06.28.13

people i follow

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:14 pm by Administrator

my wife thinks that my tastes border on the eccentric, but really i don’t think i’m any less immersed in pop culture than anyone else. i don’t have the time or energy to dig deep into niche scenes anymore. i think that if i had the time, i’d hang at indie film festivals and follow local bands, but i don’t have the time. as a result, i get out and see whatever’s easily available, and that means that i dislike about 75% of what i’m exposed to. but i think that’s an acceptable price for entertainment, especially because a real gem can feed my imagination for a long long time.

i’m not into fan pages and i still don’t understand twitter at all, but there are people that i try to “follow” nowadays. my definition of “follow” is that maybe once every few months i will look them up on an internet search page and try to find out what they are doing. here’s my latest list, and a little blurb on why i’m interested.

1. Sasha (Alex Coe): i’ve moved on from prog house now that i’m stranded in los angeles’s elitist club scene, but i haven’t moved on from sasha. i’ve gone out to see him at least half a dozen times in the past ten years, and i have really positive, vivid memories of each experience. there are a lot of big-name DJs out there, and i’ve listened to a lot of them, but sasha has always been unique in the range and pacing of his complex sets, which he builds from minimal moody textures all the way up to operatic climaxes. his original tracks are also distinctively penetrating and quite haunting. i just heard him on his latest involv3r tour and i think he’s still on top of his game.

2. Allen Iverson: i feel like i’ve read bits and pieces of everything out there that has been written on AI, and yet he remains to me both intriguing and elusive. the media is committed to defining him as a tragedy in the making, a one-dimensional man. but when i look at AI, i see a guy of my age who is struggling with a very Gen X question: what do i really want out of life? i think (and hope) that AI’s most interesting years are ahead of him. he’ll never be a “model citizen”, but i’m rooting for AI harder now than i did when i was a fixture in the nosebleed sections of the first union center. i want AI to figure out the game; i want him to write his own story; and i still want him to win, on his own terms.

3. Brit Marling: i feel that Brit Marling is potentially a “once in a generation” actress. she writes roles for herself that are particularly demanding, and the emotional spectrum that she delivers is nothing less than striking. she wasn’t discovered on account of youth or beauty, but she’s building a career in her own compelling way—with thought-provoking movies, probing dialogue, and straight-up great acting. even when her movies miss the mark (i.e. “The East”), i feel like she’s swinging for the fences, and i think she’s got a game-breaking role (even an Oscar) in her future.

4. Joe Abercrombie: i’ve decided that joe abercrombie is the most interesting author that i’m currently following. it’s not because his First Law series has been consistently great. rather, it’s because his stories, even when they test the limits of believability, are daring by design. i imagine that Joe is an author who refuses to take himself or his art too seriously; and his characters, by extension, carry elements of his iconoclastic caprice. when i read his stuff, i know i’m in for an unpredictable, occasionally hilarious ride. he’s sort of like Tarantino, but less self-involved.

5. Henri Cole: recently i had the good fortune to catch my favorite old poetry professor at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. i got him to autograph my old copy of “The Visible Man”, and he autographed my son’s copy of “Touch”. Henri once described my senior year poetry as “superficial”, and he diagnosed me as a writer “without a voice”. i didn’t understand what he meant about “voice” until i heard him read his own works at an Adams House reading. since then, i haven’t listened to or written poetry in the same way. Henri is a very special man; he thinks like one might philosophize, and he speaks the way one might sing. he remains in my mind a solitary example of the great modern poet, thoughtfully picking his way through the ruins of what we like to call civilization.

