Monday, March 30, 2015

Chapter 3 ~ Whom do you need? ~ Socrates Café

Friendship is the subject of this chapter, and I'm thinking of best friends I've had over the years.  Here are some quotes and questions that came up in this chapter:
  1. "In what way does one person become a friend of another?" — Socrates (p. 90)
  2. "What are friends for?" (p. 102).
  3. "Their friends fill some need ... they are in some sense useful." (p. 102).
  4. "What is a good friendship?" (p. 103).
  5. "What constitutes a failed friendship?" (p. 103).
  6. "Is there such a thing as a destructive friendship?" (p. 103).
  7. "How are friendships formed?" (p. 103).
  8. "How are friendships different from other types of relationships?" (p. 103).
  9. "How are friendships formed and how are they broken?" (p. 103).
  10. "Can a book be your friend?" (p. 103).
  11. "Goethe said that friends 'enhance each other' ... To me, a friend is someone who accepts you when you're at your very worst, but inspires you to be a better person.." (p. 103).
And then there's the question of having a conversation with yourself:
"You can't be silent to yourself, even if you are silent to everyone else.  I may not talk out loud, but I still talk to myself.  I still have conversations with myself inside my head, even if no one else can hear me.  I can't turn off the voices in my head" (p. 115).
What do you answer when someone asks whether you see a glass as half empty or half full?  (p. 116)  I kind of liked the idea of a fourth "R" to go along with the first three:  Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmatic, and Reasoning.  The author mentioned noticing "an extreme and pervasive self-absorption and intolerance among people," saying:  "We hadn't just become the 'what's in it for me' society; we'd become the 'to hell with you' society" (p. 130).  Do you agree?  Then he talked about "pessimistic fatalism and helplessness" and the people who transcend all that (p. 130).  On the next page, he asks himself:
"What precisely can I do to realize my dreams?  What steps do I have to take?  What sacrifices will I have to make?  Am I willing to make them?" (p. 131).
Let's end this list with love, okay?  The young woman there with him, apparently just the two of them that day, shared her definition of love.
"Love is a response.  Love is something to be expressed, to be demonstrated, and it leads to this sublime place that is within us but also transcends us.  But this place is very, very hard to reach" (p. 139).
And then a grin spread across my face as I read the last sentence of this chapter, after the author considered asking her, "How do you know when you're in love?" (p. 141).  But he didn't ask.  Not then.  He wrote:
"I wait until nearly two years later, after we're already married" (p. 141).

"Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them."
— Adlai Stevenson (quoted on page 89)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Second Quarter Queries (We Make the Road by Walking)

If you feel comfortable doing it, compose honest and heartfelt replies to one or more of these queries and share your thoughts with us.

1.  Here is the meaning I find in the stories of John the Baptist, the virgin birth, Herod's slaughter of innocent children, the ancestor lists, the coming of the Magi, and Jesus in the Temple at age twelve.
2.  Here is why Jesus' parables, miracles, and teaching about hell are important to me.
3.  Here is how I respond to Jesus' care for the multitudes and Jesus' attitudes toward Caesar.
4.  Here is my understanding of "the kingdom of God."
5.  Here is what it means to me to say, "I believe in Jesus.  I have confidence in Jesus."
6.  If you have been baptized, what does that baptism mean to you?  If you have not been baptized, what would it mean for you to choose to be baptized now?
7.  What do you appreciate most about this learning circle?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chapter 2 ~ Where am I? ~ Socrates Café

Looking for an image to represent "home," I turned up only pictures of houses.
Let's continue our conversation with some quotes:
  • The author:  "What happened to my childlike love affair with questions?" (p. 41).
  • Quoting Roger Scruton:  "Science can't address the 'why' of its subjects.  This is the domain of philosophy. ... There cannot be a scientific examination of personhood or the beautiful or the good life" (p. 42).
  • Woman who works at the café:  "I think that only by examining your life in every way possible can you be said to be examining your life philosophically" (p. 43).
  • Quoting René Descartes:  "I think, therefore I am" (p. 44).
  • The author:  "But everyone, whether he or she realizes it or not, or has articulated it or not, has a philosophy of life, and of place. ... every action we take, every move we make ... reflects in some way our worldview and our worldplace" (p. 45).
What do you think of those thoughts?  And what do you think of the church that no longer calls itself a church (pp. 45-48) because they are "open to just about anything" and "open to anyone"?  The author says his ideas for Socrates Café are very much like that (p. 49).
I've often characterized Socrates Café as a "church service for heretics," a place where we all feel comfortable challenging our respective dogmas.
That seems like a great idea to me.  And just below that, the author gives us a clue to his understanding of the Socratic dialogue (p. 49).
I think the Socratic way of inquiring is a paradigm of communication that calls on all participants in a dialogue to participate fully, and in an egalitarian way.  And it requires that participants help one another articulate and then examine their perspectives, as well as the implications for society of these perspectives, and the assumptions within these perspectives.
A big discussion in this chapter centered on what "home" means.  What does "home" mean to you?  The author wondered (p. 63):  "Is my home one I carry with me, my way of being in the world?"  Yet when I googled to find an illustration of "home," I got back pictures of houses, houses, and more houses.  (See the illustration above, which I chose because it is a "dream" house, at least.)  Would you want to live in that rural-looking location?  Why, or why not?  Quotes about "home" provided a sort of philosophy, I guess, like the illustration with this paragraph.  So what's your philosophy about what a home is?  And more questions from this chapter:
  • What is wisdom?
  • What makes a person wise?
  • Do our emotions ever hold us in mental prisons?
  • What else did you get from this chapter?

