Wakey Wakey.
reveille precedes revelation


Have you seen that movie I Heart Huckabees? I know, it was a while back. In the movie, characters played by Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman try to figure out the meaning of life. On this quest, they subject themselves to various forms of therapy from some existential detectives. Their prescribed regimen includes using a large red rubber ball to smack themselves in the face. The shock of being spanked in the proboscis, apparently, temporarily provides the disorientation needed to momentarily free our heroes from their slavery to ego and angst (as we can see by the dazed, yet blissful looks on their faces) .

Awhile back I read a book where the author pithily said, “Reveille precedes revelation.” Meaning, if you want to hear from God, or be aware of eternal truth, or whatever–you need to be awakened from your autopilot sleepy existence. You and I need the challenge of people who don’t share our worldviews to see where we deceive ourselves. Sometimes these challenges come as a shock to the system. Sometimes they allow me to temporarily let go of my ego long enough to see truth that’s been previously staring me in the face, but up until then, I’ve conveniently been ignoring.

Sometimes we need a wakeup call that challenges our assumptions and/or the way we’re living our life. This is a forum to get that wakeup call from each other, to provide it for each other, and to try on new ideas and mature in old ones.

These kinds of conversations usually happen to me face to face rather than cyberspace. They happen at lot at a gathering I host called Gray’s Theology. The idea for Gray’s Theology came out of a conversation between the pastor of my church and me. We were frustrated by the lack of conversation in our culture about the big questions in life. It’s like, if you want to talk about philosophy or theology, you have to find the people in your subculture who more or less agree with you and you get together and say the same stuff to each other. Of course, it’s great to go deep into your own worldview and be sharpened by people on the same page as you on lots of things. That’s why I go to church. But I do Gray’s because I like to be challenged and I like to find out where I’m missing the boat. And I like to encourage folks to think outside their own boxes too.

What is Gray’s Theology? It’s a monthly, face-to-face, level-playing field discussion about life’s big questions. Most or our topics focus on classic philosophical or theological or ethical questions, but we try to keep it real and talk about how these questions impact life and our own lives as individuals. It’s not an indoctrination effort–it’s too open-ended to indoctrinate anyone. It’s for people with diverse views and approaches to life who want a chance to think and talk about the big questions. We’re blue collar and white collar. Some of us have advanced degrees in theology or philosophy and some of us didn’t go to college.

The format: (a.) I introduce some questions. (b.) We discuss. (c.) I close with some parting thoughts. The rules are: Disagreement is fine. Respect is necessary. Everyone should get a chance to talk. No one is forced to talk.

It’s a fun time. We meet at Gray’s Tied House in Verona on the last Thursday of every month at 8pm. We hope you’ll join us–check us out at meetup for details, then sign up there and let us know when you plan to come.

So what’s this site for? It’s where I post the discussion questions for the in-person group. If you’ve been to Gray’s before, you can post comments and be a part of the discussion online. If you haven’t been to Gray’s in person, feel free to browse around and read the posts. If you haven’t been to Gray’s and you try to comment–well, I’ll send you a nice note and delete it. I used to have grand illusions that we could have Gray’s-type conversations on this blog and have it be all worldwide and stuff. This failed mainly because I don’t have the time or the skills to facilitate an online discussion that stays respectful and fosters listening and self examination. So I gave up. I found that most people who had been to a Gray’s discussion  understood what the group and what this site is trying to accomplish. So that’s the rule–you have to attend Gray’s to comment on this site–mainly because I can’t make the site a full time job. If you really want to talk about something and you haven’t been to Gray’s, use the meetup site to send me an email.

Here’s where I bring things full circle and say something else about rubber balls in faces. But I got nothing. Happy reading, and see you at Gray’s.


12 Responses to “Smack!”

  1. Very interesting thought that we need to be exposed to differing worldviews so that we know where we’re lying to ourselves. Makes sense to me. Hope Gray’s Theology draws an interesting group!

  2. Thanks, Mom! It is an interesting and fun group. We had a great time last month.

  3. I just watched I Heart Huckabees for the first time last night, oddly enough. It was a movie that made me go, “Hmmm(?)” The smacking-each-other-in-the-face-with-the-ball part was hilarious, though! (As were various other segments.)

    Not to be overfastidious or anything, though, but Jude Law’s character was not involved in the smacking, and he was anything but a hero. (“Albert” was played by a Jason-whose-last-name-escapes-me.)

    Anyway. Rock on, Gray’s!

  4. Oh right! How quickly I forget. Sorry, world! Sorry Jason Schartzmann, who I know is definitely reading this!

  5. God has a tendency to *smack* me every once in a while. It’s when I least expect it and it’s always something that makes me incredibly angry. After the anger comes acceptance and an entire makeover of my outlook.

  6. Sandra, that sounds like a process with which I’m all too familiar. Do you ever live in slight apprehension when things are going well, that you’re about to get whacked in the face again?

  7. Oh my head, yes! I feel like I’ve painted getting smacked in an all too attractive light in my post above. It’s not always the funnest thing when the suppositions I want to hold very dearly get rubbed up against reality a bit too hard. Very inconvenient.

    And I confess that the outlook makeover that getting smacked could/should provide doesn’t always “stick” for me as well as it could.

    For example, how many times must I learn that the buffer around the speed limit that I grew up with in New England is not as generous in Wisconsin small towns? At least three times, that’s how many. Hopefully not more.

    Seriously, though, Sandra (well, I *was* serious in that last paragraph too)–care to share a real life example of this? If you’re still there, anyway.

  8. grosser – You’d love the speed limit buffer here in Southern California.

  9. I’m sure I would. Not sure how much I’d like the traffic, but the speed limit buffer? oh yes.

  10. Staying off topic…

    I work for a German company, and we had a guest speaker in from Minnesota to teach us how to work with the German culture. To illustrate cultural differences within America, he told us about his drive along a California highway the previous night. He was driving in the low 80’s (speed limit 65) and he pulled into the left lane to pass a car. After he passed and before he could get back into the right lane, a car came out of nowhere, passed the car he’d just passed, then swerved into the right lane and passed him. He looked over and it was a highway patrol car. He said that when you’re driving 80-something in MN, police cars typically don’t pass you on the right because you’re going to slow.

  11. […] to ramble on about how I’ve been musing about and wrestling with my own question. Usually, in the spirit of this post and the mission of this website, these “after” posts are more rhetorical attempts to stick an idea or question in our […]

  12. […] Back in March, I started this blog and a face-to-face discussion group called Gray’s Theology. The purpose of these forums […]

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