Yeah, you. I am a poor college student. You can help me by clicking on each of the three red/green ads at the very top of this page. All you have to do is click on each one once or twice, and it will register in my funds. You don't have to sign up for anything, and you won't get spyware; it's really very simple. Then I earn money...about 10 cents per click. So c'mon, be a pal, donate a few clicks. You can be sure I'll return the favor.
Who am I?
This is the empty space on the page in which I should have something clever written, such as, "When you're riding in a time machine way far into the future, don't stick your elbow out the window, or it'll turn into a fossil," or "Here's a good thing to do if you go to a party and you don't know anybody: First, take out the garbage. Then go around and collect any extra garbage that people might have, like a crumpled-up napkin, and take that out too. Pretty soon people will want to meet the busy garbage guy."
-Jack Handey, "Deep Thoughts"
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Written circa June 2008
To follow up on my last post, I may as well light up the matches and start throwing furniture around. The occasion? I'm going back to law school. Two months have afforded me the opportunity to not only rest and relax, but also to rethink. Before finals were up - and even for some time afterward - I couldn't bring myself to even consider going back next year. The stress and misery were too fresh. Instead, I absorbed myself in other pursuits, primarily writing. My boyfriend jokingly questioned how long that would last, and after two weeks, I couldn't bring myself to write or edit another sentence. This is the reality that has undergirded every endeavor of mine: I pressure myself to such a great extent that I inevitably burn out. Three major areas of my life so far have followed that exact pattern: writing, music, and law. My "awakening" two months ago was followed by a second awakening: to the real world. Eight hours a day, I've learned, is a vast stretch of time in which to be bored. Fortunately, my job as a research assistant has led me to realize that when it's paid, studying (and learning generally) isn't so bad.
I've also realized (for about the zillionth time?) that I need to get past my perfectionist complex if I am ever going to achieve a satisfying existence. My lack of motivation in preparing for final exams has produced a significant (and, I must admit, gut-wrenching) opportunity for me to practice accepting non-perfection. When I think about my future, two distinct paths appear: either the never-ending quest for perfection, that holy grail which drives lawyers in the large firms to sacrifice everything else in their lives for the competitive marathon of "success"; or the path toward fulfillment, where my motivation comes from a guiding sense of purpose. I think I'll choose the latter.
On an unrelated note, I have learned a valuable lesson: orange juice, cranberry juice, and tequila do not mix well. At least not for my taste buds.
I've also developed a new, most shocking addiction: Sex and the City. I'd like to be optimistic and believe this shallow vice took root solely due to my lack of Tivo and the four seasons of DVDs that my sister conveniently left at my apartment. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised; this seems a logical outgrowth of my other guilty indulgence: hip-hop music. Actually, that's probably a euphemism. A more accurate description would be "that pop trash that constitutes the flimsy substance of AT 40 and the like." (I even find myself taking pride in blasting that shit from my car with the windows rolled down!) Ah well, everyone's gotta have a little fun sometimes.
Which leads me to another thought. I've entered one of those blessed stages of life where I truly enjoy it and, for lack of a better descriptor, feel like I'm in a good place. Perhaps it's just the rejuvenating intoxication of summer. Or perhaps it's the perks of my low-key job: sleeping in, working until noon in my pj's at the kitchen table, taking a leisurely afternoon jog . . . you get the idea. Whatever the cause, I am delightfully free from angst and the burden of not knowing where I'm headed. Granted, I certainly don't have my future mapped out, but I have a general sense. The result: that elusive achievement of contentment with where I am now and genuine excitement for where I'll be in the foreseeable future. My college orchestra teacher always used to talk about her quest for finding that delicate balance in life between work, her family, and her own well being. That thought was practically her theme song; somehow, it managed to crop up in every conversation. Although I didn't really appreciate it then, I'm now starting to apprehend the importance of balance. No longer do I have the desire to fling myself unreservedly into the arms of a single pursuit, whether it be law, music, or anything else. Whatever career path I ultimately find myself straddling, the ideal no longer encompasses perfection. Instead, its hallmark will balance. One more final to go, and I'll have completed my first year of law school.
Every major change in my life has been accompanied by a hefty dose of angst. The transition to high school, where I was confronted by a bleak hierarchy of popularity in which I had no place; followed by a more severe uprooting when I began college, accompanied by a six-month plunge into depression. Even my four-month stint in Guatemala nearly derailed in the first week when I realized I had jumped in a lake that was far deeper than I imagined, and I couldn't swim. But somehow I made it through, still intact. I mention this not to indulge in some sort of self-pity, emerging-victorious glorification, but only to explore possible explanations of the meandering emotional roads in which I've become entangled. Law school is certainly one such complex bramble.
Fortunately, the Catholic school I'm at cares enough about each student's development as a person (rather than a scruple-less intellectual machine) to require us to take a foundational ethics/morality course during our first semester. If nothing else, this course has at least instilled in me a bright red, flashing lights, blaring alarm as to the singular downfall and temptation of the lawyering profession, the roots of which are sown in the first year of law school: the loss of one's self. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But it seems the cliche of the hired-gun, soulless lawyer has an unfortunate grounding in reality. I've already noticed it: a gradual tarnishing of the ideals upon which my entrance essay hinged; a resignation to the solutionless ambiguity of any moral framework; a deepening skepticism that fades ominously into an over-arching pessimism; a thoughtless resignation to the presumed truism that money, not morality, is the ultimate engine that must motivate every law student's lofty goals.
Somehow, in identifying it, the "darker side" of the practice of law (and the unspoken atmosphere of law school) is revealed to be a farce. The very nature and purpose of law is the pursuit of justice, not the pursuit of money. Lawyers, as gatekeepers to that system of justice, bear the foundational obligation to open those gates to the marginalized of society, not just to those who can pay the top buck. And lawyers are not merely slaves of an individualistic paradigm, forced to forgo their own moral convictions in order to serve "The Client," but rather people who cannot and should not slip in and out of their conscience and value systems like paper dolls disposing of one set of garments after another.
All of this I know; yet it scares me to realize how much I've been slipping. For the past three years, I acquired and developed what came to be the integral basis of my outlook in life: a commitment to unblinkingly face the suffering of the poor and marginalized in the world, and to do something about it. This entailed countless implications, ranging from a disdain for the isolationist and materialistic elements of American culture to a deep-seated discomfort with any expression of luxury or excess. But then I graduated, and somehow that all dissipated into the background. I no longer give pause to the fact that I enjoy plentiful restaurant meals while 90% of the children in the Guatemalan village where I lived for over a month are malnourished. I no longer feel guilty, or even a bit saddened, when I spend $30 on a pair of boots I don't need, when that $30 could feed or clothe several children for a month. Of course, I'm simplifying these issues. But what most disturbs me is that I no longer think about them. Whether I should feel guilt, or sadness, or some mild form of troubledness - that is open to debate; but what is clear and compelling is that I, as a Christian, should at least think about these issues and feel something. Instead, I've been snug in my own selfish world, content to hinge my worries upon nothing more important than the next day's readings or edifying my course outlines. Thankfully, I have a wonderful boyfriend who is kind enough to remind me of all the times I railed against the pitfalls that I've recently been slumping into. And who also has instilled in me the epiphany that simply being angry and ranting against something is worthless; and that progress and ideals are only achieved by actions.
