Saturday, February 14, 2009

Truth and Beauty, Beauty and Truth

Just a thought that's been kicking around in my head for quite a while now:

As one who has reconciled himself to his nature as rather a geek, it's easy for me to think of truth only in terms of the rational. Propositional truth, if you will. A statement is either true, or it's not, or you're not sure. Maybe you can't fully measure the factors or evidence to prove or disprove its veracity, but it's still a statement.

To view truth in this way imposes some rather large limitations on the world, and on God as the creator of that world, however. Jesus said He IS truth, and so my view of what truth is, and is not, deeply reflects, or at least limits, my view of God, and of His world. Sure, God is a God of order, of logic, of reason. There's no denying that, and as such, one aspect of truth is that of rational, logical thought and proposition. But God is also a God of magnificent beauty and splendor. He not only is beautiful, but He also created beauty, and He created our ability to perceive and admire beauty and beautiful things, as well as to create beauty and beautiful things (or at least reflect some aspects of His beauty, depending on how you look at it) ourselves, through art and self expression. Every culture throughout history has had rich and varied appreciation of art and beauty. It stands to reason then (no pun intended), that if God is beauty, and created our appreciation of beauty, then He reveals a bit of Himself to us in beauty and beautiful things. God is simply too big and magnificent to be encapsulated solely in the concepts of logic and reason, in rational thought and proposition. There are aspects of God, and therefore aspects of truth, nay, truths themselves, that can only be communicated, revealed, through art and beauty.

We were created with certain inadequacies, holes in our being, for which our souls ache, and long, and in each of these we see an aspect of the God who is calling out to us, to fill those needs.

When your soul begins to ache, let it.

Revel in the truth that is revealed in your longing, that there are things outside yourself that you were created to need, to interact with, and find fulfillment in.

“Art can warm even a chilled and sunless soul to an exalted spiritual experience. Through art, we occasionally receive – vaguely, briefly – revelations the likes of which are unattainable by rational thought.

Like that tiny mirror in fairy tale: you look into it and see - not yourself - but for one, fleeting moment, the Unattainable, to which no man can ride or fly.

And your soul begins to ache.

--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Nobel Lecture on Literature, 1970

Monday, December 1, 2008

On being loved...

I found the words my heart has been longing for for a while now, in a passage from Henri Nouwen's Peacework that I read a while ago, and it affected me more than I apparently knew at the time. My heart has been wrestling to come to grips with some things for a while now, but I couldn't figure out what. Then I re-found this. I don't have the energy or the words to express it well, so I'll let Henri do the talking:

Prayer means entering into communion with the One who loved us before we could love. It is this "first love" (1 John 4:19) that is revealed to us in prayer. The deeper we enter into the house of God, the house whose language is prayer, the less dependent we are on the blame or praise of those who surround us, and the freer we are to let our whole being be filled with that first love. As long as we are still wondering what other people say or think about us and trying to act in ways that will elicit a positive response, we are still victimized and imprisoned by the dark world in which we live. In that dark world we have to let our surroundings tell us what we are worth. It is the world of successes and failures, of trophies and expulsions, of praise and blame, of stars and underdogs. In this world we are easily hurt and we easily act out of those hurts to find some satisfaction of our need to be considered worthwhile. As long as we are in the clutches of that world, we live in darkness, since we do not know our true self. We cling to our false self in the hope that maybe more success, more praise, more satisfaction will give us the experience of being loved, which we crave. That is the fertile ground of bitterness, greed, violence, and war.
In prayer, however, again and again we discover that the love we are looking for has already been given to us and that we can come to the experience of that love. Prayer is entering into communion with the One who molded our being in our mother's womb with love and only love. There, in that first love, lies our true self, a self not made up of the rejections and acceptances of those with whom we live, but solidly rooted in the One who called us into existence. In the house of God we were created. To that house we are called to return. Prayer is the act of returning.

This is something I struggle with daily, often without even realizing it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a closet needy little kid

So I'll preface this with saying that emotions are a complicated issue, and as a nerdy kid I have just barely the littlest understanding or awareness of my own emotional workings. Plus I'm a guy, so I'm naturally just an idiot in that respect.

No one likes to admit their insecurities. That's why they're insecurities. They make us feel not secure, weak, alone, etc. Well, I'm owning up to it tonight. I'm pretty stinking insecure feeling sometimes.

Sometimes my insecurity gets the best of me, and I get pretty angsty and insecure feeling about life. It's times like these that all that runs through my head are lines like 'too bad nice guys always finish last, 'cause I don't have the stomach for being a jerk,' and mixed metaphors, so I come up with something like, "if familiarity breeds contempt, and absence makes the heart grow fonder, where does that leave me?" I know, I know, it's silly perhaps, and I've already admitted it's needy and insecure.

