Ideally, small business is the backbone of the economy because it can run on smaller margins, and provides goods and services that better fit the needs of the American Consumer. Instead of a ruling class and a serf class, we have a thriving middle class of people with the skill and opportunity to have living wage jobs, provide for their families and live in safe, comfortable neighborhoods protected by police and firemen. Above all Freedom. I love a free market where a good or service is offered at the lowest price it can be. And individuals are enabled to rise as far as their merit will take them instead of locked into cast or tradition.
But somehow, the methods we employ to attain the American Dream took a bad bounce. I’m not talking about the government picking winners and losers based on race or political connection. Or the way Big Business loves Government and Government loves them back. Its true there is corruption of the dream at the highest level.
I’m talking about what the dream was supposed to look like for you and the path you were told would get you there. You probably grew up hearing this, “do good in public school, go to college and wrack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, work the same job for 30 years and then trust them to give you a pension that will sustain you until you pass away.”
That was a load of crap. Public schools (and most private schools) don’t teach you what you need to know to succeed. With very few exceptions, college doesn’t give you a degree that will open doors for you to earn back what they charge. You’ll have to change careers, not just jobs actual career paths, four or five times before you are too old to work anymore. The pensions are all broke, they were pilfered years ago. If you’re lucky they invested in a 401K and you have a little something to supplement your social security–if they still have that when you get there.
Your Dream & How to Find it
I can help you find out what you really want your American Dream to look like in a long weekend. I can tell you what it’ll actually take to get you there in less than a minute, no matter what it looks like for you, if you have the guts to hear it.
Show up with excellence. (They used to call this the protestant work ethic. It made America great. You see it a lot in immigrants who know the real value of opportunity. )
Earn more than you spend. (Stated conversely, live within your means.)
Invest the difference to build passive income. (the margin between what you earn & spend is how you’ll come to a place where your investment income meets your monthly expenses. There are 3 basic paths to get there.)
Use the new time freedom and your good reputation to impact others and change the culture for the better.
The secret is figuring out how you create value. You must figure out what you are built to do and for whom. What is your purpose? What’s your personal core competency, your competitive advantage? I call it your Unique Value Add. (Purpose = Unique Value Add + Your Why.)
There is a unique and authentic flow of Kingdom through you into the world. What’s blocking the flow of good through you? You should be shaping that flow of good based on your Unique Value Add, but instead something inside you constrains the flow to a trickle.
The flow goes from inside out. If you don’t have on the outside, in your environment, what you think you should, or, if you don’t like your circumstances, chances are something is blocking you upstream–which is inside.
That’s why ½ of all lottery winners are broke a few years later. Money runs the broken person like water through a siv. You need a process of becoming someone who is able to hold greatness in order to become someone who achieves greatness. Even if your greatness is just someone who retires healthy, happily married, and financially free.
So here’s the tools you must have in your toolbox:
You must know…
…who you are (includes things like purpose, why you exist and what you contribute to the world.)
…where you are. (The real context, or story human beings are born into.)
…a little about how you got here. (It holds keys to unlock everything else.)
…where you really want to go. (Includes vision etc.)
…at least an idea of what you can do to get there. (it can evolve over time.)
I’ve had so many seasons in my life that were challenging that I’ve become a connoisseur of challenges. There are seasons where I have one extremely difficult obstacle that takes all I can throw at it–like trying to graduate college when one of my core professors absolutely hated me.
There are seasons when I have too much small stuff on my plate and even the smallest thing seems impossible because I’m already overloaded.
I’ve had seasons that were a combination of both, like when I got married. My wife and I were in love, but we’d had tragic past relationships and we both struggled to adjust to the vulnerability of our situation. Then we got pregnant right away and my wife was sick 23 hours a day. Our daughter was born eight weeks early and spent her first month in the NICU. I moved in with my wife when we got married and a month after my daughter got out of the NICU we moved back to Vancouver. It was nuts!
So I know about life in crazy turmoil.
Like the time I fell in the ocean in Alaska and got hospitalized for pneumonia, or the job where I got threatened by gang bangers daily. But those are stories for another post.
Another kind of challenging season, and one I personally hate the most, is when I throw everything I’ve got at making a change and it doesn’t work. It’s called aspirational pain, and even though I’m not a “Type A” personality I do have expectations about what my life should look like.
