Reality and The Road Show

Reality and The Road Show

By Jane Tawel

October 5, 2018

 

Disclaimer: I do not nor have I ever enjoyed “Reality TV” of any kind. Therefore, it is my metaphor of choice in the following rambling and searching musings and meditations.

 

I have never liked vicariously observing nor living through other people’s lives and have never been able to sit through more than a quick YouTube version of any talk show. I mean any talk show –including the erudite and intelligent talking heads of news programs that my husband watches on PBS. This is a personal preference only, as I do enjoy certain forms of entertainment or learning found in television, although I will remain primarily a book lover and learner. However with shows, I need at least the proverbial six degrees of separation between me and the medium.  I also prefer using either my imagination or using my ability to mull over information received, which is why I read my news and my husband watches his, why I read my Bible and others listen to theirs, why I personally prefer my own reality or imagination to someone else’s.

 

At least in part, I blame our current cultural, political, and religious lack of ability to truth-tell, truth-listen, and truth-seek on our society’s ramped up, on speed-dial, on steroids, on-demand ability and addiction to watching “reality”. I blame it somewhat on our choice to believe that someone else’s life is worthy of paying money to watch or that people who have jobs as talking-heads are not just fun things to relax to but are our gurus or teachers.  I even switch the radio channel when the talking blah-blah-blahs come on because I don’t care how many times they assure me of our special relationship; if they wouldn’t recognize me at the grocery, they are not my friends. I’m sorry, but to be blunt — I do not care at all what they think, what their little daughter did that was so cute, and I definitely don’t want to hear what the talking head will say to help the person calling in to the station, to get emotional support and advice from a stranger who is claiming to be their online “friend” but is known only by their cutesy first name. I try not to demean others’ fondness or need for these types of things, but I can’t ignore the fact that I think it has created an alternative world to real community and real meaning.

 

The worst for me are the competitive shows which I am only aware of because they run them on the TV’s in front of my treadmill at the Y.  I honestly can not understand the joy of watching people compete to see who is the best singer, or house builder, or, God help us, chef!  I mean can’t we just enjoy watching Julia or Martha make a meal, no competition necessary? Can’t we watch people teach us how to play music not compete against each other. Competition is an anathema to creativity.  But then again, that is me –competition makes me uncomfortable even on a playing field.  In last Spring’s “World Cup”, I cheered for Croatia of course, even though our family always cheers for France. My husband mocked me but I had to, because Croatia was the underdog;  and when the underdog lost to France, I could agonizingly feel the pain of  all their little buff Croatian hearts. And I was sorry I got trapped once again in the need to compete or cheer competition because for me, it is always a losing game. I always feel sad for the loser.

And now it seems everything is a win or lose game in America — our politics, our religions, our educational institutions. We have reduced everything to a success mode based on defeating some one else. It is pure capitalism — Ayn Rand on steroids meets Absurdist Theatre — to be sure but is is completely anti-Christ and not at all democratic. If you told someone ten or twenty years ago that we would actually elect a guy who bought himself a part on a Reality Show to run our great nation,  and would continue to run our once shining city on a hill like some game show –would any one believe that America would descend to such an absurdity? But then again, that’s just my Judeo-Christian worldview speaking.

 

I see all of these things like reality TV and talk shows, in the same way I do the Theatre of the Absurd. They are interesting for analyzing cultures and people in light of history and the future but they are not meant for constant consumption and the whole point is they point out what is NOT real, not what should be real for anyone.  And for a person who longs to understand, I just don’t understand the appeal—it is a false reality that does not make sense to my own World View. The risks these people take in what seems to be a cheapening of their souls, for, what exactly? I have a hard enough time living my own reality with real people in my real world; what would happen to my soul, my spirit, my heart if I had to live a planned and paid oxymoronic reality-show with other human beings living their own fake reality to entertain people we didn’t know.  Every dystopian book I’ve ever read has this scenario in it and it never ends well for the people or the nation or the world.

 

Now if you enjoy these sorts of programs, I need you to understand that I have an additional problem—perhaps one might say, a curse. A big part of my own problem is one I have written about before – my natural tendencies as an Empath. We can call it the “Cheering for Croatia Syndrome” if you like. If any of my now adult children have read this far, when I define what an Empath is they will be laughing at me, not with me, so get ready, kids.  According to that greatest dictionary of our times, The Urban Dictionary, an Empath is: “A person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation”.  Or as my daughter, Clarissa once told me, “Mom, you are always way more upset about things than I am and it’s my problem!”

 

What this has to do with Reality TV and talking heads programs is that while most people assume I just don’t enjoy them; I don’t enjoy them because I FEEL them. I cannot choose to go through all the feelings that I intuit from the actual human beings I am watching. And maybe this is just my worldview speaking again, but isn’t that what a person should feel and do who claims they should “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”? As an Empath,  My emotions take enough of a beating when the people are just acting a part and I know it is pretend. But with so called reality shows, I can’t get past the fact that these people think this is their reality and want me and others to watch it – because, why? Whether the people in the box are exploring lifestyles of the rich or gonna’ be rich  people; lifestyles of the poor or gonna’ be poor people; or it’s about car companies surprising people with cars or about a dynasty shooting ducks every day; whether it is about people in a competition or people showing how they make stuff – I become seriously agitated after about thirty seconds. And I can’t help but think that as we have put our hearts for others at arm’s length, able to control our feelings because we can hit pause, filling our minds with false realities and not True Truths; has this not created it’s own horrific dystopian, Anti-Christ world that our children will be ill equipped to heal?

