12.28.2010

dialogue?

no, we can't go back to normal.

anyway, what is normalcy that we should idealize it so?

but originality is so difficult. it takes so much and leaves so little... and besides people will give you all manner of funny looks if you go your own way (especially creative people). so don't go there, stop fiddling with these thoughts, stop dreaming up these artworks, and GET BACK TO WORK! (sorry for shouting)

oh, and this is seattle

12.25.2010

keep on

it's amazing, really, to give up the chase; to all at once attain, and say, 'this is the end of my search.' at the end you can sigh, commend yourself for hanging in there. you can trade in contentiousness for contentment and finally just relax.


i hope you don't. future self and present others take heed - we will likely not soon have cause to get comfortable.

12.24.2010

token christmas blog (bleh)

what can i say? i'm trapped in my retail reality this christmas eve. the shoppers are sprinting about from store to bright-lit store in search of gifts for each other. not all the shoppers, i guess. some people are playing it cool. still, a lot of people are worried about making sure that everyone else gets more things.

 i'm awash in disillusionment - with hyper-commercialism and marketable sentiment, with opportunistic ideological conflict and rhetorically charged bitterness. i'm disappointed that this holiday brings occasion for obligatory family time and guilt giving.

some people i've talked to have used the time of festivity for the advancement of their beliefs. i'm told that christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. i've had the nativity version of christmas crammed down my throat repeatedly by people who tell me that political correct-ness is taking the Christ out of christmas. that may be true, but i'm not so sure it's a bad thing.

does God really need christmas?

culture is kinda like a sandbox. (photo by janez novak)
i'm of the opinion that culture is dynamic. i try not to think of it like a solid rock that was dropped to earth by God to endure forever. culture might be more like a sandbox. everyone makes their mark, but those contirbutions are soon rearranged by others. from this perspective, the fact that less people like to associate late december with the birth of Jesus is not a moral crisis but simply a shift in culture.

sure, we can sell you nativity scenes instead of snow globes, but that doesn't mean you respect God any more. you can read luke 2 aloud together on christmas morning before tearing into a bunch of festively wrapped tokens of impulsively acquired temporal gratification. maybe culture is largely abitrary

some people celebrate the birth of Jesus, some being with family, and some buying and selling; most people under ten simply celebrate receiving presents. is there some inherent good we can do by reverting back to older traditions? getting back to the roots of the season would entail examining lots of different intertwining traditions - both "pagan" and "christian." but honestly, is getting back to the roots of christmas really necessary?

as ever,

joel



holy...
holier...
holiest

12.22.2010

unexpected

i'm watching with wonder as a tear spills out from behind his funky purple glasses and streams down his face. revivalist preacher eddie lee todd is delivering an intensely visceral and emotionally vibrant sermon, same as always. he's wearing a plaid shirt, high-waisted dress pants and a painter cap – early fifties dress i would guess. his voice is on tempo, picking up speed and his adjectives are well chosen and well placed – this man has had a lot of practice speaking. but instead of smiling and nodding along, i'm staring at him in amazement with my mouth hanging open.

at 84, this man has been delivering similar messages to vast and varying audiences for decades on end. he's preached his way around the united states and several other countries. but this is different. we're alone in the family room and this sermon is for me. there is no way he can know the gravity of the things he's saying.

eddie lee todd lives in hemet, california. he's currently going through some hard times – his wife clara (of 64 years) has a badly injured hip and is staying in a rehabilitation center in nearby murrieta. her alzheimer-like symptoms make it difficult for her to recall who people are and what's happening around her. we call them mimi and papa. i'm pretty sure everyone does.

papa is staying in murrieta with mimi during the days and sleeping at his daughter dahna's house in adjacent temecula each night. if i had to guess, i'd say that papa's symptoms are characteristic of a person with mild alzheimer's disease; he has a very hard time recalling who people are and what is happening around him.

papa started by telling me how grateful he is that we're friends. it surprised me that he even recognized me, as that's not always the case. in everyday life, his words and mannerisms may be confused, even incoherent, but man when he preaches he's on it! the phrases swiftly tumble, concise and un-jumbled out into the room. the beauty in his manner is amplified too – he's gentle, not overbearing; he's reverent, by no means authoritarian. papa's demeanor is that of someone who's so inclined to love that he's no longer conscious of his efforts to do so.

throughout the few days i got to spend with papa that love shone through the confusion and the debilitation. some kind of strength was made perfect in his unashamed weakness.
once, while talking with jonathan and me, papa encouraged us that Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly. “abundantly,” he repeated, “that means more than you've got room for. so make some more room.”

both jonathan and i were deeply affected by his words. we felt like that was exactly what we needed to hear. sermons are apparently no problem for his otherwise worn out mind. he can remember specific scripture references. sometimes when he would quote them, i would look over at his wife and see her mouthing the words. no doubt mimi's heard at least some of them hundreds of times.

back in the family room, papa is finishing his personal exhortation (what will likely be his last words face-to-face with me). he tells me that a soul – my soul – is worth more than the whole world. this resonates strongly with me as a part of an emerging remedy for my insecurities. still standing, he finishes his preaching and i thank him as he starts away. he's nodding and saying something like “that's alright.” suddenly he turns around and says, “that's sermon number one.”

staring up at the aging man behind the purple glasses, i wonder if he really even knows who i am. did he understand what he was saying, or were the words just flowing through, on their way from a Source to a very grateful and awestruck recipient.

papa and jonathan at the table in temecula. 



