Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, December 23, 2017

NYT - The 10 Best Books of 2017

Credit: Nicole Licht

The 10 Best Books of 2017

Nov 30, 2017

The year’s best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

Autumn by Ali Smith 

The extraordinary friendship of an elderly songwriter and the precocious child of his single-parent neighbor is at the heart of this novel that darts back and forth through the decades, from the 1960s to the era of Brexit. The first in a projected four-volume series, it’s a moving exploration of the intricacies of the imagination, a sly teasing-out of a host of big ideas and small revelations, all hovering around a timeless quandary: how to observe, how to be. 

Read our review of “Autumn”
Pantheon Books, $24.95

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 

A deceptively simple conceit turns a timely novel about a couple fleeing a civil war into a profound meditation on the psychology of exile. Magic doors separate the known calamities of the old world from the unknown perils of the new, as the migrants learn how to adjust to an improvisatory existence. Hamid has written a novel that fuses the real with the surreal — perhaps the most faithful way to convey the tremulous political fault lines of our interconnected planet.

Read our review of “Exit West”
Riverhead Books, $26 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Lee’s stunning novel, her second, chronicles four generations of an ethnic Korean family, first in Japanese-occupied Korea in the early 20th century, then in Japan itself from the years before World War II to the late 1980s. Exploring central concerns of identity, homeland and belonging, the book announces its ambitions right from the opening sentence: “History has failed us, but no matter.” Lee suggests that behind the facades of wildly different people lie countless private desires, hopes and miseries, if we have the patience and compassion to look and listen. 

Read our review of “Pachinko”
Grand Central Publishing, $27

The Power by Naomi Alderman 

Alderman imagines our present moment — our history, our wars, our politics — complicated by the sudden manifestation of a lethal “electrostatic power” in women that upends gender dynamics across the globe. It’s a riveting story, told in fittingly electric language, that explores how power corrupts everyone: those new to it and those resisting its loss. Provocatively, Alderman suggests that history’s horrors are inescapable — that there will always be abuses of power, that the arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice so much as inscribe a circle away from it. “Transfers of power, of course, are rarely smooth,” one character observes. 

Read our review of “The Power”
Little, Brown & Company, $26

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward 

In her follow-up to “Salvage the Bones,” Ward returns to the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Miss., and the stories of ordinary people who would be easy to classify dismissively into categories like “rural poor,” “drug-dependent,” “products of the criminal justice system.” Instead Ward gives us Jojo, a 13-year-old, and a road trip that he and his little sister take with his drug-addicted black mother to pick up their white father from prison. And there is nothing small about their existences. Their story feels mythic, both encompassing the ghosts of the past and touching on all the racial and social dynamics of the South as they course through this one fractured family. Ward’s greatest feat here is achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination. 

Read our review of “Sing, Unburied, Sing”
Scribner, $26

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World — and Us by Richard O. Prum

If a science book can be subversive and feminist and change the way we look at our own bodies — but also be mostly about birds — this is it. Prum, an ornithologist, mounts a defense of Darwin’s second, largely overlooked theory of sexual selection. Darwin believed that, in addition to evolving to adapt to the environment, some other force must be at work shaping the species: the aesthetic mating choices made largely by the females. Prum wants subjectivity and the desire for beauty to be part of our understanding of how evolution works. It’s a passionate plea that begins with birds and ends with humans and will help you finally understand, among other things, how in the world we have an animal like the peacock.

Read our review of “The Evolution of Beauty”
Doubleday, $30

Grant by Ron Chernow

Even those who think they are familiar with Ulysses S. Grant’s career will learn something from Chernow’s fascinating and comprehensive biography, especially about Grant’s often overlooked achievements as president. What is more, at a time of economic inequality reflecting the 19th century’s Gilded Age and a renewed threat from white-supremacy groups, Chernow reminds us that Grant’s courageous example is more valuable than ever, and in this sense, “Grant” is as much a mirror on our own time as a history lesson.

