Tuesday, March 31, 2009


[So I've been neglecting this blog dreadfully, and I would like to announce now that I plan to neglect it for another 2 weeks and then resume being diligent about writing. I have stuff to figure out that belongs in a journal, and places to go that do not have internet (i.e., the beach).]

In the mean time:
I am watching the buds escape from their wooden prisons, the slim ends of the tree-branches. They poke green faces into the cool moist air. Soon the leaves will unfurl, and cover the tree's nakedness. The sun is warm these days, though the wind is still cold: I know spring is here, even though hundreds of spiky seed-cases still decorate the entire tree, like dangling Christmas ornaments.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Let's Pretend

Kids play pretend, and it's only a game. When the story is over, they stop pretending and immediately they are back to being exactly themselves. Sometimes they get confused about what's real and imagined, but that's for monsters hiding in the dark and vivid scenes from movies. They don't go about their ordinary lives pretending to be people they aren't. Kids don't even know how to do that.

Adults never say, "Let's play pretend." That's because they are always playing it, and they don't know how to stop: Let's pretend that I like you. Let's pretend that I don't want to take up your time. Let's pretend that I have it all together. Let's pretend that I'm happy to help you as much as you need. Let's pretend I agree. If you want know what I'm really made of, who I really am: ask me what I was like as a kid. Ask me who I was before I learned how to pretend.

These days, I'm learning how to stop pretending. I can't decide which is harder: learning or unlearning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Today I scouted out an empty armchair in the corner of the library and settled myself in it: put down my bag, took off my glasses, draped my sweatshirt around myself. Then I curled up and went to sleep.

There's something funny about sleeping in public. For one thing, you're vulnerable. Someone could walk up and steal your stuff or otherwise take advantage of you, when your eyes are shut and your brain is fabricating its own visions of worlds where the normal laws of causality are suspended. Sleeping in public is an act of trust, a mark of either stupidity or privilege. The fact that I can sleep in the middle of a public space with no ill repercussions says so much about the society I exist in. Sure, it has its problems, but overall? So safe.

Another thing: sleeping is normally done in the privacy of one's own space. By sleeping in the library, do I (in some sense) give up my privacy? While sleeping, I am not putting up a front or presenting myself as this or that. I am simply there. Watch me, judge me, I won't know.

One minute before my alarm would have gone off (cellphone vibrating in my pocket), I woke to a room full of strangers. I got up, put on my glasses, and resumed my attempts to function in society.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quelques Bagatelles

The Ackermann function isn't very interesting to compute by hand. I guess if I were a real programmer, I would have written a program to compute and print out the 2 values my homework asks for...

In other news, the robins are out, so even though the air temperature is barely above freezing, I think it's spring.

Monday, March 23, 2009


A jigsaw puzzle provides a thousand tiny victories--or two or three thousand victories, when there are a thousand pieces to fit together. I sit on the floor for hours seeking success.

The spotlight of my attention shrinks the world. There is only this patch of floor, this picture on the box (the standard for everything), these scattered and jumbled pieces of the world. Each has its pattern of colors pushing and pulling, orange and yellow and red. And look--a slice of black, a blaze of white! The only purpose for the third dimension is to allow pieces to be moved more efficiently. Time collapses and refuses to be measured.

Every shape is a question and an answer. Some ask tentatively, others announce themselves boldly. Some wait in patience, others make strident demands. A hole cries out to be filled, and I cannot ignore its pleas. I search through the pieces, sifting and sorting and going blind. My fingers pick up and discard this piece and that, and let minutes trickle through.

When the edges finally align, all's right in the universe.

But immediately another hole cries out for completion. Standing up wrenches at my mind. Whenever I close my eyes, the brightly colored puzzle pieces lay themselves out on a black background, and my fingers itch to sort through them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


"I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it," laments Alice in Disney's rendition of Lewis Carroll's classic, as the bizarre creatures around the meadow peer at her from the shadows. Alice is a bit of a nitwit, so I'm reluctant to admit similarity to her. However: I give my peers very good insights, but I very seldom believe them in my heart.

