Category Archives: Uncategorized
In honor of the spookiest month of the year, I thought I’d do a few posts on all things creepy and crawly. Let’s take a break from serious subjects and have some horror filled fun, starting with R. L. Stine’s famous horror series Goosebumps.
When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to read Goosebumps. At least not until I was like, 10 or 11 or so I suppose. My older brother was allowed to read them, but I had to wait and that drove me crazy. I’d watch my brother read through a stack of books with the most fantastically creepy covers and I’d seethe with envy. If you ever read Goosebumps you know what I mean about the covers. Sometimes the covers were better than the story underneath! They had brightly colored monsters, haunted masks, BBQing skeletons, giant hamsters, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, everything a kid could want! I’d see them sitting all in a row at the local library and look at each cover one by one. I may not have been allowed to read them, but who could stop me from looking? My parents didn’t want me reading them because they didn’t want me to have nightmares. My dad in particular was very protective of us when it came to anything scary and supernatural. Still, I can remember “borrowing” a Goosebumps book from my brother, crawling under my bed, and reading it by flashlight. When I was finally allowed to read them openly I devoured them. I read just about every Goosebumps that our local library had.
The first one I ever read, or at least the first that left any deep impression on me, was Goosebumps #2 Stay out of the Basement. I can still remember the story clearly: a scientist orders his two kids to stay out of the basement where he keeps his laboratory. He starts acting strangely, and when the kids finally do go down they discover…that he’s been slowly turning himself into a human/plant hybrid monster! I can’t quite remember what happened after that, but man did that book give me chills. The thought of human becoming something so inhuman as a plant was creepy enough, but that it was their own father took the cake. I didn’t know what I would do if my own father turned himself into a monster. And look at that cover (featured below)! I knew when I saw that cover that I was in for something great.
As I look back on Goosebumps I have a lot of good memories. The Haunted Mask, Don’t go to Sleep, Monster Blood, The Cuckoo Clock of Doom, Say Cheese and Die, Why I’m Afraid of Bees, How I Learned to Fly; these were some of my favorites. To be sure they were cheesy, silly, and as the series wore on (and the publishers goaded R. L. Stine to write them faster and faster) the quality did suffer. But I was too young to think that they were written badly. For me they were an outlet for my own love and fear of all things creepy, spooky, and monstrous. A safe outlet too, for no matter how badly the stories ended (and few ended happily for the protagonist) I knew that I was safe. This was fantasy, not reality; a parallel universe of exaggerated colors and shapes that I could peek in through the cover of a worn paperback.
Just for fun, here’s my favorite Goosebumps cover: the story was pretty mediocre, but that giant tongue still gets me every time!
I’ve been wondering what would happen if people were more honest with their wedding vows.
I think part of the problem is that many people have forgotten that they are “vows” in the sense of “formal and binding promises made before witnesses.” If I tell my wife that I’ll pick up some eggs at the grocery store on the way home from work and I fail to do so, that’s no big deal. If I promise her that I will pick up the eggs and neglect to do so, it’s a bit more serious. I mean I did promise, and a man is only as good as his promises. Now if I went before my in-laws, looked my wife straight in the eyes, and said “I solemnly vow that I will pick up some eggs on my way home from work” and I space out and forget, that’s a much bigger deal. It’s not even about the eggs at that point; what kind of person goes to the trouble of vowing to do something and then doesn’t pull through?
Of course, I might get some forgiveness out of the fact that I simply forgot what I was going to do. I mean, not much since I went to the trouble of making that vow thing so I should at least be expected to write it down on a sticky note or something, but still. In the case of marriage we’ve got a situation where the only way to break the vow is to perform a conscious act, whether that’s filing for a divorce or sleeping with the neighbors. Yet people break their marriage vows all the time. Many people treat it like it’s no big deal. “We weren’t happy anyone, so we got a divorce.” Okay…but what about that vow you made? You know, the one that had something about bad times and sickness and the like? Didn’t you mean the words that were coming out of your mouth?
And that’s the problem. A lot of people don’t mean a word of their vows. They’re just a ceremony that you go through, like getting rice lobbed at your head or shoving cake into your spouse’s face. Both of them knew beforehand that divorce was a legitimate option for ending their partnership. Which is fine, I guess, but dang does it seem dishonest. Why lie to a member of the clergy (or justice of the peace) in front of your extended family? Come on, people change their vows all the time. Why not be simply honest? Maybe say “I swear to stick this out until one of us is no longer happy, or in love, in which case we’ll file for divorce and go our separate ways.” I don’t like divorce, but at least you’re being up front with everyone. Not to mention keeping your honor in case you do divorce.
