Friday, December 23, 2011

If You Wanna Go...

That awkward moment when you realize someone you once really cared about has become someone you still care about.  Not even become, if you're going to be honest, but really always has been.

It's late, my eyes are tired, but my spirit is even more tired of caring for people and things in my life that honestly don't deserve it...the people who have totally messed with my heart but yet can still bring me to tears in one thought.  They are the people who make me hate that I'm so sensitive, that I let them into my life at all, that I would still be willing to give them a chance if they were to ask for one.  Does that make me pathetic?  Weak?  Or does that make me grace-giving?

But the other half of me shuts down the care with little ounces of dignity and self-worth.  No one should settle for being kind of liked or for uncertainty that ends in heartache.  We cling to what we love, even if it doesn't love us back.  Are we like Christ in that way?

Maybe it's the self-analyzation that should stop.  Maybe I've stepped into the trap of thinking about how I can best serve God instead of focusing on God Himself.  I mean isn't that what church is teaching us these days?  What if I don't trust in my own strength?

I have way too many questions and no answers, like usual.  Actually though, I do have an answer for something, a little piece of truth.  You can't make someone love you if they don't, and even a step farther than that, you can't make someone admit that they do if they won't.  The wisdom comes in realizing that these two things are the same.
So for all the people who don't think you're worth it or aren't sure enough about themselves to ever love you the way you should be loved, let them walk away without a fight.  If they wanna go, just let them go.  And if they ever have the audacity to come back, forgive them.  But remember that they have an unsophisticated heart, and remember the precious nature of yours.  For it is in forgetting that we lose ourselves.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Awkward Time When You Don't Want to Start Something New...

So I'm sitting here after my philosophy final thinking about everything I could have added but didn't, about all the hours I spent prepping for the other questions that I never got to answer while my mind takes some time to recover.  And since I have dinner plans in twenty minutes, I thought it a perfect time for a blog post.

It's about that time when I start reflecting on this past semester, its importance, and what it's taught me about life, or rather what God has taught me through it.  I only took 15 credits, so I don't have much to show for what I've learned, especially since getting straight A's is totally out of the question.  But man, it's been some semester :)  The integration I experienced between education psychology, Old Testament, and philosophy is quite incredible; I never knew how integral the nature of how we welcome goods and what a child needs to develop and viewing Genesis as a function account rather than a creation account could become when studied simultaneously.  Such is the beauty of a liberal arts education.  Not only have my classes been incredible (and excruciatingly yet pleasantly? tough), but my rooming situation has added greatly to my life.  It's been extremely difficult learning how to best love and live with my best friend, and it's been rough most of the time, but only because of that roughness can we have its opposite.  Never before have I acknowledged my insatiable desire to please people because my personality is so strong that it obscures this.  It's true though, like mother like daughter, I've inherited this flaw.  And so has my roommate, but it's expressed in a completely different way.  Where she changes outwardly in response to people's demands and wants of her, I change inwardly.  I let the ones I love walk all over me, I let their opinion of me create a war against myself, and I keep my true voice from being heard so as not to be seen as obstinate.  Most people would probably say they hear my true voice too often, but not regarding relationships.  I can speak my mind about ideas and still respect yours, but I can't stand up for myself in a relationship if it knocks the other person down.  Sometimes however, as I've found recently, by letting someone walk on you in a relationship you're making sure they never truly learn how to treat someone and so are limiting their ability to flourish.  Maybe it's not a knocking down that occurs when you lovingly stand your ground but a picking back up, a dusting off, into the will of God.

So here's to this semester, for finding my voice again through the grace and peace extended to me through Jesus Christ.  Here's to this semester, which has brought with it an even stronger calling to education, to writing, and to philosophy.  And finally, here's what was worth more than even the $17,000 spent on this semester: that I've found my way through Divinity to the path of trust.

