Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Variety Post

These are invariably longer than usual.

Things here are winding down a bit. Vacations are literally in two days, I'll be going on adventures of the crazy (but clean) variety the week after, and then...who knows? Time goes more quickly with every passing day.

I went a little ballistic at the beginning of July. We had a very frustrating meeting, and I saw so many things that I had seen in October happening again, and I didn't want to have a part of it. Rather, I did, but I wanted to be somebody with a voice. So I went and I talked with the director, and it was very an extent. I was given the gift of knowing I'm not alone in my observation. This is wonderful beyond words. As a foreigner, I can't tell how much of my reaction is just me being financially well-off, white, and Estadounidense (i.e., from the United States). Some things appall me, like the noisiness and lack of respect in meetings (though you'll find that in teenagers across the board. They will look at you like you are from another planet if you get mad at them for punching each other even though you have said three times beforehand that there is absolutely none of that permitted). It's hard to cross so many boundaries and make accurate or useful observations and/or criticism. A lot of the time, I think that's cowed me into not saying anything and chalking it up to an internal battle of patience with myself and the new sphere in which I find myself. Maybe that's a final thing to do, but I've missed a step, and that's in actually daring to see how right or wrong I am in my observations. This time, it would seem I'm right. Of course, my observations fit for children of any lower class background, essentially, but being in a less affluent and developed country sure affords more obvious (and very often, more extreme) cases. It felt good to get angry and impassioned about it. My challenge, of course, is to keep that passion, do what I can to better things, and not lose hope of doing any good. It's easy to do that when there's no hope of finding people equipped to work with teenagers who would give up their lives as they know it to help problem kids. I'll do my best.

I have started writing reflections on Sunday readings again. It helps me tremendously. Thank you, Fr. Regis Armstrong, for giving me that tool. At this moment, I've been given the opportunity to look at myself through the readings and through my frustrations with others, and it's been a tough but awesome introspection. I still need to work on being motivated to change what I need to change, of course, because inertia and homeostasis are always the easier things to do. But whatever, I'm staying positive.

I rediscovered an online journal I kept in high school and sparsely updated in college. I fought internal change and challenge tooth and nail. Admitting that maybe I haven't gotten everything figured out for myself, really admitting it, and starting the work to become a better person, was something my pride hated, hated, hated doing. In fact, I know that this difficulty hasn't gone away. I think it's hanging around now. Yuck.

One of those journal entries read pretty much as follows: "The world is in need of some real, genuine, good men. Because I'm tired of hearing how much men suck." I've heard about a lot of men sucking in this world. Random passerby, exes, friends, fathers, name it. I've had the opportunity to hear people share their struggles recently, but it's by no means a new thing for me. My reaction was the same in the past, too. My immediate reaction is generally pain. To see the hurt hurts me in turn. If I let it, the hurt becomes overwhelming.
Perhaps to counter that, or perhaps because it's the right and natural next step, I feel anger. Rage, even. My heart accelerates an incredible amount, my temperature rises, and you might think that my hair actually became fire. I want something to be done. I want there to be accounting for what has happened. "Father, forgive them: they know not what they do," actually fuels my rage, because instead of their ignorance serving as a grounds for sympathy, empathy, or mercy, it makes me think that they are stupid or willfully ignorant. After all, I happen to know (or at least to some extent, maybe) that what they've done is wrong, inconsiderate, hurtful, etc. I can get stuck in this stage for an indefinite period of time. It's easy, and it's certainly easier than struggling with what comes next.
That said, the next stage is me wondering how much I really want to beat these folks to smithereens or somehow give a devastating blow to their ego. That kind of anger is parasitic. That kind of anger is hate. That kind of anger doesn't make me feel better, because it's not exactly just retribution, is it? My anger in part starts in a just fashion, because that is the reaction that injustice, hurt, and sin need to have. This discontent is enough to send me back to just being fuming, or denying it all until the issued gets brought up in conversation, which will then trigger Michael on Fire again.
I then realize that, more than some physical punishment, more than some nauseating voice in my head desires vengeance for a perceived wrong, I want the person to KNOW. I want them to understand, to see in some measure how their actions affected another person's life, what pain they have caused. That's more painful and possibly better than anything I could ever hope to afflict. "Better" meaning "edifying," not "more damaging". It's powerful. Knowledge is power, but it's also, on occasion, immobilizing if there's not hope of mercy.