Read our review of “Grant”
Penguin Press, $40

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr.

A former public defender in Washington, Forman has written a masterly account of how a generation of black officials, beginning in the 1970s, wrestled with recurring crises of violence and drug use in the nation’s capital. What started out as an effort to assert the value of black lives turned into an embrace of tough-on-crime policies — with devastating consequences for the very communities those officials had promised to represent. Forman argues that dismantling the American system of mass incarceration will require a new understanding of justice, one that emphasizes accountability instead of vengeance.

Read our review of “Locking Up Our Own”
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser 

Fraser’s biography of the author of “Little House on the Prairie” and other beloved books about her childhood during the era of westward migration captures the details of a life — and an improbable, iconic literary career — that has been expertly veiled by fiction. Exhaustively researched and passionately written, this book refreshes and revitalizes our understanding of Western American history, giving space to the stories of Native Americans displaced from the tribal lands by white settlers like the Ingalls family as well as to the travails of homesteaders, farmers and everyone else who rushed to the West to extract its often elusive riches. Ending with a savvy analysis of the 20th-century turn toward right-wing politics taken by Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, Fraser offers a remarkably wide-angle view of how national myths are shaped. 

Read our review of “Prairie Fires”
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, $35

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

In this affectionate and very funny memoir, Lockwood weaves the story of her family — including her Roman Catholic priest father, who received a special dispensation from the Vatican — with her own coming-of-age, and the crisis that later led her and her husband to live temporarily under her parents’ rectory roof. She also brings to bear her gifts as a poet, mixing the sacred and profane in a voice that’s wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.

Read our review of “Priestdaddy”
Riverhead Books, $27

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

God's Incarnation into the World - Before, During, and After Jesus

A Christmas message.

During this time of the season Christians often think of Jesus as the incarnation of God come into this world to affect God's plan of salvation... which is true. But by saying this we should be careful not to think God was in any way uninvolved with the world before this time. Or that He was not in someway "incarnate" in both man and creation before this time - if by "incarnate" we mean God's presence was, in some way, always actively involved with redeeming both the world and creation before the advent of Christ. Usually, the church uses the term "incarnate" to refer to God's "special incarnation, or presence, or infilling, in Jesus - become "God amongst us" - as different from God's past "incarnations" in the world.

We can say this when observing in the bible this same idea when God used men and women, angels, and creative events in the Old Testament to affect His divine will by His presence in a way different from His other kinds of "presences" borne within the world. These might be considered instances of a "special incarnation" too - or "special infilling of His Spirit" - upon people and objects. However, before rushing off to declare all things profane but some things holy, let us step back once again to consider the psalmist and prophetic messages of how God becomes "incarnate" in all men and women - even creation - and on all occasions when partnering with His obedient creation. It is how God translates His divine presence into the world from time immemorial to this present time. In this way, all the world may be considered holy, or all activity made holy, though sin can profane this presence of God in mankind and creation.

By thinking in this way we would be broadening the idea of God's "incarnation into the world" not simply through a one time act in Christ Jesus at the time of His conception and birth but continually through the eons of the world both now and in the past and forward into the future. The world has never known a time when God has ceased to be present in its history. As such, perhaps we might speak of this act of God as His "general incarnation" or "presence" in the world as versus His "special incarnation" through Christ or other biblical events, acts or people. A divine incarnation familiar in recall to His past infillings of the Spirit upon prophets, priests, and kings but especially in Christ Jesus as the divine God made flesh within this sinful world.

By saying this we can then say that God has never been absent from His creation from the very first day of its creation until now. Who has always been actively involved with creation's salvation, reclamation, rebirth, regeneration, and transformation unto the fellowship of His love, mercy, forgiveness, and hope. This process is then especially culminated through Jesus Christ born as "God-Immanuel" (God with us) to complete the process of salvation of God through the atonement of His divine Self.

