Thursday, November 21, 2013

hocus pocus focus locus

the amount of focused i have been this semester is a little magical to me. i have not just "skipped class", i have not procrastinated (half as much), i have gotten sleep (most of the time), have kept a (somewhat steady) workout routine, and have spent time with Jesus everyday.

if you know me, this is not at all congruous with my typical disheveled self. if i didn't know any better, i would say that a dramatic personality shift has taken place.

but this, in fact, is not at all true.

the biggest contributing factor (to my whole life but also) to this semester's success is the letting go of my (feeble) belief in the idea that my locus of control is internal. a whole-hearted surrendering to Jesus Christ every day has relieved the pressure and left only passion for (most of) the subjects i've been given to study (this statement excludes statistics. i have no passion for it. whatsoever. ew). 

within two weeks i have: cast bronze, written and presented an abstract for a research paper, began my last sculpture of the semester, thrown up outside of michael's, heard a poetry reading, worked with a world class artist, fell more in love with east tennessee, grown more fond of david, signed up for spring classes, and found out a definite graduation date.

that has left me a bit (emotionally and, at certain times, physically) dizzy. but there is still a peaceful gratitude that pervades my relationships, my speech, and even the way i plan. i am fully confident that "today" comes and goes like a wind. that thought just doesn't distress me as it used to. the time for me to know "where i'm going" is approaching so quickly, but i have never been so at peace with not knowing as i am now.

i don't believe in an external locus of control that leaves my life up to chance. that would be a miserable existence. instead, i rest boldly in the knowledge that i have a loving, guiding, ever-present Father. He is there. with me. 


so as i am thinking on graduation and finals and a new year and growing older, i am unconcerned with the possibility that my fragile plans will fall through or that i will get hurt or even that i may fail at something crucial in my life. 

i know that He is with me. and that is enough.

post-script: this post is really scattered and unfocused. and it initially was supposed to be about how focus has become a part of my life. the irony abounds.

Friday, November 15, 2013

because i do not want to do statistics homework on this friday morning

my focus is split:

(my mind is sizzling sizzling simmering simmering
two halves of grey matter always straining separate ways.)

i am here at this table
typing on my expensive equipment and
drinking average coffee from a non-descript mug.
i am in a ravine filled with gravel and railroad ties,
trying to be still enough
to make sense of what is to come.

the trees blowing in the wind clatter and shatter
the silence i long for
as they beat the tall dirt walls that encompass me.
the voices in the coffeeshop,
the dishes chinking, clinking
the little girl jumping into the squares of linoleum,
all remind me of the chaos of solitude.

my textbooks (sitting in front of me) tried to teach me
everything i needed to know
about this
about being caught and tangled in
the swift current of time and space and psychoanalysis and friendships and lovers and religion and clay caught between my fingers and cuts and abstracts and music and laughter and life and death.

but they didn't know.

they didn't know that within one person is two minds.
they didn't know that i would die to live longer and live to die later.
they didn't know that my heart was dark from the beginning and only made light by what they called "spirituality"

they didn't know.
and yet and yet and yet
i trusted them with my dark heart and my fractured mind.
i waited for them to tell me how to write and what to think
and paid them tremendously for it.
i have sacrificed my rest and my peace to them,
o those gods of academia,
and now knowing when this intellectual purgatory will end

i am lost.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

and you don't know why

i lack organization skills and i have a terrible logical flow.
so i'm going to split this post into two stories that come to one conclusion about my generation and society at large.
i hope that's alright.

A. last night, i had the incredible privilege to see five bands play that i know and respect on a college campus. they were all very talented in their own right, and i enjoyed them immensely.
the highlight of the night for me, though, was listening to my long-time favorite, night beds.

winston yellen sauntered onto the stage and my anticipation grew. he was obviously nervous (and slightly intoxicated) but as soon as he began to sing, that didn't matter. there is a vulnerability and a power to yellen's music that is almost prayer-like. his rhythms tend to be deeply rooted .if his music could lean into any genres it would be old-style country or jazz. that said, there is something intensely spiritual and introspective about his work, regardless of his broken worldview.

so he's up there, singing us soft songs about love and darkness and isolation. the words are piercing and relatable. i took a look around me, and the majority of the students there had blank expressions on their faces and looked like could not care less. stuff like that slays me.

B. last week, i was driving home to open for my largest musical inspiration (courtney marie andrews).  i was obviously nervous (but not intoxicated...just didn't want that parallel to yellin to cause any confusion) so i listened to the radio all the way to chattanooga. i generally stick to npr, the classical station, or oldies when i do turn on my radio. but this time, i just put on the "mainstream" music.

it was almost incredible to me that, song after song, what was being expressed (under a disguise of whiny voices and identical musical structures) was always apathy and despair and a longing for sexual satisfaction. those things all go hand-in-hand. those kinds of emptinesses (that's probably not a word) all point to Christ. and no one can see that. stuff like that slays me.

both of these stories are stark pictures of my generation (and society at large). we are a generation that suffers from intense isolation (due to whatever thing you want to blame it on) and a loose understanding of love and friendship. we are afraid to care about anything (like the students i mentioned) because we are afraid of being rejected from our peer group and becoming an unloved outcast. we are afraid to care about soulful things because we know that if we look long enough, we will see our weaknesses. we are afraid to be sober because we know that, in an a state aware of pain, we will be sad. we are afraid to be alone, but also afraid to be committed to loving someone else. we are afraid to do all these things. so we become sketch-like renditions of humans with hearts instead of the real deal.

the saddest thing about all of this, is that none of it is new. we are living in an ecclesiastical world where everything, even my life or your life, is a vapor. and when we live without the empowering love of Christ and the enabling grace of God and the inspiring fire of the Holy Spirit, it is indeed a vapid life.

the most joyous thing about all of this, is that we don't have to be apathetic and despondent. we have the choice (what a beautiful word) to commit to something real. it is a scary choice, so scary that many turn away from it, but it is the best one.

the lyrics to one song by night beds are:

when the sorrow comes,
and you don't know why,

come into my arms.
i'll hold you through the night.
and in the morning light,
we'll be sure to find
a kind of love so strong
it will make us cry faithful heights.

i know you get lost sometimes, man
i know you get lost.
i know you get lost sometimes, man
i know you get lost.
whenever you get lost, man
whenever you get lost, man
whenever you get lost, man
whenever you get lost 

hold my hand.

yellen usually performs this song without music. his voice rises up like a plaintive prayer.
this song is like what Jesus calls out to us. He assures us that when the sorrow comes and we don't know why, He alone is the one to hold us. He leads us to a powerful love. He brings us to our knees.

but until you or i or anyone else acknowledges that He is there and He is love and He is all,

we are lost.

don't choose to live a small, a frightened, and an aimless life, there is so much in this world (and infinitely more in the spiritual world) to actually care about.