Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Life Lessons Learned from CarTalk

Like many folks who tread the same trails that I trod, I find the radio in my car tuned almost exclusively to one of the local NPR affiliates. I appreciate balanced news coverage, and I enjoy human interest stories, Science Friday, and StoryCorps. Despite the near ubiquity of NPR on my radio, though, almost nothing gets me more excited than to hear those banjo twangs which announce the arrival of Car Talk: Bink bink ba da boinky boink... Few things make me as happy as to hear the chortles of those mush-mouth beantown bozos for an hour. Yesterday, I was, in some ways, saddened to hear about the death of Tom Magliozzi, the older of CarTalk's co-host brothers. While I didn't personally know him, I had begun to feel a kinship through the years that I spent with Tom's voice coming over my radio. His death certainly makes me feel for his family and friends, but also gives me a reason to explore my own feelings about death, life, and radio. As I've begun to look critically at my love for CarTalk, I have to wonder what exactly it is about this show that has struck a chord with me (and so many others) for so long. 

I'm not really a car guy. I guess this should be said. I appreciate my car (Percival). I enjoy looking at classic cars (late 60's Corvettes & Mustangs anyone?), and on those rare occasions at which I have had the opportunity to drive a special car I have always been thoroughly grateful for the experiences. But, that being said, I'm not even going to change my own oil, much less try to do any sort of meaningful repairs. I don't have the tools, the patience, or the willingness to dedicate my time to such a project. So, it's certainly not the cars that draw me in to CarTalk. As I consider, I think what I've always really appreciated about CarTalk are the lessons that it teaches me about life. These lessons rarely come from the life advice dispensed by Click and Clack, funny though it might be, but from the men themselves. Here, then, are CarTalk life lessons worth learning:

1.) Spend your time doing what makes you happy. 
It is simply the case that many, if not most, of us will never have the opportunity to have the 'perfect' career. Most of us aspire to something different, perhaps something bigger, something that seems better. While there are certainly times to strive for our desires, and to stretch toward a desired future, our wildest dreams may never come to fruition. Even so, there are many hours in the day (hopefully) beyond the hours that we spend at work. Without being too intentionally self-centered, it is important to ask ourselves, how can I spend my time in a meaningful way? Appearing on the radio once a week was certainly not a career for the Magliozzi brothers (although it certainly didn't hurt), but the whole phenomenon came into existence because they spent a little bit of time doing something that made them happy. Sometimes genuinely meaningful moments come into our lives through otherwise ordinary experiences. 

2.) Always explore the possibilities. 
In some ways, this lesson seems to contradict what I've just written. I genuinely believe that there are many instances in which one's dream career is entirely out-of-reach. Even so, if I've learned anything as I've read about Tom Magliozzi's life over the last day, it's that there is tremendous value in stretching ourselves, in trying something new. When he no longer felt fulfilled by his corporate job, Magliozzi walked away in order to open up a do-it-yourself garage. He may have been one of the lucky ones who seemingly accidentally stumbled into something that he really enjoyed, but even if he hadn't, their just might be value in his seizing the opportunity to try something different. While there are absolutely times when walking away might not be the course of action, there are always opportunities that should at least be considered. This is not a 'once-in-a-lifetime' situation either, life is never about the one thing. The goal of living is never to reach the unreachable star. Look around, see life, enjoy the possibilities. Even if the possibilities don't come to fruition, even if we feel stuck where we are, there is always joy to be found in the world. 

3.) If you're worried about your vehicle's brakes, you probably shouldn't be calling a radio talk-show about it. 
I'm pretty sure this should go without saying. Nobody likes going to the mechanic. Who cares? Brakes are important. 

4.) It's never that bad. 
How many times have I tuned in to CarTalk only to hear callers who think they have major problems just being laughed at by the hosts? In the moment things often seem bad, and that's okay. Often when things seem bad, things are bad. But even when things are bad, there are others who have gone through it and come out the other side. This doesn't make it seem less bad in the present, but this badness should never overcome hope. Hope springs eternal. Also, it's ok to laugh at other people's problems, but you probably shouldn't laugh at their faces. #schadenfreude

