11/25/2016: On Authenticity

You are choosing based on what you interpret that you want. Therefore the thing you want to do the most is to do what you want to do the most. And I imagine that’s because you want to do what’s “right” or “perfect” the most, and you’re leaning toward the idea that what you want—what’s “authentic” for you—is the best. Interesting.

I guess the issue is beliefs and values. What drives me? To be perfect. By what means? By being authentic. What should drive me?

I wonder what’s behind my wanting to be perfect. Is it a lack of faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ? Is it pride according to Satanic philosophy? The attitude of the Babel Tower builders? Both? Perhaps a lack of faith and a lack of valuing of the imputed righteousness of Christ?

A person of right character wants to do what’s good and does what’s good. They do so because they believe what’s good and value what’s good. I have a fallen character with the imputed, good character of Christ. At least with the righteousness of Christ. Thus I will not want what’s good—at least not purely. Not until glorification.

But I think this idea led to me valuing what I want as the best criteria for action. I elevated this form of “authenticity” because only an authentic person can exhibit good actions with good motives. But something tells me that a person with right character is authentic as a result. That is to say, if I put on authenticity, I am doing so out of a wrong character. If it’s by grace through faith that I am authentic, it’s good.

Ha ha. Now that I know I have this issue, what I want to do the most is change what I want to do the most.

More to come.

11/23/2016: On Being A Good Writer

It’s not writing that I’m geared for. I guess I’m not really a “writer,” if that’s the case.

My friend talked about having the muscles/strengths necessary to be a good writer, and you can learn the craft of writing even if you don’t have the strengths to be a good one (6/13/2017 Good as in above average, having whatever it takes to make such a writer worth reading in comparison to other writers). That is, those muscles include things like thinking metaphorically, being able to find and make complex patterns, being able to imagine scenes and sensory items, and a desire to create and share emotive things. Writing is just putting those things into words and different arrangements of words and different arrangements of arrangements of words.

Both parts can be improved by learning and practice, but it helps if either one comes naturally. I think the strengths are probably more important because it’s those things that will make the writing worth reading (think Harry Potter).

But I guess, if I were in my right mind and not worried about not being a “writer,” I could have seen that. I never wrote growing up—not exclusively. I tend to go from thing to thing. I like learning new crafts.

11/22/2016: On Ambition

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m worried about being a good writer. Or really even just being “a writer,” as if it’s some special breed of human. Indeed, it seems like most articles raise them up, along with other artists, to a pseudo-deity, much the same as celebrities. It draws all my ambition.

A godly man would view fame and wealth as all but worthless—at least for the normal reasons I pursue them. Tolstoy did, but only after discerning their worthlessness from experience. They are utility. Reach more people. Help more people. They carry the responsibility of the Talents, much like my education. Without these, they are merely the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It is as much an idol—identifying myself as a writer—as identifying myself as, or making myself, a good person was in the past. I take the question “Who am I?” as impetus for becoming praiseworthy. But such is the flavor of my sin nature. And it seems that, like in my character perfectionism, God has forbidden me from attaining my desired identification. I fall into intense insecurity long before I succeed. It is my Babel Tower toppling. Baal failing to light the fire. God disallowing me from feeling independent of him.

And just as in the case of wanting to be and know that I am a good person, being and knowing that I am a good writer are bound by God’s will and thus dependent upon his grace, just like the toppling of the tower. That is, God could let me continue to build my tower. He could let me succeed. He could let me take credit for it for the rest of my life, just like he does for so many successful persons (according to worldly standards). But in grace, he reminds me that I am indeed dependent upon him. And not only does he remind me, but in grace he gives me belief. That is, if he does. I cannot force his hand in this, else it would not be grace. I cannot manipulate his timing. I am helpless to change my independent assumptions, and therefore all of my motivations for things that accord with independence, by myself. These things usually involve some measure of personal greatness: christian character, artistic skills, creativity, intelligence, good looks.

