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Dear Liberty University: Endorsing Trump is the Last Straw

Dear Liberty University: Endorsing Trump is the Last Straw


Dear Liberty:

I first heard your name in church. Leaders I deeply respected had met in your halls. I heard stories on camping trips and on retreats. I pictured my life there as a student and what it could mean. In high school I equated your name with freedom, an escape from my small town to a place full of life and energy. I was never really into sports and felt no kinship with my state, so attending your campus became my goal in higher education. In retrospect education had nothing to do with what I wanted. I wanted to be with people and do something big.

My first semester was magical. We never slept. We traveled. We stayed up all night and drank every cup of coffee available. In full confession I broke nearly all of your rules and broke them repeatedly,  but all in good fun. I was young and you were freeing in the way that comes with restriction, in the way any former LU student reading this will understand. I spent hours, every day it seemed, talking and meeting people, feeling the energy build. We were ready to take on the world in the way we do at 18.

It was on your campus that I experienced my first love and heartache, met those who are still today some of my very closest friends, and casually met the woman I would one day marry. I still make the occasional pilgrimage back to visit your campus and awe at the size and stature of your buildings, reliving the days when we were all packed in concrete dorms, even then a decade past their acceptable lifetime. We had a mixed friendship. I walked away once and you gave a little  push shortly after. And the last time it was final. I left town and graduated from another school in another state.

You’ve grown a lot. But so have I. And we’ve grown apart. I’ve grown to see many of your views as outdated and harmful to so many who have already hurt so much. I’ve seen friends heartbroken because of you and heard stories of quieted payoffs that have ruined lives in the name of status quo. I’ve seen even more clearly how motivated you were and are by money and influence. There was a time I thought that you could change. I thought it might just be a fluke and you could be better.

You’ve always been hot on the tails of politicians. I remember your founder discussing lunches with presidents and the occasional congressman who stopped by for a visit. I remember how the Right pulled you in, seeing an army of voters ready to take your every word as Gospel truth. I tried to defend you when bigoted statements were broadcast on national TV, like the murmurings of a drunk uncle during a family gathering.

But this… this is too far. Trump doesn’t care about you. He’s using you. He knows that fame is your weakness, your Achilles’ heel. He knows that you will bring a huge crowd who will forgive his blunders because their pastors, professors, and leaders accept him. Not because of his values but because, perhaps, of his hate and judgement of those he does not like. Don’t you see that? Can’t you see that he is nothing like the Jesus you read about in your classes? He is the opposite. He is hateful, bigoted, short sided, greedy and selfish. He is a proud racist and misogynist. He wants power, and it will never be enough. And you will suffer. And the worst part is that you didn’t have to say a thing.

You do not have to get involved with politics. Your gospel, as you say you believe, should be much bigger than an election. Sure it feels good one someone pays you attention, but come on. This is not ok.  Is your gospel about inclusion or bigotry? Is your gospel about forgiveness or grudges? Is your gospel about fear and weapons or about courage?

Liberty, once I loved you. Now I feel uncomfortable when you come around. There’s a part of me that will always want to stop by from time to time, catch up on all that has changed over the last 18 years. And I will always hold out a sliver of hope that deep down that you could be great. And you could be great. And that is perhaps the most disheartening part of all. You are selling your self out for disingenuous pats on the back by a hateful, power-hungry bigot who will use you for all the votes you can muster. I hoped you were better than this. Get it together.

Best regards,
Robert A. Murphy

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Why Revelry is Not Like Other Sins


*NOTE: This post is first and foremost a thought experiment. For this I took a popular blog post found on the desiringgod.com website and simply replaced any reference to homosexuality with that of revelry, which is also found in the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 passage stated in the document (full disclosure: a few minor additional adjustments were also made to the original post). Revelry is clearly stated as to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language or address or speak of abusively – essentially to make a big deal out of a situation and get all fired up.

