"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Calqued German Words and the Spiritual Life

If I had twenty lifetimes, or twenty times the amount of time I currently have in my life, I would probably attempt to learn most of the world’s major languages, and perhaps a few local dialects along the way.

But, alas, I’m given one lifetime, so it’s probably not meant to be. Three or four languages would be nice. I know a decent amount of Spanish, some Chinese (spoken not written). I’d like to eventually learn German and may have to given my ambitions toward further theological education.

English of course has a lot of borrowed words, many that I haven’t realized were borrowed until one of my students—typically European—tells me they have essentially the same world in their own language. I began to explain “angst” to a German student the other day, to which her response was essentially “well, yeah, of course.”

I was also reading Karl Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline—a sort of condensed version of his much-longer Church Dogmatics, which might take me twenty lifetimes to read. Barth is Swiss and writes in German, and though I’m reading an English translation, some of the more weighty words are left in German, I assume to retain a nuance and depth that might otherwise be lost in translation.

The word he used was weltanschauung. I suspect using weltanschauung instead of its English equivalentworldviewmight just be a reminder of the depths of the concept, that a welanschauung is not simply your opinion of the world but that it's less of a what than a how—how you interpret the world, the whole framework of beliefs and assumptions you hold that influences how you interpret new information.

In this way and in regard to religion, it seems like it’s not just the East Asian Buddhist and the American Christian who have differing weltanschauungs. I sometimes realize when trying to dialogue with a fellow Christian that it can feel like two people speaking two different languages—maybe the result of differing weltanschauungs.

Or Christians assume I share the same weltanschauung and so speak to me like I’m “on their side,” not realizing some of the fundamental differences that make it hard to dialogue.

It seems an important concept of which to be mindful, whether we’re talking with one of the same religion, a different religion, or no religion; especially when we feel like we’re having a hard time getting others to see it our way or failing ourselves to see it their way; it’s not simply a matter of making a compelling argument, but recognizing the differing weltanschauungs that might inhibit mutual understanding.

I’m intrigued by the philosophical, historical, and psychological words we’ve calqued (a word "calqued" from French) from German more than anything, probably because they seem more pertinent to matters of religion. Though, schnitzel and strudel are wunderbar (wonderful) words, and the best occasion for chatting about theology may be over a hamburger and a Hefeweizen.

Here are a few:

Gestalt. A psychological term that seems pretty similar to how we use “wholeness” or maybe the adjective “holistic.” I think the best kind of religious people, whatever the religion, are people whose faith is fully integrated into their lives. In other words, it’s not a hobby, but something that shapes what you value, how you act, how you spend your time, where your priorities lie.

Maybe a gestalt faith is a wholehearted faith, a demanding faith, a faith that requires work, even. And maybe a gestalt spirituality means one’s faith has to be seen as an interconnected entity, where your actions reflect what you actually believe, not simply what you say you believe (not a new idea).

Gemeinschaft and gessellschaft. These two sociological terms might be contrasted as “the priority of the community” and “the priority of the individual." Chinese culture probably falls more under the former, with American culture fitting more the latter.

Many would say western missionaries have often erred over the centuries in failing to recognize the particular, um, “schaft” that was present in more communitarian cultures, perhaps bringing too self-focused of a gospel message that failed to be sensitive and understanding of the context. Which seems like a damaging, myopic mistake, one that could easily encourage an unhealthy kind of Christianity and needlessly critique a legitimately good element of a culture (e.g., respect for family, playing one's part in a greater whole, etc).

Maybe you could say true Christianity is a balance of the two—God loves the individual, and God loves humankind as a whole. I suppose I’m in a season where I’m trying to prioritize gemeinschaft. Maybe that sounds like B.S., since I’m not deeply tied to a Church community right now.

But I do find myself preferring to worship in a setting that is more liturgical and designed to emphasize our oneness and solidarity with one another, rather than our individual expression in worship or “personal relationship with God.” I suppose a balanced approach is important when conveying the heart of our Christian experience to others: life isn’t about you, but you’re also not irrelevant.

Schadenfreude. This word has to do with finding joy in another person’s misery. It sounds pretty awful, something none of us really do. But it shows up in subtle ways, I think. I wonder if often our sense of “justice” leads to a bit of schadenfreude at times. I think the world, including Christians, rejoiced a little too extravagantly when Osama Bin Laden was killed. It seems a very human thing to be a bit happy when people we don’t like—maybe because they’re self-centered or jerks or obnoxious—suffer misfortune.

