Journey to the Center of Reality, i.

Having finished up my first year of studying philosophy at Talbot, I thought it would be helpful to write out a few takeaways from the year.  It’s been a challenging academic year, to be sure, but I can confidently say that every moment has been rich with experience and learning and humbling and grace.

  1. Taking school seriously is actually kind of fun.
  2. People will talk to me differently because I’m in seminary.
  3. I’m a poor evangelist, but that is not my identity (it’s just an accidental property I have heh).  I am conscious of this and I need to bring it to God. He will be faithful in guiding me to those He wants me to reach.
  4. There is a way to disagree without offending the other party.
  5. Spiritual disciplines are legitimately helpful.
  6. Philosophy is a mind-molding kind of subject; it often does work in the background of the mind (if such there be).
  7. Church must be far and away greater than what we think it ought to be – in more ways than one.
  8. Old friendships are real anchors.
  9. New friendships are constantly surprising.
  10. Family is so often taken for granted.
  11. I’ve become really self-conscious about the content I produce and rely less and less on a blog to just introspect externally; this is not a positive trend.
  12. Calvinism is not the only theology (gasp) but it IS the best one 😉 kidding! Theological perspectives, in some respects, are held in virtue of personal experience of relationship with and to God.
  13. Being kind is not reserved just for non-Christians (as surprising as the idea of speaking with a kind Christian seems to be nowadays); we must also be kind to the brothers and sisters we meet with regularly lest we take them for granted (see 10).
  14. Pastoring is a serious, thankless job; a special level of maturity and spiritual discernment is required for it. Love your pastors! As humans, they’re trying the hardest and battling the most within themselves to examine their own lives first and be faithful to what they’ve been called to.
  15. There are frequently moments where God opens the eyes to exceeding beauty – how many have I missed?
  16. Granting things in a discussion and still finding a way to make a case is more powerful than complete and utter blindness to the opposition.
  17. The library is actually a wonderful place to be, especially in the study rooms
  18. I’m running out of things (even though there are probably sooo many more), so the last one that comes to mind is: reality is a big thing – I’m gonna need an Atlas (heh). Grateful for professors who have allowed me to come to office hours with very few intellectually rigorous questions, but have grounded my continuing in the program.

Looking forward to seeing what the next year will hold!

Memoirs From The Forum.

Seeing as I’m doing my best to be utterly distracted in my attempts to read anything, I thought it’d be a good time to preserve my memories of last night at The Forum.