A few thoughts:

First, I don’t have to know that I am a good writer to be a good writer, even though I imagine it would help in determining my vocation. I say this because I feel particularly down at the thought that I might not be good—a product of my insecurity at the moment. But I guess this is just me trying to reassure myself according to that same system (of being a good writer). At the same time, perhaps I just want to know what the best use of my time is right now, and I assume that the best use involves doing what I do well (or the best). But I wonder if that’s the best criteria for choosing what to do. In and of itself, choosing to do what we are best at has little value. Choosing to do what we do best in order to help people has merit, but of course such purity requires character, which requires grace. But perhaps choosing to do what God has put before you is best. Or perhaps my worry about what to do involves another fear—what if I choose the wrong thing to do? Just another branch of the insecurity vine. In any case, I cannot outignorance or outevil the sovereignty and goodness of God. Choose what is in my head and heart to choose.

Second, there is a measure of clear-mindedness in spite of the fear of not being a good writer to determine that I am at least good enough and interested enough to pursue writing. Such has been the conclusion so far, though the fear persists. Again, it seems like I just want to assure myself that writing is the best path. It may be. Why I want to assure myself of this—perhaps because of my insecurity. See above.

Third, all sanctification is by grace through faith. Being a good, loving writer—the goal worth having—is by grace through faith. Trusting God and being humble (contra insecurity) are also goals worth having. And in God’s grace, he may topple my tower of writing well (agnostic of love) in order to teach me writing in the slums. Or he may forbid writing altogether. It’s up to him, and it’s good.

I want to write well primarily because of ambition (right now anyways). I have not wanted to write well to enhance my ability to reach people, to build the world—at least I have not noticed that motive. I believe that desire is in me, but it takes second seat to my pride. Tolstoy moves from the first to the second as well: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/16/leo-tolstoy-purpose-diaries-youth/ and https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/11/20/tolstoy-on-motives/

If this will change, it will be by grace through faith.

And in the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep writing. Until the next time God topples one of my towers.

If I end up being a professional writer, I wonder if I will always bounce back and forth between purer motives and ambition.

I was reminded that Lewis wrote about what tempts me. I think it was in The Great Divorce. He wrote about the artist who became more enamored with the craft of painting than about that which he painted, though he was initially interested in painting because he wanted to capture a bit of the beauty he saw and share it with others. While reading those articles on Tolstoy, I realized that I have become fixated on the craft of writing—I imagine because I believed it to be the quickest route to praiseworthiness. But the sincere writer records himself, not just his skills, not just his interesting thoughts. He records his emotions, and so his values, his beliefs, his struggles, his flaws. And he shares himself with the world. He connects with it. Perhaps in hopes that he can help it along its way. Perhaps also in hopes that it can help him. Or perhaps just because he’s part of it, and our grand design is to proliferate, to create, to cultivate, and he wants to contribute to humanity’s effort toward this end. I think it was realizing that I have failed to do this that my insecurity began in this episode. I failed in this regard, God made it obvious to me, and I fell apart, having come to depend upon being a good writer rather than upon God. I sell my loyalty for trifles.

11/4/2016: Towers of Babel

The thing about the tower of Babel is that they probably would have finished it. The issue wasn’t that God was stopping them from failure. He was stopping them from success, lest they succeed in what would have been a small thing, in reality, but that would have convinced them of their greatness. God stopped them and scattered them lest they convince themselves that they didn’t need him.

Connect this with my own towers. I may actually be able to do these things. But I fall into confusion and worry and so remember that I depend upon God.

The reason this is important to me is because I often see other people succeed in these things that confound me and question whether my arrival at dependence upon God is valid. They do it fine. Why can’t I? Assuming these persons actually “do it fine,” what’s the disconnect? One might conclude that God disallows me from functioning independently. A scan of my history seems to indicate this. It certainly seems that unless I have an attitude of dependence, I am unable to refrain from anxiety when dealing with the success about which I care. Though of course that’s just one interpretation.

But this brings a more elemental issue to the front. I sometimes get dead-ended into thinking that I am dependent on God for success in these things. That’s true. But the point of Babel is broader and baser, I think. I’m dependent on an essential level, and that’s the real issue. I’m dependent for life, for sanity, for motivation, for love, for a future, for all of the assumptions upon which I function and also for success, even in things in which I am qualified, in the human sense.

