Monday, May 31, 2010

Thoughts from a Friendly Friday

I've just had the loveliest weekend. I'm sorry to see it go. On Friday, I went down to Seattle to visit the old stomping grounds of 'dear old SPU'. I dropped in on my good friend Adrienne who, being possibly the most considerate person on Earth, promptly invited me to lunch with her at ye olde Gwinn Commons (a.k.a. SPU's relatively posh cafeteria). After a long-overdue reunion with some legendary cookies (which were every bit as good as I remembered), I meandered down to the School of Music to have coffee with my old professor and friend, Dr. Hanson. Over the course of our conversation, I experienced several medium sized* epiphanies.

Epiphany no. 1: I am not a failure/disappointment to my parents, mentors, sunday school teachers, or college professors. Now I can see the incredulous looks on the faces of some of my beloved readers, but let me just remind you all that deep in the heart of every perfectionist lurks an irrational, yet terribly compelling, suspicion that the world requires us to be flawless (just us--other people are allowed to make mistakes). This is what fuels our perfectionism. Along with that comes the much more realistic suspicion that we are always mucking things up somehow. This is what makes us irritable and neurotic. Lucky us. In any case, I learned that even though I have not written any symphonies, published any research papers, or filled any posts as conductor of some impressive philharmonic orchestra, Dr. Hanson is still proud of me. I heard him say so. Coming from him, it makes a big difference.

Epiphany no. 2: I have a mind that was built for scholarship, and I am not referring to the kind of scholarship where people give you money to go to school (although, if you think about it, I am getting paid to go to school--just not to learn). In the words of the inimitable Steve Urkel "I simply crave academic nourishment." For a while, I thought I was done with taking classes and writing papers and all that stuff. And it is possible that I am. But I am certainly not done with learning and thinking, and it is a distinct possibility that some of this learning and thinking will eventually land me back in school (as a student), barring some sort of social breakdown in which all of civilization is compelled to return to subsistence farming. Although, with my future, your guess is as good as mine.

Epiphany no. 3: I am, and probably always will be, hopelessly weird. Maybe someday that will be cool. Today, it mostly means that while big concepts like the progression of Western Civilization from medievalism to rationalism to romanticism to modernism and postmodernism and post-postmodernism make perfect sense to me, practical things like how to date someone remain hopelessly out of reach.

Epiphany no. 4: If I want adventure, I had better just go out and have it. What's the point of all this freedom and independence if I'm going to just sit around and whine about where I am? Also, If I really do want adventure, then I shall have to let go of any expectations as to how my life ought to turn out. I feel like that's a really big idea, although I can't really explain it any better.

...And that was just my Friday afternoon. I got to spend the evening watching Dr. Who with the aforementioned Adrienne and her husband Josh (fun!), and the next day featured such refreshment of the soul as only a Lazy Afternoon at casa Walter can provide.
Like I said, it was a really great weekend.

*A medium sized epiphany is somewhere between "Oh, now I get it!" and "I will now sell everything I have, move to Guatemala, and spend the rest of my life contemplating the innate artistry of a single fern frond."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

summer Vacation in April--epilogue

Remember my second-to-last blog entry?--You know, the one about finishing my master's degree and facing the prospect of an additional field of study? Well, here's what happened with that.

The good news is that I have a job next year, and it looks like it will be a full-time one. Of course, who knows what we'll have to do the year after that to stay afloat, but one thing at a time. I am incredibly grateful to God and my school community for doing what they can to keep music in their children's curriculum (and to keep me gainfully employed in facilitating that curriculum).

The bad news, and the impetus behind most of this post, is that I have a bad case of the summertime blues. Summertime blues?! you say, incredulously. Isn't that some sort of oxymoron? you ask. Yes. Yes it is. Nevertheless, I, who, as a teacher, have probably one of the best work schedules ever (it sort of makes up for having one of the lowest paying jobs that require college education--and perpetual college education at that) I, even I, am officially complaining about having a summer vacation. Actually, it would be more descriptive to say that the prospect of two months of unstructured self-indulgence has me feeling as discouraged and lethargic as a person might feel who is facing a recurring two month diet that consists exclusively of chocolate cake. I know that just because the time is unstructured, that it doesn't have to be squandered in self-indulgence. There's no rule that says I have to sleep in every day and spend all my time watching tv shows, reading books, and hopping from friend's house to friend's house in a perpetual orbit around my own empty apartment. I know all that very well. The problem is that right now, I have little hope that it will amount to much else. But I simply can not bear the thought of coming to the other side of this time, this precious gift I have that may never come again, with nothing to look back on but a wasteland of botched resolutions and mental escapes. I can not. I will not. Heaven help me, I've got to find some way to spend my life that truly matters!

(Bet you didn't expect all this drama when you started reading today. Well, sometimes that's all I've got.)

I hate being weak. But you know, I was not meant to stay that way. I was meant to grow, and I am growing, and I will continue to grow, God-willing, until the day I die (and maybe even after that).

So here's to a summer that's unlike any other. Bring it on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

giving my two cents

Hello. I had a thought I wanted to what was it...

Oh yes, now I remember!

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Sunday School knows the story of the widow's mite. That's the one where Jesus is hanging out with his disciples and they're all watching people put their monetary offerings in the Bible-times equivalent of the offering plate. First a couple of rich guys throw in some bags of money, and then a poor widow puts two little copper coins in after them. And Jesus says to his disciples "That widow gave more than the rich dudes because they gave out of their wealth, but she gave out of her poverty all she had left."

Now, the lesson I've always taken away from this anecdote is that, with God, it's the thought that counts. Of course, this is true. In fact, Jesus is the one who moved the boundaries of accountability inward from actions to the thoughts behind the actions (lusting=adultery, anger=murder and so forth). But it never occurred to me until recently that Jesus was not just being magnanimous to the widow, but stern to the wealthy guys as well, that he was not lowering the bar, he was raising it. Can you imagine how full the ancient offering plate would have been if the wealthy men had followed the widow's example and given all that they had? Hearing this story, I always wondered whether I, if I were ever destitute, would have the moral courage or the faith to give God all that I had left. Now I realize that I have the opportunity to show such moral courage every day of my life. (Oh snap!) I don't have to be poor to give everything to God--I can do that right now. And if I want my life to be as full and rich and effective as possible, that's what I have to do, isn't it? No more invented barriers, no more pushing the inner struggle off to another place or time or circumstance. This is a decision that has to be made now, and again tomorrow, and every day for as long as I breathe. That's what it means to follow Christ. Everyone has a chance to put their all in the metaphorical offering plate (which often includes putting something substantial in the literal offering plate every now and then as well), and every 'all' is appreciated by God, be it a gazillion denarii or two cents.

By the way, that widow's tiny little two-cent life-savings has already affected the lives of millions (billions?) of people, if you think of all the people over the last two thousand years (give or take) who have been touched by her story. Cool.

I didn't mean to get preachy, but every once in a while, I have these 'aha' moments that are either very obvious or very profound (or both), and I can't move on until I've shared them.

So thanks for reading.