5.) Make yourself laugh.
I've always considered myself a comedian. Basically nobody else agrees. I'm cool with that. If I could give advice to any young comedian (read: anybody at all) it would be this, "Make yourself laugh." One of the truly marvelous aspects about CarTalk are the many (MANY) times during which the show comes to a dead stop because the hosts seemingly can't control the laughter that is bellowing out of them. What is interesting about these instances is that the listeners often sit in silence, probably rolling their eyes, because whatever started this hysteria was not really that funny. "Yeah, I get it, it was the ball joint all along..." Yet, even when I roll my eyes, even when I'm not in on the joke, these fits of laughter are among the most magical moments of any given show. Somehow, even when the joke is awful, or entirely non-existent, I find my face warping into a smile. For that brief time (or sometimes not at all brief time) the world stops in the face of sheer delight. The Magliozzis, it seems, do the show for themselves. Just as Andy Kaufman often refused to pander to audience desires and expectations, CarTalk exists in the purest form as two people entertaining themselves. The best performances are never actually performances to begin with. Life is funny. If anybody recognizes this fact, it's likely that others will also recognize it in them as well. Just laugh. Laugh a lot. Laughter is the best medicine (although penicillin isn't so bad).

Friday, April 25, 2014

On Easter Hope

I've recently been thinking a lot about hope. A few months ago I wrote an essay about Joss Whedon (who is awesome). As 'research' for this essay I listened to hours of interviews with Whedon. I was particularly disturbed by this quote, "I think the world is largely awful and getting worse, and eventually the human race will die out... and it'll be our own fault." I was not at all disturbed by the fact that Whedon genuinely believes this, nor even that he would publicly admit to it. What really disturbed me was that my initial response was to agree. Looking around the world, it is difficult not to at least consider the possibility that Whedon is right. Every day there is a new study (unless, of course, we want to pretend that science doesn't exist) which demonstrates the continued, human-enacted, degradation of the natural world. While climate change is always at the forefront of the news, this is hardly the only issue that the continued survival of the world faces. Of course, in addition to being a contributing factor to climate change, air pollution also causes a great number of other environmental and health problems (http://www.epa.gov/airquality/peg_caa/concern.html). The ubiquitousity of plastic is another major problem facing the planet (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/plastic-not-so-fantastic/ and http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/06/20126681156629735.html). Plastics are causing significant problems in the water and on land.

Several decades ago the theologian John B. Cobb Jr. was already asking, "Is it too late?" (http://www.amazon.com/Is-too-late-theology-ecology/dp/0962680737) Even if it wasn't yet too late when Cobb published this landmark book back in the 70s, how much damage has been done since that time? The most depressing aspect of Whedon's ecological outlook is that it is not a simple pessimism, but an absolute hopelessness. Whedon said, "I can't believe anybody thinks we're actually going to make it before we destroy the planet. I honestly think it's inevitable. I have no hope." For Whedon hopelessness is not merely because a zero point has been reached- not just that global ecology has reached a point of no return. Rather, it would appear that Whedon's hopelessness equally stems from a view of the moral breakdown of human society- or at least large chunks of it). Whedon desires to be a catalyst for change, but doubts that humanity is capable of making the necessary change. Sometimes I wonder whether Whedon is right. Sometimes I despair.

Yet, as a Christian theologian, in the midst of the Easter season, I am reminded of the hope of the resurrection. The Easter resurrection is misunderstood if it is seen to only pertain to the future. The resurrection is less proof of a heavenly afterlife than it is a hope-giving inbreaking of heaven onto the present earth. 1 John 1:3 says, "By [God's] great mercy [God] has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Although he's not speaking directly of this, or any particular biblical passage, Wendell Berry well summed up this 'living hope' when he said, "Hope is a different hting from optimism. Optimism and pessimism are based on the idea of how things are gonna turn out. Hope is grounded in the present; it's not about the future. It's about the reality of possibilities, this sense of possibility that you can do better. Friends, others give me hope. Hope lives on hope." As is usually the case, Berry offered to me an important reminder. Hope is not a 'hope for...' It simply is. Hope is hope. Hope gives hope. Hope lives on hope. Whedon has no hope for the future, but the future is not where hope lives. Hope lives in the present.

