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!

Revisiting May 23rd.

I’m not even certain how to begin writing this, but perhaps sincerity will do the speaking.  Three years after the Isla Vista shooting, I’m finding myself thinking about what transpired in my beloved college town.  This is the first time I’m finding myself not in Santa Barbara thinking about what happened, and the sorrow, shock, and surrealism of a tragedy striking far too close have been replaced by a longing to understand.  Frustrated confusion mingled with silence are all I have left this year.  The obvious question then was: why? But the more compelling question now is: how?  How did a life become so distraught, so self-consumed, so unrecognizable to humanity?

On the night of the shooting, I found myself reading up on what had happened, watching the intensely disturbing YouTube video, and reading the “manifesto” that had been written, and I remember thinking that this was the work of a person who deeply misunderstood the source of value in life.  Tonight, I re-read many portions of the manifesto, and I still think that intuition was correct.  Perhaps the more religious among us would be inclined to chalk the enormity up to “man’s fallen nature,” and I don’t disagree.  Nevertheless, I’m not certain that I’m fully persuaded by a description that seems so bereft of the utter darkness that we witnessed.  It just doesn’t seem like a complete enough description given the implicit resignation of the phrase; it seems more like the manifestation of radical despair and unmet desires.  Upon reading the manifesto tonight, I was met with conflicting pity and disgust, yet there was also a part of me that wondered if our world hadn’t groomed such a tragedy from the beginning.  Obviously I am not trying to justify what the killer did nor am I pinning the blame on society; this was truly a case of senseless, hopeless violence.  Yet, the questions are overflowing.  Did he have friends to help him through these troubled thoughts?  How did his parents not perceive the issue from an early age, when he seemed to have begun his deviation from living a full, vibrant life?  What could we collectively have done differently?

I’m not entirely sure I’ve had enough time to understand – it may very well be the case that his story is not one to be understood.  But more than anything, I find my heart broken once again for the families who lost their loved ones in the most unnatural way.  I will never know the depth of suffering that the friends of the deceased endure every year around this time.  All I can do – all we can do – is be faithful each year to honor the memories of those whose lives were claimed and be reminded to love those around me with kindness and with respect.  I believe that the end is drawing ever closer, and so I must believe that a loud voice from the throne will eventually say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And yet, in the middle of an especially dark night, I am finding it difficult to bear the burden of tears that have yet to be wiped. 

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Enter title here.

The green leaves washed in the light of the sun looked yellow; the tree stood in yellow-green silence as the wind tried to get a rise out of it.  An unseen, shapeless, colorless cloud – I really haven’t seen the darn thing – passed in front of the sun as other dirty-white, partially-torn cotton balls (or sick vape clouds) moved briskly along the sky blue belt.  They’re moving faster today than usual.  The smell of brown-sugar coated ribs assaults me from the oven downstairs – just morty fore minutes before charring them on the grill.  I begin to hear myself breathe, and suddenly, I’m enveloped in the sounds coming from the click-clack of my keyboard; my typing slows to try to reduce the noise, but the frustration of words passing me by urges me to sacrifice silence for more prose.  The volume goes up, and the inspiration goes down.  Coming face to face with the spectres of assumed creativity can prove to be quite a humbling task.  It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself free rain (simmer down, I know what I’ve down) over the downpour of literary attempts to create, to opine, to connect, to attribute, to illuminate, to narrate, to embody.  4/12    Kim paper #1 scrawled across a moving cloud reminds me that I’ve finished one of the milestones of this semester – I also need to wipe my window clean.  A bird – probably – flies across my window.  It could have been a bat.  Or a bat.  Or Badtz-Maru.  Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.  A smaller bird – seen this time – flies slower across my window headed in the same direction as the previous blurd (this seems the most genuine way to characterize the previous thing).  I wonder where they’re all headed.  Do they even know?  Maybe it’s the annual meeting of birds in which birds of all feathers come together to resolve their differences in orderly, singsong manners.  The crows and the sparrows would probably have much to reconcile.  I yawn, and I feel somewhere behind my sternum, between my shoulders, right at the point of rising when drawing breath, go dry.  Seventeen more minutes, and then it’s off to the ribs I go; my short, meandering, realistic, pointless, odd narrative is finally at its end as the bed calls for me to lay down and scroll until the ribs scream at me from their foil coffins.

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.

Submarines.

I’m just tired; I’ve got some work to do; I’m fine; I don’t know what you’re talking about.

