Day by Day 64

At the counter, a beard and beanie was talking to the tattoos behind the espresso machine.

“It’s just like, I feel the stagnation all over. I went to college and studied art, but no one there just like thinks anything. They don’t know anything. The radio stations, they don’t play anything and the artists…”

Tattoos nodded her head, her hand on her hip.

I wanted to chime in and say something like, “I’m not going to blame consumerism, but most people have too much food in their mouths to say anything interesting.”

I am working on my agility of wit, but sadly I came up with my come-back five minutes later as I walked out of the coffeeshop.

It also dawned on me that there is a cure for dissatisfaction with the state of things.

Current problems usually boil down to who did what wrong.

In the case of this authentic art student, the problem is that none of the artists he personally knows possess the two essential characteristics that an artist requires.

An artist must have something to say, so he must consume well.

An artist must say it, so he must cook well.

And here is this guy I have seen a million times walking across the street, in One World Cafe, and behind the shades watching tv, complaining that no one thinks anything.

I am not going to equate negativity with nihilism, but they go well together.

On a more practical level, negativity and laziness go well together.

Criticism, unadulterated like it was from the clone (with a soul, I admit) is a form of blindness.

He has not done enough to see that people do things.

He has not thought enough to see that people think things.

If he strove to fill the place that he believes is empty, there would be no more criticism of a lack.

It is easy to critique the church for being filled with hypocrites.

As soon as you shut off your criticism and feel grace in you, you are dancing with the law surrounded by millions of brothers and sisters.

You cannot even see the possibility of people doing things when you never have. People do things and think things. You do not.

If you have been stuck in the suburbs since age one, and you hate it and you think it is a tool of the Devil in your life, how could you possibly know that some people experience the vigour of living in a small town?

If you are stuck in the suburbs with Christians and Willow Creek and visions that crash and burn, you will think that all Christians feel the same way as you.

A problem in your square mile is a problem of the world.

Go into the world and you will forget what it is like to be of it.

You will remember Mother Theresa and see that Mother Theresa is not one of a kind. Perhaps she was not vocal enough about the Gospel to be hated. There are millions of Mother Theresas and they are so vocal about their motivations, that you have never heard of them. They are in America and Europe and they are called followers of Christ.

There are hypocrites in your square mile, but there are few hypocrites in the world. There is no option to act less than your convictions require. If you don’t feed the poor, it is not that you are unconvicted, but that you are more convicted of something worthless. Are you convicted to sit in the basement of your suburban home and play video games all day? And complain that no one thinks anything?

Alright then.

If you ever find yourself saying, “I just feel like, you know, these people just don’t really do anything.” immediately check your surroundings for any positive creative impact you have made in the world. Are you a stone that can make a dent in play-toah?

If you do not see bent metal or broken walls, you have not done what you think others ought to.

For the art student, he needs to shut his mouth. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. Many people are thinking, many people are doing. And they are enjoying it. And their criticism is reserved for someone who asks, not when tattoos is standing there, making you an americano.

The Epic of a Child’s Mess. Part II

Part I

Jodon and Jodonna

In the chaos, there was a strong personality. His name was Jodon.

Jodon did not have any parents nor did he have a place to call home. It was rumored that he came from Canada, but that wasn’t true. He was born from my imagination.

In the beginning, it was just him and I. He was my best friend. Wherever I was, he was there. If I was shovelling snow, there he was helping with his own shovel.

But, Jodon was lonely. So I made Jodonna for him from out of the same void. She was an equally strong personality, because in those days everyone was complementary. Jodon and Jodonna got along fine in the end, but the first few dates were a bit icy.

Jodon was tall and had black hair. He was a dreamer and flew airplanes. Jodonna had short brown hair that she never tied down. She was always encouraging Jodon to do the right and good thing. Whenever they got into a fight, Jodonna was the one who had the sense. They lived happily together, never marrying, but that was okay. No one got married in that time, because there was no such thing as a lack of purity.

I was thrilled they finally got along. Jodon and Jodonna and I were very good friends and we would sometimes walk around outside together. We would laugh and share things. When one was away, the others would talk about them.

