05.31.11

running from depression

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:59 pm by Administrator

lately i’ve had a couple of vacations or long weekends during which i’ve slept a lot, thinking that i needed to catch up on the rest. after a few consecutive days of “vegging out”, my state of mind changes drastically. i’ve realized that i am profoundly shaped by the momentum of my days. if i’m working hard and being productive, i tend to stay that way even when my schedule doesn’t call for it; and if i consciously decrease my level of activity, then it is very hard for me to “turn it on” at will.

the degree to which my disposition changed during my vacations transcended mere emotionality. i actually slipped into near-depression, if one defines depression as anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure), vague anxiety, and consistently poor mood. perhaps it trivializes my situation to describe me as someone who needs to stay “busy”; i think the better term for it is “engagement”. i have to be continually engaged in something or with someone, because i start to deterioriate the moment that i detach from my society.

i can take this truth about myself and fill my life with challenges and communal responsibilities, but then i would suffer the travails of burnout (which i am already well-acquainted with). i think that the more important lesson i draw from this is that i have been designed to be intimately connected to community. i derive personal meaning and pleasure from influencing others and from reacting to the initiatives of others. i experience this most exquisitely when these interactions are closely connected to my driving passion—the discovery and experience of Christ.

recently, i’ve gone through a lot of evaluative sessions, both at work and through the Men’s Ministry at my church. at work, i’ve been commended for my ability to “deal with ambiguity”, maintain “customer focus”, and manage conflict. in the MM, i’ve been commended for my passion, consistency, and drive. the constructive feedback was less substantial, which is to be expected in our culture, but i did manage to ascertain that my perceived weaknesses lie in “connection”. i can certainly articulate a vision, and when motivated i can drive for results; but how good am i at leveraging my strengths into real influence? i was told jokingly by one brother in the MM that he cannot understand 40% of what i say because i’m too cerebral. on the one hand, it’s a tribute to my intelligence; and on the other hand, it exposes a potential weakness in my ability to lead.

i wonder if perhaps my perceived tendency to “overprocess” is parallel to my own self-perceived weakness of perpetual discontentment. i am constantly driven by my longings and heartaches, which themselves are derived from a history of emotional injury and disappointed expectations. do i work so hard cognitively simply because i have such a strong need to rationalize away my sadness? is my whole life a constant race to outpace my depression? is my goal in life simply to avoid the clutch of my lurking despair?

if there is one wish for myself, it’s that i can get back to the simple questions. instead of asking myself about life’s meaning and about how to achieve what will make me happy, i wish i could spend more time asking the straightforward questions that i had when i was a child. why do people hurt one another? why do people starve? why is there war? why can’t we be nicer to one another? i’d like my life and my actions to derive themselves from these simpler questions. perhaps if i could refocus my restless brain, i’d have less angst and perhaps more genuine explorations.

05.27.11

meditation and prayer

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:10 pm by Administrator

i used to think that meditation and prayer had the same psychological effect on people. meditation was the “secular form” of prayer. only recently have i begun to realize how different they are.

i’m engaging in meditation nowadays, at least twice a week. my colleague at the clinic started a weekly lunch-time session to help all of us cope with the extreme stresses imposed by our client population. i’ve started to do it a bit on my own as well, sometimes for very brief intervals (<10 minute snatches, at times).

when i first began meditation, i found it extraordinarily stressful. i had previously thought of the meditative state as the relaxed, self-emptying “baseline”, upon which we impose the business of our days. i’ve found it to be the opposite, in reality; the meditative state is profoundly unnatural, and it requires a lot of focused, intense psychological effort to actually detach oneself from the naturally seamless pace of thought. my first meditation session forced me to break out into a sweat, and my heart rate actually went up. i didn’t feel good at all. and when i did get to a place of detachment—the vantage point from which i could examine my feelings at a distance—i was very much disturbed by what i saw. in short, i found meditation to be a considerable inconvenience.

with my subsequent sessions, i’ve found that meditation brings out more and more curious aspects of myself. i’ve realized for instance that the natural pace of my thoughts actually precludes my perceptive abilities. i ignore thousands of visual and auditory details over the course of my day simply because i am generally buried in preoccupation. when i free myself from these thoughts, i am suddenly aware of prior observations (i.e. the make and color of cars that passed me on the freeway this morning, the facial expression of someone that i greeted on my way through the door) that would have been quickly forgotten otherwise. i subscribe to “Ode” magazine (a really terrific publication by the way), and i recall one recent article on meditation which referenced a man whose meditations made him aware (for the first time) of how good of a cook his wife has been for the last thirty-plus years of their marriage.

