01.31.11

monday morning

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:41 pm by Administrator

sometimes, monday morning is truly so desolate that, to quote a great rapper of the 1980s, “i have to pray just to make it today”.

some things on my mind as i enter the week.

1) artistic frustration

for better or worse, i really continue to feel profoundly unsatisfied by my aesthetic/artistic context. i’ve gotten a lot of book recommendations recently, and someone was even so kind as to mail me a book a couple of weeks ago. but i’ve been getting stuck, for lack of a better word. i’ll read a few pages and get distracted by usage, grammar, or diction. it’s been the same with movies. sandy and i saw “barney’s version”, and on the way out of the theater i found myself saying the same thing i’ve been saying for months: “with just a little editing, this movie could have been something…”

it’s so rare when i experience art that i find really compelling. to me, this is not a luxury; it’s a veritable necessity. if i go months without finding it, what i experience is nothing short of alienation. art is how i spiritually connect to society at large, because i have no other means to deal with the particular stresses of a consumeristic post-industrial milieu. every now and then, i discover an author like Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and i experience something like breakthrough; the frozen world melts just a bit, and i have some space to maneuver. more often than not, i don’t have that breakthrough, and i progressively feel more and more like a stranger…

2) spiritual unease

generally i swing between two extremes: dogmatic certitude and charismatic emotionalism. the swing was more pronounced in my younger years. the two poles are both comfortable positions for me; but the reality that lies in between is often nebulous and disconcerting.

here is the root of my struggle as a Christian being. if i’m not wholeheartedly surging toward a specific destination, then i’m dead in the water. i simply cannot find a precedent in my own life or in the lives of the saints for a spirituality of survival or subsistence. either i’m working toward a goal and building a community, or i’m falling into decay. the meditative life no longer holds any appeal for me, nor does it capture any sense of koinonia for me. if i’m not purpose-driven, then i’m not connecting with God. conversely, when i’m fighting my way out of crisis, building community, or pouring myself into the struggles of others, this is when i feel connection with God.

i often feel between a rock and a hard place, because the latter context is one which exhausts me. but i discover an interesting truth in the midst of that exhaustion; the process of restoration is when i most powerfully experience God. in other words, i feel my purpose as a vessel, and the experience of God lies in my emptying and refilling, over and over again.

i constantly wish for a more restful existence, when in fact stasis has caused me my lowest moments of depression. it is a continual tension for me.

3) weakness

i feel weak these days. i mostly sense it in my physicality. i often feel run-down, twisted out of shape, and unwell. my mind, as active as it is, pummels my body with its constant preoccupations, and my body reacts by shutting down. i sleep and exercise nowadays just so that i can feel well. feeling “well” is such a rarity for me that it has become a priority that nearly trumps all other considerations.

i used to feel well all the time when i was younger. if i’d had a stressful week, i could sleep it off. i didn’t even need exercise to feel healthy. now, i’m a veteran of two hospitalizations for back injury, i have chronically high blood pressure, and i suffer from TMJ and occasional insomnia. my body gets in my way. it takes so much energy, conscious effort, and maneuvering to placate this body just so that i can perform. increasingly, my health is becoming a source of frustration for me. age truly is a burden, and i’m having to deal with the daily fact that my body is not the same.

01.28.11

Rethinking Age

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:58 pm by Administrator

i’ve spent some time over the past few years thinking about “life stages”—specifically whether they are real or imagined and how they are conceptualized in modern culture. a few months ago, this interest was further piqued when i read the article that i previously blogged about, an article about how social changes in america have helped to mold a youth generation that is more detached, more transient in the workforce, and more confused about its identity.

back in “biblical” times (post-diluvian), the forefathers in faith were notorious late-bloomers. abraham, for instance, was 75 before his account began. moses didn’t confront Pharoah (thus beginning his active ministry) until he was past 80. Joshua was about 60 years old when he assumed leadership and began Israel’s conquest of Canaan. even Christ, for reasons unclear, did not begin His formal ministry until after the age of 30. these men, with the exception of Christ, weren’t merely mature; they were old men when the particularly noteworthy events of their lives began to transpire.

