Monday, April 15, 2002

Mark Butterworth has been en el fuego lately with posts on humor, prayer, caring, and me (HokiePundit). [I'm not sure where I am with all that HTML formatting, so I'll just start a new paragraph.]

Again, I've been thinking, and as Michael Kapsalakis says in a Comment below, I honestly do think I'm close to "breaking the code." The funny thing is, the more I think I'm progressing towards it, the more I'm aware that it was always right there to begin with. This is also where I think a short addendum to Mark's post on humor might be needed. Laughing at something or someone is hostile and aggressive, but laughing with them is an expression of joy. In one of his books (I'm afraid I can't remember, but I suspect it's either Mere Christianity or The Great Divorce), C.S. Lewis expresses the belief that when we get to heaven, we'll look back at our lives and laugh at how silly we all were. Even now, I've found myself laughing, smiling, and generally being at peace a lot more than I used to be. Even little things make me smile, whether it's a pretty day or even just thinking about smiling. I've also found myself laughing when I realize something to be true. I don't mean I laugh when I find out that Japan has a parliamentary system. A few days ago, I was sitting in the library, and two of the prettiest girls I've ever seen were standing a few yards away. I honestly couldn't take my eyes off them; not because I wanted to "get to know them," but just because they were something lovely in a dreary environment, like the daffodils that have sprung up in the concrete planters outside. Well, as they were leaving, one of the girls noticed I'd been watching, and gave me a curious (in the George sense, not the weird sense) look. I laughed. I'd been caught, though it wasn't anything bad.

It's sometimes as if I can see exactly how a Christian should behave, and I'm not even sure what's holding me back. I will say that I think I'm making progress. Mark also talked about caring, and how try as he might, he can't stop caring. He quotes a pseudo-Buddhist (I think we've all played the Zen Master-wannabe game at some point or another) as saying that it's only by becoming detached that we can stop caring and free ourselves from anger and misery. I disagree with the man he quotes. It's important to stop caring so much about ourselves, but it's our duty to care about others, especially the less-fortunate. In the movie Lawrence of Arabia, T.H. Lawrence replies to a question of whether it hurts to constantly be putting his hand in a candle flame with (paraphrased) "Of course it hurts! The trick is not minding that it hurts." The world is going to have some high points, and it's going to have some points where it sucks. Read If by Rudyard Kipling, and you'll see what I mean. Sometimes we're not sure what the best course of action is, or how we can become more aware of the needs of others. The answer there is in Mark's post on prayer. Ideally, your thoughts and your prayers should be no different.

I don't claim to perfectly follow the ideas I've laid out. I'd like to, but I've got a long journey ahead of me, and I don't know what will be thrown against me. I know it sounds silly and pretentious coming from someone who hasn't even hit the age of twenty yet, but I think the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, besides being 42, is to love others, love God, and remember that since you own nothing you possess, you need to take proper care of it.

I know I'm extremely well blessed. I'm a well-off white American male (I'm not being bigoted, just acknowledging the advantages of those) with many decades of life ahead of me. I've got good friends. I'm attending an excellent university in the great and beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia. I've got a loving family. Most importantly, God has somehow shown me how to properly lead my life (if this be revelation, let's make the most of it!). I almost tremble to think what will be required of me in return, but I know that simply doing it will be enough.

"The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love and
Be loved in return"

-Nat King Cole, Nature Boy

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