October to December, 2009

12.29.09

2009 in Review

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:25 pm by Administrator
what an interesting year. perhaps i didn’t recognize how formative it was until this past week. but onto my review of the year.
1) FANTASY FOOTBALL. i have figured out the formula to fantasy football success. out of 4 leagues (2 of them auction), i won one, got the 3rd place prize in another, and made playoffs in a 3rd. key to my success? value value value. a good draft hinges on anticipating every other manager’s draft strat and placing yourself on the crest of every position run.
2) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. BSG was by far one of the most interesting experiences of 2009 for me. i followed no other television shows in 2009, and in fact i’ve never watched such little television in my life.
3) AMERICAN. Perhaps this was the first year that my American nationality truly became peripheral to my self-identification. “Americanness” used to be such a point of pride; later it became a source of shame; and now it is largely irrelevant to me. nationality has become nothing more than a distraction. i consider myself post-national; i aim to be post-human.
4) EVANGELISM. Never in my life has the idea of evangelism been more controversial. I am re-reading scripture; I am re-examining church culture; I am newly critical of dogmatism. I have determined that the systematic propagation of my belief is no longer a central tenet of what I believe. And I believe that the growth of faith in China is mainly occurring despite the self-important and self-sacrificial efforts of American believers, not because of them.
5) BEAUTY. After a long and arduous journey through varying degrees of denial, self-deception, and acculturation, I have at last come to the frank conclusion that the purpose of this mortal life is not the discovery or apprehension of beauty but rather a gathering anticipation of a beauty unknown. It no longer troubles me that I find myself profoundly attracted to women other than my wife, or that I am strongly drawn to “fallen” aspects of civilization. Forms in this life are transient, as are the eyes that struggle to comprehend them. One need not pretend to be what one is not; one only needs to recognize that his life is, in essence, a waiting for what cannot be experienced in the here and now.
6) IDENTITY. Going on an anti-depressant has transformed me. I don’t write as much; I don’t obsess over things as easily. Things that once gave me infinite pleasure now do not captivate me. Things that once had the capacity to anguish me now seem relatively trivial. Identity, I realize, is nothing sacrosanct or definable; it is fluid and subjective. And in this process of profound self-disruption, I have realized the truth of sanctification as self-death–and the reality of Heaven as a new self, rediscovered in God consciousness.
7) HAPPINESS. Once, I believed happiness to be an objective. Later, I believed it to be elusive. In my disillusionment, I contended it to be a purely biochemical phenomenon. Now I believe it to be impossible, and I am satisfied with that. Sometimes I chance upon it, like the incidental glimpse of a rainbow, or the momentary look of a sunset sky then swallowed by dusk. Happiness is like dust dancing in the shaft of sunlight; it is the sensation of hunger, just before the first bite of food chases it back into the realm of the forgotten. Happiness is a finite thing, impossible to contain, impossible to reproduce. It is not a foreshadowing of anything. And it refuses to be pursued; it relentlessly pushes forward of one’s path, one step ahead. Happiness is so wonderful, and I cherish it now, like a gift. I see it in my son’s eyes, and I delight in it, because I know that as soon as it is recognized, it is gone, like love at first sight.
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12.21.09

Heaven

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:13 pm by Administrator
on the surface, christianity is a religion of starkly binary metaphysics. everything in nature is either good or bad. all people are either “saved” or “not saved”. and even for those who are “saved”, there is within them a duality of identity–the sinful nature and the redeemed nature. after death, people go to heaven or hell. heaven is nice; hell is not.
it’s quite easy then for “saved” people to feel sorry for “not saved” people. Christians have to feel pretty lucky (code word “grace”) for their membership in humanity’s most elite club. they get a guaranteed ticket into Heaven, while all others who weren’t pre-selected for the gift offer are funneled into an eternal lake of sulfur. the simplicity of the system is remarkable. and for those who might question the fairness of such a system, some might cite Paul’s famous repartee in Romans: “what gives you the right to question God on this call?”
the scriptural paradigm might indeed seem this simple, until one reexamines it through the lens of one’s own spiritual journey. one who takes care to study his own passage from confession of lordship to sanctification and then to utter transformation recognizes that indeed the metaphysics are far more complex than high-school level bible studies might have made them appear.
for one thing, one recognizes that the root of “salvation” is ironically self-death. people enjoy throwing around figurative usages of Pauline spiritual death, as if the concept usefully describes phenomena as simple as being able to stop cursing or masturbating. but as we advance in our journey and become aware of the full intent of God to illuminate and challenge the nature of sin within us, we recognize that almost every aspect of our being is inextricably tied to sin of one kind or another. it’s akin to what the Parable of the Weeds suggests about all creation: that in this life, it is nearly impossible to separate the godliness from the ungodliness within us. to vanquish one would be to extinguish the other. the mystery of sanctification is this: overcoming the sin within us requires the destruction of almost every recognizable aspect of what we are.
when one experiences this utter disruption of personal identity, he begins to understand that believers in most respects share the same fate as their non-believing counterparts: self-loss, to the most profound degree. there is nothing in a man that can stand up to the holiness of God, apart from what God implants of Himself. it is for this reason that Israelites who looked upon the glory of God died instantly. the precise reason for this is unclear, but i would argue from my reading of Genesis that it is the total awareness of unworthiness that kills a man in the presence of God. shame is what broke adam and eve’s communion with God, and had it not been for new laws and a new world, the two of them would have been subjected to the inestimable misery of persisting in an eternity of self-loathing, there in Eden. to be utterly consumed with one’s evil is to lose the will to live; hence Judas, who felt compelled to kill himself after betraying his lord. a man who recognizes the truth of what he is apart from God cannot love life; an eternity in his present state is an intolerable agony, a limitless begging for extinction.
thus it is, that the believer and non-believer alike will someday recognize that “identity”–that idiosyncratic and necessarily fallen conglomeration of memory, personality, instincts, and emotional scars–was never intended for eternity nor for the presence of God. theoretically, the believer delights in this dissolution of self. in practice, perhaps, the believer more often contends (out of misgiving, fear, or frank humanism) that his individual consciousness must persist intact, however enlightened or edified it might become.
the believer who is able to embrace this mystery comes to comprehend one simple fact about himself, which the apostle Paul captures in his statement “it is no longer i who live, but Christ who lives in me.” the persistence of “self”–as some singular entity definable apart from God–stops mattering. the persistence of all tendencies, thoughts, and qualms built upon a foundation of alienation from God becomes totally undesirable. and the idea of “eternal life” no longer conjures an idealized self-image, a self-projection upon the astral unknown. no, the believer who experiences zeal for the vision of God recognizes that “eternal life” means the eternity of God Himself–the multiplicity of all consciousness, the repository of all memory, the fullness of all lives lived and yet to be lived. if something within our minds is eternal, it is the longing for this truth to be revealed in totality. we resolve not to concern ourselves with what we will take with us into the realm of Heaven, because “we” become inseparable from Him–no less than extensions of God’s overriding consciousness. it is for this reason that even marriage, that indelible transformation of identity that some experience in this lifetime, becomes irrelevant in the next life. in this life, we are vessels, representations, figments. in the next life, we become substance, the object of our desires, the consummation of our heavenly longings.
it is a strange thing to truly contemplate Heaven as representing total union with another being. in this life, we are so enamored with the idea of ourselves as distinct and bounded entities, each with a sacred idiosyncrasy to define us apart from others. this sense of identity is the very root of sinful nature; after all, it is individualism that was introduced to Adam and Eve by the serpent, the sort of individualism that craves recognition and regalia apart from the providence of God. it is remarkable that God persevered through the unravelling of creation, doing what He did to preserve us as individuals despite the bitter irony of the fact that we were never built to exist in our inherently fallen sense of individuality.
do i believe in the value of evangelism? not for the purpose of rescuing beings from the fated death of consciousness. how could i contend such a thing? i am in fact experiencing this very death in myself. no, if i spread the Word, i do it as a testament against myself (which deserves death) and all of humanity, and i do it in the interests of the one identity that actually matters. to the generations of the “lost” who preceded me, i look upon them as i look upon myself. in every man, something of God was imprinted; its manifestation and fruit look different in every life, but its nature is the same. this nature is what lives; this is what is eternal; and this is the only thing that matters. and this thing, this is Christ.
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12.17.09

