On Saturday, I believe I saw the Colosseum.Read More
I know, I know. Two days late.
If everything I loved faded or was stripped away, would I have anything left to live for? If the very fabric of society crumbled, if music failed to sound, if I remained as the last of mortal man in a sea of cracked pavement and ruined buildings and decayed civilization, would there be something worth salvaging? Could there exist some value other than in material or in accolades or in shiny gold medals pinned up in a glass case?
Hanging worth on things that I can hold or on places I can go or on words that I can write for others to read suddenly feels, in this peculiar state of mind, like an exercise in madness. A vapor cannot support a society. Philosophy does not prescribe value of life. Politics cannot attribute social worth. Love cannot be contained by words.
It seems like nowadays I check the weather on my phone rather than by opening my window and feeling the sweeping chill on my skin. I sit in class to check an attendance box while the world outside the windows spins further into the madness it started on whenever it was that we popped on the scene - when value became a thing that could be talked about, and when things began to go wrong. When we cast worship on ultimately pointless Degrees and sporting events and television and relationships and meaningless sex and religious dogma and sports cars and humanitarian causes and tech conferences and outlet malls and the almighty dollar and political campaigns and empty philosophy.
When I started trying to understand God, as if I were in a position to be able to do that. When I started trying to defend Him, as if He needed my defense.
I scribbled all of this in my journal in a moment of necessity to write, but wrote the whole thing using "we" instead of "I." Like the questions I was asking were for some betterment of society reason and for distancing myself from the blame for its downfall. Like I wasn't talking explicitly to myself. I started asking the questions I was scared to answer and scratched them out like that would make it as if they never existed. Like I could forget that I used as a platform for understanding what Is that which I could understand. As if my questions determined the fate of the Universe.
But they don't. Nor do yours.
Nor does our economical infrastructure or our Saturday afternoon hobbies or our friend groups or our pressing job interviews or our oversleeping through ill-set alarms, because WE, no, I am not the object of importance here. Because I am expendable. But when I take away the wonder I should be directing towards a purely unfathomable God who, for some reason wants to call me "child," with despair about not being able to understand Him, I have made myself and my intellect the object of worth.
If I base what I call important on something that decays, I am a fool. I am a priest to stones, a Mac enthusiast on a life raft in the middle of the ocean, a Bard in a boneyard. We live in a time where the things that matter are things we can gain, but I cannot help but see how flawed it is. It is no wonder nihilism is en vogue, because when material and fame and a good name are all you have to live for, there comes a moment of realization that these things cannot have any kind of value if they can be taken away tomorrow. It warrants a feeling of panic and a momentary despair. With clenched fists and spite in our throats, we declare that God must be imaginary, because of He were real our worlds wouldn't be dismantling in front of us; that the problem is not with our clearly infallible reasoning and perceptions and understanding, it is with God.
I have to ask myself if the things I am doing are being done in such a way that the worth I ascribe to them or the glory I get from them are not ends in themselves. If I am living for something bigger than the smoldering remains of a broken world.
In a way, the nihilist is right. The skeptic hits the mark. He who mistrusts what he sees is wiser than he who takes all at face value, for value is worthless and knowledge is fleeting indeed, though they can only be worthless and fleeting in the face of Someone who sets the bar.
*This took a very long time to write. And it is around 1000 words shorter than it started out as. Lucky you. I apologize for some big words and long sentences and complex, difficult thoughts, but that is the nature of this subject matter for me. It isn't meant to be overly complicated and if it doesn't help you get to a more applicable state of belief, (to basically rip off CS Lewis) disregard it. Maybe you'll at least just get a new word out of it. And I didn't even get it published before Christmas like I wanted to. Pity.*
So it's Christmas Eve and, here on the East Coast, a mere hour and a half from the descent of Santa Clause down the collective chimneys of those children lucky enough to believe in him. I don't mean this with any manner of bah-humbuggery or from a spirit of Grinchness or something of the sort, because I must confess a certain degree of envy at those fortunate children (a declining number nowadays) who take the jolly old man without so much as a grain of salt.
I sat today through a viewing of Les Miserables, a beautiful New Year's Eve service, precious family time, Elf, and again in the dark of my room A) Feeling incredibly guilty for not one single post since Thanksgiving and B) Not being able to shake the little urge inside of me like a twitch to talk about Belief.
I have probably begun and scrapped at least 9 entries devoted to the topic, but have felt somewhat unqualified to string together adequate words about it. So tonight, on the brink of the day containing the last remnant of real magic in this world, I have decided that there is not a better time for such an endeavour. So I beg of you, please bear with me. This may contain somewhat nonlinear (like normal) and possibly wanting utterances of what might some of the most important things I could ever have to say.
There are so many places to begin.
