chains.

Today, we had a human chain tossing bags in a line when a worker shouted out a quote that I often forget exists:

“A chain’s only as strong as its weakest link!”

What a great saying. But really. It’s succinct and it got me thinking.

Chains don’t have to be human links passing things from one to another. Chains can also be teams or even connections with people. Getting very one on the same page, up to speed, working together.

Relationships work like this too, both of friendships and of togetherness. A relationship only holds up if everyone is on the same level, or else it will bend if not collapse when the weaker link is being pressured over capacity.

My friend is still heartbroken today that a friend hasn’t acknowledged her “happy birthday” wishes. She’s questioning the strength of their friendship, what she has done wrong. But the way I see it, she shouldn’t be so self-conscious because her friend is the weak link in the chain. Their friendship is only as strong as the less willing person is willing to upkeep it.

But I think it’s important to differentiate between a weak link and just plain old differences.

Sometimes things don’t always go over smoothly between people because they pick out flaws that aren’t flaws but instead differences. Just because someone wants to stay close to his brother his whole life doesn’t mean he’s not adventurous or is too attached – he could also just be loving and find family too strong of a bond to abandon. Just because someone doesn’t text or call back doesn’t mean she’s a poor friend, maybe she’s just distracted…or not wanting to be distracted by technology.

I think I’m going to use my chain theory from now on to identify weak links and to differentiate the flaws from the differences. To embrace the differences and to help my peers get up to par where we struggle as a whole. And to do so with understanding because I know there are times when I lag behind.

I guess weak links in the chain are just an opportunity for learning and testing love and patience for one another.

Actually Opening One’s Mind to Religion.

The idea of ever calling myself a certain “religion” type always gave me fear.  I too easily pictured “cults”.  I pictured these organized “cults” and then I remembered all of the negative history in the world that occurs under God’s “will”.  I’ve been trying to understand lately what it really is all about though, these pro- and anti-religious peoples vetting against one another.  I’m trying to see for myself what they’re about rather than spitting out words other people feed to me.

I got two books from the library: Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul, a tiny book that discusses what Scripture is really for, how to interpret it, and how people are spoiling it – and also The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  I thought, “Sproul will be so dry… but Dawkins should be pretty interesting, I think.”  That’s because his book was long and confident-looking.

Well, I have completed both books and I was completely wrong.

Reviews on GoodReads have, for the most part, coincided with my sentiments quite exactly.  Whilst Dawkins seems to give a much more modern and forceful view on religion, he does it in such a righteous, arrogant baby fit that I came to hate it more and more and more with each chapter.  It was also mind-numbing repetitious, dispelling numerous tests and experiments (which were highly interesting, but I don’t think possible to put scientific control on).  One such experiment supposedly proved that praying for an individual didn’t help them get better but, if anything, made them worse.  Well, okay, because they’re at a hospital so obviously ill, you ask them to be in an experiment, and it is likely that the more people who pray for them the sicker they are – and they know it.  Regardless, it was the style that got me the most.

Another thing that deeply disturbed me was the way Dawkins seemed to make so many radical claims, all the while demonstrating his lack of understanding religion.  I used to be like that.  When I tried opening my mind, I became less so.  After finishing some of my latest readings, however, I have gained an entirely new perspective for devout Christians and why they preach the things they preach and act the ways they do.  Dawkins clearly either hasn’t reached this point of understanding, or he denies it or just completely shuts it out.  On any conflicting issue, you have to meet in the middle before you can make a solid assessment.  I hate how he comes in from the flank and doesn’t take a moment to understand the people he is bashing, especially after I just finished the other book.

The other book, Knowing Scripture, helped me understand the “literary” and “literal” tidbits of the Bible.  I believe Sproul is the kind of man who would acknowledge that certain words have been mistranslated.  I really like his approach to how to read Scripture and the way he emphasizes the lessons taken from them as being the most important – which I agree.  Too much of the Bible is outdated, especially in the Old Testament.  Furthermore, I really enjoyed his section about people “tailoring” religion.  He calls them “sensual” Christians.  You can’t pick and choose the rules you think apply.  You have to pick a method of interpreting God’s word, and then you have to constantly apply that method regardless of the outcome.  You can’t by wishy-washy – and I’ve always felt that way about religion.  He calls these kinds of people “sensual” because he sees them as looking for that instant satisfaction of this generation.  He argues that this is the kind of difference that exists between love and lust – one desirable, one like a plague.

Comparing these two books just made me realize how many people might feel the same way about something, but they shut each other down if they don’t get to the same conclusions by walking the same paths.  In the end, what does it matter how you get there?  If you arrive at the same place, how you get there is just what personally defines you and makes you as unique as the mind you used to think yourself there.  I like to think that I have managed to open my mind pretty wide to be accepting and to form my own, non-intrusive opinions.  Sure, they might come off as forceful here time to time, but I’m never actually that way in conversation.

Then again, maybe my views are the reason why I’ve identified as UU the past couple of years.

Taken for Granted.

ImageI’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The story focuses on an extended family and surrounding people living rather isolated and somewhat primitive in Colombia.  The patriarch of the family is transfixed with the ideas of science and invention.  In fact, he founds his own village, Macondo, on an island so he can spend his life entertaining his curiosities.  What’s particularly interesting about this man and his village, though, is the fact that the both are so isolated in only the familiar and with little contact to the outside.  For example, some gypsies bring in a large piece of ice to the village as a “demonstration” – not of science, but of magic.  The man is transfixed by this enormous diamond and pays for him and his sons to touch it.  Because he sees things in one light and one light only.

I’m still reading the book, but that was the gist of what I’ve gotten from summaries of it and what I’ve read so far.  But what really stuck out to me was that ice scenario.  I started thinking about the life that family had, isolated in one of the last regions to be explored.  In fact, Colombia is still heavily avoided, perhaps due more to violence than environmental concern such as the Amazon in Brazil.

But…ice.

I see ice every morning during this time of year.  There’s ice on my windows, ice hanging from my eaves, and ice on the sidewalks.  We go to the restaurant and we’re served water with ice.  We buy bags of ice for coolers to pack samples in the lab.  We have ice for injuries whenever we need it.

But, ice.

There are people in this world who have lived their whole lives without ever seeing, feeling, tasting, knowing ice.  They might know steam and not recognize it as water.  If they saw ice, they surely wouldn’t first guess water, would they?  Could they say ‘diamonds’ if they knew diamonds?  And how could you ever explain that feeling of such coldness?  So cold, it seems boiling hot if you have only ever known boiling hot.

I’m not just thinking about the materialistic things we take for granted in our daily lives, like heat and air-conditioning.  I’m not just talking about the people we take for granted in our daily lives, like friends and family.  I’m talking about the science we have come to know and how it has changed our lives as we’ve learned to manipulate it.

Medication.  Transportation.  Entertainment.  Those are some of the big ones.

But even something as simple as ice.  Phase change.  Think of how many things we have that rely on phase change: cooking, engines, pumps,…a lot of little things that make up much bigger things.  Science, knowledge….the ability to share that information – it can so easily be taken for granted.

How different would your life be if you lived in a place where no one knew ice?