Presidential Haiku Prediction 6

11/3/2008, 3:07 pm -- by | No Comments

McCain the crack-up
Going down in a blaze of
SNL glory

On Thought; On Thinking

09/10/2008, 10:00 am -- by | No Comments

“If I have a book to serve me as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all.”

Because, frankly, who wants to exert themselves?

I am at that point in life where we\’re supposed to take our beliefs and make them our own. We all have this sense of independent thought, this underlying ethos of self-determined path. I. I. Just the assertion of such bespeaks incredible audacity. I am saying this. It has come from me, and, further, I am worth listening to. I live and breathe and participate in life. I have a voice.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Is this true? It has to be. Who could deny it? Rational, thoughtful consideration of what we\’re doing and why we\’re doing it. Intentionality ”” purposefulness. Are we thinking? Am I thinking? Are you my responsibility? Spinoza said that his happiness was contingent on persuading others to think as he did. If I attempt a thoughtful life, and find it even marginally satisfying, isn\’t encouraging the same in you the least I could do?

Mental exertion. Laborious. So hard to ascend the mountain. Why do it? Why do anything? I mean, really now. Why expend so much energy to rise up out of sensual, physical comfort? Why get out of bed in the morning? Why rip off the cozy comforter and spring up into the spare clear air bare and awake?

Why not?

That\’s the thing about thinking. You begin thinking that thinking is a waste of time; unproductive, nothing to show for it in the end, that sort of thing. But you do it long enough and you realize that without it, nothing else has worth. I got out of bed this morning. I went surfing this morning. I am going to be late to my Intro to Philosophy class if I don\’t finish this soon. I am going to rip off my unexamined blanket of beliefs and plunge into the cold clear water, inky grey-green obsidian glass, and paddle.

I Like Lichen

07/29/2008, 11:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

I like lichen. I really do. We have a spectacular variety that thrives in the upper altitudes of southern California, a lime green sort that appears on the maroon bark of manzanita bushes, nestled in the whimsical grey whorls of the branches. During summer hikes it greets me from the trail, bursting bright and unexpected in the dusty desert forest that is the San Jacinto Mountains.

In honor of my dear high school geography teacher, a first-year newlywed fresh from Azusa Pacific University, who got really excited when she noticed the screen shots from Pride and Prejudice adorning my binder and made a valiant effort for the rest of the semester to discuss period movies with me before class, I\’d like to make an orthoepical aside. One day, reading from her prepared PowerPoint on the flora and fauna of some country or another in her wonted dutiful, indifferent tone, my teacher ended her litany of native species with a tentative, “and, um, ”˜litchen.\’”

I sat in the darkened, map-lined classroom and felt sad. Being a 16-year-old senior in a class of freshmen, I wasn\’t exactly sure where I stood. Could I correct her without making her look stupid? Her hold was already so shaky; it was all she could do to keep the delinquent who sat in front of me from falling asleep on his desk every day. Already in that short sole semester I spent at a public high school, I had caught my art history teacher writing “ascetic” instead of “aesthetic” on the board during vocabulary time, and my English teacher wavering over the spelling of “judgment.” In the latter instance, the entire class insisted it should have been “judgement,” against my solitary steadfast adherence to the former, a disagreement that was only resolved when a couple of girls found a dictionary in the back of the room and vindicated me (the extra “e” is a British form, one never used in the United States, a fact I quickly apprised my teacher of lest I appear less than knowledgeable on the point).

I decided to keep quiet. That any of the thirty-something ninth graders in the room, assuming any were paying attention, now thought that “litchen” was kosher, gnawed at me, but I told myself I needed to consider my teacher\’s well-being. I can say it now, though, without any repercussion: it\’s pronounced “liken,” with a long “i” sound and a hard “k,” coming from the Greek “leichen.” Just remember: I like lichen.

One Hundred Words (12)

06/2/2008, 9:00 am -- by | No Comments

“Live in the sunshine,
Swim the sea,
Drink the wild air’s salubrity.”

Flipping through, of all things, my sister\’s CosmoGirl, I found a few lines of Emerson, and it made me really happy. Between the senseless fashion (if the captions below the photos of what “works” and what doesn\’t were switched, would anyone know the difference?) and the uncomfortable boy-lust (they fall so easily into swooning over underage celebrities ”” what does it say about the adults who write this stuff?), I discovered a captivating example of the immediacy of words.