Keep carrying the fire.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Haunting of the Heart

My heart has undergone quite a bit since November of 2010, yet it still seems to ask the same questions.  I think I'm finally starting to understand that as cliche as it sounds, He is the only answer.  This conclusion, as seemingly shallow and amateur to the Christian faith, was reached logically for me a long time ago.  But it took me a broken relationship, family illness, friendship betrayal, philosophical quandaries, and a whole lot of confusion for it to resonate in my soul.

I've never felt fulfilled in my life, although I have had moments, days, and even weeks that appeared so.  I thought that if I just sought God harder, dove into His Word more adamantly, I would finally get the questions of my heart answered.  But God doesn't promise self-fulfillment here on earth, as my Old Testament teacher reminded us on Friday.  And finally, I felt my soul say, Yes, it is well.  Finally something was answering its scream with, "You weren't meant to!"  I am outrageously blessed and at times I'm filled with joy that can only come from the spiritual realm, but still something haunts me.  Something evades my senses and threatens me with its chill.  Just like the love that I lost last year.

St. Augustine describes in Confessions how he nailed his heart to a person, and when that person backed up, it stretched his heart so far that it broke.  Who gave us these nails?  Maybe it was God.  Maybe these nails were meant to bring us to Him but our sin corrupted our actions.  No, though.  I don't think God gave them to us.  We don't need nails to bind our wandering hearts to the Maker of them--we need trust, that which ebbs and flows with each circumstance but remains steadfast.  I think our enemies give us nails.  Culture says fulfillment is to be had.  The ones who want us to love them manipulate us into thinking we need them, and we sometimes become their slaves.  The enticement of security and certainty beckons from a distance, saying who can take out these nails once you've pierced them?  And we laugh when we find out that it was partially true, that our heart broke instead.  There's a morbidity to it, what we do to ourselves, what we let our enemies do to us.  But we think it's all there is.  We think we've found the answer to life even though we can't hold it long enough to know for sure.

Even when we find an answer, we want a different one, or we want more questions so we can find more answers.  We can only be satisfied with what is infinite and eternal.  So let your heart be haunted this Christmas season, let it hunger and thirst for that which is eternal--resting at the fountain of Living Water all of us crazy Christians talk about.  It's not a promise of complete fulfillment because in this life we only catch glimpses of what is to come.  But it is a promise of restoration, of redemption, of beauty, and most ontologically, of TRUTH.

My heart has been left aching in search, but it aches now instead for what is good and noble and pure.  I'll leave you with my own meditation, a future marriage mirror of mine that reflects the very fiery passion of my soul that seeks the most Wild Lover in all of history.