 

I mean, talk about The Handmaiden’s Tale. What kind of culture watches single “hot” chicks choose which guy to date and sleep with? Or guys and girls who didn’t know each other previously but who choose  for the cameras and their fifteen minutes of fame, to  live together and let other people watch them fight or make-out or something like that? I could never have watched some show where you watch people get fired from a job any more than I would want to watch someone I know in a pornographic film.  And I know otherwise “moral” people who claim a certain Worldview who see this as entertaining? I do not understand how people can say, oh these people that live this lifestyle are sinning but I’m not?  Jesus is quite clear, my friends, “It is what is on the inside of the cup that makes the cup dirty; not what is on the outside.” The hypocrisy of watching gay couples on a comedy show but opposing gay couples in your neighborhood.  The hypocrisy of watching black men duke it out on a football field for your entertainment but not of listening to them when they want to speak into your democracy. The hypocrisy of ranting about abortion in this country but not about separating children from their parents at the border or bombing Iraq or Syria. And we turn the channel. And we look at someone else’s reality that is scripted and short and for which I can not possibly have any responsibility because it is all just a show. Smoke and mirrors. A convenient truth that I can watch not live out, that I can mock or laugh at or cheer or boo that I can vote for without consequence that I can talk about at the water cooler and disagree with others and we can all still do the same things, live the same way, feel the same way we did day after day just waiting so we can get home to watch someone else’s reality that never effects me in any meaningful way.

Of course long ago before 5000 channels and Amazon Prime Video, there were those old shows that pretended to be reality shows about imaginary “Friends”. They all pretended to be real slice of life sort of things but the bad, rotten slices, the sinful, shameful or painful broken were conveniently spliced in but sliced small enough that we could keep eating our popcorn. And then to make sure commercials come in to assure us that no matter how awful your “Friends” lives seem right now, you can still buy a car. Yes, the show says, sometimes humans hurt or are mean, but it is all always okay in the end. The choices we make are all relative because our reality is relativistic. Your favorite player may have messed up, but everything is always either funny or cute or turns out okay in the end. And digesting these relativistic morals on a screen set us all up for wanting to be just like those “Friends”, didn’t it? And when life isn’t really like that at all because it was never meant to be like that – a life lived with no real consequences for choices other than a laugh track or losing a game; well, then we are left thinking that what we see as real or True must be fake – “fake news” because the reality show stars don’t like that truth – that True Truth must be edited out of our real lives, blamed on the competition, ignored or shoved into our subconscious where we can ignore it.  And at some point even people who say they believe in a God, well,  we just assume that God must be willing to ignore all that as well because He has become just a nice, benevolent rich Guy who serves as the Producer behind the curtain of my reality show. Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace as commercial break.

 

I also get sad watching interviews with people that a funny talk show host has pulled out of obscurity for their fifteen minutes of fame. For me these things are about as entertaining as watching fat people fall on their keisters while trying to land on an inner tube. I have to turn away when someone wants me to watch these things, what they see as fame I see as humiliation and rampant greed or need. When did we think that my being someone, my worth,  was about my being seen by a lot of people who don’t know me?

 

Competitive reality, of course, is not a new art form. People have always liked watching other people being displayed like victims in a lion’s den for an audience’s amusement. Do I take this whole thing to an extreme, well yes, I do.  My husband just does not get it, but I can not even sit down with him to watch “The Antique Road Show”.  I spend the whole time seeing the people as gamblers who have wagered their vacation days, reputations and love of an object on some stranger’s assessment of it’s worth.  For me it is physically painful to sit there and anticipate the faces of the people with the tchotchkes when they find out Grandma’s doily is only worth $50 bucks instead of the thousands they imagined–this is sheer torture for an Empath..  I FEEL with no amount of objectivity at all, but rather subjectively feel the stress, the tension, the horror of finding out the worth and then the let -down, crashing from flying high down to earth.  Even if the doily is worth a million dollars, the sheer anticipation of finding out has already prepared me for the let down the future holds for that person – the going back home with the doily and thinking, “Well, now I have to sell the doily because it’s worth a lot of money and I could use a million dollars a lot more than Grandma’s doily sitting collecting dust on my shelf of family memorabilia but this has been in the family for so many years and besides it’s so much work to find someone to buy the doily.  Aaaaaghhh! Now I hate this million dollar doily!” And then as an Empath I am already living that doily owner’s life, all depressed and sad because my Grandma’s doily was either worthless or because Grandma’s doily is worth a lot and now I have to make a choice between selling the doily and retiring or keeping the doily for my grand kids who might destroy a million dollars by accidentally setting a hot coffee cup down on it. Either way I just can’t stand to watch. I am the complete opposite of Chancy Gardener in that great film, Being There, when he says, “I like to watch”. I hate to watch unless I know that some one has created an imaginative story or a well crafted autobiography that if I learn something from it, will make my own reality better. Even if it is because by watching them, I learn to laugh at myself and here is the important bit — learn that life’s choices have consequences and I need to weigh each choice in the balance of my real life and the real lives of people who live alongside of me.

 

I think we need to stop thinking of God and Jesus as out there some where “liking to watch”. Could it be that even when he entered our reality,  Jesus saw universal reality quite differently?

