Tag Archives: nature

An Existential Treatise on the Futility of Rationale

I’ve noticed myself becoming marginally less argumentative and aggressive as I age in this life.

Ha. If you asked for my fiancé’s side of the story, he would probably recount to you the three biggest fights (so far) of our relationship and say adamantly, “Less aggressive? No way.”

But it’s true. The older I get, the less energy I have for arguments (especially on Facebook) that occur between privileged, middle-to-upper-class, white college graduates (and yes, all of those descriptors apply to me).

It’s odd because my belief system is as “figured out” as it’s ever been. I know where I stand on the issues that plague general society and, often more significantly in my circles, the issues that plague the church.

But I have less energy and enthusiasm for an argument with a gun-rights advocate whose platform is so flawed and vague and just…absurdly selfish, I guess, that I get lost when trying to decide how to approach it to pick it apart. But aside from that, even if I knew exactly where to start, I don’t have the motivation.

I have less energy for an argument with a woman who thinks that sexism is a myth, one who is so buried and embroiled and surrounded by the latent sexism in our society that she thinks feminism is a four-letter word instead of what it actually is – a movement that recognizes a severe imbalance in this world and desires to take the steps to equalize it.

I have less energy for an argument with fire-and-brimstone Christians who care more about hatefully espousing their opinions about the eternal souls of those with whom they disagree than they do about getting to know a person who is different from them.

I’ve become disillusioned in this life I’m leading, and I’m past the point where arguments on Facebook, either with strangers or with people I respected until I found out what their politics or morals are, are satisfying to me. I’m past the point in my life where sitting around and debating issues that MATTER is the only thing we do. I live in a privileged world where I get to go to an office every day and earn a yearly salary, complete with healthcare benefits (although sometimes the high deductible feels more like a burden than a benefit). In my position as an editor, I’m constantly engaging and reworking and immersing myself in content that discusses helping, ministering, loving, being Christlike, putting our words into actions (or “feet on our faith,” as one of our monthly periodicals puts it), and I’m tired of these things being words to me and nothing more.

When I was a teenager, then a college student, then a young twenty-something, I dreamed of moving to another country and changing the world. Not in a big way. I don’t have the tools or skills to change the world in a big way. But in my small, linguist-centered way, I was going to make a difference. But now I’m not a twenty-something anymore, and I haven’t done any of the things I thought I would, and my passion has waned.

I don’t know if it’s because I am tired of arguing without doing, or because my arguments get me nowhere, or for some other reason I haven’t yet thought of. But my passion, my energy, my characteristic aggression has diminished.

And what in the world do I do about that? Maybe it’s a good thing, I reason with myself. I wasn’t really argued into any of the beliefs I currently hold. I came to embrace pacifism (and gun legislation), feminism, anti-homophobia, and all of the other issues I am passionate about by observing, studying, reasoning, practicing, and praying. Therefore, what’s the use of arguing my views to someone who doesn’t share them, or holds the opposing viewpoint? If I wasn’t argued in, how can I expect someone else to be? On the other hand, if nobody ever engaged in arguments, would social progress and change ever occur, or would we still be slave owners, who don’t allow women to work or vote?

But did those changes come about because Person A argued with Person B and Person B eventually saw the light and gave in? I don’t think so. I think they came about because Persons A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, and N argued with Persons O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z until some kind of conflict occurred and an obvious winner emerged. Whether the “conflict” be a war or a riot or a vote/election, usually the losing party isn’t suddenly converted to the other side. It’s just that they’ve become a subordinate somehow.

I guess I feel saddened and discouraged that conflict of some kind must occur before things can be made right. I guess it makes me feel powerless. Tweeting about sexism isn’t going to cause employers to raise all their female employees’ pay to match what the male employees make. Arguing with a middle-aged (or older) Christian, who’s claimed Christianity all his or her life, about whether gay people should be afforded the basic rights that everyone else gets isn’t going to legalize gay marriage in the last remaining states. Trying to reason with the overzealous second amendment defenders on Facebook isn’t going to get Congress to pass the gun legislation that this country sorely needs. And writing a blog post about the futility of it all isn’t going to change a damn thing either.

So, don’t mind me. I’m just over here having an existential crisis. I can afford such a luxury since all my other basic needs (except for equality as a woman) have been met. Nothing to see here. Move along, please.


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Filed under bloggy, experimental, irreverent, sentimental

That Time I Saw Some Cool Stuff in the Sky

I’ve always been interested in the stars. My favorite unit in 8th grade Earth Science was the one where we learned about different constellations and what they looked like and how to identify them. My teacher was kind of creepy, and he flirted with the pretty girls in class by asking them which was their favorite constellation and then drawing it on their hand. On my hand he drew Orion. See what I mean? Kind of a creep.

So, despite my casual interest in the night sky, I have never seen a meteor shower, even though I’ve always wanted to. It seemed like I always heard about it after the fact. Or, if I heard about it in time, it was the kind of thing where you had to go see it at 2am on a Tuesday night, and I was never motivated enough to do that, at least not in the middle of the week.