i focused on our foot steps, the soft patting of our worn soles against the gravel.  so much peace, so much security.  i have this smile.  this particular smile.  but it only comes out when i feel like everything is right, when the bad fades into this part of myself that i’m no longer in touch with.  well, there is no time when everything is right, just when it feels right.  when my soul is longing for this guy they called jesus but at the same time, it’s so full.  so full.  we continue walking.  he leads the conversation.  i think back to another.
i like when the girl talks, he had said.  because i never really have much to say.  and if she doesn’t say anything, then it’s awkward, and i don’t like it.
no, he’s not.  no.  he has things to say.  he has people to love.  he has places to see.  he has a world in his heart and his mind that he’s ready to explore.  we sit down under a tree. our tree.  the one with the weeping branches that sways so smooth.  we like the drooping branches, the ones that look heavy but yet yell this lightness, this air of softness, of strength.  i don’t lean against him.  i don’t have to.  i want to, with the want of the world, but something stops me.  this tug on my heart. it pulls.  to gaze upon someone who finds his strength from the maker of that tree that we call ours. what longing we find there.  but this longing isn’t of the world.  he knows that.  we know.  so there’s no need for touch, for treasure to become temptation.  more power exists in the patience, a power we are both enslaved to.  it frees us.  it frees us to know this power we don’t possess is surrounding us in the sways so smooth, in the wind that whips my hair from my face, in his eyes where such intention lies. i think back to another.
to be in the way of his intention rather than the intent of his intention.  oh the difference!  to be talked to, but no, not as an equal, as a means to mention something memorable.  school, he had said, home he had said, surface talk. 
the subconscious, he said, the supernatural.  these things which we think about, that make up the substance.  the majesty of the arts...books, poems, lyrics.  together, under the sways so smooth we silence our souls.  to know, to be known is to know the lord.  the only lord.  we submit.  we sink into the earth.  he smiles at me and says i’m captivating, i love to love the lord in you, he said, i love to love the mind in you, i love to love that smile.  that particular smile, he said.  knowing that i can never put it there alone.  i think back to another.
he didn’t try to make me smile.  he didn’t care.  he was there.  yea, he was there.  he saw me.  yea, he saw the outside of me.  he didn’t care to know more.  he was a godly man, he liked sunday service.  punctual.  consistent.  he will provide someday, he will.  he’s a moral man.  don’t try to impress them, i had said.  they already like your face, your features.  they like your lackadaisical lay, your casual way.  they don’t need the mind, they have the eye.
what’s it mean, he asked, to turn water to wine.  what’s it mean to have an undivided heart, neither hot nor cold. o church of Laodicea!  why do we not think about the way we think or sit together, together, under the sways so smooth and not awe at his majesty, his might, his mason jar.  i want to travel the world with you, he said, i want to travel, and taste, to be tangential.  and touch, to touch your skin on our wedding night.  i want to love your imperfections, to wipe your hair away from your tear-smeared face, to get frustrated with you, to fear how you know me, he said.  but, this want, this want comes from what’s good and pure and lovely and admirable.  with you, darling, i want to serve the maker of that tree we call ours, he says.  all the days of my life.


Friday, November 25, 2011

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans

I'm not a list-maker.  I used to be.  But then I started feeling like my life was a checklist, a new list every day with all the same old tasks on it...homework in every subject, and I stopped finding joy in the actual living of it.  I think, instead, I changed out list-making for something more dangerous to my spiritual life...plan-making.  Part of what made it so dangerous was that I didn't even realize I was doing it.

I was sitting with my roommate a couple weeks ago, and she asked me if I had dinner plans.  Of course I did.  I always did.  Because I hate eating alone.  It's a great time to keep in touch with dear friends, but if I'm being honest, that wasn't my first priority.  Yes I know, so selfish.  Then she said, "Oh right, you plan."  "No I don't!" I answered.  "I don't even keep a planner, except for big events!"  She went on to explain that I don't make lists of things to do, but I always have a plan B.  I had already decided what I was going to do if she becomes an RA and I don't or if we both become RAs, or if by the crazy off-chance that I do and she doesn't.  I had already decided how I would handle a crush depending on how he responded to me.

And then I was sitting in OT coloring my pen over itself in a big blob of ink, and I realized that I don't trust God, not really.  I trust Him as my Savior and as Jesus Christ, but I don't trust Him like I would a heavenly father.  I was betrayed by a friend a couple weeks back, and ironically, how I felt then was how I often feel with the God of my heart.  I feel like He's holding out on me, that He doesn't want me to be happy, or that He will only be glorified through my pain.

But through last semester's pain, He showed me that He does know better.  He has a plan of sanctification for me.  He is GOOD.  How many times we sing this in church and space out about the rest of the day...He is good.  Sometimes my pain is the means by which I get to the good end, to the realization that He is good apart from circumstances.

One of my greatest desires is to be a wife.  Maybe it's a desire derived from culture, but for some reason, it seems to be coming from a deeper place.  Wise Christians would tell me not to count on this desire being fulfilled, for God doesn't always gives us what we want.  I know this.  But I also know my heart.  I know that it's easier for me to believe it won't be fulfilled because then I don't have to have faith that it will, and I can kill a longing deep within.  I don't want to live in the future.  And I don't depend on a guy for my happiness--I am happy, utterly blessed, and deeply loved.

Yet I think I need to choose to have faith, to trust, that God is listening.

