Monday, May 30, 2011
I first knew there was something wrong when in a community college writing class I realized that I hated to rewrite. The teacher and other students were going on about the indispensability of rewriting your pieces, and I couldn’t be more at odds with them. I had known since high school that I didn’t like to rewrite; I wrote my pieces in one shot, and that was it. This was the first time it was dawning on my that this might be a problem.
The process of rewriting felt like torture to me. I was devoid of the ability to go back over what I wrote and separate the sheep from the goats. I had to keep it all, because I thought all of it was good. My mentality was not unlike that of a hoarder. A hoarder keeps everything because they see value in all of it. The yellowed newspapers, the broken can opener, the bedpan for an albino Chihuahua, there is potential use for it all and to cut it out is simply anathema to a full and satisfied life. To cut a line from a story was to cut off a piece of myself. All of me has worth and value. We don’t decide which pieces of ourselves to cut off, it’s inhuman. Their logic, though, made too much sense to my mind. You can’t get it all right and perfect on the first shot, you have to go over and fine tune it.
In the face of the sense they were making I made the only choice I was capable of making at the time: I concluded that I was one of the lucky writers who only has to write one draft.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I like Pandora now.
People used to rave about it and I would want to hurt them.
I didn't want to sit around and wait for a song that maybe I would like. I didn't want to cede that amount of control.
Now I'm willing to give myself over to the process.
I'm starting to grow up to be a real boy, just like mom said I would.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I just want to share a little of my experience. It will probably piss some of you off, as I have pissed off a lot of women in this office (apparently losing weight is easier for men), unfortunately at press time there is not a lot I can do about that.
Knowing who I am, and how much I idolize food (cut to me in an intimate setting having my way with a bacon cheeseburger), I am stupefied by how relatively easy the process has been. The first few days were hard, but then, you know, I got used to it. I got used to the way I never feel full when I eat fruit and or vegetables. I got used to eating smaller portions. I got used to turning down beer (for some reason my father in law is always offering me a beer, I think it's because he used to raid my stash, when I bought that kind of stuff, as in four weeks ago).
This is nothing short of a small miracle. It should not have been this easy. I mean, I haven't been the picture of discipline, but I've cut back enough to shed 10 pounds in three weeks--in this fourth week I've held stagnant, with one more week to go. I used to think about not having whatever the hell I wanted, and if I thought about having to cut back even during one meal, immediately I knew that my life wouldn't be as good. If I couldn't have any food that I wanted, at any time, then life would be severely degraded, and my happiness would be in jeopardy. This is easy to recognize, now, as the perfect definition of addiction. Yes, my name is Jason, and I can now see that I am a food addict.
If that feeling that my life wouldn't be as good without Jack in a Box at 11:12 p.m. were a cacophony of voices screaming at me to eat, then I would say the volume was turned up to about nine for most of my life, up until a day or two after I started dieting. I would now say that knob is turned down to about a three. And because it has gotten so much quieter in the food part of my brain, other voices are allowed to speak their piece. Now I have thoughts like, "Ok, I don't actually need a slice of pizza smothered in Ranch."
Again, with the addiction now quietly buzzing in the background, instead of raging in the foreground, it's a little scary how unwilling I was to evaluate and adjust my behavior. There was this all or nothing approach. If I couldn't have it all, whatever I wanted, then even getting 98% of that would be a deep disappointment. I've had, and do have, many addictions in my life. They all have the same baseline theme--"If you don't have me, life will not be as good." Now I think about the good things in my life. My wife, my son, my family, my God, reading, thinking about crap. Even if they statement were true, that my life wouldn't be as good without one of those things, I don't think that way about it, nor do those things tell me I would be less-than without them. Perhaps whenever I get that feeling, that my life won't be as good if I don't have it, I need to recognize it as something I need to reorient my relationship to, because I got something wrong in the calculus of where that things properly fits into my life.
The other blessing (I hate using that word but I can't come up with a more accurate one at the moment) in this whole thing is the effect it's had on my health. I'm talking big time. For the last three or so years I have been on a prescription acid-blocker. If I wasn't on that I'd be suffering horribly with acid indigestion and would have to take tums ever day if I wasn't on the medication. I just accepted that this was my lot in life, these are my genetics, and that I would just have to live with it. I had people suggest to me that diet might have something to do with it, and I promptly concluded that they were wrong (and stupid--you don't threaten an idol and get away with it cleanly).
I stopped taking my medication when I started the diet, just to see. Good lord the stupid people were right. I now need the occasional Tum, but the difference is nothing short of night and day. I thought I was going to be on those pills for the rest of my life.
