I have no idea...

...when I'm going to be able to blog this week.


United we stare

Blink. Then blink again. Then realise that you are blinking. As you realise this, notice that it is not remarkable in its own right. It is remarkable in that it makes you realise that you've done something, because quite frankly you have spent the last fifteen minutes or so (fifteen whole minutes!) doing nothing at all. Just staring at that one spot on the wall, not aware of anything. You blinked again. See? Hardly remarkable now, is it?

Procrastination - the plague that riddles every teenager, twenty-something-year-old and just about anyone who has to meet a deadline of some sort. It astounds us, it terrifies us, and it unites us. It has fuelled companies and websites, and its repercussions - having to cram in an immense amount of work into a very short time frame - leaves the coffee industry's pockets nice and taught. Well, tea in my case. I decided to write about this particular topic because last week as I sat down to work I was permeated by that inexplicable desire to do nothing. Nothing at all. Not only did I want to avoid doing the work I had to do, I had absolutely no inkling or desire to do anything else that might be deemed productive in some form or fashion. To top this off, doing nothing at all also incited frustration. Doing nothing was not an option. But there was nothing that I deemed worthy of doing. So I sat and paced and sat and did nothing and went over my options, deciding that none of them was a viable solution, I paced and sat and did more nothing. In the end, I picked up my guitar.

Coming from the Latin pro (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow), Wiki tells us that procrastination is "particularly prevalent in the academic setting" , even citing that "80-95% of college students engage in procrastination, approximately 75% consider themselves procrastinators". How about that for unity in diversity? There's even a Student syndrome described, where "people will start to fully apply themselves to a task just at the last possible moment before a deadline". As I read through the page I realised just how true this all is. How many people do I know that are always ready on time with presentations? How many keep to their study schedule and don't have to cram in at the end or leave bits and bobs out? It affects us to such a degree that we've made a science out of sitting for exams. With just a little information of the exam format we can deduce the important things to go over, how many questions we can afford to leave out, and even tackle the beast that is negative marking with only the most basic of background information. Being a student isn't about vigour or applying yourself to hard work and learning (well perhaps for some of us it is, though rarely in areas that we really need to be). It's about being able to write five hundred words on... well... nothing.

But procrastination has been with us since the dawn of time. What is scary about it today is that it's been made semi-pro. Twitter. Blogs. Youtube. Facebook. The titans of modern slacking. They provide us with hours of meaningless activity if we're desperate enough to look for it. Or create it. As exam season rolls around the activity sky rockets with status updates every fifteen minutes, then comments on the updates, then comments on the comments, and down the spiral we go. How many hours of our lives have we lost to these monsters? What was life like before we had them? Because I don't know if you've noticed, but we can be pretty resourceful and creative when it comes to applying ourselves to something if it means avoiding applying ourselves to something else. If we didn't have these networking sites maybe we could devote our time to creating something new, to discovering some new insight about life, to having real conversations with real people about real things. Maybe, when you think about it, procrastination isn't such a bad thing. Maybe it's what sometimes drives us to explore areas of life that we never would. To bring out the poet, the scientist, the friend inside all of us. But we'll never get there if we're still looking around for a new profile picture.

Tick Tock

The other day I came across this excerpt from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters:

"Let [man] feel as a grievous tax that portion of [time] which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright."

Time. It is perhaps our most precious and valuable asset. Time is money, yet it can't be bought or sold. There's always either too much of it or never enough. It is unfeeling in its routine and yet it is the great healer and comforter. As I left the house after reading this I mulled over this whole concept of the way I regard my time. It was around five thirty. Rush hour. As I sat cooly in the driver's seat, the music from the stereo playing soothingly around me, I observed my fellow commuters. The emotions on display on all their faces ranged from tiredness and distaste to urgency and frank anger. Being stuck in the same position for even two minutes has the ability to make one irate enough to yell and honk if they feel this is an extra interruption to their planned schedule. "I've been at work all day. I'm really tired. I don't need this". How many times have I felt this way? But as I sat there in my nonchalance I felt eerily removed from the scene in front of me. I was a casual observer in this cacophony of protest.