in contrast, prayer does not divorce me from my preoccupations; it focuses them into a line of thought so crucially clear that it distills them into words. prayer is dialogue with the unseen, and in this manner it is a presentation of self that imposes structure, feeling, and spontaneous agenda. while meditation disrupts my sense of self and enables me to reform my subjective base, prayer takes what i am and essentializes it, consolidating my sense of self. thus, i finish prayer feeling purposeful, while i emerge from meditation feeling strangely unpurposeful—and capable of redirecting myself at will.

as antagonistic as these two modes of self-examination do appear to me, i find that meditation can facilitate prayer in a manner that prayer cannot accomplish for meditation. meditation helps me to identify root causes for negativity. once identified, those factors can drive me toward the highly structured self-examination which i undergo during dialogue with the Spirit. this cannot occur in a converse fashion. once i have received a distinct impression during prayer, i cannot separate myself from it; it has become a pole in my consciousness around which my identity is taking form. in this way, prayer obviates meditation.

i am searching for health, and constantly i am discovering how much of what i do is meant to compensate for injury. much of the daily injury to my psyche revolves around the constant frustrations of unfulfilling interactions with people. whether it lies in conflicts on the road, or painfully fake interactions at work, or negotiation without reconciliation in the home, my life is full of relationships and interactions which force me from moment to moment to compensate for or adapt to others, all while suppressing my own spiritual needs for that interaction. it has happened so routinely over the decades of my life that i no longer notice it anymore. for me, road rage, frustration at work, and a sense of boredom or loneliness at home are not unusual; these sensations are the substance of my subjective life.

it takes a lot of deep self-exploration to recognize how profoundly dysfunctional and unhappy we really are. that which we describe as “happiness” is a rationalization; it’s an outgrowth of self-proscriptive manipulations like prayer. and if we never really mature as spiritual beings, this is the only end toward which we will ever strive through prayer; we will continually seek to cover negative feelings with positive rationalizations. but i think that if we are capable of confronting ourselves, we eventually realize that the psychological impact of prayer can go much deeper. we can gain the power to recognize what we are giving and receiving from other people, and we can begin to change the basic essence of what drives our interactions. i am beginning to believe that this—more than anything else i can identify—is the impetus that underlies love.

05.24.11

Political thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:03 pm by Administrator

i have to admit that i like Obama as a person even more now than i did before. he’s funny; he relates well with other public leaders; he’s a very effective communicator from the podium; and he really nails his state visits. i appreciate what he’s achieved in the way of rapport in Russia and in Ireland, among other places.

where i cannot help feeling bothered is in Obama’s terrible sense of political timing. why did he rush healthcare reform, and why did he choose to focus on some of the more controversial and less impactful aspects of our healthcare system? his timing and his message on healthcare reform couldn’t have been more poorly timed, given the context of real spiritual and financial crisis that was plaguing the country early in his presidency.

moreover, his message of renewed commitment to Afghanistan came at a time when the country was beginning to realize that the war in Afghanistan is impossible to win. Americans don’t want to divert troops from iraq to afghanistan; they want to divert themselves from war altogether.

and now, Obama is offering military support to rebels in Libya and voicing a hard-line stance on Israel’s policy of occupation at a time when political stability is most tenuous in the Arabic Middle East. does Obama really want to empower the Arab street? does he recognize what broad and tumultuous revolution is going to create in this volatile region? at a juncture when Obama should be most interested in calculating a strategy for political transitions and long-term alliances, he is instead alienating his most important regional ally while helping to dismantle secular governments which have held fundamentalist, anti-Israeli, and viciously anti-Western elements at bay. no one likes Gaddhafi; but no one should be opening the door to the next Ayatollah. and there is perhaps no better regional precedent for what we are witnessing than the Iranian revolution of 1979.

democracy has not existed in the Arabic Middle East for the last century, and it will not happen now—not without a rising middle class capable of supporting economic growth. this blithe fantasy of “Arab Spring” is both naive and terrifically stupid.

though i fault Obama for terrible timing, i don’t fault him for his stances. a nationalized healthcare system, secure nationhood for Afghanistan, the end of totalitarian corruption in the Arabic Middle East, and Palestinian autonomy are all legitimate long-term goals, and these are objectives that i think most Americans really desire. but timing is everything, and bad timing will undermine these noble efforts. we elected Obama to be more than a figurehead, but this is all he has proven to be during his first term. because of his epic failures, he has lost the Congress, and i’m not sure he will win himself a second term.

i’ve learned a lesson from Obama’s ambitious but spectacularly ineffective first term. bite off what you can chew; and don’t bark at what you can’t kill. the president should have been less active and more effective—a lesson that i’m also having much difficulty learning.