It doesn’t seem like many people care about honor these days. When you promise to do something you should do it. If you make a freaking vow to an official in front of multiple witnesses and ostensibly (unless you go for a more secular ceremony) God himself shouldn’t you take that a little seriously?
So I’m in favor of honest wedding vows. When I got married I made sure I was ready to commit to the entire vow. I even tweaked a few parts of it, slightly. My wife and I don’t believe in divorce; we’re both willing to stick it out and try to keep our marriage healthy. If you believe differently that’s fine. But for the sake of honor and honesty, can you at least be upfront about exactly what you’re vowing to do? Please?
I promise I’ll appreciate it.
I hate to put up posts that, in the end, amount to nothing more than “Sorry I haven’t posted much, here’s my excuse.” It’s bad blogging etiquette, and you run the risk of having more excuse posts than actual content. But I feel I owe you all at least some kind of explanation. My posting schedule has fallen through the floor lately, and I know exactly why, but there isn’t much I can do about it.
The reason is malaise.
Malaise is a word that defines a general sense of feeling unwell. It’s the kind of amourphous unsettled feeling you get on the edge of a flu, the kind of thing people feel when they tell others that they’re “feeling funny” or the like. In my own case I don’t know how much of it is physical and how much is mental. On the one hand my wife got sick last week, and over the past few days I’ve had the occasional light headache or slightly sore throat that typically indicates sickness may be coming. But I haven’t actually gotten sick yet, and this feeling has lasted for some time. I feel it most in my mind. It’s hard for me to get all my thoughts straight. It’s hard for me to remember why I believe the way I do about the things I care about the most. I don’t want anyone to read too much into that statement. I’m not having doubts about my faith or my philosophy. It’s just that I don’t feel as sharp. I don’t want to think very hard about much of anything. Everything feels kind of dull and muffled upstairs. I get along fine with day to day tasks, or participating in conversation, but the gears and wheels that run the contemplative and abstract parts of my mind seem to slowed to a near halt. Which is bad for the blog, because those are the parts I use most while writing posts. I get ideas for blog posts but they don’t come to any kind of fruition. It’s hard to put the pieces together.
Writing it all out like that I can see that some people might begin to worry that I’m developoing some kind of mental illness. I want to assure you that I don’t think this is the case. I don’t feel like I’ve lost any capabilities, but rather that some things have become very tiring. That’s why I describe it as malaise: when I try to get my writing thoughts in order I feel like a man with a fever who is trying to take out the trash. He’s perfectly capable of doing so, but it takes a lot longer and he feels really tired afterwards and everything is kind of sticky and fuzzy and he’d rather be lying under the covers watching some kind of mindless sitcom and eating chicken soup.
Really, apart from any physical sickness I may or may not be harbouring, I think I’m just tired. I’ve been mentally tired for a few weeks now and the YEC evidences post wore me out even further. In the past I’ve focused on the philosophy behind YEC for a reason. I don’t want to argue about evidences. I’m not a geologist, I’m an amatuer writer who enjoys philosophy and expression among other things. I don’t really care much one way or the other whether you are a YEC or not. If I ever stopped being a YEC it wouldn’t really change all that much about my faith.
But I did get a request for a post on the best evidence for YEC, and I wanted to keep up my end of the bargain. So I made that evidences post and found myself locked in a seemingly unending thread of comments arguing about things that I never really wanted this blog to be about in the first place, and things that I’m frankly not qualifed to have much of an opinion on. And I find it so, so tiring. What’s worse is that I made it a two parter, and I just know that as soon as I put up another post on the subject it will be the circus all over again, and once more I’ll be spending all my energy arguing about something that I didn’t want to persuade anyone in particular aobut in the first place.
Needless to say, if anyone in the comments even mentions YEC or anything related to it on this post I’m going to incinerate it from orbit.
Did I mention that this mental maliase has also caused me to become a bit grumpier in my online interactions?
Anyway that’s what is up. I don’t know when I’ll get out of this funk. If I don’t post for a while you’ll know what’s up. And don’t be suprised if that YEC post never gets a part two.