  1. Finding the parking lot was a fairly disorienting affair; I was so pre-occupied by not missing the entrance that I became overly flustered when the white Dodge Challenger behind me would not permit me access to the lane space in front of him, honking multiple times over the course of my fumbling. I sped up much further than I intended to, thinking that I missed the entrance, but I had actually found myself right where I wanted to be. Cue exhale of relief.
  2. Arriving an hour before the printed 8PM on my e-ticket, I didn’t realize just how anxious I would be going to Inglewood after hearing about its reputation.  I also didn’t realize how odd it was for me to go to a concert alone.  These things began to collaborate in creating odd, hypothetical scenarios in which I was called upon to stifle a gun-bearer’s attempts to cause a ruckus in the middle of the concert.  Thankfully, there was no need for me (and the people in attendance) to witness my would-be failure at detaining an armed individual.  This was of very little comfort four hours prior to the end of the concert.
  3. As I walked from my parking space, I was greeted by the sound of a middle-aged man crying out for us to seek salvation; way ahead of you, sir! It did make me consider how I would be able to bear the testimony of Christ to the people around me as I strode onwards to The Forum. The fear of forgetting where I parked nudged me to make note of my location: Manchester A. No sooner had I observed this than the pleasantly-colored “SAINT PABLO TOUR/KANYE WEST 2016/5 NIGHTS SOLD OUT” triplet appeared in view.  One in soft orange, one in maroon, and one in a kind of muted baby blue. I took a picture for the ‘gram.
  4. After using the restroom, I found myself attempting to hide the fact that I came alone by alternating between using my phone and watching the Cubs game that happened to be on television.  Perhaps I could pass as someone who was waiting for people?
  5. The door popped open for a second and people began to hoot and holler, but it was a false alarm, which led to some expressions of light-hearted disappointment.
  6. When the doors opened at around 7:25 PM, I went straightaway to find my seat. Section 214, Row 11, Seat 5.  When I got to my seat and surveyed the stadium, I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit as I realized how far from Mr. West I’d be. Nevertheless, the fog and the vague ambient music allowed me to get more or less settled into my seat.  As I the minutes passed in fives, I began to realize that my hands were staggeringly cold – in fact, the entire inside of The Forum was freezing. I put my hands in my pockets and watched for people trying to get to their seat by way of my convenience.
  7. It is 8:30, and the concert hasn’t even shown signs of starting.  A friend of mine tells me that she thinks it’s going to be starting at 9:00.  I absent-mindedly drop eaves near the couple in front of me, who seem to be getting into an argument.  The female turns her back to who I presume is her boyfriend, ignoring his attempts to tap her and talk things out.  She begins to partake in the chicken tenders and fries that her friends had purchased to stave off pre-concert hunger. The boyfriend scrolls through Instagram.  She asks him a question, and he gives a less-than-satisfactory answer, prompting her to roll her eyes and turn away once more.  He stares at the back of her head before resuming his perusal of social media.
  8. The crowd down on the ground floor where Kanye would be levitating above began to get hyped, and phone cameras pointed skyward as they tried to discern whether or not Kanye was on stage.  The couple in front of me made up after the boyfriend went to get a beer and a water, which gave me relief – I’m not even involved here! The people in front of me began standing up as the ambient noise swelled, but Kanye remained unseen.
  9. KANYE SHOWS UP AT AROUND 9:30.
  10. I can’t remember all of the songs that were playing, but I spend most of my time recording bits and pieces to put on my Instagram story. It’s swiftly becoming evident that alcohol is nearly a pre-requisite for many of the people in attendance, but I was a responsible, solo concert attendee and knew I would have to drive after the show was over.  The set was breathtaking, and Kanye floated around over his fans, with the music blasting and everyone captivated by Yeezy.
  11. At some point during the night, a very clearly intoxicated female begins to bump against me while I’m trying my best to “coldest story ever told, somewhere far along this road, he lost his soul to a woman so heartless,” and I begin to become hyper-alert to what could possibly happen in terms of falling over and losing balance or if things were to escalate violently. Thankfully, nothing of that sort happened.  Barring these circumstances, “Heartless” was honestly the highlight of the show for me, alongside all of the other old Kanye songs.
  12. Kanye takes some time to show his audience clips of his beloved wife Kim as a child growing up while the background of his song, “Only One,” played.  During this time, the aforementioned intoxicated female begins to tug and pull at my arm, but I pulled away from her, leading to her ask, “No?” to which I briskly shook my head. Sorry not sorry – I’m here for Yeezy.
  13. I’m increasingly wary of the group of people next to me, which includes our now infamous intoxicated female, because they are consistently grabbing at me now, as one of her male acquaintances holds onto me for balance despite standing straight up, and the unpleasant smell of his breath was forced upon me when he grabbed me with one arm and asked me how amazing this was. I told him it was amazing, and he was placated.
  14. Kanye goes out with “Ultralight Beam,” and the show is over.  All in all, it was a pretty amazing show! I learned a few things from the experience: 1) Inglewood is nothing to play with, 2) bringing a friend or two along to a concert may improve the experience drastically, 3) drunk people are unpredictable, 4) Yeezy goes OFF at his concerts, 5) merchandise at concerts is legalized robbery, 6) parking lots post-concert events are incredibly inert, and 7) I am so far from being a wavy dude.  Shout out to Mr. West for being a pretty consistent musical go-to since the 8th grade; it was awesome finally seeing him in person.

The Grapefruit.

*Note: This was taken from my old blog, “Poet in a World of Prose,” which has since been deleted.