05.21.11

the wars that you cannot win

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:18 pm by Administrator

during my vacation this past week, i tried to take some time out to reflect on the past 12 months, during which my life has been turned upside down. it’s been a good year, even though objectively speaking i’ve accomplished little, if anything. the irony of this lies in the fact that i’ve been called into situations where i’m fighting battles that i cannot win. the reason is that victory hinges upon the transformation of other people. this transformation looks inconceivable; and i cannot effect that transformation. if this miracle were to occur, i understand that it is not my miracle to perform. in life, i’m fighting battles to hold ground, not to conquer my enemy. i’m trying to hold onto my own faith, in the midst of incredible trials.

i find this sentiment echoed in the American news. we are constantly beset by stories of unwinnable wars. for example, Afghanistan. the U.S. has been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for nine years with nearly nothing to show for it. textbook history and common sense should have made it clear that this futility was inevitable. another example is Palestine. Obama is like a child wandering into a dogfight thinking it to be a playground. the buffoonery of American foreign policy is predicated upon the idea of measurable progress, while the reality is a human condition of cyclical upheaval. democracy is no irresistible force, but the bare necessity of subsistence is surely an immovable object. tribal autonomy for Muslims, like the entrenchment of the Mexican cartels, is non-negotiable. democracy in ‘Arab Spring’ will simply herald the ascendance of new tribes, who will dominate and disenfranchise their rivals in the usual tradition. ‘progress’ is change; ‘progress’ is fakery.

as convinced as i am that the organizations that i’m a part of are broken and perhaps destined to fold, my challenge on a daily basis is to convince myself that my efforts—and those of my peers—are nevertheless worthwhile. might it be because our sense of value and significance does not have to ride upon the ultimate fate of the organization but rather on a situational objective? i find this to be the only feasible perspective. even among the things that are theoretically ‘under my control’, there are only specific people and issues that might experience growth or resolution, while others will be a waste of time and energy. i’m coming to believe the real truth of the saying that “wisdom is knowing the difference”.

it is a good thing to be able to occasionally step away from the fray and look upon the morass with a convenient lens. it is so easy, for instance, to judge my president, who is pouring so much of his passion into losing causes. he will be judged for these failures; perhaps it is inevitable for a president. turning the lens upon my own life, i can recognize how much i too am coming to be judged by myself—and perhaps eventually by others—for the ventures into which i’ve poured my energy in vain. more than despairing over the absence of real success, i regret the time i have wasted on people who were not worth the effort. they diverted my energy from the people who might have really benefited from my devotion.

i have a new resolution for this next twelve months: to give myself to an even greater extent to those who have grown in their relationships with me. and the equally important resolution for me is to give less, if anything at all, to those who have failed to bear fruit. the proverbial bus must move now, and it must take a road even if it is the wrong road, and it has space only for the passengers who are willing to travel. i have resolved to think first of them, to devote myself to them, and to give myself the pleasure of their journeys. let the israelite and the palestinian bury another generation in their insufferable hatred; let civilization splinter and divide, as it must. as for us, we have such few years to live. let us endeavor to win something that is winnable, in our time

05.12.11

grace

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:29 pm by Administrator

i get into these funky periods where i’m hyperaware of things that i’m simply not in control of. for instance, i’ve been suddenly and deeply insecure about my son’s upbringing this week. it’s triggered other latent misgivings as well, like whether i have enough money, or whether i’m prepared for a personal calamity, or whether i’m generally mismanaging the relationships and the responsibilities in my life. i start looking at my life the way a manager would look at a factory he was newly hired to optimize. the whole operation is out of control. there are too many things going wrong.