It is worth noting that that the word translated in this passage as “men who practice homosexuality” is malakos, a word that is, in the Greek,  commonly translated generally as catamites, or young boys kept for sexual acts with a man. If taken literally, Paul’s words and view on this are, in my opinion, disturbing and should be taken as a dated world view in which catamites were seen not as poor children caught in a horrible situation but rather the most disturbing and despicable act of all for a very conservative, idealistic individual from a small Roman outpost, as was the case for Paul. I am not making this up, check your handy Greek Lexicon (G3120) for translation or a number of scholars who are, as you might expect, the kind not often quoted from Sunday pulpits.

At 3.4% of the population, the gay community is considerably smaller than the 70.6% identifying as Christian. Christians should consider that their practices are bullying at best and abusive at worst. Yes, the above flies in the face of a theology that begins and ends with a total and complete adherence to every word of the text. That is the idea. Please, at a minimum, consider it as a possibility that this is not the case. Be courageous.

 *Also note that I have no personal beef with the original author of this piece. This post was selected as one of many possible options.

Why Revelry is Not Like Other Sins

Reviling is not the only sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now. At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, revelry is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.

To be sure, the masses increasingly make no bones about sin in general. Innumerable people are idolaters, not to mention those who are sexually immoral, or who commit adultery, or who steal and are greedy and get wasted and swindle others. It happens all the time. And each of these unrepentant sins are the same in the sense of God’s judgment. They all deserve his wrath. And we’re constantly reminded that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). You in the church.

Concerning Popular Opinion

But as far as I know, none of those sins is applauded so aggressively by whole groups of people who advocate for their normalcy. Revelry is no longer the tip of the spear for the conservative push. Adultery is still frowned upon by many. Accusations of greed will still smear a candidate’s political campaign. Thievery is still not openly embraced, and there are no official initiatives saying it’s okay to go take things that don’t belong to you. There’s no such thing as a drunk agenda yet. Most aren’t proud to choose a beverage over stability, and there aren’t any petitions that the government should abolish the driving restrictions of inebriated individuals. Reviling others still isn’t seen as the best way to win friends and influence people. Swindling, especially on a corporate level, usually gets someone thrown into jail. In fact, the infrastructure of the American economy depends upon, in some measure, our shared disdain for conniving scammers.

Perhaps excepting greed, these sins are still seen in a pretty negative light. But not revelry, not by those who are now speaking loudest and holding positions of prominence. According to the emerging consensus, revelry is different.

What to Be Against

As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of revelry, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against revelry. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and revelry gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.

Some would like to see this whole issue of revelry divided into two camps: those who celebrate it and those who hate it. Both of these groups exist in our society. There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise revelry. We might call them the right. And there are people who hate revelry, with the most bigoted rationale and apart from any Christian concern. We might call them the left.

Those Glorious Words

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support.

But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say.

Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate revelry, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace revelry, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the right; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.”

God tells us we’re wrong, that the wages of sin is death, that unrepentant rebellion means judgment, that our rescue required the cursed death of his Son (Romans 3:23John 3:36Galatians 3:13). And God tells us we’re loved, that even while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, that while we were unrighteous, Jesus suffered in our place, that though we were destined for wrath, Jesus welcomes us into glory (Romans 5:81 Peter 3:18Ephesians 2:1–7).

Where the Gospel Shines

You’re wrong and you’re loved — that’s the unique voice of the Christian. That’s what we say, speaking from our own experience, as Tim Keller so well puts it, “we’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

That’s our message in this debate, when society’s elites despise us, when pop songs vilify us, when no one else has the resources to say anything outside of two extremes, we have this incomparable opportunity to let the gospel shine, to reach out in grace: you’re wrong and you’re loved. We get to say this.

That’s why revelry is not like other sins.

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A letter to Evangelical Christianity: the Supreme Court decision isn’t about you, but you can help

Our enemies are sacred, too.
-Richard Rohr

WavesSeawallFrom age 17 through 25 I worked for a cause bigger than my self. At times I worked tirelessly, sometimes going 70 or more days straight without a break, seemingly always on call, available for the greater good.  I lived the Christian life. I lived the idealized Christian life. I worked to save the world, as I thought at the earlier end.