Even when I look at the world and see death, destruction, and devastation, I can look around me and see people who are genuinely living well. (In particular, today I was given hope by two people- Rick Reilly's malaria net campaign through Nothing But Nets, and a college friend, Devin Chesney's newly formed social venture FairWear (you can read an interview with Devin in Forbes magazine here).) It's not only in the big things, or the major ventures either. I can look around and see genuine kindness, compassion, and love in the actions of friends, family, and strangers. I have come to realize that this is where Whedon is simply wrong. The world is not awful, the world is full of hope. Even if the planet is awful, and probably getting worse, and even if this awfulness is due to the actions of (at least subsections of) the global population, the ecological decline (and potential downfall) of the planet is not the whole story. Even if it is too late (which is certainly still an 'if') to reverse the ecological downturn of the planet, people choose living hope, and that gives me hope. Throughout the Easter season and beyond it is my goal to choose hope, or, to put it in the words of Wendell Berry, to 'practice resurrection'.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Hoodies

Hoodies have been in the news recently. The hoodie has always been one of my favourite articles of clothing. When I was a kid it was the zip up hoodie that seemed to always complete my wardrobe. As I've aged, the pullover hoodie takes the day. Of course, it's probably pretty obvious that this post isn't about fashion. To wear a hoodie, to not wear a hoodie, it makes little difference in the grand scheme of things. The hoodie hasn't been in the news because Ralph Lauren has introduced a new world changing garment. The hoodie has been in the news because it was the clothing of choice for a young man who was tragically killed.

Regardless of one's political leanings, regardless of one's thoughts on the legal verdict of George Zimmerman's trial, there should be no argument that the death of Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. A young man is dead who should be alive. In the past few days and months much has been written regarding the outcome of the Zimmerman trial. I, of course, have opinions, but they are irrelevant here. Regardless of whether or not George Zimmerman had been found guilty of murder or manslaughter, a young man would still remain dead.

The American judicial system is inarguably imperfect- probably broken (even if not entirely so). The brokenness of the system is made manifest in the verdicts of certain trials (depending on one's own point of view), but it is actually much deeper: simultaneously more subtle and more egregious. The brokenness of the judicial system is evident in the fact that it claims to be a system of justice. Justice is purported to be blind, to be absent objectivity, to have a "God's-Eye View." Justice, it is claimed, is based on facts, on rationality, and stands transcendent over the much of the world. Of course, nobody actually believes that this is so, but it is an open secret, never to be spoken of. In practice, this "justice" is primarily retributive. Justice is a system of prescriptive punishment. Justice is bound by sentencing guidelines, even if enacted very differently at the discretion (or the whim) of a judge (who herself may well be an elected official with employment contingent upon the approval of the majority). "Justice" fixes nothing. "Justice" solves nothing. "Justice" heals nothing.

The travesty of the George Zimmerman trial is that, regardless of the outcome, nothing could have changed. Whether or not an individual, the immediate cause of the death of another person, spent part of his life in prison, more people would continue to be killed senselessly. Retributive justice does nothing to break up a cycle of violence. Rather, retributive justice is foundational to a system in which might makes right, to a seemingly inescapable pattern of violence. Moreover, there can be no doubt that the legal system, the arbiter of justice, is itself anything but just. "Justice" isn't blind, and justice certainly doesn't have a "God's-Eye View." To the contrary, the justice system is comprised by individuals who are far from objective (if objectivity can even be said to exist in any sort of profound way). The justice system is comprised by individuals who are bigoted, who are opinionated, and whose thoughts are profoundly subjective. There is no such thing as a "fair" trial because they're is no fairness.

Life is intensely unfair. The situations in which we find ourselves always already thrown into are fairly rigid. We're really not nearly as free as we'd like to believe. All people are not created equal, for the creation of a person is as much the act of the imagination of an other as it is any sort of ontological or empirical reality. Persons are in always in an inescapable cycle of creation- both attempting to (re-) create themselves and being created by others. This is a fact that cannot be comprehended by a justice system which pretends rationality and impartiality. In the face of an unfair world, justice cannot be implemented by either the conviction or acquittal of George Zimmerman.

The good news is that, regardless of one's thoughts on the outcome of Zimmerman's trial, justice is yet possible. Justice does not exist, but can be made manifest. Justice requires us to work to create a world in which justice could exist. While the Trayvon Martin story may not be entirely a story of race, it is at least that. Did George Zimmerman racially profile Trayvon Martin? Of course he did. However, who among us would not have, at least to a degree, done the same? Justice requires honesty, and the honest reality is that, even if we are rightly ashamed of it, we all have gut reactions to our encounters with people based solely on the colour of their skin.