this inevitably gets me into a negative frame of mind, in which i generally feel a bit more critical of the people surrounding me. fortunately, it’s not affecting my perception of my wife. but i’m finding it harder to be forgiving at work, at church, and in my social circles. in any given interaction, i’m more likely to be reminded of the things that have not gone well in the relationship. it got me to the point last night where i was lying in bed unable to sleep because i could not identify anyone (aside from my wife) that i genuinely trust. there is something about everyone that troubles me.

i don’t get into this state of mind often, but it happens enough that i can understand a pattern in it. this is my unconscious way of separating myself from the murk of my life; it’s my way of gaining objective distance from the milieu that overwhelms me, so that i can take stock of what life is doing to me. in some ways, this process is invaluable to me, because it reminds me of which relationships are really valuable to me, even as it elucidates the relationships that i must reconsider in a new light. but in other ways, the process is difficult for me because it takes me out of my spiritual “comfort zone”; it makes it nearly impossible for me to invest myself in the community-oriented, compassionate, and forgiving perspective dominated by an awareness of God’s grace. this morning, i was reminded that nine months ago when i first took the helm both at work and in the church’s small group ministry, i had no mind to criticize or to judge. my primary motivation was to serve well and to please God through my total commitment to His people. the roles He gave me felt like real blessings in my life; i felt lucky to be doing what i was doing.

it’s the constant battle to gain real perspective. so much of the time these days, i feel like i lose that battle. i sweat the small stuff all the time. i get upset at people who don’t pay their portion of the bill; who rack up debts that they have no intention to repay; who are incapable of being authentic; who are careless in their personal relationships; and who speak and live thoughtlessly. it sounds like major character flaws, but in reality it’s the small stuff. everyone is trivial, and everyone is quite capable of trivial selfishness, myself in particular. it’s hard for me to have the perspective of the servant rescued by grace, the one who feels fortunate simply to be alive and to be cherished by God. it is hard for me to be a manager, a ministry leader, a shepherd of people—and to maintain a perspective that transcends the constant stream of troubles and complaints that is directed my way.

once, i used self-loathing to reorient myself toward humility and awe. it was a convenient technique that i learned within the Korean church by which i could dismiss my inherent sense of entitlement and heal myself of the sting of betrayal. but it doesn’t work as well as it once did. i can’t get down on my hands and knees now and simply pray myself into a sense of self-abnegating grief about my pathetic self. this is the stuff of psychological self-manipulation. i feel that God has closed that door in my spiritual walk. He has proven to be less interested in my self-perception; increasingly, He wishes me to reevaluate myself in the context of my people. the key to my restoration, i’m realizing, is to reaffirm my role within the community. the key is not to disrupt my sense of self but rather to continuously, persistently, and cumulatively construct a more and more specific understanding of myself as a new creation and a veritable organ of Christ’s body. i once held to the mantra that “i am nothing” and “i do not matter”. but this is baby food for a follower of Christ. if we are to grow, we must see ourselves as substantial in our linkage to the powerful entity of God.

grace to me means more than it once did. i was once simply happy to have a heavenly inheritance. now, to quote my pastor, it is grace that my line is assured, that my legacy has been foreordained and celebrated. i am not merely alive; i am a progenitor of faith and a partner in the kingdom work for which i was designed. i am both vassal and heir. to understand grace is not merely to feel lucky. it is to grasp the kingly identity to which i am entitled—and to let this understanding inform my whole being through and through

05.11.11

children

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:21 pm by Administrator

two nights ago, i had my most personally difficult moment with isaac since he was born.

isaac was throwing a tantrum because he didn’t want to go to bed. when i went to retrieve him from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth, i found two globs of toothpaste on the carpet right outside the bathroom. during the ensuing discussion, i decided that he had flicked the toothpaste onto the ground intentionally to express his frustration. i rebuked him for doing this, but instead of apologizing, he changed his story, saying it had been an accident. i judged him to be lying, which made me extremely angry. i spent another ten minutes scolding him for intentional deception, but still i did not feel that he came to a point of real understanding. by the end of the discussion, i found myself concerned about my son’s character; i also found myself concerned about whether or not i was right about why he had scattered the toothpaste on the ground.

there are many things that give me pause regarding my son’s upbringing. i wonder all the time whether i should be devoting more energy toward his education. he watches a lot of youtube and netflix to make up for the loss of television service, and sometimes this amount of passive entertainment bothers me. he’s an intelligent, buoyant, cheerful, and obedient boy, but i wonder what’s going on inside his heart. is he learning to respect his elders and their rules? is he learning his limits by bending the rules? or is he learning to be manipulative, so as to get what he wants despite the rules? i realized during that seminal moment two nights ago that if there is one thing i cannot tolerate in my son, it’s intentional dishonesty.