A Year Off

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:14 pm by Administrator
one of my common regrets is that i never took a “year off” the beaten path of my training, to travel or do other things. when i think seriously about it though, i’m not sure that i would have known what to do with a year off, other than travel, read, and watch TV. maybe that would have been good for me, but perhaps not. i realize in retrospect that i was raised to be a J-type (Judging personality) when i’m actually a P (Perceiving-type). i like my life unstructured.
i’ve started thinking though that nowadays i do have a better sense of what i’d do if i could get myself a sabbatical from the life i live. i’m listing some of these odds and ends below:
1) i’d learn how to build a house, from the foundation all the way up to the roof, with electrics and plumbing, all to code.
2) i’d learn how to build a computer, from the microchip to the monitor.
3) i’d learn how to build a car, starting with the engine, then to the rest of the stuff under the hood, and then to the chassis, the upholstery, and the car radio.
4) i’d think about how to do these things better, and then i’d build my own.
i’ve never been handy, which has been a bit of a liability for me from time to time. what bothers me more about being unable to fix things is my lack of understanding of the processes that drive my life and sustain the activities i do. i’ve written at length about this before, which i summarize as the manifestations of my post-industrial version of alienation. i simply pay for the convenience of allowing others to run my life. but i take no pleasure in the little things at the root of my material existence. to me, this is tragic.
i could travel, but i no longer have any strong desire to see any other places. i could write, but could there be a more painful way to spend an unstructured year? i think that aside from becoming a Home Depot/Lincoln Technical night-school guy, i’d just run a lot. i’d run a marathon in every city. i’d travel just so that i could run races.
someday, i’d like to build my own house, an eco-friendly and aesthetically revolutionary domicile. i’d sell my cars (and never drive one again). i’d grow my own food, which would be extremely hard work; i’d landscape and plant trees. i’d leave this house to my children and grandchildren, so that they’ll understand that a home is not an investment or a phase in your life but rather a repository of memory, a means of bringing people together. i want to move from post-industrial to anti-industrial.
but i sense that to do this i must become fully self-aware, in the modern sense. and so, i want to build a house.
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12.14.09

Things Going On

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:10 pm by Administrator
i accidentally deleted a comment on my “Marathon” entry. this “moderation of comments” responsibility is a bit new to me. my apologies! i did manage to properly approve dchai’s comment.
it struck me the other day that for faith to grow beyond a certain point, the idea of heaven must become more than a vague picture of what comes after death. for faith to truly transcend misery, it must arise from a conviction of heaven as a reality–a material, imminent, and overriding reality.
my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer several weeks ago, and she’s undergone bilateral mastectomies since then. the cancer is metastatic. i called her from work this morning, and i did not expect the flood of emotion that welled up out of me. it was totally overwhelming. i broke down at my desk and did not stop crying for ten minutes. i tried to pray through it. in the end, i admitted that i do not know what i’m doing. what most frightens me is not that my friends will die or that i will die but rather that i will unravel along the way–that this tight coil of belief and assumption which holds my whole being together and allows me to experience pleasure and hope will spring open under pressure and leave me defenseless against the nothingness of the universe. my hope hinges on order; the reality i fear is entropy, that people might die and not return, and that suffering might teach us nothing in the process.
i’m involved in two small group ministries at my church, both of which have come to mean a lot to me. i see both growth and regression at work, and the latter troubles me like nothing else i’ve experienced in my life. i don’t think community has ever taken on such immediate meaning to me until now. i get truly frustrated with people; i find myself fatigued by my unconscious impulses to please them; i yearn for momentum, but it’s then that my most heavy-handed tendencies come to the fore. i’m an uncomfortable leader; but now i no longer have the luxury of retraction and withdrawal. and thus, my happiness has come to depend on the happiness of others. i used to consider this unhealthy, but for some reason, i have discovered that God will not have it any other way for me.
what is going on with me, in these darkening days approaching winter? i look at the rain, and i delight in it. i wake up at 5 AM, run for 2 hours in the 40 degree chill before dawn, and high school kids leaning out of their car windows yell at me but i don’t look back. i see the sun rise, i feel the ground under my feet, i feel pain; every step of the way, i keep wondering how much my body has left. i remember a thought i once had: that God was merciful when He shortened the lives of men, because He spared us the long years of waiting and whittling away. indeed, i’m not sure why i run, because it will not prolong my life. i think perhaps i run because it is the one area of my life in which i see sure progress. i can build a whole self-concept around it, around the pain, the toil, and the anguishing for rest. to me, it reminds me of what i am, inside.
what is going on with me? i struggle to connect with people nowadays. sometimes i force conversation. i watch sports and play games, but then i realize that it’s so arbitrary, how we fixate on these athletes, as if they can fill our non-working hours with substance and personal meaning. when i think about it, i don’t really care about the Philadelphia Eagles, or the Maryland Terrapins, or who’s going to win the Rose Bowl. these passions are redirected from the desires and frustrations that i cannot handle otherwise. i want a perfect god and a perfect world, and in these two things i want to find perfect health and happiness. instead, i curse at the TV screen and rain down curses on Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.
what is going on with me? no, i cannot define it by whether or not i’m having “quiet times”, “hard times”, “good times”, or enough “down time”. i think that what is going on with me is that i’m looking at time now, just looking at it, not a swimmer in the stream but more like the tree blocking out the sun. i don’t know what i’m doing. i want my aunt to live. i want the earth to be clean. i want the wars to end. so i make the bed, clean off the kitchen counter, and go to work; and i call it worship
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12.10.09

