Events like the protests in Egypt allow me to have faith in the utility and value of social media. It’s telling that in order to stay updated, I’m checking tumblr, twitter, and news sites in that order. There is something troubling, though, as I “participate” in this historical moment that is unraveling. While the ability to upload a video to YouTube or tweet out what’s going on in real time are incredible exercises of activism and initiative on the part of people on the ground, I can’t help but wonder what is exactly happening on this end as I play that video or read that tweet. Am I a concerned global citizen seeking to stay informed? Or am I part of a big audience that is turned on by the fact that I get such intimate access to sensational events simply by opening up my web browser? The people of Egypt most definitely should broadcast what’s happening and the world most definitely should watch; however, I can’t help but feel something crude is happening when matters of life and liberty are placed within the confines of a monitor to be commented on by people who will, within 30 seconds, move on to a video of someone lip syncing to the latest Top 40 hit.
The cruelty of comfort.
Today, my home church of the last five years (and more if you want to count our whole genealogy as a church) officially closed its doors with a “final celebration” gathering. I’ve been seeing many New Hopers across the blogosphere, twitterverse, and facebo…ok (can YOU think of one for facebook?) express their gratitude for the time spent as a part of our community and I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.
There really are just too many things worth talking about as I think back on my New Hope journey, so I’m going to narrow it down to one. Many of us at New Hope are familiar with the airport metaphor that’s been used to describe our church—not so much a permanent destination, but a place where many from different paths converge for a time, refuel and then go back out to fulfill their purpose. It’s only just hit me now how true that metaphor has been during the life of New Hope. As I think back, the list of how many people we’ve thanked, prayed for, and sent off to wherever God was leading continues to grow. I am in fact a part of that list. I’m bummed that I couldn’t physically be present for the final party at New Hope South Bay, but I think it’s only fitting that I’m celebrating New Hope and all it represents as one of many who has received the blessing of “leaving” the church with full encouragement and support. I think the genuineness of the encouragement and support is evidenced in part by the fact that many of us who were sent off have always made it back to New Hope in one form or another. You can never truly leave family.
Now, it seems that there will be no official New Hope to come back to. As sad as that is, I’m confident that what doesn’t exist in name will still exist in essence among those of us who have shared life together as a church family. I can say that because although New Hope was hardly perfect, I believe it was made up of people who loved honestly and lived purposefully. On that note, I’m grateful for what has been, and I look forward to what is to come, which hopefully will still include many hellos, hugs, and happy times with those of us who made it a goal to experience Christ and embrace humanity.
One of the "Eggheads" at UC Davis.
The image above may be said to signify the life of many a law student, myself included. I do strive for a balance of B’s (books, basketball and beer) but there is no denying that the weight of increasing debt and thinning job prospects tends to anchor my focus to the pages of my books. The spell was broken today, though, at least for a moment. I was briskly walking home, head down by force of my reading habits, when suddenly … right in front of me … there were two ladies and a gentleman … sitting in lawn chairs … in the middle of the street. Confusion turned to curiosity when I noticed the paint and canvases. Naturally, I stopped to see what the artists deemed worthy of their attention and creative labor. I saw the trees lined up along the sidewalk, some stubbornly holding on to their greens while others were in their reds, oranges and yellows, slowly undressing. I saw the sunlight peeking its way through the trees. I saw the workings of the autumn breeze as it induced a dance between the trees and the sunlight. I even saw the squirrel scurry up the tree that was both its home and playground. I saw what had always been there on my street but that I had not seen before because I had not stopped and looked up. I offered a smile to the artists as a token of my gratitude and finished walking the rest of the way home, my steps lighter and my eyes opened wider.
Passent en un instant by vlad2902 (deviantart)
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. — C.S. Lewis
It is a certainty that one of the things most taken for granted in life is our fellow human. It is perhaps one of the Devil’s trickier sleights, allowing us to see others but not really notice, to hear but not really listen. Rather than acknowledge the potential beauty and weight behind all our daily interactions with our brothers and sisters, we prefer to cast gems as rocks, to have the lack of perfection that runs throughout all of humanity be reason enough to say that not everyone is worth our time and attention. There is no wrong in having preference or practicing selectivity in association and friendship, nor is it wrong to the denounce evil in others, whether mild or extreme. But how often do we choose to acknowledge the potential lying within every person good or bad, the potential to create, to reason, to innovate, to inspire? Truly, of all the things we are daily exposed to, “your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” The shortest of interactions can have eternal ramifications, and yet, we can buy a coffee while never meeting the eyes of the one giving us our change. Better late than never, it is time we realize that there really are no ordinary people and that our love and appreciation of others ought to be more reckless, not because nothing matters, but precisely because we take each other seriously.