By which I mean, when the hopeful things I tell people are real actually do manifest themselves, I am surprised. I was actually right? (I think to myself.) Oh yeah, there's a reason I believe that--which is that it's true! It's true whether or not I feel it, whether or not I believe it.

Reality is not contingent on my moods.

Reality is not contingent on my choices, either. Yes, I am responsible for my own actions, and by acting rightly, I improve my life--but if I fail to act correctly, sometimes things can still work out. Sometimes good things fall out of the sky, without my earning them. Sometimes there is unexpected mercy. Sometimes I don't know how to fix a problem, or even what the problem really is, but then it fixes itself. For instance, today: you surpassed my wildest expectations. Maybe you don't understand me completely, but you understand enough, and you're doing what you can. Freedom is a beautiful birthday gift. Thank you. (Thank God.)

God is good: all the time. All the time: God is good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

19 > 20

19 is a better number than 20, because 19 is prime and because it's an in-between, an on-the-threshold, a liminal spot on the timeline of life. (The thresholds are where Things Happen. For instance, Persephone is stolen into a cave, the border between Above and Below). 19 is between borders, in No Man's Land. 20 is planted on the Adult side of the equation.

20 is round, even, nicely divisible. Settled, responsible, directed, getting everything figured out. 19 is pointy, intractable, produces remainders, reaches toward the sky, wanders across meadows, chases butterflies into the woods. 20 has to be home in time to cook dinner and wash the dishes before the food dries on them. 19 eats two dozen cookies and has a stomach ache later on, but doesn't care, because they were just that good. 20 stops after 4 cookies, or eats the rest in a frenzy of guilt, and regrets it immediately. 19 moves on, staring at the sky.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Memory and Identity

All I want to do is watch Battlestar Galactica and read blogs about linguistics. But I have a Bible study to plan and poems to edit... Also, I really, really want to check Facebook, but I've got another 27 days of fasting (which, by the way, I think I am not doing very well. Insufficient praying, overabundant exertion of the will.) Anyway, here follows a blog entry recycled from a class assignment: thoughts in reaction to a psychology article about a study of childhood amnesia (which, it seems, is the official name for the phenomenon of people not remembering much, if anything, from before the age of 3).

Though this study* dealt specifically with childhood amnesia, it raises questions about the nature of memory itself and its relation to identity. The end of the article suggests that childhood amnesia results from of a lack of autonoetic awareness. This claim assumes that having a sense of self enables memory to function more effectively for personally experienced events. How?

Perhaps autonoetic awareness creates a priority framework that makes memory for personal events more important. (Obviously, a priority system for deciding which memories to retain and which to discard is vital, due to the sheer volume of information processed during every moment.) If the self does not exist as a consistent experiencer/narrator/character, there is no reason to remember events that are only relevant to 'character development' or 'personal history', since they do not contribute to understanding the world or the behavior of surrounding people. Autonoetic awareness can provide a motive for retaining otherwise useless memories.

A sense of self could also provides a framework to which memories can attach, and thus a mechanism for retaining personal memories. For something to be “remembered”, there must be mental connections to its neural representation. If a memory is completely free-floating, it will never be accessed because nothing will remind its owner of it—and an inaccessible memory is effectively no memory at all. So having a sense of identity gives a remember-er a mental construct to connect personal memories to, thus making them accessible, thus making them retainable. Without this sense of self, there is no vantage point from which to determine the significance or even relevance of an event.

Suppose childhood amnesia does mean that young children lack a sense of self. Then developmental neurology could provide clues as to the mechanism for autonoetic awareness. A growing autonoetic awareness could be also tied to theory of mind (conceive of others' selves by analogy to one's own sense of self), linking socialization with memory capability.

[and that is where I cut off the paper I turned in, since it had to be under a page long. But I have lots more thoughts about this. Maybe I'll append them someday when I have excessive amounts of free time, if such a day ever arrives.]

