21 October 2013

Acquainted With The Night

I have been working on a post for about a month now. It's  a great post, it just changes every time I try to work on it, as my view on the subject contained within varies based on my mood at the time of writing.

So, to hold you over until I finish it, here's a Robert Frost poem that is quite applicable to my overall mood down here in California.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rainand back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

18 August 2013

Follow Up

In an effort to remain honest: Today, I found one thing to like about LA. Score!

The Huntington Library, Art Gallery, and Botanical Gardens are simply sublime.

17 August 2013

In Honesty and Concrete

I've been sitting in this car for two days. Fortunately enough for my sanity, the car has not idly sat in one place. In these past two days I have traveled from my beautiful, wooded, misty mountain filled home to a flat, hot, hellish place where clouds rarely bless the ground with cool, sweet rain.

I'm sorry, did that sound harsh? The reality is, I cannot make up my mind in regards to college. Two weeks ago, I was working on a post describing my excitement. You know the cup song that's been circulating recently on pop radio?

"I got my ticket for the long way round; two bottles of whiskey for the way. But I sure would like some sweet company, and I'm leaving tomorrow - whaddaya say? When I'm gone, when I'm gone... you're gonna miss me when I'm gone..."

That's the one. Anyway. I had that song stuck in my head, and despite the stark reality that I am NOT, in fact, running away with a raggle-taggle gypsy-oh and am instead getting myself into a lifetime supply of debt at a private college in pursuit of a degree which may not even get me a job in my desired field, I couldn't help but feel the same excitement as if I were running off with a devilishly handsome scoundrel. It must be the bet of $120,000 I just placed. Live dangerously, guys.

But the draft to that post remains unfinished and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Recently, I have entirely forgotten why I was so excited. In an effort to cheer myself up and start looking forward to moving within twenty miles of what is probably my least favorite place on earth, I started a list of things to love about California. I succeeded in finding one thing I was genuinely excited for - awesome Mexican food - when I realized that if I'm to stick to my strict ketogenic diet, I can't eat Mexican. Score one for brains, Sabam.

So here I am, stuck in a metal box rapidly hurtling down the freeway to a university that will take me from my friends, family, pets, and city too soon after my arrival from Southeast Asia. My doom, it would appear, is on hand.

I know that college is a different beast than international travel, and contains less physical threats, but I could really use your prayers right now. The truth of the matter is that I have no major. In fact, I have only slim chances of getting into the program I believe I'm supposed to participate in. I have an honors program which is more than enough to eat me, body, brains, and soul, and I have an inordinate amount of pride and stubbornness. Oh, and a new laptop my folks surprised me with.  And maybe my wits, if I find them before Monday.

I am being thrown headlong into a school without a heading and without a community, and am still emotionally scarred by things experienced on my travels. I am vulnerable, I am tired past the point of exhaustion, and there is nothing with would like so much as to find a warm, dark corner to have a pity party for myself. I need all the help I can get right now.

I want to go hide on Bali. Or backpack through Europe surviving off small animals and the occasional friendly local. That came out wrong. Honestly.

Every person is afraid of something, and in my case, it's failure. Unpack that, you closet psychologists. That's the last thing you'll hear from me on the matter.

But the thing is, I can't determine if I'm excited for the challenge and the euphoria I will feel when I inevitably conquer (for we know I will conquer because I am Youth and Youth is never defeated), or if I would prefer to slink off without ever trying (for I am a coward and would prefer to hide than to try and fail).

My grandad died three years ago: I wrote about it at the time. But as deeply as I felt his loss, I never saw his grave until today. Standing there in the field planted with soldiers, lost, looking for my grandad without finding him, I suddenly felt the weight of my own mortality. I'm not trying to be fancy. As I stood in the field, I had the sudden, crushing realization that one day it would be my body in the ground and the life that I have known will be no more. That it would be the start of a new, eternal life was entirely beside the point in that moment. I was not staring at a stranger's grave; I was standing on my own.  And in that instant, I was afraid. Afraid that my life would amount to nothing; afraid to be remembered with nothing more than a nice rock and a platitide picked from a catalog; afraid of the Fallen syllogism:
All humans will die.
I am a human.
.•. I will - no, must - die.

