A couple weeks ago, my lovely wife and I got a sitter and went out on the town to see a couple of my favorite humans — Rob Bell and Peter Rollins — at The Vic theater here in Chicago.
I’ve been processing that event since I walked out of the theater that rainy, blustery Chicago night.
Now, I don’t know if you give two sh*ts about Rob Bell. Maybe you can’t stand him. And that’s fine. I still think you might enjoy this post.
Without further ado, here’s what I took away from it...
First off, Peter Rollins…
The Irish accent. Solid. It fully anchored in the storytelling that was about to ensue that evening.
(As charming as it was, I found myself squinting to better understand him. Which is odd, because how was that supposed to help?)
I love how he immediately brought it down to earth. I want to have so many drinks with this guy (and I don’t even drink much). His whole thing is ‘creating freedom from the tyranny of certainty’. So he was like, yes, you have your stuff. Yes, you lie to yourself and others. Yes, you doubt your abilities and the good in the world. But it’s okay. (I paraphrase, of course.)
It was the perfect precursor to the evening. His bit was fairly short before Rob Bell took the stage.
Now: A little background about Rob Bell (as he applies to my life)…
Back in 2009 (ish), my dad gave me a DVD he burned for me (remember those?) with a talk called Everything is Spiritual on it. My wife and I watched it and really loved it. And then we forgot about it and went on with our lives.
Fast-forward to 2016 when we were moving into our place in Minden, NV. We were a few days out from moving in and I was painting the interior (’twas a bit of a fixer upper). I’d just gotten our WiFi installed, so naturally, I opened up the laptop and went to YouTube (as you do). I wanted a podcasty-type interview to throw on in the background as I slathered my walls. Right there at the very top of my suggested videos was one with a familiar face (albeit slightly older): The dude who did that Everything is Spiritual talk almost a decade earlier.
Being a spirituality junkie, I opened it up, watched/listened, and absolutely loved what I was hearing. I learned he had a podcast, which I promptly started listening to after that interview. I then went on to listen to almost every episode of the Robcast that summer. (I also learned he did a new 2016 version of his Everything is Spiritual talk, which you can see here.)
This guy was giving me a perspective about spirituality that was so… simple (in a good way). It was such a refreshing contrast to the self-helpey stuff I’d been geeking out on for so many years. It had nothing to do with manifesting or frequency or vibrations or anything of the sort.
Bell spoke of a faith that was about the way we grow our food, the way we host a dinner, the way our political structure runs, our environment, our health, our relationships, and the very ground we walk on. He spoke of a Bible that was to be read literately, not literally (go ahead and read that again). It was a human-centric spirituality, not an other-worldly one.
And, being basically kicked out of evangelical Christianity a few years ago after going against the notion of hell in his book Love Wins, he now did his thing (‘his thing’ being the art of the sermon) via his podcast and while touring comedy clubs and small-but-classy music venues (like The Vic in Chicago).
To stop myself from gushing, I’ll just say, I dug his style from the get-go. And that night at The Vic was — no joke — a transitional moment in my life and work as a writer in this life/spirituality/tomfoolery space.
He probably told twenty random stories about his life that had nothing to do with him experiencing a breakthrough, emerging victorious, being holy, etc. (as the typical ‘spiritual’ thought leader would do). His stories were about loss and love and failure and normalcy and absurdity. They were stories that were mundane, but deep, funny, and oh-so wonderfully random.
There were some Bible stories along the way, but nothing preachy. They were more ‘hmmmmm…’ than ‘amen!’.
And then he tied these 20-ish disparate stories all together at the end through a profound Hebrew phrase: kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, which basically means (and forgive me — I’m no Bible scholar, I did not take notes, and my memory is horrible) holy, holy, holy.
Rabbis of old would hear someone speak about something in their life — whether it was a confession or a question or an anger-fueled rant — and afterwards, they’d make a circle motion with their finger while saying “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh,” so as to say: It’s all holy.
(There were a lot of points driven home that evening, but this stands out as the biggest.)
So often, we seek out spirituality to get us out of this mess called life. We think it’s going to propel us into a life of perfect ease and bliss and wealth (we former Law-Of-Attractioners have fallen into this one big time) where ‘God’ or ‘The Universe’ takes favor to us and — hocus-pocus — we suddenly have a life free from sorrow and trouble and lack and sickness and doubt and betrayal and confusion.
No, no, no. This wasn’t the point. According to ancient wisdom, all of it is holy.
You get pissed off at the wife and kick the dog and feel like a shitty human… Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
You get fired from your job and end up sleeping on an ex-boyfriend’s couch for a month as he and his new girlfriend make noise in the next room… Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
Your little girl tells you that the kid in her preschool class called her stupid… Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
You win the lotto and have no idea what to do with all that money… Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
Yes, life is awesome. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, it’s confusing. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, it involves winning and losing and doubting and wondering and knowing and a lot of stuff in between.
And all of it is holy.
I can live with this brand of spirituality. It’s useful. It grounds me into my life instead of compelling me to escape it.
And as for you…
Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.