Today, my guest is a follow podcaster and blogger Ryan J. Bell. Ryan came into some notoriety when he, as a Seventh Day Adventist Pastor, decided to blog about living a year without God and he gained a large following as a columnist on Huffington Press as well. What happened next and what he’s up to now makes for an interesting story. Listen in.
• Soul School “lessons” are released each Wednesday (aka “Hump Day” aka Midweek).
• On FRIDAYS I feature guests and on a variety of topics!
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SCROLL DOWN for much more about my guest and about this special episode.
If it is not already obvious, on Spark My Muse I feature people and topics I find interesting and important. I feature people from a variety of backgrounds and traditions: people of some kind of religious faith and people without belief in the supernatural are my guests. What they all have in common is that I think they are working on something worthy of attention and conversation. It doesn’t mean I agree or come to the same conclusions with every guest 100% but I appreciate them very much and I want to make space for them here and learn from them. It will spark my muse and yours.
Currently, few people meet that standard more than my guest today: Jennifer Michael Hecht. What I have deeply appreciated about Jennifer Michael Hecht‘s work is her curiosity, investigative way of working and writing, her sense of wonder, and her wonderful and sense of humor that comes out perhaps most often in her poetry.
In our conversation we cover topics in some of her books, her background, and she even reads a poem (swoon), but the main topic covered is extremely important.
In fact, it’s a matter of life and death: Suicide. There are common myths about why people kill themselves and those myths create more deaths. No more.
If you feel the urge to end your life, don’t. Wait out your mood, please talk about what is bothering you, and seek help. Stay alive.
I too have had time of deep darkness and thoughts of taking my life have gone through my mind. I haven’t planned how to carry it all out because the finality scares me and the thought of putting my loved ones through hardship hurts me.
The statistics tell us that having these thoughts are normal, just as any other type of thoughts. Our thoughts our not our identity. They are things our brain does to try to solve problems. Sometimes our brain should not be listened to. We must not listen to any murderous thoughts either, right? (Like the ones we have during road rage moments or when we feel like we want to strangle our child when they sass us or boldface lie.) Our meat-like brains might think bad things. So, if a thought of taking your life is happening now, or ever. Please stay. Don’t be rash. Hang on. AND Thank you for making a choice to stay on.
The best thing we can do during those dark and bad times is to wait it out and support others doing the same. We can also talk to someone to sort things through. If you feel like you are in a desperate mood, try your best to stay until you feel better. Jennifer says it and I concur, your future self will be happy you did. Others WILL be happy you did.
Don’t do anything you can’t undo. First Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
To share an audio snippet, click on the red and white icon below.
Thank you for listening. This is a very important episode and I urge you to pass it along to as many people as you can for when a very desperate mood may strike them.
Scroll down for notes of the show listed by-the-minute. More resources are at the bottom.
GUEST: Jennifer Michael Hecht
Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, philosopher, historian and commentator. She is the author of the bestseller Doubt: A History, a history of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world, throughout history. Her new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, out from Yale University Press. Her The Happiness Myth brings a historical eye to modern wisdom about how to lead a good life. Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropologywon Phi Beta Kappa’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “For scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”
Publisher’s Weekly called her poetry book, Funny, “One of the most original and entertaining books of the year.” Her first book of poetry, The Next Ancient World, won three national awards, including the Poetry Society of America’s First Book award for 2001. Her new poetry book called Who Said, just came out from Copper Canyon in November 2013. Hecht has written for Politico, The New YorkTimes, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirerand The New Yorker. She holds a Ph.D. in the history of science/European cultural history from Columbia University (1995) and has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University and the New School in New York City.
Her first love: poetry.
PhD at Columbia in the History of Science
The hard sciences in her roots influencing her educational pursuits.
How she came to write the book Doubt: A History
The End of the Soul (her dissertation)
The Society of Mutual Autopsy
Brain dissections (Paris) done to prove the soul did not exist.
The members of this group left records of their atheism and she decided that there was not a good record of atheism and the tradition of it.
Disbelief is “a kind of atheism”. The splits and religions that come about as people question the prominent god or gods and religion of the time.
The people throughout history who reject the supernatural and accept only the natural world.
The mixing of cultural and religions in our times and the current idea of spirituality that you can contact the supernatural inside yourself.
19:00 The secular argument against suicide.
Ages 15-44 3rd leading killer of Americans
Ages 44 and up is the 10th leading killer. It happens in greater number among the older population.
In 2000, 30,00 people per year.
In 2010, 40,00 people per year killed themselves and raising.
There seem to be trends like in other social trends like drug use, and the trend rises when people feel it’s a solution others like them are choosing.
23:00 The Christians who leave suicide notes and say that they think that God will understand (and forgive them.) need to hear the reason why to stay.
The TWO MAIN ARGUMENTS in the book STAY:
Suicide harms community
People close to you, that you may never wish to harm to be harm irreparably (especially children who are 4 times more likely to also commit suicide if their parent does, depending on how old they are).
Neighborhoods, schools, families, groups, communities have increased suicide and trauma statistically after a suicide occurs.
