Friday, December 28, 2007

being a radical moderate, and community-making

Me and my friend from high school, Nikki, today at lunch! We hadn't seen each other in over 15 years and it was just like yesterday In fact I think we have even more in common than we did then - since back then it was all partying and today we both love the environment and political issues and religious/science issues - it was an awesome catching up time. I love the sticker on her hybrid car that said "GOD is not spelled GOP" :)

Sam & I goofing around in the Disney Store. I love Émile! He was sooo soft and fluffy! I said he was my new boyfriend :)
Me and my new boyfriend, Émile (from the movie Ratatouille)

I have started reading Scott Peck's book The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, which I've been wanting to read for some time. Peck is a genius. He is in my opinion the greatest writer that ever lived. He just GETS IT in terms of so many things - religion and science, Christianity and other religions, how society works, how the human spirit matures, psychology, and on and on. Everything I read of his I underline or highlight every other sentence. In this book, I just read the Prologue, Introduction and the start of Chapter 1, but already I want to stand up and applaud. It came out in 1987 but it's still so relevant today. (Sometimes I think I want to start just talking about and promoting what he spoke and wrote about, because everything I read I'm like ,"What he said!" I refer to him so often in my own writing. If Huxley was Darwin's bulldog, I want to be Peck's bulldog!)

For those who don't know him. Peck wrote one of the all-time best-selling nonfiction books, The Road Less Traveled; A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. It stayed on the NY Times bestseller list for a record 10 years and sold something like 13 million copies. Peck was an M.D. Psychiatrist who had worked in the military and then went into private practice. His book didn't immediately become a bestseller but after a while it just took off like wildfire as people started reading and recommending it. He was not initially a Christian, but the story goes (he tells in one of his later books) that a good friend of his said to him, after the publication of The Road Less Traveled, something like "Scotty it's brilliant how you told the story of Christianity through your book," and he was like "What?!" He was spiritual and respected the wisdom of Christianity and other religions but at that time was not specifically Christian. After his friend said that, he started to read the Bible and before long he converted and it became his lifelong passion. He was not what I'd consider a right-wing fundamentalist in any sense but a very practical, in the real world Christian, who understood human nature and psychology and also theology. I just love his writings. He is just so right on with everything.

Anyway, this book, The Different Drum, touches on how much we lack real communities; For the most part, our neighborhoods, our families, and our churches fall short of being real community for one another, and if we don't change that, the world is in real trouble. And he outlines what we need to do in order to get this back. He has said that he believes this was his most important work, even though it didn't sell near as well as The Road Less Traveled. Well funny, I said I would not consider him a fundamentalist but listen to how he starts Chapter 1. First he says whenever anyone asks him his political views he says he's a radical conservative. Except on Thursdays and then he says 'I'm a radical moderate.' This not only cracked me up, I love it! I am inclined to say the same about myself. More the radical moderate than a radical conservative. But let me continue.

Next he defines the words (which I often did when I taught biology, because understanding the root words so often helps students understand the definitions). He writes that radical and fundamental mean essentially the same thing, and says isn't it funny how words get distorted over time. Radical comes from the Latin radix, which means "root" - same as radish. And he says anyone who thinks deeply will be one; someone who gets to the root of things. Yes, Jesus was certainly a radical. (my comment, not his, though I am sure he'd agree from his writings). He goes on to say that the closest synonym to radical is fundamental - basic, the root, the fundamentals. "Yet in our North American culture these words have come to have opposite meanings." He then goes on to say how community has also been dumbed down to not mean what it really is, and should mean, and hence we've lost a true community in our schools, churches, families.

There are some wonderful examples of community that I've seen - and personally experience in my group of friends (we can be real and genuine, deep, or silly, share our weaknesses and faults without fear of rejection and just share just a wonderful supportive network of women who lift you up when you need it, and are there for one another 24/7). But I've also experienced what should have been a true community - a Christian community no less - falling short and rejecting me when I needed it most. Same goes for my family when I was struggling as a teenager with some pretty heavy stuff.What I want to do, if I do anything in life, would be to somehow help people find this sense of community in churches and families and circles of friends the way God meant it to be. It's beautiful when it happens.


Anonymous said...

Your blog has been added to the list of over 300 women who blog about politics, at "The Political Voices of Women".

Sus said...

I agree about the distortion of words over time issue. I keep thinking that I should take a Latin and Greek language history class some day.

That pic of you and the Ratatouille (sp?) mouse (darn it still haven't seen the movie)....CAN I HAVE A COPY???!! Please!!