Sunday, August 29, 2010

That's Life

Life is so interesting in how it moves by us while we watch from behind these eyes. Somewhere it is all being recorded and stored away in the most amazing computer ever conceived, an organic web of cells that contains not only sights, but true 4D. It is not designed for access at will though, only certain events will easily coalesce in its lightrooms. Events written in emotion will often lay like a projection on water's surface, clearer images cast by the light of love and hate, lesser visions cast their recollections ever deeper below the surface. Our retrieval, like our lungs, has limitations. We can only go so deep.
This is one reason that I want to teach myself to feel things. I want to remember those things that should remain. This post will be a brief listings of just some of the things that I hope will stay with me:

- Friday morning we took some students to Tung Chung for a friendly basketball tourney organized by the police. The tourney was cool, but the ride back was amazing. We bused to Mui Wo and took a sampan across to Cheung Chau. Sampan rides are everyday for me now, but a night cruise is a rarity. A night cruise on a clear night even rarer. I sat on a chair on the bow and drank it in the whole way back. The stars above, and the city lights of Hong Kong in the background off our port side, beyond Hei Ling Chau's glowing prison lights. All it takes is remembering back to who I was, and where I was not even so many years ago. How did I ever get here! So sublime.

- Got the call late in the day early last week to go with one of the brother's as an escort to his mother's birthday dinner. English is not on the menu. He is Thai and Chinese. His family is wonderfully warm and inviting to this necessary stranger who must come with their son. As we sit in their little store with the aunts, one uncle, some cousins, and a genuinely gregarious grandfather I am fed some pre-dinner desserts of Ferrero Rocher© and a refreshingly sweet mango coconut dish. This eased what I anticipated to be an uncomfortable forty-five minute wait before we left for the restaurant. When we did sit down at the restaurant the uncle went after his young nephew with a merciless ribbing that entertained everyone at the table, especially the young cousins who gripped their sides as they laughed. I couldn't help but laugh even though I didn't understand a word. Grandpa kept making sure that my bowl was loaded up with abalone, prawns, crab (with egg and Chinese wine), and he wasn't even sitting next to me. It was an absolute blast.

- This morning I had to go into the city early to get some stuff for my son's birthday party, and while I was waiting for the fairy back I sat and ate a quick breakfast with a coffee at the Star Ferry pier in Central. Buddhist monks frequent this area, because just like sharks at the edge of a reef, they know there'll be food here. Food in the form of pasty white foreigners too travel giddy to know that this guy is just a religious scam artist without a cable show. He hands them some little trinket and then tells them that he needs money for his monastery, which they usually hand over. The guy I watched today didn't even try to fake humility, and clearly was agitated with how long it took for the gwai lo (鬼佬) to figure out that he wanted cash. The usual 100HKD (~$13CAD) was handed over and off the respective participants went. By his attitude I figured this guy needed the cash for his morning coffee fix. I wanted to yell,"You know the guy's a fake, right!?". Couldn't bring myself to do it though. Maybe next time.

- This one I did not witness, but my wife and daughter relayed it with such intensity that I had to include it here. When my daughter came to the dormitory to drop off some clothes for me she saw our elderly neighbor whacking a bamboo pit viper into Nirvana with a long stick; probably bamboo. These brilliantly fluorescent green visitors are venomous and aggressive, but no more so than our aged neighbor who stands right around four feet high when she can straighten up, and that last happened on her 80th birthday. My oldest ran back into the house to tell my wife, about the goings on outside and when they arrived back at the scene granny was still whacking the thing. Apparently the buddha had not yet confirmed the viper's arrival in bliss. When she was finally satisfied that the reptile was no more she picked it up and disposed of its carcass, which my daughter said was dripping blood from its crushed cranium. I'll have to remember to keep the hissing to a dull roar the next time I saunter by her house.