These years were some of the most rewarding periods of my life. I have so many fond memories of those moments and the bonds that were formed with those around me. At times it felt like brothers at arms, fighting a battle with an invisible force. At others we were exhausted travelers, carrying each other forward through another emotional week.

Something, however, felt stifling. It took me years after leaving a position in full time ministry to place that feeling. I just felt compelled to go, an action that caused pain for so many, including myself. I was young, immature, and not aware of the mechanisms that were required to verbalize the feeling that I was pushing against a wall that refused to budge. I would push, but there was nowhere to push.

So I left. For several years after I would duck in and out of services at various denominations. I was burned out on religious music and wrestled with feelings of anger around the language of faith. I kept an awkward toe plunged in while the rest of me was desperate for something that was missing.

Its strange to speak of something missing. I undoubtedly heard hundreds of sermons about how when you become a Christian your life would be complete. Everything in life just suddenly would come together and you would find joy by default. But I was raised this way. I didn’t know anything else. And what I felt wasn’t joy.

The truth is that I led a double life. I was not fully honest and did not know how to reconcile this. I felt an intuition that I needed something else and both denounced the intuition in public while satisfying my curiosity at home. I read and read and read. I read broadly in the sciences and nearly every meaningful text I could find. I asked questions that produced answers that caused anxiety. But yet nearly every word was like water for my curious soul.

But lets back up slightly and bring in the context of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. I had three friends at my conservative Christian school who I knew were gay. One I flatly asked once why he would choose to be gay. He laughed nervously and got a little emotional. He told me that his father, a pastor, disowned him. His childhood friends would not speak to him. Worst of all, potentially, he hated that he was gay. His eyes got misty as he looked away while the worst treatments undoubtedly played out in his mind’s eye.

I was stunned. Growing up as I did it wouldn’t have occurred to me that this could be the case. I could not imagine having my family and friends turn against me so abruptly and harshly. The pain would be overwhelming.

The word Christian, for all of its potentially positive connotations, has a bad rap. This isn’t because Satan is sneaking around in dark shadows influencing evil men to create propaganda. The people I’ve met who have cringed most when hearing the word do so because they either received disproportionally horrible treatment from self-professed Christians or know a close friend or family member who has. And we aren’t talking someone with a “Jesus is my copilot” bumper sticker cut them off driving. We are talking the kind of hurt and pain described in the story above. For a group using the word love as often as is thrown around in Christian circles, know that it is not felt or experienced to the level that you think outside of the Church. In fact, outside of the select ministries making a big difference in their community – and there are wonderful organizations doing this – many have only had a negative interaction with the church.

I have now spent a decade distanced from the church thinking about the causes of the great separation between culture and Christianity. Part, I believe, is simply world view. It is interesting that psychologically the Bible itself is seen as a closed book. There was a period in which it was written and sometimes rewritten and added to and built upon and then… it just stopped. It was considered finished. No more. And then now you can easily say what is right and what is wrong. You can label easily and, with the right translation and notes, judge with both authority and simplicity.

With yesterday’s announcement I have read so many posts both celebrating and condemning the action. Condemnations have ranged from urging Christians to not give up hope to one who saw a second civil war coming soon. A second civil war! Why are you so afraid? What has the gay community done to you? What is so tremendously evil and terrible about two consenting adults sharing legal identification and partaking in a rich and varied cultural tradition? Despite the commonly held stance, Christianity neither owns nor has invented marriage any more than it has eating or building a house. And what does this condemnation have anything to do with the kind of practice you see presented by Jesus in the Bible?

