Alive

How can you not love life?

Don’t you know that life is beautiful?

A cynical sneer

See it cross ear to ear

And I’ve heard the comedians rage

’bout the shortness of life

and the pain and the strife

but their closed off and oh so severe

give this anger a rest

I feel hope explode in my chest

have the white fire of joy in your life

as with fire in the coal

so with hope in the soul

if you want to have power

you need both

with the boat you need steam

with your soul use the dream

You want life but you won’t use the fuel?

Pour the gas and set your chest afire

Powered forward by hope

Inspired glory and the beauty are grand

Life’s too short to live in abandon

The grand vision can’t you see?

Is there for love and power to turn

and guide us, you and me

What are you without hope?

You go on living, but by what?

 

Earnest

Powerful

Driven by soul-force

This maniacal world so elaborat’ly curled

Will not be

This way forever

Try and stop me

From making the just rise again

I know there are cynics

Made from the scorned and downtrodden

Living in a generation

Of a dark culmination

Across the whole nation

That speaks only in sarcasm

In a pessimistic miasm

A great despairing chasm

How did we let this happen?

But no matter

You’ve got to press on

The light in your eyes

Can pierce through the blackest darkness there is

If only your hope is strong

And we work hard together

We can end the night of wrong

 

 

 

 

Now that I have written a few entries I wanted to explain briefly why I chose this name for blog site. Iwasn’t initially planning on doing a blog, but now that I have started I have found that I enjoy it.

I chose “Dissecting the Mystery” because I felt it was a fair metaphysical description of what I am doing with this blog. Obviously a mystery can mean many things. It can mean a crime drama, or a personal secret, a deep scientific problem, or a religious belief that defies rationality and complete understanding. But in the most simple and basic context it means simply the unknown. That which we cannot wrap ours heads around.

This to me is life. Living in the world being in the world really is a great mystery. Life is the great unknown. This doesn’t mean we can’t know absolutely anything but so much of life evades our grasp. We can maybe get a little of the parts of life but the whole evades us and even the partial is so incredibly partial its like studying one thread to try to know an entire piece of clothing. Every thinking person has to deal with the fact that so much of life is unknowable.

And what does it mean to dissect something? It means to cut and examine in order to find structure and relationships between parts. To examine minutely, part by part. This is sort of the purpose of my blog. To look at the little parts of life, to try to find structure, to reflect on what I’m examining in the mystery that is life.

 But it is also important to realize that this is a contradiction. After all, how can I dissect a mystery? This is the paradox of the human condition. We all do this. I’m being more up front about it but its still true. How can I examine what is by definition unknown. This is what so much of analysis is. I don’t think this is meaningless, we all do it. But it a kind of paradox an action that is important that we need to do, that helps give meaning to our lives, but that might from the outside seem fruitless. But it is not. We all long for understanding in whatever small part we can find it. We cannot just turn our brains off and act without thinking. So I am being upfront. I am trying to examine the unexaminable. To cut into something that has no form. Look at what has no color. This is what I’m doing in my analysis. I do it humbly, but I do not think it is futile. It is a paradox but there is meaning in it, because it means there is still something to be know. A mystery is not the lack of truth it is only its being non-revealed. I can’t know everything, but in searching I at least appreciate that there is something to be known.

So with this in mind, take my humble efforts of analysis seriously. But know that I understand I don’t have the final word on anything. I picked the title because I liked the image. I am searching and trying at a goal that is unreachable. Such is life.

I wish to start by saying that science as science is good. As an attept to appreciate the way that the physical phenomena of the world operate science is invaluable. The first thing I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was a scientist. Of the kind that goes around the world and studies animals that is. There is no question in my mind that the advances of the past two centuries in terms of scientific knowledge have been supremely good, and I would have to say that I question the sanity and reasonableness of any person who would put themself in a position of being “anti-science”  and who said that this was of only negative value. However, this does not mean that I see science as an absolute and unqualified good. I woud not be alive were it not for the advances of modern scinece and medicine, but that does not mean that there aren’t negative tendencies and pitfalls that a society whose only central focus is science and that has a nearly absolute trust in science.