Such a divine atonement had foreshadowings in the past when displayed in God's servants both then and now. But it is in Jesus that God's atonement for the world is made complete and efficacious (meaning, a provision or remedy to an unsolvable problem). Jesus is God's personal satisfaction that salvation has come, is here, and is in process of always becoming. That it will never go away, will ever be a divine force fully activated into this world, and will make whole a broken, sinful creation. 

Which, in hindsight, is really what God has been doing through the Old Testament up until of His full presence in Jesus, who was-and-is wholly man and wholly God undivided (cf. hupostasis). By the witness of the biblical record, at every instance of failure by God's covenanted people it was God Himself who "solved" or "redeemed" His people not based upon judgment and wrath - which events Christians have interpreted as the failings of Israel but are more the evidences of man's (our) inability to be sinless, perfect, or righteous. As such, the only sacrifice - or restitution - for our failings (negatively viewed) or inabilities (positively viewed) has ever-and-always been God Himself.

By examples, this can be seen in the Abrahamic Covenant when God divided the sacrifice by His own hand as there was no other hand which could make sacrifice for man's sin; or in the Mosaic Covenant when kingdom restoration could only come by God's grace and mercy rather than through the obedience of His covenanted people who continually broke His covenant; or in the Davidic covenant when very few Israelite-Judean kings measured up to God's goodness and holiness (out of 42 kings 8 were good, 3 were better than good - David was one, and 1 best - Josiah). All of which eventuated into the need for a New Covenant binding up all previous biblical covenants of God unto Himself through the personage, ministry, and passion of Christ Jesus. This is what made Jesus especially special - as one who only in Himself could effect the binding and healing of all past covenants through Himself alone. And why? Because He was the very God who could unbreak that which was broken. There was none other - or no other means - which could unbreak what was broken but upon His divine personage.

This then is the wonder of the Christmas season. Not that God was absent in the world but was ever fully involved with a willful world unable to stay its course in God's love but for God's personal presence and sacrifice in its life every step of the way culminating and continuing through the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus. This is the good news of Christmas that God came into the world through one man to save the world from its failings that it might find a fullness of fellowship reflective of the plans and purposes of a Sovereign God in love with His creation and unwilling to forsake or abandon it.

And it is a Christmas message for ourselves as well to be inspired to be/come God's incarnations of His divine Self into a world broken by sin and thus suffering from sin's affects. It is a true statement to say "God is present in His creation." He has always been present in His creation. He has moved it, infilled it, partnered with it, directed it with willing cooperation, and so on... but God has never been absent from creation as its Creator.

In effect, God has always been in the process of incarnating His presence amongst us - but especially in His Own Personage through Christ Jesus who was made the fullness of God's efficacious New Covenant amongst men through whom salvation has come, will always be present, and cannot be broken even by our sin. The promise of God to redeem the world has been wholly enforced with the restitution of Christ Jesus, God made flesh. It is God's covenant of salvation to man that mediates for our sin, covers our sin, pays the penalty of our sin, and brings fullness of divine fellowship with our Creator-Redeemer.

And finally, within us, within His church, God's incarnation may come again and again and again as we, His (re/newed) covenanted people, allow God's divine incarnation be reflected through us by the movement of His Spirit through us making whole a broken world. We, as Christians, are the "Jesus's" or "Christ's" to this world. Not by war, anger, wrath, intolerance, sexism, discrimination, hate, injustice, or disfavor. But in all the ways which Jesus came to disrupt the sin and breakage of this world that it might be made whole again through love, mercy, forgiveness and hope. This then is the Christmas message we, the church of God, His covenanted people, must bear, share, and be/come. There can be no other message than that we "bear Jesus' name" to all when we bear God's love and mercy as His "especial incarnations."


R.E. Slater
December 12, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Why Surrounding Yourself with Unread Books is a Good Thing

Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You'll Ever Have Time to Read

An overstuffed bookcase (or e-reader) says good things about your mind.


