn’t jump 20 centuries either from the Coliseum to the stage of Jerry Springer.  People have always been emotional voyuers, in the sense that they like to see the pain and suffering of other people- it can drive them into a frenzy.

I don’t think it is any different when it comes to following people like Britany Spears, or Anna Nicole Smith, or when a political scandal arises because some Senator tapped his foot in an airport restroom.  Those things sell- and they sell for the same reason that people bought tickets to the Coliseum or the Jerry Springer show.

I think it makes us feel better- I will admit in college watching a few Springer episodes and laughing at the poor people that were making fools of themselves (real or fake) on that stage in Chicago.  It makes us feel better about our own lives and our own problems and situations.  At least we aren’t as bad as these people, or moreover, we don’t have it as bad as these people.

It is nice to see people like Brittany or Anna Nicole fall too- these are the stars- the royalty of our own culture and society.  If they can have all this fame and money, and still have lives worse than ours, it does make us feel better about our own troubles.

I guess I have changed in the last few years- I am not entertained by this sort of pointless suffering anymore.  It makes me feel bad for people who are on Jerry Springer, or who are famous and panned, or who are even gossipped about at the water-cooler at work.  Nobody is perfect, and what we really need to do is to focus on our own personal crosses, to carry them with the strength of God, and to help others carry their crosses where and when they can, rather than mocking them for how distorted or heavy their own crosses may be in order to forget our own.

If you would like to destroy my sweater… pull this thread as I walk away. November 26, 2007

Posted by rengawman in philosophy, Theology.
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8 comments

Weezer.  It isn’t what people call me when I try to walk up a hill too fast.  It is the name of a band who sang the Sweater Song with the lyrics that appear in the title of this post.  It evokes a great image of that one thread that holds the whole sweater together.

I know I have pulled that thread at times- that stray thread that seems just to be hanging there dangling, doing nothing special.  Who knew it was a load bearing thread!  When we pull it the whole tapestry seems to come apart, literally, at the seams.

It doesn’t just work for clothing and tapestries, but it even happens in buildings where there is a network of forces working together to keep a building upright.  If those interconnecting forces begin to crumble, or lose their unity, the whole building will begin to crumble.  

There is then a unity working in the midst of all parts of things, be it a sweater, or a building, or even us as human beings.  As you may recall from a previous post, unity is a transcendental quality of being- that is if you destroy the unity of a thing, you destroy the thing itself.  (As you may recall, half a car isn’t very good as a car.)

So how does that work into how reality operates?  It seems on the macro level of observation, things work rather independently of each other.  This tree grows over here, or that tree over there.  Perhaps Jupiter seems to be a distant and separate planet from our own.  Individuals have their own identities and one culture differs from the next.  It seems that in reality there is not really any unity to speak of between one thing and the next, except maybe for the fact that each object enjoys being and existence.

That is the catch I think in how all things are really interconnected.  From a philosophical point of view, what this tree and that tree share is that they both exist- so existence, or being, is the “common thread” that unites all things together.  Being is…  whether it is being as a tree or a rock or Jupiter or myself.

So what does this mean?  If we are constantly on the search for what “being” is, can we really come to any conclusions about what being is?

Materially speaking, everything comes down to the same basic elements.  Everything that “is” in reality comes down to atoms and quarks and neutrons etc.  But on a macro level things are highly complex and organized- time and space and material work in a consistent way- it simply isn’t a conglomeration of atoms that are thrown together randomly- there is an intelligence behind how reality works, even if it is hard to see or understand.  I believe that this has been humanity’s project for its entire existence- the search for understanding of how things… more specifically, how reality actually works.

 

How does it all work together?  How does being at its fundamental levels work on the reality that we perceive?  Beyond just an acceptance of “being qua being” there must be some common thread that is holding together the whole “sweater” of reality.

In physics there has been for the last few decades something called the “unified field theory.”  Big minds like Einstein spent decades trying to prove that this unified field exists.  I am not physisist of course, but the basic definition of this theory is that time and space and gravity, and really all forces of nature from the atomic level to the macro level of the entire universe, are all linked by a common force of nature or field.  Everything, in other words, comes down to the thread that is holding together everything.

 

This theory hasn’t been proven yet, as when we percieve reality we tend to change it, but it seams pretty plausible to me as a philosopher and a theologian.  What if that unified field is God Himself?  It seems believable that there is a common element holding the whole thing together, and we know that reality is intelligible- that is has an intelligence behind it- so why not posit, at least from a philosophical point of view, that this unified field is the divine Himself?  

The fact that humanity has intelligence shows that there is intelligence in the universe.  You can’t give what you don’t have- so intelligence can’t just form at random- intelligence comes from intelligence.  Otherwise there is simply just a random conglomeration of atoms that just happend to become intelligent when expressed they collectively form a human being.

Maybe a study of this theory and of physics will lead us to what the ancient philosophers like Aristotle called “natural theology.”  That is specifically, that nature tends to lead us to knowledge of the divine being that is truly behind everything.

What this means as well is that there are really infinite possibilities-even in this reality- that the intellect that is behind the universe could organize matter, time, and space, in any one of infinite combinations- the possibilities are truly endless, as are the implications from such thought.