I recently joined a community orchestra, which is the culmination of a year-long yearning. Nine months ago (it's absurd how fast time has gone!), I sat in a folding chair on a humid night in front of a Guatemalan cathedral, where their national orchestra performed Tchaikovsky and Resphigi. Their performance became my lament for what I felt I had sacrificed - the unspeakable joy of being a part of something larger than yourself, creating something beautiful that none could produce on their own. A month later, I was overcome with envy when I encountered a young violinist warming up for a wedding in that same cathedral. In those four months, I came to recognize that music is an essential part of my life.
Although I am occasionally, when moved by the raw emotion of a tender note caressed with vibrato, tempted to regret giving up my stake in the race to become a professional musician, most of the time I regard it as one of the best decisions I ever made. That spring a few years ago, when I gave up practicing six hours a day and re-awakened to the infinite well of other joys and interests the world has to offer, was rich and abundant. I discovered, among other things, a profound passion for theology, for intellectual stimulation, for nature, for spending time with friends, and for a good novel. I had forgotten that music is not the only source of beauty and light in the world. I had forgotten that I could derive satisfaction and peace from a copious banquet rather than a stifling staple diet. Now, the pendulum has finally come to rest in that harmonious middle ground. Music enjoys a place in my life, but not a pedestal.
Which summons me back to the topic of law school. In sharp contrast to my last entry, I've had a change of heart. Feel free to giggle or even laugh out loud at the over-the-top dramatics of my previous tirades, and at the immensity, and perhaps foreseeability, of this colossal turn-around. I'll qualify that I am not nearly as dramatic in person as I am in writing. However, every major adjustment in my life has at first been met with bitter antagonism. On my third day in Guatemala, for instance, I left a sobbing message on my boyfriend's phone insisting that I couldn't handle what I had blindly plunged into and would be returning home. Thankfully, a few days of forbearance brought about a return to rationality. Law school, I think, is analogous.
Part of what allowed me to embrace law school, and the profession entailed therein, was an explicit rejection of those repugnant aspects which originally tainted its entire flavor: namely, the pressure-cooker atmosphere, the obsessive perfectionism, the competitive mentality, and the temptation for it to be all-consuming. For the sake of simplicity, I have consolidated all of these negative characteristics into a single representative entity: the Big Firm. Thankfully, my school has made a pronounced effort to unveil the horrors of the Big Firm, and to convince students that it is but an ugly pimple on the otherwise lovely face of the profession. I have made a choice to remove that pimple and all it represents from my complexion. That is not to say that there aren't still hardships and doubt. I recently experienced what I've come to dub "the mid-semester meltdown." That is, I reach the point in the semester where I realize I've got a ridiculous amount of work to do to complete a major writing project, create extensive outlines for all my courses, and being preparing for finals. This can be quite overwhelming, and it is tempting to throw up my hands and screw it all.
Posted at 11:12 am by Farasha
Friday, April 25, 2008
It's finally happened. I've had a breakdown, breakthrough, reformation, realization, whatever you want to call it. I reached the end of my rope and have tossed it all in.
Okay, so this isn't really a breakthrough: it's a mere reprise. Remeber my last entry? Where I pledged that, absent a divine revelation, I was going to quit law school at the end of the first semester? And the entry before that, where I pledged that I had finally, for the twelve-millionth time, renounced law school? Well . . .I'm almost ashamed to admit it. Here I am. Entrenched in the finals of second semester. And nonetheless miserable.
I may as well confess my utter lack of courage. If I had to narrow it down to one element, I'd say it's fear that's kept me here so long. Fear of the unknown, fear of instability, fear of disappointing certain others, fear of failure. My shallow, perfectionistic ambitions got the best of me. And here I am, nine months wasted, thrown to the wind. Nine months to learn something I already knew: that this isn't for me.
But law school has a sneaky way of sucking students in, irretrievably. During our orientation, one of the deans stated that he'd had the pleasure of convicincing dozens of people not to quit . . .and watching them walk across the stage at graduation, field successful jobs, etc. This disturbed me even when I first heard it. If someone wants to quit, why stop them? It sounded like the kind of paternalistic "we know what's best for you" attitude that trapped me here in the first place. That narrow ideology - the notion that law students are the chosen few who can enjoy an elite, successful life - has repulsed me from the get-go.
But the real turning point came when I envisaged my future as a lawyer. No matter how many variations I came up with, each was brimming with stress, overwork, and ultimate meaninglessness: crumbling over the burden of hundreds of deadlines; struggling to manufacture countless legal briefs; poring into tedious legal research; and the eternal harbinger that no matter how many hours I put into it, nothing would ever be "good enough" . . .merely imagining this scenario was enough to plunge me into depression. Coupled with this vision of the future was the equally disturbing prediction that at some point - whether it be tommorow, next year, or fifty years from now - I would wake up one morning and realized I had wasted my life on something I didn't care about, or at worst, abhorred. Why would I throw away my only life so wantonly?
Fueled by these meditations, I am again renouncing the path I have taken, and pledging to take up a new one. Hell, I would rather be working at MacDonald's.
But enough of this thread. I refuse to focus my blog exclusively on the horrors of law school.
I've been thinking a lot about Guatemala lately. Probably because it's been exactly a year since I was there. I know I have a tendency to idealize events once they've past - and Guatemala is no exception - but in my mind, I've formed the epitaph that Guamtemala was the first real experience in my life where I fully lived out a dream, where I chose my own path and stuck with it, where I felt like I was truly living. In addition to being absorbed in another culture - something I'd yearned to do for years - as well as being immersed in strikingly beautiful scenery, I was also able to indulge in a more perdurable passion: writing. Fueled by a more peaceful lifestyle, I was able to complete dozens of poems, several short stories, and seven-eighths of a 70,000-word novel. This was the kind of existence I'd been searching for: at once, the freedom and inspiration to write.
When I returned from Guatemala, I suddenly found that I was unable to write. I would sit at the computer, fingers poised at the keyboard, and paralysis would strike. Unable to write a single word, I would give up in frustration. Perhaps it was the reverse culture-shock. Perhaps it was the doldrums of having to work a full-time job again. Who knows.
Three weeks ago, spurred by my inability to endure another moment of studying, I again took up the novel I had begun over a year ago. Three nights ago, I finished it.
I told a friend of mine that it feels as though I've taken out a new lease on life. More than that: I've been granted a new life entirely. A reprieve. The opportunity to pursue what I should have been pursuing all along.
Since high school, I've observed that I have a tendancy to destroy myself. This used to occur in more overt, physical ways; now, it's occured in my subersive fears and insecurities, sidetracking me to the point of derailment. Hopefully, these moments of clarity will be enough to light the way back to the path I should have taken.
I'll still have to somehow stare down the unpleasant reality that I'll be disappointing my parents. This has perhaps been the most compelling reason I didn't quit after the first semester; yet counterbalancing it is my ever-present desire to rebel. There is something deeply gratifying about turning my back on the expectations of others; about throwing my alleged "success" into the trash can. It's the same sort of rebellious impuse that fueled my U-turn away from a career in music. But I'm still regarding that as one of the better decisions I've ever made; how much more, then, should this be beneficial to my overall well-being.
On an unrelated note. . . (and since it is nearly 3 a.m., I'd better apologize for the confused lack of framework in this skewed entry) . . .every so often, I come across a film that absolutely intrigues and allures me. The Lord of the Rings, Ulysses' Gaze, Donnie Darko, The Fountain - and, most recently, Children of Men. I first watched it in Guatemala, but since then, have watched it several more times and picked up on much more of the depth of meaning and symbolism. Its overarching beauty is stunning - from the story itself to the metaphysical themes to the achingly gorgeous soundtrack, I simply can't get enough of it.
