SSPX0009

August 29th, 2014

I watched some clouds lose their color tonight. I was sitting at my desk, with its mirror, and I saw the clouds through my mirror. I ran outside, because I knew that they were going to die soon. I stood outside for ten minutes. They were golden when I saw them, but they turned pink, pinker, then orange. The sky was navy blue. Orange and navy blue, colors I think of as sports or official colors. There they were, together in stripes, in nature. The stripes of clouds cracked open like water split by a drop of soap. They fragmented and became dried white foam on a beach. Then the color died down in subtle steps like a sliding light switch. Off. 

I am looking outside through my mirror and it is night in my mirror. The day is dead. I am growing to like the day and disliking the night. A beautiful night is never suddenly beautiful like a sky full of daylight. People say, “Oh, what a beautiful night!” when they are in the city surrounded by street lights and in love. The night is tough and unwelcoming. It makes familiar places unknown. People store bits of day inside their homes in the night, rations to get them through. Some people never even turn off their lights. 

 

SSPX0008

August 28th, 2014

I am good. Thanks for asking…what about…you? Are you good? Good, good. I feel like you assume I am bad when you ask if I am good. Why do you think that whenever I say I am good, that I am only giving you part of the story? If you are asking for me to mean it, why not believe me when I say it?

I can be good. I am good. I am full of good. If I was bad, I would be lying. I would not be lying to say that I once was bad, but now am good. Okay, but now am great. Amazing grace. It is almost like I can mean it when I say, “I am good. Are you good?”

Not all of us are good. I get that. If you are asking me, so I can ask you, please ask me to ask you next time. I am not interested in playing social games. Be honest, but do not show me your whole heart. That heart is for God. That heart is the reason we pray. If you are doing bad, that is nothing between us. It is between you and God. You call him Father, don’t you? Why not asking him if he is good? Why not believe him when he says, “I am good. Are you good?”

SSPX0007

August 27th, 2014

In my writing, I want to reach music. I want to become a master of counterimage.

One song recently, one about kissing, made me write the following. The line of the song is included. The piece is not edited, but I consciously included as much hidden rhythm, repetition, and rhyme as I could on the fly:

“I am so busy thinking about kissing you, I spend all day in the back of my mind kissing you. I fell in love with you and it was the last thing I ever expected. And after that, the last thing I expected was to be alone with you. And we are married. And it’s a very good thing.

“They say you marry your mother. Not me. I married a tree. I married a girl with pine needles for hair and bark for skin. I put my hand in your hair. I put my nose in your hair and keep it there and with one more hour to spare in the early morning before work, we stay next to the window in bed, too exhausted to get out of bed for a day of sacrificing memories we together never made.

“Let’s just stay next to the window, where we can see the forest and the trees. And it is that forest I planted when my mother died. A tree for each life in the family. Lord, if you are a merciful God, may I have a tree before my wife after me, she is refreshing to me like a glass of iced whiskey. Do I like it watered down?

“Yes, I do. You make me want to put on a sweater in the fall or take a warm shower. And you will let me listen to you and when we talk, you don’t move away, you stay at the table like a pine tree, rooted, but if I breath breakfast in your face while we talk, you tell me and we move on.

“Over the phone, when I am at work, I hear your voice pressed against my ear like you’re near. With you, I fear no punishment, because with each other, we share everything. I know your past better than you do, I am willing to do the analysis your selflessness does not allow you. And you know my future more than you’ll admit, because if you told me, it’s sick.

“But your knowledge makes me safe. And we stay faithful to God together. And the walls of flesh that might separate us, the Holy Spirit has broken down and they lay on the ground at the end of the bed and when I come home from work, my office in the woods, you put a crown on my head, because we are all princes.

“I recline in the armchair at the fire and have you tell me about your day, because you have been dying all day to tell me and I’ve been dying all day without the light of God in you.

“Though the world reviles me, though I am left to some degree friendless and without my past liberty, though even my friends and admirers misunderstand me, and are unwilling to be lost in me, you have drawn a thousand Venn diagrams of my heart. I need you, because I have never had myself and I am complete when I love outside myself and into someone else.”