This is the essence of original sin. Our society has propagated the notion that one's skin colour or familial background is itself a meaningful descriptor of one's character. This is not even unique to a white majority. Jesse Jackson famously admitted that, while walking alone at night, upon hearing footsteps behind him, and worrying about being robbed, he is relieved to see a white face behind him. The 'originality' of this sin is found in the fact that it is, at best, unconscious. This original sin is manifest in the "Justice" system as countless stories and sets of data have shown. True justice, then, cannot come from this system. Justice could never have occurred in the Zimmerman trial, regardless of the outcome. True justice can only come with the acknowledgement of our own complicity in the propagation of unconscious racism. By admitting this, and by naming it for what it is, we can begin to reject its power. True justice is not that somebody might be held culpable for the death of Trayvon Martin, but that a world is imagined (and enacted) in which future Trayvon Martins (whether legally "justifiable" or not) are not killed. Did George Zimmerman racially profile Trayvon Martin? Of course he did, but I might have done the same. "Justice" is not blind, but rather she sees black and white very clearly. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Desiring Gatsby

I've always been enamored with The Great Gatsby. Even in high school, when I was supposed to hate it because it was being forced upon me, I found myself drawn to the novel. After having read it numerous times, I still find myself excited about it. Not altogether surprisingly, then, I was also tremendously excited when I heard that a new Gatsby film was being made. I was fortunate enough to get a free pass to an advanced screening of the film. I don't want to write a film review here, but, for what its worth, I actually thought the film was quite well done (even if a bit too long), and, demonstrated a profoundly interesting interpretation of the book.

In many ways, I've never really believed that Gatsby is primarily a critique of an American culture of consumerism (which does need critique), or of the destructive nature of excess. To the contrary, I see in Gatsby a commentary on the pervasive nihilism of desire. It is often missed that this is a story as much, if not more, about Nick Carraway as it is a story about Jay Gatsby. The story of Gatsby's longing for Daisy is paralleled by Nick's own infatuation with Gatsby. Both men, Nick and Gatsby, are primarily characters of desire. They are both profoundly tragic characters who cannot even recognize the extent of their own brokenness. The overarching narrative of the text revolves around Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy, a woman who he remembers with fondness because of a past fling. Yet, it would be a great misunderstanding to consider Gatsby a love story. For, ultimately, it is demonstrated that it is not Daisy for whom Gatsby longs, but a memory. Gatsby longs for the past. Even though Gatsby's past is one of relative poverty, the story makes clear that Gatsby's wealth brings him little joy. His great estate, his fine clothes, his many toys- they are all for the Daisy of his past. Gatsby would give up all of these possessions if it meant the opportunity for a mulligan on his life. Gatsby simply needs to return. 

Nick's desire, on the other hand, is not a desire for the past, but a desire born out of insecurity and misunderstanding. Nick sees in Gatsby the appearance of happiness. Nick's tragedy is that he foregoes the happiness in which he already lives, to seek after a happiness which has never actually existed. This is the nature of desire: it serves to pervert the already in favour of a future which can never be. Whereas Gatsby's desire perverted the present in longing for the past, Nick's desire perverted the present in longing for a  false future. While it is important to be forward looking (hence the name of this blog), this looking-forward becomes nihilistic desire when it rejects the importance of the present. Nick saw in Gatsby not somebody who made himself into what he was, but a man who mysteriously appeared, fully formed and perfect (one might even say "Great"), into Nick's life. Nick's desire rejects present contentment. Yet, at no time does Nick take any sort of steps to transform his life into that which he desires. He puts forth no effort, and embodies no change. He simply allows himself to fall into the Gatsbian rabbit hole, dragged along indifferently by what he desires to be. 

Both Gatsby and Nick are men who cannot embrace the present. One looks backward, the other wishes forward. The desire of each man is profoundly nihilistic insofar as neither man can ever find a home in the present. The final scene of Gatsby offers one of the most beautiful, and perhaps haunting, conclusions in all of literature. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."  For Gatsby, this magical green light contains all of the lost promise of the past. This green light 'recedes' before us; it goes back. Year by year, time incessantly progresses, and refuses to let us find either the future or the past. All that is left is a memory: Gatsby's memory of Daisy, and Nick's memory of Gatsby. Nick, the narrator, in this conclusion finally seems to begin understanding the nature of Gatsby's tragedy (even if not explicitly his own). 'It eluded us then, but that's no matter." We see here the beginning of hope overcoming desire. 'So we beat on, boats against the current...' Isn't this the nature of life? We beat on. In the face of adversity, and life itself is adversity, we beat on. Yet, it is important to remember that it matters little whether we run faster or stretch out our arms further. Despite what both Gatsby and Nick seemed to believe, the green light can never be reached, because the green light is not external to us. The green light is the point at which our past and future come together- a hopeful present. The green light is not that for which we desire, but that which inspires hope within us. So we beat on...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Heidegger and Holiness