Superman and Clark Kent November 22, 2007

Posted by rengawman in life, Motivation.
3 comments

 

Maybe this is a well known fact, or maybe it isn’t, but after this blog gets to the rest of the world, it WILL be a known fact- wait… what am I talking about again?  Anyway… it is a little known fact that in every Seinfeld episode, the Man of Steel, Superman, makes some kind of appearance in the background.  Often he is on Jerry’s refrigerator, or perhaps sitting in statue form on the shelf in the background, but he is always there.  Jerry Seinfeld was always a big Superman fan.

That is at least one thing that Jerry and I share in common- namely that I am also a big Superman fan.  I always have been ever since I saw Christopher Reeve fly across the screen in the first Superman movie when I was a kid.  Who wouldn’t think that Superman is cool?  He can run fast, he can fly, he can shoot LASERS out of his eyes!  That isn’t all of course!  This is why Superman has endured as an American Icon for more than 50 years now.  He is sort of what every American envisions themselves as in a way- strong and capable of always following truth, justice, and the American way.

Maybe this is why when Christopher Reeve got hurt riding horses a few years ago we were all so interested.  This was a guy who, in our minds, embodied all of those traits that we have come to love in Superman.  All of a sudden a man that we equated with strength and valor and courage was sitting in a wheelchair, unable to move his arms and legs- struggling at times to breathe.  Probably thousands of people suffer these sorts of injuries every day- why was he so important?  I think at the point he had his accident it had been years since his last Superman movie, and a while since he had done any sort of movies that bear remembering.  It was a tragedy not only for him and his family, but in a way for all Superman fans.  It reinforced the fact that it was all an illusion, and that the man behind the giant “S” was just that- a man.

I think that there are other things to be fascinated about Superman, beyond the actor that played him once upon a time.  The whole relationship of Clark Kent to Superman is always an interesting one as well.

What we have to remember from the story of Superman is that while he was given all the abilities that I mentioned above, developed through exposure to our yellow sun over his years on Earth, his first identity was not as Superman, but as Clark Kent.

As you may recall, Clark was raised by a farmer and his wife in Smallville after they found his pod crash landed in a field.  From that point he had a normal childhood relatively speaking until his powers developed later in life.  But his identity was firmly established as Clark way before he could fly or see through things.

I was always curious as to why he even kept up his Clark Kent persona at all.  Why not just stay Superman all the time?  Why not just keep the suit on?  Why did he have to cover up the suit?  Who was the real guy?  Was it Clark Kent or was it the Superman that everyone saw?  His powers and his beliefs were the same whether he was wearing the suit or not, so why the two personalities?

When he was Clark Kent, he always fumbled around- he wasn’t smooth with Lois Lane, and while he was a good reporter for the Daily Planet, I suspect that he spent most of his time as Clark trying to live a relatively normal life.  I mean, can you imagine the pressures of always having to be there for everyone all the time?  I am sure he loved to get up in the morning, put on his Superman suit, and over the top of it his white shirt and tie.  i am sure he loved being normal, and tried to do that.  The real person underneath it all was the boy from Smallville, not the Superhero that everyone thought was there.

I think it was possible for him to put on the suit and play the character- he had the powers to do it, but if you ever read any of the comics, or watch any of the movies, it was a hard thing for Clark to do- he was always Clark- he was ALWAYS Clark.  He was an extremely conflicted character, because in one respect he had the physical ability to do so much good, but at the same time he had feeling and emotions just like the rest of us.  I am sure that the people who only new him as Superman didn’t understand that.  I am not sure that I would expect them to either.

I remember my favorite Superman was Superman III.  That was the one where he gave up his super powers for awhile to be with Lois.  Really it was an analogy for the interior conflict that was within Clark- as the Superman part went off drinking and carousing, and the Clark Kent part went back to getting beat up in diners by truckers.  At the end the Clark persona ends up fighting the Superman persona, merging them back into one super conflicted person again. 

This might be the battle that Superman just can’t win.  Maybe it is his Kobyashi-Maru.

It is funny, sometimes we think that if we put on the Superman suit we will be able to fly.  Sometimes we think that just because we have certain abilities, or attain a certain status, the internal conflict that we have endured our whole lives will magically disappear.  It doesn’t.  In a way, the scene in the junkyard in Superman III is what we really have to do in ourselves- to struggle between what we are and what we are expected to be, either by ourselves or others.

Maybe when we put on the Superman suit, and then fail to fly, the first person that we disappoint is ourselves.  Then we disappoint other people around us when we can’t live up to the expectations that we helped to give them.  I once had a professor in College reminds us that “Clothes mark the man, they don’t make the man.”

Clark’s act was pretty good you know.  It doesn’t mean that he was insincere in pursuing truth and justice, but as Superman he couldn’t let them see the interior weakness that he really had- he had to be all things to all people.  I am sure it was a constant strain on his emotions- which put the strain on his ability to be the superhero everyone expected him to be.  I imagine it is very difficult to be Superman when you know that despite your abilities and gifts, you really are weak on the inside, and you can’t let people see that.  Somehow Superman lived with that inner struggle. 

