Years ago a friend of mine invited me to a Not-Burning-Man gathering in the desert north of LA. This was a surrogate gathering of people who usually attended Burning Man, the annual gathering in Black Rock City of performance art, community, and gift economy. For one reason or another, this group couldn’t make the trip and had a smaller, impromptu gathering closer to home.
In the email of directions and minimal instructions from my friend and his wife, the final line was a reminder to practice “radical self-reliance.” In a teacher’s work week full of classes, lesson planning, grading, and meetings, I hadn’t had time to think through what that might mean.
Since roughly puberty, one of my life’s struggles has been intermittent bouts of depression. Maybe it’s inherited, maybe it’s just my portion, or maybe it’s connected with long-time sleep issues.
Whatever its source, in daily life, I work hard to counterbalance the onset of periods of low energy, negative thoughts, and aimlessness with contemplative practices, spiritual readings, exercise, music, family, and meaningful work. Or as much meaningful work as I can muster. These keep me in rhythm, aware, grateful, at peace.
But when I slip out of this delicate rhythm my well-being can slide pretty fast. If family issues come up, or a sickness, or even a vacation or a family visit, the amount of sleep, contemplative practice, and exercise routine all suffer.
Soon after I started dating my future wife (we met in Seminary), I explained some of the ways in which my faith had been stretched, and she had a pointed question, “but you still love Jesus, right?” Having grown up overseas, I was wary of the question.
Americans in general and Evangelical subculture in particular seemed to have an addiction to sentimentality.
The agape of the Gospels, this moment to moment love-in-action springing out of rootedness in the divine so often seemed instead to refer to an intense emotional attachment.
We hear the language all the time, but what in fact did it mean to “love Christ?” What did it mean to “follow Christ?”
As a little boy I was concerned for George Lucas’s eternal soul. In Sunday school a seven year old told me George Lucas actually believed in the force and that we should pray for him. So we did.
He needed to understand the Christ died for his sins and that he should repent and accept Jesus, so he could go to heaven like us.
I was six.
Sure, we watched the movies every chance we got, played with the action figures, and divided up roles on the playground, but we knew if you bought into it, this force mumbo jumbo could be extremely dangerous and put your soul at hazard.