Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Speed of Shame

I've been reading in Genesis 3 about the onset of shame in creation.

It doesn't take long: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." (v.7-8).

Why? They were ashamed.

This morning, I got my very first speeding ticket. And the first thing I felt when I saw the patrol car pull out behind me--was shame. Not guilt. Shame.

No matter how much I growl about other people being worse drivers and me getting caught in a moment of inattention to speed, the officer was right. I was guilty. Feeling guilt, then, would have been appropriate. "I was wrong. I'm sorry. I accept my punishment as just." I waited for the officer to fill out the ticket, and I kept hoping he would see my clean record and show mercy. He didn't. He was fair. I know that's a good thing in the justice system.

But that wasn't my reaction. So why shame?

Blushing. Already trying to figure out to whom the news would spread. What my family would say. Would think. About getting pulled a second time and not having a clean record when an officer would run my license check. Trying to reframe the narrative to exonerate myself. Deciding how to laugh it off. Looking for someone else to blame.

The excuses are still running through my head while I write this post.

As often as I tell myself I am a sinner, as frequently as I acknowledge my need for grace, it takes something like this to show me that I still like to think of myself as perfect. Self-sufficient. Okay.

Reality check: I'm not. And that was true even when my driving record was clean.

"...though justice be thy plea, consider this:
that, in the course of justice,
none of us should see salvation.
We do pray for mercy."
- Merchant of Venice

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Movie Watch

This is a movie I'd really be interested in seeing: The Stoning of Soraya M.

Hoping it comes to a theater nearby...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Having a Blog Is Like Pet-Sitting

Having a blog is like pet-sitting.

Maybe you've been there - remember that cute little animal face peeking out at you from behind your friend's leg. You've always wanted a _______ (hedgehog, hairless cat, fainting goat). It's all the rage, everyone is talking about how fun they are, and here's your chance to get in the loop.

Besides, you can always leave at the end of the week.

Famous last words.

Two days in, it's great. The hedgeless goat is adorable, you put pictures up on Facebook and renamed your childhood stuffed animal after this creature. You spend hours cleaning the water bowl and brushing its hair. You bring it special treats from home and check on it every couple of hours.

Three days in, your schedule is getting busy, and the novelty is wearing off. The creature bit you last night because you brought your friend over, and they took a strong dislike to each other. You just need a bit of a break from pet responsibilities.

Five days in, you only went by once yesterday. This morning, the pet is moping around the house looking at you with big sad eyes because its water bowl is empty and it's lonely from lack of visitors. It was only recently tamed by your absent friend, and it's suffering bereavement. Guilt trip ensues.

Six days in, you're exhausted. Trying to make up for your neglect, you spent hours with the animal last night, coaxing new games and treats out of your already-weary mind, and hating the pet more every minute.

Seven days in, your friend calls. "Can you keep GeorgiaCuteFace for a few more days? My flight was cancelled." You should say no. You should absolve yourself of all pet responsibilities forever. But it feels like abandonment. What about the pictures on Facebook? What about your intense desire to have a hedgeless goat? What if you never have another chance at pet-owning stardom?

You keep it around. Resentment grows, and care fluctuates from intensive over-cultivation to extreme neglect. Before long, you have to get counseling for the guilt complex GeorgiaCuteFace has brought about.

Fifteen days in, your friend FINALLY returns. But instead of handing over the litterbox with a cry of "Freeeeeeedooooom!" and "Never again," you volunteer to be on standby in case your friend ever needs you again and to stop by and visit from time to time, privately resolving to start running and never turn back. You might keep the Facebook pictures, though, just for the memories, and in case you ever go through hedgeless goat withdrawal.

That's why having a blog is like pet-sitting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pas de Deux - Tres Bien Fait

This is a clip from Swan Lake, Chinese ballet: wow. Just wow.

I am easily amazed, but still.

Especially see the pas de deux, starting at about 2:30. (It loads slowly, so you may need to give it a minute).

Click here to watch the video on full screen if the embedded one doesn't work.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Several different psychological brain tests for a research study. Interesting all around.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High on a hill was a lonely...sock

Sometimes life is just like that.

You lose a sock somewhere in the deep recesses of space-time, otherwise known as BusyLifeMessyRoomSockEatingLaundry. You hang on to the poor, widowed sock for a suitable grieving period, in hopes that its MIA partner will soon be found.

But then, you just have to cut it loose and send it to the special home for widowed socks (a.k.a. the trash), unless you happen to be a connoisseur of sock-wallets or sock-cell-phone-holders or sock-mug-warmers (*eww*), which I'm not.

It never fails. Less than a week later, just long enough for the trash to reach the dump, bingo: house cleaning, missing sock found. Throwing that second sock away now seems doubly wasteful, not to mention cruel, but what else can you do? 

Maybe save it and try to matchmake it with the next sock to lose a partner to the BLMRSEL? But I doubt they'd just randomly have enough e-Harmony compatibility points to make it work. So what can you do?

See, sometimes life is just like that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

30 Degrees of Perspective

Sometimes, I do strange things when I'm sleeping. Sometimes I remember them. Sometimes I just wake up with a really sore neck. 

Like today.

I'm currently walking around with my head tipped 30 degrees to the right because it hurts to keep my head upright, tilt it 31 degrees to the right or tilt it at all to the left. 

So you could say, I'm seeing life from a different angle today.


I think sometimes that small shift is all it takes. For me, reading and writing trigger a lot of those "ah-ha!" (or "uhh") moments. I've been working on a novel and a few short stories lately. I wrote the novel before I started college, and now I'm rewriting, trying to give it greater rounding and complexity.

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to analyze how my fictional characters would behave, and how to make sure their actions are grounded in their personalities, past history, and prior experiences.  I want them to be human. I want them to be sympathetic. I hate one-dimensional villains. 

I was working on that project yesterday when it hit me: I spend far more time making fictional characters human than I do granting the people around me the right to be human. I am far more eager to discover the rationale behind my characters' actions than I am to discover the reasons behind the actions of people I struggle to love.

Unlike the literary characters, they are acting in the same play and scene as I am. They antagonize me (and I them), not another fictional personality. That makes it harder to want to know their story. I can manipulate my fictional characters. I can give them a rationale that makes sense to me. I can't do that to real people. I can't always understand why they do what they do.

And then I have to stop again. Some of the most complex, compelling literary villains/antiheroes in existence are not entirely comprehensible: Macbeth, Iago, Heathcliff, Javert, Messala, Ahab, Rogozhin... I dislike them, but they also draw me because I have this deep belief that they too have reasons, a story, even if I can't see the whole picture or understand it fully. I still care, because I think of them as human. 

So why not people I know are human? It would seem that I care more about people who only exist on a piece of paper than I do about the real people God has placed around me. 


Life lessons can be such a pain in the neck.