12.19.2010

we do what we feel we must

we make meaning.
we intend and are intended at....

it's like we're building our sandcastle-selves on the shore, and the waves are intermittently interfering with our "progress." every once in a while, someone (doubtless one of marx's "comrades" or schopenhauer's "fellow sufferers") jogs on over and kicks our existence in. gee thanks, [friend, teacher, parent or ex-girlfriend], i was about to start over anyways...

we dream up new moat systems, sketching our plans on the beach. we invest time both time and hope. sometimes the waves stay distant and allow us time to build up. it's those other times when we can get all discouraged and wonder why we're playing in the sand.

what is the meaning of this photo by andrew?

12.18.2010

lake elsinore, part 2

this is a continuation of an earlier post. cameron lemons is the fellow who made the controversial prophecy that God will judge los angeles with a catastrophic earthquake in the year 2010.

the lakeside house
the question is so hopeless and fragile: what does cameron lemons stand to lose if those critics and skeptics from the youtube comments, the churches and the streets are right, if the status quo continues, if the ground doesn’t shake by january 1st? what if he’s wrong?

respect, reputation, social credibility, a church, and a discipleship program - cam stands to lose a lot, but not quite everything.

tonight we are ninjas, secret agents. our mission is to leave a box of candy and a hastily composed personalized poem on a neighbor’s doorstep. at 11 pm, jonathan, claire and i pile out of the lemons’ minivan and creep up toward the driveway of a dark and looming house. we are holding invisible guns and humming the “mission impossible” theme. with claire posted as lookout, jonathan and i stumble up the porch steps, crouch beneath the living room window and deposit the goodies and the card on the front doorstep. back at the van, we are slamming doors and cam is pulling back out onto main street. mission accomplished.

“elving” is the practice of secretly leaving gifts and messages on the doorstep of an unsuspecting neighbor for the 11 days preceding christmas and revealing yourself to the victim(s) on day 12. the gifts increase in number each day and are generally coupled with an appropriately themed poem. cam penned tonight’s poem after a prayer meeting that ran for hours. he and his wife jenelle have been elving for years now, and now the “fellas” (the boys living in the first story of their house) and whoever else is around get to join in. cam makes a great getaway driver.

another neighborly practice that i got to witness is caroling. it seems strange to me that people really go door-to-door singing christmas songs in socal where mid-december is still warm and summery. but when the lemons took their boys (5-year-old josiah and 4-year-old jordan) along with the fellas and then ten or so guests that happened to be at their house out for caroling, the neighbors loved it. house after house was the scene for a wonderful display of community: we all sang “joy to the world,” while frenchie set up and played the djembe and jonathan backed us up on the violin. door after door opened to reveal the smiling faces of little children and their parents.

from afternoon group car washes set to soul music to 5 am prayer and bible study meetings, the people here intentionally live and do most everything together. not only an outward expression, authentic community life is really lived out here at lakeside (the nickname for the lemons’ old two-story house on lindsay street). smiles are more vibrant here.

earlier in the night while jonathan and michael were having a deep conversation at the table, i was chasing josiah and jordan from room to room while carrying baby grace. tanner sat in a nearby seat researching about jehovah’s witnesses and jenelle and claire were cooking up burritos in the kitchen.

the liveliness is no ‘faux show,’ either. i stared in amazement when the day before cam worked through an intense internal issue in the group, all the while employing respect for those who disagreed with him. he took the unusual step of consulting everyone at the table and patiently waiting for all of the frustrations to be expressed. he also followed up the discussion with at least three one-on-one talks with the people involved. i have never experienced such a strong example of care and concern from a father figure.

it goes beyond compassion, though. cam apparently sits by himself praying for hours at a time. “my husband is addicted to God like crack cocaine,” jenelle commented. his relationship with God seems to stand outside of everything else, and that might be the only thing he doesn’t stand to lose.

12.17.2010

shortcomings

how can i express my experiences with clarity and honesty?

intermittently consuming motivations propel me to seek the truth at all costs. i am at once searching and reporting my findings, scratching out and re-drawing well-meant escape routes and treasure maps...

most of the time i have no idea where i am and where it is i am going. i think that in some ways this helps me to be a more objective writer. true, i can't any longer claim the embodiment of some of the more classical elements of objectivity - i have a stake in the game.

but maybe soon and very soon this world will cease to be satisfied by the rhetorical concision and detached and vague conclusions of some of its more "objective" writers and thinkers. in some ways, that kind of reporting is out of date, anyway.

a flurry of rhetorically concise questions to that effect are pervading my consciousness:

- don't we all have a stake in the everyday adventures of our fellow sufferers?