regarding the broader issue of being involved in his upbringing, i realize that even though we just have one child right now, sandy and i are generally too tired to do all the theoretical things we’d love to do for him. it is enough of a struggle to find time for the three of us to eat together. i rarely read with him anymore, and some nights he is now putting himself to bed on his own. when i take a step back, i recognize that in many ways i am doing the minimum that’s required to keep him safe and healthy. i really don’t know what i’m doing with regard to raising my son, and i think i have to admit at this point that i don’t know what else i can or should be doing.

we are now adding a girl to the mix (found out on the 20-week ultrasound yesterday), and though i’m delighted to have another child, i’m concerned about how much less engaged i will become as a parent when my energies are even more divided. let’s be frank. i’ve gotten no training on parenthood. i don’t know what i’m doing. what i do know is that i want my children to grow up differently from the way that i did, but even in this desire, i do not know specifics.

hunting for a school for isaac brings my total lack of clarity into real focus. i don’t know whether i’m willing to spend $2000 a month on isaac’s 1st grade schooling. but perhaps if i don’t, then i’ll be consigning him to a dangerous or substandard school in a totally collapsing school district. if i do cough up the money for private schooling, will this change my expectations about his growth and evolution? what is it that i want his education to accomplish? i have no clear goals for isaac, i realize. i have no vested interest in his academic achievements, college matriculation, or career success of any specific kind. i just haven’t really thought about it to a great degree, and this is partly because of how much this was overthought on my account during my childhood.

perhaps the real question is whether i view myself as a success. because i am more accustomed to viewing myself as a failure with some potential for redemption, i do not view my own life as a proper example for my son. i feel powerless to dream for him simply because misplaced ambition is part of what has stunted my growth as an individual. perhaps what i wish for my son is the power of choice—choice about what he prioritizes, choice about what he wishes for himself, choice about the real direction of his life. i have unconsciously become a less active participant in his education and development partly because i feel that my intervention will limit his choices. this is a misconception, but i am beholden to it nonetheless.

perhaps, in the end, i am afraid of what my own powerful expectations of him will do to the course of his life. my father always said that children are victims of their parents, and he proved the truth of these words in our relationship. now, i feel the inevitability of my role as isaac’s oppressor, and this frightens me. and thus, i am paralyzed when it comes to simple decisions, like what we will do together this weekend, or where he will go to school next year, or what his bedtime routine will look like tonight. though i often play the role of bully in our physical games, in general i find myself the cautious observer of his life, the student of his self-development. i am waiting to hear from his life what it is that he wants out of living.

parenthood is a terribly conflicted thing. the reality of it fills my life with constant self-doubt and even guilty speculation. what began as a concern about an “innocent” lie has evolved over the past two days into a terrible unease about my potential as a parent. i am lost, i realize. i have no plan

05.08.11

REDEMPTION

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:19 pm by Administrator

last year, i was quite sickened by the absolutely ridiculous Laker fan slogan of “Redemption!” after their 7-game championship series against the Boston Celtics. only in this spoiled city of bandwagoning, fair-weather, half-wit fans could the word “redemption” apply to a team that had won 5 out of the last 11 NBA championships. the whole championship celebration not only disgusted me; it insulted my intelligence.

this year, the Lakers were apparently swept 4-0 by the underdog Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. though i didn’t watch a single game or highlight, i find this significant for a few reasons. first, these wipeout wins for Dallas exposed the Lakers for their evident internal strife. “trust issues” mentioned by Andrew Bynum were casually deflected as “bad pick-and-roll defense” by their stuck-up star Kobe Bryant. the truth is probably that the whole culture of snide arrogance surrounding the franchise finally caught up with them—from broken personal lives to an inability to establish real camaraderie. when you play with a narcissist like Kobe Bryant, you’d better be prepared to be shat upon in uniquely condescending fashion, as a matter of routine.