Then God Blew my Mind
During a season in my life where I felt particularly down, I heard the Lord say, “You’re not qualified to judge yourself.” It rocked me to the core, as so often happens when God speaks so clearly.
This was a confounding statement. It ran completely opposite to the way I viewed life and how it works. It led me on another segment of my quest for wisdom that took several years to unpack.
First off, if I couldn’t judge me then who could? I mean of course God is my judge but does that mean I’m not sitting in judgment of myself also?
Secondly, I spent a ton of time working to improve myself and how was I to improve myself if I didn’t know how well I was or wasn’t doing?
It’s True Though
I don’t know the struggles other people face. I don’t know what they went through to get what they have, so I can’t compare my journey to theirs.
I don’t actually know myself either. I don’t see the real me so I don’t know how far short I fall of my own potential.
I don’t really know what sort of journeys God is taking me on to become who I really am, so I don’t know how far I’ve gotten on that path.
I do know that my own idea of what I want evolves from year to year. I also know that God can make anything part of the plan to initiate and grow me (He is able to make all things work for good…).
So the truth is, if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, or which of the many ways to get there you are on, how can you know if you are on track or on pace?
There was something very liberating in this thinking.
There was also something very depressing.
How am I to make plans with the Lord? I mean I’m promised that if I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. How do I explore the desires of my heart? Is there no such thing as goal setting in God’s Kingdom? It’s very confusing.
After a lot of moping, I’d end up setting goals again. It would work for a time, and then it became a list of things to fail at. I’d be depressed all over again. Wasn’t God the least bit interested in changing my life?
I have a purpose and God’s very invested in it. He does reveal to me what his plans are. In fact Jesus said, “I’ve withheld nothing from you.”
The Christian pat answer is–don’t try to do it in your own strength. “Let go and let God.” Etc. It’s not wrong, but I needed a little more specific applicable knowledge to make that thinking work for me.
In the world, outcomes are everything. Some people are obsessed with outcomes. We’re trying to observe the cause and effect relationship with our own actions and then hack it so we get where we’re trying to go. (In instinctive archery we call this Kentucky windage.)
That’s not entirely wrong either. If you don’t poke your head up once in a while you will find the currents of your life will drift you into the same situations repeatedly. For many of us those default circumstances are unhealthy. Eating too much, sleeping too little, drinking too much, tragic love affairs, and so on.
We do need to take time in some seasons to autopsy our thinking and actions, to reverse engineer what’s bringing us to our outcomes.
On the other hand, if we only take actions that we believe will lead to the desired outcomes we live in denial of our own lack of perspective.
Walking by Faith Means…
…doing things that don’t make sense. It’s good to apply human wisdom to problems if God isn’t weighing in with better wisdom. What generally happens is that God indicates a direction that doesn’t look like it would work.
Poor Gideon had to give up most of his army, his swords and his shields. The children of Israel marched around a walled city and shouted at it. You think you got problems?!?
In order to ignore God’s leading we stop listening to Him entirely. We forgo intimacy for the sake of doing what makes sense to us.That’s the opposite of the 23rd Psalm. David said, I take comfort for thou art with me. Not, I’m sure glad God only asks me to do things I agree with.
Why don’t we already have our destiny?
Hey, no blame, no shame. I constantly feel like I’m behind schedule on my life’s purpose. Abraham was supposed to be the father of many nations. He wanted it, God wanted it for him. He didn’t get a son till he was 100 years old.
The fastest way to bring favor into your life is swift obedience to the things that require faith.
Let me put it a little differently. My purpose in life is to help people unlock their Authentic Life Adventure. Basically find and live their purpose. There are a number of ways people can help you “find your why” that will work just fine. The thinking is, since knowing your purpose is very motivating, once you know what it is you’ll engage with it.
I’ve discovered the opposite is quite true. Once we get some roadblocks out of the way, having a clear purpose does propel us to a life of meaning and fulfillment–yes! But just knowing what you were born to do is often not enough. The same “stuff” that makes it hard to see your purpose will cloud your ability to take baby steps toward your destiny.
There is a process to discovering who you are…
…and it starts with unlearning who you are not. We can’t find and own our true identity until we fix our relationship with the one in whose image we are made. It’s a process of intentionally receiving from God, engaging with what he gives you until it transforms you, and handing it off to those around you.
Like most good nonfiction books Atomic Habits (2018) blends scientific proofs with real life examples.
This week we’re reviewing Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Provide a proven framework for changing and creating habits.
