Walking on water

The adult Sunday School class is going through John Ortberg’s If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. The class is reading the book by way of the video series connected to it. I initially went to class on a whim and I’m staying to see where it goes (I found the book on Bookmooch). You see, the topic of the book has thrown a heaviness—I don’t know what else to call it—on me since the first class.

From the blurb on the back cover:

John Ortberg invites you to to consider the incredible potential that awaits you outside your comfort zone. Out on the risky waters of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change you forever, deepening your character and your trust in God.

The book is based on the story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33, more commonly remembered for Jesus walking on the water). Ortberg takes that story and runs with it.

I’ve heard that Ortberg is a good author, so I’m trying to stay positive, but I generally regard this kind of book with deep suspicion. It sounds too much like all the 9-steps-to-riches books and self-help books and their ilk (the back-cover blurb doesn’t help), which are always on the bestseller lists. They exist in the Christian market, too. (But John is tricksy: another book he wrote has a deceptive title: “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” sets off warning bells in my head, but the subtitle tells a more comforting story: “Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People”. So there might be more to this book than meets the eye.) I’m also suspicious because I wonder how a person could write a whole book of lessons and truths from one isolated event. Can Ortberg really turn a historical event into a parable? And won’t he have to do a lot of squeezing to get a book’s worth of material out of one paragraph of scripture which the other Gospel writers either didn’t hear about or didn’t think worthy of mention (the parallel Jesus walks on water passages in Mark and John fail to mention Peter’s attempt)? That remains to be seen.

I’m trying to give Ortberg the benefit of the doubt in spite of all this. As I say, it has placed a heaviness upon me and turned me to reflection. What are my gifts? What are my fears? Do I have a calling? What am I doing here? How do I figure any of that out? Do I even have to? Is Ortberg full of it? (It’s too early to tell.)

From time to time I’ve been told to listen to what people are telling me about my gifts, as a clue for my direction. Over the years I’ve had people say that I would be a great teacher (and, later, a great doctor or pastor), that I have the mind to be a lawyer, that I should write a book (I would love to). A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday school class leader turned to me and inquired about my gifts. That made me unexpectedly uncomfortable. “I don’t know what my gifts are,” I stammered, probably red in the face. Last week after I led worship in church, that person shook my hand and said somewhat rhetorically, “Your gift, yes?” She was nodding her head as she said so. “I don’t think so!” was my reply.

It occurred to me today that I am indeed a postmodern man, because I regard much in life with suspicion, including myself and those around me. People will say, “You’re really good at X, you should pursue that.” I assume that they think I’m good at X only because they are gifted in something other than X, which makes what they say just a self-comparative judgment, not an objective fact. In any event, I never know how to take that next step or whether I even want to. Or maybe I’m just afraid of taking that step. Or maybe I’m too worried about (not?) fitting in with the western way of thinking, which is more or less about attaining material wealth and status (or at least that was the way of thinking until recently).

More thoughts on this to follow. My mind has been in gloomy and self-assessing places.

42 thoughts on “Walking on water

  1. Ian H.

    I’m also suspicious because I wonder how a person could write a whole book of lessons and truths from one isolated event.
    Or an entire series *cough*Bruce Wilkinson*cough*…

  2. Darren

    If I comment (beyond this) I risk losing an entire day or two of work, such would be the length of my comment. Keep reading, and let us know how it goes…

  3. Meg P.

    Hi Marc,

    Sorry to break up your comment-chat with Darren, but I wanted to post, too! I also have a lot of scepticism when it comes to books like John Ortberg’s. One book I found that was a helpful counteraction to this self-help/unlimited potential type of Christianity is a book by M. Craig Barnes called Yearning. I’m reading it right now, and it provides a fabulous commentary on these sorts of books. It’s a bit older (1992), but I found it at the Regent College bookstore, so it must be readily available. I think you would enjoy it.

  4. Marc

    Thanks Meg P., I’ll look into that book. It’s always good to get a balanced view. I’m not sure that Ortberg’s book is quite a “self-help” book, but because of my scepticism I get a bit of that air from the book. We shall see.

