postmodern malaise

i've always been an indecisive person. at least i think so. i'm really not sure. (yes that's a joke, sort of). actually sometimes i wonder if i'm truly indecisive or if i just grew up with two older sisters so i got used to not really getting my way. when your suggestions for what you want never get picked eventually you just cope with the disappointment and decide that it's better not to have an opinion so as not to be disappointed. you baby's of the family out there know what i'm talking about. unless you were the type to throw a fit and get your way. in that case i'm not sure whether to congratulate your effectiveness or question the will-power of your older siblings. (that was a joke too--ah parentheticals, isn't this such a helpful post?)

being indecisive may lead to problems when it comes to picking where to go out to eat, what clothes to buy, what music to listen to at any given moment, etc. sometimes you can pass it off as being overly considerate of the other person's need, which actually is probably somewhat often the case.

but then there are the times when being indecisive gets you into real trouble--deciding what college to go to, who to marry, 2 kids or 3, what job to do, which is the salad fork? not having the right answer for those things can get you into some real trouble. how can we know what the right answer is?

you see part of the problem lies in this time of life i think. youth is wasted on the young they say, and this is something like that--only in between. when i was young i thought i was just like adults (probably because debate taught me how to out-argue them), but i wasn't. i certainly lacked a degree of consciousness. i had no real idea the impact of the decisions i was making, what they meant to my life, how they would effect the course of my life. i had a vague idea i guess, and people told me that was the case--but i didn't really feel the burden of it. i don't know that i could have.

but now i feel that burden. all the time. the major decisions of life stare me down. they face everyone, and how you decide means so much. i've always been averse to making the decisions out of practicality. a lot of people make that choice to do -fill in the blank- because they must. they must make money, have a job, move forward in life. they make the decision not because it's what they really want, but because it is there and they wouldn't mind it most likely. or people avoid this decision-making as long as they can, going to grad school simply because they don't know what to do yet, or taking some time "off" from "real" life--perhaps traveling or wandering in whatever way. but sooner or later the demands of the reality of life press in and you must make decisions--that is if you want to eat and not live in your parents' basement, or upper room (a more modern development actually with the growth of independence--more on this later*).

it's not just major life decisions. it's also normal important decisions, at your job or with people in life. to make a decision you have to cut yourself off from every other possibility that could have come before that decision was made. and so you lose that. you lose something you never would have had, but still somehow possessed in your mind as opportunity. and you have to make a choice, for not making a choice is a choice in itself--and is far worse of course. then you lose all opportunity. but why is the decision to one thing not enough? sometimes it is. but often it isn't. things will go badly at times, and i don't know how you can continue without looking back and asking the question, "did i make the right decision" somewhat frequently.

perhaps the problem, as one of my friends suggests, is *autonomy. there used to be a time when we didn't have to make those decisions. marriage was arranged. you did the job of your family. you didn't really move because there was no need to, and no real opportunity elsewhere. sure we treasure our freedom, but we also long for a much more simple life in some ways. statistics show that hatians, who living in an ancient simplicity making less than a thousand dollars a year, are actually generally happier than americans.

the 4th of july is approaching, and while we will celebrate our country and freedom and all that, i'm asking the question if maybe freedom is not good all the time in any form. because when it comes down to it, there is no way that at 24 i have the capacity to treat my freedom with the wisdom and responsibility it truly requires. when i was younger i could make decisions because i was ignorant. when i'm older, perhaps i'll have less consequence to my choices, but then perhaps i'll have a little more wisdom when facing them. but what about this time? two aspects for now:

1. we have put ourselves, the individual, in control. we think we always know what's best for ourselves. and what have we received? narcissism, depression, multifrenicism (always trying on different hats), shallow living (when we deny the problem and cope with any number of entertaining distractions), and the inability to trust ourselves.