That's my Movie Recommendation of the Blog Entry.
Also, as a clarifying note, this is not "the end" of my blog, so far as I can tell. But hopefully, it is the end of law school. The final end. If not - if my next entry echoes this lament for continuing on another semester - then I reserve the right to destroy random furniture and light things on fire in a barbaric rage.
The basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but the
ignominy, the humiliation we feel that we must be what we are without
any choice in the matter, and that this humiliation is seen by everyone.
-Milan Kundera, Immortality
Anyone whose goal is 'something higher' must expect someday to suffer
vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something
other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us
which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which,
terrified, we defend ourselves.
-Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Posted at 02:19 am by Farasha
Sunday, September 30, 2007
It's interesting how life takes all these little turns and detours that one never would have expected, or worse, feared. Did I say interesting? A better description might be depressingly, bitterly ironic.Ever since I announced my short-lived intention to go to law school a year and a half ago, it has risen up like a zombie in a gunfight - no matter how many times I blow its guts out, it stumbles on to haunt me. Despite having adamently decided a dozen or more times to avoid going to law school at any cost, here I am, entrenched in my first semester of law school.What happened to all my idyllic visions of living a bohemian lifestyle until I was able to secure a career that I actually wanted to pursue, such as teaching? What happened to my nausea-inducing distaste of the high-flying, money-chasing lifestyle where one must sacrifice all of one's hobbies, desires, and even manner of dressing for the sake of a six-digit salary? That nausea is still bubbling about my innards, suppressed by my knee-jerk perfectionism and a compulsive need to please all others, at all costs. Law school is indeed a pressure-cooker: everything but those two base drives - perfectionism and an obsession with others' perceptions of oneslef - is boiled away.I can't help but feel a profound sense of failure. Despite my best efforts and intentions, I've sold out. I've given in to my fears, to silver-tongued words and to the unimaginative blah of American life. In the course of a few hours, guided by the flit of a whim, I made the fateful decision to "give it a try." Granted, I am being over-dramatic. Nothing is ever permanent; giving in to "American blah" is a choice one makes and can easily overturn; and it is possible to go to law school and even become a lawyer without sacrificing the prospect of a deeply meaningful and fulfilling life. So what's all my fuss about? Perhaps it is simply that the unhalting march of time has ignited in me an intense nostalgia for the dreams and ideals I've cradled over the past several years. Or, more significantly, it is probably the abrupt shock of plunging from the acadmic atmosphere I had long conquered into the vast, unstructured "real world" that law school attempts to simulate. The very thought of spending all day in a law firm office, at court, meeting with clients, etc. makes me want to run to the neerest coffee shop, jump behind the counter, and begin working as a barista. Fundamentally, I both abhor and fear being in a position where I am responsible and accountable to others for maintaining a high level of success. When I gave up pursuing a career in music, I was motivated by that same antipathy toward the highly pressurized perfectionism therein entailed. Last fall, after completing 18 credits and 90 pages worth of final papers, the most peaceful sigh of relief in all my four years in college arose from my J-term course: a spiritual literature class designed to be contemplative, low-pressure, and explorative. At once, I realized this was the sort of life I wanted to live: one that allows time to breathe, to reflect, to enjoy. It couldn't have been a sharper contrast to the countless days I'd been flipping through like pages of a calendar, wondering how indeed one day could pass to the next when I had only a few hours' sleep to revive myself. That J-term class also re-introduced me to writing: writing for the simple pleasure of it, for therapeutic enjoyment.
But now, here I am, again entrenched in the high-pressure, high workload environment that I had so adamently sworn off. The sardonic irony now seems so obvious: that for the amount of time, effort, and motivation required to even survive law school with some degree of success, I may as well be in grad school as a viola performance major. I harbor only a mild interest in the law, its components, and the work associated with being a lawyer; my passion for music was once so strong that to even consider giving it up was akin to contemplating hacking off my own arm. Yet somewhere along the way that very thing did happen, and I chose the path of practicality; of unbreathing, mundane rationality.
I've said before that boredom is my greatest hatred in life. Ennui might be a better term: that realization that nothing in life holds any interest, that nothing is worthwhile. Such ennui takes root in a sterile mind no longer capable of imagination; a mind drained of all creative resources, and even the desire to create. That, I fear, is where I am headed: a deadening of the soul, a disillusionment with the world, a dreadful mundanity.
I'm going to jog down the cliche road of childhood idealization for a moment, and recount the multitude of summers I spent immersed, hour after hour, in what I now consider to be slightly cheesy, formulaic fantasy novels. The first fantasy book I ever read, whereby I became enamored with the genre, was titled Man from Mundania. The theme was so delicious, so compelling, so alluring, like Super Mario had seemed when I was younger; it was the door to another world. For years, I was obsessed with the genre; so much, in fact, that I began to despair of the dullness of reality. I would have given anything for the slightest peek into another, more exciting world: a secret portal, a flicker of a dream figment flung into the waking world, or even a poltergeist - anything to break rigid, impenetrable reality.
Music, I think, became an extension of that desire. Music shrouds the achingly monotonous routines of life with the raw glow of emotion. Music reminds us that we live not by our bodies, or even by our minds and our reason, but by our souls - our throbbing, vulnerable hearts. In music, we face the absurd mystery of life; we bathe in its roiling tides, whether they be tides of ecstasy, rage, sorrow, or laughter. We confront our own existence, and we emerge recreated.
I've always been intrigued by biographies of classical composer like Berlioz, Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, etc. They all lived so honestly, so passionately, so fiercely, and so sensitively. For this, the flames of life were to them consuming conflagrations; yet the blessings were blissful beyond any flat humanly caricature of heaven. Berlioz, for instance, could not attend a concert without bursting into tears at the beauty of it.
Is it selfish of me to desire this sort of life? To prefer the full, unhindered intensity of emotion, passion, experience, and the senses to a hollow shell of conformity, a carefully constructed shield from the storms of life?
In all of this I only mean to say that for me, as with each individual, there are certain activities, certain pursuits, that make me feel alive, that ignite my passion and excitement, that motivate me to bear through the dreariness, and that shed light into the gray cobwebbed corners of existence and infuse them with color.
I am a creative, emotional person. While I do find purely academic pursuits interesting, they do not instill in me the kind of life and breath that music, writing, and literature do. Thus, I may as well admit, I have virtually no motivation to invest in law school. It was difficult enough to invest six hours a day in something I enjoyed for a specific goal I sought with great ambition; to trip back into that hole for no purpose or goal has filled me with nothing but resentment toward it. When I look around, no one else is in my position, which of course makes sense; why enter an expensive, technical education if you don't plan to pursue that career? One of my law school classmates expressed to me that in finally attending law school, he is living out his childhood dream. This, of course, made me further wonder what I am doing here.
Throughout the last four years, I've experienced several defining moments where I step back and realize I'm living out a dream, or at least a desirous achievement, as in, "Hey, look how far I've come; I never would have expected to actually be doing this!" This happened most notably when I traveled to Turkey and Greece, studied abroad in Guatemala, took that J-term literature class, made several good friends my junior year, and began dating my boyfriend. In contrast are the depressing moments when I look around and wonder where I've gone wrong. A friend of mine once told me that when he has those moments, he examines his life and figures out what needs to change - whether it be a living situation, job, routine, whatever - he simply uproots the problematic element. I've used this advice several times, with encouraging results, and am now planning to use it again. At the end of this semester, unless I'e had some life-changing experience or divine revelation that convinces me otherwise, I'm going to quit law school. I'm going to look past the possible consequences - my parents' extreme disapproval, financial setbacks, and the troubling connotation of failure that accompanies withdrawing - and bury this undying phantom once and for all.