  5. jim

    Marc I’m going to be forthright… reading this post has made me angry. Not angry with you (please hear that) rather angry with Ortberg (and others like him). I’m angry at the Sunday School leader you mentioned and the many many other Christians that it brings to mind that lay or are used to lay these kind of guilt trips (I’ve been guilty too). Tab and I were just talking about this kind of thing after supper tonight and I came up with a term for it (I have no idea how original it is) “soft-core exploitation”. I realize for the most part that most Christians don’t even realize that they are doing it, how much they are hurting other people and how much they are motivated by their own interests. I didn’t until recently. It’s very distressing for me to realize how much I have been a part of this. I’ve been working through that (Tab too) and we’ve been making changes as you are at least somewhat aware.

    I’m trying to give Ortberg the benefit of the doubt in spite of all this. As I say, it has placed a heaviness upon me and turned me to reflection. What are my gifts? What are my fears? Do I have a calling? What am I doing here? How do I figure any of that out? Do I even have to? Is Ortberg full of it? (It’s too early to tell.)

    I don’t think you need to give Ortberg the benefit of the doubt. It’s noble of you to want to do that but consider the way it makes you feel. I have a Christian friend I respect very much who gave me some good advice, “If it makes you feel like shit, its not God“. OK, that’s a little strong, but I’m a little worked up. You asked, “ is Ortberg full of it? I want to point out that you left out the “s” and the “h”. Yes, he is full of shit. He very likely doesn’t realize it either.

    BTW, Tab was talking to a friend on Saturday who is studying Ortberg’s books in a Bible Study group and it’s having a similar effect on her.

    I’ve (we have) decided that we are going to try very hard not to do that or live that way anymore. I am tired of all the bullshit (this is not melodrama). And believe it or not in spite of the obvious anger this has evoked in me, I (we) are feeling very good about it all.

    A lot has transpired in our lives since we last had a chance to visit with you guys. It would be good to get together and have a chance to fill in the blank spaces sometime soon.

    On a happier note, Life really is good!

  6. jim

    I want to qualify something… when I say that I think Ortberg is full of shit I don’t mean that there is nothing redeeming about him at all. He’s probably an very nice guy. I mean he has a world view (in him) that produces what we are talking about.

    I think its serious.

  7. Marc

    Hi Jim. It’s good to hear from you. Dixie and I quite regularly talk about driving up and visiting you guys. I imaging that a couple of weeks ago would have been perfect timing in terms of the landscape (alas…) One of these days we’ll have to act on our thoughts in this regard. Don’t hesitate to call us if ever you’re in town and you want a cup of coffee without a line-up.

    But I digress…

    I expected two types of responses to this post—sympathy and a gentle encouragement to act on what Ortberg says—but I didn’t expect anger! But you know what? It’s good to see some unabashed anger from time to time, because it’s honest and raw. It’s easy to butter things up a bit too much when trying to be everything to everyone. Way to shake it up!

    That said, I’m not quite sure how to respond! I feel like I need to reply, but in what way?

    I want to make sure that I don’t misrepresent Ortberg or myself. What I wrote in this post is my response—perhaps a defensive response—to what I have heard and read so far (which is only a small portion of the book/series). So, to be fair, this post is a reaction not so much to the book as to my perception as to where this might be going. From what I’ve heard so far, coupled with my suspicions beforehand, I get the sense that it could go in the “self-help” direction, but it need not necessarily. That, as I say, remains to be seen. (I may be on to something though, as Tab’s friend seems to indicate.)

    But without question the book has made me think a lot, only a few pages in, and perhaps this is what you’re reacting to—what the book does. In that respect your anger is on the mark.

    One of the questions I’ve been asking myself is, what if I’m setting up a series of beliefs for myself which shield me against truths which I find uncomfortable, such as, possibly, what Ortberg will have to say? And how is a constantly second-guessing person like myself supposed to answer that question? Suspicion is a harsh mistress. So is self-doubt.

    But perhaps this is material for another post.

    Thanks for your comment, Jim!

  8. Marc

    By the way, I want to stress that I’m not trying to dismiss or downplay your anger, Jim. I’m not even disagreeing with you. I just want to make sure that people don’t hear me saying something I’m not.

  9. jim

    Hey Marc,

    Thanks for the understanding!

    “One of the questions I’ve been asking myself is, what if I’m setting up a series of beliefs for myself which shield me against truths which I find uncomfortable, such as, possibly, what Ortberg will have to say? And how is a constantly second-guessing person like myself supposed to answer that question? Suspicion is a harsh mistress. So is self-doubt.

    Here’s a thought… Christianity promotes self-doubt.

    My opinion… that’s a bad thing!

    Looking forward to forward to our next get together.