The moment passed, the certainty fled, and I was able to breath again in the confidence and arrogance of my Youth. The question of my choice  no longer remains. I will do, or die in the attempt on the summit. It does not matter if my mind harbors doubts. My feet have been set, my stride is as resolute as it can be, and things larger than myself have been set into motion. The end of days is not yet on me, but I will run as if it were.

16 July 2013


You may have gathered now that I have returned to my beloved Northwest. True to form, though, I have failed to update when I promised I would.  The world, it would seem, has returned to a state resembling normal.

But it is an uneasy peace, at best. Memories and sensations from where I have been will flash through my head at the most inconvenient moments, and while it seems I have been healed, I am still struck by how greatly I've been broken.

It is a strange thought, to see the world, to taste and smell and love the place outside the lake I call home, to pick up hints of green in the air and the dirt and the people, but find that deeper, darker ocean green inside your own small pond.

How do you go on?  When the plane lands and the luggage is unloaded, how do you persist in a world you almost don't understand? When all around you are people caught in the web of cyber-reality, how do you remain? To sit, to smile, to cross your ankles? To share, to stay, to understand? No running out the door, no flying away - just simple absorbtion back into an old life that fits poorly?

I feel in need of pure existence without pretext, post-text, context - only subtext.  I feel in need of silence, of a companionable hush, a friendly eye in the middle of my storm. I want to shout, I want to sing, I want to scream and dance and run and fly and live in a world of gentle gray until my voice is lost and my legs give out and my eyes see no more colors. I want to get drenched in a cold rain and feel the chill enter my bones. I want to let go.

Two of my toenails are in the process of falling off. It seems ironic, but even as I field questions and navigate the quagmire of returning home and telling people stories and starting work and listening sympathetically to people feeling upset about not having shower doors and preparing to move to a different state to get continuing education and a lifetime supply of debt, the only thing I really, truly desire in this physical reality is that skin holding the last part of my nails to my foot would loosen.

I just want them to fall out. And in a way, that's how I want the rest of my abbreviated stay here to go. I just want these thoughts to go away. I want these problems, these distractions, these difficulties to fall off.

Is it too much to ask? Please go away. I'm not here. If I hide away for long enough, will you believe it?

But the thing about wishes... is they don't come true.

16 May 2013

The Bitter and the Sweet

I am writing this from the lobby of the hotel I've lived in for the past three days, waiting for a van to take me to the airport. In twenty minutes, I start my journey to Cambodia.

It is mind-boggling to realize that the next twenty minutes heralds the beginning of the end of my fantastic adventure. I arrive in Cambodia in less than 48 hours, and stay for four weeks. After Cambodia, there is a debrief in Perth, and then I fly back to the glorious Pacific Northwest.

That thought is sweet to me. Much as I love traveling; love tasting new foods (though I definitely regret the goat intestines and water buffalo curd); love making friends in unusual parts of the world; in short, much as my soul craves adventure and experience, I have exchanged bits of my essence with Seattle. A little bit of me is still there, and a little bit of Seattle is here in Asia.

I hold my city in my heart, and as my return draws closer to the foreseeable future, I am reminded of it daily.

And that is the bitter truth.

But I have an entire month of ministry ahead of me. An entire month to make an impact for God. A month of humidity, memorable moments, and bonding with a group of people who have become almost as close as a family in the last 4.5 months. As a side note, I known I've written about this before, but it's hard to believe that when I return, I'll have an entire set of memories of which you, my friends, have no part of.

But I digress.

Cambodia awaits. It beckons. Unlike Nepal, where the entire school was present and required to go, I am called specifically to Cambodia. God has made huge promises over my time there.

And that, friends, is the sweet. My adventure continues. I may be footsore, weary, sweat-stained and carrying dust from the road in all my things, but this raggle-taggle gypsy is far from finished. I need not fear drowning on dry land (except for the humidity) for a good six weeks yet. This warrior princess is still conquering. My circus act has not finished.

Yes, I need to remind myself of that excitement every morning, but it is an exciting truth nonetheless. This is not the final gasp of an over-long trip. This is just the little dip at the bottom of a ski-jump, just before the catapult into space. I'm ready to go, get me out of my mind. I'm free-falling, and everything is coming into sharper, clearer HD focus. Nothing can hold me back.

