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Capstone Discussion: Kushner, "Living a Life That Matters"

Class discussion of Kushner's text
by Ben Earwicker on 22 October 2012

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Transcript of Capstone Discussion: Kushner, "Living a Life That Matters"

Kelsey's Notes Kushner - "Living a Life that Matters" ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SEVEN EIGHT AFTERWORD Professor Earwicker's Notes Professor Earwicker's Notes Professor Earwicker's Notes What Kind of Person do You Want to Be?

•On page 37, Kushner asks why committed religious people act hypocritically, and then proceeds to describe a litany of possibilities for different behaviors. I think this demonstrates his understanding of the various psychological, social, economic, and other reasons we do what we do. I like that he moves beyond a simple dichotomy of good v. bad and looks more at the idea of a spectrum or a wide range of possibilities to describe and understand human behavior.

•Look at the bottom of page 39; I like that Kushner does not pretend to have all the answers. Even though he goes on to provide a number of possible explanations (and ends up with the simplistic notion of a ‘split personality’), he allows that “I had no answer for them.” Sometimes there is no ‘easy answer’ for such difficult questions. How do we deal with this or respond in these situations?

•Kushner comes back to the issue of innate goodness v. original sin and fallen nature on
page 45. He does not go into much philosophical detail, but presents theological material as parables, in a way that is easily accessible to the general reader. Is that a positive or negative thing? On the one hand, I appreciate the more heady references that Armstrong makes, and the substantive research that she refers to throughout her text. On the other hand, if I take Armstrong seriously, faith and learning is not all about intellect, and I ought to be more open to other ways of knowing, perhaps through the style and format of Kushner’s writing.

•What do you think about Kushner’s descriptions on page 49 and after: “So what kind of people are we? Are we naturally good and pure until external circumstances compromise our goodness? Or are we naturally weak and deceitful, needing conscience or outside authority to keep us in line? My answer is that we are both. I see every human being as having good and bad tendencies, impulses to charity and impulses to selfishness, the desire to be truthful and the desire to lie” (49).

•Kushner argues that the natural tension between the various aspects of our nature keeps us centered or moving forward, that without one or the other we would be incomplete. In reference to Jacob, he writes that “The gravitational pull of his humanity keeps him bound to the earth” (50). Does this resonate with you or your experiences? SIX fa real How to Win by Losing

•As with the discussion of the two types of love, I think Kushner’s description of twins is not really accurate (19). When he talks later about symbolic issues of significance and traits, I think he brings the discussion back to something useful.

•On page 20, Kushner mentions the ‘trickster’. There is a large body of literature on tricksters, and I have some reading material on American Indian and Latin American tricksters if this interests you at all.

•Kushner brings up another duality on the bottom of page 20.

•On page 23, Kushner moves the discussion toward symbolic representations and the importance of the ladder in Jacob’s life. Listen to his description of the biblical text: “If that ladder that bridges heaven and earth represents the distance between Jacob as he is and Jacob as he would like to be, then his life story is the account of his struggle to climb that ladder, to ascend from a lower level of behavior to a higher one, and to become a more complete person not through disguise and misrepresentation but through sacrifice and growth” (23). This is an excellent example of the multi-dimensional interpretation and analysis that Armstrong mentions in her text, as well.

•Again, Kushner demonstrates depth in his interpretation and reading of the Torah, when he writes about Rachel and Jacob and Rachel’s difficulty having children. He relates that this was “a common motif in ancient tales to forecast that the child born after years of longing will grow up to be special” (25).

•I really like Kushner’s description on page 26 of Jacob and the attacker, despite the simple duality that he also presents. For a third time in this chapter, he moves beyond the literal into a figurative and symbolic reading of the story, in a way that illuminates something more than what I have always heard about the text.

•I like the comparison of shalem and shalom that Kushner describes on pages 28-9.

•At the end of the chapter, Kushner describes the struggle that Jacob faced as analogous to our own struggle to do good and listen to the ‘still, small voice of God’ within us. I think he alludes to the difficulty of faith-in-practice, much as Armstrong insisted that faith and religious practice are not easy, but require practice and dedication. Professor Earwicker's Notes Wild Justice: The Seductive Pleasure of Getting Even

•On page 61, Kushner writes, “Revenge, and fantasies of revenge, are amongst the strongest emotions we feel. They are nearly universal, nearly irresistible, and often deeply troubling.” Is this true in your own experience?

