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!

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The Drifter.

He woke up before his alarm had a chance to crescendo.  Why even have that feature if the slightest sound from the alarm was enough to wake him up? Just in case he managed to sleep through the noise, perhaps.  He snoozed the alarm and lay on his back, waking up with his eyes wide shut in deep reflection about his love life.  After all, what else does one spend one’s time alone thinking about?  It was only natural that he found himself thinking about the futility mingled with desperation that he shouldered day in and day out.  He considered how he had skipped in and out of interest in various women he encountered, musing on the reason for the instability.  Maybe it was a weird vibe or her being too self-interested or him being too insecure or maybe it all didn’t matter that much anyways and he would be fine with the first one who’d have him.

It was his loneliness that caused him to drift from one person to the next.  At this, he put both his hands behind his head, eyes alert now as they gazed past the ceiling.  He saw now how naïve he was in thinking that he was actually able to love someone else; how could he when he failed to even love himself?  That was the reason he chased here and there, after all.  If he could just see that someone else could see something good in him, then he’d be happy. Then, he’d know that he meant something to someone.  Then, he’d realize that he was worthy of being loved.  Even though he had friends and family, it was his loneliness that knew him best, and it was his loneliness that he loved.  It let him push his problems onto other people, projecting a lack of understanding and empathy onto those around him; loneliness let him comfortably deceive himself into thinking that he was taking the high road by suffering their misunderstanding and “appreciating that they tried.”

What could he do about it? If he was lonely with his own company, adding more people who weren’t him, couldn’t think like him, didn’t know enough about him would only serve to magnify the alienation.  He kept laying in bed, dreading the masks he would need to put on just to get through to the next time he would be laying in bed.  It was never about the other people; a person like him would never be good enough for someone else.  He didn’t wish himself on anyone at this point.  All he could hope for was the day that he’d learn to just be okay with who he was.  Maybe then he could look for something more.

Good Parenting.

He held the door open as his son gripped his coffee and met the brisk autumn air.  They sat down on an old wooden bench in the park, one that had seen its fair share of romance, grief, and crumbs of bread from ducks being fed.  He stared at the worn, rusty bolts in the wood, and wondered about the city’s use of its finances with regards to public restoration projects.  Typical of the city to go for the grand gestures rather than paying attention to the existing detail falling swiftly into disrepair. His son turned to meet his eyes, staring at his stress-creased, bleary-eyed smile.

What are you thinking about, son?

He almost snorted. His father had asked this question to start every conversation they had as long as he could remember.  Couldn’t he think of anything new after thirty-five years?

Not much, Dad. Just thinking about work and the wife, all the bills that need to be paid, my co-workers being paid more than they deserve, my boss being the most incompetent slouch I’ve ever seen in a professional workplace.  I’m thinking about how communication between my wife and me has crumbled to the point where sighs take up more space than words between conversations.  I’m thinking about seeing myself go grey every morning in the mirror, and all the alcohol I’ve been drinking to numb the years has been adding to a slowly rounding paunch.  I’m thinking about the screeching alarm I wake up to every single day, reminding me of the miserable routine that I’ve thrust myself into, hoping one day to make enough money so I can retire to a life of golf and cigars.

But of course, he didn’t say any of that. Instead, his son just sighed.

Nothing much, Dad.  Life as usual.

His father’s mouth formed an “o,” but his voice failed to escape his lips.  He wondered about what had happened to this son of his, who used to talk freely and laugh easily.  He thought on the years of joy they shared together, and somehow, it didn’t add up in his head. Had he gone wrong somewhere in guiding his son’s life? Had he been overbearing at all the wrong times, misunderstanding what his son was telling him? It had to be his high school friends; he always knew the wrong crowd would get to him, and they ruined his relationship with his only son.  It seemed like every time his son looked at him, all he could feel was disappointment, as if he’d let him down somehow.

Whatever happened to us, David? We used to be so close.  Now, we hardly have six words between the two of us.  Was it your friends in high school? How could a few years with the wrong people have changed you so much? You’ve become heartless, David – please, remember me and remember all the times we had together.

No, Dad. It wasn’t my friends in high school.  Don’t blame other people – who you don’t even know, mind you – for something that isn’t even their fault.  The problem is, Dad, that as I got older, all I could hear about was how great you thought I was going to be in college, how you thought that I would make a great attorney, and how you had my whole life mapped out for me.  Things were fine as a kid, but the older I got, the less I had a say in my own life.  You’ve made me care about things like politics and paying the bills and bickering with colleagues when all I wanted was to make a difference in the world. But the world got to me, and you got to me, and there isn’t a thing any of us can do about it now. So just leave it there and accept what’s happened. I’m not the kid you used to know because you’ve just made me yourself. There’s no life more miserably wretched than the life lived out disingenuously, and you’ve made this life I live wretched with how you talked on and on about the petty problems you had at work, or the innumerable mishaps that didn’t really mean anything in the long run, but you focused on because you liked to hear yourself talk.  You never cared about my dreams and aspirations, and you sucked my own life right out of me, slowly filling me with grey nonsense that only you care about.  You stole the unexpressed genius of my youth and replaced it with a jaded set of eyeglasses from which I now look at the world.  I suppose you think I should thank you now because you’ve helped me see the world as it is, but no, I won’t thank you.  It’s not something to be proud of when you lose faith in your own perspective; it’s tragic, and now that I’m mired in this replica of your own story, I’m never getting out. Hopefully I won’t have a child because that way, I won’t run the risk of ruining his life as well.  That’s some good parenting, Dad, you did swell. I’m making money and I have a house and I pay all my bills, but you know what? I’m dying day by day.  My dreams have deserted me, and now I’m grasping in the darkness, my only hope is found in the current lack of it, that maybe some day, this lifelong nightmare will be over, and my eyes will be washed clean from the blindness I’ve been living in.  But until that day, I have you to thank for the life I’m living, or having, rather; it would be a travesty to call what I’m currently doing living.

