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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Battle on the Ledge

It was at church camp, the high ropes course to be specific. I had made it up the rope ladder, across the solitary log that connected the two sections, to the final platform where I stood staring in disbelief at the wooden bar that swayed gently in front of me, about three feet away. I was supposed to jump to it. At that point, it seemed like 20 feet away. I stood there for a long time, getting encouragement from friends down on the ground. Finally, I jumped.

I didn't make it to the wooden bar. I probably didn't even make it halfway. And today, I finally know why.

My whole life I've been afraid. I will be for the rest of my life about something or another. I know I was scared that day, just like I am now. I am afraid to jump; afraid of what will happen if I absolutely commit to the leap and try reaching that bar. Thats why I didn't make it to the bar: I already knew I wasn't going to try enough to make it. Even before my feet left the ground, I had already failed. I didn't really try. What I told myself afterwards wasn't enough to fool me into believing that I didn't really fail, and I didn't realize until today that it still haunted me. I realized it today because I'm still standing on that ledge, its just a different ledge than the one on the high ropes course at church camp. Now its my life that I'm jumping for: all the relationships, chances I'm not comfortable taking, and the moments that will never come again. I made the mistake of not trying the first time, but will I learn from my mistakes? Thats the question I've been asking myself a lot lately. Will I finally be able to grab that wooden bar? If I really try, will I make it? Or will I be disappointed?

That wooden bar though, lets look at that for a second. Its just hanging there, like fruit ready to be picked; waiting, taunting. At camp it was just a wooden bar. Over the years its become pay-raises and promotions and girls and every possible kind of success and outcome. Its the thing that is just out of my reach and the thing I want most badly out of life. However, success is the end goal; the result, the reward. Like that day on the ledge so many years ago, I failed because I knew I wasn't going to risk the jump that it would take to make it to the bar. But, it wasn't because the bar wasn't alluring enough, or the reward great enough, it was that I could not bring myself to give all I had to attain it. I could not give up the kind of control and comfort that the solid ledge provided. I had to give those things up to make it to the bar, and, standing on that ledge, I decided I wouldn't do it.

What I learned from missing the bar that day is that the battle was fought on the ledge. I stood on it then as I stand on it now, with the same choice in front of me. Do I give up control and comfort in pursuit of a greater goal? Do I stay on the ledge, not really try, or give it all I've got? I'm starting to see that its not just a decision that I make once, but a way of living. Its intentional, risky, and I know I need to know why I'm doing it. But I've realized that if have enough to courage to jump with everything I've got, I've got a chance. The decision is made already. The battle against the fear is already over at that point, and whatever happens after that is what happens. Through the simple, terrible act of trying, I have a chance to reach that bar. Its time for me to try, reach for what I've been afraid of for so long, and start winning the battle on the ledge.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Watching the Weather

So its Winter. Its cold.

I don't think I ever noticed that there were so many amazing things happening right now, in Winter. So often, at random times of the year, I shut down and pack up and figure I should go and hibernate because nothing that I want to happen is happening, and life seems slow. I get caught up in the season of my life. Have you ever heard that phrase? 'Season' of this, or 'going through a difficult season' of that? I hate it sometimes because it always implies that we are trapped in this invisible space and time where we are constantly waiting for something. It sounds like purgatory. Either I convince myself there isn't any point to being conscious because nothing is going to happen, or I am in the wrong place or the wrong time; the wrong Season, and there is nothing I can do about it. Well, sometimes there isn't. However, recently, I've been thinking that seasons of life aren't so much about the season, or waiting, although it sometimes it, but about changes in perspective and in what I expect.  

Just like it is with physical seasons, its tempting when its cold and wet and depressing to think that Summer will never come again or the world can never be warm. I think its the same with emotional and circumstantial seasons. I have thought a lot this year that all the things that were horrible situations could potentially go on forever, or that maybe it was just a season of something. Like, I don't know, misery? We'll call it Winter. The Winter of Life. I was woken up to the fact that maybe I was selling, the season I might see as 'Winter', a little short.

Maybe Winter is in the eye of the beholder, and any 'season' of life can take it's form. What if maybe there is life abundant right here, in the cold and the dark, and I just have to be ok with accepting a life that I haven't planned out or expected. What am I waiting for? If I'm waiting for summer I'll have an awful long wait, like holding your breath underwater until someone pulls the plug on the ocean.

I've realized there is so much beauty to be missed in the world around me, and I've missed it because its not what I expect. I think that I've convinced myself that things won't come until I'm ready for them, and I finally think that its untrue. Maybe the world doesn't revolve around me. Go figure, am I right? Maybe the seasons, both in life and in nature, don't change based on where I am in life, but rather I need to adjust to the world around me. Lets just say that all this time I've been wearing a t-shirt in the middle of a blizzard.

I've started to see myself right where I am, not where I'm going to be; not putting all my expectations on what the 'future me' will be like. I guess a lot of people call this living in the moment. Its always taken me awhile to catch up to these things. This is also not simply just being "content" with all the stupid things in my life that I still hate, but rather focusing on the relevant things that have come around, that are in front of me now, in this moment. My job is to take hold of those opportunities and enjoy them at their proper times without wistfully wishing for something I could never fully appreciate at this time, like enjoying a perennial garden in bloom before it goes back into the frozen ground for another year. This simple fact has really changed how I see things. Its really just made life more fun. The seasons of life seem to be much harder to predict than the seasons of the calendar year, and there are a lot more than 4. But hey, life is only an adventure if you don't know whats coming right?

I've written off so many people and places and sights and sounds because they didn't fit in with the landscape that I had constructed for myself. However, when I started paying attention to the weather and the seasons that were changing without my approval, I realized that I could kill myself with longing for the next season, or I could put on a good coat and really start to live in the real world, with all its amazing circumstance, detail, nuance, and people that it would bring; paying attention to what is happening now.

I'm not going to blame the seasons for changing, because change is such a huge part of what keeps life good, although its hard to keep up sometimes, especially when I get comfortable with how things are. But what I'm starting to see in my 'Winters', and seeing the people who are around me now: it makes me want to try. Try to not to get bogged down in wishing for something else, for some other season, when this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Open the Door (Part 3)

This might be my final journey into the topic of meaning in everyday life for a while but I'm not ruling out the possibility for more as I continue to struggle with this whole concept that I've scarcely been able to describe in 3 posts, let alone in some cohesive way in my own mind. However, I want to at least ask this question because I want to know the answer.

So far I've realized that life sometimes does not feel satisfying. I then realized it is because the things that I am investing in so heavily are not, inherently, supposed to be satisfying (did your parents ever tell you not to drink soda because it will just make you thirsty? Well mine did. Its kind of like that).

