Sunday, December 13, 2009


I have a story to tell.

I have many stories, and anyone close to me knows this. They also probably know all of my stories. Or so they think. They know the stories I like to tell.

But this one isn't my story. It's a story about humanity. I think the path to forgive and resolve is a very hard path, and a dangerous path. It's not pretty, and the truth is a gory thing sometimes. When you forgive once, you are probably going to have to forgive over and over, and again and again, because people aren't perfect, and will continue to stumble and hurt you, even if they don't know why they're doing so. So people don't forgive. Or, better phrased, we have to learn the skill to look beyond ourselves to have compassion on our enemies. Because to our enemies, WE are the enemy. There's two sides to every story.

I did one of the scariest things I had ever done this week, and chose to talk to two people that I could have easily avoided. From it I have learned many things: one is that the sheer force of the words that human beings say to one another is... mind-boggling. Especially when it involves people you love. Wow. It's a power that can destroy a person. I've also realized it can be used to tremendous good, if it can be used properly. I say that with writing, the pan is mightier than the sword, so one must learn to wield it. I think of my writing sometimes as a force that exists outside of myself, because I will plunge into something, with no idea what will come out, and the deeper I sink into the thoughts and ideas, the more complex, but at the same time, eloquent, even beautiful and window-shattering will the truth ring out. It's something that exists outside of myself, and whispers the ideas in my ear as I copy them down. Terrifying, and great at the same time, I think. The truth is terrifying, and gory. The truth is the pain that is felt, and the courage in confronting. The truth is what has happened out of everything, whether it's good, or terrible. The truth is the reaction.

And reconciliation is a hard path to tread. If you forgive once, you can expect to forgive a hundred times for the same thing. It's a hard and fruitless path. It means hashing to death issues that normal people never choose to even look at, or acknowledge. And it means loneliness, and not much support, especially when people don't understand why reconciliation needs to be chosen. I mean, we always say "forgive, forgive," yet it is VERY hard to forgive. And it is hard to confront someone, tell them they are doing something wrong, and then listen to their story, challenge them, and the forgive them for how they've hurt you. But if that lesson is learned, then one learns the truest essence of what it means to love someone, because it is then when we transcend beyond ourselves into the lives of others and have compassion regardless of the self. I have learned a lot, and I know not yet how to even comprehend enough to articulate the lessons I have been shown. But what I have learned, is the simple answer to the question, why take the path to reconcile and forgive and fix, if it is such a hard and fruitless path? Simply because it is RIGHT, and that reason alone is more than sufficient.

I have been brave, and it was a very kind of brave.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Doubt and faith (AKA probably my most controversial essay)

I submitted this film analysis essay to my religion and film class. It's quite controversial, and I thought I'd share it. :)

Also. I haven't fallen off any boat. Don't jump to conclusions.

Instead of an essay, I would like to share a story. This is a very old story, and like all old, good stories, it begins with “Once upon a time”: Once upon a time, there was religion. (Actually, I change my mind. For irony’s sake, let’s start with, “In the beginning?” ) In the beginning, there was religion. Religion was a sense of morality; this idea that maybe there were some things that were right, and some things that were wrong, and more than that, a motivation to do the right thing, because there was a God who wanted people to be good, and to do the right thing, and He wanted them to do this because He loved good and hated evil and thus wanted His people to be good, and promised them eternity in Heaven if they were to be good.

Unfortunately, people were confused by this simple idea of being good: instead of striving for goodness, people thought that being good consisted in a set of rules and practices that had to be adhered to, and if they weren’t then you were bad, and thus doomed to eternity of torment in Hell. These rules involved big things such as not killing each other, or committing adultery, but it also involved smaller things: examples of these things include drinking alcohol, swearing, and listening to rock n’ roll. The people who attempted to follow these rules and laid judgment upon those who didn’t became known as Pharisees, or Fundamentalists, depending on which era you lived in. The people who could tell the difference between being good and following the rules, and figured out how to be good, became known as Saints. There existed a third group that stemmed from this idea about religion. These people were different because unlike the Fundamentalist group, they were honest and vulnerable about their imperfections. This is a group of people that would say, “Yes, I have thought about having sex with that person, and I swore loudly when I stubbed my toe in the doorway. Sorry. At least I’m honest about it.”

This story is about that third group of people; the group that swore loudly when they stubbed their toe in the doorway. The funny thing about this third group is that many human beings fall into this category, or half of it. We are all sinners. We have all, to different degrees, lied, cheated, stolen, swore and listened to rock n’ roll. The main characters in this story are two people who have done all of that, and go so far as to fulfill the other half of the requirements for “third category” membership, and be open and honest about it. Their names are Bill Maher and Kevin Smith. Another thing they have in common, besides being part of the “Open and honest about our sins” club, is that they made movies about how open and honest they are about the fact that they struggle with this idea of religion, and aren’t very good at following the rules, nor are they inspired enough to become Saints. Those movies are called Religulous, and Dogma, respectively. What both of these movies show is that it is through that open and honest vulnerability that faith is found, and a potentially deeper understanding of who God is – a god of the lonely and vulnerable, not a god of the perfect and beautiful. The author must also add – as a devout Roman Catholic that lives at an Evangelical Protestant Bible College, these movies were highly enjoyed and many laughs were had from both of them.

Born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father, Bill Maher went to a Catholic church until he was about thirteen, when his family stopped attending for no apparent reason. In his film, Religulous, he interviews people from all of the main religious groups, or, more or less, shoots down their ideas, and does a good job of pointing out the ridiculousness in their beliefs in a merciless and hilarious fashion. He inserts film clips, interrupts, adds subtitles, and successfully paints his interviewees in a less than favorable fashion. In Bill’s defense, some of them did have it coming, however. In an interview with the US Senator from Arkansas, Bill states that he is troubled that people who are responsible for running the country believe in the existence of talking snakes, to which the Senator replies, “You don’t have to pass an IQ test to win the election.” This is just one example, but in most of his interviews, he points out the hypocrisy in the actions of faithful people causing them to stumble. Whether it is the pastor sporting a two-thousand dollar suit and lizard-skin shoes funded by his congregation, or the Jewish scientists who create machines that allow you to do activities on Shabbat without breaking Jewish law, the people on Bill’s hit list are most certainly people that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and the like would probably be upset to be identified with. Not all Christians are fundamentalists. Not all Muslims are violent. Not all religious people are ignorant and naïve. But Bill didn’t seem to find those people while he was on his spiritual journey of sorts.

Kevin Smith’s Dogma, as he claimed in an essay that was inserted into the special edition DVD case, was a way to reach out to people using crude humor and a lot of swear words as the medium for the gospel to be preached. Dogma is a comedy about the Catholic Church and all of its many, and sometimes confusing doctrines. Whether it’s the plenary indulgence loophole that can allow two fallen angels back into Heaven, or the bishop’s “Catholicism WOW!” campaign with their new “Buddy Christ” figure to replace the somber-looking crucifix, any Catholic can’t help but either chuckle, or become extremely offended. But amidst the crude humor, lewd jokes and religious prods, one scene came to the surface in the movie that emerged as a deeply human and surprisingly vulnerable scene that sent home the central message of the movie.

An extremely inebriated Bethany Sloane is talking to the (unbeknownst to her) fallen angel Bartleby when he asks her how she loses her faith. Her faith was lost apparently when her mother tells her in one of her darkest moments that it was all part of God’s plan. “Wasn’t my plan good enough?” She asks. In asking this question, what she fails to realize is that much of humanity is asking the same question. Bill Maher is asking that question, as is Kevin Smith, and many other people. As Bill says at the end of his movie, the only thing we can have is doubt. Doubt is humble, and it is really all that we, as small human beings can possess the authority to claim. The people that Bill interviewed did not have doubt, nor did they have faith for that matter. They knew. Bill interviewed an actor, who played Jesus at the Holy Land Experience in Florida, and he asked the faux Jesus why God didn’t just kill Satan and destroy all evil if He was so powerful and all-knowing, to which the ironically-handsome Jesus replied, “Oh he will, at the end times! [Duh, like you didn’t know that?]”

The certainty that Bill’s interviewees had about the existence of God, or even the existence of Jesus, completely eradicated the possibility for them to have any faith at all. Their happy assurance, and their confidence that what they are all doing is right and good and that they are going to go to heaven, “And ride down at the end times on a white horse!” one tourist at the Holy Land Experience said, made them look all the more foolish because they missed completely the central tenet to Christianity: faith. “Faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things unseen.” No religious person knows that God exists, or that salvation is assured. Having the audacity to claim that you know all of the answers is prideful and foolish. What we have is faith, and hope that what is being promised will indeed come to pass. Faith is what is most important, not the naïve certainty that Bill’s interviewees had, but the faith that Bethany Sloane in Dogma had as she cried out her anger to God when she found out she was the remaining descendant of Christ, and didn’t feel a scrap of worthiness for what she was called to do.

At the end of his movie, Bill claimed that religion not only is wrong, but also is dangerous for all of humanity. But it is religion without faith that is dangerous. When one does not have faith and is religious, they have the conviction that the people in Religulous had. It would not be that far of a stretch to say it is that kind of close-minded conviction that fuels religious wars and persecution of other faiths. That is what is dangerous. When Bill was interviewing the Jesus persona, he asked him about other religions having stories about a savior born to a virgin, to which the Florida Jesus replied, “Well, I choose to follow the true word of God.” Completely dismissing stories from other religions that have the same authority of truth that the gospels have: nothing but faith.