People who want achieve more by harnessing the power of incremental change.
What makes the Book Unique/Good?
There are a lot of books that cover habits and several that cover the same proven techniques. In a way their isn’t a ton of new items in this book, if you’ve read some of the other books I’ll be recommending in this feature of my blog. However, you can’t take a friend to coffee without someone recommending this book, and there is a reason it has gotten so popular.
Clear has a simple and direct writing style that appeals to busy professionals looking to improve life without taking a weeklong spiritual retreat. This is also the first book I’ve come across that puts all the training about habits in one place and devotes the entire book to it. Everyone else is trying to make another point and the latest training habit improvement is just one of the tools in their system. Clear leaves it up to you what habits you want to make or shed. It’s worth reading.
Habits are automated behaviors we picked up experientially.
Small habits have a big impact on your life for good or bad. To leverage this, the author recommends creating habits that are so small you almost can’t do them. A famous example of this would be flossing one tooth. Clearly once you do one tooth you’ll probably finish the job, but by declaring it a victory to do just one tooth you feel a little silly if you fail to do that.
The cornerstone of making habits are hard to miss cues and a plan of action.
People are motivated by anticipating reward so motivate yourself to adopt the new habit by making the habit attractive.
An attractive habit is immediately rewarding, not delayed gratification.
Tracking habits increases your success. So does a contract with yourself that you make know to others.
The author recommends what he calls habit stacking. This concept is about associating a new habit with a well established habit. For example I once added five push-ups after each time I brushed my teeth. It worked well and I was able to do an extra 10 to 15 pushups a day.
I’d recommend this book. In my own Adventure Consulting Business creating habits is a one of two components of life change. If we want to have the life we desire then we’re going to have to build skills like effective life change.
The two ways human beings establish lasting change are:
Taking Journeys of self discovery, healing, or growth.
Incremental change by designing a lifestyle that moves you slowly toward your goals.
We need both. One method will work for some kinds of change and the other works for the other kinds of change. Some people suck at either method, but most people are good at one or the other. Very few of us have an effective framework for doing both.
Or you could buy and absorb this and all the other books and trainings I’ll be recommending in this blog–a method that could easily run you $25,000. Leveraging my breakthrough will save you time and money. Working with me will target what’s holding you back at this time and create a plan for overcoming that, as well as a set of next steps to move you toward a life of passion and profit with a purpose.
The marketing guy inside me makes me go for an attention grabbing title. In truth this is a pretty controversial post. My hope is that people who are attracted to my blog will be cheering by the end as opposed to embarrassed.
The Subtitle of this post is, “We are all Influencers.”
I firmly believe that being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) means we are given Body, Soul, and Spirit. We know something separates us from animals and it’s been said they don’t have a soul or that they have instinct instead of morality. I see animals have emotions and I see them do selfless things and express empathy often. Animals don’t have authority in God’s name.
God put man over them and gave Adam and Eve authority and responsibility on Earth. Only humans can travel to heaven, see what God is doing and partner with God to do that on Earth. We are built to be a conduit of something into the Earth.
Jesus prayed that the Father’s will would be done on Earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-13). Why would he pray that as an example to his disciples if they didn’t have authority to do likewise? Adopted Co-Heirs in Christ have their authority restored to partner with God and be a conduit of his Kingdom to Earth. I believe we are all conduits of the supernatural either the darkness or the light. We are actually never neutral.
But all that is aside from my main point–that two camps of Christians have formed. Those who drive folks away from God and those who draw them into Christ. Driving away, I call Negative Evangelism. This camp could be called Churchianity. When I was a kid, adults in the church talked about Cultural Christians as though the worst thing you could do is claim to be a Christian but live an untransformed life. Then if you busted them doing something terrible they’d say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
Well, I’ve got news for yah. Grace means God no longer sees you as a sinner, He sees you as a child learning how to be better. Being transformed is about something much larger than going to church weekly, keeping the rules, and paying tithe–which is what most Christains thought it was when I was a kid.
The group who really draws people to Christ are the followers of the Kingdom. Those who embrace the transformation of their hearts and let their lives be their testimony.
Churchianity folks tell you the Gospel. They force it upon you while ignoring their own issues. Kingdom folks hardly have to say the name Jesus because by the time they do they’ve earned the respect of those they’re speaking to. Group one folks might spend more time doing good works, but group two folks are able to do small acts of kindness where they work so they are witnessing 40 extra hours a week.