I spend a grand amount of my time during the semester around those who have an extraordinarily difficult time with belief. Honestly, these are the people that I intentionally seek out, because they are the ones that I both identify with and feel the need to talk to, because of that identification with them that I feel. (I've written about things like doubt and reason here and here, if you care to do some backreading). And although it could be considered, I suppose, like a recovering alcoholic preaching in a bar, there is something about that sameness of mindset that fills me with compassion and drags me towards them if anything to simply engage them in conversation. And the thing I try to get around to asking, since the majority of the most dubious are fellow students of Philosophy or Religion, is about God.
Now, a post for an entirely different day are my thoughts on religion, so I make it a point to assure the person with whom I will be speaking that I am at first not referring to God from the standpoint of a particular religious tradition. We need to discuss first the possibility of something bigger, separate, incomprehensible, outside of the human condition. At this point, I'm not talking about Yahweh, I'm talking about the idea that something like who the Jews call Yahweh could be "real." Baby steps. I have seen the other side and I think that this is among the more difficult steps to take in this little "God Journey." Here are a few of the reasons I have heard:
1) Can't see Him 2) A lot of the people who talk about this idea of God are imbeciles 3) It feels like something of a cop out or a scapegoat for blaming bad stuff on or for explaining things we can't necessarily understand with magnifying glasses and telescopes 4) Things that are "real" are testable, observable, and provable by empirical devices. 5) If God really is all-powerful why can't He create something more powerful than himself. OhSnapParadoxI'mRight
Honestly, the reasons for disbelief are about as varied as the people who defend the idea of Him - and descend diminutively from completely logical complaints to the infinity of the ridiculous. So we start at the beginning.
I say: "Let's pretend that there are two separate things we're talking about here: the first is the physical world that we occupy, with physical, observable things to deal with and interact with and talk to and touch and measure; and the second is the spiritual world that we cannot see, but rather feel and sense and spend time pontificating about." They say: "I accept your view of the first world - but because I accept that notion, I see no need for a second world, plane, existence, or whatever you want to call it. There is the physical and nothing else." I say: "Valid. And part of me wishes incredibly hard that that were true. But if that is so, I have a very hard time explaining the feeling that I get when I am betrayed or the sickly stomach that engulfs me at the thought of cold-blooded, pointless murder, or the rage that I experience towards people who rape children. Do you think that these things are wrong?" They can answer this one of two ways (the other being a conversation for a different day - because otherwise this will get even longer than it should be). I will assume that they say: "Yes, I think that betrayal, murder, and rape are wrong." I will say: "And there's a flip side as well, right? There is a sort of untouchable, indescribably 'good' quality surrounding non-empirical things like Love, honesty, charity, and things of the like, am I right?" They might (and, for the point of this discussion, will) say: "Yes." And then I might ask them to posit for me a hypothesis, in their empirical world, as to where these sorts of things come from.
Most likely they will tell me that it is a sort of Evolutionary conditioning. That feelings like love are nothing but chemical reactions to encourage sex, which enables procreation, and that anger towards rapists and murderers came about over time because of the many, many years Homo Sapiens spent depending on one another in bands and clans and whatnot. Then I point out that even though 'Love' may be a chemical reaction designed to enable the furthering of the human race, that doesn't answer the question of the mechanism or the force that made the necessity of procreation possible (and the last time I checked, the system which I attribute as being true comes out and describes the origin of this sort of thing - that living things are to "be fruitful and multiply"); and that "because it's always been that way" is the sort of argument people like them get mad at Christians for making. As you can see, those of us in this community are used to somewhat circular, oftentimes "unproductive" trains of conversation - but the point is not a full out conversion on the first go around. Belief is something that must develop within the individual like a seed. It is not a tap that can be turned on and off.
So often in these conversations, you will hear the "Santa Clause" references, the Unicorn jokes, the Wizard refutes (example: "Hey Christian, do you believe in Unicorns?" Christian: "Of course not." Atheist/Agnostic/Troll: "Why not?" Christian: "Because you can't see them/because they're just fairy tales from a book/Because they're not real." Athiest/Agnostic/Troll: "I rest my case.") but the application of such arguments is purely rhetorical, as this is as far as the refutation can go. My source for the definition of the nature of God says that He is Love and Eternal and Living and the root of all Good - which are the things that we should talk about when discussing Him, not banal, pedantic diatribes against the nature of belief in something that is fictional. I mean, Descartes can make his way with this sort of thinking into reasoning how unnecessary the body is. Rhetorical reasoning serves a purpose, but only to a certain point.
