Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: interdependence

Longing for Community in Everyday Life

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In the year 2000, I had a profound experience of extreme loneliness after I had finished college.  I was uprooted from my relational network around the college I went to in order to take a job in the field of my study somewhere else in a new place.  This was hard for me because I moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone.  I had so much anxiety that it was hard for me to be at peace as I became depressed and lost a lot of energy to live.

I spent a whole year or so struggling with a longing for relational connection, peace, interdependence, and community.  My faith in God seemed to be gone.  I was becoming angry, disillusioned, and disheartened.  I was wondering was there anyone in the place I lived that I could connect to and become friends with in the state I was in?

It seemed I was abandoned by God and lost.  I was experiencing a dark night of the soul where I spent a lot of time crying in my brokenness and pain.  God was leading me to see a need for some sense of interdependence and community in my life.  Up to this point, I had not really experienced or seen what that could look like in everyday life.

  •  Individualism, fragmentation, loneliness

How can we be the body of Christ together in the day-to-day of life despite the individualism, fragmentation, and loneliness we all experience at times?  I have experienced many years of trying to be connected to people of faith who have no commitment to one another, or to the  place where they live.  It  has been frustrating.

  •  A slow turning towards a Culture of Imagination

Many times I have wanted to give up because it seems that all of our spirituality is lived out of a Western individualistic paradigm.  But I want to encourage others not to give up. There is another path to a way of interdependence within the body of Christ in everyday life.  And it seems that there is a slow turning towards a Culture of Imagination that God intended from the beginning of creation.

  •  Discovering interdependence

I have often asked myself the question, “What is life about?”  I don’t know a lot of the time, but I am discovering that I need an interdependence with others to even open up the question.  This cannot be discovered in isolation from others.

  •  Living into my context with more authenticity

The context of my relationships in the place that I live is the medium that helps me to discern what life is and who I am.  I must resist the temptation to run away when the relational revelations come at me too strongly and I lack the courage to face them.  These situations have the power to break down my arrogance and help me rely on God in order to live into my context with more authenticity and imagination.

How can we live interdependently with others in everyday life in the place we live?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403356140&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Shared Experience of Life

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Recently I have been thinking a lot about my life.  As another year passes and I find myself in a regular routine in everyday life where I live, I am struck by how ordinary my spirituality is.  God is present to me in very ordinary ways although sometimes I do not understand this very much.  I like to look for God in mountain top experiences, but it seems God is found through my neighbors in community.

How have I missed this for so long?  I am understanding more that the God in me is connecting with the God in the other who I connect with in everyday life.  This is leading me to a more interdependent way of life where community and relationships have more meaning to me now.  As I have lived in my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma for over ten years, I am discovering a new imagination within myself for this interdependent life.

I have cultivated a searching spirit within me that has questioned almost everything around me, but one thing I have discovered is that God is always manifesting wisdom to me through my everyday encounters with life.  My imagination is always grasping for relational connection in community with others.  This longing is so deep that many times I struggle with being disillusioned as I live in a culture that has been programmed for individualism over interdependence.

  •  Suffering from my own programming toward individualism

In a culture that values the individualistic over the interdependent, we become disconnected from one another.  I have suffered from my own programming toward individualism and have longed to be set free to live into something different.  I’m haunted by these words of Christ: “For whoever wants to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

  •  Can we lose our individualistic dreams?

I want to understand what this means and how to embody Christ’s words.  Can we lose our individualistic dreams and ambitions that take priority over everything and everyone else?  Can we stop the pain that is caused by our self-centered pursuits where the imagination necessary for relational life is forgotten?

  • Developing an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality

It’s one thing to disconnect ourselves from the cultural comfort of the modern paradigm of success, but the authentic life should not be lived alone.  Our imaginations are coming to the point of starvation and death.  We must develop an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality, if we are to flourish together.

  •  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty

All the systems of our culture are ripping us away from one another, and few of us have awakened to what is happening.  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty.  We cannot know for sure what will happen in us and through us together, but I think it will be something beautiful as we let go of all our controlling individualistic ways of life.

How can we live into a more interdependent way of life together?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402576554&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Communal+Imagination

Going Fast Alone Over Going Far Together

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Sometimes the right story can really transform the imagination.  I’ll never forget going into our little neighborhood cinema in Downtown Tacoma and seeing the film Into the Wild.  It is a true story about a young man by the name of Christopher McCandless, who experiences disillusionment with the dreams promoted by his family and schooling in Western culture.

