Friday, July 30, 2010

On the Side of the Road

Now that we're done with bumper stickers for a while, how 'bout billboards?

There are some really dumb ones out there lately. McDonald's are just weird. Clearly they're trying to be clever ("Good things come to those who wake"), but . . . I dunno. Something just seems to fall flat. My favourite one is "Our hotcakes are going like . . . " but after that, it's just "If coffee is Joe, ours is Joseph." Huh? What does that even mean?

The most bizarre billboard up on the main highway going through our City right now, though? It depicts three women, each in a different decade of life. They all look like they're laughing hard enough, if they had any sort of bladder control problem, to . . . have a bladder control problem. The caption says, "Not your mother's hysterectomy." Okay. Guess not.

Everything You Think

Here at Jennwith2ns' blog, we're analysing popular cultural catch-phrases. Why are we doing this, you ask? Because they're there, and I, Jennwith2ns, overanalyse everything. (You mean you hadn't noticed this yet?)

Previously on Lost . . . I mean, on this blog, I analysed an email forward, and then right before this here post here, I analysed a couple of bumper-sticker sayings but this afternoon, because I found the previously-mentioned awesomely-hippie site, Soul-Flower, I have a whole lot more bumper-sticker-catch-phrase fodder in which to revel, so here are my bumper-sticker reviews. I'm not going to give the nod to every single sticker on the site, but it turns out I have something to say about quite a few of them, so here I am, going to say it.

Bumper stickers that make me feel very un-hippie (i.e. make me want to punch someone in the face):

1. Coexist - Indeed. Please let us exist together peaceably. But I don't intend to stop talking to people about Jesus and the fact that I believe He has a vested interest in their lives, and also, I don't believe that all religions are on the same level, so seeing all those symbols mashed together on a dark rectangle makes me start having extremist feelings, which I don't really want to have.

2. Treehugging Dirt Worshipper - "So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen" (Romans 1.24-25, NLT).

3. Karma Happens - I actually kind of agree that it does--I kind of agree that there is something like karma out there. I just feel like Jesus came to free us from it. If it was really for freedom that Christ has set us free, I'd rather not get tied up again in slavery to the law--even by acknowledging it on the back of my car.

Turns out, though, that there are a lot more bumper stickers on here that I actually do like, even though you might not expect all of them to be right up my street.

1. Peace Be With You - Hey guys, they say this in church. 'Cause Jesus said it first. I'm down. (Interestingly, though, He isn't cited. Unlike Bob Marley, Gandhi, and John Lennon on other bumper stickers.)

2. Lord, Help Me to Be the Person My Dog Thinks I Am - This might not be a bad thing to pray, really.

3. Support Organic Farms - 'Cause I do.

4. Support Your Local Revolution - Especially if it's the next Great Awakening or something.

5. Break the Chains! Shop Independent Stores - I like this sentiment. I would never put it on my car, though, because it would make me a card-carrying hypocrite. I shop at Marshalls and Old Navy and I used to work at Starbucks, for crying out loud.

6. Change is Inevitable. Growth is Optional. - Both things are true. As I have observed and personally experienced.

7. Roots Run Deep - I don't know if I even know what the hippie meaning for this is, but they do, and I want to be rooted deeply . . . in the Jesus-life.

8. Compost Happens - Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

9. If We Don't Change Direction, We'll End Up Where We're Going - Do I need to explain this?

Okay. The end. I'm happy to have got this off my chest. What are some of your loved or hated bumper stickers?

Well-Behaved Hippies

So . . . remember how I have this pipe-dream (pun sort of intended) of being a sort of abridged hippie? By this I mean I maintain somewhat old-skool, monogamous, etc, sexual standards, and I have no desire to take up recreational drugs, but I like the clothes and the colours and the wind-chimes and the barefootness, and stuff like that. So today, thanks to a Facebook side-bar ad (because you can't tell me you never click on those), I discovered How much more hippie can you get? For the record, I would wear almost any of the women's clothes on there, minus the slogan ones, or ones with identifiably Bob Marley and/or Grateful Dead designs. In case anyone wanted to know. You know.