I also wonder if some within Christianity are resistant to the possibility that some/many/all non-Christians may experience the same eternal outcome as themselves because it threatens us in some way. In others words, do some of us need hell because it in some way affirms our own rightness, penalizes those who didn't do the hard work of Christian faith like we did?

True religious dialogue is maybe not impossible but does seem more difficult when we think others who don’t share are beliefs are going to hell. It seems like patient listening would be usurped by a kind of urgency in our conversation that would make us poor listeners.

Weltschmerz. This is similar to angst, a more commonly-used borrowed word from German. “Hope” is a central theme of Christianity, though Christians may disagree on the object of that hope. (Is it hope for a heaven for Christians? For a new, re-created world for some? For all? For those who live good lives?)

A danger of hope seems to be a certain sense of detachment, an indifference to the ways in which the world isn’t right. The problem of evil (how can God really exist or be loving when there’s so much pain around?) is not a problem I think needs to be fully resolved. We can feel hope, but we can also feel genuine frustration over the state of the world.

Buddhists seems to embody more than others this deep sympathy for the world’s sorrows and sufferings and would likely be good dialogue partners in learning how I as a Christian can live with this dual sense of weltschermz but also hopefulness.

Zeitgeist. This word means “the spirit of the times” and is meant to capture the thoughts, feelings, morals, and mood of a particular time. This seems a very relevant word especially for Biblical interpretation and for Biblical application.

The Bible was written in a particular zeitgeist; understanding that zeitgeist can be helpful in understanding what is being said in the Bible. Failing to understand that zeitgeist can result in a poor reading of the Bible, maybe if we assume something in the Bible warrants the exact same application for us today as it did then, when this might not be the right way to think about it. (Sitz im leben seems a similar expression to zeitgeist, which is used in theology to describe the social setting of the Biblical texts and might actually be more helpful here.)

I think we also have to be aware of our zeitgeist so that the heart of Christianity is not lost or mangled by whatever the current wave of thought may be. Yet there are right and wrong “spirits” to consider. I’d say the consumerism of our time is a spirit of which to be careful, especially when it morphs our Christianity into something that is all about “me” and my spiritual needs.

On the other hand, the empowerment of women to lead and shape the world is part of our late 20th century/early 21st century zeitgeist, and, unlike consumerism, is a trend that should be welcomed as we revisit Scriptural texts and realize that, while consumerism may not be consistent with the spirit of Christ, the equality of women and a less rigid view of gender identity, ability, and giftedness might be.

Kaffeeklatsch. This is not really a philosophical word, though we do it all the time. It basically means to gather for coffee and chatting. When you have a coffee date with someone, you’re having kaffeeklatsch. (Edit: See comments below for a better explanation of the actual, common use of the term...oops!)

There are probably some more uber good calqued German words I’ve missed, but I’ll stop there. Gesundheit! (Someone next to me just sneezed.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Well That Got Crazy (Snowpocalypse 2012)

My English students keep journals, which are submitted to me every Monday for reading, correction, and commentary. There was a fairly standard sequence from last Monday to this past Sunday; something like: hopefulness, bliss, disillusionment, annoyance. Or, in outbursts: “Snow! Maybe class will be canceled!” Then, “No class! So much snow!” Then, “No power! Not so fun anymore!” Then, “I’m cold and miserable!”

For a storm that started out much more wondrous and spectacular, the aftermath was a bit less satisfying for many. I can recall only one storm that was of this caliber in my lifetime and locale—the flood of 1996 in my hometown of Woodland, WA, in which we had to leave our home for a few days because of floodwaters and also earned a visit from then-president Bill Clinton, whom I met (“met” meaning he walked by and shook my hand in a crowd without looking me in the eye).

The scene on Wednesday was spectacular (pictures below, with credit as always to Joann for her brilliant artistry). On Thursday, around 10am or so, we lost power. After spending the day at the mall, including seeing separate movies (we couldn’t agree on one, so we peacefully split, her seeing “The Iron Lady” and me “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”…any other couples ever done this?), we returned to a cold apartment.

After moving all our fridge and freezer food to the porch and encasing it in bags of snow, we started a fire, lit copious amounts of candles, and enjoyed an evening of reading and card games. And smoke. (I think our fireplace may be clogged; we’ve never previously had problems, but our apartment still smells slightly smoky today, five days later.)