  10. Ian H.

    Authentic Christianity has no need of self, because our assurance comes not from anything we say or do or feel, but in what God thinks of us…

  11. Darren

    Christianity should promote a desire to grow. Growth towards being more like Christ. Growth towards daily killing the “old man”. Growth towards becoming the man/woman that God wants us to be. This process may not always “feel good”.

    Among our Christian family, we should be trying to promote that growth. Some are better at promoting it than others, but the model of stone sharpening stone is biblical. Ortberg is (I have not read the book, only the summary – so this may be inaccurate) suggesting a means by which some people might be able to promote personal spiritual growth: by stepping out of their comfort zone, and he uses the “walking on water” incident as a mental hook. I don’t think this is “wrong” per say, but perhaps this approach doesn’t work for you. In particular if you are terrified of water (metaphorically speaking).

    I can think of numerous examples in the bible where God specifically asked individuals to step way out of their comfort zones, and as a result they became pillars of the faith. However, the process of taking that step was often very painful for the individuals in question (Moses and Jonah come to mind), so let’s not discount Ortberg’s approach completely.

    As for how Christianity makes us feel, it seems odd to me that it should always make us feel good. His burden is light, his yoke is easy, but as humans we often fight against the yoke, and as a result we might not feel good about it. The conviction of the Holy Spirit does not make us feel “good”. When the cock crowed the third time, I suspect Peter felt somewhat like shit.

    Finally, while I would not endorse “self-doubt” as it’s not generally a useful or helpful sentiment, I would endorse a whole pile of introspection and seft questioning. If more brothers and sisters in Christ spent thier time working to pull the planks out of their own eyes, I think they would look on the rest of the world with slightly less judgementalism and a lot more love, which is very much what we’re called to in Christ.

    I have a lot of thoughts on this subject (many of which may be crap), as I have struggled with this issue and continue to struggle with it. I would never advocate for stepping out of our comfort zone for the sake of doing so, but I do believe that God knows what we can and can’t do, and we are in no position to argue with Him about it.

  12. Marc

    Good discussion so far.

    Jim: how does Christianity encourage self-doubt? Can you expand on that?

    Ian: I agree with the second half of your comment, but can you expand on this: “Authentic Christianity has no need of self”?

    Darren: I agree with your first paragraph, but I don’t think the third paragraph is connected with it. It’s true that God gave those people a specific calling—but does everyone have a specific calling in this sense? (I have a follow-up post brewing which kind of deals with this).

    We have to be careful, too, that we don’t define “growth” in a spiritual/Church context in the same way as we would in a marketplace context. (I’m not saying you are doing this). A poor labourer can grow by leaps and bounds just by spending his days praying while doing mindless, repetitive work (for example). But he’s not stepping out of the boat.

    My (potential) concern with this “stepping out of the boat” business is that it smacks of cultural slogans like “You can do anything you set your mind to”, something which I don’t believe is true.

  13. brad moffatt

    Marc – you’ve always walked on water in my mind. you don’t need a book all you need is to believe and you can do it … or something like that

  14. Marc

    Thanks, Brad!

    This just came to mind: some might say that in the last couple of years I have taken steps to keep myself in the boat. However, I have “grown” in the last several years in ways which I may not have grown had I taken a route which others may consider more on the water than in the boat.

  15. Ian H.

    What I mean by that is that “self” is our attempt to define who we are apart from our identity in Christ. If we truly believe God’s promise to us, then our only identity should be as one of the redeemed.

    I find this most difficult in areas where I am tempted to defend myself. If someone accuses me of being something I am not, or of not being something I am, why do I need to immediately rush to my own defense? If my sense of self is found in the assurance of God’s continual love, it doesn’t matter what people say about me. I’m a child of God and nothing that anyone says about me should alter how I see myself.

  16. Marc

    Well said, Ian.

    I admit I struggle with that a lot myself. I find my identity in what others think of me far too often.

    Thanks for that.

  17. Pingback: There’s more than one boat. | VanderMeander : "something's lost, but something's gained in living every day"

  18. Ian H.

    I understand it on an intellectual level, but I don’t really “know” it yet… I also struggle with it. I don’t have a problem with what people say about me as a person, but I take a lot of pride in my work, which is probably not healthy for a Christian, either.

  19. jim

    Jim: how does Christianity encourage self-doubt? Can you expand on that?

