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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.

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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. 

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August 20th, 2014

“The tour guide takes me around by a chain,

as he and I walk the dusty halls of this vaulted barn,

near the gate, he points out Socrates lying in the corner,

so I ask him to pause, and wait,

but he tells me we must move forward,

in the next pen, between the slits of wood,

Lucretius chews on some cud

but the tour guide jerks the chain,

who is on tour, I

or these men?

Near the back, a pen is empty

and he pushes me in and closes the door.”

The poem above is a rough sketch of a vision I have been sitting on for the past few weeks. I wanted to show the Great Conversation as a cattle ranch or something like that. I saw it from the perspective of a tourist who is being shown around the ranch. The tourist’s attention is urged forward because the tour guide keeps saying, “There is so much to see! Come on! Too much to see!” I, as the tourist, get stuck on words and phrases that the philosophers and thinkers in their pens throw at me. I want to stay for a little while, to listen and ponder.

At the end of the tour, I am thrown into my own pen on the edge of the ranch. The whole time, I have had the same fate as the thinkers penned up.

I have only a basic knowledge about ranches. I have no clue if they even use pens on a ranch (is this ignorant)?

I will be using the above “poem” for a school assignment. After a thousand revisions, it may actually turn into something quite nice.

Ah yes, but this is a journal entry and I am unintentionally avoiding any biographical detail. The whole point of this public journal was to be more biographical for the people I love, but do not see every day.

I am now working as a sort of intern. I am writing reading guides for middleschoolers.

I am going on tour with my choir around the region during Fall Break.

I need to buy groceries. My father likes to order hamburgers with extra everything at Mcdonald’s. I also like hamburgers with extra everything, so I purchased four tonight. Four is too many.

I ordered a number of books in the mail:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

Carpenter’s Gothic by William Gaddis

Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

The Streets of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Marquez

From the library, The Dark Tower & Other Stories by C.S. Lewis.

I have been waking up around six to seven and going to bed around ten to eleven consistently every night. I try to stop working on school around six, which has also been going well. Sadly, I have not had much time to write apart from school and this journal. Here is a list of projects needing completion soon:

The Epic of a Child’s Mess by I

Warn Them, Live and Dance into the Darkest Night by I

How to Spread Religion: a Quick Guide by I

I am happy to say that the second draft of my novel, Spring, is finished. I am not sure about it. I am so not sure about it, that no one is allowed to read it. It ended in a surprising way. I never expected how it would end – nor did I expect that it would segue nicely into my next novel, One Short Day.

One Short Day was supposed to stand apart entirely from Spring, but the characters did not like that. One Short Day is the second generation. The main character is Joseph, the grandson of Abraham Whitely, the main character of Spring. Joseph’s father, Elijah, plays a significant role in One Short Day.

I am not writing One Short Day for myself, but I am going to keep it to myself. I am fine if someone finds it after I die. Spring has some salvageable parts that are marketable. For the most part, however, I used these salvageable parts in One Short Day. In a lot of ways, One Short Day is my personal response to Spring. I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t think I even like writing novels.

As for story collections (not all of them short), I plan on finishing the first draft of Neat Fiction before Christmas. This is a serious deadline, but it is also doable. If I finish Neat Fiction before Christmas, I can move onto Caught in the Whirlwind. That, my friends, will be the most exciting project in my life to date.

Neat Fiction first.

 

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August 19th, 2014

They (the wise) say something about seizing the day. That was Horace and he was making a metaphor about days being like flowers. It reminds me of the Medieval poem – perhaps taking from Horace? – about gathering roses while you still have the chance. The day will come when we can no longer gather up beauty. If we are to follow Horace’s metaphor, the day is beauty.

Annie Dillard describes days as little gods. Somehow she managed to be more pagan than Horace. Days are little brute gods that force their way on us. They demand worship from us – human sacrifice – so that at the end of the day, when we have given everything, we can somehow feel refreshed by our worship.

I added the part about sacrificing ourselves to each day. Days are not gods, they are tiny doorways.

When I opened my eyes this morning at 6:05am, the door was opened. I keep it in the passive voice, because it did not open itself. I believe that I and the Holy Spirit partnered together this morning.

The remainder of the day is our journey through the doorway, into the room, around the room, and back out. We close our eyes, we shut the door.

Every room is full of unique peculiarities. Once a door has been opened and closed, that place can never be seen again, that exact collection of images.

Today, I stayed in the doorway. I did not collect as many of the images as I could, bundling them under my arm, closing the door behind me with my elbow. I stayed in the doorway, a bit scared, because I knew that at the end of every day, the door must be closed. My irrational nature – or was it my rational? – convinced me that there is no point being in something when the being will come to an end. It is the same argument I use when I do not make my bed. Why make something that will be unmade?