And now the van has appeared. Pray for me, friends, for I fear I am losing my mind.


12 May 2013

morning star

In darkness sweet I find myself tonight,
The stars light up my way. If I can tame
The voice within, I may, perhaps, my sight
Regain. And yet, if truth be told, the name
To which my fear has claim is none but "DAWN."
For what great light would rise to shine above
A moon and stars so kind that paint the lawn
On which my undisclosed desires do love
To play? The peaks are lit, and glory shines
Upon the vale of hopes my heart holds dear.
It creeps, encroach's, the moonlight dies - a line
In sand, the sun too bright on eyes too near.
This all is true, the moon controls my heart,
But still I watch the sun and day's new start.

26 March 2013

On the Flipside

This is likely to be my last post for three months. As I will be leaving for Nepal (and then Cambodia) in five days, posting may become a little spotty.

For the first three-and-a-bit weeks, I will be working in Kathmandu six days a week - temple walking and working with street children and prostitutes, doing open air presentations, etc. I have one day of rest, and by what the schedule says, will definitely appreciate it. On the rest day is my only access to the internet, and while I appreciate you all immensely, that day is also my day of exploration. So I'll try to make one post on Riding Thermals during that period.

The second part of my stay in Nepal will be in the more rural area of the country, which means little electricity and no internet.

And I'll be busy in Cambodia. Working in slums. Yeah. :D

Guys, I am so excited for the next three months. I'm a little sad that I won't be able to share it all with you, but I will keep a travel journal and will attempt to provide a highlight Grab bag when I return to Australia (after the US' June 14).

In the meantime, think hard, think well, and dream a little dream of me. See you on the flip side, Houston.

22 March 2013

Beyond Transcendence

Transcendence. If you've hung out with certain groups of post-modern young people, you've probably heard of this. It seems to have become the 8th virtue of my generation. In a way, this makes perfect sense. Post-modernism is defined by the fact that no one really seems to know what it means. After all, the only people who claim to know what it is are people who 1. Invented the term and 2. Are not themselves post-modern.

But as i was saying, it makes extraordinary sense that a generation characterised by its lack of characteristics would, at least in some areas, find the idea of throwing off labels so compelling. I understand that urge myself. To be free, to throw off the weight of cultural, communal, and personal expectations. To be, to think, to act unhindered, to escape to highest heavens and darker depths on a whim... yes, that would do nicely.

And yet, when I think about that more closely, I wonder how much difference there is between my desire for transcendence and my habit of escapism. To be free is one thing, to be meaningful is quite another.

Let's be honest, you and I. My motives are mixed. They always have been, they most likely will be until the rebirth of Creation. And one of my many motives (which I am fully convinced God used against me) in pursuing a mission trip was a desire for transcendence. To be more than the one my community sees me as, to be more than my history. By escaping to another country, another cause, the freshest of fresh starts, I hoped, at least in part, to find my new self waiting on the other side of transcendence, radiant and shiny and gently glowing purple in the brilliant white haze I thought was adventure.

But there is no such thing as a journey of self discovery, no fresh start waiting at the end of the road. I've gone as far as I can get from my home, to the most remote major city on earth, only discover that what I was looking for was living with me every day.

Location doesn't matter. Plans don't matter. Believe it or not, attitude doesn't matter. There is no transcendence. There is only you, and there is only me. And while I may not be stuck with you, I will always be stuck with me. The same labels I acquired in the Pacific Northwest have found their way to Australia.

Beyond transcendence, there is only ness. Ness you love, ness you loathe, ness which has been created uniquely and especially for the pleasure of the Sculptor. Ness which is being reformed in the image of the Artist. Ness which causes the Musician to burst forth in song. Ness which causes the Father to hitch up his robe and run down the road.

Ness which has no need for transcendence.

I have heard people claim that we are all just stories in the end. But if we are a stories, we are a choose-your-own adventure we cannot restart. The question is, can you handle it?

Can you handle the truth there is no changing who you are? Can you handle the fact there may be something of your ness that will never fade away?

Can you handle the fact that there will be days where it is a genuine struggle to give yourself grace?

Because there is no transcendence, no escape, no freedom waiting on the other side.

