Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I didn't bring all my music out here. I didn't think I needed to. I figured I would bring a little bit and enjoy that. Before I left, Amanda (my girlfriend if I haven't mentioned that here before) loaned me her ipod touch and at some point I discovered that I could download music directly on to it. This has led me to re-purchase a number of albums that I have at home, out of a deep desire to hear them, and often because I never paid for the in the first place.

Today I re-purchased Takk by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros (see-grr ross). I first heard about this album from my brother-in-law Shawn and my sister Alison during my formative music years. They told me about this band that made an album using a bow on a guitar, singing in made up languages, and having a minute of silence mid album. It sounded interesting but I was busy listening to something else so I didn't check it out.

Then in the summer of 2006, I was in Grand Rapids and I had dinner at the home of a media studies professor at Calvin College who is a relative of my sister Melody (that's the simplest way I can explain it). I expressed interest in some sufjan he was playing so he gave me a bunch of live sufjan recordings and then asked me if I'd heard Sigur Ros. I said no. He said "they will change your life man".

I don't know how much of that was meant to be hyperbole, but listening to Takk... (The album that he gave me) changed the way I looked at making music. It was suddenly ok to be dynamic instead of always having to be punchy and loud. I found that following along on the rollercoaster of moods on the album led me on a really cool journey. I got into music because of Broken Social Scene but Sigur Ros expanded my horizons greatly.

I'm going to enjoy hearing this album again. It's been a while.

Monday, June 27, 2011

God

What do you say about something as complex and as dense as God? People spend their entire lives studying him through his words and his actions, and yet no one claims to understand God. I can say very little in this space so I'll just touch on some smaller details.

I think short term. My frame of time on this earth has been short (21 years) and even if I live to be 80, I will still not have lived through much of human history.

When things happen around me, I often try to see the purpose in them. I know that God is a powerful force of good, and so I try to see what good he is doing in the world. However, I think short term and am a finite being so my ability to comprehend God's purpose is very limited.

Sometimes things happen that don't really seem to serve a purpose. The summer of 2008 is one example of this but there are others. Each one serves to mystify me as I try to see purpose in a situation that just looks like chaos and evil. How could a God who is good allow this chain of events to occur? Where is the purpose in this?

I don't think some of these questions will ever be resolved. If there is one thing I know about God, it is that he likes to remain deeply mysterious and so it is likely that these situations will remain a mystery.

God does not always answer my questions. I am learning to be ok with this.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Death

I've been thinking about death for about a year now. It is not an exciting topic and it still gets me pretty depressed. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense because I understand that ultimately, this life is just a starting point for a renewed creation with God. I guess this is just a good illustration that head knowledge does not translate into deep understanding.

When I think about death, my thought go to the idea of not existing and then my stomach does a flip. At least that's how it was up until the end of the third week out here. It was made worse by a rant from my super-boss. He started talking about death and is an atheist so the whole conversation made my stomach do the equivalent of a floor routine. It was almost like someone had hit me in the gut with a cinder block.

I was taken aback by all this. I got very depressed and realized that this is what I'd been thinking for an entire year, I'd just never stopped long enough to realize it. The only way I knew how to resolve it was to go back to my understanding of reality. I had to go back to God and figure it out from there.

After spending a few weeks out here thinking about it, I'm getting back to normal. My stomach isn't in knots and I am less depressed. I'm also in a better head space. I'm praying and reading through a lot of these depressing thoughts in order to get through.

I started listening to sermons to help me through these things. One of them talked about our journey in life as being like an amusement park. We are a small child, and God leads us through it. As long as we hold on to God's hand and stay close to him, we are assured that we are safe and we can enjoy the park. As soon as we let go of his hand and try to explore things without him, we realize that it's a very big and frightening universe, and we get scared and anxious. It's in times like this that I remember I'm trying to walk without holding God's hand, and I need to run back to it and remember how good it feels.

I'm learning it's ok to be child-like when it comes to some things, and I'm trying to remember that I have nothing to fear from death if I seek God. It's still scary sometimes but I'm doing better now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Science

I'm in a biology program. I thought it would be a good way to strengthen my faith and help me to gain a better understanding of the world around me. I'm not sure if it has accomplished either goal. Let me share a pile of thoughts on science with you.

Science is strange. It starts with the assumption that what we can see and verify physically is all that there is. This isn't done with any malicious intent. It is done to encourage the deep exploration of many topics. This creates an environment where you don't really discuss God or philosophy in a context that doesn't involve trying to explain why they occurred evolutionarily or how they function in our brains.