It is generally not science (i.e the study of natural phenomena) itself that leads to these problems but there is a mentality that can crop up from an implicit trust in science that is not only potentially destructive but that hampers true personal growth for people. Case in point, I have no problem with psychology for people that suffer from true and severe mental disorders, going to a psychiatrist is absolutely necessary in these circumstances in order to get the person healthy. But pop psychology has so invaded the popular culture that it seems that everything is a mental disorder to the point that people assauge personal responsibility for their problems. “I’m not a mean person, I just have a mental disorder” “It’s not that I’m greedy its that I suffer from an increased desire to acquire wealth” I wonder how much of current problems could be adjusted simply by people re-examining and commiting to personal values. I wonder how many people that are just plain immoral write off their behavior as the fault of a disease. This kind of culture can prevent people from personal growth. The sciences that that relate to human behavior get especially sticky in this regard. There are books in the field of “evolutionary psychology” that try to tie character traits and personal tendencies to the development and evolution of the species through time. Some of these insights are valuable and again I’m not trying to say this is total BS but when you start examining the practice of raper from an evolutionary standpoint you run the risk of making people think their behavior is justified because of evolutionary means. Science can inform values, but it cannot create them. All too often people with strong scientific backgrounds make values judgements that are not implicitly related to their data without actually being aware of or informing their readers. When scientists fail to make this distinction clear they can lead people to believe to believe that what they are saying is just the “scientific”  point of view and thus is obviously true.

The clearest and most publicly aware problem of science is of course the “mad scientist problem” which is the stuff that horror, science fiction, and action movies are made of. Having the ability to do something doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. There are all sorts of fine tuned ethical issues that advances in science have created that previously were not known. Science itself can’t really solve most of these issues, but many in society seem to think they can. I think this might be a good reason to include “values education” and or ethics in the educational system. Currently there is a lot of focus on math, reading, art, science without any kind of ethical information at all in classes. I understand that many people would view this as a job for parents and family (and I would agree that parents teaching values IS very important) but the reality is that many parents don’t educate their children on values, and its important for a child to have this kind of education at least on a basic level.

Science is an important part of the world but it is important that we recognize that it is only a small part of the world. One of the more enlightening passages in one of my college biology textbooks was when it described science as “the search for and study of the natural causes and effects of natural phenomena”. Thats it!  No More. No Less. I know that may not be absolutely everyone’s definition but it sounds good to me. It doesn’t assume there aren’t other aspects of the Cosmos. It doesn’t say that natural phenomena and their material causes and effects are the only thing in the Universe, only that that is the area of study of science. If people accepted that and the benefits that that study can provide. If they recognized that there might be more to life than that or that scientist cannot answer for all the issues in the world, and most importantly if people recognized that personal responsibility is at play in the world I do think there could be some improvement in society.

The strings of my heart play without a muse and before no audience.

Distance

Oh my dear little one

How I long to run my hands through your hair

To gently caress your smooth skin

Soft lips that make me want to be with no other

Why can’t I hold you close through the black night?

Why can’t I see your deep kind eyes look into mine?

Why are you so far away without a compass guiding you?

I wish that I could comfort you

I want our abiding trust to last the ages

My tender beloved, I miss your joy

I ache in my depths

I miss the sweetness of your voice

How can I get it back?

Will I ever get it back?

 

Unity

I know we aren’t the same

There are so many differences between us

But when we are together

What my mind knows is nothing

Our differences are as Yin and Yang

Seperate, but as a onenes

My mountains are your valleys

Where I am empty, you are full

Working only to keep us closer

In talking we say different words

But our souls say the same thing

If I am a melody, you harmonize to make me better

If you are a foundation, I am an arch to hold things up

Never more fulfilled than when together

And feeling so broken when we are apart

 

Understanding

I speak

and it is as my words have never been so clear

they pass your ears unaltered

Even though I am in awe of you

I am not dumbstruck, but inspired

You understand and see what I am saying

And when you speak about your own heart

You say what I know but did not think

I talk without secrets

Because I do not need them

You speak without shame

Because you know there is none

I don’t fear judgement

I hope neither do you

Talking is easy

Listening the same

Two souls sound the sole-same

 

Consumed

I am on fire for you

You voice is kind and soothing

Your face is more beautiful than a sunrise

Though a sunrise and its fire

brings hope of a new day

you bring me hope for a whole lifetime

I could never kiss you enough

for you to know my passion

I could not say the words

to let you know my love

I was afraid of my feelings before

With you my feelings are a paint brush

And I will use all the colors

You are the most beautiful canvas

Though I have enough to paint the cosmos

I feared to touch others

But I could kiss you a thousand times

Your happiness is motivation

To hold the world like Atlas without a sweat

To hold you in my arms

I could not ask for more

To kiss your soft lips

I have no greater joy

To be thought of as yours

Could there be a better gift?