One day, however, intruders came in to disrupt their bliss. These cajoling merriers were dirty and began to question their existence. They would constantly ask me where Jodon and Jodonna were.

These intruders came uninvited and never left.

“Is Jodon with you?”

“Are Jodon and Jodonna married?”

“Are they going to come with us?”

And the more that these intruders asked, the more I would answer “no.” In my mind, the best way to protect the purity of Jodon and Jodonna was to insist that they didn’t exist.

The taunts became so unbearable, that it was time for the final measure; Jodon and Jodonna must be killed.

In a tragic airplane accident, both Jodon and Jodonna died. The incident was vague, but their bodies were put to good use.

Jodonna split in two and her two halves were the earth and sky. Jodon became the spirit of the land and inhabited the horizon.

The Dawn of Civilization and Blueberry

In the dawn of that primeval land, a hero rose.

When I was too young to go to a baseball game with the rest of the deities (for those who are older are usually gods), the eldest and oldest promised, “I will bring something back for you.”

I was excited and waited all day. I had butterflies in my stomach imagining what it would be. I hoped it would be one of those whistlebats made out of plastic and full of air.

In the summer, the eldest and oldest were working on their majestic temple. The workers were sitting under the oak tree with their white boxes of glowing food. I was curious and I reasoned to myself that there was nothing else to do while waiting for my gift. So, I went to the workers and asked them, “What are you eating?”

And the workers responded, “We are eating food from our favorite place to eat. Would you like some?” I was delighted and, as I ate the food, an entirely new world was open to me. It tasted like nothing I had ever tasted.

Not a moment later and a car pulled up to the unfinished home, the sun blinding. The deities were back from the baseball game!

As I approached, the eldest and oldest deity gave me a. Bear.

At first, I was disappointed, but this disappointment quickly dissipated into delight. And the thing that delighted me most was that I would have this bear forever.

The bear introduced himself, “I am Blueberry,” he said.

“Please to meet you, Blueberry.”

That very day, Blueberry revealed that he was a warrior. “I throw blueberries and blueberry pies.” Blueberry said.

Using this weapon, Blueberry intruded into the lives of the deity and explored their home, under my blessing. His reign was undisputed, for no one else had weapons like him or a seal of power (for on his chest was the mark of the Cub).

As he grew older, his naps grew in length. I had other things to cultivate. Slowly, he fell into a deep sleep and his existence became shrouded in mystery.

A Darkness Approaches

The Epic of a Child’s Mess. Part I

Foreword

The fiction writer that doesn’t know what to do with their childhood is such a bore.

Some writers like to go spelunking into their anachronistic psyche and get lost. Except it’s no fun for everyone else, unless the writer has that much of an emotionally feverish personality to make the lonely middle-aged women want to swoon and fall down the cave with them. O, take me Gatsby!

On the other side of the mirror, there is the writer that forgets childhood ever happened. And in his world, the only interesting things are flying metal machines and highly intelligent alien women who don’t wear corsets. They make fantasy with the beginning assumption that what they write is not real – and that it is still entirely desirable. Who says you can’t manufacture frustration?

In their fantasies, children begin with the assumption that what they are making is entirely real. And since their fantasies are part of reality – and fantasy is desirable – both fantasy and reality become more desirable. And so, they make reality more real by fantasy.

Only children and old people know how to tell a story that is equally fantastic and real. And isn’t that what makes their storytelling so charming?

An adult writer that disregards his childhood – that is bored by his childhood – will be entirely charmless.

For example, sex may be part of a child’s story, but it is always a vague far-off notion. No matter how much of a crucial role it plays in their story, it is left undescribed. And that is okay. In my stories, it was occasionally a plotpoint. And the stork was occasionally a character.

The charmless writer doesn’t get this. “An adult must describe it all! Grit! Realness! Like you’re really there!”

Prologue

Around 1:00am one night, I heard a question whispered behind me, “What are you going to remember about your childhood?”

And for a moment, I couldn’t remember anything at all. I didn’t know what I would remember. And I wasn’t sure how I should package memories. Should I remember details, people, places, incidents? Should my memories be like a newsreel or a novel? Or a collection of short stories? Maybe it would be a manifesto, or a Freudian psychoanalysis of my sinful mind.