For those of you still with me (that is, if anyone still even reads this thing at all), I'd like to hear your thoughts. Not about my life, which I've painted here with nearly pathetic candor, but rather about the general questions I've posed, or any insights, even anonymous ones. Mostly I just want to have the relief that I've made some connection across this vast void of the internet.
On an unrelated note, I've lately gotten hooked on listening to audio books in my car. (This is partly due to the fact that I spend so much time in my vehicle, thanks to eternal road construction and traffic, and partly due to my vehicle's lack of a CD player.) I recently completed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which led me to this wonderful reminiscence: Arthur - Library Card.
---"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."-Albert Einstein"Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."-Franklin D. Roosevelt"Eveyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together."-Georg G. Lichtenberg"The world is but a canvas to the imagination."-Henry David Thoreau"The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."-Saul Steinberg"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."-Beatrix Potter
Posted at 02:41 pm by Farasha
Monday, April 02, 2007
I came to realize, seeing as how it is half-way through my last semester in college, and the original intention of this blog was to chronicle my wayward journeys through this phase of life, I'm probably overdue for an update.Looking back through past entries, I am overtaken by a distressing nostalgia for everything I left behind. If I have learned anything, it is that I will never be completely satisfied wherever I am or whatever I am doing; maybe it is just human nature that so confounds the emotions, pressing us into eternal bondage, chained to ideals and illusions that will never come to be. I have chased these will-o-the-wisps for the last 4 years to no avail; each time I come up with a gem, it melts away before I can recognize it. In the end, the experiences remain - the memories that aren't appreciated until they are long gone...and so I am forever haunted by the double-sided coin of yearning and nostalgia.Not that I would change anything; every moment of this journey has been of value, if only to open my mind a bit wider. In many ways, I am ready to graduate and move on; after 3 inhumanely intense semesters, I will lounge delightfully in the freedom from academic pressure, from that perfectionist bug that still clings to my innards. This current semester has also solidified many of the complaints I've been harboring about Bethel - in particular, its legalism and pervasive attitude of self-righteousness (which, I must qualify, only dwells - albeit forcefully - amongst perhaps half of the students) - all of which seem to reach a pinnacle in the dreadfully authoritarian atmopshere of Guatemala Term. Since all of the other students are underclassmen who have drastically different foci than I (I would explain this a bit further, but I'm afriad it would come out sounding thoroughly patronizing, so I'll resist that urge), I've spent the last two months feeling out of place and isolated. On the one hand, that's no big deal; I can handle solitude fairly well, and often appreciate it. On the other, I feel like I've completely lost touch with the group of like-minded souls who have drifted away over the course of the past year or two; even my boyfriend feels worlds away, despite our daily phone calls. So I absorb myself in studying Spanish, ticking off books from the pages-long list of literature I've been wanting to tackle, writing poetry, dabbling in Catholicism, listening to Durufle's Requiem every night, wandering amongst gardens and church ruins, and generally thinking a lot, trying to achieve that state we vaguely label "inner peace." When the other students witness bits and pieces of these behaviors, they vocally label my an "introvert," and perhaps mentally label me with other, less neutral adjectives, leaving me feeling as though I am some odd sort of freak - like how I felt in the 3rd grade when I was the only kid in the class to get glasses, and the others chuckled under their breaths at my expense. This is frustrating to me: I could name countless other examples in which the attitudes of Bethel students (and staff) have left such a bad taste in my mouth that I wonder why we even tout the "Christian" banner that only ends up implicating us further. But there are plenty of other things that I have truly loved about Bethel - its strong social consciousness, its challenging academic standards, the more honest and open-minded stance of most of the faculty, and - although a minority - a sector of the most thoughtful, intelligent, deep, and truly loving people I have ever met. Overall, I think I would have been quite a different person had I not come here. Like most things in life, there is no simple newspaper-print definition of this amorphous institution that has cradled these past four years of my life; at the very least, it has helped attune me to the intricacies of the countless nameless shades that color this vast world.And now, in only a few short weeks, I will face again the empty slate. I have decidedly rejected the law school option, which my parents are still persistantly pushing down my throat, and am now toying with the idea of teaching high school English, perhaps in the ranks of Teach for America. I say "toying" because I feel torn between two spheres: 1) the desire to open my eyes to the problems and desolations of the world, and try to do something, however small, to make a difference; and 2) the desire to foment my awareness in more intellectual ways, via life-long academia. The problem with the first resides in my lack of self-confidence; I'm not sure I would be suited to deal with, much less assist, problem students (anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that Teach for America is all-consuming in its arduousness). And the second is corroded by my love-hate relationship with academia: on the one hand, I get sucked into the addicting intensity and challenge of it, and part of me almost requires a constant intellectual feeding in order to keep boredom at bay; yet too often the pressure becomes too much and I find that I have become a slave to something I don't really care about. (Witness the countless quagmires I've fallen into over choosing majors.) I have also been noticing lately, thanks in part to my boyfriend's astute insights, that I lack virtually any viable decision-making ability. Something as simple as deciding whether to go read in the park this afternoon or come to this quaint little cafe to soak up some coffee sent my head spiraling for 20 minutes. Last week, after waffling back and forth for several days, I decided to head to the beach for the weekend with some friends; I ended up coming back 2 days early because I had not anticipated the unbearable, suffocating heat. In the past year, I have seriously considered the following career paths: teaching English in Europe; becoming an M.D. and devoting my life to treating AIDS patients in Africa, Albert Schweitzer-style; going to law school to be a human rights lawyer; pursuing an M.A. and eventually Doctorate in either creative writing or english literature; taking classes part-time to earn a teaching certificate; and finally, the Teach for America option. The year before that, the list included a professional orchestral violist, a music teacher, a theology professor, and a marine biologist. At least I have now, at long last, come to peace with the role of music as a prominant hobby in my life. I am still trying to discern the place of writing. During J-term, I had the pleasure of taking a class in spiritual autobiographies which, despite the cheesy title, offered me the change to write several reflections and to read something other than dry academic non-fiction. I absolutely loved it. Finally, I was back coiling up a thread that I though had been washed away by the inundating busyness of college life - writing. Although, looking back, I never truly quit writing. Sure, I didn't write 200,000-word fantasy novels like I did in high school, but I did manage to keep this blog going, to write for the college newspaper, and to occasionally produce a few poems or fiction tidbits. Since being in Guatemala, I've written substantially more poetry and journaled, but am still scanning the horizon for that enthralling bliss when an irressistable character stumbles into my brain and hammers to be squeezed out onto paper. I'm still awaiting that shudder of inspiration that used to keep me up to the pre-dawn hours, clacking away at the keyboard, completely absorbed in the world that was stumbling out from my head. Sometimes I feel like I'm chasing a mirage that fades whenever I think I'm getting close.But enough of that nonsense. If anyone still reads this, you probably care less about the strange swamps that swirl about my mind (which reminds me - I just saw Mirrormask for the first time last night; incredible!!!); you're probably wondering what the hell I'm up to. In order to satisfy that deep-seated urge that just wouldn't go away, I decided rather late in the game to study abroad in Guatemala. Since describing these last two months would require several more cups of coffee and a power source for my computer (whose battery life is seaping away as I type), I will just sum it up by saying that I'm learning how utterly beautiful and depressing the world is; both full of hope and utterly hopeless. You'd think that would be confusing, and it is, but I'm also learning to be at peace with ambiguity, to stop trying to define and explain everything around me, and to realize that my little brain is really quite small and insignificant in comparison with all the shit and goodness that flows around me, much of the time sneakily unnoticed. I've been faced with the truth I suspected for some time: that there are no easy answers, no voice from the heavens to calm my doubts and fears, but that perhaps in the inanswerable silence, something untouchable dwells, already soothing the hurts and inspiring light.************************ "I made you with love. I've wept your tears. I've saved you from more than you will ever know; I planted in you this longing for peace only so that one day I could satisfy your longing and watch your happiness. And now you push me away, you put me out of your reach. There are no capital letters to separate us when we walk together. I am not Thou but simply you, when you speak to me; I am humble as any other beggar. Can't you trust me as you'd trust a faithful dog? I have been faithful to you for two thousand years."-Graham Greene, "The Heart of the Matter"
-La musica de mi alma-
Dentro de mí existe una faceta sensitiva que resuena con toda la belleza
de la música. La música para mí es más
que una forma de expresarme; es como una ventana en el alma de la humanidad, de
su condición en toda su hermosura y falibilidad. Es una fuente de inspiración y sustento que
nunca se secará; en la superficie destellada veo como una reflexión de un espejo
mi misma imágen que está obersvándome.
