Tuesday, October 28, 2008

General Reflections

I finished reading Maus a number of weeks ago. It was the first graphic novel I'd read, besides a collection of Marvel comics, which doesn't really count. I really enjoyed it, but I'm going to avoid making any grandiose critical pronouncements. I will say that Vladek Spiegelman was a very real and endearing character to me, and my favorite part of the book.

In a weird coincidence Mark Blumenthal, editor and publisher of Pollster.com (a political polling and analysis site I've been frequenting lately) posted this today. Blumenthal's father-in-law, who passed away yesterday, has a very similar story to Vladek Spiegelman, as documented in Maus.

Michelle and I have been watching the Office almost every night. We're already half way through Season 4, which we got less than a month ago. The Office is great because it is so subtle and compelling in the way it engages our culture. I don't know exactly how to explain it, except that I watched the last two minutes of "Survivor Man" twice in a row, totally spellbound. And I need to see "The Deposition" again. I mean, it's totally hilarious, but it's the once-in-a-blue-moon, darn-that-was-poignant, out-of-nowhere-when-you-least-expect-it, rewind-that-I-need-to-see-that-again moments that have me totally hooked.

More good stuff from The Call:
For Jesus, spirituality is plainly not a life of contemplation divorced from a life of action. There is nothing in Jesus' life of either the super-spiritual "Catholic distortion" or the all-to-secular "Protestant distortion" we saw earlier. There is only a rhythm of engagement and withdrawal, work and rest, dispensing and recharging, crowds and solitude, in the midst of one of the shortest, busiest public lives ever lived.
If we are not to be dried up, our secular lives require supernatural refreshment too. But equally, if our supernatural experience is not to become an end in itself and a source of indulgence and pride, we must resolutely descend from the mountain peaks of vision to the valley of ordinary life where our callings take us. The New Testament knows no monasteries or monks, only spiritually disciplined disciples in a demanding, everyday world.
Last but not least, I'm excited to say that Michelle and I are having a girl. We went this weekend to a second hand store and picked out some of her first clothes. I learned that newborns wear pants with their onesies. Hey, it looked like a complete outfit to me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Political Reflections

As you may or may not know, I'm fairly sure I'll be voting for Obama in the upcoming election. I have to say, I'm a sucker for what people are calling his "rhetoric". Take this article, for example, particularly the last paragraph. It's been brushed aside as the ability to read from a teleprompter, but I think it's more than that. I believe there is power in the spoken, and written, word. I have for some time admired another rhetorical politician - Winston Churchill. His words, I believe, single handedly willed the English people onward in their resistance and endurance of the Nazi onslaught. Actually, if anyone is interested in a good Christmas gift for me, I would love a collection of Winston Churhill's speeches and public addresses.

Over the last week or so I've had some reservations about voting for Obama. Call it buyer's remorse, or second guessing, or whatever. First of all, I got an email forward about how Jesus revealed to somebody that he was going to pull the shroud back on the evil practice of abortion. Accordingly, this individual sent out a video, which I chose not to watch, but which apparently included footage of aborted babies, etc. I'm fairly sensitive to graphic stuff like that, so the suggestion alone made me feel guilty, like a vote for Obama was a vote for killing babies. But then I remember something he said. I'm paraphrasing: "I'm not pro-abortion; no one is pro-abortion. We need to teach our kids abstinence; that's the best option. Second, we know not everyone will chose abstinence, so we need to teach safe sex. And finally, and most importantly, parents need to take a greater role in their children's lives, including teaching and helping their kids to understand their sexuality." Again, I'm paraphrasing. He said something along those lines during one of the debates. A well-reasoned position. I really like that on several occasions he has challenged parents to take more responsibility for the lives of their children, suggesting that many of the societal ills can be righted by proper parenting. I agree with that. I also remembered that I voted for Bush in 2004 based on abortion, and it doesn't seem to have had much impact on the issue. In fact, none at all that I can see.

Maybe Obama's just a windbag. But he's an inspirational windbag, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for people who can bring out the best in others. And I think that's a very important quality in a leader.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things I'm Applying

There are some spiritual truths which I have learned, per se, but which I haven't learned to apply. The following paragraphs come from "The Call":
Midlife crises that are genuine and not simply fashionable are generally due to the tensions between three very different desires: for successful careers, for satisfying work, and for rich personal lives. Early in life the differences between our personal lives and our work may not be marked or obvious. But as life goes on, and especially if success in one sphere is not complemented by success in the other, a yawning chasm will open that leads to deep frustration. Sadly, studies show, a few people enjoy neither their work nor their personal lives; more enjoy their work but not their personal lives; only a few say they enjoy both.

Crises created by a contradiction between successful careers and satisfying work are even more fateful. For when we set out in youth and choose careers for external reasons - such as the lure of the salary, the prestige of the position, or pressure from parents and peers - we are setting ourselves up for frustration later in life if the work does not equally suit us for internal reasons, namely our giftedness and calling. "Success" may then flatter us on the outside as "significance" eludes us from the inside.
I wrestle with this a lot. Theoretically, I want work that is satisfying, fulfilling and significant in my own eyes. Practically, I don't really know what satisfying work would look like for me. What am I gifted for? What am I called to? I usually default to applying for jobs I'm qualified for, which haven't had the significance I'm looking for. Another problem is that I panic if I'm not able to contribute to my savings on a regular basis, to say nothing of actually having to spend those savings.

Speaking of money, another quote from The Call:
Second, and more practically, calling introduces into society a different style of operating that directly counters the market mentality. We do what we do in life because we are called to it, not because we get paid for it.

Contrary to the ways of commerce, calling means that life is lived for God's sake or for it's own sake under God. Intrinsic satisfaction outweighs external rewards such as pay, advancement, and external recognition.
That I need to try to live out. Thus far, it has not been easy and I haven't had much success. Little by little, though, the picture is becoming clearer. I want to be in a position to listen to people, understand them, and encourage them. I want to help people. I want to teach people. I want to strive, with close friends and colleagues, for some common good. It's hard to know what I was made to do. For now I can be faithful and patient.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Checking In

I've got a typical case of blogger's remorse. I've been away too long. Here is what's going on with me:
  • Fall is a good time. Expensive coffee for looks and warmth. Beautiful scenery. Rosy cheeks.
  • This Friday is find-out-the-baby's-gender-day!
  • Patrick tuned me in to the Village, and I've only listened to one sermon, but it's reawakened my appreciation for good teaching.
  • I've been thinking that I need to remember who the shepherd is and who the sheep are. Lot's of times I think Christians act too much like the shepherd, and it really turns people off. We're all sheep here people.
  • I've probably forgotten some things I bought. I did just buy The Office: Season 4, which is fantastic. But I challenge you, just try to find out where a boxset was manufactured. I can't find it anywhere. That's why my purchase tracking no longer adds up.
  • Michelle and I are retreating to the San Juan Islands this weekend. We're going to take in a show, drive around the beautiful countryside, try to see some late season Orcas, go out to eat, and relax.
  • Luke and Barbie have joined the blogosphere! Welcome guys.
  • Happy Thanksgiving Canada! Happy Election Day Canada!
  • The hockey season has started again. Hope springs up in the Edmonton Oiler fan, if only for a month or two.

Well I think that's all for now. I'll be back soon, I hope.