I finally decided that I would remember it as the perspective; the perspective of a child and what ideas are meaningful to him. What does a child take seriously?

I don’t know about your child, but mine took his different ideas very seriously. His ideas were always ones for stories in the form of visions.

At times, I thought my stories would change the world. At other times, I wanted to quit and grow up. I didn’t quit, but I did grow up.

For a time, I forgot myself and lost control. As soon as I decided to grow up, the temple to my childhood crumbled. Suddenly, the feelings and memories associated with Christmas and “jammy rides” shattered. My temple was looted, the gold taken off the walls, and the tables turned over. I felt broken inside, because Christmas just “didn’t feel like Christmas anymore”.

I lost it. And there is no one that can defend our innocence for long.

My younger self concluded that the Golden Age of life is all the time before you turn six. After six, life begins to suck and the fun is over.

I partly blamed my older brother Josiah for bringing the Golden Age to an end. I liked to pretend that he bullied me out of my glory like the barbarians bullied Rome. Or exiled me like Ovid. I wonder what is a more romantic fate?

In truth, not only were the Romans to blame for their own fall, they were supposed to fall. There was no scenario where they would not fall. No matter how much your sibylings love you and your parents love you and you grow up in the family, you will lose your innocence. This is the way things are.

Perhaps, this is the root of the fiction writer who doesn’t know what to do with their childhood. And at this moment, I feel less anger and more pity. I despise so much of the fantasies-turned-book out there, but I have trouble despising the minds behind them. A broken mind thinks broken thoughts.

A great tragedy is when someone loses their innocence unnaturally or abruptly.

And even though no one can defend innocence for long, it is the duty of the old to secure it until the time comes.

And if God has some desire to allow or command that they lose their innocence early, so let it be. But you better pray you are not the one responsible. A millstone fits as comfortably around the neck as a ruff.

I will remember my childhood as ideas, because as it stands, my childhood is a distant shadow. To help me remember what I ought to cherish, I will recount the embodiment of those ideas. And maybe I will have a limping zombie by the time the duct tape is gone.

This is a brief recollection of all the stories that my child created. The epic begins with the parents of them all, the famed Jodon and Jodonna. From these very natural parents sprang many children. And these children populated a thousand worlds. From them, a series of metamorphoses occurred that ended in the death of them all. The gods are dead and the temples have fallen.

And in their place, a greater temple is established.

Part II

Day by Day 63

Introducing: a simple concept that helps when conversations get annoying

This is a continuation of Day by Day 62. In it, I mentioned two levels of truth. This is what I meant.

I. The Basic Level of Human Perception

As creatures, the basic level of truth is human perception. Every human is able to see and describe truths that can be perceived.

Humans fell. And although they might be able to occasionally agree on what is true according to perception, perceptions are frequently warped and distorted.

Before the Fall, humans were able to perceive the same truths. This is no longer the case. All that is left is the possibility for two humans to perceive the same truth. This proves that, although the Fall warped human perception, it did not destroy it. If that were true, then no unbeliever would be able to discuss truth on the basic level of human perception. Obviously they are, Socrates and Wittgenstein.

Human perception is unreliable but can still be used, like your old computer.

II. The Higher Level of Divine Perception

The higher level of truth is Divine perception.

Divine perception is what the Triune God perceives.

The Triune God, because of the incarnation of Christ, has both human perception and Divine perception.

This higher level of truth is absolutely perfect in every way. It is the Divinity poked at by unbelievers for so long. Buddha, Plato, Socrates, Hume, Wittgenstein, and many other philosophers acknowledged and desired to have this perspective completely.

And many of them rightly determined that this perspective for the creature is equal to a death of some kind.

Bring on the hemlock!

Yet, this perspective is unattainable without a Christ-driven intellect.

So, the unbeliever is left with a mystery, but not without qualifications.

III. “Yes, but!” Well, yes, but no

The Divine perception is frequently used as a qualification for the human perception. In a conversation, for example, someone may say that something is true (according to human perception), when another will try to qualify it by saying that it is not always true (according to Divine perception).