This was exactly my struggle a decade ago. I could not seem to reconcile the language with the ideology. I was told that God was huge, beyond reason and belief. But then I was told that the nature of what was acceptable and believable was limited, that the entire universe stretching to more galaxies than there are sands in all the oceans of the earth was merely created for awe alone, to be experienced as simply proof. GALAXIES. Each with billions of stars and planets. And all of this was created for something like a 6,000 year span of time in which it popped up on command and then moved on to destruction. And why? Because that’s what the Bible says, and the Bible as it is interpreted says it is the word of God and God can’t lie, ergo thats just the deal so get over it. So this is great for the chosen (“elect”) while being incredibly, awe-inspiringly terrible for pretty much everything else in the universe.

I believe that Christianity has put God in a box and placed that box in a safe that can not be opened. The true expanse and even logical culmination of what is said is juxtaposed with how the belief is expressed:

  • You say God is eternal, but view the lines of history as closed to only that which is expressly written and interpreted correctly; and selectively so at best.
  • You say God is powerful, but judge the world around you, shocked when culture moves in a direction different than your ideals all the while saying that God is in charge. But God clearly can’t be a God of change… expect for that part where Jesus came and kind of threw a big wrench in the prevailing structure of the time. Just that once was ok.
  • You say God is boundless, yet you restrict the realm of the possible to only certain, specific criteria already believed and rationalized by theologians a few hundred years ago.
  • You say God is omniscient, yet go into defensive mode when prayers don’t persuade the Supreme Court or alter the votes of a presidential nominee from an unapproved political party.
  • You say God is is a trinity, unified together. As a Christian, Jesus is inside of you guiding your actions, yet no two sects… whoops, “denominations”, have the same exact theology.

Instead, I propose some basic ideas taken directly from Jesus that might help form the backbone of a new theology that isn’t going to crash into culture like a rogue wave against a seawall or restrict the idea of a God that is bigger than theology could hold.

  1. Love those who make you uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean Ill love them but I don’t have to agree. It isn’t about you, its about those you are told to love. This means do good to them, not criticizing them in social media while telling lies about loving them on Sunday mornings. Open your heart. Your enemies are people too.
  2. Practice compassion. I don’t meant just handing out blankets once a year or collecting food, though those are good thing. Go to the people everyone else in your community despises. When Jesus showed compassion, you got the sense that he felt their suffering deeply. He was like one with their pain.
  3. Stop judging. This is fundamental and absolutely challenging. This is an active role. You are not the judge. Stop it. No wishy-washy qualifiers. No “I read the end of the story and know God’s heart”. You can not say that you are nothing compared to the mind of God and then proceed to say you understand it.
  4. Stop assigning sin. Related to the last one. Its not your job. Do your best to do the right thing and leave the judgement to something greater than yourself.
  5. Walk the narrow gate. The popular vote wasn’t the right one in Jesus time. Why do you think it would be now? Judging from the example of Jesus, shouldn’t mass religious agreement be a good indicator that there’s something missing? We can sing all day about Pharisees or Sadducees, but from the outside, it seems a little too coincidental.
  6. Watch out for wolves and be wise, always on the lookout. Wolves are everywhere. If, say, a political candidate gets teary eyed talking about his or her faith, there’s a chance they know that its the fastest route to your vote. Its not hard to convince a church audience (sorry, but its true and has to be said). You just need to talk the talk, throw out a joke, critique the approved common foe, and BAM: instant credibility. There are many, many people in position of leadership in government and churches with huge holes in their hearts that they will forever be patching with ego. This isn’t everyone. But they are out there and you should be very, very careful about who you trust.
  7. Ask questions. Between the answers are questions. Jesus asked questions and questions were asked of him. These were not validating questions but the ones that you have to walk away and consider for days, weeks, months, or longer. Start with the idea that you do not know and see where this takes you. What impressed the temple priests being chatted up by a young Jesus? They were impressed by his questions. And for the record, “well, thats just what we believe” is not an acceptable answer.
  8. Be careful about predictions. If you must believe in some kind of eschatological, end time scenario, fine. But know this, if you believe the Bible to be true, where it says  that no one will know the day or the hour… yea. Live it then. And beyond the end of the world alone, life is unpredictable. Causality is very, very difficult to ascertain. So saying a decision will bring about the destruction of America is not something even the best minds will be prepared to answer.
  9. Know your place. Consider for a moment that you don’t know the story, that the book in your hand is just a very, very small piece of a greater idea, that God is bigger and wider and more unknowable than theology and minds can comprehend. Consider that you are in fact the tiny speck of life on a small planet in a solar system on one arm of one of billions of galaxies in a universe that is finite yet unbounded. Better yet, know that this is 100% true, because it is. The Bible seen as a unified document today was compiled over thousands of years, a story that was constantly in development during this time. At one point we put a back cover on it and said it was complete. But the story continues, and like many of the values expressed at different times, we are different than 1st century Judea. And that’s ok.
  10. If it doesn’t hurt, if it doesn’t require sacrifice in your heart, you aren’t doing it right.

