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! ;)