“I’m Tiger Woods”

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:08 pm by Administrator
Sex scandals almost never interest me. But the media coverage of them never fails to strike me as sensationalistic, ridiculous, and outright ironic.
Take the Tigers Woods thing. MSNBC’s website features a video story on the unravelling story of Woods’ numerous extramarital affairs. The story begins with an interview of one involved female, and then it transitions to a series of “expert opinions” on sex addiction and Woods’ probable biochemical predispositions. I’m sitting back and thinking, “Wow!” We at last have a pathologic diagnosis for human lust!
I’m a whore. I may not act like one, but I think like one. In fact, ever since I was 12 years old, my brain has been looking for ways to simulate, distort, and idealize the sensual experience. I’ve “done it” in my brain with thousands of ladies. The only differences between Tiger and me are that 1) Tiger’s had limitless access to helpful women, 2) Tiger might not share some of my cultural restraints (including religious ideology), and 3) Tiger doesn’t have my wife. I don’t think my wife would’ve missed all these covert visitations. Then again, Tiger does travel a lot on the job.
The level of condescension in the media is disdainful and hypocritical, to say the least. Spectators differ with Tiger not on principle but rather on the degree. Thus, the questions aren’t “why did he cheat?” but rather “why did he cheat with more than one woman?” “Why so many?” is the question. It’s the extent, not the nature of the transgression, that so humors us.
I recently led my men’s discipleship group on a candid discussion about sex. We brought it all out of the closet. Porn addiction. Porn addiction despite marriage. Problems in the bed. Infrequent sex. Lack of physical satisfaction. Taboos about oral sex. Genuine dissatisfactions with both singlehood and marriage. The conclusion I brought to the table based on my reading of the scripture was simple: people aren’t intended to experience total sexual fulfillment in this lifetime. Certainly marriage wasn’t given to us for that purpose. No, marriage serves to safeguard what can only be properly revealed in Heaven. Real sexual fulfillment is something we’re destined to discover with God (the He or She) in the afterlife.
In the church, we live with the illogical countertheory: that heterosexual and godly marriage should be utterly fulfilling. But why? Where in scripture is that based? Talk to a hundred married men and women in the church and you’ll see that 90% of them are not getting what they want or need out of sex. Why is that? It’s in Romans 1. No matter what you are–pedophile, heterosexual, homosexual, or asexual–we’ve all inherited a deep internal brokenness, manifest in our sexual natures. Heterosexual people want to think that they have it best, but their heterosexuality itself attests to their innate idolatry. Not one of us experiences sexuality the way it was intended. Thus, not one of us can find sexual fulfillment except in resurrection. Until then, we exercise self-control. Until then, we wait.
Tiger Woods is not “sexually ill”. He is deeply broken and sexually deviant, as all human beings are. He has discovered, like the rest of us, that marriage does not cure our fundamental sexual longing. He has yet to discover, as I hope we all eventually will, that God is going to fulfill that sexual need. She is going to make the waiting worthwhile. She is going to be my pornstar plus, my eternal infatuation, my holy of holies.
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11.30.09

It Doesn’t Matter Enough

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:20 pm by Administrator
it doesn’t matter enough.
patty’s vision. eddy’s battle with hiv. all of the struggles and hurts that i become a part of. these sufferings, and the victories that follow. they matter. they just don’t matter enough.
everything in my brain: the ruminations, the poetry, the ambitions and the angst. i could write it all down, pass it to posterity, infuse something of myself into the world around me. i could change something about the society i live in. and this matters to me, because there is something in me that is true and perhaps good. but you could take everything beautiful in me and realize its fullest potential, create a monument out of it and bring the world to its knees in rapt attention; but i know it would only matter so much.
see, patty and eddy will die; for whatever transient restoration they might experience, they are devolving to dust, even now. and for everything interesting in me, there isn’t a thought i experience that can’t be reproduced by another. even without me, the world is the same; and when i’m gone, the world will continue, no worse for my passing. but even still, if i could be immortal, i would dread being all that i have; there isn’t enough in me–in my relationships, my memories, my abilities–to satisfy me. i am not enough to satisfy myself.
there’s nothing specifically wrong in my life. certainly i have a terrific job, an excellent marriage, growing friendships, and most importantly good health. but then again, there is that something which is totally right, and that thing is missing in my life. i can sense its absence; and in retrospect, i always have felt a longing for it. that missing thing is what i consider God. and all the longing for it, the craving for the glue of my being, that essence and infinity–that is what i call worship. my faith, i have realized, is not simply about giving and being good. it is about holiness–the thing about God that i love–and about worship–the longing i have for Him, expressed in everything that i do.
there is a certain transience i’ve begun to suspect in everything i have. my job, for instance, is an excellent job. i couldn’t ask for a better job; i genuinely appreciate many of its virtues. and yet, when i take a step back, i recognize that this perfect job is not perfect for me. i could say the same thing about the house i live in, the city where i dwell, and the material things that i own. it’s not that i’m dissatisfied with these things; i just recognize that the thing i love is not in them. and that prevents me from identifying strongly with these things, anchoring myself in their idiosyncrasies. everything matters–the money i make, the benefits i get, the school isaac goes to, the retirement funds we invest in. these things matter; they just don’t matter enough.
and because they don’t matter enough, i can leave them; and in fact, i suspect that i eventually must. there is, in this exquisitely short interval between the present and the afterlife, both an overwhelming urgency and a mind-boggling capacity for futility. and in this sense of bewildered bemusement, i find myself increasingly nomadic in my orientation, feeling the wind and its movements, identifying not with place or time but rather with a direction. God is moving, so His saints move, not necessarily conscripted as missionaries or soldiers, but wanderers nonetheless. abraham, who never found a home; david, who spent much of his life running from enemies; daniel, the stranger in a strange land; the apostles, who were scattered despite their hopes, who died in far-flung places. i don’t want to share their struggles, but i find the ground moving beneath me, my mind already going down paths my body has yet to discover. i realize that indeed i will never find a home here on this planet. i am not the man others might see in my trappings and my furnishings; i am something different, mysterious even to my own self
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11.25.09

