Posts Tagged ‘ love ’

Living vs. Vicariously

Before I start making points, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear: I’m writing about this topic because it’s something I’m working on being better at, not because I have anything figured out and want to sit up on my high horse coaching you peasants how to live.

Good? Good.

I write a few weeks ago about how I seem to have a certain quota of input that I can handle before I cross the line from inspiration to discouragement.

In that post, I make the point that spending too much time online leads to me never creating things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time plugged in lately, and while I wouldn’t describe my creativity as at an all-time low, it’s definitely suffering.

And the lack of productivity frustrates me, so I look to the internet for inspiration, still finding none, perpetuating the loop.

However, I find that as soon as I get offline my brain wakes back up. It may take a few hours, but the longer I spend unplugged the more I find I have things to say (that aren’t just the petulant whining that I catch myself defaulting to after a particularly un-creative spell.)

When I unplug, I’m more observant. I remember more. I glean more meaning from the books I’m reading when I’m not constantly interrupting myself to check Facebook or Tumblr.

I always get so angry at people who interrupt me while I’m reading, and yet I interrupt myself all the time. It’s stupid.

The longer I stay unplugged, the more opinions I have, and the better my reasons grow for having them. I find myself more grateful for the little things in life, and I spend less time feeling sorry for myself because I’m not currently travelling or having an adventure.

Unplugging reminds me to live Right Now.

The great thing is that the best adventures I’ve had are the ones which never made it onto the Internet because we were all living too much to bother documenting the moments.

I think that’s what it boils down to– living in the moment instead of living vicariously.

I can spend all the time in the world researching and planning for travel, but unless I get offline and actually go somewhere, it’s useless.

Vicarious living only gets you so far, and if you’re me, it only gets you bummed out.

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Seeking Meaning

I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately. What I believe, what’s real, what’s true, etc.

So therefore I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity and the Christian Church.

Recently, Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. For those of you who don’t know, Rick Warren is a megachurch pastor.

It’s tragic. It’s sad. Suicide is never something that should be taken lightly.

But it’s led me to think about this habit Christians have about assigning meaning to apparently meaningless events.

His suicide certainly had a cause– chronic depression. But was there meaning in his death? Maybe. Maybe not.

We can’t know.

Last summer, I almost died. Two weeks ago, my brother almost died. He was within a millimeter of instant death. (I hyperbolize a lot over here, but that is not hyperbole; I’m being literal.)

Was there meaning in his accident? My friend asked me. He wanted to know that if God is a loving God, why did he let my brother fall off that ladder?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why I almost died last summer. I don’t know what the physical cause was, and I don’t know if there was a metaphysical purpose. I DO know that I’m a better person because of it. There’s something about a near-death experience that puts the entire rest of your life in perspective.

When I die, I’ll probably greet death like an old friend. After facing death, nothing is really scary anymore, except the prospect of losing people you love.

After my brother almost died but didn’t in a crazy inexplicable miracle, I feel like nothing can depress or stress me out anymore, because my life could almost have been so much worse.

Maybe that means that there was meaning. But was there meaning to the bombing at the Boston Marathon today? I don’t know. All I know about that is it’s a tragedy, like so many other tragedies that seem to be piling up lately.

Christians are so afraid to admit that they don’t have the answers to some things, and that is a massive problem with American Christian Culture.

Is it inconceivable to think that maybe, just maybe, God is too big, omnipotent, omnipresent, multi- and pan-dimensional for your little human brain to explain? Is it inconceivable that you cannot possibly look at an event and answer the question, why? Is it so impossible to accept that you cannot know, simply because of the biological limitations to the human mind?

Maybe there is meaning in apparently meaningless events. But due to my extreme lack of pandimensional perspective, I hesitate to assign it.

Sometimes stuff happens and there’s nothing you can do about it but deal with the consequences.

Why I love Cormac McCarthy

Full disclosure: Cormac McCarthy is an author I put off reading for a very, very long time.

I first heard of him when I was, I don’t know, 15 or 16– high school aged. I never heard anything bad about him– indeed, he is one of the authors that one of my good friends has always recommended to me.

