This is from my Father, the Reverend, Dr. Travis E. Jordan. Please enjoy.
Well, I guess I should not have signed on as contributor since I never seem to have anything to contribute. As I wrote earlier, I just don’t seem to be able to get worked up over the political situation any more even though I know I should not just “give up” on it. And I really have not. I do call or write congressmen, participate in Moveon.org, etc. I listen to the news every day, but usually with a very skeptical eye.
However, I do admire those like you who are willing to get into it all. I am impressed with both your grasp of things and your ability to write and communicate. You may have found your calling; if you could only make a living at it. I suppose I also believe there are so many blogs out there, no one would be interested in what little I might have to contribute. I do write things from time to time, but they are not usually political in nature.
While “noodling around” the other day I came across some stuff I have written in the past, as a sample of the sort of thing I do, so I will send it to you. I put several things together under the head of “Matters of Life and Death,” and since I do not know whether you have Word on your computer I will just paste them into this message.
MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH
November 4, 2003 – One of the greatest paradoxes that I have ever discovered is found in the closing lines in Gore Vidal’s book, The City and the Pillar:
“Nothing that ever was changes. Yet nothing that is can ever be the same as
what went before. Soon he would move on.”
This seems to me a wise and complex statement. I have always been an advocate of change. Change is like a birth; it offers a new beginning. To change is to grow; to grow is to change. And yet I believe it is true that “nothing that ever was changes.” A twelve year-old child is different from the same child who was six years old, and will be still different when the child becomes an adult. It is all the same, yet it is different. We can never live as if we have no past, as if we have not experienced significant life-changing events in our past. They are always there. We cannot ignore them. And yet, “nothing that is can ever be the same as what went before.” We do change and grow because of our experiences. When I was in high school, I attended church regularly, was a youth leader, and by today’s standards, I was religiously very conservative and literal in my beliefs. After attending college and seminary, and after living the life of a preacher in rural West Texas for more than a decade, I became increasingly more open to a wider, deeper sense of truth and love — and God. I am nothing like the person I was at 18, and yet I am the same. I find that fascinating.
For much of my life I lived as a heterosexual male and participated in all the values that society declared to be the norm. I married while still in college and raised three children while pursuing what I considered to be the American Dream. For the past several decades I have become increasingly aware of my sexual identity as a homosexual, a gay male who sees things in a completely different way. And yet nothing that ever was has changed. I have no regrets about my life. I love my children and cannot imagine not having that relationship. My values, such as honesty, integrity, love of God and my neighbor, and as an advocate for justice, remain unchanged. The way I express those values is always changing and growing to become more inclusive and less judgmental.
Perhaps this is what is meant by “progressive,” the new word of choice, which is intended to replace the “L” word. This, as opposed to “conservative,” which seeks to keep things the same: familiar, safe, and unchanged. This wonderfully paradoxical statement also bears a hint of understanding of what immortality might be like: “Nothing that ever was changes. Yet nothing that is can ever be the same as what went before. Soon he would move on.” I no longer believe that after this life there is a place called heaven, complete with pearly gates. What I do believe, in ways I can never understand, and have no real need to understand, is the fact that I am a unique living being - the essence of which will never change. But it will never be the same as what went before, or even what it is now. I will move on.
December 21, 2003 — I just had an amazing epiphany. I was reflecting on my visit with my mother in the Nursing Home this weekend, and wishing I had been able to say to her, “I love, you; God loves you; and God will take care of us for infinity. Be at peace and take your leave from this life when you are ready.” Then I thought. Do I really believe that? And the answer was yes. And while reflecting, somewhere in the background of my mind, I recalled a recent article in Time magazine that talked about Gnosticism as an ancient alternative view of Christianity. I began to realize that on a very significant level I did truly believe that. Not simply as a hope, but on an intellectual basis, as knowledge, I believe that. Out of the depth of resources of my life experience I believe that. It adds new meaning to the word of Paul Tillich that God is the Ground of our Being.
All my life I have had a particular affinity towards all things Mediterranean, especially Italian, so I asked myself, “What if you had lived as a person in the Mediterranean area 500 years ago but know nothing of that life today, would it matter?” And the peaceful answer was “No.” It would be ultimately irrelevant. Interesting, perhaps, but not important to who I am today. Similarly, what if my spirit/life continues in another way or form in the future. Would it matter if I were not conscious of all my various past existences — no continuity of consciousness, no pearly gates of heaven? And again, the answer is, ultimately “No.”
In some ways, I admit, it is a bit difficult to turn loose of this eternal consciousness. But in another way, it is extremely freeing not to have to drag around a lot of spiritual, mental, and physical baggage for eternity! There are parts of any life that are better left behind. The essential thread that makes this belief possible is that God is good, life holds the possibility for good, and our task is to make the best use of whatever circumstances we find surrounding our existence.
I may not understand what the future holds, just what may lie in store for the essence of me, but I believe, both intellectually and in faith, that it will be right - and far, far better than anything I could ever imagine in my own limited way.
June 3, 2004 - Reading has always been an important part of becoming who I am, a part of the continuing process of change and growth. I came across a fascinating novel, Aura, by a fairly unknown author, Gary Glickman. For me, this book was not a page-turner but one that I wanted to read slowly and savor each moment, marvel at the unfolding of every character, and reflect on those times when some epiphany in the book crossed over to call forth or merge with similar times in my own life. One such epiphany came to me near the end of the novel when everyone was gathered to attend Leo’s funeral and the narrator is reflecting on the meaning of his death for all of them:
“After Annie sang, many of the faces relaxed, reflecting the same thoughts that the winter dusk would come soon, but also the next day; everyone had work to do, people to see. That Leo was gone was suddenly evident; going away in a moment his friends would disperse the fact and all its details, like far off smoke in the clear air of their own lives, until it was hardly noticeable anymore: Leo died a week ago, two weeks, a year, five years, ten.
And then they would all be someplace else, dispersed over the city and over the world, thinking of Leo and each other sometimes unexpectedly, reaching for the telephone late at night, smoking a clove cigarette, leaning over a balcony in Rome. Wishing for what? Another word, another touch, another moment, those years lived again, better spent?”
It made me think of the many times I had reflected on friends who, having been an important part of my life, were no longer present in this world. People like Bill Howie, Rodney Miles, Jim Barton, Roy Schrivner, and Bob Andrejko who, at one time or another, had been a daily presence in my life. Each one very dear and essential in my process of living at the time. And yet, increasingly, I find that their presence in my life is being obscured, like smoke in the clean air of my own life, until it is hardly noticeable anymore. Even so, I continually, sometimes unexpectedly, am reminded by some event of one or another of them and it catches me wishing for what? “Another word, another touch, another moment, those years lived again, better spent?”
Yes, I suppose it does. But it is somehow more than that. I am always able to celebrate what has been, and be thankful for what each has contributed to my life, and somehow it seems to me that it is that acknowledgement which is keeping each of them from disappearing into some dark abyss of nothingness. Maybe that is another way of saying that while their persona is no longer present, they are still a part of life - of my life - of living.
Thoughts from a very brilliant man, with a few more logs on the fire.