Let me propose to you that the spiritual union you feel with your spouse is unique to you. The act of marriage, however, is universal, not limited to Christianity and never limited to just one man and one woman – not even in the Bible. Take a quick scan of historical and anthropological records around marriage and you will find a variety of terms and practices such as polygamy, polyandry, arranged, ghost, endogamy, exogamy, hypogamy, and hypergamy. My personal favorite is polyandrous linguistic exogamy where a woman takes more than one husband, but they must speak different native languages to avoid the incest taboo. Why does the will of God have to be so homogenous? Why didn’t God create just one type of rock, one species of animal, and just one planet?

You matter. But how you matter, the legacy you leave, is up to you. Do you follow your impulses and blame the outside world for the trouble or uncomfortability that is upon you? Do you follow the crowd and jump on the bandwagon? Do you look at a single granted right, such as same sex marriage, in a country we find pride in declaring as free, as the culmination of a growing evil? Or, do you, as Jesus suggested, take up your cross, do the thing that is painful and unnatural, and try something different? Why don’t you look for problems on your end, fix your mistakes, and change your community for the better? There are a million real needs in the world that could really use all of our collective help. You can sit and moan on Facebook about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket or get out there and push your values, beliefs, and actions to the breaking point to see what meaning and truth there is to find.

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A Year in Review: 2014


The temptation when it comes to sharing socially is to distribute only the best moments, to bring out the brightest spots. A study a few years ago showed a correlation between the number of hours spent on Facebook and the level of personal dissatisfaction. Central to the findings was that most everyone only shares the good moments, leaving us with a sense that so many around us have amazing lives while the rest are, more or less, stuck at home struggling with the things we struggle, feeling alienated despite the continual and overwhelming connectivity with which we have grown accustomed.

There are certainly those who are able to pursue exciting and enjoyable experiences. I, for one, live in a wonderful city with seemingly limitless opportunities. I’ve gotten to see many of my favorite people and explore new places and hobbies. But this isn’t life, its just one part. The good and the bad, sweet and savory are just as important as are the things we take away from them.

So with this long post (don’t get scared), I want to pursue a year from a few angles. Rather than highlights, here’s what each month meant as I thought back to the time period.

But before we jump into the meaning, here’s a quick overview in numbers to set the context.

A Year in Numbers

Of the 8,760 hours I had available 2,500 were spent sleeping, 2,200 working, and a shocking 425 spent online outside of work. I read 56 books and 76 magazine issues, watched 47 movies and 14 series (view complete list here with each movie, book, and show listed). I walked or ran 3,175,000 steps – roughly 1,642 miles (estimated based on daily averages, thanks to FitBit), climbed 1,800 ft of rock gym wall, and spent 38 hours in the water surfing or another activities.

But those are just numbers, building blocks in the same way a painting is more than simply a list of colors used.

A Year in Meaning

The Aboriginals of Australia use paths and songs to move from one part of a desolate landscape to the next, guiding people across thousands of miles. This practice of singing Songlines, as they are called, is, according to their tradition, more than the means of knowing where they are and actually the means by which the universe is continually created. It is required that the Songlines be uttered as they walk from place to place, as their very reverberations summon the world into order: they didn’t just walk, their very walk was the act of creation, and it is up to them to, each year, create the world in which they exist.

