Saturday, August 20, 2011

Regarding Overweight Doctors

Once, I was walking out of my apartment with some buddies of mine and we heard a commotion coming from a nearby couple fighting within their doorway. The shouting drew our gaze, but the violence froze us into place for a moment. The boyfriend (I assume) was literally driving a woman out of his apartment with what appeared to be a leather belt. It happened so fast, and we were about 50 yards away that instant intervention was impossible. After the immediate outburst they both returned to the apartment. Awaking from our stupor, the three of us ran to the door. None of us had any idea what we to do once we got there. Exchanging glances, we knocked on the door. The boyfriend answered. Is everything ok? Yep. To the girl, Are you ok? Do you need help? What's going on? Its nothing, she says. Just leave. Its none of your business. 

Seriously. That actually happened. 

Its amazing what people can get used to hearing. What we can get used to experiencing. What we grow calloused to. And when the offer of truth actually comes, we're oblivious. 

I saw a quote the other day from a guy named Spurgeon, who asked how much time do you spend with your Creator vs. your friends. It struck a chord deeper than I expected. I talk about 'eternal things' all the time, and so its takes a constant, intentional effort to seek to apply those 'eternal things' to my own 'immediate life'. This is an understatement, by the way. Its more equitable to a war, that, to be honest, I fail at a good portion of the time, often until the moment it comes to apply that truth when speaking. A chord is struck inside and I'm left thinking, "What the heck am I doing up here?" 

How much time do I spend with the Creator, in comparison to all the other forums of life? 

Not just one on one, designated time, but even passing conversation? 

Do a word count. Make a pie chart. Ratio. Percentage. 

Talk about royally failing. 

But I talk about the importance of the spiritual all the time. Indeed, its kinda the point of my job. 

Callousness. A terrifying thing. 

Someone once said to not trust a skinny cook. Fair enough. But what about an overweight doctor? I truly have pity for those guys. How can they possibly go in to a conversation with someone struggling with heart disease and say with a straight face to their patient that they need to go on a diet? 

At least they have to face the hypocrisy head on. 

A life inconsistent with the ideals asserted is one thing. It can be dealt with, confessed, and changed. As we all know, no person is perfect, yet we all are comfortable with expressing one ideal or another. 

Hypocrisy concealed is something else entirely. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Regarding Numbers

Aight, in honor of the start of the school year, here's a multiple choice question for you.

Which number is more newsworthy?

a) 2.4 trillion
b) 15 trillion
c) 20
d) 29,000

Go ahead, choose an answer.


According to the number of news stories, the most newsworthy answer, provided by Google news in a search for each number, is the following:

1) 14.3 trillion - 16,965 articles

The current level of the US debt. Well, I guess it use to be the current level, a bit higher now...more newsworthy than pretty much everything out there.

2) 2.4 trillion: 11,534 articles

This is in regard to the amount of dollars the US will 'save' over the next 10 years. A deal months in the making, both sides exhibited more stubbornness than Balam's ass, neither wanting to infuriate the people that put them in office. Of course, congress' dissaproval rating is now a rocking 82%. Well done guys, well done.

3) 20 soldiers killed - 6,581 articles

Newsworthy because this is the same squad responsible for Osama Bin Laden's death.

4) The least significant number, by the numbers: 

29,000 - 1953 articles: 

29,000 Somalian children under the age of 5 have starved to death in the past 90 days. I broke out a calculator and did the math. That's roughly 322 deaths a day for the past three months, which is about the length of time its taken congress to decide to go another few trillion in debt. 

Apparently there's a famine going on there, and its bad. This is compounded by the fact that there are many areas under control of terrorists, until recently leaving aid agencies unable to enter for fear of both the terrorists and legal prosecution of the US (since we can't be giving aid to terrorists). 

Now here is the kicker: 

Which story has you concerned about your 'discretionary spending'? 