this is interesting to consider because we live in a society that veritably worships the young. it’s the women under 30 and the men under 40 who essentialize beauty and power in our time. granted, Congress is populated with men over the age of 50, but generally speaking the late 50s are considered a ripe age for “early retirement”. we don’t expect people over the age of 60 to match the productivity of their earlier years (much less exceed it). in fact, the language we use to describe seniors over the age of 60 generally depicts them as a cost to society, a burden to their tax-paying children, and a strain on our healthcare system. we have a culture that does not embrace the ability or potential of senior citizens. we favor youth, ambition, and energy over experience and wisdom. even in corporate culture, age is no longer considered an asset. the “old guard” is often depicted as stubborn, entrenched, and oppositional to innovation.

let’s face it: the biblical concept of age directly conflicts with our cultural concept of age. i might argue that this tension reflects an incongruity of expectations. we expect young men and women under 30 not only to assume financial independence but also to start families, lead their communities, and take on authority, when the reality is that these “super-adolescents” have not yet even learned anything of their “calling”—what they actually want out of life. they’re being compelled to start households of their own when many of them are still living in their parents’ homes.

in my own life, i find it interesting to consider how adamantly i asserted my “adulthood” in my mid-twenties, when in fact i knew little and accomplished even less. i can point to specific patterns of thinking that i held prior to my 30th birthday that i now consider entirely misguided. the truth of the matter is that i have changed so dramatically in the last five years that i feel i have little in common—in terms of perspective, attitude toward leadership, and core values—with the man i once was. granted, my core personality traits persist, though with significantly different manifestations.

given these observations, i do not think it an exaggeration to assert that i was unprepared for real leadership through my 20s, and i think that i may not really “find myself” in any substantial sense until my next decade. i’m beginning to believe that i may not “peak” in terms of wisdom and influence until the age when most men are supposed to be undergoing their “midlife crisis”.

this latter concept, the “midlife crisis”, is of particular interest to me, because i think it a modern phenomenon and a direct result of the strange concepts of age and responsibility that we have adopted in post-industrial Western society. the stereotypical manifestations of midlife crisis are regressive in nature—a reenactment of adolescent fantasies, so to speak. it is personal retraction from arbitrary responsibility and an implicit disengagement from the societal concept of personal fulfillment. my personal bias is that the midlife crisis isn’t a psychological phenomenon as much as it is an inevitable recognition of the false premise of modern living—that a man can truly be identified by his occupation, his family, and his property.

intuitively, i’ve never bought into a social “design” for my life, which is part of the reason that i’ve frequently contemplated derailing my career, choosing new vocations, or deliberately introducing change into my circumstances. in this respect, i’m like many of my generation who are utterly disenchanted with the structuralist notion of the “American dream”. it is a lie, on many levels. it is a lie because wealth is an empty promise; it is also a lie because it justifies aimless, spiritless work in the pursuit of pointless and unrewarding retirement.

i am 35 and i feel like a child. i think that there’s truth in this. if anything, i believe that my age is explanation enough for my ongoing self-search and angst; i simply have not had enough life under my belt to really understand much about the systems, processes, and struggles that i share with other people. i recognize that Paul instructed his acolyte Timothy not to permit others to denigrate him on account of his young age; but the flip side of this is that Paul did accord certain recognition to those with greater wisdom. Paul himself was no young chicken when he began his ministry to the Gentiles, having spent his “formative” years as an agent of the Pharisaic order.

i think i’ve got to give myself room to grow, change, and figure things out for the next decade or two; and i think i need to recognize that i probably need a lot more time and experience before i can consider my perspective of any real worth. right now, i shouldn’t expect that i’ve really figured out anything essential aside from the basic matter of faith; and in truth, i think that much of what i’ve forged of wisdom has only come to light over the past two years of my life. the vast majority of my life energies are still expended fruitlessly and to my own harm, and i just have to consign that to “youth”. i’m not mature; i’m a super-adolescent. i’ve accomplished virtually nothing in my life thus far, and this shouldn’t be surprising (or disappointing) at all.

