I-It Only Happens With Division

A quote from Martin Buber’s classic I and Thou that is hitting me pretty hard right now.

Martin Buber - Smart man, funny name, awesome beard.
Martin Buber – Smart man, funny name, awesome beard.

Even in the original relational event, the primitive man speaks the basic word I-You in a natural, as it were still unformed manner, not yet having recognized himself as an I; but the basic word l-It is made possible only by this recognition, by the detachment of the I.The former words splits into I and You, but it did not originate as their aggregate, it antedates any I. The latter originated as an aggregate of I and It, it postdates the I.

Martin Buber, I and Thou, p. 73-4.

I’m not sure I could adequately express the thoughts that are running through my head as I struggle with this quote. I am just amazed at the thought of us defining ourselves as “I”s through separation, which those produces an “It” because a “You” requires relation. Treating others as objects/”It”s leads to “I”s and separation, whereas being in I-You relations leads to union and an understanding of each other and ourselves in relation to others. In I-You relations we understand ourselves through a connection with a “You”, while I-It relations to us defining ourselves through separation.

I believe the God Who is relational in His being created us to be relational creatures,
I believe the God Who is relational in His being created as to be relational creatures,

I called Pam to talk through some of this and see then blew my mind (yep that’s right, my wife is as smarter as Martin Buber). She mentioned from her knowledge of child development that babies do not initially recognize themselves as separate from their parents. The infant/parent relationship is so tight that the understanding of “I” in that relation doesn’t happen till later. The “I” in that relation comes out of the initial “I-You” relation. Whereas objects are initially understood as separate. How do experts determine this? That is a question that you would need to ask Pam. She explained a little but not enough for me to be able to describe it adequately.

Struggling with understanding the implication of what Buber has written. How often have I defined myself through treating others as an “It,” rather than my “I’ coming out of and I-You relation?

Buber is brilliant, while I am not the best and conveying his brilliance. See, I think I just defined myself through separation from Buber.

Amazon Used Books

I am a big fan of the company through whom I chaplain for businesses. Corporate Chaplains of America is a pretty cool company. There are lots of reasons that I think CCA is awesome but right now I thought I would share something they just did. CCA has an in-house publishing company, Lanphier Press. This year the new CEO of CCA, Preston Parrish, wanted to make sure that all the chaplains are reading, so the company took the money  that Lanphier made last year and divided it into Amazon gift cards for all the chaplains. I received my Amazon gift card from CCA yesterday.

So I started looking for books.
209182I’m taking my time with the gift they gave me but I did buy my first book a little while ago. Hope within History by Walter Brueggemann. While I have only read a limited amount of Bruggeman’s work I have been challenged by what I have read and heard from him thus far. Thankfully the used books that Amazon sells make it much easier to catch up on what he has written. Thanks to the the used books on Amazon I was able to grab “Hope in History” for $4 including shipping.

Man, I love inexpensive prices on good books.

Feeling Betrayed by the Wisconsin Man

There is a guy who walks in our neighborhood that Noah and I called Wisconsin Man. The reason for this is that rain or shine, cold or hot, sunny or overcast he wears red Wisconsin Badger gear head to toe as he walks all over Plover. Seriously, I can’t see his shoes or socks too well as I see him when I am driving but everything I can see is UW-Madison gear. If I were a betting man I would place money that the socks are Badger socks. Usually it is warmups that he wears, but it can be other things too, as long as it is Badger gear. Seven years of seeing him and I’ve never seen him dressed in anything except red Badger gear. It is kind of fun to see him and Noah and I both point him out as soon as we see him. It’s kind of like a Plover version of Where’s Waldo.

Yesterday he betrayed us. He was wearing black warmup pants. That was a big enough deal but I was at least initially able to assum that they were badger gear too. It was strange enough that I slowed down so I could get a look in for any logos. Oh there was a logo and it was for the RAIDERS!

You have crushed me Wisconsin man. Crushed! Judas!


I am not entirely sure that I really knew what Spring was in my BW (Before Wisconsin) life. Yeah, I went through the calendar time period  that is called Spring BW. Yes, I noticed flowers sprouting and romance in the air BW. Sure I could tell a difference in the temperature each day and the lengthening of the day BW. But Spring in Wisconsin is different.

I am not trashing on the other places I have lived BW. I have pretty much loved certain things about every place I have ever lived. Being raised in Alabama there is something special about driving and seeing dogwood trees blooming all over the woods. The wildflowers that grew like waves of color along the roads in Texas were an amazing part of Spring. The opening of trout season in Missouri with anglers “fishing” shoulder to shoulder, while odd, is an intrinsic part of Spring in the Ozarks in my mind. Finally, the Mardi Gras season in Louisiana (and Alabama since Mardi Gras in the US started there) and the community that forms around bringing a King Cake to the office every day are linked with Spring for me.