digital - manip by ~larkie (deviantart.com)
About a month ago, in the process of searching for something, I ended up uncovering all of the boxes in my closet and sifted through some old items. Tonight, I went through forgotten folders on my computer, old blogs, and pictures/videos I’ve uploaded. It just dawned on me that in both cases, I actually did the same thing. It’s not always as obvious to the one living through an era that what one is experiencing is worth appreciating since one is submersed rather than viewing from the outside (a fish doesn’t think twice about breathing underwater while we, humans, wonder at the miracle of gills). The era we’re living through is the transition from material to digital, or maybe we should just call it abstract. We don’t stuff shoeboxes anymore, we fill hard drives. We don’t write in journals, we post entries on blogs. We don’t make scrapbooks, we create slideshows. We don’t have “little black books,” we have slick, shiny, smartphones. Even Post-Its are digitally “stuck.” This is not to say the former material means are now obsolete. They simply are no longer valued for their practical worth, but for the decreasingly common pleasure experienced in getting messy with our hands. Ironically, there is now a certain novelty to doing things the old-fashioned way. I think what this says about us is that we aren’t quite ready as a population to move head on into this new world where property no longer contains the idea of something physically owned. Will we ever be ready? I’m not sure. I, for one, have a hard time letting go of physical reminders of moments in my life. But ready or not, it seems we’re destined to eventually reach a point on the human timeline where historians no longer dust off artifacts, but instead examine digital relics as they plug in portable hard drives that use outdated USB technology and browse websites whose URLs have been long forgotten.
Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / August 29, 2009
Looking towards the Angeles National Forest, you wouldn’t be crazy to think it looked like a battlefield, and honestly, that’s not too far from the truth. With over 42,000 acres burned, 18 homes destroyed, and two firefighters lost, the effort to put out the Station Fire has become nothing short of war, with several more battles ranging along other fronts. Seeing the LA area ablaze brings back vivid memories of the 2007 San Diego fires, and I thought it’d be fitting to share a reflection I wrote on those fires at the time. Hopefully some truths resonate for the situation now.
Something about fire has always captured my attention. I can sit by a campfire all alone watching it all night and be completely satisfied. Fire seems to have this essence that stops people in their tracks and forces them to look… to gaze as the flames seductively curl and dance up and around. That side of fire is beautiful.
But it also has a terrible side. Fire does not only breathe light and life, but it can bring darkness and destruction, black clouds of smoke announcing the coming of a march that walks to the rhythm of crackles and chars. While I sit here in La Jolla, evacuation mandates seem to be spiraling towards this point as if the fire realized its center goal was to reach “the jewel.” So many people, with the list of personal friends, family and associations growing more and more, have directly felt the impact of these wildfires. As the flames literally loom in the background, I can’t help but be gripped by an anxiety that makes me wonder how big and consuming this is all going to become.
It’s funny, though, that in cities where the fire did not just loom any longer but actually rolled through, reports have been saying people pause from what they’re doing to look at the fire. In a moment that demands panic and franticness, the response has been slow, undivided fixation. The beautiful and awe-inspiring spirit of fire remains intact even as it goes about its ugliest deeds. Both the unstoppable destructive force of the flames and its arresting essence that hypnotizes has reminded me how little we humans are in the context of all creation. We’re but small specks in the grand scheme of nature. We become so full of ourselves with our notions of “advancement” and “progress” and “technology,” only to find that we crumble in the midst of that which has remained unchanged in its behavior and character for ages. With such a realization, I can only respond to God with the desperate plea, “We’re at your mercy.” Cause where was I when he laid the earth’s foundation? Who marked off its dimensions and stretched a measuring line across it?
And when God did those things in the beginning, he saw that all of it was good–all of it, including fire. And when things fell to pieces with the invitation of sin, it was not just man that lost its perfect relationship with the Creator, but all of creation. It’s from this I believe that the allure of fire is a shade of its heavenly quality, while its urge to envelop and destroy is a symptom of fire gone wrong. And just as people will one day be redeemed so that the good and pure that God has instilled in us will be most magnified, so will mother nature. The awe we experience today in a sunset born out of polluted skies, in waves born out of the earth’s grumblings, in flames born out of dry and parched land, is a small glimmer of the awe that will overcome us when we are with mother nature face-to-face as she was truly meant to be.
If this whole entry is any clear indication, my odd mix of feelings in response to these flames is anything but clear. But in the midst of my convolution, I ask the one with true clarity of thought and purpose do his will, whether we understand it or not.
I saw this awhile back on Jason Mraz’s blog and was meaning to re-blog it myself. It’s awesome on so many levels.
Sometimes an idea seems so crazy in your mind and well… it turns out it actually is crazy. Dance-shirtless-in-a-huge-field crazy. But isn’t it the truth that all of us as humans are actually a bit crazy at heart? Why do we kid ourselves? We make ourselves believe that the best thing in life is to ensure that what we do convinces others that we are normal, but who among us has ever truly inspired others just by blending in? It takes a little crazy, a little bit of seeing something that no one else sees, in order to inspire, to move, to innovate. Sure, maybe you’re singled out at first, but after awhile, your craziness rubs off on a few people. You take away the fear in others of indulging in their own craziness, reminding them that we’re all fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. And as more people finally begin to notice you’re on to something, it becomes clear that while two’s company and three’s a crowd, four is a party! The movement grows and what was once crazy is now genius. ‘Who thought of this?’ someone will ask. Many will try to answer, but few will actually remember that one person had to lay themselves bare before the world in order show that there really was some sense behind their madness.