Okay, this post has been a long time coming. I mentioned during my Swiftocracy post on the subject that I’d soon be writing on some of the physical, measurable, scientific facts that are better explained by a Young Earth Creationist model than the standard Uniformitarian model. Unfortunately soon after the last Swiftocracy post I was hit with a rather large project at work and soon lost almost all of my writing time. On top of that, I wanted to be sure to do this post correctly, with some research instead of simply from memory. Research that I didn’t have much time to do.
But here it is. It’s a summary, mind you, but a summary is better than nothing. Here are some of the best evidences that the Earth may be a great deal younger than we think.
You may have noticed that I used the world Uniformitarian to refer to the standard model of dating the Earth. The whole idea of Uniformitarianism is that the key to understanding the past comes though observing the present. With a few exceptions the natural processes we see around us today have been essentially the same throughout the history of our Earth. This idea came about in contrast to Catastrophism, which theorized that the Earth had been shaped by several massive, near global catastrophes throughout it’s history.
However the Uniformitarian model has some issues when you break it down. The first group of “evidences” I’ll list here are those that are difficult for the Uniformitarian model to explain, but explained easily if the Earth is much younger.
1. The Amount of Salt and Sediment in the Ocean
Just about all the salt you can taste in ocean water started out on land. When rainwater collects into rivers salts and sediments are dissolved and brought to the ocean. We can fairly accurately measure the amount of erosion that occurs each year; that is, the amount of sediment that is transported from land into the ocean via rivers and other processes. We can also fairly accurately measure the amount of salt that is added to the ocean each year. Once salt and sediment enters the ocean it almost never leaves, but simply builds up. About 20 million tons of sediment and 450 million tons of sodium are added to the world’s oceans each year¹.
The sediments pile up on top of the basalt rock of the ocean floor. The salt is absorbed into the water, and about 27% of the 450 million tons that are added each year end up leaving the ocean through various means. The other 73% remains. At the current rate of deposition, it would take less than 46 million years for the ocean to have achieved it’s current level of saltiness if it started with no salt at all². This is far less than the current stated age of the oceans, which is 3 billion years.
Similarly to our best modern knowledge only about 1 billion tons of sediment are removed from the ocean floor each year through plate tectonic subduction, which means that 19 billion tons simply accumulate each year. Following Uniformitarian assumptions (that is the assumption that the amount of sediment that is deposited now will be very similar to the amount that has always been deposited) it would only take 12 million years to build up the amount of sediment that currently exists. Again, that’s 12 million compared to Uniformitarian ocean age of 3 billion years. There is a massive amount of missing sediment, and no current explanation for where it all went.
The next natural question is how the YEC model fares any better, since 12 and 46 million years are a far cry from the 15 to 7 thousand year age that the YEC model proposes. Still, an integral part of the YEC model is that at some point the Earth was devastated by a worldwide flood event. This event, if it occurred, would have resulted in massive amounts of sediment and sodium being eroded in an extremely short period of time.
2. The decay of the Earth’s Magnetic Field
The Earth’s magnetic field is something that we have been able to accurately measure since the mid 19th century. Since 1845 regular and well documented measurements have recorded that the magnetic field appears to be exponentially decaying. Archeological measurements seem to indicate that the magnetic field was 40% stronger in the year 1000 AD than it is today. The earth is rapidly losing it’s magnetism, with a 1.4% decrease recorded in only three decades, between 1970 and 2000¹. These measurements tell us that the Earth’s magnetic field has a half life of about 1,465 years: that is, the field’s strength is reduced by 50% every 1,465 years. However, this has interesting results if you extrapolate this trend into the past, with the magnetic field effectively doubling every 1,465 years into the past. At that rate the magnetic field would be so powerful that only 20,000 years ago the heat it generated would prevent life from existing on Earth’s surface. In other words there is no way that the current rate of decay has been maintained over more than 4 billion years, not even close. There are two explanations for this. The Uniformitarian explanation is that a complicated series of currents in the outer core of the planet create a kind of dynamo effect that “recharges” the Earth’s magnetic field over time, and that this current decay is just part of an oscillation where the field goes up and down in strength. The YEC explanation is that the Earth’s magnetic field is caused by a simple current of molten metal that is gradually slowing down due to friction (think of a giant bowl of pancake batter that you’re stirring rapidly. If you remove your whisk the batter will continue to rotate in the same direction, but will eventually come to a stop. It’s the same principle).