- aren't we all more or less on a journey to discover an objectively transcendent reality that we can call truth?


- is the relevance of a given point of view really enriched by the measure that the holder remains detached and "objective?"

what is objectivity?
- establishing separation, maintaining distance and perspective?
- presenting as much of an outsider point of view?
- "do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God"?

maybe all these and more. which definitions are attainable? which are inherently desirable? how much of what we do should be flexible and how much should be constant? hmmm?

we can all go back and look at our aim... but even aspirations and deep desires can be somewhat flexible...

my take on the situation is that humankind is shivering through an arctic wasteland of prolonged ignorance. our prescriptive philosophies call for more faith in the human spirit to overcome the human condition. but i don't buy it. when someone is freezing on the inside, warm blankets aren't enough. we need a furious transcendent energy. we need to be ablaze.

12.16.2010

life in lake elsinore

snap! crackle! pop! the adrenaline rush is so suddenly so real. i can hear the power lines breaking and feel the earth crumble beneath my feet. a few blocks away the lakewater is already surging into the streets. it's happening (already happening!)...
or is it?

the house on lindsay st.
i lay here on the bottom half of a bunk bed on the second story of the hundred-year-old house on lindsay street sketching out this story. a quick look out the window confirms my deeply held suspicions - the streets of lake elsinore are quiet and undisturbed. a few cars pass, stuttering slightly at the four-way stop that my room overlooks. it's 10:28 and all is well... externally.

i came to the eclectic and largely under-resourced city of lake elsinore three days ago with my room-mate jonathan. we are students at the university of oregon in eugene, though jonathan is originally from a nearby suburb called temecula. one day jonathan's mom suggested that we go down to see his family in the area. a couple of days after finals, we hopped on a plane, and here we are.

the old two-story house that we're in belongs to jonathan's cousin cameron lemons, who's putting us up for the week. cam sincerely believes that in 2008 he received a prophecy from God - a devastating earthquake will utterly destroy the nearby city of los angeles... in the year 2010. he articulated this prophecy on youtube, where it was instantly subject to no end of skepticism and ridicule. this, of course, did not silence him. cam has remained resolute, holding on to the things he believes he has received from God largely on faith.


both the urgency of his message and the vehemence of his critics have increased as the months have passed by. this give and take is also what you might expect in a situation where someone claims to be predicting or interpreting the future; perfectly natural. however, some would say that cam has a genuine reason to be afraid - at t-15 days, the only thing shaking is the confidence of those around him. here is just a little piece of his story:

cameron lemons grew up in temecula, california, raised by his parents bob and donna (bb and dd to the grandchildren). his family was apparently nominally christian at the outset. cam remembers deciding to really follow God at age 17, and ended up studying at westmont college, where he met his wife, jenelle. he got his masters at a seminary on the east coast, and became an associate pastor at an evangelical church back in temecula. he's worked there for the last four years.

tanner has changed quite a bit since meeting cameron lemons.
cam's life is currently undergoing some pretty intense changes. he's finishing up his work in temecula at the end of the year, to move on to some new things. in addition to the earthquake prophecy, cameron also believes he has heard god telling him to leave a safe, predictable and affluent temecula and transplant his family to a poor and drug-ridden town called lake elsinore. cam, jenelle and their three kids in their new home there for fourteen months. the young couple brought with them three boys from their church in temecula - james, michael and frenchie.


"the fellas," as cam calls them, live in a room on the first floor of the lemons' new house. the fourth "fella" is tanner, a recently homeless young man who converted, cleaned up his act, and now has an enthusiastic passion for the gospel of jesus christ.


cam counts tanner among the few who have expressed a serious solidarity with the earthquake prophecy. other serious supporters include his wife jenelle and a few other pastors who have emailed him saying he received a similar prophecy. jonathan, cam's cousin and my travelling companion, is on board as well. currently a senior in music composition, at the prestigious university of oregon school of music and dance, he dedicated last spring's junior project to the prophecy, subtly entitling it "los angeles earthquake 2010: a prophecy of judgment."

jonathan reading out in front of the house.
two and a half weeks into december, cameron lemons' stance is solid. he believes that god is sending a devastating earthquake tot eh city of los angeles in judgement of sin and lawlessness, and is determined to warn as many people as he can that they are in harm's way.


actually, his views are not altogether unsupported. according to the us geological survey, southern california is due for an immense earthquake. similarly, the california geological society recently made a video predicting with certainty a catastrophic quake in the la area.



whether their perspective is scientifically or prophetically formed (and for many it's both), many people have cause to believe that the occurrence of such a disaster in los angeles is only a matter of time. so why are there so few standing with this particular pastor in his mission of proclamation?


a very solemn cameron addressed the issue in his usual humble and polite manner: it's the timeline. many who would have otherwise supported his messaage and its distribution are concerned that the man is preaching judgement in a specific chronological time-frame. still, this preacher continues to gently and lovingly spread the word. how will this all shake out, anyhow? maybe only time will tell.

jenelle, cam and the fellas.