And look at how off track I have gotten from what I was trying to say. Christmas. I may try to write out a sort of process later on for getting to this point (even though I would be borrowing extensively from CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias and GK Chesterton and Gordon Lewis and Alister McGrath - so I probably won't... if you have questions, go read some of what they have to say and get back to me - for they say what needs to be said far more eloquently than I could), but what I wanted to get at is this:
I see Christmas now not as a way to get what I want, even though sometimes I make myself think that I do, nor as a reason to get the family together, which it is, nor as a time to get mad at people who say "Happy Holidays" rather than something about Christmas (who I am fairly sure even some who say Christmas don't care about), but as a time to remind myself to be thankful to God for existing, and for making it possible through Christ to get to Him. THAT is what we mean when we say "thank you for Jesus" - of course we are thankful that He took what punishment was coming to us, but on a separate level, we are thankful that we were given a vehicle to get to the Creator.
It is a time to be refreshed in our amazement that we transcend the physical by means of something less demanding than what E-Meters and Orthopraxic doctrines and endless cycles of Samsara to suffer through have tried (incorrectly) to make it out to be. We are thankful for a Man who came straight from God so that man could get straight to God. For those of us who are fortunate enough to believe, we are thankful for the opportunity TO believe, and I can't help but value that as the most important gift to share.
I apologize for the expanse between posts. It seems that life has picked up and time for frivolous scribblings to the simultaneous everything and nothing of the Internet has disappeared like wisps of smoke upon opening a window. Below you will find not a constructed argument for something in particular, like I normally try to do, but a jumble of words that have been stuck between my ears for entirely too long. I absolutely love my field of study. I am able to spend the majority of my school week around artists who, like Keats and Shelley, attempt to capture the Muses flitting about in the corners of our vision because they simply must. I get the opportunity to speak constantly with people who, like it is required of me, are required to think before they do so. I am privileged to exist in a bubble separate from the drab "real" world with people like me who are fascinated with examining the very nature of all that stuff out there.
Greetings from the haven of academia. But in here we are presented a different class (or, if we are seeing the big picture, a different aspect) of problem from the outside world.
We fight wars in here with beasts possessing mouths so enormous they can guzzle you in their sleep. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these beasts are everywhere - I just happen to be able to see the front line a little bit clearer through the windows of a Philosophy class. Where I am if you don't believe in something you'll end up believing in nothing; if you don't bring a gun you'll be taken and not even held for ransom.
Here the gates are wide and every road leads to paradise. Here there exist nights where one moment you stare into infinity packed so dense that even the pillow under your head is pregnant with meaning and the next moment unrational equals unfathomable.
Here we spell God R-E-A-S-O-N.
Immanuel Kant articulated it as the battle cry of the Enlightenment: "Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own reason!" And I wholeheartedly agree with him. In Acts, Paul went into the centers of intellectual prowess and "reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 18:4). Isaiah implores, "Come, let us reason together" (1:18). God instilled in human beings from the very beginning the ability to use His divine skill of reason by creating us in His image, hereby setting us apart from the rest of creation. Reason is the essence of our humanity, an enormous road block in the construction of evolutionary theory, and the echoes inside our hearts of God Himself.
But here's the catch: instead of using it to find God, we use it to try to find meaning. We forget that meaning is a human explanation of a superhuman existence - in that sense a human construction. Meaning is the desert of the real. In using human applications of Divine characteristics to find human constructions of Divine realities, we are but dogs chasing our tails. Frustrated, existentially lost and intensely desperate dogs.
I am not sure what all I am trying to say, or if there is even a point that I am trying to make. I'm leaking out all of these words that represent the heart of what I have been thinking about and which has been keeping me from writing about lack of sleep or books or whatever it is this blog is for. I've been reading everything from French Aesthetic theory (if you've ever read Derrida you, I'm sure, understand) to Environmental Rhetoric and have been writing next to nothing, and for that I apologize. HOWEVER - if you would like to respond to me in any way or construct arguments against everything I say or tell me to write you a clever ambiguous haiku please do. Sometimes it feels like I am talking to myself (I know I do, but that is beside the point).
I'll post soon with something a little less frustrated and a little more clear and perhaps less (ok, it won't be less) rambl-y. In the meantime, dare to be wise, friends. And, in the words of the brilliant Catherine Bolden, use your powers for good.
We depart for civilization in 6 hours and all I can think about is how dark it is in this room and how Andrew is in the bunk across from me hogging all of the sleep. Or: what is vacation, a place to get away or a place to get alone?
Or: what I need is fresh air and I need to dig words out of that dusty place I threw them when we got here. For some reason.
Words are stubborn when they've been wadded up. They crinkle a little in their unfolding and you have to flex them back and forth for them to be of any use. Go figure, you don't call for a week and all of the sudden they're mad at you like you did something wrong. You tell them you just didn't need them right now because you're trying to unwind and take a breath before the train hits again and they get all defensive cause they feel like you're using them. You forget that words have feelings too. And trust issues, I think.
