Monday, August 2, 2004

Evolution and Christianity

As a young Christian I figured that the challenge of atheism would be challenging in the beginning, but that as my faith grew and as I drew closer to God the doubts would diminish to a quiet whisper as my spiritual years accumulated. Perhaps I imagined it somewhat like hurdles in a race; as a young boy each one is a daunting obstacle that requires a focused leap with both feet. As the boy grows, the hurdles become less intimidating and become easier to cross. Eventually a good runner is able to take each hurdle in a stride that is indistinguishable from one running on flat ground.

These days I imagine it a bit more like a rugged uphill mountain course. At first the terrain is challenging, but negotiable as the boy becomes more agile. But though the runner grows in his skills, the challenges of the race grow to continue the test.

I never considered atheism a very credible idea; I subscribed closely to C. S. Lewis' idea that atheism is just too simple (from Mere Christianity, I believe). Briefly, one of his main premises is that everyone inherently knows a sense of right and wrong; therefore there must be some absolute standard that all of our moral compasses are hinting at. This idea seemed to make a lot of sense.

A conversation with my father challenged this thought though, and I did not have any reasonable response. His argument was that certainly, everyone has a sense of right and wrong, but that this is only with respect to the community. And as an illustration he noted the fact that, if a man is alone on a desert island, is there really such a thing as a "right and wrong" for this man? Um, hm. *shrug* Good point. Perhaps I am not recalling C. S. Lewis' arguments accurately. My feeling, though, is that I am left without any argument against atheism that can be gleaned simply from observation.

The other subtle leaning I have felt over the years is that towards evolution. What I mean is, the possibilty that the bible simply happens to describe those practices that promote survival of the fitest most effectively, but there really is no omnipotent benifactor. Consider the Parable of the Weeds:

Matthew 13:28-30 - "...The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

I could be way off (it's getting late), but this sounds a little like natural selection to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Understanding, and Being Understood

For a while I have really wrestled with feelings like, "Why don't people understand me?" "Am I the only one that sees these things?" "Am I going crazy?" These thoughts have been quite a source of anxiety. Recently though, I think that I have come to a change of heart regarding this issue. I realized something — people that do not understand me are not my responsibility. In other words, I should not take it personally if someone either does not understand me, and gives up trying to understand me. At first glance this may sound arrogant. And, I'm willing to consider that possibility. Here is my take on it, though.

I consider it my responsibility to do everything in my power to love people, which entails understanding them, serving them, and doing my best to grow in my capacity to do so. If I do not understand someone, it is my responsibility and burden to put forth the effort to understand that person. After all, it was Jesus who extended himself from heaven all the way to earth, all the way to death, even death on a cross, to "understand" me, to reach me. Therefore in imitation of Christ, it is my responsibility to understand others. Of course, it is also my right to decide to give up trying to understand a person, although at that point I believe I would not be imitating Christ's example. On the other hand, if a person does not understand me, I can only do my best to explain my heart and my motivation. If after that he/she still does not understand me, and ceases the pursuit of understanding me, then that is not my problem. It is tempting in such situations to feel that somehow I am to blame, I am off the map, I am crazy. And I think much of my anxiety has been tied to this idea. But this simply is not my responsibility.

A parallel idea is that of being romantically interested in someone. Imagine that I begin to have feelings for someone — believable enough, no? Now, imagine that girl finds out, but the feelings are not reciprocated (too believable, unfortunately). Now, the temptation is to feel insecure, inadequate, less than a man, not good enough, worthless, and any other diminutive adjective you can think of. But, why should I feel this way? It is not my job to get people to like/love me. As Lisa Nichols said during teen camp, "What others think of me, is not my business." All that I can do is be myself. If a person chooses not to love/understand me for who I am, it is his/her loss.

This is all wonderful theory, of course. It is certainly more difficult to actually think this way and act accordingly.


One of the things that I've been thinking about is the concept of faith. I postulate that faith is something that really everyone possesses, and not just those who profess to have it. If you were to try to limit the decisions of your life to only those things which can be experimentally proven, you would simply not be able to make any progress at all.

Levy's Going-Away Party

Sarah, Lynn, Levy, Shannon

It's sad to see Levy go but of course we wish him the best in his pursuit of his education in film in LA! When I heard it was going to be at Dave & Busters I thought cool, I'll be able to use up my four power cards. Unfortunately, the place was incredibly busy and incredibly slow — we waited probably two hours for a table. By the end of it I was slurring my words and drunk with sleepiness so I didn't get to use my cards. One highlight of the night was when I asked Sarah what her favorite video game was and she said, "Pac-woman. I got to level four once." I said, "You mean, Ms. Pacman?" I practically fell over laughing. It doesn't look so funny reading that but I guess you had to be there.

Levy enumerates his issues with Michelle

Saturday night James and I headed up to LA to hang out with Ben and another brother named Richard for a quadruple date. We had a lot of fun at sushi and miniature golf; my date was Alena from Armenia. I learned all sorts of interesting Armenian facts too, like the fact that Armenia was the first Christian nation. Caroline was James' date; it was really cool seeing her. Plus she was the only one I beat in miniature golf. I kept hitting the ball too hard.

