Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book Review: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

It always seem like Donald Miller's writing are tailored for me as life progresses. His previous works include the best-selling Blue Like Jazz & Searching for God Knows What. While expressing non-religious thoughts on religion has been his bread and butter for the last few years, this new book seeks to enhance one part of our lives which often goes unnoticed and undeveloped: Story.

Not wanting to give just a synopsis and thus ruining this reading experience for others, I can tell you that this book is definitely worth the price you pay for it. Perhaps Rob Bell says it best in describing this work as "disturbing." It's not made to make you feel warm and fuzzy, but instead rather introspective and contemplative. Basically, this book causes Miller (and the reader) to reexamine their own lives in the context of writing a story.

Of course, you cannot start the story of your life when you are in the middle of living it. Instead, Miller challenges himself and the reader to see how their stories have developed so far, the challenges and antagonists as well as the encouraging moments and the protagonists that we come across during life.

If anything is the object of ire in this book, it is the notion of complacency. I remember reading in a devotional excerpt from C.S. Lewis where he describes the notion of stagnancy in the life of a person, comparing it to that of an egg. For Lewis, a person cannot fully be "alive" and "complacent" at the same time. In going on with his metaphor with the egg, he states that an egg cannot simply remain an egg, for it must either hatch into a chicken or go bad and rot.

In many ways, Miller proposes the same thing. The challenging and uncomfortable life is the life worth living. Citing his and others examples of the struggles of mundane existence being transformed by challenging circumstances, the reader feels an upsurge of ambition rising in their veins with each paragraph they read.

When all hope seems lost, that is when you simply turn a page in life. Who says you can't begin writing a new chapter when you finish reading this sentence?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

R.I.P. Johnny Cash...6 years later

6 years ago on this date, the Man in Black died. He was able to meet the God that he had often ran from, but always found a way back to. Its a beautiful spiritual life that many of us can find similarities too. After all, we're all a bunch of prodigal sons and daughters anyway. Its just up to us to find our way back.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Top 5 Things About Summer 2009

For the past 7 weeks, I have been working as a TAC (Teaching Asst./Counselor) at NC Governor's School West on the campus of Salem College in Winston-Salem. The session ends in 2 days (sat. 7/25) and I decided to reflect on some of the experiences that I have had in the last 2 months.

(these are in particular order, thus numerical connotations mean nothing)

1. Teenagers have changed little since I was here at GSW in 2004. In fact, they are very much the same. From being possessed with the opposite sex to their seemingly apathetic attitudes towards advancement of any kind, most teens are basically the same as they have been for many years now. Perhaps the only thing that has really changed is the fact that when they meet someone like me for the first time, "Sir" is the kind of response I get from them. Oh, to only be young again.

2. I had the chance to meet and talk with one of the speakers we had this year at GSW. Dave Chameides spoke on sustainable practices to help the environment. Not only is Dave a Hollywood/Television director & cameraman but a great speaker and guy who was actually interested in the dodgeball clinic i was teaching the day he left. Dave's presentation was not political/arrogant or any other negative adjective, but informational about how we can all take steps to not "stop problems" but to take ourselves out of the problem itself by refusing to continue unsustainable practices.

3. The age disconnect (or lack thereof) between me and the students. Of course, being 5 years older than the oldest students creates some barriers between me and my residents, i was surprised to find my residents playing the Nintendo 64 one day, wondering exactly how old they really were when it first came out. Luckily, Super Smash Bros. & Tony Hawk's Pro Skater can translate to any generation.

4. The Refectory food is still horrible. I would hate to know how much of my paycheck I have already blown by eating out so much to avoid the cafeteria at Salem. However, such desperation is not all bad, for instance, as I was able to discover such fantastic Winston eateries like Downtown Deli (the best crab cakes around) and Mr. Barbecue (whose Peach Cobbler will make you want to go behind the counter and hug the owner its so good). Thanks to these food adventures, I will leave Winston with memories & a few added pounds.

5. Recession problems affect every facet of life, even if they are not visible. As Governor's School risks funding cuts & unpopular initiatives such as charging students to attend are being debated before the NC General Assembly, the realities of these economic realities are hitting home for many here, including students and faculty. 

Between now & the beginning of Divinity School, I will be able to experience some more great things like Camp Dixie, Georgia, the beach & other people & places.

Thanks Winston-Salem, it's been fun. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Empty Nest

With the defection of senior senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) to the Democratic party, many are left wondering how this could impact, possibly negatively, the chance that the Dems could garner a 60-member majority in the Senate (if Al Franken holds his lead) and thus be able to rule without the minority being able to filibuster their efforts.