•I think Kushner describes revenge well when he calls it “punishment in the name of justice, tarnished by taking pleasure in hurting the person being punished” (62). I also like the description he provides from the World Council of Churches, “revenge as an attempt not to transcend suffering but to extend it, to make someone else hurt as we have been hurt” (62-3).

•What does the following statement tell us about the practical effects of forgiveness for the victim(s)? “They needed to confront and forgive those who had hurt them as a way of achieving closure, convincing themselves that these people were not worth being obsessed with” (69). Similarly, he writes, “That the sadistic murderer deserves to suffer is beside the point; that we deserve better than to be the instrument of another human being’s suffering is very much the point” (83).

•Kushner suggests an interesting idea about a “balance of power,” that the desire for revenge may be an instinctive mechanism aimed at restoring something that was lost (71). Although I think there are more nuanced ways of expressing this, I think he touches on an interesting component of human interactions and the relationship between victim/perpetrator. He goes on to say that “We are looking to reclaim the sense of power and dignity that was stolen from us. If there were a less morally tainted way of feeling empowered when we confront our adversary, if we could claim power over him without having to hurt him, most of us would be satisfied with that” (75).

•I like Kushner’s description of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, pages 72-3. I also like the description he provides on page 76 of Restorative Justice. Professor Earwicker's Notes Shalom: The Quest for Integrity

•“Integrity means being whole, unbroken, undivided” (87). How does this description of “integrity” strike you? How, from your area of study or research, might you describe “integrity”?

•I always enjoy learning different meanings for words, or about etymology. I appreciate Kushner’s description of wishing “shalom” as a wish of “the blessing of wholeness and integrity” (89).

•I think the ideas on page 97 are similar to my own evangelical tradition, but I find the ideas somewhat vague and difficult to understand or apply. Kushner argues that “Part of the quest for integrity includes integrating God’s will into our conscience, making it the unifying principle of our no-longer divided soul.”

•I like the story of “Gimpel the Fool” that starts on page 104. Professor Earwicker's Notes Family and Friends: We are Who We Love

•On page 110, Kushner presents William J. Everett’s definition of “sin” as relational, and related to how we treat ourselves and others. I like the relational or interactional definition here, and I think it is more relevant to actual relationships and individual behavior.

•This is a recurring theme, and Kushner returns to this relational basis for understanding God and ourselves on page 124.

•“God is not found in people; God is found between people….Both love and true friendship are more than a way of knowing that we matter to someone else. They are a way of mattering to the world, bringing God into a world that would otherwise be a vale of selfishness and loneliness” (125). Is this a provocative or radical idea? Professor Earwicker's Notes Best Actor in a Supporting Role

•This text and the university outcome associated with it have to do with social outreach and making a difference in the world around us. On page 130, Kushner argues that one of the best ways to fight our feelings of insignificance “is simply to find someone who needs our help and reach out to that person.” I have heard this idea before; do you think it is a good one, or does it frame social responsiveness within our own selfish paradigm?

•I like that he mentions Erikson on page 132; I wish he would spend more time exploring his references, but at least he mentions some good authors and concepts in passing.

•On 134-5, Kushner offers a novel interpretation or possibility for the Biblical text about Joseph and his brothers’ motives. I like his fresh approach, or the alternatives he suggests.

•Look at Kushner’s recap of Agnon’s story, “The Kerchief”, on pages 140-1. Then read the line toward the end of 141: “And when he has done it, the world is still not redeemed. Or is it?” I find this compelling, and a thoughtful response to some of the difficult realities of pain and suffering in the world.

•Again, Kushner returns to a relational narrative, in which belief or intellect are superseded by relationship. On pages 144-5, he writes, “I have come to believe that the author of the book is telling us that Job is satisfied not by God’s words but by God’s appearance. It is the contact, not the content of God’s speech that answers his questions and eases his doubts. God knows Job’s name, and that is answer enough for him.” Professor Earwicker's Notes Why We Matter in the World

•“Most people are not afraid of dying; they are afraid of not having lived” (146). Do you think this is true?

•More on the relational narrative: “Goodness and love are two of the experiences that assure us that our lives have mattered to the world, that we have not lived in vain….each person who chooses to be generous rather than selfish, to be truthful rather than deceptive, represents a vote for a world of generosity and truth rather than selfishness and deception” (148).