This past week I spent several days in Seattle for both the Wesleyan Philosophical Society and Wesleyan Theological Society annual conferences. I had the pleasure of seeing some old friends, learning from a lot of great thinkers, and presenting some ideas of my own at each conference. I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene. If you're not likewise a Nazarene, you've probably never really heard of the denomination. However, from its inception, the Church of the Nazarene has believed that the purpose of its existence is to proclaim 'holiness'. Unfortunately, many people from this denomination have thought and continue to think that 'holiness' (we also love the phrase 'entire sanctification') is something that happens to an individual. It is something that God does to/for me.

At the WTS, I presented a paper which challenged the conception that whatever it is that we mean by this term 'holiness' is an individualistic phenomenon. Most non-philosophers probably don't know the name Heidegger (and perhaps rightly so), and those who do at least know his name probably know him mostly as 'that Nazi philosopher'. You see, Martin Heidegger, a great German philosopher, joined the Nazi party as a way to further his career. His thought, in some ways, proved useful to the Nazis. So, it might seem weird that I would choose him as a dialogue partner to explore a theological doctrine of holiness. I don't really have anything to say except that, yes, it is a little bit weird. However, despite his personal history, Heidegger is considered one of the most important Western thinkers of the 20th century, and it is pretty clear that he hardly intended his thought to be a legitimation of Nazism. It seems fair to me to at least consider the possibility that, despite his personal selling-out, his thought can still be useful without being entirely cast aside because of his personal failings. Some people disagree- c'est la vie.

The point of my WTS paper, and the point that I hope to make much more clearly and concisely here, is that entire sanctification, Christian holiness, cannot make sense as simply individual. Sanctification is not something that happens to me, but a gift that is given to us. A doctrine of holiness needs to be grounded in a doctrine of creation, because the first and (arguably) most important title given to God is 'Creator'. It is important to remember, however, that we never say (or should never say), "God was Creator." Rather, the church proclaims that God is Creator. That is, God is not the watchmaker of the deists who set everything in motion and then stepped away. Rather, God continues to exert a creative influence on the world. Likewise, when Christian theology talks about 'the end', it speaks not of a temporal end, but of a new creation. Sanctification is a gift of grace, and so too is creation. Indeed, I would argue that the possibility of sanctification is implanted in creation itself. God's creation is a gracious creation. And here's where (an admittedly heterodox) reading of Heidegger's philosophy comes in. Heidegger argues that the telos (the goal/ that toward which is striven) of the human life is 'authenticity'. Authenticity, says Heidegger, is found in one's being truly oneself, and doing that which nobody can do better than oneself. Heidegger's authenticity is true Being.

Obviously (at least if you've ever read Heidegger), this can get really confusing. Without getting into all of the details of Heidegger's thought (although they are out there - read them), here's what seems important to me. An understanding of the world as creation seems to allow, or perhaps require, an understanding of God as the source of being. A creature's being truly itself, then, would seem to imply a particular relationship with this ground of being. It is an openness, a freedom to be utilized in creative ways. Holiness is not the absence of sin, but the presence of creativity and redemption. Heidegger says that we can know a hammer when we see it because there is nothing that it could possibly do better than hammer. Likewise, one is most truly oneself when one's actions most clearly demonstrate that which one is, a creature enacting the continuation of God's creation. This cannot, however, be strictly individual, because it is the community of faith which is primarily tasked with this duty. Sanctification, then, cannot occur individually, for a Christian person is most truly her/himself in community (Although I won't do so now, this would be a good place to make an argument about divine trinitarian interrelatedness as evidence of the importance of community). Sanctification is an act of cooperative grace: it is the working out of God's redemption for the world. Holiness is as much ethical (probably more so) as it is ontological. Sanctification is practical, not metaphysical. Holiness is a demonstration of performative grace, or, dare I say, a practice of imaginary eschatology...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent: The Anxiety of Redemption