In January I became unemployed. The reasons are unimportant. Just know that one week I was employed and the next I was sitting in a coffee shop freelancing while determining what would come next. I felt optimistic, enthusiastic. I had something new in mind and I went after it.

In February my grandmother died and it was remarkable. For some time her memory had failed her and she had grown very old. She was not sure who anyone was, and the last time I saw her she mistook me for her husband who passed away some 27 years earlier. My parents, sister, and I along with two uncles and a cousin sat close to her through the night and early morning as she passed. Earlier the previous day she remembered so much, suddenly. She looked at images of her high school and recognized friends. She got a smile on her face when we each walked in, knowing who we were. She passed from this world the way I hope to one day, surrounded by those who love her, at the end of a long life, warm and at peace having spent the last few days with a lifetime of memories.

I knew her, this woman lying there. And part of me wanted to believe the way I was raised and brought up regarding what came next for her.

Part of me looks at the end as lights out.

Another sees the end as a stillness on the water after a rain. Or to say another way, we are energy moving from one place to the next, like cosmic waves cresting and shifting into whatever we touch.

In traditional Japanese culture a baby is born from the condensing of water in one spot, like energy, that brings life.

In March I began working again, this time at what I hoped to find when we moved to San Francisco 5 years ago: an exciting job in tech at a company I could stand behind. Nearly every day is a good day.

Work is an interesting thing. Do you find meaning in work or find a job that’s meaningful? What of the people picking coal for 40 years? What will I think of where I am today in say 20, 30, 40 years? In one sense work is an action. In another it is personal meaning.

In April I again started attending a Zen meditation group after too many months away and also turned 34. Thirty-freaking-four. For me it is the age I could not imagine not too terribly long ago. I remember being 17. It was half a life ago. It was only a few years, I could swear. It was only a few heartbreaks, a dozen moves, a career, some successes and failures, and a decade of marriage ago.

In one state we have a story. In another meaning behind the story. And lastly there is meaning in the reader retelling their own story quietly as they read that of another. I share my age and you perhaps feel the weight of your years or the lightness of youth. Perhaps you immediately thought back to 34 and the freedom of that year. My thirties has been when things started getting good, personally. I started having these moments of awakening, where I see “myself as I am, not as I’d like to be,” as Fellini’s central character in 8 1/2 also discovers.

Being a human is complicated. We certainly bring good and bad to a situation. And that is, perhaps, part of our charm. I’m told that Natives of the southwest US would intentionally leave a blemish in their woven rugs, believing that it was only in the imperfections that the spirit could enter.  Without the blemish, where is the soul?

I don’t remember too much about May after a lovely trip to visit family in North Carolina. But that’s ok. This year was about creating space. Interestingly, space isn’t empty in time or even a vacuum. Space isn’t emptiness, its just open. Ironically, even the very atoms that make up our physical bodies are mostly comprised of space.

I find that I like being alone. Not all the time, but an interesting discovery this year is that I am, in fact, either an introvert or right on the line. I need as much alone time as I do in interaction. And when I don’t purposefully take it, I inadvertently take it anyway.

June… A tough month, in retrospect. At the request of another I will not say why, but this was a challenging, difficult, frustrating month.

A trauma will cause the mind to want to dig in or run. Fight or flight. I dig in closer to Michal and meditation. Anxiety, that feeling of unknown, is like a third person in the room, always present.

The Bhagavad Gita says the mind is an enemy to those who do not control it. To control is not to force but to learn a different way.

Think of the mind as a network of train stations. A three year old has over 1 quadrillion synaptic connections. For every new behavior or pattern, how many stations must redirect?

Distraction. All the time. How many times have I wandered to email during the writing of this post? In July I thought more about the inevitability of my own demise. Don’t think I’m depressed, dear reader. Far from it, in fact. But it is a fact that is not easy to grasp with. We see it happen to others but can not imagine what we have not experienced. So we live in a state of limbo, researchers say. There is a field of science dedicated to these findings. They study terror management theory and suggests that society, culture, art, literature… nearly all human endeavors are a way of distracting ourselves from the reality of our own limited lifespan.