So here's the deal...I'm not the first one with this problem.  In fact, I share it with the Israelites.  Over and over they couldn't trust God.  They said they knew a better way and denied His holiness, His providence.  Ended up with the wrong king.  I, like the Israelites, have grown weary of not trusting.  I'm tired of misplacing my trust, of putting it into people, and when they let me down, using plan B of detachment.  What if I gave up plan B?  What if I chose to trust first God, and out of my trust for Him, started really trusting people?  I shouldn't trust people not to hurt me because that's not really trust at all. No, instead, I could trust that they're trying their best to love me and just suck at it.  Same of me to them.  The amazing thing is that when they break my trust, God is there waiting for a cry, He's waiting for me to say that life is hard but that His burden is light, His yoke easy.

I know what it's like to be wildly attracted to a man following after God's heart, but do I have the wild abandon it takes to follow a God I can't comprehend, to trust His heart is good?  Herman Melville once said, "The reason the mass of men fear God and at bottom dislike him is because they rather distrust his heart, and fancy him all brain, like a watch."  Ironically, my God is outside of time.

Hear my whisper in the wind, Lord, and grow it into a audacious voice.
Lead me in the way everlasting. I trust you.  I trust.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is a person?

Here I am on a Saturday afternoon, my mind going a million miles a minute, and I'm distracted by the onslaught of things vying for my attention.  It's an interesting concept, being distracted by your own mind, but if you have the stamina to read this post to the end, I think you'll get it.  But bonus points for you; I'd be slightly impressed as well.

The question that has been haunting me this semester, or maybe in more positive terms, probing me, is "What is a person?"  I've been asking this question in many different contexts: philosophy, educational psychology, friendships, dating relationships, true love, family, community at Wheaton, and ultimately, relationship with the one true and living God.  And although I should be writing a developmental theories paper at the moment, I'm going to share not an answer but simply further inquiry.

Culture.  Culture dictates that we hide our hearts or follow them into sin.  Extremes.  But what if we can live in extremes without sacrificing that which is life-giving?  I've never been one to hide my heart, but I have succumbed to cultural practices that do so, I think more subconsciously.  For example, attraction.  Girls are told, as my brother just reminded me, to play hard to get.  To not let your emotion show or be too audacious.  What is this if not a covering of our true selves?  Listen, I'm not advising that we abandon all discretion in worldly pursuit of a person of the opposite gender fulfilling all of our needs, but I have also recently found a moral dilemma in letting guys chase, only to find the chase in itself was more exciting than the end.  Because this is a facade; the chase is never more exciting.  To get to know someone, to look deep in their eyes and see a beating soul, this is excitement.  And the chase that guys often settle for is anything but.  At the same time, because our culture is bound up in this concept, girls feel a resistance to be counter-cultural; to make their feelings known would be to....gasp, risk vulnerability, a feminine quality I believe comes naturally to most girls, if they have learned to truly live. It's actually funny that I'm even writing about this, because many people who know me probably think in the back of their heads that I'm obsessed with finding intimacy, with relationships, but this isn't my intent.  See, God has wired each of us for intimacy, and I have a passion for relationships...I used to find my worth in them, but this isn't that.  My question is deeper than that of a young girl searching for love.  I've found Love.  And this isn't about dissing guys who love the chase; we all need a good adventure.  I guess I'm asking why.  What is it that's so enticing about love?

A person.  Is an intrinsically, intensely complex being.  There is so much research in ontology, in neuroscience, yet we can't even seem to understand how we ourselves think, how our neural pathways are formed.  Why then, are we so oriented to sharing our lives with one other person who we understand even less than ourselves, who we are sure to come in conflict with, be hurt by, and even risk rejection for the mystery, or idea, of intimacy with them?  I would say culture (movies, books, magazines), and although I don't think it could indubitably be proven that it isn't culture, I think culture also represents the destruction of love.  I can watch movie after movie about lost love and broken relationships, yet still find myself longing for it afterward.  I would say for the pleasure of it, but I know from experience this can't be all encompassing either.  Last semester I went through a difficult and excruciatingly painful relationship-type experience, and even though this guy caused much distress in my life, the only reason I ended it was because I knew it wasn't honoring to God and it wasn't really what this guy wanted.  I loved him, and I wanted him to be happy despite my own lack.  I would say camaraderie, or companionship; who doesn't like to have a bunch of silly similarities with someone who intimately gets you, inside and out?  But if this was the sole reason, then friendship would be enough.  We would never want anything more.  I would say for certainty in security, but this too falls short.  Marriage doesn't make us secure; it doesn't fulfill us, bring us unending happiness.

