Monday, December 7, 2015

Cast Die

I think the greatest obstacle to my motivation and accomplishment is confidence. Perhaps overconfidence. It stems from a competitive inclination and quickly becomes an inhibition. I'm a great lover of competition, and yet I struggle mightily with correcting myself when I'm not actually "losing". In those situations where the conditions for victory remain obfuscated by circumstance or the object or opposition against which the game is played is enigmatic. And those situations where my opponent lies within myself - those I always lose. The problem is, once I've acquired some semblance of inertia, even I cannot easily gainsay my own inclination. It isn't impossible, but so much more difficult without outside motive.
When I must practice to better myself, yet without any relative comparison, I fail. I'm overconfident in my abilities and fail in the daily follow-through. One of my most difficult problems with my competitive spirit was that once I knew that I could win, I moved on. Once winning was technically within my grasp, everything else was academic. I knew I could do it; those that mattered understood I was the stronger competitor. That was my youth - never an opponent worth beating.
Except myself.
And now, forcing myself to maintain rigor, to daily accomplish various rituals of living and life, I struggle. What competitive urge forces me to eat a certain amount, exercise just so, or write a certain quantity? The competition rests in the long haul and the terms of ambiguous.
Another of my competitive angsts was in chance. I disliked games of chance and sometimes even games of dull strategem. I loved the knowledge games. Games that possessed not only a breadth of opportunity, but a depth of decision. But life contains its own fair share of frustrating chance, or seeming chance. Why does one child get cancer, and another fly free? Why does one get born into poverty and another wealth? Why does this curmudgeon survive into longevity and this kindly soul find an early grave?
The dice feels weighted against good sometimes, or most ostensibly so when those miseries occur. And the hard part for me is deciding to struggle against myself when I know that my future seems somewhat contrived and chancy rather than directed. There are too many variables.

I used to play a game with myself. I would ask myself impossible statistic questions like: "I wonder who is both the fastest, shortest, and most stylish person on this field?" The problem with questions like these is the weighting of the variables. Is "fastest" the most important? What if the fastest is also the tallest? Or the least stylish? How do you diagram that out? Even one of those seems so arbitrary and subjective. That's how life feels, except with more variables. Each person has a say in my destiny, and so does the spontaneity of factors too invisible for me to ascertain: genetics, environment, and so on.

With all this, how does one maintain motivation towards an uncertain end? It feels like that line in Annie Hall about why Alvie was not doing his homework. "Because the universe is expanding, and eventually everything is going to collapse" was the (inexact) response. That can be how it feels - a bit fatalistic. But then you can so easily get stuck in the rut of doing nothing at all, which is worse, sometimes, than mistakenly taking a wrong step. At least you can learn from a wrong step. And all this is really just a bit of rambling sophistry, but it's interesting to think about those tiny obstacles and factors that stagnate us like flies in honey. When we are our biggest enemy, who will lift us free? I think that's question answers so many others. You can tell a lot about a person by who will lend them a hand, and how many kindnesses come when the dice lands poorly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

LGBTQ in the Church (a meeting on a minute)

Is this Spirit here? Or just high spirits?
Does the Spirit split two ways? Is it a river or a hurricane? Every "leading" eddies and suffocates - which side holds the sense of truth?
How is it possible to exist so divided and so compelled and spirit-filled within the unified body? Is it possible not to? Can we? Do we?
Does anyone know, with shadowless certainty, the Truth? Or even one Truth? In such a multifaceted view, both sides tossing out vindictives and dismissives at the brick-wall-minds of the other side.
The "other side" doesn't value diversity or discussion, acceptance and unity, love, grace, or forgiveness.
Or the "other side" exists in shallow theology, being biblically naive, sitting with sinners, misrepresenting a "holy" God and wholly disregarding a depth of tradition and wisdom and practice of faith.
What middle ground between the spectrum of hell and bigotry? When it's either damnation or discrimination. Where are the enlightened sophists who have risen above the sheeple in middling belief and sit in the golden means of compromise? Surely these possess some Gnosticism worth being? But everyone is so obnoxiously right sometimes, or humbly condescending. Where are the patient listeners? The quiet dialectic?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spectrum of Life