Sometimes I wish I had Superman’s abilities.

Five for Fighting: Superman


This is just goofy… but funny… this guy did a good job…

SIN November 19, 2007

Posted by rengawman in life, philosophy, Theology.
Tags: , , ,
3 comments

Ohhh… people get creeped out by this topic don’t they?  Nobody wants to be known as a sinner- yet I have yet to meet one perfect person in this world, especially the guy that stares back at me in the mirror.  Admittedly, I am ALMOST perfect, but I still have a week or two before I reach perfection.

Sin is not a word that is commonly used in our culture.  It is imperative that we hide the fact that we are sinners at all costs, and let no one see our flaws, and the fact that we sometime fall short.  In short, not only is there a misconception of what sin is, it isn’t even something that most people worry about.  Sometimes I think we speak about morality and ethics as a sort of balance or an equation.  Namely, if I do 8 good things, and 2 bad things, I am still a “good” person, and it somehow balances out.  It’s funny though, I don’t remember a lot of good things sometimes- I often remember the bad things that I have done.  We always remember the bad things.

The other problem with sin, and I think that this is why we tend to stray away from the concept of sin altogether, is that we feel ashamed about it- that is probably natural.  What is worse about this is that it can be, and is, used to control us or other people.  It is sort of like poking a bruise on someone’s arm and not stopping until they do whatever it is that we want.  The rest of the body can be healthy, but it is that one tender spot that we will guard and protect, simply because we know it can be used against us.

I think we need to take a good look at what sin is, and how it can be used TOWARD GOOD in our lives and the lives of others.  I think that a lot of people’s notion of sin is very immature.  I know mine has been up until recently.

I was speaking with my spiritual director this last week in the great city of Toledo, Ohio, and this topic came up.  It came up because I deal with guilt and shame and sin just like everyone else does.  My sense of sin, and therefore of love, is currently under a lot of development so it comes up a lot in our conversations.  I guess I will return to the effect that sin has had in my own life and reconing.

As we talked about things, my Spiritual Director, a wise man in many many respects of human nature, told me that there are three levels of sin that we must pass through.  He also told me that most people don’t get out of the first one.  So I think it would be a good idea to write about these three levels of sin.  I think it will suprise people where this takes us, simply because most people’s concept of sin is so basic.

At its base, sin, at least the theological concept of it in the west, is based on a legal concept in Judaism, which later gets translated in some respects, at least in theory (but often not practice).  That concept is, in greek, Hamartia.  Hamartia literally means to “miss the mark.”  Sort of like shooting darts and missing the bullseye.  Of course, this is not exhaustive of the concept of sin, but it is a good starting point.  Some people are good at darts, and some aren’t, but nobody hits the bullseye every time.  So when we “sin” we miss the mark that we are aming for.

So that brings us to the question- what is the mark we are aiming for?  I believe that this is the concept that changes as time goes on, and as we mature psychologically and spiritually.  That is IF we mature psychologically and spiritually. I know from my recent experiences in life that I am not anywhere close to where I should be in those areas.

The three stages of our concept of sin are infantile, adolescent, and adult, or mature.  I don’t think a lot of people get past the first one.  Maybe I am just reading into it though, because until recently my concept of sin wasn’t much better than the first one.

Infantile:  The Old Testament had a lot of infantile concepts of sin.  Basically, it is violation of prohibition- not doing the right thing… “being bad.”  I think that this is the popular notion of sin.  It is how little kids are supposed to be able to tell right from wrong- mom and dad say don’t do this, and if the kid does it, he or she gets in trouble.  This is the moral code of the Old Testament and the Law as well- don’t do this or else.  (Thou shalt not…).  I think that this is a good natural development of sin that we should all go through, but I think that we stop there- it is easy to stop there and not go on simply because it is hard to go on to the other, more mature concepts of sin.  It is good for people to keep their kids or loved ones, or spouses or employees at this level of a concept of sin, because it is black and white and easy to control and manipulate.  It is also easy to make someone feel bad about themselves when all they have is this level of sin- people have been doing since the foundations of civilization.  I know that personally, I was stuck in this concept of sin until recently even though I knew better- I didn’t do things out of motivation of love, but rather out of fear of punishment.

Adolescent:  Our concept of sin should change as we grow older, but again for a lot of folks I don’t think it does.  Adolescence, which my spiritual director said is anywhere from 12-32, is a time of self discovery- a time to figure out who we are on the way of understanding who we are designed to be.  Thus our concept of sin should also change- instead of simply avoiding what is prohibited, the sin of adolescence is in-authenticity- that is, not being who we are authentically meant to be.  Not living up to our potential, or even attempting to- to be untrue to ourselves and not being authentically ourselves.  This requires a development of self-identity that is difficult in this day and age- simply because it is easier to avoid prohibition than it is to develop an identity and live up to that identity.