12.05.2010

purpose?

c'mon let's be completely clear:

we have a fiery need that can't be extinguished by our desperate interactions in this world.
end of story. or the middle...

11.30.2010

the map of everything

i drove with my roommate andrew hippie up the 5 to albany today. this is the quasi-suburban post-agricultural community where i grew up. anymore, big fields full of soggy sheep make up only 5% of the town's staggering sprawl of grass seed fields, department stores and bowling alleys.

as soon as we got off the freeway, i started giving hippie directions, pointing out the turn he should take to get to his destination and gesturing toward the starbucks where i would study while i waited for him. i realized in this trip that i know the town pretty well. i know good shortcuts, cheap restaurants and chill coffeeshops. i have the much-coveted skill of being able to get around albany, oregon.

that said, i don't think i could draw a map of it. what i have is a ground-level knowledge, a hands-on appropriation of the information required to travel around a rather limited slice of human civilization. i can't begin to tell you all the street names.

the world is a big place. if you look up at night you might infer that it's just one world in an even bigger place. since i can't map out albany, mapping out the universe would be pretty difficult. if i had to guess what the world was like, based on my experience of albany, though, i guess i would do alright.

i would first mention that it's cold and rainy (9 mos. a year). i might also be able to conclude that the main export of the universe is grass seed and that most of the people are christians, but they sure don't act like they talk. i could then conclusively say that the universe is filled with hypercaffeinated, materialistic, fast-food munching hillbillies.

i feel like trying to get at absolute truth through personal experience is a bit like me trying to map out the universe from my personal knowledge of traveling it. there's just too much, and in many ways i'm just too small. i don't have sufficient experience or the right kind.

what is and what isn't? that question always confuses me.

as ever,

joel

11.22.2010

recourse

i am so ever-presently confounded by my dealings with the fragility of life. moments and momentous hours seem to pass in my struggle for meaning. i am at war with a gripping but implausible hopelessness. how can i deal with what might be the illusions of time and space?

i can be either pushed to embrace the moment wholeheartedly for what it is, or to reserve judgement, wary of my notions of past and future. how can i know which tact wisdom is taking, which stone should make the humble trip and fall?

i can only look for Jesus.

historical jesus is a traveling rabbi in the desert of antiquity. he proclaims enigmatic prophecies, dispenses cryptic sayings and a gives a different answer for everyone. he brings not peace, but a sword, before marching in to jerusalem to take it by peace and surrender his claim to be its earthly king.

"but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

culturally projected jesus, from era to era charges cities conquers continents, taking jerusalem by force. he spends his days lobbying for the republican party and holding the line against the invading huns. he wants you to take your hat off and pray before your meals.

he hates walmart. he drives a cadillac.

"in this name, conquer."

in honesty: i can only look for Jesus; the Final Word, the Liberating Truth. i can really only look for God With Us. without the knowledge of the glory of God, life on earth is a lonely reality.

11.21.2010

in God we trust

our national god. (lifegatefellowship.com)
in my last post, i talked about how a culture of people living unexamined lives that didn't differ from those of their parents is dangerous. i made the claim that people within societies that champion this perpetual negligence might have very few qualms with owning other people.

though that sounds fairly sobering, what i want to warn you about today is much more serious than slavery. it is the notion that one people could have a national god, whose every whim they would serve with absolute devotion. that seems kind of barbaric and unsophisticated. however, this practice is not only repeated throughout antiquity, but has been known to go largely unreproached when history is taught.

the modern movement has taken the idea of having a national god to the next level. it seemed absurd the in light of our intellectual progress to invent a new deity to be our patron, so we instead attached fresh coats of paint to an existing god. like the romans re-worked the greek gods and the chinese expanded and marginalized india's buddhism, the americans have now enlisted jesus to enlist them.

this practice of re-writing mythology, history and theology developed into something remarkably sophisticated in the last few centuries. it has become frighteningly common and devastatingly effective. we can corporately use god to use us to do a lot of things - from social reforms to imperial military conquests. and we often do.

in many parts of the world (indonesia, egypt, plymouth rock, jerusalem, new york), people are told by god to violently destroy their neighbors. now many of us "rational" people would object that those that hear god tell them to harm or take from another human being are mis-conceiving Him, and would try to stop them. would we do the same for the instigators of a "morally justified" armed conflict today? we need to be more consistent.

contemporary pseudo-moralistic wars are only the beginning of the things that people can do, will, do and have done with god's authority. personally, i don't care what my national god instructs. i won't toe his party line.