34

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:25 pm by Administrator

it’s autumn, so the late afternoon sun at our backs
is softly suggestive, pleasant, forgotten
i’d think to ruminate, but my son has other ideas
balancing himself on the curb, contemplating
the mischief of running into the empty street
and though no cars come, and none will
i hold him by the wrist, and he protests
but relents
and now he is pointing at the ground,
and i look at the cracked pavement
and the dusty leaves.
he calls out his name.
and there they are, dark and wordless,
joined at the hands,
spread long across the earth.
he delights as he moves
because it moves,
and as he dances, it dances.
i let go, and they continue their play
across the twilight grounds
while i and my shadow, we move aside
quiet with each other,
just watching

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:42 pm by Administrator

11.24.09

this might be the longest break i’ve taken from blogging in seven years. how odd is that? and i haven’t missed it at all. it’s strange to be in a time of life when i feel no need to express, expunge, or extinguish anything. the simpleton in me would like to presume that this is a sign of illness or apathy. but another part of me is unconcerned. i don’t write because it’s pleasurable, i remember. i write out of compulsion, and i write because life is difficult, unpleasant, and complicated.
through a variety of recent communal experiences, i’ve come to some interesting conclusions recently. they’re generalizations, no less, and obviously they are probably unfair or inaccurate. but for me, no broad insight ever comes from strict empiricism alone; my ability to connect with ideas and with other people has always been predicated on a certain tendency to make the risky assessment.
i think that being second-generation Korean or Chinese-American is a strong risk factor for clinical depression. i think that this is related to a guilt-oriented and achievement-focused culture which necessarily traumatizes the developing psyche and introduces competitive hostility between the growing child and his/her threatening environment. the most notable damage is seen in the children who are driven by fear and encouraged to be aggressive; profound social maladaptation can result from this calculated manipulation of personality. many of my depressed Asian-American friends admit that their struggles stem from 1) familial alienation and 2) an inability to meet personal and communal expectations. they are non-type A personalities trapped in a type A straitjacket.
to me, one of the interesting phenomena to examine in the context of this generational disease is the evolution of the Asian-American church. as a couple of my friends in the ministry have observed, Asian-American churches–regardless of their formal denominations–demonstrate such strong theological and cultural commonalities with one another that one could consider them more or less the same “church”. and among their commonalities is the strong preaching of personal purity. this preaching is not without its nuances, obviously. the Asian-American church does not preach monastic withdrawal, as this would counter the expectations of the older generation; nor does it preach sociopolitical protest in the interests of creating counterculture. it preaches purity through a lifestyle of consummate self-control, by which one can meet both social and moral expectations through calculated self-reconstruction. for sure, the Asian-American church produces ideological and social radicals, but more prominently it produces individuals capable of reconciling the material ambitions of their parents with their own frustrated identity struggle. it is the Gospel of Wealth, redefined in post-modernity so as to mitigate the inter-generational conflict and reverse the inevitable psychosocial maladaptation of the growing youth. it is, in the Marxist sense, truly an “opiate of the masses”. it is the spiritualistic alternative to total rejection of the parent culture, as exemplified by the hikikomori phenomenon in Japan.
much of my journey over the past several years has been focused on rejecting this concept of socially adaptive Christianity in favor of a genuinely sublimative spirituality. along the way, i’ve begun to reject axioms that i’ve grown up with: the natural excellence of the suburban family ideal, the power of mantras, the pursuit of pseudo-emotional brokenness without the recognition of interpersonal brokenness, the moral exceptionalism of the Korean-American church, and the hallowed ideal of the maverick missionary.
perhaps the last bastion of this cultural illness for me has been the obsession with personal purity. i’ve been struggling to overcome it. it is the oddest of things–a strange melding of achievement-orientation with spiritual self-denial. it is spirituality by subtraction, by the elimination of distraction. i find myself trying not to get angry, not to look at porn, not to drink too much, and not to be anxious. i fixate on verses that haunt me from childhood: “religion that God our father finds pure and faultless is this… to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
it does not surprise me that i’ve met some girls in the Asian-American church who suffer intensely from anorexia nervosa. i myself have become a runner, and i find in myself that much of what drives me to run is this drive for purity. it has become the end-all solution to every excess. did i fight with my wife? i run, and feel better. did i drink too much? i run, and burn off the calories. did i duck work on the job? i run, and feel like i achieved something. running in some ways captures the essence of what my church experience has been; it restores my self-concept, it enables me to symbolically reject the spiritual distractions that have accumulated in my life.
ironically though, running has also provided me an insight into how i might overcome this damaging untruth about true worship. after all, what i experience on my morning run is nothing short of emptiness. when i awaken at 4:30 AM, i am full of thoughts and anxieties; but when i reach mile 12, i no longer have the power to think of anything but my intense pain. i am emptied of thought and incapable of presumption; i am aware of my fragility and limitations.
in my prayer life, i have endeavored to change my mode of discourse with God. instead of asking myself “what did i do right?” or “what did i do wrong?”, i ask myself if i am in fact i am aware of my capacity to worship God. after all, worship is not about what i do and do not do, but rather it is about the manner in which i think about God and approach Him. my “purity” is irrelevant; my adaptation or maladaptation is irrelevant; my concept of what is going right or wrong in my career and relationships is irrelevant. when i come to the feet of Christ, genuine spirituality is demonstrated when i consign myself to true and profound alienation, when i consider myself impossible to redeem by ideological means. “i need you,” i say, not as the man who is failing his purpose in life but rather as the man who is devoid of purpose outside of God’s calling and devoid of happiness in the absence of God’s favor. perhaps purity for me has become the image that man builds for himself; emptiness is what is left when we discover that there is no one to please but the God we cannot please apart from grace
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10.20.09