But there is grace. There is mercy anew. And there is intense love, extreme joy, a call for sacrifice, and a never-ending climb.

Because the real truth is this: beyond transcendence is this simple fact. There is you, and there is God.

27 February 2013

And in the desert [green]

~caution: mixed metaphors ahead~

When you stand on the shore of an endless ocean and step into the water, you don't expect to find the other side. You expect to be pulled in a current to experience a deeper darker ocean [green] than the lake which you once called home. And the [green] is golden and warm and cool and waves of delight and comfort wash over you, and you are glad you took that step out into the water, and you never want to drown on dry land again.

But after you see a glimpse of that divine [green], you wash up on the shores of an expansive wilderness. A place of beauty and light and wonder and secrets that all point back to the green you saw once. But it is challenging here in the wilderness. You have so many places to go, so many mysteries to follow, so many hidden treasures to find. And here, you feel you could spend the rest of your life, for here is where the complexities of color are discovered. Here, you see it is a deeper [green] containing more tones than you imagined, and you are full, satisfied, satieted.

Until you see the mountains on the horizon, and realize that there is a glorious, infinite climb awaiting you, and a cold to take your breath away, and a vista that, compared to the marvels you've seen already, will cause a burning, stinging desire in your heart for your true home.

But as you make your way to the foothills, you realize that you are tired - exhausted - from your journey. And while your soul and spirit long for the never-ending climb, your body will give out soon. It will go all the sooner if you stop now, so you simply continue climbing up to your true home - the cold awaits, calling you on and on, bringing refreshment and energy.

That's how I feel right now. It's a place combining all my hopes, dreams, fears, and expectations in a potent, heady mixture that I am incapable of describing. And through it all, exhaustion.

This week has been tough, friends. A series of revelations combined with a couple of major upsets have left me with one of those stitches in the side which makes motion acutely painful.

Spiritually, it's similar to when I had my wisdom teeth removed last summer. I am present in every moment, yet so distant I may as well be miles away. I am constantly awake to experience the wonders of the foothills, but constantly craving sleep and escape from awareness. I am tired, worn out, in pain, but so high that it doesn't matter. It's a giddy mixture of physical and spiritual exhaustion covered in a sense of overwhelming peace. And I know that when the happy pills run out, I'm done for.

Here's another metaphor for you. I've got so many I could be a dealer.

You're hiking through a pass when you come to a place where the mountain has been carved away and the trail you thought you'd take has been replaced by a sheer cliff face. Undeterred, you begin climbing across, but further up the mountain, several large stones have come loose and in their tumble down to earth, hit and knock you about as you cling to the rock. And in that sublime, infinite moment as your fingers leave the cracks and your feet lose their footholds, the adrenaline is pumping and suddenly your eyes are opened and things are in such perfect focus you see everything and nothing and you are thankful the rocks knocked you lose. But like the ending of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it remains to be seen if you are falling or flying.

And in a way, it doesn't matter, because you are watched over by One who would shelter you with His feathers and wings. Falling or flying - it's irrelevant for you have transcended the need for ground.

gravity don't mean too much to me...

I'm tumbling through the air, friends, and the view is exhilarating. In a way, I feel destined for this. The icy, raw, burning cold tears at my throat and leaves me gasping for more. And the thing about [green] is that it




10 February 2013

Hold onto Truth

Humans have an innate skill for fantasy. For some reason, we've been gifted with the ability of weaving stories and making up characters and creating false gods and imagining great quests and inflating our own importance and managing to believe them all. Not all of these are necessarily bad. However, so much time had been spent exploring the many wonders of storytelling by friends - cyber, imaginary, and physical - I would be covering old ground to discuss our fascination with the story.

If I understand these authors correctly, the appeal of the story is that it represents the way things truly are in a fantastic, captivating way. Fairy tales are important not just because they tell us dragons can be beaten, but also because they tell us that dragons exist.

I'm not going to talk about that, though. I'm going to talk about the far less popular subject of reality. You see, while falsehoods can tell truths, it is also possible for a truth to be false.

Trust me, I'm not just saying this to sound zen. There's a point, I swear!

Like I said previously, humans have a capacity for invention, for creation, for loosely-interpreted recounts. We also happen to dwell with other people. When these two facts combine, stuff happens. More specifically, memories change.

