Irony is a way of transcending and ultimately extending the limited resources of everyday language — irony uses words to point beyond language.

http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Lite/LiteBred.htm
https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/irony-can-include-paradox-and-paradox-can-include-irony/

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Irony entails endless reflection and violent reversals, and ensures incomprehensibility at the moment it compels speech.     Essentially, irony swallows its own stomach.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony#Irony_as_infinite.2C_absolute_negativity

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Jonah in the belly of the whale as irony swallows the multiple hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they confront Jesus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah#Jonah_in_Christianity

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Irony, reversal, and frustration of expectations are characteristic of Jesus. Does a periscope (short saying — “turn the other cheek”) present opposites or impossibilities? If it does, it’s more likely to be authentic. For example, “love your enemies.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar#Criteria_for_authenticity

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“Hi everyone! The one we worship was crucified by the Romans. Come follow us.” This opening line did not fit among Greco-Roman religions. Claiming that a divine figure was helplessly beaten, tortured, and gruesomely–shamefully executed, would have been proof positive that such a religion was a joke worthy only of late night monologs. The ridiculousness of the crucifixion of the Son of God is easily lost on modern Christians. We miss an important reversal that so typifies the gospel. Because the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation of being wise, to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) — Peter Enns

We are here for a while, we busy ourselves, we accomplish things, and then we move on — and others continue the cycle. “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.”

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What if the face you showed the world turned out to be a mask… with nothing beneath it?”       ― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes    

http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3375915-nineteen-minutes
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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/04/discovering-the-futility-of-human-existence-at-my-high-school-reunion/#ixzz3YGIJHHDx
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http://theutopianlife.com/2014/11/22/eeyore-pessimists-guide-beautiful-life/
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Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before.

Ecclesiastes 3:15

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http://biblehub.com/ecclesiastes/3-15.htm
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Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
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3:11-15 Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts,

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we are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God’s hand in them.

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Our purpose is to love others (as God first loves us).

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Ecclesiastes 3:15

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Is there anything of which one can say,
  

            “Look! This is something new”?


It was here already, long ago;

 

             it was here before our time.

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This realization often comes much later, in mid-life, when the frantic pace of our youth has become tiresome, when we finally slow down a bit and take stock.

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I’m just another in a long line. I’m not at the front or back. Just in the massive middle. So are you.

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So is everyone.

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We are here for a while, we busy ourselves, we accomplish things, and then we move on — and others continue the cycle.

I also, strangely, felt peace at this thought. I wasn’t exactly sure at the time why, but perhaps knowing that things are as they are and that I will not break this cycle  —-

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leads to a healthy resignation, a release of the fantasy that we control our universe, our lives.

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This is how I put it: my epiphany was a tender “letting go” moment.

I have found that letting go is a key component of the Christian life—of any spiritual life—but I was never taught “letting go” in my Christian education, in church, college, or seminary. The sub-current always seemed to be how “special” and privileged we were

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to be part of this endless cycle of life.

I was taught to think of myself as outside of the circle.

But we live our lives within this circle, and our lives

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 have meaning. Not a meaning handed to us, but a meaning we forge—right here, right now — by choice. Not by denying our humanity but by looking it square in the eye, shedding any notion of being above it all  — and choosing to walk or not — in spiritual salvation with our Lord Jesus.

After all, as Christians believe, God himself entered the human drama, the cycle of life, as yet another man in the long line of men before and since, born of a woman, in ancient Judea, in Galilee, who grew and learned like everyone else.

God valued the cycle enough to be a part of it.   So will I.   I so choose to walk in spiritual salvation with my Lord Jesus.

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/06/a-faith-crisis-in-the-bible-and-dont-let-some-60s-hippies-tell-you-otherwise/
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Confession of resignation in Ecclesiastes:   The best we can do is to find joy (in God) in everyday life.