second, this was an incredibly early exit for a team that was not only favored but supposedly an easy favorite against a loser franchise. Dallas was supposed to be the playoff choker. instead, L.A. is the team that simply didn’t show up, except to present excuses and snide self-analysis. true to form, they reacted to their embarrassment with classless bullying. the ejections of Bynum and Odom after cheap shots show the true colors of this team. they fall in line when they’re winning; when they get a real challenge, they whine, they lash out, and they get blown out.

third, i think this total drubbing by the Mavs shows that Kobe Bryant is finished. Kobe is slower than he was, he’s probably slower than a good deal of starting shooting guards out there, and he hasn’t been able to modify his game to Jordan’s degree to compensate for his loss of athleticism. as a result, he won’t match Jordan’s six championships, and i don’t think he ever will. i hope, for the sake of the game, that he doesn’t. as much of a prima donna as Jordan was, Kobe epitomizes the selfish superstar to the nth degree. he started his career alone in his own corner; he will finish his career without any real friends as well.

this series means redemption for some fans of the old NBA game, people who stopped following this sport because of what Kobe Bryant and his Lakers did to it. they can start watching again, because they won’t have to be plagued by Kobe’s ugly mug and the vomit-inducing repetition of purple-and-gold championships. something terrible was done to the game of basketball over this past decade, and i think that the end of this Laker run simply means that the game has some room to grow again. the word “redemption” has now been redeemed; it means something now for the National Basketball Association, and that’s good for the fans who care.

05.06.11

Hit List

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:50 pm by Administrator

in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death, there has apparently been intelligence suggesting that Los Angeles is on Al Qaeda’s “hit list”.

apparently Al Qaeda didn’t get the memo. Los Angeles is the worst possible target for a terrorist plot. it is a terrorist’s version of America’s “Afghanistan”. in other words, don’t go there.

first of all, no one in L.A. cares what happens outside of his or her neighborhood. if there’s a bombing at Santa Monica pier, the main ripple effect outside of Santa Monica will be a sudden increase in website trafficking of SigAlert. is the 405 going to be affected during evening rush hour? how about 101 N, because i have a dinner party in North Hollywood that i absolutely cannot be more than one hour late for? unless Al Qaeda detonates a dirty bomb upwind of the majority of L.A.’s residential neighborhoods (a geographical improbability), there is little potential for widespread panic.

second, there are no particularly notable targets in L.A. to go after. it’s not like L.A. people gravitate to one building or landmark as the spiritual center of the city. the closest thing might be the Hollywood sign, but that’s been blown up in so many films that it would be almost comic plagiarism for Al Qaeda to destroy it. yes, there are some nice hotels in downtown, but most L.A. residents don’t go downtown because the neighborhood is a cultural wasteland. it is in fact impossible to identify one spot where the residents of this sprawling metropolis have converging interests of any kind.

third, L.A. is so difficult to navigate due to poor public transportation and clogged highways that Al Qaeda will have a nightmarish logistical operation just coordinating their activities on the ground. i would daresay that L.A. is inherently resistant to terrorist activity for this reason. unless you’ve got aerial transport, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get from point A to point B within a certain timeframe with any certainty.

all of this is to say that Al Qaeda’s focus on L.A. strikes me as comical. perhaps the worst thing they could do to this city would be to convince Jerry Buss to move the Lakers to another town. short of this, all they’re doing is slowing down traffic.

05.03.11

OBL—an obituary

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:09 am by Administrator

it’s not every day that a man’s death is commemorated by a presidential address and spontaneous gatherings nationwide. anyone scanning the news could sense the incredible current of joy that brought together total strangers in an intimate sense of nationhood. one commentator remarked that we had not seen such an outpouring of patriotic joy for more than a decade. surely, one might think upon observing these things that the man who died must have been a great man indeed.

and he was, in so many respects. he was a prince and an heir; his entitlement was both authority and riches. but, like the greatest of our heroes, he was grieved by the corruption of his peers. unable to tolerate the excesses of the king, and beholden to the dream of religion made reality, this prince took up the cause of the poor and dispossessed among his people, swearing allegiance only to his god. his simple desire for a world rid of tyranny, idolatry, and poverty might have made him nothing more than a maverick minstrel or a renegade prophet. but his unswerving faith and his stubborn perseverance for his cause transformed him from a fugitive into the freedom fighter of his people.

