Ineluctable Modality of the Invisible.

“INELUCTABLE MODALITY OF THE VISIBLE: AT LEAST THAT IF NO MORE, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.”

– Ulysses, by James Joyce

In the quote above that we’ve recently gone over in class, the opening phrase “Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more…” is an eye-catching one, as are many other phrases that Joyce sprinkles through his behemoth of a book, Ulysses.  To break it down simply, “ineluctable” = inescapable; “modality” = state of being, existence; the phrase is essentially the inescapable existence of what can be seen.  The core idea of the phrase, however, is to just use what we see to feel.  While this seems self-evident, the fact of the matter is that we use all of the experiences, messages, advertisements, stereotypes, and everything else that we have absorbed into our collective consciousness to judge something or someone we have never seen.  Ratty coat, unshaved, hole in the pants – he must be going through rough times financially, we think.  Blonde hair, sunglasses, short shorts, and sandals – she must be the kind of girl waiting for the weekend.  But often times, so much of what we categorize people as is wrong.  James Joyce, in his entire book, is, in a way, emphasizing this point of ineluctable modality of the visible.  He puts his main character, Leopold Bloom, in various circumstances that, when seen through the proper lens, would prove to bear immediate pre-existing judgments.  However, Joyce does not go into whether something is good or bad; he merely gives Bloom’s feelings on that particular circumstance as they come – flushed cheeks, stickiness of sugar, snotgreen.

And this is a way that our faith can be lived out.  Except instead of the visible, we should believe, by faith, in the ineluctable modality of the invisible.  As it says in Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  If we are firm in our faith to truly know and understand that everything we see and encounter comes from God, is not the invisible ineluctably modal?  I am of the opinion that we should constantly be challenged in our faith, and a simple way to do this is to view what God gives you as it is; forget all of the previous stereotypes of the church that you have accrued during your years of faith, and focus purely on what is at hand.  Homosexuality, to elder saints, is a problem that needs to be eradicated…somehow.  And yet, is this not a blatant hatred of those who are sinning, just as the rest of us are?  And this is only one such example out of the many examples that can be made over the course of our Christian walk.  Sin is sin is sin is sin; we should never allow ourselves to be harder or easier on some sins over others because none of it is of God or gives Him glory.  And so, we realize that in all things present and seen, God is also inescapably existing there as well.  So for all things spiritual that we encounter, we should not fall back on our previous solutions in order to get us through, but realize that God is in it, and perhaps this time, a new purpose is behind the equally new circumstance.

Living out the ineluctable modality of the invisible means that our faith is constantly fresh.  If we stop approaching trials that we encounter with the attitude of “Oh, I must have done something wrong again and God is punishing me now,” and instead view each travail as an opportunity to see something new of God, it is unlikely that those who believe in Him would ever grow tired of their faith.  We will constantly be humbled by each new opportunity that He gives us in life, and we will also grow in the wisdom of Himself.  I don’t know about anyone else, but that sounds like a pretty good way to live my spiritual life.

The last line of Joyce’s passage that I quoted says, “Shut your eyes and see.”  This can also be applied to Christianity, as many always spit out the words “blind faith,” which, in some ways may be a good thing.  But having that ineluctable modality of the invisible, that constant sense that God is constantly at work in all situations, makes our faith one that opens our eyes to the will that is manifesting itself before us, so that we may not proceed blindly, but truly see.

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Happy Anniversary.

Two years ago, I created this WordPress site as a replacement for Tumblr to store and share my thoughts.  Since then, there’s been a visible difference to how I’ve developed as a writer.  I hesitate to say progressed, advanced, or even matured because I believe that we only turn a page in how we change as writers; I do enjoy some of my old work more than my current work, but there is a reason I’ve come to this point of my pilgrimage in finding my complete form as a writer.  My posts have ranged from more hopelessly romantic than is healthy for a human being to deeply experientially talks of my faith.  Here’s to another blessing of a year writing and sharing it with those of you who do take the time to read my posts!

Cast the Nets Away.

The nets are cast into the sea,

the waiting game begins.

Ropes meshed together may be

the cause of darker sins.

Hands with minds their own

throw ropes entangling

as the pale moon shone

with his life just dangling.

Complexity’s nets thrown on

as life spirals down slow.

This and that were thrust upon

a man whose self was foe.

So why the cares and worries;

is not faith alone enough?

For God’s favor it curries

and reflects of His own love.

His love is basic, pure, and true

how can we fault Him e’er?

His love unravels the worst to do

and reminds us that He’s there.

Wait What.