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In Ecclesiastes we find we hear our voices of sadness, depression anxiety, strife, and doubt echoing back from 2,500 years ago.   Life is not so grand, but we are not alone in feeling such.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/it-ll-take-more-bubble-bath-cure-your-stress

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Four fundamental sources of stress    —

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1.   MEANINGLESSNESS

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said that the crisis of Western civilization was a crisis of meaning. As the great “symbol systems” of our past erode (e.g., the American flag, wedding rings, clear gender symbols, Judeo-Christian symbols), we are left more and more with a culture void of symbolic identity. Our understanding of relationship and intimacy is no longer grounded in depth communion expressed by shared symbols but in the facade of “connectedness” (see Facebook, etc.). Our work is less and less grounded in the symbol of vocation and more and more grounded in “occupation.” That is, something that occupies our time and makes money.

More and more patients enter therapy not to resolve unhappy childhood memories, not to change some unhealthy habit, but to try to express that vague, nagging, painful emptiness of a soul looking for meaning.

Meaninglessness is very stressful.

2.    DENIED EMOTIONS

Imagine standing waste deep in a swimming pool, holding a volleyball. Now, push the ball underwater with one hand. Hold it there, underwater. Give it a minute. As your arm tires, you will notice the ball’s desire to surface. It wants to surface. Demands to surface! Your arm will start to tremble. You have to concentrate. Perhaps a grunt will escape your lips as you bring to bear the effort to keep that ball underwater.

This is what it’s like to deny your emotions. To do anything but feel. Anger, fear, vulnerability, shame, guilt, grief, loss, despair — our culture raises you to deny suffering at all cost.

Undigested, unrecognized, denied emotions are very stressful.

3.     DISRESPECT/CONTEMPT

If a tree is planted in a poison forest, it will fail to thrive. If you rescue the tree by digging it up, repotting it in healthy soil, feed and water it, then the tree will begin to recover and grow. But, once restored to health, if you return it to the poison forest … well, there aren’t enough bubble baths in the world to make living in that forest OK.

This is what it’s like for so many patients. I help them. They begin to thrive and heal in therapy. But, if they must then return to a poison marriage … or return to poison parents … or return to a poison workplace and a poison supervisor … well, relaxation techniques will not ultimately be enough to save them.

Participating in relationships marked by chronic disrespect/contempt is very stressful.

4.     THE DOUBLE BIND

In the 1950s, Gregory Bateson struck upon the idea of the double bind: “A psychological impasse created when a person perceives that someone in a position of power is making contradictory demands, so that no response is appropriate.”

Bateson says the victim of double bind receives contradictory injunctions or emotional messages on different levels of communication (for example, love is expressed by words, and hate or detachment by nonverbal behavior; or a child is encouraged to speak freely, but criticized or silenced whenever he or she actually does so).

No meta-communication is possible — for example, asking which of the two messages is valid or describing the communication as making no sense.

The victim cannot leave the communication field.

Failing to fulfill the contradictory injunctions is punished (for example, by withdrawal of love).

The double bind is often one of the poisons in the poison forest. It is a common strategy (albeit, often unconscious) of folks treating us with chronic disrespect/contempt. It can make you feel like you are losing your mind.

Sure, take time for yourself. That’s a good thing. But, if any of these four stressful dynamics haunt your life, you will have to do something about it.

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Eeyore: A Pessimist’s Guide to a Beautiful Life

Image Credit: cultjer.com

I’m a recovering pessimist. A perennial one. I know it’s a striking confession given the nature of my site. But in a paradoxical way, pessimism’s been great fuel for personal growth. Pitiful dwellings on life’s miseries launch me into striving for the best possible world.

Perhaps the greatest of pessimists: Eeyore. The thistle eating donkey from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

There’s something poignantly oxymoronic about Eeyore—that such laughter and joy can come from a gloomy character.

In the same way being poor teaches us to appreciate wealth, having our hearts broken teaches us to love faithfully, and failures magnifying our victories—Eeyore’s melancholy in a subtle way highlights the joys in life.

Here are 7 classic lines and lessons for a beautiful life from Eeyore:

 

1. “Thanks for noticing me.”

It’s what we all want. Beyond our physical needs, the existential cry for acknowledgment underlies everything we do.