I learned recently (can't remember where from, but it was probably from one of the science YouTube channels I watch) that every time we recall a memory, we change it. If we recount the time bearded aunt Matilda tried to kiss us in an exaggerated manner to draw a laugh, the memory is returned to long-term storage with those alterations. Simply by recalling the past, we change it. What you remember is not actually what happened, but the countless interpretations of the original memory meshed into something new.

But that's not all that we change. Ever heard it said that " absence makes the heart grow fonder ?" Of course you have - you do read my blog. Every trope, every type - stereo or arch - is rooted in at least some small amount of reality. So why is it that we consider the absent more kindly than the present?

I have a theory about that. And it all comes back to idealism and the human capacity for it. When we are confronted with a person's reality everyday or every few days, it becomes hard to weave a fantasy around them. In the name of escapism , this fact can become inconvenient. Who wouldn't want to believe a comforting lie more than an uncomfortable truth? But all the same, we cannot hope to illusion ourselves of a different reality when constantly confronted by life-as-it-is.

But when that person is not present, not reminding us of their or our inadequacies, such little fairy tales are easier to believe. Absence makes the heart grow fonder  because every time we remember them, we change our perception of them.

This can even happen within the context of limited contact such as weekly phone calls or daily Facebook updates. There is something magical about physical proximity that disillusions us of any little fantasies. When we read words or hear a voice, we are still free to interpret them according to our preferred paradigm as opposed to the intended context. 

That's why I say the truth can tell a lie. Because somehow, somewhere, someone figured out the power of human recollection.

Now, I'm not just talking about this to amuse myself on a sleepy Sunday evening - though I do find it amusing to blog through a haze of pain killers - I want to make the point I alluded to earlier.

Family, friends, dreamers, mates, and lovers: Let us not decieve ourselves. Let us not slip into the comfort of the false reality and limit ourselves to whims of memory. I want to make an effort to know you as you are, not as how I remember you. I love my idealised version of you, but I love you even more. So let's make an agreement, a covenant, a pact and a solemn pledge.

Let's pledge to never stop loving stories. Let's swear to have a healthy respect for dragons, and let us agree not to settle for the ideal. Because ultimately, the ideal will slip through our fingers like a paper gusted by the wind.

Even as I start my sixth week here, I know there is a long time yet to come. The lurking danger of idealism dogs my every communication, so it is with a sense of urgency that I write now.

I'm on a quest to find ultimate reality, and I'd like you to join me.

Are you in?

29 January 2013

Moments of Madness

It's strangely fascinating how an idea can haunt me for long periods of time. This blog post is the child of one such incredibly long pursuit.

For years, I've been in the habit of thinking of life as a series of moments. Well, obviously, you may be thinking, but let me explain. Life is not just a series of moments. It's a series of decisive moments. Not just " will I wear socks today,"  but " will I say this thing that could change a life?"

A series of turning points, if you will.

One such turning point was the time I stood in a music store, my hoarded allowance grasped tightly in one hand, holding Carrie Underwood's first CD in my hand. Had I decided that music was more important to me than the latest Polly Pocket, I might be a country fan today. As it was, I really wanted Polly's dream  house, and thus it was that the first album I ever bought was Dark Side of the Moon.

Every once in a while, there comes a time when eventualities diverge, possible outcomes differ greatly based on one simple choice. A turning point could be as simple as delaying college for a year, or as important as quitting a job. So you stand at the crossroads of your life, and have to ask yourself " where next? "

In my life, these moments have generally been similar to the first time I went on a high ropes course. The course was great up until the point I needed to jump across what was probably no more than a two foot gap. However, those two feet happened to be between 25 and 35 feet in the air, so I perceived the gap as significantly greater than it was.

Don't laugh. 25 feet is very high for someone who fears heights. Why said person was on a high-ropes course is a matter for a different post.

Back to the point, though. I've always seen my turning points coming from a long way off. As they draw close, I start to imagine what my body would look like at the bottom of the 25 foot drop. It gets closer and closer, and now I think I can't make that leap. By the time I reach it, I stand on the edge with my toes dangling into space and think to myself " there's got to be a better way across."

