Thursday, October 23, 2008

God Has Entrusted Me With Myself

I feel really crappy. I'm sure there are some reasons, but for the most part I have no idea why. Just in a really glum mood. When times like this come, I wonder what my response should be. I tend to be a pretty stoic person, so let's try a little bit of that. Here are some random samplings of quotes by Epictetus, the father of the philosophical school known as Stoicism.

"Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty remember that God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be a conqueror, and this cannot be without toil." ~Epictetus

"Do not seek to bring things to pass in accordance with your wishes, but wish for them as they are, and you will find them." ~Epictetus

No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen." ~Epictetus

Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the world." ~Epictetus

The funny thing is, I wasn't expecting that to make me feel better. But it did. Weird, huh?

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Hope the Prince of Peace is Coming Soon

Today, in my wanderings, I have found my way to the topic of non-violence. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to avoid all violent confrontation, or to violently lash out against oppression, that is the question.

I do believe that violent reaction against systems of oppression creates violent reactions from systems of oppression, locking us into a cycle of violence that is both undesirable and impossible to break with violence, but at the same time, I have difficulty whole-heartedly embracing the philosophical system of pacifism. While I don't believe in pre-meditated killing in any form, even that of capital punishment, I do believe that sometimes violent and even regrettably lethal force is necessary in the defense of things that should not simply be allowed to die. The funny thing is, I don't believe in the use of violence in self-defense, but I would be willing to kill if necessary for the people that I love, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. The following are some quotes on the subjects of violence and pacifism that I thought might provide some interesting food for thought.

"It's not the bullet with my name on it that worries me. It's the one that says 'To whom it may concern.'" ~Anonymous Belfast resident, quoted in London Guardian, 1991

"Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived." ~Abraham Lincoln

"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence." ~Gandhi

"He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster." ~Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~George Orwell

“Violence isn't always evil. What's evil is the infatuation with violence.” ~Jim Morrison

“The pacifist is as surely a traitor to his country and to humanity as is the most brutal wrongdoer.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

For now, I leave the question in the hands of you, dear reader: what are your feelings about pacifism and the nature of violence in general?

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

She Sees Love Where Anyone Else Would See Weeds

I've been contemplating the nature of love lately, and as food for thought, I've taken the liberty of collecting some quotes on love from one of my favorite theologians, C.S. Lewis. Let me know which one (or ones) in particular strikes you, and why.

"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."

"This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted."

"Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone."

"Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal."

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Not even an animal. Wrap it carefully with hobbies and luxuries, avoid all entanglements and keep it safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in the casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable".

The quote with the greatest impact on me is the last one. In order to be able to love, we must open our hearts to the possibility of being hurt, much as God did when he decided to create beings with free will. In so doing, he created simultaneously the potential for insurmountable love and monumental pain. In this world, we cannot experience love without the high probability of pain.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Man is an Aslan

Hello, world. I am back with another blog post. No more of that awful poetry (I don't know who writes that garbage). I should be doing homework, and yet here I am rambling about the inane goings on of my life. The last few days have consisted of little more than wasted time and long, hard work. Sleep deprivation has taken away most of my rationality, and as such I am little more than a typing troglodyte. This week has had its ups and downs (from spending quality time with my favorite associate pastor to blundering right into a fight with my girlfriend), and right now I'm just trying to make it to Fall Break.

What's that? You want profundity? Oh, fine. I was reading from The Shack today, an excellent book thus far (I'm about 2/3 of the way through), and Jesus was discussing with the main character the nature of the relationship between men and women:

Jesus: "The world is broken because in Eden you abandoned relationship with us to assert your own independence. Most men have expressed it by turning to the work of their hands and the sweat of their brow to find their identity, value, and security. By choosing to declare what's good and evil you seek to determine your own destiny. It's this turning that has caused so much pain... But that isn't all. The woman's desire...was not to the works of her hands but to the man, and his response was to rule 'over' her, to take power over her, to become the ruler. Before the choosing she found her identity, her security, and her understanding of good and evil only in me, as did man."

Mack: "No wonder I feel like a failure with [my wife]. I can't seem to be that for her."

Jesus: "You weren't made to be. And in trying, you'll only be playing God."

What strikes me about this passage is the juxtaposition of the identity of man. Men have been taught by the men who came before us that to be a man is to be independent; to be capable of handling any task without the help of others. We are conquerors and warriors, and warriors do not feel fear or inadequacy. We see the shortcoming of our own fathers, and learn to distrust other men. We almost become the alpha wolves of our own minds, fearful of showing weakness in case others are plotting against us. We are pillars of strength, and we are merely play acting at being God, hoping that no one notices the frightened little boy behind the curtain.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”