Is it not a miracle unto itself that so many religions, many of which had never interacted with each other, hold true to very similar stories of a downfall of man and the hope of a savior? Is it not truly amazing that there is almost a universal story of a messiah born to a virgin that dies, is resurrected, and consequently saves humanity? This is a universal tale of a humanity that is concerned with an apparent break, a discontent and realization that things are not as they should be, and the hope that there must be something more, and something that can save us. The fact that all religions have this, and tell it in the same sort of way, is astounding, to say the least. It is bold to claim that one religion is the exclusive or right religion. Even though Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through me.”(John 14:6) it is far-fetched to believe then that the thousands of years worth of people who had never heard the name of Christ are thus doomed to hell because they were born in a different part of the world than where Christianity spread. But the close-minded conviction that everyone who has not heard the name of Jesus are doomed, and everyone who has not accepted Jesus is doomed refuses to listen to the possibility that not only could they be just as wrong as the others they claim are wrong, but they are most definitely wrong in how they close off the possibility of God being manifest in ways other than what they may expect.

Of course this is a touchy subject, because the danger is to fall into relativism, say that everything is right, and in the same ignorance that close-minded religious people have, dismiss all religions in the idea that “being good” is enough. If both extremes are dangerous, is there a healthy place that can be found? Can there be a universal acceptance of religion without losing the salt and value of all the practices, whether it is ancient and devout Hindu rituals, Shabbat for Jews, Mass for Catholics, and recognize them all as different, distinct, and right? As Rufus, the Thirteenth Apostle of Jesus Christ, forgotten about in the Gospels because he was black said, “It doesn’t matter what faith you have, but just that you have faith.”

However, in a very affluent society such as our own, we don’t need to have faith. If we are sick, we go to the hospital instead of praying for healing, and even for those who do pray for healing, they at least have the medical system as a safeguard just in case the prayers do not work. For someone who lives in a third-world country, in a remote village in the back of a jungle far removed from the world (and yes, these places exist) if one was to fall sick, they have no choice but to pray for healing, and this is the best and only form of medicine available. For us North Americans, what this creates is a crisis of faith, because what people could have faith in has been replaced so that we do not need to have faith. It either seems to create a crisis in a lack of faith in the church and disillusionment about the state of the world, or this other extreme of Fundamentalism that seems concerned about proving all the non-believers wrong, rather than leading people to Christ, as their faith challenges them to do. An example is the interview with Ken Ham, a well known Creationist and founder of the Creation Museum, who is concerned with proving that the Book of Genesis is literally true. Perhaps Mr. Ham forgot about Galileo Galilei, who proved that the earth was not the center of the universe, causing a crisis in the church because mankind then, could not be masters of creation. Here, history is repeating itself. Consequently Galileo was forced to recant his statements, and spent his life living under house arrest until he died and was buried in a cathedral in Florence. The conviction Mr. Ham and others like him have is dangerous, and in an affluent society where people feel the need to have faith in something, the focus of concern becomes menial things like whether dinosaurs and humans co-existed, rather than God, and the realization that in the grand scope of things, being correct does not matter in the face of having faith.

So how is faith found, in an affluent society that has lost the ability to have faith? It will be here that this second group at the beginning of the story will be addressed: those who could tell the difference between being good and following the rules, and knew how to be good: Saints. Saints are very good at breaking the normal conventions and physical boundaries that exist for the rest of us. Instead of dying like other people, many Saints become incorruptible. While the majority of people are walking on the earth, some Saints are levitating . Bill Maher says that religion is dangerous for humanity, and then a Saint comes along and proves him wrong with a quiet smile and a miraculous action. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta hears a voice from God, goes to India and serves the poorest of the poor, inspiring the world with her work and starting an order of religious people dedicated to serving the lowest caste, challenging Indian society, and opening up a new era of social justice and religion’s role in it. St. Francis of Assisi, after hearing the voice of God tell him to “repair my church” leads a life of extreme and zealous poverty, living to serve those around him in a way that has never been seen before or since then.

This leads into a great deal of superstition and seemingly unbelievable events that are admittedly debatable, especially when credible sources are hard to find for these humans who have tendencies to display the miraculous. Bernadette Soubirous, a sickly and illiterate girl in France had fifteen reported visions of a “beautiful” lady in a grotto at a place called Lourdes, in 1858, attracting attention from the town, and beyond. After many interrogations and questions her story remained unaltered, and her demeanor was proven to be sane. On the lady in the vision’s instructions, she dug with her hands in the grotto and a spring came up, with water that has been reported to heal people; cures that are reported “inexplicable.” She later became a nun, and died at the age of 35 and her body became incorruptible. A basilica rests on Lourdes, and thousands of people pilgrimage to the site every year. 1858 is recent enough that there is documented evidence, and existing eyewitness accounts, making the story all the more incredible. Does this mean that she was a holy woman, or that the “beautiful lady” in the vision was none other than the Virgin Mary? Is that proof for God’s existence, and a cause for Fundamentalists to jump for joy, or was Bernadette truly insane, and the incorruptibility, healings, and water a coincidence that an entire town was all a grand trick of nature? Is this another case for faith, for all of us unholy people? Or can we hope that we all have the potential for holiness that calls us to action or mysticism or both? Here, again, we do not know, doubt continues to remain the best reaction, and faith the greatest outcome.

Two miracles need to take place that are attributed to the intercession of the one in the beatification process , and a Congregation for the Causes of Saints (headed by the bishop in the diocese of the said candidate) is responsible for the investigation. John Paul II (Who is not yet in the beatification process, nor has he been fast-tracked to canonization like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was) canonized 482 saints during his Papacy. That is 964 alleged miracles. In an interview Bill had with an “ex-Jew,” he claimed he had become a Christian due to a series of small miracles, which were so coincidental that Bill just dismissed them. But can 964 miracles that have been scrutinized by a committee who’s sole job is to investigate the lives of supposedly holy people, their psychological dispositions, and the alleged miracles that are attributed to them, can they just be dismissed with a well-timed joke?

We doubt, yes, and then it is through this doubt that faith can indeed be found. It is through open and honest vulnerability, not the ignorance that Fundamentalists claim, that one comes to faith that is humble, real, and potentially more open to God manifesting Himself in ways unexpected – even enough to appear as none other than Alanis Morisette to the characters in Dogma. At the end of the movie, the reluctant Bethany Sloane, who had been heartbroken that she had been unable to conceive children, thus destroying her marriage, still follows an ambiguous calling from the God she blames (even trusting a naked man who falls from the sky and two of the horniest characters Kevin Smith can conceive) and sees it through to a conclusion that brings all understanding and everything to a close that shows that God was indeed watching, present throughout it all, and did, like her mother claimed, have a plan for it that was bigger and better than she could ever fathom. Conviction is what is dangerous, it is certainty and close-mindedness that destroys worlds and causes holy wars. But it is faith that, like the Bible claims, moves mountains, and saves the world. May we, as all of humanity, have enough doubt to have a faith that is enviable by those levitating Saints.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to make the best egg sandwich

Bread (The best kind are either english muffins or bagels. If you have Montreal bagels you are golden)
Cream Cheese (Best kind is either smoked salmon or herb and garlic)
Cheese (Old cheddar - the older, the better)
Meat (Prosciutto. You gotta have prosciutto)

Making an egg sandwich is a very well-timed art. I'm serious. Time is of the essence in the egg sandwich making. You can make an egg sandwich in less than five minutes, and it will be amazing.

1. Get a small frying pan, put it on the burner, turn it on max
2. Get butter out of the fridge, and put some in the pan. Hopefully, the pan should be hot enough to melt it, but if it isn't, that's okay.
3. While waiting for butter to melt, take the cheese and cut it into about five slices.
4. By the time you've got a small pile of cheese ready to go, the butter should be completely melted, starting to bubble, and having lined the whole pan.
5. Crack the egg into the pan. Turn the burner to just above medium heat.
6. Put the toast in the toaster. Now it's crunch time. By the time the toast pops the egg will be cooked, so you have to move fast.
7. Now, I'm a fan of flipping the egg, and having it flipped, but still runny in the middle. This is extremely difficult to do, and usually winds up in an awful looking egg that burns and goes solid. The last few times I've been trying to just not flip it at all, and let it be, and this has yielded good results.
8. Wait for the toast to pop, keep an eye on the egg. Get the prosciutto ready.
9. The toast pops, so turn the burner to below medium heat.
10. Spread the cream cheese on one side of the toast, then set the meat on top.
11. Turn off the burner. Place the egg on top of the meat, the cheese on top of the egg. The order should be: cream cheese, meat, egg, cheese.
12. Put the other slice of bread on top, cut it in two pieces.
13. It will be very messy due to a newly broken yolk. But so delicious. ENJOY!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

God, Africa, Stress, and Baroque music

I had one of the loveliest dreams I had ever had the other night.

(This may sound blasphemous) but I dreamt that I was God, and that I was calling people by their true names. It was strange, and lovely. I felt like I had so much love for people, and that by naming them, I was calling them by what I had created them to be; to what their best potential was. It was weird, because what had happened in the dream was that God had spoken through somebody else, and then named ME God, and then I had to name everyone. It was like by naming me, I had a large and grand purpose, a reason for existing, and I had to tell people their wonderful reasons for existing in naming them. Like I could see all of the reasons behind everything, and had a deep knowledge, deep heartbreak, and deep love for everything. And I called them all by names of Saints, or names of Angels. I slept in to see the conclusion of the dream, and throughout it, I felt extraordinarily happy, or just peaceful. I really liked it.

I had a great conversation with Isaiah on Tuesday. He works in the cafe at EBC on Tuesdays, so I go in and visit him, and I love talking with him. I often feel like he's far more researched than I am, so his knowledge and insight into that research gives clarity to ideas that I dream about that are still foggy. Plus, he's already thinking about my ideas, so it's great to have someone thinking on the same wavelength as you are. We talked about so many things in the space of a few hours, that are usually gigantic conversations in and of themselves.

