Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reasoning By Analogy

I was talking to a friend about a personal problem I am having; something that's quite important to my life, but really doesn't affect those around me to any significant extent, and indeed is probably (rightly) invisible to the vast majority of my friends.

While I was sharing, I was surprised to get a large, genuinely emotional, reaction from him in response to some of the things I shared. My surprise must have registered with him, because he laughed and said essentially "Jamie! You don't realize how much I care about you!"

I was surprised because I had projected onto him behavior that I often engage in myself. When friends come to me for advice, I often listen to their problems, tell them what I think they should do, and then generally go on my way, emotionally unaffected by what they've just shared with me.

I think that too often I do the same thing with God; I don't realize the extent to which He cares for me and what He wants for me. I assume that He's like me-much quicker to do favors for those I like, or who are kind to me, than for others; playing favorites; consumed with my own affairs, etc. Like CS Lewis' analogy to a small child, I'm content to play in the mud because I don't know that the beach exists.

I was fortunate to get a reflection of God's love from this person. I think this leads me to want to change my prayer life to account for this new revelation, but I'm still deciding as to how.

Monday, November 8, 2010

October comes Late.

Sometimes, at night, when the roads are almost clear, I really appreciate driving, and in no small part that's due to the closeness it brings me to nature, and my machine. Shrills and grumbles of the machine and the howling of wind both feel so primal, and every time a person intrudes, my peace shatters, and just even that little bit of reprieve from humanity lets me know that I really like nature and the solitude it brings. But in a deeper sense, other than escapism, the reasons for liking nature are perplexing. Maybe it has to do with the way everything intricately fit together so wonderfully, leaving us in awe at something much greater than man could have had the capacity of mind to make such a tapestry of life. But then, the same argument can be made for the human body as well, a maze of pipes and symbiotic micro-organisms working together so incredibly complex that we still don't know how we work. Or possibly, it has to be the beauty in the trees, or gorgeous views that makes you feel you see the world and the colors of the wind. But again though, there are enjoyable people to look at, eyes that hide eternity and titillating figures that make you marvel in a different sort of way. So in terms of level of craftsmanship, there's no difference between the two things.

I conject the reason why something is so much better than the other is the work of time. I spent a lot more of my time with people than with nature, so then nature naturally becomes a more relaxing environment. The reason this happens is most likely due to our capacity to handle difference, which is to say that it's crap, but we can manage for limited durations provided we are prepared.

As most people are not Viggo Mortensen, we tend to approach nature with preparation and gear, sprays that drive away living things, clothes that protect us from the rawness. We show up in armor, otherwise, things like bugs can surround us, protruding thorns, branches and bushes can scratch out skin, rocks can cause havoc with our feet, and even bears could maul us. And possibly the most important thing is that when we get slightly uncomfortable, get sick, get hurt, we immediate leave and seek refuge back in what's known to us. And since our trips to nature are always short, we tend to leave with fond memories, which constantly fuel our desires to go back, because the fresh air, quiet and serenity are usually in line with the purpose of getting away. In the end, we are nothing more than tourists, lamenting the short duration of the vacation but yet fully aware that longer would bring about obligations that we don't really want. We observe nature, and it's beautiful, so we love it.

Unfortunately, we can't just watch people, nor choose when to make our presence known, nor when to leave. Yet, just as unfortunate, we do take a similar approach to people as we do to nature. Whether we realize or not, we prepare ourselves before people. We polish off that armor, put on some makeup, then present a self that we want to show, and all the world's a stage.

The interactions are brief as we play the role of observers, trading greetings, minor concerns, annoyances, complaints, jokes when the paths eclipse. Yet, if that's all, I think most people would be quite alright, because the roads don't intersect often and there's less likelihood to develop any kind of obstructions. If we can all be tourists in another's life, the resulting superficiality would not bad, in fact, it'd probably be a very good time.

Don't take that to mean the end of problems, because it's not, rather it just means we don't have to deal with the annoyances of being a participant in someone's life. I am me, you are you, it's simple like that, there's no interference, but if my life and your life run crisscrossing routes, then what is mine is yours and yours is mine, and and my domain has acre for you, your domain has space for me, I put a chink in your armor, you dent my armor, I open a crease in the door to me, you give me peeks, I don't completely understand you, you don't get me, yet we both want a little from the other, then everything becomes very confusing, frustrating and can't be easily associated with particulars or individuals, but instead just leads to flight, or more armor and makeup. "Let's take a break. Let's start from the beginning. Let us be tourists once again, so we can both present our best and really care about the impression we're making."