it has been famously said that "hell is other people." (philosopher jean-paul sartre) even if you believe in a physical hell, you might still agree with the sentiment that we have an incredible capacity for inflicting pain on one another. we seem almost destined both to suffer and to inflict pain. arthur schopenhauer said that "if the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world."

i think we can all agree that pain is universal. schopenhauer concludes that our suffering should lead us to "tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity." i like that. it's true that we are able to injure, but we are so much more well fitted for compassion.  maybe after all, we can, as paul encouraged, "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

as ever,

joel

11.20.2010

when God makes cookies

its my life, and i can do what i want.

i might counter that fool-hardy and hopelessly cliche assertion with the old saying "no man is an island." do we profoundly and inherently affect each other? yes. are we interconnected beyond the scope of our the average person's observations? no doubt. are we able to ascertain in which ways we affect the world and it affects us? not likely.

not being an island makes you responsible for yourself and the ways you affect your neighbors
socrates proposed that "the unexamined life is not worth living." because i'm not God, i can't say whether that's true or not. however, i would like to suggest that the unexamined life doesn't bear repeating.

why are you living and believing as you're told?

its not that your parents hate you and they want to ruin your life and that they just don't understand (though that is a viable possibility). no matter how much they love you, you have a responsibility to think for yourself. you have an opportunity to seek for the truth with all your heart. good, kind, self-sacrificial people are often wrong.

if from generation to generation we led unexamined lives, and simply believed what our loving parents told us and made it our own, we would never make any progress. never.

i know that a lot of people don't see a need for "progress." however, if everyone through these last centuries had adopted the standards and convictions of our parents, it would still be legal to own other people. it might also be considered ethical to wipe out other people groups.

on that note, there is a long-standing tradition passed down from generation to generation of spending your life in devotion to the faith in the bible, and declaring that as faith in God.

i sincerely hope to suggest in the strongest terms possible that our cycles of assumption and presumption are dangerous and destructive to us and our neighbors. maybe we're right to look with our whole hearts for something worthwhile, for something more true than convenient.

as ever,

joel

11.17.2010

such a drag, u of o

the university of oregon announced its plans today to go completely smoke and tobacco free by 2012. not only that, but money has been set aside to help students, faculty and staff with smoking cessation during the "transition period."


"we have the obligation to provide a healthy, smoke and tobacco-free environment for our students, employees and visitors," remarked uo's senior vice president jim bean in a press conference today. "this is a great statement about our commitment to a healthy campus."


we have been hijacked. we will all be "free" at the expense of our freedom.


our right to walk around and not smell other people smoking has just become more dear than our right to smoke. our prerogative to continue smoking has been judged by the authorities as a less sovereign than their right to spend our money to help us quit.


let us shy away from all but the most necessary and justifiable encroachments on other people's freedom. we have a nearly unprecedented opportunity to perpetuate and expand our freedoms. let's not squander it on our pithy ideas of what's best for everyone. the greater good will never exist as it is determined by man.


to those who comment: i won't delete, but will loath reading poorly worded discourses on how smoking is bad for you. context is the chief qualifier for truth. if you go back and read a little more carefully, you'll see that this article isn't about smoking.

11.06.2010

the 5 best ppl 2 follow on #twitter

a note before: this is a listing of some fascinating twitter-ers (pronounced tweetas). i must express my disappointment that arnold schwarzenegger (@schwarzenegger) didn't make it on the list. the former-terminator-turned-politician insists on tweeting informative political updates oriented toward his constituents. bo-ring!

5. jon foreman (@jonforeman) insightful quotes from writers and political figures are actually attributed to their authors on musician and songwriter jon foreman's twitter feed.



4. adam young (@owlcity) the eccentric singer behind the synth-pop project called owl city has a wealth of funny anecdotes to share. "i'm adam" he begins, "reality is a lovely place but i wouldn’t want to live there."


3. jesus christ (@jesus) ironically, twitter's jesus is almost as americanized as darth vader (see below) and twice as profane. jesus tweets song lyrics and witty one-liners. "i totally missed the world series," he quips, "did america win again?"

2. darth vader (@darthvader) "evil orphan annie" brings his snarky star wars jokes and avid baseball fan-ship to the twitter-sphere. classy.


1. kanye (@kanyewest) international rap superstar kanye west has an ego. this, and his propensity for drunk tweeting up to a dozen times in a single night make him a thoroughly enjoyable soul to follow on twitter.


kanye's more coherent tweets range from defiantly cliche ("never put me in a box") to classy and relevant ("i specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!! what do i have to do to get a simple persian rug with cherub imagery uuuuugh")

he also apparently learned the hard way that its bad news to give out your twitter password to a bunch of foreign co-eds who will take the opportunity to post lengthy tweets in swedish.