To be noticed, to be love, to be validated.

One of Eeyore’s favorite lines highlights the power in simply acknowledging someone’s presence. Appreciating the uniqueness of their character, the serendipity that allows friends to share the same space and time. Every relationship is made up of chance occurrences which deserve some marveling.

And when silence is no longer awkward in any relationship—it’s a beautiful experience of ‘noticing’ one another that should be celebrated.

 

2. “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

We’ve all blown things out of proportion before. Our problems will expand to fill the mental space we give it, and often, we give far too much.

Psychologists call it Catastrophic Thinking, defaulting to worst case scenarios—we think getting pulled over means a night in jail. Fear is a powerful mechanism, and if untamed, it knows no boundaries.

Eeyore knows the key—the word “However” causes a mental reappraisal, a mindfulness that allows for a more rational evaluation. And actually, thinking the worst case scenario, allows us to realize how unjustified and unrealistic we’re being.

 

3. “A tail isn’t a tail to them, it’s just a little bit extra at the back.”

Not everyone will understand you, and that’s ok. We celebrate freedom of speech, but often get bent out of shape when someone expresses an opposing view.

Just like you can take a horse to water but not make it drink, there’s no point going blue in the face telling someone it’s a tail if all they see is “extra at the back.”

 

4. “To the uneducated an A is just three sticks.”

Ignorance is bliss—for those who are ignorant about bliss. Eeyore must have read some Socrates, who said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Knowledge has the power to expand our human experience. To learn any language is to open up to literally a whole new world. To learn any skill increases your self-confidence, and ability to add value to someone else’s life.

Give yourself the gift of seeing more than just sticks; challenge yourself to learn one new thing each day.

 

5. “They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.”

To live life in bubble-wrap may prevent us from ever getting hurt, but it’ll certainly prevent us from ever experiencing a meaningful life.

So while we can do our best to be wise and cautious, ultimately our best is the best we can do. Accidents are indiscriminate—to try and live in prediction of them is paralyzing.

6. “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference. Or so the say.”

Our survival mechanism means we possess an inherent selfishness. Babies will learn “mine!” as quickly as “mumma” or “daddy.”

As inherent are acts of selfishness, so too is the desire for selflessness—we’ve said it a thousand times: “It’s better to give than receive.” But kindness takes a little more effort than we’d like to admit; taking action to bridge the gap between desire and act can be an internal battle. But the possibility of making someone’s day, and even their life through what we can give should be good motivation. Even if the difference goes unnoticed.

 

7. “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.

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That’s all there is to it.”

“Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.

“Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

It’s like being an introvert in a culture that preaches extroversion. Thankfully there’s more balance nowadays with introversion seen less as an issue to fix and more of a celebration.

But with any majority view or ‘cultural norm,’ there’s a always the temptation to feel as though there’s something wrong with you if you don’t fit into the neat cookie-cutter.

Simple, yet profound words from Eeyore: “We can’t all, and some of us don’t.” There’s beauty in being different. Cookie-cutters are meant for cookies, not life.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/fatherhood-its-own-reward
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It is the devil’s lie to say that vulnerability is weakness. Rather, an open heart is the most powerful force in the universe. This is courage. (Look it up. The word courage, in its literal Latin origins means “open hearted.”)

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To be open-hearted is a tall order. But I am inspired to try. Not to mention to redeem. I feel as if I had won the cosmic lottery. Now I have the chance to try to be the person I feel I was meant to be.

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This is the paradox, you see. The practice of selfless love is no mere benefit to those you love. The selfless love of the compassionate person benefits the person too. It rescues and redeems his or her own soul.

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Dig out your root of bitterness    (tribute to Christian mystic Pastor Wilfredo Agngaray)    –

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http://www.greatbiblestudy.com/bitterness.php

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Bitterness is a root!

Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

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Bitterness is hidden under the soil or surface. The same is true with bitterness in a person’s soul. It is a hidden element that lies under the surface, and out of it sprouts up anger and other negative emotions against others and against the circumstances around us. People who have a root of bitterness find it easy to get upset over things that others are doing around them. It’s like a volcano that lies beneath the surface, waiting to explode onto the surface.