In this sense the YEC model explains the facts we can measure today in a far simpler manner than the Uniformitarian model, which must posit a complicated continuously acting “dynamo” system in the outer core. I’ve also read that the YEC model better matches up with the electrical currents we can measure on the ocean floor, but since I am neither a geologist nor an electrical engineer I’m not going to go into that.
3. The Amount of Helium in the Atmosphere and in the Crust
One of the byproducts the radioactive decay of certain isotopes of uranium and thorium in helium. Helium is an extremely light gas, and is difficult to contain. Have you noticed that a helium balloon will slowly lose it’s lifting power over time, and that the balloon itself will seem to be shrinking? That’s because helium is an amazing escape artist and will slowly escape most materials that try to contain it. Rocks are no exception, so when helium is produced by radioactive decay the helium atoms will slowly make their way to the surface. We can measure this rate of escape pretty accurately.
However when certain geologists were drilling into Precambrian rocks in New Mexico they discovered samples of zircon crystals that showed something remarkable. They contained both uranium and helium within them; far more helium then should still be hanging around ¹. The helium contained within the zircons should have escaped over a maximum period of 100,000 years: however these zircons were from rock that was dated to be 1.5 billion years old. Using the confirmed rate of helium diffusion as a measuring device the zircons gave them a probable age of between 4,000 and 8,000 years old, fitting nicely within the YEC framework. As it stands the helium content of these zircons remains a puzzling mystery to the Uniformitarian model.
When helium escapes from rock, it enters the atmosphere. Some helium escapes into space, but for the most part it migrates to the upper atmosphere and remains. Given the current measured amount of helium escaping into the atmosphere the current levels of atmospheric helium would have accumulated in 1.8 million years. If a flood event occurred, followed by massive upheaval and tectonic activity (as the YEC model holds), then that could explain how that much helium escaped the crust in only 12 to 6 thousand years.
Hoo body, we’re at over 1,000 words already, and I’m only about halfway done. We’ll continue this on Wednesday.
¹M. Meybeck, “Concentrations des eaux fluvials en majeurs et apports en solution aux oceans,” Revue de Géologie Dynamique et de Géographie Physique 21, no. 3 (1979): 215.
²F. L. Sayles and P. C. Mangelsdorf, “Cation-Exchange Characteristics of Amazon with Suspended Sediment and Its Reaction with Seawater,” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 43 (1979): 767–779.
¹A. L. McDonald and R. H. Gunst, “An Analysis of the Earth’s Magnetic Field from 1835 to 1965,” ESSA Technical Report, IER 46-IES 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967).
R. T. Merrill and M. W. McElhinney, The Earth’s Magnetic Field (London: Academic Press, 1983), pp. 101–106.
¹R. V. Gentry, G. L. Glish, and E. H. McBay, “Differential Helium Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment,” Geophysical Research Letters 9, no. 10 (1982): 1129–1130.
One thing that never fails to amaze me is how different people can be. We live in a world filled with billions of people, who make up innumerable little communities that are part of millions of cultures, sub cultures, classes, ethnicities, etc. It’s shocking to realize that the vast majority of people on Earth have a completely different outlook from yourself. It’s surprising enough when just two people, who are part of the same culture, look at something and come to two completely different conclusions right off the bat.
This marvelous fact was once again brought to my attention just two days ago.
I was browsing around the internet when I came across an article titled “The Five Reasons You (Yes You) Should Embrace Fine Dining.” This caught my eye. I’m not exactly a fine dining kind of person. I like my food to be affordable. I scarf it down. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a one star restaurant, much less anything fancier. I know what a maître d’ is the same way I know what a wolverine is; from books and television, not actual experience. On the other hand this article was speaking to me. My interest was aroused.
The first item on the list was to “forget special occasions.” Fine dining shouldn’t be reserved for special days, they said. Life is an occasion and a night out at a fancy restaurant should be an event unto itself. Fair enough, I thought. Nothing wrong with that. Already my eyes were moving to the next list item, which was titled “Fine Dining is Affordable Luxury.” Here is where it’s at. My spirits rose with hope: perhaps fine dining is relatively affordable.