Not fulfilling his potential

Mature or adult:  This is the ultimate notion of sin I believe.  I think a few of us truly get to this level- it is hard and requires a choice rather than a feeling to avoid.  The sin of adulthood is not simply prohibition, nor is it not “being yourself,” rather it is missing opportunities to love.  Mother Theresa once said that the worse sins are the sins of omission- that is missed opportunities to love.  That is what the first sin is characterized in the Bible for instance- we often blame Eve for the first sin, but truly the first sin is that Adam had an opportunity to give his life in love for his spouse, his neighbor, and he failed to do so.  If love is the willing the good of another, then sin really is the choice not to do so.  It is a not simply doing what is prohibited, but not going the extra mile for the good of ourselves and our brothers and sisters no matter who they are.

My Spiritual Director pointed out the clearest example of this in the story of the Good Samaritan- all those people passed him by when he was mugged on the road because they were prohibited to touch him by the law or their inability to be the neighbor God designed them to be- it was the Samaritan who truly willed the good of the man who was robbed- he took the opportunity to love.

This is not necessarily a Christian concept, although it is highlighted by Christianity- Remember all theology, philosophy, and any science is there to highlight who we are in relationship to the rest of the cosmos.  As ration creatures of free will, we have the innate ability to love- it is something that is in our nature- to will the good of another.  Willing something is a rational choice, and a person that is mature understands that relationship to others, no matter what their background.  As relational beings by nature, we are obligated not only to avoid bad and embrace good, but to be what our nature authentically directs us to be, and to will that others achieve the fullness of their potential as well.

More Important than the Bible… (Opinion and Truth) November 16, 2007

Posted by rengawman in Humor with a point, philosophy, Theology.
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OK… calm down folks… read the whole article and you will see what the title means.


I found Waldo… he is strangely alone…

Do you remember those pesky magic eye puzzles that were all the rage ten or fifteen years ago?  About the same time as we were trying to find that stupid Waldo guy (who apparently liked to hang out in large crowds… I can relate) every single mall had a kiosk where they sold these stupid magic eye puzzles.


It is a chinchilla eating a grape… on a sailboat.

To the naked eye, it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting- a hodgepodge (love that word) of colors sort of splattered onto a poster.  Apparently, if you stared at this thing long enough, crossed your eyes, stood on your head, and had a few drinks, the image would change and you would see a farm-scape or a sailboat, or Waldo, in 3D appear before your very eyes.  It just so happened that the next kiosk over sold little bottles of Advil and eye drops, because not only did you have a headache from staring at these stupid posters, but your eyes dried out because you had to hold them open for so long trying to figure out if it was a monkey or a baseball bat that magically appeared out of the mixture of colors and textures.  These stupid things were just as popular back then as hyper-color t-shirts.  (Yea… remember those?  If you touched them they changed color because of the heat in your hand.  Until you washed them once.  I am sure we were all poisoned by those shirts somehow.  Maybe that is how we could see that magic eye puzzle- the hyper color t-shirts were making us hallucinate.)

I have to admit trying out these magic eye puzzles myself the first time.  I walked by the kiosk and saw people just staring into the collection of various eye puzzles, and decided to join the herd.  3 hours later, I think I saw a camel in a space suit pop out in 3D.


It is the Mona Lisa… you see it don’t you?

There were always three types of people at these kiosks- the people that would walk up and look into the magic eye puzzle and instantly yell out (as if any of us cared) “I SEE IT!!  IT IS A SUNSET IN TOKYO IN JUNE!”  Others, grumbling, also loud enough for people to hear, “I just can’t see it, it is just a bunch of colors running together… I just can’t see it… are you sure that’s there?”  The third type of person was the type that felt sorry for the second type of guy who couldn’t see the dolphin jumping out of a bowl of spaghettio’s and would help out assuring the incapable person- “It’ll be alright- just relax- let your eyes cross- don’t you see the dolphin?  He’s right over there!”


This one is meaningless… they just made this one to mess with us.

I think that the most entertaining feature of the magic eye puzzle was not the magic eye puzzle itself, but watching the people stare for minutes at a time into what looked like a child’s finger painting. 


I know the feelin’ buddy.

I did eventually see the images pop out of the posters, and it was neat, but I wonder if there was anything there at all, or if I was just buying into the hype of the magic eye puzzle.  Maybe there was something there and maybe there wasn’t- was it my own perception, or was I borrowing the perception from my neighbor who gleefully “got it?”

Here is an interesting fact I heard recently- up to 90% (90%!!!!) of our perceptions are borrowed from other people.

I will let that sink in for just a minute.

It’s like Homer Simpson once said- 42% of statistics are made up on the spot, but only 12% of people know that.  Sometimes we trust in the perceptions of others more than we know.

So when it comes to a world view- a cosmology as the philosophers like to coin it, a lot of our views come from what other people have told us.  I think that is what Nietzsche was talking about when he was talking about his “will to power.”  The will to power is the ability to impose our own perception onto the people around us.  It works- just watch the news.  They are imposing their views on us all the time, and I am even tempted to believe it simply because it is easier to believe them than to do the research on my own.  I don’t have the time, the resources or the energy to do that.

Perception is a tricky thing.  As I have mentioned in past posts, there are as many perceptions as there are people- if I am looking at this chair, and so are you, we may be seeing the chair differently- I may think it is red, and you may think it is violet.  Perceptions, whether given or borrowed, are never 100% accurate.  That is where communication comes in, in order that we may cut through what is mere opinion to the objective truth underneath.  Life is constantly about that- it is a constant battle that I think a lot people really don’t engage in too well because it is a lot of work.  Rather they would just rather accept the perceptions of others- culture, media, or what have you.