In one sense this is the least revolutionary post I’ve ever written.
This has all been said many times. So here’s the part I think is really rebellious…growing up, the denomination we belonged to believe in holding themselves apart from the world. They believed that by hiding, not being noticed, and not offending anyone they would impact the world. They disfellowshipped members for getting famous outside their own little circle. I distinctly recall them pulling the ordination from a pastor who got an acting job–as a pastor on TV. What if that actor slipped up? What would people think of them?
In the small sense they did unspeakable evil to members who God built to be exceptional in a way they deemed unacceptable. They robbed them individually of the chance to shine in an authentic way, the glory God shined on them. If you were born to dance you’d better hope you weren’t born in that denomination because they believed dancing lead to impure thoughts.
In a larger sense they robbed the world of positive role models. Why is Hollywood so dark? Why are so many billionaires now getting busted for child sex abuse? Because Christians didn’t go there and bring light!
I have a Confession to Make:
I am convicted that I am to be an influencer. The thought of taking selfies of me with duck face or getting sponsored to wear something I find so repulsive I almost missed the true meaning of what was on God’s heart for me.
The way to have influence is to ascend a cultural mountain to a place where people want to do it the way you are doing it, because it works better. The reality is that you climb the mountains of culture by showing up in excellence and applying Kingdom principles in partnership with Christ in a way that’s authentic to you. That’s a writer-downer!
“You climb the mountains of culture by showing up in excellence and applying Kingdom principles in partnership with Christ in a way that’s authentic to you!”
When you are showing up with God, as you, you will have creative solutions to problems. You will handle people the way they’ve hoped others would treat them.
You will show up on time..
Work till the job is done…
Volunteer for tough assignments…
In other words, you’ll be a great employee.
We’re actually not allowed to just work for a paycheck. Money is not the measure of how well you are doing at work. Your mission is to bring value to work, not to sell them time. There are no small jobs. The bottom is the top, and the last shall be first. There is nowhere that God can’t use you. In fact, the path to working in a way more close to your heart may well be to better steward what you are doing now.
Shameless Self Plug:
This is where knowing yourself, finding God’s vision for you and developing a life plan that leads toward that vision really comes in handy. I call it finding your life Adventure. I’ll write more on that topic in the weeks and months to come, but I wanted to get this message out there.
Where you are now is just as useful to God as where you want to be (which is most likely where he’s trying to take you).
Don’t despair. Change your lens. See yourself as a work in progress and embrace the challenges before you for the growth opportunities they really are.
In part 1 I laid out my theory that we are all searching for a more effective way to live. We have the one we inherited or/and modified over time and we get a lot of advice on ways to improve it. In fact we pay a lot of money to people for ways to improve life. But as much as we make inroads in some areas, we end up feeling like we are trying to spin too many plates. Whichever plate we aren’t actively focused on ends up crashing down around us.
What We Really Need
We really need to go back to looking for the big picture, because things like wrong beliefs are just pieces of the puzzle. What we need the most to put them all together is the picture on the front of the box. That picture is going to be of you, by the way. It’s a you that you probably wouldn’t recognize.
Success Coaches (Secular Gurus) – employ an outline technique. They take you through a process of figuring out what pieces you do have and putting them into an outline. Then you can try to figure out how many blank spots there are and what order things go in. You can also work on improving the parts that you do have. That’s not wrong.
The problem is they still don’t have the picture. They don’t know what’s authentic to you and what’s not.
New Age Gurus – have a lot of techniques pulled out of the ether and observation of what others are doing that does and doesn’t work. They are great at generating ways to get and stay connected to the unknown forces that guide us. These deeper self knowledge and focus on connection to others and “the universe” tend to be things that bring more meaning and motivation. They aren’t wrong.
The problem is that by not being willing to personify the “universe” they are living deeply connected to something nebulous. God seems to meet these folks where they’re at and reward them to the degree he can. But they’re missing out on something truly amazing and a piece of them knows it.
Clergy – hover between these two worlds. Some have a relationship with God and exuberantly fling themselves into a grace-filled license to flounder about. Some are great at mining the scriptures for Kingdom keys that they incorporate into a lifeless practice that’s not sustainable. What both do well is picture God in who’s image we are made. One problem is they’re still looking for a corporate picture in that image. They can be so in league with the Spirit of Institution that they preach against the postmodern idea of finding what works for you individually.