  •  The facade of what society deems as success

He realizes the deep brokenness behind the facade of what society often deems as success.  After giving away the money he had saved for law school, he went on a journey to live in the Alaskan wilderness with almost nothing but his will to discover life, freedom, and truth.

  •  Fleeing society to live in the wild

Christopher encounters all kinds of new friends on his journey from Georgia to Alaska, but leaves them all in pursuit of his dream to flee society and live in the wild.  He loves the books of Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau; he delights in their rugged individualism, and their rejection of mainstream success.  He has only one thing on his mind throughout his travels: to get to Alaska and experience life the way it was meant to be, in its purest form, with nothing but the rivers, sky, fresh air, and trees around him.  It takes him about two years, but he finally manages to get to Alaska.

  •  Living in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan  wilderness

After several months of living in an abandoned bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, he cannot find any more animals to hunt. There is a scene where he is screaming about how hungry he is out under the open sky.  Desperate, he searches out berries to pick and eat.

  • Trapped in the wilderness and starving to death

But the next day he awakens to a growing pain in his stomach and realizes that he has eaten berries that were poisonous.  If left untreated, his digestive tract will stop functioning, and he’ll starve to death.  Trapped in the wilderness because the river is too high for him to cross back over, he cannot get back to civilization and get help.

  • Dying alone in the wild with no one to share his pain  

In a very moving closing scene, he realizes what has happened and breaks down and weeps.  He knows he is going to die alone in the wild with no one to help him, or even someone to share his pain.  His body is weak to the point where he can barely move.

  • Life is only to be experienced when it is shared

With his last efforts he scratches into his journal a final untimely revelation:  Life is only to be experienced when it is shared.  Soon afterwards he lies down on the mattress in the bus with his head looking into the sky, takes his last breath, and dies.

  •  What a disturbing conclusion!

As I left the theatre, I could not shake its powerful, and even disturbing hold on me.  What life, beauty and potential there was in this young man.  His imagination and hope for another way of life was so powerful that it was able to shake him out of cultural complacency.  But what a disturbing conclusion!

  • Disconnection and isolation, in the end, took his life

In escaping the traps of culture, he lost the hope that is found in relationships.  He needed others in his life.  Individual pursuits, no matter how worthy, could only take him so far. Disconnection and isolation from others not only wore upon his spirit; in the end, it took his life.

  •  Using different techniques to keep from having to live  interdependently with others

I remember walking out of the movie theatre shocked and saddened that such a promising life could end in such a tragic way.  But we do this same kind of thing all the time, using different techniques to keep from having to live interdependently with others.

  •  Choosing to go fast alone over going far together  

Shane Claiborne says in his book The Irresistible Revolution, “Community is what we were created for…  But that doesn’t mean community is easy.  For everything in this world tries to pull us away from community, pushes us to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together.”

How can we live more interdependently in everyday life?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401368283&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Captivity of Our Imaginations

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When I was a child I had an uninhibited imagination for life.  I lived in the present moment of my relationships caring deeply for the people who I knew and loved.  My life was characterized by an interdependence on others.  As I got older, my imagination slowly got captured by other things that have left me disconnected, isolated and fragmented.

  •  Becoming disconnected from one another

In a culture that values the individualistic over the interdependent, we become disconnected from one another.  I have suffered from my own programming toward individualism and have longed to be set free to live into something different.  I’m haunted by these words of Christ: “For whoever wants to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

  •  Losing our individualistic dreams and ambitions  

I want to understand what this means and how to embody Christ’s words.  Can we lose our individualistic dreams and ambitions that take priority over everything and everyone else?  Can we stop the pain that is caused by our self-centered pursuits where the imagination necessary for relational life is forgotten?

  •  Our imaginations are coming to the point of starvation and death

It’s one thing to disconnect ourselves from the cultural comfort of the modern paradigm of success, but the authentic life should not be lived alone.  Our imaginations are coming to the point of starvation and death.  We must develop an imagination for interdependence and loving mutuality, if we are to flourish together.

  •  The systems of our culture are ripping us away from one another

All the systems of our culture are ripping us away from one another, and few of us have awakened to what is happening.  Our imaginations need the shared experience of life, goodness, and beauty.  We cannot know for sure what will happen in us and through us together, but I think it will be something beautiful as we let go of all our controlling individualistic ways of life.  We can’t let our imaginations be captivated by the “normal” individualistic agenda of the twenty-first century.