Today, I've been thinking that developing a vocabulary for what you want and need is incredibly valuable, but there is an important leap from to knowing what to say and saying it. The satisfying and important things in life may sometimes simply fall into your lap, but I think the crux between having good things and wanting good things is knowing how to ask for them, and then asking for them, and then waiting for them to come. I don't  mean that all your wishes will come true if you hope or pray or beg or whatever, but having meaning in your life is a decision I think; an attitude.

Let me flip this just a little bit. God says in Revelation 3:20, "I stand at the door and knock." There is also a lengthy discussion about free will that I could also dive into at this point, but lets just, for the sake of argument, assume that we have free will. Is Jesus saying in this simple passage, that He also waits? For us? To ask Him to come in? Woahhhh. Maybe meaning in life is found in asking the right people and things into our lives and most importantly, letting Jesus in to shape and put our hearts in order. This also means closing the door to things that strip life of its meaning by passing itself off as the real thing and not just the symbol.

Will life be meaningful and feel meaningful just because it is now devoid of things that aren't? Isn't that why there are so many distractions and pursuits to keep us occupied? Because we either can't find meaning or just need a break from being disappointed? I don't think so. I think that this intersection  might be where I can start opening other doors to things that matter; things that I haven't discovered before and are therefore hard to get a perspective on, and stop opening the same doors to places I know all too well.

I think at the end of the day, all I can do is ask. I think it is important to know how and what to ask for, but the asking is also important. By closing the door on things that aren't meaningful, that will free up that room for things that are, but so often I feel like when I am empty, I don't know how to fill myself back up.

So, at the end of all this, it still feel faintly unresolved, but I think I know what to ask for and how to ask, so maybe, my part is done.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Symbols (Part 2)

There are a lot of lies. Hundreds I'm sure, but one has really been getting my attention recently. I've been catching it in my peripheral vision when it thinks I'm not looking. It gets more confident when I'm bored or lazy and I always forget that I've realized that its a lie when I stop looking at it. Thats why tonight, I'm writing it down.

This morning when I woke up, it was raining. I listened to it softly fall on the roof and skim the windows and watched the formless gray clouds through a crack in the shutters. I spent the day inside and distracted myself with anything and everything. This evening, I realized I had not been outside yet, so I put on my shoes and took a walk around the block. The sky was shockingly and beautifully clear and the few stars that I can see from my California view stared steadily back at me.

When I started to walk and think and look up at the clear night sky, I was feeling a little smaller than I usually do when I ponder the epic cosmos. I felt utterly useless. I had spent the day in front of the TV, watching life on a stage. I was frustrated. Is this what I am supposed to do now? Now that I am grown up and have put all the childish dreams and imaginations behind me? Is my job now to live vicariously through the things I see and hear and have the illusion of contributing to society and engaging in life? Am I investing in things that have no bearing on the grand scheme of life and expecting them to fill the need of being a part of something real? The questions started to come fast and things that I'd been feeling for a long time suddenly tumbled out; things I never knew how to say.

It has been easier for me for a long time to be distracted by life, rather than engage in it. Facebook, video games, TV, movies, Twitter, the list went on and on. They were the symbols of the things that I was really supposed to be engaging in: relationships, adventures, conversations, debate. Suddenly it was not so strange that I felt empty when I put the symbol in place of the real thing. And that is the lie: the symbol is more important than the real thing.

No wonder it felt hollow trying to be satisfied with things that were never built to satisfy. They are distractions and symbols and signposts and practice and lessons, but they will never take the place of real life, no more than a smile will take the place of joy.











Friday, November 29, 2013

Wasting Time (Part 1)

Do you ever feel like you are wasting time; the most precious natural resource that we have? I've been finding myself doing things that I know don't really matter. I've been replaying video games and watching movies that I've seen a million times. I quote every line before they do.

I've been thinking that there must be something much more to life than waiting for it to start.

As the risk of sounding trendy, although I'm probably a few months late for that anyway, I was reading the Great Gatsby. It is a very sad book and although the man who wrote the forward clearly stated that there was no moral, I found one line in particular very interesting. It was toward the end of the book after Gatsby dies (spoilers) and Carraway is trying to talk another character into going to the funeral. However, the character doesn't want to go. "Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead," he says, "After that my own rule is to let everything alone." That really struck me for some reason. I think it was because there is a broader application to life within that line.

Personally, I've been noticing that, in a lot of ways, I have been avoiding life. Either out of fear or the possibility of failure or whatever, I have been hiding in my hobbit hole while the world pounds away at my door, its thundering voice unheeded, and its adventurous stories ignored. When I read that line, it reminded me in a strange way, that I am alive. Things must be done now if they are going to be done at all just as friendship must be offered while friends are living, not after they are dead.

Before this goes where it seems to be going: into the vague, unrealistic clouds of dreams and Hollywood, let me just say that this is not another imperative to plea to go out and live life no matter what the cost. I am not F. Scott Fitzgerald and I am not being advocated by Coke. This is simply, in a small way, a reminder that we are being invited, with each breath and new dawn, to live intentionally and be who we are going to be.

This week I've thrown open a few windows in my hobbit hole and am going to try to throw open a few more. Maybe its time to listen to the thundering voice, a few stories, and take another step into a world that has held me captive for so long.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Man in the Mud

I was thinking about reminders. Phones, laptops, calendars are all built into modern life keeping us on track to take medication, go to meeting, go to the dentist, or re-register your car (which I recently forgot to do.) Don't you wish there was a constant reminder of simple truths? Encouragement that would not get out of our faces, or lost in the blur of the day? I don't mean the canned, miniature pep-talks, or inspirational quotes we receive ad nauseam, or even the daily Bible verse that greets us when we open our browser in the morning. I'm talking about the things that cause up to stop and adjust our lives and shift our paradigms. I know for me, I find myself so far from where I want to be so often, wondering how I got there, that I could use one of those reminders pretty frequently.

Today in church, the sermon was one such reminder: God, in the face of being rejected on the whole by humanity, has not rejected us. Lets look at that for just a sec. For the sake of argument, lets assume that people, the human race, are all searching for the same thing - something that will deeply satisfy their souls. I know thats what I search for, if I boil down all my wanderings and preoccupations and confusing detours. This means that for all of us who are feeling far from God, and feeling like there is way too much between us and God to ever be or feel accepted by Him, are, whether we like it or not,  accepted for who we are and who we can be.

Does this seem familiar at all? I know these words haunted me today. It is sadly a common tale, but it is also my tale. There have been and will continue to be times when I feel rejected by God. Either I'm not good enough or I've messed up too much, or I'm just not prepared to risk being let down when I find out that God really doesn't love me after all. Too many times I've believed that I need to make my own chances, because I've blown all my chances with God.

