Christianity and Isolation

In a Facebook group, someone brought up this:

"One cannot function in isolation from others and still be a Christian."

It has resulted in many different comments, and I have a lot of different reactions. Here are some of my thoughts.

First and foremost, there seems to be little potential benefit and much potential harm in trying to decide if we think someone else is a Christian. What is much more important is trying to live a Christ like life, trying to live a life we feel called to by God.

It reminded me of a different question that came up in that group about post-theism. It felt like the person asking the question had a lot at stake in receiving a positive response to the question and I asked why the response to the question were so important to people. I asked why the opinions of others were so important to people in the group, an honest question, which people complained about.

I really do believe we need to spend less time worrying about what we consider other people to be or worrying what they consider us to be.

Another thought was that ultimately, none of us really function in isolation. We are all connected in one way or another to others around us. The carbon dioxide we exhale may be inhaled by others. It may be converted back to oxygen by plants around us. The words we say affect others.

Some people brought up the desert hermits and it was noted that they were not in complete isolation. Some mentioned Thomas Merton, yet he was very connected to others through his words.

One issue that came up in the comments seemed to be a confusion between being in isolation and being part of a traditional Christian community or regularly visiting a building in the United States, commonly called a church.

As I think more about missional Christianity, of getting Christians out of the box they attend on Sunday mornings, I think it is important to differentiate between being in isolation and not visiting specific buildings at specific times.

Where does this leave us? The first is the command Jesus gives to love one another as He loved us. While it may be possible to love others in isolation, that seems like a rare exception. I also like the line from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, “The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

Restoring all people to unity with each other in Christ does not sound a lot like something normally done in isolation.

#NaPoWriMo 8: Road Poem 2

Careening down the interstate
I pass the spirits
of drivers long past
who in their rush
listening to NPR, Springsteen, or Rap
have left their souls behind.

The spirits pause
to drink from the glistening dew
beside the road
carrying their dreams
in handkerchiefs
tied to long sticks
like hobos
of yesteryear.

On my way
to soul crushing work
I wonder
where I’ve left
my spirit
and what I can do
to protect it.

The travel guide of souls
is hidden
in the white washed graffiti
of bridge abutments
where the homeless sleep
and the Gospel of the travelers
once easier to find
in the eyes of waitresses
at the Mom and Pop diners
along the way
are still there
in the bright plastic light
of fast food joints.

I look for hints in the differing
groves of trees
along the way,
in the sunlight
reflecting off the reservoir
and the giant fluffy clouds
which seem to be
in no rush.

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A Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists

The latest class in the Poetry in America series has started, Modernism, and the first poem being explored is In a Station of the Metro.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The discussion forum starts off with

“his first attempt to write the poem resulted in a thirty-line draft; his second, six months later, was half that length; the next year, Pound produce the haiku-sized final draft.”

We are then asked, “How does Pound's poem accomplish so much with so few words?”

Pound’s poem’s power comes from compressed comparison. The comparison is implied and a verb isn’t even needed.

Pound kept whittling away at the poem until he was down to just fourteen words (not counting the title). Why stop there? Why not keep going until you get down to just two words to compare and contrast, “Faces : Petals”? Down to one word, “Apparition”? Or no words, like John Cage’s 4’33?

What is it that makes poetry poetry? Especially if we abandon the subject, structure, and sonance of earlier poetry? Are we reduced to just comparison?

It makes me think of Billy Collins’ poem, “The Trouble with Poetry: A Poem of Explanation”

In Collin’ poem, we find:

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

As we think about what it is that makes poetry poetry, I think about my own writing. Why do I write like I do? How does this relate to modernity, capitalism, and the industrial revolution? Is it time for the next phase in poetry? Post Modern? Post Structural? Or, perhaps like our Pre-Raphaelite predecessors, a return to some of the beauty of previous art, perhaps a Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists?

Subsequent thoughts: As I go through the comments in the course, one person writes:

the poem first invoked memories of Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

I respond:

I like comparing the Pound's crowd to Whitman's crowd. The apparition of these faces in the crowd; how curious you are to me!

Many of the other comments focus on apparition, particularly the ghostly aspect, and it makes me think of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Wraith

#NaPoWriMo 7: A Digital Aborigine

At times I feel like a digital aborigine
showing the digital immigrants
and their offspring,
the new digital natives,
the paths of cyberspace.

At times we come across a fence
one of the digital immigrants has built
obstructing the way
or a new bridge
over a difficult stream
that one of the new digital natives
has put up.

The digital immigrants
long for their analog homeland
distrustful of the ways
of this new world
and their digital offspring
are puzzled
by the nostalgia
for the old
analog ways
of their parents.

I cherish my digital world
as I lovingly show
my newbie friends
the beauties of this place.
I show the digital colonialists
the ways of my world
knowing full well
what happens
to aborigines.

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#NaPoWriMo Further Reflections

It is Thursday, April 7th. I continue on pace for writing a poem a day in April. I’m a few posts behind averaging a post a day for the year. Last night I was out late and didn’t get a chance to post yesterday’s poem until this morning, and I may come back to it and work on it more later.

I have today’s poem mostly composed. I just need to do some editing, but I thought I’d stop to write some reflections this evening and post the today’s poem tomorrow morning.

My computer was acting up today. In part, I believe, because I had too many windows open. I close the windows, saving the links to various pages I had open, and some of them seem to fit together.

MOOCs: There are two MOOCs that I’m looking at participating in. One is MODERN GENIUS: ART AND CULTURE IN THE 19TH CENTURY. I believe it is set up using the Kannu learning management system. It is a good chance for me to see how that system works. The course already started, so I have to decide if I want to spend time on it and maybe try to catch up.

The other MOOC, which is starting tomorrow, is Poetry in America: Modernism. I’ve participated in a few of the other classes in this series, sometimes having time to complete them, other times not.

During my devotions, I ended up on John Donne’s page, particularly reading Annunciation. This led me to search Librivox to wee what is available. I found
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
. I am listening to this in the car during my commute.

I also watched a little of Why is modern poetry difficult? Talk by Professor Geoff Ward.

All of this links together with an article that caught my attention today, Study: Poor Writing Skills Are Costing Businesses Billions. It pointed to the study, Are They Really Ready To Work?

Kim and Fiona are elsewhere, so I have a quiet evening at home. I’ll work a little more on today’s poem, maybe read a little more online, and then head off to bed soon.

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