•Kushner ends the text with an explicit focus on relationship and love as the whole point of life and human existence. I do like the quote from Thornton Wilder’s 1927 novel:
"Soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth. We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough…. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning" (152-3).

•I also like another of his ideas about death: “We can just barely accept the fact that good people die too soon. It is too much for us to think that their lives may have been wasted” (153). He challenges us again with a call to love, returning finally to the relational narrative once again, on page 157 (despite the mis-attributed quote about leaving the world a bit better!). This is the theme of the afterword, and what I think may be his most important idea, that we ought to measure worth, sin, belief, etc. in terms of love and relationships, not in more abstract absolutes. The Two Voices of God

• The very first part of the introduction is really cheesy, like a poorly-written self-help book: “I believe in you….” (ix). I think it betrays some of Kushner’s insight later in the text, but it does display a more readily accessible text than Armstrong’s.

• Kushner begins by talking about the everyday world, where people are revered “…for being attractive and productive” (3). Does this relate in some way to the striving for transcendence that we discussed in Armstrong’s book?

• I like his description of the ‘spiritual world’, although I think here and elsewhere, he relies too heavily on dualities and (perhaps false) dichotomies: “Is heroes are models of compassion rather than competition. In that world, you win through sacrifice and self-restraint. You win by helping your neighbor and sharing with him rather than by finding his weakness and defeating him” (3-4).

• Here is what I think will be one of Kushner’s primary theses: “We need to know that we matter to the world, that the world takes us seriously” (5).

• This is an interesting commentary on the end of life and dying: “It was not death that frightened them; it was insignificance, the fear that they would die and leave no mark on the world” (6).

• I do not respond well to Kushner’s description of Fromm’s “mother love” and “father love” (9). I think this more accurately describes a particular traditional view of parental roles, and could be more effectively described using other language. I think this view of ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ is a cultural relic, and is not as relevant today as it was 40 or 50 years ago. He also relies on another dichotomy.

• Do you think Kushner’s use of dualities is simplistic, or is it helpful in understanding the concepts he presents?

• Here is an interesting idea about shame and ideas about self: “This may well be the central dilemma in the lives of many of us. We want—indeed, we need—to think of ourselves as good people, though from time to time we find ourselves doing things that make us doubt our goodness” (15). Tara Mcclees' Notes On "mother love and father love":
I never thought of love as something that should be conditional. What he describes as "harsh and conditional love" falls more in line of how I see respect. It's something to be earned, "if you get good grades, if you make the team, if you get into a good college, earn a good salary." (p. 9) Or if you're a good person and worthy of it. I never considered that as a kind of love that I craved. I'm not sure whether I agree with Kushner's description or not - just something interesting to think about. Is it really love or respect he's talking about? Zach Lovell-Response to Tara

