Sunday, May 6, 2018

absurd existential musings on someone else's life (05-06-2018 update)

Good Sunday, my fellow blog readers. PTL you have been saved this week. Saved from me writing (and you reading) another blog post containing my absurd existential musings on my self.

Instead today's blog post is inspired by an email I received from one of my readers. It's true, someone did write in and ask I write a blog in response to their existential question. So this week you get my absurd existential musings on my reader's self. You know how much I love to please my here we go!

[Dear wonderful Andrea, your blog is so awesome. Please help me understand the thoughts that plague my mind!]

am writing in haste, but basically that our culture's obsession with constant "growth and development" might mask an essential discontent, an inability to remain stable.
i might consider using the metaphor of a stable village, which we do not see around here, versus the subdivided, hastily-developed suburbs that presently surround us.
Why can't our municipalities remain stable? Why can't we, ourselves?

[From your faithful reader, Victor of BC]

Thank you so much Victor of BC for your letter, as you know I do love to hear from my readers, as it is a reminder of how important it is to have good blog writing in one's life.

First off, I would like to point out that in your haste you forgot to include a salutation and ending to your letter, which I have added so graciously for you. You are welcome. And yes, I forgive you.

Next, you do not give me much to go on, so I made some assumptions in the interpretation of your letter, all of which have been noted below. I apologize in advance if I have misunderstood anything. [It is unlikely that I have misunderstood anything but I like to add a disclaimer so you know that if I did in fact misunderstand I would be very apologetic about it. That is how much I care about you.

Now onto the relentless dissection of your hastily written letter.

our culture's obsession with constant "growth and development" might mask an essential discontent, an inability to remain stable.

"our culture's obsession" you suggest that you and I share the same culture, obviously you do not mean a shared culture on an individual smaller scale level, like Christian culture, so clearly you mean culture at a higher level, like general society which is made up of all peoples and their various religious, spiritual or atheist belief systems. Culture is not necessarily restricted by geographical area but judging from the rest of your letter and reference to "growth and development" as the defining feature of "our culture's obsession" I'm led to conclude we are speaking about "capitalist" culture, which is a dominant North American feature of society, with lots of variation within. So we are not so much talking about the variations (such as those who are opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline for instance, as we can't really say those folks are subscribing to a growth and development dominant cultural ideology) but the bigger society. The whole not the sum of its parts.

So what you are really asking is our culture's hyper focus on capitalism really just to mask our essential discontent and inability to remain stable?

We are in a capitalist society, agreed. Not sure how obsessed we all are with promoting growth and development but it does seem that most businesses measure success that way, and we probably do when it comes to our investments, our careers, our families etc.,. Not sure about us being obsessed with it however, i have met individuals and have read about certain corporations that seem to focus on these things at the expense of their health and the health of others. So yeah, I will agree with you there.

I do not agree that humans are essentially discontented by nature; however, I do believe that humans are probably displaying a certain level of discontent when they become obsessed (addicted) with the "growth and development" aspects of capitalism. I would argue that any obsession or addiction would be the symptom of some discontent within us. We form addictions to fill the empty void inside of us, left by a society that values money and status more than compassionate and empathetic and loving connections with one another. So we are in agreement there!

Now for the connection between essential discontent and inability to remain stable. I guess if one is discontented they could never really be stable. Contentment would breed stability. Unless of course you mean stable as equatable to no growth and no change, like fixed, or stagnant, which of course I just cannot define it as such, as we are always changing every second of every day. Illustrated by the fact that you have been aging ever since the day you were born and you will die one day. So I can only assume you are defining stable as in some sort of health way, like a stable medical condition or not easily upset or disturbed.

So in sum, what you are really suggesting is if a culture forms an addictive relationship with something (building lots of suburban homes for example) this is because it has a deep empty void within it (there is a sadness among the people who make up this culture), the culture (the people who make up the culture) try desperately to fill their emptiness to feel something (more suburbs makes for an ever changing skyline and constant external stimulus to distract us from our sadness and emptiness we feel inside us) and because you can never fill the void with things (you need love, which surprise, suburban homes do not give us) this will bring about the fall of society as we know it.

i might consider using the metaphor of a stable village, which we do not see around here, versus the subdivided, hastily-developed suburbs that presently surround us.