I hear the people who are actually married whispering to their computers right now, “But there is no sacrifice there – it is not real love.” Something to that affect.

Well, yes. The piece is highly romanticized. I would not defend that romanticism, but I would willingly defend the longing for love, which is a good. I was not trying to describe actual love, only the longing of a love song – and the comedy.

 

SSPX0006

August 26th, 2014

When I think of being a five year old, the same events always line up behind my image of the house. I think of standing tall on my toes, looking up at an older lady in our church and saying, “I am five now, but being five goes really fast.”

This might have been when I was four – I don’t remember much from when I was five, because it was such a short year – but I also remember going up to my “adopted” mother, pointing out all my bruises and “scars”, and saying, “I just feel like I am getting older.”

I remember a time, too, when I was twelve or so and a teacher of mine was asking me about my year and my face got red. She smiled and pinched my cheek and said, “Oh, it must be hard being so fair.” It was as equally sweet as it was odd as it was maddening.

Back when I was five, I remember my two older brothers and I looking over a large gun catalog from the early 20th century. Where it came from – or where it is now – I have no clue. We would stay up late, deciding which pistol or rifle was cooler. Thinking of it now, it was more than a gun catalog, but we weren’t interested in women’s stockings or refrigerators at the time.

I also remember a time when the neighbor kids took me out to some outhouse or little shed, came in with me, and locked the door. The shed had a nice window, so there was a lot of light. They pointed out these letters and symbols written in some red ink. They told me that it was chicken blood and that the people who once lived on their property were witches. This made me wonder what the male equivalent of a witch was. For years, I thought it was a wizard, but their hats and ways of behaving never aligned.

Also, I remember confusing S and C, so I recalled which was which by saying, “C.S. Lewis.”

Also, I remember confusing gray and brown. There was no help for me.

Also, I remember that roughly between the ages of seven and eleven, I would press my tongue firmly on the roof of my mouth or behind my teeth if I had to pronounce an “l” or “n.” I would not stop pronouncing it, until I felt satisfied that I had pressed my tongue firmly enough.

Also, I remember drawing maps and pictures in thousands of church bulletins. On the back of one church bulletin, under notes:, I drew the shelf of a man who collects body parts. I drew jars of different sizes for ears and for noses and for eyes. It so pleased me, that I gave it to that older women I mentioned earlier. She said nothing. Ecclesiastes, to the best of her knowledge, says nothing about pickle jars.

That last memory reminds me of this next one, only because they happened in the same church building. My friend, Logan, turned nine. I was jealous, because I thought we were the same age (we were for a little bit). It was the first time jealousy ate at me.

Also, I remember that everything was different than it is now. I am not saying it was better. Now is better and tomorrow will be better than today, someway. But I remember when everything I saw with my eyes and smelled with my nose was new. I remember when I felt safe like a jelly in a jar in a cellar, because I had my parents to see. If I ever felt scared about some unknown, all I had to do was find my mom or dad and look at them. Looking at them made me safe again.

I remember the warmth I felt being inside the old Sugar Grove house on a Saturday, because the family was all around. Dad mowed the lawn, Mom painted in the dining room, and donuts sat on the counter in the kitchen. Dave and Nate were outside playing catch or skateboarding. Anna was in her room performing little spells for all I know. Josiah and Zach were around, somehow doing the same things as me, but staying separate. I remember looking up in the noon sun, but the cool breeze, on a Saturday, at the tall square farmhouse with its yellow siding. The tip of the roof was shaded by a tree. If my memory serves me, that tree fell and blocked our gravel driveway. I remember the neighbor coming over and my dad showing him inside the old smokehouse. I thought of the smokehouse. It was a foreign concept to me. I thought it might be full of hanging human corpses from an inquisition or a max exodus that forced some wandering people to cannibalism. I remember thinking about the smokehouse all day and when the night came, I went inside, looking for Dad and for dinner. I remember that it might have been a birthday – Josiah’s – and he sat in the middle of our long and sticky dinner table.