IV. A Silly and Short Abstract Example

Imagine, in the coffeeshop…

“There are three basic realms of interest; truth, beauty, and goodness.” She says, pleased that she can finally share what she does not understand.

“No, no,” he strokes his beard, “That is not true at all. They are all the same thing.”

“What do you mean?” She giggles.

He throws hot coffee in her face. “You fool!”

V. The Youth and the Beard

Both of these people are discussing true things, but on the two separate levels.

The girl is interested in the basic level of truth, while the beard is interested in the higher level of truth.

Truth, according to human perception, is quantifiable, categorized, and understandable.

Truth, according to Divine perception, is qualifiable for human perception, universal, and mystical.

This is true only for the self-driven intellect and others-driven intellect.

Philosophy without Christ cannot reconcile the two. It cannot recognize that both human perception and Divine perception are true but contrasting.

It cannot recognize paradox, where the truth is not only not found in either extreme, but also not in a balance. It is found in an entirely different perspective – one that goes in both extremes simultaneously. The balance is an estimation of this.

For the unbeliever, human perception negates the existence of Divine perception. He is left with his categories and stale, insurmountable thinking.

For the unbeliever, Divine perception negates the existence of human perception. He is left with mysticism.

In the end, both are left proud and uncertain.

And secretly, the one who denies Divine perception makes room for a nameless mystery anyway…

VI. You May Be in Mystery and Still Do Surgery

For the believer in a conversation, both levels are recognized and used simultaneously. They are able to quantify truth, but not so much as they are able to qualify it. Truth, beauty, and goodness are indeed separate, but they are inseparable in the Triune God.

This is paradox. And it is necessary to see and speak anything rightly.

The believer recognizes the validity of human perception – however distorted – and Divine perception. He understands that he may use categories how he wishes, because we live in a world of human perception. And likewise, he may release his mind of categories, because everything is connected and perfect in God.

He does not feel pressured to use one perception over the other. The believer has the perception of God within his own.

He may separate them for a time in order to study a basic truth, even though the perceptions are never actually separated in his mind.

VII. The Truth That Balance Estimates

Consider the job of a scientist.

He studies truth on the basic level. He is trying to find truth according to what he might perceive.

If he was looking for a basic truth, it would not do him well to solely use the Divine perception.

He may use that perception, however, because it provides insight for both levels.

He may take the human perception solely into the lab, trusting that a Divine perception is possible and influences his human perception.

This is why a believer can be comfortable never bringing up the Divine perception in a conversation, because he trusts the Divine perception of truth. He may freely use his human perception in a conversation with an unbeliever, securely founded in a Divine perception.

The youth and the beard do not need to disagree.

VIII. Freedom in Conversation

If you want, you may call the basic level of truth “particulars” and the higher level of truth “universals”.

A Christ-driven intellect frees a human from having to consistently quantify or qualify things.

He is free to think.

He is free to have a conversation.

Week by Week 1

Intro: Have no time to listen to this? Then listen to it while you are on your fifteen minute facebook break. This is the weekly podcast. This is Week by Week. Okay. Enough over-written intros.

This week: A round table discussion between Moses Bratrud, Brianna Ruffatto, Caleb W., Matthew P. Michaelis, and Josiah Warner. We talk about social media, bending fingernails, and Neil Postman. Watch out for Caleb contradicting himself and places where Brianna could have highlighted his hypocrisy.

Day by Day 62

Introducing: a paraphrase of Augustine

St. Augustine once said something about how he not only writes what he knows, but that he writes so that he may know.

That is certainly true for writing, but it seems equally true for conversation.

In pursuit of clarity, perhaps I approach concepts and methods far too methodically.

For example, I like to think of conversation as an art. There is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. There are different purposes for it as well. Are you talking small, because you are interested in the small things in someone’s life? Or are you talking big, because you are studying God? Do you even care?

Sometimes my categorization makes me tired. But then I remember that my bed is warm and there and I don’t have to think all day.

I admit that I enjoy studying things that ought to be casual.

But I make myself tired for a very good reason; I want to. And if someone does not want to study the art of conversation with me, fine.

