Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Forgiving others becomes easy in the terrifying and challenging task of forgiving yourself. Hmm. That's all I want to say.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lambs and Lions (OR, Throwing up: My Toronto Adventure)

It all started when I threw up on the 7C going towards the terminal at about 8:15am. The bus was very crowded, mostly with elementary and high school students on their way to class, so I was standing at the front of the bus. Thankfully there was a garbage can also at the front of the bus, so I threw up into that. Nobody seemed to notice, and I felt extremely dirty, or like I had done something very lowly and disgusting, even though I couldn't help it.

I haven't thrown up in years. At first I thought it was because I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning, and I had taken a shower. If I wake up before a certain hour (still not sure what the hour is, but I think it's 8:00am) and I don't eat anything, my body will shut down and I'll be extremely weak for a long time until I can get some food into me. Also, for some strange reason, showering seems to drain a lot of energy out of me, and the combination of not showering and not eating at an early hour is enough to render me incapacitated for quite a while! But I've never thrown up from it... I thought I was used to this by now, and kind of appreciative of how forcefully my body makes me have to eat healthily, but I never expected to hurl. I tried calling Mike and Mary to see if they could pick me up from the terminal, and get me to a place where I could rest and eat, but they weren't home, and it turned out they would be gone for a few days. So I decided to continue on my trip to Toronto.

One of my friends told me about a ministry in Toronto called MoveIn a couple of weeks ago, where people live in community in various parts of the city where there's a lot of need and try to fulfill that need, and basically, share the love of Christ. It really, really excited me when I heard about it, and one would be a fool to ignore such excitement, so I researched them, and e-mailed them, and set up a time to come down and visit and see exactly what it is they do. I didn't really tell any of my friends about it, and I kept this all quiet (whenever people asked why I was going, I just answered by saying, "Commune Hunting!" and left it at that) because I wanted to go completely by myself and for myself, and not have others assuming any other reason than that, simply because... there is no other reason. It's also healthy (at least for me) once in a while to go on adventures solo - I have yet to find others who are up to the kind of adventures I like to go on.

So when I found no ride home from the terminal, I thought that getting a yogurt from the convenience store would be sufficient and I could make it and would be fine for the rest of the trip. So I went ahead and got on the Greyhound to Toronto... but shortly after we left, I threw up again. There was no other place to throw up but the aisle, and I got vomit all over my sweater (that I JUST washed! That laundry costs a lot of money. Sheesh.) and all over my bag. People started shoving things in my direction, like paper towels, and bags. I threw up again after that, and it was the first time I had puked in a bag before. The number of public transit vehicles I've thrown up in went from zero to two in the space of an hour. Somebody gave me a gravol, and another gave me a bottle of water. When I got to the terminal, I still felt extremely weak, so I tried to contact the people I was meeting, but they weren't responding to my phone calls, or text messages. I opted then for the only other person I knew in Toronto who might help me: Mitchell Peterson. I'm pretty sure he had a crush on me at some point, but I figured I wasn't really crush-worthy today, being covered in vomit and all. He told me to take the subway to Finch where he could find me and pick me up and get me somewhere safe.

I didn't throw up on the subway, but I got real close. I started asking the guy next to me open-ended questions to try and distract myself from that awful feeling, and he was really understanding and good at talking and trying to get me out of motion sickness. He pointed me in the right direction and I went into a shopping center to wait for Mitchell. I sat across from this older lady who gave me a tylenol and started telling me about how she had been married for 56 years, and liked using e-mail, and drove every week to Toronto to take her friend to the doctor's when I started feeling sick again, so I thanked her for the good company, and went up an escalator, but that was a REAL bad idea... I threw up in a garbage can at the top of the escalator. A stranger saw me blowing chunks and bought me a can of ginger ale. Another stranger came while I was collapsed on the ground and made sure I was fine and helped me find a place to sit. Strangers are so kind sometimes. I can never get over how blessed I am by complete strangers.

Mitchell picked me up and took me to Tyndale University, where he lived. He had to go to class so I went and slept in their common lounge. I felt kind of strange, being a total stranger completely unconscious in a common area, but I was in so much pain, and my head hurt so much that it concerned me much less than it usually would. At this point I had finally managed to touch base with the MoveIn people so they knew I was there and they were able to come pick me up, so I slept until they phoned me telling me they had arrived. Of course the effort of moving downstairs to the main doors to meet them caused me to throw up again, but this time I had the luxury of barfing into a toilet. AND it tasted like ginger ale... kind of. But not a bad deal all in all.