I forget where I crossed over into today. I forget the time when I started making my way alone. I forget the time when the unknown began to attract me. I forget the first time I didn’t want to see my parents, because they scared me. I forget the first night I spent alone, but unafraid.

I remember when I was so scared of death, that I shivered in bed. And I looked up at the ceiling and the fan rotating and wondering, “Why wouldn’t it just fall right on me? And why wouldn’t God just send me straight to hell? What proof have I given him that I desire him more than I desire avoiding hell?” I remember asking Anna if it is wrong to love God, only because you want to avoid Hell. I forgot her answer. I remember that the first time I stopped being scared of death, was when Josiah told me to go talk to Mom and Dad. So I knocked on their door and stood at the edge of their bed. I told them what I was scared of and I was crying and I was nine and my dad grabbed my skinny arm and said, “This is going to give you big faith muscles.”

SSPX0005

August 25th, 2014

I have been doing a lot of cooking lately. It is fun. From my recent experience, I have learned perhaps the most basic culinary equation:

food   X   time   =   flavor

This is especially true with onions.

My cooking centers around the cast iron pan. I love cast iron pans.

I made all of the lunches for my week on Sunday night. It was barbecued chicken, steamed broccoli, and rice.

Tonight, I had the urge to cook. I wasn’t even hungry. I wanted to experiment. The thing about experiments is that they can fail. I reasoned to myself to make a savory dish. Here are the ingredients:

five eggs

one onion (too much!)

one apple

one lime

one can of corn

two potatoes

two slices of bacon

spices: garlic salt, salt, pepper, chili powder

Looking at it now, I see the flaws. One onion is, indeed, too much for five eggs. The lime was unnecessary (but interesting). The chili powder ought to have been cayenne pepper. The apple was fine, but out of place for a heavy dish like this (this being a fritatta). There was too much garlic salt. There should have been more bacon. It ought to have been a half can of corn. One more egg would have been nice.

The fritatta was a failure, but from this I did make an important innovation; fruit and vegetables can be mixed.

My lunches, however, are a success.

Where will I go next?

My favorite part of cooking so far has been cutting the potatoes and onions.

Quote 2

“Now the first tragedies were being performed then, under the direction of Thespis and his fellow poets, and the novelty of the enterprise was attracting crowds of people, even though it had not yet been developed as a competitive contest. Since Solon was naturally fond of a recital and eager to learn, and even more because in his old age he was giving himself over to relaxation and fun – yes, and even to drinking and music – he went to watch Thespis personally acting in one of his own plays, as was the custom in the old days. After the performance he had a question for Thespis: ‘Aren’t you ashamed to tell such enormous lies in front of so many people?’ he asked. Thespis replied that there was nothing wrong with saying and doing this kind of thing for fun, whereupon Solon gave the ground a mighty blow with his stick and said, ‘But if we accept this “fun” and think highly of it, before long we’ll start to find it cropping up in important areas of life.'” – Plutarch’s Greek Lives, Oxford University Press, pg. 74

Notes:

Plutarch, reading your Greek Lives (I am sorry if skipping over the other part of your Lives is sacrilegious to you) has sparked a number of thoughts in my head.

First, I wonder what your editing process looks like. This is something I have wondered before while reading Augustine’s City of God and Calvin’s Institutes. Where and what do the authors of these great books edit? Would it even be admirable to analyze one of their works exclusively on a stylistic basis? We analyze a work like The Divine Comedy stylistically, although it seems like criticizing it theologically happens less often.

I am not saying that students never criticize or analyze – whatever you want to call it, I want to think of it as the act of looking for imperfection – wholly, looking at the style, cultural context, later implications, etc. I am saying that some works, we emphasize one angle over another. I can still grant that the City of God is a major achievement, a gem in the crown of the Church (do you know what I mean?), but why can I not pick apart a section and conclude that it is poorly written? I feel like a historian or a theologian would lean over my shoulder and say, “That’s not the point. The point is that this was influential.”