"I sought myself." 
— Heraclitus, 
6th-century Greek philosopher
(quoted on page 37) 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

26. Making It Real (We Make the Road by Walking)


1.  What one thought or idea from today's lesson especially intrigued, provoked, disturbed, challenged, encouraged, warmed, warned, helped, or surprised you?

2.  Share a story about one of your biggest decisions — how you reached it, how it felt before and after making the choice.

3.  How do you respond to the idea that faith makes it real?

4.  Who is someone you want to be like?


5.  Consider beginning each day with the words "I believe."  If you would like, add the words, "Help my unbelief."  Echo them throughout the day when they arise in your heart.


6.  Sit in silence with Jesus' words:  "Your faith has made you well."  What in you feels like it is being made well?  End the silence with a simple prayer.

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation ~ by Brian D. McLaren, 2014

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

25. Jesus, Violence, and Power (We Make the Road by Walking)


1.  What one thought or idea from today's lesson especially intrigued, provoked, disturbed, challenged, encouraged, warmed, warned, helped, or surprised you?

2.  Share a story about a time when you were completely certain about something, and then you realized you were completely (or at least partly) wrong.

3.  How do you respond to this interpretation of the Caesar-ville field trip?

4.  What's one of the nicest compliments you have ever received?  Why did that mean a lot to you?


5.  Look for situations this week when your initial reaction should be questioned, especially in relation to power dynamics.


6.  Imagine you are Peter after he hears the words, "Get behind me, Satan!"  In silence, listen for ways your thinking is out of sync with God's ways.  Imagine what you would want to say to Jesus in reply.

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation ~ by Brian D. McLaren, 2014

Monday, March 16, 2015

Chapter 1 ~ What is the question? ~ Socrates Café

I have no idea where to start, so I'll just ask you to talk about what you got out of each section of Chapter 1 ~  What is the Question?
Socrates Café
Seeking Socrates
We're Socrates
Who Is Socrates?
What Is the Socratic Method?
A Dialogue of One
The main thing, as I understand it, is to ask questions and then question the questions.  So what's the first question?  Who is willing to start this conversation?

"Can I ask you a question?"
— Socrates
(quoted on page 1)

Friday, March 6, 2015

24. Jesus and Hell (We Make the Road by Walking)


1.  What one thought or idea from today's lesson especially intrigued, provoked, disturbed, challenged, encouraged, warmed, warned, helped, or surprised you?

2.  Share a story about a time someone confronted you with a mistake or fault and you didn't respond well.

3.  How do you respond to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus?

4.  What are some of the ways that people try to keep children from doing harmful or dangerous things?  What ways do you think work the best?


5.  Look for people like Lazarus in the parable and refuse to imitate the rich man in your response to them.


6.  Imagine the rich man walking by Lazarus in the gutter.  In silence, ask God if you are stepping over anyone in your life.

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation ~ by Brian D. McLaren, 2014

Socrates Café ~ book discussion for March-April

Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy ~ by Christopher Phillips, 2001
Christopher Phillips is a man on a mission:  to revive the love of questions that Socrates inspired long ago in ancient Athens.  "Like a Johnny Appleseed with a master's degree, Phillips has gallivanted back and forth across America, to cafés and coffee shops, senior centers, assisted-living complexes, prisons, libraries, day-care centers, elementary and high schools, and churches, forming lasting communities of inquiry" (Utne Reader).  Phillips not only presents the fundamentals of philosophical thought in this "charming, Philosophy for Dummies-type guide" (USA Today), he also recalls what led him to start his itinerant program and re-creates some of the most invigorating sessions, which come to reveal sometimes surprising, often profound reflections on the meaning of love, friendship, work, growing old, and others among Life's Big Questions.  'How to Start Your Own Socrates Café' guide included."
I'm going back to monthly book discussions, which can (of course) continue past that month.  I hope anybuddy who is interested will join us.  This is a book discussion, not a Socrates Café that meets face to face for discussions.  Maybe each of us reading together, though we live in widely scattered communities from Kansas to Georgia to Missouri, will be able to find a local group in the future.

What is Socrates Café?

Socrates Cafés are gatherings around the world where people from different backgrounds get together and exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences while embracing the Socratic Method.
Discussion schedule
March 16 ~ Chapter 1 ~ What is the question?
March 23 ~ Chapter 2 ~ Where am I?
March 30 ~ Chapter 3 ~ Whom do you need?
April 6 ~ Chapter 4 ~ What's it all about?
April 13 ~ Chapter 5 ~ Why ask why?
There's a Glossary of Philosophers at the end of the book (pp. 213-224).  Someone who read this library book before me noticed a couple s/he thought should have been included and jotted in "Where's Epicurus?  Lucretius?"  Beyond that is a section (pp. 225-229) that suggests Further Reading.