Even if we can forgive transgressions easily like that, it's hardly in our best interest to continually restart the same thing over and over again. It'd certainly feel like wasted effort if we worked to grow a peach tree to only discover that it grew apples instead, so we'd cut it down to try again. But life always grows apples, so we'd better learn to like them, or we're constantly going to be disappointed. And if we worked at it, we'd probably get pretty good at making apple-based foods, which are certainly a lot better than constantly replanting and waiting for peaches.

Being able to accept the taste of apples depends a lot on attitude and the willingness to try, because it's always a struggle, and it's always hard to fight to desire to smash a couple against the wall to make yourself feel better. And regardless of how much we loves apples, we could probably always love them just a little bit better. I probably don't really love nature, and quite possibly, you don't really love nature either, but we're smart enough to know when to avoid it. But despite our best efforts, we'll always have apples in our lives, and that's suppose to sound foreboding and ominous, because invasion of apples is quite serious and will need a lifetime of struggle to overcome.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Monthly Quota - September

In Plato's The Republic (Penguin Classics), Glaucon, in an attempt to define morality, describes what he believes to be the consummate moral person...
...And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust... (Book 2 - Challenge to Socrates)
The most honored of men, his glory is hidden by human eyes.  Thus, the highest must seem as the lowest, until the day of his death.  Thus, 'so that his morality can be tested'.

In my opinion, by these philosophical standards, Jesus was the person being described.  Unlike most, Jesus pursued genuine obedience & love (goodness), rather than the image of it.  Stripped of this aura (lest he pursue his reputation and honor instead of something higher), he was instead slandered and believed to be a heretical menace.  With a 'colossal reputation for immorality' (by association), he faithfully followed this path that was decided for him, as all lambs must, until his ignoble death.

Interestingly enough, the consummate devil is one who is evil at heart, but has all the appearances of being the most righteous/honorable man... (food for thought)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scared of God

I was reading Falling For God recently, and it was talking about the reasons why we don't spend more time with God. For me, busyness and laziness of course predominate as the reasons why I don't spend time with God.

But when I thought about it, I realized that there's another reason-a lot of times when I have my own sin(s) on my heart, I don't want to go to God, because I'm afraid He'll judge me and want me to change my life in ways that will make it ultimately less pleasant for me. Both of those fears are based on similar misunderstandings of God.

When I'm afraid that He'll judge me, I'm making God too human-I think He'll react to my sins the way that one of my friends might react (surely none of you reading this blog would think less of me for hearing of my sins, but you get the point). I'm not always conscious of how different God is from us-since my daily interaction is with humans, I think He'll react like we will. It's hard to be constantly aware of the radical nature of His forgiveness.

When I'm afraid that He'll change my life in a way that makes it less pleasant for me, I'm not quite as far off-God does want to change my life, and those changes certainly will remove some activities that I currently find pleasurable. But ultimately, I'm lacking in the faith that He knows what's best for me, and that He has "plans to prosper [me] and not to harm [me], plans to give [me] hope and a future." I'm arrogant in thinking that my plans for my life are the best ones possible.

These may seem like an obvious points to y'all, but for me, this realization about the assumptions I had about God really made a difference in my quiet times.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The maybe if it didn't take so freaking long I might write more: Adventures in Reading, pt I, Episode

Soo, I'm actually going to try my hand at writing something, because all I have been doing up to now is linking to another's insights, but apparently, that's what google reader and google buzz are for. Also, the best posts so far, save Dubai, have been anecdotal, and reading about you guys is a lot more interesting than being amused by links and quotes, which in lieu of all powerful fingers, Al Gore, and a keyboard are a lot easier to obtain and therefore far less valuable than say, the few minutes we share as storyteller and avid reader.

Anyways, onto a post! And because it might be a good idea in retrospect, I'm issuing a general warning now, just to be on the safe side, in case you need it. Finally, everything is based on a true story.

In my unquantifiable existence, there are things I can accept with the utmost ease, even if they almost make no real sense, but provide just enough of a basis to be believable, in other words, let's call these things stereotypes. For example, most people will accept Indians become doctors, frat guys don't function until 3 beers, Chrysler cars are pieces of crap and drinking motor oil will grow hair on your eyeballs, if you don't believe me on this, just try it.

