Sunday, June 12, 2011

...but the Future Refused to Change

Long ago I gave myself to Jesus, asked him to change me from the selfish person I am. As it began, the natural result would be opportunities to treat the symptoms of that selfishness.

When the first chance arose, I grabbed at it like a monkey and clung for dear life - forsaking the changes that had barely begun, forgetting the divine source and instead placing all my faith and effort in the thinnest, most meagre form of control.

Well, now I have all the fruits to be found down the branch of that opportunity. I should hope so, I sacrificed five hard years to it. How can I admit to being surprised that the blessings are not unlimited, or that labour cannot burn away my selfishness?

I'm so painfully blind. Self-punishment does not remove selfishness. At best it sublimates the guilt, but it's only temporary. If anything I've come off worse: All these years I've ignored relationship and responsibility under the auspices of my oh-so-noble work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The White-Hot Globe

Light, we are told, travels at a certain speed from place to place. It's fascinating to think how quickly the sun's travels are relayed to us though this medium. The ancients crafted sundials to measure the passage of time according to this eternal journey. Yet the sun reaches us through a far greater force, that of gravity. I have no idea if science has attempted to measure the speed of gravity, but according to theory, the force of gravity pulls between every particle of matter in the universe. Thus, unless my understanding fails me, if one were able to infinitely perceive the force of gravity as it acts on any one particle in the entire universe, one might extrapolate that same, seemingly infinite universe totally and unilaterally from that one particle.

Is it so unreasonable, then, to suggest that one infallible volume, one message, one Word of God which, bearing immaculate veracity rather than complete information, could be enough to guide mankind?

Ecclesiastes 1:18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

I've written previously (however weakly and incompletely) about the power of anticipation. Generally, I would consider anticipation a function of wisdom. Compare:

Proverbs 8:11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

If that's not enough to convince you, the fact I spend so much time thinking about things ought to say that I still view wisdom and thought as excellent paths to walk. I say this all as a disclaimer for what follows:

Sometimes a tall, crushing wave of truth will hit you. Sometimes you might cry. Sometimes you might be afraid, your soul might feel like a rat trying to scratch it's way out of you. Sometimes you think that your eyes should burn blind, or your brain should explode. You're so sure of it that you can only wonder why it's not happening, why that feeling is slowly ebbing away, like a slavering beast dragged bodily away by an invisible harness. You remember you've felt this way before, most of the time you don't even take the time to express it afterward - not that such a task seems easy, and it's still harder when you try - what you might never have realized is that your feelings weren't false.

Douglas Adams wrote about a fictional device, the Total Perspective Vortex, which permits the operator - that is to say, forces the victim - to perceive the entire universe and his relative position and importance.* It's described as the worst torture device ever devised.

Surely none of us can claim ever to have glimpsed Total Perspective, but a fairly ordinary moment of clarity makes clear the tiny and simple nature of the human mind. It's no natural fortitude that saved me, earlier just today. If our brains don't explode all over our car windshields, we can only consider it a mighty and gracious miracle of our God. If we forget deep truths a short time after thinking them - well, perhaps we're sometimes better off.

* A quick look at Wikipedia (to confirm the name) reveals that the device is supposed to operate on the same principle I described in the opening to this post. This is entirely coincidental, so far as one can believe in such concepts.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I Thought Today

Today, I thought that maybe imagination isn't really important. Then I tried to imagine life without it, but I didn't have enough imagination.

I thought that imagination keeps me from doing things in the real world, but then I realized the only things I wasn't doing were those I had not imagined doing.

I thought if I spent less time imagining, I might have a better life. Then I realized I hadn't imagined a better life, nor imagined how I might make one.

I thought that imagination kept me from other people. Then I remembered how I treat them when I neglect to imagine how they might feel.

Then I thought that with enough imagination, I could do anything. I thought that art is just imagination brought to life. Since all things must be imagined to be done, that made all things art, and rare forms not the more critical except where they are more beautiful or more fleeting.

Then I thought imagination greater than the real. Still, then I thought that without the real there would not be anything to imagine from, nor anyone to imagine it.

Then I thought that imagination is only different from the real in that it does not count against us when we ruin it. So then, the real is only different from imagination in that it counts against us when we ruin it.

Then I thought that life was God's imagination, that our imagination is to the real world as we humans are to Him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Third Verse, Same as the First

I've kept thinking about the future, about anticipation and ideas... and games. I've been reading a lot about the art of game design, and it made me think of another game. I played this game about a year ago, called Final Fantasy X. Actually I'd played it before that, but I'd wanted to go back to it... and now I'm thinking about it again.