But Spring in Wisconsin is different and it has to do with the Winter we just went through. In the Winter many people up here do just like many people in the South do during the Summer. They hole up in the homes. This isn’t true of all. Lots of us loved the outdoors during the Winter. Still being outside in the Winter is different than the Spring (and Summer). You don’t really lounge around outside during the Winter, or if you do it doesn’t usually go that well. We enjoy Winter activities, but I am not sure that is the same as enjoying the Winter environment. That changes when Spring starts to show up. People get excited about the longer days and the warmer weather. I am typing this in Zest coffee shop while I wait on an appointment and I have already heard two people greet each other by saying something similar to ” Spring has finally arrived. Isn’t it wonderful.”

People in Wisconsin LOVE the Spring. When we moved to Wisconsin and Pam started working at UWSP she was told that at one time the university had an unofficial holiday called “50 degree day.” This was the first day of Spring that the outside temperature hit 50 degrees or more. All the professors would cancel class and/or the all the student would skip their classes and everyone would party on campus. Imagine 10,000 people celebrating the weather.

This still sort of happens. Yesterday everyone flooded outside. It is whats happens in Wisconsin when Spring starts to display itself. Everyone goes outside. Maybe they are running or biking. Lots of dogs are being walked. People work on cars and yards. Frisbees are thrown by grandparents and grandchildren.  Supper becomes a house optional experience. Really, it feels like EVERYONE is outside. Yesterday while running I saw a couple of people who had actually moved their recliners outside. They were just sitting outside talking.

That’s what Spring feels like up here in Wisconsin. A time when everyone rushes outside for whatever reason they can think of and the roads feel kind of like a parade because of all the people walking around on them. The rush outside is infectious. Even tough the calendar says Spring started a few weeks back, yesterday it felt like it really had begun. Happy Spring.

Crash Helmets in Church

I am presently reading Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson (an author who always challenges me) and Peterson just quoted the following statement from Annie Dillard:

Why do people  in churches seem like cheerful  brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … On the whole I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

Reminds me of much of what Mark Buchanan says in Your God is too Safe. The real God of the Bible (YHWH) is not a god to be handled. He is not the god that works things out for your life and guarantees that the harvest will be good this year as long as you know the correct religious rituals. He is not the god who is always on your side of an issue and against your enemy. He is the One Who says “follow me” and then leads us into worlds that we would have never gone to on our own. He is the God Who we need to wear a hard hat around because He often needs to destroy some part of our lives and world, before He builds something much better. He is the God Who says that we only find true life when we loose our life in Him. To quote Mr. Beaver from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

May you and I remember to wear our crash helmets when we approach the true God, and may you and I both run away from images of Him that aren’t this dangerous.

Learning to Listen

I get to listen to a lot of very interesting podcasts during my drive to the various companies for which I chaplain. To The Best of Our Knowledge by Wisconsin Public Radio. Today one of their segments that I listened to was Touching Sound, an interview with Dame Evelyn Glennie who is one of the world’s leading percussionist and profoundly deaf.

While she is talking about music she is primarily talking about listening. She makes great points that we listen with our being, not just with our ears. She talks about learning to “touch sound.” To rephrase her words a little, I think we have to constantly focus on learning to be touched by the sound from the people and environments in our lives.

"Living the Resurrection" by Eugene Peterson

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday LifeLiving the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life by Eugene H. Peterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a quick read. It is also a very good read. Peterson does his normal work of simple to understand depth. I haven’t started his other, longer work on resurrection yet so I don’t know how much crossover there is. This was a great start.

So Peterson’s basic point is that living in the resurrection is the basis for spiritual formation. In other words spiritual maturity is a matter of programs or methods but instead it is a matter of wondrously responding to the act of God bringing about moments of life in a culture of death.  Some could take this and turn it into an excuse to do nothing, but that is by no means what Peterson is writing about. Nope Peterson is calling for spiritual formation that is based off dependency rather than control. Programs, formula, and methods of spiritual growth can be all about control. Like a math problem or a computer programming language.  IF I do this THEN that will happen. Dependence is different. It involves a lack of control and based off trust and response. I have to look for what God is doing and respond to it.

What I am trying to say is that Peterson offers some good examples of living in resurrection by responding and the book is worth reading.

