21 November 2009

boob tube

I will never understand the culture in which TV is a member of the family.

Some people turn on the TV first thing when they get up in the morning (if they even turned it off the night before).  I like to have a cup of coffee and stare out the window, maybe check my e-mail.  I'm not too fond of strangers on the telly talking loudly at me while I'm trying to enjoy my morning.

Some people never turn the TV off.  They NEVER TURN THE TV OFF.  Whether nobody's watching or everybody's watching, or everybody's in the room with the TV but nobody's watching, or people are back and forth, the TV is always on, stuck on some lame show that nobody really wants to pay attention to.  Despite this fact, it never occurs to somebody to turn the darn thing off!  Growing up, we only turned the TV on for a couple hours a day, and watched it the whole time it was on.  Then, when the show was over, or our brains had rotted enough, we turned it off.

TV is like candy or dessert.  It's fun and good in small doses.  In fact, I like good TV shows as much as I like movies.  House, Bones, NCIS, Law and Order - they're like mini-movies that I get to watch every week.  But 95% of television is total CRAP, which is why I don't understand why people want to have it on so often. 

As long as I'm discussing crap, I might as well tell you about my least favorite TV channel ever: The Freakshow Channel.  Whoops, I'm sorry, I meant TLC, The Learning Channel.  This channel takes advantage of people's desire for fame, recognition, or even just an understanding ear, and exploits them as freaks for their differences.  And we, the American population, watch them like we would the Fat Lady at the circus.  Any misplaced expectation on the part of the subjects of the show that they would be understood and seen as normal through publicity is shot to hell as they are paraded around on television as DIFFERENT and WEIRD. 

Anyway.  That's my morning rant.  Now back to my coffee.

17 November 2009

Failure (is a good thing)

I would like to apologize for the post I made earlier, if you read it before I deleted it.  Regardless, I apologize.  A friend had expressed a certain sentiment to me and I took it as a personal affront.  The blog post that resulted from my pissiness was a whiny, asinine, foundationless retaliation to something that I probably misperceive. 

God has gifted me with comprehension, memorization, and a handful of other talents.  I have twisted those gifts into arrogance, superiority, a judgmental attitude, ill patience, elitism, and chip on my shoulder.  As usual, humankind perverts the blessings of God to their own misconceived and often evil devices.  I often call people stupid (though, mercifully, not to their faces).  I get frustrated when people don't understand what I think is simple and obvious.  I resent people for resenting the fact that I often blow the curve, only, while their resentment probably passes, mine builds and festers until I have a generally disdainful attitude directed at everybody that I think unjustly alienates me for being "the smart kid"  - which is not something that really happens in college, but did in middle school and high school, which just shows how much I do harbor and let fester old paper cut injuries.  In truth, it's most likely my arrogantly disdainful attitude that turns people away in the first place.  I nurture and cultivate the presumed injury of this rift, feeding it like a carnivorous plant.  I keep my distance and build walls with impressive (albeit often useless) knowledge and continue to subjugate people, taking enormous self-satisfaction in my position of lone ranger intelligensia. 

In short, I fail to love enough.  I fail to be patient, I fail to be humble, I fail to be vulnerable.  I fail to uphold and uplift and encourage sincerely.  I fail to be Christ to others. 

I tell you this to admit my own brokenness, so that maybe some good will come of it.  In fact, good has already come of it.  God loves brokenness, because it is in our brokenness that we realize how much we need him.  When we fail, God shines.  He shines because he forgives us through Christ's blood, and because he uses our weaknesses for his purposes.  God has no use for superheroes or perfect people.  He wants wayward prodigal sons and daughters who can be reconciled to him, and who through their weakness and brokenness can show the way home to the equally wayward.

We are all broken, injured, prideful, sinful.  But we are not abandoned to the unhappiness of our dark paths.  "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt, you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in."
- Isaiah 58:10-12

17 October 2009

Once Upon a Time

"Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated."
- G. K. Chesterson

Last semester I took a pretty unique class, Folklore, which included nature hikes and basket weaving and lectures on all sorts of delicious mythology.  Basically, it was like school when I was 10 (thanks mom), except the tests were harder.  The first assignment was to read 15-20 of Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Best assignment ever, right?  I could get used to that kind of studying.  At the next class session, the professor asked,
"What did you all think of the reading?  I bet it's been awhile since any of you read fairy tales."
For most people, this is probably true.  Our exposure to fairy tales is usually limited to stories read to us as small children and Disney movies.  Every book of fairy tales I ever read is still on my bookshelf, without a single speck of dust disgracing their belovedly worn pages.  If eyes wore out ink instead of sun, those books would have been blank years ago.  This avid devotion is not a habit of the past, either.  It's difficult for me to go into a used bookstore and leave without some dingy fairy tale collection.  The latest, a book of Irish fairy tales, is currently sealed in a plastic bag with dryer sheets for the purpose of hopefully eradicating the forty-year-chainsmoker smell.  My little fairy-tale family also includes Grimm's (of course), The Big Red Fairy Book, Welsh fairy tales, Tibetan tales, Cherokee animal tales, George MacDonald, and many other compilations that aren't really intended for people over the age of 10.  My favorites of course include any tale where enchantment is broken by love and everyone lives happily ever after.  Heroes in disguise and princesses worth dying for are always a major plus.  But doesn't everybody agree with this?  Doesn't everybody love it when the stable-boy turns out to be a prince, defeats evil against all odds, and rescues the princess from her terrible misfortune?  Then they get married and everyone rejoices!  Except for the evil witch, who dances in hot-iron shoes until she falls over dead.