See? Poetry is not completely irrelevant.


Surfing Demystified

05/29/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

I surf. Or, I have surfed. That is, I can balance, most of the time, atop a board while a wave sends me toward shore.

Californians really do surf. Many people here have a board or two sitting in the garage, and while most aren\’t privileged enough to paddle out every morning, it\’s not too hard to make it to the beach at least a couple of times every summer. If you\’re a student at Point Loma Nazarene University like I am — especially if you\’re a boy down in Young Hall, literally just hundreds of feet from beach access — the waves can be hard to resist. I hate to say it, but catching one really is like being on top of the world.

Paddling out is the hardest part. After wrapping the Velcro strap around your ankle, you grab the board and start wading into the water. When you\’re about waist-high, you wriggle onto your belly, stretch your legs out flat, and begin paddling. The waves that looked disappointingly small from shore suddenly tower over your head, but you have to brace yourself and press through them. Salty foam in your nose is part of the experience.

The sets of waves seem never-ending; just when you\’ve crested one, another spills over right behind it. But if you paddle long enough, and if you\’re not caught in a rip current or out on a particularly brutal day, eventually you\’ll find yourself out past the breakers. At this point you can position yourself, straddling the board, and sit upright. The water swells gently here, allowing you to float effortlessly. Even if you never catch anything, you at least have the pleasure of looking like a surfer to the people strolling out along the pier or sitting on the shore. Most of surfing, after all, is just waiting for the right wave.

If you\’re on a longboard, you\’ll be able to ride almost anything that comes in. Longboards are large and buoyant; the bigger the board, the easier it is to ride. Smaller boards make for faster, slicing rides, but only if you can catch a wave first. After you\’ve spotted a decent wave, you turn your board so that you face the shore. Throwing glances over your shoulder to time yourself, you lie down once again, and resume paddling. By creating momentum, you will be able to move into the wave, allowing it to propel you. As soon as the wave rises behind you, you pop up, positioning your favored front leg forward and leaning back slightly, crouching to maintain your balance. And if you\’ve done it right, you\’re up.

The surface is like permeable glass, solid and yet completely formless. You glide easily on a wave constant and somehow constantly changing. Who would have thought you could go so fast powered by nothing more than water? The beach stretches long and bright before you, the sky sunny and domed above, the sandy floor distantly visible below you in the watery green-blue depths.

And that\’s just longboard riding. Shooting through a barrel on a shortboard is another story, one I\’m not quite experienced enough to tell. But, as I think most surfers would tell you, that\’s not really what surfing is about.

Surfing is the horizon. Surfing is the simple elements of air and water, sky and sea. It is complete immersion in endless pulsing life, tidal rhythm and ocean breath, salt and sand and sun. Drifting with the currents, subject to the subtle indictment of that sharp limitless line, you begin to understand how insignificant we really are.

One Hundred Words (6)

05/22/2008, 2:30 pm -- by | 1 Comment

In the spirit of Proverbs 10:19, our newest regular feature will be a series of posts of 100 words — or fewer. Comments under ten words!

The days are invariably warm cloudless blue, the doming unmarred sky curving above, when a smudge appears over a mountain ridge. Growing, the plumes engulf the horizon in hazy, faintly menacing, gray. The fear comes, though, only when the tiny line of fire pierces through, eating the hillside.

When I heard “Grapevine Fires,” on Death Cab for Cutie\’s recent Narrow Stairs, I heard the inevitability and helplessness that the California wildfires kindle, the searching circumspection. And the carefully resigned hope. We instinctively know it is “only a matter of time.” But we still believe that “everything would be all right.”


Bweinh! Soundtrack — Switchfoot

04/12/2008, 10:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

This article is the latest in a Bweinh! series on inspiring songs or songwriters. You can access the first ten soundtrack entries here!

When my family moved to southern California, I scanned the radio stations in my new town for weeks, unable to find one that suited the late 90s adult contemporary tastes I had developed during a childhood in Cleveland. I thought I\’d have to give up music altogether, until my Sunday School teacher introduced me to the local contemporary Christian station.

My parents had never set definite parameters on what my sisters and I could listen to, but I was in sixth grade, and for me contemporary Christian music was pretty much the greatest thing that had ever happened. Now I could put a stamp of acceptability, a certificate of religious sanitation, a “fit for consumption” on something else.