There are more that I could write, but I'm gonna save them for a different glass of wine and free time. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

God & A/C

We are truly blessed to live where we do. It comes with its challenges to be sure, but the sweet upsides cover a multitude of 'sins'. One of these is the fact that we live five minutes from Kwun Yam Wan beach.
It was on my journey there today that I had a really cool thought. The short cut to the beach takes us through the grounds of one of the numerous temples on our little island. I grew up in the bible belt, but we had nothing on this place where there are temples littered on every path and byway with hundreds of little shrines to boot. As I walked past the open doors I thought I heard the hum of an a/c unit busily chilling the interior of the building. The first thought that struck me was that these gods may need a/c, but my God does not. After this the next thought was about all the nicely air conditioned churches all around the world where Christians gather in comfort to meet their God. This actually caused me to laugh, because our God truly does not need a/c, but we do. The only reason we cool the building is for our comfort, yet for some reason we still think that we come to the building to meet with God. It got me thinking about how messed our thinking is regarding Sunday mornings, and how much detox we need to go through.
Now I don't think that anyone really thinks that we set the climate control to please God, but our view of the sacredness of these places that we meet in definitely hint at a subliminal doctrine that I believe is undermining our true foundations. The importance of the building and the Sunday morning program has in many ways taken the place of the importance of the people who are gathering in the building. I guess that my first thought when the a/c breaks down would not be about how many people in the building can't even afford a/c in their own homes, it would be a thought about my personal discomfort, and how it will distract me from the experience that I came to enjoy. I know this to be true, because it actually happened once.
God was with me when I climbed out of bed on Sunday morning. He was there with me in the shower. He heard all my conversations with my family. He saw the look on my face as I missed yet another green light. He knew my thoughts. None of this changed when I walked through the doors of my local church. The one thing that did change was that there were a whole bunch of other people who were (and are) known by God there at the same time. Why is it then that in my mind, whether consciously or subliminally, I felt that something changed? I may have even said something as silly as,"Wow, the Spirit is thick in here today!". Huh? Did I think He was contained in this little building? Did I? Do you? Not any more.
This is why people who come to a new church may feel ignored. The other people who are there came to meet God, not them. Meeting these folks is meant for the foyer if we have time, not during the service when they may distract me from my 'experience'. I have got to be kidding me! I say it that way because I discover this thinking in myself all the time. I see it at the school where I work when they have a morning worship service with the students and I kindly bow out because it is all in Cantonese. Our head staff member, who was a student once himself, will unfailingly invite me to join, and try to get someone to translate for me. He doesn't do it for any other reason than that he knows that the fellowship is what it is truly all about. I tend to forget that with my oh so western, churchified mindset. I need to detox so badly.
Church is not about comfort. At least not the kind that comes easily. It is about the comfort we receive as we give it out. It is the comfort of the nearness of God who draws near in the fellowship between broken people. Sure you may get a warm fuzzy when you shut everyone else out and go "into the worship zone", but that pales in comparison to the filling that happens when you embrace someone in need, or a stranger, or actually find someone who isn't afraid of really hearing how you are doing, because they have prioritized their Sunday lunch date in a Spirit led fashion. Think about it. Has any of those things happened to you? How long did it take for the glow of that to wear off? It may have been emotionally, and physically draining, but there is nothing like it. Maybe the reason that restaurant servers say that the church crowd is the worst part of their day is that we come out of church feeling smugly superior from our "personal encounter" with God. Think about it again; Jesus went off by Himself to spend that intimate time with the Father. The rest of His life was about engaging people, and it was exhausting not refreshing. So what am I doing? Why am I going to church to be refreshed? Why am I not refreshed when I walk in after being alone with the Father like Jesus, and ready to engage?
I have a long way to go.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Simple Thoughts From A Simple Mind