But last week a good friend of mine informed me ahead of time both of the fact that a meteor shower was happening and when would be the best times to see it. Luckily, the best times were a Thursday night and a Friday night. So I chose the Friday night, bundled up in many, many layers, and left my house at 11pm to head up north to an open, rural area where I could clearly see the sky and stars.

The farther away from the city I got, the more gradually I began to see increasing numbers of stars. After an hour of driving and several left and right turns and a lot of creeping along down very dark, two-lane, narrow roads, I finally settled into a spot I thought would work. I was in a network of paved but snow-covered roads that appeared to be the bare  bones of a brand-new housing development. There were cul-de-sacs and dead ends but nothing else. Just land and trees. So I parked my car in the darkness and got out.

I looked up at the sky and realized I had no idea what I was actually looking for. It occurred to me that I wasn’t sure what a meteor shower even was. I’d been assuming it was just a show of various falling and shooting stars. But, faced with the expanse of starry night I now stared into, I was hit by the vastness of it all. I puzzled over exactly how to watch the sky. It had become clear early on that I would need to be outside my car rather than in it. But I had no desire to just stand around and stare up into the sky like a dummy. I eventually decided that climbing onto the roof of my car would be the best course of action. So I hauled myself up to the roof and just lay there, hands stuffed into my pockets, staring straight up.

The thing is, what I saw was like nothing I’d ever seen before. For one thing, I’d never seen so many stars in the sky at one time. The aforementioned friend had told me to locate the Big Dipper and that, if I could do that, I would find the bulk of the meteor shower action just below its handle…or something like that. Problem was, I couldn’t locate ANYTHING familiar in that sky. It was the most overcrowded sky I have ever seen. I could not find a Big Dipper or a Little Dipper or a North Star or an Orion (although I don’t think it’s Orion’s season anyway…). I mean, nothing. Absolutely nothing. So I gave up on that and just stared. What stood out to me the most was the sheer, pulsating quality the sky had. It just seemed to be literally bursting and throbbing with moving light. And I don’t mean falling stars. There were certainly those, but I just mean, it had a pulsing rhythm, resonant of a drumbeat. I’ve never seen the sky in quite such an alive state before.

When I looked due north and straight up, there was one star in particular – an ultra-bright one – that seemed itself to be moving, but not in a falling or shooting star kind of way. It moved sort of like the planchettes that accompany Ouija boards do in the movies: slowly, hovering, sometimes a little jerky. If I focused on it – and only it – for a certain amount of time, then it seemed to become the only star in the entire, crowded sky. Trick of the eyes, I guess, I don’t know.

I lay on the roof of my car, shivering, teeth chattering, the cold seeping into my toes, my nose, my fingertips, everywhere. But it didn’t seem to matter. The tremors were inconsequential compared to the show playing up above. It probably would’ve been a better experience if I’d done more planning and brought a blanket, and maybe a thermos with a warm beverage of some kind in it, but I didn’t do those things. I layered up, hopped in the car, and drove because I had no idea what I was doing or what I was really looking for, and I can’t say – even now, after the fact – that I even really know exactly what I saw.

At times I got lost in the alternating blackness and brightness, and if I got into a comfortable stare, I sometimes had the sensation that there was so much more going on up there than my naked eye could see. The feeling that there was something…more…up there never lasted long, but it was persistent and recurrent.

And then the most magical moment happened while I stared into an inky black expanse. I was trying something new with my eyes. I had been letting my gaze dart frantically around the whole sky, trying to keep up with shooting stars that always seemed to be just in my periphery and never in my straight, full-on line of sight. So for a moment, I quieted myself and decided to train my eyes just on one spot – not one star, but more like a defined square patch – in the sky. I did that for about fifteen seconds, and then there was a flickering in an empty black space within the patch. And then all of a sudden a star burned there, in the exact same spot that had been totally unoccupied two seconds prior, and it burned and shone just as if it had been there the entire time. It seemed so sure of itself and its existence that I blinked and began to second-guess what I had seen. I don’t know how scientific it is that a star will just turn on in the black sky out of nowhere. Perhaps it was just another trick of the eyes, who knows. Nobody was looking at that exact same spot at that exact same moment in order to corroborate my story, but – as my favorite necklace (and Kurt Vonnegut) says, “So it goes.”

I could make some cheesy-sounding and inauthentic, contrived-feeling references to the shepherds and wise men who followed the star in the east to Bethlehem, or to God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. But I won’t do that because I don’t want to cheapen the experience, either for myself, or for anyone who might be reading. I did have a cool and unique experience that night, and I’m glad I went. I spent about two hours out there in the dead of night, in the rural quiet of “just outside Kansas City.” And I hope I will never forget the giddy way I felt lying on top of my car and looking up at the brightest darkness I’d ever seen, wishing I did childlike and impulsive things like that more often in my life but also simply soaking up the present moment. It was a lovely evening, and my only regret is that the camera on my phone was not adequate enough to immortalize any of it. Maybe next time.


Filed under bloggy, experimental, writing exercises