06.26.13

thinking again of jonathan

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:14 pm by Administrator

jonathan saw israel at the peak of its glory. he was there, with his father, on the day when israel vanquished its enemy and witnessed the crowning of its first king.

and jonathan also saw israel in the depths of its humiliation—beaten so badly that its army was hiding in the hills, stripped so thoroughly of dignity that it didn’t even have blacksmiths to forge swords. it was in this dark time that jonathan, in his own way, appealed to God.

that morning when he woke up, i imagine he was filled with feeling. depression, from seeing the ruination of his nation. shame, for the weaknesses and failings of his weak-minded father, King Saul. hatred for the Philistines that had brought death and destruction to his people. frustration and indignation, at his own powerlessness to restore israel to its former glory.

i think that when jonathan chose to go against the Philistine army, with just his armor bearer with him, i think that he was prepared to die. he would have been happy to die, to escape the profundity of his sorrow. but jonathan embraced something more than a mere death wish; his was the conviction that the only difference between israel at its peak and israel at its worst was the favor of God. jonathan was willing to put his life at risk for God’s favor; he considered his life a small price to pay for the inestimable glory afforded by God’s favor.

it’s easy to focus on the second half of the story—jonathan receiving a reassuring sign from God, scaling a bluff to fight single-handedly against the Philistine army, killing a dozen men and sending the enemy into a disorganized retreat, and leading the Israelite army toward improbable and total victory against their foes. but to me, the most important part of the story is what is described before jonathan takes up arms against the Philistines. jonathan’s heart and the manner in which he presents himself to God are strikingly brilliant reminders to me that ours is a simple calling: to recognize that everything glorious stems not from our wisdom or our efforts but rather from the overflow of God’s favor. we conquer death not by being great but rather by receiving salvation from the Lord.

i struggle with jonathan’s kind of depression. it isn’t just a moroseness about life that i carry on my shoulders. it’s a terrible, pervading, nearly unbearable contrast between ecstatic victory and profound defeat. the ecstatic victory is something i have glimpsed, in songs and scriptures. the profound defeat is what i see in the world i live in. the contrast precipitates struggle and dissatisfaction—a yen for transformation, for restoration, for glory.

now, in the midst of this struggle, i continue to be inundated by the ideas and beliefs of those who don’t feel the starkness of the contrast i perceive. even within the church, i often feel these persuasions as reiterations of simple statements that i hear every day. we can build great things. the world isn’t so evil. all truth is God’s truth. great and worthwhile things remain to be done. we are growing as a people. we are growing wiser, better, and more able. progress is possible—not only progress within a man but also progress among his people. and defeat, this defeat you feel and perceive, is not real; it is a product of your doubt, your idealism, and your character.

to put it simply, it’s humanism. it’s captured in the words of the great writers of our time, who insist that great companies and great churches can be built upon the foundation of simple, practical wisdom, all of it echoing the simple, practical truths of the biblical canon. success in work and in life can be measured, it can be reproduced, and it can be one’s individual legacy, if one is perceptive, intuitive, and logical enough to eliminate unnecessary barriers to synergy.

it is the grand optimism of our time, a sort of opportunism borrowed from the zeal of the capitalists, now married to the idea of biblical holiness, to create a transcending self-realization. and i resist it, for no other reason than the fact that i can’t feel it. while so much of this philosophy is sensible and even attractive to me, i can’t deny the fact that deep down in my bones i still believe that the best of man’s wisdom and efforts amounts to nothing. success, if it’s true success, is a direct extension of God’s favor; it comes down from the top, it is conferred by the king, it cannot be unearthed or earned, and it serves only to entrain man to the heart of God. nothing worthwhile is conceived or achieved apart from His blessing.

in the midst of these times, i often feel myself to be two men. on the one hand, i am the man who marks his path with milestones, to learn from his past. on the other hand, i am the man who is perpetually the wanderer, at every turn looking back and failing to recognize the road he has traveled. the logic of the one man, who seems to embrace his path, is compelling. but in the end i feel it is the unceasing meandering of the wanderer that most shapes my sensibilities. he is the one who insists that the landmarks and destinations of the people are vain and futile; he is the one who believes that the purpose of the journeying is to experience lostness, for no other reason than to discover, again and again, the delight at being found

06.21.13

the flower

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:47 pm by Administrator

let it die.

this browned stalk, its flower withered,
parched beyond a thirst that can even be satisfied now.

though it stands among the other herbs and greens
that still breathe this morning air,
it feels nothing anymore.

yet, you dote upon it now, more than ever before.

you linger over it, pouring water
into the patch of earth in which it still subsides,
imagining the life seeping through soil
into its hardened roots, forcing its way
back into the despairing soul within,
softening it to a kind of grace,
opening itself again to a show of delight–

red flecks upon delicate white petals,
a bloom that says the world is not so barren,
and you are forgiven, for your inattention.

it does not happen, and it won’t

not for all the days you give it a watering
that soaks everything, even your toes.

it is okay to see this for what it is:
an offering, like tears,
for what cannot be fixed.

