A Quick Word

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism." -Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

26 April 2011

Easter musings.

Perhaps it's my place in life. Perhaps it's the fact that for the first time I had the opportunity to attend every service in Holy Week. Or, perhaps it's just a function of ancient architecture and strong incense in the thurible. Whatever it is... I've had a really powerful Easter.

Growing up, Easter was always a sort of "second holiday," taking its place in line behind Christmas. I think that's how it is in a lot of evangelically-leaning Protestant churches. Sure, we celebrated Easter, but not nearly to the same extent as we did Christmas. In my family, as often with my church, Christmas begins with the end of Thanksgiving and goes all the way until New Year's Day. It's a sweeping celebration filled with loads of decorations, more Christmas trees than our house can hold, wonderful food, and a celebration of our love for one another. I absolutely LOVE the way my family does Christmas, and I plan on carrying on that tradition in my own family later on.

But Easter never got the same attention. For one, we didn't get much time off for Easter, and so any preparation for it had to be rather rushed. And two, the Easter Bunny just isn't nearly as magnificent as Santa Claus... it's just not. Even our Easter service at church failed to live up to the candlelit extravaganza that was Christmas Eve service. And so, while Easter is, theologically speaking, infinitely more significant than Christmas, I just never saw it that way.

I think that's why this Easter had such a profound impact on me-- it was made important. It was acted out over the course of two weeks with special liturgies and readings and processions. The altars were stripped. The vestments lost their splendor. The songs grew somber. The Archbishop came to preside over services. He washed people's feet. We all lived as the disciples did, confused at what was happening around us. We celebrated baptisms and confirmations, we all renewed our vows of devotion to Christ and the church. We lit candles and sang lamentations. And then--Christos anesti!--we celebrated.

In a culture so far removed from the miracle of Easter, I think that the more liturgical way of observing Holy Week makes more sense. It makes the events told in scripture more immediate, and forces you to truly contemplate them as you actually participate in each part of the story. You engage with the text; you empathize and interact. All of this rises in personal importance as I draw deeper into the discernment process for ordination.

While in Dublin, I began corresponding with my priest back in Champaign, discussing among other things the most pertinent steps I'd need to take when I get home in order to form the necessary committees to begin the ordination process. As it turns out, there are quite a few things on the list to get done, and the alacrity with which we'll have to move to accomplish everything on time does not leave me encouraged. It will be tough. But as this Holy Week has taught me, there's always centering devotional practice, there's always calm to be found, and there's always renewal that comes in the end.

23 April 2011

To nap or not to nap...

I've got a whole afternoon/evening in front of me. The opportunity in theory blazes like the sun. However, I'm lacking any sense of inspiration whatsoever. I don't feel like writing (though I want to), I don't feel like reading, I just feel like napping and whiling the hours away wasting time on Facebook or something. Yeah, I know... it's pitiful.

So, in order to combat this incredible lack of motivation, I am forcing myself to be productive. I'm forcing myself to at least try to write something, even if it is only a blog post.

That said, I really don't have anything more to say. I could update you on my life (and tell you about the really awesome open-air baptism I just attended with Archbishop Sentamu), but I feel that may become a bit long-winded, and I'd probably stumble over my words and dance around things and overall just not tell it properly.

Instead, I'll just leave it here. Perhaps in a few moments I can find it within myself to work diligently on something. Otherwise, look for me on Facebook.

19 April 2011

Ill at ease, or, a longish update in lieu of many shorter ones.

My lack of posts on here is embarrassing! I feel so ashamed, redesigning this space and then not giving it any new material. What a tease. In my defense, I've been incredibly busy the past five weeks-- the first two, I had my fiance and my family come visit me in England, then shortly thereafter I went to Edinburgh for five days, came back to York with one day to wash clothes and repack, and then headed off for Dublin. Travels, travels.

