Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rain Run

The heav'ns are gray but still I lace
I start off at a steady pace
No other runners in this race
No timer but the sky.

What seemed to be a petty route
Grows ever long; I've figured out
The growing darkness round about
Comes faster than my legs.

A flash of white divides the sky
I summon more, I pant, I try
To beat the storm, which draws so nigh
The rain that soon will come.

At last it comes, the wall of wet
The race undone--I've lost--and yet
The finish line must still be met
My dwelling calls me home.

Drowning, but still I stagger on
I lick the rain that falls upon
My arid lips, and strength once gone
Returns, propels me forth.

Gathering power with ev'ry stride
A will springs forth from deep inside
Unshaken by the tempest's pride
The end draws ever near.

The wall looms larger, louder... Flash!
I hear the noise, as on I splash
Wary, yet still my progress brash
Has brought the end in sight.

Human puddle, stagger, stumble
Weary, through the door I tumble
Awed yet very far from humble
The conq'ror of the rain.

Monday, August 9, 2010


One man's trash is another man's treasure.
It's interesting; if you enter "one man's trash is another man's treasure, but" into a search engine, you come up with all sorts of bizarre phrases. (My favorite was "...but this man's trash is his dinner"... huh?) I thought of that adage while pondering priorities. Many priorities are universal, like breathing, eating, sleeping, but after the essentials people can place their priorities across a wide spectrum.

I went to the hairdresser today. (Actually, I'm not sure if I should call her the hairdresser, the barber, the hair stylist, just the stylist, just the dresser...?) Either way, I went to get my hair cut, and in the midst of the small talk that inevitably accompanies such a endeavor, she asked me what my plans were for tonight. I lamented that my plans were pretty boring; I hoped to clean up my apartment some, as it's gotten pretty messy since my maid quit. Well, the stylist skipped right over being sympathetic towards my plight, and expressed shock that I--a single, childless male living alone--even had a housecleaner. Our priorities were definitely different.

There are very few tasks that I detest as much as cleaning. I find the effort inefficient, as once cleanliness has been achieved it seldom stays long. I was very spoiled growing up, in that I had a mother who stayed at home and made it a priority to keep a clean house, regardless of our willingness to help. I did my share of vacuuming and dish-washing, but I stayed away from everything else, especially bathrooms. If the dictionary ever chooses to include a picture next to the phrase "an exercise in futility," they should choose an image of a person bent over a bathtub, scrubbing away against intractable grime.

In college, I managed to further delay my exposure to this loathsome task, as I lived in the dorms all four years and our communal bathrooms were the janitor's domain. When I started off law school by getting my own apartment, however, I could not avoid it any longer. But I tried. I had a half bath that I kept clean for guests, but I refused to do anything but superficially clean my own bathroom. Except for the end of the semester; at the end of finals, with studying no longer an excuse, I'd get down on my hands and knees and scrub and scrape and scour until every inch of porcelain, tile, and stainless steel shone like ivory, polished granite, and silver.

But it was a gross way to live; I acknowledged that. And the work was much harder (or so I've heard) than if I had cleaned weekly. So when I moved to Minneapolis, I resolved to have a clean bathroom every week. I followed through on my resolution... I hired a cleaning lady. Nicci was an amazing cleaner (she still is, just not for me). Every Friday, I would come home to an ivory tower. As far as my priorities went, having someone else clean my house was pretty close to the top of the list - the task is so odious and takes so long, to have somebody else do it was essential, at any price.

But then Nicci found a real job, and left me all alone, staring at my bathtub.

A month later, I found that my cleaning abilities hadn't improved much since law school. In fact, since I have guests over more often (and never am finished with "finals") they were worse in some ways. Today, talking to the stylist and seeing her shock, I realized that a change needed to be made. I couldn't just sit around fondly remembering the good old days with Nicci. The conversation with my stylist made me realize what was at the root of my priorities: I like having a clean, tidy apartment. And since Nicci's not around any more, if I want that clean apartment, I need to just buckle down and take action. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, I need to start taking responsibility for the state of my dwelling.

My first step: calling my stylist's friend, who's looking to find a job as a cleaning lady.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


My parents didn't have many rules in our family that were spelled out as such. One of the few, however, was, "If you kill it, you eat it." It started when Grandpa Manny first took us fishing: I loved catching sunfish after sunfish, until the basket was completely full. I soon found out, however, that catching fish was supposed to have a purpose: food. If you caught fish, you ate fish. For some reason, I soon after lost all interest in the sport.