The rose colored glasses of opinion.

What is more important than the chair in our above example is not the chair necessarily, but our perception and our interpretation of the chair.

In a like manner, when we talk about theology, more specifically the Bible, it really isn’t the Bible that is important these days, but it is MY personal interpretation of the Bible that is important.  You can really interpret the Bible in any way you want- a great example that I like to use is the whole slavery issue in the history of the United States- the abolishionists used the Bible to go against slavery, while the south used it to support slavery.

So when it comes down to it these days, what is more important than the Bible, or the Koran, or the Torah, or the Big Book in this culture, is our personal interpretation of the book- I can interpret those books to mean whatever I want them to mean- or whatever someone has told me to interpret them as.  In order to interpret the Bible in the proper way we would need to go back to the original intention of the author (and the Spirit that inspired that author) and begin from there for a proper and true interpretation.  Otherwise the snake handlers are just as justified to handle snakes as any of the mainstream religions.

It is a fine line between figuring out the truth and separating it from mere opinion or perception.  As I said, this is probably the work of our lives, because the intellect seeks the truth.  I do not think that there is a simple answer to this problem, as it goes back to the radical individualism of our modern western culture.  Truth is out there though, it is simply not a matter of perception, but finding the truth requires us in some sense to question the perceptions that we have, the perceptions that others have, and to find the truth that underlies it all.  That doesn’t mean that a generally accepted perception isn’t necessarily true, but we should deeply question EVERYTHING in our search for what is true and what is merely opinion.

There are two philosophers that come to mind here that I think would be important to mention.  The first is Francis Bacon, and the other is Martin Heidegger.  Both of these guys were advocates of what I am talking about- Bacon said that we have preconceived “idols” of the marketplace- accepted notions that were given to us by our upbringing and inculturation that we accept as truth.  That doesn’t mean that they aren’t true, but that we need to toss them out every so often to test them to find which is true, and which is simply an “idol.”  Heidegger on the other hand advocates a similar plan- that is to “step into the clearing of being,” in other words like a forest to step into a clearing that the sun (being) is unobscured by the trees of perception and opinion.


The “clearing” of being

Only when we step into the clearing of being, and get rid of the idols of the marketplace, can we begin to compare our own and others perceptions of things- including things like religious texts like the Bible, the the truth.

I remember my first day in philosophy class ten years ago- we studied… I think it was the Phaedo by Plato (I could be wrong on the title of that one)- the whole thing centered on the difference between mere opinion and truth.  Its conclusion was that opinion can be true, but isn’t necessarily true, and it is our task- really our deepest desire- to separate opinion from what is objectively true.  That’s about as hard sometimes as seeing those pecky pictures in the magic eye posters.

At the end of the day, finding truth is sort of like picking Waldo out of one of those “Where’s Waldo” pictures.  There are a lot of things that LOOK like Waldo that are not, just like there are things that APPEAR true which are not.  We can never be content with a look a like to the truth, just like we are not done with our search until we find Waldo, or see the 3D image in the magic eye poster.


Where’s Waldo?  Where is the truth?

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The Philosophical Proof of Relationship in the Trinity November 15, 2007

Posted by rengawman in philosophy, Theology.
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In this post I hope to explain in detail, in a thousand words or less, the entire theology of the Trinity.

Just kidding… that would be impossible.  I always get a headache when I think about the Trinity- no doubt it is certainly a mystery.

Trinity was one of the toughest classes I took while I was at the Great and Wonderful Gregorian University in Rome.  It was the second semester of my first year, and I had one of the “Three Amigos,” not to mention one of the best Trinitarian theologians that the Jesuits produced, Luis Ladaria, teaching the class. 


(The “Three Amigos” were three professors we had who came from Spain that semester, hence the name.) (I did not have Steve Martin as a teacher.)

 

Fr. Ladaria spoke impeccable Italian… there was nary a hint of Spanish mixed into his Italian like some of the other teachers. (I called that Spitalian by the way.)  The only problem with Fr. Ladaria was that he spoke in a sort of resonating tone.  One minute he was completely audible and loud, then mid-sentence he would be silent as a mouse.


(Here he is whispering some important point)

My favorite day, and I am not sure if he was messing with us or not, was when he said:  “The most important thing that you can know about the Trinity and this class is….” At that point we all leaned forward to try and figure out what he had said the most important thing was to know.  He trailed off, and that most important thing was lost to the ages.  I am not even sure that the Italians caught it as there was a collective groan that went through the 400 other students in the classroom.