I tell them, let's take a stroll, because we need to talk, and I figure the humidity would help with that.
I step outside and I can smell the ocean. I can feel on my skin the sticky hot Atlantic wind and the salt in the air makes me thirsty. When the air conditioner kicks off behind me I can hear the steady rhythm of the waves crashing to a meter that seems asymmetrical at first, but on longer listen is just a complex set of hits stretched out over an ambling, slow, incredibly steady tempo. We are waltzing, that sound and I. We're going nowhere in a hurry.
And now I'm asking something different. Something about what keeps sleep away. Something about what brings it in the first place. Something about the nature of things that comes alive on still hot nights like this.
I always related to Thomas the most, I think because I know I would have been the one trying to call Peter and the Beloved one out on their excitement until I actually put my hands in the gaping, miraculous, saving holes. I can look back on him and frown and ask him "how could you" when really I should just look at myself and mutter the very same words. Ask myself if I believe simply because I have seen, or vice versa. The curse of looking for reason and knowing that until you find it there will be sleepless nights. The pain in that place you can't touch when belief sometimes feels like a listing sailboat after a changed wind. When you wish you could be Elijah and call down fire from heaven not so much for proof but just to see something wet catch fire.
Sometimes even just for the proof, I suppose.
You can drown in your unbelief, and it does feel like drowning. Gasping, groping, frantically kicking your feet until your hands slide upon something already being rocked gently to sleep by the tide. When finally on the surface you realize that it is the surface itself that snapped you awake. Just when you started to think that your whole world was underwater and enslaved to wet, you burst to the surface and your lungs ache for more of whatever it is up here that just tastes so good. You realize there's way more up here than there was down there and you can see better too.
You can hear, somewhere in the distance, those waves pounding the shore being heard by a boy sweating and swatting flies on a porch in South Carolina.
The funny thing about them is that as they roll over the sand they pay no mind to us. We can build sand castles to try to stand in their way but the water won't have it. We can try to drown out the sound with music but they crash all the more. We can film them and stick them in a spotlight and draw attention to their beauty but they pulse humbly. We can mock them with barriers but they will power through them mightily.
They are constant. The same when husbands get fired and when brothers die and when babies are born and when teenagers get pregnant and when empires fall and when songs are written and when animals sleep and when it rains and when boys want so hard to just believe as fierce as the sea but let reason get in the way. These waves operate separate from reason. Blame it on rotating planets and spinning moons and shifting continental shelves and trade winds all you want and the waves will be there when you crawl back to simply see them. They represent something that goes on despite us. One way in a long list of ways God can shake us up to refresh our belief. One thing in a long list of things that proves that there is something besides us and our petty human problems.
They are beautiful to taste for a soul crying "why".
I believe this is all the thought I am allowed on this sticky summer's eve before my skin becomes fodder for a thousand hungry insects who will bite me no matter the vigor with which I question them.
There is this monkey who had been placed in a cage and given a ball and stick and a job peeling bananas and told that this is living. He isn't told about the cage because he doesn't need to know. Stay busy. Peel the bananas. Hit the ball with the stick for entertainment. Sleep after all of the bananas get peeled and the ball deflates because of endless shellackings with the stick. What a life.
The monkey looks outside the bars of his cage and glimpses a different monkey flitting through the trees surrounding him gathering the bananas that he peels. Another monkey digs in the dirt to find the exotic bugs that the monkey tasked with packaging has dropped off in his cage daily. He, too, works in solitude, and our original monkey begins to wonder if he knows he is caged and enslaved behind heavy metal bars.
He wonders what it would be like to gather bananas rather than peel them. He wonders what it would be like to dig for bugs. He wonders if these other monkeys are so different from him and, for that matter, what it is that separates him from them.
He has a dream that night after decorticating bananas and walloping the ball with the stick about walking up to the latch, laying his hand on the grating metal, and feeling the hinges squeak open after years of neglect. Feeling so silly for not ever having even tried it, upon waking up he walked over to the gate and pushed, feeling it give. The door swung wide, and without a single repercussion.
As he swung from the trees the next day, he saw his cage down below with its new occupant, happily batting the ball with the stick after enthusiastically peeling his mound of bananas that would be replenished in the morning.
I suppose that if were somebody critically analyzing a story of my life, they would note the strikingly literary symbolism of the piano in the UC. I have written about it before and firmly believe that it inspires this deep kind of thought that transcends the petty issues of school, much the way the music from its ivory keys wafts above the meaningless conversation of sorority girls and fraternity brothers below it. It incited a train of thoughts that left me with a pen in my hand, shakily scratching out thoughts as they came to me in the little journal that I keep in my backpack, full of half-completed thoughts and rambling sentences and things I am sure I always meant to come back to. What follows is the SparkNotes edition of the thought process I was having. For words cannot do thoughts justice.
