Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Tightrope Walker

A world-famous tightrope walker strung a wire across Niagara Falls and invited the public to come and see him walk across. On the day he was to do it, thousands of people showed up to watch. As he walked to the wire they cheered loudly. He stopped and asked them, “Do you believe I can do it?” They cheered, “Yes”. Then he walked across. He then asked them, “Do you believe I can do it again with a 100 lb. bag on my shoulders?” Again, they cheered and he walked across once more. A third time he asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can do it again carrying a man on my shoulders?” A loud roar went up. “Yes”, they shouted. "All right then, who will volunteer to be that man?" Not a sound could be heard.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Waiting Room

As I am applying for jobs, I am finding one emotion constantly recurring: hope. Obama capitalized on this during his run for president, and as Harvey Milk said, "you gotta give 'em hope." It's something that keeps us going. Whenever I see a job posting, sitting so helpless and far removed from the administrative powers-that-be, I imagine the possibilities. Whenever I have an interview, I hope to be offered a position. Fingers crossed, etc.

The disciples of Jesus waged their bets and put their hopes on Jesus. When he died on a cross, it took three days for him to make good on his promise. How long those three days must have been. Hope is a waiting game.

As I sit waiting to hear back about a job, I am in that hope-land limbo of wanting to believe the best, but more comfortable with imagining the worst. It is an emotional roller coaster putting your hopes in possibility, only to have it dashed in front of you. Sometimes I'd rather not hope at all. But who knows...something might come out of it. There's nothing to do now but wait. You gotta give them hope.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is defined as the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. I remember experiencing this phenomenon very vividly as a child in a simple example. I was playing with a ball. I dropped the ball and it rolled away. I thought it was behind a piece of furniture, but it happened that it rolled much further away. I looked behind the piece of furniture where the ball was supposed to be...and it wasn't there. When I saw it across the room, I almost refused to believe it. I became very upset. It was supposed to be here, and it was there.

This experience left a strong impression on me, and would translate later in life to other experiences. When meeting with friends, I expected to have a good time, but I would be unhappy instead, for example. Going to a dance, or a social event, I expected to be a certain way, and it turned out that my assumption of who I was and how I would act was totally off. How to explain this? Only that sometimes we prefer our ideas about reality to how things actually are.

Of course, this applies to faith. I imagine God to be this, and he is that. I expect my prayers to be answered, and they are not. The reality of God does not square with my concept of God. To be truthful, I think cognitive dissonance is a necessary stage in spiritual development that occurs when we attempt to live in full reality instead of our childish illusions of faith.

I have a feeling marriage is not going to be whatever it is I have imagined in my head. That is ok. As long as I let go of the ideas when the reality presents itself, I think we will be ok. It's when we try to hold on to the ideas in the face of reality that we start living unauthentically and experience that cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable, troubling feeling that things are not what they seem to be. That is when rationalizing, and living in unreality begins. Living in unreality is never authentic, and so recognizing the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance can help us develop further into the person we are...not the person we are supposed to be.