2. we also sometimes put ourselves in charge of knowing what's best for others. simply put, this is called authority. when i see people who are willing to make those hard decisions (for themselves or for others), i think they are either ignorant or have great courage. and if the decision implies leading other people and narrowing their direction, i tend to find that audacious and have a difficult time doing that myself. even when you want the best for them and desire to lead them into a good place, you're still going to make mistakes--and now at the expense of others too. where does the authority come from? and unless you have this authority (can it be without audacity?) how can you make that decision?

i think this is something that we could call the postmodern malaise.

i have a deep sense and desire for spiritual direction in me. i think this might be something growing in people. i read a book about the modern despair: the moviegoer by walker percy. of course it was written in 1960, but a part of it in particular stretches into today i think. one of the characters came to the conclusion that she just needed religion, but not of the sort we know. we are much too particular to be led by a church, we can maybe find the one that is good enough to go to--but to submit to it and really let it lead us. never. no, she chooses a man as the object of her religion. she tells him that the only way she will make it is if he always tells her exactly what to do, then she won't be afraid to do it. not because she trusts him as some great man of wisdom or faith, but because he is "not religious." she says of him, "you are the unmoved mover. you don't need God or anyone else--no credit to you, unless it is a credit to be the most self-centered person alive. i don't know whether i love you, but i believe in you and i will do what you tell me." he's unmoved because he is extremely passive. he has no care or passion or want for anything in life. that's one way to avoid fear--want nothing. of course she would do what God would tell her to do. but when she talks about that option she just leaves it there, almost as if it is just quite fanciful or simply impossible.

i have a propensity of mysticism in me for sure. and i've always desired the sort of relationship made up of constant communication with God. i want to do what he wants me to do. of course i don't always go to God with every decision and i don't have that relationship--though i'm striving towards it hopefully. and yet at times it seems like lots of decisions are left up to us, even when we ask for God's direction. probably a good thing, since we would blame him for it when things went not exactly as well as we would wish them or expect. i don't quite fully understand this though... so it is better to not have direction? when sometimes there is no one right direction? how do you choose then? my conclusion of the best option available is dreadfully insufficient.

i think this is as far as i can take these thoughts now. sure it's quite a long entry i know, but it's not like i've come to any real conclusions here. except that i really want a spiritual director. a wise old mystic. are you out there? oh but i already knew i wanted that. i'll sit with these thoughts and maybe write more later. and i would love your impressions and thoughts.



i play golf. it's true. you might have to know me fairly well to know this--or not. but that's the funny thing about it. golf is such a strange and unique hobby, activity, sport, recreation, passion. it's almost as if it's unlike anything else. and the strange thing about it is that if you don't play, then you won't understand easily, and i'm not sure how to put it into words.

i grew up going to play at a fancy high-end private club in kc. the kids and women were/are snotty. the older guys aren't so bad mostly though. it's an elitist society. i can't stand it. but the sport gives me great memories, and it's something i share with my dad. it's weird to think that most the people at that club make way more in a day than i make in a month. ha. and they let me in...

but really, what other sport or activity is so sequestered? people make these private clubs for giant plots of land with finely shaped grass, sand, and water. topped with a giant clubhouse where people treat you as they are servants in your own mansion, so long as you're wearing the proper attire.

every now and then i look at a certain activity, something that a group of humans are engaging in, and i think to myself, "what in the world would someone who had no cultural context for this (like an alien or something) think if they saw us doing this?" they would think we are so weird. case in point: the circus.

the game itself though has a strange aura around it. there is something in it that draws people out to keep playing. it is a ferocious mind battle, the focus it requires. one slight alteration in your swing will change the flight of the ball drastically. there is so much to think about: how you hold your hands, where to place the ball in your stance, the wind, where the trouble is, where to miss, taking the back-swing right, turning the hands, keeping the hips still, holding the shoulder closed, etc. and it changes with every shot. it's all in your head. and yet you are around 3 other people who are all going through the same process over and over.

the thing about golf is, you can go out with someone and spend 4-5 hours, hardly talking all that much, and walk off the course knowing them quite well. golf brings out a lot about a person's character. you can tell so much about a person by the way they respond to a bad shot, the way they practice before taking a shot, the way they respond to other's shots.

