Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm a liberal here at Patrick Henry College. Compared to the philosophies espoused by most students, mine is liberal. I think it's flatly libertarian (you stay out of my business and I'll stay out of yours), but I'm among a small minority who is willing to vote for Bob Barr on principle.

I'm also one of half a dozen or fewer who have read Ayn Rand and I'm the only PHC student who has read any of Ayn Rand's non-fiction work.

This is assuredly a pity. Nigh on a tragedy.

I support pure laissez-faire capitalism (including deregulation of all industries and the elimination of trade-inhibiting tariffs and excises), a reduction in the size and power of the government - federal, state, and local - and a greater focus on national defense, and generally a vast reduction in the number of programs devised for the general welfare.

I understand the constitutionality of the phrase, "general welfare," but it lacks grounding in reality. Men are naturally inclined toward self-interest. Altruism is never the main goal; it is incidental or, in some cases, a second purpose. Politicians who claim to do something for the "general welfare" use it as a means by which to gain political sway, manipulate their peers, or win more votes to keep themselves in office. Just as a business works to maximize its profits, government works to maximize its power.

I've been reading about Public Choice lately. Political economic theory rules.

Monday, August 18, 2008

well, i'm here

I love Firefly. I really do. Especially Objects in Space. An astronaut's intense interest in absurdist philosophy is oddly fitting. Once you get up to the vast emptiness of space you realize either that we are alone in this universe or that God is more majestic than anyone on earth understands.

I assume that's what you realize, anyway. You may just realize that flushing toilets are awesome.

Well, I'm here. The dread I was expecting came in waves, albeit in very small waves, during the ride up. We left Woodstock at 7:00 Monday morning, stopped for gas a few times, stopped for lunch, and otherwise drove straight through. I split the driving with Nicholas about sixty-forty, leaving Mom and Dad to cross-stitch and read, respectively. When Nicholas was driving, I was sleeping or listening to music or both. I started listening to Ratatat - great, great melody-driven techno, if you can call it that - and nodded on and off. I tried to read, but I couldn't focus. I read some of Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal aloud, eliciting a loud sigh from Nicholas, who just wanted to listen to his music.

I realized this summer, and vocalized on Monday and several days since, that Socialism - nigh on Communism, Christ's disciples' lives considered - is a pretty good Christian philosophy. Working for the greater good, working in gratitude to the one who permits you to live (don't take the negative connotation of "permits" - think more of God giving us life and breath and everything good as a ), loving our neighbors and serving them because that brings glory to our leader. Due to the nature of man, however, Communism makes for very bad governmental philosophy. I'm sure I'll flesh that thought out much more when I take some theory classes.

Orientation started Tuesday with check-in, move-in, and dinner with a speech from Dr. Farris (school chancellor). I got to meet my R.A., John Anderson, on Tuesday; he's a very nice, humble, bright man. I think I'll have a great year in his wing.

Wednesday held the first chapel, at which Dr. Walker (school president) preached following very good piano/guitar worship with Ben Guido (Guido to everyone on campus) and Kenny Ly (Mama Kenny to his wing). Dr. Veith (school Provost) gave a short talk after that about the philosophy of education presented at Patrick Henry, explaining the trivium and the purpose of the school's focus on classical liberal arts. I also met my advisor, Dr. Tallmon, on Wednesday; he's a wonderful man (he's teaching my Rhetoric class and he's spearheading a Rhetoric major under the Classical Liberal Arts program), and I'm looking forward to his class. Wednesday night held a Patrick Henry tradition, wherein all of the new students (freshmen and first-time-on-campus students like me) met on the steps of Founders to take part in an acoustic worship service led by (and interspersed with the testimonies and wishes of) the R.A.s. It was a moving evening.

Thursday saw Mom and Dad and Nicholas going to D.C. for the day as I went to my residence life, campus administration, and tech orientation sections. I had an interview with Mrs. Del Mundo (head of the kitchen) for a job in the dining hall. It went well, and I start on Friday. I got Friday, Saturday, and Sunday closing shifts (4:50-8:30ish), so my mornings, aside from chapel, CSG, and church, are clear. Just the way I like them.

Friday had our first wing chapel (just the men on my hall, with John leading the time), followed by a pretty easy assessment test (general knowledge, mostly). The second assessment test was a demographic one, and I was the first to be done with it. I went to the library, then to the kitchen, for their respective orientation sessions, which were interesting enough.

Saturday had the Freshmen talent show, which was everything from boring to hysterical and birthed a number of inside jokes.