I. There is Rest For Us

Life is an intense activity. It is constant strain and it never seems to stop. And this would be absolutely unbearable, if I did not believe in these four reliefs:

1. The Holy Spirit

2. Sleep

3. Death

4. Coffee

The first is a far greater relief. I could trick myself into thinking that I deserve – and even want – to rest for extended periods of time. But the truth is, I am neither called to that, nor do I desire it. I want to make myself so tired, that I drink coffee, run to death, fall asleep, and need the Holy Spirit. I have no desire to be empty, unless I am being filled.

If I am thinking correctly, truth always has paradox at its crux. And the paradox I find myself stumbling into here, is that I love living. And I am going to use life up so much, that I will love dying.

I remarked to a friend recently that, if I were to die right now, I would die unhappily. There is too much that I get to do. And because there is too much left, I believe that I will not die soon. God will not kill me until He has used me.

II. Truth Lies Between Two Foreheads

If you are talking to someone with the goal of exploring the same area, you will both say things you did not know were in you. As soon as you speak it, it is outside of you, looking back into your eyes, and uncertain of where it came from.

Conversation is the art of searching for truth with someone else. And if you do not like this definition, you can go talk to someone about it.

I like this definition, because it emphasizes that you do not invent truth. Truth is something found or given, never made.

This is also why someone who wishes to study truth ought to never to do it alone.

III. Studying Alone is Always a Bad Idea

Someone who studies truth alone begins with a question, like in any study.

Where are my keys?

Or,

What is the goal for my life?

Yet, the difficulty of asking yourself a question is that you supply the answer. Asking a question means you do not know and if you do not know, you ought to ask someone who does. And that is never you.

The self is a fine starting point, as long as the authority of the self is based on a more solid foundation.

Yet, when the self is not only the starting point, but the second point – the one being asked – then the conclusions of self-driven philosophers is absurdity to the self and an incomplete view of truth.

It is one that only takes into account either the level of human perception or the level of Divine perception. I believe that these are the only two levels of truth.

A philosopher who does not know the name of that Divinity – who is the Triune God – can say nothing. He can only see.

Compare Socrates to Wittgenstein.

IV. Wittgenstein, truth is said too

I bring up Wittgenstein, because I have recently been studying him. His philosophy is self-driven and insular.

And what is his conclusion?

We might be able to see truth, but we cannot say it.

This is certainly absurdity to the self-driven intellect. A self-driven intellect is one where the self is both the starting point and second point.

If the self is the starting point and second point, then there is the basic assumption that the self is the only being required to find truth.

Wittgenstein’s conclusion, however, assumes that truth lies outside of the self-driven intellect.

He could be accused of inconsistency, but he is actually consistent within his incomplete view. He is right to be mystical about truth, because the curtain has not been lifted from his eyes.

In Christ, Wittgenstein’s mysticism is answered. In Christ, truth is found by us asking a question and then Christ answering.

Christ is the only perfectly logical language that we can speak, because He is perfect but also flesh.

This is the Christ-driven intellect, as opposed to the self-driven intellect.

Even though many Christians might be uncomfortable with having the self as the starting point for this intellect, it is true regardless.

V. A Walk Begins With Your Step, but You Will Not be Coming Back Home

On the level of human perception, the self is always the beginning. The self is the one which asks the question.

Does God exist?

Or,

Is salvation necessary?

On the level of Divine perception, however, the Holy Spirit is always the beginning of truth. He is the one that possesses us to ask a question in the first place.

Both the Holy Spirit and the self, then, are the starting point for a Christ-driven intellect.

Yet, we are only currently concerned with the level of human perception.

Wittgenstein starts in the right place, the self, even though he does not recognize who is ultimately beginning the search for truth.

The Holy Spirit works in all men – whether believers or unbelievers – in the search for truth.

He possesses all of Creation for a desire to know God. We are all haunted, whether He has revealed Himself to us or not.

Why else would men who live in a sensory reality be so strongly interested in what they cannot perceive?

It is the Holy Spirit who possesses them, even Socrates and Wittgenstein.

And it is the Holy Spirit that leads them to any truth, big or small.

The unbeliever is simply a vessel in bondage used to find truth for those who can actually use it.