So then what?  What is the common thread that ties us to this insatiable desire?  I think for me it's definitely a combination of those things, but more than all of those, it's a desire to be more like Christ.  It's a desire to take care of someone, to be mindful of someone other than myself, and to learn how to be loved in return.  It's an effort to see God in that which is tangible.  Underneath the rush of hormones triggered in a guy when a girl brushes her hand against the back of his neck, or in a girl when a guy gently places his hand on her lower back, bringing her to himself, is an intuition.  It's a recognition that this person cannot fulfill your every longing and cannot empathize with every situation in your past or even understand the depth of your emotion or logic but that they're willing to try anyway.  They're willing to try because they see a shadow of beauty, and they are willing to risk everything to draw closer to the everlasting.  They're willing to try because they feel it too.

Heart. Desire. Passion. Christ.  We love because He first loved us.  And perfect love casts out all fear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of those "can't think of a title" weeks...

Well.  I just finished the 2nd movie of the week...pre-Thanksgiving, anyone?  And the thing is I'm restless. Restless because of possibility.  Why is it that living a habitual, normal life can be so enticing when the chaos of new circumstances throw you into disequilibrium?  I feel like I'm changing, but the world is staying the same.  I don't know who to turn to, who will get me.  Because reality is that I'm far away from home, and I'm tired.  I'm tired of the ridiculousness of guy/girl interactions at Wheaton.  I'm tired of the over-spiritualized atmosphere.  I'm tired of the work and the stress and the friendship strife.  Yet something grounds me here, something tells me this is where God wants me, in the middle of all I can't understand.

Crush...  Catalyst to confusion.  Can I turn off the outside voices?  Can I just get to know you?  Can I cut the complication?  Should I.

If I say I want to walk in the way of the everlasting, does that make it true?  Or does that make me a hypocrite?  I long to be known, but maybe the unknown is beckoning me.  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I stood by, watching, waiting.  Will it ever be my turn to walk?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Patience is a virtue.

Patience is like ballet.  It appears with such elegance, dripping like honey across our bodies, developing into a full and bodily art.  Beautiful.  Grace.  Wonder.  What we desire.  Yet the art itself is excruciating to create--pain seeps into the inside ankle muscles, makes the lower back sore for days.  Patience.  Patience too, is painful.  We hurt so good to see it complete in us, to long for the Lord's work which battles within-- our quick, impulsive selves driven by society drawing our flesh in reverberations against our soul.

But I continue to wait upon the Lord.  Because I refuse to settle for a Saul (1 Samuel 15).  No, I wait upon the Lord, suffer through the tight pull of tangible flesh against the things above, spiritual, which draw me towards the everlasting.

I choose to obey.  I choose to let the Lord have His way.  Jehovah.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Nomad's Hesitation

Over and over my liberal arts education has caused everything in my life to collide...this weekend, especially.  After I awoke this morning and prepared to attend yet another church, I was distressed with the fact that I'm a sophomore and am still church-hopping.  My mind wandered during the service, exploding with events from the weekend.  None of these events ever seem to pan out quite the way I always hope they will.