Sunday sent me to Grace Community Church, which I was told was a Reformed church with a casual atmosphere. I expected Piper-esque preaching (the guest speaker was actually Joshua Harris, who delivered a fascinating sermon on the context of Jeremiah 29:11-13 and God's good plan for his people), but I was surprised to learn that Grace defines itself as Reformed Evangelical Charismatic. Go figure. Hearing people shouting around me wasn't all that distracting, but it threw me off a bit. I was equally surprised to find that it wasn't exactly a turn-off. I wrote a paper last semester on the gifts of the spirit and I walked away from that with only slightly less confusion and a real sense that the gifts are not used in the first-century-church manner anymore. But the people at Grace seemed to be shouting and praying and lifting their hands out of an overflow of joy at God's grace and gratitude for their salvation. The songs were deep, which is what I've wanted, and the pastor, Bob Donahue, is a very encouraging, very genuine follower of God. I even talked to him one-on-one during the coffee break in the middle of the two-hour service; he explained the proper biblical use of the gifts of the spirit and how they actually echo the early worshipers more than churches today often do. I'm not sure that Grace is the church God wants me to get involved with, so I'm still going to visit around for a few more weeks, but I liked it more than I anticipated.

As the title of my post says, I'm here. I really like everything about this place. I love my R.A., I love my professors, I love the distance learning students I've finally met face-to-face, and I love my classes. I love the group of R.A.s, actually; they're all committed followers of God, humble leaders, and sharp students. I'm terribly impressed by everything I've seen.

Except for Dr. Kucks' ninth-grade-level explanation of Algebra. Really? We all scored far above average on the SAT math section, and Algebra doesn't leave you that quickly. Are there really students here who don't grasp basic substitution?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

it's the anticipation of the thing

Fear and anticipation are a potent combination. I look forward to the semester at Patrick Henry. I eagerly await the learning that overtakes me every semester. I hungrily eye the environment that portends great personal growth and maturing. I simultaneously love and hate the coming semester for one particular reason: tomorrow marks the first time in my life that I have lived away from home.

When I leave at six o'clock tomorrow morning, I'll be saying goodbye to my room, my house, my dog, my neighborhood, my face-to-face conversations with my friends, my church friends, my local coffee shop, my Sunday School class, my Saturday morning ritual of the New York Times and a cup of coffee, my large library of books, the nearly palpable connection I have with my family; most of all, I'll be saying goodbye to my life as I've known it. Woodstock has been home to me for fourteen years. I'm still not exactly sure what it means to leave home. I have a hunch, though, that I'll understand it much better after this week.

I went down to the airport this morning to pick Anna up from her flight from Buenos Aires. It got in around six, but customs took over an hour. I overslept and ended up arriving at the airport at around six thirty, and I waited for forty-five minutes to see her exhausted face. Finding out that she had lost her phone cost us another hour, which was spent trying to get the people at three different desks to be kind early in the morning. Anna, if you're reading this, I'm not complaining - merely stating facts.

When we finally left, and after the very long drive to Ball Ground, Mr. Jeff was kind enough to make extra pancakes for me for breakfast, and they were delicious. I left their house at around ten o'clock, and I got to church just in time to see my boys one last time. Dustin is having as difficult a time keeping them focused as I did; I hope God lets him off easier. Aaron, ever the quiet one, said about five words to me, praising the comics I'd loaned him, Mitchell and Barry and Michael were Mitchell and Barry and Michael - all over the place, loud, and eminently enjoyable. Justin was tired (so much so that he laid down on the window sill and used the back of a folding metal chair as a resting spot for his head), but he was in good spirits. They were supposed to be studying Philippians 1:12-18 (where Paul says that he rejoices when the Gospel is preached, even if it is preached ironically or to be mocked, because its power is not in the preacher, but in the author), but they would have none of it. Like I said, I hope God lets Dustin off easy.

I left church right after seeing the boys. I didn't stay for the service. Mostly I'm tired of the services at First Baptist Woodstock. I love Pastor Johnny, but the rest of the church doesn't seem to follow him; they follow the Southern Baptist Convention and their own experience - evangelism is all-important, discipleship isn't. Praise God for satisfied Christians and loving teachers. Praise God for the mature Christians who like to help younger Christians grow. I need to be in a place where I can be taught. I need to learn so much, and I'm afraid that First Baptist Woodstock simply hasn't been that place for me for the last year. I need God to show me where to go next. God, show me your will, that I might do it and be happy doing it for your sake.

On my way home I stopped at Starbucks for a three-shot black and white mocha (a delightful drink) and a box of Chai tea-bags. It was the first caffeine I had today. When I left the house before six, I had stopped at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, both of which were closed, and neglected to consider gas stations as possible sources for wakey-juice, so I drove down to the airport with the only things keeping me awake being the loud music and the wind ruffling my hair in the convertible.