Aqui, en este lugar tranquilo, donde floto en las armonías corrientes, la
música incorpora todos los aspectos que residen dentro de mí: espiritual, emocional, y físicamente. Tocar el violín es una acción física que
produce efectos que desplegan por todo mi ser.
El ritmo corresponde con el
transcurso de los tiempos: de sembrar hasta la cosecha, de la primavera juvenil
hasta el otoño maduro, y del amanecer fresco hasta el crepúsculo cansado. Cuando toco el violín una canción dulce y
ligera – quiza la “Meditación de Thais” de Massanet, que contiene los cariños
tiernos de amantes récien descubiertos - puedo sentir todas las alegrías que
fluyen por la vida. Los sonidos
pensativos tocan mi corazón como una brisa suave de la primavera. Cuando empiezo una melodía lúgubre y
nostálgica - la “Elegía” de Fauré, que
evoca un sentido profundo de pérdida - aparecen todas las tristezas y el peso
del mundo. El instrumento abrazado en
mis dedos llora como una poesía de sonidos bonitos y movidos. Pero la forma musical más representativa de
mi misma es la fuga – la firma característica de Bach, que lleva la elegancia y
majestad de catedrales ancianos en su arte helado: una mezcla en la cual se entrelazan la amplia
gama de emociones y sucesos, sorpresas, el ordinario cotidiano, y todos los
colores que pintan la vida humana. En
esta música, descubro y redescubro lo que yo soy: una persona compleja, que no la puedo
entender completamente, pero siempre creciendo y cambiando, guíada por las
divinas manos invisibles.
Posted at 05:57 pm by Farasha
Saturday, October 14, 2006
the smell of decomposing bananas...is taking over my senses
Wow, I bet you thought this thing would never get updated...in fact, I nearly forgot about this whole endeavor, until recent stress has driven me to find means of relief other than just sleeping (which I don't really have time for) and eating (which invokes a vicious cycle of guilt-complexes). I came to the realization that 19 credits is a bit much. Especially since, although I'm technically at 19 credits, I only get actual credit for 18, because I do not want to have to pay more than the absorbitant amount that I've already bled for . . .what? Oh yeah, an education, which is essential for the quality of the rest of my life, and yet what I will be paying for the duration of my life. I love free-market capitalism and the wonderful ideals it fosters. I hope somebody comes up with a way to charge me money for air, because, let's face it, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and there's vast entrepreneurial opportunity to be had in restricting and re-distributing breathable air. Think of the economy! Think of the explosion of jobs! Because capitalism doesn't create dependency...nooooo, far from it, we simply harness the producing potentials of dependencies that God granted us!That's right....this isn't a blog entry unless I include at least one mini-rant.I should be getting started on the 200-pages I have yet to read before tomorrow. Pssshh.In my attempt to find the text of some TS Eliot poems online, I couldn't help but chuckle at the following juxtaposition: Eliot's sublime Preludes flanked by the raunchy photo of a scantily-clad woman, hands cupping her crotch, and the brilliantly original slogan: "Single and ready for ACTION!" Hmmmm....I bet Eliot would have laughed....and then frowned. I'm trying to figure out what my existence will look like after I graduate this spring. So far, I've only been able to conjure romantic notions of living in an artistically austere apartment in the throbbing heart of the city, being thus inspired by a bohemian lifestyle to devote myself to reading, writing, and other creative endeavors...this contrasts with another, deeper fear that I will instead end up in a friendless suburbian blah, entrenched in a meaningless job, without either inspiration or motivation. And yet prior to this is what my existence will look like next semester, in Guatemala....of course I have imaginative pre-conceptions of what this will be, but usually my pre-conceptions utterly fail to even remotely anticipate the depth of experience as it spins out in reality, thus I hesitate to even consider; and yet another unknown, in the vast sea of unknowns that confronts me. This seems to reflect that fact that I am never an isolated being in the here-and-now present reality. I can never fully experience present reality independent of past memory and future expectations. Indeed, my cognitive processes are insubstantial if emptied of the impact of past and future. Herein lies the irony of time: our very existence is materially confined, defined, and dependent upon this category, and yet we must transcend it to have any meaningful existence whatsoever. This paradox confronts us most obviously in the memory of loved ones. Disney has siezed upon the formulaic sentiment that our loved ones, though no longer with us, "live on" in our delightful memories. Of course, this abstract remembrance in my individual mind surely bears no correlation with the external existence of that person...yet, is there any way in which that person can be said to existence outside of time, in abstract form....Nevermind, I lost that train of thought.But speaking of which, I just saw Martin Scorsese's new film "The Departed," which I'd highly, highly recommend. There are a billion different ways in which I could describe the affective genius of this film, but I'll just let it speak for itself. Gosh. Somehow, in my long departure from updating this thing, I've lost my ability to blog with relative ease. Whereas before this was something I enjoyed, and was truly relaxing, and even inspiring, now I feel like I'm struggling to concoct something artificial - like a letter to my Grandma, or a paper I've left until the last moment. (Not that my letters to my Grandma are artificial in the sense of being deceptive; rather, they simply fail to capture essential elements of my life and consciousness, and thus feel rather contrived.) And yet, I hate having to just plow through periods of my life without regularly stopping to reflect - even if I only have time to reflect upon one menial aspect. So for now, I'll satisfy myself by reflecting on a sentiment that has been confronting me in many different forms lately: the notion that life is a lot more...liveable...when I quit worrying about things, quit trying to remain in absolute control at all times, quit trying to juggle a dozen crystal plates without dropping any - in short, quit trying to attain perfection. Theologian Rudolf Bultmann (and his philosophical influence, Heidegger), captured this as a prominent message of the New Testament - that we cannot live authentic existences while being enslaved to transitory, meaningless things. Instead, we must "submit," and release ourselves to the openness of the future. (I know, that was a horrendous simplification, which does great injustice to Bultmann, Heidegger, and any intelligent mind, but hey, its 2am, and I ran out of caffeine hours ago.) For me, this "submitting" comes in the form of taking myself less seriously, by letting go of ambition - this stifling desire/illusion that I must somehow attain "greatness" in order to lead a meaningful existence - as well as my tendencies toward perfectionism, which are really a veiled form of ambition. When I free myself from this, I also free myself to engage in one of life's greatest joys - merely sitting back and observing, reflecting, and learning. Isn't this what all art comes down to? Observing, by way of re-creating or imitating. My apprehension of beauty is really just an observation, without feeling any compulsion or pressure to further my own being.I plan to elaborate on that theme more in the future, but for now, the stench of my kitchen garbage is dangerously overwhelming, so I think I had better leave the room and be off to bed....