I started thinking about this, actually, two Sundays ago, with the parable of the Good Samaritan. It's well and good for me to want to be like the good Samaritan and help somebody whom I hate or who hates me if I see them half-dead on the side of the road. How many times does that literally happen? Hopefully not too often. However, it happens all the time on another plane. It's mind-blowing to realize how much hurt there is in this world, to see how much we suffer at the hands of ourselves and other people. How often we are the ones dealing damage! I know that I have been a man who has left at least one girl in a position where she could complain about how I've hurt her. In any case, I figure responding mentally and spiritually with mercy to those who are hurting and who hurt us is a way to be neighbor to another. Those are always necessary. Sometimes physical response is also necessary. I desperately want mercy, so I guess I should start practicing it in any way that is available to me, even if it's in asking for the ability to be merciful, because sometimes it feels so beyond me.

So where does it lead me? Do I know if they'll ever know what they've done? Nope! Do I get justice for their actions? Well, was it ever mine to ask for, anyway? Even if it was, I'm supposedly drinking from a cup full of the blood that's more gracious than that of Abel every Sunday (...well, not really, they don't really offer that species of the Eucharist in Peru these days). Does it leave me in a better place? Yes. And them? can't hurt to have somebody opening themselves to them and hoping for them.

In the end, I still find that humanity, in some huge ways, is in a deplorable and miserable state. It can make my disposition less sunny than Lima in winter (this place is seriously set in a semi-permanent cast of gray misery). I still sometimes wrestle with hating men in particular. There's such a lack of good manhood in the world. However, I feel that being willing to accept where I am and go from there allows me to find a way to channel the anger in a threefold way: 1) look to myself to remove the beam in my eyes before going to remove the splinter in that of my brothers'; 2) fervor in following Jesus to the cross and praying for mercy for the persecutors; 3) passion in helping those who are becoming men become men of the right quality to the best of my ability.

...Though that third part requires that I go to sleep right about now. It's okay, it was about time for me to get off the soap box, in any case.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Breaking and Making Up

This story begins with a confession. That confession is that in my life I have been a videogamer. Not just like, a guy who likes video games. My brother and I played so frequently and obsessively that my parents came to call the TV room in which we played "The Hole," or "The Pit." I would secretly give thanks in college for being freed from the obsession. And then I would come back home and some shiny new game would be there, and gee, well, I'd just HAVE to try it. Occasionally I tried using the nicotine patch equivalent and would look at youtube videos in order to both feel satisfied but not consume all of my life. This was a failure. Most recent failure: viewing Final Fantasy XIII's storyline in its entirety via YouTube. I wasted so much of my life, so many waking hours. Sure, I did other stuff at the same time, but that's a lot of time spent sitting in a bad posture in front of my laptop. Yuck. If that weren't recompense enough, there's a terrible repercussion: The theme of the video game is "My Hands" by Leona Lewis, and it is irrevocably stuck in my head. I have played it on repeat. I think this is tantamount to handing over one of my "man cards", if we were to speak in Scrubs lingo.

As a small tangent, was seized by the federal government. This is very good news. Now I can't watch movies or tv shows with the same frequency. God's got my back. Or at least the very protective Federal Government of the USA. Thank you for saving me from myself. Ish.

Okay, point being, that song. Yes, I am going to discuss this song, at least in brief at the beginning. It's about recovering from a breakup or parting of some sort, essentially, and how everything's gonna work out, and then just having a day when that all falls apart, how there's just some part that can't let go, that keeps you stuck. I think that might be why the song stuck in my head.

