Posted on July 19, 2012
Filed Under Journeyman Chronicles | Comments Off on MBA

I am not looking forward to the commencement of the MBA program in which I have enrolled. You see I am confessing up front that it is my own choice that brings it on me; but I don’t think I am compelled to enjoy all of my own choices. While some see it a mark of good character to celebrate every choice you make for yourself, I contend it is a mark of good character to make choices you know you will not enjoy.

So I am not saying I regret choosing to start an MBA program. But I have been getting increasingly desperate to find entertainment, amusement, diversion; increasingly burdened with a feeling that my life lacks some happiness it should have.

I am whining, only whining. My life is amazingly free of any real care or concern. In a small measure this is itself part of my complaint. Most of us want to care for something, to have responsibility over someone or something, by which we can gain satisfaction through a sense of being appreciated. I am so self-absorbed as to imagine myself too busy to take responsibility for anything further than my own concerns, but not so self -absorbed as to find myself a satisfactory subject of absorption.

My boss takes for himself the most irritating projects with the least evident value, and lets me pursue mostly my own priorities. My family lets me live among them with room and board and only a minimum of chores. As regards money, a significant portion of what I earn does go to the family budget, but I am left with enough to provide for any kind of entertainment I might set my heart on.

Count your blessings, people say. I haven’t found analyzing things to be the same as appreciating them. I would break this funk, if I knew I thing I could get up and do to break it.


Posted on July 15, 2012
Filed Under Theological | Comments Off on Regrets

Sippican shared a video wherein passers by were asked their single greatest regret in life. Some of the answers seem honest; others, filtered to a level of banality appropriate for strangers. Several claim no regrets. To have no regrets is to have no memory or else no imagination.

I have closets full of regret, all shapes and sizes. Cluttered, overstuffed closets, and sometimes a regret falls out unexpectedly and I have to deal with a bit. Chuck it in and hold the door closed, maybe. I have no idea which regret is the biggest and can’t imagine hauling them all out and lining them up by size.

It’s an interesting question, though. Good for pondering. Instinctively I shift from “what is my biggest great” to “what is the greatest possible regret.” After all, I could always surpass today’s milestone, couldn’t I? But my imagination always wins. I cannot imagine regretting something so much that it was literally impossible to regret anything further.

This all seems very morose, perhaps, and a poor way of thinking. There’s lots of “to thine own self be true” regret-avoidance advice floating around out there. Most of it comes blowing off the colored tatters people have papered all over themselves, intent on becoming lost in the confusion of flying colors so that they will never see the hollow outline of their lives.

I do not know what my greatest regret is. But I know my greatest hope: all the dark matter in my universe is the unlit side of a moon turning toward the sun.

And why not?

Posted on July 8, 2012
Filed Under Theological | 1 Comment

A couple of months ago I ran into a friend from college. We hadn’t kept in touch since then, but I was happy to see him.

“Why aren’t you married yet?” he asked me.

The occasion of our meeting was a play, and intermission was nearly over, and a couldn’t summon up any kind of answer in the time I had. I think I fairly gaped at him. You will have to deal with my reply. His question inspires in me a strong reaction, which may be best expressed: “That’s just stupid!”

Perhaps, more accurately, “That’s just STUPID!!!”

Isn’t that a good answer? If only I’d thought of it at the time I’m sure it would have cleared everything up for him.

That judgement may be a good summary of my response but it’s a terrible explanation. And quite often when you employ a lot of emotion in lieu of an obvious explanation, the answer is not obvious at all. The implication behind the question (that I either actively avoid marriage or, through notable inaction, avoid it) antagonizes me because I don’t think of myself as avoiding marriage at all. But here I am living with my parents; what more classical way of avoiding marriage could there be? (So presumes our culture.)

For someone in my condition–male, debt free, out of college, middle-class income–the obvious reasons for lack of marital attachment are:

  1. Irresponsible, or afraid of commitment. Not willing to make life-altering commitments. This is not true of me. Perhaps the evidence is not visible to the casual acquaintance, but I take it as nearly a moral slander.
  2. Selfish. I am certainly selfish, but one of the things that makes me happy is making other people happy. I am not too caught up in my career or anything to “have time” for women.
  3. Homosexual. I’m hyper-sensitive about this one. I live out in the country where men hunt. I don’t hunt. Men also follow at least one sport (or engage in one), have been enlisted in the military, fix cars, farm (with tractors–real farming!), ride motorcycles, or, if nothing else, at least drink and play video games. I was interested in Graphic Design before switching my college major to English, don’t own anything with a motor besides my Honda Accord, and have not engaged in any of the preceding activities beyond going along with others on occasion.
  4. Socially debilitated. This is about the last conclusion anyone can come to, if all of the others are ruled out. Living with my parents and not going out much generally supports this view. I make friends slowly (or add friends slowly, which may not be quite the same thing), but I have a range of normal friends. I am not, as one may think, limited to devotees of Star Trek or any other nerd refuge. I do begin to wonder if I have some particular handicap, since more of my friends are women, and most of those married and often older (I mean, in the range of a decade or two, not two or three years).

