• Playing With Our Lives?

    Did you know that all animals play? I knew some did, but hadn’t realized how widespread play is in the animal kingdom:

    the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.

    Despite all this, those who do look into the matter are invariably forced to the conclusion that play does exist across the animal universe. And exists not just among such notoriously frivolous creatures as monkeys, dolphins, or puppies, but among such unlikely species as frogs, minnows, salamanders, fiddler crabs, and yes, even ants—which not only engage in frivolous activities as individuals, but also have been observed since the nineteenth century to arrange mock-wars, apparently just for the fun of it. ~ David Graeber*

    Aside from just being cool, it also makes me wonder if God’s intention for us doesn’t include a good deal of pleasure. Scripture says that creation is a testimony to God. If play is so widespread that ants do it, then that must reflect something about God’s nature and therefor ours.

    In the article I quote above, Dr. Graeber goes on to postulate that play at it’s most basic level may even exist at the quantum level. That even subatomic particles may be chosing their paths and that they may sometimes do it for the sheer pleasure of it.

    It’s an axiom of JudeoChristian thought that there is something wrong with humanity. If we learn that play is a driving force in the very foundations of the universe. And if we accept that living things appear to all play. Then, it would appear that our impoverished concept of play and its role in our lives may be one of those things that’s really wrong about us. Who woulda thunk it?

    *That quote comes from a delightful article I read recently on the role of play in creation. It’s really long and rather scholarly though. Sample:

    What would happen if we proceeded from the reverse perspective and agreed to treat play not as some peculiar anomaly, but as our starting point, a principle already present not just in lobsters and indeed all living creatures, but also on every level where we find what physicists, chemists, and biologists refer to as “self-organizing systems”

    If that sentence made your heart sing, you can go read the whole thing here. If you’re a normal human being and that sentence gave you a headache, here’s an awesome video of a whale and dolphin playing:

  • Coral-reef-near-Fiji-007

    Stop Worrying About the Idiots!

    Would you like to hear my opinion on the controversy de jour? Listen to me rip some idiot to pieces for your edification and amusement? Want my incisive insight into exactly why and how an outrageous, provocative statement is wrong and probably a danger to decent human beings everywhere?

    Yeah, sorry. Aint going to happen. Or at least not often. Why? Because a human being who spends their time thinking and talking about stupidity, human failures and what’s wrong with whom and why is like a fish who fixates on water.

    We have a tendency to respond to what’s wrong with people as if it were a remarkable thing, worthy of attention and commentary. But really, there’s nothing more unremarkable than humans being stupid, obnoxious, offensive and idiotic.

    This brew of human idiocy and failure is the water we swim in. It’s pervasive, expected and completely unremarkable. And it should be treated as such. Ho-hum. More of the same.

    What is remarkable and what does deserve our attention are humans being good, kind, generous and courageous. These things are like the coral reefs of life. No one goes scuba diving to look at the water; they’re looking for the bright, the beautiful, the captivating and amazing.

    We’d all do well if instead of fixating on the water of human stupidity, we went looking for the coral reefs of human goodness. You’re not going to get rid of the water by staring at it and yelling at it. Instead, the water gets displaced by the beautiful things which grow in it.

    Or let’s use another analogy. My house sits within view of I-94. So all day and night, we can hear the sounds of traffic going by. Imagine how unpleasant and stressful it would be if I took notice every time a car or truck went by. If I stopped a few times a day to say to my family, “look at those cars and big ass trucks out there! All they do is drive by making noise day and night. Why isn’t there a sound absorbing wall there? When is it going to stop? And look – there goes an oversized load! Geeze those things are noisy!”

    Of course, I don’t do this. No one in my family does. For the most part we don’t even notice the sound of the traffic. But when a bird calls from the trees behind our house, we hear that. We look for it. We put out feeders on the deck to draw them closer. When a deer walks through the yard, we all go to the window to look. When the wind is fierce we stop and listen and wonder at the ferocity of it.

    The traffic is just background noise, hardly worthy of our notice. But the beautiful things, the amazing things, the movements of life – those grab our attention.

    And this is how it should be with us as we move through life. I’m concerned that a lot of us are wasting our emotional energy, nursing divisions and even despairing of the world paying attention to the unceasing traffic of human stupidity.

    Not only is it not good for us, it’s pointless. There’s nothing I can do about the latest murder or war. I can’t get my dog to what I say half the time, much less my elected officials. That pastor or politician or random human being who’s getting a lot of attention for saying something idiotic and inflammatory? If I rebuke them they’re not going to hear about it. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be moved by it.

    But when I see something beautiful, even if it’s far away, that helps me. When I hear of people being good and kind, being good and kind myself doesn’t seem like such a foolish, difficult thing. When I encounter something delightful, it makes my own world look a little more magical. What is good lifts us, encourages us and enlightens us.

    We are so scared of the dark. So certain that the power of evil will run amok if we aren’t vigilant against it. But this gets everything backwards. The power of good is far more powerful than the power of evil. Even in scriptures it says that the evil of the fathers will be visited on their sons to the third generation. But the good a man does? That endures through 1000 generations.