Contributor, Inc.com@EntryLevelRebel

Lifelong learning will help you be happier, earn more, and even stay healthier, experts say. Plus, plenty of some of the smartest names in business, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk, insist that the best way to get smarter is to read. So what do you do? You go out and buy books, lots of them.

But life is busy and intentions are one thing, actions another. Soon you find your shelves (or e-reader) overflowing with titles you intend to read one day, or books you flipped through once but then abandoned. Is this a disaster for your project to become a smarter, wiser person?

If you never actually get around to reading any books, then yes. You might want to read up on tricks to squeeze more reading into your hectic life and why it pays to commit a few hours every week to learning. But if it's simply that your book reading in no way keeps pace with your book buying, I have good news for you (and for me, I definitely fall into this category): your overstuffed library isn't a sign of failure or ignorance, it's a badge of honor.

Why you need an "antilibrary"

That's the argument author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes in his bestseller The Black Swan. Perpetually fascinating blog Brain Pickings dug up and highlighted the section in a particularly lovely post. Taleb kicks off his musings with an anecdote about the legendary library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a jaw-dropping 30,000 volumes.

Did Eco actually read all those books? Of course not, but that wasn't the point of surrounding himself with so much potential but as-yet-unrealized knowledge. By providing a constant reminder of all the things he didn't know, Eco's library kept him intellectually hungry and perpetually curious. An ever growing collection of books you haven't yet read can do the same for you, Taleb writes:

A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations - the vast quantity of things you don't know, half know, or will one day realize you're wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself towards the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning.

"People don't walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it's the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did," Taleb claims.

Why? Perhaps because it is a well known psychological fact that is the most incompetent who are the most confident of their abilities and the most intelligent who are full of doubt. (Really, it's called the Dunning-Kruger effect). It's equally well established that the more readily admit you don't know things, the faster you learn.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven't read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you're way ahead of the vast majority of other people.

* * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * *

Amazon link

Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary:
Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones

How to become an “antischolar” in a culture that treats knowledge as
“an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order.”

by Maria Popova

“It is our knowledge — the things we are sure of — that makes the world go wrong and keeps us from seeing and learning,” Lincoln Steffens wrote in his beautiful 1925 essay. Piercingly true as this may be, we’ve known at least since Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave that “most people are not just comfortable in their ignorance, but hostile to anyone who points it out.”. Although science is driven by “thoroughly conscious ignorance” and the spiritual path paved with admonitions against the illusion of thorough understanding, we cling to our knowledge — our incomplete, imperfect, infinitesimal-in-absolute-terms knowledge — like we cling to life itself.

And yet the contour of what we know is a mere silhouette cast by the infinite light of the unknown against the screen of the knowable. The great E.F. Schumacher captured this strange dynamic in the concept of adaequatio — the notion that “the understanding of the knower must be adequate to the thing to be known.” But how do we face our inadequacy with grace and negotiate wisely this eternal tension between the known, the unknown, the knowable, and the unknowable?

That’s what Lebanese-American scholar, statistician, and essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb explores in a section of his modern classic The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (public library) — an illuminating inquiry into the unknowable and unpredictable outlier-events that precipitate profound change, and our tendency to manufacture facile post-factum explanations for them based on our limited knowledge.

Taleb uses legendary Italian writer Umberto Eco’s uncommon relationship with books and reading as a parable of the most fruitful relationship with knowledge:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Tsudonku: Japanese for leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with
other unread books. Illustration by Ella Frances Sanders from 
'Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World.'

Eco himself has since touched on humanity’s curious relationship with the known and the unknown in his encyclopedia of imaginary lands, the very existence of which is another symptom of our compulsive tendency to fill in the gaps of our understanding with concrete objects of “knowledge,” even if we have to invent them by the force of our imagination. Taleb adds:

We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations. People don’t walk around with anti-résumés telling you what they have not studied or experienced (it’s the job of their competitors to do that), but it would be nice if they did. Just as we need to stand library logic on its head, we will work on standing knowledge itself on its head.