A friend of mine got detention in elementary school for talking back to her teacher who was trying to perpertrate the insidious lie that faries do not exist.  It's very important that we believe fairies exist, because if we don't then they die (isn't that a delightful metaphysical irony).  More important is the reason G. K. Chesterson said that fairy tales are more than true.  When you read a fairy tale, excluding some of the more bizarre tales involving cooking pots and foamy mermaids, something epic and very life-changing takes place for the characters.  An enchantment is broken, a true identity is discovered, a great treasure is discovered.  Most importantly, evil is always defeated (once again, excluding the foamy mermaids).  Everything good that was lost is restored, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Maybe the reason adults don't often read fairy tales is because they're jaded into believing that such stories cannot possibly be true.  Lost with childhood innocence is the belief that everything turns out all right.  It's not hard to fall into this; I think everybody does.  It is naive and stupid to believe that life is all sunshine and flowers, and if you do believe that you're in for a long hard landing.  But the moment we forget that dragons really can be defeated, that goodness is restored and evil dances to its death, we lose all hope.

Please put aside your faulty silliness filter for a moment and bear with me.  Read this tale with childish innocence.  We are living in a land under great evil enchantment.  We dripped tallow on the Prince's white shirt and brought it upon ourselves.  The castle has been usurped by a wicked witch of a stepmother.  Daily we must pick the rice out of the ashes in hope of going to the ball, with the threat of death if we fail.  But despite the fact that we didn't listen to the Prince's admonishment, that we did light that candle and drip the tallow, he's coming to rescue us.  He has disguised himself as the shoe-shine so he can fight the dragon and strike at the heart of the enemy.  But alas!  The wicked witch sneaked up from behind and turned the prince into a dove.  She now keeps him in a cage.  We ask the poor dove-prince, what can we do?  He tells us, stab me in the heart with a thorn.  Kill the beautiful prince?  Never!  But he demands that we do, and when the thorn pierces his heart he leaps up free, a prince again!  He kills the witch and breaks the enchantment.  The king returns to the castle and the entire kingdom rejoices!  And all of the land dances and celebrates as the Prince and we, the rescued Princess, are married.

Some things, friend, are too good not to be true.  Some tales speak so deeply into our hearts that we feel we have stumbled on something of the real truth, without which the world would not make sense and life would not be much worth living.  This is why we love fairy tales.  This is why they are important. 

 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.""
Revelation 21:1-4

07 October 2009

Cloth Calf

I went to Books-A-Million today, to find the perfect way to spend my birthday B-A-M gift card. I was contemplating getting Surprised by Joy, so I could finish it without having to return it to the library. I was in the Religion section when I saw it.

It was a cloth Bible case with Obama on the front.

Now, normally I wouldn't bring up El Presidente two entries in a row. But I have to say...what the heck? To say that putting Obama's head - or anybody's head for that matter - on your Bible is thoroughly unBiblical would be the understatement of the century.  It's idolatry.

I could say I expected better from people who make Bible covers - but let's be honest here. The variety and shallowness of Christian merchandise available is good evidence that their producers are in it for the profit - as good businessmen usually are.

What worries me more is if these good businessmen are producing pieces of crap like idolaterous book covers because there is a market for them.

Granted, we all tend toward idol-worship, whether we recognize it or not. Whatever takes our time, interest, or devotion away from God is our idol(s). Sometimes, our idols are people. Friends, mentors, celebrities - or presidents, apparently. Making people our idols is dangerous and disappointing. People are people - they're human. They are fallible and make mistakes, and for all their good intentions they will never live up to the pedastel you put them on - nor will you live up to the pedastel others put you on. It's why we need grace.

I really hope - no, I pray that not one Obama Bible cover sells. Obama has been deified too much already. People think he is going to save America. He may not be a bad guy - personally, I don't know, I've never met him - but he is no savior. He is a man, and that means he is limited and fallible. To make him more than that is dangerous for all involved.

Jesus saves. Jesus brings the best change.

05 October 2009

Let his soul run wild

Look at the leaves!

