10.26.17

my best friend’s wedding

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:05 am by Administrator

one of my best and oldest friends is getting married this weekend. i’ve been too busy to really think about what the day will be like; i’ve been preoccupied with getting tasks done so that i won’t have to worry about work or logistics once i’m on the plane. but there was a moment yesterday when i thought about it, really thought about his wedding, and it struck me that saturday will be a very important day not only for him but also for me.

it’s odd for me to consider at this point in my life that though i’m outwardly a vulnerable and emotionally transparent person, i continue to experience myself as an emotionally uncomfortable and unpredictably fastidious person. i don’t know whether it’s internalized homophobia or patriarchy, but the older i grow, the harder it is for me to be vulnerable, particularly with men. i can still cry in front of a big audience, especially when my audience needs me to connect with them emotionally, but it is increasingly difficult for me to be sentimental much less fully present with an individual who is right in front of me. it’s as if i’ve grown accustomed to being a performer. when i’m alone with people who know me, i pursue connection through intense and heady conversations devoid of any real emotional validation or exploration.

in any case, i face this challenge: as his best man, i want to say many things about why my friend’s wedding is so deeply and vitally important to me—but the thought of going to that place of vulnerability strikes me with unease. it’s the kind of thing where i recognize that my “process” may have to be no different from the approach i take toward any public address; i will need to trust that in the moment, i will find the courage to tap into a different level of personality. that angst, that urgency, that pain of exploring self—these are what enable me in rare moments to break through to a core part of what i am. i’m a crisis man, after all. i’m good at crisis; i’m the fullest and most authentic version of what i am when i’m in the midst of failure, catastrophe, or loss. in all the rest of life’s moments, i am just trying to sail the calm waters, holding out hope that i’ll be spared the wind and the waves for as long as humanly possible.

in life, i have this incredibly difficult tension to navigate. on the one hand, i want to be less emotional, because my emotions wreck me. on the other hand, i want to be emotionally available and authentic with the ones i love. but i don’t know how to be vulnerable without being intensely uncomfortable. i can’t deny that i enjoy the transient experience of self-revelation when i’m at the podium; those brief moments of calculated vulnerability are climactic and even euphoric for me. but living in a continual or prolonged state of vulnerability strikes me as deeply unnatural and unnecessarily intense. i just don’t like it. i dislike it so much that i consciously wrap myself in layers of emotional self-denial, misdirection, gas-lighting, and inappropriate humor in order to deflect any entreaties for deep emotional connection. i pay a price for this self-defense. my son’s most recent feedback to me on my parenting is that i fail to show enthusiasm or interest for many things he brings up in conversation with me. there’s no denying that what i sacrifice on account of my self-preservation is a deeper and more meaningful relationship.

the key to this problem is not seriousness. i don’t think that i counter the effects of my jesting, insincere persona simply by asserting a more serious version of myself. i think that the solution is precisely what i identified in my last entry, regarding the essence of leadership. my obligation to myself is to bring the right energy at the right time to the person i am in relationship with. at home, the energy i bring is too often the energy of projection, when the energy that they require of me is an energy of absorption, a posture of active listening and interest. i am capable of this kind of energy, but it requires discipline. above and beyond intention, it requires discipline—a systematic and habitual evaluation of self, the identification of distractions, the refocusing of attention onto someone or something that is bound in time and in space. my son, for instance, when he is in conversation with me is not simply a boy who is becoming a man, a child that i must train for his future, an individual interrupting my contemplation of work, life, or the universe. my son is a person who wants my perspective and just a few minutes of my time and attention. i can give this of myself. i can bring the right energy at the right time to the context i am in. it doesn’t require additional energy that i don’t have; it requires a redirection of the energy i am already exuding.

in any case, i will have the plane trip to devote to memories of my friend and to the hopes that i have for him and his newlywed. this time will be worthwhile; the energy that i devote to it will fulfill my design. we have walked a long journey together over the years, and throughout we have shown each other patience, grace, and love, and the celebration of his marriage will be for me a celebration of my own life and learnings as well. for all this, i’m very happy and, moreover, profoundly affected as well

10.24.17

shibumi, jeong, and the agile perspective

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:19 am by Administrator

if i have learned anything about what my patients, team members, friends, and family members need of me, it’s this: the right energy at the right time.