his critics call him insane, but can an insane man help inspire two generations of homegrown warriors to persevere through two decade-long wars against the world’s two greatest superpowers? that he prevailed in the first war and lived to see the current war become America’s longest losing struggle is a testament not merely to sanity but to foresight and force of will. if greatness is defined by consistent adherence to a cause, the ability to inspire a people, and success against all odds, then this man—who broke the back of the mighty Soviet Union, who showed the world that he could fight and humiliate the indomitable America on its own soil—was greatness incarnate. like little David against the mighty Goliath, like Robin Hood against the evil English king, Osama bin Laden’s is a story that transcends the stuff of everyday heroes. his name and his influence have come to mean uncountable things to so many people throughout the world; and for many, his legacy will be a lifetime of ardent anti-materialistic, anti-Western, anti-capitalist protest.

we Americans are angry with Osama Bin Laden not because of his capacity for destruction. after all, we are well-versed in the Western tradition of war. Caucasian men of American and European descent have precipitated two destructive world wars, the nuclear destruction of two cities filled with civilians, a veritable genocide in Vietnam, and two current conflicts that have no object and no end in sight. of all militaristic societies, ours is the most war-like and most fearsome. no, we are angry with Osama Bin Laden because he took our own mythology of heroism and greatness and made it his own. we hate him because, unlike other terrorists that we trifled with and forgot, he succeeded. he humiliated us. he eluded us. for ten long years, we sought a justice of our own design, and he spat on us and our heritage. he made us insecure at home. he made us think about how our politics and our crude obsession with oil have created Arabian monarchies fat with wealth and greedy power. in the roots of our psyche, he made us weary of the world order we have created, and thus, even within the individual American soul, he has succeeded.

i celebrated Osama bin Laden’s death for a day. today, i looked at my joy and scorned myself for the victory that this man has had over me. i am the beast he made me out to be. when my euphoria dissipated and i had the sense to reckon with my own reflection, i did not see an American flag or the inevitable victory of democratic capitalism in the developing world. i saw in myself these stilted ideas of civilization, this ridiculous sense of right and wrong, as if i could have known Osama bin Laden for his heart of darkness. even to his own people, this man was an idea, and if i am to be true, i must wrestle with the fact that even as an idea Osama bin Laden was no incomprehensible evil.

there is only one conclusion, in the end. Osama bin Laden hurt me. he hurt me where i never believed i could be hurt. and like the rest of 9/11’s survivors, i will still have a pain that the death of Osama bin Laden cannot take away. to those who aspire to crusades and great victories, a great man was assassinated yesterday. but to me, definitions of greatness mean nothing any longer. Osama bin Laden was not a great man; and our wars are not great wars. we have lost sight of the meanings of our myths; our heroes come cheaply and without regard for what is good. here i am, living my first day free of this man i thought i detested, and still all i have is the grief that this world has caused me.

in the aftermath of 9/11, i clamored for blood. over the past decade, i have had more than my fill; i have no stomach for it anymore. let the world weave its tales of lore, while it continues to pillage and to repay. a man of no consequence is sinking to the depths of the Arabian Sea, while i float to the surface of a terrible dream, hoping at long last for air

05.02.11

bin laden

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:28 am by Administrator

i was on my way home from Men’s Ministry this evening when my friend texted me about an upcoming “surprise news conference from Obama… likely Osama bin Laden is dead.”

i booted Sandy off the computer to tune in. my first reaction? it was powerful and it was mixed. on the one hand, i was delighted that he was dead. on the other hand, i was upset that he was not alive and in our custody.

nothing more to say, really. i wish that we had apprehended him alive, so that somewhere in a dark cell hidden from cameras, the families of his victims could have tortured him over the course of a few years. selfishly, i wish that i could have been a part of it. i wish we could have cut off his balls. we would have made him eat his testicles. we would have stuck needles in his eyeballs. we would have poured lye down his throat. we would have transplanted his organs just to keep him alive. we would have gradually dismembered him by sawing off a few inches at a time from each limb. when he was down to just his head and his torso, we would have put him through six hours a day of water torture—in about half an inch of standing water.

there isn’t enough that we could have done to him. yes, i’m relieved that this man did not die a natural death. but i feel bereft, because we did not have time to elicit from him the degree of pain and shame necessary for our satisfaction. a few photographs is all we’ll have.

i might be an animal for feeling this way; but Osama bin Laden was less than a parasite. wherever his dust is scattered, i will visit that place so that i can urinate on his remains. may him, his false god, and all those who revere him be cursed for all eternity, in a lake of unquenchable flames