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Rumors of Another World - Yancy

Part I - (Written December 24, 2003)

I got this book through BzzAgent and it took me a few months to read it. I read it while my oldest daughter was in the hospital with a burst appendix, so some of my comments may be colored by that fact - along with the fact that I was alone with her in the hospital while reading this book. Interestingly, I'm alone right now, typing this on a plane on Januaryh 27th. I haven't re-read my comments/thoughts since first writing them and they are presented here un-edited, as they are written in my journal.

I'm reading this book about God - "Rumors" & it really has me thinking about faith, goodness, joy and of course, God. I haven't distilled it yet, or figured out how to incorporate it but I'm seeing some interesting things for perhaps the first time - the idea that God has a plan for "us," that each of us is signficant and that God isn't about punishment, fire and brimstone and that our humanity is actually the "design" is not just intellectually curious - it somehow feels right.

I'm not Catholic, but not being with my entire family on Christmas Eve & Christmas morning really sucks. It is always a special moment being together (my wife is not Jewish), listening to holiday music, opening presents and just being a family. I know that I'll be sad in the morning, not just for me but for all of us.

When I think about this experience (Julia's appendix bursting, 3 surgeries, etc...) and try to "get something" from it I can think of several things. First, stay positive no matter what. Second, get priorities in line - I almost faultered with this - I had a business meeting in Texas that I cancelled but I almost went. That said, I had a photo shoot, a meeting and some paperwork for TSS that had to get done. I did what I had to do, but cut it off when I started to feel out of balance. Things (even a new business venture) waits for my sick little girl. Lastly, in a recurring theme, stark & true for me - life is damn hard. Running back and forth from home to the hospital, paying bills, making phone calls, not sleeping, stressing, not eating and then eating at all hours, not having time with my wife to connect, watching my daughter in agonizing pain, seeing her huge wide open eyes in my dreams, getting into a car accident (my fault of course), almost hitting someone walking across the street (his fault), feeling horrible & guilty atg eating anything while my girl starves in the hospital and draws fantasy meals - yea, life is hard.

But it is wonderful.

I've spent more time with Julia than I have in a long time and have had more alone time with Sydney to play and joke and talk than ever before. Life is pretty wild and as much as it takes, it seems to give back.

Part II - (Written December 27, 2003)

So, back to this book... this book leaves me with some serious questions about religion, faith, God and myself. I certainly have a bias against organized religion but have clearly defined myself as a "believer" in God. If the alternative is being an atheist and to belive in nothing, then I choose to believe that God exists. This is a pretty big concept for me. I'm sure my faith as a boy was destroyed in those years where my Father was getting sicker and sicker [with MS]. But it even goes further.

I remember never really liking Hebrew school, temple or religion. The positioning of an all-powerful God, demanding sacrafice didn't make sense to me - heck, if he's all powerful, just take what you want and leave us alone! But alas, as with everything it seems, there are 2 or more sides to every story. This book outlines God's perspective and it certainly does shift things in my mind.

For instance, do not abide the commandments in fear of penalty, rather - live them in honor of God and of yourself as a human being. Simple but effective perspective shift eh? Thou shalt not kill - not because if you do you'll get tossed in jail (or sent to hell), but because killing is not in God's image. Since Humans are cast in God's image it just isn't right.

I've always struggled wiht my significance and wanting to "leave a mark" on the world. A similar perspective shift solves this issue. In God's view we are all signficant and when we see God in ourselves, we are helping to build God's Kingdom (the City of God). So, by giving anonymously for example, or by acting kindly towards an enemy (and stuff like that), we not only serve God, but we serve ourselves.

These are Yancy's conclusions, not mine (or perhaps I agree!). As I read the book, something significant (and obvious) struck me. I'm Jewish! I have no idea how to reconcile my agreeing with these concepts - yet somehow, the principles ring true. I have been examining myself closely and discovered a missing gap - I've determined that "Joy" is a key missing ingredient in my life. As I thought of that missing "Joy" one of a few solutions occured to me - to be more giving of myself to others in any way I can would bring Joy to them. Selfishly, perhaps bringing Joy to others would bring Joy to myself?

The title of the book - "Rumors of Another World" speaks to a hidden, sacred world - the City of God which parallels our own world. Peace, Joy, Love etc... exists in that world - while in our own world as the author points out exists death, murder, terrorists, FHM magazine, sitcoms with sexual innuendos & canned laughter, reality shows where people humiliate themselves for money, greed, lust and on and on.

It is interesting (and perhaps less than academic) to think about executing on some of this stuff...

  • be selective & generous (and anonymous) with my money
  • make peace with enemies (and with everyone)
  • apologize when I am wrong
  • wager on faith and believe - rather than not believe & wallow in self-indulgeous behavior, self-pity and self-centeredness

However, I need to find out the differences between this and Judiasm and reconcile it all. I'm less interested in a specific religion than with a relationship with "God" but the two seem inexoriably intertwined. Is there a way to incorporate this into my life? Or rather, should I not look at it as "if" or "my life" and view it holistically - focusing on making a difference, helping the needy and contributing to the so called "City of God."

As I tried to fall asleep here in the hospital last night, I tried to identify times in my life where "God revealed" himself to me. Here are some thoughts:

  • helping others at the office with stuff (mostly technical) and not expecting any return
  • loving my children unconditionally
  • honoring my father at Yankee Stadium (or was that really for me?)
  • looking at Stonehenge with childlike wonder (and taking way too many pictures of it!)
  • the excitement of seeing dolphins in the wild and swimming with Sting Rays?

I think what I am taking away from this book at this point is two-fold:

  1. Give as much as possible (in multiple ways)
  2. Notice the supenatural in everyday life