Force

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:27 pm by Administrator
10.20.09
our small group got together for the first time in months last night, and during sharing time i just unloaded everything. it all came out in a torrent of disjointed sensations. i tried to find myself in the verbal mess. i felt like i lost everyone in the process; but it did feel good.
and perhaps not coincidentally, i experienced a real moment of prayer in the car this morning. i was thinking about racism, the topic of tonight’s men’s group’s discussion.
“if people really knew how old the earth was, and if they could see where all people came from, do you think they would care so much about race?” the question interposed itself in my thoughts, seemingly external. i realized i was in a prayer conversation.
God continued. “There haven’t always been white and black people. And in a thousand years, the colors of man may change even further. But men see only what they look like now; they place such weight in what they consider to be static realities, when in fact the world has changed and only continues to change.”
“Processes,” I interjected, trying to apprehend this thread of thought.
“It is the same with you,” God said, with gentle probing. “You get stuck, because the world always looks to you like what you perceive. And what you perceive is derived from what you feel, from one moment to the next. You believe you are seizing upon timeless facts, when in fact the very basis of your judgment is rooted in a subjectivity that is constantly wavering.”
“So what then?” I asked. “Constancy is impossible. I know that the heart is deceitful above all things.”
“Consider this,” God contended with me. “Elijah sensed me in the wind. And the wind has no place and no time; it has no shape and no form. The wind is the wind because it moves. I am not a circumstantial God; I am not contained by your sense of the present, by the urgency of your circumstances. I am a movement, I am a direction, I am a flow.”
And I remembered my own ruminations on this idea, months ago. How I considered that at the very root of our material being, we are more energy than particle. And Heisenberg’s uncertainty dictates that the electron is not defined by the space it occupies but by the orientation it maintains, with regard to the nucleus. At our foundations, we were not built to be static and unchanging; we were built to move, to gravitate, to respond, and to change.
“If you look only at what you have now, you will find despair,” God said to me. “Freeze the motions of the atom and you will find that all matter is almost entirely space. But if you let it move, then its true shape forms; in the motions and interactions, you can see elements and compounds. If you consider the paths you have taken, and the journey I have brought you on, and the journey I have carried this world through, then you might see the truth of what you are. But you must see movements. You must recognize directions. Only then do you know who I am.”
I imagined myself, the far-flung electron on the verge of extinction, almost entirely devoid of substance. And yet the protons draw me in, and their gravitational pull gives me movement and direction. I would collapse upon them and be extinguished, but I orbit because of an energy I never knew I had–that charge within me that sets me apart. it is singularity; it is a power, made perfect in mutual gravitation.
Between what I was and where I am going, I am motion, and in this movement I am known. I am both mass and acceleration; and because of this, I am force. And all my agony, and all my questions, and all my struggles, these are the pull of God on my life. And this pull by which I am known, this is love.
Force. I am force. I am beyond dimensions. And the entire universe forms out of this power that God gives me
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Communion

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:17 am by Administrator

10.19.09

After some thought, I realize this about myself. my intellectual outcries are an outgrowth of spiritual detachment. over-rationalization is my reaction to emotional isolation. and emotional isolation results from broken communion. on the contrary, when i am engaged in genuine communion, i find my thoughts fluid and malleable, and i am capable of modifying my perspective. i am capable of overcoming my innate stubbornness of opinion. i find myself able to dialogue without an incessant lust for confrontation or self-justification.
but i am also recognizing that it is not fair for me to simply marginalize my philosophical discourse as a reaction to maladaptation. surely this is one component, but it is not entirely the substance of what i am thinking. there is personal truth in what i contemplate, though it must be carefully interpreted and through a thoughtful lens. i do find corruption in systems and processes. but perhaps the real issue worth grapping with–whether i am in rumination or not–is what is worth building with people and on what foundation i am building upon. practicality is a virtue, as much as theory is often an unnecessary luxury. truth is not simply veracity; it is a resonance and a capacity to transform.
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10.19.09

Does It Matter

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:21 pm by Administrator
Does it matter, all the rumination and the conflict and the wondering? when i think about it all, it plunges me down dark paths. i run circles in my mind. when i wake up, the impossibilities remain, stoic and unchanged. i talk to blank faces, like a prisoner without walls. and beneath it all, i am always afraid i have lost my way. i ask–does it matter?
when i feel closest to God, i feel the intimacy in revelation. the sign of our friendship is the enlightened perspective, genuine peace with what i cannot fully understand. but when i am spiritually alienated, the alienation runs deep to the bone, the skeleton built from every observation, feeling, and concept i have accumulated over my short years. where there seemed to be sense, now i feel in myself a senseless life. where logic interposed effortlessly, i am instead left with incredulity.
i am increasingly aware that i am not growing into a paradigm of the world; instead, i am periodically inventing new paradigms to better adapt myself to the fluid world that is always threatening to escape me. in my spirituality, i sense that the truth of it all lies not in static realities but rather in the directions of all movements. God is in that wind, in that directionality; He is more difficult to situate in a discrete time or place. and in that light, i can see myself taking shape in hindsight, as a changing nature, and not as the thing i was or the thing i was meant to be. between these two indiscernible poles, i am a lost and entirely untenable thing. but as a vector or a response to an action, i can see my characteristics more clearly. i exist in the response; i take shape in my reaction to the movements of God. we are formless energy, in a dance fueled by gravitational forces. i exist not in a fact or a shape but rather in an orientation, a feeling. i am an idea, like God, and when we are in communion, that idea is so pure and untroubled as to be satisfying.
i realize that as a spiritual being, i am only at peace with myself when i dwell in that sense of myself and my community as a process. as an absolute, i frustrate my own attempts at definition; and as an absolute, the church itself seems disconjugate, unstable, and overly complex. and when i try to define my interactions with the world in terms of these faux absolutes, i find myself hopelessly confused. what is the role of the church in society? what is my role in the political process? what is worth changing, defending, or enacting, to the advantage of some but to the detriment of others? pro’s, con’s, costs, and effects. these are the specifics that hinge upon absolutes; they demand stances, not merely orientations. but i cannot reconcile myself in this tension, because my spirituality cannot be defined by stances, laws, or principles. my faith is an orientation. i do not abide in structures; i must discover myself in relationships.
herein lies the great tension of living as a Christian in this sort of post-enlightenment world. where do you stand, and what constitutes right and wrong? the humanist wants discrete and binary answers from his religious counterpart, even as he entitles himself to the luxury of subjectivity and interpretation. but the subjectivity of the believer is even more of a mystery than that of the atheist; because in that subjectivity dwells a veritable multiplicity of consciousness, a battle of natures, a journey toward divinity and away from self-determinism. yes, the Christian can speak to matters of right and wrong, justice and mercy, beauty and the aesthetics of his world. but he does so out of an entirely alien concept of time and progress; and because the God within him is not contained by the present, neither are the believer’s judgments founded on a static perception of the world. that which is right today may not be deemed right tomorrow. that which resonates with beauty today might well have been ugly millenia ago.
i have resolved to disengage from the jargon of the present, which cannot contain the repercussions of the past nor herald the visions of the future. the jargon of the present demands narrow definitions and specific answers to specific questions–all misleadingly pretending at eternal principle. perhaps real wisdom lies in the peace that one gains when he trades the vision of his eyes for the impressions of his imagination; perhaps real truth is gained when we test what we believe rather than blunt our searching sensibilities. the questions of our world can be asked differently, because the answers could be more profound than we might otherwise encounter. ideologies must change, and so must culture, as two people within a pivotal relationship find new ways to unearth each other.
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10.17.09