I'm boring some of you already. Please stick with me, this isn't a post about games, but about a story, and about life.

In Final Fantasy X we follow the tale of a young man, a famous and skilled athlete. Immediately after we meet him, his home city experiences a great cataclysm, the attack of a huge monster. Following this, he awakens in a land he has never known.

Our hero is rescued and befriended by a small band of devout folk, friends and guardians to a young priestess. This priestess and her friends are on a pilgrimage to save the world - to pray for the fallen, to fight monsters, to assist the ailing... eventually even to rid the world of it's great nemesis, the beast called Sin. The pilgrimage will supposedly end in his homeland, so this young athlete decides to travel along with the group.

He finds himself in complete agreement with their cause and finds purpose in assisting these missionaries, these heroes. Moreover, he is falling rapidly in love with this priestess, who has dedicated her life both in word and in deed to saving the world, to ending it's pain. She seems to feel the same, yet she is reluctant - but is it only duty which holds her back? Our protagonist convinces himself it is so. He sometimes mentions his plans for a grand vacation in his homeland, once the pilgrimage is complete and the world saved. His hopes are far greater, but he keeps them hushed up, since everyone seems a little uncomfortable discussing the end.

It isn't until they arrive that our hero learns the truth - his homeland is every inch a ruin. For a thousand years it has lay dead and gone. Through a complex twist of fate, his presence in this time and place is shown by no means to be accidental. Indeed, it is crucial to the world's destiny, the defeat of the great calamity, the monster Sin. The pilgrims could never have won without him. Yet, in a strange way, while Sin made it necessary, Sin also made it possible. The attack on his city is somehow the same event that brought our hero to this world. The details are not made immediately clear, nor are they critical to this summary.

At this point in the game the story takes a breather and we are given the chance to search the world for more equipment and experience, in preparation for the final encounter. Once Sin is finally defeated in the thrilling climax, and all it's secrets laid bare, every lesson finally learned that this adventure had to teach, our hero simply disappears. Where he has gone, nobody knows. After all, much as he loved it, he never belonged to this world.

----------------------------------------

There is a sort of lesson to be learned here, or at least a logic that could be discussed.

On a personal scale, I sometimes wonder if I'm going to be here for the rest of my days. The same city, the same friends, the same life. Until about a year ago, wherever I was, I tried to plan as if that were true. Why? Because I love it!! I love you guys and I love living in Winnipeg, being close to you. I love my church. I've learned and grown so much because of you. If at any time I started to imagine a life elsewhere, I would cast the thought aside, thinking of how I could never really leave. Why would God put me here, with people I would love so much, if not forever to stay?

Yet, somehow I've failed in my ambition to make any commitments I couldn't rightly break. Almost as if I've been held back from doing so - dare I suggest God is keeping me for something? All I know is that I haven't been trying to dodge responsibility, to sidestep those ties that bind a man for life. At least, not consciously! Maybe I'm just fooling myself. It seems that sometimes there are lessons we cannot simply learn, but which we must be taught. I'm not saying I'm about to leave or anything. I guess I just feel that maybe I've been limiting the scope of what God might have in store for me, and that's not really right.

Anyway, that's just the personal side.

On the more general theological stage. God created us as good creatures and we lived peacefully with Him in the garden of Eden. It was our sin that took us from that life and killed so many of us, it is sin that brings pain to the world. This much we know.

Yet, the promises of the Bible sound so much better than a simple garden. The promise that we will be perfected, joint-heirs with Christ... could we ever be brought to that without the 'knowledge of good and evil'? I don't mean to say that 'sin is also good' or any such nonsense. Yet, we know that God understands us more deeply than we ourselves. Think of Eve and the serpent - certainly it was sin to break God's command, yet how was it the serpent convinced her? 'If you eat the fruit, you will become like God.' Naturally, that is a wrong aspiration, even Jesus 'did not consider equality with God something to be grasped' (Philippians 2:6), but behind it there was a truthful knowledge - that God is greater than she was, greater than we are.

I believe that God knew we would sin and I believe God knew He would come in human form to die and to save us. Better than that, I believe God knew it would be worth it. Whether that means anything like what I'm suggesting, I'm not sure.

Maybe sometimes we have to fool ourselves, do something that seems stupid, in order to get somewhere better. Maybe sometimes we have to fall into a pit to climb the mountain on the other side. It sounds counter-intuitive - why would I go down to get up? - but I think sometimes it's true.

That all said, I doubt if I'm going anywhere anytime soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Second Motion: Ideas

Please read the previous post, entitled 'Anticipation', before this one.