The first CD I ever bought was Learning to Breathe, Switchfoot\’s third release. From the odd ceramic echo on “Dare You to Move” to the retreating footsteps at the end of “Living is Simple,” I adored it. I listened to it when I did homework, right before I went to bed, when I was reading, and of course, on the radio. I internalized it, memorized every word. That their Christianity wasn\’t glaringly obvious on every track bothered me at first. Unlike most of the CCM stuff my favorite station played, Switchfoot\’s lyrics were woefully low in Christianese. But then I noticed that they mentioned God on “Love is the Movement,” and decided that was acceptable enough.

I saw Switchfoot that summer, my first concert ever. It was at dusk, on the lawn of a Bible college, a venue that, I decided, cemented them as adequately Christian. When they played a stripped-down version of “Let That Be Enough,” I was captivated. The song became my personal anthem, the soundtrack to many of the difficult situations an earnest, shrinking middle school kid could get herself into:

Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough

As I grew older, the “Truth” fish eating the “Darwin” fish bumper decal wasn\’t as funny to me; the “A bread crumb and fish” sweatshirt, styled like Abercrombie and Fitch\’s logo, moved to the back of my closet. It slowly dawned on me that the strict diet of CCM I\’d resigned myself to looked a lot like legalism. I tentatively began to listen to music that hadn\’t come from Christian labels. I got a little older, and soon considered the entire industry merely a phase of my awkward adolescence.

And then a few months ago, Jon Foreman came to my campus. I have to admit I almost didn\’t go to see him; I guess I didn’t expect him to be any more insightful than I was back when I sat in my bedroom alone, slightly scandalized at the band\’s references to St. Augustine and Julian of Norwich (aren\’t Christians just supposed to sing about the Bible?). I guess being so quick to judge just goes to show how much more insightful I\’ve become since then.

He played a few songs and answered a few questions, and there was that same voice. He spoke right to me, right where I was, just as he always has. “You go to church, you go to the bar on the corner ”” you find hurting people. I think sometimes there\’s this misperception that the Christian and the one at the bar are looking for different things.”

I got a picture with him afterwards, you know, for my middle school self. I still know every word on that CD.

Why We Believe, Vol. 9

03/28/2008, 9:00 am -- by | 16 Comments

Please welcome our newest Bweinh!tributor — Kaitlin! Hers is the latest post in our testimony series.

I am a reader. This is appropriate, since I am also a literature major. Through books, I relate to the world. I take the commonality of the human condition as a given ”” we are all essentially the same; we all want essentially the same things in life. So when other humans have painstakingly distilled their own lives and beliefs into a finely crafted text, I think it only right that I take a sip.

And so I have tried to taste widely and conscientiously. At times I have spit out bitter mouthfuls of bad philosophy, or set down lukewarm cups of tepid thought. But occasionally I find a refreshing glass of clear, lucid wisdom.

I have often wondered whether it would be intellectually reasonable of me to assume the mantle of Christianity as so many others have, adhering to it unquestioningly, merely out of tradition. And then I found that G.K. Chesterton had already thought of this. “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” If we truly are all the same, why couldn\’t the answer that Pascal or Aquinas or Luther or any other of the millions of thinkers throughout Christian history had found be the same one to satisfy my own yearning?

But what about those who hadn\’t accepted this explanation? One of the most condemning objections to Christianity from its inception has been the “problem of pain,” as C.S. Lewis described it. We\’ve all asked these questions. If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world? How could a truly good God allow such horrendous things to happen?

Lewis contends that for God to create a world in which there is both freedom and the absence of suffering would be inherently contradictory. “It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets with an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

Feodor Dostoevsky explored this theme in The Brothers Karamazov. One character, Ivan, imagines Jesus returning to earth in Spain during the Inquisition. There, the Grand Inquisitor accuses Christ of allowing suffering by refusing to dominate humans. He refused to cajole belief by enticing followers with stones turned to bread. He refused to force belief by throwing himself off of the temple. He refused to demand belief by assuming control of the kingdoms of the world through bowing down. “Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings forever. Thou didst desire man’s free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide.”

Do you know what these works tasted like? They retained the flavor of another book I had read, one that had told me that behind all these words, there was the Word. There is little that has become more true to me than that I must work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I want to understand what I believe, that I may indeed always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks me, a reason for the hope that I have.