Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mixtape Lives

After the train wreck that was the last post, I think I need to offer a bit of a corrective and (hopefully) clarification. This post is a bit hastily baked, so be kind. Remember, I'm more of a tortoise than a hare.

I don't think anyone can seriously argue that humans aren't creatures who integrate. By our very nature, we emerge from the pressures of our environment - of our family, community, and culture. We are creatures who define ourselves through relationship with that which is other.

In practical terms, this means that I don't know who I am without the sum of my experiences. I don't know who I am without everything that has happened in my life up until now, including my relationship with you. And, like it or not, you don't know who you are without me. We inform each other, and in so doing make each other who we are. This shouldn't be news to anyone.

These lives that we create with each other are mixtapes, made up of our experiences, relationships, beliefs, hopes, and dreams. Each of our mixtapes are as unique as our faces or our fingerprints, and might even be connected to them. Yet our mixtape never stands alone. No matter how hard I try, songs on my mixtape are your songs, taken from your mixtape, though they are made over in my image. Or, to put it another way, the threads in my life tapestry are lifted from my interaction with others, and arranged as I see fit. And, in turn, others lift songs and threads from me. This is simply the reality of being human.

Which brings me to a quote from Darrell Jadock in 1990:
"The problem here is not that one's worldview or experience influences one's reading of the text, because that is inescapable. The problem is instead that the text is made to conform to the world view or codified experience and thereby loses its integrity and its ability to challenge and confront our present priorities, including even our most noble aspirations."

My argument in Mixtape Letters is that we must strive to uphold the integrity of the thing we are approaching, in order to truly hear what it has to say - to find it's "point".

But once we have the point what should we do?

It seems to me that our inevitable response to the challenge and confrontation the point brings is to enter into a dance of integrating experiences and relationships and points into our own mixtape lives. The dance is not bad, on the contrary. It's just that we need to allow room for someone or something to teach us a new dance, or to correct the dance we're currently dancing. Sometimes we have to listen to another mixtape, as hard as we can, while turning down our own. (In other words, we start with as close to the original point as we can get, and then integrate that point into our own context.)

Sometimes, as I enter the dance of integrating, I find things that are simply incompatible with who I am and what I hold dear. In that case, I might reject the point. In most cases, though, I just reject the parts I don't like, and keep the stuff I do like. There's nothing wrong with that, but it seems to me that I have to be honest with myself about the fact that I just did something to alter the original point as I form it over in my own image.

I believe that God has invited all of creation into this dance since the beginning of time. It is a dance that occurs in the very atoms that make up the universe, and a dance that God, as trinity, dances as well. In fact, His very being is what allows the dance to exist. As time passes away and this universe runs out of the energy to dance, it is also my belief that God will remember my unique but transient mixtape life, and invite me into a different dance - one in which I will get the chance to learn an infinite number of new steps as I dance with the Trinity for eternity.

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