We talked about foreign aid. This past summer, when I was at the CSL, Matt Lockhart and I had a terrific conversation with Edmund, a Ghanaian who works for International Needs, and is an accountant. To talk to an accountant from Africa, would be talking to an expert on issues relevant to Africa, so I was very excited. His opinion was that Africa should not receive foreign aid at all, and that this was in fact detrimental to the countries. What they should do instead is unite all of the countries and become the United States of Africa, because with the incredible amount of natural resources the continent boasts, they could become the most powerful country in the world. I wanted Isaiah's opinion on it. Debt is interesting because all countries have debt, and all of it, he said, is unrealistic debt. I'm not sure what the best route is in the whole issue, nor by any stretch of the imagination at all do I have any form of authority to even speak a well-researched opinion into it. Though I did do some research. The United States of Africa concept has been floating around for the past fifty years, and countries are torn on it. The main countries that support it are Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe, where apparently South Africa (which is the richest African nation), and Nigeria aren't as interested.

There were so many other things we talked about: relativism, unity, yet not losing the salt and value in the traditions people are so convicted over. It was very good. It felt like a pile of ideas I was thinking of crammed into a two-hour session of awesomeness. :) Which is good, I needed it, though I know I should have been doing other things. It's been a bad semester, all in all. I should never have to look forward to a semester ending; it costs too much money to be in a school when you don't want to be there, but the workload was too big, the schedule was VERY bad, and I haven't had time to get everything all done, though I've done my very best. I also tried to do it while maintaining the same level of connection with my friends. I'm not sure if that's a bad idea. I'm thinking it was, because something that is important to know (and a lesson I've learned these past few weeks) stress levels will most definitely transcend into other facets of life, and that's never fun!

This week was pretty crazy. Last week I remembered that I'm playing piano for the Christmas production at EBC, so I looked at the music for the first time, and realized that it's actually HARD. I should have learned the Hallelujah Chorus at least a month ago. I'm so thankful for headphones. It has meant many nights spent up late playing, and trying to memorize it. I'm pretty impressed at myself; my piano teacher would be so proud. I don't like the Baroque period. Bach was a mathematician more than a musician, though he did love music. But a lot of it was about numerical perfections in the pieces, not to mention the Baroque music is VERY hard to memorize. Romantic music has distinctive tunes, and melodies. Baroque doesn't because Baroque wants to be mathematically correct. This makes it hard to memorize. It's also about fugues, polyphonic melodies that run all over the place, and confuse you, and everything being in the SAME CHORD, because Baroque is also excited about chords, because they just invented chords. It's like the Bronze Age for chording. Of course, we haven't really gone far beyond that because we always play the same chord progressions because they sound theoretically correct and best, and if anybody breaks from that, they either get jazz (which has it's own chording system now) or abstract things that don't make sense. Wow. I just read that last paragraph; it sounds so disjointed because I thought I would take a break from doing the usual run-on sentences I tend to do anyway. I now see why I like run-on sentences so much. I feel like each sentence is chopped into pieces by a knife or something - it's so disjointed!

Uh, anyway...

Friday, November 20, 2009

I miss Caroline.

I just sent this e-mail to Caroline a couple of days ago:

Dearest Caroline.

I miss you.

I miss your doodles on the sides of your notebook. I miss that random blonde highlight in your hair that never got tangled. I miss how when I couldn't tell the difference between left and right, I could shout "Matt!" or "Caroline!" And you'd know what I mean. I miss sleeping with you. Even though you didn't like sleeping with me. I miss your random funny faces. And I miss when you would hum random and pretty things in the other room while I was brushing my teeth. I miss the incredible amount of scarves you produced when I taught you how to crochet. I liked how all the boys in Ghana tried to marry you. Even more than Kelsey, because you wanted to be a teacher. I always wondered what the patch felt like. And you kicked butt at washing dishes. I miss your talks about the environment, and your love for the book "Sex God" (Did you ever secretly want to marry Rob Bell? We all knew how much Lockhart had a teenage-girl like crush on Tony Campolo.) I miss your sermons, and how you were REEEALLY good at playing Apples to Apples. I miss how, whenever we all got into big arguments and horrible two-hour long check-ins (which was pretty much every check-in we did) you were able to calm Josh down while Lockhart and I would sneak out and take pictures of things and this is how I grew to really like photography. I liked how Jacob prophesied that your motion sickness would be cured when you have a kid, except you really don't want to have kids. I don't think I do either. Birthing sounds like a messy process that involves ripping, tearing, sweating, and crying. No thank-you. However, I would like to have sex one day, but not right now. And I still don't feel that great about birth control either, even though a lot of people tell me the pill's a good idea, very close friends of mine have still put forth Natural Family Planning as a very convincing alternative. More so convincing because they're not pregnant. Anyway. I miss your poofy sleeping bag, all of your shirts, and your colorful "happy skirt". I miss your freakishly accurate sense of smell. Lockhart smelled good though. Especially after Paul Fletcher gave him a bottle of Stetson cologne. You could have kicked butt in playing the "pa-diddle" car "one-light on" game that Matt and I always played, but you never played it. I wondered why for a long time, but it never kept me up at night. I miss your very firm handshake. Whenever I hear the word, "Promiscuous", I think of you. And Matt. I like how that one day, that old lady called Matt beautiful because he had beautiful blonde curls, and as soon as she left the room, he said, "Okay I'm getting my hair cut tonight." I miss Matt's patchy mustaches. And how he loved us in a non-sexual way. I miss your Mountain Equipment Co-op packsack. And your big purse, and your bell-bottom jeans.

It's getting late. I thought of you while on the bus this morning, so I wrote this, then I went to Psych of Death and Dying class. Now I'm tired. So I will go to bed. :) Goodnight!


This is what she wrote back:

Oh Jessie, I miss you too. I miss Ghana too. The YBs are going in two weeks!

I was thinking about a lot of things to give you in the reply back, hopefully they'll come to mind
I miss seeing you type like a maniac, in your weird way that was/is so fast and accurate. I miss learning crocheting techniques from you and having rainbow yarn in the house and van. I miss how you and the team and I would always go to random thrift stores all over Ontario and beyond. I miss fighting with Matt over who we should and shouldn't wave at from the front window. I miss all of the wonderfully creative photographs you and Matt took, and his discovery that he was creative afterall. I miss having someone with me who will challenge me everyday with my preconceptions ;) I miss how I'd go to bed at night without you, and wake up in the middle of the night and you'd be there. I miss good checkins, but I don't really miss the totally intense ones where people were getting hurt etc. I miss the feeling of coming back to the CSL and having a few days to just be and regroup. I miss singing to God with Pastor Jacob before breakfast. I miss how you could remember license plate numbers, and telephone numbers, and amazing seemingly random facts, but couldn't remember peoples' names. I miss listening to you play the piano. I miss Josh talking about the city ;). I miss giving away books to new friends. I miss hearing you sing and laugh at the same time. I miss how you were hopeless at telling your lefts from your rights. I miss how you were not a good driver, but how you kicked butt at learning standard. I miss your neon clothing. I miss balogna games. I miss hearing about saints all the time. I miss how you loved my silly moments. I miss how Matt was so reliable, and if he was late, we knew it was for a good reason. I miss sharing my nightly dreams with you- like the time I dreamdt that you said you loved me but didn't like me, and how that has persisted to this day in our conversations. I love you Jessie, and I like you too. May God bless your day :)- Caroline

This is what I said in return:


That made me laugh out loud. :) Do you remember when Matt honked and waved at the high school girls that were stretching for soccer practice? Or the time when Josh preached this huge sermon to Mike about the importance of the environment, then went on to say that he would burn a couch in a bonfire? I remember when Matt and Gordo ran out to chase and shoot a raccoon. Or when Matt and I would shoot that really cheap ceramic statue that said, "Maybe Someday" on the bottom with a bb-gun. And it didn't break. I remember how you guys couldn't believe I didn't know who Brock Wiebe was, because apparently I had sat next to him numerous times at different events. I still don't know who he is, but I'm sure he's a nice person. I remember when we had morning prayers in the hot tub. Or when Matt asked us what we thought about push-up bras. I remember when you talked in your sleep, and you said, "I have a boyfriend!" I also remember when we joined that crew of really nice sports cars in our big old ugly van. I remember Peter. I wonder what he's doing now. I also remember when we shone the spotlight on the boys when they went naked pier jumping, though I'm pretty sure you didn't join us on that one. I remember that one time we had to bring a van full of empties to the beer store, and it took us ages to unload all of those bottles and cans. I remember when you suggested "Uncircumcized Gentiles" as a theme for the year. I remember when we filmed the random horror film that MJ wrote, and the expression on your face when you killed people. I remember when we all thought that Mitchell Peterson had a crush on me. He probably did. Even though he is a wicked pianist and has long hair, I never really reciprocated those feelings, though. I remember getting locked in the bathroom in Pennsylvania, and climbing out the window, across the roof, and down the tree. I remember when we all got our hair braided in Ghana, and you could see Jill's skull, and Kelsey looked like she was wearing a helmet, and I had black hair, but yours looked awesome. I remember how the day trip to Baltimore was the only day in the ENTIRE FLIPPING YEAR that the four of us didn't fight. I remember the times when we went to Timmy Ho's (because that's what Matt called it) and he went through the drive-thru. I always liked it when he asked if they parlez-vous francais-ed, and when they said no, he would say, "Oh good. Neither do I." or the other time when he asked if they took Canadian Tire money, and when they didn't, he said, "Well they do in Newfoundland!" I remember when the Americans would tease us about saying "abowt" with our Canadian accents. I remember, and really miss, Turkey Hill Iced Tea. That stuff was good. I remember how we all got so good at pirating internet from coffee shops. I remember how we would talk about which songs were our make-out songs, and what kind of people we wanted to date. I miss our van conversations. I remember listening to Tony Campolo podcasts, and rap music. I remember how efficient and fast we were at getting things planned and done, and then how long it took the other team to do stuff because they would like, have a pillow fight, or hug each other, or something. I remember the one day where all of us wore matching brown shirts and blue jeans without planning to.

