Friday, March 27, 2015

A Slow Plunge

I have been following with a sort of sick interest - as I am sure many folks have - of the slowly unfolding saga of GemanWings Flight 4U 9525, in which 148 people died in a fiery crash in the French Alps.   The horrible nature of any flight crash is enough to boggle the imagination; the thought that (as is the thought at the moment) this was the result of a conscious decision is horrifying.

The picture that has been painted through the recorder - the initial knocking at the door, followed by a harder knocking and pounding, then by more and more determined attempts to break down the door in front of the passengers as the plane inevitably descends to a fiery doom - is the stuff of horror movies.  Were it a brilliantly done suspense movie, it would win awards.  The unfortunate truth is that it was all too real.

My thought in writing this is not on the where or whys - it is on the nature of someone making a decision to execute an action, something which impacts the lives of everyone bound up in the circumstances.

One man - so far as we know - made a decision that affected 147 other lives.  For whatever reason, 8 minutes of slow descent were decreed as a required action.  Did the co-pilot know the ramifications of his actions?  Based on what we know now, probably.  That makes the issue even worse.

The reality is that we find ourselves in such positions regularly

Not with the same horrible results, no.  And not (perhaps) with the same sense of sickening realization that we are being plunged towards a doom that we cannot escape.
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But the reality of the individual - or group or culture or religion or government or company or nation, take your pick - so intent on an action that the drag down many others with them is too real to ignore.

Any of these may see the consequences of their actions - indeed, we may see the results of such actions in our own lives.  yet we cling to the course of action long after it makes sense or even if we realize the ultimate outcome of it.

Why is this?  Stubbornness?  Pride?  A sense that our purpose, our mission, our goal exceeds all other considerations?

As this happens - as the slow sickening plunge continues, as the relationships crumble, as the money flies away, as the consensus that holds any sort of group together falls apart - do we ever question the validity of that which we are so set on achieving?  Or is the last second simply the culmination of what we have sought to achieve at any cost?

And as this happens, do we hear the tearing of the frail bonds of human relationships and emotions and polity around us as those we have brought with us fall too, or do we just count this as the cost that must be paid to advance our vision or goal or perceived need?

Have we become so self absorbed and self centered - as an individual or group or culture or religion or government or company or nation - that our universe is completely absorbed in us?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wind and Prayer and Church

The wind was blowing heavily when I woke up this morning, raking through the trees and creating a rushing sound as it blows through the streets and over houses.  It reminded me to simply sit before God.

My prayer life is not what I want it to be or what it needs to be.  It staggers back and forth between a rote series of requests that I make or a semi-conscious attempt to stay awake as I stumble over the things that I think I should be praying about.

The wind this morning reminded me I should simply sit before God.

And so I sat.  I would love to report that the experience was such that I had a profound religious awakening, that the presence of God was deeply felt as I simply sat before Him and waited.   Alas, the opposite was true:  I struggle both to not pray rotely and to simply stay awake.

It did reveal one thing to me as I sat there though:  how truly distant I find myself to be from God.

I feel it in my soul. It haunts me as I go about my day.  I have seldom felt farther from God than I do on a daily basis right now.   Why?  Legitimate question.

I have felt for some time a growing disconnection with my church.  Part of it, I suppose, is simply that church is a greater struggle than it was in the past:  older children often mean more activities on the weekend.  But what I have found is that even when I go, I have no real sense of going to meet God or even being fed by His Word.

In a lot of ways this is the least I have been involved in a church life - I go on Sundays.  That is all.  I do not really do anything else with the church - part of this is due my schedule (I cannot do most meetings due to work and taxing Na Clan), and part of this - frankly - is tied up in an unfortunate incident where the involvement I was doing was terminated with no explanation.  This is a great change from where I - and indeed, my family - was six years ago when we moved where we were heavily involved not only in church on Sunday's but church throughout the week.

But that is what changed.  What needs to change?

A new church? Probably, for the sake of myself if no other.  This attendance because I have to and no other reason is making church a great deal like work, with all of the attendant issues of resentment and disconnection I have with my current career choice.  And that is certainly not the point of church - it is to become involved in a community and to worship God and live out the Gospel.

And my internal life, my prayer life?  Alas, no easy answer here.  A simple thought to "Prayer More and Harder"  does not change the facts.  There is something here, some impediement or block, that is keeping me from speaking to and hearing from God as I need to.