An unextinguishable flame

that is my love for you

Just ask me so I know

How I can burn for you.

[Always eliminate desires that you may know its mysteries. Always have desires that you may know its manifestations.]…..Or “Thus, to be really objectless in one’s desires is how one observes the mysteries of all things, While really having desires is how one observes their boundaries”

These are two translations of the DaoDe Jing. Of late I have focused on them and they have put me into thought. A frequent theme of the Dao is to try not to be forceful in the way one lives. To not put too much effort into how you behave. To use wuwei or “non-action” or “acting without acting”  One of the great problems for the daoist is acting with ulterior motives. I may not agree entirely with this line of reasoning as a universal principle. But I can appreciate it. And so I have decided to try to work on abandoning my desires, to try to be loose and “fall back on the natural” for a few months at least. If for no other reason than to unburden myself. How can I abandon my desires? I think I will start by stopping being goal oriented for a while. I’m going to try to stop building and focusing on a set idea and instead go with wherever my life takes me. This does not mean being lazy, rather it means stopping worrying myself. Just as an experiment I’m going to try to stop operating within strict structures. A Daoist might call such actions “artificial” and stifling and thus not beneficial to living.

This too means stopping myself from interacting with people with directed intention. Rather let me see how things develop without influencing development with plans of my own. This might come into play in forcing interaction with others in a social setting “forcing coversation” as it were. I must also confess that sometimes in my interactions with women particularly attractive women I sometimes try to present myself in a certain way, impress them perhaps. Even though I would say I am rarely overt with women on the romantic front and always respectful. I must admit there is often the urge to impress them in the back of my mind and dare I say to try to lean things in a romantic direction. This is too much. This is something that I will try to abandon also. That impulse and motivation is what I should try to abandon.

Perhaps in reigning in my self-direction I will achive some ease. I hope so. I may be able to act more naturalistically as a result and end up freer and easier. That is why I think I will try this for a few months. In abandoning a set direction, I may open myself to greater possibilities.

Last Week I went to the National United Methodist Student Forum in Winchester Virginia. It was the second time I had ever been (the first being in 2008) and I had a great ime. It was four days long and I felt really good about it. I met other students from Wesley Foundations and Methodist Student Groups all over the country. I made some new friends. My Roomate was from Texas, his name was Conrad, cool guy.

I met other people from all over the place, New York, Iowa, California, Arizona. It was cool that so many people could all get together for a common goal like that.

We had great worship services that had music from all over the world and small groups where we would get to know each other and meditate on some bible verses and sermons we had heard. There was some free time built in and we had a few chances to walk around the town and hang out. I really felt like I belonged there and that I may have even experienced some spiritual growth.

I left on a Thursday and came back on Sunday. I went with Sam and Leanna and Lang, our Chaplain.  It was my first time at the Indy airport and we spent a fair amount of time there waiting for our flight, I still managed to have some fun though.

I have in some ways grown up in the UMC, but after experiencing an event like this one where people learn and grow from each other I really do feel that I have chosen it for my own. I love my church and its ability to be principled and open-minded at the same time, even though I may not always agree with all its positions I recognize that at least the are well thought out and decided by a consensus, and are subject to change.

The forum was on the campus of Shenendoah University. The campus was actually quite pretty. It had nice walking paths and water works and plenty of greenery. To be honest the dorm I was staying in (called Funhauser Hall) wasn’t very pretty on the inside. It could definitely use some remodeling. It made even the freshman dorm at uindy look good. But that was the exception most of the facilities on campus were pretty nice and considering that Shenandoah is half the size of Uindy in student population it has a great campus that is actually bigger than ours. I got a chance to play a little frisbee and had a lot of fun one of the nights.

