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MUNDANE DISTRACTIONS
Blue Like Jazz review - Part 1 
10th-Jan-2006 02:44 am
OK, so quite a while ago I read a book called Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I had meant to write about it earlier, but I just wasn't “feeling it”, ya know? I guess I needed something in me to make it more about something “social” more so than myself (like I said before, I’m gonna try and avoid this stuff being just about my life as much as I can).

First and foremost I can say that I think the book would be a great read for anyone who is interested in the concept of spirituality. While Miller does say he is talking about “Christian” spirituality I found that a lot of what he had to say interested me even as someone who does not identify themselves as Christian and really has no desire to be a member of an organized religion of any sort at this point in their life (who knows what will come in the future, right?).

While I’d like to start off with a “positive” note regarding the book I’ve decided that it’s easier for me to talk about it from beginning to end, at least those concepts that caught my eye. Believe me, it won’t ruin anything and I still HIGHLY recommend you check out the book if you’re into spirituality.

The first part of the book that caught my eye was the concept of “sin nature.” This was one of my few disconnected points of the book, and that’s because I don’t agree with Miller that we as humans have a sin nature. The section of the book I’m talking about deals largely with the idea of what we, as humans, are capable of, especially the nasty things that some folks do to each other (like genocide). It also touches on the concept that we only do what is necessary sometimes in order to keep ourselves out of trouble. Miller notes briefly how his driving habits change when there is a cop around.

Now, I’d be lying if I said that my driving didn't change when there was a cop around, but I’d also be lying if I said that I regularly disregarded the rules of the road. If Miller regularly disregards the “correct” rules by which a person is supposed to drive (which I doubt is the case) then that is a problem that he has as an individual, it does not mean that everyone on the road only watches what they do when they are policed (figuratively and literally). Me, I abide by the rules most of the time. I may speed from time to time, but not excessively and not always on purpose (doesn't make it right, just means I’m not purposely doing it).

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, what Miller and his friend called “sin nature.” I don’t think we have it. I think we have capacity. We have capacity for good and we have capacity for bad (“evil” would be an excessive and purposeful series of decisions that were purposefully bad). Personally I think that we are also drawn towards the good side. Yeah, I’m sure those folks who believe in “original sin” are loving me now.

In my mind I see it as that old analogy of saying that if you put a bunch of toddlers of different races and ethnicities in a sandbox that they’ll get along. I’m sure they will get along. As long as they’re all content to play with sand and it doesn't get in any diapers, it’s all good. They’re set on the enjoyment of life. They naturally operate in the “good.” Now, what happens when you introduce a single solitary toy into the sandbox? And I mean just one, not one for each child. Oh, then IT’S ON! Get ready to see some tug-of-war action and perhaps even some biting and scratching. Is this bad, or a sin nature? Goodness no. This is SURVIVAL.

If there is a limited supply of anything (or the perception of it) then you’re gonna see humans of any age go after each other because they THINK they need it to survive. Now, whether they do need it is fairly debatable. Last I checked we needed food, water, oxygen, and shelter from the harsh elements to survive. Everything else, optional. If you go along simple biological necessities then the shelter thing is a toss out. Notice I didn't include sex as it is a drive not a need (really, it’s not…read a book). It’s a need for the survival of a species, but not for an individual member of it.

So, what am I saying? Simple. Humans, regardless of what they feel, or worship, have survival ingrained into them. The problem with survival as perceived by humans is that it’s just that, our PERCEPTION. War for any reason, genocide, theft, amassing beyond what is necessary to support your existence and that of your family, it’s just someone believing that they are more “important” than the next person and that somehow their survival has more priority over those like them. This then bleeds into social, cultural, religious, and political aspects of an individual’s life. Then people aren't just working for their own survival because THEY need to survive, they want their IDEAS to survive too because of the attachment they have to them in their existence (ideas surviving is good, as long as others aren't destroyed simply due to perceived inferiority).

Oh, and as far as the thing about driving habits changing when cops are around, that’s just simple responsibility. It has nothing to do with sin. I find it humorous that ANY Christian (or any person who believes in God) would justify their lack of responsibility in the idea that they “need” to be watched to follow the rules because you’d think they would believe they’re ALWAYS being watched by a higher power. If you REALLY believe you’re being watched then why do things you know are “wrong?” I’m thinking that regardless of all the spiritual and social expectations that are out there at some points survival gets the best of us.
Emmitt
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