Hosting The Brilliance: Tim Willard's 10 Things on "Internet Friends"

Welcome my "friend" Tim Willard, an upright fella who recently co-authored an upright book, Home Behind the Sun: Connect With God in the Brilliance of the Everyday. (Have you read this yet? GRAB A COPY!) Tim has made a habit of dropping creative "10 Things" posts in the last few months, and each one is good for a chuckle. I hope you enjoy today's piece, a piece which deals with "internet friends," and the "frumious bandersnatch." (Bonus points for those of you who are familiar with Lewis Carroll's fictional character.)

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Ten Things I Think About “Internet Friends”

 1. I Think Bandersnatches Are More Real Than Facebook Friends.

a. Just last evening I was walking across the Bifrost Bridge that spans the Great Sea of Shining Waters and there, floating on its back, sneered a Bandersnatch. Now, I’m no fool, I know better than to cross a Bandersnatch. So, I slowed my pace on the Bifrost Bridge so as not to annoy the Bandersnatch or incite it’s fierce disposition.

b. But my pussyfootedness failed me. The Bandersnatch growled a low hideous growl, flipped over on its rotund tummy and swam to shore. I entered into a full sprint, hoping to reach the end of the bridge before the Bandersnatch could block my passage.

c. Alas! It was too late. There it squatted, its flab gathering around its ankles and drool hanging from its enormous green bottom lip. I stopped in my tracks.

d. “Please, good Bandersnatch, I must pass the Bifrost Bridge for I have Facebook Friends I must speak to--er, post to. Please do not eat me.”

e. “Post to?” said the Bandersnatch, smacking his jaws together. “But there is no one to post to today, Dear Timothy. for I have eaten every last one. Why do you think my tummy sits so low and my breath reeks of …”

f. What proceeded between the Bandersnatch and myself was, in fact, a sharp but enlightening conversation about overeating the flesh of humans compared to gorging on the digital dross of Facebook.

“Think for a moment--Gurp!--how delightful this real-in-the-flesh meeting on the Bifrost Bridge has been and what it has done for our daily invigoration of life; the energy, the hot-iron discussion, the tension of impending doom. There you were, clamouring on, hoping to sit in a solitary place in order to “post” when there I stood before you, all gorged and blubbery, juicy and slobbering. You and I, we are real,” he guffawed, “those to whom you post? Apparition!”

2. I Think The Bandersnatch Spoke Truth

a. Between the “Gurps!” and the guffaws of the Bandersnatch, I began to see truth form in the misty air between us. In a magic column it rose and spun, it showered me with a watery freshness. Or perhaps it was just the spray from the waterfall playing tricks in the sunlight. Either way, the words of Bandersnatch penetrated the deep reservoir of my psyche.

b. “I can see that my words are getting somewhere, yes?”

c. “Yes,” I replied.

d. “Think more, then. Think about your divided self. Ah, you make a funny face when I say ‘divided self’ but is it really that funny? Do you think it nothing more than a philosophical play on a psychological insight? You are divided.”

e. “I don’t see how posting on Facebook divides me. I am not a human metaphor. I am … real."

f. “Yes your flesh is real, but how do you describe that indescribable something within you; that pull towards the mist in front of you, that thing that gave you goose bumps when you saw me floating pleasantly on my spiny back in the water.

Your body, of course, does not split into pieces, but your soul, your soul, your soul. You deposit it into unreal places, trapping it for the world to see.”

3. I Think That The Bandersnatch Was Getting Hungry At This Point

a. I could see it in his eyes; especially when he talking about my body and soul, my soul, my soul, my soul.

4. I Think Here Are The Essentials To Remember When Conversing With A Bandersnatch.

a. They are quicker than you think.

b. They don’t care about the Neo-Calvinist movement.

c. They like to pick their teeth with buttercups while talking philosophy.

d. They enjoy their obesity and relative sloth.

e. They have read Martin Buber.

f. They have not read Heany.

g. They make frequent allusions to Eliot’s The Waste Land

h. They are quite jovial, until you contradict them.

i. They smell like a dung heap.