Then I read the first sentence: “Yes, when you start looking at check averages that hover above $200 per person before tax and tip, you start doing math in your head.”
Two…..$200 for a meal? Like just for a single person?
Before tax and tip?!
In retrospect I don’t know what I expected. But I know I didn’t expect that. I was shocked. If a meal costs $10 I think it’s on the pricy side. The most expensive meals I’ve ever eaten are well under $25 a person. That’s not hyperbole: I can’t think of a single possible situation in my life where my part of the check would have been more than $25, which for me is almost sinfully expensive. $200 per person? WHAT.
I told myself to calm down. There’s more to read. Perhaps $200 plates are for the really, really fancy places and this article is about to tell me the affordable price they promised. I was disappointed. Instead they merely tried to justify the expense. Which is fine, but doesn’t help me. I don’t care if the meal is really worth $200. My problem is that paying $200 for a meal is insane from my point of view. It’s incomprehensible. It’s like if someone offered to sell you a giant gold statue of yourself for $7 million dollars. You probably wouldn’t doubt that a giant solid gold statue was worth $7 mill; but you also would think that it’s ridiculous that someone would consider buying one a good idea.
Their final bit of advice was to put that $200 a person in perspective. “Break it down per hour: if you hit $250 per person you will most likely be dining for three-plus hours, roughly $80 per hour. You cannot get a spa treatment for that, nor a lawyer, nor a Ferrari, nor a weekend in St. Bart’s.”
I hate to wear the word out, but, WHAT?!
I don’t go to the spa! I don’t buy Ferraris! I’ve never even dreamed of taking a vacation to St. Bart’s. That’s a vacation for rich people. I dream of someday saving up enough money to visit Disneyland. That’s the height of my vacation dreams. To me, Disneyland is an expensive vacation that will require quite some time to save up for. St. Bartholomew’s isn’t even on the menu. I can’t think of an analogy that could express my dismay right now. It’s like….it’s like…it’s like TELLING SOMEONE THEY CAN AFFORD $200+ PER PLATE BECAUSE IT’S CHEAPER THAN A WEEKEND AT ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S. It is the ridiculous parody analogy! It is a reductio ad absurdum unto itself.
Now my point here isn’t to say “Look at this crazy person! He’s so out of touch with reality!” Because for him, and for thousands of other people his whole article makes perfect sense. They get it. To them I am the crazy person. I’m the one who is out of touch with reality. Honestly most of the time when we talk about “reality” we really mean “my own particular worldview that is unique to my culture, class, ethnicity, and time period.” When I read this article what struck me wasn’t how crazy its advice was but rather how far removed it was from my own life. For me going to Olive Garden is something reserved for a special occasion. The fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been in is Claim Jumper. Red Lobster is a luxury restaurant from my point of view. $200 a plate was never the realm of possibility for me. I don’t even know where I could find a restaurant like that: where are they? How would I find one? They don’t seem like something that exists in my world. Mentally I cannot place where a $200 a plate restaurant would be. I have to relegate such things to places I’ve never been: New York City, Paris, etc. It occurs to me that there is probably one in Seattle, but my brain can’t actually picture it.
Some of you may agree with me, and some may not. I actually would like to hear from both sides. Does anyone find my response to this article startling? If so, please comment. Though it can be a shock to my system I love to talk to people who exist in very different worlds from myself. I just wish I could talk to the author of this article. I’d love to understand his point of view.
A few years ago I read Their Eyes Were Watching God for some class or another. Near the end of the story the main characters find themselves living on the mud flats of Florida, harvesting beans for a living. They’re happy and while it’s harvest season they can make enough money to get by; and the harvest weather is beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky. Then one day a caravan of Natives goes through their area. The workers are used to seeing the Natives move inland before storm season hits, but this year the Natives are significantly early. The Natives warn the workers there that they’ve read the signs, and a terrible storm is coming, and coming earlier than usual. The workers dismiss the Native’s warning. After all the weather was fantastic, clear blue from horizon to horizon. The main characters get a little worried, but they know that every day they stay and harvest means more money for the off season. Their income is too much to risk on the possibility of a bad storm. So they stay and the weather holds out for another week before, naturally, the biggest storm of the century shows up, a huge lake bursts it’s banks, the flats are violently flooded, and thousands of people are killed. Who couldn’t see that coming?