We listened throughout the evening to branches breaking outside, collapsing under the weight of snow and ice, threatening to fall onto rooftops and windshields. We actually left town on Friday, primarily for an appointment in Portland that weekend, though we didn’t mind moving to a warmer home.

On our way out of town last Friday, we stopped at Starbucks, finding a packed café, a long line, a scarcity of breakfast food and no available outlets; people were seeking warmth, food, and a place to charge their phones. Panera Bread, our second destination in search of breakfast, felt like a giant living room as it was also packed with in-use laptops and charging phones.

Apparently our power came back on Friday evening. But many in the area are still without power. Earlier today, many of our students who live at Evergreen were without electricity; teachers were prepared to host students for a night, until just a few hours ago when the power was restored—news met with cries of jubilation among the students.

It was a mess…accidents, messy roads, cold houses, falling trees. But…what a memory, and what an adventure. I know a lot of people were miserable, and I don’t want to diminish that. But I get the sense from some of those who suffered (or are still suffering) that it was (and perhaps continues to be) a welcome interruption. It forced people to slow down, to stop. It forced people to live simply. It forced people to talk to one another.

It provided a challenge, a test of character. Some likely failed such tests, including me. A driver across the intersection was visibly frustrated with me at a powerless traffic light, probably because he thought I should have gone earlier than I did. I get annoyed when people are annoyed with me; it's a fault, a deficiency, I'll confess. It certainly doesn't reveal a peaceful spirit. As I eventually passed him, I threw my hands up in mockery of him, as if to say, "I know, I'm an idiot, aren't I? Feels good to call me an idiot, doesn't it?"

Fail. Silly right? Doesn't make me look awesome, at least. My wife rightly put me in my place, suggesting I probably just looked angry and my attempt to “educate and pastor" this angry driver was misguided and ultimately a failure. Shame on me, truly. Attempting to live virtuously is not without challenges and frequent missteps.

But many others passed these tests, acting with wisdom, care for others, a sense of right action, hard work, and great patience and endurance. It was one of those moments that can bring out the best in people. And even those who suffered a bit, I suspect many of them secretly (or openly) enjoyed and are enjoying the adventure of it all. I think people often complain about things that they really don’t mind all that much; I sense this was one of those “miserable” experiences that brought a secret delight to many.

But I’m glad it’s passing, as more and more people seem to be getting their power back and returning to school, work, and warmth. But what a week! We won’t forget it.

Some pictures, from Wednesday, before things got out of hand:

A more serene, beautiful glimpse of the storm.

"The snow's this deep."

The road.

The post-apocalyptic wasteland of the mall, on our walk to Starbucks. Which was closed.


Baby snowperson. That third twig is supposed to be an umbilical cord.

I'm adorable!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peaceful Snow and Peaceful Protest

We’re in the midst of what is for the low elevations of Washington State a significant snow storm. Both my wife and I are at home, as our respective schools are closed. Given the amount of people she saw at Safeway yesterday stocking up for “the big one" (one person bought five gallons of milk...really? really???), I’d say most people are staying inside today. We plan to venture out soon for some snowman building.

I’m sure others share my love of the peaceful, calming nature of the snow. The forced break that comes with school closures and nasty roads brings peace. The sound (or silence) during snowfall brings peace. Putting my book and laptop down and sitting in a chair, staring out the window, mesmerized…brings peace. There is a stillness in nature and in my soul brought on by the falling snow.

One of my scheduled elective classes today was going to involve discussion and activities focused on MLK. I think my number one association with MLK is “civil rights activist.” Probably the second is “non-violent activist.” This is, I tend to think first of his affect upon our attitudes about race and equality, and second about his methods. But a third consideration is also of interest to me: his interfaith vision for peace and protest.

Jesus, Thoreau, and Ghandi all played a significant role in the shaping of King’s vision of peaceful, non-violent protest. And while Christianity, Transcendentalism, and Hinduism all may conflict in some ways, such as how we discover the true nature of reality, they share a common interest in how we should live life well and work for the good of all.

I sense some who identify with a particular tradition might feel that the resources of their own tradition are sufficient for understanding the world and navigating through the challenges of life. I don't really share this sentiment. I think this problem is part of the reason Christians have been historically so anti-science at times; we have the Bible to help us, so why do we need to listen to biology, astronomy, sociology, etc?