Bitterness is a root, thereby making it harder to identify and expose than many surface issues, but none the less it’s a deadly poison that needs to be released.

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“Why do you drink a poison brewed from the root of bitterness — in order to foment a curse on your adversary??”  rhetorically asks erudite sage Wilfredo Agngaray.

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My life has been a Griffin Dunne character in After Hours    

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Paul Hackett (Dunne) experiences a series of misadventures as he tries to make his way home  (mishaps produce laughter via cynicism, skepticism, & the irony of incurring wrath thru one’s desire of pleasure).

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This film is on the list of “Great Movies,” and it combines comedy, satire, and irony (irreducible truth) with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia/destruction.

Hopscotch to oblivion’, Barcelona, Spain

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtPI9jIx1kU

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Hours_(film)

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What others meant for evil, God meant for good   — the epiphany of Josephine A. Roche  — she loved to no end her dad — but also empathized with the forsaken of society  —

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In 1925, Roche returned to Colorado due to her father’s failing health, and in 1927 inherited his holdings in the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, a coal mining company which he had founded.   By 1929, she had purchased a majority interest in the company and become president. She then proceeded to enact a variety of pro-labor policies, including an invitation for the United Mine Workers of America to return to Colorado and unionize her mines, 15 years after her father and other coal mine owners had broken the unions in the aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre of 1914.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Roche

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludlow_Massacre

 

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The value of the Old Testament includes not just the pattern/representation of Jesus  — but also the expectation of long suffering  (perseverance of the saints)     –

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/12/well-at-least-the-old-testament-has-one-thing-going-for-it/

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Their experiences are very much like ours today: life is hard, and life of faith does not automatically make it easier. It may actually make it harder at times.

Spiritual struggles are normal for Christians. They are not to be sought after, but they are normal. They are not to be romanticized, but they are normal. They are not to be shown off and bragged over, but they are normal.

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http://www.differentspirit.org/blog/gethsemane-and-what-follows/
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The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus allowed the Holy Spirit to be poured out on those who believe in Him. There is joy in our salvation, and joy in the promise of what is to come in eternity.

Trials and tribulations, pressure and suffering, are part of the human condition. Christians do not escape.

However, Christians have the joy of knowing that God is with us through times of pressure and suffering, and that He allows it because the final outcome will be good ( James 1:2-3, and Rom 8:28 ).

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Sadly, I see a bird in shock at seeing the bird’s mate run over by a car on the road.   Such a tragic sight has been replayed over and over since the automobile was invented over a century ago.

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Such a tragic sight is reminiscent of the insanity of war, with scenes of carnage replayed over and over since the beginning of humanity.

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In our Hawai’i legislative senate today, the takeover of the “chess club” (reformers)(its puffed up leader Donna Mercado Kim got deflated via exclusion) ) by the “opihis” (“corrupt” status quo) is reminiscent of the tragedy surrounding the assassination of President Garfield nearly a century and a half ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Breed_(politics)

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/marriage-exposes-us-good-and-bad

Everybody knows that, when it comes to icebergs, there is more beneath the surface of the water than above. About 90 percent more.    The same is true with people.

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Such are the psychic content “beneath the surface.”

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges#Majority_opinion

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Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (June 26, 2015) is  a   landmark United States Supreme Court      case in which the Court held that state recognition of same-sex marriage is a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

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In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled its  17 yr. old    1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, which upheld a Georgia law that criminalized certain homosexual acts, on the basis that such antiquated laws making same-sex intimacy a crime “demean homosexual persons.”     Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 575.

 

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Bowers was decided at a time when the court’s privacy jurisprudence, and in particular the right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), had come under heavy criticism. Bowers signaled a reluctance by the Court to recognize a general constitutional right to privacy or to extend such a right further than it already had.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowers_v._Hardwick#Effects

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The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture   (husband owns his wife)   have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.