 

St. Paul says Jesus came to planet Earth, “in the fullness of time”. (Galatians 4: 4,5). Can you imagine what Reality TV and the Americana of Cultural Consumerism would do today with  Jesus’ fantastical street theatre magic tricks? How would talk show hosts today interview those people who experienced the strange but true phenomenon of the Early Church folks’ heads on fire with the Holy Spirit? True Crime reenactment of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, anyone? Oprah and Chris Wallace would be duking it out for the first interviews with Mary and Martha after Lazarus saw the white light and came back from the dead to tell about it. Those ladies could have made enough cash from a reality show to retire on.

 

At the fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry, when He stands before the religious leaders and political leaders of His own time and place, He is asked by them, “Are you the “real” King of the Jews?”  And Jesus responds, “True ‘Dat!”.  But when the people get a reality check on truth from Jesus, they respond, “Alternative Facts, Jesus.” And go back to The Show. Jesus refuses to see life as a team sport; He will not choose sides in a competition and even back then, that drives people crazy.  Today The Christ’s refusal to join in the competition means we have made Him the mascot — Jesus as our cute cheerleader –as we play the game any old way we want. And mascots look real, but aren’t and we keep our false idea of Jesus intact as mascot not Lord because we would never dream of letting the mascot influence our game. A Lord is not so easy to sideline as a mascot.

 

I am  slugging through Dostoevsky and out of the plethora of relevant truths entombed in the great novel, The Brothers Karamazov is this observation by Ivan. Ivan has been speaking to Alyosha of the true and real horrors that men and women inflict on each other – horrors people do, even to the point of torturing or abusing little children.  If you read nothing else that might be considered “spiritual” in the next days ahead, read Chapter 4: “Rebellion” and Chapter 5: “The Grand Inquisitor” in the Brothers K.  Ivan is speaking to his younger brother who is a novice monk but who will be leaving the priesthood to live out in the world. Ivan is well aware that the reality Alyosha has been cloistered in is about to have a rude awakening in the Real World. But Ivan wants Alyosha to see that the “real” world is in fact absurd in terms of God’s view of humans and human morality, or rather immorality.

 

“Let me tell you, novice, that the absurd is only too necessary on earth.  The world stands on absurdities, and perhaps nothing would have come to pass in it without them.  We know what we know!”

 

“What do you know?” asks Alyosha.

 

“I don’t want to understand anything now,” responded Ivan. “I want to stick to the facts.  I made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand anything, I will be false to the facts and I have determined to stick to the facts.”

 

“Why are you testing me?” Alyosha cried.

 

Ivan was silent for minute.  His face became all at once very sad.

 

“Listen! I spoke of children only to make my case clearer.  Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its center, I will say nothing… Men are themselves to blame, I suppose: they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy.”(The Brothers Karamozov,236-237)

 

Ivan goes on to illuminate why he suffers. He suffers because of Truth and his inability to understand. (Next to the ancient Hebrews, history’s greatest Empaths just might be the Russians!) Ivan, knows that the Truths that he understands in his heart are not the Truths that God sees, hence, he suffers in his desperate need to understand.  Ivan’s life work is to help those who need justice and compassion, but he does not understand why the world is as it is, “such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.”

 

What is Truth? Pilate’s words go down in our history as open to interpretation, depending on the listener. But much like the reality shows of our own time, Pilate plays to the great audience out there.  We often emulate Pilate, convincing ourselves and others that because we ask the question about Truth, we long to know it, but that is sadly merely often just for show. We who long to call ourselves, Little Christs, and desire to follow in The Way of Jehovah’s Kingdom, are called to be Empaths. Loving, without understanding; seeking Truth even if we lose the “game”, living a life of service not fame, coming along side the underdog, praying behind closed doors not on football fields, and giving without glory – this the reality that God’s Kingdom is. And if it is not our reality now, then it will never be what we really want our reality to be in Eternity.  We will not be able to give up the applause of a false world for the love of a God if we aren’t practicing doing it now. Because that is what Christ did and does. That is what Jehovah does. We are told that The Christ who was from the beginning of Understanding and He who truly did understand the difference between our view of truth and God’s view of Truth, rather than glory and power now, chose instead to suffer. The Christ suffered in his body, in his emotion and soul in uncertainty. He refuses to perform, to compete, to even explain. When He cries out in Gethsemane, as all oppressed, uncertain, fearful humans do, “Father IF You can, remove this cup I drink from me”; He is accepting that our human reality is nothing compared to Jehovah’s Reality. We do indeed see as through a dim and cloudy glass.

 

We who call ourselves set apart as Christ’s, are called daily to feel the stripes on our own backs of suffering. We are called also to feel the facts. We are called with Jesus not to claim we understand  the “Why’s” of this world but rather to empathize with our neighbors; not watching them, but serving them, even our competitive enemies. We are not to overlook the tragic condition of the rich and powerful and famous; we are also called to feel with the Pilates – the showmen and rulers of this world, who do not really want to know the Truth, but merely want to figure out how and if Truth can serve their selfish and prideful purposes.

 

Oh there are times we just want to sit down and relax to “reality” with a snack perhaps. This is the curse of our immense wealth and leisure today. When Jesus interrupts the reality Pilate has created for himself in the Kingdom of Rome, Pilate has the power and free time to merely watch some one else’s life and the man Jesus is simply the latest reality show on Pilates TiVo. Pilate also has the power, to vote on Jesus’ life, and as a ruler he can involve his  viewers. Behold the “Great Jewish Idol Show” – vote for Jesus or Barabbas, competing before your very eyes for their lives. And afterwards,  Pilate simply has to pause and go wash his hands to get all the Doritos chip dust off. Messy business, watching.

