No, that's not a spelling error in the title; you read that right.
Did it mute you when you read it?
Did you notice an uneasy feeling in your stomach?
Isn't it weird when we name drop a word like "Holy" it silences a room, especially if that room is full of strangers?
Sierra and I went and saw Rob Bell last night at The Majestic Theater in Dallas. Despite a minor fluke with the fire alarms, it was an electric night (no, that's not a bad fire joke). Rob Bell opened with Peter Rollins on his Holy Shift Tour and I wanted to give you my perspective of that evening and layout some points to start a conversation over.
Where to start... Well, let's start by breaking it down to several main points or words:
These four "words" summarize the whole night. That's it! Thanks!
Okay, I'm kidding. Take a moment and try to imagine what these four words have in common with each other. How can they relate?
They all fall into this realm of "Holy", some might call it mystical, the heartbeat of the universe, the unknown, chakra , God, The Force. There are many words to describe this sensation that fills us when we interact with this presence. Scientist can try to describe it and quantify it, but as Rob Bell points out, it's like trying to describe a three dimensional object on a two dimensional plane and I couldn't agree more. When we listen to a song that moves us or more accurately- moves through us, that moment when a song elicits an emotional response within you, that could be explained scientifically as to how the chords and harmonies synchronize with your brain's frequencies and trigger a release of chemicals and dopamine that stimulate that hair raising, spine tingling response. All of that is true; it's a scientific fact, but it doesn't justify the depth of that feeling. When someone explains that feeling scientifically, it feels like it's missing something. That something is that unknown "Holy" force. This bridging connection, that turns exclusion into inclusion, that simplifies the unexplainable, an added sense of peace amongst the chaos; this natural phenomenon broken down could be described by these four words: fearness (Rob Bell's word), weirdness, smallness, and wholeness.
The first of these fearness I think can be looked at through a multitude of perspectives. Some could call it fear, others could call it a natural protective state of mind, others might say instinct, or respect, and certain situations might alter your own personal choice as well! A prime example that Rob Bell used was scientist (and hikers alike) not revealing the location of the biggest red wood tree in the world. Why do you think that is? They could make a killing off marketing that and exploiting it! It's out of a mutual fear for what might happen to it if it was revealed; who might abuse that knowledge and harm it. I'd like to think it's also out of respect and an underlying sense to protect those who can't protect themselves in a certain situation. When you see someone on the side of the road struggling with a flat tire whether you stop or not you get this feeling that grows from somewhere deep inside you that at some level connects you. You feel the struggle they are burdened with, that feeling of responsibility, fear, urge to help and protect, is deeper than some scientific explanation; it's other worldly.
Moving right along to word numero 2: Weirdness. This is the fun one (at least to me). Rob explained this one best through a series of short stories, so I think I’ll do the same.
In December of 2017 right after returning from a very painful flight back from Dublin, I was driving home from work and sneezed. This happens quite often as I do have terrible allergies, but what made this particular time so isolating is that following my sneeze I passed out. While driving down the highway. At 70 miles an hour. During rush hour traffic, in the fast lane. I couldn’t tell you how long I was out, but there was an internal monologue going on inside my head that went something like, “WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP!!!! YOU’RE STILL DRIVING!!!”. When I started coming to I had crossed three lanes of traffic and was slumped against the driver window with my right arm draped over the steering wheel. I hadn’t hit anyone, I was still on the road and I was still “driving”. With everything still spinning and the lack of feeling in my limbs, I focused on the tailgate of a truck in front of me and followed him to the best of my abilities until I had regained control of my body enough to pull over safely. I was hysterically terrified.
Several years ago, I almost moved to Abilene, TX. I don’t know how many (if any) of you know where that is or know much about it, but a quick google search would tell you it’s a tiny country town in west(ish), TX that has a large church to population ratio than any other city in the state. In deciding to not subject myself to that I needed a place to stay on short notice and moved in with a coworker who had burned through three other roommates already (didn’t know that at the time). A few months into living there her boyfriend moved in too. About a month after that she disappeared; just vanished for about 4 days. Boyfriend asked me if I had heard from her or her parents and I hadn’t, moments after he left my room (closing the door behind him) our front door was kicked in. I could hear yelling, cursing, and the sound of our apartment being torn apart like a bear chasing a picnic basket on a string getting yanked around the place. My bedroom door flies open to a short, Hispanic, middle aged male with jet black slicked back hair, and shades and a suit to match. On either side of him were… for simplicities sake let’s just call them Thing 1 and Thing 2. Both taller than me (6’4”) and looking like they had just been plucked from a Strongman Competition. The shorter, more refined male, took off his shades, stepped up to me and asked, “Are you Matt? You’re okay…”
When I was a kid I used to have this friend that would come over, he always wanted to hang out and play. We all had that one friend, right? No matter what time of day or what was going on, he’d always be there knocking on my parent’s front door asking if I could come out and play today. One day, after spending the whole weekend hanging out with him, he came over to see if I could come outside and play some more. My mother answered the door and in the kindest way possible told him “not today”. She shut the door before he walked away and in a moment of judgement lapse and/or intellect, my friend kicked the front door like you would if you were kicking a tire or kicking your foot on the ground. Not hard or intentional just more of a motion. Unfortunately, that motion met with our glass front door and continued through the now closed door.