I began to trace a trend that turned knots in my stomach, for the drastic implications of it. I was reading, reading, reading, occasionally stopping to listen to the once-in-a-while student enticed enough by the empty instrument to meander up and touch the keys. They would piddle for a moment before launching somewhat absently and self-consciously into whatever melody was occupying their minds. Some players were more skilled than others, but all, despite the level of their piano proficiency, made music, no matter how simple, and nobody who was listening really even stopped to notice. For the moments that somebody was playing it, it filled those gaps in conversation between best friends, lovers, and classmates, alike. It is a simple, somewhat philosophical tool meekly presented to all who care notice.
However, the thing that got me thinking was that none of these players were female. Not one girl played her song on an instrument that, at least until recently, had been regarded by many as a girl's instrument. It made me wonder why, and the scary train of snowballing thought began.
'Perhaps it is some sort of liberal feminism kicking in on a massive scale and making girls not want to play it for that very reason,' I thought. 'The conformity to something stereotypically "female" to satisfy some oppressive and subversive "masculine" influence somehow influencing the expectation of their decisions... In a strange reversal of roles emasculating the male and having "unsexed" (to quote Lady Macbeth) woman scoff at their feeble unconscious attempts to fill the gender gap.'
But I doubted it. I tossed several theories around and discarded them quickly, no matter how sublime a grandiose uprising of "woman" against "man" would seem to an English major constantly in the throes of analysis. What I decided upon was far sadder than what the theories of liberal feminism cast on my heart - because it is far more difficult to counteract.
I have had conversations about parts of this before with Reagan and others, particularly about, for lack of a better term, the "clothing crisis" sweeping the country. About how if women want to stop being treated like objects they need to quit blaming it on the misogynistic male and start dressing like something whose brains are not in their chest. **(Note: My lawyer would like for me to note that I am in no way shoving blame for the treatment of women as objects on the women being treated like objects.)** I looked around me and saw the terrible reality unveiled, like the curtain of Oz pulled back, as to what "woman" had been reduced to (by an equal amount of effort from both parties): a grotesque mix of makeup and show.
This is what boys expect. This is what girls see that boys expect. So that's what we get. No girls went up to play the piano because the ones that were in the UC this morning were less concerned with playing music and more concerned with making eyes at any boy who walked by staring at their chests.
But even more unfortunately, this isn't even about rampant sensuality or sex icons or cleavage, it isn't even limited to girls. This is about the deplorable state of our very identities. Who we are has been lost to a culture consumed with the idea that in order to be validated, you must be "attractive" and you must have sex and you must spend every waking moment in somebody's arms or in somebody's thoughts or else you are a waste of breath. I've never seen an ad that tells you to spend your Friday night reading a book.
And so arrived my train at the station. I was suddenly sullenly aware that this is what people have been reduced to. We are nothing but Peacocks flashing our colors. We are nothing but crickets chiming a mating song as we rub our legs together and wait for somebody to notice. We, boys and girls alike, cake the makeup on to cover up what we are because we're more comfortable being who we think people want than somebody who still secretly thinks that Pokemon is cool. We are the revelers at the masquerade while the Red Death flits unknowingly from room to room, all of us stopping to notice how great a job he did on his costume.
I cannot imagine the toll that such vanity takes on our souls. I cannot see how, as a person, it is possible to develop while you are painting over who you are. It is clear as day to me why we have such a dependency problem - because you can't be alone until you are comfortable with yourself.
There is no makeup strong enough to shield yourself from your own eyes.
>I often wonder why I never get in regular, normal people funks. Why can't I just get upset about something somebody says or consumed with worry or become anxious about a test or filled with regret or jealousy? Those are far easier to deal with. And articulate.
Instead I am wrapped up in these earth-shattering, perception-altering, "everything-around-me-is-an-elaborate-ruse-disguising-something-bigger-than-we-can-realize-while-occupying-these-bodies" existential funks. It's not every day. Some days I can push it from my mind and think about something happy and fluffy (so fluffy!) and fleeting and find some sort of gratification in it, but other times I look around at things people do and words we say and cliches we repeat and clothes we wear and habits we form and obsessions we create and the absolutely pathetic attempts we postulate to accomplish something meaningful.
It is a difficult thing to put into words, because it's deeper than words. Words are part of the problem - they are nothing but signifiers pointing to a more abstract signified that we can't really prove matters. It's more of a sinking gut thing: everything is going to burn, I am going to die, and even the most indestructible thing we can think of, time, will stop.