When I read through that section I got really upset with the main characters. I wished that I could hop into the book and give the workers on the flats a talking to. I wished I could be in their place and tell everyone “The Natives have been here longer than anyone else; they know what they’re talking about. If you stay here you’ll probably die. As for me and my family, we’re moving inland.” Why did people have to be so foolish?
Lets leave the book and find a new scene; Anchorage, Alaska, two weeks ago. One day while driving to work my wife noticed some ice on the roads. We knew that we would need to acquire some studded snow tires. I’ve seen Anchorage in the middle of winter before: the ice never melts, it just builds up on the roads until there’s a good inch or two of compacted ice on top of the asphalt. I know there is some controversy over whether people should use studded tires, but if there is anywhere it is justified it’s up here. I knew that driving on Anchorage ice with my summer tires (which were already worn from driving all the way up here from Oregon) was foolishness of the highest order. Over the weekend I called local tire dealers for quotes until I found the best deal. Naturally even the best deal was a lot of money. Still, I knew I couldn’t go without.
Then the weather got nice. Anchorage was hit with some unseasonably warm weather. The skies were clear, the air was nice, and the roads showed no sign of icing. Still this was just a freak warm spell. Winter was still coming. The roads were still going to become little ice rinks before long. So naturally I thanked God for this buffer period and had the tires put on. Right?
Actually I let the warm weather lull me into complacency. I really didn’t want to spend that much money. I knew I had to, but I didn’t want to. So I just put it off. I stopped thinking about it. I enjoyed the warm weather.
When I got into the car this Monday there was ice on the windshield.
I spent the whole day cursing my own foolishness. I checked the weather report and it confirmed my fears: ice was coming, and a lot of it. I was putting myself in serious danger. I was putting my wife in serious danger. And it was all because I chose to ignore what I knew to be true because it was sunny and I wanted to save money.
In other words pretty much exactly like those workers in the story who I berated for being fools.
The moral of the story is that we are all susceptible to do foolish things. We are all wired on some level to believe that what we have now will last forever. It’s sunny today, so it will always be sunny. We want to believe that. Wisdom is putting such feelings aside and doing what you know needs to be done.
Otherwise the results could be lethal.
NOTE: I did manage to get some snow tires last minute, so don’t worry too much about me.
I’ve never really understood why someone would intellectually prefer nonexistence to existence.
I understand why someone might emotionally wish to cease existing. I’ve experienced some emotional lows in my time, and I’ve heard enough from people who suffer from severe bouts of depression to understand why they would want to end it all (one of the better depictions of depression I’ve seen can be found in two parts, here and here, moderate foul language warning). I can also understand conceptionally why someone might physically wish to cease existing. If someone suffers from severe chronic pain, or is dying slowly and painfully of some terrible disease, I can understand completely why they might desire oblivion. That doesn’t mean that I believe suicide (assisted or non) is alright: but I can completely understand the motivation behind it.
What I can’t understand is an intellectual desire for non-existence. I don’t understand why people who are in good health (both mentally and physically) can decide philosophically that non-existence is superior to existence. That they would be better off if they had never been born. It’s something I can’t wrap my mind around. It seems completely alien. I’m reminded of a passage from C.S. Lewis’ biography. He wrote that a certain idea (namely that the mind was an illusion created from a series of cause and effect responses in the brain) “was, and is, unbelievable to me…I mean that the act of believing what the behaviorist believes is one that my mind simply will not perform. I cannot force my thought into that shape any more than I can scratch my ear with my big toe or pour wine out of a bottle into the cavity at the base of that same bottle. It is as final as a physical impossibility.” I feel the same way about people who intellectually seek nonexistence. Its a shape my mind seems incapable of taking.
What’s ironic is that for most of his early intellectual life C. S. Lewis (a great role model of mine) was such a person. He wrote that as a young man “I was also…one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission.” I find it horrifying to imagine that death might end in annihilation and nonexistence: Lewis found it a comfort. “Death ended all. And if ever finite disasters proved greater than one wished to bear, suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian Universe was that it had no door marked Exit.”
I feel very similar to Lewis in many ways, but this is not one of them. I love life. For me there is no colder or more horrible fate than nonexistence. I’d rather burn in hell than cease to exist altogether. I’d rather spend my life in a tiny cell then be utterly destroyed. I’d rather be blind and deaf than thrown into the blackest of all possible nights. The very thought of annihilation terrifies me.