sometimes, they need me to be aggressive, forthright, and powerful. sometimes, they need me to be passive, reflective, listening. always, they need me to be present. the success of all interactions, meetings, and decisions often relies on innumerable factors including my knowledge, my skill, and my courage, but even more fundamental than these attributes in all of these situations is my ability to emanate the personality best suited for the moment. i have come to recognize that the point of self-maintenance, health, and well-being is to be able to control the energy i bring to every interaction; and the point of perspective is to understand what energy is required of me in any given context, that i might meet that demand.

to control my emotions and to drive my attention to the proper things are disciplines that have not come easily to me. i am by nature a creature of impulse, given to spontaneous and emotional reactions to all manners of things. the price i pay for these natural inclinations is misdirected influence. when i come home from work tired and anxious about many things and find my son approaching me for physical affection, i am required to change my energy; on the drop of a dime, i must find a way to change what i am, to channel something different of myself. this isn’t simply a moral requirement. it is a felt requirement, rooted in my psyche and informed by my own history as a child seeking security and love. when i am unable to account for what i am and to present myself in the appropriate manner, the effect can be as terrible as it is unintended: a hurt feeling, a sense of being unloved.

when i am deep into my afternoons and mired in consecutive meetings, i am often tempted to be expedient and task-oriented in various ways. but people pick up on my urgency, just as they can sense my lack of interest in the group process. it’s become clear to me that i cannot easily disguise my lack of engagement; my energy cannot be forced or manipulated to false ends. the responsibility is mine, particularly in 1:1 meetings, to be aware of the emotions i am bringing from one context into another. moreover, my role as a leader is to project interest and empathy; and i cannot be this listening presence if i do not first find in myself the heart to listen.

the universe is filled with noise. this noise is nearly intolerable, and it continually works against clarity of focus and depth of engagement. it interrupts the integration of action and feeling, and it pits a person against time and against the interests of others. there are many disciplines that can counteract the noise: the discipline of losing things, for instance, which i once wrote about. sacrifice is an example of this discipline, and i wonder if the conscious and premeditated devotion of sacrifice is not terribly misunderstood and underperformed in our society. the emptying of self is a quieting of the consciousness, a commitment to not simply acting out life but experiencing it in its profound and unknowable serendipity. i call this shibumi.

well-being, i have learned, is not gained through independence, a freedom from all risk and harm. well-being consists of meaningful dependence—dependence on air, dependence on water, dependence on the trees and on the animals and on the weather and on all the lives that one crosses paths with hour to hour. to be present and to serve the best interests of both self and of others requires an identity that is delineated well enough to dignify self-will but not so rigidly that it isolates oneself. there are many ways to describe this permeable sense of self. derealization. communal belonging. transcendence. but for this experience of connectedness that reaffirms identity and self-purpose, i prefer the untranslatable korean word jeong. if shibumi is the point of reference by which we understand perfect presence in solitude, then jeong is its correlate on the social level.

through my years of anger, sadness, desperation, and loss, i have learned that all resilience and hope hinge upon an agility of perspective. there is on the one hand the necessity of presence in the moment; and there is on the other a counterbalancing need to position oneself on that continuum that stretches from the reimagined past to the partially imagined future. whether imputed or cautiously derived, the stories of our lives are as important to us as our instantaneous sense of self. and this is not, as some might assume, because we require a trajectory in order to be purposeful. rather, it’s because we have an innate and even spiritual need to be both alive and of the living. our existence in each space informs our quality of living in the other.

during those difficult years of residency when i felt hollowed out to bare desperation, i struggled to do what came more easily to many of my peers: to imagine myself as a movement across time. and later on, when i found myself preoccupied with the day to day labors of work to the point of constant distraction, i struggled to experience a meaningful awareness of my energy. thus, my struggle in my younger years was with resilience, and my struggle later on was with understanding and enjoying influence. life with all of its turns, shifts, and intense challenges demands an agility of perspective—my ability to be in time or in the moment, or in rare circumstances, as with God in prayer, to be both

10.12.17

blade runner

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:36 pm by Administrator

there will be some spoilers mixed in here. nothing specific, but enough to hint at the narrative arc of the movie.

i’ll admit that i look at denis villeneuve the way i look at u2. their early career hits were so good. then they grew up with their fans and tried some new things, and the new things just weren’t good at all. “arrival” was a zooropa experience for me. i could see the vintage villeneuve in the “artistry” of it—but it was a glitzy and insubstantial version of villeneuve. thirty years after i first encountered U2, i’m still listening to the unforgettable fire and the joshua tree on cd. and a decade from now, i’ll still watch “incendies” because its moments will still be impactful, shocking, perfect. there are some artists who have only one real story to tell, and there’s no shame in that, especially when the story is complete.