View all my reviews

The How I Met Your Mother Finale

I was late to liking this show. HIMYM is one of those shows that has made me think Netflix is the greatest thing around for media. I believe we started watching it because of Noah, though I am not completely sure. What I know is that it became a show that we watched as a family. Even with the screwed up morals in the show, it was a show that really connected with us. I think the reason for this is that for all the relational bingo that happens within the show it is still focused on the value and importance of a strong marriage/relationship. Ted wants what Marshall & Lilly have and he is telling a story to his kids which has as its trajectory the achievement of such a relationship. The group’s relationship fits into this too. Robin & Barney might stink at dating relationships but they are tight with the group. The entire time I’ve been watching the show I’ve felt like Ted was telling the story to his kids with the hopes that they would one day achieve the loving relationships in their lives that he has in his. I guess that is probably my main problem with the ending. It felt to me like the ending turned the story  from a joyous focus on others (i.e. Ted’s hope for his kids for a spouse like his wife and true friends like his, and his need to brag on how great the kid’s mom is and how worthy she was of all the struggle) to another selfish explanation concerning why Ted wants something/someone.

Here are the other things that drive me nuts about the ending:

  • Robin – the end turns Robin into an object that is basically passed around between Ted & Barney. The ending kind of fakes being romantic. Ted goes and grabs the blue French horn trying to bring everything back full circle. Of course, we have been through this scenario several times before. We know the plot line. The only reason that this ending seems romantic is because the story stopped, but if you think about it you will probably admit that Ted & Robin will most likely go through the same process they have gone through before and their relationship will become destructive once again. As a matter of fact, when I think through the continuing story my imagination has Robin going back and forth between Ted & Barney kind of like Sisyphus
    with his stone. I really liked Robin’s character throughout most of the series. The end kind of reduces her to an object.
  • Ted – the story arc of HIMYM is focused on the strong relationships in Ted’s life. In the finale pretty much all of those relationships are no longer around. The story of each of the main relationships in Ted’s life is “finalized” and then kicked out of the script. Marshall becomes Supreme Fudge & Lilly is preggo with baby number three and then they are wiped out of the story. Barney’s life is changed by finally meeting a girl he really loves unconditionally, his daughter,and he is wiped out of the story. Ted’s kids agree to Ted going after their “aunt” and they are wiped out of the story. In the end Ted ends up standing on the street, rather than in one of the many familiar places of relationship in the show (Ted’s den, the bar, etc), staring up at Robin, a woman who has also basically been wiped out of the story too. That’s not a real Robin that Ted is staring up at, not a flesh and blood character of depth. That character was pretty much written out of the script when she became engulfed in work, too busy for the group, and merely briefly came back for Ted’s wedding. Nope Ted is staring up at an idealized, romanticized object. The series ends with Ted alone with his fantasy rather than surrounded with the strong relationships he has been bragging about for the rest of the series.
  • Barney – Barney’s character grew a lot during the show. His character is one of the best parts of the show. Yes he is comic relief but he also developed a ton. Which is why the quick fix that happens in the finale drives me nuts. The guy who struggles on his wedding day, claiming that he has a better tie (a corn flower blue tie) at home and tries to climb out the window to escape his wedding day,  holds his daughter for the first time and everything is fine. End of story. The real fun would have been seeing how Barney handles a whining female who he can’t dismiss from his apartment in the morning. Or watching the maker of the playbook develop parenting styles.  Can you imagine how much fun Barney’s “plays” to protect his daughter from jerks like him would have been? So HIMYM spends all but one episode of its final season focused on the wedding day of Barney & Robin, a relationship that will end after three years because neither one of them is really changed by it, and 2 minutes on the relationship that supposedly really changes Barney. PLEASE.
  • Marshall & Lilly – I don’t have a big problem with the ending of their story. I’m really just more surprised that since HIMYM was messing up all the other story lines that they didn’t decide to screw up Marshall & Lilly’s also. I’m surprised that the show didn’t decide to have Marshall cheat on Lilly and reduce Lilly to a weak, quivering blob of a woman. Two things that wouldn’t fit their characters. Why not be consistent HIMYM? If you were going to mess up everything else, why leave out Marshall & Lilly?

I know this has been a long post, but I thought the ending really stunk. It was almost as bad as the Lost finale, and I am still really mad about that ending. HIMYM was such a good show and it deserved a better ending. I know that real life doesn’t always work out nice, but I wasn’t watching HIMYM for real life. I was watching it for entertainment and a reminder of how important good relationships are important. Instead HIMYM trashed all that in the last season and tried to redeem it by going all “Sixth Sense” on us with a surprise ending in the last few minutes of the finale that would supposedly change everything that had happened in the show before the finale. Well it did change everything, just not for the good.