I love the way such a “high view” of the Bible acknowledges its timeless applicability to our own life situations. But I don’t think we should forget the particularity of the Bible. We have four spectacular theological documents that seem to capture the essence of what Jesus said and did; but they are not neutral, agenda-free documents; each was written for particular reasons to particular audiences from a particular authorial voice. But even where they get close to the actual words of Jesus (or perhaps capture his statements verbatim), did Jesus say more of importance? And, would he have said things in the same way had he lived in 21st century USA?

I guess my point is something like this: Jesus may be my Lord, my goal, my inspiration, my hope; but he’s not my only teacher. MLK knew this, and I have joined him on a similar quest in recent years to discover the riches of insight from these various traditions as to how to be, think, speak, move, and live.

Why isn’t Jesus enough? Because the spirit of Jesus is ubiquitous, present in many more places than simply 1st century Palestine. Because others have said things in a way that Jesus didn’t, in a way that adds to, complements, or supplements what Jesus said and did. That’s my take. I guess as a Christian I start with Jesus; I just don't end there.


From Jesus:

Matthew 5: 38-45- “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, do not resist him who is evil but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:9- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

From Thoreau:

“If a thousand [citizens] were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible”(from “Civil Disobedience”)

“Be not simply good; be good for something.” (Source)

Explanation of “Satyagraha” (Hinduism), which influenced Mahatma Gandhi (taken verbatim from here: source)

I. "Sat" --- which implies openness, honesty, and fairness: Truth

Explanation: Each person's opinions and beliefs represent part of the truth; in order to see more of the truth we must share our truths cooperatively; this implies a desire to communicate and a determination to do so, which in turn requires developing and refining relevant skills of communication; commitment to seeing as much of the truth as possible means that we can not afford to categorize ourselves or others.

II. "Ahimsa" --- refusal to inflict injury on others.

Explanation: Ahimsa is dictated by our commitment to communication and to sharing of our pieces of the truth; violence shuts off channels of communication; the concept of ahimsa appears in most major religions, which suggests that while it may not be practiced by most people, it is respected as an ideal; ahimsa is an expression of our concern that our own and other's humanity be manifested and respected; we must learn to genuinely love our opponents in order to practice ahimsa.

III. "Tapasya" --- willingness for self-sacrifice.

Explanation: A satyagrahi (one who practices satyagraha) must be willing to shoulder any sacrifice which is occasioned by the struggle which they have initiated, rather than pushing such sacrifice or suffering onto their opponent, lest the opponent become alienated and access to their portion of the truth become lost; the satyagrahi must always provide a face-saving "way out" for the opponents; the goal is to discover a wider vista of truth and justice, not to achieve victory over the opponent.


May we—all people, from every tribe—be peacemakers, people interested in achieving great ends without the use of harm…people who subvert the violent with non-violence…people who avoid not just physical violence and societal, large-scale violence but the violence and harm we do to those we love with our words (or silences)…people who practice ahimsa and tapaysa, out of love for others and for the sake of truth and justice, not personal gain or victory.

I hope it doesn’t contradict anything I’ve said that when Joann and I go outside in a few minutes, I will likely attack her with snowballs. We’ll see if she non-violently resists. J

Friday, January 13, 2012

Something's Growing Inside My Wife

And it looks something like this, or at least it looked like this a few weeks ago:

It's kind of a big deal.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A(n) (un)Holy Ramble On Suffering and Love

This is a post about suffering, but only one kind of suffering. I didn’t sleep very well earlier in the week and “suffered” a bit because of it, so I guess it's been on my mind.

Sometimes the degree to which people suffer seems the result of blind chance. People suffer around the world, not because they've made bad decisions, or because they deserve it, or because God wants them to suffer. They seem to suffer because of something like luck—where they were born, to whom they were born, when they were born, the environment that nurtured them, the body they acquired, the genetic history preceding them, someone else’s suffering that unfortunately intersected with their own, oppressive social structures, and so on.

Actually, I feel a bit unqualified to talk about suffering in light of how relatively little I've suffered. I’ve endured a number of challenging things, I suppose: health issues, lost loved ones, repeated broken hearts, frequent disappointments. But I get to self-actualize! So many of my basic needs are met that I actually get to focus my energies on self-improvement, vocational success, and a variety of other ambitions. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, nor whether or not I’m loved.