Don’t let the fear of being different keep you from showing everyone how you dance. You’ve got to be unstoppable.
Might be a few spoilers about the film ahead. You are forewarned.
It’s actually becoming redundant to say this but here it is: Pixar does it again. What impresses me most about them is that with each new film, they seem to be stretching further the bounds of what “made-for-kids” movies are supposed to be like. Frankly, many of Pixar’s animated gems are deeper and more thought-provoking than a lot of other movies that would technically qualify for a Best Picture nomination, but they seem forever doomed to be relegated to the subcategory of Best Animated Film come Oscar time. I say, though, if the buzz around Up continues, it may finally break the barrier and give the animated genre the respect it deserves, at least with a nomination (Jon Favreau agrees with me). Then again, I thought WALL-E should have gotten that recognition last year, too.
There’s a lot you can write about Up, but I have to mention that I thought Charles Muntz was the most interesting character. He’s not my favorite nor is he the most memorable, but he might be the most complex. Here’s a man who becomes a famous explorer, inspiring people all around the world, only to have his reputation tarnished, thus setting his life on a course in which he becomes obsessed to the point of madness in order to try to restore his image. You have to think that there was a point early in Charles’ life in which the thought of exploration was a simple exercise in igniting his imagination and sense of wonder, just like it was for the young Carl and Elly when he introduced exploration to them. But as soon as he actually realizes his goals, the original sense of awe and enjoyment is replaced with the need to be famous and successful, a need that changes him to the point that he isn’t even a shadow of the man that once inspired Carl and Elly. Charles is simultaneously the one responsible for planting the seed that becomes Carl and Elly’s dream and the one that nearly destroys that dream. If Carl is supposed to remind us what happens when we are able to maintain a child-like spirit of love and adventure, then Charles makes us aware of what happens when we don’t. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a senile old man with a pack of talking dogs.
For additional reading, here’s an interesting piece about Pixar’s marketing (or lack thereof) of Russell as an Asian-American lead in the movie.
And finally, my top 3 Pixar films, since everyone loves lists.
- The Incredibles (with Finding Nemo not too far behind)
Random fact: Cars is the only Pixar film I haven’t watched. Yet.
image from Columbine High School security cameras
On Monday, it will be exactly 10 years since the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ruled media airwaves with their massacre of 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School. I remember that day distinctly. I had come home from school and instead of doing homework or going on my computer, I flipped on the TV. That was a strange thing for me to do, since I rarely watched TV during that time outside of late-night programming and sports. The abnormality of the moment was only magnified when I realized every channel was showing the same thing, an American high school that suddenly looked like a warzone. My stepmom came home from work and didn’t even sit down as we watched in stunned silence as the Columbine nightmare unraveled before our eyes.
Even 10 years removed, the effects of the Columbine incident are still felt and taken for granted—the increased criticism against violent video games, new policies across the board for school security, the further ostracizing of the goth subculture, just to name a few. It’s striking, though, how much of the truth surrounding the event has come to surface over the years, and how different the truth is from what was originally conveyed immediately after it happened. For example (the following is all from this article):
- I thought what I saw on TV was the live unfolding of the tragedy, when in fact the shooters had already committed suicide by the time cameras arrived on the scene. The shooting that was heard over live news broadcasts was from the SWAT teams shooting at locked classroom doors.
- Harris and Klebold were painted up as part of a group of rejected outcasts who listend to Marilyn Manson and held grudges against the jocks who bullied them. David Cullen, in his new book Columbine, reveals that the two actually had plenty of friends, did well in school, did not listen to Manson, and were not at the receiving end of any bullying.
- Harris and Klebold’s intentions went beyond just a spontaneous shooting. Their original goal, which took a year and a half of planning, was to essentially blow up the school and leave a death toll of about 2000, equal to the school’s population.
- Cassie Bernall, the supposed martyr who became a celebrity in the evangelical Christian world after her story leaked, was actually shot and killed outright. Valeen Schnurr was the one who was asked if she believed in God and said yes. Her life was spared.
Much of this information came as a shock to me since I haven’t read up much about the incident ever since it happened. It goes to show the power of media to proliferate knowledge, and the danger of that power when that supposed knowledge is actually a fusion of a few facts mixed with assumptions, cover-ups, speculation, and stereotypes. Further, I wonder about the sensationalism surrounding media coverage of events like Columbine that seem to glorify the perpetrators while inciting paranoia and directing responses towards problems that often were not part of the issue to begin with. What Harris and Klebold did was undoubtedly wrong, but I don’t believe it helped for the media to demonize them so much. That response, more than highlighting a fault of mass media, speaks of a problem with our society as a whole in possessing a witchhunt mentality when it comes to tragedies like Columbine instead of wanting to seek true healing, which requires us to examine ourselves in wondering how we let people like Harris and Klebold slip through the cracks.