Thursday, December 25, 2008

No mother imagines how fast her child will grow up. When he’s that tiny, you hardly understand, though you may think, “One day, this soft, tender, delicate human infant will be a man, with passions and convictions and responsibilities.” No, when he isn’t even big enough to wrap his fingers around your thumb, he’s just yours.

She thought the same thing. I mean, who wouldn’t? After you carry an 8-pound baby in your abdomen for nine months, after his every movement affects you, you feel every time he kicks or squirms, it feels like he’s part of you. And then you spend hours and hours in pain, just praying, “God, get this baby out of me!” and you struggle and suffer… you are in agony…finally he is expelled from your body in blood and mucus. The nurse wipes him off and lays him on your flattened belly and you turn his face to suck your sore nipple, and you know that this baby belongs to you. He is your flesh and blood.

Through the years you change his diapers, nurse him, tend to him when he is sick or injured, and stay up with him when he can’t sleep. Why wouldn’t you? He’s your son. And you love him with everything that’s in you.

You watch him grow up. You guide him, you instruct him, you try your hardest to demonstrate what it is to be good and moral, hoping beyond all things that your best might be enough. He becomes a complicated, thinking individual. Sometimes you hardly recognize the little boy who needed you for every little scrape and splinter. One day you are forced to acknowledge that he is indeed a man. You’ve awaited and dreaded this moment for so long. But you’re proud of him. He’s your son.

But she never had that. He was never hers, not from day one. In fact, he wasn’t hers from day negative 1000. On behalf of Israel, Isaiah said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The angel told the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” He was never hers, just hers, only hers.

My oft absent maternal instinct kicked in recently and I am struck with sympathy for Mary. I'm not the type that loves every single child who crosses my path, but I know that when motherhood comes upon me, I will love my children because they are my own. My own to love and teach and watch grow up.

I don’t know if Mary knew that or suspected that 33 years later she would be weeping inconsolably because her child, her baby boy was brutally murdered like a criminal. He was hated and scorned and mocked. This sweetheart about whom devout men and women prophesied and angels sang was her own darling son—now up on a rough wooden post with dirty nails in His flesh.

If she guessed that at all, it would have been the most unbearable thing on earth to hold such a perfect child (because “every baby is the sweetest and the best”) in her own tired arms. The agony of childbirth was nothing to the devastation of watching as he slowly dies before your own eyes. And you can do nothing but watch. And as you watch, you remember your baby’s rosy cheeks, his little feet and tiny toenails, his bright eyes and toothless smile, his velvety hair, and his grasping hands…now they’re dripping with blood. Who would have, could have thought? Not even she imagined that this would happen to her baby.

Lyrics from my two favorite Christmas songs:

“Precious miracle of life, Child of Love, gift of hope, the gift of life from the Father above. And you were made for all mankind, but you will always be mine…”

“Oh Mary, Joseph rest your eyes. Try not to think of the ending. World full of empty, He will die…but tonight He is still just a child. …Have you cursed at the wind? Have you cried to the heavens? Have you fought with this mercy you don’t understand …And did the stars shine much brighter that night, when you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life? And did the mystery keep you awake, or was the sound of His little heart too much to take?”

Isaiah 9:1 "But there will be no gloom for she who was in agony."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Philosophizing Movie-Watcher

I just finished a more personal journal entry which I won't share here, but it caused me to do a bit of integrative thinking (my favorite kind).

I was journaling about how certain things have changed my perspective of late on a particular subject. That particular entry was sparked by a movie I watched, Tsotsi. It's a unique movie about a young criminal in South Africa...but it didn't provoke thoughts about social justice or crime or poverty or what-have-you. The thoughts and ideas I came up with may seem a long way off from the point of the movie, actually.

But at the moment, I can't share those ideas. The problem is this: I don't watch movies like most people watch movies. When I'm at school, I have no time for watching movies and when I do, they're usually just because everyone else happens to be watching a movie and I never really care what the movie is. (For instance, Cool Runnings or something like that.) Usually those movies are just fun with little to really process and think about. When I'm home and I have time to watch movies more often, I never have anyone to watch them with me. My parents are rather sensitive to rough content in movies. My dad (Lord love him) doesn't like a lot of f-words and he usually avoids anything with sexual content. Well, that's okay, I guess. But I am compelled that we live in an R-rated world and it's naive to go through life avoiding certain things--like f-words. And my little sisters are obviously too young for most of the stuff I watch.