So, today after a warm family meal – we had hot pot – my parents and I decided to partake in some citrus fruits for dessert.  We split a pomelo betwixt the three of us, and we proceeded to sample what intricate flavors it would present us with.  At first, expectations of “sour,” “bitter,” “grapefruity,” swirled around in my mind, but once my taste buds oriented themselves, I was met pleasantly with “sweet,” “orangey,” and “mildly bitter.” After we murmured with citrus-filled mouths about how it was much better than expected, we moved swiftly to devour the lot of it.  However, there was another, LARGER, grapefruit that lay in store, and apparently it was retrieved from the harvests of…somewhere around home church.  To the eye, it looked appealing, but on the inside, we had yet to find out.  My mom commented every now and then about how it looked nice and that it must be pretty good given its size and how it looks.  My dad retorted with looks mean nothing in the universe of fruits (okay, perhaps that had a little more panache than the actual statement, but it’s fairly close).  I watched as the mild taste of soap lingered on my tongue from the first fruit, like a numb bitterness that is tucked away in the back of the mind; it was like the white noise of the taste bud realm.  My parents eventually began talking about how horrible the fruit was, and my dad remarked that it tasted of gasoline, but he continued to finish the piece despite my mom’s frantic exclamations persuading otherwise.  I decided to join in on the fun, and I was met with something that threw my taste buds awry.  The first taste of the fruit seemed almost savory, and then the bitterness began to kick in exponentially, ultimately landing me somewhere between jet fuel and dank memes.  We all ended up laughing about how terrible the fruit was, and it proved to be an interestingly positive way to end such a negative corporeal occurrence.

In some way, that grapefruit might be me. Kidding, this was just an attempt to slowly inch my way back to writing more consistently; those types of absurd reflections on parallels shall come eventually! It’s nice being back, and it’s nice not having finals 🙂

The Grapefruit.

So, today after a warm family meal – we had hot pot – my parents and I decided to partake in some citrus fruits for dessert.  We split a pomelo betwixt the three of us, and we proceeded to sample what intricate flavors it would present us with.  At first, expectations of “sour,” “bitter,” “grapefruity,” swirled around in my mind, but once my taste buds oriented themselves, I was met pleasantly with “sweet,” “orangey,” and “mildly bitter.” After we murmured with citrus-filled mouths about how it was much better than expected, we moved swiftly to devour the lot of it.  However, there was another, LARGER, grapefruit that lay in store, and apparently it was retrieved from the harvests of…somewhere around home church.  To the eye, it looked appealing, but on the inside, we had yet to find out.  My mom commented every now and then about how it looked nice and that it must be pretty good given its size and how it looks.  My dad retorted with looks mean nothing in the universe of fruits (okay, perhaps that had a little more panache than the actual statement, but it’s fairly close).  I watched as the mild taste of soap lingered on my tongue from the first fruit, like a numb bitterness that is tucked away in the back of the mind; it was like the white noise of the taste bud realm.  My parents eventually began talking about how horrible the fruit was, and my dad remarked that it tasted of gasoline, but he continued to finish the piece despite my mom’s frantic exclamations persuading otherwise.  I decided to join in on the fun, and I was met with something that threw my taste buds awry.  The first taste of the fruit seemed almost savory, and then the bitterness began to kick in exponentially, ultimately landing me somewhere between jet fuel and dank memes.  We all ended up laughing about how terrible the fruit was, and it proved to be an interestingly positive way to end such a negative corporeal occurrence.

In some way, that grapefruit might be me. Kidding, this was just an attempt to slowly inch my way back to writing more consistently; those types of absurd reflections on parallels shall come eventually! It’s nice being back, and it’s nice not having finals 🙂

Lent is Due.

So, this post has been long overdue.  Perhaps it is because of a variety of other distractions that have propelled me into obscurity, or perhaps it is because there just hasn’t been much inspiration for me to take hold of.  Regardless, it’s finally time to go through the self-conscious catharsis that is writing and talk about what happened during my Lent period.

Since my last Lenten season, I had lost around fifty pounds as a direct result of what I sacrificed for Lent: sugar.  However, this time around, I’ve taken on a completely different lifestyle, getting subtly obsessed with body image and physique.  Therefore, this Lenten season was all about removing myself from being consumed by how I looked – specifically the number on the scale.  I vowed to not weigh myself for forty days.  What I found during this seemingly carefree time was an agonizing period of insecurity about weight and body image.  Every day I went to the gym, I gazed longingly at the scale, wishing to know how much weight I had convinced myself I was putting on.  In the bathroom, I would poke around and see which places got softer – eventually this began happening regardless of location.  I spent a lot of time locked in a constant internal turmoil over whether I should take the time to relax and let go of body image for a bit or feeling like I needed to tighten up my discipline even more during this time when it was difficult to truly ascertain how “fit” I was.  Some days there would be a profound sadness in myself realizing that I was slowly losing all that I worked so hard for in the past year, and that somehow, I was gaining weight no matter what.