Biology seems to have an explanation for everything. Some of the hardest moments in my university career have occurred when one of my professors generates an explanation for something we see in nature which relates back to natural selection. They take things as beautiful and complex as human emotion and distill it down to a way to increase mating potential and survival. It's interesting to talk about but sometimes it's just incredibly depressing.

I think science is valuable, but I don't know that there's much there to hang your soul on. Some people would feel differently about this but if you suck all the mystery and purpose out of life, it makes everything seem pretty pointless. "If I am here as a consequence of the universe, I can do whatever I want". I don't buy it though. Science as a supporting document to the protocol of my life is good but science makes a very unstable central pillar. As Tommy Tiernan would say, it's not enough to hang your coat on, never mind your soul.

I prefer the mathematicians approach to the world. A mathematician looks at something and seeks to discover patterns and order. Upon finding these things, he says to himself "How amazing". I much prefer this approach.

I'm getting out of science after this trip and exploring other things. I think it's for the best.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Summer of 2008

Foreword: The following is a series of posts about what I'm thinking while I'm out here in California. I have been feeling very depressed since I got here which comes from a combination of homesickness and heavy things to think about. I wanted to write about these things in an attempt to be honest about my life. The following series contains content that is sad. I hope you glean something good from it.

When I write here, I tend to get preachy. I talk about things that I've "figured out". This lends itself well to essay writing but not to sharing. Let me share with you some things I don't have figured out. We'll start with the summer of 2008.

The summer of 2008 is unresolved in my mind because it plays out like a tragedy, and I have this belief that everything should turn out like a comedy. I don't think things should end up shitty and broken, I think they should end up beautiful and full of love. The summer of 2008 turned into a tragedy of such a scale that I don't think anyone came out of it ahead of where they came in.

The summer of 08 was spent working at summer camp. It started off beautifully enough. I had just moved out of my parents house on a fairly positive note, had finished high school, was about to start university, and was supposed to run a radio station. I was working with many of my friends and it was supposed to be a good summer. Things didn't go well from the start.

The radio station didn't work. I got moved to do a different job and worked with some other people. As I had discussions with others, I got the impression that no one was doing well emotionally or spiritually.

One of my best friends had started off a great summer in a position where he felt like he was really making a difference. Then he got involved in a dispute with another co-worker that led to him being pulled out of his position and reassigned for a while. The dispute to this day has not been resolved, and it took a noticeable toll on my friend who was unable to complete the good things he had started at the beginning of the summer.

Other stuff happened. People quit, friendships got broken, some other people got fired, and I lost a coworker in midweek due to a situation which was incredibly murky and complex. I also had my laptop stolen.

Obviously it's hard to explain without using names and situations. I apologize that my writing here is only a crude scribble of the situation. I hope it gives you some idea of the chaos and problems this summer wrought though.

Every single person I can think of who was there for that whole summer was changed by the events. Friends who were once set in their beliefs were wildly rocked out of their seats. Some never returned to camp. Some never returned to the same way of life. From my perspective, I can not understand what the purpose or the reason for that summer was. I can not understand why God would allow so much pain and broken relationships in a place established in his name. I didn't get why so many people had allowed such injustice to pass by without doing anything. Never have I seen so much darkness go unilluminated.

I'm still trying to see God in it. I'm still trying to figure out the purpose in all this pain. Maybe someday I will understand but for now it hangs heavy in my thoughts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Wanderer, Far From Home

I miss home.

There I said it. I. Miss. Home.

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to many of you. I've been emailing as many people as I can since leaving and I seem to include this detail in all of them but in case you were wondering, it's true. I miss home.

I've never been a good traveller. A week away from home and I am good and ready to go back when it's over. I have things, rituals, people, and places that I love at home and being away makes me miss them a lot more.

Yet somehow, the allure of travel often grabs me. Somewhere else might be cool to visit. It would be neat to have something new to explore. So I leave home and head out into the world, and each time I return after a week or two feeling positive about the whole experience.

This is how I thought this trip would go but I was very wrong. This trip is not for a week. This trip is for 85 days. This is a 3 month trip. There is no going home on the red eye the following Sunday, this is a prolonged relocation. So the feeling settles on me and follows me around everywhere.

I miss home.

I've had a number of conversations this year with people who tell me of their great desire to go to Europe and Asia, or Australia. They want to see the world and they want to do it with such passion. I don't share this passion at all. "London would be nice" I'll say "Or maybe Japan, but not for very long, and there's no rush". I am a local boy.

I am one who misses home.