However, I'm not sure I agree that smaller is essentially more stable... As you suggest in your next sentence with the metaphor of the stable village vs the hastily-developed suburbs. Now don't misunderstand. I hate the suburbs! I hate urban sprawl, i dislike immensely the cookie cutter style of home that pollutes the suburban landscape. I think what you are really advocating for is more high-density living spaces without sacrificing green-space would be better step for us as a society to take. Especially if the world is going to insist on continuing to procreate, unless of course you are suggesting we stop procreating?! And in that case I'm happy to write my next blog post on the benefits of a celibate lifestyle.

Then you continue with: 

Why can't our municipalities remain stable? Why can't we, ourselves?

So, it appears to me you have the misfortune of living in a municipality that subscribes to the concrete jungle mentality, the never ending sprawl that ruins the beauty of our precious landscapes. And for that I'm truly sorry. Because that sucks.

However, since culture is made up of people and that includes you and I. I believe perspective is everything. Having moved from an urban wasteland of the Southern Ontario variety, and settling here in Victoria I have to say I find it very village like. Sure there are lots of people which technically by census standards does not make it a village. I do find that there are several neighbourhoods in Victoria that act like proxies for the village I think you speak of.  And I like it. Everything I need is within walking distance, I know most of my neighbours and local businesses and I feel very content here. Is it stable? Crazy large earthquakes aside, I would say yes, sure some of the people may not be and depending on which ex-boyfriend of mine you talk to, i may not be either; however, I don't feel discontent, now that I have Jesus in my life (sorry had to drop the J-bomb). Part of that village mentality is forced upon Victoria because it is a city surrounded by water. That alone makes it impossible for Victoria to grow horizontally, such like the urban sprawl of other surrounding areas and instead the only way we can grow is vertically. Part of the reason for all the condos here I would say.

I get that if you are not from an area of the world that is used to paving over every green space (cough...Southern Ontario) these condos may just be another sign of our culture's obsession with growth and development.

So are our municipalities a reflection of ourselves? Yes. We the people make up our little villages, even when we live in big cities (which Victoria is not although relative to the rest of the island it is massive!) we still have our villages. Mine may be the condo building I live in. A small building (less than 30 units) because I would prefer to live in close-proximity to a small number of people versus living in a condo with 400 units. It is not that smaller is better it is simply my preference. We have our work circles, our friend circles and church circles--these are all villages. Are they stable? Depends on who we decide to surround ourselves with.

Sounds to me like you need to make a move out of the suburbs, and if you don't live in the suburbs and are just angry with capitalism in general and more people being born every day, I would suggest we take that energy and focus it somewhere positive, perhaps you could join your neighbourhood community association and speak up against all the negatives you see with development. Perhaps persuade others to join you in this righteous fight against the evils of capitalism (hi, where can I sign up?!).

Or you can do none of those things and keep writing to me about it because I do find it hard to come up with new blog material every week. Whatever you choose to do, know that you will be making a difference in someones life, whether it is the residents of your neighbourhood, your various villages you inhabit, or my lovely blog readers (if anything that should warm the cockles of your heart!).
The actual village I want to join (3 more years!)

And my fallback village (Jerusalem 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday tangental thoughts (04-29-2018 update)

Thinking today I would give my readers a break from all my God dominated spiritual musing posts and do something different...naturally I turned to my iPhone for inspiration. After sending hedgehog memes to a couple of people in my contacts list randomly with limited response, I decided I may have to try the direct approach to get some content for my blog this week.

So i texted my good friend J, to see how the doctor's appointment went today?

Turns out it went well. The acute hearing loss J was experiencing was not the result of a brain tumour pressing on the ear drum (as I first hypothesized, not being remotely qualified in any capacity to make such a declaration) but instead the hearing loss was just a result of some built up ear wax.

Naturally I requested that J send me the picture immediately so I could post to my blog, as I was almost certain it would generate more hits than the post I wrote on the social mores of airplane travel conversation, "is it cool or not cool to offer scabs on your leg as snacks when your seat mate incessantly complains about being hungry on a flight that is only 2 hours?" We never did get a definitive answer on that one.

Anyways, turns out J did not take a picture! Instead J gave me this description of the substance that was obstructing the hearing.

"Just imagine a burnt orange/vaseline colored hardened wax in the shape of a screw half the size of your pinky"

Having trouble imagining such a thing, I googled "burnt orange/vaseline colored hardened wax in the shape of a screw half the size of your pinky" and checked out what images came up.

