Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tumultuous Joy

As some of you are aware, I have redressed my interest in graduate school and have intimated my interest to the local university of Eastern Washington U. Though my application process was arduous, I directed myself to that process with fervor and excitement. The program I am applying for (Creative Writing) holds particular interest to me since the writing sample--a collection of the student's previous work--is the key element in the application. Its quality (or lack of) determines the student's admission.
Just today, not more than a few hours prior, I received a letter of acceptance from EWU's graduate office. Some of you can appreciate my satisfaction at such news. This letter arrives at a critical juncture for myself--and my family. At present, I am working at Starbucks with an eye for more profitable employ. My prospects lessen as my intentions, for I am developing a stronger sense of what life I would prefer, what endeavors I deem worthy to apply myself. There is only one way to put the question. What then is my God-given endeavor?
It remains the same. To pursue the talents that my Lord has provided and to do the work He has there given me to do. Therefore, I pursue graduate school as it affords me the opportunity to exercise my fiction talents as well as my teaching talents. Though the acceptance letter, here photographed, mentions no word to the Teaching Assistantship I have applied for, I am confident such an appointment will be made. My application, after all, explicitly intertwined my interest in graduate school with the Teaching Assistantship they offer to students interested in teaching undergraduate students.
I must say I am pleased with these turns of events. My primary glee comes from the satisfaction of being chosen. Their election was based on the writing sample I provided--which I felt none too confident at the time putting together. The writing sample was a handful of my popular pieces (an elongated The Color Green and Vengeance) combined with some of my award-winning stories (A Hero's Life, as revised with Dan Peterson's help, and a fairly new story called An Expecting Couple, written long before Lynné and I were wed and expecting). The selection process was based entirely on two professors and their endorsement of my writing. Thus goes the compliment, that two professors of English Composition found my work worthy, not just to publish or post, to recommend its author to study under their prestigious university. The compliment does not go unnoticed, but is consequently deferred. Who but the Lord guides the reading eyes of those holding my writing? Who but the Lord chooses the life of His servant? And who but the Lord would deign His servant worthy of tending and growing this most mysterious gift? None, I tell you.
So please, this fifteenth of March or whenever you read this, share in my smiles. Stand upside-down.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


For those of you who aren't in the little club of Harry Potter fans, the title of this post is the magical (latin-derived) word for the spell of forgetting. More properly, "obliviate" is a spell of confusion, built up from memory loss. And, after work today, I feel as if I had that spell cast on me.
How many of us do things for other masters? How rarely are we working for ourselves, being our own taskmaster? It seems that we are very good at paying bills to other people. We quiver at the thought of being late for a credit card bill. Do we blink, though, when we forget to set aside our earnings or do our own dishes?
That is, we reason, because I can afford to be an easy master to myself. 'After all, I have to deal with Boss X all day long, and really, I prefer not having him follow me all day.'
I suppose the result of that lax attitude is the decline in self-discipline. What is self-discipline other than the habit of obeying yourself? To discipline others is to instruct and be obeyed--to do this to yourself should be simple. After all, your arms and legs follow your commands; why not your behavior?!
Because we tire. Our other masters--Boss X, the water company, medical insurance--drive us and drive us hard. After all, they say, it is for our own benefit. 'You want your paycheck, don't you? Your water? Your health to be paid for when you need it?'
So the picture of our un-self-disciplined lives is thus:
We work for others so that others work for us.

Yet... I wonder. I wonder if, like a poorly sealed set of pipes, this basic assemblage of society loses labor or forgets its excess or... for lack of a better word... leaks. Isn't there something extra going on when you charge off to work an 8 hour day? Driving is an issue of extra--no one pays you to drive to work, but you pay someone. This well-publicised issue can cover over other things. What about your daily habits to facilitate the ease of your life? Like coffee in the morning? Like a movie at home because you're tired and need your brain to unwind? Like pizza delivery since your arms and legs, so driven by Boss X, won't heed your instructions for dinner? We pay for these things so that we can continue working for others.

Farmers might have something great going on. After all, they live on top of their food. They sell the excess. If you can run a diverse enough field for a season, couldn't you feasibly get away without buying food? Your family might gripe, though. I can hear some of the complaints already. "But Dad! The Joneses get pizza every night! I'm tired of fresh bread and cheese." "But we're not keeping up with the Joneses," I would like to reply. Maybe I will one day.

So the struggle in our society is not for proper leadership. One can blame the government for the media, the media for the obesity, the obesity for the stupidity, and on and on. But the truth is that we do not accept our own responsibilities. Our stupidity is ours to change. Our media is ours to listen to (or ignore). I began this post with half-a-mind to say things tantamount to "each man truly IS an island and we should celebrate isolationism." That might be a bit extreme.

Instead, I would suggest that we look at the responsibilities we give away to others and try taking them up ourselves. Look for the small ones. Becoming entirely independent from society is difficult, but look at the things you can learn to do for yourselves. Can you make clothes? Can you figure out your own mechanic work? Can you develop a solution to one of your needs that was previously met by someone else? Do it.
Do it because you'll be doing them a favor--not just yourself. Decreasing their workload gives them a break, a pause, a chance to regain their sanity. This isn't an age where people can stop at work and reflect on life. If we pause at work, it's merely to breathe and gather our wits, not reflect. Maybe one day, when our work has changed to something more meaningful, we will be able to reflect as a society. Some real thinking will be done--maybe even some forethought.

That continues to be my hope.