The Trinity is probably the most important and central mystery in Western Theology.  It is the proposition, based on the revelation of Jesus Christ, that God is within Himself, a relationship of three persons, Father, Son, and the personification of the love between Father, and Son, the Holy Spirit.  So one God, three persons.  For the first thousand years or so of Christianity, the western culture tried to figure out just what the heck that meant.  All sorts of differing opinions arose at that point saying all sorts of things- such as Jesus was created by the Father, or Jesus was just another expression of the Father, or that Jesus was another God etc etc.  All sorts of conflicts arose between sects called Modalists or Arians or even Nestorians who believed that Mary was not the “Mother of God,” implying that Jesus wasn’t God, or that he was somehow separated from his humanity.  It took about a thousand years to work out all the kinks, and to either eliminate the opposing sects, or to re-educate them and absorb them back into the fold.

There are a lot of places that we can look in scripture to support a Trinitarian theology, my favorite actually being Genesis 1:26, where God says:”Let us make man in our own image.”  There is a plural going on there- “us.”  This implies a relationship within God Himself.

So how does this work out philosophically?  Does the idea of a relationship within the being of God make rational sense?  Well let’s start with the philosophical notion of God.  We can go with Plato on this one, that God would be the supreme Good- that being from which all beings flow- the mind of God is where all forms originate and are given to material existence.  God would be the supreme being, containing all things and lacking nothing because he would be all being. (I realize I am skipping over a giant explanation here of how I come to this conclusion, but this is basically what Plato taught).  Given over to Aristotle, the notion of God is that there would be an unmoved mover- that is a being that starts the ball rolling who itself never had a beginning.  (He basically says that you cannot have an infinite regressing series of events, that you have to have a being that itself has no beginning in order to get the universe moving.)

Taking these two philosophical ideas of the supreme being without a beginning, we can begin to apply philosophical concepts to the idea of this supreme being which we will call God.  This idea of God, assuming that we can have a reliable understanding of the world around us through our senses, is completely rational to believe in based on the premesis of nature.

Two distinctions we might have to make though right now- that of “accident” and and “substance.”  This is important for applying some philosophical concepts to this supreme being known as God.  A substance is a thing- this shirt I am wearing is a shirt no matter what color it is.  The color is what we know as an “accidental” quality.  Its size or shape or color etc.  Even if I change the accidental quality of my shirt, let’s say from white to blue, it still remains a shirt.  Shirt-ness is a substantial quality.  Accidents can change in a substance without changing the thing itself.  There are other accidents that are important to things, such as quantity (number of shirts) or most importantly for our purposes- relation- where the shirt is in relationship to other things- like me… or other shirts.  This relationship to me or other shirts can change- I can take off my shirt and throw it into a pile of other shirts- thus the relationship has changed.  On a more complex level, in humans relationship is much more profound, whether we talk about being a stranger, or a child, or a friend, or a lover etc.  The accidental quality of relationship is much more difficult to talk about the more complex a substance is because we can talk about the metaphysical relationships as I mentioned above.

Even if my particular relationships change, I do not change substantially- I am still Josh Wagner no matter what (although my relationships help to determine my identity, I am still a human no matter what my current relationships to other humans or the universe might be- no changing that.)

In the philosophical concept of God, since he is the totality of being- the supreme good, lacks nothing by definition, he would have no “accidental” qualities.  However he does have relationship just like us.  Unlike us however, that relationship is not an “accidental” quality, it is a “substantial” quality.  In other words, if God has relationship (which my definition all beings have relationship) then that relationship must be within HIMSELF, or more philosophically within the SUPREME BEING.  If he were to have an “accidental” relationship, that would mean that he would have “accidental” qualities, which means he can change- God cannot change by definition because he is the supreme being and lacks nothing- change by its definition is a move from non-being to being- that means you change from something you were not before to something you currently are- God can’t do that because he lacks nothing to change into!

This all having been said, it makes philosophical sense that God has a relationship within himself that is substantial, or innately part of who he is as the supreme good, being, lacking nothing etc.  Whether or not that is one relationship or three like the Trinity is left up to revelation, but the theological concept of a relationship within the supreme being is philosophically sound.

Anybody got a headache yet?

What this further means that if freedom is a concept that we have as people, then freedom must necessarily exist within the concept of God as well- so God if he is in a relationship within his own being, must be in a free relationship within his own being.

How is that important to us?  Remember what I said yesterday, that theology, and really all sciences, are a way of studying humanity.  The way that theology understands humanity is by understanding the source of humanity, namely God.  If this concept of relationship within God is philosophically valid, then it does tell us a couple of things about humanity.

First, that if we are made in the image of and likeness of God it follows that we can glean two important things from that- first that we are in relationship- it is fundamental to who we are as people- our relationships to God and to those around us help us to determine our identity.  So if we have an unhealthy relationship in our lives, then we have an unhealthy identity somewhere as well.  Second, is that we are free.  Freedom is something that is divine- the ability to choose to give ourselves freely for the good of someone else mirrors what happens within the Godhead- theologically speaking the Father gives everything he is to the Son in the Holy Spirit.  Philosophically speaking, if there is a relationship within God, one person (or relationship) must necessarily give all that it has to the other person(s) or (relationship(s)).

 That gives us a program for life- first to find out if our relationships are healthy, and second to see if the choices that we are making are being made for the supreme good of the other people in our relationships.  That choice of the supreme good- is called love.