The wind is undoing all of the work I spent in the yard two days ago raking up leaves - this I know without sticking my head outside of the door.  Would that God's Spirit would do the same in my own life, stirring the dust that lies over my soul.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Worn

There are just moments that life seems to wear me down more than I can bear.
This is not so much depression - An Moddey Doo, The Black Dog - that is an old if somewhat unwelcome friend - as it is a bone-wearying sense of exhaustion with the matters of life itself.

Is it any one thing?  Not particularly that I can think of - sure, there are particular things that could be contributing to it - the issues with getting the Van fixed of course, or another week of trying to stem the leaking dam that I call work, or 10 other things that I could point to and say "That is it.  That is the thing that is bringing me down" - but that would simplifying the issue and even in a sense misrepresenting the issue.

It is that moment when one is over-run by the need for tears and one has no idea why, that the world seems incredibly sad although nothing sad has happened, that a certain hollowness about one's life and what one is doing - and there is no definable reason why this should be so.

Cause and effect.  I live and work in a world of cause and effect, of root cause and actions that correct and prevent the root cause.  Yet here there seems to be no readily defined cause or action that can be taken.  Just the sense that something is not right with one's world and there is no discerenable reason or answer for it.

Were I to look down deep enough I think I would find a cause for this feeling - but looking down deep enough almost entails a certain requirement to take action.  And I do not know if I have the spirit  for that this day.

The day is coming of course, so I will tuck my worn down feelings and sense of sadness into that convenient pocket where I store such things while I get through my day.  But even as I get ready to do this, there is that sad and somewhat wistful feeling that these are not going away, that no matter how I try to pretend they do not exist they are still waiting to be recognized and moved forward with.

We cannot always address such things, but neither can we pretend that they do not exist.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Van Saga II

So the Van Saga continues.
The cause of the problem, came the analysis, was a bad cell in the battery - a little surprising to me because that battery is less than a year old and would not take a jump when I tried on Sunday.  The suggestion was a new battery - I deferred initially because it was under warranty and I thought I would just get it replaced.

Then the next line of business.

The valve gasket was leaking pretty badly, they said.  Needed to be replaced.  I first had to ask what it was and, then with the answer, take it back for conference.  The conference essentially became a question of "Well, what do you think?"

I hate to be put on the spot like that - especially with automotive items, about which I know so little. I am not able to assess what is "not quite major" and what we can live without for a while.  In the end the decision was to replace it - which of course did not settle well with me (being as how I like to avoid decisions all together), but the alternative was to do nothing and we need the van for at least another year.

Stopped by and picked up the battery to take it back for the return.  Now the second item raises its head:  the battery is kicking out the required amps.  And if it is working properly, there is no way they will take it for a return.

So here is the current dilemma:  I have a battery which is claimed to be good and cannot be returned at the moment in my garage.  In order to get the replacement, I will need to have it put back into the van and run it until the battery fails (if it does) - which I am sure will happen at a most inconvenient time.  No idea what we will do at this point.

What this experience has taught me to date is three things:

1)  How utterly dependent we have become on two autos.  Trying to co-ordinate everybody's schedule based on one car has proven very difficult indeed.  I had no idea that our lives had become so complex - and so dependent - on the availability of two autos.

2)  The reality is that we need to begin the process of saving for a replacement automotive.  Planned obsolesence if you will.  I would love to pretend that the van will last forever but the reality is it is 15 years old and has 230,000 miles on it.  If we can get through this year with no major trips, that would be a blessing - but it will need to be replaced.

3)  I am not quite sure how one becomes a bit more familiar with autos and functionality but this is something I need to add to my list of learning. I need to have some level of assessing the true nature of issues rather than just relying on the opinions of professionals.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Frustration

The van died last night.

As one would expect, it came at a most inconvenient place and time:  7:30, at the grocery store, on the way home.  The call came - not the call I was expecting, something along the lines of "Can you start the oven" or something like that, but "The van will not start".

Muttering under my breath, I got into my car and headed over.  My mind was not in a particularly good place at the time - 6 months ago we had the alternator replaced.  One likes to believe that car problems are few and far between (and generally, they are) - but every time they happen it seems like they have just piled on top of one another like leaves on the lawn, growing in a pile more quickly than they can be raked up.