There was a point between sophomore and junior year of college (so yeah, summer) when I was lying in bed, that a whole bunch of questions flooded into my head. I kept on asking, "Well, why this?" and an answer surged from within, "So that this might happen." "Yes, well, why that?" "For the sake of this." "And why is that important?" I felt like it was God actually telling me why He had said "no" explicitly to a question I had asked while in the Adoration Chapel earlier that year. And at that point, I finally just felt fed up, and said, "Dude, God, this is too much. What point and purpose? Be clear and precise with me. I want to know your intentions. You know what? No, no I don't. It comes down to trusting, and I don't trust you, Lord." And it was like I broke up with Him.

That moment right there. I mean, maybe it had been coming for a while. I would have small temper tantrums in the intimacy and privacy of that chapel, saying, "Okay," and "Thy will be done," and biting my lip and feeling miserable. I finally snapped. I aid what I felt. And then I felt disconnected. It was like the phone receiver had been pushed down, or that in the middle of a very important discussion via skype, the connection died. It was that instantaneous. I wish that it had been just as ephemeral. I needed to say it. I needed to come to the point where I knew where I was instead of lying to myself. But after discovering where one truly is, there are a few options: do you stay and work on it or do you cut it and go a new direction? I opted for the latter. I decided to do what I wanted and God could help out if He wanted to, but I wanted Him to be helping ME out in the way I wanted Him to. I don't even think I know that I opted for that path, but it was nevertheless the path I chose. Whatever noble reasons I gave for finally grunting the words "Romantic relationship...I'm interested," that one day at the beginning of October 2007 (my eloquence in and of itself an indication that I was not moving in the Spirit), they were rationalizations. It was what I wanted to do. Was it was I should've done? I knew, I KNEW, deep down, that it wasn't. But something urged me to do it, and I gave in, and I wanted to blame the disconnected, treacherous God that I had painted in my mind as the guy responsible. He made me ask, He made her love Him in such a way as to prevent the relationship I thought I wanted. He was the guy that was responsible for the next semester or so being so painful as a result. And He stood there and suffered the abuse, stood there with arms wide open, waiting and hoping that maybe I'd let myself fall into His arms, let His blood and His suffering wash over me and assure me that He loved and loves me, and I...I wounded Him more. I broke His heart and hardened my own. And you know why? Because deep down, I knew He was right and I was wrong, and I didn't like that.

I would joke about it, I would laugh and say how I was over it, and God became a distant entity in my life. I knew that prayer was important, that I needed time to reflect, but it always was so hollow, because...well, because of the post break-up tension, I guess. There have been moments of incredible beauty regardless, I have been allowed insight, and like the genuine good guy, He's always willing to lend a hand when I need it. Regardless, I've been trying to be a Christian and be a functional athiest at the same time. Or profess my belief in a God, Father Almighty and then go contrary to that, placing limits on what God could do in my life.

And it's in the moments that I thought that I was getting away with it, that things were really looking up, that I would get involved in my life as I knew it, that I would be gripped deep, deep, deep in my being. Every time I try to deny how much I care, how much I need, how central He is to me, it leaves me broken-hearted, hearing the Psalms of Individual Lament and letting out a silent sob. I am afraid to trust God. I am afraid to put everything, everything, EVERYTHING in His hands, to say, about the things that are the most important, the things that stand to hurt the most, the things I invest the most in, and place them with full confidence in His hands. When I know that I have personal motives at times, when the people that unto whom I give entirely too much of my trust break my trust, it's hard to belief it when I hear and feel that all that He's ever wanted is that I have life and have it in abundance. It makes more sense, from my defensive point of view, to err on the side of caution and try to go it alone.

But...well, my heart keeps getting in the way. I cannot dare to not dare. Or die trying. I'm delusional to think that I don't need that love. I'm crazy to think I can find happiness outside of what is true and enduring beyond my limited and insignificant being. To try and put something else as my first love could never, ever make me happy or content. But just to think of Him as my first love, the truest one, the one who is the reason for the others' existence, and the one to whom the others point me (and thusly give me cause to love them), the reference for it all...that's one thing that washes me with bliss. And gives me peace. And gives me resolve.

Oh, yeah, the breakup reference was to God, nobody else.