It is interesting to think about the two different kinds of love but my argument to your comment is the lifestyle of the family that the person was raised in. I think that Kushner is talking about a kind of love more then respect. Zach Lovell's Notes
"Sometimes good people do wrong because doing what they know to be right is too hard for them, or because the advantage to be gained by taking a shortcut is just too enticing" (42-43). I just found this section of the chapter to be interesting about the kind of person that you want to be and I thought that this quote is very true to the standards of society. Thoughts?? I find the discussion of morality very interesting because he makes it clear that one moral is better than another. I would have to agree that righteousness and thoughtfulness towards others is a better road to take over cleverness and wit (p 20-21). However, it is not as easy as it sounds. In the first chapter he mentions that we live in a society where succeeding and being the best you can be is one of the most important things to strive for. We are a great example of this. We made the decision to go to college in order gain more knowledge or improve traits and characteristics we have. We work hard every day so that down the road we might have the opportunity for stability; financially and maybe a stronger spiritual and mental state. Always doing the right thing is difficult because sometimes the wait and stress does not seem worth it. Sometimes it feels like you might have to take a short cut to make it through everything because it should be impossible. I think it is possible if we constantly remind ourselves that it is worth it and things will work out as you grow and learn. Its difficult but it is possible, especially if you have someone keeping you responsible and supporting you. We are fortunate to have a community where we can be challenged in the classroom as well as in our lives.
-Meghan Barker- I agree that this is common in our society because we are competing to have a good life and sometimes the struggles to get there are too great and unbearable. Its also difficult when you have to watch other people who don;t seem to have any struggles and the world is placed at their feet and they take it for granted. Response to Tara I can see how that might sound like respect for some people, but I agree that it is a kind of love. I know that my parents will always love me no matter what because they tell me that and sometimes they show it in their behavior. There is a difference between telling myself that my parents love me(or them saying it) and doing something that makes them truly proud of me and seeing how happy they are about what I was able to accomplish. I agree with Kushner that it makes you feel better when you prove that you deserve that love, and not always having it freely given. -Ellie Ferguson Ellie Ferguson Notes I Like the story about the Native American who described good and evil like two dogs inside of him. If he feeds the good dog, that dog will continue to win over the evil one. As soon as he entertains one evil idea, the evil dog is being fed and it will be harder for the good dog to fight back. I feel like it is a good way to visualize how good and evil are always there and how they effect us. So which dog are you gonna feed? Mindy Helena I think the story that stuck with me the most was Jacob's struggle with the angel. I never thought to read it, as a struggle with the "inner beast". "I see the mysterious attacker as part of Jacob himself." (25) The entire life of Jacob is nothing but one giant struggle, and it only makes sense that he struggles constantly with himself. Later Kushner talks about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the duel personality that he must endure, that WE must endure. Kushner makes it very clear that "we" as a christian person can not have one without the other. The several examples of "good vs. evil thru out the chapters intrigued me as well. I would like to think that I "feed" the good dog. But without the evil dog, would we exist?-Mindy The distinguishing of "mother love" and "father love was very interesting to me. I understand that we need both types of love in our lives, and I understand that we need to get that from God as well. An interesting thought, however, is this: If we label God as "Father" do we instinctively begin to expect only the "father love" from Him? Is that all we look for?
I like the mental image Kushner gives us about our wanting to be good colliding with the need for importance (ph 14). I think this collision happens in every decision that we make on a daily basis.
-- Stephen Field While reading, I found that the way we treat people does not have to do with the fact of who that person is or what they have done. We treat people based on what we learn from childhood and from others. We don't like certain people because they might remind us of a quality that we don't like in our self. Another is that we trust people based on what we though was a good reason, but that does turn out to be right. A person we trusted, turns out to have ulterior motives or believe something totally different. Deb Adcock The story about the hiding the evil away was intriguing. If we were to stop feeding the mean dog, would we be shocked to realize just how much of our lives are found in that dog?
- S. Field Response to Mindy
I don't know how many times I have read about Jacob and his nighttime struggle and thought nothing of it. Kushner does bring different insight into the story with how Jacob and every other human must deal with the other part of our being, whether it is the good portion or the bad. Even hundreds of years later people are still trying to figure out how to solve that problem as with Jekyll and Hyde. Deb
Two Voices of God
First voice: The first voice of God is stern and commanding. We are pushed to be more. To reach higher.
Second voice: The voice of compassion and forgiveness.

This chapter was built upon trying to explain that there is a need to be "ethically worthy" in our own societies. It also begins explaining as to how one feels they need to feel successful. Included in this chapter we are explained as to how the voices of God seem - one that is motherly and accepting, the other is fatherly and expresses love in a more stern matter.

How to Win By Losing

This chapter emphasized on a brief life story of Israel. Before Israel was Israel he was Jacob, the trickster. From birth Jacob clinged to his twin Esau. Jacob also buys Esau's birthright with a bowl of lentil soup. In the end Jacob is blessed Esau's birthright, making Esau livid. This causes Jacob to leave. Going on he works for a man falls in love his daughter and is tricked into working 7 years for her hand. In the end he does receive her but the oldest. He works another 7 years and finally is able to escape with her. Jacob and his wives leave sending them off to his original home. This is where Jacob is attacked by a mysterious figure. This figure is interpreted to be his own conscious according to Kushner. Jacob is equally matched and finally both give in. At the end of the fight Jacob is transformed into Israel, he at a state of shalem, peace with oneself. From this point on he no longer asks God for ways out of his problems, but prays for strength to do the right thing.

What Kind of Person Do You Want To Be?

