Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unmade


It's Christmas Eve, and snow is drifting through the roof onto the kitchen floor, strikingly white among the soot and ash, various shades of black. The living room is blackest. There, snow falls through the floor as well. A candelabra on the wall hangs, twisted and warped; continues to hang, static, where it hung before all of this. Everything is static now, where once was light and warmth there are now static shades of black.

Fire leaves behind art. Standing in the middle of it, my mind shatters to cope with each of the overwhelming realities that are presented to it. Practicality swallows Emotion to keep it from taking over, like nausea. Once you start, you can't stop, so you can't start. Like Nausea. The Form to Practicality's function floats above the writhing pair. Keeping out of the fight. Analyzing. The discernment of Fire can be fascinating, and Form follows Perception, a few seconds behind the eyes, taking notes. This is the part of the mind that causes double takes. In this static world of black on black, nothing that catches the corner of the eye disappears, it sits completely still, demanding inspection, defying explanation. A canister of motor oil, melted through, not burned, not... "involved" as the firemen might say. A house fire is measured by participation. A package of marshmallows, indistinguishable from one you might find in your own pantry except for the row on one edge that is perfectly roasted, golden brown (one of the lighter shades of black that day). It is that indistinguishability that is most disturbing. These are all things that I have in my house, these are all things that could have been mine.

When I first heard the news, I was, for the most part, unaffected. It may seem callused or misguided, but the thought was "it's just stuff... You can replace stuff." Standing in the middle of that stuff, mind wrestling with itself to keep from comprehending, I realized that the skeletons that remain each have some memory attached to them. You never realize how much you liked your microwave until it's all metal bones, with none of the magic left to re-heat that midnight co-co because you were too busy talking to drink it while it was hot.

Before we left, we stretched a chain across the driveway to keep out the vultures and voyeurs. (An unnecessary precaution?) My mind pieces itself back together and I prepare for whatever might come up when Emotion is released. I was not overwhelmed with emotion, but I did learn something about my old perspective about the things we all own, just in time to never see it again.

A lens, once shattered,
cannot be reformed the same.
The old is unmade.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blessed Paradox

I was reminded this Sunday of the reason why I called this Blog "The Blessed Paradox," and I feel like it would be useful for you, the reader, to know a little bit about it. I want to start by saying that it is not a renunciation of the idea that there is absolute truth. It is a call for open minds. The trouble (as I see it) is that men fight, kill, and die for their own truth, or some part of The Truth. How much better to live for the Truth, accepting that we may only know part, and let the Truth fight for itself? In this way we can reach the True centre of pendulum extremes which only judge relatively, and are farther from the truth with each successive push towards some presumed, relative centre.

Of predestination, I can say equally that while God called me before the beginning of time, and yet I am free to choose; whether I will fall or follow. His call is not irresistible. The paradox explains the Truth best. He guides my path through life. Further to this point, He uses everything around me to teach me, as though I were the only one in the universe. Yet, this is how He fathers all of His sons (and daughters, so I've heard). His word was written thousands of years ago, and yet, it lives and moves. I come back to a passage after a month or even a week and there will be something there which I did not see before. Did it grow while I wasn't looking? Did I?

I was an object of wrath, and yet God loved me. I was so covered in sin that he could no longer see the soul he created, only the muck of transgressions that covered me. A garden, once full of flowers and trees choked out and grown over with weeds; all grown from seeds that I planted, and yet He loved me. I wasted my inheritance on worldly things, spending indiscriminately on things that could only last for a moment, and yet when I returned, broke and broken, He ran to the end of the road, threw His cloak over me put His ring on my finger and called me son, when I simply wanted to be called slave. Now despite my own failings I am clean in his sight. By seeking out ways to give up control of my life I am more free than ever I was while I sought independence.

I cannot write long about paradox without running in circles (see the quote below), but I am continually astounded by the way that nearly every conflict, theological or otherwise can often be resolved by keeping an open mind to the paradox, the one Truth that has been folded over to create two sides of an argument. My experience has been that the most useful truths are found and internalized in this way.

"... One must not think ill of the paradox, for the paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall. This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think."
 -Søren Kierkegaard Philosophical Fragments


P.S. Semantic precision might demand that I call this blog "The Blessed Dilemma" due to the fact that Paradox is such a specific logical concept, but Paradox is so much more dramatic. Those of you who know me well will realize that while a choice between drama and precision is very difficult, I must err on the side of Drama. ;)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Live! Beta...

Hey all,

At this point I've introduced this blog to my profile info for social networking. If you're here, consider yourself part of the Blessed Paradox Beta, I would appreciate any comments you feel like making, as well as any feedback on the blog itself (comment on this post). Planning on taking it full live (telling people about it and linking to posts) in a few weeks.