Mostly ads for paint stores and links to life hacks on how to make your own sugar wax scrubs...however, I did come across a delightful investigative journalism article written on January 26, 2016, on why do people keep using "q-tips" (or buds in the US) to get the "wax" out despite the warnings on the boxes that say to not do that?! Riveting stuff, obviously the news agency was experiencing a slow news day, not so different than myself who also seems to be experiencing a slow blog post week.

This gets me thinking, was there really nothing more interesting to write about on January 26, 2016?

Time to ask Google.

Turns out there were other things going on in the world that day. Top news story no one talked about was how a Texas grand jury that was investigating a Planned Parenthood clinic in Huston, after receiving undercover videos that suggested the clinic illegally profited from the sale of the tissue of aborted fetuses for medical research, ended up indicting two anti-abortion activists who made the undercover video on charges of tampering with a governmental record as well as attempting to sell human organs. Tampering with government records, carries a sentence up to 20 years in prison. Selling human organs only 1 year...

I'm not sure if there is a correlation here but maybe the reason we keep sticking q-tips in our ears is because we don't seem to give much thought or care for our bodies? As exemplified by a legal system that only punishes people up to a max of one year for selling human organs?! I'm not a human rights expert over here but 1 year seems rather low, non? You can get a cool 50K for some human organs, that one year in prison seems kind of like not much of a deterrent if you ask me. And may help explain why we have such a huge market for selling human organs, well that and forcing cyclists to wear helmets. But I digress.

Back to the ear wax google image search. This guy also showed up in the search, which was kind of unexpected (much like this blog post on the illegal selling human organ trade)

Feel like he could use some q-tips?!
So in sum, the next time you go for a gross medical appointment, just take a picture of whatever was extracted and send to me so we can avoid this whole random blog post writing exercise that awkwardly ends up with me musing on the ethical underpinnings of a society that only punishes those up to 1 year for selling human organs?! (What?!?! I know...very weird...I'm sorry)

Next week I promise to return to writing about God.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

musings on sleep (04-22-2018 update)

In the final stretch of my coding course and I'm tired, perhaps it is all the late night coding and energy drink consumption that has been going on over here in casa d' Andrea?

How much sleep does one gal need to function in this world?

Well last week told me, at least 11 hours for a couple of nights...perhaps my attempt at "catching up" on my sleep, which apparently is not a thing but that fact doesn't seem to stop me from trying!

I'm glad the end is in sight for this course. And not that I didn't enjoy it, the problem was I enjoyed it a little too much and naturally wanted to keep doing everything else I was doing prior to the course, which naturally leads to sleep depravation.

Did you know that sleep depravation can be an effective tool in treating depression? Not really sleep depravation, like in the army where they are trying to break you down and mould you into a mean, lean, fighting machine. No, I mean like a less extreme form of sleep depravation than that. Like one night of no sleep versus a full 3 months of army basic training type sleep depravation.

It's true, apparently if you are sleeping tonnes (a symptom of depression) you should try forcing yourself to get minimal sleep for one night and apparently that will kick start your body into not feeling depressed. Disclaimer, I'm not a doctor and am no way qualified to be prescribing any cures for depression over here. However, I can tell you, in my experience (so not statistically significant I know!!) that I have deprived myself of sleep after going on a weeklong bender of over-sleeping due to depression and it works. For that day where I am sleep deprived I am generally in good spirits. Now if I go another night without sleep, the mood tends to take a turn for the unpleasant. So my advice (not really advice) is try to get back into a normal sleeping pattern after you kickstart yourself back into happy mode. Sometimes the happiness makes you think you can really have normal sleep again.

Which brings me to what is normal sleep anyways? I've always seemed to gravitate towards late night productivity sessions vs. rising early brilliant and busy tailed with a spring in my step. Although on occasion the latter has happened, typically after a period of time where I have been locked in my cave recharging my introvert batteries. That's why they refer to me as a "social introvert". My actual point here, as it has likely been lost in all these words I keep spewing out, is that I'm a night person, so that anytime I get a day off from my regular 9-5 work my "internal clock" immediately reverts back to its preferred position, which is stay up late and sleep in. It is literally like a switch, no matter how hard i try to be that morning person consistently (even on days off from work) my body says it is a no-go.  The trend is especially present when I'm taking a course. Which is actually like always. So not really a trend just how I am.