But it took me many years to actually get around to him.

I’m so incredibly glad that I finally did.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I bought The Road at the bookstore which adjoins one of my coffee shops.

When I buy a new book, I usually keep my expectations low. That way I’m rarely disappointed.

For the first few pages, McCarthy’s stylistic usage of punctuation (a.k.a. lack thereof) gave me a twitch. His disuse of punctuation is unorthodox, and since I’m kind of a grammar nerd it irked me.

But the story! The descriptions! The pictures he was painting with such brevity!

I soon got over the stylized punctuation, instead reading it like poetry.

And oh, how have I fallen in love.

I’m amazed at his mastery of the English language. Somehow, with so few words, he evokes such powerful emotion, and such vivid pictures.

When I’m reading one of Cormac McCarthy’s books, I feel like I’m a guest in his brain, following each thought from its birth to its conclusion, and tracking and understanding the entire journey. His books don’t feel like books normally do to me– they really do feel like a journey.

I’ve complained before about how I burn through books, and even though The Road was a 4 hour book for me, it was a very powerful 4 hours.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he somehow accomplishes everything I strive to accomplish as a writer while using fewer words than seem possible, but he never feels like he’s skimping words. I feel like if I were to sit and talk with him, he would speak exactly how he writes.

I love Cormac McCarthy because he’s better than I’ll ever be, but not in a way that discourages me.

I just love Cormac McCarthy, guys.

Just Say No.

Okay, this may be a surprise to you, but I really try not to complain too much on this blog. Obviously I’m not too successful, but I try to keep the tone here funny and/or thoughtful, not just random whining.

Just know that I try.

Today, though,  I just have to complain a little.

Everyone who makes out in coffee shops should be smacked.

Harsh, right? No. Not harsh. That’s what I call justice, kids. Batman style.

First of all, people who make out in coffee shops should be smacked because nobody wants to see that. If you’re too young to be making out in bars, old enough to be wanting to get all smoochy, but still not old enough to have learned that PDAs are the opposite of cool and nobody wants your sloppy kisses all up in their business, you need to be smacked.

Next, people who make out in coffee shops should be smacked because why do you enjoy having an unwilling audience? It seems like your makeouts would be much more enjoyable in the privacy of home, car, forest, closet, or tall stacks of books.

Also, people who make out in coffee shops should be smacked because coffee breath is gross. Unless you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case you should still be smacked because what if your partner doesn’t like it and the people the next table over probably don’t like it either.

Finally, people who make out in coffee shops should be smacked because of kissy sounds. Even worse than being subjected to the sight of two people exchanging sloppy kisses is being subjected to the sound of aforementioned sloppy kisses.

If your affections are just so unbearable that they have to overflow into smooches over a cup of coffee, you should just have coffee in your house where your fellow coffee drinkers won’t be made nervous, and your barista won’t be filled with the desire to exact a Batman-like ninja justice and smack you.

Sugar

There is a deep and somewhat personal indignation that fills my heart when a customer, having ordered espresso, takes that espresso and dumps sugar in it without tasting it first.

I seem to remember reading a silly online etiquette guide sometime that said it was the height of rudeness to salt food before tasting it when dining at a friend’s house. It’s considered an affront to the host/ess– an assumption that the food was improperly seasoned.

Well, I feel similarly insulted when customers assume that the exquisite espresso I serve them is not fit for human consumption before making the drink a matter of sucrose to coffee ratios rather than one of simple, pure, delightful coffee.

I understand that not everyone likes espresso, even when it’s good. It’s powerful stuff. But if you don’t like espresso, why didn’t you order a mocha? Mochas are like espresso with training wheels (in the form of chocolate syrup and milk.)

(Recently, I had a customer take a mocha and add a few tablespoons of sugar. To you, sir, I say this: Have fun with your impending diabetes– or just order a hot chocolate or something and stop trying to drown the coffee.)

It may be unfair to think that customers are assuming my espresso is bad. They might not be trying to insult my skills, but rather just be shocked and intimidated by the size, and correctly assume the potency while underestimating its deliciousness.