another thing about golf is that it affords so much sucking. you can be just about worse at it than anything else in your life, but of your 118 strokes that day you hit one that was just high and beautiful and right down the middle. and you'll be coming back for more.

i have no idea if this is interesting to any of you. i can't really convey it very well--especially the comedy behind it all. surrounded by mansions, hitting a little white ball ($4 a pop with high-tech cores to fly far and land soft) with highly forged pieces of iron and tungsten and whoever knows what other metals. you're disconnected from the world for those few hours, and it might seem like you're spending them in nature if it all wasn't so weird with everything around you so artificial.

still, i love it for whatever reason. oh and the guy we played on thursday gave me a cigar from a certain country that makes great cigars...shhh! dont' tell!



"the problem of contemporary life is that morality is based on so-called tenderness, not on justice or a sound idea of the human person or the dignity due the least of us."

"In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber."
--Flannery O'Connor

I just find this idea so fascinating. Usually it seems the other way around--that those in search of truth or those who hold up right and wrong are the ones who end up inflicting pain on people. The story goes that the monster comes out of fanaticism. This is true, but it is not the only truth.

I watched an interesting movie tonight. It was called Youth Without Youth--the new movie from Francis Ford Coppola. I can't say that I really understood it, but one of the themes was what to do with power. If the ends can really justify the means, and if one will choose to use their power for good or for evil. It seems like most stories lead their character to the breaking point, and it is tenderness, the goodness in their heart that pulls them back from the brink. This movie was no exception.

Is this true to life though? Is a warmth of the heart going to pull us through the darkest despair? Is it going to lead us to do the right thing when great temptation is before us? when fear looms large? Maybe we can find it for the beautiful innocent person, but what about those different from us? That's where it seems to fail. We have no tenderness for our enemies. Why should we? So in fear we persecute our enemies, and all those associated with them.

On a smaller scale, I think I tend to make a lot of decisions based on the judge of "tenderness," or what we might call "the most loving option." The law of love as a guide to morality is only as good as our understanding of love. Our love is tenderness, and I think it lacks the sense of justice and righteousness that is in love--and probably lots of other things too. How do I really know what the most loving option is? Well I have to do my best to try to find that, but too often we avoid difficulty or tension because it is not the tender thing to do--though it might be the most loving.

Do we have the courage to love like it should be done? Can we love terrorists? Can we love each other without being so afraid to step on toes? These are the questions I'm asking tonight.


an evening with david sedaris

last night david sedaris was at rainy day books. i heard about it just the day before, so i thought i would head on down there and hear him reading, maybe get a book signed. if you don't know who david sedaris is, well and even if you do--watch this.

unfortunately, the thought in my head of "oh i'll show up at 6:30 and that will be plenty of time" was sorely off. if i'd have known how long the whole thing would take to hear his reading and get a personalized book signing i would never have stayed the whole time. but as it was, seven hours later i made my way home after the following conversation:

david: "are you 'luke'?"
luke: "yes that's me, i'm one of the selfish ones getting the book signed for himself."
david: "so do you have to go to work in the morning?" (it's 1:30am at this point)
luke: "well kind of, not really."
david: "could you do your job if you were paralyzed?"
luke: "well yeah actually probably."
david: "so not a lot of walking, climbing stairs?"
luke: "no not really."
david: "oh that's good. do you know any paralyzed people?"
luke: "i don't think i do actually. do you?"
david: "no i don't either. most people don't actually. i recommend that you just spend some time by a ramp."
luke: "oh well there's one right outside."
david: "well good then. you can just stand there for awhile and you'll probably run into one."

i thanked him for signing my book and i opened it as i was walking away. he had scribbled: "to luke, i'm so happy that you can walk."

another things i learned throughout the entire ordeal:
-in france you can get milkshakes made with breast milk (from david)
-a french roll from hen house can sustain you a really long time
-the rainy day parking lot is actually not all that uncomfortable
-people are really interesting
-i was in fact hit on by a slightly intoxicated woman in her upper 30s
-david takes notes for his stories a lot from the things around him. one time he watched his sister lean back in her chair and get her teeth flossed for 3 minutes by her pet parrot. she leaned her head up and looked at david, already with his notebook out, and said, "no."