So I watch movies by myself most of the time. I see it more as an academic exercise than entertainment. There's more to a movie than jsut what moves your emotions and that's what I enjoy so much.

But the problem is that I watch these movies by myself--and get more out of it than I would from watching High School Musical *3* or Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (my sisters' pick)--but have no one to share it with. Unfortunately, I don't think that's what philosophizing is for. The purpose of any revelation is to share it with others. "Now go, and tell about what you have seen here." That's my calling: to share with others the depth and essence of my experiences--whether firsthand, vicarious, spiritual, personal, emotional, etc.

So the question remains: is this the right way to do things? I believe movies are meant to be shared with others. Is it worth it to watch by myself and revel in the philosophy that comes but not be able to share it with others? Or would it be better to not experience it and not have this passion that I simply can't communicate to others? I will have to explore and find out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Transparency

I don't know if it's a bad thing to wear your heart on your sleeve. I suppose it's a bad thing if your heart is one that causes others grief and frustration because you're always on an emotional roller coaster. That could be dangerous, I suppose.

Fortunately, I'm not too much like that. But I do like to wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe it would be more difficult if I didn't have such mature friends, but I'm very free to be myself. "I love you. Be around." I don't like to make big deals out of nothing, but I don't like to let something pass without recognition, either. People are a priority for me. If someone is a good friend, thoughtful and intelligent, compassionate, affectionate, intriguing, compelling, admirable, or even just enjoyable, they should be praised and acknowledged. (Hm. That sounds familiar. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Am I plagiarizing Paul?)

But at the same time, people are very individual-oriented. I guess it comes with being human. Everything is about how it affects me and my life. I hate to admit, but even among my friends there's a degree of that "out of sight, out of mind" poison. My mom is full of wisdom: "Always remind people that you're in their life. Because they'll forget." And they will. So I remind them. "You are important to me. Thank you for everything that you are."

Sometimes the combination of those two desires of mine--to be myself and to love people--can be misunderstood, I think. Some people may think I'm too interested and be freaked out. Perhaps people are too used to a hyper sense of reservation. Maybe people will misread my intentions and think I mean more than I do. But maybe that's better than letting them think I don't care at all.

"You want people to know that you think they're special." It's not easy, but it's always worth the effort. And the risk.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Treatise pt. II - Aristotle and Sexism

Philosophy presents so many brilliant ideas and Aristotle's sexism is hardly to be discounted because it's dated.

That was meant to be an inflammatory statement. Heck, I'm a girl, er, I mean woman--and I'm hardly sexist against my own sex. Even so, lots of "outdated" ideas--including the idea that a man should be the leader in a relationship, in the church, in what-have-you--still ring true with something in me.

A solid half of me wants to be an egalitarian because then I would not be confined to roles that might never satisfy me. I honestly don't know if I'm cut out to be a mother. I love children. (I love them even more once they develop rational and growing minds.) But could I raise some of my own? I'm not the most sympathetic person. Be confident that if I express sympathy or concern, I really do mean it because I'm bad at feigning that. But kids need and want compassion even when their troubles are minuscule and insignificant in light of life as a whole. And they require a devoted audience for their sometimes uninteresting stories... I know--I have little sisters (whom I love). But of course I digress.

Really, my strongest desire to have children comes from the idea of sharing something like that with a man I admire and respect. And that's the half of me that is very attracted to the idea of complementarianism. I like the idea that I could trust someone to be a leader, to tend to the needs of others, and to be a partner whose strengths and weaknesses complement mine.

So once I am able to discern the nature of "femininity" as a quality (whether of the soul or something else), the major question will be, what does this mean for me as a woman?

I hope femininity manifests itself in many different ways. What are the implications of my role as a woman? Does femininity require that I be submissive or relinquish some of my liberties? If my femininity is demonstrated in my role as a mother or a wife or by my taste in movies or books or music, how does that restrain me? How could I be feminine and run a company? Or listen to metal music? Or be inspired by war movies? How can I tell men what to do and reject the overly emotional examples of women that my culture throws at me?

At the same time that I ask these questions, I'm very comfortable with the idea of a man (a wise, godly leader, mind you) taking charge. If I was in a "relationship," I imagine that I would trust him to judge the progress and direction of that relationship. I would trust my life to him. And if I didn't I wouldn't date him.

How can a woman be "strong, independent, and utterly feminine" as someone described Sarah Palin recently? How does that strength and independence mesh with utter femininity?


