Islands Unto Ourselves

“It’s a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in everyone of them encloses it’s own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood on ignorance on the shore.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

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“It’s a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.  A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in everyone of them encloses it’s own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!  Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.  No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all.  No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged.  It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page.  It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood on ignorance on the shore.” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

I recently finished reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for two reasons:

1. I love great literature.

2. I aspire to write well.

A Tale of Two Cities is the world-wide #1 best selling, excluding books of faith, such as the Bible or Koran.  With my two reasons in mind, I figured this classic book would be a good read, and I was right, but I’m not going to talk about the book.  This isn’t a book blog; it’s a processing one, and I wish to process this quote in reference.

Chapter 3 of Book 2 speaks of this phenomenon of humans being eternal puzzles, mysteries to be discovered, but never fully known.  Regardless of how long or how intimate you know someone, you’ll never know them fully.  Two people could be married for 50 years, divulging themselves to each other continuously, and there will still be mysteries locked up in the depths of that person.  One can NEVER be fully known.

In another book by Donald Miller, called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald speaks to a friend who recently married. The friend shares how marriage is the oddest of things.  You find yourself waking up to someone you care so much about, yet you will never fully know.

The author coins the phrase “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” in regards to life, and angels driving you through the universe to bring you to where you always belonged–but it doesn’t make the journey any less easy in the moment.

Although the phrase isn’t mine, I’d like to think about it in a completely different light.  No matter how far you travel into someone’s soul or how long your foot has been pushing down on the gas, even if it’s a million miles or a thousand years, you will NEVER discover all their landscapes.

To some, this may be discouraging.  What’s the point of knowing someone?

But it is of the exact opposite nature that this author has been affected by this strain of thought.  I have been encouraged, like never before, to know people intimately, to discover their depths, to explore their shores, knowing full I will never be able to map an atlas of their soul with complete detail.  But isn’t that the joy?  The people around you are infinity.  No matter how long or intensely you dive into their being, there will always be more.

The fathoms stretch before you, there is an eternal horizon, that will never come nearer.

Do we abandon ship, counting our losses, understanding this voyage is doomed never reach conclusion?  Or does that inspire us to let loose the sails, caught up by the winds of destiny and dive headlong into the eternal leagues before us?

These thoughts will forever haunt those fixated on the destination, but in the words of my granola, hiker friends, attempting to comfort me as I heave and moan from the ascent, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey.”

|The journey|

Life.  People.  A hike.  It’s all about the journey.  Stop and smell the roses.

Momentum

 

 

 

“An object is either remains at rest or moves at a constant velocity, unless an external force acts upon it.” -Newtons First Law of Physics

I’ve recently added a second book to my current reading list: “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Before departing from each other, my ex-girlfriend and I exchanged books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years being one of them. I read “Blue Like Jazz,” Donal Miller’s #1 Best Seller a year ago, and it gave definition to emotions and questions I couldn’t articulate. I figured another book by the man who put words to my heart, wouldn’t be a bad bet. I was right.

The book speaks of living a good story. All good stories have basic elements–protagonists, antagonists, rising and falling actions, conflict and resolution. Don’s friend Jordan summarizes story in the simplest of terms, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”

How many of us are living good stories?

Don, at a specific point in his book says, (In regards to the massacre in Mumbai) When we watch the news, we grieve all of this, but when we go to the movies, we want more of it. Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

We, as human beings, hate risk and love comfort. We flee fear and embrace the secure. We avoid conflict or change yet fight for homeostasis. And yet, the elements we love, cherish and embrace as humanity are the exact things contrary to a good story.

If we watch a story about a man who is raised in great home, had everything given to him, figured out life without risk, gets a career job, finds a beautiful wife, has 2.5 children and rescues a dog named Chewy from the humane society because his 2.5 kids begged and pleaded, we’d walk out of the theatre infuriated as the credits rolled. We want risk, triumph, failure, overcoming all odds to see the character we love succeed, regardless of costs. In fact, the higher the costs, the harsher the struggle, the more we love the story. But still we prod on for meaninglessness and security.

Don later discovers that all characters, whether in a fictitious novel or real life, don’t choose to move, don’t choose to embrace the story. They must be forced. An Inciting Incident.

An object at rest will remain at rest, unless and a object of equal or greater force acts upon it. It’s more than physics.

Since coming home from oversees, I haven’t dreamed; I haven’t soared. Why? For fear. Afraid to fail. Afraid to succeed. Afraid if there really is a God up there that gives a damn. Afraid I’ll let people down. Afraid of what I want. My dreams have been shipwreck on the coral reef of fear, and though everything in me screams, “ABANDON SHIP!!! SETTLE FOR A NORMAL LIFE!!! GET A DEGREE!!! FIND A CAREER!!! LIVE A NORMAL LIFE!!!” There is a hardwiring in my soul like that of a captain…

I’d rather drown aboard my sinking vessel which was born to set sail and see the sacred seas, than loose all hope and cast my anchor down.

The Inciting Incident… Or rather, Incidents (guess I needed a bigger push).

1. An Old Friend
I stood on a hill overlooking the city I grew up in, with a friend reunited hugging me from behind. “Where’s the Landon I knew? Where’s the Landon that believed God for crazy things and loved people so deeply? You say you’re happy, but I don’t believe you. I’ve seen you happy. You’re not happy.”

As Adam’s words continued to cascade over me, I was reminded of a Landon long lost. A Landon I loved being, but am not now. A Landon who I’ve been trying to find, but elusive and evasive. A Landon, whose name isn’t Landon.

I want to be him again.

2. An Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride
Last night I went to a Switchfoot concert. I’m not a diehard fan of Switchfoot or the concert scene for that matter. I’d rather listen to the perfectly crafted EP that I can pick whichever song pleases me or fits my mood. A concert doesn’t accomplish that. You join the band in the journey they desire, while we, the audience, simply get on the roller coaster, choosing to either lift our hands in excitement or blow our chunks in vertigo. Needless to say, I get motion sickness easily. But as I watched a film of how Switchfoot flew to the shores of Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Indonesia and listened to them sing, “I dare you to move,” I lifted my hands on their roller coaster of a concert.

I want this.

I want to move. I don’t want to sit still and settle for the foreseen and senile. As much as I hate it, I want risk. As much as I loathe it, I want the highs and lows of life.

Last year I read a fantastic book named, “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. In the beginning of his autobiography, he speaks of the highs and lows of life. He truly believes there is a choice as to whether we will live a flat line safe life, or an insecure on of highs and lows.
“So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still the joy would be worth the pain-if, indeed, they went together. If there was a choice-and he suspected there was-a choice between, on one hand, the heights and depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.”
-A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

As I began to dream again, hearing the words, “I dare you to move; I dare you to move; I dare you to lift yourself up on off the floor,” I saw Latta Ditti, a prostitute dying of AIDS and tuberculosis. I saw Navid, a little Indian boy whose mom is locked up in a lifestyle of sex. I saw Jr Higher students ascending above me as they sing praises to their God.

What am I living for? What am I living for?

When my stories written, do I want it to be said I limped along, crippled by a porn addiction? Or do I want it read, he saw lives transformed as he lavished love from a God above? And I guess the question simplified is “Do I want to risk?”