Noting that Eco's Black Swan theory centers on “our misunderstanding of the likelihood of surprises” because we underestimate the value of what we don’t know and take what we do know “a little too seriously,” Taleb envisions the perfect dancer in the tango with knowledge:

Let us call this an antischolar — someone who focuses on the unread books, and makes an attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even a possession, or even a self-esteem enhancement device — a skeptical empiricist.

Complement The Black Swan, which is fascinating it its totality, with astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser on how to live with mystery in a culture obsessed with certitude, philosopher Hannah Arendt on how unanswerable questions give shape to the human experience, and novelist Marilynne Robinson on the beauty of the unknown.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Time and Place Not Forgotten

After a turbulent past two years of bearing a long illness a few months ago my wife and I asked ourselves the question of whether this might be the time to look for a new home.  It seemed the right thing to ask. But as Fall began it was also the furthest thing on our hearts until one day we decided we should finally begin the process we had discussed for so long. And so, several months later, having looked at many homes we bought something we both liked and will be leaving the only home we have known together as we raised our family into young adulthood.

This I think will cap a very long and suffering illness I've been enduring from the start of the other year - and from which I am still recovering even now - as I regain strength and stamina. It gives me a new stage of life from which I might move past towards something which may help alleviate old wounds. To this, my wife and I also experienced a very violent auto accident on the highway this past summer destroying both our new truck and an old travel trailer we were pulling but not ourselves. In its aftermath, after regaining consciousness, we were able to walk away with only bruises from the seat belts but with no cuts or broken bones or lost limbs because the safety equipment built into the new vehicle did what it was suppose to do.

And as I stood on the side of the busy highway surveying the massive damage, watching police and firemen scrambling towards us over the wreckage of our lives strewn across a 100 yards of debris, listening to the ambulance wailing in the distance, I wondered then how the Lord would guide our paths from a place of total loss to one giving shape and direction for the future. In hindsight it has been an amazing journey confirming everything I felt inside the pitching, rolling vehicle at the time - that we would be ok despite the destruction we saw laying across the hillside and within our hearts.

After having spent by then most of the summer learning to live with an infection which refused to leave  my body, and then dealing with losses so typical of life, I remember thinking back to those moments standing on the side of the highway wondering if there was a life lesson found somewhere here in the wreckage and if we should take this time to continue completely undoing our past in order to recreate it anew. It was this latter thought that finally took root and moved my wife and I to rethink and pray about a new direction instead of the one that looked us in the eye everyday whispering discouragement, defeat, and hopelessness.

One of those things we have decided to do is to change communities and begin another kind of life together than the one we had become so familiar and comfortable with. Without sounding unthankful to the deep goodness of God it had grown to become a life holding precious memories with no forward movement anymore. It needed destruction and rebuilding in order for us to find again those days of our past youth filled with struggle, unknowing, uncertainty, and promise.

Leaving the Old

The downside to these thoughts is that we must sell our family home after 35 years of memories while leaving a community which has been my dear childhood home since birth. During those sixty plus years of life I have witnessed the change of the rural countryside I grew up in become transformed seemingly overnight into a sprawling metropolis. As much as I resisted this change and attempted to adapt into it I have felt myself slowly becoming a foreigner in a land I had once known as deeply different from what it has become today. With the lost of older generations who bore my memories - of family, relatives, and friends who had lived and shared their older lives with us - the ingress of urban/cultural change has brought with it another profound kind of loss. One both personal and social. One both internal and external. Its but another kind of destruction we go through as older souls should be so fortunate to live out long years.

For myself, unlike my wife who grew up in the city, I grew up on a family farm. My brothers and I were the last of six generations to have lived there. Next door was my grandma and grandpa's house which had held five previous generations of children all growing up like ourselves having known all that we would come to know until the family farm finally went out of operation after 150 years of service to the community (c.1837-1987). There my brothers and I attended a little one-room school which held all our previous relatives within its clapboard walls and ink-welled desks for long, long years of childhood instruction, fun, and play. We walked across the same pastured fields, climbed over the same broken fencelines, and were occasionally chased by the same red-eyed bull leaning into our very narrow stretch of fenced pathway defying our presence unless we were a tractor hauling equipment, hay or grain between fields.