    This is why Jesus says not to resist the evil man, but to do good to those who hate you. He’s directing us to take hold of the real power of the universe – goodness, kindness, mercy, grace, compassion, generosity, courage, love.

    So my challenge to you is to stop thinking and talking so much about what’s wrong with people. Turn human stupidity into just a background hum in your life. If you find yourself alarmed by the news, the stupidity, the obnoxiousness of humans doing what they do, stop and tell yourself, “it’s just water. Traffic passing by. Ho hum. More of the same.”

    But what’s beautiful, lovely, breath-taking and inspiring? Look for that. Study that. Talk about it. Share it. And then when the water of human stupidity finds its way into your little world, you will know what to do. You will be so familiar with and shaped by what is good that you can build your own coral reef and make your own beauty.

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8

  • Forgiveness – VIDEO

    ‘K – something you need to know about me; I am freakishly un-photogenic. Seriously. Not that attractiveness is terribly important, but I am much better looking in person than on this video I’m going to share with y’all. Even my 13 y.o. when he was helping me format the video commented, “you don’t look anything like this in real life, mom. It’s really weird.”

    Which is all cover to make myself feel better before coming out from behind the text and sharing my video with you. The video’s my top 5 strategies for forgiveness. Something which I have had my fair share of experience with. Ahem.

    (If you were on facebook last night and saw me freaking out – this was what had me all in a tizzy. Thank you to all the peeps who gave me a boost. BTW, if you’re not following The Upside Down World on facebook, you should go do that. After you watch the video:)

    If you enjoy the video, please pass it around. And all of the ideas I share here are also found in my book The Upside Down World’s Guide To Enjoying the Hard Life. Along with 40-some other tidbits of brilliance. It’s totally worth the $5.98 that you should go spend on it right now. As long as I’m bossing y’all around! ;)

  • phil-4-12-13-014

    Godly Thinking vs The World

    “Encourage one another and build each other up ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
    • Godly thinking believes you can be the person you heart desires to be and accomplish the things your heart longs to accomplish.
    • The world believes you can be the person they want you to be and accomplish the things they think you should want to accomplish.
    “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12:2
    • Godly thinking celebrates every little victory as evidence that you will accomplish what it is you’re working towards and see the setbacks as irrelevant to your ultimate success.
    • The world views setbacks as proof that the whole way you’re doing things is flawed, probably fatally and certainly evidence that you should be adopting their vision of success, a good life and yourself as your own.
    “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 1:19
    • When you’re frustrated or discouraged, Godly thinking reminds you of all that you’ve accomplished already as evidence which points to the reality of ultimate victory.
    • When you’re frustrated or discouraged, the world sees all your accomplishments as evidence that you should be doing better than you are. Past victories are evidence of potential not met.

    We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

    • The world believes coloring outside the lines is evidence of failure.
    • Godly thinking knows that people who do great things almost always color outside the lines.
    He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” ~ Luke 16:16
    • The world focus on failure.
    • Godly thinking focuses on potential.
    God began a good work in you and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished. ~ Phillipians 1:6
    • Godly thinking believes that what we get right is ultimately more important and more powerful than what we get wrong.
    • The world believes that what we get wrong defines us.
    Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ Phillippians 4:8
    • Godly thinking believes that everything works out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.
    • The world believes that each moment represents a point at which success or failure can be judged.
    Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ~ Romans 8:17-18
  • pmsangel

    PMS, Reinterpreted

    Do women tend to have higher natural emotional intelligence (EQ) than men? Most people think so although research hasn’t settled the argument yet. But if women do have higher EQ, I think I know the reason: PMS. (Men, you need to hear this, so don’t check out on me now!)

    There’s this weird thing which happens with PMS. Every month you have a day or two where you are completely convinced that your life is awful, with no redeeming qualities, hardly worth living. You will find yourself collecting evidence to support this perspective. The money problems. The kid’s dirty clothes. That hole in the wall that’s needed patching for as long as the baby’s been alive. It’s all your fault, evidence of your failure. And it’s hopeless. You know for a fact that all those people saying things like “you don’t lose until you quit” are delusional unicorn-friending idiots. At some point you start to understand women who abandon their kids to smoke meth in a motel outside of Vegas with a truck driver. It makes perfect sense in fact.

    But here’s the thing: while you are busy wondering if you actually have the cajones to go to the local truck stop and start talking up potential new boyfriends, it never, ever occurs to you that any of this is anything but gospel truth. It’s not until the next day when you discover for a fact that you are not pregnant that you realize – it’s just hormones! It’s not actually real. Continue reading

  • meaning of life

    The Secret of Life*

    This is rough, and obviously abbreviated, but I think it’s just about right.

    The secret of life – the great secret of life – is that what brings us real joy tells us who we are. God wants us to live lives of joy and has therefore put the blueprint for finding joy into our very being which is made in his own image. Since every good and perfect gift – ie what brings us real, lasting joy – comes from God, the more we know God, the more we will recognized joy. And the more we recognize what brings us joy, the more we will know who God uniquely created us to be.