Suicide hurts your future self
People don’t realize how common it is to have a sudden (fleeting) thought that it might be better if they weren’t lying any longer when things are going badly. It’s a mood. Some people act in the worst way about a bad mood.
95% of people who try suicide, if they live, will never try it again.
Having faith in your future self.
30:30 This is a worldwide problem. 1 million per year. Up 60% worldwide.
Suicide is more impulsive and is more impulsive than we’ve realized.
Shame has something to do with suicide. People had suffered a humiliation in romanic, at work, or in some other way.
Knowing ahead of time to be on guard against the perils of impetuous thinking about suicide.
“Don’t let your worst mood murder all your others. The other moods don’t want to do that.”
“Depression happens to you. Not suicide. Suicide is a behavior.”
Pain can be a helpful teacher. We are stuck with it and it seems to help us grow.
On Robin Williams’ suicide.
The executive function and planning portion of the adolescence brain is not finished until age 25. There are many reasons to wait and see that things get better as your future self.
Looking for the warning signs in ourselves and stay for ourselves and others. You don’t get to choose who suffers.
The Wonder Paradox (her new book she’s working on)
About poetry and wonder
The people who do not affiliate with any religion. What rituals do and what people use for marriages or funerals, etc. What Poetry can provide for that.
“American religions have offered meaning and an afterlife, yet millions of Confucians and 5,000 years of Egyptians didn’t believe in an afterlife.”
“Meaning always came from culture and community.”
Keats’ tuberculosis poem
On the universe and vastness of creation and our consciousness.
“We are the universe seeing itself and marveling.”
On the darkness and struggle.
Jennifer reads her poem:
Even Eve, the only soul in all of time
to never have to wait for love,
must have leaned some sleepless nights
alone against the garden wall
and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild
and wished to trade-in all of Eden
to have but been a child.
In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace, that she might have a story of herself to tell in some other place.
Plus another poem
As promised, I’m including another of Jennifer’s poems in the shownotes. Below you can click to heard it read aloud and that enhances the experience.
We are tender and our lives are sweet
and they are already over and we are visiting them in some kind of endless reprieve from oblivion, we are walking around in them and after we shatter with love for everything we settle in.
Thou tiger on television chowing, thou very fact of dreams, thou majestical roof fretted with golden fire. Thou wisdom of the inner parts. Thou tintinnabulation.
Is it not sweet to hand over the ocean’s harvest in a single wave of fish? To bounce a vineyard of grapes from one’s apron and into the mouth of the crowd? To scoop up bread and offer up one’s armful to the throng? Let us live as if we were still among
the living, let our days be patterned after theirs. Is it not marvelous to be forgetful?
Click to hear this poem read aloud–it’s marvelous that way. It was downloaded from the Poetry Foundation. Visit it and read some of her other poems here and visit her page at the Poetry Foundation HERE.
• If you enjoyed this, you will like maybe to hear my personal story in audio I created about six months later:
• In October 2016, I had Ryan J. Bell as a guest, who is a mutual friend. You will also enjoy our conversation that includes a very interesting JMH “girl crush” tangent. Enjoy!
Hear recent episodes of the podcast.
Thank you for reading the shownotes and listening to Spark My Muse.
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First, I want to feature the book Doug and I wrote …
entitled Dog in the Gapbecause of a C.S. Lewis quote “Man and his dog close a gap in the universe”.
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Read a sample here!
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Thank you! Enjoy the show!
Who do we have to thank for wine?
God and the Church, actually.
Wine lovers in Western civilization have the Church in Europe (and the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire–which was neither holy nor Roman ) to thank for the large-scale production, the prevalence and the excellence of wine!
Because liturgy involving wine for communion was central to Christian religious practice. Wine was ingested as the saving holy blood of Christ (and bread as the holy body of Christ), usually each and every day. The sacraments of Communion served as saving grace afforded to the Church.
As Roman Empire became officially a Christian Empire (circa 313 CE) many vineyards had to be planted, properly cultivated, and harvested. Grapes had to be made into a lot of to support the daily practice of communion throughout the Empire.
Communion served as wine was the norm among Christians world-wide until recently–in the era of pasteurization. To keep juice from grapes in a state were they would not ferment meant it had to be sufficiently boiled so the natural yeast would die.
Vehemently opposed to alcohol, Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician, dentist, and Methodist pastor from Vineyard, New Jersey, figured out the process in 1869 with Concord grapes. Most churches did not accept the switch as proper and stayed with wine.
The juice later became more popular during Victorian era because of prominent values of abstinence. A shift then began in the U.S. that made grape juice the main communion beverage (at least among certain Protestants sects).
Several hundred vineyards operating in Europe today can trace their history to monastic origins.
In the 9th-15th centuries almost 1,000 monasteries dotted Europe. They were centers of education, stability, and technical innovation. Monks and nuns could read and write–this was quite uncommon then.
Monasteries cared for the sick, helped the poor, created places of education, and invented Universities. They could not fund all this through donations. Surplus wine was sold to finance ministry work (and also beer, fruit brandies, and cheese, among many other things..even prayers and Salvation ..which–in hindsight–appears to have been a mistake ) .