This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experience with gay and lesbian rights. Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness. Later in the century, cultural and political developments allowed same-sex couples to lead more open and public lives. Extensive public and private dialogue followed, along with shifts in public attitudes.

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/06/did-jesus-even-live-a-brief-thought-about-scholarship-skepticism-and-apologetics/

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Time and again the study of Jesus has been swamped by waves of radical scepticism–to the point of denial of this historicity of Jesus. Three names may be mentioned as examples.

Bruno Bauer (1809-1882), who once lectured in theology at Bonn, regarded the earliest Gospel as a literary work of art: history is produced in it, not described. Albert Kalthoff (1850-1906) understood Jesus as a product of the religious needs of a social movement which had come into contact with the Jewish messianic expectation. Arthur Drews, who was professor of philosophy in Karlsruhe, declared Jesus to be the concretization of a myth which already existed before Christianity.

Here we find three motives for skepticism which are also operative where there is no dispute over the historicity of Jesus: Jesus is understood as a product of literary imagination, social needs or mythical traditions.

Here historical skepticism appears within or outside theology, often with a great ethical solemnity, and foists on its critics the ungrateful role of apologists driven by their wishes.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/ambivalence-challenges-most-close-relationships

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An accepted bit of “wisdom” in our culture is that, in marriage, being “in love” and hot sex must, of necessity, “wear off.” The elders ask us to accept that.  But this bit of wisdom isn’t so wise.

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 In fact, it’s a sad excuse for lack of commitment to a most intimate spiritual togetherness.

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It is ambivalence that erodes love and sex. Nothing more. Nothing less. The human ego finds the experience of great vulnerability — great love — both compelling (approach-love)) and intolerable (avoid-hate). So we seek it, find it and then promptly begin to erode it, starve it (slow deprivation) and stonewall it (slow poison) so as to protect ourselves. This almost always is an unconscious process.   (slow deprivation/slow poison below)

In fact, that’s the rub: Ambivalence begins unconsciously. And we can’t manage it well unless we are willing to make it conscious. When ambivalence is made conscious, then we have choices for bearing it creatively, usefully, sometimes even playfully.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/acknowledging-ambivalence-best-way-cope

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Perpetrators of domestic violence are provoked to violence in two primary ways.

One is obvious: the perpetrator’s felt loss of control over the mate. But lesser known is the alternate route to the perpetrator’s rage: the mate got too close, emotionally speaking. The perpetrator experienced an intimacy and therefore a vulnerability.

Other people, while not committing/experiencing acts of physical violence in marriage, can and do exhibit another type of disturbing — not normal — ambivalence.

I’m referring to couples with frequent cycles of reactive hostility pingponging back to cosmic sex and breathless romance. “Frequent” here can mean two to five such highs and lows in a given week. The participants are beaten to an emotional pulp.

For some folks, these slingshot highs and lows are near addictive.

The cycles create powerful bonds. Just not healthy bonds. Certainly not happy bonds.

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http://www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/steven-kalas/bonds-untie-moment-barely-noticeable-moment

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The two most common enemies of marriage are the least obvious. And that’s a disturbing proposition, because we often don’t recognize the enemy as an enemy until it is too late.

It’s like termites. You don’t know you have termites until you come home to find your roof on the living room floor.

The most common enemies of marriage are treacherously subtle. Domestic violence, infidelity, addiction, vicious arguments — these enemies of marriage are obvious. But they are not the most common enemies. Just the most obvious.

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The two most common enemies of marriage are Slow Deprivation and Slow Poison.

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Slow Deprivation is what happens when your mate becomes slowly but surely inattentive to nurturing the bond. The connection. Your mate “falls asleep at the wheel,” so to speak. A little less present each day. Each week. Each month. But doesn’t know it. Doesn’t see it. And never had a conscious intention to do so.

It happens in subtle, mostly unnoticeable increments. It’s like feeding and watering your roses a little less … and less and less … and then being surprised to find that your roses are dying.

And the roses are duped, too. They don’t notice, either. Until their life is passed the point of no return.