But so? Isn’t the point that Augustine – really, we can think of a different example now – wanted his thoughts to be engaged with by others? As a human from a different culture than him, I have to spend time in all of these preliminary causeways before I can actually have a conversation with Augustine. But once I am at the point in my studies when Augustine deems me worthy, we will open up a bottle of wine, and sit across from each other at a table. Once we begin talking, isn’t analysis of how he communicates as equally essential to his communication as, say, understanding his cultural context once was for me in the beginning of my studies?

The goal with reading any ancient or influential text, I believe, is to converse with its author. The effect of this is to learn. Learning from a great mind ought to be a whole affair. I don’t just learn from Augustine that he was influential, for example. I learn from him what how not to think or to think. I can also learn from him how to write well or poorly. Instead of focusing on the single aspect that made a work influential – for The Divine Comedy, largely it is style and for The Institutes, it is largely theology – why not see the work as a whole, written by imperfect people?

I am not saying they are sinful people or even flawed, just imperfect. Their imperfection is as intriguing and influential as the places where they came close to perfection.

The other thought was that you are – your translation, at least – quite an excellent writer. There is something worth quoting on every page. You have changed – just in seventy pages – my entire way of thinking about the Spartans and Athenians. That is a significant thing to have changed.

The last thought you gave me – since I have forgotten all the rest by now – is a large one. I could state it in the most cliche way possible; some things never change. I can state it in a provocative way; liberal and progressive politics work effectively and are good for some states.

The strict communism and rigidness of Sparta was a good thing for Sparta.

The hate crimes and legalized morality in Athens was a good thing for Athens.

I am not a situationalist, if that means that goodness is determined exclusively by a situation. But, I do see that the actions of the federal government in America now, which conservatives see as immoral or ineffective, are not deficient in themselves (some of them are and always will be). Rather, they are deficient because they do not take into account the situation of the United States. I think it was a good thing, for example, that Athens had hate crimes. I think it was a good thing that Spartans ate together in messes and shared their goods and wealth was nearly abolished (for a time). Any sort of strict and minute control like this would be ineffective for the United States. This is a grand claim and I don’t want to prove it right now. The beginning proof is as basic as the United States having a diverse population. The Spartans were unified in almost every way imaginable before Lycurgus’ rhetrae.

I also have to take into account with all of this, Plutarch, that you give away some of your worldview describing Lycurgus and his laws in Sparta. From the way you present the narrative, it seems like evil can be reduced to excesses or deficiencies of material things. When Lycurgus replaced the currency with brittle iron, for example, it seems like wealth was therefore taken away. Greed was later on introduced to Sparta only through material goods.

Anyway.

SSPX0003

August 24th, 2014

There is not enough time in the day to take my time.

For the first time in my life, I will have something I have written in a book format. But I am not happy.

I am mad. I am almost furious. I am so furious, that I am listening to Mozart’s Requiem. 

I am mad, because I spent the last five hours of my Sabbath reviewing, reading, and editing the final portion of Spring, then going through the process of selling my soul to Amazon. I did all of this willingly and knowingly. I did nothing against my will, but maybe with my ignorance.

I got excited yesterday when I realized that it is easy to get free paperback copies of your work if only you sell your soul to Amazon. I overlooked that part.

I am mad, because I bothered at all to go through the process that has now given me nothing. I will have three paperback copies of a rough draft of a horrible novel written by an ambitious and agitated teenager. I wrote it between fifteen and now. I could now insert a rant about how teenagers should not write, or at least not share their writing. I will and I will keep it short.

Teenagers are not good at writing. They can be good for being teenagers. But they are not good – nor will they ever be – good writers until they cease to be teenagers. This is how it works. They only become good, if they went through a stage of being bad or most likely awful. 

I wrote Spring and I was an awful writer.

The reason I am mad?

I wanted to do it, because the Devil tempted me with the idea of a physical book with my name on the front of it! Even if it is the worst thing I have ever written.