How’s ’bout a little theology? November 14, 2007

Posted by rengawman in philosophy, Theology.
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So as I mentioned in my frequently asked questions section of my blog, I said that I have gotten away from using theological terminology and point of view because I wanted to appeal to a more secular audience.  Then yesterday I went to the big conference of motivational speakers at Nationwide arena.  Big names like Colin Powell and Zig Ziglar (not to mention the great Archie Griffin) were there to speak.  It was a great day, and I would love to speak to a crowd of 20,000 people some day.  I think that would be really neat.


The “pope” of motivational speaking- Zig Ziglar

In between a couple of the presentations, the emcee came out and mentioned a couple of very interesting things.  The most important thing she mentioned is that when they do surveys about what sort of topics people would like to hear presented at these type of conferences, spirituality is overwhelmingly at the top of the list.  I was surprised at that since this conference was billed, more or less, as a business conference.  I was shocked.  I turned to my brother, Mark, who attended the conference with me and said, “I have been doing this all wrong.” 

If you read my bio, my background is not only in philosophy, but in theology and specifically in spirituality as well. (I have always felt, however, that I was a better philosopher than I was a theologian for a lot of reasons)  I have encountered a lot of spirituality since coming out of seminary- really great spirituality- but I think that the spirituality of the saints and of the church would have a lot to offer, even on a coroporate or business level.  That is not to say that in my speeches I would intend for things to be overrun with specifically christian spirituality, but that the principles found in christian spirituality and thought could be applied to organizations with a great amount of success.  Simply put, spirituality is really about a right relationship with God first and the people around us second.

As I mentioned above I like philosophy a lot- in my college days at the Josephinum I excelled in philosophy.  It taught me to think, and the wisdom of the church is that it underpins the theology we would be taught in the later years of formation.

Truth is truth- by definition truth must be universally applicable.  That means that one area of science cannot contradict another area of science.  Therefore, natural theology, or philosophy- the empirical study of the world around us- cannot contradict theological principles and vise versa.  Theology and philosophy are simply two ways to study the same thing.

Let me give you a more mundane example of what I mean.

There are many ways to study a cat.  One of the ways to study a cat is to study it in terms of biology- to study its cells, its characteristics, its relationship to other animals, its eating habits etc.  Studying a cat like this can lead us to know a lot of things about cats which are true.  Likewise, we can study a cat in terms of chemistry- what elements comprise a cat- where do those elements come from and where for they go when a cat dies?  Another way to study a cat is through physics.  If a cat jumps off of the roof of the house, how does gravity affect the cat?  How does the cat have momentum?  How does the spinning of the earth affect a cat?


Caturday!

All of these are effective studies of a cat- but they cannot contradict each other.  Physical truths about a cat cannot ever contradict biological information about a cat, which likewise cannot contradict chemical information about a cat.  If these sciences begin to contradict each other, then there is something wrong with the way someone is doing their science.

In addition to empirical sciences, we can study a cat in two more ways: philosophically and theologically.  In terms of philosophy we can study the essence of a cat- how being is expressed in “cat-ness.”  We can study its relationship to other beings, and even talk about the metaphysical implications of a cat.  We can even use the cat as a point of departure to get to a philosophical understanding of god (little g because it would be an understanding of god in very generic terms).  Otherwise we can talk about a cat from a theological point of view- why did God create the cat?  When God tells us about himself through revelation, how does that make us view the cat he created?  How does that cat relate to the rest of creation?  How does that affect our relationship with God?

So no matter how we study the cat- in terms of physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, or theology, whatever we learn in one science CANNOT, by the definition of truth, contradict each other.  If it seems that our theology goes against what we find in the other sciences, then there is a problem with our theology.

Theology- and to a more specific study, spirituality- is simply another way to study humanity.  That is what all the sciences are really about anyway.  All sciences attempt to study is man’s relationship to physical laws, chemical laws, philosophical laws, etc.  All sciences are really in place to help us understand our greater position in the universe.  Theology is no different really which is why theological truth cannot ever contradict what we can find empirically.  Rather it should be a CONFIRMATION of what we find empirically.

The reason I was always a better philosopher than I was a theologian is simple- philosophy, like the other natural sciences- all start from experience.  Theology on the other hand, starts with a given- a given that can’t necessarily be proven empirically.  Theological truths must be accepted on faith- that the “unmoved mover” in the universe can and does reveal himself in an accurate way.  Aristotle called metaphysics theology because its real point is to study God from the ground up.  I think that my ultimate frustration with theology is that you cannot have empirical certainty.  That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it, but as a philosopher first, it is somewhat frustrating.

The fact that I am a philosopher first gives me the advantage over pure theologians simply because I have another science by which to compare my theological findings.  It’s kind of like double majoring in both chemistry and physics.  That scientist can hold his chemical findings about the cat against his physical findings about the cat thus confirming his total knowledge of cats.  Philosophy, in other words, becomes the litmus test of my theology.  If those things contradict there is either a problem with my theology or my philosophy or both.  (You know, I need to mention here too the science of psychology, an offshoot of philosophy.  In a like manner, psychology cannot contradict theology or philosophy either as truth is truth no matter how you study it.)