I am walking around a mansion with a notepad, glasses on the end of my nose, and a tie. I have a pen. I have been given a limited list of rooms to inspect. I have been given the job of inspecting every room for a day, collecting specific images, then moving on. After the rooms run out, I have been given directions to take off my glasses, click my pen, hand the notepad to the man with long hair, and walk out the backdoor. I have been told that I will be informed five business days after my last check whether or not my work was satisfactory. Here’s hoping this job is not based on merit.

Today, I seized nothing except a cold. There is a lump in my throat.

We make works. We have been allotted a certain amount of works in our lifetime. Seven kids? Realty office? Three novels? School? Failed business?

These works – I am convinced – are bound by the images that inspired them. We are not inspired by things we cannot see. That is why Christ sent his Spirit. Without the example of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, we could hardly see the Father at all. All of our life and all of our passions hinge on what we see during our day.

There is a whole day full of images for the taking tomorrow. We may take nothing, in which case we will make nothing. Tomorrow will soon be forgotten. It is the images that let us remember. It is the images that inspire us to create.

I am seeing a room tomorrow. If my math is right, tomorrow is room 6601. I am going to bring backpacks, buckets, wicker baskets – anything that collects. I will fill these containers until there will be no room left for the images in the dark corners.

What we see during the day is for our good, but so is what we avoid seeing. We can fill our apartment with things, but those things will be our death if they are not useful or beautiful. I will keep my eyes on pure images – but I do not mean this in a pietistic way. I mean in the way of healthy eating. I want wholesome things to see. I want a green apple on a tree. A wholesome diet is a balanced diet. That includes fatty acids and carbohydrates. A wholesome diet is one that leaves room for fast food, but not very much.

I have counted my days. It seems like a remarkably small number: 6601. 6601. Tomorrow is my 6601th day. The number on the door is 6601. I will walk in, I will pack up what seems to be mine, and I will close the door.

……………………….

Human culture began somewhere near Mesopotamia. 

Human culture began with one man and one woman. 

Inferring from the fact that it began with an original couple, it is reasonable to conclude that there was one original language. 

The ancestors of the Babylonians built a tower to their god Marduk. This tower was later rebuilt under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II and was called the Etemenanki. In his words: 

“The tower, the eternal house, which I founded and built. I have completed its magnificence with silver, gold, other metals, stone, enameled bricks, fir and pine. The first which is the house of the earth’s base, the most ancient monument of Babylon; I built and finished it. I have highly exalted its head with bricks covered with copper. We say for the other, that is, this edifice, the house of the seven lights of the earth the most ancient monument of Borsippa. A former king built it, but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time, people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words. Since that time the earthquake and the thunder had dispersed the sun-dried clay. The bricks of the casing had been split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps. Merodach, the great god, excited my mind to repair this building. I did not change the site nor did I take away the foundation. In a fortunate month, in an auspicious day, I undertook to build porticoes around the crude brick masses, and the casing of burnt bricks. I adapted the circuits, I put the inscription of my name in the Kitir of the portico. I set my hand to finish it. And to exalt its head. As it had been done in ancient days, so I exalted its summit.”

He built the tower at Borsippa (Bir Nimrud), a site near Chaldea and on the east bank of the Euphrates. Was Abram called out of a land nearby the Tower of Babel? It’s plausible. I have no idea yet. I would like to do more research. 

While the Etemenanki was certainly not the Tower of Babel, it certainly could have been an attempt on Nebuchadnezzar’s part to rebuild it. The Tower of Babel is thoroughly historical, but I have no idea if historians – even people who have an agenda to affirm its historicity – have thought much about it and its connection to the Garden of Eden and Abram. Growing up, the stories always seemed disconnected. Why a garden? Why a tower? Why Abram? 

Not only do I have a grand cultural gap to cross, I also have no clue here in 2014 America what the geography of that land looked/s like. 

It makes sense, however, that the original language of the original couple and their children would be divided near their homeland. 

I am asking these questions from a place of ignorance. I want to reverse that and see if there are any connections. I suspect – and it is quite obvious – that the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Abel, and the Call of Abram out of Chaldea, are inseparably tied to the geography and culture of Mesopotamia. The accounts in the Bible are an invaluable resource, but I have no doubt that evidence strongly exists in archaeology and extra-biblical sources. 

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August 18th, 2014

I am back at college and my favorite thing is my antique desk.

I wanted to have a mirror on top of my desk, not really for vanity’s sake, but because I wanted to pretend that I had my desk next to a window. I had not anticipated how odd it is to look out the window – lost in thought – and see myself staring back at myself, lost in thought.

Does it seem odd to you, this autobiographical detail? I do not usually include autobiographical information on this blog. I am now, for this public journal. This is the “plebeian journal” (also known as a facebook alternative). I will do my best to keep metaphors, ideas, and thoughtful prose at bay while writing, but hey, sometimes I cannot help myself.