Or is that unavailable since the Visa is maxed out? 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Regarding Dreams

Disclaimer: This post reeks of arrogance. Therefore, if you don't know me, please ignore this post and skip to something else first, otherwise you'll probably end up thinking I'm a self absorbed tool. If you do know me, methinks this post still reads like I'm a prima donna even though I've actually accomplished remarkably little, given what you're about to read. Thus, if you continue to read, take a sec and re-read the title of the blog. And one more time...ok. good. Just so you know what you're getting, you can continue.

I've always felt comfortable with what I've wanted in life. As a rule, I've also always had a fairly good idea with where I was going to get what I wanted in life. Those pivotal decisions in people's lives, where to attend college, major, marriage, occupation, children, all have come without much fanfare or crises. Each transition made was quite natural, a merging onto a highway that was impossible to miss.

When I stop to think on the ease of these mergings, the theological section of my brain throws the switch on the little red warning light. Nothing major, nothing heretical, but there is something about the confidence  in which I hope matches the reality of my direction lays the experiential foundation for a name-it-and-claim-it theology.

Hence the little red warning light.

Wanting to go to CIU? Check.
Program Director? Check
Class President? Check
Teach the Book? Check
Teach overseas? Check
Married to a gorgeous woman? Check
Foster a child? Check
Own a Jeep? Aight, still waiting on that one.

As I look at the 'list', there is the honest admission that none of the things on the list are 'extravagant dreams'. Although the time when the dream first occurred many certainly seemed far-fetched enough. Yet here I sit. I sit in the unexpected seat of having already accomplished the mental goals established upon graduating high school.

And I'm not entirely certain what to think of this.

Did I not shoot high enough?

Having established a habit of actually accomplishing what I set out to do, should I now try for something higher, and continue to do so until I reach my limit?

What the heck is the definition of 'high' anyway?

What is next?

Should there even be a next, or having met where I wanted to be in the first place, should I now content myself to live out the dream of a younger self?

Honestly, its quite strange to have one's only unmet goal being to own a jeep wrangler.

Its equally strange for me to be in a place with no 'goal' to work towards.

So we (you're with me on this) are agreed then.

I need a new goal.

Insert goal here:______________.

Thanks for your help.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Regarding Innocence

Innocence is truly a beautiful thing when not confused with naivety. Naivety is pure out of sheer ignorance. It falls short of virtue from the simple fact that it has not yet had the opportunity to fall. Naivety is pure out of the simple fact of youth.

I wonder if naivety is a fine as any point to start. All children, I suppose, begin with naivety. Even the most jaded of us were there at some point.

The beauty of innocence grows as one sees the world, witnesses and gains the capacity to sin, knows intimately the choice and temptation of falling. And abstains.

Methinks innocence is undervalued.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Regarding trails and Tatooine

In high school one of my favorite pastimes was jumping on a mountain bike and going riding. There was something about the freedom it entailed, journeying into the unknown, completely dependent upon oneself for both direction and momentum. The one standard for defeat on a ride was having to turn around and go back the way you came. To this day I hate turning around, my one comfort being the wise words of Lewis,  with my rough paraphrase, "If one is going the wrong way, the quickest way home is to stop what you are doing and go back".

Still, Lewis aside, the purpose of mountain biking is the journey itself, and so with my single law in place, the ride would begin.

The second guide wasn't so much as a rule, but more of a preference: when the path divided, take either 1) the one that leads farther from the known, or 2) the one you have not yet traveled. Frost knew what he was talking about. At least in the context of mountain biking.

Pulling back to the larger context, its somewhat frightening how my temperament in a temporary hobby serves such an accurate overlay for the path life has taken me.

The predictable life has always seemed contemptible to me. In part, I blame my parents, who never seemed to place stock in doing that which people expected, or falling in step to rhythm set by the drum of society. The rest of the blame lies in Luke Skywalker, and after living in Elkton of Tatooine, the contentment of the rooted seems, well....rooted.

Bleh. I've got no point to this, other than the fact that I haven't written about it before. Hence the name of the blog I suppose.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Regarding Glaciers and Dice

Its ironic that we live in a world where the one constant is change until we look at our own character. It is there, in the predispositions and outlook on life, we see a glacier-like race toward becoming something different. When we tally the enumerable amount of life experiences: grocery shopping, playing with children, riding to work, eating a meal, and compare them to the moments where a change in our fundamental being takes place, the rarity of change is highlighted.