*The study referred to is "Children remember early childhood: long-term recall across the offset of childhood amnesia," by Emily Suttfield Cleveland and Elaine Reese, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Knowing Mystery

A quote I do not want to lose: "Man must know God or perish, but, unless he knows him as the ultimate mystery, he does not know him at all." --G.B. Caird, Paul's Letters From Prison (p. 70)
(In the commentary, this appears in reference to Ephesians 3:19, the paradox of knowing the unknowable love of Christ. But it applies much more generally.)

This line feels so true and pointed to me. American Christians are so in danger of losing the mystery. We don't like the loss of control, the surrender of power, the admission that we don't understand everything, the awareness of being limited. We are told all our lives: You can do anything, if you set your mind to it. Shoot for the moon! The worst that can happen is that you'll fall among the stars. Nothing's impossible. Nothing is out of reach.

But the reality is that God is out of reach. A god is something people worship. A true God is a god worthy of worship--an entity higher than which there can be no entity, thus omniscient and eternal, non-contingent, thus beyond our comprehension. If God were completely comprehensible to us, He couldn't be much more than a human, in which case I can't see Him being worthy of worship. So: He is greater. He is inconveniently incomprehensible, mysterious, wild.

We want God in 10 bullet points on 3 powerpoint slides, illustrated with clipart. We want God in a nice package, a little box that fits in a purse. We want God in convenient capsules, to be taken with a glass of water before bedtime.

If we shop for a convenient, condensed, succinct, useful, comfortable God, we won't know God, but only a construct. If we want the truth, the God who transcends our small minds, we must take the risk of acknowledging that we can't grasp everything. We have to humble ourselves by acknowledging that we are not God. Only He is God, and only in recognizing that can we approach Reality.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Moon

Yesterday, the moon was a silver coin on the black silk sky. Today, it is a faint spot staining the darkness. Its edges fade into the black. Today, the moon is a hole worn through the old black curtain that is the sky. Its light struggles to shine through the fabric.

Yesterday, the sky was high and empty and distant. It was a pure dome, curving smoothly. Tonight, the sky is hiding something, keeping secrets. Tonight, the sky swarms with mist. I would like the sky to whisper its secrets to me. (Dear night sky, you seem ready to ragged-edged. Worn-down, put-upon. You've lost your joy. Tell me, what's on your mind? If you need to cry, I can be here.)

But the crisp air is still. The sky isn't telling me its stories. Instead, I drink in the night through thirsty nostrils. My lungs expand till the whole world could fit inside them. I am expansive. The sky and the lonely moon and the barren trees and the weary people and all the words and songs: they could all nestle in my blood-trees, in vein-artery rivers, in my lungs. Those few breaths of cold air change me than the hours of conversation.

The moon is still uncertain, but I know the stars are coming, soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In which I remember things I don't want to think about

I saw him in the cafeteria and walked away quickly, with my head down. How easily the memories and heartaches come back.

Is it that they flood over me? No, they come in a mist turns the world grey. Water droplets crowd the surface of my glasses. Everything blurs. Each particle of wetness, of cold, is a moment: a word, a glance, a gap in the conversation, a touch, a stab of pain, a smile that rends the heart, a compliment. A kiss. A text message. The cloud that keeps me from seeing that building is one of our many arguments: swirls of words and frustration, misunderstandings and too-perceptive comments, tears that never left my eyes, interruptions and the sentences that never lived out their lives.

He didn't see me, I think. I hope.

When will the season for reconciliation come?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heartbreak and hope: how do they coexist?

Monday, March 9, 2009


Is home the nation I have a passport for? the state I vote in? the town in my permanent address? the house I spent my childhood in? (But there are 4 of those.) Is home the room whose contents I determine and arrange? Is home the effective sphere of my will, the place where what I think actually counts, the place my decisions carry weight?

Is home my family? my friends? my belongings? the weather I know? the place whose streets I can navigate? Is home about the familiar and predictable? or is it about the controllable?

Is it about being loved and wanted? When none of the people I care about are there, is it still home?