They took me back to their community, where I crashed on a pull-out couch for a couple of hours, waking up every so often to go and throw up. I was dry-heaving at this point, so I was trying to drink water so that I'd have something to regurgitate, even though I felt it was counter-productive, and causing me to throw up more. It is an awful feeling being alone and sick and throwing up in a strange place, and not being entirely sure what to do about it. At one point, (I may have been delirious but it was an excellent idea) I pulled out my laptop, starting pirating internet signals, and sending out messages to friends asking them to pray for me. That was cool, because I actually FELT the prayers, and felt reassured knowing that I do have friends back at home that cared for me so much, and in the right capacity, and were praying for me. I got this great idea too to have a half-full bottle of water open at my side, and I fell asleep holding it, but whenever I moved, I felt it, so I woke up and drank more of it. This caused me to be able to finish a whole bottle of water - a huge accomplishment! I texted Mat and told him this because one time when I was sick he had talked for an unusual amount of time about the value of drinking water, and lots of it, and how your pee needed to be a certain color - I think he mentioned electrolytes and cell composition as well. But water water water, everyone says this, and as much as it hurts when you're sick, you have to have it.

Later that evening, I felt better, at least enough to talk to people and eat half a slice of toast and a few pieces of asparagus. We went to a prayer meeting, and I was touched - they were so moved to pray for people in their community, just because they felt the need to, and prayed so much, for a couple of hours, at least. It's much, much more important to see love in action, at least for me, than to hear stories about it. I heard their hearts breaking for the people they loved around them. I was trying so hard to participate; I felt bad being with strangers and being so sick and incapacitated. But they were so kind and understanding.

The next day I felt well enough in the morning, I even had some cereal. But then I had another shower... I didn't want to, because I knew it would drain all the energy I had. But I had vomit caked in my hair, and I was certain that wasn't good. That did it in for me. I went to their office to help out a bit, but all I had energy for was to help label some cases for them. They were constantly doing research on neighbourhoods that were in need, and praying for teams to fulfill all those needs. So many neighbourhoods, and they had write-ups for all of them, and were always finding more and praying for more. I was exhausted after that, and could only eat a couple bites of KD before I called it quits and went back, and slept for the remainder of the afternoon. I realized I'd be too weak to catch the bus home so I called David Klumpenhower and asked him to pick me up, but he couldn't come till midnight. Klumpy has to be one of the most generous, selfless people I know, and I knew he would go out of his way to come at midnight to Toronto just because he bends over backwards for his friends. I told him to not come because I didn't want to take advantage of his incredible generosity. I have excellent friends. They pray for me, and drive to Toronto for me, and go out of their way to pick me up in Toronto and get me to safety. And they read my blog. :) But when I woke up, I felt completely better, albeit a bit weak from everything.

We went to visit people after that - I wasn't sure what that'd be like, and truthfully, the other girls were nervous too. We only got to go to one apartment though. As soon as they answered, they seemed so happy, like they were expecting us, and welcomed us in, and invited us to sit, then started serving us tea and candy and cupcakes until we were stuffed. They were a family from Afghanistan: a sister and brother in high school, living with their older sister, and their niece and nephew, while their parents were still in Afghanistan. They told us about the trouble of finding work and having money, and then about how hard it is to learn English (though their English was excellent!) and their hopes for going to university. They just poured out their life story, and we barely asked. I was so surprised. I realized that sometimes, the idea of evangelizing to people seems more daunting than it actually is, and people just want to talk. I wasn't sure if the girl was lonely, or if people from Afghanistan are just incredibly hospitable by culture. As soon as she heard I was a religious studies student, she talked about how she wanted to learn more about religions. We stayed there for a long time, till we were out of time to visit other people.

There is a great deal of admirable conviction and faith that goes into a decision to live in a not-necessarily comfortable place for the sole purpose of sharing God's love with those around you. And I have been really impacted and inspired by the actions resulting from their faith by having the courage to step out and the humility to trust God in all they do. I felt like my "throwing up" episode was, somehow, a purge of a lot of things in my life that needed to go. I really learned a lot. And I've made changes I didn't realize I needed to make. Some of them are big, and scary, and exciting. I'm still learning, and God is working, and I am so excited, and surprised that so much seems to be coming out of a trip that was spent being mostly unconscious or throwing up. These changes are far better asked about in person. A blog will never do justice. And please ask. I'd love to tell. May this inspiration be long lasting, and not the result of one pivotal experience. May I live up to the daring dreams I'm having, and have the courage to love. May I not be afraid, for it takes more courage to be a lamb than a lion.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unjoined thoughts and a funny, funny story

- I was worried for a day or two that the only gift I would receive for Valentine's day was this free condom from some people at the University of Waterloo. The only thing I can think of doing with it is leaving it in the common lounge, to make people laugh awkwardly. I wonder if that's grounds to get fined.