What? Why are you waiting like that?? I don't have the answers. I just ask the questions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Study in Form and Qualitative Definition

I was recently speaking with a 21 year-old male friend who described his interactions with “women,” meaning other females on my college campus. My internal reaction was, “Oh. Does that include me now, too?” Have I reached that point where I’m now a woman? When the hell did that happen??

When I was little, I avoided calling myself a “woman” because I always thought it demonstrated immaturity to presume to be more mature than you are. I guess I still think that. But the problem with “woman” now is different and more significant.

If I’m going to call myself a woman, I’d like to know what that means. I would state the obvious to say that society offers us skewed examples and inadequate (and sometimes downright false) definitions of woman and man. So where does sexual definition come from?

Am I “feminine” because of my physical composition? Is it because I have ovaries instead of testicles? Is it based in appearance? Here I am, sitting in jeans and a hoodie with no makeup on. I don’t think I look “feminine” today. Yet I retain that quality somehow.

Is it mental then? Is it related to maternal instinct? What of the women for whom motherhood is not instinctive? If this quality is mental (inherent to the way a woman thinks), how does that fit into the assertion that women can behave and perform as well as a man?

Is this quality emotional? I’ve always feared that possibility. People often scoff at females for being overly emotional. I scoff at women for being overly emotional. I hate most chick flicks because they encourage the emotional roller coaster that many women put themselves on.

*If I may take a moment to rant, I have to say that Grey’s Anatomy is one example of the self-imposed emotional overload. Sex, love, affairs, infidelity, flings, drinking binges, putting people’s lives at risk because someone can’t put personal desires aside…

Anyway, if femininity is emotional quality, can something be overly feminine? If an object can be too much or too little of something, is the quality itself inherently neutral?
What about the etymology of the word? WoMan. Is femininity merely a complement to masculinity? (I confess, sometimes I’m nearly convinced of this and it frustrates me. It doesn’t bother me so much that my significance or some essential part of my soul is incomplete or unrealized without the presence of a man; the struggle is that I may be incomplete but he isn’t. If we are both incomplete without each other (here I speak of woman and man as general beings, not any two people specifically), I could see some bigger purpose in that, some design, equality, and intention.

Perhaps that brings me to my final option. I’ve left one possibility for last. What if femininity is spiritual? What if it is a quality of my soul and therefore, part of my ultimate purpose in life? The question that follows is, how does that impact my goals, relationships, role, and desires?

So I cannot define this thing that I am or soon will be: feminine and woman. Even so, I cannot help but desire it and admire it. Perhaps my desire is an element of my femininity. But I confess, when my friend--someone I indeed deem a man himself--spoke of "women," I felt pride. I was proud of this quality and entity that he holds in esteem, of this thing that I have spent my entire life coming into (to whatever degree I have attained it at this point in my life).

This is merely an introduction to the thoughts that concern me regarding my own identity as well as this thing/quality/characteristic that God designed but society has skewed to the point that I no longer understand it. I don't know if I can answer these questions. I don't know what "experts," other women, men, or God think about the answers to these proposals. I may have to content myself with non-answers; maybe I'll even come to the answer by simply discovering what femininity is not. Whatever my odds for success, this is an exploration that is worthy of my time and energy and I think I want to really invest myself in it.

More to come?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One of the best moments of my life came to my mind the other day.

I was standing on the roof of an apartment building in Washington, DC. I could see the Capitol building just in front of the sunset. I brought my Bible up with me and just read for a while. I opened up to one of my favorite chapters, Romans 8 and remembered something from this summer.

I was walking along the beach at night on Grand Traverse Bay. I could see the lights of the docks across the water. I had seaweed in my pants. Dad was up by a picnic table with his Bible. I was mostly alone. The waves drowned out all my words. It was excellent. I stood with waves soaking my pants up to my thighs. Sand and seaweed.

I shouted at the very top of my lungs, "WHAT THEN CAN WE SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?!"

I was very tempted to shout that again from the apartment building.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Aaand this is for the people who like to think they understand politics.

Because Black-Eyed Peas and Scarlett Johansen are the latest authorities on politics:




Check it.

Seriously, I can't say it isn't a sweet video.

"Spring Air" by Gene Derwood

...lest two living things escape and keep hearts steady,
Beguiles us at this window, heady
And rich, murmurs; touches like flesh
Of loving fingers, timorous but sure.
Intoxicant is this mild, fresh
Warm breath of spring, all mad and pure.
Is this my hand in yours? Am I
So close? Wait till the insinuant wind's gone by.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I've been reading a lot of poetry lately...

