Sunday’ Sermon

Sydney, St Andrew's Cathedral, Hardman and Co....
Sydney, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Hardman and Co. The Gospel writers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew early on that our first son would be a successful academic. When I was a student at SB Junior College I had a desk for studying at home. Little Steve wanted to study also. So I made a desk extension for him next to mine. We would study together. His book might be upside down but he concentrated on its text and he took “notes”.

Once in Santa Barbara when I was the janitor (and a university student) at the Unitarian Church Steve, who was about 4.5 years old, and I stopped by the office of the secretary. She asked him what he was reading.

“I’m reading about a boy who can fly,” said Steve.

“Oh, how exciting! You must be reading Peter Pan.”

“No, I am reading about Daedalus and his son Icarus, who flies too close to the sun!”

The secretary was astounded. And a bit embarrassed.

When Steve was about four he taught me an important lesson about reading and interpreting texts. He went to play school one day and immediately went over to an easel and stood there holding a brush ready to start painting. The teacher came up behind him and said, “What are you going to paint?”

“God,” he said.

“And do you know what God looks like?”

“I will when I finish the painting,” he said as he began to paint.

Isn’t that an amazing insight? Why do I find it important?

We do indeed give form and meaning to concepts and ideas in works of the imagination that we create including paintings and stories. We are the meaning seekers. We are the creators of meaning. The bible, for example, means by means of its stories. Think for a moment of the Christian hero, Jesus. There is a sense in which Jesus is a model for human beings to follow. He was a man of his time who held the assumptions and beliefs of his era. He is portrayed as a charismatic man who lived with intense purpose and drive, who had an existential thrust to his life, who cared deeply about human beings, and who wrestled with profound questions of ethics. The stories that grew up around him have affected the world for two thousand years and have touched the deepest parts of our humanity with their simplicity of image and their promise of “salvation”. [RTB]

I think of the Gospel writers as being like my young son.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Do you know Jesus? “I will when I finish my story.”

So, as you can see, I have learned a lot from Steve. And it was clear from those first days that the time would come when he would be Dr. Steven Lane and a successful professor and administrator. But, thirty years of service at VIU??

Time flies.

{Steve is now an administrator at Red Deer College in Alberta}

The Paradoxes of Vulnerability

Oxford’s Dictionary (I mean, define: __ in Google) defines vulnerability (noun) as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Other synonyms include: powerless, defenseless, dependent, weak, exposed.

In self-helpy ways, the definition is more focused on the mechanism of getting to the exposed place as being one of surrender to your own negative states. And it’s supposed to be good for you. But talks* of vulnerability here are often too vague or trite to be much use. To me, anyway.  So I’d like give my own take on vulnerability and argue in favor of its main paradox: how vulnerability makes you strong while invulnerability makes you weak. In the self-helpy way. First, defining my terms:

Vulnerability, the noun, is the quality of admitting and expressing our dark, weak, ugly sides; unwanted feelings and erred ways when they come up. Then there’s exposing ourselves to situations where we can be challenged and potentially hurt as being vulnerable, the adjective.

Being the noun while doing the adjective gives us growing pains **. Being vulnerable without vulnerability is a hollow endeavour***.

**to hurt is to grow. You might have heard. But it’s only as long as you’re aware of what about your psychological condition caused the hurt in the first place, and why you don’t need to be anymore. You need to feel it first, though.

*** being invulnerable means we cannot get hurt or change, means we cannot learn the above, means that while our appearance might seem solid and mature, we are an empty product of our experience. And this product is weak****.

There still needs to be a balance, of course. Too much vulnerability (adj) can make you seem overly emotional and self-absorbed. Being vulnerable to the wrong person and in the wrong situation can backfire*****.

The problem is that when you want to express vulnerability, it means you are currently feeling vulnerable and thus at the mercy of your emotions. This weakens your judgement and makes it more likely that you will indulge inappropriately. Here, emotions must tempered with logic (paradox #2).

Does too little vulnerability make you invulnerable? I don’t think so. Invulnerability is a different beast from mere ignorance; the quality of actively denying our dark, weak, ugly sides, either knowing it exists but not wanting anyone else to, or having deluded ourselves into thinking they are not there.

****How does invulnerability make a person weak? I guess it ultimately depends on one’s definition of weak. The way I see it, the weakness of the invulnerable lies in not so much in what they are, but what they are incapable of being. As being invulnerable limits growth, they are weak in relation to their peers and their potential self. Weak in the way that when the opportunity for emotional intimacy presents itself, they are not strong enough to reap its reward.

It also depends on the possibility of there being a person who is without flaws. Then there’s nothing to offer in the way of vulnerability. I don’t believe such a person exists, but who’s to know.

*****It helps if the recipient of the vulnerability is also one who is comfortable with their own so that they are less likely to use it against them. Unfortunately, it’s often the people who are not who are most able to/wont to hurt the vulnerable (noun and adjective) (paradox #3…or is it a catch 22).

*except for this talk

Tribalism

From the study: 

Our cultures are evolving today, but not, it seems, toward any harmony. The chaos of the 21st century makes our simulations feel immediately familiar. Two decades after 9/11, even the Western liberal democracies are willing to consider dark models of human behavior, and darker theorists than Fukuyama. SOURCE

Richard Spruce and the Trials of Victorian Bryology

Haeckel Hepaticae

“Obsessed with the smallest and seemingly least exciting of plants — mosses and liverworts — the 19th-century botanist Richard Spruce never achieved the fame of his more popularist contemporaries. Elaine Ayers explores the work of this unsung hero of Victorian plant science and how his complexities echoed the very subject of his study.” – SOURCE