We are force-fed a desire to consume which has been carefully crafted by something more ominous and designing and evil than corporate heads. We are inundated with guilt for not giving money to the next big cause. We hear news about the riots in Egypt and the woman who shot her children because they were disobeying and the teenager who killed his parents and chopped them up and put them in the freezer and the statistics about poverty and the dwindling job market and the rising taxes and the (gasp!) threat of companies forcing you to pay a la carte for internet so they can turn a profit and the imminent nuclear war and on and on and on... not because that is reality but because it makes the commercial market with people smiling and holding products like cheeseburgers or diamond necklaces seem like THAT is the shining beacon and end-all of happiness that you can obtain in this life. Thus begins the cycle of realizing that "oh wait, it's not that new gizmo that makes me happy, because 2.0 is coming out next month, and that is what will really do it for me."
But I'm not done. Then I think about just how good we have it here and how our squabbles are petty compared to people who, say, don't have things to eat because everything around them is rubble. Somebody dealing with their sister having killed herself. Breast cancer. Malaria. AIDS. Insert cliche world problem here.
And I'm covered from head to toe, from home to school, from wake to sleep, and even during sleep, with stuff. Insert subtly superior American "I hurt for the world when I see how good I have it" sentiment here.
"It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."
You cannot tell me that you believe that this is it, that in the light of eternity our goods amount to chaff in the wind and our problems span the sea. If you can see, like I do, that what is going on is bigger than humans could possibly contrive, that what we care about is nothing but a series of icons that point to literally nothing, then you understand the funk. It is a difficult thing to shake, because all the things we use to shake the burden of our "problems" are pointing straight to the problems that we are dealing with ourselves.
* I have to be careful with this next part. One thing that I despise the most is trite, vapid, cliche language that talks about my Savior.
What we live in ("the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air" "sons of disobedience" "vanity" "Desires of the flesh" -- Ephesians, Ephesians, Ecclesiastes, Galatians, respectively) we have been saved from ("But God, being rich in mercy... made us alive together with Christ.") as soon as we have accepted it.
Everything above that asterisk is the best that you can ever hope for without Christ, because apart from the incredibly simple, beautiful alternative to a vaporous existence, it all goes away and you are stuck as the marionette on a paper stage. We call Him Savior (some of us out of habit) because that is the best way we our frivolous human words can describe Him.
If you only ever read one more thing I have to say, I want it to be this: this solution which I just presented will cost you your life as you know it. Everything that you are will change. Being rescued is a choice that you alone can make, but know that nothing about who you are will ever be the same again. You have the option to say no. You have the option to say yes.
You can email me or Facebook message me or Twitter or whatever, and I can help you find the right people to talk to, because I don't even pretend to have all of the answers. But if it is answers you are looking for, I promise you they exist only in the Savior I just mentioned. And I promise you they are more beautiful than whatever you've seen before.
>I am sitting in my chair in a towel, because I am waiting to get a shower until the clothes in the dryer are done tumbling so that when I am done they will be warm and dry and ready to cover my cold skin.
I bought a cd today too. It is a departure from my musical tastes of late (meaning primarily that it is not Lovedrug), and I welcome the departure of style if anything just because it is new material and it is a switch and a temporary break from the monotony that has become my minutes, hours, days, weeks. It is scary how fitting the title of this album "Disambiguation" is.
I perhaps do my topic disservice by restricting it with that "my" above, because I think I meant to address a broader audience than just my busy self.
Go to school for 20 years. Get a job. Do not live on the street. Walk on the sidewalk. Make enough money to eat. Give the rest of it to the establishment created by us. For us. That has forgotten about us. Complain about something and then realize how pointless complaining about that thing is, because it's done and you can't change it. Fall in love. Create. Recreate. Retire or die. Now repeat after me: I am free.
I think that the most compelling evidence for the existence of God to somebody who is in search of it is the system in which we are trapped. The little box of earthly, physical existence. Rich or poor, old or young, we are in chains, and I dare you to find somebody who would disagree with that. We are enslaved to time and to desire and to passion and to lust and to love and to sin. Each and every one of us. But just like there can be no dark without light to be the contrary, no rich without poor to be the opposite, no high without low to compare, the mere fact that we are enslaved means that there exists freedom.
But, since there is nothing earthly that we can do to break free of these chains, that means that there has to be a spiritual key to the locks. It must exist outside of time, because if it existed within time, it would eventually decay or rot or turn to dust. It must have no beginning because that would mean it would have an end. If all we know is the here and now, there must be an unhere and an unnow.
This is nothing new. Solomon knew it: "Vanity of Vanities! All is vanity!" "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Since the literal dawn of time the disconnect between us and God has been both the proof of God and the burden on His heart. Because the presence of the physical means the presence of the non-physical, or else physical would be nothing. It would have no alternative. And we know that this disconnect is the burden of God's heart because of the lengths He went to restore it. We live among sin. He dwells among perfection.