Some favorites:

"If You Forget Me" by Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

"Friendship of Lovers" by Peter Stavropoulos
What's a friendship? My Love.
It's when you promise me your company
And keep your promise.
It's when we joke about each other
And laugh at ourselves.
It's when we know we're not perfect
And accept each other as we are.
It's when we don't expect too much
And are happy with what we are given.
It's when we value each other's friendship
Above all else.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spiritual Renewal: Too Dope to Pass Up

At like, 7:15 my generic Ritalin was totally wearing off and my brain was fritzing. I was walking to Spiritual Renewal evening chapel and I had a bazillion half-ideas in my mind and nothing I could do with them. Philosophy class, the sermon at Exit on Sunday, Monday's chapel, my insane busyness, and all this other BS I've been thinking about all creates this web of thoughts. One of my chicas on the wing said it's a blessing...but I don't know about that. It's bullcrap, really (hate that word. Everyone knows I mean to say bulls*** but scruples prevent me from actually saying/writing it.) Anyway, here's the guts of it:

First, there's spiritual renewal. This stuff is compelling. Not that it's new--but according to Socrates, you know everything that is knowable anyway. What's the point of revisiting the Gospel and plan of salvation? I mean, we're all saved here at TU anyway, right?? No, man. This stuff is deep and it doesn't stop with "Jesus, come into my heart."

I've thought about what "the Human Condition" entails until my mind has been drained shizless. I think there are three parts to it: 1) an understanding of oneself, 2) an understanding of the people around us, and 3) an understanding of God. Between Sunday's sermon and the last two days of chapels, all three bases are covered, plus one: we are born in alienation. We’ve fallen off the balance beam before we even got on. We are incapable of fully understanding ourselves, each other, and the Creator.

So Sunday: Darren was talking about marriage. He was giving this argument that God intended man to get married. Now, I haven't always been convinced of this. I mean, what's the real point of marriage? Is it companionship? Why isn't that possible without marriage, like with friends? Is it for children? What if I'm not prepared to have children or don't feel like I'm supposed to become a parent? Is it for sex? Isn't that shallow?

I don't have answers for these; and that used to kill me. However, I'm not as anti-marriage (for myself) as I used to be. The turning point came when I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (stop laughing. really. I mean it now.) There was just this idea of love as being independent of virtue…loving, neither lifting up (on a pedestal) nor smothering, not “in spite of” (what right do I have to love “in spite of” your problems, as if I deserve anything better?)…”to love and not devour,” essentially.

And it’s not just marriage where we fail, either. Even though we may have intense relationships with God, how does that translate to friendships? Spiritual Renewal speaker Colin Smith said that if I could see the glory that God is about to reveal in the believer sitting next to me (Danny Loudermilk), I would be sorely tempted to fall down and worship him. And eventually, nothing will compare to the Glory that Christ will reveal in each believer.

Ah, but I can’t finish that thought…ADD is a painful thing that leaves me with incomplete ideas that morph into other ones more rapidly than a generous soul might smack me across the face and spare me this ridiculosity.

Our relationship with God is something we talk about a bazooka-load here at TU. No fear, I love chapel. I love worship—more than anything, really. But there’s the concept of communication with God…an interchange with him that is ongoing and continually morphing. How does that stay fresh? To quote the SR speaker, we have a shriveled view of the Gospel, one that is unworthy of Christ’s salvation if we think it stops with the forgiveness of sin. We grow closer to Him, we grow deeper in righteousness and confidence in His Spirit.

Self-confidence is also something Pastor Smith briefly addressed today/the other day/I don’t remember. The Holy Spirit comes, not only to break the curse of sin, but to reverse it. The theological term (and I love “terms”) is sanctification. To quote the epitome of Christian knowledge and philosophy, John Avery Whittaker, “It’s a matter of the spirit. Our spirit links up with His in an eternal relationship that gives us the right perspective to understand Him better.” And not only that, we grow more like Him. If we’re growing more like Him and have Him on our side, as my dear Paul says, “What then can we say in response to this?? If God is for us, who can be against us??”

Argh. And my mind has yet more crap-o-la! to speak of. But I'm tired and organizing that mess is absurd when I have class to worry about...dang. I still have to finish reading for tomorrow.

