Holy Heritics – Brian Zahnd

A podcast with the author of ‘Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God‘.

“The Bible itself is on the journey to discover the word of God.”

Jesus himself reinterprets texts to suit his own needs. We just need to follow his interpretation.

“To repent is to rethink. If we’re going to talk about who’s following Jesus, some must repent of their understanding of the Bible.”

“Repent” is a word worth repenting from.

“The wrath of god is a metaphor for the self-inflicted suffering that we endure when we go against the grain of the universe that is the grain of love because God is love.”

If we understood love and wrath, our lives would be different.

“Once you push Jesus out of being Lord and give someone else rule of this world, Jesus gets demoted to Secretary of Afterlife Affairs—but salvation is best understood as some kind of belonging. The word salvation is virtually never used by Jesus. He talks about the kingdom of God, announcing and enacting the new arrangement of human society that comes from heaven to earth. Paul rarely talks about the kingdom of god but he always talks about salvation. Here’s the thing: They’re talking about the same thing. Salvation is our own participation in the kingdom of God.”

“The kingdom of God” is at hand. It’s you.

Reminds me of: ‘A New Kind of Christianity‘ by Brian McLaren

A Pattern Language

A Pattern Language’ is an absolutely fascinating tome from the 1970s, intended to be a ‘working document’ for architecture.

Instead of coming at it from a highly technical perspective, the book is instead of composed of chapters which take on an oddly beautiful abstraction.

Some examples:

Magic of the City (10). “There are few people who do not enjoy the magic of a great city. But urban sprawl takes it away from everyone except the few who are lucky enough, or rich enough, to live close to the largest centers.”

Every aspect of the city (from its whole structure down to each storefront) should be considered to provide the magic to all.

Old People Everywhere (40). “Old people are so often forgotten and left alone is modern society, that it is necessary to formulate a special pattern which underlines their needs. Old people need old people, but they also need the young, and young people need contact with the old.”

A city that forgets to connect generations and provide for each, then, is a failure.

Holy Ground (66). “What is a church or temple? It is a place of worship, spirit, contemplation, of course. But above all, from a human point of view, it is a gateway. A person comes into the world through the church. He leaves it through the church. And, at each of the important thresholds of his life, he once again steps through the church.”

I love this concept of what a church is in modern society. Where we have turned it into a place to attend a weekly service, this book wisely understands that it is a holy place to mark life’s most important moments.

Sleeping in Public (94). “It is a mark of success in a park, public lobby or a porch, when people can come there and fall asleep. In a society which nurtures people and fosters trust, the fact that people sometimes want to sleep in public is the most natural thing in the world. But our society does not invite this kind of behavior. In our society, sleeping in public, like loitering, is thought of as an act for criminals and destitute. The fact is, these attitudes are largely shaped by the environment itself.”

It’s fascinating to see a city planner see the homeless not as a problem, but an opportunity to provide goodwill.

Secret Place (204). “Where can the need for concealment be expressed; the need to hide; the need for something precious to be lost, and then revealed? Make a place in the house, perhaps only a few feet square, which is kept locked and secret; a place which is virtually impossible to discover—until you have been shown where it is; a place where the archives of the house, or other more potent secrets, might be kept.”

The appeal of this book is the secret places that it encourages, the secret places that it reveals. I will always think of this pattern language whenever I create or design a space going forward.

Reminds me of: ‘Walkable City‘ by Jeff Speck, ‘The Past and Future City‘ by Stephanie Meeks, Gretchen Rubin’s episode on The Tim Ferriss Show (where I heard about this book)

The Florida Project

The Florida Project is my favorite film that I watched in 2017, by a director who’s intent on highlighting the ‘hidden homeless’ of America.

Highlighting the families that live in a rundown motel in the middle of Orlando, the movie manages to be bleak and uplifting all at once. You can understand a lot about these residents through a single line the six-year-old main character tells her friend as they walk through the property:

”The man who lives in here gets arrested a lot. The woman in here thanks she’s married to Jesus.”

…and the way that a woman explains her own living situation which two young children as she moves into the motel:

”These aren’t mine. Well, they’re mine now. My daughter made me a grandmother when she was 15. So I’m looking after them until she stops acting like her stupid father.“

The movie never loses it’s hope, though. The young girl takes her friend to her favorite spot in an Orlando park, and says this:

”You know why this is my favorite tree? ‘Cause it’s tipped over and it’s still growing.“

We’re all still growing.