 

We too have been watching. Watching Jesus, using Jesus, judging Jesus. And just like judges on “The Antique Road Show”, we view and live out reality based on the objects we clutch in our hands, and ask passively , “Did you really mean what You said, Jesus? Is all of this stuff really worthless compared to God’s Real Kingdom?”  If we choose Door Number One – the Jesus Door, then we need to stop washing our hands of our responsibilities to Jesus’ Kingdom Truth. As Ivan says, we are not called to understand what Truth is – Pilate had it all wrong right from the start. We are called to live The Truth and thereby, change the reality. We are called to live in the strange facts of God’s World now, by living Christ’s Eternal Kingdom Truth. And that is the only Reality Show that will never be off the air.

 

We are called to be Christ’s body moving now, hands feeding others, ears listening and mourning with others, feet being washed and getting dirty again, and the facts of heaven not being watched and hoped for, but trusted and lived.

 

We are called to exorcise the lies that  the World’s “reality” has used to stoke our greed, our pride, our anger, our prejudices, our fears, our victimization, our desires, and our loneliness’s. And we must stop vicariously living through someone else and refuse to drug ourselves with whatever our escape of choice might be. Escape for respite and retreat are necessary as Jesus showed us, but escape from feeling as God wants us to feel for others – well, that is a Game Show we can never win.  We are called to exercise our powers in our created reality of image bearers of God. We are not called to know — after all, even the demons know and believe. We are called to live and be re- created to be a new reality, born again into the beings we were in Eden.

 

Jesus was a very poor competitor. He was playing in a radically different World Cup Tournament; as He said, ‘my kingdom is not one like any of these. I play on an altogether different playing field, where Heaven meets earth.” Jesus refused to be any thing other than straight up with folks. He went throughout His world confirming the facts of a reality in which there is a porous veil between Heaven’s Kingdom and our own. Jesus was factual about the way of the World in we have chosen to live since The Fall and the Not Ready for Prime Time Facts of the Kingdom that would only be fully realized with Christ’s Second Coming – a world that God designed for us and still wants us to live in. “The Kingdom of God is not a reality like your nations,” says Jesus, “but rather The Real Kingdom is something like a seed, like a mystery, like one lost coin, like a pearl that no one knows about planted in a field.” The Truth, says Jesus, is not something you can sit down to watch or read about. The Truth is something you must seek and when you find it, you must share it by living it out with others.  “And the woman went out and told every one about what she had found! He knew everything about me, and He told me the Truth about me.  Come, listen to Him.” Now that’s a reality show for the ages!

 

As a great Truth Teller, Jesus directed Pilate to look within himself, and there he would find the truth. We must balance our instincts to fight lies from without with our great need to fight the lies we live within to prop up our own sense of our selfish reality — for our own sense of self. We must look within first, and then yes, we must look at those who claim to also walk in The Way. We must judge and question what we do in order to “understand” or to feel “happy” or to “relax” or to defend our choices and point of view.  Because all of these things are only a figment of our imagined understanding of reality. Until we see our individual idea of Truth as a human concept as fallen as the rest of the world, we will never understand that Jesus came to remind us that “God’s kingdom is not of this world”.  God’s kingdom is on a whole other plain, a different playing field, a set of “Truths that we hold not self-evident” but facts nonetheless just beyond our reach.  As Jesus says, “I am not hungry only because I have food that you know nothing about.”

 

Jesus not only coined the phrase hypocrisy, he spoke a lot about it; sometimes straight to the person’s face and sometimes in his general round -about way of sowing seeds of mystery and genuineness. Jesus did not like hypocrites but he did LOVE them.  And so when The Christ points out hypocrisy it is as much if not more so for the person who is being hypocritical as those who are victims of the lies of belief systems when the falsehoods of the powerful meet feet on the road. In other words, the person who is being hypocritical is not only telling a lie, but much worse for him, he is living a lie.  People will fight hard if you tell them they are being hypocritical because they have, usually without realizing it of course,  lied so long to themselves about any one or all issues, that they truly can not understand. I know I am like this. But when we watch a show, and someone’s pretend-reality, then we can pretend that the beliefs and actions match – and this is how we have come to think our own actions will never have consequences in God’s Alternative Reality – why would the Producer do something so un-entertaining?

 

Which  brings us back to both Ivan and Jesus. Both Dostoevsky and The God of the Hebrews say, Let the facts stand and don’t try to understand.  Deal with the facts as you are called to.  First deal with the facts of this world, your world, yourself and all the people you know and don’t know in this world.  Facts don’t lie, goes the old adage, but of course they do, because this world is still built and run by the Father of Lies. So look at the facts of what God says about the world and what God says about Himself and the facts of how Jesus lived.  Take all the facts about Christ’s Kingdom that you can and then don’t try to understand them.  Try to accept them. Accepting them without understanding is impossible, but then “all things are possible with God”. Living righteously without understanding — that is the hardest and easiest way to live.  What would happen and who would I be if I accepted as fact that:

 

  • His eye is on the sparrow and I know He is watching me.
  • No man can discern the human heart, but only God.
  • I came to fulfill the law.
  • You will be judged by what you literally do for the poorest and least of the least.
  • I am coming again to judge the living and the dead.
  • Thou shalt not lie.
  • Thou shalt not covet.
  • Thou shalt not take My Name in Vain.
  • There is nothing but faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.
  • I should just do for and to others what I’d like to have done to and for me.
  • Give all you have to the poor and follow me.
  • etc.etc.

