A Quick Word

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

23 May 2011

I'd rather be "enraptured" than simply "raptured."

It perhaps comes as no surprise that I regard anyone who predicts the end of the world as an idiot. Setting aside for a moment the fact that, theologically speaking, I'm not even sure there will be a 'rapture' in the vein of Tim LaHaye, the mere act of prophesying the end times is ridiculous. Jesus wasn't even sure about it. (And, for a Christian, if Jesus wasn't sure about something, then one of us won't be any good, either.)

But I've always wondered: Why do we care so much, anyway? Why does it matter when Christ is coming again? I find that such a preoccupation with future only leads to poor living in the present; it stunts our actions as Christians now. Here. Not in the future, where we have no clue what life will hold, but in the here, the now, this instant-- that's where our focus should remain. Sure, setting goals and preparing for the future are both important tasks, but neither necessitates that we should devote all energies there.

I think about how many resources were wasted in Camping's campaign warning of the imminent return of Christ while children still died of starvation, the poor still suffered, and those ravaged by storms in the southern US still struggled to rebuild. They could have used some attention from the church. But instead, Camping's rapture parade only made it look as if the church cares more about what happens in heaven than what is happening now. I don't agree with that notion, nor do I appreciate it.

In the Bible, when Jesus gives us the Lord's Prayer, he includes the words "...on earth, as it is in heaven." There are whole theologies built around this phrase, and for good reason. These words mean that Christians can't slack off just because we feel our souls are accounted for, nor does it mean our focus should be to care only about making sure everyone elses' soul is also accounted for in the same way; rather, it means we need to consider what it means to make God and his heaven a reality here. How do we accomplish God's work now?

Personally, I could care less about the afterlife. I'm sure it's real great, and as long as I've been living as Christ lived, then I should be fine. I'll get there when I get there. I trust God's got me covered. I believe our eyes should never be more focused on death than on life-- at least, not while we're still alive, anyway.We've got eternity to consider death, but we only have a few short years to consider what it means to really live.

10 May 2011

Under pressure.

I've been encouraged by my progress this past week. Though I"m still struggling with some productivity issues, I've managed to make some significant progress on all of my current writing projects, as well as continue churning out new posts for FLP and keep up (sort of) with my schoolwork at York. But I'm also reminded that progress is still not achievement. I still go to bed at night with the stinging feeling that I should have gotten more done, that I could have gotten more done. And so, as I step into the middle of this week, I make it my goal to go to bed every night knowing I did all I could with the time I had.

I'm still absolutely loving my time in York, and I'm realizing more and more how hard it will be to leave this place. It really does feel like a home to me. Whether running down to the pub for a pint or walking the river into town or strolling through the Museum Gardens on a sunny afternoon, I feel at ease here. And let's not forget the Minster-- that majestic building has been the lynchpin of my life here, anchoring my activities and providing a steady rhythm of quiet reflection throughout my week. The relationships I've made at the Minster have truly enriched not only just my time abroad, but my life in its entirety.

And it is in finding how to achieve a wonderful balance that I find my greatest challenge. I want to feel productive, yes, but I also want to enjoy every moment I have here. And it might sound surprising (or not) that these two goals often conflict. I can't write unless I'm at my laptop, and I can't be outside enjoying town unless I'm not sitting at my laptop. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it before the end of this week.

Looking ahead, I'm trying to plan out the last of my travels. My flatmates have planned a wonderful weekend in the Lake District, which will provide a nice jaunt into the countryside. After that, I'd like to make it back up to Scotland one last time, especially because the Jacobite steam line, voted the best rail journey in the world, is now running for the summer season. Just thinking about all the things I want to see makes me a bit stir crazy. Again, balance. I must achieve balance.

Making lists, writing letters.

09 May 2011

"We have to reflect our times because we live in ugly times."

An excerpt from violinist Joshua Bell's recent interview with Mother Jones, entitled "Joshua Bell's Virtuoso Reality." You can find full interview here.

MJ: My friend, who is a really good violinist, called it [the "Yankee Doodle Variations"] "showy." How many pros could pull it off?
JB: Delivery is everything. Any student could play all of the notes. We like to categorize things into showy things and deep things, you know, and things that are high music—important music—and shallow music. And I think that's dangerous, because there's often a mix of both. For instance, Bruch [Violin Concerto No. 1], the main piece I played, is for me a very profound work. Because it's so lush and so emotional, some people think of it as being corny. They say that about Tchaikovsky's symphonies. If it happens to be popular to the common people, and accessible, it's often thought of as being not great. It's sort of an elitist thing. In art and music, particularly in the 20th century, there was a big period there where for something to be called profound you had to not be able to understand it.
MJ: Is that still the case?
JB: I think it's swinging back a little bit. But composers say, "We have to reflect our times because we live in ugly times." This I think is the most hilarious thing in the world. We live in the least ugly time in history. If you look at back when Beethoven was writing, half the kids were dying, mothers were dying at childbirth, there were more wars going on then than there are now. People wrote the most beautiful things during the ugliest times. I get on a rant about this because I don't need to hear ugliness in music. That's where I go for beauty.

03 May 2011

The internet is ruining my brain.

I've been trying very hard recently to work on things-- to finish my myriad ongoing writing projects, to get my reading done for seminar on Thursday, etc. However, all this has been complicated by the internet, which provides an endless stream of procrastination-friendly activities. It adds fuel to a fire that doesn't need any more encouraging.

Most frustrating of all, I find that all this procrastination has stunted my attention span (yes... just like all those articles I've read for the past few years said it would), and I do not know how to strike a proper balance between online time and off-line time. And while some would say that this balance should not be so difficult to achieve-- and I would typically agree-- my being overseas means that the internet stands as my only form of communication with those back in the States, which in turn means I spend a lot of time on it in order to "stay in the loop."

It doesn't help either that I find myself also churning out posts for FLP, which invariably has also made it hard to focus. Blogs don't produce good writing. They just don't. Short, snappy sentences like those preceding this one would have never come from my fingers just six months ago. I've found I write more in fragments that I used to do, and I've also lost much of my syntactic variety and the ability to string my thoughts together with any sense of elegance. I need to get back in the saddle, I need to write paragraphs longer than three or four sentences, and I need to forget for a time that fragments exist. I need to reclaim my brain from the internet's quick attention-fixes.

My life needs to be more than 140 characters long.