Like I said, the addiction is still there, I still want to wolf down an entire pepperoni pizza, but my soul just isn't clamoring for it as fervently as it was before. And who knows, not having to take those pills, and just feeling better generally, that might be enough for me to fight off the demons long term.
Editor's Note: After typing those last words Jason was filled with an abiding sense of despair and incompleteness, he then quickly crossed the street to Domino's, then next door to 7/11. He was spotted behind the 7/11 with two medium pizzas and a six pack of Redhook. It's been three hours and he hasn't emerged. Don't let this discourage you, we all have our ups and downs.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Now that I'm a few years older, I'm pretty sure I don't believe in the Rapture anymore. I believe that someday earth shall be like his kingdom in heaven, but I don't know how we get there or what that looks like, and I'm not really interested in guessing.
But I'm not very confident in my beliefs, and so part of me still worries that my mom is right and at any moment my clothes may only contain the vague outline of my body before they fall to the ground.
Here is the history of why I haven't been all that jazzed about the Rapture:
First I didn't want it to come before I had sex.
Then I didn't want it to come before I was married.
Then I didn't want it to come before I had a child.
Now I don't want it to come because I really want to see my children grow up.
I hope I'm not pissing God off or anything; I will accept his grand timing. I'm sure I'll be happy with whatever he decides (but I don't want it to be soon).
What has this kook's prediction touched inside of you to make you be at least interested enough to make a joke about it?
Have you experienced the wrath of an authoritarian Christian or two (or several dozen), and laughing about the prediction is some sort of release of that stored anger/pain from the experience? Or is there something planted in each of us that responds to the idea of an End to All Things? We all get a sense of awe from staring at a sky full of stars or beholding an ocean, maybe someone telling you the world is going away is similar? No one I've talked to takes the man seriously, but everyone still seems vaguely interested by it. I think exploring where that interest (sarcastic though you portray it as) comes from might yield an insight into yourself. So if you have the time for an insight, take some time to consider my question.
Why are people paying attention? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that if the stakes are high enough, your ears will be perked. No matter how crazy someone is, if you hear them sincerely and coherently stating that they know for a fact the world is going to blow up on their birthday, I guess you just kind of can't fully dismiss it, even though you know you don't believe it. We're interested for at least that reason, but I think for some of us there's even more going on. But part of the reason I'm asking is that I really don't know, and I don't like to play psychologist or mind reader, so just tell me why you've responded to this so I don't have to make an ass of myself with my assumptions.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
We had a pastor from India give the sermon today. He was talking about being a Hindu and deciding to read the Bible. He hated it. Why wouldn't he? It was telling him that what he believed all his life, in the plurality of the gods, was dead wrong. But the stories were interesting enough, so he kept reading. And it kept pissing him off. This went on for months. Then one night he went to bed, got up the next morning and he knew he was a Christian. He wanted to plant churches. He wanted to start a Bible institute. He did these things. And he founded an orphanage. They're up to 140 kids right now. Instead of these children being consigned to a life of back breaking labor, or worse, they're going to college and becoming engineers and doctors. These hopeless orphans will get an education and a chance because he happens to believe that a dead guy got up and walked after three days in a tomb 2,000 years ago. If that is any less deserving of a full-throated primal scream than a 40 yard touchdown pass then this life isn't worth living.
His incredible tales of provision, grace and change left a new motto lingering in my brain. "Christianity—We're not Effin Around." I know it isn't proper, but I'm sorry, we're just not. We don't believe in some middling do-goodery. We weren't charged with being moderate, even keeled and fair. Christians went for the whole damn enchilada. We're saying we've received a divine directive from the creator, author, king and sustainer of the universe to go and give aid and comfort to a crippled world. We're supposed to consider hookers before ourselves, to give of our time, talent and treasure in a frankly wreckless fashion. Are most of us doing that? No. But when you see it actually happening, well it's enough to make you say, "Boy, we're really not effin around, at least we shouldn't be. We've got the backing of Almighty God, and he wants us to flagrantly love a dying world." It's enough to, if your heart isn't too hard, make you want to clap your hands until they bleed, and scream your voice away for awhile.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
You don't need to tell me how flawed this is—I know that—but often knowledge doesn't do you much good. Action is the only thing that matters. In theory I know that I don't have to keep accumulating before I get going myself (when I say "get going" I mean really dive in, start a book, start a business—start living my creative life in the first person, instead of pissing it away in the third), but this doesn't have much effect on my present life.