For now, you're the lucky few who got in before it got popular. Thanks for your interest and stay thinky.

-Alex

A Few Good Men: Where did They Go?


An extension to thoughts originally published as part of online social psychology discussion on gender roles.
 
In my opinion, it is unfortunate that gender roles have been so removed from our society. Equality is one thing, the sentiment that "we're the same" is ludicrous. There are significant differences between the sexes, and it's important to recognize and account for those differences, especially in early education. Little boys are significantly more likely to be medicated for Attention deficit, largely because teachers expect them (at 5 years old!) to sit still and pay attention to academic work, a task they are usually not developmentally prepared for until much later in life, whereas little girls are equipped to perform in that environment. The fruit of that is starting to show, in that men are underrepresented in nearly every measure of academic success (especially in higher learning), and their number is decreasing precipitously as the years go on. 

There have been many excellent books written on the "death of men," and how men getting into their 20's and 30's are still uninitiated, lazy, whiny, and unprepared for life. I'm not prepared to put any sort of cause and effect together with the women's movement. That's an argument that everyone loses. But I am prepared to say that what this culture defines as "masculine" and what is required of men to create a healthy, productive society are drastically different. The "care-free, happy, fun-loving, laid back" guy is the ideal masculine of this culture, that image is counter to productivity, serious thought, and a healthy character. If that wasn't enough, that care free image is unsustainable! If the "Average American Male" is anything he's, restless, discontented, frustrated, and feels inadequate, unprepared, as though he missed something important that he needs to live life. Or if he's good at denial, he's confident, cocky and defensive about being inadequate, restless and discontent. Obviously there are men who feel differently, and generalization is the best way to get a lot of people angry. If you are man and an exception to the rule, pay close attention to the next part, this generation needs a few good men.

A Possible Solution

The cause of this dearth of manhood aside, the books that I've read (supported by experience) suggest that the answer is two-fold. Initiation, the passing on of masculine values, is part of that answer. For thousands of years boys were made to go through rites of passage and apprenticeships, where they learned what it meant to be a man from men. It's the carpenter's son learning to plane a board, the hunter's son, following along, learning the art of silent patience, most importantly it is the son watching his father live for what he believes. This is more than the passing on of skills, it is showing a boy what it means to provide, how to lead, and what is most important in life. Sadly, it's an experience that a massive majority of men do not have today, with absentee, or emotionless fathers, or worse. The other half of this solution is intimate friendships with other men. The fact that men who just read that thought to themselves "That sounds gay" is support of the fact that our culture has trained us to think that masculine bonds are in some way taboo. For thousands of years men worked together and shared their lives and livelihoods in the fields, forests, wildernesses and battles of the world bound by masculine, "closer than a brother" love. 

The cause is not hopeless for uninitiated men, however. Initiation can happen at any age, if the man is willing to humble himself and learn. This is where the men who have been initiated come in. Work to create mentor relationships, and intimate friendships with men, and you will do much to recover the lost (or perhaps forbidden) masculine spirit the world needs so desperately. 

In relationships:
Unfortunately many men find the answer to that missing piece in how they relate to women. Either finding a woman to "mommy" them, enabling their lazy, uninitiated, lifestyle (essentially redefining the male role to a Homer Simpson-esque ineptitude) or finding a woman that they can rescue, and getting their affirmation from being that woman's knight in shining armour, which maintains their traditional role, but focuses that mans strength on so narrow a goal that it is sure to implode. If the end of the journey is "rescuing the princess," then she's probably going to be clingy and codependent. If she's all you ever wanted chances are you will be everything to her too, not a healthy situation. 

If, however a man and woman are both striving for something bigger than the perfect relationship, then the time they spend together can be focused outward on whatever that something is. Whether it's a spiritual  journey, a cause, or even a career. If you're both passionate about the same thing (not each other), then the relationship won't have to keep folding in on itself till it implodes.

Social policy:

I do believe that that men and women, individually or in relationships, can find happiness outside of traditional gender roles. If Individual happiness is the highest thing we can strive for, (and it is not an ignoble goal to find and spread happiness), by all means men and women may live as they please. I would encourage, in social policy, the most possible freedom to search for happiness in this life. I do not believe that will solve any of the problems we face today concerning gender roles, in fact it will complicate them tenfold. 
It has been said that removing gender roles is not the best path to equality. I would add to that, removing gender roles (paired with unconditional acceptance of self-defined gender) is not the best path to anywhere. It is, however a comfortable path that anyone can walk without too much trouble.
Personally, I believe that there is intentionality in gender roles. Not necessarily the silly "boys, blue, trucks" gender roles, or even the "man makes the money, woman is in the home" gender roles. The secondary sex characteristics, what makes a man a man, are particularly suited for the role he was intended to live. The head and spiritual leader of the home.

