Remember…?

Remember in elementary school when we had to do those biographies?

Well, even if you don’t, I do.

1st grade, I did Albert Einstein.

2nd grade, I did him again. I think.

3rd grade I did Andrew Carnegie.

4th grade I did Grover Cleveland.

5th grade I did George H.W. Bush.

We didn’t do one in sixth grade, as I recall.

I didn’t question the purposes of doing these biographies as a child. I just figured,  “more busywork for busy people.”

But now, as I reflect on the past… I can recall things about each person. Well, except for Albert Einstein. I remember the presentation very clearly, though. I had a wig and I cut out a piece of it as a mustache. It fell off halfway through. We made clay bowls soon afterward and I remember Tucker scratched “E=MC2” on the bottom of his and the clay person thought it was mine because she knew I did Albert Einstein.

Andrew Carnegie’s father’s linen business failed while Andrew was a child. They lived in poverty for a long time, having recently come over from Ireland. Carnegie eventually dominated the steel industry, making millions of dollars. 90% of that went to charity. Apparently he was the first to open a library, too, but I don’t think that’s right anymore.

Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president. Coca-Cola was invented during his second term. He had to get secret surgery on the roof of his mouth because he had cancer.

George H.W. (Herbert Walker) Bush had two notable sons: George and John. One of his daughters died of leukemia. During WWII he worked on an aircraft carrier.

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Tell me, what was the point of all that?

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Two and a half years later and having read this draft… I now know. They had us look at famous people so we could model their lives after them. They want us to look at their traits of perseverance. Of classiness. Their success. It’s easier to tell a child to have a child follow in a major historical figure’s footsteps than to just tell him to have perseverance.

Clever, schools. Clever.

 

A tree falls in the forest

I saw a homeless man sitting on in the park on my way to school the other day. In Seattle this isn’t really an unusual occurrence. Homeless people are everywhere, and I usually don’t take too much note of them, but this one in particular caught my attention. Nothing about him was particularly remarkable. He was clearly drunk, and seemed lost, or as lost as a person can be when they have nowhere to go. He looked no different than the hundreds of other bums that littered the streets of my city. But as I walked past him, I took a second to look at him. Something about his posture seemed elegant, almost dignified. It was hard to tell through the layers of filth and tattered clothing, but it seemed to me like this man was once a somebody.  How he ended up drunk and sleeping in public parks, I’ll never know.

And then I did something I’d normally never do: I walked up to him and introduced myself. He didn’t seem to hear me at first, leaving me standing there looking like an idiot, but after a few seconds, he looked up at me. And then I saw something remarkable. For a split second, the drunken haze seemed to lift from his eyes.  He seemed to have a moment of clarity, like he was seeing the world for the first time.

“How did I get here?” He asked me.

“I don’t know”

And then, just as quickly as it came, the moment passed, and he was staring blankly out into the distance again. After that, I hurried off, giving the encounter little thought. I was going to be late for school.

 The End.

The man probably died within the next few years. Sleeping half naked in parks and spending every waking hour drunk doesn’t usually help prolong your life; homeless people tend not to live very long. In any case, I didn’t bother to give it much thought. Like I said, incidents like this aren’t uncommon in most major cities. These people are everywhere, and for the most part, they go ignored. Our stories intersected, and then went their separate ways, his ended shortly afterwards. And as far as I was concerned, that was it.

            But it wasn’t it for him. They say that when you die, time slows down and your life flashes before your eyes, and I have to wonder what flashed in his mind in his final moments. Death is an adventure in and of itself, isn’t it? I wonder if, in that brief moment when he realized where he was, he saw where he needed to go. I’ll never know.

When people talk about trees falling in the forest and no one being around to hear them, I often wonder if they really understand breadth of what that phrase is saying.  As English novelist C.S. Lewis said, “At every tick of the clock, in every inhabited part of the world, an unimaginable richness and variety of “history” falls off the world into total oblivion.” How insane is that?

Think of the famous Hubble Deep Field Image taken in 1995. I read somewhere that there are ~10,000 galaxies in that photo, and yet, more than 90% of the universe is empty space. And that picture only covers one thirteen-millionth of the night sky. That’s not even a fraction that we can realistically visualize. If we took another picture slightly to the left of that one, we’d be looking at another ~10,000 galaxies.