INFORMATION SOCIETY

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:56 pm by Administrator
i’m struck by a number of trends i’m observing in advanced industrial society.
1) Specialization. Specialization in expertise and production has increasingly become the rule in the marketplace of advanced industrial society. Competition has forced industries to adapt themselves better to the needs of their target consumers, resulting in an incredible diversification of commodities and services.
2) Delayed entry into the workforce. As noted by Roszak and others, the specialization of industries has compelled the specialization of skills. This trend has engendered a white-collar workforce with more years of education and a higher level of credentialing. Additionally, this workforce is increasingly older, more heavily in financial debt, and faced with the restricted flexibility of job opportunity inherent to every niche expertise.
3) Less self-sufficiency. Gilmore celebrates the true interdependency fostered by the pressures of such a complex and diversified economy; but the flip side of this development is the increasing impossibility of social and technological self-sufficiency. The specialization of the workforce and the diversification of goods and services necessarily means that fewer consumers know enough about the technologies they use and own to function without external assistance.
4) Less accountability. In a sense, greater trust is required when one concedes operations and maintenance of critical faculties to an expert. Obviously, this is an opportunity for abuse. And the less competition there is for the provision of such operation and maintenance, the less opportunity there is to control the quality and the expense related to the acquisition of such expertise. Salient recent examples of this include the Madoff Ponzi scheme; the failure of true oversight over the investment banks prior to the sub-prime lending crisis; and the unverifiable evidence of WMD’s in Iraq used to justify the Iraq War and later found to be false, if not falsified.
5) The undermining of true civil society. If we define civil society as the infrastructure of non-governmental and non-business institutions by which civilians can influence and govern themselves, then the progressive evolution of unaccountable and highly specialized industries and associations threatens the very foundational principle of civil society. The critical difference between those in power and those subservient to that power is no longer defined by rank, pedigree, or wealth; it is defined by differential access to information.
In advanced industrial society, information is power. Those who can access accurate information and control its dissemination are ultimately those with the broadest and most far-reaching influence. For this reason, the free press must be the first target of any authoritarian regime (i.e. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela). Even the free press however cannot themselves decipher the increasingly esoteric streams of information which confer critical advantage to those in the know. The paradox of advanced industrial society is that it can achieve the oppressive capability of more primitive authoritarian societies without suppressing civilian institutions, such as the free press; information itself has become a code so complex that those in power can preserve their power simply by withholding the key to interpretation. The jargon of knowledge has become the scepter of the new elite.
Dwight Eisenhower and Lewis Mumford warned against the kind of society that could develop from this new social schism engendered by the information elite, the “technocrats”. Their fear was the utter disruption of civil society and the total marginalization of the democratic political institution, to the aggrandizement of the military-industrial complex. Fifty years later, their fears are perhaps realized, if one considers the incredible social changes that have ravaged the country and the world over the last eight years.
The free press and the academic institutions are possible channels for subverting the new world order being shaped by the information elite, but they have not proven to be effective. The major press agencies for example admitted to their colossal failures in covering the pre-Iraq War debates over George W. Bush’s agenda in the region; and as an essentially propagandist medium for the war-bent regime, they were frighteningly effective in rallying popular support for the war in Iraq. Similarly, the voice of academia has been similarly compromised, as the traditional boundaries between the university and sponsoring industries have become blurred. Academic physicians have thrown in their lot with big pharma, falsifying large drug trials for payoffs and publications; prominent professors no longer view their futures in tenure but rather in the policy-making offices in Washington, D.C. the object of academia is visibility and influence; truth, as an independent and powerful ideal, has become relativized in the era of mass media.
There is no doubt that the future of civil society will not be preserved by the major news networks or the high-profile academic centers. We are entering a new era in which the distortion of information and the conflicts of interest grow so profound that we will be pressed to create a new public arena, entirely independent of the corrupted institutions, in order to create new modes of discourse critical to self-questioning and self-governance. reacquiring a reliable link to tested, applied, and verified information will be foundational to this arena’s survival. i envision that the outgrowth of such an arena will not simply be a counterpoint to the big company’s line; it will be a novel, decentralized, and community-oriented approach to problem-solving and interpersonal communication. gone is the generation which believed that protest against the government was sufficient; beyond protest is the development of a new discourse–the real stuff of revolution.
decentralized, grass-roots, organic, well-informed, and genuinely democratic–this is the future civil society. what it will require is a new vessel of information, an apparatus single-mindedly dedicated to reexamining, analyzing, and testing the processes by which our daily lives are prosecuted. healthcare–how can the individual patient consumer obtain medical information, verify it, and apply it for self-care? finances–what drives investment banking strategy, and what are the models which are utilized to predict market trends? the environment–what exactly do we know about the damage we are causing to the environment, and what are truly clean technologies that can feasibly sustain our energy needs? politics–who are the real players behind the scenes and what are their agendas? who are the special interests that are driving policy reform? and who are the forces and institutions most likely to advance a progressive agenda that transcends tribalism and nationalism? we need an apparatus with the resources to tackle these questions and provide the basis for renewed discourse. traditional boundaries between sciences and the humanities must be disrupted. knowledge cannot be about expertise any longer; it must be reinvented as the currency of power and the fuel to revolutionary perspective. knowledge is the guarantor of civil society.
i propose the formation of such an apparatus, self-funded, unspecialized, and dedicated not to prognostication or characterization but rather to the explication of processes. how do the institutions in our society work? where did they begin? who created them? who is leading them now, and to what end? professionals need to know the processes beneath the numbers, so that they can understand the forces that drive change. children need to know processes so that they can critically examine them and develop their own–so that they can aspire to the kind of self-sufficiency necessary to creating culture, not merely responding to it. the forum for such an apparatus must be public and personal, not faceless (i.e. the internet) and uninteractive (i.e. television and the printed media). key to such a forum must be the integral place of the debate; for every point, there must be a counterpoint, and where society fails to touch on a point, such a point and its counterpoint must be elaborated. the idea is to get to root causes and to leave no stone left unturned. the idea is to challenge real people to consider again the fact that their society is an idea; all of its laws, principles, and contracts are predicated on ideas that are subjective, flawed, and changeable. war, economic recession, and political corruption do not merely happen to us; we allow, even deliberately create these things, to our own misfortune.
it is passe to be simply a beatnik-style protester, and i’m realizing that the only reform those in power will respect is the kind of reform that changes power relationships between citizens and the government. the people need new counsel and a voice to be reckoned with; they need the power to reshape their own communities. the people need information–the power to regain control over their own lifestyle
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10.16.09