This leads me to believe that I'm simply not meant to be living in this time zone. Clearly I was meant to be living in the Middle East and working a 9-5 job there because that is what my body is telling me by refusing to adapt to these North American time zones I insist on living in.  That seems a much more logical explanation than my sleeping patterns being influenced by my incessant need to keep learning new stuff and/or drinking energy drinks in the evening.

Or we will just have to accept my sleeping patterns as one of life's many mysteries.

Looking out towards Damascus (April 2018)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sharing a prayer for peace (04-15-2018 update)

Came across this prayer for peace and wanted to share for you my fellow readers.

Sometimes I seem to get so wrapped up in my whirlwind of a life I forget there is a whole other part of the world suffering. Actually, I tend to dwell on the suffering of the world more than I don't which likely contributes to my stellar mental health record and no doubt there is enough suffering to go around here in Canada. Not to down play that or anything.

I guess what I'm trying to say is sometimes I forget about war even though it is quite literally happening all the time somewhere here on planet earth. Like the Middle East and what not. 

I used to feel so helpless about the suffering that comes from war, and now I realize my part in it. And no I'm not out there shooting people up but how many times do I tear people down with my words? My thoughts, my actions even? I know if i can just be a bit more mindful about how I interact with others maybe I can move more towards the peace love and kindness side of things. One thing that helps me with that is prayer. And yes that is why I'm sharing this prayer because I find it a nice reminder of how we too can be peacemakers.

And there is power in words, so I guess I wonder, if we all stopped what we are doing and said this prayer, would we just naturally turn towards love? Curious to what happens for you, after you say this out loud. Feel free to email me afterwards and share the experience with me.

Prayer for peace  
Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!
We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried… But our efforts have been in vain.
Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instill in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.
Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

you have been served (04-08-2018 update)

Dawn breaks on Fort Street.

This was another week that reminded me of how sticky the tension is for me to be rooted in the earth with a soul that yearns for heaven. I have displayed little self-control when it came to bible study, as in the majority of my free time has been spent reading about the tales and autobiography of Teresa of Avila and reading theology. Yes, my other earth priorities were met (exceptionally well) but only at the expense of a good night's sleep. 

Oh how I want to simply wake up meditate and pray and be in the presence of God all day long without the constant noise of the world around me.

Perhaps this simple and concise blog post can be considered me putting the world on notice, that the path before me is likely going to lead me to a convent. 2-3 years from now when I sell all my things and move to a monastery in Italy, do not be shocked because I will just direct you to this blog post and tell you "told you so."

Until next week, may we all get more sleep xo

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Musings (04-01-2018 update)

It's 10:00pm Sunday night and I'm writing this blog post because I said I would write weekly and I feel disappointed in myself when I don't live up to the high standards I set for myself. Thankfully, I did not promise to write well-written weekly blog posts, so this mediocre one will suffice.

It's been a busy week my friends. Being sick for two of the days put a serious dent in my productivity so naturally i had to overcompensate during the days I felt better, like staying at work until 7pm. Because overcompensating and overextending myself was probably what made me sick in the first place? Nonsense. I agree.

Moving on.

This week was considered holy week in the Catholic Church so I figured I should check that out, seeing as Catholicism is the next step in my faith journey. Honestly readers, it was pretty incredible. I find the ritual, the ambiance of the church very in line with my ideas of what worship should be. I love contemplative prayer, i love entering a space and knowing this is where I worship. These are the places I feel God. And this Easter I definitely had an encounter with God. Which for those of you who have been graced with this experience know how incredible that is. It is really hard to put into words. Ecstatic. There is a word we could use.

I could try writing a poem to describe the God encounter...sure let's give that a shot. Remember Andrea poems are not real poems, so just chill out you literary snobs reading this blog!

What it feels like to encounter God

When God speaks,
he doesn't use a voice as you and I understand it.
I call his dialect, more like an overcoming,
filling up your body,
impressions left in the skin,
tattoo ink of the soul.
Reverberations of the flesh. 

When God speaks,
you hear him on all sensory levels-
tingeling extremities,
gooseflesh layered forearms,
bones shake,
the stomach turns with nervous excitement,
a warmth rises with the knowing
...this presence
...this voice
understands you and loves you.

We all know there is no better feeling in the world to know you are loved,
to know your life has purpose and meaning.

