Sunday, August 24, 2014

Memories of home, thoughts of friends

This afternoon I watched Gladiator. There's something about the story of that film that always gets me.  I think it's the sense of longing for a past you can never return to even as you're pressed to carry on in the present. It's embodied so beautifully in the movie by the visions Maximus has––often at very climactic moments––of walking through a field of barley toward his home in the Spanish countryside where his wife and son wait for him. It's the one thing he wants at the beginning of the story––and the one thing fate will never let him have as you learn early on that his home has been destroyed and his wife and son killed. That scene of him walking home always resonates with me in a way very few movies ever have.

I certainly haven't yet gone through anything quite as traumatic as losing my immediate family––let alone a spouse or child––or having my home destroyed, but there are certainly moments when something causes me to snap back to times in my life that I remember being happier or more content but that I know, no matter what I do, I can never return to. Relationships end. People die. Groups split. We can look back at them, but we can only move forward. 

Watching the film this gloomy Saturday afternoon, it hit me harder than it ever has before. 

It wasn't until this evening when I was looking through some pictures of friends from the past couple years that it occurred to me why. I'm right now on the edge of closing a chapter of my life. In just a few weeks I'll be leaving my home, my friends and my country for a very long time. It's what I want to do––what I have to do, really––and I'm more excited about it than I've been about anything in a long time. But today I realized it may be more bittersweet than I imagined. 

The home I'm living in is the home I grew up in––and it almost certainly won't be mine to return to when I get back. My family is at a time of transition. One generation taking the place of another, and I'd be a fool to think it will be the same when I get back. While the last two years have been painful in many ways, the friends I have right now are the best I've ever had by far. We'll still be friends (I hope) whenever I return, but chances are it won't be the same. People move––very quickly around here––and while I will see them all individually again, the memories we made as a whole group will be just that: memories. 

So, this is all not to say I expect to be stumbling down bullet scarred alleyways in Beirut while having hallucinations of striding through the green fields of Coryland toward a home I can never return to. Just that there's some sadness in a parting I'd not expected. And while watching a Ridley Scott film this afternoon, I realized that. 

The other thing that struck me in the movie as it always has was what a beautiful imagining of heaven those scenes of Maximus walking home are. I know it's not written from a theistic, let alone Christian perspective, but let's just say that if it ends up looking like that––which I (and I think C.S. Lewis, heretic that he was) tend to believe it will––then I will be a very happy man. It means all those moments of wistful longing for people and places we can never return to are really hopeful instead of sad. 

And what could be more beautiful than that?  

Sunday, August 10, 2014


This morning I spoke at a church. It was the third one in the past month, and I'm somewhat surprised how comfortable it's started to feel.

Not that I ever disliked public speaking (on the contrary, I really kind of enjoy it––it's talking to people that I struggle with––not at them), it's just public speaking about myself that gets me. There's something about talking about myself with sureness that's really difficult. "Wait!" you say, "You blog somewhat regularly, and blogging is by definition about you, isn't it?" Well, yes, and no. When I blog I talk about things I've experienced, things I've done, and, when I do rarely broach the subjects of who I actually am and what I believe about my life and what I want, I can do it with complete honesty about that fact that I'm really quite unsure that I'm giving the correct narrative of those things.

The kind of speaking I've been doing for the past few months just doesn't have room for any unsureness. So I speak with sureness. About myself. And being sure of myself is deeply dishonest.

I'm not saying I have serious doubts about anything that people would normally be concerned about, or that I'm intentionally misleading anyone about anything. It's just whenever I honestly think about my life, there are so many competing narratives that I trip over them. They chase each others' tales and weave in and out of their neighbors and sometimes completely contradict one another. They hide behind themselves so I can never see them all at once and swirl around on all sides so no matter how wide a lens I use I can never see the whole structure at the same time. I couldn't ever say which was right unless I could see them all, and I can never see them all because I'm always living one of them.

How can you say for sure what the Milky Way looks like when you're part of it? How can I look people in the eye and tell them who I am when I am me?

It's disturbing, but somehow I've become comfortable with it.

And I'm not sure what I think of that.

Monday, August 04, 2014

How to fix a high-end grill in three steps or less

It is the very height of outdoor barbecue season. Unfortunately, the gas grill that my parents left behind at the house––a very nice grill at that––is not currently working. Something to do with it being hardwired into the central propane system and the central propane system being empty.

So today, I went to work to fix it, employing what locally might be referred to as the Bungarian method. The results were so staggeringly successful that I feel I owe it to society to make it public knowledge.

Step 1: Inspect grill

Step 2: Remove non-functioning components

Step 3: Carry on as usual with functioning components