Think back on the things that actually affected your life, the events that you can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, placed you at a crossroads where a choice was made that would never have been predicted given your past history. This, however, is not what is most interesting.

What fascinates me is when I gather those events and analyze them, it is difficult to see any real correlation between them. Some moments of change were extremely painful moments in my life - those of great suffering. Others were simple conversations. Yet even just taking those critical conversations there seems to be little they have in common. Some were in moments of stress, others were passing comments. While some involved people that were near and dear to my heart, others were with complete strangers. Some were climactic moments that could have been anticipated, while others took place in the quiet, uneventful peace of home.

Upon reflection I pity the behaviorist who views change to be the result of the correct amount of ingredients placed in the correct situation. Life change, in my personal experience, is rarely planned, and would be impossible for me to duplicate in the life of someone else.

At the same time, those key moments always took place at just the right time. A conversation, a book, a sudden realization - all took place at just the moment with my perspective and context set perfectly to ease me to the edge, so that the insight could be appreciated for its newness and integrated into being. To hang it all on chance is equally absurd, for who believes the future of their very nature belongs to a roll of the dice?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Regarding Stairs

So my little girl is learning to walk.

I think that is actually incorrect, so let me try again.

So my little girl has learned to walk. She just likes holding peoples' hands.

In this process of learning to walk, she has a growing obsession with stairs, fitting into the pattern of her attraction to anything that could kill her. If it has sharp edges, moving parts, that is where she wants to be.

Electrical outlet? Heck yeah.

A dog three times her size? Perfect.

Stairs present a unique fascination for her, holding both a challenge for her newfound ability to walk AND can kill her at the same time. My daughter will blithely walk forward to the edge of the stairs, holding my hand, and fearlessly take a step into the toddler equivalent of the abyss. All done while cooing contentedly. The puzzling thing for me is that it is not what is at the bottom (or top) of the stairs that holds great appeal for her. It is the journey of holding the hand of her father in the face of the new danger. Attractive because its an adventure. Safe because Dada is holding my hand.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Regarding Information

A great irony of our age:

Information is insanely available. One can, after perusing youtube, change the ball-bearings in your car, fix a washing machine, lay tile, and know the appropriate time to harvest broccoli. One can study investment strategies, language, and art from an unprecedented amount of sources without leaving your living room couch.

In defiance of the basic economic laws of supply and demand, this radical development in human history has occurred alongside the tripling (repeat that: tripling) of the cost of a university education.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Regarding Authority

Authority is a crazy thing.

To change anything, you need it. Yet the amount you have directly correlates with the amount of responsibility one must take if those changes have unintended, or unwelcome, consequences.

And so humanity has a bitter sweet relationship with authority, rejoicing at the freedom it gives one to work change while cursing the heightened expectations laid upon their shoulders.

Fortunately for us, we have created a middle ground.

To work change, criticize those in authority, lambasting them with derision until they do what we expect (or until some other poor fool is willing to take their place with the support of our vote).

The result: A convenient buffer.

When plans that we disagree with go badly, we are able to shake our heads as we stand on the sidelines.

"See Bob, I told you that would happen."

When plans that we agree with go badly, there we are, still shaking our heads on the sidelines.

"See Bob, told you that guy/organization/branch of the government couldn't pull it off. They always bungle everything."

Here is the kicker: on the rare occasion that a plan we actually agree with goes well:

"See Bob, that's why I voted for that guy!"

Its a win-win. Democracy rocks.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Regarding Dreams

So recently I had a friend have a huge opportunity open up to him. He was basically handed a fully operating camp at virtually no cost to him.

His response when I asked what he would do: "I'm afraid to do it. I have never done it before."

I have to admit that his answer was refreshingly honest. It still grated me. Grates me still.

Fear, in and of itself, strikes me as a terrible reason to refrain.