I haven’t decided whether or not the offence and sorrow I feel at the untasted sugaring of coffees I serve is rational or fair. If it isn’t, I’m pretty sure I don’t care. Even if it’s a wholly irrational sense of insult, I think it’s a noble emotion which I should embrace, because the coffees I serve are freaking delicious and don’t need sugar.

That is all.

(On another note, I’m finally back! Yay.)

You are a Precious Commodity.

Even though I haven’t written about it since August, I think a lot about dating.

I think about it a lot because I’m single. Generally, I’m quite content being single. It’s low-pressure, I don’t have to worry about what someone will think when I hang out with guys, and I don’t have to worry about anyone’s needs but yours truly. Admittedly selfish reasons, but I’m not ashamed.

Because of my homeschooled past and Christian upbringing, there’s always been conversation in my family about courtship vs. dating.

A lot of people dive into the courtship route to the extreme– no one-on-one time at all and never kissing until the I Dos have been declared. Frightening.

A lot of other people dive into the dating route to the extreme– seeing whomever, whenever, and doing whatever.

Personally, I think both approaches are ridiculous. So here you go, more of Bethany’s Untested Theories about Dating!

A catchphrase of the courtship camp (and often the Christian camp) is “Guard your Heart.”

I’ve always had a little bit of a beef with this saying. (It annoys me almost as much as Follow your Heart.)

Guard your Heart evokes a picture of one’s heart being locked away behind a bolted door, with you standing in front of it, brandishing a sword, decrying “Only one Worthy person shall Pass.”

As a girl who’s held that sword in front of that freaking door for far too long, I propose a different image.

How about your heart in your chest where it belongs?

The whole locking your heart away thing is just not a good use of that precious, precious resource.  Allow me to elaborate.

You are a very limited commodity. Indeed, there is only one of you on this whole Earth. But if other people don’t have access to you, the limited commodity of you doesn’t really have much value. Your heart locked away in a strong room is about as useful as gold in a vault.

However, that does not mean that you should spread yourself and your heart around.

I like to compare my heart to a favorite book of mine. I might lend it to some people, let them get to know it, but the more times I lend it out the more beat up it gets from normal wear and tear, maybe underlines here and there, and, God forbid, maybe even pages torn out. Eventually it is completely tattered. However, if I only let my family and friends know my favorite book without actually giving it to anyone yet, by the time a person who I want to spend a lifetime with comes along, I can share a mostly intact book with him.

Love yourself enough to protect your heart, but also love yourself enough to let people see it.

It boils down to good stewardship — using your resources to the fullest extent without squandering them.

Guard your heart, but not too much.

Why Christians should Tip

As anyone in the service industry can assure you, Christians are very stingy.

Every barista dreads the days when women’s bible studies come into coffee shops, because even though they all (usually) order demanding drinks, all that you get in the tip jar is a whole lot of nothing (or maybe a gospel tract if your shirt is a little lower cut than someone thinks is okay.)

Okay, yeah, I sound a little bitter. But I feel like I have a right to be, because I’m a Jesus follower and no barista or waiter would ever guess it. Why? Because I tip really well.

Wait what.

Why is this the case? Why does this happen? Why, oh why, are women’s bible studies so annoying?

Jesus said to love others more than you love yourself. I understand being a good steward of your money and all, but a really good way to demonstrate love and appreciation to baristas and waitstaff is to tip well, especially if the service was good.

Having a condescending attitude and asking us if we know Jesus after looking pointedly down our shirts is not a good way to demonstrate love.

Let’s face it, Christians– ya’ll (we) have a pretty crappy reputation in this society, and honestly, if you (we) can’t even tip a barista when there’s a whole bunch of you ordering your drinks at once, I can’t exactly say you (we) don’t deserve it.

Repairing the crappy reputation will be a long difficult process because I’m inclined to believe it’s because our priorities are screwed up (image is more important than Jesus) but I’m not going to go into that today.

All I’m saying is that you can start a trend by tipping your baristas and waitstaff.

How about we start by letting people know that Christians are generous?

And I promise you, no one cares about how many sponsor children you have.

Start at home.

Christians, tip your baristas.

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