    But there is a forgetting that is part of being human, and we forget who we really are or how to find the blueprint for joy. So, we piece together a sense of who we are from our experiences, other people’s input, ideas we come across. Most of us struggle just to get to know this poorly reflected version of who we are. We rely on emotions whose meanings we only vaguely understand to guide our choices because the discomfort they create is so awful that any reasonable person seeks escape. We escape by seeking pleasures we know are harmful because they offer that respite from the discomfort our lives cause us.

    One of the most important roles that religion has played has been to help us avoid and recognize when what we are being offered is a false version of what we really need in order to be joyful. Continue reading

  • anniversary

    Marriage: Graduate Training for Being Human

    September 11 was the day I started my graduate training in being a human being. September 11, 1998 that is. You see, that was the day I swore before God and man to love one other human being, come what may, for the rest of my life. It was my wedding day. A day I shall never forget, no matter how hard I try. The wedding cake was ruined. A dog got run over. My uncle caught on fire. Among other highlights. At the end of the night my mother asked me, “was it what you always wanted?” It took a great deal of self-control not to respond, “yes, mother. I’ve always dreamed of not showering on my wedding day.” I suppose some people would look at a wedding like that and see it as a bad omen. I always preferred to think that our ability to come through it without freaking out or turning on each other, still smiling and still having fun proved our metal.

    It sounds awful, but really I think we may have gotten the perfect wedding day for us. We have spent so many hours laughing and laughing until our sides hurt talking about everything that went wrong that day. Frankly, I think we’ve gotten more enjoyment out of our wedding day over the years than most people get from their pricey, beautiful, perfectly executed wedding days. There is no way anyone derives as much enjoyment from looking through their wedding albums as we do in telling some horrified person the full story of all that went wrong on our big day.

    Within a pretty short time of getting married I called my mom and said, “mom – you can dad never fought. How did you do it?” Continue reading

  • grocery

    Mary the Grocery Store Lady and Me, Me, Me!

    Last night I went to the local grocery store and saw that Mary had dyed her hair. I was a bit surprised. Mary never struck me as the hair dying sort. The cigarette smoking, beer drinking with her family sort, yes. Mary works overnights at the local grocery store and she kind of intimidates me. She’s not like the nice, cheery ladies who work during the day. Mary doesn’t look at you and she doesn’t care if you found everything you were looking for. She wears prescription sunglasses inside, is thin as a rail and moves like a man. I always think she hates me but I’ve watched her with other people and either she hates them too or that’s just the way she is.

    I always try to talk to Mary. I hate how unfriendly people are around where I live, so I make a point of talking to people when I’m out. It’s my little protest. And I just think it’s right to be friendly. However, I’m actually pretty shy and easily intimidated. So when I run into someone like Mary I have to work up the nerve just to say “hi” and ask how it’s going. I don’t always make it. I feel like she’s so fiercely determined not to look at you and keep her mouth set in a straight line because she doesn’t want anyone to talk to her. But if I don’t even try to talk to her, I’m convinced that she thinks it’s because I’m a stupid, fat cow who thinks she’s to good to talk to a person like her. Which right there is a good demonstration of why it’s not healthy to try to put yourself into the head of a stranger. You’re just making crap up. Continue reading

  • perfecthostess

    Imperfectly Perfect Hospitality

    Once upon a time before my life became total crap, we used to enjoy entertaining quite a bit. In fact, over the years I have had many people comment one how welcome they always felt when they came into my home. I had the knack for hospitality, they would say. Really, I just have a gift for offering people free food and drink in exchange for hanging out with me. heehee

    Now, before you get the wrong idea, I would like to point out my well documented flaws as a housekeeper and the equally well documented excess of children continually spilling things on the carpets in my home. (The other day Olivia put a wad of toilet paper on the floor next to my desk, sat on it and pee’d. True story. There’s a reason the dog walks around licking the carpets.) I mean, I have no chance of getting my 15 minutes of fame by being featured on Hoarders or anything, but suffice it to say that there’s crap on the top of my refridgerator, my carpets are stained and lawn is a mess. I’m not perfect. Continue reading

  • Mindfulness and Procrastination

    There’s probably nothing guaranteed to make you feel worse on a day-in-day out basis than those unfinished tasks we just keep putting off.   Unsent thankyou notes, unfolded laundry, bills, making that doctor’s appointment.  Whatever.  They just hang over our heads like big neon signs screaming “irresponsible”, “lazy”, “unorganized”.  I know that a lot of people swear by lists, but that has never worked for me.  I am completely unrealistic about what I can get done in a day, I am dissatisfied with anything less than near-perfection and the list thing just puts those two tendencies on a collision course with burn-out and discouragement.  But in my relentless quest to be both healthy and happy – at the same time – I have hit on something that works for disorderly, easily discouraged, unrealistic me.

    The way things usually work is that in the back of my mind, I will know there’s something I need to get done.  Sometimes these things will pop into my head at an inopportune time.  And because it’s not done, I just have a gut level reaction to the task which is a combination of guilt and dread.  So I put it off again.  It’s waited this long, right?  Over and over.  Continue reading