"You have to wrestle with your own demons and for that matter your own angel." This chapter emphasized as to how people are inclined to justify their actions. Kushner gives an illustration of owning a newspaper coin machine. He asks what statement would you pose on the machine in order to prevent theft of the paper. The questions boil down to three basic thoughts.

1. doing right out of fear of punishment
2. doing right out of a feeling of communal solidarity with others.
3. doing right because it is right.

Sometimes we really do have to deal with our self in order to figure out what is best for oneself. Our choices may be difficult, but they have to be made. Do things that are in the end right.

Richard Martinez Response to Zach

It is interesting to see how good people choose to do bad Kelsey's Notes There were several things that I found very interesting about the first part of our readings. A lot of what he says hits home with me pertaining to an experience I had this summer. I lost a close friends this summer and there are several parts when Kushner talks about why people are often afraid of death. I specifically remember a conversation that I had with this friend about death. He was in the military and was not afraid to die for what he was doing and the people he was doing it for. This blew my mind, but he truly knew that what he was doing was worth while, and he did it with everything he had!

The second thing that I found very interesting was the part where Kushner was talking about perfection. He was explaining how God does not expect us to be perfect, so we shouldn't expect ourselves to be perfect, because he loves us no matter what. I thought that this part was interesting because as humans we seem to need that assurance, and this is just a great reminder that even though we make mistakes, God doesn't expect us to be perfect and he loves us anyways.

The last thing that I found to be very interesting was in chapter three where he was explaining why people do bad things sometimes. He points directly at my profession when saying that its not about the rapist looking for sex, but rather looking for the "thrill of exercising power over another person". That power, even for the short time is incredibly destructive and it is so confusing to the victims who have gone through someone overpowering them. I just thought it was great insight to remember with my future career! Response to Zach:

I think that this quote is accurate!
I think that a lot of the time, we would
rather choose the easy way out, than deal
with things the hard way. It takes a lot
of courage to do what is right, easy or not.
I think that especially as Christians, we need
to work to have more confidence and faith in
Christ that he wants us to take the hard route
sometimes and know that he will give us the
strength to stay true to that path.