The White Birds
I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!
We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee;
And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,
Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.
A weariness comes from those dreamers, dewdabbled, the lily and rose;
Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,
Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:
For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!
I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,
Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;
Soon far from the rose and the lily and fret of the flames would we be,
Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!.
Posted at 02:11 am by Farasha
Monday, May 08, 2006
....about that new blog. Somehow I thought I would keep up with it more if I started a new one. Hah. Look how that fared.
I should be writing a research paper on Liberation Theology right now. But lately I have not been motivated at all to do homework...we have an extra week of class this year than past years, and it feels like an extra month. The sad part is, when I think about my classes next fall, I already begin to stress out in advance over all the projects and papers and power-point presentations. I wish I could just quit worrying about it.
I've noticed that my life seems to progress in cycles. At least my emotions do. I feel like I have lost touch with reality....like I am just floating along, caught in the current, and not even realizing I'm wet. The mundanity of class, work, and homework has become overwhelming. I know it isn't really the external things that matter...I know it is my attitude and the distortions within my head that craft this twisted lens...perhaps it is just time for me to go home. I need to become rooted once again in that calm comfort, away from the anxiety of college life.
Looking back, I am struck by how many things have changed since last year. I finally decided to give up on the viola peformance major, and I know now that I could not have made a better decision. However, I have also realized that my new major, Biblical & Theological studies, is not everything I envisioned. Specifically, the Biblical studies portion is very draining - pure academia, with little to no practical applications, and with no overarching insight to tie it all together. This reflects the simple truth that there is no "dream career," no perfect field that will suit me. Whatever I end up doing with my life, there will be things I like and things I dislike.
Also in this new major, I've had to confront that same beast that governed my desire to be a performance major - the perfectionist critic inside me. Even when I try to relax and put things off for awhile, or when I try to wing an assignment at the last moment knowing it is within my capabilities to do so, that little voice silently chastens me, and I begin to feel that I am sub-par, that I am not good at anything. As a result, I become totally paralyzed, prepared to give up on anything that I cannot do with perfection. It is because of this beast that I have decided not to go into academia for a living. I do not want to be haunted by ambition-tinted urges disguised as guilt that never let me rest.
But enough of that.... despite all this moaning and griping, life really is very good. I recently rejoined orchestra, and found out I will after all be able to go on tour to Germany and Austria for two weeks in June. I am really enjoying the music we're playing - especially the Grieg piano concerto and the Gordeli flute concerto. Many other things in my life have turned out to be wonderful beyond my expectations . . .the "illusions" that I spoke about shattering last summer became reality. I will be working as a waitress again this summer, which I am really looking forward to.
So, in conclusion, I really have nothing to whine about. I tend to get absorbed in boredom and negativity and fail to open my eyes to the goodness surrounding me. That is part of why I write in this thing...so that I am forced to realize the foolishness of my self-pity.
Oh, one last thing. For at least a year now I have been struggling off-and-on to get back into writing fantasy fiction. I am now determined to do that this summer. It is something that will bother me to no end until I start actually doing it...but that is the hardest part, just getting started. Hopefully I will succeed one of these times.
Rex tremende semper inimice
ad gloriam perpetuam brave all we'll march
to give you the eternal agony
fill all my dreams
to rhymes of winds to the voice of the dead
to innocence of my memory
~Rhapsody, Symphony of Enchanted Lands
Posted at 10:12 pm by Farasha
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Posted at 12:55 pm by Farasha
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I would like to spend a few moments to spout about how wonderful yoga is. Today is a case in point.
I was feeling quite lethargic; I had already completed my studying for tomorrow, and was pointlessly surfing the internet. I thought about going for a walk, but it was cold out and I didn't have the energy. I then considered taking a nap, but I was feeling to lazy to even do that. Everything seemed pointless and boring.
Finally, I forced myself to do yoga. I'd been intending to do it since I got back from Turkey and Greece a few weeks ago (especially after the many hours spent riding a tour bus!). But, like most things I intend to do, this had fallen by the wayside.
The moment I began, however, I remembered why it is I continually return to yoga. I think it is the one activity that truely succeeds in relaxing me. Especially when it seems that even sleeping won't be enough to refresh my energy, yoga is incredibly invigorating. It not only heightens my awareness of my own body, but also increases my sensitivity to my surroundings.
Reading back over that, I realized that my writing style is become more and more dry and academic. I suppose this is the result of writing little more than research papers and newspaper articles for the last few months. Perhaps a bit of fiction writing would do me good. Lately, however, I have been lacking motivation to do much of anything.
Actually, after returning from Greece/Turkey, I was highly motived to start planning another "escape" abroad as soon as possible. I settled on a China Yunnan Province through the School for International Training, which is renowned for academic excellence and complete cultural immersion.
A brief aside here: though I thoroughly enjoyed the study tour through Greece and Turkey, its emphasis was solely on the historical/archaeological aspect. The trip hardly quenched my thirst for interaction with a non-Western people and culture. In fact, it merely whetted my appetite for further study/living abroad experiences.
Continuing on . . . this particular program was an intesive language and cultural studies project, complete with a 4-week independent study project which would allow me to pursue virtually any topic I wanted, in any part of the province that I wanted. Basically, my mouth waters just thinking about it.
I began the application process and recieved a few e-mails from program alumni who vouched that this was the best experience of their life.
But basically, my parents, who are funding a portion of my tuition, vetoed that option. I'm not sure why; they really had no good reason, other than the fact that they and I do not see eye-to-eye on some pretty basic life-outlook issues.
Perhaps this is part of the reverse culture-shock thing - an intense desire to get out of this country, and if that fails, little desire to do much else. I remember feeling this way after I returned from the Caribbean my sophomore year of high school. Everything in America seems pointless, drab, and meaningless; all the people seem materialistic and shallow. Of course, I realize this is largely a product of my emotions and that I must reign them in . . .and yet, I can't help but feel that the focus of my life has shifted somewhat. I cannot help but react with absolute repulsion at the idea of living the "American dream" - finding some pointless, yet high-paying job, to fund a nice house in the suburbs, car, huge TV, etc. After being in Turkey, I am more attracted toward a minimalistic lifestyle. Perhaps my favorite moment was standing atop a barren, windswept foothill, the valley spread out below us and primitive village nestled therein. We had climbed up to see a marble arch preserved from the time of Septimus Severus (2nd century CE) and the remarkably preserved Roman road. A Turkish man was shepherding his goats along the road, their clanking bells lost amidst the torrent of wind swept down from the mountains. The hills all around us were speckled with stark white boulders of curious shapes and sizes. We climbed amongst them, and found the ground and the stones to harbor a great many sea-shells. At that point, I let my imagination wander and tried to put myself in the place of that shepher, shamelessly romanticizing how wonderful it would be to simply wander through the hills, alone with the desolate wilderness, the ghostly footprints of Rome, and the herd of goats.
I took many carefully-prepared shots of that scene; when I got back, good ol' Walgreens destroyed three of my rolls of film, including that one. I could not have been more disappointed.
Hopefully I will be able to get back into the routine of college life and be content for the time being. It sounds strange, but I wish I was under more stress . . .having a lot of studying, a huge paper to write, an article to research - at least these give me something to focus on, other than dreaming of being abroad.