in any case, i wanted villeneuve to return to his form in “incendies” with this blade runner movie. i wanted him to be invested in something more than an aesthetic; i wanted him to tell a compelling story about people trapped by society and tragically pitted against themselves. i knew from all the reviews i read prior to the movie that perhaps he did not succeed in this respect, but i held out hope, even into the third hour of this ingraciously long film. how would i describe the experience in the end?

blade runner 2049 was absorbing throughout but ultimately and entirely inconsequential. it had the look and the feel of something precious, but it left no impressions and failed to render a single compelling character.

after the movie, i wondered if i would have been more pleased had it been a stand-alone film with no connection to the original blade runner movie—and i think the answer is no. it is in fact the implied connections to the universe of the original movie that lends the sequel the context and credibility it requires in order to hit the ground running. there are so many assumptions required to move forward with even the very first scene of the movie, and 2049 can take these liberties because its audience remembers the lurid violence of the first generation replicants.

more importantly though, 2049 cannot stand alone because its plot is heavily reliant on a relationship that was developed in the original movie. the deckard-rachel relationship of the first movie proves to be an utterly pivotal point of reference for blade runner 2049—and herein lies the first and most fatal flaw of the sequel. no one who watched the first blade runner movie could have possibly mistaken it for a modern romance; at most, the character of rachel provided a striking foil for the character of roy and implied the complex morality of the replicant experience. thus, it was jarring and profoundly disappointing to discover that my experience of the last thirty minutes of 2049 completely hinged upon my ability to relive deckard’s passion for rachel. it was like being told through the movie “phantom menace” that “star wars” was really just a set-up for the character jar jar binks.

at its very best moments, 2049 merely replicated (pun intended) the idee fixe of the original movie: a replicant’s yearning for humanity and emotional connection. but 2049 did this in very obvious and even derivative ways. at its worst, 2049 was a lifeless canvas of abstract musings overrun with expansive smoky urban skylines and pornographic holograms. there were brief moments when i was reminded of the bombed-out lebanese cityscapes of “incendies”—but in “incendies” the pictures of violence and depredation actually had a point. 2049’s imagery served no point but to establish its own mystique; and when all the smoke and fog cleared (and there was plenty of smoke and fog in 2049), all we are left with is the bewildering conclusion of a father-daughter reunion that is supposed to be sentimental and deeply evocative when it simply isn’t. put simply, 2049 utterly fails as a human drama.

i don’t know if villeneuve (or any of 2049’s writers for that matter) understood that deckard was not the central or most interesting character of the original blade runner movie. what made blade runner poignant, powerful, and enduring was roy—rutger hauer’s matchless rendering of a tragic hero who spends 99 percent of his screen time masquerading as a horrifying villain. in thirty inexplicably magical seconds of dialogue, roy makes this transformation from monster to man in a manner that shocks the audience into stuporous awe. roy with his dove, the nail in his bleeding hand, and his moment of death—this is the legacy of blade runner. perhaps both figuratively and literally, 2049’s writers resurrected the wrong character from ridley scott’s movie, and thus we are left with a side show that throws out many darts but manages to miss the mark entirely

10.09.17

a theology of death

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:00 pm by Administrator

i always like following up an entry like my last one with an entry like this one. it’s the two sides of my identity, always coexisting and always at odds with each other.

in any case, after four months at our new church, i’ve come to the point where i can describe what i’m experiencing there as a result of its values and its culture. i’ll say that i’ve never experienced a church community like it before, and it has been a challenging, powerful, and wonderful experience for me as a person and as a believer. though i consider myself “all in” on the church on account of its mission and its theology, i recognize that this mission and theology serve to constrain some conversations even as they promote others. in this entry, i’m going to try to describe what i’m observing in this regard by defining a few questions that represent what this church addresses and does not address in its endeavor to represent the living God.

the first question: why live?

the syntax of the question is important, as is the interrogative word “why”. the questions that my church addresses well are “why” questions, not “how” questions—because my church is a church-experienced community that has graduated from a ritualistic approach to the “how” of living. their questions have returned to the basic questions of faith. “why” should i believe? “why” should i live by faith? we ask the “why” questions because the reasons we have been given over the years for church, for Christ, and for salvation never fully resonated with us; and as grew up with our world, we outgrew these reasons.