Usually in most situations, stereotypes are pretty innocent, but they do innately reflect what we believe in, what composes of our instinctual core, essentially. The danger is that in moments precluding thinking, they make up our impulses. However, that is not a bad thing, since we believe ourselves to be decent individuals, yet that doesn't stop us from being insulted or angered when something challenges the prescribed notions. When that happens, we feel, which is a word that should carry both ebullience and extreme heaviness and is really a part of us that we can't really quantify, a rawness, but one that flows, like water. Even right now, four paragraphs in, you might be annoyed by the facts that so far there has been one quite uninsightful observation, and one Asian, in a stereotypical indirect fashion, using so many words but not really saying anything personal and beyond that, made one confusing simile!

Well, in my defense, I wanted to start with the story right off-the-bat, but then wrote something not at all story-like, so threw in a warning and here we are, finally, the real beginning. I've just started reading the book "Christ, The Lord out of Egypt", written by Anne Rice. Before talking about the book, it's important to note that the timing of this was after she renounced Christianity, so I've already formed an opinion of her. And her writing style made her seem like someone I would like to meet, and punch. Already in less than 24 hours of sporadic visual interaction, I can neatly fit her in a box labeled difficult, and I'd feel justified.

But I can do more than just place people in certain groups as I can sort of, if I try real hard, read. And her story so far is about a young Jesus, without the facial hair, growing up in the lands of Egypt. Like all young boys, Jesus played with a group of friends, so far so good, and then like all young boys, curses are flown at the opposing team, no problems there, but then quite unlike other young boys, the little boy cursed by pubescent Jesus dies, and I was really annoyed, possibly angered by that. I'm not going over the significance of the killing, you figure it out as it's not important to my story. What really bothered me was that this Jesus did not fit into the neat boxed Jesus with the beard.

Perhaps what made it so jarring is that it is believable, because the elements are all believable: Jesus can certainly kill someone with a curse, and Jesus lived a life of a kid, complete with concomitant inadvertent results. I'm not saying Anne Rice is right, but it did take me awhile to get over the fact of the initial shock factor. And during that time, I would probably have found a way to ignore Anne Rice after punching her, not at all unlike her group of Christian associates, people that ostracized her, probably because she challenged their more spiritual stereotypes.

And despite how it might seem, I'm not defending Anne Rice as her quitting was still a poor demonstration of her faith, but I did realize that certain preconceived notions can affect our ministry. So, I want to leave by asking which ones do you have?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

something funny I read today...

There once was a rich man who was near death. He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him. An angel hears his plea and appears to him. "Sorry, but you can't take your wealth with you." The man implores the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules. The man continues to pray that his wealth could follow him. The angel reappears and informs the man that God has decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him. Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase and fills it with pure gold bars and places it beside his bed.
Soon afterward the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to greet St. Peter. St. Peter seeing the suitcase says, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here!" But, the man explains to St. Peter that he has permission and asks him to verify his story with the Lord. Sure enough, St. Peter checks and comes back saying, "You're right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I'm supposed to check its contents before letting it through." St. Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaims, "You brought pavement?!!!"

Rev 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

do people still keep track of this?

just want to say hello. i miss the byob group.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Jesus looked at him and loved him."

Mark 10: 17-22:
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’d20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Pastor David talked last night about falling back in love with the Lord, and I thought of these verses. When I read this passage, I have to say that I didn't initially feel sympathy for the rich young man-he reminds me of someone who sucks up to the teacher in class, but is really just trying to show off to the teacher (and the other students) how much he/she knows. In fact, I think Jesus' first comment about no one being good but God alone is a sarcastic remark meant to illustrate that it's silly for the rich young man to think of Jesus as just a "good teacher."

And yet, even right after the rich young man makes the absurdly arrogant statement that he's kept all the commandments since he's a boy(really? never violated any of them even once?), Jesus looks at him, and loves him. That really touched me, and brought home to me how unconditional God's love for us really is.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Old Schoolism"

This is from Martin Luther; I found it to be quite interesting as I think most of us has this mentality organisation of church is an old school concept and that we should try to be more organic. Well, it does seem as a whole, we don't do a great job starting spiritual grow-ops. Anyways, how could we better bring Christ into our daily community lives? It's just something to think about.

“[Christians] should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacrament, and do other Christian works. According to this order, those who do not lead Christian lives could be known, reproved, corrected, cast out, or excommunicated, according to the rule of Christ [Mat. 18:15-17]. Here one could also solicit benevolent gifts to be willingly given and distributed to the poor, according to St. Paul’s example [2 Cor. 9]. Here would be no need of much and elaborate singing. Here one could set out a brief and neat order for baptism and the sacrament and center everything on the Word, prayer, and love.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on."

-David Foster Wallace, Kenyon Commencement speech