I confess I scoured the site to see if they were secretly selling marijuana on there . . . not 'cause I wanted any (honestly), but because it just seemed like they might try to be subversive in that way. Hippies want to be subversive, right? The closest thing I found was incense and hemp lip balm. But maybe I just don't know how to find out about these things. I could never be a narc.

Anyway, one of the things they did have was plenty of bumper stickers and graphic tees, as any good hippie shop should, really. I have a love/hate relationship with the types of slogans that end up on these sorts of things, for similar reasons to my ambivalence toward emails like the one I analysed last time. For example, I actually love the one that says, "Don't believe everything you think," but it's because in my head, I turn it around toward the idea that things are "true for you" as opposed to there existing an objective Truth "out there," like they told us on X-Files. I'm sure the writers of the sticker want me to stop "thinking" about my faith and just "feel" things, but frankly, although my feelings toward God are often somewhat obstinate or confrontational, I both think and feel that He exists and that the story of Jesus as recorded in the Bible is true, and if I have to submit to some sort of esoteric drug-induced experience to stop thinking and feeling that . . . well, it all seems a little suspect to me.

One of the slogans on Soul-Flower, usually found on bumper stickers but in this case on a woman's t-shirt, was the one mentioned by George Norman Lippert in a comment to my last post. (George and another guy named Darren have been blogging it up on Pastor Marty's blog this week. You might want to check it out.) One of GNL's pet peeves, evidently, is the slogan, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." The first time I, myself, saw said saying, it was paired with another bumper sticker which said, "Eve was framed." I think that's the peeve-making thing about it. In spite of being something of a feminist (maybe an abridged one of those, too) and an attention-seeker, I do believe that Eve (and Adam) actually sinned--hey guys! I believe there's such thing as sin!--and the implication that we should "break rules" for the sole reason of making our presence known to the world sort of drives me crazy. GNL puts it best, I think, when he says, "As with any of us, the breaking of the rules is only meaningful, methinks, when it is done for a powerful reason, and not just to be cool."

I probably hate the "well-behaved women" thing slightly less than GNL does, but only because I choose to look at "well-behaved women" in a different way than probably the authors of the phrase were actually thinking of it. By which I mean I can think of some women who broke rules for powerful reasons and not just to be cool. True it is that there have been mistresses and scandalous queens (Jezebel comes to mind) and Yoko Ono (sort of--though I'm a little skeptical that she and Angelina Jolie will be historically viable in a real sense if human history gets to muddle on for a few more centuries) who have made history because they have not been, in the traditional Western sense, "well-behaved."

On the other hand, there are ways of "misbehaving" against society which are actually Biblically moral and upright and still end up being subversive. GNL points out the Biblical Ruth and Esther (each of whom asserted themselves to men in a culture where that was not usual or even acceptable, but did so for family or the nation, and to uphold the larger law of God). There are also people like Mother Teresa, who subverted a selfish, capitalistic, shallow society where arbitrary value is put on human life. Also, in my church history class this spring I learned about people like Catherine of Siena and . . . some other Catherine--I'd have to look her up . . . who worked to reform aspects of the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation even happened. I suppose people who slap "well-behaved women" bumper stickers on their cars don't really know about the Catherines. But it doesn't matter. They still, in some way or other, made history. But in all cases, I don't think it was because these women were trying to make history. Or even trying to be subversive. They were just trying to do the right thing.