And I started thinking about the church.  What is the church?  Why am I still wandering in the desert waiting for Christ to call me somewhere?  Why, after a whole year and almost a quad do I feel as if I'm still in transition, losing friendships I thought would last forever in replacement of uncertainty?  The only thing I knew as I sat there was that I don't like dressing up for church.  Yes, that's the profound thought that entered my mental framework.  Great.  Great start, deciding where I want to go to church based on my own preferences and going against cultural norms of Sunday's best attire all at once.  But I began to unpack that thought.  The Sabbath is a time for us as Christians to give up our tell God that we're a mess, and that we need  everything He is because no one else can ever be Him.  I want to feel comfortable in my church.  Is that such a horrible thing?  A lot of messages have registered in my head since being at Wheaton, and I feel like some of them aren't Biblical.  I think our own preferences are important.  Actually, I don't think God cares where we go to church, as long as His truth is resonating in our hearts.

The irony each of us encounter on a Sunday morning is astounding; we hear sermons about how WE can better live out the Christian life, but where does God fit into our attempts.  As a helper?  He is OUR GOD, not the other way around.  I wish more services could be focused on the nature of God, not how we can supposedly better connect with Him.  Our works are definitely not going to accomplish anything.  We need to say we can't live out the Christian life better because our attempts outside of Christ are ridiculously futile.  We need to stop seeing sermons as a checklist on whether we're right with God or not, whether we've done what He wanted us to do.  Reality check= we haven't.  He loves us...can't we just be?  I want to be at my church.  I want to come in sweatpants and just be with my Maker.  Ha, so I'm not planning on going to church in sweatpants next week, but that's the sense of comfort I long for in the body of Christ.  I understand why people dress up, and I respect their reverence, but that's not me.  I feel composed, put-together, like I'm holding in the chaos of what's actually happening inside me...I feel in control when I look my best.  This is why I think it's okay to say that's not me, despite popular belief that "it's not about us."  No, in essence it's not about us, but church is how WE connect to GOD and EACH OTHER.  And that's a three-way street.

Interestingly, the pastor started talking about Christ as the hub of the church.  My roommate explained yesterday about this video she watched in sociology about how in 6 connections, you are connected to everyone in the entire world, but how scientists are finding out that this is only possible because of hubs, like celebrities or powerful people.  Christ is our hub.  Without Him, we can no longer be connected to humanity.  You may disagree because non-Christians are connected to non-Christians...however, they aren't really ontologically connected.  They are just two people who find camaraderie in loving themselves and finding companionship in that similarity.  In order for the water to spring forth, we must locate the faucet.  I have found my faucet in Christ, but I still search for the manifestation of that on Earth.

As some final stray thoughts, my friend Dominique posted a song by Steve Moakler, and these lyrics struck me particularly:

The human heart is a scary part in fact
Because I could break you and you could break me back
Though my head says just forget it, you'll get hurt and you'll regret it
Ask me now, and I won't hesitate//

I've found myself hesitating this week, to express my thoughts, to admit my faults because I'm afraid of being broken.  We forget so often that our Father is the only one who has the potential to completely destroy us but is the only one who won't.  Refine us, but not tear us apart.  So, I guess I urge all of you to be honest in your petitions before the Lord.  Don't be afraid to admit your preferences.  And to not be shamed by a nomadic state, because after all, as brothers in sisters in Yahweh, we are all in transition.

Excuse me while I fall for the very Creator of my heart ;)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

language- the spoken tongue of the soul

One of the strangest realities I've thus far encountered is that of human behavior, and after, the language of which our behavior externalizes itself.

When I made the acquaintance of Jose, a Spanish guy who lives in Lugo, last night, the Spanish custom of a kiss on each cheek seemed all the more awkward than an American handshake.  It wasn't the custom itself that was awkward but the fact that Jose wouldn't look at me.  I think this behavior was a result of me being not only a complete stranger but a foreigner by definition.  Mostly, though, I think it's because I am a girl, and he a teenage boy.  I feel in a way the complexities of guy/girl friendships/relationships will plague me for the rest of my life because they are just that-- complex.  As the night progressed, he made subtle glances my way, and by the end of the night, we were conversing together with only little bits of language barriers between us.

