Otherness beginsYears ago, a Harvard sociology professor spoke on the subject of “taming barbarians.” He maintained that across many diverse cultures and throughout time, the future and stability of every civilization depended on it. Barbarians were defined as boys and men, ages 15-25.

Barbarians, he said, tend to live for self-serving, short-term goals. Girls and women—as child-bearers—are fundamentally more interested in building the future. And so the taming force for guys comes down to whether or not they form committed relationships—through marriage and parenting.

otherness at riskHowever, in modern times (read: birth control and promiscuity) many young women are short-term-goalers too. Just think how many sitcoms and reality shows depict 20 to 30-somethings acting like junior high kids—cheating, lying, backstabbing, and hooking up.

And so marriage and family structures are at risk on more than one front. Committed relationships are the glue in all societies, and the lack of them brings instability and downfall. History is fraught with examples.

Maybe you’re offended by this professor’s analysis. I tend to agree with him, though I don’t see it as a gender issue—rather a human condition.

we try to eliminate othernessIn our carnal nature, we’d like everything to be centered around our life, with others fitting in accordingly. We want control of the channel-changer. We secretly turn the thermostat up or down to our liking. Movies like The Stepford Wives (1975) and Her (2013), explore the idea of spouses and lovers created as an extension of ourselves. We want the world to be “personalized” for us.

Google, Amazon, and Siri are constantly forming their sense of what we want, echoing our desires back to us. Pandora will make a radio station just for you. Writer, Cass Sunstein, says that this kind of thing is a form of modern slavery. Similar to Huxley’s Brave New World, “people have lots of fun, but their lives lack meaning or genuine connection.” Their desire for pleasure is both “seductive and soul-destroying.”

Basically, we’d like to eliminate the wildcard of another’s “otherness.”Continue reading

Sacred Exchanges

Sacred Exchanges

Tuck had recently discovered Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Spellbound, he stood four feet from the TV, watching the friendly man zip up his sweater and tie his sneakers.

sacred wordsMy little brother glanced around the room, then back at the screen several times. Mr. Rogers had just finished his opening song.

Hi Neighbor!”

“Something wrong, Tucky?” I asked.

He cupped his mouth. “Who is he talking to?” he blurted out in a hushed voice.

I smiled. Tuck needed a fatherly person around. I played along.

You, of course.” I said. “He wants to be your neighbor.”

With big eyes, Tuck faced the TV again.

I’m glad we’re together again,” said Mr. Rogers, as if he’d been listening to our conversation.

Tucks lips parted. “He lives on our street?”

“No, he lives in the TV, right here in our living room.” I struggled not to laugh.

Tuck cautiously made eye contact with Mr. Rogers. He darted over to whisper in my ear. “How’d he get in there?”Continue reading

That Difficult Person

That Difficult Person

While praying one morning I saw, “That Difficult Person,” in bold print on the screen of my mind.

What are you saying, Lord? I waited in anticipation.

The capitalization of the first letters appeared like a label in the way people stereotype someone, such as, “Cat Lady,” or “Mad Scientist.” It seemed God was not talking about a specific person, but a “type.” Almost always, a Difficult Person exists in some realm of life—at home, in our extended families, in our neighborhoods, at work, in church, and in politics.

Hmm…tell me more…

Ask God about difficult peopleGod said to Jeremiah,  “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (33:3) He invites us to do the same. Yet, in my experience, God speaks in mysteries that often bypass our logical minds.

Will we search out a matter to see what’s revealed?

Continue reading