Friday, January 31, 2014

On writing a spiritual autobiography

Last weekend I decided that I needed to write (actually, re-write) a spiritual autobiography. I say rewrite because I had to develop one for my application to the college seminary that I studied at for two years. A lot has happened during and since college, and I figured that it would be a good idea to reflect, do some reading of my journals and start from scratch.

Why am I doing this?

Clarity, illumination, and dare I say enlightenment? It's easier to know where you are going if you know where you have been, and that is my impetus for doing this. Despite my initial thoughts, I discovered that much like writing a paper on a historical, writing a paper about yourself requires research. So I delved into my journal entries, I read notes from friends, I perused emails, and looked into Word documents that I saved (I discovered dozens!). Each piece I discovered was a snapshot into my life at a particular point in time. They brought up many memories, both good and bad. It was so much like Dumbledore's Pensieve. I re-entered my memories as an observer, able to recall the moment, the emotion, but removed from it.

So far it has brought a lot of intriguing questions and observations to the surface. Some previously unanswered questions remain a mystery, but the organization of so many fragments of thought and emotion brings with it some sort of clarity and sense of order. It has given me a lot to think about and reflect on, I highly recommend it as an exercise to consider doing. If nothing else, what becomes apparent is the imperfect but beautiful path God has carved out for me. It has increased my awareness that whatever struggles or confusions I experience now are all part of the same beauty I saw in years past.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What I Read: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

I just finished an awesome non-fiction graphic novel (yes, non-fiction). Logicomix is a story about Bertrand Russell, renowned mathematician, logician, and philosopher. Rather than being a dry and dusty exposition on things like set theoryaxioms, and formal logic, it is a vibrant, entertaining and highly thought provoking story of a man who searched for the foundations of what we can know with absolute certitude. It tickled my philosophical fancy (I was a philosophy major for two years), while simultaneously tickling my desire for a fun "movie-feel" read.

It was awfully hard to put down. This was in part because I recognized so many names from my sleepy days in philosophy class (Ludwig Wittgenstein was a HUGE one). It was also so fun to see so many of these men that I had learned about come to life on these pages. This story not just about the philosophical theories, but also about who these men were and perhaps what drove them.

I still don't understand 90% of what their theories were, but the way the story is written, it doesn't matter so much. I found in this story some "kindred spirits" of men in the past who sought for the most cherished and hunted concept on earth: truth. It also broke some of my prejudices against graphic novels. This has proved to me that something as seemingly juvenile as a comic book can be profound and thought provoking! Beyond this, it has even tempted me to delve into something that Bertrand Russell himself has written. I have a copy of "Mysticism and Logic" staring at me at this very moment....Enjoy! 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

23?

Dad-gum I liked this! This is a great article (linked here) in response to the blog post "23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You're 23" (linked here).

My personal reactions (exaggerated) to the second link:


Reading calmly, yet with slight concern.


Spontaneous and unexpected table flippage (grossly exaggerated).


Puh-lease leave thoughts or criticisms. This one be a'ripe for pickin'!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I Read-"Hyperbole and a Half"

I have a bad habit of reading books solely for information and not enough for entertainment. This recent realization led me to seek out a book that I would find funny or otherwise enjoyable. Because I work at a library, this task is amazingly simple (woo!). I came across a book we just ordered titled "Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened" by Allie Brosch. When I saw the cover of the book, I knew I had struck the purest gold of all time ever:


I saw that little humanoid on the right and remembered this:


And less well known, but equally hilarious: 


It was nothing less than love at first sight. One of my most favorite internet memes is a book! All of those drawings come from a real live person, and I found her ermahgerhd!!!! Now I could have hilarity for not just one image, but for hundreds of images all in one place! It was mine, all mine...and no one (NO ONE!) could take it from me. I protected that book like it was the last piece of Domino's pizza on the planet. Enter another appropriate image by Allie Brosh to illustrate my emotions after getting the book:
No oooooonnnnneeeeee.....