So it is by way of a bit of resignation that I introduce you to the latest thing that will keep me from living my life until I have drank of all his wisdom. I speak, of course, of James Altucher. I met James at a time in my life where I couldn't have needed him more desperately. This would have been about Thursday, 2:23 p.m. PST. I stumbled upon him through the Freakonomics blog.
The knowledge that I have to do something, to DO SOMETHING, has been mounting and mounting for years, but it has become especially acute lately. And like a steal toe Kodiak work boot to the side of the face, here comes Altucher with posts like "10 Reasons You Need to Quit Your Job" and "The Easiest Way to Succeed as an Entrepreneur." It isn't good for motivation to come from outside of myself, but it's about all I can muster right now, so I'll take it. Anyway, he writes with truth, reality and hope, and I wanted you to benefit from his existence as well.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Everything in this statement is the opposite of who I am. I say that unbegrudgingly and without shame. I say it as simply as someone makes an observation about the weather--this is just the way it is right now. My only hope is that at least I'm 28, maybe it's possible to turn things around?
Movies are a big part of who I am. Some weep at the statement, while others know what I mean. I can't be quite sure of this, but I think I'm more interested in movie analysis than I am in movie reviews (great Jason, yet one more decision that makes you less marketable). I thought I may as well put all these hours to even more use, so I vowed to myself that I would blog every movie that I watch. SPOILER ALERT: Since I am primarily concerned with WHAT the movie is saying, I will be talking about the entire story, plot twists and all.
To what extent does perfection require death? Is perfection desirable, or, perhaps better put, do we know what we're asking for when we want to be perfect? Those are the main questions I was left with after watching this film, though I have many more. To a large extent I don't know what to do with the images and themes the movie has presented me with, so I just have to do my best to name and describe them.
Portman plays a ballerina who has been striving for years to be the lead dancer. She knows little else in her life besides that striving, and it finally pays off as she is handed the lead. But pressure and paranoia mount as she prepares for opening night. We're treated to a strange ride as fantasy and reality assert themselves with verve and confusion as we progress to our harrowing conclusion.
Now, to delve into the perfection question(s): Everyone in this movie who strove for perfection on the dance floor (all women, and a man who manipulated them into it) ended up dead (if you disagree that the mother character is steeped in a living death then you and me have a fight on our hands.) So I'm thinking, "Ok, is this a vicious jab at ballet, or is there a wider application here to the general pursuit of perfection?" I can't say for sure, but probably the latter. But you are watching Portman sacrifice her body and her social life to be excellent at ballet, it brings to mind the perfection of the Olympian, and I feel like the question is begging to be asked—is it worth it? I personally think not, but then again I'm not all that ambitious.
So I went down this perfection road, but I was left thinking, to what extent am I missing the point? Is this what Aronofsky (the director) wanted me to be dwelling on? I'll let that sit for a moment, and move on to what I thought was the second biggest component of the movie.
Whoa there is a lot of sex (in the broadest sense of the term), but it is the most interesting use of sex that I can remember in a long time. The sex for the most part isn't sexy (some adaments have already disagreed with me on that fact), and anytime you have unsexy sex you must ask what is it doing there—you will usually get interesting answers. Most sex we get on screen has been given in order to titillate and entertain—any deviation from this norm is fraught with potential commentary on America's Favorite Subject.
Portman, by being an elegant and beautiful dancer, naturally would be an object of desire. Yet she is dangerously out of whack with her own sexuality and what in the world she should do with it. To what extent is this something to dwell on, a perennial object of desire being hopelessly lost in the sexual realm? Her mother being in the room as she gets, well, familiar with herself, is a perfect corollary to the ingrown, tiny life that she is living as she pursues her dream. She gets invited out by a friend for a drink and in a few hours has screwed a couple of guys (real or imagined I'm not quite sure, I lean towards the latter)—she's not relating well to this whole sex thing. Why are we given these facts about her life? Is it mere Freudian hand wringing, or is there something really there for us to grab hold of? Let's see, pursuit of perfection leads to deterioration in the rest of her life, but especially when it comes to sexuality . . . I'm really just not sure what I'm supposed to do with that. Please understand this is not to say that I think the movie fell short or anything like that, I just don't want to be afraid to say, "Well I'm not exactly sure why thus and such happened, but I put that more on myself than I do the writer/director."