A lot happens in a year, a month, even a day.
I’m married, and I was not.
Arguments regarding LGBT in the church community.
Legal suits in town against the yearly meeting of friends.
I’ve been surprised how quickly people rear up with opinions like king cobras. Beliefs on wedding timing and relationship mantra, or arguments against persons – all with such violent strikes. Less than the content of the arguments, the entitlement and anger with which people defend their beliefs can be appalling. And frightening.
Not that such a righteous anger is always wrong. Au contraire, a righteous anger is often warranted. The scary portion is the direction of the anger targeted towards persons rather than ideas. Rarely is hate an agreeable ideal. Rarely is vindictiveness a moral imperative. It’s that same quality of person that stands outside an abortion clinic killing doctors in the name of Christ (or any higher cause).
I haven’t written in forever, and my first is somewhat angry, itself. Shoot. And that’s what I’ve noticed. Anger begets only anger.   
I think what’s been a joy to see in the passing weeks is that the flipside is also, often, true. Generosity, grace, and mercy often beget similar reactive replies. More than all of the miserable actions, more than all of the hatred and anger and angst of an uncertain people, the generosity and kindness of those loving persons in my community sticks with me.  At the wedding, people jumped into action to help, even without being asked. Whether it was pushing tables outside, organizing books, or grabbing Ems and I a bite to eat, people leapt into action. I couldn’t help but smile. It’s reminded me of all those times I’ve had the opportunity to help my friends, and how it’s never a chore, but a great blessing to be that servant. I remember how lucky I felt getting to look after a friend following a surgery (dental) and just hang out and make sure everything was okay should anything need doing. I feel similarly blessed helping each of my friends when they have to move (packing, and lifting) even if I’m the least qualified person for the task (have you seen these biceps? Most people’s ankles are bigger).  I honestly love it. And that’s what fills me with so much joy. When Ems and I wrote our prayer for the day, we hoped that the day might be filled with joy, and that that joy would be an evident reminder of our beliefs and hopes and joys. Our wedding was.
I hold these two great  scenes in balance, teetering forwards and backwards into each. The anger that bubbles up in reply to such, and the grace I force myself to remember, having been shown so extravagantly where joy is begat. These weeks have travelled fast, and are filled with great and weighty feelings, spanning a sea-wide spectrum of emotions. But I’m happy. I’m joyful; full of joy. There are heartbreaks, and there are moments so perfect I’m brought to tears.
I’m thankful for this and my community. In sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, I’m married to it in my spirit and I love it. I’m learning a lot about community and belief through my marriage already, and I’m only getting started.
Here’s to many more such days, weeks, and years. Here’s to life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

On the Road (with help from Tolkien)

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I find that as I edit and struggle with the beast of writing I've set to tackle, I consider the road the
script and I have journeyed upon. It's like any life progression, physical, spiritual, or emotional, filled with pit stops and potholes, rivers and rolling roads. Sometimes we stop, sometimes we go, and often we find we've gone nowhere at all, yet progressed forever far.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

This is it, Tolkien. It can sound so glamorous. Who tells the stories of blistered feet and damp days? We remember clearer the glories and summits along the way, rather than the sorry days burdened by sun or rain. And then telling tales like this, remembering the sorrows stronger than those. It's a temporal relativity masquerade: in summer, you remember the fireplace, the christmas dinner, the snowmen and snow days; in winter, you remember the green, being outdoors, walks and warmth and sun. But in both you forget the miseries, sometimes, and so it is with the cruelty of editing and writing for me, this week. It sounds glamorous, but I'm stuck in the ruts of a broken railroad. I believe the story is without value, knowing the pacing is poor, the dialogue dismal, the progression pathetic (puns intended), even though I simultaneously understand its meaningfulness to me.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Boundaries of Words

I haven't written in a little while. It's a busy season. Though the failure isn't entirely due to a lack of writing material as I've actually been doing a good deal of writing (or at least editing). I'm writing a story for the Writers of the Future seasonal competition, and editing my story into something worth reading has been a nightmare. I constantly get stuck in a state of being over-pretentious in my writing, elitist without the prerequisite technique to back up that sort of egotistical behavior.

I have several major problems with my writing, and one of my gravest is that I like writing in a pretentious manner sometimes. One of my recent stories began thus:

There is something sinister in infinity, and magnificent. The stars cease their winking charade and stare: cold, incessant, pitiless in eternal surround.  Space is not a sea in which we float amongst the heavens, but a hole, an absence, crushing ever inwards.  The fragile veil between us and without: beautiful; the journey into the void: fraught.

            Lost stared vacantly behind as his home, all their homes, receded into a glowing point in space.  He didn’t know why, but watching the vods of their departure made him feel… something.  Maudlin? Solemn?  It was getting more difficult to do that these days: feel.  The echoing thrum and whirr of magical machinery whined behind Lost as a counterpoint to the numbing silence of the stars.  The control room faintly glowed with nurturing light, a laughable counterfeit sun, while overhead, a glass dome glimpsed into forever as the vessel glided through space.  

