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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reboot (A Belated New Year's Post)

Nearly two months have passed since my last post. Two months composed of a wild, exhausting rush of paper writing as the Fall term concluded, followed by the physical and emotional relief of a Christmas break of road tripping, family and friends, familiar northwest comforts, and even a three-movie day in there at some point.

This was followed by January, a month in which, other than a week and a half long class I attended at one of the GTU schools, I’ve tried as much as possible to take an intellectual and creative break, spending my time watching The Office and Downton Abbey on Netflix, exercising every day (truly), cooking a lot, spending quality time with Joann and Clara, and taking day trips around the bay area. All while occasionally sneaking in a bit of Greek study and work on other miscellaneous school-related projects as I gear up for a new semester. It was a much needed break; last semester was enriching but demanding, and the next will likely be more of the same.

I am energized by beginnings, partly because of a personality type bent toward a love of possibility and hope. I recognize I can “begin” on April 7th or July 18th or any day; every moment holds the possibility for change and renewal. But the calendar turnover seems a natural moment to consider hopes, goals, priorities...to self-assess.

My friends and I have a running joke about the new year, inspired by words from a middle-school classmate: “I’m going to get soooo ripped (i.e., strong, chiseled) this year!” I always joke that this is the year I get my six-pack abs. I’d probably be better off aiming to drink a six-pack; that’s probably a more attainable goal. Genetics and ingrained habits are greater foes than the path from my desk to the fridge.

Goal setting, resolutions, ambitions...these can be dangerous for me...a way of setting myself up for failure and remorse given a below average performance record of meeting the demands I place on myself. But demand I must, lest I become overly permissive and neglect my responsibility for my own betterment and thriving. The same applies to the (I believe) essential Christian pursuit of character and compassionate action: I don’t want a spirituality that is permissive, that doesn’t challenge me, that is merely self-congratulatory rather than stretching and demanding. The positive and perhaps well-intended message of “God loves you just the way you are” at its best seems to affirm the worth and beauty and unique gifting of all and at its worst seems a license for moral apathy, negligence, and arrogant inflexibility. I think "journey" must always be emphasized over "arrival"; maybe no one should assume to have "arrived" anywhere.

I hope to journey down the road a little further in many areas in 2013. I hope to exercise frequently and with variety. I hope to continue the diminishing of sugar and white flour from my diet, while also attending to portion size. I hope to have better posture while sitting at my desk (I just sat up straight as I began that sentence).  I hope to improve my email and phone correspondence with those for whom I care most. I hope to be a better listener—talking less, understanding more.

I hope to accept my inability to "fix" people who don’t welcome my fixing (this usually doesn’t end well, trying to fix those who haven’t given me permission to fix them). I hope to gain reading competency in two languages (simultaneously close to and far from this goal). I hope to inch a little closer to clarity about my scholarly focus, while taking in a wealth of insight from the massive amounts of reading expected of me this year (still in the broad, exploratory stage of my doctoral program).

I hope to make the necessary repairs to my alto saxophone and pick that back up (perhaps develop an alter ego a la Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec). I hope to learn more quinoa-centric dishes. I hope to love now nearly eight-month-old Clara and accept her as she is, not pushing her beyond what she’s ready for while attentively guiding her development where it’s appropriate. I hope to better understand how to positively influence (and endure, if necessary) those social/institutional structures that might be good in theory but are in actuality broken, impersonal, harmful, and deeply in need of reform.

I hope to less often leave my sweatshirts and water glasses strewn around the house so that Joann doesn’t have to pick up after me like I’m her child. I hope to be a more courageous person, not bound by egocentric fears and doubts and free to act boldly and rightly. I hope I have a slightly better grasp of what God is like and what God cares about and where God can be found. I hope it snows in the bay area this year.

And I hope I quickly get over my hope that it will snow in the bay this year so that I don’t cling to obviously doomed hopes, because, that’s silly.