And then, I remember, on the very day that YB ended, one of my friends invited me to the movies, and I said, "I can't stay out too late because Caroline will want to get to bed."


Monday, November 16, 2009

The cheesiest chunk of literature I had ever heard in my life.

One time, I was sitting with Ryan Mahon and he opened up my blog, and started to read it. Out loud. It was the cheesiest chunk of literature I had ever heard in my life. I kept on telling him to stop, because it sounded so cheesy. This only spurned him on. I wonder if he still reads my blog. I don't think it's become any less cheesy.

Here's 25 things about me, that I am going to try to think about that nobody may know.

1. I like to pick bouquets of wildflowers to celebrate the end of exams.
2. I've always wanted to be a professional figure skater. I still do.
3. Whenever I get upset about something, I think about becoming an astronaut, and going to the moon, and this somehow cheers me up.
4. When I was very little, my dad had a freshwater aquarium (he has since upgraded to saltwater) one time I stuck my face up to the glass to find a dead fish staring back at me. I screamed and ran to my mother to get it out, but it was so big and heavy it broke the net, and I refused to go back into that room. She ended up having to call our next door neighbor to get the fish out. Since then, I've had a fear of dead fish.
5. When I was a kid, I was terrified of public restrooms. The smell of a clean washroom still sends shivers down my spine.
6. In my mind I think in third-person, as though a narrator is narrating everything.
7. The movie Home Alone terrified me when I was a kid. I like it now though.
8. I was afraid of my hair turning brown when I grew up, because my parents have brown hair.
9. Toilets. At campsites. Are the scariest/the worst. Whenever I go camping (even to this day) and the bathroom is too scary, I will look for an overhanging tree branch in a secluded area.
10. I will rehearse conversations habitually, and actually mouth the words out loud when I'm walking somewhere. I wonder if people who are walking by me think I'm crazy.
11. I take a long time in the bathroom every morning not because I'm trying to look pretty, but because I like to practice various speeches in front of the mirror.
12. I have dreams of flying quite often, but in those dreams, I'm a really awful flyer. I have bad aerodynamics, and my technique consists of me jumping off of a high ledge, or doing a triple-jump (Mario style) and flapping my arms excessively until I'm high enough. I bend my knees and use my feet to steer.
13. I frequently have nightmares of toilets eating me.
14. I do sit-ups every night.
15. Sometimes funny memories will come into my head and I'll laugh out loud, and people will think I'm laughing for no reason.
16. Whenever I played Ninjas with Shawn Williams, I was the sky-blue ninja, because the sky-blue ninja can fly.
17. The Paramount theater in Hanover had these atrociously ugly green curtains for the past twenty years. I want to steal these curtains when they finally decide to replace them.
18. Every morning, when I walked to school, there was this tree on the corner where the sidewalk ended. I would reach up, grab a leaf from the tree, and tear it to pieces in the same pattern.
19. The very first person I made a phone call to was Allison Smith, in grade 1. She sat across from me. Her mother answered the phone, and I got really shy, so I hung up.
20. Now, whenever I call Allison Smith, I hope that the answering machine will come on so that I can leave a funny, pointless, and long message for her.
21. I was always afraid I would miss the bus for school, so every morning I would run to the bus stop. Even on the mornings I was on time I would still run. It became habit, or my own jogging routine.
22. Apparently Gina Williams would watch me run to the bus stop every morning.
23. I like dresses with poofy sleeves. Anne of Green Gables liked dresses with poofy sleeves too.
24. I like the feeling of crunchy leaves, or crunching ice. I can't stand the feeling/sound of stepping on soft snow. It reminds me of velvet.
25. Whenever I travel to a new place, the first thing I do is look for the shower. Then I continually keep an eye out for exotic looking bathrooms to pee in.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


One of my friends e-mailed me this week, and it got me thinking about Hanover, and just about growing up there. It especially got me thinking of my last year of high school. I have known this for a while, but I really hadn't realized the enormous extent that that last year profoundly changed a lot of things in my life. Truly, I would be in a completely different location, doing completely different things had the direction of that last year gone differently.

I was seventeen. In grade 11, I did a co-op at the church helping with youth group with Sam, and was just, very involved in that whole group of people. I wasn't exactly close with anyone in that group really though, and often felt a sense of distance from every single one of them at some point or another. It reached a climax that summer when I went on a weekend-long retreat, and instead of spending time with the people I had known and claimed to love for years, instead I sought new friends, and spent that weekend meeting new people and avoiding the ones from home. There was something seriously wrong when you're part of a community of people, yet don't feel especially apart of it - and I'd been feeling that for years. When I was fifteen, I got into an awful fight with one of those guys, and everyone took his side in the fight. I know they didn't intend it, but harsh feelings were definitely held against me for years by many people following that whole fiasco (most of them probably didn't even know WHY they had harsh feelings for me) and it was a primary and at the same time unconscious motivator in what I did next.

I completely changed my primary group of friends. Psychologically, to make a shift in a group of friends, a community you hold yourself accountable to and they to you, and then to flip that community over and swap it for new people, is a really big change. There were/still aren't any ill feelings held towards the old group of friends, it was just time for a chance to find a group that could hopefully understand me deeper. I realize that a large theme of being a teenager for me, was just trying to be understood and seeking people who would understand me. And really, it's a huge risk whenever someone does something as drastic as switch over their entire communities. You're back at Square One. You're in an unknown world, with unknown people, hoping they are indeed good people who will have your back, and hoping this experience may prove more positive than the last. Everyone makes a shift in their circles at some points in their life obviously - usually when they move out, and it's usually more gradual than this. I realized that I had been waiting for this shift to happen since I was fifteen, and that fight happened with that one guy. It's not like I was directly thinking about this, or dwelling on something that had happened years earlier; I think this was all unconscious, but it's crazy, how little things like one argument, or a couple of new friends can profoundly influence huge decisions that can actually alter the course of your life.

I was immediately drawn to these new people for two big reasons: they were fun, and they didn't know a thing about me. I remember thinking this, and feeling safe about it. They didn't know me, so they couldn't come up with pre-judgments, and maybe (I thought to myself) this time "I have a chance to not screw it up!" Plus they were a lot of fun. The restrictions that some of my more conservative friends have they didn't have as much, and they weren't afraid to have the kind of fun that I thrived off of. I would find myself racing down unmaintained roads in the middle of the night, or jumping into rivers, games of car tag, going out for wings (all the time), referring to Sunday as "Random Adventure Day", and all kinds of other fun memories.

Obviously... things happen. People screw things up. I have come to learn though that it isn't to avoid that happening, but rather to repair what has and will happen, because it's a part of life, and the ones who seek to make it better, and to love despite conflict, are the real friends that are worth holding close. This is friendship in it's truest, goriest form. I like it.

It's worth thinking about, at least for me, because in July of 2006, I was convinced that I was going to go to this tiny little University in this remote village near Algonquin Park. Thinking about it now, I realize my motivation in going to the school in the first place was to see more of those friends I had met when I had gone on a retreat with my youth group. I was looking for a new community before I had found it. And obviously, I didn't end up going to that school; in July of 2007 I did something completely different, and much more fitting. All in all, I'm glad I did.

I've definitely changed a lot since then as well. Reading my old blog was like reading about a completely different person, except that I could remember writing it, and knew all the nuances and stories behind the words on the paper. Here is how I've changed:

* I am still awkward, but in a different way, and less awkward in social situations. Or at least, more aware of when it gets awkward, and good at laughing it off, and making new friends because of it.
* I'm not as loud as I was then. I've quieted down.
* I was a better writer when I was younger though.
* I cry WAY more than I did then. This sounds CRAZY and hard to believe, but I'm fairly certain that I've cried on average once a week for the past three years or so. I'm also extremely good at hiding it, which is why people can never tell if I had been crying, or if I'm sitting next to them and crying, even.
* I'm more aware of others in the face of conflict, and really work hard to resolve conflict compassionately
* I feel like I've become less selfish, or at least have developed more compassion for those around me
* I look older. In my eyes I do. I have a wrinkle on my forehead. :)
* I've matured. People think I'm older than I actually am, and will guess my age at 22, or 23... never 20...
* My sense of humor has changed, and my favorite colors have changed - they're not as BRIGHT, but more... vibrant. If that makes sense. I understand it, and I'm writing this blog to mostly clarify my thoughts.
* I don't need wild and crazy adventures to have fun anymore. Though they still are fun once in a while.
* My favorite band changed from Relient K, to Coldplay.
* I am much better at photography.
* I'm still in grade 10 piano, however, I've learned more new songs and have finally expanded my repertoire significantly with some new ARCT level pieces. I've also developed my ability to sing, and gained confidence in that.
* My parents did sell the house I grew up in. I really miss it. Losing something as constant as a home you've had your entire life is a great way for someone to feel extremely displaced. Especially after they've spent an entire year living out of a suitcase.

It's just interesting to me to think about why I'm here, and where I came from.

And my blog from when I was about 14-17...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

As deeply as I love

I really try to be aware of myself, and the things I'm doing. Funny thing about this is, that you are always looking, and can easily miss the most blatantly obvious things. Or worse, think you're an awful person all the time, and constantly need to improve, rather than celebrate what you've done well, and strive to improve where you see improvement is needed. If playing the piano has taught me anything (besides one of the most wonderful blessings in my life) it's always to be evenly critical. To think in your mind, "YES! I aced that cadenza but I needed to improve that last arpeggio at the end, and I can do that by practicing scales." (then I usually think, "Bummer! I don't like scales. But I love my piano teacher, so I'll do them..."

This has been an interesting past couple of months, with a variety of events happening that has left me flat on my back. But the most amazing thing is the response of people around me. I have never received so many random, huge, and incredibly sacrificial acts of kindness in one short span of time that has really caused me to think very critically about what I am doing, and what needs to change. Oh goodness. I am excited.