Introduction out of the way, let me announce that for the first time in my life I feel proud of food I have made.

I was homeschooled and our meals were also made at home. I never ate breakfast growing up. I loved lunch. Dinner was a hit or miss. My mother was unfortunately thoughtful about what she put into our bodies. Salad. Steak. Potatoes. Fish. No exception comes to mind, except for Sunday nights and date nights. On Sunday nights, we ate left-overs or popcorn. On date nights, when her and Dad went out, the older kids made popcorn or fish sticks.

The older kids made lunch for the younger kids. Macaroni and cheese was brought to the level of art. When the older kids left and I suddenly found myself as the only older kid, I made my little sister make sandwiches for me. This is true.

I am getting off track, though. My point is; I made a frittata. That is my point. And it was good. I thought of taking a picture of it in the cast iron pan, but I have no instagram.

I eat breakfast now. This is something I have been working on for the past year and a half. I never knew how good breakfast could be. Now when I wake up, I am hungry.

The first classes went well today. Choir meets in the mornings at a small church just down the street. My voice weakened over the summer.

The only other class I had today was Latin. I have done Latin for so many years and it is deeply familiar to me. Somehow, it still does not stick. There is a spot on the wall in my brain that is as slippery as ice. You know how sometimes there are spots in wood floors that are more slippery than others? When you are a kid, you put on three or four pairs of socks, and you go sliding. That is what the Latin section of my brain is like.

I had a good small conversation with an upperclassmen. We were in line upstairs to sign some papers – it was hot; why did I wear a jacket? – and we talked about faithfulness. I told her that a friend gave me advice for college. He told me, “Stay faithful where you are. Take life step-by-step. God will direct your path.” It struck me as profound coming from him. I can lose focus so easily by seeing faithfulness as a temporal activity. It has a spacial aspect to it, though, doesn’t it? We remain faithful in the space we occupy in the present. We do not stay faithful in light of the past or in hope of the future. We stay faithful as present creatures. We know what mistakes we have made in the past – what good does it do to look at our mistakes as reminders of what not to do? Our mistakes are not things to not do. Our past mistakes are pieces of our present selves. We made mistakes in the past and so we now stand in this living room, with three faces staring at us, wondering if we will ask them questions and stay our temper.

Here I am now. I am sitting at my favorite desk and I am outside sitting at my favorite desk. The outside looks like the inside. I have a small book called a “Working Diary” and a number of Chinese characters on it. It reminds me of my older brother and that I am a part of a whole, like the cogs in the Chinese communist machine. I have placed this “Working Diary” next to the mirror, because it is ironic that there are two of me. Are all evils mimicry of good? I am something like a cog, but a cog is unfit to describe the sort of role I fill. I am a brushstroke in a painting. I am a board of wood in a desk. I can be seen even by me.

………………………

In the future, history will be exclusively the study of current events. People will be considered culturally illiterate if they do not spend a few hours a day reading the news and keeping up to date. Journalists will comprise twenty percent of the population. Ten years after the future, a counterculture will form that is diligently apathetic about the news. This counterculture will concern itself with passe inquiries and it will die off for ten years, but come back unchained and more moderate. The generation twenty years after the future will be the ones who crave a balance between current events and history. They will pursue this balance in their homes and not in public places. It is being faithful in the small places, they will say, that will make the difference. The public will hardly know they exist. The children of this balanced generation will rebel from their parents subtly, by grabbing onto anything fresh. The balance of their parents, they will say, was not bad or good. It was just boring. This generation, in pursuit of some fresh experience, will be tied down by the pressures of the “normal life” they tried to avoid. But, everyone falls in love. Their kids will be the ones who neither have a craving for extreme, nor balance, nor originality, but goodness.

……………………..

Over the past year, I have been forced to think more about the clarity of the Gospel and the Law.  

I have a lot to do, so I will keep this short and casual. A year ago, I thought quite simply that Christ came to complete the law, so that we no longer have to do it. In my mind, there were no such categories as civil, moral, and ceremonial laws. I thought that Christ fulfilled all of the law and all we had to do was work on growing fruits of the Spirit. 

So much has changed in my head in the past year, that I sometimes have trouble finding things up there. I will walk into the pantry in the kitchen thinking its the powder room. Because, at one point, it was the powder room. I am fine with the changes, because it never really did make sense to have a powder room there. But, I still have to re-orient myself.

First, I did not hire the builders. They came into my head about a year ago and decided to tear down walls and bring in furniture (nice furniture) and roll out oriental carpets and tear off the plastic siding for stones. Second, they worked when I was sleeping. I never saw them and sometimes I wonder if they were invisible. Third, I never actually saw anything change. This is the most difficult doctrine to describe, but maybe it is the result of my own imperception. Even though the builders worked in my head for an entire year, I felt like no time passed at all. And one day, I wake up a year later like it was just one big dream and find that the powder room is now a pantry. 