The reason I am mad?

I have shed light on a novel that ought to never have seen the light of day.

And now, I am questioning the whole idea of me even writing. What I want right now is to write more but to keep it all to myself. I am again attracted to the idea of writing whatever I want and keeping it all to myself until the day of my death.

I am being very fatalistic right now.

I am mad, because making the novel (from henceforth, I will not even name it) physically exist has now put a stop to the whole process of writing it. It exists in all of its imperfection. It also exists with a terrible and disgusting cover. It is a testament to a grand failure that I would have preferred borrowing from in later novels than give a place in this world at all.

I cannot describe to you how much the covers of these books matter to me. They are everything. If the cover of one book is not exactly how I imagine it, then the entire book is a failure. By ordering paperbacks of the novel, I have now ruined the organization I had in my head.

Aside from this journal and school assignments, I have no problem with taking a long vow of silence with my writing. I may do that, actually. Everything I write could just be locked up in a great vault, until the day it is all ready to have covers.

And I still have laundry to do.

And I still have to cook.

And I want to go to bed by ten.

And there are so many pieces of others’ writing that I should read.

I edited an essay by a friend of mine. I was too liberal with my additions and excisions. I upset her. For that, I am sorry. I have never edited the work of another that closely. Someone once did it to me. I sent him a short story I wrote called Your Room, Our Womb and he re-wrote it in his voice. I was livid.

I read a book called Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott. I disliked that book, because Anne is too schizophrenic and hard on herself. She attaches herself far too strongly in her work.

SSPX0003

August 23rd, 2014

Well today, I spent the morning talking about open theism and determinism. The discussion easily flowed into one about fiction. From there, I asked to borrow a self-published book from a friend.

I set myself up for sending some free paperbacks to myself. I have no covers yet for these books.

I had a Persuasive Writing class today. I spent most of the time trying not to cough in peoples’ faces.

We had people over for dinner outside. My roommate did all of the shopping, all of the cooking, most of the setting up, most of the take-down. I enjoyed the meal and the people. I drugged myself up and drank throat coat tea the whole time.

We watched a movie called Locke. I am unsure what to think of it, save that it was understated, slow, and said very little. The major theme from the film was that the mistakes of a man have been and will remain with him forever. He is a concrete worker and his wife complains that when he comes home, his footprints turn into stone on the floor. I suppose this is a powerful moral to a story; that our past is unchangeable. The unsavory conclusion, however, that we cannot change – that our faults remain with us for the rest of our lives – is horrible and false. People can and do change. Change is more a part of our nature than the nature that people claim makes us unchangeable.

Tomorrow, I am going to edit the latter part of Spring, put it in a paperback format, call it a 1st edition (a rough edition), and then read some of it to the writing group.

 

SSPX0003

August 22nd, 2014

I began the day with the intent of taking a meaningful picture. I wanted to take a picture of a tree. Or something like nature.

Well here I am, at 11:15am and I am taking a picture of my desk again. Maybe every picture from now on will be of my desk. How many different angles can I get?

As for the lessons of today, I remain consistently unimpressed by my ability to offer something meaningful to a crowd. I am not getting better at engaging with groups of people. I am getting worse. Is this a bad thing? Well, yes, because it leads everyone to either think that I am upset or uninterested.

In a group, I am either watching the group or talking to one person.

Conversation is an art that two engage in. Three or four can do it, but they have to have similar intentions.

Observation is an art that only one plays.

I have become somewhat lax even with my conversation skills. There is an imbalance between things that interest me and my desire not to talk, but to listen. Both extremes pull me and I am left not asking any questions of the other person. And this, I have always found, is selfish. There is no conversation without questions.

But it is not just a preference, it is an inability. I am increasingly unable to even ask interesting questions of the other person.

Speaking of preference, I increasingly dislike being in a group of people. It is not that it stresses me out. I do not like them.

This is not confession hour. I am not confessing a sin when I say this (am I, secretly?). I am not saying it out of guilt or shame. I am saying it, because it is true.