Slow Deprivation is practiced by good people who are deeply in love and believe deeply in marriage.

How many times can you put your mate second in line, or fourth or ninth, even for all the “right” reasons (children, career, aging parents), before your mate decides he/she no longer particularly needs, wants or cares to be first in line?

How many times can you explain leaving the customaries of romance unattended by saying, “I’m just not very romantic,” as opposed to saying, “I should bloody well learn to be romantic”?

How many times can you decline great sex by saying, “I’m tired,” as opposed to saying, “I must be a better steward of my energy so that I can show up for great sex”?

How many times can you decline your mate’s eager invitations to join him/her in socializing, hobbies, recreations and interests before the invitations simply dry up? Stop.

It’s like eating one calorie less each day and then being sincerely shocked and surprised to find you’re starving to death.

If you are bent on teaching your mate not to need, want or desire you, then Slow Deprivation is the master teacher.

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Slow Poison is what happens when your mate slowly but surely acquires the habit of pushing negative energy into the marriage. Persistent complaining. Speaking in tones that are short, curt and sharp. Impatience. Mobilizing more warmth and eye contact to greet the dog than to greet you. Moving unconsciously across the line from playful teasing to sarcasm and belittling. Entitling oneself to chronic moodiness. Deciding that good manners no longer matter except in public. Forgetting to be grateful, appreciative, complimentary and encouraging.

These are slow-acting poisons. And they are deadly to marriage. Often these poisons are undiagnosed until the autopsy of divorce makes them plain.

I know this couple who devised a plan to help them stay alert to the enemies Slow Deprivation and Slow Poison. It’s absurdly simple: The Weekly Check In. Once each weekend (Saturday or Sunday depending on their schedule), they fix a time to talk.

Sometimes just sitting together. Depending on the weather, they might go for a Talk Walk. And they “check in.”

How are you? How are you feeling about our connection? Is there anything left over from (this or that conflict) we need to process or talk about? Are you getting what you need from me? Am I injecting poisons unawares? How goes your heart? Are you feeling loved?

Sometimes the conversations last four to eight minutes. Occasionally the conversations demand 90 minutes or so of tiring rigor and the tolerance of discomfort.

Theirs is a terrific idea and a faithful practice. It’s like having the termite inspector visit weekly. It’s like having garlic and holy water hanging by the front door in readiness for the occasional vampire. It’s like a weekly reconnaissance through the rose garden to see if your roses are happy and thriving. To check for aphids.

Marriage requires us to live consciously. Intentionally. Out loud in words. We must stay awake.

The bond of love is a living, organic creature. Which means it is also mortal. It can die.

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Mixed emotion

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My modern Jesus  —  towering intellectual & spiritual figure —   philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr   —

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/07/reinhold-niebuhr-religion_n_7019384.html?utm_hp_ref=religion
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The Library of America has published Reinhold Niebuhr: Major Works on Religion and Politics, which gathers four of his books, along with writings on contemporary events from the 1920s to the 1960s, a selection of prayers, and sermons and lectures on faith and belief. The volume is edited by Niebuhr’s daughter Elisabeth Sifton, an editor and book publisher for forty years and the author of The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War.

The Library of America recently interviewed Sifton on why Niebuhr’s writings continue to fascinate and challenge today’s readers. This interview is published with permission.

What’s the aim of this collection, what sorts of pleasures, discoveries, and insights do you hope readers will find?

Reinhold Niebuhr was a writer and thinker who engaged fully in his times—from 1914 and World War I, through the heady 1920s, into the Great Depression, then World War II, the “nuclear age” and the Cold War. This book shows how he wrestled with the spiritual and political issues of those times: many of them are with us still, and some are with us always. In America—where he was born and raised, his very German name notwithstanding—he worked for better working conditions for people caught up in the rush of industrialization, he called for social justice in all our communities, and he strove for better relations between races. In international affairs, he ceaselessly advocated policies that would lessen the risk of war, and he argued that a rich and newly powerful nation like the US should learn better how to conduct itself vis-à-vis other nations. I hope readers will find wisdom here that deepens their understanding of our world today.