The Greeks were ahead on this. “I gave them hope, and so turned away their eyes from death” the myth of Prometheus tells us.

Which, in a strange way, leads back to the subject of legacy. What will be remembered? I have digested a number of biographies by this point in the year. A biography worth reading is not the story of someone deciding to play it safe and sit tight. Generally they are written about those who have stepped out from status quo, due to necessity or personality - or both. But a common theme was the conquering of a tragic flaw. This is present in every biography I have read. To succeed is to overcome a significant limitation.

Rough Rider and energetic president Theodore Roosevelt had severe asthma. I don’t think the soldiers he led into war would have guessed.

Manhattan Project lead and overall brilliant physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer had a number of flaws. He once tried to poison a professor.

Abraham Lincoln was severely depressed and even suicidal as a youth.

In August Michal and I celebrated 10 years. A decade. We spent a few days in Sedona, AZ. I look back and can not remember each day. They came and went and here we are. The emphasis is on we. What a strange concept. Sometimes we look at each other and are amazed to be separate people and see that other person in the familiar we see each day.

At one moment we opened the top on our rental car parked in the middle of nowhere, turned off the lights, and stared at the Milky Way.

Lets just handle September-October together. I learned to surf, spending time in the water as much as I could. There is a rhythm to the water. It rises, it falls. On slower days I’ll just bob up and down, floating in the water with my feet dangling in the ocean. This is water that has made its way across the world and back countless times. Each molecule has been a part of plant and animal many times over. It is as though the earth is one organism, and each of us a part of the whole.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” - John Muir

November finds us building up to the end. One morning I found my self drinking tea at at a Vietnamese restaurant, flipping through a book of poetry by the Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska. And then I begin to walk. I walk for 13 miles around San Francisco, unexpectedly. My feet begin to move and I see thoughts come and go with the rhythm of feet moving forward, landing with predictable regularity. Walking is a joy. And when alone my walk is fully mine. Each step is a speed and feeling fully unique to me and that moment. Walking is remarkable. In the feet alone are over 100 muscles, 26 bones, and 33 joints pulling together to make each step. There is nothing less than miraculous about the act of self propelled motion.

December can be very lonely. We did not travel, we stayed in San Francisco. Even though we are on the same continent, friends and family can seem very far away. When flying across the country I lose sight of the number of feet that separate us. How many steps would it take to move from where I am to where you are?

I thought for many commutes about this year and what it has meant. This is a rather amazing ability we possess as humans: we get to create a story out of events. I get to look at this year and create meaning from the rather disparate pieces that happen in real time. I get to interpret moments as a series of events rather than independent situations. I know what happened, what might still happen. And like a shaman I might peer down into the stack of sticks and pull some piece of truth from the arrangements.

But instead I will say, with great confidence, that this year I was able to be alive. I felt and worked and supported and traveled and ate and drank and walked and talked and drove and read and listened and spoke and built and tore down. And next year I get to do it again. This is my simple Songline.

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2014 in Lists and Numbers

All favorites in bold. Keep scrolling for magazines, movies, TV, and more.