He went with, “I’m just a little tired,” because it was the most convenient half-truth to tell at the time.  It felt like he could do nothing right that day.  And he knew – he had been told, really – that it was all just an overreaction to a single negative situation, and his programed response to it was to catastrophize.  Nevertheless, he didn’t care to fight back tonight.  He joked about physical exams earlier, realizing too late that she was anxious from her latest checkup.  The doctors were taking an uncommonly long time to return the results to her; in fact, self-diagnosing led her down a dark corridor with the walls closing in on all sides, stopping with just enough room for her to tuck her knees into her chin and hope beyond grace that it was all just catastrophizing.  He hadn’t meant to lead her by the hand back to the corridor.

How selfish he was, letting his regret show on his face, putting her in a place of regretting her openness about her very real issue while fighting to steady the darkness from encroaching upon the rest of her night.  And the way he left, making a big show of just how much he regretted making the joke, all the while leaving her ashamed and thinking – wrongly – that maybe she was being a burden on other people.  Maybe he was putting prison bars where freedom walked, giving in to the whispers of doubt about just how good of a friend he actually was, and none of this was happening at all.  He wanted to feel guilty about what had happened – he deserved to bear the responsibility for his mistake because he was supposed to be a good friend.  It was the most convenient half-truth to accept at that time.

The retreat inwards began, but he didn’t notice.  He just needed to get through to the end, and he would be home free – free from ruining anymore of his relationships, free to be silent, free to not live underneath the expectations that others had come to own.  He would just run from it all because after all, he was just a coward who couldn’t face his reflection when it surrounded him.  All he did was lie, sell himself as better than he really was, believe in his own lies, and continue manufacturing selves.  Positivity was his most polished mask, and his heart had accumulated enough of his half-truths to believe it owned a single, reliable shard of honesty.  At the end of the day, he was weak.  He wanted to be strong; he wanted to be reliable; he wanted to be honest; he wanted to be kind; he wanted to be free to know who he was and where he stood without the ground collapsing at the slightest nervous shift in weight from right to left, plunging him into the frigid and lonesome below.  He was catastrophizing.

Another mistimed joke, and he found himself lost.  Why was he? Had he not realized that he could have tried not belittling people around him for once, just so that his own crudeness could find a measure of stability?  Was it impossible for him to understand that who he was just didn’t fit who he thought he was?  He was pitiful.  He’d go home and paint something – painting would do the trick, what with the silence and the focus on making something really intricate so that he would just forget seeing his own face stapled onto his friend’s disappointment.  He knew that it had been a rough week for him, but he let his own charm poison the vial even more.  What a wreck.  He really didn’t know who he was at all.  All this time, he had the ridiculous idea that he had been doing him a favor when he himself was the burden.  Is it only now occurring?  He probably thought he was an idiot for even trying to show him in the most explicit way that he wasn’t the friend he thought he was, and here he was, thinking that he was saving him from the shadows.  There wasn’t a thing right about him.

He dove into the dark of the ocean, colliding with the side of the boat on the way down.  Abrasions didn’t matter anymore at this point; he wasn’t even sure he felt the slick, dull, trauma anymore.  I can’t do anything right. I’ve heard that one already.  Why are you wasting your time? Be honest about your mistakes.  You’re the reason we’re here.  Are you still here? Haven’t you grown up yet? Jeez. Get a grip. Move on. Stop worrying so much.  Time will tell.  Why didn’t you say anything? You disappoint me.  Where is the surface?  Don’t be a baby.  Where are you going?  You don’t understand.  Why am I here? You’ll be fine.  I can’t feel anything anymore.  Who’s fault is that?  You made this mess, you fix it.

His heart pounded and every beat felt heavier and heavier and slower and slower he felt it in his head and in his eyes until he was realizing that he was trying to breathe in deeply he was trying to breathe in but his lungs weren’t enough for him and he saw that it was dark except for a single moon far away though far from him and who he was and where he needed to be so he breathed less hoping to reflect on things more and realize that it was just catastrophizing it was just in his head it wasn’t going to be that bad it couldn’t be that bad what was going on he hadn’t felt this way in a long time but he couldn’t find his way out except to talk to no one about it because that’s who understood him best.

I can’t breathe.  Just let me wake up.

Please.

Falling Branches.

 

A branch fell down today, carried off by

the wind?

Or was it the weight of life

bearing downwards a moment too long,

breaking its ability to hold on?

It fell slowly but loudly whispered,

demanding my attention, and so I paid.

The leaves fluttered, excited

to meet the ground.

The grass! Their unknown, distant cousins embraced

some of them, yet some of them

were still born aloft by the natural way of

the branches.

They had to wait their turn.  Warmth found them all

as the sun shadowed them with light;

they wait until night to begin life anew.

The thoughts of the natural world are –

or aren’t they?

Perhaps I’ve been staring outside for too long.