Kelsey Koch "Part of us wants to pay the person back, to get even, to give him what he deserves, while another part of us is uncomfortable at the prospect of having to lower ourselves to his level in order to get even. We feel justified, even righteous, in getting back at someone who has done us wrong, but at the same time we feel more than a little bit morally compromised" (60-61). In so many ways this is true but I do believe that there are outside circumstances to the event that may change the way a person thinks about their actions.
Zach Lovell The part of the reading that I found most interesting was the part that talks about when Jacob wrestles with God. I found it interesting that Kushner interpreted this as Jacob struggling with himself. I on the other hand don't necessarily see in this light. If you have read the passage in Genesis, it can be quite confusing. But it clearly states that Jacob wrestled with God. I can't say that it was necessarily God he wrestled with but it was God in some form of a man that Jacob wrestled with. but i do find Kushners view on it very interesting.
- Adam Freiburghaus Response to Zach
I agree with Zach when he says that in so many ways this is true. That for the most part we do want to get even and we want people to feel the same pain we felt at their expense. and i do believe there are outside circumstances that effect our actions. The history between two people can make a world of a difference when it comes to getting even or the other half of things, feeling morally compromised.
- Adam Freiburghaus Response to Mindy
I liked what Kushner wrote about the struggle
with the angel in another form because that is
true that a person that you are unaware of could
be your angel.
Zach Lovell I am also going to talk about the concept of revenge. I like where Kushner writes "revenge is sweet in the contemplation, but bitter in the carrying out". I think often times we associate revenge with justice. Its sweet justice when someone who wronged you "gets what they deserve", but i don't see that as justice. I think the worldly definition of justice and the definition of justice Jesus would give are different. Justice isn't getting even, justice is showing the love towards others they deserve which is the same love we all deserve. Unconditional. I'm not saying this is easy but i do think its necessary. Adam F. Jessica Phelps
"Writers on health and happiness have suggested that there is a basic human need for intimacy, that our souls are emotionally starved when we deal with strangers all day long." I found this section very interesting. What makes us love? I think it gives a good explanation. Because we have to deal with people everyday that we don't know and that don't care about us, having someone we can go home to and show that we love means a lot. We are social creatures, that's how God created us to be. He created us with the need to socialize and form meaningful relationships. Response to Adam:
I'm gonna have to disagree with your definition of justice. While it is important to show everyone unconditional love, justice is holding someone accountable for their actions. Of course, this could be a form of love since, by enforcing justice, you "pay them the compliment of seeing them as human beings who are responsible for the consequences of their behavior." (p. 71) Especially in the case of serious crimes against people, it is important to show love to the victims by acknowledging they have been wronged and letting their voices be heard. "Loving" someone by letting their actions slide does everyone in the situation a great disservice, the way I see it. -Tara M. "If criminologists are correct in believing that much crime is really about exercising power over another person, as I suggest previously, then perhaps the instinctive desire for revenge is less about hurting the person who has hurt us and more about restoring the power balance to what it was before the crime. We don't really want to hurt our assailant so much as we want to reclaim from him the power...that he stole from us."
This whole idea that most victims, if they are listened to and it's acknowledged by everyone that they were wronged, don't want any more revenge - that it's really about empowering the victim after they have felt so helpless - really stood out to me. I think this is an idea I can believe as well. What do the rest of you think?
-Tara McClees The first part of the chapter really stuck out to me is when you get told that you can be somebody and make an impact in the world. Its just what was needed in my life right now as I am sure it is needed to be heard in many lives around us.
- Michelle I agree with Zach also, to a point. I guess more than my outside circumstances, my christian beliefs prevent me from wanting to harm a person that has hurt me. So I guess the real question, is our Christian beliefs considered to be an "outside circumstance"?-Mindy this chapter was really interesting for me. I found a lot of parallels to another book I recently read. "The four Loves" by C.S. Lewis. In the book Lewis talks about love and breaks it down in basically 4 ways. Kushner on page 113 talks about the reasons in which we marry, Kushners ways are very comparable to Lewis.-Mindy Kushner brought out a different idea on what integrity is. I had always thought that it was more about being honest and sticking to your morals. The idea that a person who has integrity is a person who is whole, without conflict, and is in tune with his/herself. It is not something we hear about in the news or everyday life. It is always the people who are do not have integrity that are in the spotlight. This could also have to do with trying to matter and make an impact on the world. If we get into the spotlight, then we have made an impact and matter to someone. Then we feel better about our self and can live the rest of our life feeling a little bit more content.
Deb Adcock Response to Mindy
I didn't make this connection until you pointed it out. I read that book 2 years ago and they are similar. Good observation. Do you feel that Kushner's love is characteristic of one of the four loves or his own distinct thing? Cara's NOtes Response to Tara
I think that it helps a lot to talk about what happened to you as a victim. It probably does give back some of that power that was taken away, but I don't think that will help the victim totally. If something happened to me or a family member, it would help me a lot to know that the person responsible was punished for his/her actions. That way no other person or family would have to go through what my family and I went through. -Deb Mother and Father love:
I found the topic of mother lover and father love to be very interesting. I didn't grow up with a father so that aspect of my life has been missing. I didn't receive love like that where it was conditional or earned by respect or doing well in school. love that has been given to me, now that i think about it has always been motherly. where it was not earned but simply given because it was needed and deserved. I really have not know fatherly love in my life. So for me it is hard to agree that there must be two types of love from God because it seems like it has always been a motherly form of love. Cara D. Family And Friends: We are who we love
I really liked this topic of making ourselves vulnerable to those who we love and care so much about. Why do we do this to ourselves? Many of us have felt the pain of losing a loved one or feeling rejected. And I still don't know why we open ourselves up to feel that hurt or rejection once we have gone through it.
I also tried to wrap my mind around the novel referred to in the chapter by Huxley of having babies made in labs and sex being used for recreation.(Even though it already happens.) I just could not fathom having a break down in our institutions like that of marriage and family.
A portion of the chapter that i was able to connect with and agree with is that love really does involve nourishing someone else's soul and having them do the same for you. Finding someone who will do that for you will make you realize that you can make a difference in someone's life. Response to Michelle:
I agree with you Michelle.
Sometimes I have always tended to think of integrity as synonymous with honesty. When Kushner said that integrity "describes a person who has united the different parts of his or her personality, so there is no longer a split in the soul." It was interesting to me to connect integrity to something larger than honesty. It occurred to me that honesty is simply something that comes about because of integrity. It is not a synonym. If we can unite the split in our soul, we honesty will be a by product of our integrity.
