Satisfying Our Dissatisfaction

listening to Peter Rollins talk about different philosophical ideas always makes me long to be as smart as he is. The other day I heard a lecture he gave and he was talking about being so many of us are dissatisfied. He spoke of two postures of how we address our dissatisfaction - Conservative and Revolutionary.

The conservative is dissatisfied with how life is and believes the way to satisfaction is somewhere in the past. Be it a certain decade or a time in the persons life, it sounds like the conservative is not so much a person as it is a tactic to satisfy our dissatisfaction. I act conservative sometimes when I think of how much “better” and “simpler” life was when I was in high school. Of course, there is no way for us to go back in time and so being conservative means we are trying to bring the past into the present in order to satisfy our dissatisfaction.

The revolutionary is also dissatisfied but this posture is one that believes satisfaction is not in the past but in the future. We act like the revolutionary when we believe that life will be better when we get “over there”. Be it with a different house, job, government, afterlife, or whatever, the revolutionary tries to bring the future to the present. Of course, Rollins points out, that most revolutionaries that succeed in their task are often among the first to be killed by this new reality.

Rollins’ point is not that conservative or revolutionary is better over the other, but that they are two sides of the same coin. They both believe that life is about satisfying our dissatisfaction, they just disagree on the tactics.

Rollins says there is a different posture, a different coin if you will, that both the conservative and revolutionary are suspect of - the Rebel. The rebel is not seeking to satisfy dissatisfaction but to be satisfied with dissatisfaction.

The rebel shows us that being dissatisfied is a feature and not a bug to the human condition. Dissatisfaction gives us energy and that energy, if ever satisfied, would be hellish. It may be difficult to imagine, but if your sports team won every game they played and it was a forgone conclusion they were going to win, then sports would be boring. You would loose the energy to participate in the game because you know you will win.

The rebel does not play the impossible game of trying to satisfy dissatisfaction but plays a new game all together and learns to be satisfied with dissatisfaction.

Photo by  Robert Anasch  on  Unsplash

While the religious leaders of his day wanted Jesus to look to the past to satisfy their dissatisfaction, the zealots desired Jesus to bring the future kingdom to the present. Jesus resisted the conservative and the revolutionary postures toward the dissatisfaction in the world.

Jesus was a rebel who showed us the way to address our dissatisfaction - by being satisfied with it.

Giving What You Don't Have To Someone Who Doesn't Want It

Philosopher Jacques Lacan said that love is giving what you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it. If I were to create a non-nonsensical statement that I think a stereotypical philosopher would say, this is just about perfect.

What the heck does this mean? How can I give what I don’t have? And how is it loving to give this non-possession to someone who does not want it? I have been handed many flyers only to resent the one giving me what I now consider a scrap of trash to throw away. I did not want it and yet I am holding it. I don’t think that is love.

I have not read Lacan. I am not that smart. However, this definition of love is right in line with the Gospel.

First of all, that which we do not have goes by another name. It is what we lack. Thus, giving what you lack to someone is a practice of vulnerability and trust. When I am vulnerable to someone and give my lack (lack of confidence or lack of “having it all together” for instance) the other person is offered what I don’t have.

Now, when this other person is offered what I don’t have the other person probably was not looking for it. I cannot imagine that people on dating sites are putting in their profile, “I am looking for someone who is broken and lacking in the following ways…” Of course not. When we set out to find a partner, we are typically looking for someone who “completes us” or “fills us” or adds to our life in any number of ways. We look for someone who is the “total package”. We are not looking for lack.

And yet, when we meet someone who offers what were not looking for we have a choice. We can reject it - we were not looking for this to begin with - or we can receive it. In receiving the other person’s lack or brokenness we receive the very thing we did not think we wanted.

This is love.

We see this in the Christian communion. Jesus offers his broken body, his lack, to the world. In turn we are given a choice. Do we receive this broken body of the Christ or do we reject it? Christ offers us not his strength or wholeness, but his weakness and brokenness.

Some find it difficult to imagine that Christ was weak or broken or lacking in anything. I get it, who wants to worship a weak God?

However, this the the point. We are looking for a strong God, we are not looking for a weak God.

By offering the very thing we did not think we want (a weak, broken and crucified God) we encounter what love looks and feels like. When we reject the weakness and brokenness of God, then we reject the very gift of God to us.

Just as God, who needs nothing, receives our lack and brokenness as the way to love us. God responds in kind by offering God’s brokenness.

The question is not is God broken or lacking, but what will you and I choose to do with the brokenness of God offered to us?

God's Insistence


The debates of the existence of God drive me bonkers. Not only are they usually staged between two people entrenched in their views but they generally talk past each other in order to score points so to “win” the debate. The whole process is just silly because, and this may be shocking, but it is a fools errand to talk about God’s existence. God is much less one who exists but rather the One who insists.

For example, when you look at a landscape painting, you will see distance and perspective. Asking if the mountains in the painting exist is a question that misses the point. The mountains do not so much exist as they insist. They are there on the canvas, insisting their presence even as they do not exist.

God’s insistence is how we come to know God’s presence. Most people do not have a “burning bush” experience or an angle coming from the clouds telling them a message. Most of us move through our lives and bump into moments of beauty, love, joy and hope. These moments insist there is something beyond what we can sense, something within and yet beyond the material world.

There is an insistence to creation. That insistence to life and love, joy and hope, we divine.

Some of us even call it God.

It is because of God’s insistence that God’s existence is real.

Mustaches on Babies and Resurrection: That's Funny!

 Alexander Crispin

 Alexander Crispin

It has been said that humans have five senses: touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, and smelling. I would submit that humans universally have a sixth sense: the sense of humor. Just as we all have a different sense of what is “spicy”, so too we all have a different sense of what is humorous and what is not. We all know something is funny when we see it, but we all don’t laugh at the same things or with the same intensity. Whatever we find funny, humor is built on the same principle: incongruence. For instance, if you drew a mustache on a baby that would be an example of incongruence. Now a baby with a mustache may not be that funny to you. The more you see the same incongruity, the less funny it becomes. However, children who see babies with mustaches laugh the most because it is the first time they are seeing this incongruence.

In order to recognize incongruence, you must first have a sense of what is congruent. In order to know what is extraordinary, you must know what is ordinary. Even the lightest chuckle means that you recognize something is “out of sorts” (incongruence). The ability to see what is “out of sorts” is not only being funny, it is also being prophetic. The prophets would point out the things that were out of the ordinary - like when Amos called out those who had so much food they were throwing it away while the people they ruled were starving (Amos 4). Or when Jesus told a parable about workers getting paid the same wage regardless of the amount of time they worked in the field (Matthew 20). We should laugh at these because they are not “normal.” When we experience resurrection, we should laugh because we have been told that it is normal for death to be the end and to have the last word. Resurrection is the great laugh of God in the face of what we think is normal.

It is true that in trying to explain a joke, the joke becomes less funny. Humor is funny like that: it thrives with understanding but diminishes with explanation. Humor is best experienced rather than dissected. Humor is relational rather than clinical. In this way, humor is much like the Christian life: it is to be understood rather than explained. If we struggle with the irony and complexity of understanding humor, then we can safely assume that we may also struggle with understanding resurrection!

And so, may we enter God’s world with a sense of awe and wonder at all the ways it is congruent so that we can have a fuller understanding of the incongruent nature of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we see with prophetic eyes the things in this world that are out of sorts or not normal so that we can work to usher in justice and peace. May we be the people of God who laugh, even in the dark times, knowing that the Light cannot be extinguished.