Lack of experience is an equally grossly insufficient reason.

From an educators perspective, the reason for this is immediately obvious. Learning cannot take place if the student is unwilling to place themselves to risk. Risk itself is required for learning, be it walking, investing, teaching, driving, or writing. When fear of falling or lack of experience causes one to refrain from the experience, stagnation always results.

Lets take this idea one step farther.

If risk is the necessary starting place for growth, than the size of the dream you currently pursue is the immediate limitation on your own personal potential.

Invest small, reap small. Sow much, reap much.

Failure is inevitable methinks. Its only difference is the form of failure you will encounter: be it stumbling before ones first step, or the failure of a life spent in safety, crawling on all fours for fear of stumbling.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Regarding Justice.

Down Syndrome.


To be in one of these categories is a tragedy. One that deserves compassion, tenderness, and society to reach out with eager provision and love.

To be in both of these categories, to be orphaned, to be abandoned by your parents - because of even suspected Down Syndrome, is a crime.

To be an orphanage, and deny the adoption of that orphan to a family because of that Down Syndrome - out of a desire to protect the nation's reputation, both with its own population and that of surrounding nations, is heinous.

To force this child to remain in the orphanage, un-adoptable, and to tie them to a chair.

No toys.

No play time.

No friends.

No parents.

No love.

No hope.

Please Lord come quickly.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Regarding Landlords

I met a guy last year whose business was real estate. He would travel back and forth between the States and Shenyang selling properties in China. This guy shed some interesting light on landlords, explaining that the vast majority of Chinese people have no trust at all for the stock market, and have even less trust for banks. With the insanely rich getting insanely richer, they are having the difficult dilemma of where to put all of their newfound wealth.


Now this actually explains quite a bit.

For one, it explains how I'm able to look out my window and count appx. 20 cranes of new high-rises going up outside my apartment window while at the same time apartment buildings less than a year old are at minimum capacity.

It also explains why landlords in China are such jerks. To them, being a landlord is not a position of responsibility. They don't really need the money, and in fact, any rent you actually do pay them is just a bonus. The wealthy are counting on the value of the property only to continue to sky rocket, and so much of the insane amount of construction that is taking place is sheer speculation.

But because properties are owned and rented out by the rich and its income is seen as peripheral, tenants and their complaints about....mold, shoddy construction, ceilings falling apart, even the junk that the owner decided to store in the apartment before move in day, are largely ignored and are seen as petty interruptions.


This mindset is grossly apparent to me as I sit in my apartment where my foster child sleeps on the floor because our landlord ignores all pleas to move his monster beds (yes, beds are plural here) out of the one room he can sleep in.

It amazes me that individuals in positions where their livelihood is a result of service to people so often grow callous to the very call to serve that the livelihood stems from. The whole point of their position is written off as a peripheral inconvenience.

But as a teacher, I still hate grading papers.

Hugely inconvenient.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Regarding Sick Daughters

I never got the movie that has the daughter getting hopelessly sick, followed by the father going against all odds to discover the miracle cure, leaving the entire family together, happily ever after. Lifetime movie cliche's are somewhat nauseating to me. The reality is that when the typical father's daughter is hurting with sickness, he is at the mercy of providence and the nearest medical facility.

Or just providence.

Personally, these are the moments in life when I'm struck by my relative helplessness in life. They also tend to be the moments that I work to avoid the most.

Our detestation of being helpless begins early. Already my daughter gives me 'the look' when I put the pacifier in her mouth and don't let her do it alone. I think we want to establish that we are something significant, and on some level independent and self-sufficient.

Honestly our desire to set ourselves up as independent would be a humorous hyperbole if it wasn't so grossly futile a dream. From the cellular level, where all it takes to end a life is one cell decide its not going to stop reproducing, up to the cosmic level of our planet depending on insanely precise mechanisms to hold everything in place just so, any concept of independence is sickeningly arrogant.

Which begs the question:

Why does feeling out of control throw me off balance?

I'd laugh if it wasn't so serious an issue.