Beauty is not beauty without un-beauty. Pain isn't pain without pleasure.
So with all of this said, the part about God I mean, it should be no surprise to us that without Him life would be rather miserable. Without the assurance that there IS beyond this, I cannot fathom the shattering hopelessness that would accompany our steps. They would only see the horrid pattern described above. School.Job.Family.Kids.Love.Loss.Death. and they would feel extraordinarily trapped. Herein is the beauty of my Savior, the Messiah, the promised and received Christ. Because He dwells not inside of this wretched box, but rather His father is the one that holds it. And I can't get outside of it except through His arms...
Don't you see? If it were up to me, the highest I could ever get in the vast span of eternity is how far I can run. Whether you accept it or not, the same principle applies universally: the give and take; the idea behind there being no light without dark permeates literally everything. It has to, because things only mean in juxtaposition. God doesn't need your support to exist. You can deny it all you want but your belief or lack thereof is not what keeps Him around.
Rather it is His existence that keeps your disbelief around.
>I think that I'm going to take a break from Facebook for a while, if not permanently.
This is in no way my assessment of Facebook on any intrinsic or moral or ethical set of values, all it is is me coming to this point of realization of what is necessary and what is not. I realize that by typing this on a macbook pro in my bed with a fan and air conditioning (and a very nice guitar still out of its case, the body probably warm from my body heat and my belly full from a meal that I ate not too long ago and 140 people following my twitter and fifty plus steady hits a week on a blog that is nothing but my thoughts) that statement can seem rather snobby, naive, even elitist in light of the definition of "necessary," but I ask you to bare with me for a moment.
I've found myself for the past week or so calling into question all of these things around me and wondering just exactly what I need. I drive a very nice car, when really something with wheels and an engine would do just fine, for example. As my day goes on and I interact with more and more of this stuff that is, at its core, totally made up, little things start to seem superflous.
We have all of these protocols for things like driver's licenses and Bachelor's degrees and line cutting policies at theme parks and what to do if you're seated in an emergency exit row on an airplane and the baffling thing to think about is every one of these things is completely contrived. Were we, as humans, meant to be able to propel a piece of buffed, waxed, curvy machinery using a series of pistons and controlled explosions in order to get from one place to another? Were we meant to be able to store 120 GIGABYTES of music in one location to access at any time?
Then it moves to things like: Is it natural for this world that used to feel like everything that could exist to start to feel somewhat hokey and contrived? Why do I feel like we are missing the point of all of this ridiculous stuff that we have when it literally begins to control us? What in the world could I possibly gain by clicking over on the open Facebook tab I have sitting just to the left of this one out of compulsion to see what other people are up to?
Paul seems to have thought about some of these same things and felt similar feelings towards them (although they clearly were not iPods or cars, etc) and come to the conclusion that we are not of this world when we are found in Christ. I have read that part a million times in my life but when he says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." (Philippians 3:20) I HAVE to believe that he was questioning the legitimacy of his surroundings. He knows, beyond a doubt, that all this stuff that's here is all well and good, but it's not us. Our citizenship is not here, so there's a reason that this should not feel like home, because frankly this place isn't even worthy to think about the dwelling place of the Almighty, even though we do.
It is a strange feeling, indeed, when things appear to you as hollow alloys and plastics and items made by sweatshop labor. I'm not at all even starting to begin a political debate, and absolutely nothing about this is politically charged, because frankly politics makes less and less sense the more I think about it.
So to come full circle (somewhat), I'm kinda done with Facebook. Each time I had access to a computer I was checking it, most of the time several times each session and I'm just a little bit tired of it. Does all of the above mean that I'm going to sell all of my stuff and live as a sherpa wearing animal skins in the woods? Absolutely not. I love my music. I love my guitar and my pedalboard and my computer and air conditioning and fans and sleeping under tons of blankets in the winter. We humans were created with the spark of originality. We can construct computers from metal and electrical signals and I believe that God looks upon the way that these people He created use their God-given minds and smiles because creativity is part of Himself that He put in us, whether we believe in Him or not. This also must literally frustrate the hell out of Him because so many of us humans shake one fist at Him in anger or turn around and state that He does not exist, while we, with the other hand, demonstrate a small spark of Himself that was put into us. That separates us from the beasts.
Does He look at the depravity into which we have dug ourselves with the things we made using His gifts and shake His head and turn His back and whisper "be gone with them?"
He looks at us with His arms spread, just waiting for us to take the hint.
>I know, I know, it's about a week dated. I just haven't found time to update anything and figured this was worth sharing!