I am not a perfect person. I am young, and I cling to naivety for the selfish reason that it is a cushion that prevents one from being overwhelmed by the world, and the unselfish reason that it is wise to remain forever young and (slightly unrelated) it's how we relate to God - as children, and He as our Father - if you "grow up" you grow closer to death, not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense of logicizing God and losing a sense of wonder and amazement at Him, but that's beside the point. I don't know a lot of things - I know a bit about music, I have a good memory for number combinations, and I know a lot of random historical facts, especially about wars, music, and saints. I live frugally, and I know how to save money. But I don't know the first thing about finances. Usually I'm very awkward, forget most important things, and if I'm caught in a quiet moment in conversation, internally I panic. If I'm around people I admire, I tend to mess up my words and say the wrong things and regret it later. I'm bad at mathematical things, and in some ways, I'm the most organized person I know, yet in others I'm horribly disorganized, and I constantly struggle with self-discipline. But for my young age, and for the things I do not know, there are a few things I do know that many will spend a lifetime never realizing. And one of those things is our desperate primitive need for community.

God made us to need community. We were created to rely on each other, and it's so vital to living healthily, for growing, and giving back. I don't know how to properly stress how deeply important this is. We can eat, and we can drink, and have shelter, but if we do it alone, we are missing a vital ingredient to basic human survival. One is in very deep trouble if they do not have a community in which they can call upon, and one that will call upon them.

Another thing that I know very well, is that it is through love that the most effective change is made. What Gandhi did is the best example I can think of for this. It's the idea that nobody would dare to hit a person who is not going to hit them back. Instead, what will likely happen is that the fight will end, and the one who raised that fist will be deeply convicted and challenged to peace in the future, and the true "winner" of that fight will cease to matter anymore. People can say, "Be generous, be generous," or they can tell you that you are not doing a good job of being generous, you need to change, you're doing it wrong, and this is how you should improve. I know people who do this. They say it to me all the time, and I usually find that I do not listen as well as if someone encourages me and challenges me, or more than that, SHOWS ME. People were generous to me. So many people, in so many ways. Now I pray for the opportunities to be generous.

For years, I have felt a conviction to the core of my being to strive for unity - particularly in the church. But I have been increasingly feeling that if I were to do JUST that, it wouldn't be fulfilling at all. Sure, it's a passion, but it's not serving a deeper need that's present. If I were to work at that, and do that and nothing else, I have a feeling that at the end of my life, in those last moments, I would have thought, "I should have done more." - oh, what a frightening last thought. I mean, the words were, "You will unite the world." - and the world is BIG. Bigger than the church, though it is good to focus, it's ambiguous because the bigger picture is missed. Unity takes your whole life, it takes all of us, and it takes love. If I loved others the same way I love and care for myself, or the same way I claim to love and follow God, I would never ever want to let another person go hungry, go without warmth, clothing, basic health, and a loving community. And if everyone were to operate with that challenge on their heart, there may be more open doors and less starving souls.

What does this mean? What does it mean for me? For my community, and for everyone I know? I study religions because I'm fascinated by it and curious about what is behind the driving force that convicts people in such ambiguous yet terrifyingly strong ways. Yet what will this do in the long run? I constantly think about this, and I'm questioning it in a huge way this year, because unlike last year, my goal for learning is not as defined as it was last year. I don't have a goal. I'm just going, and I've been praying for a goal since the year started. This isn't about dropping out, but it's about rethinking my directional goals. It makes me want to go back to Africa, randomly enough. Not only did that place teach me a great deal about myself, was hugely spiritually fulfilling, and I felt like the best version of myself while there, the idea of doing missions came to me today, yet that whole issue causes me to think a lot. I wonder a lot about the lasting effect a short-term missions trip has, and I wonder if the idea of doing mission-work has been glamorized, and how the proper way to most effectively use the skills I have to work to love others the same way I love myself. I don't want to give somebody a fish. I want to teach them how to catch their own fish, and not starve. One of my close friends is studying international development for her degree and she went to Ecuador for a year to study it more. I like how she's going about her passion, because she chose, rather than to just hop on a plane and go, to study it, study the problems out there, and the most effective solutions. Where is this sort of thing going to manifest itself in my life? Because it absolutely needs to, no doubt about it (I feel shallow in admitting that I hope it manifests itself in another country, but I know it will be where I am meant to be). No more with selfish living, shallow ambitions and low expectations. We're ALL missionaries. Some people say or talk about having a heart for missions. If one does not have a heart for missions, then something surely is missing. There's a hurting world full of people endowed with God-given challenges to fix it. Not just overseas, but everywhere we live and breathe and work. Anna Halpin and I talked about this all the time in high school, and I loved those conversations and ways we would dream.

Maybe one day I'll actually have money in my bank account. May I use it with a generous heart, and the thought that it is not mine, rather mine to share with those who have none. Surely one day, I will be off my back, and that day will come soon, and when that day comes, will I operate as I always have, or will I have a heart and mind and eyes that are open to the pain out there, and resourceful in regards to what I can to relieve that pain, and how? People showed me love, and that is how I grew to love God. People are showing me generosity, and that is how I am growing to love others as deeply as I love myself, and as deeply as I love God...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The idea

Last week, after Psych of Death and Dying Class, Donne Marshall gave me one of the best ideas I've ever had. At least, it was a great accumulation of a pile of ideas that my time in University has given me. I went to University with the sole purpose of wanting to be a writer. Ironically, I'm in the middle of a years-long writer's block. I haven't produced noteworthy things since YouthBuilders, and at that point, I was writing up to ten pages a day. So I've been praying for a good idea. I think this is it. At least, I got the "This is it" feeling that I rarely get, but when I do get it, I follow it with all I have.

So. The idea. (I contemplated not telling people the idea, but I need feedback on the idea so it can be buffered then polished. Just don't shoot it down.)

The topic in class was "Death and Religion". We were talking about different types of beliefs regarding death: whether nothing happens, or you're reincarnated, or there's a bodily resurrection, a spiritual embodiment, or your body "joins forces with the elements!"
Now, this is the class where my prof doesn't like me. This is because I ask questions about Catholic saints that are disproving all of his theories and ideas about death. I must annoy him or something. He must have taken years to come up with these theories, only to be shot down by some kid who knows a lot about Saints. This is what happened this time:
Prof: "Do you have ANOTHER question about incorruptables, or saints or something?"
Jessie: "Kind of."
*Class laughs*
Jessie: "So, in the canonization process, in order for a person to be considered for sainthood, two miracles have to take place attributed to the saint, AFTER their death. This suggest spiritual embodiment exists. Now, when the Dalai Lama dies, the other Lamas (yes, the visual for "Lamas" is really funny. That's the name for the monks, silly.) will go on a search for the reincarnated form of the Dalai Lama, and through prayer, and different processes, will choose the Dalai Lama when they believe they have found his reincarnated form. Does this mean that BOTH reincarnation and spiritual embodiment co-exist, at the same time?"
Prof: "... I don't know! Next question!"

After class, Donne and I got into a really good discussion about death. We were briefly interrupted by the creepy cat guy, who tried to ask me out again, but then we made it awkward until he left.
Donne was wondering why people take such a huge stock on the idea that there HAS to be life after death? Why people go to so much to "be good" in the hopes that they'll get to heaven, and contribute and deal with social pressures from that idea, or be unsatisfied with life. "What if this is all that there is?" she said. "And why can't people be satisfied with this being all there is? Even if at the point of death, if all that happens is that you lose consciousness, then one wouldn't even know the difference about the existence of heaven or not." - To which I replied, "If this is all there is, then there's a terrible unfairness to life. What about the people NOT born in a first-world country? It's awful to say to somebody who grew up in the worst, most impoverished conditions there are that this is all that there is, and all they have to hope for. And what about babies that are born and don't live? Stillborns and miscarriages? They don't get a chance to live, and that's all they can hope for with the idea that there is nothing after death. Human beings, unlike any creature ever created, were endowed with a sense of the eternal. We cannot conceive of the idea that before the year we were born we did not exist. It's impossible for me to imagine that before 1989, I did not exist, or before 1990, who you are, as a person, did not exist at all. We feel at the core of our being like we have always existed and will continue to always exist. So the thought that there's no life after death goes very deeply against an ingrained psychological phenomenon that we were all endowed with. If you were to tell people your idea about being satisfied with there being no life after death, people would get VERY uncomfortable with that, because it's impossible for us to conceive of a time where we did not exist."

We talked a bit more. She walked me to the bus stop. She was telling me she couldn't ascribe to any religion because she felt like so much of a hypocrite that she couldn't keep her own rules, let alone the religion's doctrines. "Thou shalt not kill, for instance. Who's to say that in the future, I wouldn't end up killing someone? If somebody were to attack and kill my family, I would probably end up killing that person. I can't even follow my own moral codes let alone a religious ideology. So I stay away from it, because I would be really bad at it."
(For the record, I go to the school, NOT with the intention of "evangelizing" people. I'm very bad at it, as well as, since I'm in a Religious Studies program, I find it hard to say to people why my religion is better than theirs when I'm learning about new religions, the psychological process behind religions, and religion's effect on he world, all the time. I have a lot of friends who aren't Christians, a lot of friends who are Christians, and strangely enough, only a small handful of friends who are practicing Roman Catholics like I am. I practice as much as I can.)

Here's the climax. I said to her, "Maybe, what death is, is a hope that we'll be released from the restrictions and pre-requisites of life. Even if we didn't grow up in terrible circumstances, which neither of us did, there still is a bunch of pre-requisites to living or having freedom."
"Like, you can HAVE freedom, only if you fulfill certain requirements."
"Yeah. If you want to travel, you're free to, but you have to live in a country that'll allow you to travel, have thousands of dollars, a valid passport, a valid visa, and the appropriate shots and vaccinations for the appropriate country."
"If you want to be rich, you can, but it helps if you're born into a rich family, or are born beautiful, or born with skills and intelligence that allow you to be rich. It also helps if you're born into a first-world country and have easy access to post-secondary education, like us."
"Yeah. There's pre-requisites to living."