Reminds me of: ‘Tangerine

Erykah Badu: In Conversation

A fantastic interview with Erykah Badu on Vulture.

Erykah Badu has never been one to shy away from making a provocative statement. When asked in this interview about how she feels about the current allegations against many artists, she sidesteps it and decides to tells a story around Barabbas.

Jesus is standing on one side, Barabbas is standing on the other side, and the people have to choose which one of them could go free. Some people started yelling, “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” Then so many people were doing that that the others found safety in numbers, and they also started yelling, “Barabbas! Barabbas! Barabbas!” People walked up who didn’t even know what was going on and they also started yelling for Barabbas to go free. I always think about that. It’s so important to me.

I think it’s important to understand that Badu isn’t trying to undermine any allegations against any artist, but instead is fighting for the recognition that it’s important to think for yourself. She continues that thought out a bit further:

The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people. I know I could be crucified for saying that, because I’m supposed to be on the purple team or the green team. I’m not trying to rebel against what everybody’s saying, but maybe I want to measure it. Somebody will call me and ask me to come to a march because such and such got shot. In that situation I want to know what really happened. I’m not going to jump up and go march just because I’m green and the person who got shot is green.

We should have strong opinions. We should not have those opinions because others told us too. Badu gives us insight into how she holds her own, referencing (of all things!) Star Wars: The Phantom Menace:

There was one scene where they were fighting, and they got to these doors that would close and then open up 30 seconds later. So at one point, (Qui-Gon Jinn) turned and flipped and he and Darth Maul were on opposite sides of a door. So you have Darth Maul standing there, ready for that door to open, and Qui-Gon Jinn does this (Badu briefly kneels on the ground with her eyes closed just for a few seconds), then he gets up. He took a deep breath and then started back fighting…I fell in love with that. Whenever I’m afraid, I do that: Take a minute and breathe. No matter how scary something is, doing that helps it go away.

Take a minute, and breathe.

Reminds me of: ‘The Phantom Menace

Ninety-Nine Stories of God

A book of absurdities imbued with a sense of great depth.

Three conclusions from three of my favorite stories in the book:

“We can only know what God is not, not what God is. We can never speak about God rationally, but that does not mean we should give up thinking. We must push our minds to the limits, descending even deeper into the unknowing.”

We cannot ‘know’ God.

“You should have changed if you wanted to remain yourself, but you were afraid to change.” – Sarte to Camus

We cannot ‘know’ ourselves.

“The God who is with us is the God who forsakes is. Before God and with God, we live without God.” – Bonhoeffer

Even when we connect with God, we are without him.

Reminds me of: ‘Testament‘ by Nino Ricci, ‘The Prophet‘ by Khalil Gibran, ‘Illusions‘ by Richard Bach

Hurry Slowly – Austin Kleon

Pencil vs Computer‘, an interview with the author of ‘Steal Like an Artist

“It seems like constraints make work harder but they’re actually easier because we know what we can work with. The fun is seeing what we can get out of it.”

When I’m having a hard time making progress, I’ll pick a constraint. Paper is a great example.

“Every artist figures out pretty quickly: When you can do everything, you do nothing.”

(What a quote!)

“Pencils and paper are for the generative state. When it comes to conveying ideas to other people, they keyboard is the magical device.” – Clive Thompson

Figuring out when to use a pencil and paper versus a keyboard and screen is much more important than it seems. I’ve learned this through morning pages.

“When I copy a passage by hand, I slow down and really read it.”

How much do we really read, and how much do we simply skim? Did you read this article, truly, or did you just glance over it? You might be surprised at how often you give something only a cursory bit of attention.

Reminds me of: ‘The Artist’s Way‘ by Julia Camera

On the Birth of a Son

A dark-humored poem I have never forgotten:

Families when a child is born
Hope it will turn out intelligent.
I, through intelligence
Having wrecked my whole life,
Only hope that the baby will prove
Ignorant and stupid.
Then he’ll be happy all his days
And grow into a cabinet minister.

Reminds me of: Austin Kleon