Truth

Because I am occasionally up to date with pop culture and whatnot, I will start this out with a bit from the newest attempt to redeem the story of Spiderman from the unbecoming path that Sam Raimi sent it down. Marc Webb, the director, says that he inserted a speech in the last portion of the film which was from a lecture that one of his professors gave about the nature of fiction and storytelling (source). The gist of it is this (because I've only seen the movie once and can't seem to find it quoted anywhere): it has been said that there are seven different plots in all of storytelling - Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. But in reality, there is only one plot in all of history: "Who am I?" It makes more sense in its unraveling. It is a question that is asked not of just every literary character, but every flesh character alive in the stage of the world. It is the root of every philosophical project (why am I here?), every scientific inquiry (how can these extraordinary things around us relate to me?), every artistic endeavor (how do I express this thing that's inside of me, and thereby discover the reason it's there?), every compliment and every insult that causes us to smile deep into the night or lie awake with a mirror fogged by an incorrect or malicious observation passed off as truth. It is what causes progress. It is what incites despair. The search for the answer to this question is one of the things that unites people across cultures, locations, and religions.

Some avoid it altogether. They choose to answer the question with "I'm someone who would rather not worry about it." It's a painful, humbling question to answer, so for a lot of people, drowning out the small voice that asks it when the activity around you gets quiet with noise in any form it embodies is the least painful thing to do. Some glibly dodge it: "I'm just me." Some defer it: "I can be whoever I want to be." Some despair: "I'm not worth it."

This is not about how to discover who you are. If you'd like to read what I have to say about that, I have a rather old thing I posted on Identity that may slake your appetite for a moment. But if it does not, I have provided on this site many an opportunity to contact me and request unduly long-winded attempts at forming answers, or, at the very least, beginning discussions. What this IS about, however, is Truth.

What?

Yes. Here's the skinny: we are creatures fashioned in a way that we have a thirst for the stuff, and it has been hidden from us because of our unworthiness of its presence. Truth demands purity and there is nothing of purity in us, so there is nothing of Truth that we can comprehend. Truth disappears the closer we get to it because we use magnifying glasses to inspect its various parts rather than ladders to step back and see it more wholly. We get caught up with answers to "who are you?" such as "I am a musician" or "I am a businessman" or "I'm somebody who has dreams" and forget the part that's "I'm created for a King." We lose ourselves in minutiae when we haven't yet found ourselves in the Plan.

What was my King's purpose on Earth? "The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Well, yes. But no. "He came to bridge the gap between man and God." I see you went to Sunday School, but not quite. "He came to die on the cross for my sins." Cute, and correct, but not what I'm looking for. "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world," He said to Pilate, "to bear witness to the truth."

Imagine if this were said about you: "There was a man (or woman) sent from God, whose name was _______. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness about the light."

Listen to this Hindu prayer, the cry of a nation searching the hearts of 330 million gods for what so many of us (claim to) already have the answer to in One: Lead us from Untruth to Truth, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality.

When you ask yourself "who am I," is it that you mean "what do I do" or do you mean "do I bear witness to the Truth?" What do your actions tell you? Do you speak with love or bitterness? Reason or conceit? Do you live in a way that people will think "what is he pointing to? Because it sure isn't himself." Do you react with a grace that makes others ask "Where are her eyes? Because she sees something bigger than I do."

In the vein of last week's post, read the lyrics to the chorus of Oh, Sleeper's "In The Wake Of Pigs" and tell me if it's not the song you want your life to sing to anybody who can hear:

"You are not alone in the eye of the darkest storm We are the lighthouse shining a lamp from the shore To bring your journey home You are not alone, use this song to lead you home We are what's left of the love that can pierce through the callous Life you spent undone We are the legacy, that's left to breathe the wind to sail you home"

Will we be lighthouses? If so, shine. If you won't, you're either the wind stirring the sea, the waves battering the hulls, or the rocks that will wreck the boats of those trying to find the Shore.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

A Brief Aside, and What I Am Means

Some business before getting into the meat of it. If you are uninterested in this sort of thing, you may skip to below the line: I must thank you all for the unexpected and overwhelmingly positive reception of last week's little article. I have received many encouraging feedbacks and emails and have seen it shared often enough to make it the most-viewed post on this page. You guys are awesome. I am planning on doing more things in that vein, including what is shaping up to be an Introvert's Manifesto and Ebook, though I must admit that some of my motivation for that is that I've always wanted to write a Manifesto for something and publish an Ebook on my website. But in all seriousness, most of the reactions that I got to see only reinforced the idea that there are a lot out there who feel the way that I do though perhaps do not have the platform to say the things that need be said. So stay tuned.

