Friday, July 24, 2015

Ubering with Joseph

I've had an interesting development with my Ubering.  The evening rush wasn't working as well as it had been, so I decided to try mornings again.  And the first day I picked up a guy just a couple of blocks away, going to Hollywood.  His name is Joseph.  He Ubers to work every morning, and upon hearing that I lived close by, he proposed an arrangement whereby I pick him up as my first ride every morning.  He'd suggested it to another Uber driver who wasn't interested,

Now, I've had a few customers (and friends) ask if they can request me specifically, and I usually politely explain that it's not possible to request a specific driver.  And it wouldn't really make sense, as once I get my first customer in Burbank, I could end up anywhere in L.A.  Plus, one of the nice things about Ubering is that I set my own hours, and I frequently adjust my schedule.  So the likelihood of me being available when someone wants me isn't very good.

But difference here is that he's close by and he leaves for work at the same time as I do.  So I was reticent for a few moments, but then agreed to it.  I park outside of his apartment each morning so that I'm the closest driver when he hails an Uber.  And it's been great for my Ubering, as I get a decent fare into Hollywood, which is almost always surging (higher fares) when I get there.  So my mornings have been decently profitable.

But I wondered what was in it for him.  He's a nice guy.  Married with kids, nerdy, works doing software stuff.  He's not a great conversationalist ... I'll bring stuff up or comment on things we're passing and try to be my charming self, and he engages to a degree, but you can tell he doesn't have terrific social skills.  When he starts the conversation, it's almost always something about Uber or the drive.  So, its not like we're laughing and making jokes and playing off of each other.  And if not me, then he can easily get another Uber driver each morning.  So why the desire for the same driver each morning?

It was when he told me that he has a photographic memory that it clicked for me.  He's Sheldon.  And apparently I'm Leonard.  They're the roommates on the Big Bang Theory.  Sheldon has an eidetic memory (which is similar to photographic except photographic pulls up images while eidetic can pull up entire experiences, as Joseph explained it to me) and relies on Leonard to drive him to work every day.  He could get there another way, but he just likes and feels more comfortable with the consistency.  And I think maybe Joseph is similar.

So, it's been interesting getting to know someone with such a completely different personality.  Because he's a perfectly normal guy with the wife and kids and job and everything.  I think he just views the world through a different lens than I do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thought Experiment: If There Were No Afterlife ...

Here's a thought experiment.  Say God appears to you, in a way that you're completely convinced it's legit.  And He tells you that He loves you and He wants to help you to have the best life possible.  But, sadly, there is no afterlife.  When you die, that's it - you cease to exist.

Does this change the way you live?

On one hand, you've still got God in your corner, and if you're living for Him, surely that will mean some solid perks or a helping hand along the way.  But sometimes that helping hand makes life more difficult, as God seems to be more concerned with building character than with plain old happiness.  Still, surely, there are benefits to living as clean and good of a life as you can.  If you treat your body like a temple, you'll live longer (usually) and stay healthier.  If you're good to the people around you, they'll tend to be good to you.  And so on.

On the other hand, there are a lot of fun things you might be more inclined to try (or continue), if there were no eternal consequences.  Solomon said that all is ephemeral, and if that's true, that life is fleeting and that's all there is, why not live for today?

How much would it matter if God loved you and did stuff for you?  I mean, you've got family and friends who love you and do stuff for you, but you don't always adjust your behavior for them.  Your mom had a hand in your 'creation', but you don't live your life just for her.

I've always thought that my behavior wouldn't be that different if I weren't a Christian.  For example, I don't drink because I don't like the taste or being out of control.  I don't sleep around because I think we're wired for sex to have an effect on us.  I don't lie to people because I believe the golden rule is a good principle to live by and I don't like it when people lie to me.

But if there is no afterlife?  It's hard to say I wouldn't be swayed by that information.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's About Freedom

Let me start with this disclaimer - that I think each person should figure out what they believe and what that looks like.  And I understand that that may be different based on the culture or background of each person.  That said, here’s a quick story related to the topic.