There is a story that I've been hearing since Sunday school: There were two sons that lived at home. One stayed with his father and was a dutiful son. The other demanded his inheritance and left the safety and comfort of his father's house. He ended up spending all his money on drinks, girls, and rock n' roll, ending up sitting in a pigsty, covered in mud and alone. I don't know about you but I identify with that guy. This man in the mud is so typical of me and so many other people around me: we have exhausted the avenues that we thought would make us happy, are too scared to go home, and are too ashamed to admit to ourselves that all we want is to be somewhere else with someone that won't let us down.

This is where a simple fact changes everything: God does not reject us, even when we reject Him. The prodigal son sitting in the mud suddenly hopes that he can go back home, but only as a servant in his father's house, thinking that he has fallen too far to ever be a real son to his father again. At least he'll come close to a life that seems so distant and unatainable. Again, I think I understand what's going through this guy's head, but he goes for it anyway. You probably know what happens:


“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Lets pause real quick and talk about the other brother for a second, the one who stayed at home. What must he have been thinking? 

"‘Look!" the other brother says, "All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’" The father responds “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours." I think this brother's story is just as common, simply because the love bestowed upon him was not as instantly dramatic as that shown to the prodigal, and is hard to see sometimes. But the important thing is this: the father loved them the same.


Its so simple, but changes everything. It is also so difficult to apply this my own life. Constantly I get stuck at the part where everything I had was gone and I'm sitting in the mud, far from home. But this is something I know I share with lots of people: we are all spending our inheritance on things that don't matter and hoping they will, never realizing that the only thing that will satisfy the deepest searchings of our souls is Love; more specifically, the love of the Father. The splendor and grandeur of it was enough to make the other brother pretty jealous, even though he had it all along.

God doesn't reject us, even when we reject him or forget us when we feel forgotten by Him. Both brothers came up against a love that changed their lives forever; the kind of Love that bears remembrance. This story is not only a reminder of God's character, but also a promise from a good father to his children.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Waiting

It seems we are all waiting for something. Whether it be our next meal, or some intangible thing that will change our lives forever.

I have been reminded recently of the power of waiting and the good it can do. I think I'd better start by saying that I hate waiting. It is one of the most uncomfortable and excruciating things I do. I try to distract myself and skip to the end with a thousand tricks that I play on myself to help me bear the unbearable burden of trying to control something that is so hilariously out of my control.

Sometimes I think that I wait because I have reached the end of what I can do and therefore can do nothing else except wait. However, I think that even when I am forced to wait, or I'm angry or afraid or anxious for something present to be over or something new to come, I am doing something more than just waiting. I am being forced to hope; practicing hopefulness; looking forward to something else because I am not satisfied that where I am is the end of the journey. The very act of waiting is what belies our hopes: the things we wait for would not mean as much to us if we were not willing to wait for them and through waiting, we assign value. I think those moments between what we look forward to and where we are, are when we wait, and when we wait, we hope. However, I do not think that is automatic to hope during a time of waiting; I am convinced that it is, and it must be like so many other things in life, a choice. Also, as a sidenote, it is not cowardly to wait or to hope: it is an enormous risk, and sometimes requires more courage than trying your best to 'make something happen,' simply because it is one of the most vulnerable places a human being can be in. And vulnerability takes bravery. It is no accident that the only thing left in Pandora's Box was hope: its dangerous.

Life is not always pleasant, or fun, or exciting. I know I spend a lot of time trying to escape from doldrums that I have found on my seas, or run through the times that I should really walk through; times when things around me are good and I will not notice them. I know that it is not pleasant, or fun, or exciting to wait, and waiting is when all of our expectations and comparisons and impatience and ambition rise up in bitter protest, and the frustration of trying gauge the distance to an interminable goal is sometimes as disheartening as the disappointment we feel when we reach them. But it is not by accident that 'its worth the wait' has turned into a cliche, and its not an accident that most cliches are true. I think there are a lot of things in life that are worth waiting for because at the end of the wait is something that truly silences disappointments and expectations and fears, and anything that can do that is worth quite a lot.

I think it is also important, with all this talk about hope, to say that I think what you wait and hope for is just as important as the wait itself. Obviously I hope that anything I hope for that will do me harm will never come, and those miraculous life-giving things will come faster, but it also matters who I wait and hope for. I hope in people, and for people, and with people. However, as much as I want to be with people and trust in people, I must say that the Bible, as always, says it best:  "Wait upon the Lord," the Psalmist tells us, "Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Again, in Isaiah: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles."

The last lines of The Count of Monte Cristo have stuck with me over the years. They are words of advice from a old man to a younger and they are especially relevant right now: "Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day God deigns to reveal the future to man, the sum of human wisdom will be contained in these two words: wait and hope."

Though it is not easy and doesn't seem sexy or anything other than a waste of time, I hope that I can embrace the waiting in my life as something valuable and misunderstood. Everyone is waiting for something and I hope we always will be.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trust

One thing that is giving me a lot of trouble lately, is trust. I've found that it is not as easy in practice as it is in theory. I find myself reaching the end of what I can control and then collapsing into something that  resembles numbness instead of trust.

The thing is, is that God, (so far as I found to be true in my life) is trustworthy. This is good news for people like me that are control-freaks and take on the responsibility for every facet and piece of their lives. However, going from clinging tightly to life, as is my first instinct (like hanging on to the bars on a roller coaster) to trusting God with every circumstance, anxious thought and disorder in my life (letting go and putting my hands in the air) is a very difficult transistion. I've been asking myself why that is so hard to do. I tell myself that if I really believe God is who He says He is, then it should be a piece of cake; that if it is difficult to trust Him then I am a particularly bad brand of sinner that doesn't deserve true happiness anyway. However, I don't think this is true. I think God is much more patient with me than I am with myself. 1 Peter 5:7 says: "cast your anxiety on God, for He cares for you." Again in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." This does not sound like a God who expects us to either always be happy all the time, or have our lives figured out. I think He expected us not to trust Him, and is encouraging us to anyway.

I often think that it is up to me to figure out my life and how it should go. Believe me, I have a very clear picture of who I should be. I'm also starting to realize that God may have some other plans, and being in the midst of those plans is really proving difficult: I just want to get to the end and see who I am becoming. However, it is these anxieties that I'm feeling, these heavy burdens that I carry in the midst of change and troubling times, that God calls me to give to Him in exchange for rest. I am not called to enjoy the pain and chaos of life, but instead, invited to not carry their weight.


I'm starting to catch on to the fact that, whether I believe it or not, God holds me in the palm of His hand. Even as I accept that I don't know what He is doing in my life, and may not know for quite a while, that doesn't change the fact that He is doing something with and in me. And I can trust that He knows what He is doing, and that it is for my good. This verse from Romans says it a lot better than I can: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, not depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:35-39 

I hope this encourages you as much as it has encouraged me. 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Friends

In the Lord of the Rings, there is a point where the small company of companions who are tasked with destroying the Ring of evil power are trapped outside the mines of Moriah. In frustration they wait and get anxious and grumpy until finally Frodo realizes that the lock on the door is a riddle and the answer to the riddle is "friend." They all walk through, companions all, perhaps not all great friends.