Books Read

  1. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  3. Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
  4. American Prometheus, Martin Sherwin
  5. 1914, Pul Ham
  6. Team of Rivals, Doris Goodwin
  7. Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan
  8. Theodore Rex, Edmund Morris
  9. The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle
  10. Dune, Frank Herbert
  11. Catching Fire, Richard Wrangham
  12. Charisma Myth, Olivia Cabane
  13. Fear, Thich Hanh
  14. Die Empty, Todd Henry
  15. Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pullizzi
  16. The Martian, Andy Weir
  17. Tribes, Seth Godin
  18. The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin
  19. Station Eleven, Emily Saint
  20. The Man Who Saved the Union, H. Brands
  21. Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus
  22. The Bhagavad-Gita, Unknown
  23. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
  24. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Pablo Neruda
  25. Content Marketing, Rick Ramos
  26. Elements of Content Marketing,
  27. Marketing in the Round, Gini Dietrich
  28. The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon
  29. Junky, William S. Burroughs
  30. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  31. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, Richard P. Feynman
  32. Everything belongs, Richard Rohr
  33. The Particle at the End of the Universe, Sean Carroll
  34. Creativity, Inc; Ed Catmull
  35. The Business of Beliefs, Tom Asacker
  36. Manufacturing Demand, David Lewis
  37. Wool, Hugh Howey
  38. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind; Shunryu Suzuki
  39. The Way Through Doors, Jesse Ball
  40. First Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi
  41. Managing Enterprise Content, Robert Rose
  42. Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits; Rahel Anne Bailie
  43. The finite and the infinite game; James P. Carse
  44. The Atlantis Gene, A.G. Riddle
  45. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Philipp Sendker
  46. The Children of God, Mary Doria Russell
  47. The Second Ship, Richard Phillips
  48. The remaining, D.J. Molles
  49. Buy Side, Turney Duff
  50. Free Will, Sam Harris
  51. Drops like Stars, Rob Bell
  52. Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes, Cory O’Brien
  53. Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway
  54. Black Hole War, Leondard Susskind
  55. The Innovators, Walter Isaacson
  56. Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, Robert L. O’Connell


  • Economist
  • Fast Company
  • Scientific American
  • Chief Content Officer

Museum exhibits

  • Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George; de Young
  • Yoga: The art of Transformation; Asian Art Museum
  • China’s Teracotta Warriers: The First Emperor’s Legacy; Asian Art Museum
  • Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Asian Art Museum
  • General exhibit; San Francisco Exploratorium


  1.  Chef
  2. About Alex
  3. Obvious Child
  4. X-Men Days of Future Past
  5. Jesus & Buddha
  6. Noah
  7. Seeking a Friend
  8. Tim’s Vermeer
  9. Jodorowsky’s Dune
  10. Snowpiercer
  11. Transcendence
  12. The Other Woman
  13. Bad Words
  14. The Change-Up
  15. That Awkward Moment
  16. Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  17. Ender’s Game
  18. Saving Mr. Banks
  19. About Time
  20. Man of Steel
  21. Enough Said
  22. We’re the Millers
  23. The World’s End
  24. The Stories We Tell
  25. It’s a Disaster
  26. Stuck in Love
  27. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  28. The Avengers
  29. Safety Not Guaranteed
  30. World War Z
  31. TiMER
  32. Jack Reacher
  33. Drinking Buddies
  34. Olympus Has Fallen
  35. Europa Report
  36. Interstellar
  37. Gone Girl
  38. Birdman
  39. Edge of Tomorrow
  40. Boyhood
  41. A Million Ways to Die in the West
  42. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  43. 20,000 Days on Earth
  44. The Double
  45. The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema
  46. I Am
  47. The Imitation Game 

TV Series

  1. Wilfred
  2. Walking Dead
  3. Big Bang Theory
  4. The Last Ship
  5. Call the Midwife
  6. Cosmos
  7. Americans
  8. Anthony Bourdain: parts Unknown
  9. The New Girl
  10. Workaholics
  11. Quick Draw
  12. Mozart in the Jungle
  13. Marco Polo
  14. House of Cards

Division of Time

  • 8760 total hours
  • 2555 sleeping
  • 2400 hours working
  • 500 hours commuting
  • 425 hours online (outside of work or consuming media) – OUCH
  • 224 hours reading books
  • 120 hours exercising
  • 140 hours watching TV
  • 120 hours watching movies
  • 60 hours meditating
  • 52 hours reading magazines
  • 2200-ish hours remaining for all other activities 


  • 3,175,500 steps (based on daily averages, thanks to FitBit)
  • 1642.5 miles walked or run
  • 1800 feet of rock gym wall climbed
  • 38 hours spent in water: swimming, surfing, floating.

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