Have you ever had any experience with that particular type of person who always likes to be on time and thus becomes extremely nervous and agitated if they are late for anything? I am one of those people. Life tends to be very hectic and I find myself always rushing from one thing to another. Everything becomes scheduled, planned, prepared, and dated; and anything that gets in the way of that can send me over the edge rather quickly, even if it's my own fault and especially if it's due to someone I know and love. My time is precious and quite frankly I don't have too much of it just lying around (but then somehow I still find myself procrastinating from work. How I do this I may never know). But who am I to judge how best my time is spent? We prioritise things in our life and thus everything else that seeks our attention is an allowance from our higher commitments. So what happens when our time is intruded upon without our permission? We get irritated. We get mad. And we get rude.

But I should think: What right do I have to my time? What makes it mine? Did I somehow earn it? Because I certainly didn't make it. When it comes down to it I can't mould it, bend it nor shape it in any way. All I can do is move along with it in the flow of life until I reach the end of my days. The end of my allotted time. And it is allotted. This is the one preconception we seem to never question nor revise. Truly, we are rarely aware that the sentiment even exists. We have no right to our days just as much as we have no right to our birth, to our health, to our belongings, and to our family. We don't get to choose how much time we have, we only get to decide how to use it. It is, very really and truly, a gift. Perhaps if we had to treat it as such our attitudes might change more radically than we'd expect. If every moment, every minute, is a gracious gift that we are given - to be alive, to experience relationship, and to create - then how could we possibly be upset that we're not in the place we had planned to be or doing the thing we "should" be doing? Perhaps He who has given you all your hours and minutes and seconds has somewhere He thinks you should be. What if that irritating last minute conversation with your mother just as you're about to head out is something that she really needs to share with you? Is doing the dishes after supper such a waste of your precious study time?

There are things in life that are beyond our control. There are things that are entirely up to us. And then there are things that are in between. What we must decide is how we are going to approach them.

This weather

Makes me feel very, very sleepy.

I've been listening to a lot of Brooke Fraser lately and I have to say she's become one of my favourite artists by far. She is a Kiwi, so you know, awesome by default. Recently I've been running around looking at MIDI keyboards and after a trip to Olimpus this afternoon I think I've narrowed the choice down to two models; the deciding factor being, as usual, money. I want to get one to be able to compose and such with Garageband. I've been toying around with the program for a while and it's pretty easy to use, if not slightly restricted. But then for something that comes ready installed on the Mac, it's pretty brilliant. Maybe in future I'll move onto the beast that is Logic. Baby steps.

I got a desk chair this week! I know this isn't really news, but it's nice and swanky and maybe now I can get all kinds of work done comfortably. So yay :)

Regarding the comments on this week's post, Drew I don't think any of the things you said actually clash with anything I discussed, if not highlighted things that I didn't really go into. So thanks for that. I was pretty surprised how short it was to be honest, funny how things look really detailed in your head but once you actually type them out there's not much there. I'll try make them longer in future. I've got some ideas for next week's post but if you have any serious things you think I should write about leave your suggestions in the comments section. I have a tendency to write reflective stuff and of a somewhat spiritual nature (mostly because those are the kind of things I usually ponder) but I'll diversify if I think the suggestion's interesting.*

*Lady Gaga and insomnia don't qualify as interesting :P


Aw shucks!

"I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing."

Around 400 BC Socrates was trailing around Greece being very concerned with wisdom. So concerned that he proceeded to have a chat with all the most learned and respected people of his time, after which he concluded that no-one really knew much about anything and that he was the smartest one of the lot because he was honest enough to admit it. At first glance it doesn't tell us much about wisdom, but it does tell us a lot about humility.

My dictionary defines humility as "a modest or low view of one's own importance". I shall begin by saying I believe this definition to be inaccurate, though it is what most people believe. To think that you, as an individual, or any of your qualities are automatically inferior or less valuable than anyone else's is to miss the mark quite radically. Doing so to make other people think better of you is to do the complete reverse. "Oh he never takes credit for anything. It's SO good and he still thinks it's rubbish! He's SO humble!" Mmmm, you can practically taste the fuzzy warmth of it all.

