Some notes/happenings in WEEK 6
I stopped using the Internet (and my computer and phone) almost entirely. Hence the not-posting/writing/contacting anyone. It’s so easy to get used to living without these things, I think, because we were fine without them before, and when we detach ourselves from them for a couple of weeks we start to realize that we may even have been better off back then. Unfortunately when we’re back in the city or at school, it’s nearly impossible to remain unplugged.
What did I spend my time doing instead?
1) Reading a book of early love poems by W.B. Yeats! and thinking of modeling some things after his style… Here’s an excerpt from a poem of his that I liked and wrote a sort of 2nd stanza to; I didn’t really change much but I was surprised by how easily I could make it Normandy-themed.
The Falling of the Leaves [W.B Yeats]
Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,
And over the mice in the barley sheaves;
Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,
And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.
A Fragrance in the Breeze [modeled after WBY]
Summer is over the warm fields that call us,
And over the sparrows that sleep in the eaves;
Yellow the wheat neath the sun that enthralls us,
And yellow the flowers of linden trees.
It’s fun to imitate other people’s poems, like TKS taught us to do, but I also aim to write a full poem based on how his made me feel, while not specifically modeling it after any particular one.
2) Having quite a few more good conversations with my housemate and colleagues. I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed to say that for the first time in my life I’ve had a couple of long, semi-profound conversations about faith and religion with non-christians who are not seeking. That is to say, I’ve seldom had deep conversations about faith before with non-believers, unless they were already genuinely open and interested about Christianity and asking me questions, or unless they were people I met on a missions trip. I’ve also read (or heard of) a good amount about world views that differ drastically from my own, but honestly this is the first time I’ve heard them expressed clearly by people who actually believe in them. I could say that the opportunity never really came up before, or that I was scared to initiate conversations like this out of the blue because I am conflict-avoidant, and feared that this type of conversation would surely end in conflict and discomfort. Well, God surprised me by showing me that it’s actually pretty easy to dive into the topic by simply asking a question, and that when I take the opportunity, there will be conflict and discomfort, but not necessarily in the way that I expected.
I was surprised to find that my language barrier made it simultaneously harder and easier for me to share and ask hard questions. Due to my limited French, it was hard to speak in a more sophisticated manner, but that turned out to be for the better, because it was much more effective just to speak simply. It also helped because having a language block/filter also pushed me to think more carefully about what I wanted to say, and those few conversations with A and T were probably the most clearly I’ve ever had to express what exactly it is that I believe.
As for the conflict and discomfort, it didn’t manifest itself so much in our outward conversation, because it was all very friendly and frank, but the contents of it broke my heart and left me internally weeping (I almost cried but I resisted until the next morning because that probably would have freaked them out and put an end to any further sharing). As I heard more about their (often troubling) life experiences and the worldview of one who considered himself a Christian and yet didn’t believe in Christ, and thought there was no big difference between living today and dying tomorrow–why think too hard about these things? I read books before but they stressed me out, so now I just drink and smoke and be happy, because if I die tomorrow I will go to heaven anyway. Nothing is my choice–I was shocked, and frustrated, and angry, and sad, and yet at the same time, bizarrely, almost irrationally, hopeful.
Hopeful, because for the first time I saw with my own eyes, among people that I knew maybe not so well but well enough, the true extent of the darkness and the hopelessness and the evil that has been injected into our world, and the twisted lies that so many people have allowed into their lives, to tangle and choke and devour with total désespoir, despair, to the point of death–hold it, what on earth could be hopeful about that?! It sounds terrible, and it is, and this is only the tip of the iceberg–what about apartheid and slavery and genocide and all the evil things that people do to each other? I was only really considering the deep darkness that is found in an individual human being’s heart, but if you think about it, all the world’s evils can be reduced to just that–the evil in a single person’s heart, the twisting of a single good being of creation. Without this ‘little’ darkness, there would be no ‘greater’ darkness, so it seems to be all one and the same to me. But anyway, back to the point, why should I see any hope in any of this darkness, whether great or small, whether it’s the evil murderous deeds of a nation or the evil self-injury of a confused little boy?
The answer is that I saw the good that was simultaneously there, breathing, quivering, gasping for air amidst the murky waters and struggling to resurface so that it could take its rightful place on the throne of that little boy’s heart and shine. I nearly couldn’t believe it, because as I looked at my friends, I saw almost as in a funhouse mirror how beautiful God has created them to be and how cruelly distorted the reality seems. And particularly as I talked to T, I felt how deeply God desires for him to just look up, maybe, and see Him reaching down to save him from his anxiety, and his loneliness, and his hopelessness. I felt like I understood so well for the first time why I was there, why any of us are anywhere, because we have been given eyes to see and ears to hear and hands to reach out and grab (as gently but also as firmly as possible) the ones who are blind and deaf and drowning. Some of them are miserable and some of them are “happier than ever”, and I wonder if it’s worse to be the latter because it’s so much harder to wake someone up from a happy dream than from a nightmare. But in the end what everyone wants is to live in reality, awake, alive, and aware of the good and the evil, the truth and the lies, and the God who is redeeming us and our world from all this darkness. I encouraged T to try praying, maybe just once, because he never has before. I don’t know if he took me seriously, but I seriously hope he will remember it one day soon and try, and I pray with all my heart, Lord, that he’ll hear you answer.