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammed took a trip to heaven.  Once there, he asks Allah how often he should tell the people to pray.  And Allah responds that the people should pray 50 times per day.  Muhammed takes this answer and is about to leave heaven when he runs into Moses.  He tells Moses about the 50 times per day, and Moses goes, ‘Whoa, hold on there.  I know these people – they are not going to go for this.  You should go back and see if you can get a better deal.’  So Muhammed goes back and Allah lets him have 40 times per day.  But once again Moses thinks this is way too much, so Muhammed goes back again.  This happens over and over.  Allah goes down to 30, then 20, then 10, and finally only 5 times per day.  Moses still doesn’t think the hardheaded people will go for it, but Muhammed disagrees.  So he goes back to earth and tells the people they should pray 5 times per day.  Which is why Muslims do that.

OK, here we go.  I’m involved in a couple of things right now.  One is at the church I work for.  We’re doing this thing called the 60/60 Experiment.  The idea is that you set an alarm to chime on the hour throughout the day.  And each time you stop and pray for a minute.  And the whole thing goes on for 60 days.  Right off, I was trying to be open-minded, but with my own healthy skepticism.  I can see where it would be good for people to pray more consistently, and I like the idea of our whole church joining together in a sustained amount of prayer.  But I personally tend to rebel against any ongoing thing that I feel like I’m ‘supposed’ to do.  And I don’t care for the one-size-fits-all mentality that so many Christian authors have, which seems like the case here.  But, like I said, trying to be open-minded, and what can it hurt, right?

At the same time, my men’s group is reading a book about different world religions and right now we’re reading about Islam.  One of the things Muslims do is pray 5 times per day.  And not just a quickie shout-out to God.  They face Mecca, get on their knees and fervently pray as they lean further and further forward, until finally their foreheads touch the ground.

This, to me, is creepy.  I mean no disrespect, but the thought of millions of Muslims praying at the same time 5 times per day, every single day, just feels … offputting?   

I spent some time thinking through these two things.  On the one hand you have Muslims devoutly praying multiple times per day.  On the other you have my church asking us to pray every hour of the day.  And both of them are rubbing me the wrong way.  Why?

One of the differences between Christianity and Islam is that Jesus doesn’t go into a lot of specifics about how we should live.  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  And a good number of other guidelines, but really Jesus spends a lot of time trying to get rid of laws.  Paul says all things are permissible but not all things are profitable.  Islam, on the other hand, has a ton of rules for every aspect of life.  Including when and how to pray.

It seems like I should be in favor of more prayer.  Not just for Christians, but even for Muslims.  Don’t I want people to try to draw closer to God in whatever way they think is best?

Only …

Only … well, to put it simply – we’re not robots.  God didn’t create us to blindly follow.  I don’t think that’s what He wants at all. 

It’s about freedom.

Now, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, then you’ve read every other word of my blog up until now and remember it all.  Right?  So you know that I believe I’m wired a bit differently than some other folks when it comes to hearing from God.  While many people ‘hear’ from God in a variety of ways, from a direct voice to an inner prompting or what have you, I don’t tend to get those directions.  And while I remain open to hearing from God in a more direct way, I believe that in my case, He knows what He’s doing and He just wants to see what I’ll do with as little direct involvement as possible.  He wants to see me make decisions, for good or bad, knowing that I will eventually choose Him in all things.

For good or bad.  I think that’s important.  Because I make a ton of bad choices.  Too many to list here.  But I suspect that in some strange way, even those bad choices are somehow … sacred.  Because they’re part of working out my faith.  They’re part of the process of sanctifying me.  They’re part of the journey God wants me to be on.  Does He enjoy seeing me hurt myself?  No, of course not.  But He enjoys watching me find my way, even with the missteps.

So, back to this whole 60/60 prayer thing.  I’ll go along with it, in my own half-assed way.  But I don’t care for it.  Different strokes for different folks and all that.  God values our uniqueness and wants us each to come to Him in our own way and in our own time.