5. I Think By This Time, It Was Time To Make My Move

a. “But so what, “ I said. “Just because I use a social medium to deposit thoughts and pictures of myself doesn’t mean that I’m becoming less of a person. Besides, everyone does it now. It’s a common cultural language that offers much good.”

b. “Offers much good? That is rich. We can justify just about any tool if we use utilitarian terms and concepts to support our hypotheses. Why, just the other day I use this here short sword to gut my neighbor’s pigs because they were making too much noise.”

c. You must excuse the Bandersnatch’s vulgarity. After all he is a creature of much dark renown. He knows no better.

d. “Yes, yes. I gutted them and tossed them to the crows. I didn’t even eat them. There they were, perfectly good swine left for the vultures. Indeed, this little sword did me much good that day.”

e. “That is not the same,” I retorted.

f. “Is it not?”

g. Just then, I realized I had contradicted the Bandersnatch.

6. I Think The Bandersnatch Was Right And I Really Had No Move

a. “It is not the tool, fleshling, that offers much good. It is the person using the tool. I can dig or kill with my short sword. And it is the same with your social media. I don’t know a Bandersnatch that would disagree.”

b. I was relieved he wasn’t rumbling towards me to eat me alive.

c. “My point, however, is not that it does or does not offer much good, it’s that over time it pulls you away from the realness of life. Then suddenly, one day, you find yourself thirsty for realness once more. You’ve posted for your causes, you’ve made folks aware, you’ve posted you children jumping and laughing, you’ve browsed for people to quote-un-quote interact with, meanwhile, your relationships around you flounder. You steal time from your family. You stop doing things … real things like walking across the Bifrost Bridge and talking to the likes of me.

7. I Think I Have To Admit, The Bandersnatch Was Making Sense

a. “Yes, I can see that. You are wise not to harp on the use of tools but rather the intent and vitality of people.”

b. “Well, that is to be expected. After all, I am a Bandersnatch.”

c. Just then, he started to rumble towards me.

8. I Think That A Bandersnatch Rumbling Towards You Looks Like Real Life

a. He came, slobbering and YAWPING.

b. “And now, fleshling, I will remind you of my intent and vitality!”

c. His eyes flashed red, and his belly bounced off the grounded so rapidly that it looked as if it was in slow motion.

9. I Think The Last Thing I Remember Was …

a. Hearing the crack of bone and the pain of real life seizing my soul, my soul, my soul.

b. We must have both launched off the Bifrost Bridge upon impact because I remember hearing water come up and over my ears and the gurgled sounds of the Bandersnacth YAWPING, “Do you feel like your self is divided now? Do you feel? Do you feel! This is the way the world ends, the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper!”

10. I Think I Woke Up In A Cold Sweat, My MacBook Air Open Upon My Lap

a. The Facebook login page stared at me, but all I could see were the eyes of the Bandersnatch.

b. My phone rattled beside me on the table--pulling at me in its own way. Then I heard a voice.

c. “Hey Daddy, we’re going on a walk. Want to come?”

d. I left the device where they glowed. And ran out of the front door.

e. “Yeah, I’m coming! I wonder if we’ll see an Bandersnatches.”

Home Behind the Sun and an Analog Resistance (Part II)

There is an American Sycamore in my backyard. Its canopy was raised in the early years of its growth so that all its energy was directed upward. It is an adult now, a hulking beast of a tree whose lowest arms shoot from its body thick as tree stumps. Its broad leaves are like small veined fans, and they catch the wind and swoosh what might be praise if you listen closely. This is my Father’s house. I am a child in something brilliant.

In the early evening I sat under the arms of that tree with a newish piece of spiritual literature. It was a preacher’s book, straightforward and without nuance. The metaphors were stripped to the bare minimum and otherwise, only instruction remained. “This is how we must now live!” it exclaimed. It lumbered along, offering wisdom—no doubt—without art and beauty. The work sought less to persuade and more to instruct me in the ways of quitting stupidity.

The book in itself had been well received, and don't get me wrong, it contains more than few good words. I remember, though, its release day, the way the machine spun up. (You know the machine; the one that demands content, content, content from them and dollars, dollars, dollars from us.) There was an effective marketing campaign, and the author made all the conference rounds. I’m sure it sold one-bazillion copies.

The veil was thin—the author was the guru and I was the student. There was no “us-ness,” in the pages. Instead, the author was reaching down to me, instructing me on the ways in which I could act better, or be better, or live more up to the Christian standard.