Biweekly Forum 1/27/11

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:24 am by Administrator

the issues i’d like to discuss are as follows:

1) Pro sports—aside from the NFL, why bother following American pro sports? baseball is completely about payroll, basketball is now defined by conspiratorial signings and utterly unlikable personalities (e.g. kobe bryant, lebron james), and soccer has no recognizable personalities. i want to be a fan, but i can’t see what i’d be fanning.

2) Obama—good president, bad president, or too early to tell?

3) The gift of tongues—i’d like to know what people think about the “gift of tongues”. do you have it? do you believe in the validity of gibberish tongues? do you practice it publicly? do you find it helpful, disruptive, or entirely fallacious?

01.26.11

that sweetness

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:24 am by Administrator

there’s always that moment when the Fall turns,
like a lady that caught sight of your curious eye.
like you, years later, suddenly remembering.

before that time, who takes note of the trees?
and after, they sigh in that drama of decay,
like old lips with too much to say.

but right then, when limbs catch the wind
like lovers reunited, and we drop all things—
clothes, tears, our sense of time—

it’s then that the leaves fall lightly, as if jarred,
and we pause, suddenly full of insensible little things
not yet brittle, like a first memory

01.21.11

contending with myself

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:24 am by Administrator

i’ve mentioned before how busy i am. i actually really like it. my life is full.

i’m preoccupied with a lot of things, and many of them are rather complex. i’m writing the bible study curriculum for all the small groups at my church on a weekly basis. the feedback i’m getting is that the studies are too cerebral and that i need to make the studies more basic. that’s pretty hard for me because i’m not a “basic” kind of guy, and i naturally assume that people think just like i do. it’s for this reason that i’ve earned a reputation for being a bit “self-contained”; i’m not arrogant in my intellectuality, but neither do i instinctively translate my thoughts for others to understand.

i’m also leading my own small group, which has been an incredible experience. the discussions we’re having are not only intimate and revealing but also very powerful. i feel like we’re really digging into scripture; people come away challenged.

on top of that, i’m one of the leadership crew for the Men’s Ministry, which is a work in progress just like the bible study curriculum. we’re developing the ministry as we go along, which makes it both intense and rewarding.

work takes all i can give. between my weekly spanish 1 on 1 tutoring, some serious performance issues among the staff, a steady stream of patient complaints, and a plethora of programmatic challenges, i’ve been hitting all cylinders every day, with an emotional spectrum extending from elation to angst. i enjoy the developing relationships and i’m actually enjoying the management responsibility. what’s hard for me is striking the balance between the big picture and the details from day to day. sometimes i have to back up and stress the clinic’s vision; but more often than not, i really have to roll up the sleeves and wrestle with the details that my direct reports are struggling with day to day.

i’ve discovered an interesting thing about myself over the past few months. as i’ve plunged deeper into community, i’ve struggled less with vegetative depression and much more with anger. i’ve felt very little of the gnawing, emptying boredom that once plagued me for years, and i think it’s because my involvement in community has filled my life with constant stimulation and purpose. but the flip side has been nearly constant confrontation and conflict. even when i’m not directly involved in it, i’m constantly witnessing or working around conflict: conflict between organizations, conflict between departments, conflict between individuals, conflict between pastor and parish, conflict between leaders and followers, conflict spawned by incongruous expectations. my nature is to internalize the conflict, and it sharpens my combative side. when i’m stressed, i’m more prone to aggression; i tackle issues more forcefully and less forgivingly. i tend to exercise more unilateral judgment. i’m less patient, and i’m more attuned to faster and more definitive solutions.

i’m recognizing that this side of me—the stubborn, aggressive, intolerant side—has gotten me into problems with authority in the past. when i “own” something, when i really invest myself in something, i take on a persona that is far more aggressive and confrontational than what most people witness. i cross boundaries, i lose self-restraint, and i sacrifice careful thought in favor of emotionally-driven solutions. i can’t simply turn off this side of me. i’ve realized that this strong, aggressive character is actually the reflection of my level of investment. if i’m heated up and stubbornly driven about something, then that means i really care about it.

i stepped back today and submitted this to God, because this aspect of my character needs to change. if i’m stubborn about all things that mean much to me, then i will eventually isolate myself in the ventures for which i most need support. patience and self-control are the virtues i need to focus on as my emotional investments grow deeper. for certain, leadership will require confrontation, but i need to learn that having the strongest voice or opinion is not the way to demonstrate the strength of my commitment.