Then she said it:

"Why do we operate on all of these pre-requisites and all of these restrictions that are inherently hurting us, rather than helping us? What if for just ONE DAY, everyone dropped all these restrictions. They stopped going to work because they realized that family is more important, or they stopped charging money for food, and billing people for everything that can be billed, and just gave it, because we're all human, and all good? Instead of supporting an inherently bad system, what if one day, we just... let go?"

The implications of that statement made my heart pound. One perfect day...

I could go on for pages about this, it filled me with excitement, and I don't know what to do with it. I wish time would give me a couple of hours, and wisdom would teach me how to use them well, so that when I did pick up that pen, it would be with a clear conscience that I let this idea fly.

I told this idea to Donald Miller. He's this well-known author from Portland, Oregon. He came to the University to give a talk, and I asked him about this. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong time to talk, and it took too long to explain this concept, and in the end, he didn't understand it at all. It was high on the list of awkward moments for me. I don't think it's at the top, but it's most certainly up there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Are there any spaceships out there?

I found God this week. Or, at least I think I did. And I found Him when I told Him not to even bother coming along, because I am so darn mad at Him. It was one of the worst weeks of my life (and I don't like saying that phrase, because it can SO EASILY be overused) but seriously. It was really bad, and quite high on the list of "bad things that have happened to me".

It started on Sunday night, while watching a movie with some boys, my mom phoned to tell me my grandmother was sick. The last time they told me a relative was sick while I as away, the relative had in fact died, and they didn't tell me until they could see me in person. So when I remembered that, and realized I didn't know if my grandmother was alive or not, I started to panic.

And then I started to get extremely behind in school. I don't know how this happened, because I had been working steadily the whole time, and all of a sudden, I found myself breaking the vows I had made, and staying up evil hours in order to binge-finish assignments. What an awful feeling. It really affects the rest of your life.

But the "icing on the cake" (or the entire new cake all it's own) is that on Wednesday night, while driving home from school, I was heading towards the highway when traffic stopped suddenly. I braked as hard as I could but my brakes weren't good enough, and I wasn't able to stop my car and I ended up rear-ending someone. Thankfully, nobody was injured, but my car is completely destroyed. The airbags went out, and the front end is totaled. The other people's car, thankfully, will drive after a couple of thousand dollars spent at the body shop, but my car will never drive again. A couple of hours later, I was charged with careless driving, which is $325 which I DO NOT HAVE... and my car was towed away. The death of the car means that I can no longer do my piano business doing music for weddings, or a photography business I was hoping to start up with a friend of mine who lives in Guelph. The businesses can still survive, but it will just be terribly inconvenient to try and arrange trips to Guelph, and transporting my piano around. Not to mention that I had signed up for evening classes at UW. Now, because my car is dead, I probably won't be able to get home till midnight most nights. But these are small matters compared to the financial situation I'm now having to deal with, which already before, was a very bad financial situation. I have some awful decisions to make in the future about insurance, and what the next steps are, and it's demoralizing, and very depressing, and unfortunately, life goes on, so I still have to get work done in school, and get caught up on life on top of all of this, which is hard enough to do without thinking about all of this and finding myself at a complete inability to concentrate.

I'm struggling with being extremely upset over everything that's happened, and I can't help but be very mad at God over all of this. Basically,

1. Why, after getting this miraculous deal on the car (a perfectly good working car for $250?) that only a few months later, simply because my brakes decided to die at the wrong moment, I no longer have a car, and in a really crummy split second, I'm suddenly in a pile of deep trouble and without any resources to help?
2. Why do some people get three or four jobs, and I don't get any? Instead of doing what all of my other unemployed friends did and bum around at home this summer, I utilize my resources, ingenuity, and talent to try and make a living for myself, and I work VERY HARD, much harder than many people around me, and I STILL don't have pennies to rub together?
3. Why on earth did nobody stop on the road to help when I crashed, but instead, pointed, laughed and honked at me and the whole accident?
4. And why are these institutions (i.e. the police, insurance) that are set up "by the people, for the people" with the sole purpose of helping people in desperate situations like this are going to inevitably screw me over royally, and blame me for my misfortune, because of their mad desire to make a couple of dollars from the misfortune of others?

The question I'm asking in the midst of all of this, is, where the is God? What on earth is He doing!? Because after praying the words, "Here I am Lord, do with me as you will" every night, I'm certainly struggling to see how this is His will, or being able to believe the naive phrase that people keep on throwing at me, which is "Oh, everything will be alright." whenever they heard what happened. It's situations like these where the best and worst of people has an opportunity to be shown, and boy is it ever shown. It just sounds so careless and generic to me whenever people say stupid things like, "It'll be fine in the end", and I find it very rude for them to believe that they are actually helping me in some way by saying something as generic and naive as that.

I want to go to outer space, and leave this planet, because this is a world full of cruel awful people who laugh at your misfortune, honk their horns at you, say generic "it will be alright" phrases. It's full of cruel awful institutions that pounce upon your downfall with their "legalities" and strip every penny away from you so they can keep it for themselves. Are there any spaceships out there?

But in the same breath... I can't end a blog like this. There are bad people out there, yes, but situations like this help me to see the goodness in people. The people I crashed into were so patient, and so nice, and really were great people to crash into, because when I get into situations like that, I panic REAL bad, and I need solid people around me to tell me it's okay or I'll pass out because I just can't breathe. And as soon as he found out, Anthony Kurevija sped over, and called Matt Harrison, and they helped me deal with the police, and in the most impressive and efficient way I had ever witnessed in my life, stripped the car of any valuable materials they were able to lay their hands on and take off without tools. Anthony did much more than any other human being would normally do to help me find the car, buy it, and put it to rest. What a wonderful person. Ryan Mahon texted me as soon as the accident happened to see if things were alright because he had a FEELING like something was wrong. And when David and Emmalee found out, they raced over to see if I was okay and brought me dinner. Two joggers who I may never meet again stayed with us for over an HOUR, directing traffic and just making sure we were all fine. When people found out about the situation, so many people prayed for me, and so many more listened sympathetically, even though I was certainly not the most fun person to be around, and I was very open about how mad I was (am?) at God. Christie Heemskerk, instead of going out like she was planning, wrote up a schedule of how I can get all my homework done over the weekend and fit it into the rest of my life, which gave me INCREDIBLE focus and ability to just concentrate, and finish everything. Good people e-mailed me to see what was wrong, and it gave me a chance to write - my most powerful medium, and articulate the painful thoughts that were flooding my mind. It's irrelevant, but Coldplay came out with yet another breathtaking piece of work, and at one point, it was the ONLY thing that made me smile that day.

People I barely know around EBC spent piles of time with me listening and allowing me to talk about it - There definitely exists some form of fear on the campus about admitting weakness in faith, and saying that yes, you're either mad at God, or struggling in your faith. I was so angry about what happened though that I lost that fear and just openly admitted about how upset I was about this whole situation, because I couldn't lie to people when they ask, "How are you?" and say that things are great. Things are bad, that's the truth, and I would much rather be honest and broken, then lie to people and say I'm good and whole.

My parents, as soon as I told them, immediately offered to pay for the whole thing. I was astounded, and in some ways, I'm still writhing in guilt over it. It would have been perfectly acceptable and so many other families would have said, "That's too bad, I'm so sorry it happened, and now you're going to have to pay for this." But instead, they offered to pay. I've never encountered such incredible mercy, and my parents don't even believe in God. How wonderful is that? What a prodigal daughter I am.

They drove down this morning to get the car out of the impound lot, and towed to the scrapyard. They then took me out to the mall, and bought me things I needed for school and living. I don't deserve it, but boy am I ever thankful. When I got back to the school, I found a note in my room with $100 in it so I can buy winter boots... they didn't sign the note, so I can't even thank them, or attempt to return the money to them. (Which is probably why they didn't sign the note)

I found God. And he was in people that surrounded me while I was down, and keep on helping to get me back on my feet again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So the other night, I was watching a movie with a bunch of boys, when my mom called to tell me my grandmother was in the hospital. I definitely panicked when I heard the news. My grandma is the immortal one, in my opinion. She has more energy than most people I know who are thirty years younger than her, and she's always running around, cooking things, baking, sewing quilts and hangings, researching family history, organizing things... she's just this little white-haired tornado that zips all over the place, almost non-stop. To hear that she was down, and sick, just didn't seem right. And I panicked even more when I thought about the last time a family member fell ill. I was in Cornwall with the youth group when my parent's phoned to tell me my uncle Bob was sick. They didn't tell me he had actually died until I got back home and they could tell me in person. Knowing then that my family is apt to withhold that kind of information until I either can see them in person, or it is a better time and place to not needlessly cause me grief (i.e. not late at night JUST after I had got back to Kitchener) The thought occurred to me at that point that I had no idea really whether or not my grandmother was actually alive.
"I need comfort! I need solace before I react!" I thought to myself. "I need... PEARS."
My grandma sent me to school last week with two cans of homemade pears. I am certain this is one of the most sought-after substances on earth. More than gold or oil, the canned pears my grandma makes are VERY good. I felt bad breaking into them but I wanted to taste a taste I have tasted since I was a baby. I went back and watched the movie to get my mind off things, and had more pears.

I was a snotty ten year old. I was arguably the snottiest ten-year old you would have ever met. I was also highly impressionable. Tell me to jump, and I would jump. And I had yucky friends back then, which makes a highly impressionable ten-year old very yucky too. I was angry one weekend because I couldn't go to a sleepover at some random acquaintance's house, and instead, had to stay with the grand'rents. And I definitely took it out on my grandma, and blamed them for not letting me go.