Just got home early in the morning from a very late night out that spurred a fury of activity in a recently dormant mind. Bought what is so far a phenomenal book from and Irish author and watched Inception which had an Irish born actor as a central character, which may explain the happy melancholic mood I seem to find myself in. This evening brought so many thought s to the surface like shoots from fresh seeds after a spring rain. Tonight I felt frsh earth between my toes as I went out to see the verdany green of the new growth. The intoxicating scent of wet soil taking hold of my mind like a drunken sailor offering a tour of the evening's highlights.
Though there is a lightheartedness about how I describe all of this there is a certain weight to it as well. The book is about a conversation between a man digging his own grave and the man who is appointed to see him fill the hole in the cold earth of a European winter. The movie also bears a weighty message of the power of our own memories upon the course of our souls. In the book there is a wonderful statement from the protagonist when the invading armies come into view of his home in the shape of a tank:
What a terrible sound, that rumble. My house was paper, my skin water, my life transparent all of a sudden. I thought, I am going to die.
pg. 18 "Schopenhauer's Telescope" by Gerard Donovan
When I read these words I knew that I had a small taste of what he meant. That tenuous grip on a frail mortality in the face of imminent extinction is a place I have come across on occasion, both in imaginings and reality. Many evenings as I have struggled to slip into natural unconsciousness these thoughts have played out in my mind, leaving their tangible touch in the beads of sweat dotting my brow. Many times I have replayed the evening when I saw my life's blood spilling relentlessly from a facial wound inflicted by the steering wheel of a totaled Ford Pinto as I crawled away beneath the lamplight of a deserted onramp in the wee hours of a morning many years ago. The fragility of my life, and the foolishness of how I treated it has sent numerous chills through me. At the end of these thoughts there is, thankfully, the grace that has lead me to the safe harbor of my Father, but the trip easily grips my thoughts, and arrests spurious speculations of other, darker, possibilities.
This lead me to pondering the sparse crowds that populated the wee morning hours of a return trip to Cheung Chau after the movie. Pondering where their paths are taking them. Pondering what they have done with the knowledge the Father says He has given to all of us. Pondering as I looked out the window of the fast ferry at the barely slumbering city rushing by. This city rolls fitfully in a shallow sleep as it dreams, lusts, and clutches for the spoils of the next day, never reaching the rem realm where the Spirit seeds revelations into passing souls. Perhaps this is why it is the poor in spirit that Jesus said are blessed, they have relaxed their grip on the insanity of a somnambulist's dream in the face of an unrelenting reality. These are the ones who lift their eyes and see the door of heaven swung open wide on blood stained hinges. These are the ones who surrender the illusions for a taste of the real. These are the ones who light up like beacon's at Christ's invitation to come and find the eternal quenching of their thirst in Him alone. The surrendered ones.
Oh to be more fully surrendered and forever leave the delusional meanderings of this world. To embrace the knowledge of the grave as Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 enjoins:
1A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.
2It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
3Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
4The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Fearsome words in a slumbering age. Cold water to a parched soul.

The Starbuck view where I delved into "Schopenhauer's Telescope"

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Evolution Of My Thoughts

Not even sure where to go with that initial thought. Not even sure why it is such a charged subject sometimes. I do understand why most of the time, but today is not one of them. I was reading a book called "Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism" by James Rachels, which is an interesting enough read if you like scientific/philosophical books. I enjoyed it to a point. That point was when I could no longer stand the obvious bias in all the arguments the author presented both on his own and the arguments of Darwin's he regurgitated. The one that I found the most humorous was the argument of Darwin against the existence of God based upon the presence of evil. The argument goes that if there is an all-powerful, all-good God out there, and He is responsible for all of creation then why is there so much evil, and why is there so much perverse evil? This was a strong reasoning of his against the existence of a god, and particularly the God of the bible. It is understandable why this made sense to him. It is understandable why so many educated people will also buy this line of reasoning. The simple truth is that the implications of the presence of God in the universe are to overwhelming to consider. The loss of a personal godhood for these people is a horrific thought, tantamount to suicide in a physical, soul-ish, and intellectual sense of the word.
The argument of the presence of evil makes no sense whatsoever, because without the presence of God as a plumb line there is no true evil. Whatever is evil to you may not be evil to me. Pol Pot certainly didn't see himself as evil, and even if he did there was not enough power in this realization to stop him. There have been many people who have steeped themselves in what we would term heinous evil, but have not seen their actions as wrong. If evolution is true where is the plumb line? Mr. Rachels says that Darwin even felt that the evil suffered by nature was too much to accept that there could be a god allowing all of it. Of course if there is only evolution then where does the idea of suffering come from? Are we to weep about survival of the fittest? What about diseases and blights that wipe out populations thereby allowing another species to thrive? Is this evil? Is it suffering? How could it be? If the universe is as evolutionists say it is, then please don't tell me that there is real evil, or even real good. There is only existence, and what you can get out of it. If I am stronger, smarter and well armed I can take whatever I want from you, and evolution will not support me, or admonish me, because it is a simple process not an entity. There is nothing moral about the universe apart from God, so please don't explain away God by one of the very measures of His presence. Even if that measure happens to be the presence of evil.
I have always said that I don't mind someone saying that they want nothing to do with God. To me that is an honest assessment of their true position. What I have always hated are the ludicrous lines of reasoning people want me to swallow in their attempts to explain away the God who terrifies them. At least then they wouldn't have to sound so silly.