Saturday, March 1, 2014

Imagination and Civilization

Photo by Ruth Shiroma Foster
Recently on Facebook, a friend in his mid-'20s asked, "Do you feel your generation has any say in making the world a better place? And what does that mean for you? I believe most people my age are resigned to the fact that the world is doomed and choose to live for themselves, in whatever form that takes. We've learned to accept our helplessness." Here's my reply:

Interesting question. Let me ramble, as I don't know exactly how I'll answer your question just yet. At a very core level, all humans want to thrive (survive, grow). Our human nature is to have imagination - imagination being the advanced evolutionary trait that allows us to plan for the future. At the base level, imagination is tied directly to thriving, surviving. It is thus the level of complexity by which humans use imagination that allows them to apply their energy to larger, more conceptual, institutional endeavors that promote human thriving - "making the world a better place," if you will. The simpler use of imagination may be to consider the ramifications if a mother fed her baby potato chips only - imagining how doing so would destroy her child and imagining feeding the child fruits and vegetables will promote a healthy body in the future. Both desires and applications of imagination, it can be argued, are inherently selfish because they harken to that core desire for human thriving, survival. It's just that in the case of "making the world a better place," you are applying your desire to thrive several concentric circles outside yourself. I think the drive for why we do things needs to be examined.

I don't know if I can speak for my generation per se, but among my peers, it's clear that many are applying themselves in a way that they know they are "giving to the community" to make the world a better place. This trait is seen in ministers, park soccer league coaches, songwriters, bloggers. I don't know how self-aware they are as they do it, but at the very least, their contributions often serve large groups of people - the community. The inventors of Google are 40 (I'm 41), and I don't know their story enough to know whether they planned to make the world a better place. But the result of their complex imaginations made it so anyway - sort of like positive collateral damage. 

Your observation about people your age living for themselves - perhaps their imagination goes only to the bounds it's ready to go - so to family and friends, but nowhere outside of that. I think that quality is mutable as people's perspectives change with life experience. I have a friend who is putting his money, leadership, talent and design skills toward having humans populate Mars one day - with the idea that Earth will one day be unable to sustain human life. Now that's applying his imagination many, many, many concentric circles outside himself. One of the reasons homo sapiens were able to survive while other species died out was its ability to create community and use shared imagination. I think among humans, there are those who can think conceptually and apply themselves in larger ways that affect the population at an institutional level. But, there are those who keep their interests pretty close to themselves, just enough for their own inner circle to support a more predictable path. I've come to the conclusion that both kinds are necessary for the advancement of humanity. You need the thinkers and leaders to create new curves, but you also need the everyday folks with perhaps less imagination to sustain the curve long enough for the next one to come about. 

Not sure how satisfying this response is, but something to chew on.

New Wine

Below are a series of selected journal entries describing what it was like to be confronted by my evangelical Christian family over my loss of faith. 

It has been more than five years, and we have all forgiven each other, and the relationship has been healed. I attribute this to the inherent love that has always existed in my family.

Still, I feel it is important to make public what I went through. It was one of the most dramatic experiences, emotionally, I've ever been through. I believe it can be helpful for people on both sides - whether you're in ministry or whether you've left the faith. 

Despite all the hurt, no matter how large the chasm, there is hope that relationships can heal. Humans and our ability to love are incredible things. 

Photo by Ruth Shiroma Foster

New Wine

August. 27, 2008

I just want to scream. I just want to be anonymous so I can scream as loudly as I can.

Today, I saw a "shrink" for the first time in my life. I'm 35.

My dad is a Southern Baptist minister and so is my brother. For the past eight years, I have questioned my faith in a very methodical way. And the things I now hold in my mind, the orthodoxy I no longer embrace, have made my mom cry, my dad not eat and drink and my brother cry and pray. I didn't want this to happen, but it did. And I'm so glad it did, because these days, I feel more capable of love, of reaching my potential, of thinking grand things. I am born again. And this makes my family sad. My mom says she has gotten high blood pressure and told my sister to never do what I'm doing. She says dad's quality of life will go down and that "this will affect us for the rest of our lives."

Dr. T heard 90 minutes worth of my life. He said many things, but the one thing that resonated most clearly was the idea that I need to pursue "personal power." The power my family has had over my life is a force I'm left to deal with.

I just want to fly away, as far away from here as I can. I just want to be in a place where I can truly discover who I am. I am new wine, and I can no longer be held in old wine skins.