The book is basically a compilation of short stories about the author's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each of these stories is written in her blogging style: a chunk of words (a paragraph at the most) and a humorous picture to illustrate the situation much more vividly. She does a brilliant job with it, and her drawings make for a hilarious read. There were multiple times I doubled over in laughter at the illustrations, which enhanced her story and made it truly seem like something out of a cartoon.

Despite the cartoon illustrations, it is definitely an adult book. At times, the author was vulgar, using the f-word to be especially poignant, or just to use it for humor's sake. By and large, the use of vulgar language is few and far between. Because of the large amount of illustrations, it's an incredibly quick read, I finished it in two days (partially due to obsessive reading). 

It takes an absurd and slightly dark sense of humor to really enjoy this book, as she talks about dealing with depression, the oddness of her dogs, and rather whimsical childhood situations (like eating an entire cake just to spite her mother). It's a great read if you are looking for something on the ridiculous side. You will definitely get into the author's mind and connect with her on some points, feel sorry for her on others, and be a little bit freaked out on a few others. I'd recommend a visit to her website too! You can find it here: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

Enjoy, and let me know if you have read it!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My town got a casino for Christmas

A new casino opened up close to where I live, complete with the glitz and glamour you would expect. I don't particularly like casinos, they always strike me as depressing places. A little trip to the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati just a few months ago confirmed my suspicions. People were agitated, grumpy, and seemed mostly lost in a solipsistic world where their only friend was money (a friend whom they seemed to part with all too readily).

So this newest casino near my house is very popular right now, but I didn't realize just how popular it is until last night. I was driving home with my parents from our last Christmas celebration and we just happened to drive by it. To everyone's shock, the parking lot was absolutely jam-packed with cars, with more cars piling in every second.

Maybe I'm just naive, but I thought it was normal to spend the whole day, including the evening with family and friends on Christmas day. It was about 7:30 or so, not late at all, so I can't figure out why it looked like every citizen of my town was gambling!!!! What were they thinking!? Maybe the conversation went something like this:

"Thanks for having us over, Pam! It was great to catch up, I think we're gonna round up this night by playing a few hands of poker at the casino. Have a good night!"

Or, what were the people like inside?

"Oh Charlie, what a wonderful Christmas. I'm just so glad we got to-OH MY GAWD, I JUST GOT THE JACKPOT!!!! *dingdingdingdingding* THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!!!"

And this would be my expression.



I don't know how long those people were there or how much money they won or lost, I don't care. What I care about is that they were there. At a casino. On Christmas Day. Either none of those people had a family to visit, or they all visited and then bustled out quickly because "this money isn't gonna spend itself hyuck-hyuck-hyuck!". Or maybe the families decided to collaborate and opted to spend their Christmas at the Casino, rather than meet at someone's house. I'm not trying to tell people how they should celebrate Christmas, but a casino!? I just witnessed hundreds of people spending their Christmas night in the tackiest way imaginable. There's nothing that fills my heart with more Christmas joy and feelings of peace toward men of goodwill than seeing people throw their money away during a season of giving. Oh wait, they are giving their money away aren't they?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Relationship Marketing

I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to say that my generation (20 somethings) is pretty public with personal information. Facebook is replete with information about our likes, interests, desires, relationship status, etc. It isn't a bad thing per se, but we've become so interested in marketing everything about ourselves, that some of us have developed a thirst for external affirmation. I might post a youtube video, and I love that I get so many "likes" for it. That means it's an awesome song right!?!?!? Of course it is...because I posted it. I post pictures of a vacation, and all kinds of people comment on how awesome they are, and I sit there smugly thinking "why yes, yes they are".

It's human to seek out approval, as social beings we desire it. But when that desire becomes a need that we subconsciously crave, that's not so good. From my own experience, I think I got that craving specifically in my last relationship. We had pictures taken of us, we posted about each other and we got a bajillion likes and all these comments of "Oh, you two look so cute!", "You look so happy!", blahblahblahblahblah. And I looked at those comments and thought "Yeah, we do look cute", or more importantly; "I am happy with her" (which I wasn't). I depended so much on positive affirmation that I ignored my real feelings.