God give me the strength to be firm without egotism; to be patient without being inattentive; to be consistent without losing heart; to listen even when i cannot stand what i’m hearing; to ask questions even when i think i know the answer; and most importantly to constantly ask God to remind me what i cannot control.

01.18.11

The Holy Spirit

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:49 am by Administrator

for the second time in three weeks, i had to author a bible study derived from a sermon that provoked from me a very mixed reaction. this sermon was about the Holy Spirit—or perhaps more specifically certain aspects of the Holy Spirit connoting the miraculous and the unexpected. one of the most challenging aspects of the sermon was that the identity and workings of the Holy Spirit were implied but never specifically defined. this, i’m finding, is a very common theme in present-day teachings about the Holy Spirit.

who is the Holy Spirit? what does he/she/it do?

i think He’s something of a mystery, if i might say so. for one thing, the Holy Spirit—as a spiritual manifestation of God that dwells within a man—is unheard of in the Old Testament teachings. there are certain vague references to men receiving spirits of various kinds, such as the prophets, King Solomon, and others; but these are not explicitly the “Holy Spirit”, nor do these spirits (perhaps better termed “giftings”) function in the manner of the Holy Spirit we understand. Toranic Jews have no concept of an indwelling God; just the idea of it suggests self-deification and the melding of God and man, ideas quite heretical within a Jewish paradigm that emphasizes God’s elevation above the mundane.

the first real definitive biblical reference to the Holy Spirit is that of Christ, when He speaks explicitly about the Spirit that will come to the believers following His death. the Holy Spirit is described as a counselor, one who will share the things of God not even taught by Christ. in Acts, there is the Pentecostal experience, during which the assembled believers in prayer receive “tongues”—prophetic words in foreign languags—as a manifestation of a spiritual baptism. Paul, when he enters Ephesus, instructs believers on the baptism of the Spirit as one distinct from John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance. Paul places his hands on them, they receive the Spirit, and they manifest tongues and prophetic words.

the matter of tongues in particular is quite interesting, because in scripture it primarily appears to refer to a miraculous gift of transient fluency in known languages. there is of course the reference in Romans 8:26 in which the Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”—though this is not explicitly linked to the gift of tongues. 1 Corinthians 14 refers to a practice of tongues in which the speaker cannot understand what he is saying, though the possibility of interpretation by the speaker or by others is later implied. a particularly intriguing aspect of Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor is his statement that if one prays in “tongues” then he prays with his spirit, even as the mind is “unfruitful” (1 Cor 14:14). for all intents, the tongues are gibberish to the speaker, even if they might theoretically represent true vocabulary of some extant language.

this latter aspect of the Holy Spirit’s manifestations is a bit strange to consider because Paul makes a distinction between the spirit and the mind. this might be a logical premise for the Gnostics, but to the modern Western thinker this distinction is, for lack of a better word, mystifying. how exactly are the spirit and mind distinguishable? what is unconscious about the human experience of God? are not all the cardinal elements of the faith either attitudinal or behavioral and thus manifestations of consciousness? acknowledging and professing the lordship of Christ, participating in communion, engaging in repentance, and practicing love in all its forms—are these not conscious activities, every one of them? what is the “unconscious” element of the spiritual experience? where does it reside? a modern thinker might have to appeal to Freud’s idea of the subconscious in order to explain Paul’s cryptic references, but even now Freud’s paradigm has so thoroughly fallen out of favor that we are left without any credible philosophical point of reference. in short, this is one of many cultural elements that comprise a real barrier to our understanding of Paul’s teachings. i might argue that Paul’s concept of the mind, like his concept of gender roles, propriety in worship, and eschatology, was rooted in Paul’s culturally-derived worldview.

