Archives For Work

joshua-hanks-682729-unsplashWhen you come into a marriage with poverty and a broken heritage:

How do you move from the economic class of renter to “Home Owner”, without selling your own soul, selling out your own goals or killing that marriage?

When your support pillars are war ruins, broken hearts, lives and relationships:

How do you bring a shattered past to support the present?

When no gifts are left to you:

How do you say thank you for good gifts when they come?

When a parent abdicates responsibility, antagonizes the wounds, and  then a sibling speaks in half-truths, and falsely accuses, in order to hide the embarrassment of wrong doing:

How do you forgive?

How do you defend?

When the hand-downs  and opinions are always accusations, cruel measurements, and covert put downs:

How do you understand yourself and your own worth?

How do you breathe?

When the hands that were designated to be helpers don’t help:

How do you ask for help?

When people are moulded by manipulation and won by charm and false appearances:

How do you bless and not fall to the temptation to impress?

When you forgive and are not forgiven:

How do you engage or disengage properly when others refuse to do the same?

Perhaps a good place to begin is here:

                1. Talk with the Lord, humbly.
                2. Learn carefully & honestly.
                3. Care carefully & courageously.
                4. Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness.
                5. Be brave; Hold on to God, and never let go. 

Don’t let that shattered heritage take root. Don’t bring the echoes of resentment into your marriage. Reject the cycle of abuse. Reuse the useful things you have. I.e.: take stock, then do what you can with what you’ve got.

Aim to bless rather than impress[i].

Talk with the Lord. He is a working God, active caring and in pursuit of the broken.

Listen carefully because the ‘insight into divine matters is like a seed that needs to grow into a mature plant…Mature knowledge does not come quickly or easy…it takes time to penetrate profound matters and make them our own’[ii]

As Pinnock states,

Trust and ‘humility must be the order of the day’[iii]

Learn carefully because ‘God’s leading is experienced as His Spirit fosters movement towards the truth, despite our mistakes and errors…we must be both hopeful and sober about the possibilities’[iv]

Care carefully because you are carefully cared for far beyond the extreme void, that makes you torn and breathless. Look at the blessings that do exist and count them, no matter how small, each one has significance.

There is no emptiness to His care. Give him permission to move you from an intensive care unit to a tender care one.

Put into service the paradoxes of thanksgiving and of forgiveness; losing in order to win[v], where the world measures success by appearance. Your success is measured by God in the victory and bravery of His Son, who is and was and is to come. Maintain boundaries and remember that forgiveness does not mean returning to a place of ignorance.

Be brave because beauty and light is found beyond the seemingly unbreakable walls of fear and dark loathing.

Weeping may tarry for the night,  but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

Extreme anxiety has no future home in a broken heart[vi] touched by God. For the humble and broken are closer to the heart of God than they realise (Psalm 34:18).


References:
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[i] Mt.5:38, ESV “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
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[ii] Pinnock, C. 1996, Flame of Love InterVarsity Press p.219
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[iii] Ibid, p.219
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[iv] Ibid, p.219
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[v] Matthew 16:25, ESV
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[vi] Matthew 6:25, ESV
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.Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash
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©Rod Lampard, 2014

In criticising Marx’s Utopian communist dream, Simone Weil also provided an exemplary commentary on the final part of the movie Wall-E. The crux of which is found here:

“We have only to bear in mind the weakness of human nature to understand that an existence from which the very notion of work had pretty well disappeared would be delivered over to the play of the passions and perhaps to madness; there is no self-mastery without discipline, and there is no other source of discipline for man than the effort demanded in overcoming external obstacles.
A nation of idlers might well amuse itself by giving itself obstacles to overcome, exercise itself in the sciences, in the arts, in games; but the efforts that are the result of pure whim do not form for a man a means of controlling his own whims. It is the obstacles we encounter and that have to be overcome which give us the opportunity for self-conquest.”
(The Causes of Liberty & Social Oppression, 1934:80) [i]

Weil is critiquing Karl Marx’s ideal society. Oppression and exploitation, as understood by Marx, can only be eliminated when we have eliminated the curse of work. This is an either-or fallacy and Weil rightly takes it to task. Even if the worker owns the means of production, instead of being the means by which production happens, the worker is left with having to overcome his or her own vices, such as sloth.

Creativity requires work. Tending to gardens in order to enjoy them requires work. Adam, for example, was given the task of tending and keeping the garden before the fall (Genesis 2:15). This was one of God’s first commands to humans. Work becomes cursed once Adam and Eve fall out with God by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:19, 23). Something that were explicitly told not to do.

Despite this, God graciously works to clothe them, and in what could be described as discipline, moves to protect humanity from further destruction, by closing the Garden off to humanity. Eden’s gates are shut and guarded by angel and flaming sword (Genesis 3:24).