This has made me pause and think about the nature of our relationships. I think that a lot of people want their relationships to work so badly that they post every picture of themselves together so they get that positive feedback. Perhaps it isn't bred out of a conscious sense of doubt, but rather a conscious desire for something to be. Again, it isn't a bad thing per se, but it certainly should not be the focus.

The positive feedback is very important. If "the people" approve, then it affirms what you know or desire in your heart. In trying to diagnose where I went wrong in my previous relationship, I think the strong personal focus on positive feedback was a capital error of mine. I got so caught up in the "relationship marketing" and completely lost sight of the journey in formation for the vocation of Marriage. 

As a young generation, let's try our best to avoid the "relationship marketing" for the sake of the "like" or "comment" and focus on what is true, good, and beautiful about our relationships. Focus on the person we are with: is he/she good for me? Am I happy? Those are the most important questions for us to ask ourselves. If we are happy, and if our significant other makes us want to be better versions of ourselves (saints), we are well on our way to attaining the will of God. It brings peace to me to know that I don't have to market my relationship for personal affirmation. It can be done out of a desire to share those posts and pictures with joy, and the "likes" don't matter so much anymore.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Office Life

I work in an office. No, not one with stifling cubicles that make employees feel devastatingly small and isolated. My office environment is open, loud, boisterous, and very often I have to either dodge a stress ball whizzing by my face, or pick up one that came to rest at my feet and wing it back to the guy who threw a wild curve ball. My manager likes to sneak up behind me when I'm focused and shout "HEY!" right next to my face, causing me to spasm so violently that I nearly smash my head into the keyboard.

Then there is the gong.

Yes.

The gong.
It looks exactly like this.

I sit 10 feet away from a large, Imperial China style gong that gets BANGED whenever a salesman lands a new customer. Sometimes it happens early in the morning, which makes me nearly spill my (inevitably) nasty coffee. Or it will happen during the height of activity in the day, ALWAYS when I'm talking on the phone, which leads to a long explanation of why we have something so odd as a gong in our office.

On top of all of this, we consistently have happy hours after work in which I drink beer far faster than is prudent (if it weren't free, I wouldn't drink it so fast! See how I'M the victim here?). Considering the environment of most others who work in office space, I have it pretty darn good. Yet I've found that the environment that I work in only takes me so far in being happy with the job I have. In the three months that I have worked there, I already know that it isn't a long term fit for me. That says something to me about the nature of work and what God calls us to.

I work in what could be argued as one of the best environments of the corporate world (barring examples like Google, Linkedin, or Pinterest offices). Yet despite this, I don't like my job. It's draining, soulless, and just...blech. I've tried to find meaning in it, and I have found meaning to some degree. But that personal meaning isn't the bottom line for this company. What bothers me the most about this job is that its bottom line is....wait for it!


Two words: Cash. Flow.

That isn't any surprise right? But it seems even more true at my company. That's what most people working here seem to be all about. I hire for the sales role in this business, and my biggest selling point is the earning potential. We want money-hungry people. Our ideal candidate is a fresh college graduate, one who worked through college, played sports, and who has an insatiable appetite for a six-figure income. My job is to recruit an army of lil' hedonists!

Yay hedonists!!!!


That makes me feel sick to my stomach.

For some, their motivation for a 100K salary is good: they want a house, a family, a wife who can stay at home.

For others, their motivation is: uhhhh...I want beer money.

But I'm not supposed to care what their motivation is. I'm just supposed to get a hire. Because more hires equals more money for this company. And that's the bottom line.

God isn't calling us to a job where the end all-be all is money. Maybe that's why the sales role at this company has a big, FAT turnover rate. God calls us to work that we can find personally meaningful while making enough to live comfortably. Even in my non-sales role, money is king. So therefore I feel very much like a slave here, even though I get free beer at least twice a month.

So I pray and hurt for those people who don't care where they work so long as they are making a lot of money. I've talked to hundreds of them, and they don't sound very happy. I feel like there is so much more to life than that. God offers something much better, we just have to find where it is for us. Oh! And if anyone has suggestions for non-corporate-oh-my-gosh-my-life-is-all-about-makin'-monayyyyy jobs, let me know!