Maybe construction is happening at all times and I just cannot see it. Maybe every year or so, I take a step back and look. Maybe I made up the idea of years and chapters of life, just so that I could have the impression that life offers me a break, an oasis from the constant construction. There are cycles, I believe, and seasons of life. But life is not a train with separate cars. It does not have its boxes. We make the boxes, we perceive straight edges. The changes that most deeply move us are the ones we cannot see. And I think we know this and it scares us, so we say things like “our college years”, when really who we were then spills over to the years before and after that four-year span. 

Maybe I am wrong. Because there are a lot of external forces working on us at all times, trying to place some temporal structure on our lives. You could get the news that you have cancer, for example, and right after that point, you really are a different person. You think differently about people and about death. You could get a promotion, for example, and you have to move your whole life to another state. And the geography in that new place will shift the geography in your mind and maybe in your body. Is the air good for your lungs?

Maybe I am confusing how we change with what changes us. Because while it is nearly impossible to pinpoint when change occurs or what it looks like, it is not impossible to say what caused the change. The world is in love with straight edges, clean lines, and sharp appeal. Marketing. All you have to do to be a good marketer is ensure your possible customers with straight lines. If you can promise them (the deliveries iffy) some sort of security – that’s really what we are talking about – then you are proof that marketing is rooted in religious craving. People thirst for safety. Safety comes from authorities. In some way, you want to present your product as a possible authority in the life of the person. 

But this is all off-topic. I thought we were going to talk about the Law and the Gospel. 

All I am saying is that my understanding of the Law and the Gospel has fundamentally changed and this change has been marked by my reading of Romans. I read Romans 10-15 and for the first time in my life, I realized that Paul is interpreting the Mosaic Law under the reality of Christ. He is interpreting Christ for me. I never understood how essential it is for the Gentiles to be grafted into the tree of Israel. I never knew how obvious Paul is about the Gentiles now being Israel. This is not a heresy, as one of my friends said it was. It is a new covenant truth. Understood within his ecclesiastical context, it is also quite obvious – the text speaks for itself – that the “end of the age” is really one that was quite soon for him. This is why, for example, he lists prophecy. That used to cause me all sorts of trouble! This is also why he speaks of the Jews having time still, but that their time is running out. I think of the narrow door that Christ speaks about. I think of the end of the age closing soon for them. The passage roughly between Romans 10-15 is all connected and it all explains itself. Paul is the most difficult to understand when he is speaking abstractly, but he has a number of beautiful metaphors in there, too. The metaphor about the branches is the most essential picture for understanding how the Gentiles are now Israel and how all Israel, is therefore saved. Salvation comes through Israel, because it comes from the root of Israel. Because it comes from the root of Israel, all of the branches from that root are Israel also. As he says, all Israel will be saved. Christ, the root of Jesse, was the last Israelite. Paul organizes his thoughts so beautifully, unlike me. I had a number of nice paragraphs above, but this one is long and difficult and almost entirely unrelated from my discussion of change. He begins with the church’s relationship with itself, how it is now made of the Jews and Gentiles. Then, in Romans 12 and 13, he talks about the church’s relationship with the world. Then, he talks again about the church’s relationship with itself. But this is not a chiasm. It is organized much more fruitfully than a chiasm. It begins, first, with a picture of the Jew-Gentile church. After that, Paul then shows how that church is to interpret the law. The Jews bring the prophets and the law to the table, while the Gentiles bring the hope of salvation in Christ. Both of these things are given by God and both of them determine what the church looks like. This is why Paul sequentially goes through the civil, moral, and ceremonial laws. Romans 13 is civil. Romans 12 and around (the moral law is summed up in this; love your neighbor as yourself) is moral. Romans 14 and 15 is ceremonial. The new covenant church still recognizes the perfection of the Mosaic law, it simply keeps the law differently, not as the people of Ancient Israel, but as the tree which has grown from the root of Jesse. 

Israel sacrificed animals. We offer ourselves up as living sacrifices.

…………………….

When Lucifer and his brothers rebelled, they were sent to the law offices of Hell. There, they are chained to desks to file reports for God until the Second Coming of Christ, where they are unchained and receive the same punishments they incur on humans whose reports end in the favor of the Dragon.

In the structure of the Cosmos, Hell is the only place where God uses slave labor. As fallen angels, their duty is still to be the tools of God’s will, to carry out what he has planned through predestination. The only difference between fallen angels and loyal angels, is that fallen angels continue to do the will of God against their own will, while loyal angels have done the will of God and are now retired from their duties.

Fallen angels are the only beings who experience the inescapability of predestination without the pursuit of desire which free will is. Of all beings, they are the most to be pitied. And of all beings, they are the most depraved, weak, blind, petty, shrill, and pitiless.