Advent, that interesting time of hope and expectation, the one liturgical time that even most generic evangelical churches have a difficult time ignoring, is upon us.  Over the last few days I, like many in this country, have contemplated with horror and puzzlement the latest in a seemingly endless string of violent tragedies.  Over these last few days I, like all of those around me, have come to no answers, and have failed to understand the evil which was enacted on a small town in CT.  On the simplest level, all of our strivings to ‘understand’ are bound to fail.  An act like that which has covered the papers and stolen the airwaves is ultimately beyond comprehension precisely because it cannot be ‘understood’.  It cannot be understood, it cannot be defined, it lies beyond any concept of rationality.  At best, looking into the face of senseless death causes us a Kierkegaardian anxiety.  This anxiety is not on behalf of the ongoingness of our own lives, but, to some extent, for the ongoingness of life at all in a world in which radical evil takes place.  We stand at a precipice, terrified, looking down into the dark abyss below. 

It is both ironic and important that the horrors of Newtown took place during Advent.  In the liturgical calendar, Advent is shown to be a time of waiting, and a time of anticipation.  Advent is not Christmas.  Advent is not a season of new birth.  Advent is not a season of joy, but rather one of anxiety.  Hope and anticipation cannot take place in the face of a guarantee.  Advent is not really about preparation for Christmas, but about the anticipation that the miracle of Christmas could actually occur.  Advent should be a time of reflection on the brokenness of the world.  The story of Christmas is only meaningful against the backdrop of brokenness.  The anxiety of Advent is an anxiety in the face of brokenness, in the face of evil.  The anxiety of Advent is not fear.  Rather, it is that feeling in one's gut which defies explanation and definition.  It is the intermixed feeling of hope and despair.  Advent is not the guarantee of Christmas.  That the Newtown shootings took place during Advent  illustrates the hope of redemption which is found in the despair of brokenness.  Many, understandably, question whether there is ultimately any meaning in a world in which children are murdered.  And of course, without in any way diminishing the horror experienced in Newtown, this is hardly an isolated incident.  It is important to also remember the countless individuals across the world who die violent deaths every day.  It is important to remember the thousands of children who die every single day due to lacks of adequate healthcare, nutrition, or clean drinking water.  The loss of each of these lives, among countless others, calls for questions of meaning and value.  The is the world in which Advent finds itself.  This is the world because of which we can't help but experience tremendous despair.  

Yet, Advent, as a season of anxiety, is a season in which hope always comes alongside of despair.  We hope for healing.  We hope for happiness.  We hope for redemption.  Taken etymologically, Advent combines the prefix 'Ad', meaning 'to' or 'toward', with the Latin verb 'veni', meaning 'to come'.  In the Christian liturgical calendar, the term 'Advent' is usually used to refer to the coming of Christ.  Yet, the despair of a broken world ought to remind us that Advent need not be a unidirectional season.  Advent is misunderstood if we see ourselves as stationary in the process of the coming of Christmas.  The Latin verb 'veni' is a word which notates movement, but additionally demonstrates growth and creativity.  Advent is a season in which a broken world seeks to enact its own redemption, while simultaneously hoping for the newness of Christmas life.  In the shadow of Newtown, the world, and particularly this nation, needs to begin in earnest the practice of Advent.  While enacting meaningful gun control is an important step forward (as a meaningful plea in this regard I was particularly impressed with this article by ESPN's Rick Reilly:  A Different Call of Duty as well as this NY Times op-ed: Do We Have The Courage To Stop This?) in redeeming our own brokenness, and while there are important mental health issues that should continue to be addressed to stop those who would commit mass killings (or any killings for that matter), these treat the symptoms of our brokenness while the disease rages on.  We live in a society that glorifies violence.  We proclaim our favourite athletes to be 'warriors' and 'gladiators' as though the enacting of violence upon another is a mark of pride.  We ignore the admontion, "Blessed are the meek," in favour of a focus on individual strength and self-reliance.  

Advent is a season in which we ourselves are among the mobile.  Advent is a season in which we need to remind ourselves that the hope of Christmas means nothing unless we intentionally incorporate it into our lives.  Advent is a season in which we hope for the coming of Christmas, but also a season in which we enact the going-toward the hope of Christmas.  We cannot passively wait with anticipation for redemption, but rather must creatively spring forward into redemption.  With anxiety, we must encounter brokenness in itself in order that this very brokenness might somehow be redeemed.