Why Reinhold Niebuhr in The Library of America? How would you characterize his contribution/legacy? His influence?

Niebuhr has been described as the most important American theologian of the twentieth century and as an especially influential American progressive. He knew how hard it was to alter entrenched power structures, but he combined his tough-minded political realism with a sympathetic understanding of society’s injustices and cruelties. Both his secular work and his theology became famous thanks to his memorable gifts as a public speaker, his huge productivity as a writer and teacher, and his frequent participation in national political discussions. In all these activities he never stopped being a pastor, which is how he started (he thought of himself more as a pastor than a theologian).

How would you characterize Niebuhr’s contribution as a public intellectual during the years covered by this volume?

He tried to wake people up to the inequities and failures in American society. He thought it deplorable that Americans were by and large so self-confidently certain of their basic goodness—meanwhile ignoring not only their own inadequacies (sins?) but also the threats and dangers to American democracy and to the world—whether human (in the form of fascist dictators) or material (nuclear weapons). His sermons and speeches were famous for the clarity and urgent force he gave to his exploration of these themes. One key opinion that infused both his theological and secular work was that possessing superior power or force does not make a person or a state wiser or braver, but it does heighten the danger of sinful hubris.

As a religious thinker?

I’m not qualified to answer this, but perhaps we can say that he sharpened and deepened the discourse about Christian ethics, Christian interpretations of the Gospels and Epistles, Christian understanding of secular society. He was a radical critic of much of American religious life, well known for the vigor with which he made his unclouded assessments. Again, he feared and decried the hubris of so many secular and religious leaders.

Did his thinking and writing fundamentally evolve over the years charted by the works in this collection?

Yes, it did. When he wrote Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) he considered himself a social-democratic Marxist, but the traumas and dangers of the Depression led him to rethink his Marxist presuppositions and reformulate his ideas on the dynamics of social change and betterment. And, as he writes in “An End to Illusions,” included in the volume, he resigned from the Socialist Party in 1940 because he couldn’t go along with its isolationist refusal to take action against the fascists threatening Europe. Thereafter one sees a deepening and refinement of his positions. He insisted always on the important distinction to be made between Communism and socialism.

The fame and influence of The Irony of American History (1952) have made Niebuhr’s contribution to an understanding of American foreign policy well known, but can his thought also be brought to bear on domestic political considerations—such as inequality in America?

Yes, certainly. Indeed, Niebuhr believed that domestic and foreign policies were, and should be, related to each other; only despots or would-be despots separated them. As this book shows, America’s social-political-economic life, and the disparities separating rich and poor, were major concerns for Niebuhr from the very start of his ministry until his death a half-century later.

How might Niebuhr have responded to the widening gap between rich and poor that we see today?

I can’t “channel” my father, but it’s clear in everything he wrote and did that he considered social and economic inequities as unethical, immoral, even sinful. And he denounced the self-delusions and proud deceits that people invoke to preserve them. One prayer, included in this volume, reads in part: “We confess the indifference and callousness with which we treat the sufferings and the insecurity of the poor, and the pettiness which mars the relations between us. May we with contrite hearts seek once more to purify our spirits, and to clarify our reason so that a fairer temple for the human spirit may be built in human society.”

How might Niebuhr have responded to the new sorts of religious extremism we see with al Qaeda and now ISIS?

He frequently inveighed against religious fanaticism and against theocrats, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or secular (as in the Soviet Union under Stalin). Al Qaeda and ISIS are new for us, but the history of violence-prone religious extremism is, tragically, as old as that of civilization itself. He could not have supported a foreign policy that requires America to battle jihadism around the globe while ignoring the social and spiritual strife that gives rise to it in the first place.

The LOA collection opens with Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (1929), a very personal and accessible book. How would you characterize its importance?

Niebuhr in his old age would shake his head over the popularity of his first book. But it’s never gone out of print for good reason: these pages from the diary he kept at Bethel Church in Detroit in the 1920s are disarmingly honest about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual dilemmas faced by inexperienced young pastors, and ever since it first appeared almost ninety years ago, inexperienced young pastors, priests, and teachers have found its counsels wise and its candor refreshing.

