I have this theory. I wonder if our interpretations of ancient texts – yes, even the bible – aren’t often misunderstandings of skewed translations of things that are true but …not exactly what was meant. You know …we miss one little punctuation mark here or misinterpret two little umlauts there and viola …we’re instructed to marry our sisters and only eat goat feet. And if we don’t, we can’t get into heaven.
Please …Christians …don’t crucify me with emails. It’s just a thought.
I’ve always been intrigued by the biblical “lamb’s book of life.” It’s supposed to be a book – a complete record – of everything everyone on earth has ever said or done. Even as a youngster, listening to my father preaching about this huge book, I secretly questioned the size and scope of such a document. It would have to be volumes and volumes of mundane text.
I always imagined how it would be full of “got up and brushed teeth …watched a bird on the window sill …yawned …etc” before we got to anything juicy. And I always hated the idea of having to stand there and listen to every single thing every single person ever said or did. It sounded like the most horribly boring day imaginable.
But what if that “book” was something like “Facebook.” What if God wasn’t writing it all down at all. What if WE were writing it all down …voluntarily? Now THAT’S a lot more interesting. And it also works in concert with the notions of consciousness and confession and the confronting of one’s own self.
What if, at some judgement we have completely misinterpreted, you have to come face to face with YOU. What if it’s not some third-party judge imposing a narrative on you that is in dispute. What if it’s actually YOU having to come to terms with YOU? YOUR own words. YOUR own thoughts. YOU wrote them …yourself.
For reasons such as this (and many more) I am a fierce defender of the first amendment. I actually think you SHOULD be able to yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Because if you were to do something like that, we would know what kind of a person you are. We would need no judge and jury. You’ve removed all doubt about who and what you are willing to do. It’s the purest judgement of all. The judgement of one’s own words.
Freedom of speech isn’t just a right so everyone can speak without being arrested. It allows us to assess dispassionately. It was a genius move to make it the very FIRST right. Because of it, I can sit back and let you tell me exactly who you are. I don’t have to judge or make assumptions or speculate. If I am quiet enough, for long enough …and you are verbal enough, for long enough …I will know everything I need to know about you. You will tell me. I won’t have to guess.
This is why we should never shut down speech. MORE speech is important. It’s necessary. Even if we hate what someone is saying …let them say it. They are writing their own judgement of themselves.
What we say and sing and write is everything. It’s the story of who we are …and who we’re not. This is why I so adore songwriting. It is the ultimate glimpse into the soul. If you write enough songs, we will know who you are as a person. You will tell us. If someone writes great songs, they might seem like a horrible person on the outside …but there’s a gem in there, somewhere. The songs tell all.
I strongly suggest that everyone on planet earth write a memoir about themselves and their lives. Everyone has a fascinating story whether they believe it or not. But more than that, I can tell you from personal experience that writing about yourself makes you face hard truths about who you are. We all see ourselves as the innocent hero of our own story. But writing about yourself honestly, often reveals your own prejudices and downfalls and imperfections and low-road patterns.
We’re watching people riot right now because they are upset at certain kinds of speech. I don’t know about you, but I’d love a day …just any old day …without a freaking protest in this country. But I digress …
While we’re waiting on that day, I think we should keep in mind that speech – especially speech we abhor – is important. All of it. Shutting it down is the wrong thing to do. Illuminating it is the answer. Make people come face to face with their own words. Make them hear themselves. Allow them to show us who they are. Then let the world judge.
I get at least one private message a week asking me how I can tolerate keeping this person or that person in my social media circle and on my feed. I purposely keep people on the hard right and the hard left. And I welcome them equally. I do this because I want to hear what people – ALL people – have to say. I’m just observing. Those people are writing the record of their lives …whether they know it or not.
Maybe one day we will stand before a heavenly judge. If we do, trust me …I’ll have plenty to answer for. But I want my book to be honest and heartfelt and thoughtful. I don’t want it to show someone who backed down from conflict or disagreement. But I also don’t want it show someone who disrespected or discounted. I certainly don’t want it to read like some “to whom it may concern” angry letter.
I always ask myself, when I write a song or a blog or a book or a post, “would I want this said or sung at my funeral?” And maybe, more to the point …my after life.
If we’re all writing our own judgement story, and some angel is gonna read all this one day, I want mine to be a good read …with humor and grace and a full heart. Not just a bunch of insults hurled at people I didn’t like.
Because God knows with my grammar and spelling it’s gonna be hard enough to get into heaven.