Broken

The other evening I was watching an episode of NOVA with my family. The subject of the program was ship disasters and what causes them. The obvious choice of conversation was the Titanic and the Costa Concordia which both sank for similar reasons. They both ran into objects more solid than their hulls and took on water in ways the ships were unprepared to compensate for. The ships both had very strong skins designed with one or two linings. But those were compromised. They both had leaders who, it has been argued, placed the ships into positions which that were likely to fail. The ones who paid the highest price were the ones inside the ships. Many of which had no idea what was coming and were ill prepared to handle the doom that awaited them.

Then, some days later, I was listening to a radio show that described the consequences and potential folly of failed security. The subject was about privacy and leaks of secure information. The show mentioned Edward Snowden and his efforts to expose the teraflops of information about us currently in the hands of people we don’t know and in at least some cases have not the foggiest idea they have it. The conversation turned on the issue of leaking such information to the people.

I saw a connection. What exactly is a leak?

In its essential form, a leak is when there is a breach of trust or a failure of faith in something or someone.

When a plumber installs a pipe, the intention is to connect a homeowner to a trusted source with an equally trustworthy product into his or her secure home. A breach of the pipe, whatever its contents, is a leak. We trusted so much. The utility provider. The pipe. The plumber. The product in the pipe. The appliance the pipe is attached to. The home the pipes are run into and through. So much trust and faith in others. But somewhere along the line, in that maze of copper, lead, and brass a failure of trust occurred. The pipe may have swollen because the homeowner was supposed to turn on the heat, but didn’t and so the pipe froze and burst. The fitting may have failed because the plumber didn’t apply the correct amount or type of solder. The utility had a surge of supply beyond the pipes capacity and exceeded its design strength. The appliance failed to shut off correctly and allowed the product in the pipes to run unchecked. These are all leaks. These are all breaches of established or assumed trust.

Assumed trust. Breach of faith. Failed security. Compromised hulls.

These are all leaks.

These are all what we fear will happen with our vital information. So we add passwords, security checks, retina verifications, fingerprint identification. Anything we can to restore or eatable trust or faith in something other than ourselves. But it doesn’t always work. It’s not always fail safe. In fact on a daily basis I we learn truths about just how vulnerable we are to a sufficiently motivated “other.”

So what’s a leak? It’s when our faith or trust in something or someone fails. It’s not just when the pipe bursts. It’s not just when the NSA collects data and the sealed lid they created is exposed as vulnerable. It’s not only when the Target, Home Depot or any other retailer in the news recently, loses control of your account numbers or passwords. It’s not just when Nixon taps a political adversaries line, or the NSA taps the German chancellors. It’s not just when that Ziploc bag you bought unzips and spurts the contents in your purse. It’s deeper than that.

Much deeper.

It’s when you trusted enough to give of yourself to someone or something. When you allowed yourself to be vulnerable just long enough to connect with something you need or like or love. And then that trust is broken.

That is a leak.

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So, why do you ask?

I am a public official and over the years I’ve seen many people with many different motivations. They have needs that must be fulfilled and those needs are fueled by a variety of pressures. None of those motivations are necessarily my business and so I do not care to know. Besides. It tends to foment a certain level of bias if I do ask. So if knowing the reason beyond the ask is not going to serve me in being a good public official to the citizen, I will not go there.

But there are folk who are not public officials. People who have agendas both obvious and subtle. I do not fault them for that. I too have agendas on occasion. Frankly, an agendas a good thing to have. It gives me a drive and encouragement. A muse, if you will, to press on to the proverbial mark. So I don’t judge on that point.

What I am interested in understanding is when a persons motivation IS important. When their questions are probative and intended to net results. Leading questions, my lawyer friends might say. These are the questions that make me think, so…. Why do you ask?

You see, when I am asked a question I often am left to wonder what caused them to ask it.

Questions that are simply curiosity driven are few and far between when it’s an adult doing the asking. Children are great. They ask curious questions like:

‘Why is the sky blue?’
‘Are we there yet?’
‘Can you change my diaper?’
‘Do you love me?’

But adults have been around a while. We adults know that innocence is generally for the innocent. Honest and wholistic questions are somewhat rare. The ask simply for the sake of asking is met with many responses. Mostly defensive. In fact, even my pastor, whom I care deeply for, said a few Sundays ago that the substantive conversation is rare and unusual. But that rarity has fostered a society that is based upon sound bites, short attention span for even the most complex issues, and ill prepared for the pithy conversation we miss out on.

The tendency is to immediately be suspicious when someone or anyone, even children, ask surface and small talk questions. It’s nothing to do with the question asked, but the idea that someone went out of their way to stop you from your agenda to query you on yours seems at once invasive and threatening. It’s a fear led response that makes us think the inquisitor ‘….wouldn’t be interested in just making conversation because I certainly never do so, therefore they must want something from me. Not just my time. Maybe my money. That’s it. They are selling me something. Where’s my wallet? Did I hide it well enough?..’

Never thinking that we all crave simple conversation. But usually that simple minded inane low brow dialogue is relegated to the office workplace. Mostly around the proverbial water-cooler.