I wanted to use this example because oftentimes, and especially in this day and age, it seems as if friendship, and the way in which we relate to one another in healthy and good ways, is somewhat of a riddle too. Why is that?

I have heard numerous times, even from myself, that "I just want friends." I think what we mean by that is that we'd like someone who understands us and our interests and likes, and will walk with us to the ends of the earth in pursuit of those things because they are just as interested in them as we are. The trouble that we encounter when we expect these kind of friendships to appear seems to come from a couple different problems. First, it seems that, as a society, we are under the impression that it is our right to be befriended and understood. Personally, I think that from a certain point of view, friendship has been given to us as a privledge if not a right, but before we can take advantage of that privledge we are stopped by the second problem. The second problem is movement. C.S Lewis talks about this at length in his book, The Four Loves. He says that friendships are based on mutual interest and attaining a common goal, which is clear enough, but also that it is about a common journey; separating yourselves in a sort of rebellion from an established way of thinking and setting off on your own in search of a goal.

The characters in Lord of the Rings who were trapped outside Moriah all had something in common: they were going to help Frodo destroy the Ring. Their companionship revolved around that single thing, despite all having different motives as to why they personally had to go. The possibility and opportunity of converting companions into friends was present as long as they were together. There were some, like Aragorn and Legolas or Frodo and Sam that were even farther removed from the general group because they found a more kindred, common ground between them. They were, therefore, better friends, but all of those that went with Frodo were on the same journey and had closely related interests; the opportunity was there.

All this to say, I think it is the journeying together that we miss so often in the modern age of friendship. I lie on the side of the road and hope for friends, while the only friends really worth having are already walking on the road to their destination, intent on the journey. I must get up and start my own journey, moving towards what I believe to be right and what draws me toward it. If I have any hope of finding like-minded people, I will find them on the way. Lewis expresses this point so deftly when he says: "Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers."

I think to truly enjoy friendship and the friends waiting to be made we must stop focusing on finding friends and instead, focus on the journey, content with knowing that there are a few fellow travelers going the same way.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Delight

To delight, in context, means to desire. I never knew that until recently. To me, delight was just a strange word that came upon me at times that I couldn't help and packaged in an orange-juice-like beverage that I always thought was bad for you. Not until recently did I realize that delight is really summed up by what you desire; the object of our truest affections.

I came across a verse recently about delight, maybe because it was the only one I knew, having heard it so often in Sunday School rooms and growing up in a Christian home. It was the famous Psalm of David, 37: "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I then replaced the word delight with desire and it becomes: 'Desire the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.' Suddenly, the verse made so much more sense! For years, I had seen this verse as a good bit of old wisdom or even a manipulative tool that would cause people to ask God for whatever they thought their heart desired and would get it. This time, I saw that if someone is truly delighting in the Lord, then the Lord becomes the desire of their heart. He will come and fill every gap and hole that people like me have been trying desperately to fill with relationships and money and distractions. In essence, what I believe David to be saying is that, once I am truly focusing on the Lord, it will be clear that He really is what I have been searching for, and I can delight all the more in that; in continual desire.

Just this morning I was reading about another promise that God has made, this time to Jeremiah, who I am coming more and more to respect, and really to all of Israel. He said: "Cursed is the man who trusts in Mankind and makes flesh his strength, and who heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness." Conversely, He says: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit."

To me, that is the very picture of delight, especially when you have the opportunity to experience both in the same lifetime; you really start to appreciate being a tree by the stream, when you were a bush in the desert before. Sounds good right? A whole lot better than Sunny Delight, even more when contrasted with living water that will cause you never to thirst again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Freedom

To be honest, I can hardly type. This day has been on its way for a long time and it is both horrible and freeing to realize that it is here.

For months, I have been ignoring the subtle signs that I am absolutely unhappy. I knew that I was. I think I even knew why, but instead of listening to myself and trying to figure out how to change my circumstances, I did something that I always do: I second guess myself.

I knew what I wanted, and what I kept running away from. However, I slowly convinced myself of the fact that this was my lot in life and that I was absolutely powerless to change it. Every circumstance seemed to be something I was "supposed to do" and the places that I despised were places I "should be." For months, I've tried to content myself with a sort of asceticism, thinking that I would learn something valuable or some mysterious elusive secret to life; hoping that it would all pay off. I learned something. I learned that this is not that way that I was meant to live.

Yesterday, the dam broke. I finally faced up to everything that I was feeling and admitted it to myself. I found the most bitter, ferocious things come out. I got mad, really mad. I wondered why on earth I hadn't listened to myself sooner. Why had I defended the very things that were stealing the breath and joy out of my life? That was the last day I was going to do that.

I have realized that this is all much too big for me. I have opened the door and the monster that came through it has overwhelmed me. So, I didn't fight it. I prayed. I called others and asked them to pray. I have come to a place in my Christian life where really all that is between me and absolute despair is God. Through my family and others in my life I am surviving because they told me the truth that I have professed to believe, and have now been forced to either reject or live out. Its not because I have money in the bank or food or a place to live or anything else. Its simply that I have hope that God is actually in charge of whether I live or die. Its not just that though: its that He loves me and wants me to be happy. So there it is.

Once I knew that, it became about freedom. Did I really think that both me, and the God that I believed was the creator of universes and the human race itself, were actually trapped inside a circumstantial state of being? If that is really what I believe, that would be ridiculous. Freedom came in when I realized that I was indeed trapped, but only because I had trapped myself. God, on the other hand, was not. I realized that He was on the outside and was waiting until I saw the walls of my prison with my own eyes. I could now be saved.

I want to be free. I want to live my life to the fullest and stop wading around in knee-deep misery. Is that the life of a Christian who claims to hope and love and be held in regard by the God of the universe? I don't think so. I don't think I am called to punishing myself on earth for the sake of an afterlife, but instead to be made whole on earth to enter the afterlife equally full. So, I'm going to stop ignoring the anger that will inspire change and let change occur. I will stop thinking that I am not worthy of joy and happiness and freedom; starving myself of these things until I am utterly dead.

I want to live again.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Home

I just back from a long overdue visit home. My home is nestled in the Pacific Northwest between the Rocky mountains and the Idaho border. It holds some of my favorite things: trees, fresh air, and my wonderful family.

Every time I go home I think that I will realize something about how I've changed or gain some fresh perspective on my life. I always do, but it is always something different than I expect.

As I hung out with my family and revisited old places and old memories, it struck me that everything was almost exactly the same. It was if I was who I was 10 years ago. However, as you might guess, I was not.