Yes, We are The Body of Christ…
Okay I know corporate fellowship is all over the bible. I get it. God values the “one anothers.” The problem is that it dovetails so nicely with institutional centralized control. It’s become a justification for elevating the body over the priesthood of believers. I don’t want to nerd out too much here and get off track, but frankly the fruit of elevating corporate identity above all has been the creation of churches based on uniformity instead of unity. God didn’t create a church in his image. He made a married couple. God’s plan is more about innately different things working in harmony than he is about conforming so you can fit in.
For too long the church has relied on our longing to belong as the force for living a more moral life when they could have been pointing people to a God who accepts them where they’re at, and in whose image they are uniquely made, and counting on the desire to draw close to that relationship to bring about more abundant life.
A church full of spirit-filled, rugged individualists, who pursue their best selves in Christ so they can shape culture would explode across the world and change it for the better. It would also be impossible to control…and that’s a problem for Clergy.
So what’s the Answer?
We are built uniquely in God’s image. We are the output of a creative process. A divine self portrait. The picture on the outside of the puzzle box is a picture of you as God sees you and it’s brilliant because you look a lot like your dad.
Of course in order to see it you’re going to have to leave the box. Gurus and Charismatic Clergy are at least willing to step outside the box. Gurus then refuse to see what the picture is, they just bring back a few elements and call it good. Likewise, Clergy see only the parts they want to see. The parts that apply corporately. For the answer to the question of how to live better they turn to the scriptures and extrapolate principles to apply religiously.
I’m being a little unfair to Clergy. I know I’ve made some sweeping statements that put a large group of people in a box. Forgive me. I want to describe the reason no one seems to be able to help their fellow man answer the question, “how do I live now that will bring life?”
I know you have good intentions. I know I depend on the same Grace you do. But I’m driven by this one thought, Jesus said, “I came that you may have life abundant.”
Why isn’t every Christian I encounter living in abundance?
There is a place out there, a Promised Land, that every child of God is meant to inherit. It’s a place of Prosperity with a Purpose. It’s a place where the Kingdom of God pours through them and they are massively blessed while they delivering massive value to a world that’s looking to leave slavery in Egypt.
Why is God’s church still circling the wilderness? We seem to wander periodically alongside the Jordan River and peer across at the land God said he wants to give to us. God wants it for us. Why aren’t we there?
God actually takes responsibility for getting us into the Land He set aside for us. The problems are on our end.
I know in my journey I’ve completely misinterpreted my time in the wilderness. I’ve looked at the miracles God provided to keep me alive, but not blessed, and seen it as God holding out on me.
The truth is that one of the key things we learn in the desert is that God will always be your source of good things. This is a lesson best learned in a state of dependence. Once God gives you abundance it’s way too hard to keep our eyes on God when we have money, etc. to credit with our victories. It’s hard to deny manna from heaven, it’s easier when to ignore a God who sends rains on soil you tilled, planted, guarded and harvested.
That’s a Writer-downer
We will always be dependent on God. Now there is a lot more to learn about all this, but my goal here is to paint the big picture. I want to introduce the concept of context.
We are all on an adventure from Egypt to the Promised Land. We really need to understand the wilderness season we are in if we want to enter our Promised Land.
I bet you’ve felt one of the following things, if not right now, then sometime in the last 30 days…
Overwhelmed by options or obligations.
Resigned to never find an answer you are seeking.
Hopeless that answers to your problems exist.
Out of touch with your life vision, or without direction.
Lacking passion/motivation to do the hard things that are supposed to bring success.
Tired of trying the same thing and not having it ever work.
Like you don’t have time to get everything done and you will never get to what’s important
If you have felt any of those things, or if what I’ve written resonates with you, there are 4 things you need to know.
Email me and I’ll tell you for free. I’ll reply to your email with those four things and a link to my calendar so you can set an appointment to chat about it for free, no obligation. (An offer, but no obligation.)
Please take me up on this. Whether or not you believe in God, he wants you to have life to the full. He wants to clear up any confusion and set you on a path to more abundant life. In 20 minutes we can identify the source of any fog and create some next steps.
PS I’m not going to tell you how you should live. I can give you context and I’ve walked dozens of people through identifying how they want to be living and what the reasons are that they’re not living that way now.
THE Problem: As You’ve Never Heard it Stated Before
There is a problem faced by nearly everyone I’ve ever known or met. We often have emotional, and physical, pain from this cause.