    Through its teaching. An example could be the total depravity of man or original sin. Consequence, I can’t really trust myself. These questions or reservations I’m having come from the flesh. Add to that the misunderstanding and misuse of particular passages… i.e. “who are you o man to talk back to God” or “without him I can do nothing”. These are just two verses, they have been used negatively in my life. They may not have in yours, everyone has to think this through for themselves.

    As a result a culture of fear and self-doubt is created. It’s really obvious in some cases (i.e. Medieval Catholicism) or it can be much more subtle as in the example of the Sunday School leader’s comments and the effect it had on you. Been there, done that.

    One might say “True Christianity” won’t produce fear and doubt.” Yes, fine maybe so… I’m talking about the versions of Christianity that we have and example after example of people within it that deal with guilt, fear of doubt. And I don’t think we can opt out and blame the devil or the flesh.

    Its an important and honest question… how much does the version of Christianity I’m a part of promote fear and self-doubt?

  20. jim

    I think I may have misquoted about… “without him I can do nothing” maybe someone can help with that… on the other hand a search of the word “nothing” brings up many verses that serve the same point.

  21. jim

    Its an important and honest question… how much does the version of Christianity I’m a part of promote fear and self-doubt?

    I’d like to add this question… and do I really want to be a part of that?

  22. Darren

    Do I (we) want to be part of religious Christianity that promotes fear and self-doubt? Absolutely not.

    Do I want to engage and encourage and grow my relationship to God through his Son Jesus Christ, by learning to understand His teachnig and apply it to my life? Yes.

    Can I do one without being a part of the other? I think so, but it isn’t easy. So much useful understanding and encouragement comes from my interaction with other Christians. I guess it’s (in part) about working out our faith in the face of complicated issues.

  23. jim

    Darren: Can I do one without being a part of the other? I think so, but it isn’t easy. I’m personally finding it easier having jettisoned the heavy loads associated with Christianity as we know it.

    So much useful understanding and encouragement comes from my interaction with other Christians. It could be construed that your implying that one cannot gain useful understanding and encouragement outside of Christian circles. I think that you are talking about the stuff of life that we all commonly experience and grow from regardless of our faith experience. For example it has been argued and shown very well by others that Atheists generally are very moral/good people.

  24. Marc

    Wow…I’m not sure how I can contribute any more to this discussion! (We’ve touched on a couple of subjects that have been brewing in my mind lately, but I haven’t had the initiative to write.)

    I would say that community with other Christians is a good and useful thing. Can we figure some things out for ourselves? Yes. Is useful understanding and encouragement available outside of Christian circles? Unquestionably. (Though we might need to discuss what we mean by “useful” and “encouragement” and to what end are we thinking of “useful” and “encouraging”?)

    I do think that we should try and avoid individualism (one of the problems with modern society and church) without encouraging crippling self-doubt.

    Anyway, the kids are harrassing me, I need to get breakfast, among other things, and I’ve just woken up and my thoughts aren’t coming through straight (and I’m also getting the sense that there may be several different conversations happening here), so I’d better leave it at that for now.

  25. jim

    I can see that in some sense Darren and I agree. I want to come back to the second question I proposed above… “do I really want to be a part of that?” Most of us would agree that there are a lot of problems with institutional Christianity. I’ve come to the place where I’ve decided I don’t want to do it anymore, that it isn’t necessary and that it won’t be detrimental to my spiritual health. Quite the opposite actually.

    A funny but true saying I heard years ago comes to mind… “The great thing about hitting yourself on the head with a hammer is that it feels good when you stop.”

