Posts Tagged ‘future’

Direction in 2009

January 10, 2009 1 comment

If you read this blog on occasion, you may run across my reference to Eugen Rosenstock’s Cross of Reality. He talks about man moving in four directions (backward-forward -time) and (inward-outward – space). We live within the time/space axis, and yet oddly we often get stuck in one of the four directions. Some people, groups, nations are stuck in the past. On the other hand, some are stuck in the future. To live and move within time we must enjoy the freedom to move backward and forward.

Space is the same way. Some folks, groups, nations are trapped in inner space: reflection, meditation, philosophy, etc. Lots of ideas, passion, existential reality but little contact with outer world. Early in his life as a son a “righteous one,” Martin Buber was caught up in ecstatic encounter with the divine. A student came to see, but he turned the student away for the inner ecstasy trumped the call from the outer world. The student committed suicide. This horror shook up Buber and was one of the key influences that moved him to developed his thoughts on the life of dialogue. The call to move out beyond ourselves and encounter the other in dialogue.

Buber reminds us that we move between two directions in space inner world and outer world. Both are fundamental and one doesn’t trump the other.

One amazing power of humans is our power to change. While trees shed their leaves in the fall and have no choice, we can shed our hair in the spring and grow long beards in the fall. Or we can do the opposite. We can turn around. We have the power to decide when to move and when to rest. We can change our world. We can put trees where there are no trees, or we can add trees to fields and create a forest.

This quick reminder allows me to talk about and think about direction in 2009. With the lay-offs and economic news in our country, many people are turning inward. Fear is driving people backward. Looking back to better times.

I would suggest the two directions that I am focusing upon during this season of fear and distress is outward and forward. Now is the time to look ahead with vision and expectancy. Now is the time to act in ways that bring hope and courage to the faltering. Now is the time to plan for tomorrow and act on the basis of a vision for tomorrow.

This gets me to vision but that’s another post. I’m thinking about vision and how vision works, where it comes from and what is its purpose.

Articulating the Future While the World Collapses

November 26, 2008 Leave a comment

As reports of financial chaos echo through the world each day, we may begin to feel like Modern Romans watching our world collapse.

I still think the world collapsed about 90 years ago, and the collapse has been rippling across institutions and nations every since. The church’s initial response to a modern notion of progress that was built on an overconfident secular humanism was to turn inward, building a bulwark around the orthodox truths of our faith. I’m not just thinking about fundamentalism.

As the modern world forgot our past and assumed that we could do not wrong, men like G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis emerged to warn of the dangers of this blind pursuit of man’s unlimited potential. Chesterton (Apostle of Common Sense) and Lewis (Articulator of Mere Christianity) defended the past against a false future built on empty ideas of human progress that denied our need for grace (and God). In one sense, the church spent the 20th century defending the past and building fortresses around the past to protect it.

This was what the times required. But a few prescient thinkers, drawing inspiration from men like Chesterton and Lewis began to speak of the future, a Christian Future. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote and taught about articulating the future (and the cost associated with creating this future).

Two future thinker-actors were Augustine and Luther. They both lived at the end of an age. They articulated the future. When Augustine wrote “The City of God,” Rome was literally in flames due to invasions by tribal people (the terror may have felt much like the attacks from our terrorists today). He wrote that book when Rome was already a Christian empire and the pagans were accusing the Christians of the downfall of Roman power.

Augustine’s book was a defense of the faith, and in it he suggested that the city of man will never be perfect. It will never be the city of God. So all man’s system are doomed to fail until God finally establishes his city on the earth. Augustine’s ideas about the city of God inspired the people who came after him to rebuild the world that was falling apart.

The Roman empire never came back. But the empire eventually shifted into the image of Christendom when all of Europe was a Christian land. In some parts of Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, etc), barbaric tribal cultures were Christianized and eventually all shared a common culture and belief on the Lord. In spite of today’s bad press, there was much praiseworthy in this medieval world. (Just see Chesterton, Belloc, Lewis, Tolkien and others.)

But Christendom was not the final glory. It crumbled during the 14th and 15th centuries, leading to (or revealing) massive corruption in the church and a breakdown in the culture. In the mid to late 14th century many people were certain that the end of the world was at hand. But by the early 16th century, Martin Luther emerged to cast a new vision of what could be. (I realize that he was one voice among many. While not disparaging their contributions, he is the one who became the articulation of the future.)

His ideas led to the formation of the Protestant church, opened the door for massive developments in science, and eventually took shape in our democracy and the emergence of a modern world. (This is way oversimplified does not take into account many other significant developments.)