I did start another website, where I posted my previous newspaper columns, and will eventually post more poetry and other writings: http://amindrevealed.bravehost.com.It's not terribly polished yet, but still readable.
I may also try scan some photos from the trip and post them either here or there. The one at top is a mysterious 2nd-century AD Roman temple called "Frozen Stones". We had to scramble through the back streets of Tarsus, Turkey to find it; since it's largely unexcavated, it's not in any of the guidebooks or on the tourist gauge of interest. Then, the gate was locked, but somebody (probably teenagers looking for a spot to go drinking) had snuck a ladder on the backside that went partly up the crumbling stone wall...it was a bit of a climb. At one end was a small tunnel carved into the stone that ended in a steep, black hole. I tell you, there's nothing like tresppasing in a Roman temple.
Posted at 09:34 pm by Farasha
Monday, December 05, 2005
I saw the movie Rent recently. It was an amazing film. Based losely on Puccini's opera La Boheme, it chronicles the intertwined lives of modern bohemians attempting to pursue their ideal art while struggling to survive and maintain their sanity. Aside from the catchy tunes and emotion-saturated plot, the concepts represented were very thought-provoking, and echoed a lot of the issues I have been tossing around in my head for quite some time. Such as, is it really worth it to sell out one's time, effort, and passions in order to make a secure and stable living via a career path? Ultimately, which is more of a priority - having a "respectable" job, home, finance, family, car, etc., or pursuing those things which you deem important and valuable, and which bring you contentness? Sure, the bohemian sort of lifestyle is by no means orthodox, but it certainly seems to dig a lot more into the essence of truly living rather than just gliding along, oblivious to all else but the luxury before one's eyes.
I can't explain this, but for a while I've had a strange inclination to try and live in relative poverty, just to see what it is like. Not extreme poverty, but "poverty" in comparison to the environment in which I was raised. When I was younger, I was convinced for many, many years that being a freelance writer was the only "career" I wanted to pursue. I have to admit, that lifestyle has a certain romantic/idealistic tinge that is very appealing to me. Now, however, after experiencing the academic world, I have fallen in love with its ideals and emphasis upon striving for excellence. Perhaps the only solution is to experience all of these spheres, one at a time, as a sort of existential nomad.
Speaking of existentialism, (Okay, that was a really crappy segue, I know), I had to do a lot of research on Soren Kierkegaard last week for my theology class, and was blown away by this man. I remember learning of him first in high school English - all that was said of him was that he was the father of Existentialism, a concept which wasn't explained in any sensical terms. Little did I know that he was not only a philosopher, but also a theologian and a writer. His existential theology actually matches up very closely with Eastern Orthodoxy, which is interesting since he lived at a time when Orthodoxy was fairly inaccessible in the West. Perhaps he would have identified much better with Orthodoxy than with the Western church which he so despised for legitimate reasons. In fact, reading some of his works, I found that most of his refutations still apply to the American church today, with which I am becoming increasingly disillusioned.
Upon researching Kierkegaard's life and thought, I realized that I can identify with Kierkegaard on many issues. In fact, it was almost frightening; I began to worry that, were I to pursue these issues to the same extent that he did, I would end up like him - incredibly lonely, depressed, and isolated right up to his very last days. However, I have realized as of late that I will not find happiness in trying to unlock the deep secrets and mysteries of life - in fact, the further I delve into them, the more complex they become, and the futile my task. Strange how existentialism emphasises experience over principles or theories, and yet it seems that, aside from his writings and thoughts, Kierkegaard never truly experienced life. He didn't allow himself to. I do not want to end up that way.
In my astronomy class the other day, we had a guest speaker come in and speak on the creation-evolution contraversy. He was very strongly a young-earth creationist, and could see no reason whatsoever to trust in evolution. Because of a few evidences, in the fossil record and other areas, and because of his absolutely ghastly theology including a 100% literal reading of the Old Testament, he came to the conclusion that evolution can in no way be true. Dispite my attempts to be tolerant of his opinions, I left that class very angry and disgusted with the Christian faith in general. Why is it, I wondered, that we believe so strongly in certain foundational principles that we never bother to question, and then proceed to allow those principles to form our opinions on other, more testable things, such as science?
A lot of this stems from how fundamentalist the evangelical church has become. It is ironic to me how sola scriptura is spouted so frequently in the rhetoric of evangelicals, to the point that they find fault in the authority with which the Catholic church regards tradition; and yet, the very principle of sola scriptura itself has its roots in tradition. In fact, many doctrines that were regarded as absolute truth in the church I grew up in are actually very recent theological developments rooted in the reformation. If I walked into that church and denied one of those tenets, I would probably be regarded as a heretic. And yet, when you look at the early church - from the Apostles down through the Great Schism in 1054, none of those doctrines had yet come to be. The fact that the biblical canon as we have it today wasn't solidified until long after the earliest church fathers and theologians were at work is quite telling. And when you look at their brilliant work, it is far more profound and worlds away from most of the shitty theology spouted from Evangelicals today. Origen, who is regarded as one of the fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church, held that all of the Old Testament Septuigent should be interpreted allegorically/metaphorically, not literally. He didn't even believe in the creation story; he had a totally seperate, albeit Gnostic-influenced, view of creation. Why, then, can't Christians today accept the far more verifiable tenets of science? They are more willing to cling to the very shaky and childish principle of interpreting everything in the Bible literally over and above logic, reason, and fact. The young-earth speaker even proudly admitted to doing this. He argued that one could either accept the scientific information and reinerpret the Biblical framework, or else rework the science and accept the "obvious" biblical framework. He chose the latter as being the more "Christian" approach, and coupled it with words like "normal" regarding biblical interpretation. How on earth can someone with any knowledge of church history claim that there is a "normal" or "obvious" interpretation of the Bible???? The ignorance of that assumption bothers me to no end.
Furthermore, he went on to proclaim that science is the search for ultimate truth. I am blown away as to how a respected scientist and chair of the physics department could proclaim that statement. How can science be any more than an investigation of the physical world, and the search for the best description of physical reality? How can science answer metaphysical questions? How can science uncover theological assumptions?
I do not understand why Christians are so narrow-minded. Even at Bethel, which is relatively theologically liberal and tolerant, there are many who would consider me heretical if I publicly voiced some of my doubts about evangelical theology. It is as though they need to have a set of fundamental beliefs on which to base all of their decisions, because that is what is most comfortable to them.
I have been looking into Eastern Orthodox theology more and more lately, and everything about it rings far more honest and genuine. Such as the via negativa, the Way of Unknowing - the idea that God is fundamentally unknowable in his infinacy, and the closer we progress, the more we realize this to be the case. Such a principle separates what we know of God - termed his "creative energies" - from his true essence, which we can never really know. Theology, the bible, and tradition, then, are not absolute truth, but rather mediums through which God's creative energies serve to reveal him to us. Thus, narrow-mindedness actually inhibits faith.
Despite my affinity for Eastern Orthodox theology, I often wonder if there is any truth in religion at all. There is obviously no way of knowing this, any more than one can know whether the material world encompasses all that exists. My frustration occurs with the fact that religion, especially Christianity, is often times far more inhibiting and destructive than it is helpful. This problem arises again from narrow-mindedness: when people become so convicted that everything they believe is right and everything everybody else believes is wrong, to the point that they think it is necessary to force their "correct" opinions upon others. Another thing that bothers me is when Christians neglect or alienate their human relationships in order to further one with God - failing to realize that the former is never necessary, and in fact contradicts much of what Christianity is all about.