06.20.13

Be present

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:54 pm by Administrator

it seems so simple, but i’ve begun reminding myself to be present when i am with people.

during my vacation, i got into a minor car accident that was my fault. i rear-ended a woman pretty hard, trying to merge onto the 110 freeway en route to my vacation destination in san diego. it was a fairly sucky way to start the vacation, but it did get me thinking a lot over the subsequent few days about how my style of driving reflects my style of living. i’m always in a rush. i’m always mad about unpredicted roadblocks and misfortunes. i’m constantly angry at the people that i share the road with. and in life in general, i have a hard time tolerating people who get in my way.

i sat down a week ago and wrote down the various critical comments i’ve ever received or perceived from people that i work and live with. in one sitting, i wrote down about twenty-five criticisms that really resonated with me. the theme was pretty clear. i rush through life; i think fast, sometimes too fast for others to keep up with; my quick decisions and strong opinions sometimes leave my team members, family members, and friends feeling marginalized or unimportant.

like i’ve written in my previous entries, so much of my life has been shaped by childhood fears of failure (and an underlying idealization of success). early on, i came to perceive my life as a series of ungratifying tasks that i was obliged to complete in order to prevent failure and to ultimately achieve success. for years of my childhood, i barreled through 15 hours per day of structured tasks, extracurricular activities, and performances, suffering through much of it in the hope that i could reach the last thirty minutes of each day. those thirty minutes of every day were “my time”; that time didn’t belong to anyone but me. and invariably i spent “my time” reading. i lost myself in books. stories, particularly fanciful stories, afforded me a universe of escape. i felt so trapped in my life that escaping my life was my only pleasure.

i have grown so accustomed to blasting through life and its drudgery that i’ve forgotten how to be present. every spare moment becomes for me an opportunity to plan for the next moment or the next day. every minute is beholden to the next hour. going through life this way isn’t merely unpleasurable. it’s torture. i’ve been conditioned to this torture, and i’ve adapted to a life of obligatory tasks, but in some critical ways i’ve adapted painfully. the fact that i’m facing now, as i approach 40, is that my life often feels like a failure because in a way it is failed. i have really failed to appreciate the passage of time and many of the innumerable and lovely things i’ve witnessed. i’ve lost that time, and i’ll never have it again.

being present for me means that i must be willing to grieve my childhood and its predominant experience of anxiety. this doesn’t mean that i should feel sorry for myself; but it does mean that i need to face up to what i am. i’m a man who has been conditioned to define life through structures and goals, when i am by nature a man who despises structure. my myers-briggs J versus P couldn’t more strongly be in the perceiving mold. i long to rediscover life in its spontaneity, and i have wished to regain a sense of my own personal creativity and will. my philosophy and theology have changed accordingly to allow me to begin exploring these things.

i think there’s some hope for me. intuitively i recognize that i’ve only begun to discover real self-awareness, in terms of my giftings and desires, but i’m beginning to enjoy that process. i’ve grown enough to understand that my ability to enjoy being a husband and a father entirely hinges on my ability to be present with my family, just as my ability to enjoy the work i do is also predicated on my ability to be focused on the people that i work with. i want to be present. more than success, what i want is to feel the power and peril of the individual moments that have been given to me. i want to experience these moments as a simple and powerful sign of God’s grace to me.

this is life. this is my life. God didn’t give to anybody else but me. if i want it to be good, then i’ve got to see it as good. it’s that simple.