If I asked you to explain why all these things happened, what their correlation is, what significance did these events have? Would you be able to? I’m sure the more you think on it the more your brain would try to rationalize it as mine had, but truthfully there is no rhyme or reason to them and that’s the explanation. Some things can’t be explained, that unknown is a state of knowing. That weirdness is a category all its own.
As humans we specialize in pattern recognition. It’s one of the more pronounced traits we have compared to other species. This has served us well over thousands of years to mapping the stars, knowing when to plant crops, tracking migration patterns, creating mathematical calculations, coming up with time as a form of measurement and thus distance followed. But maybe our innate sense of pattern recognition has led us a stray in this one category. See! My brain tries to automatically shuffle things around to make sense of it! Our brains are prewired to try to categorize this weirdness that honestly doesn’t belong in a specific category. Sometimes weird things happen and when they do we try to rationalize them, organize them into over simplified silos, but not everything can be explained and that’s okay. Maybe it sounds like I’m over simplifying it, but is that really a bad thing? I think by over simplifying the equation your left with a solid answer that satisfies our desire for organization.
The third word, smallness. I love this word as its significance is the opposite of the word itself. There is a video out there by Neil Degrasse Tyson called The Most Astounding Fact that changed my perspective on reality. It altered the state in which I live at such a fundamental level that I recognize its impact constantly throughout my life. If you haven’t heard of Neil Degrasse Tyson, his work in astrophysics and within the science community has helped shape research and culture within this current generation of kids, much in the same way Carl Sagan had before him.
In his video he states, “We are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.” “When I reflect on that fact, many people feel small because they are small and the universe is big, but I feel big… There’s a level of connectivity.”
Smallness isn’t feeling meek, it isn’t a feeling of insignificance. It’s more about internal revelation. It embodies individuality while encouraging connectedness. Have you ever laid in the grass and stared up at the night sky and just soaked in all the stars? That feeling that comes over you as you lay there I describe as smallness. You feel the vastness of the universe in its entirety in those moments and then there’s you; but for some reason you don’t feel unimportant, you feel a part of something, a part of a bigger picture that stretches beyond our materialist world. This same feeling is present when you soak in the vastness of our own world, like standing on the edge of a canyon or a mountain range. You get the picture. Give it a try and let me know what you feel. Smallness. It’s a feeling that seems larger than life.
This leads us to the last word. Wholeness.
When you look at all these words and you reread through some of these stories and explanations you realize its central focus is around connectedness. There is an underlying connection that binds us all together. We all share this common bond and in one moment or another we all feel it. How do you explain this feeling? Why do we feel what others do? There are scientific explanations for (almost) everything including this I’m sure, but again it’s lacking in depth. That depth is what gives that binding force strength and weight. When you say something “pulls on your heart strings” you’re not just talking about a subtle nudge or tug. We say that to describe an emotional response that we react with because of something we’ve experienced whether on our own or through someone else. It’s that second part that’s so intriguing. How can we experience something through someone else? Wholeness. I don’t think it’s just connected to people either. You know when your dog is feeling bad and you feel bad. Some people are more emotionally charged than others, but I believe at one point or another we all feel this connectedness.
In 2011, a wildfire ripped through Bastrop County and enveloped Bastrop State Park. It levelled 34,000 acres and over 1600 homes. The videos and pictures poured in on the news, but a year later I drove through the state park and the devastation and the pain was so overwhelming that I stopped in the middle of the park on the side of the road. It physically brought me to my knees and tears streamed down my face. I didn’t know these people it had affected. I didn’t plant these trees, but I could feel it. I could feel the hurt everywhere and I couldn’t tell you why. Wholeness.
Let’s go back and recap what just happened. Holy Shift. We’ve changed our understanding of this word “Holy”. This word, doesn’t just describe the divine or pure, it’s much bigger (and smaller) than that. It describes this fearness we feel when our instinctual senses come boiling up, it’s this calm within the realm of unknowing, it surrounds us in moments of smallness, and tugs at us when we feel wholeness. Call it what you want, it’s always been there and has been written about throughout the millennia and will continue to be a subject of conversation long after we’re gone. The Hebrews referred to “Holy” as kadosh which implies differentiation; a separation (of sorts) between our realm and another intertwined realm.
This other realm as we’ve described it doesn’t have an explanation, it moves through us, within us, it binds us together. It falls in line with this idea of connected consciousness.
This idea that we are all connected with each other, with the world, is nothing new.
In the end, you realize then there is no longer a “them”, there is only us; and we are all in this journey of exploration and understanding together.
If you have any comments, please let us know! We love to talk and explore new ideas. If you want to learn more about Rob Bell you can check out his Podcast here: https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/ or his site here: https://robbell.com/