However, I’m thankful that the God I love is one who provides peace in my heart when I need it.  Days when the struggle was particularly hard were turned over to the Lord in prayer, and eventually, the violence in my heart subsided and settled down.  Days when I let the anxieties overwhelm me were filled with tinged with the melancholy that comes with insecurity and acknowledgment of letting myself go.  But God, in His infinite love, says in His Word, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  During this Lenten season, I experienced firsthand the peace that He provided because I stopped gazing at myself and fixed my gaze on Him.  It’s probably easy to think, oh, look at this guy, he’s not even that aesthetic, how dare he be filled with pride. And to some extent, you’re right.  But it’s just another part of my humanity showing when I want to celebrate the progress I’ve made because only I know the amount of effort put into it to get to where I am.  Nevertheless, it’s the mercy and grace of the Lord that delivers me from myself because He knows that what I really want to do is forsake my insecurities and quell the prideful uprising in me to pay more attention to myself than to Him; the flesh is weak, but the spirit remains willing.  Everything I learned in the gym hasn’t gone to waste, however; straining under weights can be applied as a spiritual concept – God is the only spotter you’ll ever need, and you lift with your prayers, not with your legs.  May I continue turning my inwardly critical eyes onto Him and fully enjoy His love and mercy towards me.

Wind at My Back.

The wind is at my back now, pushes further on,

a whistling soft and easy, as breeze becomes my song.

The ground below, whether friend or a foe

is constant changing, so I’ll never know.

Errant path viewed as erroneous way,

the wind whispers whatever He would say:

Not a sparrow falls apart from Himself,

so blow the dust off the mind’s old bookshelf.

Wherever I go, His will will be true,

I just pray for grace in a sky turning blue;

mistakes will be made, but Love should not fail

for God is in all, and His will shall prevail.

And so we forgive, for He forgave first,

sending His Son to begin our rebirth.

Mercy desired, sacrifice cast off

yet how many “know,” and still dare to scoff?

I pray for forgiveness deep in my heart,

that I may be swift and as sure as a dart

to forgive those around me, moved by His love

understand why I’ve been called from above.

I pray for His wisdom, to know what to do

for this world is dying, and lest I should rue,

may He grant me discernment in speech every day.

I pray for the fear of Him, knowing His way.

The wind blows on, and the thoughts are all lost,

but Lord, I pray that I remember the Cross.

Change.

As I glumly sat behind the wheel of my minivan a few days ago, I began reflecting on things.  This prompted me to remain still at a green light, leading to the expected honking of people upset with the lack of action in their own lives.  However, the thing I began musing on was about how much I’ve changed.  I began thinking about my winter break and what I would be doing with it, and I came to the point where I reminisced on how I spent them in the past.  The realization settled on me when I discovered that I no longer enjoyed staying home alone and doing solitary things, like reading for hours.  It was a bitter moment actually; part of the blame was on college and how the forced interaction somehow stole a bit of my personality, dissipating any desire I had to be alone.  The need for human contact was, in a way, a crippling inability to exist and entertain myself independently.  However, the moment was fleeting when I began reflecting on my spiritual life as of now.  I began seeing that I had always been blessed with an ability to communicate fairly well with others – the exterior reserved, awkward, aloofness was the only thing that made me unable to reach out to others.  Now, I find myself in an internal skirmish come social gatherings; do I continue on with my newfound self, much of which has changed drastically, or do I let my old personality refresh itself.  It’s a question that I find harder and harder to answer with each meeting of old friends.  My life now is filled with God because of the environment that He’s placed me in, and yet, I’m not sure how it would be reflected if I did some of the things I used to do in order to get along with my old friends.  I have since limited my swearing exponentially, normally catching myself before saying them, but it was that casual usage of it that seemed to let me “fit in.”  All of this reflection is beginning to wear me out, so I guess I’ll just finish with a reminder that the true friends of mine won’t mind, and that as long as this new change doesn’t reflect my human judgment of my old friends but God’s love for them, I should be alright in the end.