06.16.13

vacation reflections

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:34 pm by Administrator

there is always a point of deep sadness for me during every vacation. i have to get there, and i must contend with it. it lies in wait for me, waiting for a moment when my life has decelerated to a standstill, when i have no tasks or plans to distract me, when i am defenseless and alone. that kind of sadness, ink black and suffocating, is a terrible sadness. i try to claw my way out of it any way i can, but ultimately it sticks to me, like oil, permeating through everything, weighing me down in its goo. the sadness becomes me; and i realize that it has been there all along, and my day to day living has been an unsuccessful attempt to emerge from it, totally clean. that i am not a happy man is a foregone conclusion i came to peace with a long long time ago. but this kind of sadness is not the worst of all possible sensations, and i have come to understand that i can live with it. among many things that can shape a man’s life, this sort of sadness is not the worst of all burdens to bear with.

i do not know if success and failure constitute the substance of my sadness, but those ideas persist somewhere near the root of it. since my mid teens, my whole paradigm for living has been shaped by the fear of failure and the nearly heartbreaking yen for success. neither the fear of failure nor the yearning for success have been based in concrete things. indeed, i have experienced what i thought to be failure, only to find immediately in its aftermath that it was not true failure; and to a far greater extent, i have achieved what i thought to be important successes, only to realize that these achievements soon became utterly meaningless to me. like good and evil, success and failure have become relative things to me. i’ve yet to discover any ultimate goal entirely compelling to me, and though i fear many outcomes and things, i cannot identify any single outcome that essentializes what i most dread. i know one thing: i have faced what i consider to be my greatest enemy, that black hole of listless depression, and even this has failed to corrupt for me the value and purpose of living.

though this is theoretical, i believe that this elementary and failed paradigm of success and failure, though i’m still beholden to it, is destined to pass. i can only guess at what will succeed it; but i imagine that the next paradigm will revolve around something even more directly tied to my emotional well-being, that being the quality and dynamics of my intimate relationships. in fact, much of the thrust of my leadership training and self-exploration over the past two years has led me to the conclusion that i need to move away from seeing my life as a series of obligatory tasks interrupted by restorative periods of reflection—a perpetual tension between “performance time” and “my time”. my spiritual formation and career training have been oddly and powerfully aligned in entraining me to a different value system, one in which there is value in taking my time with people, understanding what is meaningful to them, and endeavoring to please them. acceding to this new paradigm will revolutionize my life, i believe; and in fact i am already anticipating this change. i endeavor to drive more slowly, to listen more carefully, and to delight in deviations from the expected.

my aesthetic is ever-changing, in accordance with the shift in the climate of my soul. before, my eyes were fixated always on the past; and i lived inconsistently in the present, colored by passions, resistant to change, and always on the brink of implosion. i dressed badly; i took pride in dispensing with material things; i listened to progressive house, that ceaseless, hypnotic, ever unraveling rhythm of the effete post-modernist mind. i fantasized about being rich, disconnected from people, and creatively ecstatic.

now, i cannot help but deconstruct my past; it is fluid and confusing to me. my thoughts disrupt my feelings, and i tolerate rather than abide in my passions. i experiment with what i wear; i read more; i listen to future garage, for its minimalism rather than its ambience. in other words, the world does not exist to satisfy me any longer. there is nothing in the world compelling enough for me, and a deep and paralyzing boredom will always be my greatest struggle, being a seeming anachronism in my time. i would have been better suited for a tribal existence pitted against the elements; i would have been better suited for a comparative utopia, graduated from these pitiful trappings of commercialized individualism. my alter-ego takes his shrooms and hallucinogens not to expansive apres venues but rather to beach bonfires, where he congregates with ecological radicals and post-humanists and speculates on the ends of all things.

in short, i am ready to change. i want to listen. my adolescence was an ideological shell that protected me from the crush of failure and the illusion of easy success. but now ideology and theology don’t matter anymore, not really. they are ideas, and they have run their course in my life. i will never care enough about truth to stick with one direction in life. i must know the lay of the land. i am ready to submit myself, to be taken by the hand, and to be restored to a simpler and less burdened version of living. i once considered myself a victim, a lost cause, a lonely man. now, i realize that these were the things i had to accept about myself before i could grow up and say in my own words what it is that i really desire.

i crave the favor of God. i wish to belong to a people. i want my life to matter. this, and nothing more, if i can have my way