not that we don’t have our own idiosyncratic methods of introducing flexibility into our self-concept in postmodern times. our tension is not so much between the mental and spiritual (or material and immaterial) as it is between the rational and the irrational. but i think it would be a real mistake to call the leadings of the Spirit “irrational”, in the way that Paul described them as “spiritual”. in fact, what Paul most urges from the spirit-led life, as exemplified in Ephesians 1, is knowledge—real knowledge about heavenly things, as rational as the facts of Christ’s death and our own mortality. when we preoccupy ourselves with a style of worship primarily consisting of irrational behaviors, such as impulsive life decisions (”callings”), illogical pronouncements (”miracles”), and gibberish utterings (”tongues”), i wonder if we do disservice to the real substance of Spirit-guided living, which is the testimony of Christ’s faithfulness. this sort of manifestation girds the believer in Christ’s assurances and convinces the unbeliever of God’s existence.

i see in Paul’s later letters a very concrete sense of the Spirit’s identity. Paul in his letters to Timothy was not exhorting his younger disciple to a life of death-defying miracles and outwardly enthusiastic emotionality. his values, mirroring those reflected in his other epistles, are very practical: sound doctrine, perseverance, and self-control. the Spirit works to guard these elements of good character and thorough understanding (2 Tim 1:13-14).

with these things in mind, i think i can understand why my understanding of being “Spirit-filled” and “Spirit-led” has much less to do now with ebullient singing and radical life decisions. to me, the true manifestations of the indwelling Holy Spirit are far simpler and more profound: total conviction regarding God’s promises, willingness to obey His teachings, and the ability to interpret and reinterpret the scriptural truths in new and challenging cultural contexts. in short, the Spirit is our lens by which we understand more fully the truths hinted by the scriptures. in this way, He is not merely the overwhelming, emotive presence so celebrated by the charismatics; nor is He the dogmatic guardian of the dead biblical authors, as Reformed theologians so love to believe. He is neither impressed by reckless abandon nor by stodgy orthodoxy. He is impressed by the man who understands His heart.

i myself have practiced gibberish tongues, and i’ve had a rowdy good time at many retreats in my life, having been confronted by what i believe to the raw, unprocessed presence of God. despite these experiences, i refuse to privilege the intuitive experience of God so enjoyed by charismatic worshipers. to me, it’s the smaller part of real worship, and in fact it can powerfully interfere with the authentic experience of God. preachers who constantly encourage “taking risks”, “believing in miracles”, “feeling the Spirit”, and “claiming victory” are harping on the outward manifestations of a much more essential truth: that the Holy Spirit, like Christ, aims to reveal the Father. the Holy Spirit gifts us in specific, situational ways not to draw attention to Himself but rather to deepen our understanding of God the Father in transformational, rational ways.

i think that i still do not know the Holy Spirit as i’d like to, but i’d like to know Him as Paul did—the shoulder to lean on in times of difficulty, the trustworthy voice of reason, the consummate and enduring conscience. i’d like to know Him not as the guy who cuts off my thoughts with babbling sounds but as the one who gives me good words to meditate on, that i might remember where i’m going and hold to that good hope for a lifetime

01.12.11

sc2

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:05 pm by Administrator

for years, i anticipated the release of starcraft 2, though i privately believed it would be impossible for blizzard to top Broodwar. then, i got the beta version, saw how good it was, and realized that pc gaming has achieved a new dimension.

granted, warcraft has been around, and it’s evolved fairly impressively. but, as any starcraft player would tell you, there is little overlap between the warcraft and starcraft worlds. starcraft, in its focus on large-army management, complex macro decision-making, and 1 versus 1 tournament play, is its own monster. starcraft 2 exceeds the first installment at every level—gameplay, graphics, and complexity—and as such i think it’s broken entirely new ground in the on-line gaming experience.

i’ve undergone a transition of sorts, because i’ve decided that i can’t play anymore. my brief stint with the beta version back in the Spring was more than enough evidence i needed that i cannot outgrow an addiction to Starcraft. on weekends, i could easily log four to five hours straight, chomping through 20-30 games in any given sitting. i rocketed into the diamond league within a couple days of every patch, where i was duking it out with semi-pro and even pro gamers on occasion. i was studying replays and burying myself in details of timing, unit composition, and tactics. it was like old days—and it was too much. when the game was released in the summer, i didn’t buy it, and i think i can safely say that my on-line gaming days are over.