Where will you be, when I get back?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2 Cor. 5:17

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)
If I am in Christ, God creates me anew. We talk about fresh starts and second chances, yeah, but the idea of being a completely new creation goes far beyond anything we experience
on our own. This isn't being a second draft, or a new edition, or a freshly printed copy: it's an entirely rewritten story.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (KJV)
Behold! New things have come. Not: have hope, new things will be here soon. Not: hold on and persevere, new things will happen eventually. Not: try hard, and then new things will happen. This transformation isn't for later, and it isn't by our effort. It's now. Already. Look, the new things are here already, if you would only see them.

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (NLT)
Not just new things--new life!

"Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new." (CEV)
I can belong to Christ as a child belongs to its mother, as a husband belongs to his wife, as a painting belongs to its artist. I don't have to be alone anymore. I don't have to be a stranger and an alien. Also, I don't have to belong to a church or be accepted by a church for transformation to happen. I only have to belong to Christ. And then the old things aren't just gone from my current state and present actions and identity. Rather, they are forgotten. They are wiped away, eliminated from memory, deleted. And it's not just a few shabby things that are made new. It's not just the problem areas, or the places where I have tried and failed. It's everything!
But God doesn't give me an identity foreign to who I was. He gives the identity I was seeking all along. He makes me the person I started out as, in God's plan, before sin (suffering and fear and a broken world and selfish choices) came in and marred that creation. He makes me new.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Supposedly this is a kids' song. But I think it's profound.
Your words are life to me
Your face is all I seek
Your truth is everything I need
Your words are life to me

Your wisdom set the world in place
You understand just how to chart the heavens
Your knowledge divided the deep blue seas
No wonder your words are life to me


Your wisdom guides me every day
You understand just how I need direction
Your knowledge provided my every need
No wonder your words are life to me

(repeat, and repeat, and repeat)

I learned this song over the summer, while helping run Day Camp at my church. I knew the lyrics were good, but it didn't occur to me that maybe they hadn't been written for this song. Turns out, though, that the words for the verse are straight out of Proverbs, which I figured out when I was reading a couple weeks ago and ran into words that sounded suspiciously familiar... I love it when I recognize verses I didn't realize I knew.

My favorite thing here is the lovely parallelism between the two verses, which subtly conveys that God's direction of my life is not so different from His direction of the world. I have been thinking lately about unity, because I'm leading a study on Ephesians, which is all about bringing everything into a unified whole. It's so easy to think I'm doing everything on my own, so I have to try harder; or that my life isn't significant, because the world is so much bigger; or that my concerns are irrelevant to God's plan because they aren't connected to anything. But "in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Understand Me

What creates more of a challenge to communication: different ethnic backgrounds, or different degrees of introversion / extroversion? Culture or personality?

I'm good at explaining things, even my own feelings. I can find the words, dig them up, stack them just so. I reconstruct, at an observable rate, the edifice of interplaying emotions that flickered into being inside me, rising suddenly as a fountain's spray. I rebuild for you, with word-blocks, the tower built of shadow and snow and sunshine and song and screams and silence. I can never build as fast as the towers crystallize and dissolve, but if you understand a few of these blueprints, you can make sense of every structure here.

You're good at reading the blueprints, I know. You pay close attention to each description, each diagram, and you're learning, and you want to learn, I know. You don't have to explain it to me, I know already.

The trouble is, I want you to know already, too. I want you to know without my explanations. I want you to see through me so you see the towers rising and evaporating for yourself, and look closer than I do, sometimes. I don't want to have to reconstruct them for you.

Is that too much to ask? I know you are doing what you can, really I do. You can't change your vision. There are no glasses that would let you see through my eyes, or let your gaze penetrate my constructed face. I can make you see, by externalizing. You listen, and I give you credit for it. But I wish that you saw, already, into me. I want you to understand without my having to explain.

Is that too much to ask you for? Is that too much to ask life for?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I just discovered that the Veritas Forum has recordings of their talks posted online. I want to listen to them all!!! I mean, just look at these topics: The Plurality of Religions, Biblical Religion and the Sacred Feminine, Physics and the 6 Day Creation, ... Mmm. Ideas are so tasty.