So, basically, thank God (and many monks) for wine!
Doug Jackson came to SCS in 2006, after serving as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, since 1993. In addition to teaching courses, Dr. Jackson functions as a liaison between Logsdon Seminary and local churches in Corpus Christi. His areas of specialization include spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. Dr. Jackson has published and presented several articles and essays in religious and literary venues, including articles and lectures on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. • D.Min. – Truett Seminary (2006) • M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985) • B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)
Doug: Solitude is for battle. Privacy is to be alone.
Demons come in our solitude (Desert Fathers). The outcome is awareness and purification.
Wanting “the listening heart” (what Solomon really asked God for).
on the importance of listening to God…
My Stockholm syndrome at parties. (Lisa)
“(My) Inability to be with people was driven by a failure to have a real self.”
“you are nearer to me than my own self.” Augustine
“My real Self can’t be with people because it’s threatened by them, because they’re going to colonize my Self and going to make me into something I’m not. As opposed to having a real Self that can listen because God is protecting that Self.”
Today, I’m sharing with you my thoughts and draft notes as I prepare a talk.
If you’re getting stuck and feeling like you can’t find your purpose, or if you thought you knew your purpose and now you don’t really–don’t worry.
Although your basic human purpose changes very little, the details can change at different stages in life or in different circumstances. You are normal.
If you don’t know this bit about the shifts of purpose, you can go through dark periods needlessly and have longer slumps. Well, enough of that!
The WISP technique is something I came up with to keep me on track.
Not that there could be a “technique” per se.
Think of it as a rule of thumb or guide, if that helps.
Do you have a notebook?
Purpose – the finding and keeping of it – can be slippery. So, field notes help.
Keep track of your progress. It gives you a structure and a history to check on.
Does this sound a bit odd? Worship. The more odd it sounds to you as a starting point, the more you need to do it to get properly orientated straight-away.
Worship is other focused, by nature. Yes?
That new perspective alone can help you make a break-through. But, really it’s much more than that at work.
“As we worship a fundamental shift happens because we remember who we really are.” -LD
At first blush it seems like worship is for God, because he is owed our worship. True?
That’s really only part of it. Let’s dig deeper:
1. God doesn’t need ANYTHING from us. He’s not insecure.
2. This means that Worship is to him (or toward him), but for OUR benefit.
To put it simply, God commands us to worship him because he wants it to be well with us.
[He knows we need it. Sure it’s his due, but he’s not an egomaniac. He’s always been taking care of us, even through the vehicle of worshipping him.]
When we fail to worship God, we start to worship lesser gods, like…ourselves, other mortals, our ambitions, the gods of the secular, dying world, and countless vanities.
Astray is where we go without properly directed worship.
Few things can create more clarity than a rightly worshipful heart.
• Clarity is a byproduct of worship and so are many other positive things I won’t get into this time.
Remember what Worshiping God helps us remember:
Who we are
Who we love (and who loves us)
And to whom we belong
Don’t feel like worshiping?…well you have to start somewhere.
Loosen your grip on your desires and expectations until you finish this stage. Shift your posture and you will find a new take on your life and on your purpose.
Back to that Handy-dandy Notebook!
(Shout out to Dora the Explorer)
Note feelings, changes, attitudes in your field notes now and during worship.
So where or how should you start in worship?
You can start with something that tends to speak to you and get through to you. What worked before? Start there and keep pushing through. Maybe you’ll find something new or maybe something familiar will help.
For some this may mean getting a true break from others and a return and appreciation of the created world. (A walk, a camping trip, a hike, a solo picnic.)
For some it’s music and song. (Just listen, create some, or sing along.)
For some it’s just praying for a while. (It’s talking to God, so it’s a great place to start, if possible.)
Here’s a quick “course” on how it works:
“Praying the names of God” is to first, come up with 10, 20, or 100 names of God. There are plenty: Savior, Redeemer, Creator, Father, Shepherd, Mother Hen, Majestic…you get the idea. As you say, write, and pray the names, roll them over in your mind. What do they mean? Let them affect you, be thankful and rejoice, and (of course) express your thanks and gratitude to God in prayer…which would be the actual worshiping part.
Example: “God you are my Provider. You have taken care of me and continue to. I thank you for providing for me, even in ways I don’t now about. God you are my Rock…”
Reading the Bible might help trigger true worship. Reading the psalms or the great Bible stories like the one of Joseph can inspire a true attitude of worship. You can read using the practice of Lectio Divina for some extra punch too. As you read thorough a portion, note the works or wonders of God, and pray about them, giving glory to God. Worship.
Maybe you have other ways to get the worship started. So, just get started!
You thought this was just some quick reading or some mental exercise, huh?
Nope. I’m asking more of you.
Use a notebook to record your mode of worship and your attitude at the start, during the time of worship, and afterwards. Then, continue to enter into times of short (5-15 minutes) and uninterrupted worship experience for a few days, or until the next post (which ever is longer).