The dogwood outside our window is turning red - the first of the year, unless you count the black locust trees in front of the building that violently shed all their tiny yellow leaves the first day of September. With the rain and the sudden cold, however, it's felt more like Alabama winter the past couple days than fall. On any fall afternoon it's hard to go to work, but the cold and rainy ones make the thought of doing anything other than sipping tea and reading. My students have their off days, too. Lessons can go three ways. 1, Miracle of miracles, the student is engaged and enthusiastic. 2, They're fidgety and restless from being cooped up in school all day, and they have the attention span of a squirrel. 3, They're tired from school, football, gymnastics, karate, and baseball.

This makes me wonder what President Obama hopes to accomplish with a longer school day. I don't know about school nowadays, but when I was a kid the last hour of school was almost unbearable, and I'm sure it was worse for the teacher, having to maintain order in a room of 20-30 small children and somehow manage to teach them something! I'm not going to go into all that I think is wrong with the public school system, but I'm fairly certain that making kids spend ALL DAY in school is NOT going to help. They already spend too much time there, in my opinion. Then they have all 50 extracurricular activities they take part in after school! Kids don't have the opportunity to have a childhood anymore. No time to run around outside, making mud pies and building forts, too busy to play dress-up or help Mom make cookies. No hours left in the day to lay on the ground and name the clouds in the sky. Too tired at night to learn the big dipper. Too much homework to read Narnia!

I just wish every kid had a childhood as magical as mine, I guess. Childhood is for innocent fun, not hours and hours of structured activity.

Thanks, Mom!

30 September 2009

On the way home...

I missed my turn on purpose and went the extra half-mile to the overlook next to the hang-glider jump off. The view was fabulous, of course. Rolling green valleys turned to blue hills rising in the distance. But the wind on that piece of red rock was strong and wild, and it threatened to knock me off my feet. If it had, I reckon I would have flown up and back – not forward off the cliff – then, perhaps, floated gently over the edge and above the valley, to better survey it from such a magnificent height. Nevertheless, I kept my feet firmly planted, until I could stand the buffeting no longer and sought the shelter of my car. Time to go home. Within minutes I was driving in that very same valley, on my way home/not home. The solitude and scenery ripe for pensiveness, I began to think about home. Home used to be the place I lived with my family and missed when I was elsewhere. Then it became nowhere, then it changed, then it became many places, which themselves changed, again. The pavement slipping below me and the blue sky slipping above, it occurred to me that home does not change; that it is, in fact, an absolute. Home is an absolute, of which fragments manifest themselves in our lives. Sometimes we find Home in places we did not expect, and sometimes Home leaves places we found it before. Home is and it isn’t; it is given and taken away. Home is in the company of my family. Home is by the side of my childhood friend. Home is up a tree or down a river. Home is in all the books that speak the things of my soul I can’t write myself. Home is the feeling of raw belonging I feel in those blue Appalachians, the belonging I felt when the wind tried to blow me off the cliff. It would seem that Home does not equal a place, but is found IN a place, or a person, or a situation, and it can be taken out of wherever it is in. And all of these little bits of Home that I find only serve to comfort me for a moment. And their comfort is in that they remind me that Home does exist, as an absolute, as a whole; that I belong somewhere, with someone.

31 January 2009

We apologize for the delay

From Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

"Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read then paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid wors. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more."

You should know that over the past few weeks I have visited 5 countries in Europe. It was cold, fascinating, and I'm glad to be back in America.

I am written out. Sorry.

03 January 2009

Of Mice and Other Stuff

I've been reminded it's time to update my blog. In 2 days I'll be catching a red-eye to Denmark. A week ago, we drove back South. We stopped at the local publix at 7:30, and the parking lot was all but deserted. Here's my conclusion: I love the city, but the rural South is home. The city is loud, fast, crowded, exciting, full of opportunities, easy to get around, rubbing elbows with everybody. Here, is slow, familiar, friendly, warmer, sleepier, plenty of fun backroads, and the entertainment comes from the people you're with rather than the places you go. I have four coffee dates in 2 days. Why? Because there's little else to do besides going for coffee. That's ok. I like coffee. I like the fact that it is a social drink, and an excuse to just sit around and talk. I will, however, probably be drinking tea some of the time, as there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

It's nice to be "home," in my bed, with my wall full of books, and my piano (even though I left most of my piano books at school). The cat is just as thrilled, and has already caught us 3 mice in the basement and dropped them in select places around the upstairs. It was my unpleasant job to dispose of one of them (luckily, an already dead one). I remember seeing what I thought was a dead mouse on our driveway one time. It was dark, matted, and hideous with large yellow teeth. I guess it was a rat, because the mouse the cat killed was small and cute. Rodents, cute? Perish the thought! I almost felt sorry for it. After all, they stay in the basement...Poor cat, though - so happy now, she has no idea that in a month's time she'll be in a stranger's apartment.

I think I'm ready for Europe. I packed my backpack on Monday, then realized I wasn't leaving for a week. But for now, adieu from the Sleepy South.