  26. JT

    Well, I can’t add any eloquence or meaningful input to the 32 above comments, because I have no idea what this Ortberg is writing about, or what other ‘Christian Self-Help’ stuff is out there, but I am going to comment anyway, because this post is powerful to me. I always feel self-conscious commenting here because I am not, in the true sense of the word, a practising Christian. True, I am always silently praying in this running dialogue in my head with God, but I don’t belong to any Christian community, and don’t even know what I believe deep down or what I’m looking for, etc. Let’s say I am in spiritual limbo, because that part of me is just sort of empty at the moment. Anyway, your experience with that book mirrors what I have experienced with non-Christian self help stuff, and indeed with Christianity. What I mean is that sometimes I just get so sick of always being told to do this or seek that or act like this and you will be self-actualized – I’ve had it up to here with “The Secret” and “The Seven Habits” and the Oprah-ization of the self-help movement. Similarly, I feel the same way about organized religion a lot of the time. When I’ve been to evangelical churches, I am repelled by the guilt I’m made to feel about everything and the focus on “steps” to salvation and true happiness – you know, the constant “the wages of sin are death” or whatever. On one of the links here this summer I read someone who posted something like “confessions of a post-evangelical christian” or something, and what they wrote was awesome and made me excited about the possibilities of religion focusing of the love and the bliss and acceptance. But then, the following week or so I read in the paper all of the ministers in town who opposed the gay pride parade in town, and was disheartened by that move because I believe who you love and sleep with is between you and God – not trying to start any debates here, but that was what killed the joy from that post for me – it was more of the “they are wrong and not worthy” and it would be way more positive to me to see this group of people band together and put energy into something positive, but whatever, just my feelings. Anyway, then I see people who ARE “saved” and who are still always struggling and are always in spiritual crisis or struggling with something and I wonder where is the bliss and when can you just be content? Why is it always a struggle to better find yourself and evolve and self-actualize in the non-christian world, and why is it always a struggle to stop fighting God and becoming a better Christian after you have supposedly found the truth? What I mean is, on either path, there is no just resting in the moment. Whenever I think about these things, I always end up quoting one of my favorite Joni Mitchell lines, the opening lyrics to “Lesson in Survival” – “Lesson in Survival/Spinning out on turns/That get you tough/Guru books – the Bible/Only a reminder/That you’re just not good enough.” Because ultimately, that’s what I am hearing no matter what spiritual path we explore – that we’re just not good enough – and never will be good enough. I’m just jonesing for what the Indigo Girls are pining for in “Galileo” – how long til my soul gets it right? I have no idea what to teach my children about God because I don’t know myself.
    So, in a different way, I know what you are saying…and this probably makes no sense….but here’s your 33rd comment. I’ll go back into my corner now 😉

  27. jim

    JP, I think you are right on the mark. A pain inducing joy sucking world view is just what it is whether it is Christian or not. It’s not wrong to question that.

    I think being honest with your children about your questions about God is a good thing. In essence you are teaching your children that understanding God is not as straight forward as it is made out to be (Particularly by Christians and Muslims).

  28. Darren

    Jim, the biggest problem with communication is believing you’ve done it.

    So if I may… “It could be construed that your implying that one cannot gain useful understanding and encouragement outside of Christian circles.”

    It could be construed… but I didn’t mean to construe that.

    “I think that you are talking about the stuff of life that we all commonly experience and grow from regardless of our faith experience.”

    You may think so (indeed, who am I to say what you think?), but I wasn’t trying to talk about that. I was refering to gaining a deeper understanding of God and encouragement in my walk with Christ. Some of this I can get from non-Christian circles and life in general, but a lot (e.g. “so much”) can be gained by interacting with my brothers and sisters who are trying to walk in the same general direction.

    “For example it has been argued and shown very well by others that Atheists generally are very moral/good people.”

    Although I’m not familiar with the social studies on this topic (and I have no idea if they exist), I wouldn’t off-hand dissagree with your statement. However, I would caution that any religion – Christianity, Atheism, Islam – has the potential to go very wrong and become incredibly immoral (not amoral, immoral). History records that this is true, and Christianity may have the worse record. Atrocities have been committed under a wide range of religious banners, including Atheism. The “institutionalization” of any belief has caused much more harm than good.

    (Note that I’m trying to be clear here. Atheism is a belief that there is nothing to believe in.)

    At the individual level, I would be curious to know what social scientists would tell us. There are “good” and “moral” people in every corner of society. On the whole, are atheists be “better” people than Christians? How would you gauge what “good” and “moral” means? Christianity at least has a standard. The sermon on the mount is a good place to start. But given that atheists, by definition, don’t believe in God’s standard (or God himself), then their “standard” for morality becomes, what? The world’s standard, changing with society? What does that mean? Kind to old ladies and children, supporting charitable benevolent organizations?

    I’m not sure that the fact that many atheists, as individuals, are “good” and “nice” and “moral” has anything to do with my ability to grow close to my creator.

    I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a close friend, himself an atheist (and a very good and moral person, as far as I can tell). We were discussing Christianity, and given his non-belief, his comment really struck me. “Why would I poo-poo Christianity, when at its core it helps you become a better person?”

  29. Marc

    I think I’m losing track of this discussion. I don’t want to head down rabbit trails (including those which may pop up in future posts), but there are so many interesting (possible) threads: morality and belief; “growing” as a Christian; what is community…

    Continue being civil, ok?