“why live?” is a question that my church addresses squarely and compellingly, in my opinion. for context, my church is a progressive, LGBTQ affirming, socially engaged, and predominantly Millennial church community whose theology has been strongly influenced by the ideas of Rob Bell. reacting against the “gospel of invitation” that is frequently emphasized by american evangelicals, my church endorses a “gospel of participation”, consistent with what has been advocated not only by Bell but also by NT Wright, among others. we resist the idea that the purpose of the Gospel is mainly to get people into heaven; we sense the value of a redemptive and reconciliatory work in the here and now, a work that extends to all regardless of their gender, orientation, ethnicity, or religion and in fact seeks to reverse the systematic injustices based on these ascriptions. my pastor compellingly describes Christ as an inclusive, interested, and deeply engaged man of God who evidences a heart not simply for the covenant people but for the world as a whole.

while hyper-reformed evangelicals may struggle to define the value of social and political engagement for the church (outside of a few signature debates around abortion and gay rights), my church integrates the work of social betterment seamlessly within a counter-cultural theological paradigm that asserts the church’s enduring role against powers and principalities. while others might point to that famed hymn (”this world is not my home, i’m just a-passin through, if heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will i do?”) as a reflection of their displacement and even disengagement in the present times, our theology grounds us in the present, demands the integration of all facets of our lives, and lends to us purpose and passion in our daily work. “everything is sacred” is an important theme in our community. and generally speaking, i believe it serves us well. for us, there is a deep truth in the verse from James 4 that states “if anyone knows then the good he ought to do but doesn’t do it, he sins.”

why live? we don’t live merely to pass time until we are granted entrance to paradise. we live to bring a heavenly reality to the earth that God so loves.

the second question: why die (for Christ)?

the parenthetical is purposeful, both to suggest a focus for the question but perhaps also to imply the relevance of a separate question.

as a newcomer to this community, it has been notable for me that we do not address the aspects of Christian theology that deal with death. submission to Christ and to one another is neither described nor prescribed. sacrifice, whether through giving or suffering, is not emphasized; we are encouraged to give for mutual betterment but not as a discipline of sacrifice or self-loss. even sanctification—that process by which we actively put to death what we are, including aspects of our individuality—is not a consistent theme in our teachings and conversations. it is not omission by accident; it is intentional. and i believe that our discomfort with a theology of death is related to the idiosyncrasies of our particular theology on incarnational living. most of us have emerged from a punitive, legalistic culture around norms of “holy” living; and thus we are loathe to return to any conversation that might remind us of the difficult and even self-harming explorations into personal purity that once restrained us from doing good to ourselves and to others.

my pastor has gained a lot of helpful insights from the ideas of “spiral dynamics”—and principal among these insights is the idea that people tell the story of their society through the lens of their intrinsic constraints as socialized people. tribal warlords, for instance, tell the story of their gods through the lens of their history of conquests and defeats. modern civilizations tell their histories through the lens of their achievements and scripted trajectories. the application to scriptural hermaneutics is not difficult to imagine. if the Israelites were, like their contemporaries, a tribe constantly at war with other nations, how could they not perceive their God—and write His story—in a manner that met their need for a god of war?

taken to a logical end, what spiral dynamics and other related thoughts might suggest is that the biblical representation of God might not only be interpretable but also fundamentally insufficient. taken further, an implication for the progressive Millennial believer might be that the wrathful, judgmental God of the Old Testament might not be a fair or accurate depiction of the divine nature that Christ endeavored to demonstrate. cleansed of its more controversial and violent moments, the trajectory of scripture might then seem to more clearly align with a universalistic vision—the inclusion of all, for the reconciliation of all.

but then, of course, the simple question of the singularity of Christ begs to be answered. why Christ, then? why not any other role model of empathy and love made complete in a life of service for the good of society? and why did Christ have to die, if God was and is prepared to forgive all of humanity without a blood sacrifice—that symbolic vestige of tribal religiosity? why did Christ define himself as the way, the truth, and the light, the only way to God, if conscientiousness and social reform regardless of loyalty or creed was his object? why was the apostle Peter’s rejection of Christ so grievous to him and to Christ, if loyalty to God at the expense of self-preservation was not of such great importance to the Lord?