Of course, the question many of the pundits are caught up in asking is "what will happen now?" but I believe a more apt question to pose would be "how did we let this happen?"

Let me explain.

Specter, a 5-term Senator up for reelection next year in 2010, is one of only a handful of moderate Republicans still in Congress. With the push within the party to radicalize it's base to right-wingers instead of maintaining a welcome sign for all who believe in smaller and less intrusive government many of these moderates have been pushed out of the party altogether through primaries and in-house bickering.

Like anything in life, when there is no room left open for dissent and compromise, bad things will happen. When narrowing ideology forces people to either accept the status quo or jump ship, things are definitely not heading in the right direction.  However, this problem is not exclusive to the GOP, as many southern (blue) Democrats have faced such conflicts from the growing and very powerful liberal base in their party. The polarization in Washington during the last 15-20 years has caused throngs of Americans to lose hope in compromise, in politicians, and even our system of government.

This is not to say that Specter himself is not to blame for some of his own criticism, citing that he would have not survived the GOP primary in his state next year if he had stayed in. Instead, he has sought to keep his job by switching sides and running the chance that his base (and then some) in Pennsylvania will keep him in D.C. for 6 more years.

Maybe between now and then, they can actually work on creating balance instead of ballistic rhetoric towards one another.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

End of the Line

The writing stopped. The scanning of the tiny, marked bubbles was finished as I laid down my scantron with the wind rising around it as I firmly pressed it away from my hand.

And like that, my undergraduate education was over.

The major things in life always have a tendency to vacate us, not with a whirlwind of commotion, but more than likely a whimper. Walking out of class today, it was hard to imagine that a journey I had began in August of 2005 would end so quickly just 4 short years later. But, as time can tell, the best times of our lives also go by the quickest and in the end we remember the short good times, instead of the drawn out periods of inactivity and ignorance. 

Sure, I'll be back at Campbell in August to begin anew in graduate school, but the spectre of this time will still linger. As old faces give way to new ones, and those who I have grown to seeing day in and day out shuffle their feet out of this place, I will remain. And for that reason, I'm not sure if it would be worse to graduate and move elsewhere or to remain and see your life change in a non-changing environment. 

But let today worry about itself, and let tomorrow deal with it's own issues then. Because I'm done with school and how sweet it is!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thank You for Being A Friend

Usually, I keep my posts on here to 1 per day, but something that has occurred today has made me break my own rule. That event is the death TV actress Bea Arthur at the age of 86.

My roommate has very electic tastes, especially when it comes to music and television. So, on one day last year when he was watching the Golden Girls, I just took him to indulging himself in geriatric humor with 4 old women. In short, I wrote the entire series off as an attempt to lure older viewers to television.

Was I ever wrong.

On the one day I decided to give it a chance, I was shocked with how much I liked the show. The humor, the characters, the outrageous St. Olaf stories, they all connected with me and what I found to be funny. But one thing that struck me about the show was the relationship between Dorothy Spornak (Bea Arthur) and her mother Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty).  Their wit and sharpness created an impeccable duo that TV will never be able to recreate between a daughter and a mother in the golden years of their lives.

Bea Arthur was funny, and she knew how to keep a straight face so that the audience could laugh for her.  Though she's gone now, she will still be with me from 8-10am every weekday on the Hallmark Channel.

Thanks for being a friend.

Take Me Back to Paradise

With the temperature above 90s degrees and the school year concluding in less than 5 days, the summertime is rapidly approaching us. For those living here in the south, this means a time of great heat, humidity, and mosquitos.  Hopefully, my summer outlook will take me over the southeast as my friends and I embark  (hopefully) on trips to the beach, Nashville, and the 7 weeks I will be spending in Winston-Salem for my job this summer. I love summer if not for the weather then for the freedom it affords who can take part in it.

Growing up, summertime meant days spent at the local pool, late nights in the neighborhood playing freeze tag, and the sweet aroma of charcoal grills. This summer, I'm very much looking forward to looking back, as I return to the exact same place where I spent my summer 5 years ago at Governor's School in beautiful Old Salem. The food, sights, and history always have a way of welcoming me back each time I visit. The long hot nights and the youthful and academic atmosphere help rekindle the past as well as spark interest in the future. 

But for now, I must embrace my last undergrad collegiate studies and the heat swell of the spring.