I went for a bike ride in the September evening a couple nights before I left. I breathed in the warm air and let the gentle wind soothe me. I could have ridden around that neighborhood forever. It was in this atmosphere that I realized that I am not the kid I was 10 years ago, even though everything around me told me I was: the summer night, the city, the sights and sounds. Instead, I was who I was now, amazingly enough. I realized that I had been bringing those memories and emotions from all the time I had spent there and throwing them on the canvas of my town; living life through an old and outdated lens. In that moment, I glimpsed the possibility to enjoy life for who I am now, not through the memories that are, albeit part of me and my life, but are long gone.

Instead of being depressing, it was a very freeing feeling. I found that it can be just fine to hang on to memories and cherish them, but it is also possible not to live through them. It was more fun to make new memories this time and to finally, in my hometown, be myself and not who I remembered myself to be.

When I left home again after that, I decided this new way of seeing was coming with me: I was seeing my hometown differently, how about where I live now? I left that old lens behind and things are starting to get just a little more clear.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wait And See

Opinions are great. Thats why I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to express my opinions and be heard; be heard by myself and be checked by the opinions and voices of other people. That said, I have had a startling discovery this week: opinions are sometimes better left unsaid. I also learned that when you are really opinionated, sometimes its incredibly difficult to be quiet. The combination of these two things were like evil twin power rangers: surrounded by over-the-top theatrics and incredibly bad jokes.

It started at random social functions and conversations. Due to my opinionated nature, I was always the first to speak up, keep the conversation going; despising the silence where a anecdote from me could shatter it. I really liked this role and had some success: I made some people laugh, helped the conversation along and was great at parties, sometimes.

Then the other shoe fell. I stopped enjoying the sound of my own voice, and I think other people did too.

I realized that instead of paying attention to the other people in my life and responding to what they had to say, I was just waiting for my turn to speak. In addition, I must have stopped thinking before I spoke; my words became ghosts of what they could have been. It was if I became so entranced with the effect that my words could have, that I lost sight of what they were effecting.

So here is my grain of salt: I decided it was time to listen a little bit more. Every time I felt that I had a groundbreaking thing to say, I am going to try not to say it. I've found that someone usually brings it up if I just wait a minute anyway.

I recently was talking to a friend who probably loves movies as much as I do. He was saying that one of his pet peeves was when he was watching a movie with a friend and that friend would ask him what was happening. He would tell them to wait and see. Invariably, within the next few minutes, the plot would explain itself and all uncertainty would have been for naught. Sometimes, however, the friend would continue to talk and ask questions through the explanation, which was especially annoying to my friend, who knew that the answer was right in front of them if they would just be quiet and listen for it.

I feel a little like the annoying friend that is always asking what it going on. This made me come up with a possible theory.

A possible theory: by constantly talking, instead of listening, I was really just always asking and trying to understand. However, the answers that I was looking for were waiting in my own silence, and in the words of others. I think I forget sometimes that I am still learning and that I can learn a lot from the people right around me. The plot in life sometimes gets tricky and confusing, but I have a feeling if I just stop and listen, it might just become a little clearer.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Redwoods and Sadness

Tonight is the end of a short camping trip to the beautiful Sequoia National Forest in Northern California, and I'm sad.

The trees that greeted my nature-starved eyes on the windy mountain road to the top took my breath away. I felt like a little kid seeing trees for the first time. The huge redwoods towered above everything and shook the priorities around in my head, demanding attention. We spent a lot of time admiring those trees. So cool.

The campsite was perfect! There were about 10 of us who pitched tents and chairs around a fire pit, anxious to explore and eat and breathe the fresh air.

We hiked to the top of a waterfall and through the ancient forest that constantly amazed us and inspired our steps. When we reached the top, we put down our heavy backpacks, slipped off our shoes and dove into ice cold water that refreshed every tired bone. We lounged and slept on warm rocks in the sun and scrambled over fallen trees and boulders, taking pictures and splashing each other.

We cooked simple meals that tasted like the finest chefs had made them and drank good scotch and beer. We cleaned dishes and built fires. We basked in the silence; the peace, and slept.

Leaving all of these things is not what makes me sad. Tonight as I sit in my room, standing on the brink of another Monday morning, I am missing the people that sat around that campfire. As we hiked and talked and laughed and cooked and lounged, I realized that the distractions of every day life that always seemed necessary and indispensable were abandoned in the light of our conversations and relationships.   I'd forgotten that I am sometimes so caught up in the hustle and business of everyday life, that I forget that there are so many fellow travelers around me that I don't take the time to be in community with. I couldn't see the forest for the trees.

I think what makes me sad is that I recognized a glimpse of what we, as humans, are truly made for: multi-dimensional, intentional, genuine relationships with other people; tuning everything else out and being free to connect with someone else, speak and be spoken to.

I think the true tragedy might be that this trip where our true humanity was allowed to flourish was just a diversion from "real life." It is easy for me to get lulled away from the people in my life by technology or selfishness or a million other things and sometimes I mistake those things for Life as it was intended. I think this trip was a good reminder that if life is anything like camping, its time to take a little time and get to know the people around the campfire.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Going to the Movies by Yourself

Have you ever gone to the movies by yourself? I haven't. This week I have been bombarded by that single fact.

You know when you become aware of something and then you can't stop seeing it? It was like that. It seemed like a conspiracy. We got into a conversation about it at work. Everybody there had gone to the movies by themselves. I suddenly became the only one that hadn't. I started asking why everyone felt compelled to do this. They were things like: 'no one else wanted to see the movie,' 'I have a weird schedule and no one else could go,' and some people just needed some alone time.

This got me thinking.

There was this weird aversion that I had for doing certain things alone. I love being surrounded by people, and I like to talk and share experiences. That seems healthy. Don't get me wrong, I need a good walk in the woods and sometimes I crave the mysterious pleasure of a summer night under the stars, solo style.

After talking about this for a while at work, someone else walked in and joined the conversation. I asked him if he'd been to the movies by himself. He said he'd been once. I asked him what his reason was. He told me that he had been out of town for work and had had some time to kill. He thought about what to do and just decided to go. "I realized, I'm my own man, dammit."

Just like those summer nights and walks in the woods, going to the movies by yourself is a statement, that speaks of your relationship with yourself. Everyone has ways of taking care of themselves and sometimes that looks like a dark theater with a ticket for one. There is no rule against doing things that are just for you, that might build self-confidence and might be just what the doctor ordered. I know I need other people in my life and I think I'll always be someone who loves a crowd and laughing with someone at a cheesy line in the new Fast and Furious movie. However, it might also improve those relationships if I take some time for myself every so often.

 Another thing I realized is that its a bold thing to do something new and uncomfortable and sometimes it helps me see things in a different way; a potentially better way. I think that it might be time to take myself to the movies or find that summer sky to sit under for a while. On the other hand, it might be time to bring someone along to something I've been keeping all to myself.




Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lets Be Men About This

I was looking over my movie collection tonight. Its a modest collection; the few DVDs that I took to college with me, bought for $5 at Target, or got on Amazon. I even have doubles of some of them! (I needed it on Blu-ray too).

This is going somewhere I promise.

I have been thinking/reading about what it means to be a man in this day and age. Some authors think (and rightly so, in my opinion) that the very soul of man has been lost. In Wild at Heart, John Eldredge argues that most males (across America primarily, sorry guys) while nice, are not the men of courage and strength that we read about it the history books.

Fortunately, filmmakers (God bless 'em) have turned these history books into films.

So, back to perusing my DVDs.

I decided over the weekend, to watch one 'man movie' every night. Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart...the classics. One night after watching another celluloid hero save the day and the damsel in distress, I started looking at the copyright dates. Most of the films that I look to as what I call 'The Canon of Manhood' were surprisingly made in the late '90s or very early 2000's. I racked my brain trying to think of any movies in the same vein that were more recent; the 'new Braveheart'. I couldn't think of anything. The only movies I could think of were 'safer' movies with 'safe heroes', guys that just kill everyone in sight (sometimes for no reason), or films about drinking way to much and making the decisions that inevitably follow.

It got me thinking: The movies, tv shows, music and pop culture of 'now' are all promoting a certain kind of man (and woman). In the last few years I have seen a change in this image and the movies seem to back it up. Maybe the films of the 'Canon' were just the dying breath of the resistance. They sure don't make 'em like they used to.

In watching these movies from a few years ago that promote the courage and honor I was fortunate enough to be exposed to growing up, I see the danger that Eldredge claims to see so clearly. I think I might see it too. Manhood is under attack, there is no doubt about it.

My solution; my small way of fighting back was to take a trip back in time and watch these films that promote the best and most neglected traits of manhood. In a culture that never ceases to look forward, I think its time to look back. This weekend I visited soldiers and brothers and and some guys who need to blow up some guns in Greece, just to see what they have to say about the state of things. It wasn't great feedback.

I can't do most of the things they did, but it can't hurt to try and be a little more like them. Watching all those movies definitely made me see some room for improvement in my life.

I would love it if someone started making a new generation of 'man movies' to add to the 'Canon.' However, maybe we don't need more movies. Maybe its time to start acting more like the men we want to be in our workplaces, homes, and favorite bars. Maybe we've watched our heroes fight it out long enough.

I think we could be heroes too. Maybe they'll make a movie about it.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Faithfulness

It was final. 1-0.

I got in my car and drove for 20 minutes with only a vague notion of where I was going. I finally pulled over in an abandoned parking lot and and took a breath. This was the end of a very long, frustrating day: directionless at work, unfulfilled at home; useless. What had pushed me over the edge was that San Jose beat Seattle 1-0. (I'll let you guess which sport.)

So, I calmed down, put it in perspective and drove home. Over the next few days I began to sort out the silver lining that I had found during that long drive through the night. I learned the value of faithfulness.

The idea of faithfulness had already been bouncing around in my head for a few days before this all happened, but this day was a lens that let me make sense of something which, at the time of all these circumstances and Seattle's regrettable loss, seemed like a gigantic waste of time. So, when I drove past the airport, I thought about running away; picking a random destination and taking a break from it all. I wanted to be free from the pain that loyalty had brought me. Wasn't I supposed to be rewarded instead of punished for being loyal? I realized later that true loyalty probably couldn't exist without being tested.

As tempting as running away might be sometimes, I realized that there is something to be said for being faithful. Every time I chose to stand by my sports team or my job, it not only said something about me, but also about the person or thing I was being faithful to. It was a testament to what I thought it was worth. I thought about relationships like marriages and dating, and jobs and friends and how you can only truly have and enjoy those things if you are faithful to them; if you don't run away.

I texted a close friend of mine towards the calmer side of my countryside drive that night, who is also a huge Seattle fan, and told him some of my frustrations from the day. He told me that he was glad that I had driven for 20 minutes in complete fury because I was so worked up over Seattle losing. To him, it showed loyalty; faithfulness; that I actually cared. When he said that I had to agree: I guess I'm glad too.

That night showed me that even when the things that I put my trust into fails, and most of them will, and I get upset, which I do, and feel like running away from everything, which I could, its a chance to be faithful. If I decide that its worth it, and I don't run away, ignoring the exotic notions of leaving everything I know to search for something better, than things will start to be built on that foundation. Trust and respect and honor are all products of faithfulness. Unfortunately, so is pain and despair and disappointment and doubt, but I realized I had to have both, and thats a good thing. I'd much rather have the faith of someone who has seen me fail and stuck with me anyway, than someone who has only seen me on my best day.

I'm glad I was mad enough about soccer to drive into the night and rant and fume and despise San Jose. It made me realize that I'd rather care enough to be hurt by something, than run away from it and never feel a thing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Missing Things

There is an enduring obstacle in life that when you accomplish something, it is done. Sometimes this is triumphant and satisfying. Sometimes, though, it begins an endless chain of 'what's next?'

Its always been hard for me to finish the last chapter of a book that I really loved, finish a movie I am really enjoying, or go to sleep after an absolutely perfect day. I am always afraid (ridiculously) that there won't be a 'what's next.' I'm afraid that there will never be anything as good as what I have right now.   

As I've gotten older, that has gradually gotten easier...in some ways. There are no longer (very many) unfinished books  on my shelf and I watch movies with every intent of seeing how they end. I've realized that as I move through life, it is very rewarding to have things complete. However, this made me realize something larger about my own life. I've realized that I'm reluctant to give up my job that I hate, or stop dating someone that I really shouldn't be, or any number of risks because it means I will have to surrender to the unfathomed, unknowable future.

Maybe this is what springs up in me when I come to the last chapter of a book or the end of a great movie or to the end of a relationship or the end of a journey; this age-old fear that the adventure has come to an end and I have no guarantees that it will come again. The flip-side of that fear, as the wise Laura Danly once said, is the excitement that comes from the very same source: not knowing what will happen.

I think what I have learned in my short experience is that although adventures and exciting events in life come to an end, and it may seem like the end forever, something new will always come to those who are willing to wait for it and are curious enough to find it. Sometimes it even finds me, in that moment (as cliche as it is) when I least expect it. In my opinion, it is better to enjoy the adventures when they come and let them go when their gone. There will always be more. 

The other thing I have learned is that when I surrender the long-dead ghosts of my adventures and give up the things that I thought couldn't get any better, that is when I find that they can, actually, get better. That is not a guarantee that the next stone I turn over will lead to action-packed-adrenaline-fueled-ride-of-my-life, but I think that it is better to give yourself to the present than to constantly reach back to the past.  