 

In A Grief Observed that supremely intuitive and humble writer of what is really Real, C.S. Lewis, writes that, “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief”.  I imagine Jesus responding, “True ‘dat, Clive, my man!”

 

How we actually live out our own deepest truths are our reality, both now and forever. How our truths match God’s revealed truths to us, whoever and wherever and whenever we are – that will be our eternal reality. And as Lewis also writes, that reality is just below the surface in who we are now. Jesus is clear: “Don’t just watch me, follow what I do.”   Heaven on earth now and forever is for the risk-takers, not the risk-watchers.

 

The very first book of the Bible contains what we say we want more than anything, God speaking directly to us. In the Book of Job, God says this to the man who iconic -ally suffers all that humans can suffer in this broken world: “Who has put wisdom in the inmost parts or given understanding to the mind?”  “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on earth?” (Job 38)

 

Now that is a reality check that is not for the faint of heart. Job didn’t understand it, but he was willing to take a risk on God’s reality and truth. Ivan didn’t understand why people are so messed up but he didn’t want to watch it any more, he just wanted to do something about it and leave the understanding to a God he struggled to believe in.  Even Jesus, He whom I call Lord, did not understand it while He lived among us. Jesus studied and prayed and struggled and suffered and still did not understand it.  But He didn’t watch it. Jesus lived Life and so became The Life. And in the very last moments, He risked His entire reality – He gave up everything to death not ending in glory but at the time in infamous undeserved shame. Jesus left this planet as an unclean criminal executed for crimes against nation and religion, with the words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And with those words, Christ put His belief in God’s Reality to the test.  The Christ took the ultimate risk; He decided that He would believe Jehovah that even death was not the ultimate reality. And since He died a very real death for God, He was resurrected into the only real life with God. Now Jesus has all the glory, all the power, all the world and heaven too, and one day, at His Name, every knee will one day, hit the ground, and every watcher will hit their final pause button, and every vote will proclaim Him Lord.

 

“What is Truth?”, we Pilates ask.  The answer has been given, but are we willing to take the real risks that test our belief in an alternative view of Reality?  “I am the Truth, the Life and The Way,” says Jesus. “Any one who loves me and obeys me and does what I do, will live in the Real Kingdom of God.”

 

Nothing vicariously lived in that, I’m afraid. But it’s okay to be afraid about it – Jesus was.  But as John Wayne,  a man who once made us believe that everything he pretended to do on the screen, once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up any way.” John Wayne had it right. Mary, Jesus’ mother and Joseph, his foster dad saddled up and rode to Bethlehem. Years later, The Christ would saddle up a donkey and ride towards certain painful and humiliating unjustified death. The disciples didn’t have the courage to saddle up that day, and they watched the Reality Show of The Crucifixion with the rest of the timid and angry Anti-Christs. But they eventually found their courage after the Resurrection, and they saddled up so that we too, so many years later, could know the Reality of the Life of Jesus. And we are called to saddle up and ride; to fall and get back up, and adjust the saddle, and ride.

 

We are not meant  to continue to watch life. We are not meant to watch it even with our 3-D glasses on.  We are meant to live it in 3-D.

 

When I keep trying to understand how to live in God’s Reality, I both condemn and excuse myself. How could I possibly live like that? What does it all mean? It makes me frightened and stressed and tense. All I know is that I am called to live in that tension, which is not the tension of competition or a game. It is the tension of Truth and Love; it is the tension of being fully human and partly in the image of gods; it is the tension of being alive in Christ and dead to self. And just like those folks on “The Antique Road Show”, I wait to find out what it is all worth; what I am worth. Will the helpless useless doily I call myself be worthy?

 

God does tell us the meaning of It All, in the only ways He can.  Lewis comments somewhere that asking God to explain the meaning of something is like asking a human being, “is a square yellow”? God can only tell us the facts which, as He says to Job, “You will never understand. But You must still live for Me.”

 

“Only by choosing to love Me, more than you need to understand Me”, responds Jehovah, “will you someday be made right again.” As Pascal said, are we willing to wager our vacation days, reputation and love of objects on our eternal worth?

 

 

God watches us, not as a couch potato god who likes a good reality show, but as an active participant through those who chose to allow His Holy Spirit to live in them. And like His Son, we are expected not to watch Him work but to actively participate in creating a Kingdom on earth as it is in God’s Heavens. The Real God is not just a producer of our lives but an active participant in His Universes. Jesus  tells us that, “I will, one day, as The Great Antique Road Show Judge of all Time and Eternity, judge Your worth based on how you lived.”  And if we like the bad servant in Jesus’ parable, hide our talents without earning interest, we will be left to that most horrible Reality Show of all times – the dust heap from which we were created.

 

Paul, who wrote many a great script, wrote to his fellow ambassadors of truth and hope in Thessalonia, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

 

We are encouraged to live not as couch potatoes watching people vie for this world’s idea of glory, but as participants of God’s glory and man’s  own created glory realized in Christ Jesus.

 

The World’s Road Show is wide and many will enjoy it, but the Road from Eden through Calvary and the Tomb is narrow and not many will walk it.