I don’t know what’s going through my head right now.  I thought I could do it, but it seems like the clicking clacking and what am I typing and listening to.  Thoughts in my head that want to her get out but I don’t know why is this what am I doing get them out.  Feelings that make me want to burst forth in tears are sniff sniff cough I can’t get the tears flowing.  I’ve changed, my heart is different now, not quite as emotional as before.  Or maybe I’m just tired and I want to take a nap. Vzzzz Vzzzz. Green light cell phone text message.  Whispers from another room are heard Brian? Or maybe Mike.  What am I going to do about Mrs. Dalloway?  Going to miss BJJ tomorrow, should I go Friday by myself? Fishing thursday.  Fishing.  Need to buy squid this time for bait.  Maybe I’ll land another big one.  Luke, Wang sisters, Joseph.  Where are they now, I wonder?  I don’t know what is going on back home, but I hope everything is okay.  Everything is screaming for one I know stop I’m getting over it, it doesn’t even make sense for it to be like this.  Sigh. Pause.  The door opens and look who is coming in.  It’s Vivian and they’re late, they’re late.  I don’t know why you came so early but I’m going to go back to blogging and nice you brought plates.  Half hearted laughs.  The rushing of water filling the bottle, the increasing frequency of familiarity.  I should probably stop blogging soon because I can’t hold a conversation and yeah William forgot it and yeah.

Whispers in the Rain.

The clouds are grey and sunshine swept

by stormy brooms and brooding wind.

A tempest raging ‘gainst one who sinned,

the only one in the world not kept.

Security of a mystery so blind,

the drops shatter eyelids of the broken.

Tears shed from high, grace not a token

to trade with a maelstrom brewing unkind.

Soft voice, made hoarse with quivering;

emotion pours forth with drizzling pain.

Eyes lifted up to see what I could gain

A heart, made warm, to all delivering.

I Don’t Want to Understand.

God works, and He works everywhere.  If I ever doubted – or doubt in the future – His omnipresence, may this post bring me back to the truth.  Two short stories occurred that are so random, but so clearly God working in my life.

On Friday night, I finally got to go fishing (for real this time, not just walking into my potential death at every corner).  At first, I only caught a lizardfish the entire night, but when Luke came up with the genius idea to go surf fishing,

“Are you okay with catching nothing?”

“Yeah sure, I caught a lizardfish today already so it’s chill.”

After checking the crab net and reeling up a less-than-palm-sized crab, we packed up our stuff to go to shallower, more enticing waters.  We set up the two longest rods with one hook rigs, which Luke taught me how to make properly with a sliding sinker, and then we put on our squid bait.  I went to the restroom and came back, and Luke said to keep an eye on my rod because there seemed to be interest.  I proceeded to play Flow Free.  After seeing the nibbles he was referring to, he (after going to the restroom) came back and said that the hook I chose to put on the rig was one of a few that he used when he caught his shovel nose guitarfish.  My rod only got nibbles for about an hour, and at 12:56:

“Wanna call it a day at 1:15?”

“Hmm sure. What time is it right now?”

“Like almost one.”

“Hmm…okay then.”

Dejection was in the air for sure, as both of us had secretly hoped to catch something.  I cast out my line one last time and just waited.  Suddenly, after what seemed like five minutes, my rod fell against the pier.  I looked back, expecting to see Luke in the vicinity having accidentally kicked it, but upon seeing no one, I realized that my line was actually being yanked by something on the other end.  Quickly, I took up the rod and began pulling up and reeling in as he instructed.  It got to a point where it seemed like

“Dang…I think my line is stuck…”

“Oh really? Wait, does it feel like you’re pulling in a realllly heavy something?”

“Hmm…*reels* now that you mention it, it does!”

Eventually on the surface of the water, a white patch appeared.  It was a ray!  And it was not a small one either.  Luke swiftly moved to use treble hooks to try and simulate reeling up the fish with two rods, but the effort was mangled when it got tangled with my line.  Thinking quickly on his feet, he used the crab net and let it down quickly, hoping to get there before my line snapped from the tension.  I realized what he was trying to do and then lifted the ray up out of the water as he scooped the net underneath the ray and started yanking up, with me reeling in all the while.  It was about two feet long and it came at a time when we had both given up.  I realized that this is when God is able to use us and surprise us in our lives.  It was such a small event in the grand scheme of things, but it made me appreciate how God works – His power is made perfect in weakness.