Sometimes I struggle with artsy movies that are hard to follow and you're not sure exactly what they're saying; this was not one of those. I enjoyed the ride thoroughly. It left me pondering and I appreciate that. The question I always ask is, "Was this just a bunch of shit that I couldn't really understand unless the director was sitting next to me, or do they really have something to say and it's worth digging to find out what that is?" With all of the David Lynch films I've seen I go with the first, but this movie makes it into the priveleged second camp.
I don't feel that I've even started to do the film justice, but what the hell, I'm just getting warmed up on this whole movie analyzation thing.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Now, because I'm a Christian, I've had the pleasure of hearing a lot of Christian's react to this news. They have been varied, to say the least. My wife and I popped a bottle of champagne (I'm sorry to say we hadn't been saving it for the occasion, it was simply an ordinary bottle lying around), many took to Facebook to get in their two cents, and my father honked his horn and relentlessly banged garbage can lids to roar his approval.
It is the the second reaction, the comments on Facebook by Christians, that I would like to set down and chat about for an extended minute. I went to Mark Driscoll's Facebook page, where he had posted comments to the effect that justice had been done, and what he had was at least a thousand comments of people reacting to him. To sum up the responses I will give you the two quintessential things that were said:
Not in support of being glad at the death of OBL:
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him (Proverbs 24:17-18) Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die..." [Ezekiel 33]
In support of being glad at the death of OBL:
Romans 13 "there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer." When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. -Prov 21:15
I have what I think is a slightly radical proposition for you to consider. I may be wrong, I am not 100% confident in the following assertion, but I like my way better than what I have displayed above, so please consider the following:
God is not a verse, he is a person.
God is not even a cluster of verses, he is a person. You cannot sum up the whole of who I am by looking at some words that I have written. If you cannot understand the whole of who I am, then you cannot know how I would react to any given situation and all of its billion billion variables. This business of looking at a verse written 3,000 years ago so that I can know with certitude what God thinks of blank today is nothing short of a farce. A quick Biblical example:
The Bible is full of contradictions (not as many as you and I are full of, to be sure). Consider the following verse from Proverbs: "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself." Now this verse, also from Proverbs: "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Remember, Christians believe this Bible is the very word of God, is infallible, and is good for teaching. Yet this is clearly a contradiction. These two verses prescribe the very opposite behavior to the same problem. How can this be? And it gets even better—these two verses are right next to each other, the second follows the first.
Now, unless God was drunk, which I don't think you want to accuse him of, there was a purpose behind the contradiction. And think about it for a moment, you'll see—are all fools created equal? Have you ever met two exactly the same? Sometimes it is good to rebuke someone, they happen to be a coward and it shuts them up so people can once again conduct themselves in peace. Sometimes it's good to keep your mouth shut, saying anything, no matter how reasonable, will only add fuel to the fire. It's not always easy to know which road to take, most of the time you can't know in advance—depends on the situation.
Are you starting to see why we can't glibly know what God thinks, what his will is, in every single particular we find ourselves facing? Life is too complicated to always accommodate a quick and easy answer. Remember that THEN is not NOW, THAT was not THEN, HE was not HER. Dueling Verses (or Verse Wars) doesn't help you know what God thinks about this thing right now, it only helps to confuse you about God. Your only hope to get an idea of what he thinks about blank NOW is to look at the entirety of who he is, that is, the biggest picture that you yourself are able to get of him, and mediate on that for a bit.
So if we are to argue over what God thinks of Bin Laden's death, and therefore what we should think of it (by the way this is an argument that I'm not all that interested in, nor I am confident that we can come to a satisfying conclusion), please let our arguments begin with something like "I think God is like this, therefore" rather than "This verse says this." God is a person in three parts (though they are one), he's not a book. If my words on a page I wrote yesterday can't tell you how I would react today, how much less can a book tell you what the infinite God is thinking right now? Before I cause you an infarction let me just say I am speaking specifically to this Bin Laden situation. I know that God, revealed through his word, was very clear on a lot of things. My only point is that he wasn't clear on everything about everything, and this would be one of those everythings.
Another thought: Have you ever felt two things at once? Maybe even three? Are you willing to let God do that as well?
Final Thought: Several years ago Driscoll preached the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham raised a knife over his son, and was about to sacrifice him at God's request, and at the last moment God stopped him. Driscoll said that to even get that far would take an unimaginably strong faith in God, and he admitted that he didn't think he was there yet.
And so, if it really is true that God takes no pleasure in Bin Laden's death, indeed he didn't want me to be happy or knock back a glass of champagne, then all I can do is plead Driscoll's excuse and hope that there is forgiveness for me as well; if that's what is required of me as a Christian, then I'm just not there yet.