 

Time to get off my couch –again– and put on my walking shoes. Time to saddle up. Can I ride tandem with you, Jesus?

 

O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Your name in all the earth!

You have set Your glory
above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength
because of Your enemies,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have established,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You attend to him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
and whatever travels the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

And all God’s people said, “True, ‘Dat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Dreams: Mother’s Day 2018

The following is a re-post from my blog.  I first wrote it in 2015.  I would  add that in the three years since I wrote this, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon have continued to follow their dreams and follow The Way and I could not be happier or more proud to be their mom. I continue to study The Map for Life-guidance, and for better or worse, I still attempt to “tell stories slant”.

 

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

For my children on Mother’s Day: Keep in The Dream Way

 

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I had one of my traveling dreams last night. I have always had traveling dreams and they are always stressful, slightly scary, and silly, and pretty easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dreams I am always trying to get somewhere. It is always dark, even if it is happening in the daytime. I am always driving or being driven somewhere in a car of dubious merit. Since becoming a parent, I often have my children with me. I am almost always lost and can’t find my way. Told you this would be easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dream last night, my cousin Emily was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had another woman with us in the back seat who was a friend or second cousin twice removed sort of person. She was a Ginger. We were trying to get somewhere so Emily could catch a plane. We were travelling all those little back roads and highways that used to be so common in the Midwest but every once in a while we would hit a terrifying freeway and have to get off. I took over driving and got lost and pulled into someone’s driveway to turn around. We ended up in a small town and the police started following us, then another police car came along side and pulled us over. They made us get out of the car. They thought that we were kidnapping the ginger-haired girl in the back seat. The female and male cops pulled the unnamed Ginger second cousin twice removed aside and then asked Emily to tell them the first name of the girls’ father’s father. Neither of us knew it though we racked our brains trying. Even though we didn’t know the name that would prove we knew the Ginger and were not kidnapping her, for some reason unexplained to us, the cops realized we were not kidnappers and let us go. We went to a cafeteria line where suddenly my cousin Amy and my sister Janet appeared and the second cousin twice removed disappeared. I put a plastic container of salad with edemame beans on my tray. Emily asked for the two taco plate. I decided I wanted tacos as well but did I still want the edemame salad? Emily insisted she was treating all of us. The dream ended before I knew what I decided to eat.

 

Sometimes all you can say about a dream, is “Life is like that.”

 

Life is full of choices. In life, you are always trying to get somewhere. Life is confusing and you often feel lost. You have companions on the way, some known and loved and some that are just along for the ride. Bad things do happen to good people and good people do often do bad things and sometimes the cops catch the wrong people and sometimes the bad people get their just desserts and sometimes the cops don’t show up at all. Sometimes the cops in real life actually shoot you dead for no reason. And some times the cops get shot dead for no reason. Just like in their nightmares. And Life is like a dream because we so often are just asking, “why did that happen?” and we are in it having to keep driving forward without ever knowing how it ends. Ever try to get back into a dream after you wake up and find out how it ends. Life is like that.

 

Sometimes, in real life just like in dreams, we seem to have no idea how we got to the place we find ourselves in. It is often because we weren’t paying attention to the choices we made when we started that particular journey. Just like in dreams, suddenly you are there. Sometimes we end up somewhere in life because we are dreaming when we should have been paying attention to what we were actually doing at the time. “Did I leave my keys in the car when I locked it?” — sort of attention deficit things.

 

The end of a day or a month or year is sometimes like waking from a bad dream because we got lost on the way. Sometimes we push the gas instead of the brakes or the brakes instead of the gas. Life is stressful because we just keep driving even if we don’t know how to get to where we think we want to arrive. We often refuse to stop and ask directions.

 

And Real Life is always slightly scary, at least once you take the wheel of your own life. Life was much less frightening when your mom was driving you home and whenat the end of a day you found yourself snuggled up against your parent in a warm bed after a large meal and a cup of cocoa.

 

Also, to be honest, our lives are frankly always a wee bit silly. Most of our life’s journeys should be relegated to the “I went to Target and the post office today” sort of journeys, not the crossing the Rubicon or the “It is a far, far better thing I do” sort of journey. But then since none of will know until the next life, the true meaning of each day’s journey, we should never image that our silly selves are not somehow also living out an epic journey full of unseen battles and quite a few seen ones.

 

If you read some of the great books that show in equal parts, humans as God-imagers and frail-ly ridiculous beings, you get a better idea of how spectacular and silly we all are. We are heroes unawares. Explore characters like those in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Anne Tyler’s or Jody Picoult’s women heroes and you will hopefully see humanity in a light that our dreams often try to reveal to us.   I am not talking here about the brokenness / heroic element in a Sydney Carton or a Billy Pilgrim. I am talking about tilting at windmills and a thumb to hold back a flood. I am talking about flying dreams and being famous dreams. I am talking about silly disciples walking with The Christ and arguing about who gets what chair near the future King’s throne. And Jesus responding by both laughing at their silly hubris while recognizing the heroic efforts to follow God that lay around the unseen bend for these human beings. Jesus must have some good chuckles at our silliness as we slap-stick through Life. And yet, just like the disciples who confused gaining a throne without carrying a cross, God has an inexplicably dream-like desire to help us humans drive towards the brink of heroism. Sometimes, we even leap over the chasm of “quiet lives of desperation” into something gloriously God-like.