At this point, I do my best to weasel out of making the jump. This generally involves enormous amounts of backtracking, all so that this indecisive person can avoid making a life-altering decision. Ironically, this is also a life-altering decision - it just involves a larger amount of energy to reach it.

The reason I call these moments of madness is because most of the truly life-altering decisions are risky in some way or the other. Pushing back college by a year to travel and do missionary work is risky - who knows what you may be sidetracked into? What if you never return, and never get a degree or a job?

Quitting your unfulfilling job to pursue a passion is risky - what if you give up your opportunity to the all-important American Dream? What if you never hold a steady job as a result?

Going traveling in middle age or a road trip as a teenager - any of those moments will make you walk out of life-as-you-know-it. And the thing about life-as-you-know-it is that there's no going back, and there's never a truly convenient time to abandon it. There is always a good reason to stick with the status quo. There is always something to hold you back.

Thinking about all the moments I've missed by using this technique is, frankly, more than a little depressing. That is why I'm not going to talk about actual moments, but rather philosophy. If you don't want to talk about something, just use big terms and no one will be able to understand what you're actually driving at.

So, as previously stated, my general philosophy is one of avoidance. This should hardly be surprising, given that I tend to operate under a policy of avoidance as a matter of course. But also unsurprisingly, there are other options.

Option one is to leap without looking. In a world dominated by the extrovert ideal, this option is often presented as the" best" choice. We're going to die young, so forget the consequences and go do it! You only live once!

Option two is what more people in my community are supposed to believe: namely, risks are not worth taking, look before you leap and then run away. Caution is the name of the game. Do the Hard Thing and choose responsibility. Teenagers aren't meant to have fun, young adults have no excuse.

I'm not, by nature, a cautious person. My parents have frequently observed what they politely term "a sense of urgency" in the way I prefer to go about things. In one of those rare cases of nature and nurture being at complete odds, my parents raised me to be thoughtful and to weigh the risks of things rationally. Combined with the philosophy of option two, this manifested itself as a total unwillingness to try risky things.

The thing about moments of madness is that they are often necessary to reach our destiny. One is not mad simply for the thrill of the thing (though thrill is, by no means, to be overlooked), but rather for the possibilities awaiting on the other side.

Can you tell I've been reading Paul recently?  I can. :)

But anyway, moments are there because the potential of a life forever changed is not actually a bad thing. I would argue that a disruption to the status quo is desirable, even necessary. One of the things that had been stressed here in Perth is that God didn't have a boring life planned for us. The comfort of a middle-class life may seem desirable in the long run, but wonders rarely occur inside our safety zones.

If anything, when that madness overtakes us, we should stop, look, and then take a flying leap into the unknown. Because ultimately, it's not so important if the distance was two feet or twenty - it's whether you we're willing to break a few bones.

22 January 2013

A little light journey-work

I was feeling mildly ambitious tonight, so I borrowed a housemate's guitar and tried a cover. I've become one of those people. So sue me.

Watch "Starlight - Muse cover" on YouTube

15 January 2013

Leave it unspoken

I was going to start this post by telling you that I was thinking about something a lot. But then I realized that I start all my posts like that recently. So I did the meta thing and told you how I was going to start this post as the start of my post.

When in doubt, meta.

But anyway. The particular thinks have been about words, and the conundrums associated with them. These thinks have come to mind because, given the time difference between the west coast of the USA and the west coast of Australia, there is such a short window of time where my family and friends are awake while I am that I have increasingly resorted to the written word to communicate with the ones I love.

Written language is a marvel. The fact that a series of symbols can communicate an idea will blow your mind if you think about it too long. The fact that I can communicate with someone on the opposite side of the world using electronic representations of those symbols even more so.

I use the symbols to represent intangible thoughts, concepts, experiences, ideas, dreams, emotions. If I do it correctly, a little bit of me enters those symbols, those written words, so that the recipient can recognize my voice through the text.

My voice.

Do you remember the first time you heard a recording of yourself speaking? I still haven't reconciled my inner ideal with the less-impressive actuality.

But voices. With my voice, I can imbue words with more meaning than a literal definition. With my voice, I convey emotion. My voice is the best tool I have to tell someone " I love you."  It's the best way to say " we need to talk." It's the best way to say " I miss you,"  " you are valuable,"  " this is really cool,"  " you'd love this! " " let's grab coffee."