The next thing was the fact that for Saturday night’s gospel meeting, Brother Huang, who serves in the prison ministry in Taiwan, was going to be sharing.  He had previously shared many times at Westminster, so I went into the night’s event jaded from thinking that I had already heard all the stories.  However, after hearing the testimonies shared by the young men that Brother Huang was working with and hearing miniature biographies from one of the prison ministry workers – who was an ex-heroine addict himself and shared his own testimony – I found myself moved afresh by what I heard.  God really showed me how He gives us so many opportunities to reach out; we need only grasp them.  As I was helping the reset the format of the church seating arrangements, Alan came to give me dessert by request of my mom.  I smiled and told him to serve our guests from Taiwan first, which led me to breaking out of my bubble of insecurity and speaking to one of the kids, telling him to please take the dessert.  Eventually, Sheng Hao, a boy who had trouble staying in school because teachers found his incessant singing a huge distraction to the class, asked the boy I talked to what I said.  Seeing this in the corner of my eye, I had a sense that I was going to talk to him.  He came over and we made eye contact, and he thanked me for being so welcoming to them.  I, in turn, thanked him for coming and sharing his story with all of us.  We eventually began chatting, and I even joked with him about having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for singing.  We exchanged names and became friends, and I learned that apparently, his assigned English name in was also Ben.  When they were called to leave, I invited him to come back again some time and gave praise to God in my heart for opening up that door.  I also learned that the son of Brother Huang was going to be serving the Chinese-speaking ministry in the Bay area at the church that Jeremy Lin attended.  I remembered that Daniel also went to that church, and so I approached him and asked him to keep a lookout for D. Yeh.  And to wrap it all up, the stirring messages that were shared showed me how blessed I was to live in the environment that I lived in, to have a whole (as opposed to broken) family, and that I could have the privilege of hearing their stories and – as with Sheng Hao – become a part of their incredible journeys in Christ.  I normally wouldn’t have even approached them, but God really worked in a way that opened up the opportunity to do so.  I don’t understand how God works, but after tonight, I don’t even want to.  All I know is that He is capable of doing works within me that I thought impossible, and I pray to walk by faith so that He continues opening doors and that I am bold to open them.

Windchill.

The gusts are rising high today,

the tree embraces for a storm.

The sun shines swift, without delay,

keeping the old tree warm.

The wind came soft upon the leaves –

A gentle, meek, but unseen force.

A whistling tune from midst the sieve

the tree and wind become cohorts.

And so the summer day goes on

Green, yellow, sky blue above.

From the breeze at night to calm dawn

peaceful like an olive branchéd dove.

But suddenly the wind with fury comes;

the tree bends over with fear and shame.

The wind snaps the twigs, creating drums

that torment all who hear its name.

The tree, with back bent, dares not look up

for it knows not what wrong occurred.

It only shivers without a fuss,

recalling warm wind that was endeared.

When storm blows over and peace is near

the tree speaks gently to wind’s ear:

“What happened that made you cause me fear,

and caused me to see you as less dear?”

The wind huffed and sighed,

and the tree it sadly eyed.

“You’ll never understand,” it cried,

“but thank you for being by my side.”

Choking on Orange Juice.

Today I choked on orange juice.  More like orange juice betrayed me.  I was anticipating its refreshing, full-bodied texture to tantalize the screaming, thirsty cells in my throat, but instead, it launched a revolt, sending me spluttering and gasping for breath.  And then I realized something: I’m losing my quirk.  It’s dying in me slowly because I’ve started being serious about life, serious about friendships, serious about scheduling even.  It’s like my body’s old age seeped into my youthful demeanor, aging my soul until scowls replaced grins and sighs replaced laughs.  I’m not sure why this is happening, but it was kind of terrifying to realize this, especially after a brief lack of breath.  I mean, for part of high school, it was just a mask I put on to reflect something other than the inward troubles, but it was a part of me.  And after experiencing the liberation of college and having a college fellowship, it grew even more.  So why is it dying now, in the summer of my supposed youth? Imagination is beginning to wane and be replaced by the truth, a punishing realism that is starting to strangle my beautiful, hopelessly romantic view on life.  Maybe it’s the choices I’ve made, people I’ve met, things I’ve done that have culminated in this storm that harasses my mental stability to no end.  I used to be such a funny writer, and now I choose the most austere and germane topics to write about given my major.  But what does that even have to do with anything?  If I want to carpe diem, then what mental bonds are restraining me from rendering the most vivid reproductions of memory that I have had into beautiful works of art that immortalize those memories for eternity? The vivacity of my life is now dictated by the depth of suffering and not joy that I experience, as if the aging of mankind is a descent into pain and sorrow rather than an exaltation of the most glorious moments of living.  I am concerned now with who would care if I died today rather than who will appreciate the life I live tomorrow.  Maybe I haven’t been living.  Maybe choking on orange juice was me waking up and realizing that I’ve been drowning this whole time.

A Night Sky.

A walk to remember not long ago,

it was a moonlit, star-gazing, dark night.

The people and we scanned above in hopes

of finding a special, meaningful light.

Counting stars above in wonder rapt,

enfolded by grey puffs of wispy cloud.

Celestial guidance from the sky above

determined what was said that night out loud.

Blankets of lights, meteors streaked the sky

stealing the breath of its audience with ease.

The stars twinkled knowingly at once;

a gentle display of what they knew would please.

Yet, now, the howling gale picks up swiftly,

blowing through the layers of clothing warm.

The soft night, now bleak, gazes down to earth

as stars, now pointed, start to swirl and swarm.

The night darkened quickly, a black expanse

spreading over the land it suffocates.

Clouds shrouded lights and shadows reigned supreme,

the night belonged to rogues and reprobates.

We ran down the road, wearied down by time

faded and worn by the blast of years.

Resounding cries through shaded asphalt reigned

echoing the sullied, dismembered fears.

Now memory speaks where experience walked,

stammering tales of what was once ours.

But, woefully, we only saw the dark night,

and in our haste, forgot all the bright stars.