Because of this experience, something about language was uncovered to me.  See, initially Jose and I had the large chasm of it separating us from any sense of familiarity--he didn't know that I could understand him, and well, I didn't talk much at first.  And I realized that when first meeting someone of the opposite sex your own age, language becomes a clutch, a safe haven to guard against the awkward chemistry that surfaces.  So naturally without that commonality, we would rather avoid relationship altogether.  Until, that is, we realize that despite these differences in speaking, we have something much more tangible in common--humanity.

So here's to a kiss on each cheek, an acknowledgement to the Lord for the beauty of each distinct language, and a constant flow of thanksgiving to Him for keeping us connected to each other still.  To Him be the glory, and may we speak truthfully the language of our soul.

Saturday, July 23, 2011 la vida?

It must have been quite a sight to see a half-American, half-Spanish 19-year-old girl sitting at the head of a table with six other Spaniards over the age of sixty (my grandparents and their friends) at a quaint but fancy restaurant in Northern Spain.  The funniest part was that you couldn't tell I was only half-Spanish until I opened my mouth.  The poor waiter realized that my first language was English and started listing off desserts, which my grandparents insisted I pick from, in broken English.  It was cute. Pero era tambien una pictura comica.

This experience, and many others I've had since arriving in Spain almost a week ago have had me thinking about the nature of travel, of culture.  I've heard from various people that traveling is "the life," but I'm not convinced.  There are many things that separate Americans from the Spanish, probably more than that which is similar...yet our similarities stand out, are much more powerful.  I see Spaniards begging on the streets of Lugo, and I think I might as well be in downtown Chicago.  I see people sharing angst towards the government, and I could be anywhere in the world...well maybe except the Middle East, but even now.  Languages, although distinct, have words that we all share, we all understand.  This is the danger in travel, that people begin to believe that because they are well-travelled they are in turn more cultured.  No.  You're not more cultured unless somewhere along your travels you change.  You gain a respect, not just a note, that these people have their own customs, their own way of life, and you are only a visitor.

See, it's not enough to simply be in an unfamiliar place.  Then how are you any different than someone who takes a wrong road or goes into an unusual store across town?  I am convinced that one could travel his or her whole life and still be lacking as much "culture" as a child of ten who has never left his small town.  The difference lies in your interactions with those of that culture, your willingness to see things from their point of view rather than instigating your own.  Your new understanding of how things work there before telling them you disagree.  It's enjoying their lifestyle.

I think we could learn a few things from the Spaniards.  For example, if you order un cafe con leche, which is an equivalent to a Starbuck's latte, you have to sit down to drink it, and it's about half the size of a tall latte in Estados Unidos.  The back windows of every car aren't tinted like in the U.S. on most cars.  Interestingly, the Spanish seem to be more guarded within their homes which are usually enclosed by a thick iron gate, yet are more carefree in public.  And la familia isn't just the people you live with...they're tu sangre, your blood, extending to all that in the U.S. we might classify as "distant" relatives.  I think everyone, especially Americans, would benefit from slowing down a bit, finding step with the Europeans in their morning cafes or afternoon siestas, for life is more than what you can accomplish in a business suit.

So if you're ever a tourist in another country, don't walk around like you're better than those who stayed wisely at home.  Because travel isn't just about the thrills, the change of pace, the extravagance of doing something else for a while.  It's about what sets us apart from each other, yet more intricately what connects us despite everything else.

There is much more in the world to see, to experience, than yourself.  And we are only blessed visitors.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

complex vs. complicated problems

i went out with a friend about a week ago, and he told me about his theory, his theory of complex vs. complicated problems.  i won't go into much detail about the complicated problems because those don't involve people.  but complex problems, he said, don't have solutions the way complicated ones do.  he explained that as a child, the way you went about solving a problem was vastly different than the way you do now, or at least it should be, but that only helps you with complicated problems. of course this theory isn't fool-proof and can be confusing, but hear me out...

complex problems are complex because with every new interaction you have with someone, it changes your entire relationship, my friend explained.