So, to conventional thinkers, if all the obvious explanations are off the table, it seems a reasonably open question. That goes to show how few close friends I have (outside of my immediate family, I mean). People who know me well should know at least the better part of the answer–the answer that I myself hardly understand.

I used to say that marriage was not the kind of thing you should seek. It’s a good thing, of itself, but seeking it for itself is a confusion of virtues. Let’s just say, for the sake of illustration, that it is like heaven; and while it is all well and good to desire heaven, it is not right to hurry there. I would try to back myself up by quoting Paul that it is better to remain unmarried; yet, granting that Paul nor any other New Testament teacher prohibits marriage, recognizing Paul’s teaching that marriage is not necessary for everyone speaks no reproach to the one who desires it.

So I’d say that if you go looking for something your are likely to find it–that is, if you go out seeking a wife you’ll probably wind up with one, because it’s not so hard for a nice young man to find a nice young lady. When I go shopping for shoes I don’t fail to find my prize for long. But a wife is not shoes; you don’t get a new one later and you haven’t got any slack for second thoughts. Undertaking such a mission invites a premature conclusion and a lifetime of regret.

But this is a spirit of fear, as a friend pointed out to me (since I was too dense to see it for myself). A lifetime is not long enough, nor the progress of our lives so assured, that by waiting a full lifetime we will at the end of it make only good choices. One can always make a mistake, at any age; and the God of your future happiness is the God of your present happiness, too, or should be. Choosing a wife does take more careful consideration than other material commitments, yes, but respecting the difference is not achieved by a special voodoo.

So as best as I can figure out, to the question “Why aren’t you married yet?” my answer is “I don’t know, I give up. Go ahead and tell me.” So far in my life I’ve only heard two answers; one, “Because you don’t go to bars,” and two, “Because you don’t go to church.” There are some variations on either of these; you can substitute ‘professional conventions’ for ‘bars,’ or ‘homeschooling conventions’ for church, and so forth, but it all comes down to one of the two.

Both places make me uncomfortable. It’s kind of amazing how similar the two are in my estimation. I could become comfortable in either environment, but to do so would compromise values very important to me. I like to be the center of attention; I can be funny; I can certainly be ribald; and I am passionate and easily overcome with emotion. These things do not mix well with alcohol. That is to say, they mix very well with alcohol and some work associates have been keenly interested in observing the combination; but I would not be pleased with the results.

In more genteel professional circles, where ribaldry is at least somewhat constrained, everyone is occupied acting professional. We are all trying to project that ideal professional image. Although we are all failing in our own unique ways (and thus personality is in evidence), there is a layer of charade that unsettles me. On the one hand I want to believe that everyone really is my friend, and we all have so much in common. On the other hand I realize there is an element of politeness in the mix, and the common interests are not always each person’s driving interests. I alternate between feeling pleased with my own popularity and paranoid that it is all a sham. I can keep this bipolar tendency in check well enough to get along, but I can’t really enjoy myself.

Further, the kind of family I want to have won’t accommodate two careers. A lot of people would be offended to hear me state this so plainly, but it’s true and it’s based on pretty deep convictions about God and love and the meaning of life. I don’t begrudge a woman who’s decided she’ll have a career and I have at least as many friendships with professional woman as men; but when it comes to the union of two lives that’s just not compatible with me. It makes the professional circuit pretty barren.

But I don’t get into too many conversations about life and love with professional acquaintances anyway; at least not long conversations. It’s usually only a grandmother who knows me so well, and yet so little, as to suggest finding a wife out the the business world.

Some of my acquaintances from the business world would probably regard what I’ve already said as sufficient answer to the question already. If you want to live like it’s 1950, or even further back in the dark ages of history, you shouldn’t be surprised modern women will have nothing to do with you. Ironically, though, this conclusion would be quite wrong. That is, there are plenty of young women out there who want nothing more from life than marriage and a family. In fact, large homeschooling families are rapidly developing into a subculture significant from a political, fiscal and demographic point of view.

Doubly ironic, this subculture makes me even more uncomfortable than the business & booze mainstream scene. Women in this subculture are quite commonly convinced that they belong to their father or husband. I am antiquated and radical enough to believe that my life belongs to God; and it makes sense that a potential wife would need to believe the same. But I do not think that my life belongs to anyone else; not my boss at the Company, not the President of the United States, and not my dear old dad. In this respect a woman who thinks her father owns her life (or, as she might say, her heart) is no different to me than the one pledged to her career. Such a person has made a life commitment I cannot agree with. I don’t think I have the right or duty to change anyone’s mind on the matter but I can’t in good faith go along with it.