the violence exerted upon Christ by God the Father remains notable to me, not simply as a reflection of God’s compassion for humanity but also Her adamant need to be uncompromised and inviolate in Her relentless and unbending integrity. and Paul’s encouragements to die to self and to put to death what is sinful are not for me mere encouragements to do more good; they are a reflection of his belief in the necessity of judgment, of death, and of spiritual rebirth. to die is Christ. is this hyperbole, or is this the essence of faith? i have come to believe that a theology of life is necessarily intertwined with a theology of death. and i wonder if we lose something of what was promised when we fail to be convinced that our fate as believers is neither universally experienced nor inevitable for man but rather exceptional in the context of God’s wrath and man’s utter depravity.

a third question deserves consideration: does a belief in limited atonement restrain the church from doing the most good?

i continue to be adamant on the five points attributed to calvin, but that does not define me as a calvinist or a reformed evangelical by any means. i believe that any philosophy of scriptural inerrancy is unnecessarily inflexible, and moreover i believe that the scriptural narrative cannot be properly understood or applied without significant interpretation through a culturally appropriate lens. on this account, i think that the selective indictment and exclusion of gay believers and female leaders are not only unjustified but counterproductive and against the intention of Christ.

but there is so much in the Old Testament and the New that affirms the critical importance of covenant and election. to argue for a universally experienced fate is to go distinctly against the thrust of the biblical narrative, which defines covenantal peoplehood as divine intention and as an aspiration for humanity. in this context, limited atonement is deeply consistent with the scriptural trajectory; it is a reflection of God’s insistence on defining His people, consecrating them as a holy priesthood, and preserving them from their enemies, both material and spiritual in nature.

can a theology of limited atonement restrain the church from doing the most good? absolutely—and i believe that this is the great threat of bad theology in the church. i would even go as far as to say that if a theology of limited atonement serves to restrain the church from doing what is good in the world, then it would be better for them to abandon such a belief. i have seen and witnessed missionaries doing inappropriate and even socially destructive things in the interests of converting people to a saving faith in Christ. to make charity contingent upon a response to faith is cruel and goes against the heart of Christ, who relieved suffering not to gain followers but to demonstrate the goodness and compassion of God to all.

but does a theology of limited atonement have to restrain the church from doing good? i think here is where a great deal of thoughtful reflection is merited. if by limited atonement we imply a belief that hell is both a terrible and utterly avoidable fate, then we are compelled to devote our limited energy and time to the conversion of the lost by any means. but if we are willing to consider that the fate of the non-elect is neither extraordinary nor necessarily avoidable, then perhaps our conscience as a church in the present times might be properly relieved of an unfair burden and freed to guide us in the pursuit of what is truly good for the world.

Rob Bell and many others have engaged in thoughtful scholarship about hell, and i believe it suffices to say that there is no possibility of consensus on exactly what constitutes a heavenly or hellish experience for the elect and the non-elect, respectively. i think that it’s a non-starter to assume that the possibility of an eternal existence apart from God is inconsistent with the nature of the good and inclusive God that we serve. this is, after all, a God who put to death his only son, despite the fact that Christ was undeserving of death or punishment of any kind. but i think that it’s possible to recognize that “hell”, whatever it is, is equally a consequence of the human condition as it is of God’s design. and if humans can survive an eternity of hell, despite being inherently insufficient for a life of eternity, then there must be something in that hell that enables them to survive it. to me, that makes hell categorically different from life on earth, because i am convinced that there is not a single person in history or in the present who could tolerate a life of eternity on this earth given his innumerable and insufferable imperfections.

can i imagine a “hell” populated by human beings whose only distinction is their intention to persist as individual beings? yes i can. does this mean for me that their destiny is eternal torture and the wrath of God? i don’t think so. how then do they persist into eternity, despite the intolerability of eternity for intrinsically finite human beings? i have to imagine they are able to persist because of their interaction with something divine, even if they experience that divine entity as “the other” (and not within a unity of consciousness). i have speculated that what the non-elect will experience of divinity are the elect: God’s priesthood for the world.

a fourth question, then: does this all matter, in the end?

i am not sure that it does. i think that some will believe in the life-saving grace of God, and others will deny it. they will choose in accordance with their design. and whether they ultimately experience unity with God or a discrete identity apart from God, they are nevertheless called upon in the here and now to do what is right. we will judge one another and be judged not for what we chose to believe but what it is that we did while we were alive. what matters is the good that we do. for things beyond our control—the persistence of the church and the revelation of all truths that we cannot understand—we have hope as well as a faith in God who reveals all things in their proper time

10.08.17

Fuck you mike pence

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:52 pm by Administrator

After your tweet today, you deserve a special “fuck you” from the american people. You clueless little bitch of a white man. What don’t you get about the country you live in?