[This post is a good demonstration of how I fall in the intersection of the set of Christians and the set of Nerds.]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"You know what I figured out today? Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I have for myself."--Jamie (Mandy Moore) in "A Walk to Remember"

I really do have a hard time imagining the possible, and even knowing what I really want, because I am afraid to hope for something that might not come true. I would rather not hope at all than risk being disappointed--which is a major problem. But I do have expectations, even if I don't have wild, beautiful dreams. I have plans, and modest hopes, and ideas about what seems achievable, and I cling to them. They are all I have, after all!

"If you do not feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great." --John Piper, A_Hunger_for_God

But maybe I actually have far more available to me. Maybe God can take better care of me than I can take care of myself. Maybe my vision is limited and overly cynical. Maybe I am too hesitant. (On Sunday, my pastor asked us: "When was the last time you failed because you took a risk, out of faith?" Peter sank when he walked on water, but he had the faith to be in the position to fail.) Just because I don't see a better possibility doesn't mean there isn't one. Just because it's not what I expected doesn't mean it's not good. Maybe I set my standards too low. Maybe my eyes are closed to what could be.

"To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever."--Paul of Tarsus (Eph. 3:20-21)

Maybe the world is bigger and more beautiful than I imagine. Maybe the fates are kinder than I think they are. Maybe I'm lucky. Or maybe God really is in charge of everything, like I say I believe, and maybe He really does love me, like I try so hard to know.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I am homesick. I think it's because I am afraid of what's here.

I am afraid of where I am going. What am I doing? How do I deal with these situations? What is it that scares me about the possibilities, about that particular interaction, about growing closer, about talking and talking and talking, about staring?

I don't know. All I know to do is to write, and sleep, and hope. I know to face the things I want to run from. But the truth is that I want to run away, home, to the warm weather and my own room, to silence, to the mountains and the beach. I want to run 3000 miles and 3 hours of time difference away. (Difference: I cannot quantify how much difference there is between us. When you care about all the same things, how big a problem is it that you seek them in completely different ways?) I want physical and temporal distance to keep me safe, to be the guards so I don't have to guard myself, to be barriers so I don't have to erect them myself. I don't want to push you away, but I also can't seem to let you in. What is it about the way we interact that makes me feel burdened? Why am I afraid, when this is everything I thought I was looking for?

I want to be home, I want to be a child, I want life to be simple. Nothing is wrong, but something is wrong, and I can't name it.

But maybe the real reason I'm homesick is just that it's been a month. Maybe it's just that it's March and the snow is pouring down. The sky doesn't exist today; it is all full of snow. No such thing as space. A snowflake occupies every place--just like person occupies every place in my mind, in my schedule. I am sick for solitude. I am sick for the familiar, for the family. I have never thought of myself as a fearful person, but I find I have more in common with Much-Afraid than I realized. When will I find my hinds' feet and reach the High Places? I'll stop pretending: it's not the snowy weather or the number of weeks away that make me long for home, but the climate of my soul and the number of fears in my heart.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Disclaimer: Dear reader, please don't take this as addressed to you, but as a statement of this writer's struggles between reserve, expressiveness, false love (based on what I feel), true love (the I Cor. 13 kind), self-control, et cetera sentimentae.

The truth is, I miss you, and I don't know when I'll find a friendship like ours again. Maybe never: not because "we had something special" but because you are special. Each person is unique; each friendship--two unique people coming together--is unique. There may be someone else who resembles you in various relevant characteristics, but there is only one of you.

But I can never say this to you. I don't want to hurt you again by creating premises for false hope. I don't want to foster delusion. I don't want to make your wishes wrestle with your reason. I want to make things better but the only ways I know how to make you feel better will ultimately make things worse. Real love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things. Real love protects.

Ultimately, I have to face the truth that I don't know how to love the way love is meant to be done. Agape is out of my power, no matter how well-intentioned I am.

But there is hope, because "It does not depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Romans 9:16). By the grace of God: real, hard, discerning, consistent, far-seeing, selfless love does happen. So, Lord, I am waiting.