The result is that work is redefined by sin. It’s no longer something done in partnership with God. Work becomes what it was never intended to be, cursed, because humanity took it upon themselves to become the source of morality, good and evil.

Every dictator this side of Eden’s gates stands as the master, determining right and wrong, good and evil, to be whatever he or she dictates. The transcendent word of God, made imminent to us by His revelation, is replaced by the word of man and the word of woman.

Weil’s criticism doesn’t specifically mention Genesis like this, but the sentiment is shared. Work cannot be eradicated, it can only be reformed. It can only be redeemed. Work that begins in God’s work on our behalf. Just like the clothes made for Adam and Eve to replace their own meagre work (Genesis 3:7).

This is because the absence of work, which is said to set the worker free, only ends up enslaving the worker. Likewise the absence in our own work is flawed, if the God who lovingly summons us through His own work is ejected or forgotten. The worker is subjected to an ‘unconditional surrender to caprice’ [ii].

According to Weil, there is no way to avoid work, no way of eliminating it without also eliminating ourselves. Therefore, work, in the quest to fight oppression and exploitation of the worker, has to be redefined, reformed, then validated, it cannot be eradicated.

True liberty, writes Weil, is not ‘defined by a relationship between desire & its satisfaction, but by a relationship between thought & action.’ [iii]. Life requires work. Progress requires effort and a reliable foundation, not a mechanised overlord, or a machine that replaces human thought. I see a lot of room in Weil’s thought here for Dallas Willard’s mighty theme, ‘grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort’ (The Great Omission, 2006).

Weil writes:

“Bureaucratic machines almost reach the point of taking the place of leaders. Thus, in all spheres, thought, the prerogative of the individual, is subordinated to vast mechanisms which crystallize collective life, and that is so to such an extent that we have almost lost the notion of what real thought is.”
(1934. p.104) [iv]

My translation:

“If we have machines to tell us what to think, who needs to learn how to think? ‘Ah, just google it’ or ‘I don’t need to be interested in government, if I leave them be, they’ll leave me be. Each to their own.”

Weil’s words match perfectly with the story-line of Wall-E. When the time comes for humanity to return to earth after a long period of waiting, the machines designed to keep humanity safe, become humanity’s prison wardens. They know what’s best. When evidence is presented that earth is now liveable again, the machine seeks to destroy it. The only thing in its way is a lowly earth robot called Wall-E, who, while still a machine, has human-like consciousness. Unwittingly he finds himself in a struggle for human freedom.

Wall-E is a good illustration for the soulless mechanisation that Simone Weil was criticising. On board the ship, humans have gradually become obese, having nothing to do, but be served by their machines. All work has been eradicated. The worker is free, only to find themselves held captive under the dominion of their own creation. Even the Captain is moved around in a chair. All he really does is fill a role to assuage appearances that says to everybody on board that a human is still in charge.

Another example comes from the band Styx. ‘Mr. Roboto’,  lifts Weil’s concerns straight up from the page they were written on:

“The problem’s plain to see, too much technology.
Machines to save our lives, machines dehumanize”
(Dennis DeYoung, 1983)

Simone Weil isn’t advocating a troglodyte existence. Her criticism is about our dependence on technology; a dangerously indifferent and slothful dependence which ultimately works against humanity.  As Weil wrote, ‘the picture of a completely oppressive social life is where every individual is subject to the operation of a blind mechanism.’ (p.94) [v] This is already happening when it comes to who we rely on for information, morality, ethics, and how we approach education.

To be so convinced that true reality (or freedom) is existence without the One who birthed that existence, is to give in to an arrogance which rejects God’s grace, and chains humanity to the Dark agenda of total extinction.


 References:

[i] Weil, S. 1934 The Causes of Liberty & Social Oppression in Oppression & Liberty, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1958.

[ii] ibid, p.80

[iii] ibid, p.81

[iv] ibid, p.104

[v] ibid, p.94

Image: Simone Weil, date unknown sourced 9th December 2017, from brainpickings.org

Homeschool Dad 1A homeschooling dad finds himself on a journey of challenges and contradictions.

His first thought is to mingle, learn and explore the various ways one does this delicate, surreal task.

Overwhelmed with information, he emerges from a blitz on ebooks and Pinterest perfect ideas into a continuous fog of do-it-yourself blogs.

He finds himself confronted. Not by this, the curriculum, organisational needs, kids, latency, scheduling, or the plethora of home education options, but rather by the simple fact that he is a dad in a world of mums.

His second thought is to run. Run far, run fast and hope no one noticed the awkwardness of his presence.