This makes me think I don’t really suffer all that much. I do legitimately suffer, I don’t deny it; but to lament as the Psalmist often did as a representative of the suffering, exiled community of Israel, or as a mother struggling to feed her children might? This seems slightly ungrateful or just misguided.

But that’s not really the kind of suffering on my mind. This kind of suffering is not self-willed; it comes into our lives without being invited. But what about willful suffering? Specifically, does love—love of family, friends, neighbors, and enemy—involve a willingness to put ourselves in situations where we are bound to suffer?

Perhaps this sounds like a kind of masochism. But perhaps God is the "Great Masochist." Traditional Christian theology says that God willfully submitted Godself to the finitude of a human, accompanied by many if not all of our limitations as humans. Assuming God had a pretty good idea of what it meant to be human simply based on God’s ability to know all that is, I’d assume God knew that suffering would accompany this miraculous act. I think Jesus' life and death are a testimony to how love can require one to put oneself at the mercy of others, out of respect and honor and compassion for them, with the potential to be hurt, to suffer.

I think of Paul’s attempt to capture the significance of Jesus in Philippians 2:3-8:

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (NAS)

Paul affirms that self-imposed limitations of God that come with that reality expressed in the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. I think there is a great model here for “incarnating” oneself into another’s “space” in a similar manner as God…to be with others in a way that opens us up to harm, but for the sake of love.

Three more snapshots, now from the gospel writers:

Matthew 26:50-53 Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Matthew 26:67-68 They spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68 and said, "Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?"

Luke 23:33-34 And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

Jesus reprimands Peter, unable to grasp the nature of Jesus’ approach and mission. Jesus is spit upon by mockers. Jesus recognizes the lack of awareness among the crowds and his killers, having the insight and great compassion to not hold their wrongdoing against them.

I suppose if you believe Jesus was simply a tragic hero, a person of great ideals and great character, this might look like a pathetic, hopeless end...unless you find redeeming value in his sheer, determined, unfaltering devotion to his mission. But if you believe in the resurrection and the future hope of humankind—if you believe God loves humankind and that this love was brilliantly displayed in the birth and life and death (and resurrection) of Jesus and that this love "wins"—then this scene becomes one of great power and great hope.

I suspect there might be situations in which love—love as an active choice, not as a feeling—demands a willingness to suffer. Maybe you can think of a friend, family member, co-worker, some acquaintance who makes it hard for you to be the best you at times. In theory, you are a very kind, warm, gentle, patient, compassionate human being; but then, in practice, all your theorized virtues seem non-existent as you become irritated and maybe act unpleasantly toward others.

Maybe you don’t like how being with those people can make you feel. Maybe they are disrespectful, rude, patronizing, self-centered, overly emphatic in their opinions, insensitive, ignorant, whatever. Rather than be in their presence, it might just seem easier to avoid them, ignore them. You can be a better “you” if your character was not being constantly tested by them.

Jesus’ example shines brightly to me. Would anyone disagree, regardless of how wonderful you think human beings are, that we are nonetheless lesser beings than God, certainly more prone to be wretched than God? Yet God, as the Apostle Paul articulates it, made himself nothing. God put Godself in a vulnerable place to be mocked, ignored, hurt, misunderstood, betrayed, and even killed. Yet it seems that even on the cross, even after Jesus' sincere prayer to have his “cup of suffering removed," he persisted with love toward those incapable of honoring him in the way he deserved.

I feel like Jesus didn’t love people from a safe distance, but put himself in situations, in relationships, where suffering was likely to occur. Jesus was not interested in self-preservation. I’m challenged by his example to not neglect the people around me, be they those I love or those whose names I do not know, but to love them with respect, honor, attentiveness, compassion, and sacrificial action. Even if that means opening myself to suffering, to feeling unpleasant for a few moments, to feeling unappreciated, to risk my good deeds going noticed...whatever.

This kind of suffering, for me at least, can’t be as bad as the sufferings of countless others throughout history, including those of our Lord.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Break in Review (With Pictures…and Words!)

I have been thoroughly enjoying Christmas vacation and a three-week break from worka very full and satisfying three weeks. I share here some highlights (thanks to Joann for the photos) as my extended holiday winds down:

Prior to our departure from Olympia to go stay with family in SW Washington, Joann worked fervently to complete several of her crafted gifts for family and friends. During her periods of creation I did most of the cooking and cleaning, so I like to think, as I told some of the recipients, that I helped make their gifts, albeit indirectly. And Joann, bless her heart, laughed every time I turned this fact into a tired joke for said recipients.