No Longer Feels Like Home

August 31, 2008

When Norm and I visited Mom and Dad last week, Mom spoke in two-word sentences to me. I called her several times this past week and invited them to come to the Okinawan Festival. I'm getting the cold shoulder. Last week when I visited them, I felt completely uncomfortable, not welcomed at all. Mom didn't say "hi" to Norm until later and barely could stand to talk with me, despite my overtures at small talk and helping in the kitchen. With that feeling just under my skin, I am expected to "power through" like a robot and go to their house and "take" another one of these uncomfortable interactions? 

If you think that this is normal and how Christian family members should treat their own family members, then I am truly at a loss for words. I simply don't agree. I would like to have a normal relationship with my parents, and because this is not possible on their end, I do think they need a third-party person to help them (1) accept me as a person even though they are disappointed with my decisions and (2) help work through some of their feelings of loss.

I know Mom and Dad are hurt over me not wanting to go to church. I have to say that I feel so heavy-laden with feelings of rejection that every time I look at the "Who We Are" or "Mission Statement" or "What We Believe" statement on the websites of other churches I've thought about visiting, I feel completely alienated. Emotionally, the recommendation from James to "take a break" from the Praise Team has taken a huge toll on me. This, in addition to the way the rest of my family has reacted caused a hole in my heart.

No one in my family, except Naomi, seems to have a shred of appreciation for what I'm going through.

Please don't call me. I really don't want to talk to anyone or email anyone. I just truly need a break.

The Inquisition

September 1, 2008

So now my Dad and Mom want me to drive over to their place and lay out in front of them the points of my theological beliefs. On the phone, Dad sounded exasperated and upset. I already articulated it before and got beaten down so hard by my brother and Mom. To experience the downpour of their disappointment and anger, the constant accusations that something is wrong with me, that I need to see a counselor because of my 180-degree turn, that I need to return to where I used to be eight years ago has affected my ability to focus on work. I took a sick day, but really I should have taken more. I told my Dad that I need a few days to gather my thoughts.

This meeting with my parents is going to be like the freaking Spanish Inquisition. I hate my family. Sometimes I just wish I could have kids so I do NOT raise them Christian. 

Terms of Enlightenment

September 17, 2008

Today, my brother told me that he gets "frustrated" talking to me. He says he doesn't know who he's talking to. He thinks I that I think other people are not as informed as I am and that I give off this air that I'm more "enlightened" than others. "You're the hardest person in the world to talk to," he told me. He then went on to tell me he thinks that I don't know who I am and that I only believe what others around me believe and hold no beliefs of my own. It's as ifI 'm just adopting other people's ideas to "fit in." 

"That is just so insulting," I told him. I turned told him that likewise, he was the same as I was. People do things to reinforce who they are and the things they believe. "You've been in a Christian bubble your whole life," I told him, then I said that I don't seek out Christian friends necessarily because that's not where I am. He, on the other hand, has pursued a Christian career (pastor), seeks Christian friends and married a Christian. It's really the same thing just with different content. People do things as a reflection of where they are - that's human nature. 

I know he accuses me of looking down on him, but he looks down on me, too. Really. I think we're both even. Frankly, these days, it's hard for me to not look down on someone who sees the world in such simple terms and looks down on people who don't see things his way. This whole thing - this circular thing that has no clear resolve - is so tiring. It just wears on my soul.


September 18, 2008

God, this is crazy. My family thinks I'm tainted.

March 1, 2014: It was my experience dealing with my family that caused me to pen the song, "Fingerprints." This song won the Oahu Kaua`i Music Festival Song Search competition in 2009 and can be found here

I stopped journaling after the above post, most likely because the extreme emotional storms began to subside, and I no longer felt the need to let it out. Since our big rift, everyone in my family had grown more capable of seeing and accepting the other person. As I continue to build my journal entries, you'll see that my beliefs continue to evolve, with new insights every day. Today, my beliefs most closely resemble that of an atheist, but I consider this a mutable thing. This is a separate topic altogether, but it's important to note how far this is from the evangelical faith given to me by my family.

My relationship with my parents have mended. In fact, last summer, Norm and I went with my parents to Alaska and Seattle, and we had an incredible time. I was even able to enjoy a glass of wine with my salmon dinner! 

My relationship with James has historically been pretty emotional. Growing up, we would really slug it out, and this always upset my mom. When we were both in ministry together, James and I supported each other with prayer and with very intense, deep conversation. Naturally, when our deepest-held beliefs collided, we collided as well. Since the explosion, though, we learned what has worked best to show love to each other, despite our differences. We have stopped talking too much politics and too much religion, but when we do and things get a little heated, we've found ways to to turn it into comedy or patch things with follow-up phone calls. 

It was important for me to share this because I thought I'd pass along hope. When the rift happened, I couldn't see the end; I had absorbed so much hurt, and I thought my relationship with my family would never be restored. We are stronger and better than we think - we just need to give it time and apply love to places where there is common ground.