The believer knows who is the root of His desire. And this is the only way to be free – to know who is your Father and make His desires your own.

The truth that Wittgenstein finds – for man cannot make truth out of nothing – is that he could only see truth, but not say it.

“What is truth?”

Behold, the Man!

Do you know His name?

In Wittgenstein’s self-driven intellect, he did not have Christ.

If he had Christ, he would be able to both see His image and speak the only divine Word that we have.

Christ is the answer to Wittgenstein’s mysticism.

And so, while his conclusion of mysticism is untrue for the believer, it is true for the unbeliever.

It is false that no one can both see and say.

It is true that the unbeliever can see, but cannot say.

VI. Socrates, do you have any answers?

The best that an unbeliever can get, besides a self-driven intellect, is an others-driven intellect.

This was Socrates.

Socrates did not ask himself questions, he asked others. And so he, at least, recognized that truth exists outside of the self.

The Christian has all three intellects.

He has the self-driven intellect, because he begins with the self according to human perception.

He has the others-driven intellect, because he sees and speaks the Truth to others.

He has the Christ-driven intellect, because he begins with the Holy Spirit according to Divine perception.

VII. Redeemed Conversation

The primary method for a Christian to find truth is through conversation with another Christian. Do we not reflect the image of Christ? And will the Holy Spirit not be guiding us?

This is far more humble than either Socrates or Wittgenstein, for the purpose of a creature is to be humble and, thereby,  satisfied and delighted in truth and existence.

Day by Day 61

Introductory Glances

Day by Day is an exercise in collecting the new thoughts and conversations that happen to me each day. They strike me as profound, important, and delightful.

In this Age of Social Media, I will usually keep it concise, concentrated, and audio-d.

Most statements are declarative, because that is how they were presented to me.

I. General Truths

Wisdom is merely the turn of a phrase, where wit meets paradox.

The future belongs to the optimist, history to the pessimist. This is the first line to an essay written by a youth who cannot reconcile the two.

On a good day, even dolts can see the landscape of the cosmos. But, the one who observes the details sustains a clear picture.

II. Know Thyself

I have never understood how much I don’t know, until recently. My learning these past few months has been so concentrated, that ignorance fell on me like a concrete ceiling.

What do you know? And how much is that knowledge part of you?

III. What is Good Writing?

Imagination is essential to good writing. An imagination must be extremely disciplined. You must be able to conceive of an entire scene, not only as if you are there, but as if it is real. Then, you exclude all the unnecessary information. You cannot write with words if you do not know senses.

I used to think that good writing was a masterful performance of grand metaphor. I now see, however faint, that grand metaphor is far too easy to perform for a master craftsman to be necessary.

I used to think that good writing requires the reader to work so that they can enjoy it or understand. This is false.

Showing a landscape through details is good writing. This is the dividing objective line. You are either good at showing or bad at showing. Good writing is intriquing, clear, and beneficial – in that order, too. It intrigues them enough, so that they follow clear action, so that they are benefited.

If you have readers, do they see the same thing as you?

IV. Metaphors and a Lack of Thought

It takes a master craftsman to show.

Metaphors that your mind has to dwell on are not effective for description. Being clever is no excuse for jolting a reader out of sight and into thinking.

Compare these two metaphors.

“He crosses the consulting room’s endometrial carpeting, his marvellously ugly face like a clenched fist in a glove puppet.”

“Prince Andrew shrugged his shoulders and frowned, as lovers of music do when they hear a false note.”

If we are similar, you dwelled on what a clenched first in a glove puppet actually looks like.

I had to think about what that looked like, so I could then think about how it looked like an ugly face. It is two steps of thought before sight.

The second metaphor, however, provides immediate sight even before thought.

V. Conclusion of These Studies

Thinking must be in the background while sight takes over. This is key to intruding into the minds of your enemies and taking them captive.

Writing is a room. It is a place to go to and leave. The more you come and go, the less you think about the movement and the more you think about the purpose.

_____

Inspired by: Proverbs, Dr. Mitch Stokes, Moses Bratrud, Ernest Hemingway, free-writing, J.K. Rowling, N.D Wilson, Kanaan Trotter