Turnpike Troubadours – Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead

Turnpike Troubadours – Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead

It’s Fun Song Friday! Today’s installment comes from the cool Oklahoma red dirt band, The Turnpike Troubadours. Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead derives its title from on old Irish drinking toast (no wonder it’s such a great drinking song). Actually, drinking is a theme that runs through all three of their albums. I love the lyrics and appreciate their theological implications – live a life of intensity and freedom and then just cross your fingers and hope for the best. I know if I ran an Afterlife, that’s the type of souls I hope would show up. Well raise another round boys and have another glass Be thankful for today knowing it will never last Still lets leave the world laughing when our eulogies are read May we all get to heaven ‘fore the devil knows we’re dead May we all get to heaven ‘fore the devil knows we’re dead   Before the Devil Knows We’re...

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You’re Either a Mystic or an A-hole

You’re Either a Mystic or an A-hole

How’s that for a headline? (FYI – I’m using the G-rated version of the word asshole in this post because it’s important to me that I keep Renaissance It Now family-friendly and safe at all times.) Now, the very first thing I need to point out is that I don’t consider myself a mystic. But that doesn’t make my personal theory any less valid. In fact, I would argue that my admission gives it more credibility. But to understand what I’m getting at with my bold, dualistic assertion, I need to define my terms. What is a Mystic? To me, a mystic is the rare individual who, through some unique experience or conscious choice, experiences life – every aspect of it – as already unified. They don’t just believe the universe (literally “one song”) is unified – they live that reality. As a result, mystics transcend belief, creed, and philosophy. And while many traditions can lay claim to important mystics as members  – and often founders – of their tradition, the fact that those mystics show up in multiple traditions, philosophies, and disciplines tends to undercut the importance of those traditions in the first place. It’s the mysticism we long for, not the rigid belief systems that attempt to replace deep, direct experiences of life itself with an intellectual approximation. And truth is not something that originates – or even survives for long – in the intellectual realm.   What to Do and Not to Do When You Meet a Mystic When we encounter a mystic, either personally or through their works, it might be a good idea to consciously set aside our daily habitual a-hole distractions and consider modeling our lives on the same principles these mystics have discovered and are sometimes generous enough to attempt to articulate. Historically, however, it’s always been more common to let the mystics do the heavy lifting in regards to the self while we admire them from afar, or worse, worship them as superior beings and establish religions around our misunderstandings of their teachings. Because once you “own” a mystic, you never have to worry about experiencing life directly ever again. No, at that point you can control life, and harness its powers since you’re finally clear on its purpose and how it functions. Or so some...

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Nik Wallenda’s Walk Across Little Colorado Gorge

Nik Wallenda’s Walk Across Little Colorado Gorge

Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda – of Niagra Falls fame – successfully walked across the Little Colorado Gorge in Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park on Sunday, June 23, 2013 (broadcast on the Discovery Channel). That’s a 1400 foot long walk over a 1500 foot canyon. GrindTV has the details of the walk. While I don’t share Wallenda’s theology – or his recreational pursuits, for that matter – this guy is an amazing reminder of what we, at our best (and craziest) are capable of. Here’s the full video . . ....

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God 7.0

God 7.0

In my post In Defense of the Ego, I stated while making a larger point that: “Organized religion doesn’t quite have the most progressive record when it comes to elevating the individual – in the traditional conservative Christian worldview, for example, the ego and the sinful nature (all that’s bad, all that’s weak, all that’s suspect) are one and the same, and you were taught to crucify your ego in this life or burn along with it in the next.” I’m not here to bash anyone’s faith (as someone who believes in the supremacy of the individual, I encourage you to pursue your own authentic convictions whether they agree or disagree with my own). But I do feel that my own experiences of having survived and escaped an unhealthy evangelical upbringing have given me a valid opposing point of view. And in this  post, I intend to express that point of view – but hopefully in a fun and entertaining way.   The Dour and Immutable God Problem So one thing that I was taught – and which I think it’s fair to say is still the position of most evangelical Christians – is that God is immutable. Or, in other words, God doesn’t change. He’s timeless, the argument goes, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Except . . . That doesn’t exactly correspond with history. I’m not just talking about human history either – I’m talking about Christian history. In fact, God’s views on everything from slavery and women’s suffrage to dancing and playing cards have changed dramatically over the last couple hundred years. Even his views on homosexuality and marriage equality seem to be – as the saying goes – “evolving.” But instead of debating and arguing my points, I thought it would be better to illustrate what I’m talking about by sharing a poem I wrote quite a few years back . . .   God 7.0 The beard is trimmer now and not as white, nor does it flow with such hostility as in those olden patriarchal days when, like a righteous keeper of the zoo electro-shocking beasts that dared his wrath, the Rock of Ages was wont to scowl and smite. His rage was once an early draft of...

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In Defense of the Ego

In Defense of the Ego

It’s a sad fact that arrogant, untalented, and loud people have given the ego a bad name. Indeed, whenever we encounter a true a-hole, we almost always include the word egotistical in our critique of his or her character. But those arrogant, untalented, and loud people haven’t discredited the ego solely on their own. On the contrary, they’ve had enormous help – both from the keepers of society’s institutions as well as from ourselves.   If You Can’t Say Anything Nice About the Ego . . . It’s no accident that there are few, if any, examples of the ego being depicted in a positive light. In any civilization, there’s always a certain tension between the individual and the group. In western civilization, especially in the New World portion of it, we tend to cling to the romantic impression that the individual has largely won that debate. But don’t discount the impulse for an elite ruling class. Please don’t read “elite” as political code for anything – I’m talking about multiple political ideologies as well as professional, commercial, and religious interests that benefit from a large pool of disempowered individuals. Let’s face it – consumers, employees, parishioners, and constituents are much easier to deal with when they behave more like cattle and less like autonomous individuals.   Why Empowerment Isn’t a Priority I fear I may come across as cynical and harsh on this topic. But as I once wrote in an employee self-evaluation – no  joke – “my cynicism masks a deeply optimistic interior.” So at the risk of speaking in absolutes and painting with too broad a brush – and I recognize that things are a whole lot better now than they have been in the past – it seems  to me that individuals and their empowerment are not the primary focus of our political, religious, and commercial institutions: Political campaigns are less about ideas or transparent representation than they are about mobilization and the exploitation of demographics for personal power and gain – and in 34 U.S. states, “redistricting” for the U.S. House of Representatives is handled by state legislatures on a purely political basis, helping to explain in part how members of an institution with...

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