Instead I find myself agreeing heartily with G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton had an immense love of life. He said “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” I am intellectually thankful for each day I am given. I say intellectually thankful because I’m not always emotionally or physically thankful. It’s hard to be thankful on the day that your grandfather died, and it’s hard to be thankful after a day of constant pain in a hospital bed. But if I reflect on things I am intellectually thankful that I still exist. That I can still see the trees, and smell the grass, that I can feel the air on my skin; even if it is too hot and sticky.
I love existing. I can’t understand why anyone would intellectually prefer oblivion to existence. Please comment below if you disagree: I’d love the opportunity to try and understand your point of view.
Today, I want to talk to you about books.
As far as book titles go, Orthodoxy is pretty intimidating. It sounds like a fat and dusty textbook kept on the shelf of a seminary somewhere, waiting to devour it’s next victim with the power of pure tedium.
Fortunately, it isn’t.
Orthodoxy is actually one of the many books created by G. K. Chesterton, a prolific writer and journalist from the late 19th early 20th century. He was well known and well loved during his lifetime, but it seems that his works have been largely forgotten by the popular culture of our day. Still those who do find his work often become fans. Individuals from as wide a range as C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Philip Yancey, Fulton J. Sheen, Jorge Luis Borges, Marshall McLuhan (and for all you fellow Communication graduates out there, yes, it’s that Marshall McLuhan), and even Gandhi himself have all claimed that Chesterton’s writings had a deep impact on their life. In fact, it was only because of the joint recommendation of C.S. Lewis and Philip Yancey (through their own writings, naturally) that I decided to give Orthodoxy a try. I’m very glad that I did.
It’s an excellent book; not only because Chesterton is an accomplished and talented writer, but because it contains a perspective on reality that I never encountered before. Chesterton does not play his instrument to the tune that I am accustomed to hearing. Even though we are both orthodox Christians I find Chesterton saying the wildest and most outrageous things. The best example of this is a section of chapter four where he boldly states that
“When asked why egg turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’ clock. We must answer that it is magic. It is not a “law,” for we do nut understand it’s general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen…All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “Necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The shun shines because it is bewitched (pgs 57-58).”
When I first encountered that passage it made my head spin. It was so completely opposed to what I had been taught to value. I’m a romantic, and a lover of fantasy, but this seemed to much! Trees aren’t magic. The law of gravity isn’t magic! I felt offended. It was a good offense, because it made me realize concepts I hold that I’ve always taken for granted. Chesterton is doing this constantly. I’ve read many writers of apologetics but Chesterton is some other breed entirely. I can usually follow, and sometimes predict, what a writer is getting at. Chesterton surprises me almost continuously. His ideas seem fresh and unique because they are actually old and common: in other words, orthodoxy.
The book can be intimidating for many readers. It is an old book, and old books take care to read and understand. Still, Shakespeare does not lose its luster simply because its language is hard to penetrate. Age coats old works like layers of tarnish, obscuring their meaning: but if you’re willing to break through that tarnish you’ll find it shines as brightly as it ever did. The same is true of Orthodoxy, though you’ll certainly find it easier to read than Shakespeare. What the age of the book takes away from easy readability it adds in new perspective. There are things that we all take for granted because they are held in common at this point in time. In the past (and certainly in the future) people had different perspectives. Chesterton arguably had a unique perspective even compared with his own contemporaries. The funny thing is that Chesterton would insist that his perspective was not unique at all; that it was the common view held by the church for over a thousand years; orthodoxy. If it seems strange to us perhaps it is because we are more of a child of our own age than of all ages.
Long story short: it’s a great book, and you should read it if you get a chance.
Sometimes discouragement comes your way. Sometimes you feel that there is little you can do. Other days you don’t even know what the goal is. What are you striving for? Why were you made this way, placed in this spot, and brought to this point? What use are you in the world? Some days you feel like Solomon, who had everything we humans hold dear in life, wealth beyond compare, peace and security, wisdom and knowledge, all delights of the flesh, and still bitterly wrote “All is meaningless under the sun.”