11.03.2010

how to autmun

this post is expressly intended to comprehensively instruct the reader on how to behave in the autumnal season : )

step 1: eat cereal.
step 2: stare out win-dow.
step 3: repeat.

picture by jordan tunstill.





poem, november 3 by joeldevyldere

11.02.2010

then it fell on me like bricks

i am so ever-presently resigned to the notion that God is a person who lives inside me.

^^^madness!^^^

i am so ok with that.
(by andrew)

















Light of the world
its darker than hell inside my head

11.01.2010

faith vs.



i have a strange case of wanting to believe in the christian God more than all the things that i encounter in this post-modern universe. i have a back-of-my-mind cosmology that spits in the face of my murky experiences and blurry determinations. in some ways, sometimes, i'm still black and white on the inside.

can faith coincide with an honest search for truth? i've asked this question in a thousand times in at least as many phrasings. i can't seem to work out what mixture of faith and reason i should use to answer it.

ironic, eh?

i would like for my life to be a dramatic of good versus evil, a constant struggle of finding the strength to believe in the midst of heartache and doubt. that particular method of interpreting life experiences would eliminate the worry. maybe that'd be good. then again, maybe the right-and-wrong good-versus-evil worldview is a convenient illusion, a fuzzy wool that i intermittently pull over my search-weary eyes to feel better.

well, i don't know. but i'm working on it.
as ever,

joel

10.30.2010

how to fly in your apartment

this is an authoritative step-by-step guide to taking flight at home. scoffers and skeptics are welcomed and encouraged to either attempt another method or develop their own, but are hereby advised that the results could be disastrous.

man has always wanted to fly, just like fighter jets.
photo: mike johnson
down through the centuries, man has always started all his essays with "down through the centuries..." it's downright unavoidable. oh, and we humans have always wanted to take flight. like birds, but not ostriches (or dodos).

yet flight is something that people in movies do all the time, and as a consequence, most people think you need a big budget and superstar status to go soaring about.

when andrew and i found that this can be done at home for less than you think, i endeavored to share our secrets with you, dear reader. 
i want you to fly. you're welcome.

step 1:  constructing a flight plan
every good pilot needs an effective flightplan. it can be as simplistic and fun as "let's fly," or as complicated and boring as "let's not fly." you decide. you're the pilot. it is here that i want to caution the reader not to attempt their first flight over shark-infested waters. if you feed them, the sharks just keep coming back. they'll start to think they live there, and  no one wants that (except maybe sharks).

step 2: takeoff
you will need a few friends for this. sit on the ground with your knees bunched up in front of you. count to three. on three, jump into the air and have your friends simultaneously yank you forward, by pulling on your arms. this should give you enough thrust to begin hurdling through the air.
ancient cave painting of man in flight.
step 3: landing
this is the tricky part. as we soon discovered, man can only sustain flight for about two seconds. we tried all kinds of landing strategies, including "rolling out of it" and "not hitting the wall." i personally want to extend the liberty of selecting a landing method to the reader. good luck.


step 4: clear all obstacles out of your way
on second thought, maybe this should have been step two. clearing the runway is an important part of not dying or breaking your bones. depending on which room you try this in, you may want to relocate your coffee table, chairs, refrigerator, microwave oven and/or your collection of antique spears (classy). you won't want to be landing on those. flight with a spear in your hand, however, has proven to be the most awesome activity know to man.

well, there you have it: a bonafide method for in-apartment soarings. happy landing! oh, and check out the playlist u cn fly for a sweet soundtrack to your flying adventure.


andrew and nathan know were its at.

10.28.2010

we pseudo-rationalists

this is a continuation of an earlier post about nietzche's "the antichrist."

nietzsche and i have something in common: we both used to think we were rationalists. we were attempting to convince the world of our convictions and conclusions, ignoring that we had both taken up faith positions on the whole. douglas wilson contends that "every position is a faith position," and i think i've come to agree. here's an excerpt from nietzche's the antichrist:

faith is the elephant in nietzche's closet. (flickr: @gudi&cris)
"what is good? everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself."

nietzsche thinks that his observations of the world have led him to believe that "man is an end." neither of us can come to our conclusions using logic - i'll admit that for the both of us. 

while my faith position is on the existence and nature of God, nietzsche's is on the concept that the strength of man is the necessary transcendence of reality. sad day!

we pseudo-rationalists have a lot to explain to freud. his proposition that our conceptions of God have little or nothing to do with objective truth are echoing in my mind right now.