Businesses lose millions of dollars a year as a result of this problem.
Children are neglected or abused because of this problem.
Marriages end because of this problem.
It affects people of all walks of life, of every religion, around the entire globe and it’s existed nearly since the dawn of time, although for much of history it didn’t occur to anyone that such a problem could exist. Now there are billion dollar industries trying to solve this problem, most of which don’t work long term, and some of which are outright scams.
We see people treating symptoms of this problem but almost no one has a cohesive treatment for the underlying cause of all these painful side effects.
I’m going to attempt to do something no one ever has before and state the universal problem clearly and simply.
We don’t know how to live.
That’s right. The core issue beneath most of our difficulties in life can be summed up by saying that we don’t know how to live.
Now of course we all navigate our way through each day, based on a combination of habits we formed incidentally over the years and a certain amount of will power we exert to handle specific things we’re facing. But something inside us knows that there is more. I’m talking about a LIFE, the kind that is marked by joy. The kind that carries us toward more life each day and away from toxic things that rob us.
Our hearts crave two things nearly every day. A way to navigate the day that moves us toward our goals, and a way to engage with something larger than ourselves, a deeper meaning, our reason for being.
What we feel like the answer should be is some kind of purpose, a guiding light to help us navigate and inspire us to live our best life. Yet something is missing. Some illusive piece of the puzzle evades our search and no guru who claims to have the answer has ever produced the missing piece.
The answers seem to work and then in a few weeks, or a few months, we uncover another void in the picture. Masking the issue is our own childhood. When we’re young we know that we don’t know what’s up. We spend the first ¼ to ⅓ of our lives not only learning information intentionally, but also gleaning meta information through observing how the world works and who we are in it.
A lot of what we learn this way is dead wrong.
Current Potential Answers
During my lifetime, there has been three main groups of people demanding an answer to this problem and three types of teacher that has risen up to meet that demand.
Type 1: Gurus/Success Coaches
When it comes to treating symptoms Success Coaches are at the top of the game. No blame/shame, they have done a great job of observing problems and investigating solutions based on evidence. This approach isn’t wrong but it doesn’t get at the core issue.
Type 2: Clergy
We’d expect people to turn to religion for answers and the clergy respond. The core of their work is salvation, which means after this life you go to heaven. But people innately need answers to how to live now. For this the clergy turn to the bible and to the world.
The little secret most Clergy have is that they don’t have a clue how we should live. The religious answer is, you’re going to heaven when you die, try not to sin very much between now and then. Of course there are biblical principles about how to live, but for some reason they don’t seem to yield the long term change. One reason is that they require faith and other mysteries that are hard to maintain consistently.
So, Clergy have turned to the Success Gurus for their evidence based answers, which they then baptize by finding biblical justifications. These ideas work about as well as the other biblical answers, but they join the litany of principles, rules, and regulations that religion promotes in place of relationship with God.
Type 3: Gurus/New Age
Those who have been turned off to religion, but are aware that something else exists in the universe often turn to New Age, even if it’s under a number of lighter names. New Age, ironically does the reverse of what the clergy have done. These Gurus stumble on or search out kingdom principles without accessing them through the bible. But their version is devoid of God and won’t lead to lasting answers either.
I’m not saying that the bible is wrong. It’s not. It’s full of answers. It needs a good lens to view it through to get to the answers. The bible is meant to be read with the author. Without the author’s help it can lead to truth without the power. Unfettered by relying on the bible, and believing in spiritual things these gurus reach out with their senses and blind faith to find answers that help about as well as the evidence based ones of success coaches, and the biblical based ones of the Clergy.
In all this I’m not blaming anyone so far. I’m not saying the answers these folks come up with are demonic or ill-intentioned. Most of them even work–at least a little, and for a time. As with illness, when you treat symptoms with medication you often just suppress the pain & obvious effects, or chase the symptoms to another location. Sometimes it creates whole new symptoms elsewhere.
The primary problem is that treating symptoms won’t give us a way to live. The search for answers and the need to supply those answers has created three possible paths discussed above.
The first effect of all this is that there are three times the possible answers to sort through. People are inundated with potential answers and the only way to find what works is to try them out–one at a time. It’s a process I call auditioning. Facing the prospect of all those potential options is overwhelming. The need to find a solution to this almost impossible to articulate problem has already made us feel overwhelmed. So we are doubly overwhelmed.