Of course it is pretentious. Of course it doesn't flow well. And this is still an early draft (the NaNo I worked on this recent November past), but that is often a disclaimer for those who dislike the style (most people) even though I have a secret fascination with it. And my recent story is no different. I can't get it to flow; I can't get it to read like a story because I struggle with wanting it to read like a story. I adore puns and elitist easter eggs, and filled my mythical tale with them, but I eschew simplicity too often. We live in an age where the most read books are young-adult books, and the demographic that is reading them is 35-55. But I find those books shallow. Not out of necessity, and they are not all shallow reads, but because the target requires an easy, limited diction and imagery.

I like rules, but I also like to press the boundaries of words and find out just how far I can stretch meanings and interpretations. So I'm editing, and fighting mostly against myself and my innate tendency to be obtuse.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Wastelands

A lot of our favorite philosophies, theologies, ideologies arrive as rebellious retaliation of the previous generation’s values. In theology, this often looks like a pendulum of: God is love, God is justice; in culture we are working towards an equilibrium of personal value for all human persons: women, non-white racial opportunity, civil rights options for those with varying sexual preferences, though cultural mindset moves slowly, pushing against a mountainous inertia of bigotry; and our ideologies often gag on war most following a bloodthirsty example, and most feast on imperialism after a brief spat of peace.
This swing has tempered a little as the freight of the internet wakes by, leaving only the opinions and arguments of anonymous naysayers and the burnt-road pathways of those waging new battles – it’s a graveyard, a haunted cathedral, a thousand lasers flying through empty space, never touching. And everyone, opinions or no, wants that flare-up-high of attention, that brief, orgasmic stardom, that glimmer of disgust, anger, joy, or reaction and then out like magnesium, blinding and then gone.
But if you want something lasting, what then? If your appetite is larger than immediate and next, how to whet the sacred hungers? More than many, my life seesaws on a balance, not merely camping on gluttony, but swinging between fasting and feasting. It’s not bipolar, but a antsy flailing for balance, as I stand on the barrel of life and roll down the whitewater rapids.
And happiness can be a drug. Until you’ve found it, you cannot imagine the addiction, the drag, the earnest importance of more,more,more. In the same way running releases endorphins, as sex releases oxytocin and endorphins, as every drug inhibits or multiplies enzymes and neurotransmitters, a fluctuating, dramatic instability of reality. Everything we intake alters internal physiology to some extent, whether it’s food, sunlight, touch, or sound.  
Happiness is strange in that I can’t remember a time I rebounded from it. A cause of happiness might unsettle me if I’m rebelling from the ideologies behind it, and I may even be disgusted by my happiness at gluttony, sloth, or pride at certain times, but from the happiness itself I rarely find myself aghast. I never think, “I wish I had less cause for smiling today” or “today was depressing and I hope tomorrow is a real downer.”
I don’t believe many people truly seek sorrow in permanence, though such people exist. Why? For the same two-second spotlight? For a sympathetic touch or love in passing? There are always reasons. But those are not my shoes. Today, I’m happy. I don’t want to pendulate, or seesaw, or whip back into any other place; I like this one, and here I’ll stay.

Was I always happy? I believe I might have been. But I haven’t found the endless bounds yet. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Imagining Worlds (Part Deux)