I had a great time-- esp. in Edinburgh (beautiful, magical city!)-- and got to do some pretty amazing things. I've been reading a lot, thinking a lot, getting inspired a lot. Looking forward to seeing where that takes me in the upcoming weeks.

I've set a new goal for myself during my remaining time in England: I'm going to write a novel. Yes, I know what you're thinking... a little ambitious, probably destined for failure, what the heck is he doing. But! I did write a novel in high school, and once I got into a good rhythm it wasn't too difficult. I've grown significantly since then, and my writing has progressed and matured so much that I almost want to write one out of sheer curiosity and comparison. It won't be anything too strenuous-- it's actually an adaptation of sorts, so the outline of the material is already there for me. I just have to flesh it out and get to writing. I'm also, as with my first novel, aiming this one at a middle-grade, YA demographic, so I don't have the pressure of creating the next masterpiece or anything. In fact, my setting this goal is mostly for my own benefit. It's been too long since I last exercised those creative writing muscles, and my brain grows weak as I let them wither.

I was inspired to set this goal while in Edinburgh, drinking a Bailey's and coffee in The Elephant House, the cafe where JK Rowling scrawled bits of her first few Harry Potter books. Dublin urged me my newly-set goal while I toured the literary sites and read through Joyce's Dubliners in St. Stephen's Green.

Joyce wrote Dubliners when he was about my age. I feel like I can at least spit out the first draft of a children's book in a few months. Get back to my roots.

Anyway, as I said above, I've also been reading a lot. Much of my reading material has come in the way of theological and religious texts, doing work not only on my own possible vocation, but also in a more obtuse way researching for FLP.

About a month ago, I said I wasn't going to comment more than once on the whole "Rob Bell Love Wins" explosion. But now that the book is actually out, and I've actually had a chance to take a look inside it, I figured I'd make just one more statement-- I'll tell you what I hate most about it.

No, it's not the message; I actually think Love Wins counts as Bell's least compelling book  for a number of reasons (and I'm not just saying that to be provocative), and I believe that if it hadn't caused such an uproar before its release, it would have passed rather quietly from the Christian literary scene.  Velvet Elvis and Sex God challenged my thinking and were both engaging and well-written. Love Wins, on the other hand, didn't say anything that Tim Keller hadn't already said much more succinctly in his book The Reason for God.

But the fact that it didn't tell me anything new is not what I disliked about Love Wins, as Bell himself admits that he's not setting out to blaze any new trails with it. What irked me most was the style of it-- everything from the typeface to the typeset. It was written like a compilation of tweets in a godawful Arial/Helvetica mess. I really hope this isn't HarperOne's idea of what kind of books my generation will read. If so, I'm embarrassed and irritated.

Velvet Elvis and Sex God were printed in a similar way, but at least in those books there were actual paragraphs (though I don't recall any indentation), and it seemed, at least to me, more fitting with the material, especially of Sex God, which read like a bit of a theological guidebook or something. I was impressed in Love Wins when I found a paragraph that extended more than three or four lines of text. With a work that attempts to introduce deep theological speculation, I would expect less blurbs and more in-depth explication. The tweet-style of it made his statements and thoughts feel disjointed from one another.

And, to top it off, there's an embarrassing typo in the last sentence of the book ("loves wins"?). The last sentence! The one where, you know, you need as much power as you can get, where you are leaving the reader, where your words have ended and their thinking begins. And there's a typo. Ouch.

I don't agree with everything Bell says in Love Wins, but I do commend him for getting this discussion going again, even if it didn't really turn out to be fruitful and was instead your standard shouting match, let's-see-who-can-yell-loudest ideological melee. And I do love Rob Bell, and look forward to what he does next. I just think that Love Wins, with all of it's hype, came across as a bit disappointing.

I promise to keep this updated more often. I'll use it as a way to keep myself accountable, especially in my writing goals. It can serve as warm up in the morning before I dive in to my more pressing projects. So, even if it's just a little few-sentence explanation of what I've been doing, I'll say something here in this space.

Hold me to it.