- I keep on caving into camera lust and going on kijiji. I also keep on dreaming these wonderful things I could do to better people's lives with a camera. i.e. giving professional-kind portraits to people who would otherwise be unable to get something like that (i.e. homeless people, maybe I should approach pregnancy centers?? hmm...). Having a really stellar picture of yourself is something you can keep for years. Since the temptation and glitter of a nice camera is so strong for me, I keep on thwarting it with ways I would use it only to glorify God. And I think I've figured out how to afford it...

But now, a funny story: Rob Halpin is my very good friend Anna's older brother, and probably one of the silliest people I know. This youth event that our group went to every year in Cornwall called Journey to the Father (one of my favorite weekends of the year) gave out these water bottles to people every single year. They were the most awkward water bottles that I had ever seen in my life. Not only had somebody decided in 2003 that ordering 3000 water bottles WITH THE YEAR PRINTED ON IT was a great idea, so that in 2004, they would hand them out, with the 3 crossed out and replaced by a 4, then in 2005, they would hand them out with the 3 and the 4 crossed out, and 2006 they still had these water bottles left, with all of these numbers being crossed out, but the bottles themselves had the slogan, "Save sex for marriage: you are worth waiting for!" printed in big bold letters on the front. Basically these were water bottles that would be used for a weekend, then hidden away in a random box for countless years, until they appear one day, provoking a lot of questions and laughs. But not the kind of water bottle that you would bring to a soccer game, or a bike trip. I can only imagine the comments that slogan can elicit. But apparently Rob used the water bottles on his bike races. (these bottles also tended to multiply, because you would get a new one every year you went to this event. And if you had siblings that went to the event too? Oi.)

I hung out with Anna and Allison last night, and Anna was telling us about how after one of his bike races, Rob had an interview at Zellers or Wal-Mart or something like that. The people interviewing Rob asked him about what his values are, and I guess Rob was thinking about the awkward water bottles, because he responded to them by saying, "I'm going to save sex for marriage!"

wow... Even typing it out is making me laugh. When Anna told the story I laughed so hard I cried. It has to be the funniest story I've heard this year thus far.

- And now, one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. I only wish I had taken it...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Human Sciences Essay

I'm still not sure if I like how I concluded it, and I hope it's understandable. Feedback is welcome because I have yet to hand it in!

The Tragedy of Sisyphus is the ultimate tragedy of humankind for the reason alone of his discovery of meaninglessness in his punishment to eternally bear the boulder up the hill. The meaninglessness in his punishment nullifies all philosophical questions, because in his punishment, all that there is to account for humanity and life itself is meaninglessness, and nothing more. “Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards.” The world is meaningless, and thus the sacred does not exist but is a figment of profane’s imagination in this punishment.

The boy had snuck into the palace of the Fairy Queen after it was dark, and after the world had gone to sleep. He crept quietly down the long hallway with its rich colors and tall ceilings until he reached an ornate throne. The sight of the throne itself, even in the dark, moved him to awe and great fear, but still with trembling hands, he ascended the pedestal, and moved forward to seat himself on the throne. But suddenly, he heard a voice.

“You must not seat yourself upon that throne.”

The Fairy Queen had entered the darkness, and faced the boy.

“Why not?” He asked, indignantly.

“Because if you were to ascend that throne, you would destroy all that is sacred, and you do not want to do that, I can guarantee you.”

“Why do I not want to do that?” He asked again. “I don’t understand why I am unable to ascend the throne. Why am I different from you, and what ethics are in order that decree that you can sit on this throne yet I am prevented from doing so?”

The Fairy Queen nodded sadly. “I am composed of the same substance as the throne is, and you hold reverence for that substance. I know you to hold such reverence because you crept down the hallway, and you did not stroll. You regarded that throne, composed of wood and gold leaf, out of fear and awe and your hands trembled with the thought of even laying your hands upon that wood. You regard it yourself as a desecration for you to touch that throne, yet you still seek to do so, and I say, for your own sake, not for mine, but for your own and the sake of the world, heed that desecration you regard.”

“I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it.” In this dialogue, neither is the Fairy Queen sacred or the boy profane. The boy lives with the long-held ideology of the distinction that exists between him and the Fairy Queen, and he is attempting to bridge that distinction. What Sisyphus has proven in his quest to be like the gods, is that there is no distinction, and that he can be like the gods, and seek immortality and trick them and win. In doing so, he shows that he has the same power as the gods, and that the gods are useless, and there is no need then for the sacred. If the boy were to touch that throne, he would discover only that the throne is nothing more than a chair, no more sacred than any other chair, and doing so would bring about the death of the Fairy Queen, the death of the throne, castle, and of the reverence the boy held as he crept up to the throne, moved to terror and awe. The Fairy Queen is urging him not to touch the throne not for the sake of her own life, but for the sake of protecting him from the knowledge of what substance it is she and the throne are truly made of.

“Why,” The Fairy Queen asked, “Do you wish to sit upon the throne?”