As I was driving over the list of the day started to bubble up in my soul:  frustration over future plans, frustration over everything I should have gotten done which I did not, frustration over last minute items that suddenly needed to be dealt with, frustration with elements of my life.  A cauldron and pool of frustration lurching towards someone who themselves was frustrated with a car that did not work.

By the time I had reached the van - not more than a 10 minute drive - I was in full upset mode, looking for a place to affix all of my frustration and anger at things beyond my control.  The trouble, of course, is that this is simply impossible to do at things and situations beyond one's control.  It is like to trying to throw water into the wind:  it merely comes back on you immediately and you are simply wet.  You cannot be upset at people as mechanical issues are not their fault.

At moments like these I tend to spend a lot of time in silence, both because I have nothing useful to say and because I know that I am likely to say things which I will later regret.  So it was a quiet ride home followed by an evening completely thrown in chaos ( we did not eat before 9 PM last night) while I simmered and stewed and argued with myself.

So here is the funny thing:  to what purpose?

The van is not working any better before than it is now.  All the other issues of my life are no different for having been frustrated - because frustration not resulting in useful action merely burns energy and time instead of solving anything.

I am frustrated because I had an illusion about my life and my time and how I thought things were supposed to go.

John MacArthur has a philosophy about that:  We are disillusioned because we had illusions in the first place.

Makes sense to me.  We start with the illusions of something or another in our lives, some control we have or some fantasy of life we are clinging to.  When this fails - as it almost always eventually must - we are stripped of the illusion of the thing.  Our typical, human response is to become frustrated or angry.

But angry with what?  A situation we never controlled?  A thing that was never truly ours to begin with?  The Circumstances of Life that do not bend themselves to our will?  Ultimately, of course at God, because He did not work out circumstances to our pleasure or convenience or desires?

I would love to say there is a happy ending to this story.  There is not, however.  I am sitting here, gearing up for the day of co-ordinating school and work and car repair and figuring how all of this comes together.  The frustration is there in my soul, running in circles like a dog chasing its tail, trying to find something to attach itself to.

The disillusion is there; it is just that I still cling to it too tightly.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Purposeful

Based on my thoughts yesterday, I found this about a week ago (who knows, it may have started the whole thought process).  It is something I need to remind myself of more:


If I think about the people and friends who I admire most in my life with what they are doing in their lives - some of theme that post here like Preppy and Kymber and others - like Miss Moonlight and Nighean Ruadh - that seem to have found their way into removing the non-essentials and leaving the essentials, thereby ensuring everything they do will be purposeful.

I need to become better at this.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Need to Do, Have to Do, Want to Do

Need to do, Have to do, Want to do.  These are the three types of things in life.

Need to do are those things that, simply put, must happen.  They are things that are required for continuing to live and breathe and maintain us and ours, be they as simple as eating and breathing or as complex as a series of tasks that must be accomplished in order to keep the house standing up.

Have to do are those things that we feel we must do, even if they are not something we need to to or really want to do.  They are as  varied as going to work at a job we do not particularly care for because we have to pay bills to going to the event that we do not really want to but someone feel it is important to do so.

Want to do are those things that we love to do, that fill us with the joy or reward or have a benefit that is clearly defined and enjoyed by us.  This is anything from going to the job we enjoy to our artistic ventures to planting a garden.

Part of my own problem is I have these categories mixed up in my life.  My have to's are often my need to's in my mind:  I have to paint the trim, I have to train, I have to organize.  In reality most of these are need to's:  the house needs to be maintained, I need to exercise to maintain my health and get better, I need organize what I have and get rid of what I do not.

And I do not believe I am the only one that has this issue.

For many years I unconsciously split these categories into three equal pieces of a pie.  I am having an epiphany in realizing the fact that this is a mistake:  in fact, there are really only two pieces of the pie, Need to do and Want to do.

Have to do?  This is something we put on ourselves that we do from a dragging sense of obligation or responsibility with no joy or willingness to do it.  And these things, if we examine them closely, are not things that we really want to be about.  Is it something necessary?  Then it should go into the Need to column.  Is it not necessary?  Then it should be considered to see if either it can be modified into a want or eliminated as a required task.    Having thought about it, our lives should be really be divided (so much as is possible) into two categories:  Need to do and Want to do.

Let our lives not be held in the chains of the Have to do.  Let us seek to make them full of Need to do and Want to do.