A shot of Brad (friend) and I in Pioneer Square (Portland). Along with Joann and Heather (Brad’s wife) we ventured into the city for pizza and wandering, absorbing the Christmas atmosphere while meandering through the streets of downtown. A couple weeks after this, Brad and Bryan (friend) and I “rebooted” an old tradition started over a decade ago of heading to Cannon Beach on New Year’s Eve (for the day). We enjoyed a rain-free day of Frisbee, hiking, renowned pizza, and a coffee shop game of “Settlers of Catan” that drew the attention of many (puzzled) customers, including a reporter for the local paper interested in tourism to their town and intrigued by our tradition. And what a good tradition it is!

Joann got to see her best friend Sarah (top left), I enjoyed a nice nap (good picture, though kind of ruined by the baby…thanks for thwarting a perfectly good "sleeping picture," baby), and we attended perhaps the most structured (yet still fun) Christmas party I’ve ever been to, complete with a gingerbread house construction contest and an interpretative-dance-to-awful-Christmas-songs competition. My team didn’t win either of the competitions; but I did get to repackage a snowman “thing” for the white elephant gift exchange that I’d obtained at my work’s recent Christmas party a couple weeks back.

Joann and I enjoyed a two-day rain-free trip to Seaside just before Christmas. We stayed at a Victorian-style Bed and Breakfast Hotel (which no longer serves breakfast …so I guess we stayed at a Bed) only a block from the beach. The pictures show the end of the day and likely mid-day, with early afternoon “energizers” in our right hands. I enjoyed long jogs along the water, time spent reading through my textbook-like ethics book, plenty of seafood, and also some down time devoted to doing absolutely nothing productive, nothing directly tied to other pursuits, projects, or ambitions. Is that a significant feat for anyone else?

I hope I don’t regret condoning my wife’s posting of this photo on her facebook; I include it here because I’m just “going with it.” On the right is the view out my Grandma’s window on Christmas, where we enjoyed our traditional family Christmas dinner. We spent several days in Woodland, enjoying time with family, sleeping a lot, exchanging gifts, and introducing my Grandma to confounding movies (Inception) and more accessible ones (Wall-E). As for the doll; well, Christmas morning at my parents included the revelation of my childhood doll to my wife. Would she have still married me had she known? Hard to say. This doll, now dysfunctional likely due to rust, makes a sort of crying sound when you tip it too quickly or spank it. Her (his?) eyes also close when she/he is laying on her/his back. I swear, I also had Legos, baseball cards, and teenage mutant ninja turtles.

I met with several friends throughout the break, though failed to take pictures with them all. Though I did get a picture with the most ravishingly handsome of them, Dan, seen in this picture. Apologies to Trevor, Ian, Mark and Jake (other Portland dates) for my failure to capture the moment. I blame my wife. For not being there to take the picture.

A shot with Ron, Matt (Boyd), and Larry at Ron's for enchiladas and margaritas. I met Ron and Larry in September as fellow groomsmen in Matt Boyd’s wedding in LA. Fun to have a bit of a reunion. And to laugh...a lot.

Joann’s parents’ Christmas tree. We’re back in Olympia as I write this, though we haven’t yet truly celebrated Christmas with Joann’s side of the family. The plan was to do so on Jan 1, with her massive extended family ("massive" relative to mine, at least…I am after all an only child), but it was postponed until this coming weekend, due to widespread sickness among Joann’s siblings, nieces and nephews, parents and grandmother, and Joann herself. One of the few who emerged unscathed? Myself, which I told somebody recently was probably due to my steady diet of jogging and microbrews, neither of which I think any of the infected really partake. Though Joann’s mom also didn’t get sick, and she doesn’t jog or drink, so maybe my theory is inadequate.


And maybe more important than any events, people, or wisdom acquired over the past three weeks was this: I got new shoes. I can tell the difference; my feet don’t hurt like they used to.

Here's (actually raising my coffee mug) to 2012 and new goals and experiences. To the fulfillment of some hopes and the likely, necessary abandonment of others. To acquiring that elusive six-pack that always seems more realistically attainable at the outset of the year. Sculpted abs: a hope to be fulfilled? Or abandoned? My optimism runs wild and untamed at the beginning of a new year…