10.05.17

stuff i’m looking forward to

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:53 pm by Administrator

two mental exercises that i’m trying to do more of are both related to meditation. the first is a meditation on my past—the discipline of telling myself the story of my life. i’ve gotten better at this over the past years, to the point that i can now anticipate the cadence and direction of the story when i endeavor to tell it. to hear myself tell this story, with all its humiliations, struggles, and moments of total grace, is to go to a different place entirely, to break with the natural rhythm of my days and to find myself realized in a new and vital way. i’m nothing if not a storyteller, but the telling of my story has taken effort and much persistence, and much of what i’ve written here over the decades has enabled me to do this better with time.

the other mental exercise is the meditation on what lies ahead—and on what is possible. and so to further that, i’m going to write about what i’m looking forward to. these things have been on my mind, but they’ve been vague and immaterial, and i feel i owe myself a concreteness around the hope, a vision of what is coming.

so here goes.

i’m looking forward to the next season of Stranger Things. yeah, that’s going to be the second best thing about October. some good stuff is coming out this month in the movies: the Snowman and Blade Runner, among other things. honestly, i can probably wait until video for both. but Stranger Things? that might have to be a marathon netflix weekend for me.

the best thing in October of course will be won ho’s wedding in philadelphia. i’ve been waiting for this fucker to grow up and get it over with for the past twenty years, and i’ll be there to veritably push him across the finish line at his predictable last moment of paralyzing indecision.

i’m looking forward to our Christmas trip to San Francisco. we decided last week that we are going to drive up to SF on Christmas Eve with my mom and hang at an airbnb for three nights. i’m sure we’ll eat at the usual places and do the same kinds of things we do every Fall, but i’m looking forward to it all the same. it will be my first Christmas with my mom in ten years. i’ll probably bring up a bottle of Remi XO and enjoy the whole thing by myself.

i am looking forward to march, because i know in my heart of hearts that that’s when my wife is going to get the job offer we have been praying for. and i have made a commitment to her and to God to follow her wherever it is that she needs to go to, because it’s her time to make her impact in her field, and it’s my time to give up what i’ve been doing and just trust. i’m looking forward to this and to everything that follows, because the agony of doubt, change, and departures is always so terrible for me, and God is always so good to me in my time of crisis. i just know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Lord will walk with us in the coming time.

i’m looking forward to my twentieth college reunion in may. up until two months ago, i couldn’t have been less interested. i’ve never donated to my university, and frankly i liked my time in philadelphia better than my college years. but the twenty year reunion happens only once, and i have a strong feeling that it will be an emotional and meaningful experience for me. 4s love to connect with their past; and for me, it’s even more than that. my time in college was as important for my dad as it was for me. it was a great success in his life, and it made his many pains and sufferings in life seem worthwhile to him. when i go back to commemorate those years, i will commemorate him as well. my mom and dad did their best to give me a great education and a meaningful life; and they did an exceptional job of this. i am thankful to them, and on their account, i am thankful to my college.

i am looking forward to this next year or so that we will spend at our new church, should i live that long. this church is such a special place, and its teaching is such a challenging teaching for me. to worship with people who believe in welcoming and affirming LGBTQ persons, who believe in sacrificial giving and sharing, who believe in mentorship and emotional healing, and who practice service to their surrounding community for the purpose of reversing systematic injustices of all kinds—to be with these people is to encounter a new and challenging idea of Jesus Christ. i struggle with this strange question: could God really be the God i so desire Her to be? i don’t know… but i commit myself to this struggle, wholeheartedly and with great heartache, because whatever answer i discover to this question, i know that this is the question i was created to answer

10.03.17

the three-body problem, atrocities, and love wins

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:30 pm by Administrator

i just finished cixin liu’s “the three-body problem”, and i just wish i could find a discussion group to explore this book more thoroughly. for me, it was an experience similar to the one i had with brandon sanderson’s mistborn trilogy. for liu and sanderson, the natural laws of their story universes are not only intricate but very much foundational to the purpose of the narrative.