“Because I believe that there is nothing that separates me from you. I am no more special than you are, and because of that, I possess as much authority as you do to dwell in a castle, and be seated upon a throne.”

“What is it then,” She asked. “That formed this distinction between you and I in the first place? Do you value that distinction, and treasure the fact that you regard the throne and I to be composed of a different substance? If you did, then why are you seeking to destroy that substance in seating yourself upon the throne?”

“Why is it that you believe that if I were to seat myself upon the throne, the action would destroy you and the substance you and the throne are composed of?”

“Because in doing so you would unmask the substance for what it is really made of.”

The marriage of sacred and profane is an uneven union, because while both rely upon each other to exist, the profane can exist without the sacred, while the sacred cannot exist without the profane. The entire world cannot be sacred, but it is possible for the entire world to be profane. The profane, if it threatens to assert that the sacred is no more than just profane set apart, will unmask the sacred from what it is; intellectualizing the Body of Christ to be nothing more than bread and wine, the Holy of Holies only worth it’s weight not in sacred and spiritual, but monetary, physical value.

She led the boy down a corridor and into a room with a large window. Inviting him to look out the window, the Fairy Queen pointed in the distance to a deep valley. A solitary figure was in the valley, pushing a boulder up the hill. He toiled, and sweat under the weight of the boulder, and dust built up underneath him. When it finally seemed he was close enough and could reach the top, the boulder proved too heavy, and refused to cross the threshold. It toppled back down and rested finally in the valley below. With a resolute sigh, the lone figure descended the valley, ready to roll the rock up back again.

“This is Sisyphus,” The Fairy Queen said. “He tried to thwart the gods, and was sentenced to an eternity of rolling the boulder up the hill: an eternity of a meaningless existence. His tragedy is not rolling the boulder up a hill, however. Sisyphus could have been sentenced to an eternity of flying hot-air balloons, or traveling with gypsies. The tragedy is that he now knows that all things are meaningless. His life, as all the life of all humanity, has as much meaning as rolling a boulder up a hill, because you are all mortal, and all actions are equated with the same amount of eternal significance – nothing. Life is absurd, and that is all the meaning it is composed of.”

The boy looked at Sisyphus in his eternal struggle, and started to cry. “Why then, is there significance in the throne?”

“The significance exists because you attached significance to it. If you sit on the throne, the throne would become no different from any other chair. This is why you do not want to sit upon it. You would unmask the substance it is composed of to be nothing at all, and that would kill the chair, the castle, and myself in doing so. The significance that is attached to the mediocrity of the world is where the sacred can exist.”

“We must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Camus dares to put forth the idea that since everything is meaningless; the only meaning to be found is in the outlook upon the meaninglessness. Sisyphus must be happy, in order to live life, and the first step then to find the joy in life is to recognize the tragedy life is and find joy in it. In this notion, he strips all that is sacred away, because he asserts that everything has the same amount of meaning as pushing a boulder up a hill, so that there is no real existence of the sacred. The sacred only exists in the hope that the sacred must exist – it only exists because the boy had hope that the throne is more sacred than any other chair. When humanity tries to attain power like the gods; when the boy tries to sit on the throne, only then does humanity discover the tragedy of life, and the ultimatum of having joy in that tragedy, which is how one then has no choice to live. The boy is free to sit upon the throne now. In his action to try and be like the gods, he has discovered the tragedy that life is: that everything is meaningless, and that one has no choice but to take joy in the meaninglessness: tragic happiness.

The boy sat deep in thought for the remainder of the night. He sat at the window and watched as Sisyphus continued his eternal journey up the valley. He sat quietly until the sun rose in the sky and night gave way to daytime. When the sun spread her rays across the dark cool ground he knew then what was sacred, and went to find the Fairy Queen, who was sitting at the throne.

“There is nothing sacred about living in a joy one has no choice but to live because everything is meaningless. True joy cannot be found in that if one cannot choose to be joyful.” He said, looking at the Fairy Queen. “There is indeed a sacred that does exist, and it exists in the order of things. The sacred exists because the sun rises everyday and goes to sleep at night, and it is that continuous ritual that is essential to the survival of everything. It is the rituals, and the placement of everything in its rightful place that is sacred. Sisyphus should continue to carry up the boulder, because it is right, for if the sun abdicated her rightful position in the sky and refused to rise the next day, we would all die. You, as the Fairy Queen, and the throne are sacred because you are meant to be so, and it is not right for me to dare to touch it. Meaning is found in the pursuit of those rightful places in the world, and the achievement of that is the continuation of life itself, and that simplicity is a sacred ritual in and of itself, which must be preserved, preached, and remembered.”

The Fairy Queen, seated upon her throne that was sacred because it was right for it to be so, smiled.