I packed all of my clothes into bags, finished packing everything else, moved my TiVo downstairs (for Nicholas to use), and did other miscellaneous things that took up my afternoon. Come six o'clock this evening, I flipped on the TV to find An American in Paris on TCM. I'd never sat down to watch the whole thing, so I did today. Gershwin was a genius, and Gene Kelley was brilliant. Though the ending was an improbably twist, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - and identified with it pretty well. The whole film left me with a bittersweet impression. For the last half (until the final minute), I felt terribly sad, because the girl was unwilling to leave a comfortable love for a passionate but volatile one. I felt annoyed because Gene Kelley's character seemed to be doing all he could, but it just wasn't enough. And I felt lonely, because I knew that the deepest sorrow would only be known to the viewer who had loved and lost and never gotten the twist that saved the American in Paris.

I talked to Noah for a bit, and then Anna came over, I cooked some chicken (which had a tasty orange/garlic/oil marinade on it), we ate, talked, and then packed the car. Now I'm looking at getting up in five hours and not being terribly tired. It's the anticipation of the thing that pains you . . .

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I'm a thinker. I like to think of myself as a thinker, that is. In any case, I ponder things and muse over possibilities and synthesize my observations into cogent philosophies.

The most recent synthesis gelled in my mind on Thursday night.

On a moral scale, I am worthless. Any good I do is far outweighed by the evil I do, and, outside of God, all good I do is sin because it is not done in faith. Actions are not the sinful part of what we do, as Jesus' talk about attitudes tells us; instead our purposes and intentions cause us to be guilty or innocent before God. Sin is defined as anything not done in faith (Romans 14:23), which means anything not done while, and borne out of, fully trusting God. In everything. Without questioning. Because he created me and I offended him by not trusting him in the first place. Because he is perfect and sovereign and beautiful and glorious and exceptional and worthy. Unlike me.

On a moral scale, I am worthless.

On a human scale, I can be worth something. An appealing idea. Worthless by God's standards, I can be worthy by others' standards.
This at the low, low price of your trust in God.
Act now for this limited time offer.
But wait; there's more!
Call in the next ten minutes and receive, free of charge, superiority and inferiority complexes (in that order), followed by a crippling identity crisis, resulting in lost time, lost intimacy, and an increase in cynicism.

By making myself worthy in the eyes of others, I take the attention off of the glorious, perfect, transcendent being - God - and redirect it to me, the broken, tattered, boring and tasteless and crass and dirty creation, fallen from grace and unable to redeem myself in God's eyes. By making myself worthy in the eyes of others, I sacrifice my ability to point to my savior as the worthy one.

By making myself worthy in the eyes of others, I lose my status as a place-marker for God's glory.

By allowing my arrogance - my pride - to live, I am actively trying to prove my worth to those around me. I must break for a moment to explain what I mean by pride. This is not satisfaction in my work. This is not taking credit for my work or rejecting false modesty.
My pride is my lack of humility.
My pride is my malignant sense of self-righteousness.
My pride is my bloated ego.
My pride is my arrogance.
My pride is my acceptance of undeserved credit.
My pride is my insistence on focusing on myself instead of on God.
Or instead of on others.
Or instead of on pointing to God for others to see.

My pride should come from God, in the same way, as C.S. Lewis says, that a pupil's pride comes from his tutor and a child's from his father. God sees value in me, since I am his creation, but that value is not inherent. That worth does not emanate from within me. That worth only exists as it is attributed by God.

All of this has come together in a resolution, with God's help, to become a more sensitive person. To drop my arrogant facade and approach life like a child of God, not like a man of the world.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

so very alone

I don't know why I feel so very alone. I really don't. It's a feeling, nevertheless, that I simply cannot shake. It started this afternoon when I found myself napping at two o'clock. There's no reason I should have been napping. I had only woken up at eleven. I found myself napping and I began to question the meaning of my present existence (no, that's not really my usual thought on awakening). For the next two weeks (until I move up to Patrick Henry's campus), I have next to no responsibilities. I have a library book to finish and return. I have some straightening in my room. I have to buy ammunition for my airsoft guns. I have no job (it ended a week and half ago). I have no girlfriend. Since I have no job I have a limited amount of money (money that should be saved for college life) and can't do even moderately expensive things.

Essentially, I have no purpose for the next two weeks.

That depresses the hell out of me.

The feeling only got worse this evening when I went up to Anna's house to hang out with her family. Normally I love her family, but tonight seemed odd for a reason I couldn't quite place. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I was just depressed from the day of introspection. Maybe I'm finally coming to grips with the full consequences of some things that have happened this summer. Maybe I'm aware on a subconscious level that I'm growing up; maybe I'm scared of that. Maybe I'm overanalyzing.