"it would be insolent to let one's own arbitrary will step into the breach, and, according to one's personal estimate, declare this or that part of the religious system to be less or more acceptable," he says with the apparent conviction that what he is doing is science and perhaps is not directly theological at all. freud makes me wonder how much of my experience was interpreted incorrectly due to my emotional needs.

these are enormous implications for anyone who holds a faith position, but especially for those not clinging to the biblical inerrancy raft. we are all subject to our perceptions, personal and collective. some would say they're all we have.

how can we know the truth? what we need is perspective. and we need to have "good" perspective on that perspective. we also need to have perspective on that good perspective on that perspective... catch my drift? we can know things more and less certainly, but it seems to me that to know something for certain we need transcendence.

i drew God trapped in the bible, then jonathan drew God trapped in our brains.

i can't prove it, but it seems to me like love is an entity - real, living, active and found lots of places. if love is truly a force that permeates the world and transcends its trappings, then it must have a source. in that case, perhaps we are wholly dependent on whatever ultimate being may exist. maybe we are right to say in desperation with the singer: "come pull me through."

the one where i admit i'm wrong

in essence
we humans are always trying to explain why the world is broken, why we suffer, why we can't account for all our experiences through our current establishment of natural laws. i read a torah, a few gospels and several epistolary letters to that effect. and i've read it in the faces of my close friends the essays of the great philosophers and the poetry of my literary accomplices.

out of nickels, can someone call Home for me?
my friend andrew says that this lowercase blog is about total depravity. i am also trying to make sense of the brokenness. i am drawing tentative conclusions. most likely, i'm wrong.

presenting the reader with my explanation of absolute truth is no longer the point of this blog. my aim is to raise questions. in essence, this is (hopefully) a documentation of my journey with Someone and toward Someone. absolute truth just might be a person.

that said...
i've realized that i can no longer defend my position using solely logic. at the center of things i'm hoping that God is, that He is enough. this hope is  somewhat supported in my experience. 

however, i'm also somewhat more than tentatively assuming gender, invisibility, transcendence of culture and time, omnipotence and omniscience. some of these descriptors are circumstantially provided for in my experience, while to say that about others would be a stretch. about such things, i have a tentative belief. i don't necessarily expect the reader to share these beliefs. 

i can't prove a lot of what i'm saying on here. i have an illogical hope. sometimes i make assumptions for discovery's sake, but in general i make them because i have needs: i need there to be a god and i need him or her to be objectively loving. i need that god to be transcendent, omnipotent and omniscient.

i need a god who sees and provides. however, i still want to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that reveals a more hostile reality and a god who doesn't meet my needs or perceived needs; even if that means there is no god at all. i don't want to be ignorant.

forgive me for the lack of separation. i want to address both hope and the search for truth. they're going to be muddled together in this blog because my in-process thoughts are sometimes not sorted correctly. please call me out when i'm mis-speaking.
let's keep this conversation going.

as ever,

joel

10.26.2010

is wonder...

let me ask: is wonder the most pure form of worship?
are we deceiving ourselves to think that we can find and appease God with logic?

i continue to seriously doubt that modern science is a sufficiently pure form of inquiry into the unknown. the scientific method is sound enough, but its application seems to me like it is riddled with hypocrisy.

people tend to conclude before they observe. is this inherent? can we really ask philosophical questions, and trust ourselves not to jump to emotionally convenient conclusions?

it seems to me that beyond the simplicity of staring in wonder, all sciences are sociologically based and physically limited. and then there's theology - all science is by necessity theologically oriented. the scientist's belief in a god or absence of one will influence his or her conclusion. maybe observation can be pure, but reason is inherently tainted.


the struggle to defend rationalism is a diseased and dying pursuit. so sorry, dear reader, but you can't be a rationalist. this is because you're human. we mortals have emotions and potentially erroneous prejudgements - we are the human error in our own cosmologies.

maybe on my own i will to trick myself into thinking i can be a rationalist. i can't be trusted. that's why i'm so glad that it's not me i'm trusting in to find truth; it's God. faith is my double-blind study of invisible things. the intervention of grace is not a theology based on human need, but rather a convenient reality - a floating parachute at mile 13 of our philosophical free-fall. i hope.


shakespeare accidentally left this out.. i had to sharpie it in.

p.s. ria is writing a wonderful song. you can hear it on the orange tree

10.25.2010

on accomplishment

i usually walk 1-3 miles per day. on foot i go to school, walk between classes and then home. when i get there, andrew and i usually go for another walk together barefoot.

photo taken and edited by andrew

oftentimes on these walks, we don't aim to go anywhere. we simply stride and converse, letting our intellects and imaginations go free. we laugh at each others' jokes and stroke our chins at each others' seriousness. we take pictures.

we're not afraid of going in circles. we're not alarmed by repetition or discouraged by the people who avariciously speed past us in cars. they have places to be and things to accomplish. we're just walking, sun or rain. especially rain. upon arriving back at the apartment, we are never sad or frustrated that we didn't get anywhere, that we didn't acquire anything or get anything done.

the point was to talk and laugh - to be together.

when it comes to theology, i have this complex in which i always feel the need to conclude something, as if i'm only on this walk to get somewhere safe where i won't have to wonder anymore. i act as if i need to trade my time for resolution and my energy for certainty. so far, walking with God hasn't led me any of those places. maybe i'm forgetting the point...