Now we live at the end of that world. Is it the end of time? I don’t know. If it’s not, then God will once again raise up voices who will proclaim the gospel in a way that will reshape the culture and the world. In the end, America may not look the same. It may not even be America. But God will do something glorious that will lead to a greater spread of his word.

As we acknowledge the bankruptcy of modern progress, we must move in step with what the times requires. The times require thinkers, writers, artists, musicians, and more to articulate a Christian Future.

The impetus is upon the people of God to proclaim the kingship of our Lord Jesus, and to create under subjection to His rule. The prophet who has always inspired me about creating the future is Ezekiel. He is forced to change from priest to prophet because the times required it.

From the land of exile, Ezekiel sees, eats, acts, and lives out his fantastic visions. He articulates a future Israel through word-act. We are being called to be a people who articulate the future through word-act. This often means being derided as crazy and schizophrenic like Ezekiel. We must not fear but step forward into the foolishness that will usher in a new world.

Our attempts to define every aspect of the end times has often short-circuited our ability to see forward. We’ve become like businesses who live from payroll to payroll or quarter to quarter. Rather, we must become people who live between the garden and the New Jerusalem, learning to see and hear more clearly. As we see and hear, we must speak-act the Word of the Lord.

We are people who live in between the times. Like Ezekiel, we know exile too well. And sometimes we grow bitter and weary in heart. But like Paul we press on for the high calling of God. And like John we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the groom, the Lord of Glory who is coming for a people who are without spot.

Worth Thinking About

August 14, 2008 Leave a comment

In his reflections on Eugen Rosenstock Huessy, Jeffrey Hart cites an ERH quote worth thinking about, “Our choices project us forward in our own histories. We make judgments, we may be prudent, but we act on faith. We create actualities that did not exist before.”

Creating the Future

April 20, 2007 Leave a comment

I live in a world of discussions about “long tail” planning. We think we create the future through spreadsheets and programs, but I’m not so sure. We cannot even guarantee our next breath.

Here’s a provocative quote from a 1953 Dartmouth lecture by Eugen Rosenstock Huessy. He points out that the future doesn’t come because we plan it. It comes through those who chose to sacrifice the present.

The Dark Ages are not the Middle Ages, gentlemen. The Dark Ages are the ages of no women’s rights, of no real love between the sexes, of endless war. These 158 cities of which Aristotle has given us the constitutions, they were at eternal war with each other, and the Greeks never expected these wars ever to end. You had a caste system. You had warriors, eternal warriors as in India, to this day, you see. India has pre- served some of the features of antiquity as a warning.

Modern man in New York says, “We can do with cocktail parties instead of Paul, and go on to Aristotle, and Plato, and Socrates. We are witty. We are factual. And we are utopians. We found associations for the abolition of evil.” And I mean, if you think of what — Americans have tried over the last 100 years, you see, by willful association, they have really tried to — to exterminate every evil just by willpower.

It has never borne fruit. After 30 years, it was all forgotten — forgotten, all these wonderful improvement societies. We have reform governments, city government every eight years, you see. Then something is done for two years, and then six years of corruption, then we get another drive and people always believe in the ultimate good here, it seems, you see.

They always say, “Now we will be settled forever,” because they have no memory of the past. And they’ll never use anything that people could know for the last 2,000 years already. What does Paul remind the college community of, gentlemen? He enjoins on the college community the simple knowledge that in serious life, a road into the future is only open by sacrifice. You only create a new era if somebody asks for less than he can get.

That’s the deed of Jesus, that He asks — got less than He could have — had the right to ask for. Very simple, gentlemen. You try to get something for nothing. So you get stuck in the past. Anybody who tries to get something for nothing overemphasizes his given rights that he was already qualified to get. And he of course outbuys the future.

There is then less good to be had, because you have gotten too much. Jesus said — and said, “This is the way of life which all the pagans, all the Gentiles lead, and therefore I have to show that somebody asks for less than he can get, and thereby creates a surplus,” what the Catholic Church calls the {opus super erogatum}. Have you — do we have here a Roman Catholic? Who is? Have you heard of the — {opus super erogatum}, of the grace stored up in Heaven by the saints? Well, gentlemen, that’s true. That’s not just something you learn — we learned in Church. That is something for everyday use, my dear man.

If you have not in every family, and in every community some self-sacrificing people who give more of their time, their money, and even their reputation — because that’s the hardest to give, you see, in order to perform a service — if there is no unrecognized service in a community, this — community has no future. It runs down by gravity. It exhausts its resources, because the — most of the people do ask for more than they deserve.

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