The third thing that I have learned is what helps me when all interest has drained from my life and more things are ending than beginning: that life is full of surprises.    

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Patriot


One of my 4th of July Traditions over the past couple of years (which I hope will become a long-standing, time-tested tradition) is to watch The Patriot. For some reason, I had never realized what a foundational movie it was to me. The story of a good man overcoming all odds, being a boss, and winning the American Revolution is a familiar one to me. However, I noticed a few points of note from this year's watch through that stood out to me and that I think are very relevant to everyday life.

Here they are:

1. You have to have principles.
I think this might be the most important, foundational thing of all: if you have beliefs, whether latent or active, you will need them for any sort of battle. I think this is because in order to have a battle, there have to be opposing sides. Cultivating principles is tantamount to choosing a side. (Just fly in the face of "Some Nights." Just do it.)

2. You might not want to fight for something, but you might have to.
I either want to fight and don't know what the heck I'm fighting, or I don't feel like fighting for anything and find as many excuses as I can for why I can't. I'd like to think that when opposition or injustice comes, I would choose to fight it, but more often than not, I have to be forced into it, or go kicking and screaming.

3. You might lose everything.
Possessions, property, homes, family, friends, and possibly you own life will be taken from you. That is the cost of believing in a revolutionary idea. Its hard, painful, and leads to despair. However...

4. You are never just fighting for you.
I often feel like I'm alone; alone in what I deal with, alone in my ambitions, in how I think, and in what I think is right. The thing is, when I start fighting, I start to see the invisible soldiers: people around me who are dealing with their own battles. Sometimes its the same battle that I'm fighting. Fighting for something brings out who I really am. Its like Fight Club. I don't even know it most of the time, but the battles I fight matter to everyone who I matter to and for everyone who will ever matter to me, simply because what I fight for will define my whole life.

5. Some things are worth fighting for.
If it is something I believe in, base my life on, realize I must fight to protect it and sacrifice everything for it, it must be something really unpopular, something that may seem really delusional, and something that seems worth it. I hope I'm brave enough to fight for those things.  

I'll see you out on the battlefield.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Superman

I stood in line.
I settled into my seat.
The lights went down.
The lights came up.
I left.

I want to talk about what happened in between.

Superman was never on my list of favorite super heroes. Even though he could fly and was invincible he never really piqued my interest. So, when Man of Steel came to the big screens of America, I went, not as a die-hard fan, but ready to give Superman another chance.

As I watched the movie, I was of course impressed by the visuals that were created in thousands of computers by thousands of fingers on keyboards, excited voices in boardrooms and solitary concept artists with thousands of pencils, and it was all beautiful.

Russell Crowe's monologues in the early stages of the film also raised my hopes and prepared me for the havoc of greatness that Superman would undoubtedly unleash on the world and the moral bedrock that he would become; the "ideal to strive towards." Crowe's character, along with Superman's mother, send him off in the hopes that he will live on and that he will change earth forever. I got interested.

Zod, the villain, (Michael Shannon) was also a fairly strong character. He was focused and consistently intent on rebuilding his race that was destroyed. (I was also under the impression that this was Superman's reason for being sent to earth, but I might be hazy on that point.) Zod took the necessary steps to realize his plan and made difficult, though questionable, moral decisions that would eventually lead to his goal being completed. There was even a ship full of  embryos from Krypton that were primed to rebuild the population and he had collected the tools he needed to overhaul earth, wipe out the human population, and begin again. Superman now had a focused enemy. It was getting pretty good.

Lois Lane was tough, smart, sensible, and had strong personal convictions that she expressed throughout the movie. She was brave, but often got into trouble (i.e when the guardian robot attacked her in the frozen ship and on the multiple occasions where she fell from the sky, hurtling to her death). This suggested to me that, although she was capable, she still needed someone to save her. Superman now had a damsel in distress. This movie was now full of possibilities.

Superman. It is ironic to me that the strongest character in this movie is also the weakest. He has a mission in life, a sworn enemy, a damsel in distress, super powers, and a new found sense of who he is and what is expected of him. What does he do with all that? How does that affect him? He becomes nice.

Don't get me wrong. Being nice is great. I am completely a proponent of loving your mother, sticking up for the underdog and throwing semi-trucks into trees when their drivers do not respect women. All that I completely agreed with. Also, it was Superman's 'waiting period' when he couldn't do anything too amazing because Kevin Costner thought everyone would be too afraid. However,
1) He was Superman, so if he felt a strong sense of purpose for his life, why did he care what anyone would think of him? He's also invincible with god-like power so what could anyone do to him? He had also been completely rejected and ridiculed his whole life by everyone anyway except the people that had actually seen him use his powers or been affected in some way by them. (i.e the ginger kid he saved off the bus.) So how much more could he actually be rejected and why does he care? Furthermore, I don't think that having absolute, raw power would make anyone feel at ease, no matter how genuinely he smiled at you.
2) His 'waiting period' never ended. Our hero had been encouraged early in his life by his father (Kevin Costner) to figure out who he was so that he could make the difficult choices that he would have to make. Instead, he never faced a difficult moral dilemma. Superman was simply trapped into saving the world by Zod, who actually had convictions about who he was and what he was doing. Superman never had to choose between saving the world and saving himself and so through saving himself he saved the world. This is convenient, but I would argue that it is not exactly noble.

He did choose, on several occasions to rescue Lois. She was the only human that seemed to fall consistently into his good graces. With Lois, Superman shone.

Lois was the lucky one who saw a consistent Superman. However, everyone else on earth was not so lucky. He started out well by saving a bunch of men from a burning oil rig and subsequently the helicopter from being crushed. Well done Superman. I now know that you are interested in preserving human life. However, I was soon confused when there was a standoff in the Smallville main street. He told all the bystanders and shop owners to stay inside and lock the doors. I have two questions at this point.
1) What good was that going to do against aliens that could break walls with their hands?
2) Notice how they never revisited the people that had locked themselves in their shops? This was probably because someone had thrown a car through their window and crushed them, or because they had become toast due to the multiple missiles that had blown up the entire town. However, this was not all Superman's fault. The military was mostly to blame for the actually collateral damage and disregard for human life. However, there is a final scene with a huge gravity machine that is leveling the planet and he is in charge of bringing it down. He destroys the machine, which is great, but after he destroys it, he has a final showdown with Zod in the middle of the city. For a guy who just an hour ago was going out of his way to save 5 guys in a helicopter, he seems to have become pretty cavalier with knocking over a few dozen buildings, blowing up some cars, and collapsing a parking garage which happened to be sheltering all of the people he had instructed to hide there. This could also be blamed on Zod, but since all Zod wanted to do was kill Superman, couldn't Superman have simply flown out of such a heavily populated area and settled their differences there? This also would have made it possible to spare Zod's life since Superman would not have been distracted by the family that he was suddenly interested in saving. He also didn't seem very concerned with destroying the embryos that were the remaining remnants of his race (besides Zod who he also killed), commenting casually that 'they had their chance', or that he wasn't around when Zod threw a truck into his mother's house and slapped her around. At this point, all traces of consistency had vanished from Superman's character. Lois Lane truly was the only consistent beneficiary of Superman's full attention and devotion, except maybe Superman himself.