But what has us here? Lacking in substantive conversation as a rule, afraid of simple conversation, and constantly suspicious of people’s motivations? My thought is because our greatest fear where communication is concerned is being vulnerable. Vulnerability allows for a measure of trust. Faith if you will. Honesty. Acceptance of a truth. Maybe not THE truth, but certainly A truth. Communication on any level requires at least some level of thought and many of us become fatigued with the very idea of thinking. Why else are reality tv, talking head shows, radio blow-hard programs, and American Ninja-esque shows so popular? Those forms of media allow for knee jerk instantaneous entertainment that requires no effort at thought to enjoy them. Hand me a spoon, I’m hungry for more.

It’s not wrong to enjoy empty programming. Far from it. It allows for some escape from stress by watching others escape a sticky situation… Or revel in it. But it conditions us for empty programming in our heads when we interact with real folk everyday. And the shows are a product of us attempting to escape reality while cyclically mining society for reality shows subjects we will engage with for 24 minutes or 47 minutes at a clip.

Frankly I feel a nice walk down a city street, quiet neighborhood, or wooded trail is more fulfilling for that sort of escapism but that’s a subject for another blog.

My argument is….well, I don’t know that I even have one. Perhaps this is just a letter to be aware. Aware of what? Glad you asked.

Aware that we are generally at least ambivalent about shallow conversation because it has the propensity of leading to a deeper conversation. We tend to fear connection through conversation because that sort of conversation requires dropping of bulwarks and fortresses of privacy we’ve spent years building. We often avoid even eye contact on the bus because if we see them looking at us, they might say something, perish the thought. And having a pithy conversation is good but only when we trust and trust is hard to build, easy to break and rare on a larger scale.

Finally faith, trust, honesty, true heart to heart conversation is spiritually uplifting. It is that sort of connection that makes being a communicative human such a gift. It lifts the heart and dashes our fear. Exposes the lies and highlights the truth. It conveys opinions born from an honest place and asks others to consider it for the value it may own. And in the end if we let go of preconceptions and fear driven avoidances we may finally get to the point where we no longer need to ask or even wonder: So…. Why do you ask?

Oh, Ye of Little Religion

Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, it has been said, is the most segregated time in America. It is a time when the people of Christendom gather with other like minded folk of Christendom and enter into common union. A time when folk look to hear a Word, break bread, and drink of the cup. Gather to accept a new life. Perhaps cast off an old life and accept the new.

By and large, it’s also a time when they focus less on faith and more fully on religion. Therein lays the sadness.

First the Word.

Matthew 8:26, 16:8, 6:30, 14:31…. All of these passages describe a moment in people’s lives when they require dependence on something or someone greater than they. There is a time in all our lives where we look to people or things for assistance and there is nothing wrong with it. You sometimes need a car when the distance is long. A library when you need an answer. A friend when the day is hard. A hammer when facing a reticent nail. No one does it all by themselves. Even the most strident individualist must use assistance of some kind at some point.

That’s the world.

Spiritually the help becomes less tangible and perhaps a bit more grey area. And that is just where the disciples were in these passages. Y’know I do believe many of us are there today too. We too need help, aid or assistance and look to something that is greater than we to solve it.

So what did Jesus do? He said go to the temple and petition the rabbis. Right? No.

He said hire a catering company if you need food. Right? No.

He reminded them in five words that man can fail but faith never does. He said not to focus effort on the solutions of the world but of the eternal. He said, in essence, let go of your expectations of the world. He said not to run to the comfort of religion but instead grasp onto the strong hand of faith. How do I arrive at this?

Because He did not say “…oh, ye of little religion…”.

The world was then and is now already full of various religions. In my opinion religion is the great divider, not uniter. We find more ways to divide, separate and segregate from one another in the name of religion than one might think possible. We have each and every one of us formed our own idea of what is the “correct” way to supplicate and request and praise and honor God. My way. Your way. His way. Her way. Their way. And there is always something wrong with someone else’s way. Divide.

No, there was quite enough religion, thank you.

But faith. That was sadly lacking. That IS sadly lacking.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It is the inspiration for pressing on when “common sense” says to stop. To climb that last hill. Ride that last mile. Apply for that last job. Ask that woman or man to marry you. Believe that it’s gonna be alright when you are done. That is faith. Faith is what encourages. Strengthens. Bolsters. And fuels the spirit for one last go.

Let me ask those of you: When you drive a car to work, you check road conditions on tv? Okay. So do I. But then do you walk the route? Call the sky-cam team and double confirm the report? Check social media for its input? Consult the polls for the latest results in infrastructure funding to be sure that monies went to the pothole you saw yesterday and aren’t sure was fixed last night? Then do you call the department of transportation to verify that all traffic signals and painted lines are in place and as they should be? No? Why not? Because you have a form of faith called trust that the road conditions, other drivers, and your own skills at driving will allow you safe passage to work.

I’m not saying that no chair will ever fail you, but it is highly unlikely that you take no seat without first checking the engineering reports by its designer and subject it to a load test to assure it will support your weight. No. You don’t. I’m sure of that. What you do is take it on faith that the chair will be fine with you on it or under someone else.

I would submit that if you have more religion than faith, you are not necessarily living as Christ hoped for his followers. I say that He led with the hope that Christians who would profess to love Him would be less dogmatic in religion and more comforted by faith.

I believe that those who cast off the shackles of religion as the source of faith and instead embrace the freedom of faith as the inspiration of our religion are the happiest and most complete people of God you’ll meet.