The ideas of life come in many different types. Some you can start with as soon as you get them, like eating an apple off a tree. Others require more preparation. If the time isn't right you can put your ideas in the fridge, but - again, depending on the type of idea we're discussing - time will usually take some toll on it. Not just the viability of your idea may be affected, but also it's natural desirability. If you were hoping to share your ideas with someone else, it's probably best to present them while they're fresh in your mind. A little preparation and good timing can make all the difference, but many kinds of ideas taste kinda funny if left more than a week or a month.

On the other hand, then, we have long-term ideas. The kinds that get put in your mental deep-freeze, the kinds you don't think about unless you happen to go down there looking for something else. They're sealed tight - or so you hope - and might not even be labelled (did you even know what they were when you put them in there?). Yet, you recognize those little psychological parcels, you know where each one sits amongst the others... and woe to anyone who might happen to disturb them.

What will those ideas look like when you finally empty your freezer? Will your seals hold and your thoughts keep? Will you be throwing those ideas out the window - the ancient tastes of an immature palette, now to be replaced with modern delicacies? Or will you be famished, hungry to death for the flavour of days gone by; Will you be desperate to find your ideas intact and unspoilt? Perhaps instead you will die with your freezer packed to the lid, full of the dreams you gave up but disdained to replace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Anticipation

Anticipation is one of the greatest forces in the human repertoire.

They say that human beings cannot see into the future, but this is hardly true - akin to saying that human beings have no power. What is meant is, we cannot see as far or as clearly into the future as we should like to see. Yet every day we demonstrate our clairvoyance. You know that you'll hit that parked car up ahead if you don't stop or change lanes. You know you'll get thirsty on your walk, so you bring along some water. You know you'll forget to call that person, so you leave yourself a note.

I am currently failing to anticipate where I'm going with this.

The game of chess, if I have understood correctly what has been related to me, is largely about anticipation. If you can discern the mind of your opponent, you can foresee his next move and thus counter it preemptively. The same can be said of almost any contest - from sword fighting to the stock market, if you can see the future more clearly than your contemporaries, success is all but certain.

Once we have learned to regret our mistakes, it's usually too late to correct them. Wisdom, therefore, would dictate that we use our powers of anticipation to the fullest. Some might go so far as to say that this is the largest part of wisdom: the willingness to pay full attention to our natural ESP, over what our eyes alone might tell us.

Let's go back a step, momentarily. How do we see the future? Well, I might never have hit a car in my life (not quite true, but almost), but I've heard about people who have, and I have a rudimentary understanding of physics, anyway. If something moves toward something else and doesn't stop or change direction, the two will collide. This is something we learn as infants, as soon as we clap our hands for the first time. The full gravity of the concept might take awhile to sink in, but the seeds are planted as early as that.

And yeah, what about gravity, and seeds? Stop holding a ball and it falls to the ground - heck, stop holding your head up and it will, too! Some forces are inexorable. Time marches on as surely as the earth holds our feet. Life and death cycle on, unstoppably. Plant a good seed and watch it grow - at least, so long as it's taken care of and given a suitable environment, and nothing comes to eat it, and weather doesn't damage it... Nothing is guaranteed. Some things are inexorable... but nothing is guaranteed? Wait, what?

Gimme some time, I'll try and figure this out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wish You Were Here

Seriously guys, why didn't you all come with us?

Paris is everything I remember and more. I have to say it's kinda more fun finding your own way - it really gives you a sense of ownership. You're not just seeing the city, you're learning it. The Metro is fantastic, I've never seen a traffic jam here. You can rent bicycles off the sidewalk; sadly our plan to do so last night was dashed by rain. This after an evening of organ and orchestra music in the Notre Dame. We watched the sun rise on the Sacré Coeur. We skirted the celebrations at the end of the Tour de France. In the Louvre, we saw a pillar from the audience chamber of Darius I, a Persian king who figures into the narrative of the Bible. We ate baguettes and camembert at the foot of the Basilique Sainte Clotide.

It's been a pretty cool three days. Two and a half weeks to go!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Something I'd Never Seen Before

A flying spider.
Well, floating.

A small dark something drifted over my head,
slowly
on the mild breeze.
I rose, mystified, when I glimpsed
the gleaming thread
streaming vertically above it.
I squinted and followed
the tiny black pinprick
which broke the clear blue sky
like an inkspot .
After a brief few metres
about ten ahead
(about twenty from the nearest tree behind)
the spider descended without concern for time,
as though my weight had reinstated gravity,
or my size had disrupted the current
or my presence had leadened his mood.
I blinked and crouched
and blinked again
before my fumbling fingers found his silver parachute in the sand.
Startled, he began a frantic climb
to sever this union unasked-for
but one sharp shake later
he flew off once more.