perhaps arrival (home) is more than just a concept, but a promise that God makes good on in His timing. is it possible that we are spinning our cosmically undersized wheels, while our Creator simply wants to be with us? what if our footsteps are not even an incremental comparison to the living, breathing, infinite God next door? come walk with me. maybe we won't arrive anywhere. maybe that's not what we need.

as ever,

joel

10.19.2010

home


"maybe that's all family really is - a group of people that miss the same imaginary place." - zach braff

10.18.2010

the God in my box

these are unstable thoughts. these are not steady conclusions or solid declarations, but rather inquiries into the nature of God and His relations with us.

i feel like i have been struggling for quite some time with the cliche dilemma of keeping God in a box.
and my box was this:


i'm still kind of in process with this, so i want to apologize to those who who would object that i haven't examined all the angles yet. i am looking at possibilities. i am keeping the conversation going. please don't think i am being flippant.

that said, there are a lot of things about my upbringing as a fundamentalist christian that i have been glancing at with a critical eye lately. i've started to wonder why i was so dead certain of so many things that many people rightly struggle with. the absolute inerrancy of the bible is one of those things.

maybe i look at my former belief in the inerrancy of the bible as a faux-faith alternative. i mean...
if God's a person, a living, breathing interacting person...
then anything we could read or write about him would be kind of irrelevant, wouldn't it? it wouldn't matter what we canonized; He would stand outside of it.

i realize that this is a profoundly dangerous thing to say if God truly has truly given us the protestant bible as the only manifestation of His commandments and instructions. however, that's not what i have faith in at all. i have a working faith in God as a person who truly interacts with people who are willing to get to know Him. so i can also develop a trust in Him to show where i'm wrong. if the bible is inerrant, i hope he'll make that clear to me. and soon. but let's digress for a moment:

ok, i'll admit it. i am a cookie fiend. i am at every moment grasping for that buttery, sugary, chocolate-chippity goodness to saturate my taste and fill my existence with happiness. my friend aubrianne brought over cookies yesterday and we ate and ate until our teeth were cavity-prone and our bellies were full of such wonderful delicacies as could only come from a friend's kitchen.

i believe in these cookies and very much love them. i believed contingently in their absolute goodness, and, now that i'm not sick from them, i think that was a good leap of faith. i trust their goodness from the look, smell, touch and taste. but i don't trust them to save my soul, and i don't put my belief in their inerrancy. in fact, i would seriously doubt that the person who gave me those cookies would encourage me to take them as a complete and prefect representation of her.

these cookies serve a purpose - filling our bellies and making us smile. and they do indeed accurately describe the person who made them: aubrianne is good and lovely and wants my roommates and i to be full. however, she is not buttery or sugary and she is certainly not chocolate-chippity! aubrianne is not a cookie and neither is God.

God, cerca 325 a.d.
(flickr @tharrin)

i think the point is that i chose not to trust in the cookies above the person who made them. i wouldn't want to believe things about the creation that the creator never intended. God may have intended the bible, but did He want us to use it in the manner we have been using it? without reservation i can say that the bible is a poor substitute for the Creator of the known and the unknown, the deep and the up-high, the large and the too-small, the is and the has-been and the will-be.

there's just too much God to limit Him to a book. even within the bible Paul is quoted as saying, "the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man..." (here's the quote in context) two other biblical instances of the presentation of this concept are linked in context here and here.

in light of all that, i'm not quite so sure why for so long i expected God to be defined by a collection of writings written by people, no matter how historically accurate they may be. maybe God is so much bigger, so much more amazing than all that...

i hope so. the biblical texts are insightful, informative and sometimes downright poetic, but they are not God. maybe they are not our only access to Him either; maybe, the word really did become flesh. these are just some things i've been thinking about.

as ever,

joel

p.s. thanks to andrew for help with editing and research on this post.

10.17.2010

maybe love...

dear readers,

i am heartbroken. i think that everyone should be once in a while. to deny that we are suffering is to force dishonesty on our souls. it's both un-natural and unendingly damaging. to deny that we are experiencing hope deferred is to deny hope; and hope is the only thing that makes us human.

it's here that i want to begin to sand against the grain, to be unconventional in a way that will get a lot of frowns and disagreeable comments: in our culture (as in many others), pain suffering and weakness are looked down on while indifference, and disaffected stoicism is championed as the norm. i'm choosing not to be that way. i would rather die.

i've come to see the celestial silence i'm so familiar with as an opportunity to hope in something i can't see and don't understand. the sickeningly wretched things that have happened in my life present me with an opportunity to turn to God. next, when He refuses to take the grief and the heart-wrenching pain away, i have a choice to hope that someday -any moment- He will.

becoming overcome with indifference is a mistake that i never want to repeat. as long as life goes on, there are still moments for God to intervene, there is still loneliness for God to quell and there is still emptiness for Him to fill. so every moment i want to hope.

as ever,

joel