This brings me to the meat of the matter—I’m reading a great deal of dichotomized, us-and-them literature these days. We are the preachers and you are the congregants. We have the message, and you need to hear it. We start the movement, and you need to join it. The ease of social networking and mass marketing amplifies these messages.

Here is the irony, which is not lost on me: from time to time, I’m a part of this same dichotomizing machine. From time to time, I use the same dividing tactics in my writing. From time to time, I might claim that the yous need my language. I am, after all, only human. I have not learned the simple praise of the sycamores just yet.

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Author, preacher, mega-conference speaker: engage me with the us-ness of your humanity. I am weary of being force-fed answers. Engage me with art and metaphor. Engage me with good metaphor, mediocre metaphor, or bad metaphor; I’ll take whatever you have to give. Lead me to the water and let me drink; stop strapping me to the waterboard and suffocating me with Truth.

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I’ve been reading Home Behind the Sun: Connect With God in the Brilliance of the Everyday, by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy. I would be remiss if I did not tell you that Tim and I are friends, that we shared a memorable moment trout fishing on a firefly flecked evening that framed the spring-fed waters of the Spavinaw. Even still, and with as much unbiased fervor as I can muster, let me tell you something: this book is different. There is an us-ness in the pages.

When Tim and Jason released Home, the marketing machine spun up to a dull whisper. One evening the book wasn’t there. The next it was. It was that simple. There was very little fanfare, and aside from the glowing reviews from astute preview readers; Willard’s and Locy’s sermons were not trumpeted in the temples to whet our appetites. This, I think, was the most appropriate way to release Home.

Home reminds us that the beauty of God can be found in the everyday life of the working class, the proletariat. God is for us the people. He is found by the mechanic in the garage, the father who dallied about with women for years before finding grace, the NFL player who found comfort in his child’s death. God is found in a winter’s sunrise, in the cup of coffee at the local truck stop diner, in the meadows of Yosemite. God is manifest in the extension of forgiveness to our neighbor, in the dancing of our children. God is here, in this one world, amidst us. He is delivering messages of his Brilliance.

The Brilliance exists for us, for we-the-people. It is outside of marketing machines, and us-versus-them ministry. It is outside the mega-movements, the corporate structures, the Jesus machine. It is outside of the academy and the pseudo-academy. It is a message that exists outside of digital platforms and marketing machines. It is in the coffee shops, the garage, the bedroom. The Brilliance transmits a populist message—Christ is for the normal, everday, working-class Christian.

Engaging the Brilliance is a form of analog resistance.

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Now, do not get me wrong. I hope Willard and Locy ride the speaker circuit. I hope they make use of the machine, the digital frameworks, the mega-church podiums. I hope that their words gather the momentum worthy of them. After all, the machine itself is not bad. It is a good and worthy tool, especially if the author or preacher has a God-word to delivery. (Simply put, the machine simply is.)

I hope, though, that as they make the rounds, the blog tours, as their book is reviewed, that Home continues to point to an eternal truth.

God created this world in its Brilliance. He created the sycamore, the Spavinaw, the family for us. God created this world for the people. And we-the-people are capable of deciphering this brilliance if we’ll open our eyes and take a gander. We the people are capable because God made himself “with us,” Emmanuel.

Pick up a copy of Home Behind the Sun. Remember the God that is for us, the people.

Home Behind the Sun and an Analog Resistance (Part I)

Saturday, I saw the Brilliance. In my thirties, I've seen how the best of us--even the very best of the good ones--find ourselves at the crossroads of quandary. The world can be a brutal and dark place, can't it? There are wars and rumors of wars, turmoil and rumors of turmoil. Children are objectified, hyper-sexualized for profit. The vestiges of our egocentric culture press in, distract us, inflate pride in spaces like Facebook and Twitter. Children grow sick. Spouses have affairs. Jobs come and go. Good men are stripped from the earth too soon. And these things--these ways in which the world comes up shadows--can mess with faith of any believer. They distract us, make us believe that there is too much darkness.

In the shadows of life, is there any light of God?

This weekend, I packed the car with fishing rod, a hammock, a brown-bag lunch, and a copy of Home Behind the Sun. I pulled from the driveway, headed toward the tailwaters of Beaver Lake, the sanctuary first created by God in the seven days of Genesis, and later augmented by the Corps of Engineers in 1966.  The tailwaters are a refuge of sorts...

Continue reading about the Brilliance at Amber's.

*Photo by Mike Rusch.