Sometimes I think that money would solve my problems. Ever since I was a child I had a favorite fantasy, as simple as it was improbable: that I would be walking along some day and suddenly find a neatly stacked pile of hundred dollars bills falling from the sky and landing right in front of me. It was a favorite fantasy whenever I wanted something I couldn’t possibly afford. When I became a college student the fantasy came to mind not when I wanted material possessions but instead when I wanted security. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to know that everything would be okay, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to find a part time job every semester.
All that is foolish in more ways than I can count. I am secure. God has taken care of me, and will take care of me in the future. My first two years of college my needs were very small, and I managed to find a job for one semester out of each year. I wanted to work year round, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t land a steady job. Then suddenly, when my needs increased, I managed to find an excellent school year round part time job on campus. Then over the summer, working at Mt.Ranier for an excellent wage (considering my lack of experience), I realized that my needs were about to become even greater. I asked God to provide; and suddenly this last year I’ve found myself with three different paying jobs on campus. God provides. He never gives me more than I need (which starts to drive me mad with worry) but he never lets me fall either.
It’s also silly because money doesn’t make you any happier. It doesn’t give you fulfillment or lasting security. Even if a million dollars fell from the stratosphere onto my front porch it wouldn’t guarantee a thing. I could be run over by a bus tomorrow. My apartment could burn down. My family could die in a car crash. Money can’t protect me from the troubles of the world.
Still I can’t help but fantasize about money. I wish I had enough that I could do whatever I wanted to do for a living, rather than what might pay the bills. I could write without having to worry about whether anyone will ever pay me for writing. I could make movies without ever worrying about getting a return on my investment. Money tempts me with the thought of such freedom. Yet those who have the most possessions always seem the least free. Businessmen pull in six figure salaries spend their evenings working late at the office and stress their hearts into an early grave, missing out on the benefits of the money they tirelessly earn. Money won’t make me free.
It is very strange. I have more than enough money, really. For someone my age I have taken care of my finances very well. I know friends who have casually let slip that they only have $12 to their name, until their next paycheck comes in. The last time my own bank account was that low was shortly after I opened it. Yet often all I can think about is “You’re graduating in only a few months. How will you get money? Where will you find a job? What are you going to do when your savings dry up?”
I can’t stand the uncertainty of it all! All my life I’ve never known what I was meant to do. I’ve pleaded to God to let me know what His plan is for my life. Even a little hint would be nice! Am I supposed to become a movie maker? Yeah right. There are millions of young people who want to be moviemakers, people who know more than me, have done more than me, are more talented than me, and still didn’t make the cut. Maybe just video then? Please. You don’t know the difference between an f-stop and a shadowbox. You don’t know how to do proper lighting, filtering, composition, or special effects. You haven’t even tried to make a video in almost a year. Who are you trying to fool. Am I supposed to become a writer? Oh sure. The last piece you tried to publish was rejected by everyone you tried. You’ve never published anything, and even if you do that’s not going to put food on the table. Alright, I’ll work in PR. Great. Work hard covering up the mistakes of some souless cooperation for the rest of your life. That sure is fulfilling work, if you can get it, which you probably can’t given your lack of experience. Fine then I’ll work for a nonprofit and help people. Who would take you? You aren’t going to jump into World Vision straight from college. You’ll end up working at some little nonprofit out there doing work you may not even care about for almost no pay with zero benefits. Well maybe I should become a history professor. Really? Kind of late for that revelation Sparky. You’ve been working on the wrong degree for that. On top of that, do you really want to spend four to six more years of your life getting a doctorate for a career you’re not even sure you want in a field that doesn’t guarantee you a job?
Maybe I’ll just lie on the couch and gather dust then.
Discouragement will always be there, I guess. Even Martin Luther King Jr. doubted himself. Most days I can shrug doubts off. Or at least shove them into the background of my mind. But on days like today they start to sour all my thoughts. I had a great post planned for today. But I couldn’t write it. I just stared at the screen too worried and tired and discouraged to even try. So I wrote this instead.
Writing can be terribly cathartic.
Hey there! You’re probably wondering why today isn’t a Storytime Friday, considering it’s…well Friday. The fact is that right now I’m both in my first week of school and still working nine hours a day at the park. Sunday is my last day and after that I won’t be so busy, but right now I’m swamped. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put off my updates. But this particular update will be pretty slim. If I can I’ll post the next section of the story over the weekend, but I can’t promise anything.
So what do you get today? You get the It’s All Good Kitty.
He’s just letting you know that it’s all good. I’ll see you later.