Synthesis

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:51 pm by Administrator
i’m due for a “synthesis” entry, as so much has happened to me over the past few months with such little time (it seems) for digestion and analysis.
first, my rhythms are all off, for sure. sexually, i’m off-rhythm with Sandy; we’re just missing each other. spiritually, i’m not connecting with God in my daily experiences. practically, i’m in survival mode at work and in the home. artistically, i’m totally alienated from my conventional sources of inspiration. i’m creatively constipated again, but more fundamentally perhaps i’m actually malnourished. because when i plumb my innards, i find that there is nothing there to divulge.
this has been the season for anger. there is the ever-present vague anger against society, latent and never pacified. i am so struck by the dichotomy between my respect for the principles of our system and my profound disgust for the results of its political machine. i am filled with disgust for America’s warfare against other nations; i am appalled by our discourse here at home regarding ideals and entitlements; i am saddened by our inability to transcend nationalism on issues of the environment, global poverty and starvation, and public health. my intellectual indignation has boiled over into a constant personal rage. had i been born into a different culture and a different time, it surely would have been me with the molotov cocktail and the revolutionary rifle. men like me shed blood for the sake of change. alas, God spared me certain grief by planting me among Generation X, the most ideologically debased and culturally insipid generation that has ever walked the face of the earth.
i’ve also been angry at people. a person i consider a lazy freeloader. another person who was an outright swindler. i was angry enough at someone tailgating me in pasadena to actually stop my car and get out. i wanted a bat so that i could bash in her windshield. oh, for the chance to actually consummate my anger in a moment of utterly satisfying violent devastation. bloodlust runs in my veins, without a doubt. it’s the genetic inheritance of my ancestors, who survived spare times through warfare and artifice. bloodshed is our history and the only guarantee of justice. in this world, we lie to ourselves when we pretend at an ideal of peaceful civilization. i scorn myself, and i despise my own tendencies. self-loathing is the true root of any spirituality, is it not?
i have come to discern the voices in my psyche that i honor, just as well as the voices that i fear but cannot suppress. i grow old in the pale of their battlegrounds; and sometimes i do not know which voice is right or wrong. sometimes, i recognize that it does not matter which voice is right or wrong; what matters is the voice that i consider mine, at that very moment. let’s not speak of the consequences of evil; let us only consider the fact that we by our very existence imply an insufferable imposition on our long-suffering universe. i think, when i consider the clash of all paradigms that have come to mean something to me, that this world is not absolute at all. it is a moral playground, an experiment in pretending at truth, a victory if we call it so, a tragedy if we lose the courage to lie to ourselves. i cannot pretend at Solomon’s voice in Ecclesiastes. i have only one question–why in the world a book written by a fallen man consumed with only the vapid words of sinful folly should be squarely situated in the canon of scripture? how ironic, that the pinnacle of man’s falsehoods should be celebrated in a book of timeless truth. it is a testament to the fact that we cannot escape our own sadness, and yet we wish to believe that there is something of worth in this unexplainable suffering. God is real. God is an idea. God is a narcotic dream. my daily struggle is so powerfully simple: to decide not whether God exists but rather whether or not God matters at all. because if God matters, all truth in life shall hinge on His concept; but if He does not, then suddenly i matter a bit more, and every ache and pain in my being carries in it the truth i have always suspected it to have.
this is my conundrum. in fact, i believe in God when He touches me. i lose my belief in God when i do not experience communion. i enjoy life when life presents to me something novel, something interesting. i despise life when it forces me to conjure sense from it. i am always restlessly in search of new and violently obsessive romance, and it is all i can do to restrain the belly of my being, to pretend that i am in fact a rational and sane man. this is my conundrum; i have never known how to be happy. yet, i have learned how to creatively adapt myself to my unfaltering frustrations; i have learned how to answer questions with questions. meanwhile, i wait for God to touch me. i am a pathetic man and a small vessel.
now, to my synthesis, because i have despaired of this rumination. the collectivity of what i am and have recently experienced can be summarized in the following: now that i’m convinced that i’m not supposed to know what i am, i feel free to question every societal basis for self-definition. the nomers are everywhere and exceedingly tedious. Korean. Korean-American. American Korean. American. Black American. African American. Poor. Underclass. Minority. Underprivileged. Middle-class. Old wealth. New wealth. Immigrant. Second generation. Fifth generation. Mexican. Latino. Man. Woman. Christian. Christian Evangelical. Presbyterian. Catholic. Ecumenical. Born-again. Redeemed. Sanctified. Revived. Whatever. All of it, meaningless.
i would like to believe, as i open this next chapter of my life, that God mocks the boundaries as much as i do. after all, the godliest man that ever lived was John the Baptist, and he lived his entire life outside the boundaries of the known world. he lived in the wilderness and ate locusts; he yelled at people. he was a non-participant in the structured world. i like John the Baptist. in a nonsensical world, he is the one thing that makes sense. God must exist outside the boundaries; He must detest the arbitrary self-definition; He must despair at the repeated cycles of life poorly lived, consciousness self-deceived and truncated by the program of group-thinking. if God delighted in John the Baptist, then i delight in God. i think that there is where i’d like to begin again
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10.13.09