only here's the catch: i think our resistance to change is limiting our ability to solve complex problems.  for example, you have an ex girlfriend or ex boyfriend and you see them randomly one day while walking down the street, and all of a sudden all these feelings of pain, regret, remorse come flooding back to you.  it's because you haven't let change have its way, you've stuck so long to who that person used to be to you that you aren't willing to give it up, let them be who they are to you now.

i realized that i don't want to run into people from my past and already have all these pent-up emotions about them.  i want to let every new interaction with them shape who they are in my life, to let go of who they were.  because this sick obsession with wanting things our own way keeps us from experiencing better things.  just because there were bitter feelings in a past relationship doesn't mean that person can't someday be something different to you.  maybe someday you won't feel anything but joy for them, if you would only let it be complex rather than stuffing it into the complicated category.  see, what if it's not a solution we need?  what if it's redemption?  what if we need to allow change to transform our messed up relationships?

i know that nostalgia can be a powerful remedy, but i think it's a fake bandage.  nostalgia can be good in small doses, but when it rules our lives, it takes the healing from our hearts.

it's time.  to move forward.  to deal with the past and stop letting emotions control.  the paradox is that when we let emotions control us, we miss out on the best of them.  and i don't just want to live my life, i want to feel it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

a day in the life...from a chemist's perspective

i started a chemistry class today, and i wanted to copy a little anecdote of their description of a typical morning...i hope it's as enjoyable to you as it was to me:

"Molecules align in the liquid crystal display of your clock and electrons flow to create a noise.  A cascade of neuronal activators arouses your brain, and you throw off a thermal insulator of manufactured polymer and jump in the shower to emulsify fatty substances on your skin and hair with purified water and formulated detergents.  Then, you adorn yourself in an array of processed chemicals--pleasant-smelling pigmented materials suspended in cosmetic gels, dyed poly-meric fibers, synthetic footwear, and metal-alloyed jewelry.  Breakfast is a bowl of nutrient-enriched, spoilage-retarded cereal and milk, a piece of fertilizer-grown, pesticide-treated fruit, and a cup of a hot aqueous solution of stimulating alkaloid.  After abrading your teeth with artificially flavored, dental-hardening agents in a colloidal dispersion, you're ready to leave, so you grab your laptop (an electronic device containing ultrathin, microetched semiconductor layers powered by a series of voltaic cells), collect some books (processed cellulose and plastic, electronically printed with light- and oxygen resistant inks), hop in your hydrocarbon-fueled, metal-vinyl-ceramic vehicle, electrically ignite a synchronized series of controlled gaseous explosions, and you're off to class!"


Saturday, June 4, 2011

what we've settled for.

i don't know what kept me from writing in a blog before...maybe it's the fact that anyone in the entire universe can catch a glimpse of my thoughts, that it's so vulnerable to be open this way, but i know that's not why.  because reality is that i've never had a problem being honest with anyone, my problem is actually the opposite- staying closed.  but that's the thing, what good is staying closed?  sure, you have the reassurance that your secrets, your sins are safe, but doesn't sharing part of your life invite the people you love to share parts of theirs?  so it's selfish then...but it's not, really.  it can be, but what if the real motive behind being open and vulnerable isn't to get what you want but to rend your heart from the world that isolates you, keeps you alone.  what if the real reason is to allow others to really see you, and in the process, maybe see themselves too?

and as i sit here, thinking back on my life thus far, to this very second, i'm surprised by the things i've tried to hold on to, even the guy that i fell in love with along the way.  the way we live life, it's so backwards, grabbing onto the things we think we need when what we need is the one who created these things. because through Him comes all good things.
so if the love that i wanted to settle for isn't from Him, then i don't want it.  why is it so hard for us to wait, creatures of habit who demand once and then spend our whole lives thinking that they belong to us.

i don't know, this life is chaotic, and it's messy, and so i'm going to thrash my thoughts out on this blog from time to time, unhindered.  i can't promise any perfect syntax, or even cohesiveness within my thoughts, but i can promise honesty. and honesty, my dear brothers and sisters, can be a beautiful thing, that is, if we're not being deceived ourselves.