Righteous Stuff--check it

--Socrates, upon the pronouncement of his death sentence:

"In battle, a man often sees that he may at least escape from death by throwing down his arms and falling on his knees before the pursuer to beg for his life. And there are many other ways of avoiding death in every danger if a man is willing to say and to do anything. But my friends, I think that it is a much harder thing to escape from wickedness than from death, for wickedness is swifter than death. And now I, who am old and slow, have been overtaken by the slower pursuer..."

and later to his friend Crito:

"Could we live, having an evil and corrupted body?"
"Certainly not."
"And will life be worth having, if that higher part of man be depraved, which is improved by justice and deteriorated by injustice? Do we suppose that principle, whatever it may be in man, which has to do with justice and injustice, to be inferior to the body?...Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say of us: but what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will say, and what the truth will say."

And one more, from a different source:

"But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Title Explanation

This summer, my family and I went on vacation in Michigan. As usual, I went on several late-night walks, both by myself and with sisters/parents. Well, the lake had TONS of seaweed, especially along the beach. Nevertheless, I can't walk on a beach without getting my feet wet. So, flip-flops in hand, I charged that water, clothes on and everything. I ended up drenched up to my thighs and had plenty of seaweed and sand up and on my pants, but I had some excellent conversations during those walks and they shall not be soon forgotten.

I created the blog shortly after that trip with vaca memories fresh in my mind. Thus, my title.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

About a week ago, my sister and I were marveling the reluctance of many modern teenagers to become not involved, but even simply knowledgeable about American politics. Why wouldn’t they want to know how the government impacts them on a day-to-day basis? They proudly (and ignorantly) boast “the government doesn’t affect me so I don’t need to worry about it,” and “I stay as far as possible away from anything relating to politics.”

So Caroline and I wondered, why would someone be so proud of their disinterest and disconnection from the politics and government of their own country? Indeed, I think I’ve discovered the answer.

Unlike in past time of—well, I’ll not be na├»ve about it. I suppose “growing up” has always come with a certain amount of freedom and liberty. But I think in history, there has always been a certain amount of responsibility and obligation associated with growing up that our generation is unwilling to acknowledge. Of course, I might verily write a book on that, but the relevance is in how it applies to civics. For indeed, adolescents see that they gain legal equality with their parents and elders—driving privileges, status to drink legally or go to clubs, and so on. Yet in all this, they deny the responsibility that they have to their community, to their state, to their nation.

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and observed our democratic form of government, he rightly presumed that a greater sense of individualism and independence would follow equality under the law. The government protects our equal rights as individuals and asks only that we participate in election of the legislators and executives (well, in addition to up to 40% of our total income, but that’s another blog entry…) As long as no one impinges on our liberties, many people feel no desire or obligation to do the serious thinking about these issues; we would rather remain totally independent and committed only to our own aspirations, interests, and necessities.

So certainly, the Peter Pan Syndrome (or whatever sociologists are calling it) has a worse consequence than leaving 20-something men to live off their parents’ income and play video games all day. Abigail Adams warned her son, John Quincy, that character comes with difficult times; and indeed, times are no easier in the 21st century than they were in the 18th and her words are still applicable:
“The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

John Adams is the Man.

I find John Adams a constant companion. So many things that distress me about my character were problems he also struggled with. Distractions, awkwardness, the inclination to imagine that, at the first appearance of friendship, a person loves you, the temptation of vanity and pride, putting too much stock in what others think…yes, we have much in common.

But I also find that he’s quite a man to imitate. He was driven by his passion—for his family, for his country, for books, for knowledge, for good standing among his peers. And he didn’t sit and ruminate about those desires; he acted, he worked, he strove to attain them. God has given me those passions—oh! if only he will help me gain the discipline to work for them!!

And once again, I’m anxious for the school year to begin again. I want to enjoy the company of other people, not for what they can do for me, but for what they are in themselves. I want to delight in the unique characters that God has surrounded me with. I want to look for a revelation of His magnificence in every interaction I have.

I'm on the verge. I'm on the brink. Something's happening here...

Okay, let's try this again.

By establishing what a blog is NOT, perhaps we can better manage the thoughts that I siphon out of my head.

A blog is not a diary. DUH! It's plastered all over the internet, for heaven's sake.

A blog is not a place to rant. People don't want to read whininess.

A blog is not a Facebook wall.

A blog is not a collection of essays.

And so now we'll see what comes from this thingey.