*edit. also forgot to mention that david was drawing pictures in lots of people's books. them throwing up was a common one. also there were a lot of pictures of abraham lincoln. one guy i talked to said he drew a picture of an owl with a text bubble coming from it saying "i like black people."



it's come out of the closet--literally. very few people have known about this before now. wait wait, i'll explain.

one of the things about the protestant tradition is its under-use and under-emphasis of the sacraments. of course, going with my at-times quaker sympathies i also see the side of how perhaps they are not necessary for anything, and only detract from our mystical connection with God--setting our focus on the physical. that's probably a really poor description of why they don't feel the need for sacraments, but this whole debate is one i'm not really wanting to get into here.

more importantly, i see the need and purpose of symbols in our lives. tillich gives a wonderful explanation of their function: "the language of faith is the language of symbols" because "man's ultimate concern [faith] must be expressed symbolically, because symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate."

bible college was a very significant year for me. God did some great healing in me, and i learned much about living as a disciple. towards the end of my year there i took a trip to calgary with a good friend of mine. while in the mall i found a symbol. it was kind of expensive, but after some consideration i decided that it was a very good memento for my time and all God had done in me. it would remind me of how i needed to fight for my heart, and for others. that there is much going on in the spiritual realm that i need to be constantly aware of.

i brought it home, kept in its box. i thought, i will put this up someday when i own a home. well that's getting farther and farther away, if i even live the sort of life where i would own my own home. and so it's sat in my closet in my room for 5 years. until now. it is set out in the corner of my room for me to remember. to see the battle always before me.

i have a giant 5 foot scottish claymore broadsword in my room.

sure its funny considering i am pretty much a pacifist. but it's the symbolism. braveheart has always been my favorite movie--not only does it have the major theme of father-son relationships, it also presents the theme of calling forth people to really live. there is much this movie stirs in me. and there is much this sword represents beyond that movie. if i could explain to you all that this symbol meant to me than it wouldn't be a symbol. but a symbol must be seen to be functional. and so now it is in the open.

well, we didn't get dressed up for nothing.



"Giving yourself to others without expecting anything in return is only possible when you have been fully received. Every time you discover that you expect something in return for what you have given or are disappointed when nothing comes back to you, you are being made aware that you yourself are not yet fully received. Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved--that is, fully received--by God can you give gratuitously. Giving without wanting anything in return is trusting that all your needs will be provided for by the One who loves you unconditionally. It is trusting that you do not need to protect your own security but can give yourself completely to the service of others.

"Faith is precisely trusting that you who give gratuitously will receive gratuitously, but not necessarily from the person to whom you gave. The danger is in pouring yourself out to others in the hope that they will fully receive you. You will soon feel as if others are walking away with parts of you. You cannot give yourself to others if you do not own yourself, and you can only truly own yourself when you have been fully received in unconditional love.

"A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support. When you know yourself as fully loved, you will be able to give according to the other's capacity to receive, and you will be able to receive according to the other's capacity to give. You will be grateful for what is given to you without clinging to it, and joyful for what you can give without bragging about it. You will be a free person, free to love."

this is what i want.

brother roger

"a heart resolved to love can radiate goodness without limits."


blessed week

this week is a great time. not only is my lifelong friend getting married this saturday--a great event in and of itself. but it is also national donut week! some say it's just the first of june, some say it's the first friday in june (which is today), and others think there is way to much donut love for just one day.

total donuts consumed so far this week: 11. wow, i'm almost to a dozen. i don't think i will have any problem getting there by tomorrow.

so go out and enjoy a donut. and get a real donut, not just some poor excuse for what some might mistake as a delicious circle of glorious delight.

question #1: favorite donut shop?
question #2: favorite donut?

and answer now.



today i was listening to the new coldplay album*--not thoroughly impressed, but only my first listen. i was also going around the internet and reading some blogs. the last song on the album came on and it was sort of waning out in sound, and then it picked back up and started sounding really good. i said to myself, "oo, i like this." i checked my itunes to see that there were only about 40 seconds left. then i went back to the blog i was reading and i realized that it was playing a radiohead song off its page. ha. no wonder it sounded so good.