Ivy and Lynn

Today Jared did the communion and Jee preached the sermon at church; both of them did really great jobs. In fact I think I'll email them tomorrow. The song service went really well too, I thought; there just seemed to be a certain youthful energy today. Maybe because the average age of everyone speaking was a bit younger this time.

It was a really nice day all around actually; I had lunch with Michelle (score one—err, two more, Michelle) and Lynn at Ruby's, then raced to see the Bourne Supremacy with Nikki. I really liked it, probably more than the first one. It was a good thing that Russ warned me it was really shaky camera work though; I think it would have been really distracting had I not known beforehand. Then tonight the household got together for a prayer night and ended up discussing some deep stuff — things like neediness, pride, hard times. Good stuff. But now it's late and I won't get to practice my guitar; oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Breakfast at Perry's

Tom, Little-T, Art, John

I had lunch with Tom and his boy and Art and John today. It was like a little Tecolote Sector reunion. Cute kid!

Ah, sweet mullet!

After breakfast I earned my keep at the ol' workplace. Then it was Changes That Heal, which went really well. I think it was the best session so far, actually — a breakthrough.

Father and son

Afterwards I made good on a promise to Tom that we would see Hellboy together. We got a pretty late start, around 11pm, so I loaded up on Reeses Pieces to try to stay awake. That was probably a bad decision though, because it seems like I was up all night tossing and turning.

Monday, July 26, 2004

New York Times, 2004

Alan's office at MTV

New York was awesome. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Dan, Scott and I arrived at different times at JFK and met up with Alan at his work. Al had to work a bit on a film he had entered into a film festival, so we goofed off (air hockey and such) while he finished up. Later we found out that two of the three films that Alan either wrote or co-wrote made it into the top fifteen. Unfortunately, the one he worked on so diligently this weekend didn't make it. Quite an accomplishment, nevertheless.

Relaxing at Megan's

We ate dinner at this pub called Teddy's near Megan's place, where Alan fell in love with the waitress. Well, not really; he was just overly impressed with how nice she was. I figured that he's just been in New York too long. What I thought was really funny was when Dan's burger came out, it was on an English muffin, which he didn't order. "Here you go. Sorry, we ran out of bread." As if that wasn't enough, Alan didn't think anything of this. Curiouser and curiouser.

Megan plays drums too.

Friday was uncharacteristically wet and muggy. It was going to be an interesting day moving Alan into his new apartment.

Dan does some on-the-fly photo editing

All moved in

Will, Alan's friend, was also helping with the move, which we finished right on time. Afterwards Alan had an improv gig. His group opened for Will's group, Johnny Lunchpail, also an improv group. I was very impressed. Alan's group did a series of improv sketches based on the book 1984. It kind of makes me want to read the book again. Well, maybe I'll just watch the movie. Anyway, improv seems so gutsy. Alan's group was good; Johnny Lunchpail was a bit more experienced — they were hysterical. We did the after-party thing at a bar for a while, then after that we fulfilled one of Scott's goals by trekking to a White Castle and enjoying some bite-size bundles of burger goodness.

Alan's rooftop view is amazing.

Saturday was our big New York tourist day. After Alan's mattress was delivered, we worked out some personality issues, which was good.

Later we ate at Grimaldi's, a supposedly famous pizzeria. The olives were way too salty though.

This is the Promenade, about a block from Alan's apartment. Notice the Statue of Liberty in the background.

We took a nice stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The World Trade Center Path

Visiting Ground Zero and St. Paul's Church next-door was very moving. There was a bell in the church yard which was donated by the city of London after September 11th that I found particularly thought-provoking. The inscription on it read, "Forged in Adversity." It reminded me that as sheltered as we are, a fierce battle rages. It encourages me to make sure that whatever I do with my life, I do what I can to contribute.

We visited the place where John Lennon was shot.

Close by is a section of Central Park named Strawberry Fields. In there is this plaque with the word "IMAGINE". After I saw these, it was pretty clear to me where John got all of his song ideas.

Around 7pm we started on a two-hour tour cruise. The guide was a great orator with a perfect dead-pan. He was also pretty hard-core about people not standing up in the seated section, blocking other peoples' view. Witness the man in the red jacket, a major offender.

Some fun facts:
New York's water pressure can only push water up six floors. All buildings higher than this require pumps and a water tower on the roof.

Touring jazz bands used to call the cities they toured "apples;" of course, New York was the biggest and brightest apple to play in; hence the nickname, the "Big Apple."

Dan with Lady Liberty

Alan relates our adventures to Megan

We dropped by Rockefeller Center and saw the set of the Today Show. We ended the night fulfilling another of Scott's life-long dreams with some authentic New York pizza slices. Unfortunately they also might have been the source of some authentic New York indigestion.

Alan's new address.

Sunday was pretty chill. We ate breakfast at a nice spot near Alan's new apartment where I think I misplaced $20. Alan hooked us up with MTV car-rides to the airport, and we were off. For some reason my flight had a lay-over in Atlanta which was pretty miserable, but eventually I made it home safe and sound. And today it was back to the grind.