Does that mean they were well-behaved, or not?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Carpe Diem

Dead Poets' Society came out one summer when I was in high school and captivated the minds of a generation . . . or at least of my compatriots in both youth group and at school. One of my guy friends resonated with one of the characters and one of my girl friends had an aunt or someone who lived in New Jersey or something and somehow vaguely knew some of the actors. My friend and I spent our entire senior year fantasizing about a trip to visit her in which she introduced us to those young gentlemen, but naturally no part of it ever happened. For my own part, I had to give a speech at the beginning of school that year, and I chose as my theme that of the movie: carpe diem--seize the day.

I don't really remember what I said, but I remember feeling very inspired and, as I went to a Christian school and was very intent on its being as Christian a school as possible (as if I had much to do with it), I tied the theme in with our faith. As I say, I really don't remember how I did this. And, as I implied in the last post, I don't know that I lived it out very well, as "spontaneous" and "Jenn" are not usually words that show up in the same sentence. Not this Jenn, anyway.

After my friend's comment the other week, though, I had to reassess whether "carping" the "diem" is truly a "Christian" approach to life. I think I decided I can still at least mostly agree with the sentiments behind the email; on the other hand, the way in which I perceive them is likely different from the way my friend does, and, if I am genuinely trying to walk in the steps of Jesus in some way, it probably should be.

So now I'm going to "explicate" that email I mentioned last time, with the Bible in mind. (The last time I explicated anything, it was for a literature class in college, so whoever wrote this email forward should feel really honoured at all the attention their writing is getting over here.)

Life is short.

Yes. It is. "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103.14-15, NIV).

Break the rules.

I'm gonna go with yes, but probably not in the way the writer of the email meant. There are the 10 Commandments and the perceived traditional morals which are usually implied as being the rules that need to be broken in this sort of thing. But it seems to me that those are just convenient scapegoats for a fairly amoral society which wants an excuse not to take responsibility for decisions. There certainly are and have been societies or pockets of society where oppressive legalism is the, er, "rule" of the day, but I kind of feel like the "rules" in this society are about living completely for oneself and running roughshod over other people, ideals and beliefs that differ. So . . . I'm okay with breaking those rules. Yeah. Let's be counter-cultural. Let's actually think about the results of our actions and make decisions based on true, self-sacrificial love, and not self-love. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Gal. 5.22-23).

Forgive quickly.

I don't know that that's always realistic--I think true forgiveness is a process, and if what's being forgiven was a true injury, too quick a forgiveness is probably more of a suppression. BUT--the whole point of the Bible is forgiveness, and if someone has wounded us, forgiveness and it's process isn't even really optional. "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6.14-15).

Kiss slowly.

Um . . . okay, how 'bout we not talk about kissing?

Love truly.

Along with forgiveness (being a specific manifestation and capacity of love), the whole point of the Bible is love. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4.8). The "truly" part is kind of important in this context, though. I think the general understanding within this type of email is "love with feeling." But God's love is beyond emotion and has a lot to do with choice and decision, and less to do with spontaneity. This isn't some "love the one you're with"--although, I suppose you could argue you should love the people you're with. It's just that true love doesn't necessitate the physical, and the danger of emails like this is that if you were so inclined, you could always justify doing something "spontaneous" . . . and not God's idea of the best way to live life and love others . . . by saying you were "loving" in the "truest" way that you could, when really, it was just the most physical, or immediate, or convenient--or self-indulgent.

Laugh uncontrollably.

I'm pretty down with that. It raises your seratonin levels or endorphins or something. You know, "Science has shown . . . " Plus it's fun, and in my own experience, the times when I've laughed the hardest have usually been the times when the humour has been the most innocent. It's a little tough to find a Bible verse about this. But there is always this: "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" (Proverbs 15.13). Which I guess kind of implies that true happiness, smiling, and even laughter, overflows from who a person is on the inside to begin with.

And never regret anything that made you smile.

This is probably the bit with which I disagree most. There are plenty of things that can make me smile, I suspect, for which the time or place or means is not actually pleasing to God. I guess that's probably the main difference between the possible different interpretations of the advice in the email. You can interpret it in such a way to provide short-term pleasure for yourself, or in such a way as to provide pleasure to God. The second way sometimes (but not always) limits the responsibility. I tend to think, though, that it also provides a longer-term, deeper, more repeatable pleasure that you end up enjoying yourself, even as God does.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fwd: March!