God, "Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come."

God says I am never alone. That I can always find meaning in him.

But I still feel so insignificant.

Monday, August 4, 2008


you know i've been unfaithful
with lovers in lines
while you're turning over tables
with the rage of a jealous kind
i chose the gallows to the aisle
thought that love would never find
hanging ropes will never keep you
and your love of a jealous kind
love of a jealous kind
[jars of clay - 'jealous kind']

I've been hooked on Caedmon's Call's "Mistake of My Life," Derek Webb's "I Repent" (The House Show version), and Jars of Clay's "Jealous Kind" for a couple of days now. They all really fit in with the Desiring God glorify-God-by-finding-all-fulfillment-in-Him motif I've been mulling over. Maybe not "Mistake of My Life" so much, but it's a well-made song about something I've always wanted to do - drop everything for a girl. Something about reckless abandon strikes a chord with my heart.

Anyway, I'm about fifty pages into Desiring God and I've found some points of contention (i.e. God's sovereignty necessitates determinism, God's glorification required an elaborate game instead of a perfect creation, and the like), but I'm trying to overlook them in favor of absorbing Piper's greater point. To wit, that The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Growing up in an Episcopal church, a Methodist church, and a Southern Baptist church, I'm actually surprised that I never heard that. I should have noticed it in Psalms (among many other books), as Carter pointed out tonight, but the thought never occurred to me.

Derek Webb, in his intro to I Repent (The House Show, track 7), says that Christians live in such fear that we'll be found out. That an exposure of sins on the five o'clock news would be the best thing to happen to any Christian. That it's harder to go back to a sin after the light has been turned on in the dark corner in which it resides. That we hate to recognize our sins and call them evil. That we are scared to admit how great our sins are. That we have failed to believe the Gospel that though our sins are great our Savior is greater. That even when we believe that truth for a moment we are quick to return to our hiding ways.

Christians seem to view God as a combination of strict father with saving son, judging creator with gracious son and enlightening spirit, and kind deity who cares more about politics and "social issues" than about knowing his beloved children. Regardless of what I believe about foreknowledge and predestination, I can't deny that Paul meant something special by "those whom He foreknew." Not "those whom He foreknew would ask for salvation," nor "those whom He foreordained to believe." It means "those with whom He shared a bond more intimate than any other; those whom He actually died to save; those whom He loved, loves, and will always love more than any but Himself."

Knowing God is my greatest desire. More than knowing my future, more than knowing my wife, more than knowing even his will for me. I long to know my God, my savior, my beloved.

Two weeks ago I wouldn't have believed the paragraphs I've just written. But I've finally realized that it is incumbent upon me to run toward God as the prodigal son returning home to the warm embrace of his loving father.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Fountain

The Fountain (director Darren Aronofsky's sixth movie) is, as far as I am concerned, his magnum opus. It is as hauntingly beautiful as it is emotionally involving; as bewitching and enchanting as it is tender and moving. From the orange and black tones of the futuristic story to the dark greens and blues of the older story, Aronofsky has perfected the use of elemental colors with stunning backgrounds.

Hugh Jackman (Tommy) and Rachel Weisz (Izzi) share a unique chemistry as husband and wife. Tommy is a kind and loving man who has sworn himself to finding a cure for the cancer that is slowly, although fairly painlessly, taking Izzi's life. Izzi is a writer, trying to finish a historical novel about a Spaniard named Tomas (also played by Jackman) who tries for the sake of his Queen, Isabel (also played by Weisz), to discover the Mayan secret of eternal life. The third part of this intricately woven and nuanced story is of Tom (again, Jackman) as he journeys with a giant tree to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld, represented by a dying star.

The entirety of the movie is a study of death and its proper place in the circle of life. Izzi is at peace with the idea, Tommy is not. Isabel desires immortality, Tomas risks his life to give it to her. Tom seems to have found immortality, only to question its worth.

Equally worth mentioning is the score. At parts the movie is completely silent. The sound mixing is exquisite, making the voices the perfect volume and intensity for the subject, amplifying and softening at the perfect moments. Clint Mansell's score is truly brilliant, and splendidly performed by the Kronos quartet and Mogwai, a new favorite group of mine. Full of sweeping strings and suspended minors, it buries itself into the viewer's subconscious to mirror the line of a Mayan from Izzi's story: "Death is the road to awe."

I see myself in Tommy. Not myself, but some yet-to-be version of myself. I long for a woman to love with every fiber of my being; to wrap my arms around with no desire to release; to care for even unto my dying breath; to know more intimately than any other; to please as an end, not as a means to a further end.