I have still not decided what I want this blog to be. I read a lot of them that are very advice-y and full of lists and such, and those seem to have the most traffic. Because lists sell, this is fact. They are the "pop" of the blog world - easily digestible, somewhat predictable, often crafted to communicate one little gem of truth which sits, shining (perhaps literally with glowy text or clever puns) atop the screen, rather than relishing the subtle comfort of a web of it. I also read a good bunch that are quite heady and cerebral and rooted in idea, which is comforting because this is how I tend to think. But these I have rarely seen be "successful" in the commercial sense - they are often a bit wordy, even for my taste (imagine that), and inaccessible. Surely there must be a blend somewhere of the two which is neither pedantic sentence-flexing nor traffic-pandering formula. Still, I wish to talk about God when I want and spill thoughts on Philosophy or have nerd moments about music or even do reviews of books and film and albums. But none of these are exciting and revolutionary like the Introvert's Manifesto or charges to turn off our internet on Sundays or to alter the ways we behave with one another. And still on top of all of this, I at no time wish to dip into something trite for the mere sake of acquiring many page views. I maintain the wish for this to be a place of thought incubation as I referenced in this post a bit ago, and with that I accept that both bloggy, list-filled posts and the heady stuff are necessary at times. I've been doing this long enough to accept that it is no longer me sitting in a corner talking to the empty cloud of internet about the random stuff of the day; but today when I address "the audience," it is no longer rhetoric to make myself chuckle, rather a literal breaking of the 4th wall, because I now have one of those out there.

What the paragraph above should say is "this blog is a curious thing and once I figure out a way to make conversation more than simply leaving comments, I will do it, because then we can get this think-tank going and perhaps I can step out of the way." Because I feel as though perhaps I am wasting your time already.

 

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Because I had a rather lengthy aside at the beginning, I will make today's post just a little shorter than they have been in the past. I need to do this anyway.

I have been unutterably blessed for more reasons than I can count, but for these purposes we will focus on the following: that I have been born here, in a country of unparalleled freedom, to a loving and supportive family, in a time when I can access the thoughts of anyone who cares enough to write them down and when I can give voice to my own whenever I see fit. It is something that I take for granted entirely too often.

I cannot help but think that God chose this specific time to place me in, because I have been given access to the most marvelous minds the world has to offer. I can, at any point that I want, sit and read Stephen Hawking or Ravi Zacherias or TS Eliot; I can watch TED lectures about deep cave exploration or string theory or education research or marvel at "mathemagicians" and improv musicians and subtitled talks from mute people about disabilities; I can sit at a computer and continue a 55+thousand word, several-month-long email conversation with my dear friend in North Carolina or talk with anybody in the world at the touch of a few numbers on a cell phone; I can listen to songs recorded with a guitar on a laptop's microphone that is more evocative than one I'd hear in an arena with tens of thousands of people or I can listen to my favorite band through headphones and a device I hold in my hand. Friends, there is true magic in this world, and we can experience it every day of our lives.

However, and I think that this is true in most cases, we do not know how, nor are we equipped, to handle it. Just recently in our history as human beings, what you learned was limited by what you could experience firsthand, or what you could reason with whatever faculties you possess. Gone are the boundaries of knowledge and achievement that one solitary person or community was limited to. We have been presented the apple promising the Wisdom of God Himself and we have bitten hard into its bitter-sweet savor. We have been promised the possibility of omniscience and still cannot tear our minds away from it.

It is a difficult thing to stop, this search for knowledge, and a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Our minds have not been built to grasp infinity and timelessness and unending streams of knowledge and limitless possibility, yet we have been put in a place where new things will never stop coming to our frame of vision. Our Universe, as far as we know, is infinite, and yet we continue to try to understand it in its entirety.

Some people despair in this. They see elaborate epistemic proofs which seem to eliminate the very possibility of knowledge. They look at competing, perfectly justified beliefs as muddying the concept of what is real. They see the power of Empirical discoveries negating the validity of Rational ones, and vice versa. The more our ill-equipped minds see, the more we dismantle our necessity for God.

Says the Preacher:

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with hearing,    nor the ear filled with hearing. (Ecc. 1:8)

But see, He planned for this. After all, it was He who set eternity in the heart of man. It was He who created us creatures capable of reason and, consequently, of doubt. It is why He sent us something of Himself in a form we could wrap our human brains around, to rescue us from the what Wordsworth calls "the burthen of the mystery... the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world." There is a reason He calls Himself Truth, because it is Truth that we crave, and it is Truth we cannot reach using human versions of God's things - logic, reason, and the like. Moses was told to tell the people "I AM sent me." Arguably the most powerful words that could be spoken by human lips. His name is not "Prove Me" or "I May Be," it is emphatic. Final. Independent of my human shortcomings and unchanging in time, space, and situation. Universal. I. Am.

I am by no means devaluing the wonder of knowledge and discovery, in fact, I whole-heartedly encourage it. Live in a way that you are constantly confronted with the marvel of this place of unending beauty. Roald Dahl writes, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” We are surrounded by it wonder, so long as we do not forget to look for it.

But just as oxygen is necessary for life to exist though an excess of it is lethal, so it is in this battle for understanding. It is perfectly normal to think of things that might be, for that is how we were created - to wonder at the heavens and try with all of our might to grasp things we cannot fathom - to think of things that might be so long as we do not lose sight of what Is.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.