Because no matter how marvelous the written word is, it is dry and sterile compared to the living vocabulary of interaction.  To write any of the above phrases would convey the essential idea. But there are no undertones, no hints or secrets or promises, to the written word. Novelists have devoted millions of pages of words trying to capture the unspoken potential of a word unsuccessfully.

We invented emoticons in attempt to fix the emotional desert of words, but even these fall short.


:) cannot capture the glimmer in the eye, the smile licking its lips in the corner of a mouth, the biting of a cheek or the sticking out of the tongue. It represents the ironic smile, the flirty smile, the teasing smile, the innocent smile of delight. But it also represents none of them. :) is merely a symbol that just barely scratches the surface if subtext and context.

If these symbols are so inadequate at capturing a true relationship between thoughts and people, it stands to reason that maybe, just maybe, there are times when it is best to simply leave things unspoken. Why risk distorting the meaning, losing significance like the Hindenburg lost helium, when the voice is so vital to the message?  Is it not best to treasure those ideas and feelings for a time when they can be spoken? 

There is a beautiful ambiguity to the spoken language. The cadences of speech, the pauses and little speeds, the soft and loud. All serve to convey meaning to my recipient. When once I entrust the mere words to paper, however, they lose all ambiguity and since they were never spoken, can never be unspoken. Black symbols on white paper are absolute. They are not ambiguous, only unclear.

But at the same time, are there not ideas better said poorly than never said at all? Even a poor representation is better than none. Should I be silent because I'd prefer to leave you in the dark than give you a glitchy, pirated impression of what I would say were I there?

And on the third hand, how do I know the words would come more easily through my voice than through my fingertips?  Symbols are a poor substitute for an interaction, but can I truly know if the difficulties result from the medium?

Like stated earlier, I have been thinking about it a lot. I am no master of words, and as of yet, there is no easy answer.

Which means that until the rest of the world gets Skype, I'll be left wondering.


08 January 2013

A deeper, darker, [ocean] green

I think I fell in love today. This afternoon, I was introduced to the ocean. While we have met briefly in comfortable social environs, today was no such casual encounter.

The wind was gnawing at the shore, throwing sand and small children against me as I stepped off the bus. Over the crest of the hill, I could hear, or rather feel, the sound of Amphithrite breathing. A tough, ragged sound heavy with dreams and lullabies.

And as I reached the crest if the hill, I understood why so many artist have been inspired by the sea. It didn't roll or crash or lap. It simply advanced with the power of a butterfly's wings. Endlessly, capriciously, ever-changing but ever-minded, the ocean defies even now my attempts to describe that which has beguiled me.

I went to introduce myself, but was dismissed before making the slightest inroads. Undeterred, I tried again, and again, until I was more attuned to the endless motion. The more I tried, the less success I achieved. Amphithrite, it seems, is jealous, permitting no competition to its power. The waves caressed and pummeled me until I could take no more.

But even from the shore, safe from the stings and blows of the endlessly advancing waves, I was entranced. The motion, the mercurial temperament, the horizon stretching into a haze in the distance, the depths of the water and the power contained therein, the possibilities and the dreams and the momenta to be seized all came crashing into me as I stood on a stone at the edge of the sea and stared at the waves.

There is nothing like vastness to remind one of one's smallness. For that moment, I was sailing away from my old conceptions and conceits.

The sea restores, and frightens, and inspires, and uplifts, and ensures that man can never think too highly of himself. For no matter how hard you try, you will never be greater than that ocean.

I thought I knew that the ocean was a deep, dark green, but it was beyond my wildest imaginings. It is deeper, darker, an ocean green where the waves are both wilder and more serene. Do you understand?

Because I'm not sure I do.

07 January 2013

The Subjugation of Identity

Been thinking about this a lot lately. It doesn't have much to do with a lot of other thinks I've been thinking. I guess that makes it semi-unique.

As I've been preparing for the trip, I've been pondering the idea of personality and significance. It seems to me that idolatry could be defined in identifying yourself with a false, external standard. Before you jump on me for that statement, let me explain.