  •  The captivity of our imaginations

Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat make it clear that this type of “normal” is not necessarily good.  “The primary way any imperial culture claims our lives is through the captivity of our imaginations.  Take an average of twenty-six hours of television a week, thousands of brand-name logos a day, an education system structured to produce law-abiding consumers who always crave more, and dress it all up with a mythology of divine right to world rule, and it is not surprising that the dominant worldview is so deeply internalized in the population – including the church – that it is simply taken to be the only viable, normal and commonsensical way of life …”  When you’ve been raised like this it seems so much like common sense, but it really makes no sense at all.

Why do we so easily give in to the systems that are ripping us away from one another?

Liberating our Interdependence

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In the last ten years of my life I have been getting a taste of what a life of interdependence could be.  As I have lived in the same neighborhood for a decade, I am beginning to see the illusion of the North American independent life of isolation and separation.  I am beginning to understand that we have a communal God who want us to share life together with one another in all our diversity and commonality which is a beautiful thing indeed.

  • Experiencing a disconnection

My life of independence began to fall apart as I started to experience a disconnection with going to church services and the lack of any meaningful connection in everyday life.  I remember being so frustrated one time as I left a church service riding my bike away from the building and screaming at the top of my lungs as I rode down the street to enter my week alone with very little connection with anyone.  The screaming felt good to me, but it seems this kind of frustration and angst is not acceptable.

  •  Just be happy

I was told to just be happy and believe that Jesus has completed me.  But it has felt like an opiate or a cliché where we do not have to be honest with ourselves.  I cannot live like this and will not be okay with it.  Love is compelling me to something more authentic.

  • Celebrating the success of the individual apart from the community

My friend Mark Scandrette, the Executive Director of Reimagine, a center for spiritual formation in San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood, claims that “our interconnectedness should seem obvious – except for the fact that many of us have been groomed by a society that celebrates the success of the individual apart from the community.”

  • Interdependence needs to be liberated

We need more prophets of local, relational living within the body of Christ who will inspire our imaginations toward a more relational way of life together within a particular place.  The ways of individualism need to be subverted.  The ways of interdependence need to be liberated and celebrated in our day and age.

  •  Things that do not promote togetherness

The mental illness of this disease of individualism is corroding our humanity into something that is ugly and mutilated.  It is not natural or right to dismember the body of Christ this way.  The local church should be the most interdependent, caring fabric of relationships around.  We have frightfully let our days fill up with things that do not promote togetherness.

  •  Living more wholly through interdependence

We do not relate to each other on a daily basis in ways that foster life, reconciliation and hope.  How long will we live this way and destroy our relational imaginations of generosity, compassion, care, and hospitality toward one another?  If we could get back to interdependence with one another in life, we would live more wholly.

Why do we value independence over interdependence

The Things I Have Learned Through Ten Years of Rootedness

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It has been ten years since I moved into the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to become a part of its life.  I remember back in 2004 when I left my life in Kent, packing up my apartment and leaving a life of individualism behind me.  Over the course of a decade in the parish where I live now I have learned many things about life that I would have no understanding of otherwise.

  • Challenged to live authentically and relationally

It was kind of a risk to leave a lot of what I thought I knew and allow my spirituality to be shaped within me through the relationships of this new place.  I thought I understood how to love, connect, listen and show compassion.  But this place has challenged me to live authentically, relationally and not hide from who I am.

  • The questions that haunt me

I started to question a lot of things within me such as: “Maybe I don’t have all the answers.  Maybe I don’t understand how to love.  Maybe I am afraid of being known by others.  Maybe my human experience is not authentic.”

  • Learning to face my fears

I had to learn to face my fears, to allow others in my life, to listen to others of a different perception than my own, to face poverty and practice hospitality.  This has scared me.  This has shaped me tremendously.  This has shown me ways to do something different.

  • The illusion of independence, the life of interdependence

Giving up a life of comfort and ease has not been easy for me.  Sometimes I want my life of individualism back.  I want to go back to the matrix where I can do anything I want and live in the illusion of independence where I do not see the consequences of my actions.  But I am finding that the life of interdependence is much more what I was meant to live.

  • Seeing all of life as sacred

Sometimes I can feel absent and yet remain faithful to being present.  It is all so ordinary and hard to explain how a decade of my life in this place has helped me to see everything as sacred.  I am being freed of the traps of my own dualities and liberated to see all of life as sacred.  This place has caused me to focus on what I love, what I am for, what is authentic, what is beautiful instead of just falling into despair.