  30. Darren

    Oops?

    Marc (perhaps more directly Jim), I hope my tone wasn’t uncivil. I think this is an interesting discussion, and I’m enjoying it. Please don’t let my lack of frequent smily face icons indicate that I mean any offense!

    And by way of an update, I did a 2 minute search on google scholar and read a couple of articles. One was a non-peer reviewed source that suggested that all people, irrespective of belief have a basic moral compass. They used three simple scenarios that respondents were supposed to rate as morally acceptable, permissible and forbidden (on for each). They found no difference between religious (several religions) and non-religious people as to how they responded.

    The second was a peer-reviewed article surveying some 800-900 people, split between protestants and atheists, on a variety of morality issues, such as giving of time and money to charity, spousal abuse, etc, etc. They found that protestants were significantly more “moral” by these measures, but not so much more as would be predicted by “Social Control Theory”.

    Interesting stuff!

  31. Marc

    What do you mean by “oops”?

    The tone hasn’t been uncivil, which is why I said, “Continue being…”

    I won’t have much time for blogging in the next week or so, so I’m reluctant to weigh in much myself.

    Also, I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around some of what is being said because we’re using a lot of vague terminology (“growing”, “useful understanding”, etc.). I find working without some concrete stuff a difficult way to discuss things.

    Anyway, keep at it and I’ll pipe up if/when I have something useful to say.

  32. jim

    I think this has been an interesting discussion too and have not been offended at anything. I have used some strong and straight forward language that is somewhat emotionally charged but believe I can say that I’ve just been honest.

    Darren“but a lot (e.g. “so much”) can be gained by interacting with my brothers and sisters who are trying to walk in the same general direction.

    I understand that and agree that if a person wants to grow as an evangelical then he will find the support and encouragement from other evangelicals. Makes sense. Catholics will find it from other Catholics… Jews from Jews… Atheists from Atheists… etc.

    Darren, your atheist friend said ““Why would I poo-poo Christianity, when at its core it helps you become a better person?” That’s fine, that’s not my issue. I poo-poo Christianity (in the varieties we have it today) when and because it fills people with fear, guilt and self-doubt. To me that’s what this post is about.

    The survey stuff you came across is interesting stuff Darren. This stood out to me, One was a non-peer reviewed source that suggested that all people, irrespective of belief have a basic moral compass. This relates to my concern and reaction to the thread of this post. Powerful people (like Ortberg) can become the moral compass of people or perhaps it is better to say masses of people allow them to be. I did for years. Ironically, it was a development in confidence of my own moral compass that freed me up to question and consequently has largely freed me up from self-doubt.

  33. Darren

    I find, having read Marc’s blog long enough, that lots of comments often mean two (or more) people arguing about nuance. After reading your last post, I think I completely agree with you.

    When Christianity is used to fill people with fear, guilt, and self-doubt, that’s bad. Agreed.

    Allowing someone (other than God) to become our moral compass is bad. Agreed.

    Allowing someone (other than God) to offer some advice on how we might grow spiritually, good (with caveats). Just because someone offers advice, doesn’t mean we have to take it, no matter who they are. I’m not sure Ortberg is trying to “be” someone’s moral compass (although some may percieve that he is, allow him to do so, and fall victim to guilt and self-doubt as a result). Can we not take a book like this and strain the baby out of the bathwater? I’ve rarely read a book (including the bible – please hold the tar and feathers) or listened to teaching in which I did not try to capture the nuggets and throw out the junk.

  34. Darren

    And Marc… “I find working without some concrete stuff a difficult way to discuss things.” Pullleeease!

    Most of your blog, dealing with spirituality and related issues, is about non-concrete stuff! You seem to have spent a HUGE amount of time discussing things which you apparently find difficult to discuss.

    Admitedly, “useful understanding” was not a terribly helpful term (what understanding, other than “how hotdogs are made”, is not useful?). But if “growing” is confusing to you, I’ll ask Madeline to explain it. Just because it is in reference to a relationship doesn’t, I hope, make it innaccessible to you!

    * smily icon inserted here!*

  35. Marc

    Abstract ideas maybe, but in order to have a discussion on abstract ideas you need concrete terminology, otherwise you don’t get anywhere. That’s why philosophers spend so much time defining terms and coming up with compound words (i.e. “being-in-itself”).

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