I remember that at one moment, she said, "That makes me very sad."

And I instantly regretted it. Strangely enough, that memory still gets me writhing in guilt thinking about it. Writing this down almost physically hurts. And it's been ten years since that happened, and I still remember it. I know she doesn't remember it, she remembers when I learned Sweet Bye and Bye (an EXTREMELY difficult song for a 10-11 year old to learn) just so I could surprise her (and learning the song was partly motivated by this idea that if I learned it to surprise her, it could undo what I had done before) or she remembers the concerts I've played, or times visiting and having lunch. I've contemplated going to confession with this, but the beauty of the sacrament is the spirit of repentance, and I know I'm forgiven, but it still gets me, even now.

A well-wishing friend: "Get over it! It's okay!"
Jessie: "Okay! I promise I will!"
A well-wishing friend: "Promise?"
Jessie: "Yes..."
A well-wishing friend: "Can I have some pears?"
Jessie: "Just this one time, this is one of the most sought-after substances on earth."
A well-wishing friend: "You got it. So, which well-wishing friend am I?"
Jessie: "I don't know. It doesn't matter. I'm just glad I have you."
A well-wishing friend: "Aww, isn't that sweet..."

Okay. For the record, my grandmother IS alive. This is good. A small mistake has an incredible potential behind it to transform into something incredibly good, and powerful almost beyond comprehension. If guilt was a secondary (not so far as a tertiary) motivator in learning such an advanced song for the sole purpose of surprising my grandmother, I probably wouldn't have ever challenged myself in piano, which caused me to grow exponentially in that field. (It was both a blessing and a curse. I blame Sweet Bye and Bye's technical demands for making me a better pianist, but I sacrificed time in following the curriculum to do my piano exams. It was at that point, and at the point when I joined YouthBuilders, that I lost incredible amounts of time in getting all of my requirements for piano, but it was worth it, in the end. But anyway...) A small mistake can grow into something incredibly good. It's shocking how good it can be, and it's goodness can reach beyond us, and have positive consequences beyond our knowledge or reach.

I really hope what I say is true.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Very suddenly this week, I've been confronted with a number of huge considerations. And considerations of this caliber are not often what I trouble myself with. I realized that I do not worry about the things that other people worry about. The other day, I had a midterm. Rachel Neumeister came to my class so she sat in on my midterm. I didn't study for it at all; I had no time to, and I had bought the textbook ONLY that week. But I just took the test. Afterward, my friend David Bui was sitting in the lobby, his little laptop on his lap and his legs dangling, very much distraught over the entire thing, which had already left my mind. Is this okay? Should I be worried? If I'm five minutes late for a class, I don't try to run to class. I already know I'm late. For some reason, it just doesn't raise my stress level.

I feel like I'm missing something. This is what raises my stress level.

My breath stops, and my chest tightens, tighter, tighter, I can't breathe, and tears race to my eyes and my face turns hot, and I wonder, "What's missing? What's going on? Why can't I find it? Where are you!?"

That has happened twice now. Once in my room, once in my car. I even pulled over to the side of the road, and later, was happy enough to forget it had happened, and forget that something is lost.

And the important ones around me are worrying about my future - where my certainty is the hugest blessing that I possess, and I cling to it forcefully. I don't know what I'd do with myself if I were to lose that one.

I found myself with an opportunity to live somewhere new, and a life-time career direction presented to me within two days of each other. When I asked a very close friend about these, those paled in comparison to a different concern he had: I need to write.

This is what writing is. It is the mountain-mover, the world-shifter. It is literature that is the conduit for conducting an orchestra of changing thoughts, shifting ideas, and holy revolution. It is the sword and it must be wielded. The formula for saving the world was always a written one, and the world operates on stories. All of them conspiring, hoping, and praying for resolution. Please let it be comic, not tragic, for the whole world hinges on the hope of a happy ending. The power a simple story can possess is frightening. Stories can be immortal, and they can infect the mind, and possess a nation. And they are very, very hard to quell, and nearly impossible to silence. Books can be burnt, and words go up in smoke, but a good story worth telling is very hard to forget. Donald Miller wrote his latest entry on the Universal Morality, which I was writing essays about in school last year. All stories are classic, and are conspiring for the right ending, and all of the world's morality is built upon this. Let good triumph and evil be vanquished. Let the lover's remain united. Let there be happily ever after. All of our lives are praying desperately for the conclusion, for the journey, for the new story to come to town and our lives to be overthrown. And we're praying for a right conclusion, a comedy, and never, never, never a tragedy.

What a story is to me, is that I've been writing stories since I could pick up pencils. It's a solace in a lonely world, and an exciting and forceful drive to life. It takes over, and literally possesses me when I write, transforming vague ideas into crystal, vibrant, clear, and deafening. My mind narrates my world, and I imagine different stories, different scenarios, and future scenarios, imaginary stories, everything. I look at books, and stop reading and imagine a better story than the words flooding the pages.

But most importantly, and desperately, for me, is that in a world where too often, in the heat of the moment, my words are lost, I cannot open my mouth, and my tongue is trapped and I cannot speak of word of coherent eloquence to try and reverse the tragedy. When later I regret deeply, and think of a million words to scream and say in a time where it is too late... and if I ever get another chance, my eloquence is still snatched from me. And I cannot talk. I cannot, as hard as I try, allow myself to make coherent sense, to scream why this is WRONG, and to say what must be said. Writing is always clear, always more eloquent than I can ever be, and always says what must be said at the right time, with awesome force. Whatever it is that possesses me to write so... is the best weapon I wield.

I just need a story to write. I just need to be ABLE to write, and write well. I pray it comes soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Usually I'm awkward, but sometimes other people are more awkward than me. :D

Yesterday was the strangest class I had ever experienced. It was Psych of Death and Dying, which in itself is a very strange course to sign up for, but this time, a combination of events made it very weird.

Last week, after class had ended, this random guy had come up to me and said, "I really liked the things you said in class. Would you like to have coffee sometime?"


(To be honest, this year, the number of guys who have asked me out is a staggering number compared to the rest of my life. I kind of sound conceited here, but to my knowledge, seven people have expressed "liking me" this year. Four out of those seven asked me out. I don't understand it. I'm really awkward. I say things that are accidentally misinterpreted as sexual innuendos, without meaning them to be, all the time, and I usually say the wrong things way too loud in a quiet room on a regular basis. I'm not trying to give off the impression like I'm "on the prowl". I don't shave my legs, and wear the same pair of jeans for two weeks at a time sometimes. I don't brush my hair. My only theory for this, is that I must be releasing PHEROMONES. Maybe I should stop wearing deodorant, but I figured that would only intensify the PHEROMONES. Maybe I should switch from Dove to Old Spice, but then would that make me release male-like PHEROMONES, that would attract girls to me? I'm not a lesbian, so that would make things even more awkward.)

I'm always up for a hot drink and a good discussion though. So we agreed to meet before class yesterday. I didn't end up getting any form of coffee or tea. The guy just kept on talking, and (this sounds mean) wouldn't shut up. He just kept on talking so I couldn't get in a word to stand up and order a cup of tea. So my patience was tested that way. He also asked me the strangest questions. Things like, "Do you like cats?" And, "What was your favorite teacher in high school?" came up in the conversation. (What the heck? Who asks these questions?) so the "good discussion" part was lost on me.

We went to class, and two of my friends from the University, Donne Marshall and David Bui, were in that class with me, so I sat with them. They invited me to a "kegger" this Friday. I felt kind of cool. But this cat guy, he didn't sit with us, but instead sat about ten feet away, directly across from me, and stared at me for the entirety of the class. Donne noticed and pointed it out to me, to which I replied, "I know..." During the class break, he came up, and stood over us. He waved, and then didn't say anything for a good thirty seconds, and then he finally said, "Do you know where there's an outlet that I can plug my laptop into?" We said no, and then he left.

The second half of the class was a documentary from the 1970's, on a VHS tape... about death. The opening credits had footage of a guy cleaning a dead person's hand. Things like that are just plain uncomfortable, but the movie continued to be an hour and a half all about death, death in different cultures, what rotting bodies look like, footage of cremations, different kinds of caskets you can purchase, funerals... they had this funeral from this obscure place in Thailand, where the funeral itself took five days, and they sacrificed cows (and killed them right there by bashing them on the head!) and like, by the end of the fifth day, the dead person was rotting away, and their body was swollen, and discolored and had flies landing on it. I don't know how to politely comprehend this! The worst was footage of a full-fledged autopsy. They had a naked dead man on a table (yes, I saw my first naked man now... and it was dead, and from the 70's, on a VHS tape in university with the weird cat guy. Naked men suck.) But then they CUT HIM OPEN! And took things out! And like, were taking things out of his nostrils! And sewing him up! Then they had footage of his funeral! I can never look at a dead person the same again!

So death is ruined for me. Apparently, my mother had gone to school at Fanshawe for a year to be a mortician. She couldn't afford to do another year, so she never went into that profession, and instead, is the manager of Zellers. I am so freaking thankful. "Take your kids to work" day would have been traumatic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Life is good.

So Mat Snyder, being the thoughtful kind of guy he is, told Marjorie about the Latin competition. So now she knows. And I'm behind on my declensions because going away to JR. Pitch and not studying, now I have to study the feminine noun declensions, masculine, neuter, AND adjectives. Not to mention the vocabulary for the next two chapters. Craap. And now she knows. So now she'll be uber-motivated, and I gotta pull my socks up. Thanks Mat. (Just for the record, I annihilated him in Super Smash Bros. the other night. That'll teach him to tell Marjorie on me! bahaha. :P But just for the record, I didn't actually annihilate him. I played an awful game of Smash. Pikachu the Thunder-rat couldn't even dodge Donkey Kong. Both Donkey Kongs: there were two of them. oi.)