*yes i realize it's not out yet. i know a guy.



"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
--John 16:33

just to the left of the computer screen of my laptop at my desk here in manhattan is a window sill. the blinds are closed all the way, only because i haven't been in town recently. a piece of yellow post-it is sticking out below the blinds. i've had several quotes on different note cards and post-its there for some time now. i don't remember what this one says. let me check. it says "listen to the divine whisper," something i have been having a hard time with recently, but am coming back to.

below that, what first drew my attention, is two small vertical strips of poster tape, each with bits of torn photo paper still attached to them. i took down this photo as i was moving out for the summer. it was of a hiker walking down a railed curvy road with autumn trees all around. i doubt anyone in my room would have noticed it, tucked back like it was. that was the point. and it spoke something very meaningful to me. let me peel off one of the strips of tape now.

to my right there are a bunch of pictures of scenic locations all around europe. i have thought about taking them down more recently--it's almost more painful to see them and remember all the places i've been and am very far away from now. but they're still up. they're quite beautiful places.

at my other house in manhattan in the past i decorated my room with several big bulletin boards covered in pictures from my life--CBC, family, friends. i surrounded myself with the memories of good times. there are less pictures of people in my room anymore. as nice as the memories are, sometimes its even harder to have their faces there before you. frames tucked away in closets and drawers. i have an internet filter for facebook. ok maybe not.

the past has always been a difficult thing for me. i've always had a hard time letting go of relationships. i never accepted the phrase, "some people are there for just a season of your life." it is the reality of life now, but it wasn't always this way. transience is a much more recent phenomenon, especially to the degree we feel it now.

i one heard that we were created for permanence. that death and separation is not the way things are supposed to be. but in our individualistic culture we don't even need death anymore. we create our own separation. we put people to death in our lives long before they are ever dead. what can you do though? you have to go off to college. you have to move to where you can get a job. or sometimes it isn't forced, but each passing away brings the chance for something new, something fresh. maybe then we will have the relationships we wanted, the friends who care slightly more about us, the right weather to affect our disposition.

(side note: i think the fact that we as americans are so dictated by the weather, especially in our countenance and happiness says much about our lack of constitution and inner peace that we can be so affected by such minor external circumstances--i mean, can we face trials and sorrows with hope and courage when a cloudy or windy or cold day ruins us? don't worry, i'm guilty too.)

some people it seems thrive on transience though. they are always changing, always moving, looking to the next thing. i think i am suspicious of these people--like i believe that they move forward so fast and so hard that they never give themselves the chance to look inward. and though that is probably most often the case, perhaps there is a degree of movement that we are called to, even if we are not made for it. the son of man had no place to lay his head. as christians, we are sent out to be salt and light to the world, to be aliens and strangers, enduring hardships and struggles. and yet our bodies cry out inwardly for the redemption of our bodies, the renewal and resurrection of all that is good. that is the ultimate permanence that we seek.

still though, i look at the bare spot on my wall where the picture used to be, and i see the image of what was once there. and then the tape and the residue creating a frame of emptiness. there are times when we come to a place of emptiness, and our desire for permanence tempts us to set up a home there despite its bleakness. when we are called forward we must not tarry. but if we do not know where to go, will we wander?--wander seeking or wander leaving? keep moving till you find the way, till that word is given. do not set up camp and wait for it.

we are called to go out and to move, but not alone. i think the permanence we long for is not found in a place, a city, a neighborhood, a home. it's found in the people who are there with us all the time. of course ultimately everyone and everything passes away and Jesus is our only constant--but God wants us to have the permanence of true community, of rich friendships, of love. and it is never easy when that is lost or changed. but take heart, for he has overcome the world. despite how distant that seems from the reality of your life, take heart. take it firmly. it's not easy. take it.