I don't like email forwards. I realise this isn't a very original sentiment, but it's a genuine one. I especially dislike the ones that promise some kind of pagan good luck--or bad luck--(conditional on one's forwarding the forward) and tack Jesus or some saint onto it, or the ones that say, "If you love Jesus, you'll send this to 25 of your friends. If you don't send it on, you hate Him." I often feel like the true test of whether or not I love Jesus--and the 25 friends--would be my not passing the forward along. The thing that might be mildly unique about my relationship to email forwards, however, is that in spite of my honest-to-goodness dislike of same, I usually read them.

And every once in a great while, there's one that I pass along. Usually not to 25 people, and usually only if it doesn't have a threat at the end. Like the one I got from Y(outh)G(roup)-Dave (not to be confused with Brother Dave) this week. It had lots of crazy and creative and mildly disturbing photos of food art in it like this:
and this:Interspersed with the photos was the stock email forward text about laughing and loving and dancing, with a few small twists. But the photos were, in my opinion, so great, that I decided to pass them along to a friend.

"Text aside," I emailed, "these photos are awesome."

On receipt of the email, however, he wrote back, "I found nothing wrong with the text."

"Oh, good," I replied. "I thought you might have found it cheesy." The last time I emailed anything with a similar sentiment to this friend, he pointed out how trite and attemptedly guilt-inducing it was, so I was a little skittish I guess.

"I thought," he said, "you were objecting to the 'live for the moment' sentiment . . . "

"Nope," I said. But then I started thinking about it. There's no question that I'm not the most spontaneous puppet in the theatre (I just made that up--not sure it works, but it kind of makes me grin so I'm going with it). And there are plenty of pseudo-Christian email forwards, and genuine Christians who forward them, that espouse "live for the moment sentiments." But now he really had me thinking. Is spontaneity about beliefs more than it is about personality? And were the injunctions in the forward, most of which I kind of enjoyed and agreed with, things that I, as a Christian, should instead be wary of?

Sometime this week I'll explicate the email and give you my so-far conclusions. In the meantime, here's what it said. What do you think?

Today is International Disturbed People's Day

Please send an encouraging message to a disturbed friend... just as I've done.


I don't care if you lick windows,

take the special bus

or occasionally pee on yourself..

You hang in there sunshine, you're special

Every sixty seconds you spend angry, upset or mad, is a full minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Today's Message of the Day is:

Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile.

Send to all the people you care for and don't want to lose in 20
10 , even me..

If you get 3 back, you are a great friend.

Life may not to be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is the Hiatus Over?

This year I answered two emails when they were each over a year old. How does this happen? you ask. Well, basically, I waited to answer them because I wanted to take the appropriate amount of time to give the thorough and thought-out response that these emails, and there just never seemed to be the right time, and the longer I lagged in answering, the more embarrassing it seemed to me to be to remind the senders of my existence by answering in such a belated fashion.

I'm pretty sure that's what has happened to this blog, even though the silent time-span was a month instead of a year. In the meantime, I went on vacation during which time I did not have my computer and did a bunch of writing by hand though none of it was very inspired and also during which I discovered I actually remember much more French than I thought I did. I also went with nine teenagers and one adult on a mission trip with a lot of other youth groups in Upstate New York. I have further taken yet another week of vacation--this time not alone, and not very far afield; instead, my parents, Dave, Sister-in-Lu, TWCN and Patrick all descended on my (I mean my parents') house and we had a great time as a family. It has actually seemed like summer around here, and not just because the temperature has been in the 90's and 100's all week.

I'm not sure that any of that makes for a good excuse for my not having written in over a month, but it's the best I've got. I hope you'll come back and visit.