It doesn't take much to set me off on a mood like this sometimes. I don't know what it is, usually. Maybe I've been spending too much time alone. Maybe I've been spending too much time not alone. Maybe I haven't eaten in a while. (wouldn't it be nice if I could blame needy feeling on low blood sugar. Then it wouldn't be insecurity!) Maybe I ate too much. Probably I've tried to find my fulfillment and completion from my relationships (and for that I offer up a big apology to those I do it to, 'cause that's a burden no one is supposed to bear).

Please don't misunderstand me. It's not like I feel depressed or anything. I feel pretty good actually. Just insecure.

The sick thing is I can sense it coming on. I know when it's happening, and my mind goes crazy trying to talk and reason myself out of feeling this way. I KNOW it's not reality. I KNOW I'm not un-wanted/-included/-worthy/-cared for/-unwelcome/-loved. I'm quite sure I'm not the only person to feel this way sometimes. Yet nothing I tell myself or think or reason can change the feeling when it comes on. Talk about annoying.

I inevitably cycle through thinking angsty thoughts, talking myself out of it, listening to some angsty music, talking myself out of it, trying to listen to music that will make me feel less angsty, that not working, trying to distract myself, that not working, trying to pray it out and rest in God, that helping but still FEELING angsty, and so on...

What's the solution? I'm sure it's complicated. I know it involves living in such a way that my need to be loved is filled by the one who created it. Aside from that, I'm not sure. 'Cause I feel too angsty right now to come up with more than that.

So I'll leave you with a line from one of the songs I'm listening to to try to make me feel less angsty (it's not working, but it's a great song): 'who am I? Just a kid who knows he's needy... ...Let me know that you hear me. Let me know your touch. Let me know that you love me. Let that be enough.'

But it's ok. I'm sure I'll feel better in the morning. Always do.

ps: Incidentally, as I cycle through the things listed above, I hoped eating would let me chalk it up to low blood sugar and that by the time I finished writing this and eating, I wouldn't still feel it. It doesn't work. Just so ya know.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More unstructured ramblings on life.

The following paragraph is pretty rough, more or less a stream of consciousness that I scribbled in my journal a while back. At the time I think I was frustrated with my living arrangement in my room at the dorm. I thought of it again now because I just moved to a new little apartment, and it reminded me of what's important in a place. Forgive the blatant disregard of the formalities of the English language, if you will.

I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that my enjoyment/contentment/happiness in a place is dependent of course on a number of factors, a major one of which is a history of relationship, love, shared life/memories there. That it is a place where I can remember times of shared life, love, laughter, relationship, of giving of life to each other. The places I can look back and say 'that's a place I loved to be, was comfortable at, at peace in, longed to be/go to,' are all places of shared life, love, etc. It's not the only factor of a place, of course, but with it, the absence of others, such as physical comfort, beauty, amenities, etc can not only be overlooked, but not even missed. And in its absence, a place lacking beauty, warmth (not just physically), ambiance, comfort, etc, pretty much just sucks, a lot of the time.

It's just one more confirmation of my sneaking suspicion that life, at it's core, is all about relationships, and the rest is just window dressing.

So I guess, for those of my friends who live here in Chiang Mai, this amounts to an invitation to come share life with me, and for those wonderful people who aren't in this place, to get your incredible, amazing, silly little selves over here to visit, or just to share life in what ways we can, from afar.

As usual, words (at least mine), aren't enough. So suffice to say:

I love you.

Love and Grace from Thailand.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reflections on relationship (one topic among millions)

Why do our closest friends and family get taken for granted, when we put on our best for everyone else?

It's a question I've wrestled with on and off since childhood, and never been able to fully find an answer to, and so it's been asked in this little brain of mine, and then re-shelved, countless times.

Where does the balance lie between familiarity, comfortableness, and closeness in a friendship, and caring enough about a person to give them our best at all times, even when they don't ask for it? Between being used to them being around enough to start taking them, their presence, and their caring and love for granted, and caring and loving enough to offer ourselves, our time, our presence, even when they don't ask for it? Because maybe they don't ask for it because they know us well enough to know we value our private time, or they don't want to be a burden, or impose another item into our schedules, because they know we're busy enough as it is.

So who is it that gets our best behavior? Is it the people we happen to cross paths with every now and again, at the store, on the street? Or is it our nearest, dearest, and those closest to us?
And which of those groups then gets taken for granted, not hated but ignored (maybe not ignored even, just unnoticed, or even just unappreciated)? Why does familiarity breed contempt sometimes, if you'll forgive the triteness?