People are not homogenous, of course, and I can’t lump everyone going to church into this patriocentric philosophy. But if people trying to project the corporate ideal are hard for me to get along with, you can imagine how much trouble I have in churches. Again, I can play along. I behave nicely and I can talk about God; in fact,  I can do God-talk better than most, so I am a high-value asset in religious societies. I am okay with being a business asset but I really don’t like being a religious asset. Churches are in the business of creating a cultural piety I see as far different than dependence upon God, and people typically behave differently around their church friends than they do around their friends in general. ‘Fake’ and ‘God’ do not belong together. It’s a dangerous combination in several ways and I don’t want to become comfortable with it.

These flaws in the trite formulas do not amount to a fixed quandary. I do not mean to present a hopeless case. But if you know me much at all you should know already that I have not been living my life by a formula. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this latest chapter in my life doesn’t fit their script. But it is provoking and not at all comforting to be quizzed as though I had somehow arranged to be without a well-desired companion. If I cannot answer a fool in his folly, I will fire my volley at the internets.


True Love

Posted on July 8, 2012
Filed Under Mundane, Theological | Comments Off on True Love

A blogger with more compassion than I have entertains a question from the audience about love:

“I know God loves me, but sometimes I get really lonely…”

Weight has never yet been a problem for me, but it’s not just fat girls that get lonely. As regards to feeling lonely I sympathize with the letter writer, and I know that the emotional weight is not lifted by knowing the “right answer” (most simply, the love of God is enough). Nice theological answer but useless and unhelpful.

However I would find it very difficult to say anything encouraging to this person. First, although it’s not stated, it seems from what is mentioned that the only reason someone might be lonely is an unattractive appearance. This is inconsiderate of the people who are just plain normal and lonely, or the people who are very attractive and lonely because they are only appreciated for their looks. It sounds like a great problem to have, but if you really think about it, it’s far better to have one friend you know is loyal and true than to never know if people like anything other than the pleasure they feel looking at you. When you have no friends, that’s lonely; when you have a million friends but none of them know you, that is desperately lonely.

Second, reinforcing the point above, the positive quality offered is having a “pretty face.” Great, glad you like it. Let’s not be hating on the people with ugly faces. Bluntly, if you want to be liked for your pretty face you deserve to be judged by your appearances. A lover would no doubt love your face, but that is not all he would love and he would not love it less if it became disfigured through some accident or disease.

“Don’t fat girls need love too?” Well that depends entirely on what you mean. If you mean a sexual partner, the answer is no. Neither fat girls nor anyone else “needs” a sexual partner. People have been reliably proven to survive celibacy. If you mean love in its essence, yes, of course everyone needs love. But it is quite possible that you are already surrounded by people who love you. Yes, not in the way you would like; but just because you can’t have a cheeseburger doesn’t mean you are going to starve to death. It’s human to want something and there is nothing wrong with wanting; but don’t exaggerate the effects of not getting what you want.

“Are all guys shallow?” Again, the answer here depends entirely on what question you are asking. The easy answer is yes, they all are. The love of God is deep; the love of man is shallow. Very, very shallow. But if you mean “will men only marry a woman with a body that is advertised in our media as sexy?” the answer is no–obviously no. Women in all shapes, sizes, and conditions are happily married. Look around you. Look at everyone. Stop looking at only the sexy people.

“I want to know the honest (brutally honest) answer to this.” No you don’t. That is the big problem I have here. Loneliness? Yeah, that’s problem. It’s no fun. It affects a lot of people…including normal people, attractive people, and married people. Yes, married people too. “I am like in love with my best friend but he doesn’t even know I’m there because of my weight.” What if it is not your weight? What if you are the one being shallow, focusing on your own appearances? From what you have written it sounds as though you are interested in a man and what you really want to know is if he doesn’t love you in return because he is a morally reprehensible person.

That’s not fair.

The kind of romantic interest you are looking for is not supposed to be always-on, available to everyone. You don’t need to be romantically attracted to someone for a reason and there doesn’t need to be a reason why you are not. Any possible reason to love someone can be matched, later, with an equal reason to stop loving them. Love IS the reason; it is the first cause. Reasons tag along after. In true love, in Godly love, you do not change to become loved; you change because you are loved.

Lonely? Sure, I sympathize. But this way of thinking about loneliness, as though it all depend on your appearances, reinforces, supports, and perpetuates all of the problems it is complaining about.