MARATHON

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:49 pm by Administrator

marathon, missions, and marketing

i wanted my first marathon to be the Baltimore marathon, given what the city has come to mean to me. in a sense, it was a spiritual birthplace for me, much as it seemed at times like a personal hell or a God-forsaken ghetto. it seems fitting that i will now remember Baltimore for a different kind of pain–the physical torment of my 26.2 mile battle against my own body.
i loved the experience. i did not know if and when my body would fail me, and i could not have suspected the reserve of determination that would carry me through to the finish. at mile 14, my left quad went into spasms; at mile 16, my left and right quads were in spasm; at mile 18, my right hamstring also began to tighten; and by mile 22, my calves were hard as rocks. by the time i crossed the finish, my feet felt broken in a dozen places, and my knees wouldn’t bend–they simply buckled. i realized that nothing in my training had prepared me for the real thing. and yet, when i looked back through the miles and tried to remember what i had endured, i couldn’t recall anything in particular. my mind had been focused solely on surviving the race, and everything else i had perceived on the journey had become insignificant, just a blur. in a month perhaps, all i will remember is that i finished the race still strong enough to anticipate running another marathon again.
in the days following those lonely and hard miles, i have to come to see some things quite differently. life was elegantly simple on race day; i was fully engaged in my own private war, fully given over to the experience at hand. reentering the unpaved world in the aftermath of the marathon was somewhat difficult. perseverance and survival have less meaning, and there is no finish line toward which i strive. instead of pacing each step and giving care to my path, i find myself wandering again among the sleepwalkers, carelessly wasting the moments and dragging through the senseless motions. life during the race is purposeful; in contrast, life in the real world is painfully numb. i have realized that unless i am racing, i am dying. i live from one race to the next; i battle against the terrible inertia of my world, for fear of its gravity, and the claim of its depths.
right before the race, i had some time to spend with my dad. i realized during our conversations how much i have adapted to his style of communication over the years. with my father, the ardent atheist, one does not speak of God as a familiar; one only posits the idea of god. one does not assume the justice of the world or the reality of an afterlife. one must respect the only wisdom that this dying man has come to believe–that convictions do not constitute proof of anything, and the convictions of imperfect men are themselves conjectural things. over the course of our relationship, i’ve come to realize that there is no sense in preaching my kind of truth to my father. and in his waning months, what he craves is the one thing he has never found in the church–genuine empathy, without a pressing agenda.
i have many friends engaged in overseas mission work, and i love them for what they are striving to do. and yet at the same time, i find it harder and harder to believe in what they are doing. the reason is that i have personally lost my prior conviction in the worth of Evangelical Protestant missions to the developing world. in a superficial sense, i have come to disdain the cultural imperialism inherent to the agenda of American Evangelicals; but in a deeper sense, i no longer believe in the virtue of the systemic propagation of the Christian belief system. i despair at the organization of organized religion. i cringe at the thought of all the money, idealism, and time going into efforts that do not fundamentally reform the power structures which engender inequalities in wealth, barriers to healthcare, obstacles to proper education, and a mind-numbing obeisance to the paradigm of Western democracy. i fear that Evangelical missions to the third-world have become a collective self-indulgence of the guilty white (and Asian) conscience. the fact that we stop short of revolutionizing the oppressive hegemonies rooted here at home shows that we are not sincere in pursuing a truly redemptive vision of the world. the 21st century world looks as corrupted if not worse than the 19th century world, despite the emergence of logistical and informational technologies that have efficiently conveyed ideologies and their proponents across the globe. i do admire Christian (and particularly Catholic) charity. but i have grown weary of putting designs on life, defining my usefulness by my ability to impose my paradigm by artifice and persuasion. the rocks after all can do this work and perhaps do it better. the human thing is to empathize and listen; and this has become the lost art.
won ho introduced me to gilmore, a fairly respected Christian businessman who has expounded on his idea of the emerging “experience” economy in the developed world. Gilmore strikes me as a neoliberal in the purest sense–a man who views systems as morally neutral and who finds freedom of interaction most conducive to the biblical paradigm. gilmore’s talk on White Horse Inn exposed a fairly significant disagreement that i had with both him and won ho, it turns out. i am not inclined to look at capitalism as a system that rewards individuals for meeting the needs of others. i look at our brand of capitalism in the West as a system of hegemony, by which needs are generated through manipulative marketing to force economic dependency (debt slavery) on the individual consumer. you might call me a Marxist, and you might be right.
but how can one not see the evident evil inherent to capitalism? on npr this morning, i heard a segment on how big pharma intentionally changed its marketing strategy in the 1980s to target the uneducated patient consumer rather than the physician. the result? a 12-fold increase in the volume of drug prescriptions, which has led to $180 million in increased annual costs to the American healthcare consumer. perhaps the studies are divided on whether more Rx’s have translated to better health, but my biases as a healthcare provider are not subtle. polypharmacy has become in itself very dangerous to the patient population, and drug side effects and interactions have become a major source of morbidity for the unwitting consumer. yet television advertising of brand-name pharmaceuticals has implanted an artificial need in the patient consumer which only costly healthcare spending can satisfy. the evil to us all is quite obvious: our healthcare system is bankrupt and the costs to our society are unsustainable.
we see it everywhere and in everything. computer technologies, fashion, and home goods. advertising can create veritable needs out of casual fascinations; it creates dependencies strong enough to drive people into spending on credit. and how do we know that these “needs” are in fact superfluous? because when the economy tanks, these products stop selling. when they cannot buy food or pay the rent, the consumer suddenly recognizes what is wasteful and unnecessary about the lifestyle that he has constructed with the help of media-driven indoctrination; and suddenly consumer spending drops, companies close their doors, and jobs are lost. and still nothing fundamental has changed about our society, because none of those jobs provided truly essential services to the population. our service economy is predicated on the obsessive consumer tendencies of a populace that has been trained to be subservient to a marketized ideal. we pay for the dubious privilege to be indebted to one another.
there are a thousand and one self-help gurus out there advertising their services on how to get debt-free and financially solvent, but i imagine the best way to get clean is to simply turn off the television. if you stop watching the advertisers, if you stop fixating on your neighbor’s incessant accessorization, then you cut away at the basis of your own consumer addiction which drives you into debt. if you stop lusting for what you cannot afford, then you will not waste your money on these things. the key to health and solvency in their broadest sense is disengagement. if we stop investing ourselves in an infrastructure that will inevitably fail us, then we are open to the possibility of reform; we are driven toward new paradigms; we are capable of reinventing the concepts of justice and progress, those modernist terms that have become almost irredeemable in our post-modernist ennui.
perhaps the latest hard times have formed a cynic out of me, and i know my thoughts are very typical of the disenchanted Gen X’ers who now form the foundation of the emerging church and the new liberal intelligentsia. but i hope to separate myself from them as well. i disdain the Emergent church’s syncretism and relativism as much as i scorn politics of all kinds. i just feel like ideology of all kinds is losing traction with me, and i want new beginnings. i look for new ideas where others have found failure: in tribal society, in militant fundamentalism, in Roman Catholicism, in eco-conservatism. i believe that my generation is poised to make a radical break with the past, and i’m hopeful that we can begin to attack the arbitrary boundaries by which nations, blocs, and political allegiances have been defined. there is such a thing as humanity after all, and there do exist absolute interests that are essential to us all–the preservation of our natural world, the survival of our species, the end of warfare between our children, and the end of starvation and poverty. we must find it within ourselves to militate against the systems which justify waste and the destruction of human life; and even though our predecessors have failed, we must find new ways to link our faith to genuine transformation. i do not believe we serve God best when we are fixated on the salvation of individual souls; i believe that we glorify Him most when preserve the idea of a consecrated nation, something more transcendent than ourselves, an idea which can link us to one another and to a common and better future