i must state two observations about three-body problem. first, it was not much fun to read. the characters are humorless, the prose is functional (with the exception of a few notable passages), and the story as a whole, while it has an arc, really has no discernible climax. i wonder if the translation into English was actually able to render the nuances of Liu’s story; i wonder too if three-body is necessarily a uniquely Chinese story in its structure and psychology.

my second observation is that it is wonderful and challenging in its novelty. three-body is a story about history, science, and the history of science. it makes astrophysics and particle physics relevant to the human condition, in a manner that i’ve never before experienced outside of mere dalliances (i.e. “interstellar”). as serious as three-body is, it is profound.

embedded in three-body is a critique—straightforward and unsentimental—about human society and aggression. liu makes the cultural revolution and its depredations the central historical point of reference and a compelling metaphor for human nature. while some of the characters deal with the colossus of the cultural revolution with amnesia or deflection, a central character channels her experience of the trauma into self-loathing and more broadly a loathing of her species. there is no false optimism or heroism implied in the tale; there are just many evils at work in the world, and there is the calculated concession that what is truthful in the end is not what appears moral but rather what is necessary for survival.

and so we come to atrocities, like what happened in las vegas.

we seek a motive, so that we can adapt our expectations and sensibilities, so that we can move forward. but what if there is no discernible motive for the mass killing that just transpired? what if this is the new normal, the authentic revelation of what it is to be human?

i am re-reading rob bell’s “love wins” and am finding myself more aligned with his viewpoint than ever before in my life. but at points i am very struck by two things: first, that the writing reminds me very much of erwin mcmanus, and second, that bell’s manner of writing is strikingly extroverted and pointedly socratic. he can’t go more than three paragraphs without interjecting a rhetorical question. perhaps the form reflects the purpose; he wishes to jolt his audience from introspection so that the reader is continually engaging self (and conscience) in the process of reengaging with scripture. regardless, it is an interruptive conversation he creates, and for me it reveals certain presuppositions that are critical to his argument: that spiritual mysteries bend to common sense, that the human conscience is sufficient to discern God’s ultimate purposes.

this may seem like a leap, but to me bell’s voice is distinctly the voice of a post-modern and privileged white man. and i say this because it is hard for me to imagine any other contemporary voice so comfortable with commanding the meta-narrative. bell agitates against a dispensationalist worldview, but he does not come across as a man on the margin, a person accustomed to disadvantage. he actually comes across as one who is accustomed to being heard. i do not say this to undermine his message; but i believe it’s critical for me to define this context in order for me to explore where i still struggle with bell’s universalist stance.

a white man with power may find it more difficult than others to recognize the cosmic need for a wrathful, judgmental, and punishing God—but for the rest of us, it’s not so hard. people of color in this country have descended from tribes and ancestors that were colonized, dehumanized, and murdered at the behest of kings and queens. go back through the annals of history and you will not find a century of human life that was not plagued by cruelty, poverty, and terrible injustice. there has to be a reckoning for that evil; there has to be punishment for the wicked. judgment of these people and of the people who created these people is not simply an unfortunate thing, a reflection of arbitrary anger. all creation cries out for this judgment. there can be no redemption of the universe without it.

when i think of the man who killed fifty-eight people in las vegas, i am filled with many feelings about him, but i know this for sure. there is no heaven for that man. there is a reckoning awaiting him, and he will be called to account for the lives that he took. whatever shape or form it will take, hell will be a real thing for him, because his actions were real and had consequences that will echo through the generations and into eternity. and the purpose of that hell will not be his suffering; the purpose of that hell will be judgment, truth, and penitence—all the agonizing and difficult things that must precede reconciliation between beings.

i have written before about divine justice and also about heaven and hell. when i look at myself, i feel two things. a zeal for the truth, by which my insufficiency will be revealed and abolished. secondly, a yearning to be redeemed, to take a form that i could actually live with in perpetuity. there is in me a loathing of myself and of my kind; how can i escape this, being of this world? like ye wenjie of three-body problem, i cannot simply forgive the abuses of the world; forgiveness is a trajectory that points to reconciliation or annihilation. it must be one or the other. i seek the former. and in my heart of hearts, i know that reconciliation does not mean the divine dismissal of all tragedies past and future. true reconciliation requires the utter, indisputable, and commonly shared knowledge of what we are and what we have done—a knowledge that would destroy us all, save for grace.