that doesn’t stop me, however, from following the news. the news has been fascinating. some things i’ve noted:

1) SC2 is still very much korean-dominated, though “foreign” representation has been noticeable and of fair quality. in fact, S. Korea is so prominent in the SC2 world that it has become a cultural center for the e-sports universe.
2) the old broodwar champs are back (e.g. Nada and Boxer) but they’re being overshadowed by younger competition.
3) tactics, not simply apm, are now king. smoother gameplay and certain adjustments have decreased the micro-intensivity of the early game, shifting importance now to broader tactical decisions. players with apm > 250 are losing to players with apm hovering around 150 but with superior strategy. it’s not cheese; it’s smarter play.
4) protoss, once the defunct race of broodwar, has proven to be effective for use at high-level play. the level of creativity demonstrated by guys like whitera (ukraine), kiwikaki (canada), and ogsmc (korea) has really outshined that demonstrated by pros of other races, partly because protoss has more salient additions to their arsenal (the sentry and void ray, in particular).
5) youtube and game TV are evolving into SC2 platforms, taking the game to a new level of multi-media exposure. there are now professional game-casters (e.g. Artosis and Husky) who can veritably make a living simply commentating on pro replays.
6) tournaments, not simply sponsorship, are now real money-makers for pro gamers. the GSL tourneys, for instance, are taking place on a monthly basis, and 1st place finishers are taking home upwards of $87,000 per tournament—money previously unheard of in the history of e-sports.

with popular replays circulating like wild-fire on the web, game style is evolving faster than people can predict. ogsmc, for instance, won GSL 3 with a series of early game ramp busts; within one month, terran builds were almost universally shifted off the ramp to prevent early VR harrass. in the first months of the beta version, there was talk of “counters” and “hard counters”, but no one uses that terminology anymore. the pros are taking the game and redeveloping it, constantly challenging the culture and the assumptions which generate fad tactics.

starcraft 2, in essence, is fascinating because it is built to be an ever-evolving game. it is a forum within which novel thinking is encouraged, tested, and powerfully rewarded, thus creating a gaming culture of innovation. new talent is always overcoming old talent; pro gamers who aren’t learning and adapting are getting embarrassed on international webcasts all the time. legends are born from legendary replays, and pro gamers are remembered not only for their championships but for individual games—and specifically 1-2 minute intervals of those games—during which they revolutionized the game. this is natural selection, capitalism, and free-thinking at its very finest. for this reason, i would daresay that SC2 is a lead point in the evolution of our post-modern, ultra-connected youth society.

01.11.11

to survive

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:23 am by Administrator

one of my patients is different, for two major reasons. he is from the Middle East, and he is not gay. he’s a kind man who speaks in carefully completed sentences, and he does not make excuses about the journey he’s taken. the country he once loved is now a memory; warfare has made it unrecognizable. the country that he lives in now is very lonely. once, he called a support group that he looked up in a gay magazine in our waiting room, mainly so that he could find out if there were any straight women who shared his disease. they asked him if he was a closeted gay. we laughed about that. “imagine that,” he said. “i don’t know how to be straight and hiv positive.”

he told me that he believes in destiny, as we said goodbye. “we cannot sort out the reasons for these things,” he said. it was a sad smile beneath his eyes. he has lived six decades; he has lost many friends; he is alone in a foreign country. to me, his few words captured a lifetime of living.

sometimes i feel that my job is all about getting out of examining rooms as fast as possible. all day, i’m just trying to finish encounters with all kinds of demanding, suffering people. they’re on the attack. i’m on the defensive. what i’m trying to preserve is my sanity. but other days, i feel like i have an entirely different job. i talk all day about relationships, both straight and gay; i get to learn about transgender life; people tell me stories so interesting that i feel i’m at a reading. they say the funniest things; they say the saddest things. sometimes they make me feel present and appreciated, but other times i feel invisible. i witness life and imagine it in so many different forms that by the end of the day i realize that i was, for lack of a better word, a traveler. even though i only walked up and down a single hallway, i traveled lives that have spanned space and time in so many unexpected directions.