-- Stephen Field Response to Michelle:
I agree with you Michelle.
Sometimes all we need to
hear is that we matter in
this big world and that
we have the power and
ability to help impact
others in such a great way.
Many of us do it everyday
without even realizing we
have made a difference.
-Cara D. Chapter four really caught my eye. It was talking
about and comparing revenge and forgiveness.
Those are two very different things, and often times
very very difficult. He touched on the fact that the more we plot revenge, the more bitter we get, which then leads us away from forgiveness. The more we dwell on not forgiving these people, the more bitter and hurt we get. Where if we just decide to forgive them, even though it may be one of the hardest things we do, we will feel a sense of relief. God has really been speaking to me lately about forgiveness and I have really been struggling with it. I know for recent experience that when I do forgive, there is an immense sense of relief that comes with it, but at the same time, there are still things that I am holding on to that I haven't quite figured out how to forgive yet. This chapter really spoke to me on forgiveness, what that means, and the importance of it. Response to Deb:
I too was intrigued by the definition of what it means to have integrity. I really liked the definition that he had in this book. It makes me want to strive to be more whole like Jacob and like Jesus. I wish more people had that desire as well. If we all were that way, I would like to believe that our world would be a phenomenal place!
Kelsey Koch I n this chapter he is talking about Shalom and Integrity. I have never thought much about integrity because I thought it was just something that you learned as you grew-up. However, Kushner gives a really interesting definition because I have never heard it put in such a way. “Integrity means being whole, unbroken, undivided. It describes a person who has united the different parts of his or her personality, so that there is no longer a split in the soul” (p. 87). I think it defines Integrity this way because its associated with making choices and being honest about who you are and how your choices and their consequences define you. Later he said that most of the time its not a struggle between a good and bad thing, it’s a choice between good and good. Which good choice you make represents a lot about your integrity. “When facing a dilemma, choose a more demanding alternative” (p. 98). Showing that your willing to do something that requires something more than ordinary living shows how driven you are and how put together they are.
-Meghan Barker- I read the afterward yesterday on 9/11 and I couldn't have planned it better if I tried. i have heard a lot of discusion about the problem of evil and God's involvement in it. And I really enjoy Kushner's way of describing it, He says,"God's promise was never that life would be fair...God's promise was that when we have to confront the pain and unfairness of the world, we would not have to do it alone for He would be with us." -Ellie DEAD MAn WaLKING I think you’re right. Christianity is a circumstance but I think its important to recognize that this author is writing with a Christian point of view so can we really say that people who aren’t Christians would act the same? Does someone who isn’t a Christian feel morally compromised when they succeed in getting revenge on someone who are hurt them? Response to Cara So I grew up with both, but I didn't really identify with his thoughts about mother and father love, because although my dad was very traditional, I would have given up in despair had anyone told me that I had to earn my father's love. Yes, I earned his respect and liked to make him proud of me, but i could have never earned his love. -Mercy I agree with you, Adam. Recently I've come across the idea that he was actually wrestling with himself and his own thoughts, which I can identify with, but don't think would really be accurate. Why/how could he demand a blessing from himself, and it was said that he always walked with a limp afterward, where the angel/God touched him. This had to have been a real, physical wrestling match with God. -Mercy C. M. Best actor in a supporting role-
I found the example of the man who felt as though he had not done a great deal with his life to be very realistic. In my mind I do not think about all the people whose lives I have touched in my every day life, like the man in this parable I have not viewed my life as having much of an impact on the world around me. I think that if people thought more like this they would be more conscious of their everyday actions and try more to make a good impact on the people they see regularly.
-will in response to Michelle,
This part stuck out to me as well
it is interesting how just words can
make such a difference isn't it.
-will Maybe I'm an idiot... -Mercy
But what does it really mean to be united? I'm trying to catch up in this class, so I didn't read the complete book, so maybe I missed something, but practically speaking, what does it really mean to be truly united in your personality and your soul? Some of the most peaceful people I know are completely not united and don't know everything at all! They simply trust God, knowing that He will bring the right answers at the right time. That's what brings them peace and consistency, even when the rest of the world is falling apart.
-Mercy Mercy's response to Cara D.
I don't think our society could even handle a real breakdown of the family or marriage. It's scientifically proven that babies need personal care (holding, rocking, etc.), and this need becomes even more apparent the older they get, because of a child's need for consistency, attention, etc. This would make lab children a disaster! It's even hard for a single parent to raise a child. Institutions like marriage and the family were given to us by God for a reason. We were made to live within them.
Going off of that... isn't it funny that God made us with weaknesses? If I was creating something, I would create it with unquestioning loyalty and limitless strength, I think. "Who wins this epic wrestling match between Jacob and his conscience? Since the two antagonists are both aspects of the same man, we can understand Jacob wins and also loses." (Kushner, 28) How can one win and lose all at once? The internal internal struggle that we experience on a day to day basis is embodied in the wrestling match between Jacob and the angel. Because Jacob spent his life trying to forget that part of his past, he split himself into two. Wrestling with oneself "Who wins this epic wrestling match between Jacob and his conscience? Since the two antagonists are both aspects of the same man, we can understand that Jacob wins and also loses." Kushner, p 28. How does one lose to oneself? This section explores the dichotomy that we face on a day to day basis, and the constant struggle to reconcile with the past. I often find myself wishing that I could simply erase the past-- I've committed some unbelievably stupid, selfish acts in my time. The thought of alienating half of my being by thinking in such a way, however, is intriguing. The fact is, we are who we are because of the decisions we've made, good and bad alike. We all hope that forgetting our mistakes will render our lives peaceful; but peace does not come from eradicating the negative aspects of a person. Rather, peace can only be achieved by accepting our mistakes, learning from them, and using them to guide others. This is an extremely hopeful concept for me; I often need to be reminded that perfection is never demanded, and striving for it will only create more fragmentation. Jana DeSimone Jana DeSimone-Wild justice Response to Cara
I have had many homes and I can say that I do believe
that there are two types of love. I think though that you
will find every situation is an exception to the rule. no two relationships are the same and no two fathers will love the same. I am 24 and still feel the need to impress my dad where as I know that my "mom" will show that love no matter what I have done. - Andrea In Response to Adam and Mercy.
I can be convinced that he really was struggling
with himself. There are medical cases where people
develop a "syco-somatic" (not sure on spelling) injury
in a response to a traumatic event. The theory is that this is the body giving the brain/soul a continuous reminder of an issue that is unresolved. I am inclined to think that this may have been his case. So I feel he could be talking to God and still wrestling with himself or an angel