 

I am talking about Life not as a linear attempt at accomplishment but as a traveling dream. I am talking about dreams in real life if not necessarily what we consider real time and place.

 

Dreams always have their own sense of time and place but aren’t usually what we consider factual time and place. Quite often they do not end up how and where we imagine they will or should. In this way our dreams illuminate something of God’s view of time and reality. A dream begs the question, what is Reality? Am I seeing this as it is? Is the meaning of what is really going on inside me more revealed when I am awake or when I am helplessly, innocently asleep?

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I like to mess with my husband about my Native American heritage. If you know anything about the Native Americans you know that dreams are an important part of their belief system, much like they used to be for Judeo-Christian folk in the Bible. The Native Americans believe that it is your soul that dreams dreams, not your mind or your body. In this philosophy, life is one big Dream and in that the impermanence of this life is recognized. Steven Bancarz writes of Native American philosophy, “It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world”.[1] The Bible talks about the reality of dreaming versus the reality of what we imagine is only in our waking this way: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)

 

 

Eugene Petersen in his book Tell It Slant, talks about Christ’s use of apocalyptic language. Petersen notes that Jesus uses stories to reveal to us Kingdom reality which is not a future apocalyptic dream or a past historical accomplishment, but a present reality behind an almost dreamlike curtain of the world we try to see with fallen eyes. The kingdom world can often only be approached not with eyes wide open but through eyes closed, as in sleep, to the oncoming traffic of the world and open to the dream world that exists just beyond our consciousness. Just beyond our small egos.

 

Much like the telling of dreams, Jesus’ stories are not easily understood nor analyzed. Parables have a dreamlike quality because they reveal the world behind the curtain. When Jesus is telling the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 17:20-37, Petersen writes,“he does it by introducing a radical reorientation on the nature of time and place, kingdom time and place.” Peterson goes on to say, “Jesus is training our imaginations so that we will be able to participate appropriately in the great salvation drama that is taking place right now – not world events of the future but the presence of the kingdom right now. Apocalyptic is a language strategy for breaking open awareness of the tremendous energies of good and evil contending with one another beneath the apparently benign skin of the ordinary.” [2]

 

Apocalyptic language gets our attention, like a dream might abruptly wake us from sleep. Apocalyptic awareness says, “Repent”, which is another way of saying “Turn around, you are driving the wrong way.” Apocalyptic awareness, like a dream, reveals what is under the surface of our world and often wakes us up to a different reality.

 

It is like the first time you reach out your arms to hold your newborn child. Though it seems like a dream after all the planning and striving and fears and work and hopes, your deepest being knows immediately that reality will never be the same again. You will no longer see reality as you did before you became a parent. The world has changed forever. You have turned a corner and the road will lead you in a whole new direction. And you are desperate every day thereafter for the rest of your life and his or her life, to find a perfect map that will take you and the most precious being in the world in the right direction. So she will be safe. So he will be fulfilled in a career. So she will find the right soul mate. So he will be brave in the face of disaster. You scour maps so you can help this new little entrusted life drive the straight path and find The Way.

 

There are many options today for getting directions. I am old enough to remember the giant tome called The Thomas Guide that was your traveling bible when you moved to Los Angeles. Today I prefer Mapquest, but my children swear by Googlemaps. All religions promise to provide a life map. The Judeo-Christian Life-map is revealed in the Scriptures, the lives of those who have tried to follow the Life-map, and in the Life of the Son of God who came to live the Life-map to the fullest. Early Christians first called our Life-map simply, “The Way”. Now we often get a bit lost in what we think is Christian Reality and we start calling The Way things like theology, Arianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, hermeneutics, and Vacation Bible School. These often help but they often simply encourage us to define other humans as going the wrong way. Sometimes all the technologies and labels and secure findings trap us in a sort of Christian couch potato life, watching Rick Stevens live the journey while we only talk about it. Not travel it.

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I fear sometimes with all my knowledge about The Way, that I have lost the joy in the journey on The Way. I think I know where I’m going but it’s just in my head. It’s a dream, not a reality of living in The Way.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you just hopped in the back of the car and let your parent drive you someplace. Even if the place had a name you recognized like Grandma’s house, or The Mall, how you actually got there was always a mystery. You couldn’t see much as your little child self, looking out the back seat window. But you weren’t afraid, because Dad was driving. Mom was reading the map and telling Dad, “no you missed the street, turn around.” Your sister was pulling your hair and you desperately had to pee but didn’t want to tell the parents because then they’d pull over and make you crouch behind a bush. So you looked out the window, tried to avoid your mean sister, and trusted you could hold it long enough so that Your Parent could get you to Grandma’s bathroom.

 

The Way is best traveled if you sit in the back seat, hold on, enjoy what you can see out the window, avoid the mean sisters, and let Your Parent drive.

 

 

The Way. Sometimes when I read about The Way or hear about people who have lived The Way, I think I must be dreaming. Who could live like this and get any where? I mean it can’t be real. You must be dreaming to think you can live out The Way on this earth, at this time, in this place, with these people, with that going on, with all the this and that and those. You are living in a dream world, girl friend to think you can do what Jesus did, follow God’s instructions, trust the Holy Spirit. Get a reality check, dude. Smell the coffee, honey. Wake up! Jane, ole thing, you gotta get in the driver’s seat, sit up front, take control of the wheel, and never stop to ask for directions or turn around and start again. Don’t admit defeat, don’t admit you are lost. Just drive, girl, drive!

