“Welcome to REI!”

“We are being trained to commodify our own impulses so that everything can be translated into a purchase.”

Russel Brand

[preface: Full disclosure, I am a member of the REI coop. I’ve participated in Spartan races, and I’ve planned trips around athletic “adventures.” Yes, I am part of the problem. This blog  post is directed to me, too.]


One source of consist restorative energy I’ve found has been nature. Even during my very limited days during recovery I would sit and watch the wind blow through the branches of trees through the window for 30 to 45 minutes and enjoy it like a movie. Better still was enjoying a meal and an audiobook outside. Usually breakfast but sometimes lunch as well. We have a covered, screened deck and it makes sitting and eating outside easy and enjoyable. I still do these activities, although the summer heat has made meals on the deck a bit less pleasurable but it’s worth it. 


Taking a walk around the neighborhood or walking with my brother on the Swamp Rabbit Trail downtown have been restorative activities that take me away from screens and insert me back into life itself. 


Nature is divine. Not in the sense that nature is magic. And not in a way that implies pantheism (God is nature). Rather, nature is divine in a panentheism way (the belief that God is greater than the universe and includes and interpenetrates it). 

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Saint Francis of Assisi

[Preface: I try to update this blog every Thursday morning or at the least by Thursday PM. I had family in town this week, which was great, but also pushed out this post a bit. It also took longer because it required a good bit of re-reading.]


“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred…let me sow love,
Where there is injury…pardon,
Where there is doubt…faith,
Where this is despair…hope,
Where there is darkness…light,
Where there is sadness…joy.”

Saint Francis of Assisi, plaque found in the lobby of Saint Francis Downtown hospital

“Blessed is he who expectedth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”

“What you’re looking for is what you’re looking with.”

St. Francis of Assisi


My subject for this post is Saint Francis of Assisi. The hospital I was in is named “Saint Francis Downtown”, the hospital I got my alarming CT scan at is named “Saint Francis Eastside.” It’s all part of the Bon Secours (french for Good Heart) hospital system here in Upstate, South Carolina. It’s a Catholic health institution and it’s very common for me to overhear a Psalm or quick devotion read aloud over the PA system when I am in one of their facilities for an appointment or treatment. I thought it would be annoying but, surprisingly, it hasn’t been.


The only thing I knew about Saint Francis before this year was that he was the Dr. Doolittle of Catholic saints and that, for some reason, my class watched a 1961 live-action biography movie of him in 6th grade and we all laughed at his naked backside when he stepped out into nature sans clothes.

This year (before my hospitalization) I began to listen to podcasts with Fr. Richard Rohr as a guest. He is a Franciscan Friar in the Order of Friars Minor (OFM, Ordo Fratrum Minorum, or “Lesser Brothers”). I did not expect to be drawn to the teachings of an older, aged, Catholic leader but his emphasis on love over dogma immediately had me drawn to what he was saying and writing. In one of the podcasts he’s featured on, he mentioned that before he was even allowed to open the Bible for study he had to endure four years of philosophy teachings to ensure that he would be ready to read scriptures contextually. I could go on and on about him, and his books, but I also became very drawn to the namesake of his Order, Saint Francis, this lover of nature, champion of grace, and mercy. 


Once I got back from the hospital I started my mornings by preparing a breakfast of a plate full of fruit and would eat it outside, one blueberry at a time, under our covered patio, while listening to the biography of Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton. 

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The Hidden Power of the Present

Photo by Stijn Dijkstra from Pexels

This blog is titled Enlightenment At Gunpoint: A Blog about Living in the Moment. This phrase, living in the moment, is commonly used interchangeably with phrases like living in the present, or being present, or mindfulness, or intentional living. What I want to focus on for this post is the present, which I think is so valuable I will rename this blog to Enlightenment At Gunpoint: A Blog about Living In the Present.

  
Our culture has a love/hate relationship with living in the present. In someways it embraces it, studies it, and encourages more of it. In other ways, it is actively undermining it nearly everywhere we look. My last entry talked about LEGOs and jigsaw puzzles and how those activities force you to live in the present. We do have an aspect of our culture that spreads being present propaganda: Go outside. Take a walk. Stop and smell the roses. Even with crowds of other people, our society loves moments of living in the present. I think it’s why, as Americans, we love sports so much. When that football player is twisting his body to make that incredible catch he is living in the present and nowhere else. It’s why we love movies. Two hours to stop thinking about anything except entertainment? Sure! But this infatuation with the present stops at greeting-card level introspection. We all have the wonder-destroyer (a phrase lifted from spiritual writer Rob Bell) always in our pockets– vibrating, giving us notifications, and demanding we scroll some more, even in the midst of an good meal with family or close friends. Now it seems every restaurant has multiple TVs mounted up, one found in every ceiling corner. Unless the restaurant is a sports bar, it should not have TVs in it. It takes us out of the present. It takes us away from our families we are dining with and the food we should be enjoying. 

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LEGOs, jigsaw puzzles, and non-digital tasks

The LEGO Parisian Cafe and other assorted sets (including Elsa’s ice palace, the Harry Potter quidditch pitch, an Incredibles brickhead, and the LEGO Dimensions gateway pad) on display in Mina’s room.

When I was in the hospital, one of the items I asked Paige to grab during an errand run was a LEGO set. Any set. It didn’t matter. The idea was focusing on a task and working to put something together and feel a sense of completion when it was all done.


She came back with a Star Wars set and I overestimated how much flat surface real estate I would have in a hospital room. I didn’t end up doing the set until I returned home but the upside was that my daughter and son helped me piece it all together.


Someone asked me why, as an adult, I was so into LEGOs. It’s therapy for me. How many projects can we undertake and then completely finish with something fun to see, hold, and touch in 2-4 hours? (Depends on the LEGO set, of course. Mina and I worked on the Parisian Cafe during nights for a couple of weeks before it was finished.)

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