I used to get to group a little before seven and be hanging out awkwardly while food was still prepping and no one had showed up. So I started showing up a bit later, but I think I'm gonna have to edge back to at least on time, 'cause recently people have been already there and dinner almost ready when I get there and tonight people were actually already eating dinner when I arrived (at five after seven).
I gave brief backrubs to Michelle and Trelawney during dinner.
Trelawney: "This is what I miss about rugby. Everyone was always giving each other backrubs. Of course, a lot of the girls were flirting with each other."
Michelle: "Yeah, I was gonna say, I don't think Elizabeth has a problem putting her hands on hot women."
Somehow we got talking about foods certain people disliked, and Meredith registered her dislike for soup 'cause it's not really a liquid or a solid.
"You're invalidating its liminal space," I quipped, and Trelawney, Meredith, and Mike (all of whom were flanking me) all cracked up.
While Eric washed some of the dishes, Michelle and I were in the kitchenette and she was rubbing my back and then I had her give me a real back rub. She's hardcore, which shouldn't surprise me since I know she hugs seriously, but still. It actually got a little bit uncomfortable, but it started out really good and dude, no one ever gives me backrubs. (The last time I got one was Cat at my party -- intense and so good. Before that, I can't even remember.)
Eric said something about fondling and she said, "I wouldn't say I'm fondling her."
Eric: "Try harder."
I hadn't been impressed with the video, in part because it felt so uncohesive -- though it included a lot of interesting stuff -- so I was interested as to what the companion reading would focus on. It began with talk about privileging questions over answers (the journey over the destination) and then mentioned the specific problems of omnipotent God and the language we use to refer to the divine.
I actually didn't read their emphasis on questions as being as extreme as Mike (and the new girl, Jen) did. I read them as saying that no one ever has all the answers, and that we shouldn't focus so much on looking for "answers" per se as being engaged with the discussion. Meredith said if you get an answer, the dialogue is over -- at least, if you are only in it for the answers.
Oh, one thing I liked from the reading that only got mentioned briefly in discussion: They quote Paul Tillich: "Everyone seeks answers, mostly to questions that are not very important. The great concern in life should be to discover which are the right questions. Then, even if you rarely get answers, you are at least journeying in the right direction."
The section on omnipotent God started with the "elementary school riddle" about "can God create a rock too heavy for God to lift?" Michelle said she's always hated that question 'cause God's power is so far beyond what we can comprehend so what do these brain teasers really matter, that the point is God's power being so far beyond ours.
The reading placed blame for "omnipotence" on Aquinas (13th century) with his idea that in order for God to "be" God, God must have the highest power, all the power, though they acknowledge that Aquinas wasn't clear on what this highest conceivable form of power was, something which Trelawney emphasized in discussion. She said that Calvin took Aquinas' idea and understood power to mean control and that's basically where we get it from.
I thought about how at Trelawney's wedding reception her sister gave a toast saying she really wasn't sure what she believed about very much but that one thing she does believe is that love is the strongest thing in the world.
I tend not to think about omnipotence much, though I mentioned Joel's idea of the Old Testament God as a God "on a learning curve" and how this so took me aback because I was so used to Omnipotent as a given for my God.
Michelle mentioned her pet analogy of Choose Your Own Adventure books -- that you choose the path/s you take but God already knows what's gonna happen for any given path. (And she also said she thinks there are some things in any given person's life path that they have to go through, but there are any number of ways they could get there.) I said I always used to use the analogy that you can watch a movie for the second time and you know what's going to happen, but that doesn't mean you control its happening, that I think of God as existing outside of time (existing in all moments of time simultaneously) so God can know from the beginning of time what's going to happen in any given moment of your life but that doesn't mean God is making it happen.
Trelawney explained how Affirmations work to Jen, and I added that if she did come back she could use the same Affirmations for people as she had before, that there's nothing wrong with recycling Affirmations. Michelle said she didn't know that, that she's always racking her brains to come up with a new Affirmation. I said I mentioned it because Mike and I have been giving each other basically the same Affirmations for some weeks now. "Variations on a theme," he said. Then someone else said something, and Trelawney said with all these rules soon we'll have a theology of Affirmations. People were quick to point out that we weren't making restrictions but rather emphasizing lack of restrictions. "An Affirmation Bill of Rights," Mike said. Michelle said something about he was gonna go home and write it up. He said no, he doesn't have that kind of time. I said I had totally considered doing so. She said she knew one of us would.
Trelawney affirmed my purple blouse. Her favorite color, too :)
Michelle said she was so glad to see me, had missed me (which meant a lot to me), reiterating the usual "someone else whose mind is in the gutter with me" and saying how I'm always so fun to have around, which she has said before but which actually made me kind of uncomfortable tonight (though I didn't say that) 'cause I'm getting tired of all the "fun" and "sweet" Affirmations 'cause it feels so contrary to how I conceive of myself (I mean, not that I'm denying that I am and can be those things -- I think my problem, besides the disconnect of be(hav)ing in a different way in a certain context than I normally behave/am, is that I feel like negates the more cerebral aspects of me, which I privilege, and also because it places on me an obligation to be "on" all the time).
Normally I affirm Mike's sharing my problematics with the LtQ approach, but since that wasn't quite true this time I Affirmed his "Affirmation Bill of Rights" line. He, in turn, commented on how I always accept my Affirmations so well and mimicked me grinning. (When we hugged after ending prayer I commented that we had both done new Affirmations for each other.)
I said something to Jen about new faces and Mike said I was fairly new. "I've been here three months," I said, doing the quick math of "12 uses of the small group tag, divided by ~4 weeks in a month" rather than remembering that sk8eeyore and I visited CAUMC back in August and doing the math from there. I am, admittedly, the newest. Meredith said she was the next newest, at about a year and a half. Michelle said she and Trelawney were "the old cronies" at 3+ years.
Meredith got to me (the last person before herself) and couldn't remember her Affirmation for me. "I was doing so well, too." (It's common to forget your Affirmations for people in the course of the session.) Michelle stage-whispered: "Say her rack. She doesn't mind." [True story.] Everyone cracked up. "I'm not putting that in my Young Adult report," Trelawney said.
Jen commented on my love of words -- citing "liminal," to which I said I had been feeling a bit disappointed that it looked like we were gonna get through the whole circle (she was the penultimate person to go) without anyone mentioning that, and also about the misquotations* which I had until that moment forgotten about.
*I forget how it came up, but Michelle (or Trelawney) mentioned how people always say "Money is the root of all evil" but it's actually "The love of money....," and I said that whenever I hear the misquotation I always immediately think of that Everclear song and then my next conscious thought is to recall the correct quotation. Michelle looked blank, so I recited: "I hate those people who love to tell you: Money is the root of all that kills. They have never been poor; they have never had the joy of a welfare Christmas."
Eric piggybacked on Michelle's Affirmation of Trelawney, and Michelle teasingly berated him for it ('cause he stole her Affirmation and upstaged her by making his way better) so since she was next he opened his Affirmation of her with Affirming what good Affirmations she does :)
Okay, now I have to finish my Ulysses response paper (ugh), wash my dishes, and pack. Edit: Done! (1:45am) /edit
I'm leaving tomorrow morning, returning Sunday night. I'll have my cell phone on me but don't anticipate checking LJ or e-mail.