When I was in speech and debate,a large part of the way I identified myself was that I was in speech in debate. Lady J Whimsy, extraordinary homeschooled forensic in a world full of ordinary teens. What made me extraordinary was not my skill in speech, but rather the fact that I did it at all. This identifier quickly became problematic when once I was done competing.

Or more recently, it was Lady J Whimsy, missionary anticipate. I was the one leaving for six months. This also was problematic when I reached Perth, where everyone had left friends and family behind.

Or take a rich man from near my old job. He drives a Mercedes-Benz, throws money around like he owns it, and surrounds himself with the equally prosperous. If, hypothetically, this man were to lose his fortune, he would have a wee little identity crisis trying to cope with his new situation.

The identity crisis. The day you wake up and realize you're not the person you thought you were, hoped you were, wanted to be. When you realize that what you thought made you unique was imaginary, irrelevant, obsolete. When you're self-worth comes crashing down around you're ears, where do you turn to?

In all likelihood, yourself. You go to find yourself. You introspect, or you flee it entirely.

But wherever you find your self-identity, it's still idolatry. If your value comes from your job, your boyfriend, your conservative politics or your skill as a debater, you are committing idolatry.

Why? Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by an omnipotent Creator who designed us by hand. To say that anything beside our identity as God's creation, imago dei, gives us value us to say that God's word is insufficient. That His love isn't good enough, that He isn't truly omniscient. After all, if God can be wrong about your value as a person, He can be wrong about anything.

I've been thinking about another reason we seek validation from something other than God's promise that He loves us.

I would submit, dear reader, that a part of us is terrified of our identity in Christ. If we truly have been crucified with Christ, if it truly is Christ dwelling in us and not our self, then are we truly ourselves?

Why would God say to abandon all the things we hold dear, those things that we choose to identify with, if we really were fearfully and wonderfully made?

Why would God create me and then call me to be someone else?

Truth be told, this post really isn't for you. I strive to be honest, and this is for my benefit, not yours. I am desirous to subjugate my identity to the cross, but I am terrified of the consequences. Will I be myself at the end of my tempering? Will my ness still exist?

The only thing I've come to is this: God created me to glorify Him. That includes my sense of humor, my ill-timed comments, my eclectic taste in music. All of it is ultimately His, and when He calls me to empty my backpack full of junk, dreams and ambitions at His feet, it's not that I or my baggage is useless. It's because He wants to use them too.

I heard this analogy one time. That my ness is like a reed with those little fuzzy things and syrup inside it. That I should empty that stuff so that the Holy Spirit can move through me uninterrupted, but that cleaning will preserve who I truly am.

It is frightening, being in a program whose two goals" to know Him and make Him known" call me ever upward. I am both drawn to and frightened of that call I hear from higher up the mountain pass.

Come, trust your dreams on the altar. Give up your aspirations and desires, your false vanity and false identity, your fears and hopes and future.

Because while I know, intellectually, that they are safer in His hands, I just haven't gotten there yet.


04 January 2013


I'm finishing my first day in Australia. It is ten pm. Today has been two parts wonderful to one part bittersweet. Really, that's how life generally goes, but it is especially pronounced here in the land down under.

Numerous times I have caught myself thinking " oh, person [x] would so love this!" and then realize that said person is living a different day than I. Cassandra would love my singing Kiwi room mate. Lady Specs would be grand with Ash-Bob. There's a ravenbiutside my window - Escapist and Argentum would have choice things to say. Thursday would get on with Liza, the black belt in karate, tvtropes reading, Joss Whedon appreciator who loves talking about everything and watching Pixar. Which means Raymond wouldblike her too. It's more than a little surreal.

I was thinking today about how physical warmth can affect us so greatly. Humans may not be cold blooded, but there is a certain comfort, mental and physical, that comes with warmth. Mayhaps I feel it more keenly ( once I poured a glass of water from the refrigerator and swore it was warm), but physical comfort can do strange things to a body.

I feel like I don't think as much in the warmth, since I don't need to preoccupy my thoughts with not thinking about how cold it is.

I miss the cold. It has only been two days, but I miss 30°F weather. It was 82° today, and that was cool compared to what is forecasted for the weekend.

I'll be posting my first impressions of  Down Under over on Riding Thermals tomorrow. Probably.

Until then, friends, stay sharp and cold! ;)