The second effect of all these potential options comes from our non-stop autioning. Everytime we try something out and it doesn’t work, we get a little more resigned to the idea that there is no answer out there.
The Premodern mind existed in a world with little explanation. It was big and dangerous and death could come without warning or explanation. It was a time of God’s and titans who pulled strings in unseen realms that affected your daily life. The rains came or didn’t, fires came or didn’t. Fate was not in your hands.
Side note: there were two ways to deal with this, accept it as beyond you or battle for control despite it all. Either way you worshiped the local god and made offerings, just to cover the bases.
In the Modern Age, science began to explain things and by faith most men accepted that anything there wasn’t a current explanation for would one day be explained. This also took two forms. Religious modernists believed in studying God through the scriptures, while secular man put his faith in science. Of course, there was still a contingent of people who either didn’t care to explore for answers or were too busy trying to survive.
Now we’re in a Postmodern Era. A lot of people hate postmodernism but this is the age we are in, like it or not. Today we suffer from a grand disillusion because science and bible reading haven’t yielded the answer. I’m not saying God isn’t the answer, I’m saying we didn’t find anything in the bible that solves the problem without requiring faith.
Since the large institutional answer has failed us, these days we are left with our own private search. That’s not entirely a bad thing. The hallmark of postmodernism is trying to examine what’s failed about the premodern solution and the modern solution. Postmodernism suggests that if there is any hope to finding the answer it’s taking what works from everything so far and creating a custom answer.
Postmodern is Almost Right
They are onto something. The answer is undoubtedly at least somewhat unique to each of us individually. And they are right, the premodern idea (faith in God) is true, and a modern idea of scientific exploration is true.
We can also learn from what they got wrong. Both eras suffered from pride and idolatry.
Modernism in it’s faith in man’s ability to suss out an answer either by science or through the perfect combination of principles based loosely on interpretation of the bible (aka theology).
Premodern invented religion. They were the first to look at the works of God and make it about what he did and not who He was.
Imagine you’re a villager under attack by an enemy and a hero saved you. He left behind a gun, which is technology beyond your comprehension. His intent was to promise you that you are safe and if trouble returns so will he. The villagers put the gun on display in a glass case on an altar. A couple generations later they worship the gun. No one remembers what this tool does or the one who carried it in their defense.
Premodern man knew what was in the scriptures and they put it to practice. It became about the practice and not God. That is the spirit of religion.
The scriptures point to an author. Nature points to a creator. Modern man, the era we’re coming out of, had a conceited belief that they could either find the answers by their own means or through the practice of religious doctrines found in the scriptures. The catholic church had the scriptures and “tradition” through which they interpreted the scriptures. Martin Luther got rid of tradition but left the church scripture.
Of course, scripture is perfect. I’m glad we have it. It’s just that it only points to God. Tradition can be a tool to understand what the scriptures say about how to live life. But it can also be misleading.
Modern Christians aren’t aware how much they are guided by tradition. Which is a topic for another section.
One of the big things we’ll need to do is unlearn the wrong ideas and habits we’ve developed. (A lot of people say we shouldn’t call them wrong ideas, because they are actually just unhelpful or ineffective. I call them wrong because what they are is false self knowledge. Consider the possibility that these ideas, these bits of wrong info might work for someone else, but they don’t work for you. So they are inauthentic. Which is a concept we’ll go into more later.)
Wrong ideas come in a few forms.
One is things we learn by personal observation and experience as we grow up. Another is the belief systems of other people. We can inherit belief systems from our parents, teachers, and friends. You can read a lot of great information about belief systems and its worth doing.
One of the most common and underrecognized ways we inherit belief systems is through tradition. Americans aren’t very aware of how much tradition we have. The feeling is that most people who came here early on were leaving behind something they didn’t want anymore, and eventually they started coming here because the new culture that was built provided opportunities the culture they left behind didn’t.
In a way, Americans have more culture than most countries because we have inherited from every nationality that came here, as well as creating our own from them.
America is the first postmodern nation because there was a deliberate attempt to bring what works and leave behind what doesn’t.
If you suddenly feel surrounded by belief systems don’t worry. They are no more harmful to you than they were a few minutes ago. You will need to identify and eliminate wrong beliefs but there is a right and wrong way to go about it. I’ll lay out more on that in Part 2 of this post, coming Wednesday.