I think, at this moment, I am not as worried as I should be. Life has been very good to me, and my friendships with people are well. There's a lot of precarious situations going on right at this moment that maybe I SHOULD be stressed about, but it's not keeping me up at night. I've been too busy with school to be able to address anything properly (i.e. picking up some full-time job somewhere, the biggest concern right now is of a financial nature, but I do have a part-time job, and, God-willing, various amounts of money coming in the mail. I just don't know when. And I don't like to wait, either. There are others waiting on me.) but I, for some reason, am NOT stressed that much, though I'm becoming increasingly stressed as the weeks are ticking by. Part of it does excite me though (this is when I begin to sound insane) because, once again, I'm put in a situation of complete and utter reliance on the hope that things will turn out all right. It's exciting to be in the not-knowing. Is it okay for me, though, to be slightly annoyed/jealous at all the people around me who are secure? I don't think so. I have to work on that.

The other weekend was JR. Pitch. What an exhausting, but great time. I didn't realize they wanted me to ref dodgeball for five hours. I was shocked that I still had an audible voice at the end of everything. But it was fun, and wonderful to see good people once again. The way it was set up lacked a very obvious spiritual element, which I'm sure they all realized by the end of the weekend. Mat said that it caused him to pray even more for all the kids who went. Maybe then, it was a good thing, for what it was, if that makes sense. I did like it, especially in the way that if it did lack a spiritual element, I would certainly hope that, like Mat, it would motivate other leaders in the groups to challenge, pour into, and pray for the the kids throughout the weekend, and fulfill what the nature of the event was lacking.

Josiah Nahwegahbow got a ride down from me. It turns out he also highly enjoys Fantasia (one of my favorite movies) and Coldplay (best band ever). What a stellar combination. On the way down, I went to put gas in the car. Filled it. It cost $33 on the dot. I went in to pay, but stopped to pick up some engine oil first (I have to do this regularly for my car) and the guy, some kid who looked like he did NOT want to be there, told me I had paid for it already outside. (This is a story of one of those strange moments where things seem to work out impeccably well in your favor.)
"No I didn't."
"You sure?" He looked at me like I was real dumb.
"Yeah. Otherwise I wouldn't be in here."
"Well, did one of your friends pay for you?"
I looked outside, and Jo was washing my windshield, and the thought occurred to me that maybe one of the guys I was driving down (Jo, Tim Stanley and Dan Dorsy) had maybe paid for me while I wasn't looking, in a gesture of a nice surprise. So I went outside to ask them, but nobody had paid for me. Jo and I went in, and told the guy we had definitely not paid for the gas.
"It says you did." (I'm still surprised that he continued to refuse my money.)
"Well, in that case, it's your call. What do you want us to do?"
"Well, you can go..." he said.
So we left. Free gas. I got a free fill-up. What a miracle. I was so happy I called my dad.

Life is good. Not because things are going good, but simply because it just is by nature, regardless of circumstances.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hot-air balloons

I want to be a hot-air balloonist when I grow up.

When I was a kid, before I made the Purple World, my room had hot-air balloons on the walls. Once, I was running around barefoot down the street with my sister, we saw a hot-air balloon flying around, and I figured out where it was, which was only a block away from me! We raced down with our dirty feet in our t-shirts and shorts, and asked for a ride. And they gave us one. Oh yah.

I did some research. They have hot-air ballooning schools. You can hire someone to train you, which will get you a license faster, but it's more expensive. You have to clock in hours to be a balloonist. Or, you could work on a crew with a balloonist, and be trained that way, which is much cheaper, but will take longer, because of all the hours you gotta clock. Did I mention the crew? It takes a crew of 3-4 people to get a balloon in the air, excluding the pilot. You need people to help you inflate the thing, as well as to follow you as you fly, and negotiate and find landing spots for you when it's time to go down. Landing spots are usually farmer's fields. You have to be careful of the brave, stupid cows that don't get scared away by the large UFO landing in their field, and be careful of hitting wires, trees, etc. on the way down. There are three different ways of powering a balloon. There's one type of gas, which can cost up to $3000 per flight. I forget what it's called. There's also getting it to float by heating the air in the balloon, which costs however much propane it takes for the flame. There's a combination of the two methods. I don't know which method is best. The whole kit for a balloon, wicker basket, and fiery thingy is about $11,000 new. And it's better to buy new than used. The balloon itself is estimated at a certain number of hours before replacement, while the basket and fiery things have a lifetime guarantee.

I will do this when I am married, and have kids who are old enough to be in my crew. Because any kid would be the coolest kid in school if they know how to fly hot-air balloons. But I do want to do this. Because people dream about doing something they truly enjoy, and then for fear of lack of security, they settle for less, and I don't want to settle. I want to fly hot-air balloons.

Random story:
It turns out that Marjorie Hopkins, the dean of student life at EBC... is in my Latin Class at University of Waterloo. She's in my tutorial to be more exact, not the actual class.

Because of this, I want to get a higher mark than her. So, to her lack of awareness, we're in the middle of a competition. She has a head start. She read her textbooks and made flash cards. I bought my textbooks tonight (because my friend Charlie snuck me into the UW bookstore so I didn't have to wait in line for hours) so I haven't started yet. I also JUST finished my flash cards. But I did draw up colorful diagrams of present stems and personal endings, and plural and singular declensions. There will be more to come. They will decorate my room. And I will kick butt.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The best version of myself

One time, when I was in Ghana, we all went to a church service one Sunday underneath a grass canopy. I remember it so clearly, and when I write it, it's as though I'm back there again. Earlier that week, we had gone to town (Was it in Adidome?) where I bought a journal, and started writing in it. My very first entry was simply that I would be more aware of God's presence in my life. After writing that, we left for the service.

Never pray dangerous prayers. Or always pray dangerous prayers? I opt for the always, but it still manages to move me to fear and awe sometimes.

I have a strange memory, and I can easily be transported back by feeling something, or smelling something. This morning I woke up, convinced I was in my old room from last year at EBC, because the sheets felt the same, I was in the top bunk again, and my alarm clock sounded the same. I even walked out the door, completely confused about the location of the bathroom, and the exit, for that matter. When I think of Africa, I still feel sweat running down my legs, a permanent stickiness about everything I do, and a salty layer that felt natural, comfortable, and dirty, dusty feet. Sitting on the warm ceramic outside the guest house, reading a book, writing, thinking, or talking with someone. I honestly felt like the best version of myself.

That service, I slowed down myself, and made myself aware of my breathing. Many eastern religions talk about this practice, especially Hinduism with Yogic practices, and mantras, which makes me more reassured of it's value. Strangely enough, to me, Hinduism proves the existence and awesomeness of God. (but I'll save that for another post, or just ask me if you're curious.)And each breath was holy and sacred and intricate. I felt the way it filled me out, and it left me, and the taste of it, the smell of it. And it was all holy and sacred and intricate.

And I slowed down, and felt the way my hands felt when they were rubbing together, fingerprint upon fingerprint. The smoothness of my nails, the muscles and bones and the way they moved and worked together. My blood rushing, the wind moving the hairs on my arms, and the way my clothes felt against my body. And it was all so profoundly holy and sacred and intricate.

Not a single thing changed in the world. I remember later Matt Lockhart saying he was irritated at the way the grass was making his head itchy. People continued to sing, but I was suddenly aware of everything and how it was infused with... holiness. How better can I describe it? The ground I was standing on was special. My heart beating, and each pulse it made was a gift. And there was this rushing, this constant, in everything, and all over.

The most amazing thing, to me, was that all of the menial things that distract me, all the little sins and stupid things I worry about and think about, and the little lies and evil thoughts, all felt just meaningless, like fluff that just floated off of me, and I was completely FREE from that... muck.

Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism talk about this. In Hinduism, the belief is that we are constantly spinning on a wheel of Samsara, in life, and muck and mire. We are incarnated into this wheel, and continue to spin on it, and through Dharma, Karma, good thoughts, good deeds, we are free and attain Moksha, a state of purity, or "heaven" essentially, where we are no longer reincarnated. Buddhism calls it "Enlightenment", or other school of Buddhism, such as Mahayana or Pureland Buddhism talk of a similar striving to a state of holiness. In Catholicism, the best way I have heard it described is by my favorite, Saint Teresa of Avila, who spoke of an "Interior Castle" - where the soul is akin to a castle, where our whole spiritual life is a journey towards the center, toward union with God. She spoke of different stages or mansions, and different spiritual challenges one faces on each journey as they grow closer to themselves, and closer to God. I like how the journey towards God is inner in her analogy, towards ourselves.

Maybe it was Moksha, or Enlightenment, or the Divine Union. If it is, then it is something that must constantly be worked at and striven towards. I asked if I could stay here forever, and it's certainly possible. Not a mountaintop experience as much as a way of being. There is so much I could say about that hour. I could talk forever about how I suddenly grew insanely in love with all of the people I was surrounded by, the strangers and the ones I already loved, with this deep feeling like I saw them all as holy, wonderful beings beyond my limited comprehension to even begin to figure out, and it moved me to awe. And I could talk about how the colors seemed to leak out of the grasses and the trees, and seemed to pulse and be saturated with something deep and wonderful. Or I could talk about how the very sound of sound itself felt holy, and I knew not how I was blessed to hear everything.

The service did end though, and people started talking about what's for lunch, and what we're doing today. I tried to keep breathing, and I tried to remember my heartbeat, but bit by bit, I floated back down, and the world quieted, and I was back to before, drifting once again in muck and mire. But for one thing: awareness. That it's attainable, there, and always there, whether I will see it again or not.

Every day since then, I have tried to go back, or be there once again. And I haven't been able to. This world is just too noisy and clogged with everything it feels like, to float away...