Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Beer, Conversation, God, Repeat

Bryan Berghoef is clearly on to something. He's coined a term for something I've been doing since I had my first beer with friends (at age 21). But it's not about the beer. I'm thinking of times and conversations at Pope's Tavern in Oxford or Greenshield's in Raleigh, N.C., where the the superfluous sloughs away and you are pondering Life's big questions over a pint.

I can remember walking to philosophy class at N.C. State (a rarity, given), and thinking about some question or another and having it addressed in class while discussing Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" or Bertrand Russell. Philosophy seemed to cut through the details. Which is why I studied it at Washington College and why, had the ball bounced differently for us, I would have been a PhD philosophy graduate student at Duquesne University and likely teaching it now.

It's why when the ground feels shaky under my feet, I pick up Thomas Merton or Thich Nhat Hahn or Alan Watts or Chogyam Trungpa or Frederick Buechner to help calm it down.

Church services are not discussions, generally speaking. They wouldn't work too well that way. You sit, you stand, you sing, you pray, you reflect. If you have young kids, you might be equally focused on making sure they aren't crawling under the pews or coloring in a hymnal. But dialogue is largely absent.

Not to mention, if your spiritual lineage includes Buddhism, Fritjof Capra, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walt Whitman and Sunday morning trail runs, well, I'm still trying to figure out what all the means.

It's also true that you don't want to be the guy, or girl, at the bar watching the game or celebrating a birthday, who wants to scale the walls of existentialism. That guy doesn't get invited to happy hour.

Berghoef figures it out with his idea of "Pub Theology." Beer, conversation, God. All backgrounds and beliefs are welcome. Open, honest discussion, each week (don't most churches meet weekly?). If you are a narrative cat like me, you can read how he describes it for the Huffington Post. If you look at how many places are starting their own version of pub theology groups, Berghoef isn't alone in his thinking. And that makes me happy.

That's why a pub theology group has kicked off in Easton. Every Wednesday, at the Washington Street Pub, at 7:30 p.m. A place, an outlet, for pondering Life's big questions, in a casual environment, possibly over a pint.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The hero and the chain

Nobody wants a supporting role in their own life story. We're all after the lead role, the hero. Unless you posit that we've all got supporting roles in God's story, or the story of the Universe. But my consciousness isn't that big, I'm still centered on my own life and my family's lives around it.

If you've ever watched a movie or read a book, you've probably pictured yourself in the hero's shoes. Further, maybe you've been out for a run, bike ride, walk down the street, drive or walk to work--there are times when you picture your life as it happens like it's a movie. Maybe you've got some theme music going for your big scene coming up. I've been devouring graphic novels lately, so I've had heaps of that perspective lately.

It's a frame of reference thing. We live our lives as ourselves. That's our reference point. But reading Matt Fraction's "Immortal Iron Fist," I was reminded of a train of thought I've ridden on before. Iron Fist, or Danny Rand is training and meditating and realizes:

I'm a link in a chain extending backwards through time and forwards, simultaneously.

Time and my life as a chain is interesting. If we're the heroes in/of our lives/life stories, we're a link in a chain. The previous link is our father and a different one is our mother. Their life stories are individual chains, which then link into the future through us. But like my story, my father's goes back to his parents, etc. There are a lot of chains that link together in me. I am a link connected to a lot of folks in my family's chains. It's more like a web than a chain, but I like the chain image better.

Each of the other links are/were their own heroes. A zoom in on a different part of the larger chain and the chain tells a story.

I'm not fully sure where I'm going with this, but that's the beautiful thing about having a blog: I don't have to go anywhere with it ;-) If we're all the heroes in our life stories, and their are a lot of us, a lot of stories, and even in the story of our families, it isn't as simple as our own story, because our story is connected to the ones before and after us. You could look at the chain links as chapters and the chain as a book.

Maybe we are heroes, but at best we are heroes for a chapter. Then it's on to the next.