Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Look

It's about time, eh? I've actually had a much prettier plan in mind for months, but haven't had the time/technology/motivation to make it happen.

The quote is pulled directly from Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (213). I'm hardly a hardcore McLarenite, but I do find that his books challenging and provocative. This one is particularly political, not written for a specifically religious audience; in it, he examines the global effects of late capitalism and considers how these relate to a contextualized Christian faith. His sociological research is pretty sound, though some of the biblical exegesis leaves me unconvinced. I am convinced, though, that many of the norms Christians take for granted--not so-called moral issues like sex on TV, but things like our complicity in global structures that exploit others for our own comfort--are profoundly antithetical to the Good News, and that when we become aware of them, we are rendered responsible. And when I say responsible, I mean it in the sense Emmanuel Levinas, one of my favorite philosophers, explains it: we carry the burden of the other's wellbeing on our shoulders and we have no choice but to respond, since even ignoring or doing nothing is a form of response (and one that certainly sends a message).

To be grateful for the good things in our lives, though, for our families and food and so forth, can be a profoundly subversive stance. Gratitude, in our day and age, means refusing the constant call to want more and more, the nagging dissatisfaction that is inculcated in us through a barrage of advertisements, media images, and social values that have little to do with what is truly Good. Gratitude--taking the time to contemplate and appreciate blessings and experiences--can change our entire outlooks on everything. I've been listening to Josh prepare a sermon on this very topic and can't get the words out of my head:

Rejoice always
Pray constantly
Give thanks in all things
(I Thess 5.16-18)

Of course, this is the season when we purport to pause and give thanks. This year, I'm challenging myself (and you) to actually do it.


  1. Although artistically I liked your new banner, I found the marquee to be somewhat militant and confusing. It is a non sequitur to defiantly contemplate. Defiant has its source in anger. Contemplation is achieved via a calm and serene state of mind.

    The only way I can make sense of the concept of defiant contemplation is to venture that it suggests that when one is upset, one should contemplate the wonder, and through this meditation achieve a state of thankfulness/gratitude.

    I was also thrown by your statement – “Of course, this is the season when we purport to pause and give thanks. This year, I'm challenging myself (and you) to actually do it.” I certainly don’t wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other special day to be thankful. I am thankful several hundred times a day, each and every day, for the wonder of it all.

    Perhaps the source for your defiance is something I can no longer relate to, the ennui and angst of youth.

  2. Mr. D, I don't think defiance and gratitude are antithetical--"defiant" is an adjective variant of the verb "defy," right? And to defy, while it can involve anger, is more precisely to challenge, or refuse to acknowledge the power of, or reject/renounce allegiance (I'm summarizing the Oxford English Dictionary here...went straight to the source).

    So gratitude as an act of defiant contemplation (particularly within the context from which I've ruthlessly ripped it) can be a choice of contemplating our blessings and practicing contentment and thankfulness and even slowness in part as a challenge to what McLaren calls the "suicide machine" systems of our day, which immerse us in harried business, overuse of our planet's resources, exploitation of invisible (to us) labor, and a constant (media-driven) desire for more.

    I don't think it's generational. I think we're all stuck in this system (unless you grow all your own food, make all your own clothes from thrifted fabric, disavow all media, and live in a Thoreau-like cabin...and even then you're still in it). Gratitude as an act of defiant contemplation is, I think, a spiritual practice that can help us refuse the system in small ways that end up leading to larger ones.

  3. Regardless of how you define defiant, it still connotes forced. When I am truly thankful it is through no conscious effort on my part.

    My true objection to your marquee is that of all the possible titles you chose to choose what you did.

    Why not Little Flower? This suggests that with all the big trees and the wind and the cold and the squirrels and rabbits that sometimes come by and nibble, nibble, nibble, you as The Little Flower have still chosen to be thankful and bloom. Not because you are overwhelmed by the harshness of your environment but rather that it is your way and when you are as such you are happy.

    As an aside or obiter dictum you may be interested in reading Marx. He talks endless of the alienation of the individual. I took a peek at him lately because I was doing some work that suggests that maybe he was right and capitalism does contain the seeds of its own destruction in that as entities become bigger and bigger, too big, via economies of scale, and more and more workers become unemployed, that there is not enough income to buy what is being produced.

    You write best when you write about cooking. I still have not but shall try your recipe for potato soup. I was a bit unnerved though that I did not see the word butter anywhere?

    Be true, be useful, be cavalier…