Also, briefly touching on the Messiah allegory, I thought that in certain subtle ways, it was set up well. However, transistioning from subtlety into blatancy (the church scene where he talks to the Priest) and then not ever concluding that thread or connecting it with the rest of the story was, on par with the rest of the film, disappointing. Not only that, but the story never revisits this theme or explains why it was brought up in the first place, making it unfortunately consistent with Superman's character. All this allegory suggested to me was that Jesus was also just a ansgsty, indecisive, really nice guy who accidentally saved the world.

In conclusion, from the way Superman was introduced, I was expecting someone full of conviction, of devotion, of nobility, consistency and sacrifice, who would make some difficult choices, protect the innocent, and bring justice to every situation. Instead, Superman seemed selfish, easily distracted, inconsistent, unsure, and impulsive. At least he was a really, really nice guy...sometimes. This latter description sounds a lot more like who I am, than who a Superhero should be. Personally, I want my heros to be better than I am. I'm not saying that Superman can't have his flaws, but I don't think I can aspire to be like someone who has so much power, so much potential and so little to lose and yet never overcomes his own fear, insecurities and obstacles that keep him from choosing to be something greater than what he is trapped into being. He is not my hero.

 


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Self Respect

I always think about the possibilities; what might happen.

Ever talk to someone like me? I'll give you a hint: I'm indecisive, inconclusive, and paralyzed by the weight of small decisions that make up each and every day. Sound awful? Well, yeah. I have lived in this sort of decisional twilight for most of my life. I started to wonder why.

It got me thinking.

I talked to some people about the way I make decisions and how I like to weigh every possibility and every outcome before I make one. At this, I hear you pointing out that there is no way I could even sort of get close to actually doing that, and you're right. Therefore, I would sit and stew and try to puzzle out the best possible outcome until I either made a shaky decision or I was forced to by the relentless press of time, which isn't a decision at all.

That was the problem.

Next, I had to look at why I was so paralyzed by these simple choices. I came up with several answers I didn't like.

1. I did what I did because I thought someone wanted me to.
2. I thought I would miss out if I chose wrong.
3. I felt guilty if people close to me didn't like my decisions.
4. I couldn't see my way clear to the right thing.

Now, there are easy justifications for all of these and thats why that have been allowed so long to linger at the edge of my mind, just waiting until I had to choose between Cocoa Crispies and Raisin Bran.
Ok, I'm not really that bad.

Once I started to listen to my own justifications and step back, I realized that there was something else going on here. One of the main problems was that I did not trust myself enough to make the right decision on my own.

This all comes down to self respect.

I think it is important to earn that trust with yourself, and not only that, but respect yourself enough to make the decisions that are important to you, without the pressure of what other people think weighing on your mind. If, like me, you are worried about what it the best thing is or obsessing over the right thing, it might be time to loosen the grip a little and start making judgements to see how they turn out.

While I think it is good to reflect and ask people their thoughts and opinions on things, sometimes you just have to take the plunge and hope for the best. I think you'll be glad you did.



Theater

Watching a movie is great, really.

That said,

I watched a documentary recently where Keanu Reeves interviewed a bunch of brass in the industry to ask them about the shift from film to digital. They all seemed scared. One thing that I remember is the sentiment that no one has to go to the movies anymore; that they could all stay home and watch movies on their iphones. 

I love going to the movies, so I didn't know what he was talking about. (But I did understand his concern, being so high up in an industry that relies so heavily on an audience.) 

This all got me thinking. 

I think we can all agree that doing something corporately has a different affect than if someone experienced that same thing alone. However, I recently went to a play and realized that as the audience was affected by the performance, the performance was in turn affected by the audience. This may seem like a simple revelation, but where else are we allowed to be, as a group, an influence upon the very thing we are all being influenced by. In reality, the audience as a whole gets to decide how to influence the performance and that performance, as a result, will affect the audience either more or less, based on the audience's decision.

I think that it is important to have moments where you can look around and realize that everyone else is either invested or disinterested; rapt or texting. Its important to have moments where you can feel what is going on in the room and to know that you are a significant force. In my opinion, theater is one of the most truly important human inventions.

If you haven't been in a while, maybe its time to visit the theater. 


Thursday, June 6, 2013

In My Opinion

A man named Michael Jager of JDK designs once said that the most influential people who were truly exceptional had the self confidence to have a point of view.

That got me thinking.

In the organized chaos that defines our technological age, information and how we respond to it has become a delicate balance. It is an art of deciding what we will think about when bombarded with the assault of information. Sometimes, it seems like there is simply too much stuff to actually keep up with, so we give up. Sometimes we are forced to multi-task and pay attention to different things, while never actually being let up for air; to breathe and think about the small actions that make up our lives. There is of course an infinite number of ways that we could choose to deal with this onslaught of commercial, industrial and personal marketing, but I have come to the conclusion that the things which we decide to focus on, whether a film in a crowded theater, or a book read in solitude, is an opportunity.

A friend recently pointed out to me that this opportunity is not simply to make a judgement on that film or this book, but an opportunity to discover something about ourselves and how we relate to the ideas that engulf us; which direction we choose to swim in the this ocean of ideas. To put it another way, forming an opinion is not for the benefit of the object, but for ourselves. They clarify the way that we articulate our position and, in essence, give a voice to the voiceless ideas and opinions in our minds.

A common misconception I had was that if it makes sense in my own head, I will easily be able to tell someone else exactly what I think or feel. Have you ever thought you had a rock solid view on something and then have it crumble unexpectedly when you vocalized it? It is a disappointing thing when you release it from the safety of formlessness and make it vulnerable to the unfamiliar air of reality. Talking about things or writing them down, I realized, is a way to have your ideas look back at you, before or after sending them into the world. It is good practice for when you have something that you desperately need to share. The last thing you want is to not be able to make someone else understand. It also makes those shadowy opinions into living things that now require some explaining. We all understand the idea of a ghost, but have you ever tried to explain what a ghost is?

So, why write a blog, you ask? One: everyone is doing it.
                                                  Two: it is practice for forming opinions and defending them, as well as mirroring your ideas back to yourself in order to make them stronger and better defined. Stronger, at least, then safely in your own head, no matter how secure that feels.
                                                  Third: to practice what I preach. I hope that I can be the reminder for someone else that opinions and points of view are important for everyone; that they will determine where you spend your time, how you behave and what you believe about life.

So, don't be afraid. Have an opinion.