The People Without a Right or Left Hand

Guugu Yimithirr is a language of some aboriginal people of Australia. I know nothing about how to speak it. What I have come to learn about this Guugu Yimithirr is that it does not have a word for right or left. When giving directions, a native speaker might say, "go north, then turn south and there will be my house on the east." The speaker may also say something like, "raise your east-side hand and touch your west-side foot." 

The people who speak Guugu Yimithirr have a language that is geographically centered. Conversely, English speakers have an egocentric language, where right and left are words used in relation to the person rather than the outer world. Those who speak Guugu Yimithirr do not have a right or left hand, only hands that are north, south, east or west. 

(This wonderful little article from 2010 goes into greater detail on the limits of language and where 20th century thinking got a little off when considering the role of language. However, the article also points out that just because someone does not have the word left or right does not mean they are incapable of understanding the concept. The article is more a discussion on the axiom, "Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.”)

The language of the Church, at her best, is Christocentric. This Christocentric language is designed to not only draw our eyes to beyond ourselves but also to reorient our lives. There is a difference in saying, "look what I am doing" and "look what Christ is doing though me." The first is egocentric, the later is Christocentric. The first implies that the individual is paramount, the latter implies the self is a small part of something larger. The former props up the ego. The later puts the ego in proper location. 

For all those weird Christians we meet who want to "give God the glory" or say "it is by God's strength," just consider how weird it would be to listen to someone ask you to raise your north-side hand. It is a different orientation. A different orientation does not always mean a misguided, wrong, evil, sinful or heretical orientation.

How egocentric is your language? Are you willing to be re-orientated?

A psychic, convict, billionaire fisherman that does not exist

Take three minutes to watch this commercial made by Canon.

He stood on his soapbox and told us a parable
of a man with eye-glasses so small they’re unwearable.
And the moral of the story is that it all looks terrible,
depending on what you look through, what you look through.
— The Grandson of Jesus - by Cloud Cult

Within this video you saw one man walk into the studio six different times to meet a different photographer each time. Each photographer was given a backstory of the man. One photographer was told the man was a former convict another was told he was a billionaire and another told he was a psychic. After each photographer heard a backstory of the man, they then took their photos. After developing the film each of the six pictures were hung on a string side by side. The photographers all came into the room and examined the different photographs. It was at this time that the photographers were told that the man was not any of the things they each heard in the backstory. 

That is when the video comes to it's point: a photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than what is in front of it. 

So taking this metaphor out a bit, it is important to be mindful that how you see is influenced by what you think. The world is broken in areas, however this does not mean the world is going to hell in a hand basket. We are more inclined to see what we want to see and we are more blind that we want to believe we are. 

What story are you telling about yourself? What stories are you telling about those you work with? Live with? Dislike? Admire? God?

Spiritual Libertarianism = My Mind Blown

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
— Preamble of the Libertarian Platform

It may be more common these days to not register with a particular political party, Libertarianism is officially the third largest political party in the US. (Which itself is a bit ironic that those who elevate individual rights over the groups rights would even desire to bend their values to that of an official party platform, but that is not the point.) Regardless of the official numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests that the USA has a very strong populist leaning toward Libertarianism (at least here in the South and West).

As taken from the wikipedia entry, Libertarian thought this is the philosophy that "upholds liberty as its principal objective. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgement." 

These values are not "bad" but the values of Libertarian thought seem very much in direct conflict of Christian life. 

The Christian life is one that we bend our will to that of Christ. We die to self so that Christ may live in us. It is a life that does put personal values to the side for the benefit of others. It is a life that upholds service to others. It is a life that seeks to maximize the submission to authority of Christ. It is a life that replaces the individual as sole authority of their life for one that places Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason as the authorities of our life.

And yet we seem to live in a time when the interpretation of Christianity is one that is less and less interested in the group or whole and more and more interested in the will of the individual. It is a Christianity that when someone does not like a few teachings of the Church that person leaves. The UMC is now seeing local churches withhold global giving as a way to make a point about an internal church issue. We have communities of faith set up to meet the needs of the individual to the detriment of creating communities of faith that demand service of the members. We live in a time where we choose the course of action we are going to take rather than do what an outside authority might ask us to do.

While there are many who might argue that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the major threat to the Christian Life, I might suggest that the issues facing the Church are less about what we believe and more about where we place authority.

What is authoritative in your life? Are you your own authority or is your authority outside yourself.

Spiritual Libertarianism can slowly kill communities of faith because if we do not bend our values to those of Christ's then we are just creating a community that is a reflection of our own current selves rather than a community that challenges us to greater than ourselves.

What words are your go to words?

Have you paid attention to the words a teacher uses over and over again in their speech? I am not talking about the verbal mnemonic devices employed, nor the words that function as fillers - like the works "like" or "um". I am talking about the words that the teacher uses time and time again that underpin the teachers overall philosophy?

Richard Rohr's book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi brought to light that Francis of Assisi used some words more than others. According to Rohr, "Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time."


Doing, heart, love and mercy were, perhaps, Francis's go to words that functioned as his philosophical and theological underpinning. I understand that the sheer number of times a word is used does not mean this word is important. For instance, a political candidate may use the name of an opposing party more than they use their own but that does not mean they are secret members of the opposing party. Nonetheless, the frequency of words to the frequency of other words in a given teacher's lexicon is interesting. 

There is this blog that makes word clouds of the different books of the Bible. And when you take a look at that you can begin to see some common themes. The first thing you may notice is how the Bible is often taught as a book about people and how to live - like a Christian version of Hammurabi's code or a moral document. However, the Bible's main protagonist is not humanity but God. This is a collection of books and stories written by people in order to try to put language and understanding around the indescribable and fully unknowable. 

What words are your go to words? What do these words say about where your heart is? If someone were to examine all your writings what would your word frequency be for words like "love", "I", "welcome", "peace", "sorry", "forgiveness", "truth" or "joy"?