I then forgot about the rule until I got my first BB gun. The thrill of shooting at tin cans quickly wore off, leaving me to set my sights on more challenging targets. One day, a squirrel up in a tree seemed to be eyeing our house with hostile intent, and I was forced to shoot it out of self-defense. I wasn't the greatest shot, so it took quite a few attempts (don't worry, I kept my eyes peeled for a white flag, but he never backed down); frankly, I was surprised that I actually killed it. Then I remembered the rule. Or more accurately, Dad got home and responded to my tale of bravery by reminding me of the rule. Thankfully, I had already dropped the squirrel in a sack and hurled it who-knows-where into the woods. After having my memory jogged, I expressed to Dad both my desire to willingly obey him by eating squirrel stew, and my deep lament at being unable to do so, since I relocated the squirrel without first obtaining a forwarding address.

I originally wrote this post because, when I was home last weekend, I found out about my parents' new nighttime ritual. Due to the prolific rain Iowa has received this year, there's plenty of standing water and thousands of mosquitoes. These bloodthirsty hoardes have been infiltrating our house, and consequently Mom and Dad now embark on a nightly mosquito hunt in order to avoid looking like plague victims each morning. (In fact, now they are sleeping under mosquito netting - I half expect them to speak Hutu upon my return.)

This post was going to be a witty application of "if you kill it, you eat it" to my parents' present misfortune. However, I did face the problem that 10 mosquitoes a night were going to be pretty hard to make into any sort of edible arrangement. Then I read this article. A woman in Taiwan caught over three pounds of mosquitoes! That's definitely enough for mosquito meatballs, skeeter steaks, or any one of a number of pest-related delicacies. Just wait until she shows her parents...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The First Law of Motion

The principle of inertia: An object in motion remains in motion and an object at rest remains at rest, unless acted upon by an external force.
If I could change one law of physics, I think it might be this law. So often I find myself locked into doing one thing, without an external force to save me from my initial choice. I sat down on the couch with the laptop to check my email; hours later--after reading my email, catching up on all the news on facebook, scanning the news sites, and searching online to answer random questions that popped into my head while doing all of the above--I find myself distracted by yet another online task, blogging. I haven't moved from my seat the entire time, and it's all inertia's fault.

Just like a ball thrown in the air has its motion stopped by gravity and friction, when I try to do something profitable or productive, external forces arise to keep me from it. Doing worthwhile things is tough, and it requires sacrifice, time, patience, and faith that the final result will be worth the effort. Often I add up all the external forces in this world that seek to keep me inert, and I give in; they're just too much, the cost is too great, and maybe inertia isn't that bad.

In those moments, I need to check my math. Just as first-graders make simple addition mistakes, like forgetting to carry the one, I've forgotten that "greater is He that is in [me], than he that is in the world."1 Jehovah tips the balance and changes the equation. If I look to Him for my strength, I can take on a whole army; with Him, I can scale a wall.2 Without Him, the world's external forces keep me inert, but if I take the strength He offers, I can do anything.3

Why am I still on this couch?

1 1John4:4.
2 Ps.18:29.
3 Phil.4:13.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You've Been Living in a Dream World...

"You've been living in a dream world, Neo...."

Those words were spoken by Laurence Fishburne to Keanu Reeves in the 1999 blockbuster "The Matrix." That our reality is something other than it seems is not new; it's a plot line that's been recycled for centuries. Its latest rebirth is in "Inception," a sharp, well-written film about people who enter and manipulate others' dreams as a means either to extract information from or to plant ideas in a dreamer's mind.

"Inception" introduces a mysterious device that allows multiple people to enter someone's dream. Once inside, a dream architect can change the dream, constructing an alternate reality to deceive the dreamer and to allow the other team members to interact with the dreamer's mind. Though skilled at manipulating dreams, the characters are afraid of having their reality similarly altered. To solve this problem, each one always carries a totem. Each totem looks like an ordinary object, but has a physical property that only the bearer knows; a die weighted a certain way, a perpetually spinning top. A hostile architect creating a deceptive alternate reality would be unable to duplicate the hidden properties of the totem; if the bearer were to roll the dice or spin the top and the totem were to behave differently, the bearer would know he was in a dream. In the film, totems are essential to remind the bearer of what is real.

A person who believes in Jehovah faces a similar reality crisis. He observes the reality presented by his senses: a physical world he can touch, taste, feel, see, and hear. However, he believes that reality extends farther, incorporating the supernatural realm: Jehovah is God, man has a soul, the Creator has demands on Creation. These two realities constantly collide; he struggles to live "in the light of eternity" while being blinded by the temporal sun.

Thankfully, he has a totem: the Bible. That book contains God's written words, clearly spelling out the transient nature of the physical world and the permanency of his soul. As Peter wrote,
[T]he day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? . . . [I]n keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.1
Someone's "word" can describe a promise; if a man guarantees he'll do something, he gives his word. Similarly, the Bible is God's word, Jehovah's promise. It describes the reality that He guarantees is true, despite what our senses might tell us is real. If you're drowsy, or have fallen asleep, consult your totem, be reminded where reality lies, and wake up...

Don't waste your life living in a dream world.

1. 2.Pet.3:10-14.