andrea I think that we aren't always taught the value of the time we have. I do not think that I would be afraid of not having lived so much as leaving things undone. or more importantly is what I have left behind for my child enough?
-anni response to ellie
I am so on the same page! I am saddened for the people that blame God for the evil in the world, I feel like they prevent themselves from being open to his help.
-andrea Rich,
I have a big AMEN for you!
-andrea Response to Jana >> I very agree much agree with what you have to say about not forgetting but learning and using what you've learned to help in guiding others. I do disagree on the notion of perfection not being asked of us. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) After Jesus' sermon on the mount and talking through the beatitudes he makes this statement according to the author of the book. What I think Jesus is asking of us is not to try to be God himself but that God is perfect in his character and that we can understand how to enact perfection through our own character. That when we are living out what we are created for we are being perfect. So, if we are in the image of God (or character in my opinion) and if you believe God is also love then, if we love we are being perfect (enacting out our purpose) according to God's creation. Now we get into the concept of what is love..... - Torrey I don't agree with everything he says or how he portrays it but I like the message he is trying to get across
-Torrey "Some people use religion to strengthen their immune systems and help them resist temptation. Some use it as an antibiotic to cleanse their systems of infection and make them fell healthy again. An some use it as aspirin, to take away the pain of wrongdoing without affecting the cause of that pain." (pg. 37)
The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Eph. 6:10-20, NIV) A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

19-20 And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out. (Eph. 6:10-20, The Message) - Torrey << Response to will I agree with Will. I think we are taught (especially at this stage in life) to focus and work on what we need to become successful, not really thinking past why we should live just to live "a more comfortable way of life". We are not really taught that the talent we have and the skills we are developing and honing in on are to be used to buffer or help shape all of humanity and not just ourselves. If we were taught to be more altruistic I think we can learn to understand that our instinctive desire to live is not so much out of selfishness but of the growing understanding towards the building or growth of the self for the betterment of one's constructiveness to themselves and others. -torrey
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