One of the recurring events at forum is the Talent Show on the last night. Considering that many of the people have never met prior to two days before hand they can get some pretty good acts done on short notice. There is always competition between the differnt “Jurisdictions” as to who has the best act, but that generally just works to make things a bit mre fun. By far the most enthusiastic this year was South central jurisdiction, which is the area theat encompasses Texas, Lousiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The Texas thing might account for it but its also true that the students from this area always seem to be well represented at forum regardless of where its held. Indiana is part of the North Central Jurisdiction, which accounts for most of the Midwest out to the Dakotas.

As expected the Student forum tends to involve the more liberal wing of the UMC though by no means are all the kids there liberal. Plenty are definitely more conservative both theologically and politically. But there tend to be a strong social advocacy tinge to the forum, as there was especially this year as it was a theme for it. In previous  years the forum has tried to have volunteer projects for students to participate in. Fighting poverty and injustices in society tends to be a frequent focus in the forum. This year there were several VOICE sessions that students cold pick from dealing with a particular social issue so that we could be more educated on the topic and discuss in in depth. I picked the Impact of war and violence as mine and I did learn at least a little more about it, especially the views that the UMC and its predecessors have had over time. Definitely a complex topic, but the ability to discuss it in a civil manner with others was definitely nice. Another sign of the progressive streak present at the forum is the recurring presence of MOSAIC a group of LGBT friendly students that advocate their positions within the church. They have held an  optional serice for the past several years at the forum. In the long term the hope is to lift the ban on openly gay clergy and they are making some progress, but it isn’t likely to happen for a while as it is still an issue thats too divisive in the church. One of thewomen who works hard on the worship and music aspect of the forum named DeLynn works with this group. Shes a very nice person and is always going out of her way to make sure that worship and music includes a lot of multicultural aspect. In particular there is a hymn she does called Kanisa Litagengua, which is in Swahili, that I really like and wish I heard more often.

I had a great time this year and I hope I get the chance to go next year. It was fantastic, on one of the nights I hng out with a bunch of people and talked pop-culture, books, and theology way late into the night, which (nerd alert) I really liked.

Student Forum always makes me proud to be a Methodist and it is definitely one of the best things my church does. I only hope they keep doing it and keep giving active young people in the church a voice and an opportunity to interact with each other.

Started the day with Asian Philosphy class. We were finishing up talking about Kongzi and how important hierarchy and family were to him. Konzi certainly had a highly patriarchal view and I certainly think conflict couldn’t be dealt with very well in his system. But there is something to his ideas just the same. As true as it is that there are bad parents out there I can’t help thinking that a little more “filial” piety might be beneficial. Most parents do want whats best for their children and the teenage urge to rebel just seems to incredibly irrational at times. There is a degree that this is just hormones but there is some (and I stress the word some) degree that we could benefit be respecting and listening to our parents and family more. Sometimes our parents are smarter than we think and I do feel we might have lost something in ignoring that bond as a societal norm.

I went seriously grocery shopping today. It was a weird feeling because I’m still used to relying on the cafeteria or other means to eat and so this was a big step in the way of self sufficiency for me. It was good but a little intimidating to buy enough groceries for a week, its a big step in the way of self sufficiency, also I now have a car that I’ve only had little occasion to use. Unfortunately I may have inadvetantly ran out the baterry and left the inside lights on. This required me to call a friend and have him jump my car, it was frustrating, but hopefully it is alesson learned. I made a 2 A.M Denny’s run afterward.

I went to this documentary called “Born into Brothels” about children in Calcutta that live in the Red light district. A woman from the U.K. teaches these kids photography and ends up helping some get into school and away from this area. But it was amazing the hardship these 8 or 9 year old kids go through and the conditions they live in. The types of adult decisions they have to make is just astounding, decision that can affect the rest of their lives. It made me feel so guilty for all the advantages I’ve had in life when these kids can’t even get into school because their parents are prostitutes so schools won’t take them in. I’ve always known that India was poor, but I didn’t realize that there were kids that even people with connections would have difficulty helping. Its a terrible thing that a society can do that. That they can prevent someone from improving their lot because their parents were so desperate for money that they would resort to those extreme means, and that those people are shamed instead of helped. I know there are only so many resources in the world to go around, but the least you can do is allow a person some small sense of dignity. How often does morality work that way? Rather than encourage ethical behavior it only further stigmatizes the desperate and the destitute.  The real scum are the people who steal and wear expensive suits, who steal and don’t need it, not the people scaping by in the slums.