Let’s imagine another world. In our first, we imagined a world where innocents were protected, shielded by spiritual firewalls from harm beyond their ken. That world has trouble with variables as collateral damage might affect a community where the target was one evil individual. You cannot lose a finger without hurting the whole. In that way, bad things might happen to innocents by proxy: a mother losing a son, a community losing an individual.
        That world struggled to maintain a sense of fairness while still allowing room for free will. It’s a tragic element of humanity that free will precipitates ill and not good will. But there are other options of worlds that might offer a greater sense of fairness.
        In our new world, good is defined in a similar fashion as the last, as that which increases life and encourages well-being, family, friendship, kindness, and love. Instead of spiritual firewalls surrounding the righteous (of varying degrees of good), we’re going to assault the core of evil. There are a couple of methods for this: evildoers are unable to consider/contemplate/actuate anything that might affect an innocent. If an evildoer tries to hurt, even by collateral, an innocent, something (god, nature, physical etc) prevents the evil from occurring.
        Some examples: a man tries to set fire to his own house overnight because of depression. The fire either cannot start if there are innocents in the house, or everyone notices immediately and his attempt is thwarted. Possibly his wife wakes up and removes the children from the house. The trick here is: what if the husband dies? That is collateral and hurts those innocent children a great deal. What if the house does burn down? How are the children and wife protected from that sort of evil? Is the burning of the house prevented in general?
        This actually causes a lot of problems within this world at large. Things such as bombs, guns, and weaponry in general could scarcely exist because the possibility for collateral is too great. Also, we run into a similar problem of definitions: is only greater harm prevented and what or who defines greater harm? If an innocent child is incredibly close to their great grandfather, closer even than to their parents, and that relative dies of old age gently in their sleep, that might still cause traumatic pain for a young child. Nothing of great evil occurred, only the natural flow of life. Is the argument here that the child should learn of death? Perhaps death isn’t a great evil, or only in some cases. Maybe we claim that no evil here occurred at all, only sadness, and sadness is necessary and good in some instances. But it is hard wishing sadness of any sort on a child.
Let’s consider other examples. A father is a poor worker, either from laziness or injury, and is removed from his job. The entire family is affected and possibly short on food.  A teenager is tired of life and wishes to end it, poised on the brink of a bridge over dark, turbulent waters – how will his lover feel, his family? How are they affected? A bright new prodigy for sports breaks his ankle and misses a draft; a mother who cannot support her children births triplets instead of a single child; a little child crosses the road when his mother isn’t looking; a father and mother don’t get along, and a messy divorce tears up their children; a teenager gets pregnant due to choices made, but what of the child? Whose life is sacrificed for whose life chances? Just read the news. A million things occur every day that aren’t necessarily evil in intent, but precurse negative outcomes. A simple sickness, a misstep, a series of events that elicits shame, a feeling of negativity – countless pieces of this puzzle that is mankind, and no man is an island.
There was an experiment done by Japanese scientists regarding negativity. A bunch of individuals were told to direct negative emotions at water or ice, and the scientists compared the molecular structure of the water with positive feelings and noticed distinct differences. Our emotions are not isolated within us. One of the great causes for depression and sorrow is loneliness, but our existence never affects only ourselves. But if lightning strikes a tight mob of people holding hands, more than one person will feel the surge of electricity. We find ourselves in a difficult place of limiting actions for everyone due to collateral evil.  I couldn’t jump off a mountain, but not from fear, but due to the horror and trauma it might cause those innocents near to me.
What about a perfect world? Where none of these things mattered? We consider it a breach of free will, but what if evil was impossible? It’s not a breach of free will that I cannot fly, because my limbs don’t support that behavior. What if our human bodies didn’t support evil?
There used to be an argument against the existence of a god based on omnipotence: “can god create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?” The counterargument usually explains that such a rock cannot be created since it is against the nature of rocks to exist at such a capacity. In the same way, god cannot create a square circle because geometrically that is nonsense.  If our bodies could not support any action of evil or malign behavior, the behaviors would not be missed. Seeing birds fly, I might wistfully imagine myself flying, but I don’t actually miss the behaviors because I, myself, have never flown. If evil did not exist, would we miss the opportunity to behave in such a manner?
We enter into a strange theoretical landscape with a perfect world. Is there death? Is there sickness? Is there natural disaster? It is interesting to imagine the status of such a universe and all of the differences that must exist. If there is no death, is there reproduction? There wouldn’t be a need for reproduction beyond a certain point. And is there no bacteria or parasitic organisms? Fungus feast off of detritus, bacteria endlessly splitting without death, animals living an eternity – would the world find itself soon overcrowded with a burgeoning of life? Where would the resources for all this life come from? I suppose from inorganic matter and perhaps the fruit of trees, though when the earth lost its savory richness, what then? A perfect world seems to thrive on a different chemistry. It’s almost unfathomable from the vantage point of a world where everything seems based on little deaths.
But is it plausible? I don’t know. I suppose it seems almost elvish and surreal, where each seeming day might be an aeon and each eternity a day. There wouldn’t be any need for reproduction, really, and merely an endless feasting of Epicurean proportions. 

        Yet in the end, all of these worlds are hypothetical. We could have a perfect world, though we might not know what that entails. The problem is, a lot of us like to keep our imperfect world, but we want those innocents to be untouched. It’s hard, because there is no such possible world. I did, actually, imagine another world, similar to the first two. What if we imagined a world where only the most extreme of innocents was protected while the rest were on their own? In a sense, this world is like an rpg where someone who has just created their character is invincible for several hours until they get their character under control. Is this viable? I’ll leave this open for thought. I imagine at some point it falters under the same stresses of our other worlds.