I find myself in North Carolina this morning on a much needed break from Chattanooga and the monotony of the everyday things thereof. I'm sitting in the kitchen of my Aunt and Uncle's house with Lake Norman at my back and a breeze rolling through the leaves and in through the open window beside me, and reaching the conclusion quickly that the most important thing for the mental health of a human being is escape. We have to get out of the little boxes into which we are confined by schedules and cell phones and deadlines and, believe it or not, our friends, in order to figure out exactly what it is that makes us tick. We crowd ourselves with things hoping that the more stuff we pack into our surroundings the closer to what people for centuries have referred to incorrectly as enlightenment we become, when in actuality it just sparks a deep insatiable lust for more of that stuff... because it provides a comfortable mask to what the real issue at the core is.
We are scared of who we are.
One of the most basic of all of our problems is not a monetary or existential one, but a relational one: we have no relationship with ourselves, as it is one of the most terrifying relationships imaginable to a human being. It scares us so much that we run around stuffing so many things between the time that we wake and the time we lie down to sleep that we don't have time to deal with ourselves. When there is so much noise around you that you can't even hear yourself think (and by that I mean there is enough around you to occupy your mind with external things) there is no way you can actually know yourself.
If I were to ask you, "who are you?" would you know how to answer? I wouldn't want a list of attributes or accomplishments, because that stuff is nothing more than would start a pissing match. I am more interested in "what do you think about when there is nothing around you but a breeze and you hear nothing but your own heartbeat?"
That is a lot more scary of a question, because most of the time you will find you know very little about who you actually are. The moment you start defining yourself by external things is the moment you are in desperate need of some change.
Another point of view, just something to consider after figuring out who you think you are, is to figure out who others think you are. It requires brutal honesty and mental preparation for intense disappointment. Think about interactions you have with other people, the way they react when you walk into a room, their body language as they talk to you. Are you holding people past when they are inching their way to the door? Do people walk away when you approach them?
There is all of this and more to be worried about, if you're worried about such things. However, we have an out that has been presented to us, and that is for us to place our identities in somebody else. Those that have accepted the task are, according to 1 Corinthians 12, the body of Christ. We are His hands and his feet and His eyes and ears... basically we are not our own. When people see us, they don't see a person... they see an extension of who Christ is. If they don't like that, their qualm is not with you, it is with someone who will not be shaken by man's opinion of Him.
The best part? Christ is not exclusive. He is not some club for which you have to apply and wait with white knuckles for your acceptance. Instead, all who call on His name to be saved will be. It's as easy as that. It is amazing how quickly it will make the individual seem a little more insignificant than if we were left to our own devices.
>Ladies and gentlemen of Chattanooga, summer is upon us.
I really apologize to my core audience right now, because this page has been terribly empty for the past couple of weeks. It seems that every time I sit down to try to write something, there is some unforeseen obstacle waiting for me to get the hint of productivity before hijacking my thought process. Most of the time it comes in the form of realization that I need to write some paper I completely forgot about in the jumble of nonsense that is flooding my life, and other times it comes in the form of a wave of paralysis that creeps from my toes to my eyes and covers my brain with this blanket of inescapable and crippling exhaustion. I tell myself that when all of this school stuff is finally finished and I can do things like sleep or sit down again, everything will get back to normal and I'll become reacquainted with the Muse once again.
Until then, I suppose I'll just share this one thing that perhaps somebody out there is battling as well. Matt and I were talking the other day on the way to band practice about this matter of Existential Quandaries and struggling with the notion of all of the "rest of our lives" crap. It was one of those moments of epiphany, whether for good or bad, and got me thinking about just how superficial and petty most of the problems we are faced with are. I look at the people around me in college, being JUNIORS and SENIORS who still talk about how they can't wait to "party, bro" and the people desperate for any sort of income acquiring a job that is perfectly fine but perhaps full of customers that are, as they put it, "unbearable," and they quit without having any sort of backup plan, and I wonder just what they're trying to prove. Trust me, I'm the last person to defend the Capitalist system or to say that we've got it right over here, but I do recognize that in order to survive, there are a number of hoops that you just absolutely have to jump through, and if you don't like it, nobody is keeping you here.
So, I went up to my room and for a brief moment heard the whisper of that elusive Muse and sort of returned to my poetry roots for a minute. You can read if you want :)
There is this breeze, they tell me.
They say it moves the trees
And even if I find it,
I'm not the God it heeds.
Mine's not the soul it feeds.
They tell me this is calming:
The swaying, leafy blades,
And nature has no quandaries
Yet garners acolades.
It brushes arms with fate
And doesn't look away.
They say it comes as whispers
And illuminates the night
As little lamps in children's
Cribs - rocking, creaking, slight,
Instilling what is right.
They say it bases reason
On what the Breather sighed.
That plans are executed
With ease beyond our minds
And we but seek to question
His perfect, flawless time.