The dawn of a new year is often a time when people attempt a fresh start. I don't like to save up my fresh starts for January; I like to sprinkle them liberally throughout the year. In fact, each new day when I wake up is a fresh start. Though some of the tasks ahead of me may be similar to those I did the day before, and my location or situation in life may not have changed much, each never-lived-before moment is rife with possibilities for creativity, insight, kindness, learning, joy, and embracing new disciplines. In fact, most days it seems to be a choice: do I surrender to sameness or revel in the birth of each moment with its accompanying challenges? I hope I chose birth.
In doing some research for a course, I came across two videos that have got me thinking. In fact, I believe they have done more than that: they have birthed something new in my thinking and hopefully, will translate into new actions as well. The first was the song, Be Thou My Vision, played by artist Roby Duke. I do not use the word 'performed' because it is clearly not a performance that he is giving. He does not want nor need applause. He spends time easing into the song by doing some improv warm-ups and talking to himself, which is definitely not the way to wow your audience; in fact, it seems disorienting. But instead of a performance, he gives himself. He is a masterful musician, but he is not interested in showing that off or receiving recognition for his talent. He just wants to play, whether it is at home in his living room or in the presence of hundreds of people. And he loves to play and sing, that is obvious.
Removing the aspect of performance (and it is perhaps telling that we find that so disorienting, even in a church setting) has given me access to the song like never before. The word 'vision' is a bright rainbow in my mind these days, reminding me of God's promise, even though I couldn't tell you exactly what that promise is. I know I will find out each day what that promise means. 'Vision' has been overused and abused by religious folk. For this reason, some people denounce vision altogether, but I believe they are talking more about someone's agenda than true vision. Vision is seeing, and we all need to see. I need to see. It gives me hope. Thank you, Roby. In this video, I see the words come to life: Riches I need not nor man's empty praise. Thou my inheritance now and always...
The second video was a short clip of an interview with Dallas Willard. In it he talks about doubt. I am reading Peter Rollin's book, Insurrection. He believes doubt is necessary in a deconstructionist way to overcome the unhealthy 'God of religion' that we adopt for our own convenience. So, the subject has been on my mind. Willard's first sentence in the video interview is quite striking: "If you're going to be a doubter, be sure to doubt your doubts as well as your beliefs." He goes on to say, "We are taught in our culture to think that a person who doubts is essentially smarter than a person who believes, but you can be as dumb as a cabbage and still say, 'Why?'" Now, I do recognise the value of asking questions and taking a hard, honest look at what we say we believe. Often much of what we assume is true can be unexamined (Socrates says that 'the unexamined life is not worth living'). However, Willard makes a valid point that once we start deconstructing something, we must also be willing to deconstruct our deconstruction. If our beliefs can originate in inauthentic places, so can our doubts. Thank you, Dallas. You have given me a grid for the value of doubt. Let it not become a viscious circle, but lead to authentic, constructive, uncomplicated, purer faith that is neither self-serving nor convenient.
In case you are interested, here are the links to the two videos. These were instrumental in my fresh start this week.
Roby Duke, Be Thou My Vision
Dallas Willard interview
the photos: a sunflower I saw while walking in Montreal this fall. Sunflowers always splash brightness, joy, and wonder all over my world.