And that my readers is how I would describe the God encounter.

One word: love.

Poem done.

Anyways, the God encounter kept me up all night, because when God speaks you listen and you obey. For me, that involved a lot of writing and researching.  So lots of notes I'm still sorting through and I presume I will share with you at some point, if for no other reason I have nothing else to blog about on a particular Sunday. You're welcome in advance.

Until then...good night and Happy Easter.

Easter dinner w/ kale!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Coding, compassion, Catholicism & crying (03-25-2018 update)

Added a new "c" word this week, crying. Lots of crying for a week that wasn't influenced by monthly hormonal imbalances.

Crying isn't a bad thing, it is a feeling thing. When I cry it is because I'm allowing myself to feel. That's why we sometimes hear of the tears of joy, after all, joy is a feeling that we experience, the overwhelmingness of such an experience can cause the tear ducts to open. It's really ok, we are human, we are built this way. This week I stopped fighting it.

So we are into the final stretch of Lent and my abstinence from Netflix (no, that was not why I was crying this week, that was the reason I was wailing through week 1 of Lent) and as promised (by whom I'm not sure-the Catholic Church?) I'm feeling a closer connection to God. Lent, I believe (I'm not a theological scholar, and at this moment too lazy to actually confirm this on Google) is to remove items in your life that block your relationship with God, so in doing so we can learn again to depend on him to get us through the day, not the idols we have set up in place of him (cough...Netflix). 40 days of Lent is to symbolize the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, the period immediately after he was baptized by John the Baptist. Not a strong case for baptism I guess.

So why do we set up idols? Not entirely sure but I know it is a problem for us because the command 'not to set up any idols in place of God' made it into the top 10 commandments. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that I erect idols because by blocking God, and his relationship with me, I don't have to listen to the purpose he has for me. Living a life without achieving your true purpose is soul crushing (as we know). Sure if one's purpose is dying on a cross I'm not surprised we would block God. But in all seriousness, I would rather die on a cross than live a life devoid of my true purpose, which is essentially living a life without God. So better just to listen to God in the first place. Easier said than done. Obvs.

That being said. Lent is a time to get as close to a life with God as I can while I must stay grounded in this earthly prison. Maybe it is the challenge of giving something up for 40 days that motivates me because I am human and respond well to being in competition and being crowned winner. My ego and my arrogance are other idols I have erected in place of God. I am constantly tearing down idols, only to have them grow up again some place else using a stronger alloy. I find I have to keep coming up with better and better weapons to destroy these idols and I must stay on watch, day and night to fight them. They are sneaky.

Lent gives me the opportunity to create a space for this vigilance in my daily life. Now only to keep it going afterwards, that will be the next challenge...

Netflix is gone and unlikely to return until after my coding course is complete (May sometime at the earliest) and I know me and my ADHD, I will have erected a new idol in its place, so I must keep watch to ensure that nothing replaces it. Whether it's coding, work, relationships, it can manifest as anything, turning the most positive and benign items into soul crushing God removing tumours, even our churches are not free of the possibility to become an idol. After all this is what Jesus was trying to teach us, do not let the man made rules of your religion, your denominational doctrine remove you from God's laws he has given us. Do not make yourself an idol to replace the word of God. That goes to all churches because churches are full of humans and humans need to stay vigilant. Hence the 10 commandments etc.

See I am tying this together nicely, aren't I? You weren't so sure were you? You of little faith.

Just like sin begets sin, so does being vigilant in your destruction of idols. You take out one idol (like Netflix) and others start becoming more visible for the slaughter. So this week my Lent-inspired constant incessant prayer and communion with God has led to removal of even more idols in my life. Wolves in sheep clothing. Idols I thought were bringing me closer to God were revealed to me to be blocking my continued growth in a relationship with God.  So I reached into the soil of my soul and ripped out the roots of these idols and tossed them to the side of the road. Leaving them the choice to be trampled by earthly desires or turn themselves inward to God and work on their redemption. I pray the choice was the latter.

And that's another idol, the arrogance that we believe our presence in someone's life can change them. We are all guilty of this, families, friends, co-workers...No one can change another person. Only God. Finally I destroyed my idol of this form of arrogance. And I am free. As long as I stay vigilant and fix my eyes on God, I will stay free. So my friends, this week I cried tears of freedom and I pray you can experience the same freedom this season of Lent.

And now back to coding!