  • God is revealed through the ordinary things of life

Eating together, doing common work, learning together, practicing hospitality, walking the streets, spending time in public spaces, engaging in ordinary conversations, laughing, dreaming, listening, storytelling, showing love and compassion all have revealed more of God to me through the ordinary things of life.  I have learned to be grateful cultivating a way of life in which gratitude lives in me, guiding me when I am tempted to live in my depression and idealism.  Happiness instead of sadness is living more within me because of my relationship to this place, this community, this way of life.

How has being rooted in the place you live shaped you?

God’s Will is Found in Mutual Interdependence

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I have spent the last twenty years of my life trying to understand my spirituality.  Having moved into a neighborhood ten years ago where I share life with others in community and spending several years studying the most widely read spiritual writer of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton; I am starting to understand that life is to be lived in mutual interdependence.

I have often said to myself, “What kind of a life do I want to lead that can leave a legacy for the church in the twenty-second century after I die.  What will the church look like in the next fifty years?  How can I be the change I want to see in my own life?”  I do not want to just give up on my spirituality just because sometimes our expressions do not represent Jesus very well.

  • Recovering a relational connection with one another

Through a lifetime of spiritual searching, Catholic mystic Thomas Merton came to the conclusion that, “We all need one another, we all complete one another.  God’s will is found in this mutual interdependence.”  What a profound statement!  Christians today need to recover this basic relational connection with one another in daily life.

  • Manifesting goodness and beauty in our life together

This is necessary if we are to find God’s will, and manifest any sort of goodness and beauty in life together.  As we practice being and becoming a local body that fits together in everyday life, that place will form the context for guiding and releasing a Culture of Imagination.  It will begin to subvert the individualistic techniques we try to hide behind.

  • The Scriptures were written to a local body in everyday life

You can see how this works when you read the Scriptures as though they were addressing a tangible local body instead of an individual.  The  Scriptures were not written primarily to an individual, but to a collective of people who were learning to embody the gospel in everyday life.  The apostle Paul wrote to the local church in Corinth to remind  them:

  • An integrated life

“By means of his one Spirit, we all said goodbye to our partial and piecemeal lives.  We each used to independently call all our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. … The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful.  We need something larger, more comprehensive.” (1 Corinthians 12:13,14 The Message)

  • It is a We thing, not an I thing

It was always a We–thing, not an I-thing.  The I is important to the We, but cannot stand alone.  Often we turn our spirituality into an I-thing where it is all about “me and God.”  This epidemic of isolation and loneliness is a disease that needs to be dealt with.

How do we find interdependence with one another in everyday life together?

Seeking to be a Body Together

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I have experienced the church in my life as a building that you attend once a week where it is very difficult to share life with others outside of this space.  This always seemed very lonely and frustrating to me as I have wanted the expression of church to be more authentic.  I have always wanted church to be different, maybe a network of relationships in a place where I share life with others in the context I live in.

  • The Interdependence of the early church

I often wonder what it would be like to be around those Christians in the book of Acts.  They were real flesh-and-blood people like us who saw a sacredness in their life together as followers of Christ.  They needed one another.  They cared for one another.  They trusted one another.  They were in relationship with one another.

  • The practice of shared life together

They probably didn’t see this as radical; it was just how they lived as Christ’s body together. “Every day they continued to meet together …  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:46).

  • Seeking something beyond institutionalization

As Christianity started to become institutionalized and the idea of just going to a service became more common, some followers of Christ went out into the desert to create new communities where they could live their faith together in everyday life.  This is how monasticism started.  They wanted to seek God in the solitude of the desert apart from the over-institutionalization that they felt was corrupting the body of Christ.

  • Living relationally with one another

All of this happened a long time ago.  But how will we respond to the institutionalization of the body of Christ in our time?  Will we give up and let our imaginations be imprisoned by all of this or will we live relationally with one another, rooted in local contexts within neighborhoods?

  • A living breathing body

The body of Christ is not some mechanism with no heart and life, but a living breathing body.  All bodies breathe, move, change and relate to their environment.  When bodies are unhealthy they stop functioning properly.  When bodies are dead we bury them.

  • Becoming an evolving body in everyday life

Kester Brewin says, “We must reestablish ourselves as the body of Christ, not the machine of Christ.  Bodies are organic, dynamic, sentient, and conscious …  Machines break down, while bodies evolve …”  We should be an evolving body in everyday life together.  Will we feel the pain and the joy of living life together and loving one another?

  • We are not building a machine but a body

These are difficult real-life experiences that we cannot escape if we are to be human.  We are not building a machine but a body.  I don’t want to become a part of a machine where I become the very fuel that it needs to work.

Why is it so difficult to share life with others?