That great book of stories that teach, The Bible, teaches us much about paths and ways. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and He will direct your path.” Prov. 3:5,6 I am The Way, the Truth and the Life.” – Jesus –John 14:6  The Bible also teaches us about a magical kingdom that exists just beyond the touch of our own realities.

 

This is what the kingdom on earth as in the heavens, looks like. Kingdom Life is a dreamlike reality, open to our imaginations, beating on our hearts like an unseen guest at the door, alive in the souls who do not crush the dream for a blind, tasteless portion of “reality”. The journey towards the Kingdom is full of adventure, full of choices, full of bad guys and good guys, and filled with moments of heroism and moments of hubris. Just like the journey of childbirth or adoption, Life is full of pain and angst and fear and bad choices and good luck and you would do it all over again because at the end you get a prize.

 

At the end of childbirth, you get to see that little face and you know that every step of that hard dreamlike journey was worth it. You dreamt about this moment of having a child for so long and at last you know the real meaning of what it means to be a parent.

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At the end of Life’s Journey, Jesus promises a prize. We will see the face of our Savior. And the real meaning of the dream of this chimeric world, will be gloriously revealed to be something similarly dreamlike and really quite different after all. And that is why following the Life- map of The Way is worth every thing. For what does it profit me if I gain the whole enchilada, but lose my soul’s way? What profit is there in gaining what I dream I want if I lose the reality of what God wants for me?

 

Have you heard that theory that we never actually die in our dreams? That we always wake up before we hit the ground, or get run over by the bus or crash the car? That is the promise of Christ’s dream if we follow The Way. We will never die but simply wake from what we thought was reality, to find it was always only a dream.

 

Once upon a time a young woman named Caitlin, saw her boyfriend named Raoul, take off for California to work for JPL. She stayed behind in Boston, a city she loved and where she had acting gigs and friends and a free place to live. It was also where she began calling herself Caitlin instead of Jane because it would make her famous enough to achieve her dream of getting on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show as a famous actress (Did I mention she dreamed of being famous?).

 

But a funny thing happened after Raoul had been gone for three months. Caitlin began to miss Raoul. She began to dream of him. So Caitlin hopped in her un-airconditioned Mazda GLC Hatchback and with Triple AAA flip-maps on the passenger seat, began to drive all the way across the big ole’ country of the United States of America. No GPS, no cell phone, no laptop, no gmail, no companion. Just Caitlin and her AAA maps. She made it to her mom’s house in Indiana for some loving and free food. She made it to her Uncle Marlin and Aunt Sally’s house in Kansas City. The morning Caitlin left, Uncle Marlin snuck out and filled the tank with gas and the tires with air and the whatcha ma thingy with oil. Aunt Sally snuck a packed lunch with cookies for dessert into the back seat.

 

Our heroine Caitlin got seriously lost in Omaha but eventually turned around and found her way. A flat tire made her swear. Once when she stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, she left her watch that her grandma had given her, in the restroom and someone stole it before she went back and could retrieve it. That watch was gone forever and it still makes her sad.

 

When Caitlin finally hit Phoenix she was a bit bedraggled and shell shocked and did not at first compute that it was blizzarding in what she had assumed was a part of the world that was always hot. Caitlin thought she must be dreaming. She managed to pull of the road in time to buy the tire chains but when she got to the part of the road that said “no tire chains, no go”, she was defeated. So she sat in her little tin can of a car, a bit teary for a heroine, who was going many miles for her man. Then an angel of the Lord dressed up like a trucker stepped out of a chariot that looked like an eight-wheel semi, and said “Fear not, I bring tidings of great joy!” And he asked if he could help. Caitlin never saw that trucker again which proves he was an angel.

 

After two nights in a Motel 6, our heroine Caitlin, outlasted the Evil Blizzard and began the terrifying trip flying on the dragon’s back of The 10 and The 210 into Los Angeles County. She arrived, eyes still stuck open with fear after her first near death experience with LA traffic, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk of Brent Avenue, South Pasadena. Caitlin realized as she stood, her legs numb with days of straight driving, that she was getting wet, and thought that it must be raining, not realizing it never rains in California. She was instead, standing in her first ever sprinkler system.

 

Behind the warmly lighted windows of the ground floor apartment, the inhabitants must have sensed the heroine’s presence. Out of the door flew Sophia Fifi Caesar, and Scott Warner, and their newest housemate, Raoul Tawel. And when Caitlin saw her Raoul, the one for whom she had traveled long and suffered much, she thought she must dreaming.

 

But it was real.

 

 

And the journey’s end for Caitlin was accomplished. And she deemed it Good. And there was peace in the land and in her heart and there was much love and joy for many days.

 

The End.

 

But of course it wasn’t the end but only a new beginning. And soon a new traveling journey was begun.

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I pray for you my children, that you will dream the dreams God has for your life. They are more exciting, more joy and peace filling, and more real than any thing you could possible dream on your own. If you follow the Life Map and keep on The Way by letting God plan the journey and Jesus take the wheel, you will arrive at Life’s end and wake up to see the Face that makes you sing out, “Oh, so that is what it all meant!”

And then the journey begins anew.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/where-our-soul-goes-when-we-dream-according-to-native-americans/#sthash.PXCziz1e.dpu

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. Tell It Slant. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Pp. 129 – 131.