However, contrasting this are the ideals of Christianity - love, harmony, justice, and the preservation of human rights, dignity, and liberty - when actually put into practice. If there is nothing beyond mere materialism of the universe, then those ideals are mere masks erected to preserve order and survival. If, however, there is transcendence, then those ideals are real and meaningful, and in fact every individual posesses value not as something earned or bestowed legally by society, but rather as an inherent core.
In trying to figure all this stuff out, I have to fundamentally admit that there is no way I will ever know what is true. I will never be able to get beyond my own limited perspective and subjetivity. Everything will always be fluid, shifting and changing, and I am okay with that. So long as I am not causing harm to others, I see no need to have a tightly-strung set of doctrines.
Growing up, I was often fearful. I would go through various phases in which I pinned my fear on different things - usually a variety of illnesses or physical ailments. Ultimately, however, I was afraid of death, because in my mind I posessed several very frightening images of hell. Even though, at that time, I felt assured by the church I attended that hell would not be my fate, the terror of these images was strong enough to compel great fear anyway. It was largely because of this fear, I think, that I was motivated to hold strongly to a fundamental set of beliefs.
I remember attending a Christian camp the summer before my freshman year of high school. At the end of the week, we had to go out to Como Park in St. Paul and walk around in groups of three or four and try to convert people. This was our duty, we were told, because these people were bound for eternal pain and damnation, and unless they said that magical formulaic prayer, they would end up as Satan's minions. I was absolutely devastated by the idea that the beautiful people I was looking at were in line for that fate. I remember thinking that this is too heavy a burden for anyone to bear; infinately more heavy than war, injustice, or death, since this was an infinate punishment.
We were often told various stories in order to reinforce this opinion. When I was younger, I often felt guilty that I didn't make much of an effort to evangelicize my friends; I would go to church and be told to imagine what it would be like if, after our deaths, I somehow met up with my friend who was bound for hell and who wailed and cried and demanded of me why I never warned them of this fate, why I betrayed them. In high school, I went to see a play at a local church about two families who were killed in a car accident. There was the typical image of the gates of heaven surrounded by angels, and a giant book balanced upon a pedastal. Each person stepped up to the pedastal, and the angel searched for their name. In one family, several of the teenagers' names did not appear in the book. The kids, screaming and crying in utter terror, were wrestled away by demon-like creatures to the implied fate of eternal fire. In another instance, a speaker compared hell to being eternally suspended in darkness, conscious and utterly alone, being eternally subject to torment by one's inner psyche, deprived of everything the mind, spirit, and emotions it yearns for.
How Christians can come up with those images, while ignoring the images of war, destruction, starvation, and suffering throughout the world, is unimaginable to me. Christianity should not be something one is compelled to believe in out of fear. I cannot express the extent of my disgust at that.
Posted at 12:09 pm by Farasha
Monday, November 21, 2005
I have finally come to terms with the fact that I have no idea what I am doing in life and probably never will. And that is okay. Unlike those trite choose-your-own adventures books I used to read as a kid, there are no dead ends in life. Every door leads to another door and countless of possibilities hinging upon countless other factors. The idea that we somehow have complete control over all of those factors affecting us and can purposefully utelize them for specific goals is an illusion. Every decision we make is a result of a thousand other decisions that we have already made, which were affected by thousands of other factors.
I watched part of the Matrix Reloaded the other day, and the part that always strikes me is the scene on the park bench where Neo is talking to the Oracle and she tells him that every decision we make has, for all practical purposes, already been decided; our task is simply to understand why we made or will make those decisions.
I, like most college students, go through phases in which I try to plan out every single aspect of my life, from grad school to career to the place I will live to the lifestyle I will entrench myself in, etc. Inevitably, however, the moment I attempt to predetermine these things, I become bored with the bleak picture standing before me, and opt instead to leave everything an open slate. I have this inclination...no, this yearning...to simply life a totally free lifestyle: free from constraints of a career, free from the need to stay in a sinlge location for a long period of time; free from the mundanity that so permeates my outlook on the future. This is, I realize, a highly romanticized ideal, and one that I would probably quickly tire of. Which I why I have decided that the best course is simply to take things one step at a time, one decision at a time, realizing that I cannot make a decision about what my fate will be 2 years from now until I have lived for most of those 2 years and made other decisions along the way. Only when those intermediary doors are opened will I have the opportunity to open the proper door at that point in life. Any attempt to plan things out before then are futile.
Our culture, with its emphasis on freedom and individuality, would like us to think that we all have the fundamental right to be in control of every aspect of our life. Nevermind the fact that society has already placed heavy limitations on what we can do in life, practically speaking. We have all become so thoroughly dependent upon the system - of industrialization, of technology, of capitalism - that the only freedom we possess is the freedom to accumulate as many possessions as we are willing to work for. Yes, we have the freedom to choose the means by which to do that, and the person we want to pool our resources and reproduce with, and the location we want inhabit; but other than that, there is little else to strive for. I find this very depressing.
The only thing really worth living for is other people. My own ambitions, my own "dreams", my own desires all end up falling short of the time and effort I invest in them.
Perhaps it is best to live for the frivalous, temporal things that are most enjoyable. What satisfaction is there in life if you spend its entirety entrenched in misery? On some level, happiness is simply the ability to block out negative things and to appreciate the enjoyment of the moment. Art is the same way - what is art if not an effort to pause, contemplate, and fully appreciate the percieved beauty of something which is ultimately meaningless, frivolous, and temporal? The only thing we really have control over is how we choose to percieve things.
All of this has come about because, for the last two years, I have been so worried about the ultimate meaning of things and the future that I have not been able to live in the here and now. Until this semester, I had seldom allowed myself to have fun. And yet, I am most happy when I let go. I remember senior year, I had this philsophy that life is simply a lot easier and more enjoyable if you don't take it seriously, and if you quit being uptight about everything. And it worked; my senior year of high school was very, very fun and memorable.
And then I got to college, and suddenly life became ten billion times more serious. Suddenly I had to know what to major in. What career path to take. What to do for grad school. And even, at this ridiculous school, there is an underlying pressure that you must graduate knowing who you will marry.
I have never partied. The most illicit thing I have done is explore abandoned buildings and beer factories. I have not engaged in drinking or drugs because I believed that my life is structured around a list of priorities, and if I were to do those things, my list of priorities would be disrupted. But really, when I examine those priorities, I'm not sure they end up being worth it. Though they are worthwhile to complete, it is not worth it to devote my entire exisence to them at the expense of other things.
My Mom always tells me about how, when she was in college, she was so worried about getting into the real world that she did a double major to ensure that she would be employable. My fear is the exact opposite: that I will simply end up arbitrarily pursuing some career simply because I have to in order to make a living, and will become entrenched in that mundanity.
So here I am, junior year, not sure at all what I will end up doing but knowing that I will probably not pursue the area in which I am attaining a bachelor's degree, but perfectly okay with that and the happiest I have been in 2 years. Why? Because I have let go of all those false priorities that are supposed to control my life. I have realized that, aside from the people in my life, nothing is so important that it requires sacrificing all of my time, energy, effort, and well-being. No ambition is worth that.
This is one thing that has made me very happy:
UN'ERA DI SANGUE DI OSCURE MEMORIE
RINASCE IN HARGOR PER NUOVO MAL
ELETTI IN ELGARD GUARDIANI DEL FATO
OR SONO E SARANNO I VERI EROI
Posted at 02:28 pm by Farasha