I am growing in my gratitude for thoughtfulness. The “great sin” to me in high school was dishonesty and reputation grooming. Now, I can hardly stand thoughtlessness. But let us stay on the positive side.

Something that makes me fall over in gratitude is when a friend of mine tells me that he is concerned for another friend. He has noticed him and wonders if he is doing alright. This is remarkably vague and it is only an example.

Something that makes me fall over in gratitude is when a friend focuses all of his attention on me. For no reason – it seems – he goes out of his way to speak to me, to ask me how am doing. It makes me smile and to be honest, it almost makes me laugh; that someone would step out of the group and talk to me.

There has been talk of love languages recently and the one that makes the most sense for me is gifts. I could explain how this is not, in fact, materialistic. Here is the short of it: a well-placed gift affirms to me that the person knows what my direction and passions are, to what I am oriented. A poorly-placed gift does the opposite. This goes far deeper than “what is your passion”. It goes to the core of who we are as creatures; we are makers and enjoyers of creations.

While it is generally true that my love language is gifts – for now – I think love is most strongly communicated to me when a person forgets himself. When I see someone that is, for a moment, entirely selfless, who is willing to put all of their private opinions, annoyances, grievances, preferences, worries, and strengths to the side for the sake of raising up a brother through himself- that is love!

Love is the farthest away to me when someone is unwilling or unable to set aside his ambitions or weaknesses or strengths for the sake of another. His private desires are a cloud that do not depart from his eyes.

Some Scripture here would be appropriate; deem others more significant than yourself. When I see one person do that for another person, I see love.

When I see hidden motives behind thoughtfulness, I see hate.

When I see a lack of interest behind “provoking” questions, I see hate.

Maybe all of this is both a condemnation and approval of my current relationship with groups. I will leave that analysis to someone else. For now, I remain looking for that one person on the outside of the group who needs a person to talk to.

SSPX0005

August 21st, 2014

I am sorry, Mom, I am not very good at talking about myself and my day.

I spend most of my day observing things and taking in as much raw material as I can. I weigh the value of a day by the amount of things I enjoyed and remembered and by what I made of it. A day goes badly when I did not make much nor enjoyed much. As for myself and whether or not am doing good, that is not even something I think about.

I got sick today. I never mind getting colds, because it reminds me of the Fall as a kid. Memories of my childhood flood back when the olfactory sense is stunted. The worst part about getting sick for me is the sore throat before it. A sore throat will keep me up all night. I eventually have to get up and drink three glasses of water. Is there an immediate cure to sore throats? If so, tell me.

I also had my first history recitation today. It went well. I never know what to expect with new teachers. When I am getting to know a new teacher, I am really trying to look for what they enjoy the most. Do they enjoy the repetition of familiar ideas? Do they enjoy seeing the wave of news faces and the challenge of putting them together into a class? Do they enjoy lecturing or taking questions?

Behind all this, there is the question of how they see the world. How someone sees the world has a lot to do with what they are looking for. A footprint of this can be seen in the notes that people put in books. The sentences someone underlines in a book shows what that person craves and enjoys. It is always fun to read a used book and see that someone is looking for completely different ideas than yourself.

A lot of it, too, has to do with what terms trigger connections in their mind. If I were to say eschatology, for example, that would be a more interesting term for one person than end times. To dig even deeper, the terms that interest a person are usually borrowed from how they were taught. If a Christian homeschooler was taught a lot of worldview analysis, he will be more interested in postmodern art than contemporary aesthetics.

I have done a bad job of demonstrating this, but I have seen it when students answer a teacher’s question. When a teacher asks a question, they are looking for the core of an idea. It is the students’ responsibility to provide that core. Most students do not see it that way. They see a teacher’s question as an opportunity for them to voice their opinions. The teacher is not interested in their opinions – although sometimes they might surprise him – he is interested in them deducing from the question what they did not know. So, instead of telling them something new, he makes them think something new. It takes a good teacher and good students to play this game called deducication.