beyond this, true reconciliation requires the undoing of the evil that has been done, a reversal of the consequences of sin to the extinction of all residual injury, a collapse of all ramifications upon the root causes that precipitated all life. if a big bang is what engendered what we are, it is the “big crunch” of all human consciousness that brings us to God’s ultimate purpose: the unity that results from utter reconciliation, for the healing of all humanity

10.02.17

disciplines of health

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:52 pm by Administrator

like so much in life, health just isn’t something you can store up for a rainy day. good health is a day-to-day thing; you have to work at it, and it lasts only as long as the work you did in the past twenty-four hours to maintain it. some people talk about eating right for a few days in a row so that they can “cheat” on the weekend. that doesn’t make sense to me. it’s the equivalent of saying i’m going to be well for five days so that i can choose to be unwell on the sixth. there’s no logical correlation or interrelationship. if you want to be unwell on a weekend, then be unwell. being well on the five preceding days really should have nothing to do with that.

i’ve grown so accustomed now to maintaining myself a certain way that i really feel it when i’m not getting what i need. it’s rare that i go without exercise for more than a day, and i’m fairly consistent with my diet, so the differentiating factor more often than not is the quality of my sleep. i really do have to work hard at sleep hygiene in order to guarantee not just a certain duration of down-time but also good quality sleep. i’ve learned some interesting things over these past few years about sleep hygiene, and probably a lot of these lessons are specific to my body and brain. for one thing, i can’t engage in hard exercise after noon. for another, i can’t engage in high-intensity mental activity past dinner time—and that includes watching television or movies. and for another, i have to psychologically disconnect from potential stressors like football, fantasy sports, national news, blogging, and work for at least a couple of hours before i go to bed. all told, what this generally means is that i have to read, meditate, or just zone out after dinner.

implementing these disciplines has felt at times very restrictive. it basically means i don’t go out at night (weekend or weekday) for anything other than light conversation or dinner—and even then i try to get myself home no later than 8:30. on weekends, i’m pretty careful about my social calendar, and i try very hard not to book anything into my evenings. i take a nap almost religiously at least once a weekend. 2 or 3 hours on a saturday afternoon is ideal.

now that i’m using the company gym, i’ve fallen into an interesting pattern that suits my needs. this is what my exercise routine generally looks like now:

Mon: 50 minute workout at 7:30 AM. sit-ups and back extenders for stretches. bench press pyramid up to 175 pounds (40 total reps). 3 sets of pull-ups (16, 12, and 12) for a total of 40. dumbbell flies and dumbbell punches. 5 minutes on the treadmill. 10 minutes of spin to maximum HR.

Tues: 2.4 mile run on the road: 0.8 mile warm-up, 1.6 miles at roughly an 8 minute pace.

Wed: 50 minute workout. bench press burn-out sets at 95 and 115. 2-3 sets of dumbbell curls (35 and 40 pounds). inclined bench with 35s. 20 minute treadmill run to a max speed of 7.5 mph.

Thurs: 3.2 mile run on the road: 0.8 mile warm-up, 2.4 miles at aerobic (8:20 pace).

Friday: 40 minute workout at noon. 3 sets of pull-ups (16, 12, 12). dumbbell flies and dumbbell punches. bench press pyramid to 155. 10 minutes treadmill at medium pace (8:30) and 10 minutes spin to max HR.

Saturday: rest

Sunday: 3.2 mile run on the road: 0.8 mile warm-up, 1.6 miles at 8:20 pace, 0.8 miles at 7:20 pace.

my latest breakthrough with my diet was eliminating diet soda, which i couldn’t accomplish despite a lot of motivation until six months ago. i’m eating brown rice about four times a week and averaging pizza one night a week, but otherwise my diet consists of a morning oatmeal, salad +/- whole grains for lunch, and a protein with vegetables for dinner. i’m still drinking alcohol daily, but i’ve cut down from the equivalent of two drinks to one at most—and i’m fasting from both alcohol and coffee at least one day a week.

my health indicators are not bad; i’m at 11.5% body fat, my LDL is below 90, and my triglycerides are below 70. but beyond the indicators, health is about a sense of self, and i’ll admit that it’s slow and incremental progress in this regard. my mental energy is still pretty variable over the course of the week, and i don’t think i’ll be really happy with my lifestyle until i get to the point where i’m feeling as good on Friday night as i do on Sunday night. meditation and mindfulness are underdeveloped skills for me, and the next frontier for me really does reside in learning effective approaches to mental/emotional self-modulation.