Is it because we know they love us, care for us, and give us their attention and approval regardless, and so we're comfortable just being ourselves, not putting on a face, a front, trying to seem polite, friendly, make a good impression? That's valid. It's important to have relationships close enough to be real in, to be candid in, to be grumpy in sometimes. Perhaps even they're our close friends because the relationship is that comfortable, that unconditionally loving.
But where is the line between being close/comfortable, and not sharing our best with them as well? And why do we feel we must put our best forward with strangers all the time, and with our loved ones only some of the time?

That's not to say we shouldn't be nice, friendly, loving people towards those we don't know/know well. And it's not to say that we shouldn't ever "let our hair down" with our closest. It's just to question where the priorities are, where perhaps they should be, and what that may look like.

Because we would, of course, go out of our way, do anything, for our loved ones, probably without even feeling imposed upon, if they'd ask. Strangers ask all the time for things that impose upon us, and we're fine giving of our time, our selves, our lives.
But the fact that they are our closest, our loved, our friends, means they know what that costs us, what it takes to add something else to our schedules, our brains, our lives, and they know how burdened those things are already, precisely because they're close to us, and so precisely because they're close to us, they don't ask.

So maybe what it looks like to give our best for our friends is to know what it costs them when we don't add them to our schedules, our brains, our lives, despite how burdened those things are already, and to add them anyway, without being asked. And to know them well enough to know when asking is going to feed back into our friends, even when they are truly busy, burdened, and full already, but wont stop on their own, and so to put aside feelings of imposing, and ask of them anyway, not of our own need, but of theirs, or both.

These thoughts are very much jumbled, very much raw/unedited/unorganized, very much a conglomeration of various thoughts over the years, very much a treacherous maze of pronouns, and very much a part of a bigger journey I've recently realized I'm on, to discover/define/understand what it means to be a person who lives, loves and relates deeply, to constantly and consciously be laying down my life for my friends, because greater love has no man than that, and I think that goes far far beyond being willing to give up one's life for his friends. I think it also means being willing to give of one's life, to share it, and give it to his friends.

No fingers are pointed, save at myself, and quite frequently at that. And no conclusions have been drawn, precisely for the purpose of inviting discussion, added thoughts, comments, questions, or snide remarks.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cold, Wet and Buggy

Ok, so the cold part is a blatant lie, or at least it's a relative term.

The rainy season is officially upon Chiang Mai. Well, I guess I don't actually know what "officially" constitutes the rainy season, so that could easily be a lie as well, or at least incorrect. Suffice it to say that it has started raining with some regularity. And when it rains, it pours, if you'll pardon the triteness. Of if you wont. That's fine too.

An interesting side effect of the rain is that most nights it's accompanied by wicked hatches of bugs, of many varieties, but mostly these little termitey things.
Yes, that's a word. They fly all around anything that puts out light, they're pretty annoying, and sometime in the night, they all fall to the ground and lose their wings, or perhaps lose their wings and then fall to the ground. Whatever the case, in the morning there are millions of termite wings all over the place. Good times!

(is it just me, or is there a gecko in here?)

a small repentance

So I've been avoiding blogging for quite a while now.

Ok, avoiding is a bit stronger word than I intend. More like procrastinating, putting off, or some such related concept.

Allow me to elaborate:

Somewhere down the line, I got it into my head that the things I post on my blog had to be deep, thoughtful, intelligent, articulate, and incredibly meaningful. Those are great and all that, but I've realized, or rather, slowly come to the realization, as I frequently and regularly berate myself for not blogging, that the need to only post things of a certain, shall we say, caliber, is really just my own vanity and pride speaking.

Not that it's bad to communicate deep things, or to communicate things in an articulate manner, but I've decided that if I only allow my colleagues and friends to share in my thoughts when I think those thoughts are worthy of sharing, I'm really painting a picture of myself that isn't true. While those things may or may not be a part of who I am, the desire to have only those things displayed on my blog is a thinly veiled attempt by my ego to make myself look good.

So having said all that, with far more words than is necessary, I'll say this:

from this point forward, my blog will contain frivolity, random silliness, and some general level of lightheartedness, in addition to any other serious and deepish things that may come up from time to time.

I'm not writing some epic piece of literature here (I have some friends capable of this, but I'm not), I'm sharing my life, and that includes things like my odd fascination with bugs (coming soon). Now that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be flooding the so-called blogosphere with masses of posts all the time, but I wont be holding back on fun little tidbits because I don't think they're cool enough.

So, if you don't want to read my verbose meandering thoughts above, here's the summary: Tony's blog is now Tony: uncensored and unedited. ish.


P.S. Yes Leah, the posting of this article was directly prompted by your little gibe, but in my defense, I actually wrote this post over two weeks ago. I've just been putting off posting it. How's that for irony?