for six years, i have lived with and worked with people who are HIV-infected. they’ve been run out of their homes, beaten, and psychologically abused by those were once close to them. these past six years have utterly transformed me; i’ve begun to see the world through the eyes of people who have felt tortured and alone within it. these experiences have filled my life with real sadness; they’ve made me feel afraid; and they’ve made me angry with people and with God. they have driven me to theological depths, and they’ve also convinced me that theology is utterly superfluous. like my patient, a wiser man than myself, i can admit now that faith is no luxury; it is a necessity for those who have had the great illusion of the rational life ripped from them. there is no “reality”. the facts that we take for granted have become overgrown with assumptions and longings, the stuff of superstition. we live, every one of us, in a haunted forest.

i believe it a moral thing, a very good thing, that we live. and i believe that regardless of what we believe to be true, we will only know it when it is the only thing left, the one thing that was not overcome by the tumult of our universe. men and women come through my doors with stories of how their disease failed to destroy them, and i listen, with the heart of one who also wishes to survive

01.10.11

Weekly Forum: January 10

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:14 pm by Administrator

for danny, carl, diva, and others, i will post a weekly entry purely devoted for discussion and threads. This will save us the trouble of having to scroll down for older entries.

01.08.11

thinking about isaac

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:40 am by Administrator

my son is 4 and a half years old now. the other day, i gave him a series of words from which he could choose a single adjective that best describes himself. from the options—including “nice”, “smart”, “playful”, “creative”, “handsome”—he chose the word “winner”. i thought it was a true choice for him. because whether he is racing with me to get to the car, or waging a war of wills with me at bedtime, or trying to slap my hand without getting caught in my grasp, isaac is always keen on winning.

when i think about isaac, there are many words i would use to describe him, such as funny, perceptive, and intelligent. but just as isaac gravitated to “winner”, i seize upon the idea of “potential”. i look at isaac, and my instinct is to think of his incredible potential.

it is an ingrained concept, i’m realizing. isaac as a young child represents not only the life he has but the life that he will become. it is for this reason that most everyone who speaks of him—his family and the friends of his family—uses the future tense. isaac “will” be good at music and dancing; he “will” have a mind of his own; he “will” be just like his father. complicit in this drive toward his seemingly promising destination, my wife and i talk about his schooling and his extra-curricular opportunities. we speculate on what he will like, as if it is not enough for him to have preferences and diversions. isaac, like us, must become formed. his training and education must manifest itself in skills, accomplishments, and areas of expertise.

the other day, when my wife encouraged isaac to eat more of his dinner “in order to get big”, isaac announced that he had no desire to grow big. he said, “i don’t want to get big because i don’t want to die, and also if i get big then i will get bored of Thomas.” we then had a short discussion about death and the nature of heaven, which did not dissuade isaac from his intention to remain small for the foreseeable future.

whatever i imagine my ideals to be, the rubber meets the road when it comes to my son. there are two sides to me, as i grapple with the great unknown of his future. there is the side of me that says that isaac must be equipped to win the great battle of life. it is my role to empower isaac to do what the battle calls for: transcending obstacles, shaming his detractors, and gaining power over himself and his enemies. the other side of me says that in fact isaac is not an extension of myself. he is just another human being, who happens to have come from the womb of my wife. his children will forget who i am; expressing my legacy through his life is unimportant. what matters is not isaac’s “success” in any imaginable sense but rather the quality of the relationship that i build with him. among many things i could potentially control in his life, this may be the most important of them all.

isaac doesn’t want to “get big”, and i understand that. whether i like it or not, the process of aging will put to death the child that he is today; the man he will become, if he lives that long, will be foreign to what he is now. he will tire of his Thomas trains; he will suffer anguish; he will realize how much his life is defined by the daily struggle to overcome his own limitations. but here, before all of this, i would like to imagine that isaac is right—that he can choose when to change, choose what to win, and choose how to win it all.

« Previous entries