St Bernard defines humility as "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself". Let's look at the first part. To be humble is to know who you are. To know your talents and your abilities. To know your strengths and your weaknesses. To be that which you really are, and, simply, not to try to be anything else. And after knowing this very well, to serve others no matter who they are. In other words, not to think that you are nothing, but not to think that you are of more worth than others. To elaborate more on this elusive virtue, let's have a look at its antonym - pride. Pride is precisely to believe that something you are, have, own, or are affiliated to, is better than all the others. That you deem it more valuable, more worthy, than everyone else's. Notice though, that pride necessitates competition. You can only be proud of something if there's something it can be better than. If something exists in isolation, then there is no room for pride. God isn't proud because there is no other god but Him. He just knows who he is, which if you'll remember is the first part of humility. The second has something to do with a guy named Jesus, but I digress. Proud people aren't really concerned with being good at something, or even with being the best at something, but only with being better than everyone else.

On the other hand, people who are really humble don't look like shy, low self-esteeming anonymities who won't take credit for anything and will always hide their talents or abilities (if they claim to have any). Real humbletons want to be the best they can be. They want to maximise their potential and they're not afraid to take credit where credit is due. They don't care about how they measure up next to the rest, but they're willing to work with the rest. Even to work for the rest. They don't need to be better than someone, or feel like they're worth more than someone, because they know who they are. Who God made them to be. And perhaps, when we're humble enough, we might start to change the world. But don't tell anyone, OK?

Beyond the Veil

As I woke this morning and pottered about my room one thing struck me. As the sun flooded into the room from the skylight above, the world rested in one perfect, still, small silence. Complete quiet. Complete rest. No bells, no cars, no shouts. Nothing. A very silent world seemingly basking in the knowledge that today, while perfectly ordinary in its composition, is unlike any other day. Good Friday, the day of the Passion of our Lord.

This Easter season has been somewhat elusive to me this year. Through the forty days of fast, prayer and almsgiving we are led further up and further in to this mystery that, for those who believe, has changed everything. But in the regularity I find it's often easy to fall into the trap of running through the motions. We know what the point of it all is - God made man took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price that we could not pay, thus redeeming the world; and in His resurrection opened the way for those who believe to be glorified with Him in everlasting life. Talk about a mouthful. Simple isn't it? So simple.

What makes Easter so particular then? Christ accomplishes His ultimate goal for being incarnate on this earth. He unites Himself with us fully, taking the suffering that was ours to bear, and taking it not without fear. And He was afraid. He was to undergo physical pain that most people will never even fathom; the disciples He would leave behind were far from "enlightened" and in their current condition unlikely to carry on His ministry; He would entrust his family to the care of others when He was still young and able. And yet He did all this, without a single protest, with no objection. Without even opening his mouth. How? We cannot know what He pondered in His heart and battled in His soul. Yet we do know that He had thirty three years learning to trust His Father, to trust that part of Him that was not afraid and stood as light in the darkness. That voice in His heart that was more concerned with love for a broken world than fear of pain and death. A love and an obedience that overcame everything. Everything.

It is this love that lead Christ to the cross, to that hill where sin and death was defeated forevermore. It is this love that raised Him on the third day to glory. It is this love that is the embodiment of God's Spirit which He poured out on all. The love which comes from knowing the One who is love. The love which comes from the knowledge that you have been given before you ever asked, that you have been served before you ever moved a muscle, that He to whom you are called to be obedient was faithful to the last.

What is Easter about? Bunnies and chocolate eggs? Perhaps so (I do love those cream eggs). But maybe it's about something much deeper. Maybe it's about God taking a stand with those who would spit in His face. Maybe it's about a Saviour who's relationship with His Father paved the way for our own relationship with Him. Perhaps, if you look past the veil of pain, and crosses and nails, you will enter into a place where you find, simply, love. Real love.