In my fifth grade year, a year which held many pleasant surprises, came another kind of surprise would come. One that would change everything. For the community it was a necessary change but for a little boy growing up in the quiet of the countryside it would mean a deep change unlike any other he would come to know or understand. During that year our township of rural farms would be subdivided into six or seven city corporations. The gravity gas pumps and milling station on the corner would go away; our smithy shop full of ancient cackling relatives and moving machine belts smelling of oil would go away; our little country school which I loved would go away; even the street I grew up on would go away. We had entered into an unwanted age of modernity with its insatiable need for land, people, and presence.

The following school year, instead of walking the wet pasturelands, my brothers and I would ride a yellow school bus our dad would drive carrying us to the public schools far, far away from our family farm. Our dad had also left the county sheriff's department to become the city's second policeman and fire department's first fire crew. That same year grandpa died and with him what was left of the family farm (c.1966). Dad no longer plowed the fields like he did before nor did we ride the tractors or listen to their engines grind across the distant fields in the early morn. Our uncles no longer came over to help in harvesting nor did we walk behind the baler across hot fields pulling out bales of hay under a hot sun. Even the two-lane road we lived on became of a sudden reborn into a five lane thoroughfare quickly to become the state's second busiest street. Our hunting properties became more restricted as homes built up a mile away and the calm of peaceful mornings and evenings disappeared in the constant hum of cars and trucks always speeding past our lands going somewhere in a hurry.

For many, I'm sure, this transition wouldn't have been a bid deal but for myself, having lived enough of my youth in this older, agrarian way of rural thinking and living, it was huge. We were the sixth and last generation to have lived on the land farming and hunting in the very early days of Kent County when it was still a pioneering wilderness. The one-room school we attended began with my great x 5 grandfather's construction, who also built our barns, sheds, and grandma and grandpa's farm home next door. The street outside our door was a dirt-lane affair with rolling hills bearing large, spreading oaks which were very ancient. We had no nearby neighbors nor friends unless you count those whom we met at school over the years. Our grandparents lived next door in the house that our father grew up in, whose aunts and uncles, and their aunts and uncles, and so on, had done the same as youths. All tied to the land of their birth like ourselves. The ground was sacred, the land was sacred, sky, water, and all living creatures were sacred. We felt the deep value of living closely to this earth. We felt its rhythms, its pauses, its winds and storms. It seasons meant something to us but now it was being lessened by the hand of man gripping at its wonder.

Coming to Know the Present

We also felt the sudden impact of post-industrial change as modernity upended everything we knew and loved. It ended everything of our ancient past with a finality that still rings in my heart today. All the while it began a good deal of trouble in sorting out in our heads and hearts what it all meant as pre-teen youths awashed in sudden change. What once seemed simple, known, even expected, became quite different and complicated as time and life grew up leaving me, as the eldest, to face university years which opened into an even wider world then the one I was learning to transition into back home.

Thankfully, my parents loved to camp and travel. This dad had learned in his days in the army in the Korean War. Imagine my dad, as a seventeen old boy having never left the farm, to be drafted into an army that taught him how to kill other men he didn't know, then shipping him off in container ships across a pitching northern Pacific sea into a foreign land he didn't understand. Here was dad's first lessons in survival and deep change as it would become for many others from both sides of the war.  When he returned he had learned a second occupation besides the one he was educated in. He had grown up and learned resiliency in the face of change. He was no longer a young innocent filled with wonder but a new hardness to the ways of the world. But it was my mom who kept wonder alive in him as they grew older.