What does it tell us about Niebuhr’s only pastorate, and about his experiences in an ascendant Detroit?

Well, Detroit wasn’t quite his only pastorate: when his pastor father died in 1913, he left divinity school and returned to Lincoln, Illinois, to fill in there for a time. But to answer the question, the book shows you his first encounters with brutal capitalism at full throttle, which is what Detroit was experiencing in the 1920s in the new automobile factories. He witnessed at first hand the spiritual crises that people face when unstable social and economic conditions encourage divisive politics. And it deeply affected him.

How did you decide which of the uncollected pieces to include?

Few of the previous (and partial) collections of his writings included his copious journalism about national and international events as they occurred. We had hundreds of short articles to choose from, articles that were probably read by as many people as read his books or heard his sermons. I wanted to show them in chronological order, so that one could observe the speed and precision with which he addressed himself to crises in the headlines.

What’s the most interesting discovery you made in the course of putting the volume together?

When I put the journalism together with the sermons and lectures, I began to see how he often approached a given theme or issue: first, maybe writing an essay about it or preaching on a Biblical text he thought relevant to it, then exploring it further in a lecture, writing about it some more, perhaps, and praying about it. This kind of recycling pattern allowed him to finish an incredible number of assignments in any given week, but also gave him a way to re-examine and deepen his initial ideas.

What’s the most important thing you learned as a writer and thinker from your father’s example?

To be unafraid of prevailing, stifling orthodoxies.

Did he offer you practical advice?

Not really, but the Serenity Prayer is the best possible form of daily instruction.

President Obama has expressed his great admiration for Niebuhr as a thinker. Would Niebuhr have returned the compliment?

I am sure he’d have been happy to see such an intelligent, principled, brave black man in the White House—and a Democrat from Illinois, the state where he grew up, no less!

Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?

My father preached more than once on the mysterious Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, so one version of such a sermon is included; it’s a great example of his theological and moral subtlety about human life. And my favorite paragraph in his writing comes from chapter 3 of The Irony of American History:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

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http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeelio402277.html

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It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.

George Eliot

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Loneliness is a public health crisis

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html?utm_hp_ref=science
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Our time has been called the “age of loneliness.” It’s estimated that one in five Americans suffers from persistent loneliness, and while we’re more connected than ever before, social media may actually be exacerbating the problem.

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There are ways to break the cycle of isolation.

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Here are ways to combat chronic feelings of loneliness and isolation:

Here are three main types of treatment for loneliness: group therapy, individual treatments (working with a therapist to improve befriending skills or to minimize negative beliefs that might contribute to loneliness) and community interventions (events focused on reaching out to lonely people).

Examining a body of existing literature on the subject, the researchers concluded that the most promising line of treatment for loneliness is individual therapy that addresses the thought patterns and beliefs — such as low self-esteem or shame — that prevent a person from connecting with others. With further research, they say, this treatment could be combined with pharmaceutical treatments, such as short-term courses of oxytocin, a hormone known to promote pro-social behavior.

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The study noted that the U.K. government has developed several initiatives to improve quality of life for those suffering from chronic loneliness and to raise awareness about the issue. The authors also point to efforts to help people t find more connections in their daily interactions.

Over a given period, people who have strong ties to family, friends, or coworkers have a 50 percent greater chance of outliving those with fewer social connections.    If our relationships can have such an effect on our overall health, why don’t we prioritize spending time with the people around us as much as we do exercising and eating right?

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13 Responses to Irony is a way of transcending and ultimately extending the limited resources of everyday language — irony uses words to point beyond language.

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  2. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  3. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  4. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  5. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  6. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

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  8. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  9. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  10. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  11. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

  12. Pingback: Love — what it requires, how to value it, how it calls us to pay attention — to celebrate and be grateful. Because we simply never know. Human beings have no rights or claims on the ever-so brief moments they are given to be together. | Curtis

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