Friday, October 15, 2010

Walking Through Illusion

As I sat down to examine my reading of "Opinions," chapter seven of Walking Through Illusion by Betsy Otter Thompson, I paused to check facebook and was greeted with “ah, my old pal lumpie” from my friend Johann, who would quickly offer an opinion of his own.

My purpose to review the book in this second installment excited him very much, as he’d unearthed of late more Christ references in non-Abrahamic tradition, so he took a few minutes from running the coconut plantation to talk to his old friend about his research.

The Mundaan idea that Christ was John, not Jesus---and the name Jesu, Yeshua, and other variations on the name as they exist outside of Abrahamic cultures---opens wide the chronicle of the belief system and the individual conclusions of long lines of thoughtful people. One of the reasons civilization was ever worth fighting for is our ability to connect intentions and learning to increase friendship and fellowship in the world.

I frankly found it so tempting, I had to tell him, because I didn’t know how long this chat would last and I didn’t want to drift too far afield from what I’d sat to do. At the same time, he was the second person with whom I’d discussed my feelings about and observations from Walking Through Illusion.

Last time, I found myself daydreaming about the questions asked at the end of chapter one: would I list as many silly goals as possible? (I don't dare get started! A sampling will do, I have to save that idea until I have about an hour to spent in gales of laughter) Would I list as many worthy goals as possible? (You could get equally lost in the activity!) This time, the questions asked: Who do you blame for all your problems? If these people change, will your problems be over? (ahh, easier to fall into than I might want to admit!) If others choose to love, who wins: you or them? Then you're dared to take the first step, with your new awareness, yourself, and if you need the strength, you're asked to remember they're steps with God.

This book is written to an audience in Middle America, so to speak, that came to Christ as a choice to live life with the best of intentions, understanding and discarding the worst in themselves. One need not consider oneself a learned scholar to appreciate the truths shared here about life. In fact, shedding any airs proved crucial to seeing what I knew to be flawed positions that I wrestled with, about things in a couple of my relationships that brought dread where I knew love and encouragement deserve to be.

That is also the case here with the chapter that inspired me this time to write, concerning Matthew and his brother Seth, as well as his relationship with his father, Alphaeus. I found the stories of Matthew and Jesus as boys, despite a certain conservative sense I discovered reacting to the extra Biblical material, rather illuminating in what they said about seeking others’ approval and the true nature of self-respect.

I want to touch again, for those whose reservations make New Age material untenable, upon how accessible I believe you’d find the voice presented here. The writer does not lack for scholarship, but never loses sight of examining the lessons learned by those who had not only Christ in their lives, but also, other people. After all, the people with whom you interact are not referenced in the Bible. As Thompson points out, with her analogies, the behaviors then are found in people today, and by that token, the reaction Jesus cultivates is spoken in a way familiar to you. So it is you find Christ mirrored in your life, there even in your own flaws, without judgment or reservation in giving to you. I think it's faithful enough to its source material to inform a person who wishes to grasp American Christian culture from any distance, shed of media-driven generalizations.

The reliance upon King James Version for the cast, and this frank Biblical discussion, is not intended as a signifier of oppressing other religions or philosophies. Rather, opening the reader to an interpretation of the way in which we can all vicariously live the road of that struggle as Christ’s love lives through us. This book does not attempt Jesus at a comparative world religion level, but relies on characters referenced in the Bible, to reach Bible readers and people who make use of other mirrors to conscientiously examine what they are becoming, as they look for that saving grace in their form.

I am not sure Betsy’s reader would be my usual audience, but if I have any usual audience, I'm humbled! Even scoundrels and thieves can be the bearers of wisdom, and I'm grateful and surprised often by who's reading me now. I respect her care in communicating with whoever opens the cover. I appreciate her modesty in accommodating the reader who wants to read spiritual material that serves as a companion to the Holy Bible. With the rather varied personalities on display in this time before Christianity, she examines the timely lessons such characters yield when understood by the light of Christ-like honesty and compassion.

Compassion does not crowd Thompson’s Christ from seeing and discussing the flaws and lessons and the truthful human emotions present both then and today. Christ here is also compassionate enough to say, being put into this world gave him all the challenges you and I face, and here is how He, in modesty and willingness to continue changing, discovers God’s truth in the words and deeds of his friends and self-styled enemies.

I know many regular church goers who want to feed their minds with material that is Biblical, traditional and truthful. In the chapter I will review when I resume and edit this entry, she states how a million books can teach you about God. The key seems to be personalizing your relationship with God, so you find God where God could only be: everywhere.

A cottage industry of writings meant to illuminate life outside the church pew finds their home into the hands of believers, even skeptics, each day. This is a fine book for people who’ve enjoyed reading a Daily Bread, and also for people who wish to cultivate tolerance, but find they’ve developed preconceptions they believe are based on experience, which limit their empathy with material they deem religious. For them, I ask, bear in mind:

“The author believes that we don’t take our beliefs with us when we leave here; we take the love we found from having them.”

If you see yourself at peace with such a goal, there is no reason you won’t find something for yourself and how to make that something more in Walking Through Illusion.


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