As such, for many years we learned to camp and travel across 1960's America and Canada, foreign lands like ourselves laying witness in their own ways to wildernesses lost upon ribbons of highway and steel. The cultures we met in small towns, on Native American reservations, or in the farmlands, were all undergoing the same deep change we were  undergoing... and for some, a much longer and harsher change under the throes of oppression, discrimination, loss of life, and passive indifference.

In hindsight, I suspect my love for postmodernity may be the result of never liking the modernal era we were forced into as our rural population slowly left its farmlands and moved into the industrial factories subtending the growth of the cities of America as each sprawled across the gilded countrysides of our past in ferocious development. Modernity never felt natural. But postmodernity  in its dislike of modernity feels very good - especially in its criticism of modernity's deep angst of forced change upon lands and peoples more in rhythm with one another before its era than now under its empty presence.

Learning a New Rhythm

Consequently, over the fifth and sixth decades of my life, I have felt the deep, deep movement of the Spirit of the Lord our God come upon me to question everything I had witnessed by re-writing my past in a profoundly different direction than the one I had learned by way of a modernized education, traditional church beliefs, and urbanized cultural mores. This I have done following the only path I knew. A path which must first destroy the past in order to move forward into the future as I have been one of those fortunates caught betwixt-and-between the forces of deep change yet able to survive its spiritual impact for whatever reason.

Like last night's harsh northern winds which swept their bitter cold gales across the Great Lakes to push away the last vestiges of yesterday's November warmth likewise has come our own sweeping storms to blow across our lives forcing critique and re-evaluation of what we believe, and why we believe as we do, as we enter into an age of violence propelled by senseless nationalism. An age which does not allow the backwards look lest we become disturbed by our losses and filled with its guilt. An age of post-truth, anger, destruction, and chaos. An unsympathetic age to the burdens of mankind. One more selfish, seeking its on survival in ignornace, oppression, and injustice. An age reaching past postmodernity returning us to another form of modernity - this one just as violent, just as chaotic, just as senseless. A post-postmodernity marked by greed, lies, deceits, lusts, power, and dark evil.

A decade earlier I had felt its destructive gales coming. Black thoughts began to trouble my heart even then. The ground underneath my feet seemed to move not with hope but with troubling belief. And upon the surfaces of my conscience had risen a wind I could no long hold back. A wind demanding I look at life differently than I had before. To no longer accept what I had tried to adapt into. To no longer believe what I was told to believe. To no longer think in the ways I had once learned when abandoning my own thoughts from a more distant time. Once again the hand of God came to disturb. His Spirit's torrent swept across the landscapes of my heart like the mighty flood tides of God's sovereign grace and benevolence. His leading purposed my steps towards another heavenly truth than the one I thought I was following in my deep devotion to church and religion.

As of now, I no longer wish to support the traditional, fundamental ways of my church or my learned past. But to continue the more fundamental tradition of challenging the systems we live within, by not accepting what common beliefs tell us to think; by reading beyond my geopolitical, economic, and regional understandings; by questioning why we do what we do. By embracing - or planting - profound community systems of generosity, compassion, justice, and humility. Seeds any well-tended crop will need to challenge a post-postmodern chaotic despotism towards another kind which might vouchsafe economic globalization, ecological restoration, and civil discourse against uncivilized actions and attitudes. These are things we can do together. But we begin by doing them alone as the Lord of the Harvest reaps where He will, sowing in order to share with us the bounties of His good grace against all that would hold us back... especially upon the hard soils of our naive and good intentions built upon religious beliefs and principals.

To all who seek the Lord this coming Christmas Season. Who would be servants of Jesus in the sharing the His yuletide blessings. May you find grace and peace by becoming those prophets of God crying out in a wilderness lost upon the hands of man that men and nations might find grace and peace with one another and be turned from the destruction we all bear within.


R.E. Slater
December 3, 2017
revised December 5, 2017

Addendum: Below are not our family pictures but ones resembling some of the operations of our family farm and what it felt like to work together as a farming family. I have very few pictures, if any, of my past because cameras and film developers were either unavailable or unaffordable. - res