Now according to Big Bang cosmology, the observable universe consists of the galaxies that we can only observe from, because light from those objects has had time to reach us since the Big Bang. With each passing year, as technology improves (and more light is able to reach us), we can see a little bit deeper into space. One theory estimates that if our observable universe (which is already mind-bogglingly large) was the size of a quarter, the universe beyond our vision us would be about the size of the Earth.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image took 400 orbits and 800 exposures to take. There are over ten thousand visible galaxies in it. It’s impossibly big, and yet, in a cosmic context, it doesn’t even register on the radar. That is ridiculous. Think of all of the grand celestial miracles that happen daily, the creation and destruction of planets, suns, entire galaxies being sucked into impossibly massive black holes, going completely unnoticed; as if they never happened at all.

Even on our own Earth, in the darkest parts of our oceans or hidden deep in our rainforests, there are entire ecosystems that we’ve never discovered. Entire species have evolved and gone extinct without our notice. The vast majority of what goes on in the universe, and even on our own Earth slips underneath the radar of human perception, little droplets in a vast ocean of history. And that’s a scary thought.

When people talk about a “God of the Gaps”, they’re usually referring to a type logical fallacy in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence; i.e. there is a gap in understanding of some aspect of the natural world, therefore the cause must be supernatural. Seems rather disrespectful to an all-powerful creator God, no?

But when I hear that phrase, I think of something entirely different. My God of the Gaps is a God who watches over the gaps in history that no one else can watch. The God of the Gaps is present at the smallest miracles, from cell division to tiny chemical reactions, to the vast explosions and celestial movements of bodies on the other side of the universe where no human could possibly observe. He’s the one who hears the trees falling in the forest when no one is around to hear them, and he commits all these things to an infinite memory, catching everything missed by our limited human perception. And he’s the God who set all of these things in motion.

How comforting is it to know that nothing is ever really forgotten?

-Grand Duke Gumdropious III

Vikings

What a strangely relaxing weekend.

Spent some time away from everyday life and spent some quality time with people I usually don’t talk to. I’d like to spend more time with them, but considering the circumstances under which we met this weekend, it’s not going to happen again very soon.

Met some new people, saw some old friends.  But above all, I seem to have nurtured relationships with people I didn’t like before. Funny how these “relationship” things work. One minute they’re all dandy and the next minute they’re beaten into the ground. Or vice versa.

Either way, I’m kind of surprised to see how this weekend turned out. It was very informative in more ways than one.

Summary of my weekend:

  • held the door for a girl this morning, who then pulled out a joint and started smoking it while walking alongside us
  • got tips on how to jog and sprint
  • got tips on how to cook chicken (gonna use this when I grow up!!!1!!1!)
  • proved my video game knowledge
  • made jokes that nobody understood
  • Finally got to see the living conditions of a friend. She receives all the pity.
  • had a conversation in the bathroom with the guy next to me
  • not just a conversation, but a MANversation
  • met many friends-of-friends and overall had a pretty good time.

I don’t regret taking this weekend off. I just can’t wait until the next one.

 

progressive christianity

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Notice how He doesn’t mention slavery or divorce or homosexuality or murder or abortion.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Doesn’t that mean something? To me, that means you must love your neighbor as yourself. You do whatever you can to let other people become the happiest they can be.

There was a set of bills going around about same-sex marriage. There was one that stated that same-sex marriage would simply be illegal. The other said that it would be legal, but churches had the right to refuse the marriage  if they so chose. There were about 20 signatures on the former and about two on the latter.

If Jesus said in the New Testament that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord and to love your neighbor, don’t you think that it’s a little more important than what’s stated in the Old Testament?

And that’s how I feel about that. Make people happy.

The President

I (and probably a lot of other people) have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that policemen are people, too.

The people that pull you over have lives. Parents, friends, maybe kids. They went to elementary school. Graduated college.

What about other people? Everybody has a past. Even that homeless person on the corner. He could have lived an affluent childhood. You never know.

Think about old people. You see them now, old and wrinkly. Sitting quietly, maybe receiving harsh looks from young, ignorant teenagers. But in fact, these old people used to be us. And we will, one day, become them.

So next time, before you judge someone for his job or his age, think about the experiences he may have had. Maybe instead of being angry at the one who pulled you over, rationalize. He probably doesn’t want to pull you over anyway.