Awkward, fumbling and trying to avoid the “creepy” tag his blubbering momentum might reflect, our homeschooling dad defiantly storms ‘once more unto the breach.’ {Such is the enormity of the task – it requires citing a Shakespearian King} [i]

This is the road he must take; a road lined on one side by homeschooling professionals. The other, picketed by suspicion, criticism and at times disapproving silence.

Fighting off the temptation to label this an emasculation of his manhood, he is wise enough not to be drawn into the broad and bloodless conflict; the scramble for ground in the battle between traditional gender roles, and those fixated on gender politics, who parade an aggressive overemphasis on egalitarianism.

Recalling the burden of responsibility in the embrace of the extraordinary, he reaches a resolve and chooses to press on.

It is at this particular junction that the homeschooling dad finds a pioneering collaborator in the words of L’Arche co-founder, Jean Vanier:

‘Constancy of place seems to me imperative if we are to be Christians who don’t abandon one another in the name of greater goods’ [ii]

That is the reason for this season.

As far as ministry goes homeschooling wasn’t my first choice. That said it’s also not the only choice available. By doing this I get to empower and encourage my wife. As she sets out to achieve her own educational goals. The added bonus is that after 17 years of my own hard work and study, I get to participate and be present for the journey my kids take in their own education.

I call that a win, win.


Sources:

[i] Shakespeare, Henry V Act III.I

[ii] Hauerwas, S. & Vanier, J. 2008, ‘Living gently in a violent world: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness’ Intervarsity Press, p.47

(Originally posted 14th November, 2014)

7th June 2016 018 3What better way is there than to mark ones own birthday with a short story. One that was written in fifteen minutes, in order to set up a creative writing exercise for your own kids?

The idea for this is not mine. It comes from Christina Grau; homeschool-mum-extraordinaire, who’d posted the idea sometime back on her blog. {I’ve since lost the link to her outstanding original article, and my time-limited search hasn’t been able to pinpoint it.}

Nevertheless. Christina’s idea stuck. The basic premise is this: Come up with a title. Set aside a small amount of time and write. Start by sharing my own pre-written story, inspiring our homeschoolers to create their own unique narrative using the same title. All inside a sixty minute window.

This works well for older kids. However, as we’ve found, younger ones need some guidance. To facilitate this, I gave them a realistic target of five sentences, drew three lines on our white board and then gave each column the heading: adjective, noun and verb. We then came up with words to fill each column. The only catch was that each word had to be relevant to the title.

For example, our  chosen title yesterday, was The Elephant & The Storm. Since the words elephant and storm are nouns, we already had a small head start. This set the younger ones up for success and in addition covered some handwriting practice.

In the end five short stories were written (including my own posted below).

All had a unique take on:

The Elephant and The Storm.

Elephants are strange creatures. Big trunk. Big feet. Small tail.

The particular elephant of our tale, however, was larger than most.

He was raised in the grasslands of Africa. A slow turn to the left of Arabia, then south of Egypt should put you right there.

It was here that our larger than normal elephant’s story began.

Thuds could be heard for miles. KAA-thump. KAA-thump. KAA-thump.

Each loud boom rustled trees and rippled ponds. Each thud was often accompanied in the distance by the words:

“Watch, out!”

‘’Coming through”

“Out of the waaaay!”

You see, Jack was so big, that the other elephants felt like ants when they were ever anywhere near him.

This caused a lot of problems for Jack. He could never go to parties, and so never got invited to them.

He even had to have his own watering hole, so that there’d be water for left for everyone else.

Bath time for Jack was even more alarming. He’d have to walk an extra 3 kilometers down river, to avoid the colossal tidal wave, which legend has it, once threw even the hippos out of the water.

Yes. Our Jack was big. It was because of all this that one day, he’d decided to leave. He no longer felt welcome and or useful, like the other animals around him.

It was a lonely life for poor Jack. Then one day, not but a few hours before Jack had settled on his journey, an unexpected storm arose.

This storm was like nothing the animals of the grasslands had ever seen.

It swished and blew. Howled and brought down dark blue clouds, which darkened the sun.

All the animals scattered to the trees for shelter, but each tree they came too was violently tumbled over by the force of this strange wind.

Everyone was trying to hold on. Except for Jack. Jack’s stature was so firmly footed to the ground that the wind was barely tickling his ears.

“I’m not really going to go far in this darkness and rain” He thought to himself. So Jack sat down.

Once Jack has sat down, all the animals noticed, and one by one quickly decided to flee towards him, taking shelter next to him.

Jack, the larger than normal elephant had found his usefulness after all.

‘God rules the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, He stills them.’ – (Psalm. 89:9, ESV)

 


(RL2015)

Albert Camus Quote Work creativity