For more information on this topic, I recommend reading (in no particular order) Iron John (Robert Bly), Boys Adrift (Leonard Sax) or Wild at Heart (John Eldridge).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Engineer

What Occasion have I to be Brave?
To stand when the world says “fall”
'tis adventure true life I crave
with my soul, my heart, my all

What sword may I wield
or what battle I face
in this career driven field
and pathetic rat race

We all seek our dreams
all sedated and nice
each one with reams
of paperwork on ice

ice to cool passion
to stop hearts from their beat
to keep men in their desks
to secure their safe seat

Good and evil tamed
to keep the world kind
Mans soul is left lame
cut away from his mind

My soul longs for fire
My heart longs to strive
to not be a liar
when I say “I'm alive”

So what's the solution?
Where can I find
a place where confusion
can be left behind?

There is a king
Who seeks out the bold
who calls them out
to break the world's mold

He calls each man to war
He gives each man a sword
Who comes to serve him
The Great Risen Lord!

War and Peace

In reading Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) I've found myself, for the first time, really vehemently opposed to something that Lewis has written. Enough that I'm willing to write something about it.

Before I post my rebuttal, know that I am by no means authoritative in these matters, and I encourage you by all means to search the scriptures, and the examples set out by men far wiser than me, take what works, leave what doesn't. That being said... Consider the following:

It is odd that in a book he has posed so carefully as not going into the details, and only going so far as all Christians can agree, that he would make so definite a statement (though couched appropriately as his opinion) that

"It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge and sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy." (Mere Christianity, pg 106)
I begin at the first point to say that for a Christian man to be a secular Judge is a step away from apostolic tradition. In the Early Church it was common practice to ask any man of office to relinquish that office before he be allowed to enter the body of Christ (From "The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down" David Bercot). And more importantly Christ's own example in this matter is fairly clear. When asked to judge in an inheritance case he said "Who made me a magistrate over you?" (Luke 12:14) If this is his stance on something so minor as inheritance law, then how much more is the disciple of Christ not made a magistrate over life and death? And again when presented with a crime of Adultery; punishable by death under the old law, he says "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone." (John 8:7)

So Christ paints a clear picture first that he did not consider himself an authority over worldly cases (even though he was God) and even in cases where spiritual judgement could be passed he did not judge, but forgave and challenged. Again he states this clearly in John 12:47 "Anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him, for I did not come to Judge the world but to save the world."

So what is my role in carrying out justice? As far as it concerns me, I hope that I would have the strength to fight only with the Weapons that are provided to me by my king. Prayer and the Word. Trying to fight (or punish) with worldly weapons/methods to protect the people I care about will only make my problems worse in the long run ("He who takes the sword dies by the sword" Matthew 26:52), or worse it will cause someone who sees me, a disciple of Christ, "Waging war as the world does," to think less of Christ because of it. Better that I die a painful death, (to die is gain) than for one person to miss an eternity with Christ because I fought or killed to live.

At least that's how I hope to think, to have faith that God's plan and the power of prayer will protect me for as long as he plans to, and then I get to go home.

Not my most polished thoughts, but I've been working too long on this before I post. If I feel the urge, I'll re-edit this and re-post/publish it in a more concise form.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Leap


The Leap

Currents surging to the fall
one drop flowing through it all
there! a place where sunny eyes
are mirrored showing cloudless skies
a glimmer of unchanging light
before the water falls from sight
the single place where all must pass
still and silent, clear as glass
where raindrop, fallen, bears it's soul
and leaps unto its' final goal

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Post!

75% of all first blog posts start with something like "Well here goes nothing" and 90% include promises of fidelity to some sort of schedule, or frequency of updates.

This is not one of those blog posts. This is a much more serious blog where I talk about art and love and beauty, and spiritual things. And absolutely nothing without gravitas and the weightiest of subject matter will ever besmirch these lofty pages.

Also 94.8% of statistics are made up.

More accurately this will be a forum for the thoughts that are too long for a "status" and deserve getting written about. (qualifications for "deserve" being I feel like writing about them long enough to put down a coherent paragraph or two.) Also you may find some poetry, photography, stories and essays as I create them. You, dear reader, have the benefit of me having other places to put the inane day to day ramblings so this should be the cream of the crop, hopefully worth reading.

So, here goes nothing!

 *wink*