He got up and walked away after pouring the last of his heart out to his father.  He left his cup on that wooden bench.  His father stared at the emptiness occupying his son’s spot, hands trembling.  Quietly, he lowered his head to his knees and clasped the back of his neck with his hands.  He really had let his son down, and he just let him down for the last time.

The Blame Game.

As I sit on the Amtrak, listening to BreakBot, I find myself reflecting on the topic of bereavement.  After all, that’s the sole purpose of this solitary voyage back home.  I consider all that’s happened within the past month – the passing of a dear brother at my home church as well as his elderly mother, the Ferguson incident and the recent #icantbreathe fiasco, the now seemingly forgotten presence of ISIS and the events that have transpired in relation to the organization.  I began realizing that we as a generation and indeed as a race have forgotten how to grieve.  We should grieve the passing of loved ones, we should grieve the state of our humanity when the nation is polarized by tragedy, we should grieve the plight of our fellow human beings across the world.

While we do have some semblance of grief when we go through personal loss, the actuality is that the dead are always forgotten – rare are the souls who have the capacity to bear the burden of a living memory until they meet their own demise.  The memory of the living serves not for the sake of honoring the deceased, but the proliferation of one’s own experiences as fuel for an individual stance on present circumstances.  Multiple agendas begin to undermine the tragedies we are presented with, as sorrow turns to bitter fury.  Instead of reflecting upon the lives lived by those taken from us, we begin to construct angles from which to view the situation with the intent of assigning fault, and we become more involved with our perception of setting the record straight rather than using the time we have to properly entomb the past dearly in our hearts.

This is not to say that this post itself has no agenda because to do so would be entirely hypocritical.  However, it is a transparent plea for our modern generation to stop resorting to anger instead of understanding.  People rage at God, bicker with society, and renounce the pillars on which they’ve built their lives – and to what end?  We offend each other with the positions that we take, and in times where solidarity is the first stepping stone to recovery, we stomp off the path onto the clearer, more passionate route.  People who were of one mind find themselves at odds over a situation that should not be divisive, but rather decisive; there needs to be a change. But, being as fickle as we are, we are apprehensive of letting hesitation and pondering cool the fire that burns within us, and so we look for the quick fixes.  We swiftly blame the authorities, scorn the party that is “clearly” at fault, and crucify the most vulnerable target.  We don’t bother to examine ourselves as a society and see that these problems began with ourselves.  When we teach our youth to respond with vitriol and animosity, we damage any prospect of improving the society we perceive to be so riddled with flaws.  When we encourage the open opposition of authority, what kind of message are we sending to those we will take care of this world after us?  Is what we want a world filled with people seeking recompense and retribution instead of a human race willing to have its heart broken, truly broken, so that from that heartache we may advance?

To remember the dead is now a mere societal obligation.  It seems like we pursue the next crime scene in more earnest than we choose to remember and understand the losses we’ve endured.  The fact of the matter is, we have forgotten how to mourn. We hurt our brothers and our sisters, and yet we dare not say that we were at fault because what we continue failing to see is that the solution lies not with us.  We need to admit our fallen state, and look ahead to our shared future inheritance.  If a nation chooses unity for its youth instead of the pretense of justice, it will provide for the foundation of our true mutual understanding of one another as humans – not as colors, cultures, or creeds – and it is the greatest good we can render unto the preservation of this world when it comes time for our children to mourn us.  The hope is that in their time, their mourning of us might not beget more mourning, but silent consideration and appreciation for the lessons we’ve left behind.

How Big?

The man sat ‘neath the moon and stars,

soul’s deep tears like liquid scars.

They asked him of how big his heart;

he spoke through whispers of his art.

He told the tales of paths mistaken

that made his heart swell up with hope.

Nightmares seen by Poe’s lone Raven

supplied his lonesome, noose-shaped rope.

How big a heart has he who gives

to those around for whom he lives?

He deigned to give the moon and stars

but he sighed instead with passing cars.

So now he writes a verse quite true,

explaining his enormous heart.

He filled his soul complete with rue,

detailed his end before the start.

He suffered much, and smiled slow;

his pain was great, but few could know.

Ask him not of how big his heart,

but ask him now: how big each shard?

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!

Thank You for Coming.

Lord, why can’t I let you fill the emptiness in me?  There are so many times that I just feel so downcast and anxious about my actual position with regards to You.  I wish that I could have been the Christian that I wanted to be, but I guess that’s also within Your will – trying on my own just seemed to complicate things.  You showed me joy and happiness and I felt free, but I was shackled when You tested my heart with struggles and shortcomings.  Perhaps I’m finally learning to seek sufficiency not in others, but in You.  It’s a lesson that I’ve needed to learn since high school, and You know that.  Sometimes, I think maybe I deceive myself as a last-dtich effort to fully turn over my life to You.  I think that I try too many times to apply the “if you tell a lie enough times, it becomes truth” idea to my walk, and it hurts that my human perception of devotion is so intertwined with deception.  I don’t understand – and I’m not sure I want to understand – why I feel like I’ve grown so much in my faith, yet am stumbling over the same problem I had before.  It’s like an uneven growth in my Christian life, and it just so happened that this fault in the ground that I stood upon was what ended up shaking my beliefs.  I don’t know what to do, where to go, and who to turn to anymore.  I just need You to reveal Yourself in me because I have no one else to really rely upon.  I fail other people, and I feel like other people are always so burdened by my issues.  At the end of the day, only You are sufficient and my all and in all; I need You to set a fire down in my soul again so that I can burn for You and only You, and not be obstructed by the things and thoughts of this world.