There is only one little problem in this whole schema though.  I brought this issue up to someone the other night, and she mentioned the problem of perception.  Perception is the problem that we have had for a long time.  As I mentioned in another post, I believe that our perceptions are basically reliable for gathering information, and that our ability to communicate with each other is sufficient to share and correlate those perceptions with someone else.  My friend has a point though- all of our perceptions are different.  Emmanuel Kant had a real problem with this too- he made the distinction between the noumena, the thing in itself, or the thing known, and the phenomena- the way we perceive a thing.

Basically, no matter how we perceive things, it is going to be filtered through our experiences and our own perceptions.  It is sort of like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics- that to view the atomic structure of an atom actually changes the atom rendering the perception of the atom unreliable.  in a like manner, the way we perceive things may actually affect the thing we are perceiving.  Thus the cup or the chair or the cat that we are looking at may be viewed differently from one person to the next.  That is where communication comes in- I believe that we have the ability to share and understand another person’s perceptions of a thing or event and to boil out the mere perception from the truth.  This goes for any science, including theology.  Real science, no matter what it is, requires collaboration of perceptions, experiences, and objectivity allowing us to “cut the fat,” and get to the heart of truth itself.

 Well, this was a long post I admit, but one I have wanted to make for awhile.  So I guess I should change the blog title since I will be adding some theology to the mix, as well as some spirituality.  Nah… I am a philosopher first, which is what makes me a good theologian.

A Celestial Taste (Opposites Attract?) November 12, 2007

Posted by rengawman in food, Humor with a point, Motivation.
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A few years ago in Rome, I was out with a friend and classmate of mine, Daniel, and we decided to try my second favorite restaurant in Rome, La Fiammetta. If you ever get to Rome, I would highly recommend you try it sometime- it is a wonderful hidden place just beside the Hotel Genio outside of the north end of Piazza Navona.  The pizza is especially tasty there, but I have never had a bad meal or experience there.  They have outside seating as well- a total experience to be sure.

 The best part was that La Fiammetta was completely unknown to the other guys I went to school with, so it was a perfect place to escape seeing the same people all the time.

Little did I know, Daniel was an aficianado of many things- especially food.  This guy knew food, and where to get his food, and what combinations went well together.  He introduced me to what was the best thing I have ever eaten- by far my favorite thing I have ever eaten.

At the end of our spectacular meal we decided to have some desert.  There was the standard in Italy, tiramisu, creme brulee, frutta di Macedonia, and gelato.  I didn’t know what to get, as I didn’t particularly want to have anything sweet.  Daniel saved me… for the rest of my life. 

He looked at mean and said,” Josh, you have to try the best desert ever- Gorgonzola and a pear.”

I was skeptical.

Gorgonzola is one of those “stinky” cheeses.  And the Gorgonzola in Rome was especially stinky… I think the culinary term is sharp, but it was stinky.  I liked pears just fine, but Gorgonzola was reserved, in my mind, to other things like steak or a particular kind of pasta.

I trusted though- why would my friend lead me astray?

The cheese and pear came out.  The pear was already cut up for my convenience, and layed in a beautiful circle around the block of cheese.  The smell of the cheese wafted up to my nostrils, but did not burn them- rather they were filled with the full aroma of the cheese.

Using a fork and knife I… well… cut the cheese, and a piece of pear and put both in my mouth.  I was transported to another time and place.

The sharp flavor of the cheese mixed perfectly with the sweet of the pear.  The creamy consistency of the cheese complimented the rough texture of the pear.  It was a total experience, and like the fois gras in Paris that one night in April, flavor filled my entire head- nay, my whole being.

It is as close to heaven as I think I have ever been on earth- the mix of Gorgonzola and a pear- it might work with any sharp cheese and something sweet, like blue cheese and honey, but it won’t work nearly as perfectly as the pear and Gorgonzola.  It is even better than peanut butter and chocolate.  Really.

Here in the States it is hard to find the proper grade of cheese to go with the pears.  It is worth the hunt though-  you have to go to upscale places like Whole Foods or a real Italian run shop to find the proper cheese to find the flavor that gives the best experience.

It is interesting to look at this relationship of Gorgonzola and a pear.  They are completely opposites of each other, yet it is the very fact that they are opposites that they work well together and become complimentary.

I have seen a lot of couples come and go in preparation for marriage- some of the times it was fun to see just how different the members of a couple could be- and often it was the couples that were completely opposite that worked the best because where one person was deficient, the other filled in the gaps.

Even in nature this principle is true- positive magnetic fields repel each other, while a positive and a negative attract.

I know that when I was in my 4th year of Rome there was another big funny guy that came into the seminary as a first year man.  I did not like that guy whatsoever- he was good at everything I was!  Probably, I didn’t like the things in him that I didn’t like in myself.  I think that is often the case with people we don’t like: we tend not to like the things in other people that we don’t like in ourselves.

 That means that when we encounter someone we don’t like we need to be more introspective and find what is in ourselves that we may not like in the other person.

Either way, we are defined by the relationships that we have, both good and bad, as we are beings in relationship by definition.  They become mirrors of what we are and what we aren’t and we have to trust that sometimes the most unlikely combination, like gorgonzola and a pear, might actually work out to be the best thing.