God breaks me from my towers to remind me that I am dependent as creation to Creator, not just that I am dependent for the building of towers. The towers really aren’t the issue at all.

It is up to God for all good things.

That being true, I must conclude that mere addiction-breaking (in my case, media addiction), such as that which occurs for so many unbelievers, is either common grace or something short of good. Indeed, a lack of addiction with a lack of love is not good, though it may feel better (remember wanting to not be worried anymore when you still dealt with legalistic anxiety?). A lack of addiction with love is good. And God provides all good things.

Furthermore, it seems to me that this is another issue of sanctification, much like my initial issues with legalism, which started to unravel near the beginning of my time at DTS. And the big thing that changed concerning my understanding of sanctification is this—all salvation is by grace through faith. ALL SALVATION IS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. That means that this token of sanctification—me escaping addiction and entering love, concerning media and work and the like—is BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. Could a person force themselves, apart from grace, to do a “good work?” Yes, but only if God provides the circumstances that allows them to do it, and it would lack the motivational, character elements that makes it truly godly, thus limiting to what degree it could be called “good.” Likewise, a person can force themselves to lose an addiction, God-permitting, but such would lack the goodness that comes from true salvation-sanctification. And it’s that salvation that’s desirable and good. The first is merely an idol or tower or ease or something. And it is a grace that God has not allowed me to settle for those things and has reminded me to desire the utmost, the greatest good that he could provide—salvation unto Christ-likeness.

So what should I desire? To escape this addiction into love—whatever love is lacking in conjunction with this addiction. How is it accomplished? By grace, through faith.

Of course, that means that it comes at the time and place and by the methods of God’s will. Not mine. And like all salvation, it is his prerogative to give it or not to give it. And he is good regardless of his choice and timing. (Correction—his choice and timing are good, even when I don’t perceive them as good, in which case the problem is whatever I have set as my standard for good).

Another thing. I said before that building the tower was in their means. That’s true, but only in part. They depended on God for their being, for their genes, for their circumstances, and for everything else short of whatever it is we choose of our own accord, to whatever degree that is possible.

5/1/2017—Dependence became a pretty big theme for me last year. I think I wrote this document nearing the hilltop of my personal development on the subject (up to this point). It came on the heels of having our third child, interacting with my dad’s recurring cancer, failing to buy a house, and failing to conquer (after three months of success) my lifelong addiction to video games.

Dependence ended up in the novel I’m working on, as well. An important part of my cosmogony (and therefore the framework for my story) concerns dependence/independence, and I did a lot of work on the idea outside of the cosmogony. I hope to make the latter available at some point.

The Process of Writing Mediocre Modifiers

“Brain. I need a word to describe darkness.”

“What quality would you like to modify?”

“It’s night, and there are no stars, so how about just ‘really dark?’ So, intensity.”

“Would you like a modifier of the same category of contextually-determined primary-quality as ‘darkness?’ Or would you rather something of a different primary quality?”

“Sure. The first one.”

“We have numerous matches whose primary qualities would modify ‘darkness’ to lie within the semantic range of ‘really dark—’”

“And make sure it’s one that’s not used often.”

“How about ‘darkness like coal?’”

“Overused.”

“How about ‘ashen darkness?’”

“That’s just an adjective. And somewhat common. How about we stick to nouns? That’ll make it less common.”

“How about ‘inky darkness?’”

“That’s still an adjective, but I like that it’s really, really dark.

“How about ‘ink darkness?’”

“That doesn’t sound right—not nearly as good as ‘inky.’ It’s something about that appended syllable. What’s a word that’s associated with ink?”

“Blot.”

“How about ink-blot darkness?”

“I do not have an entry for ink-blot darkness.”

“Great. Then it’s novel. We’ll go with ink-blot darkness.”

Moving Forward: Faith and the Arts

I’ve been pretty lax about posting for the past half-year. After unloading my first armful of vignettes, publishing drew my attention, and I have since been more interested in submitting than posting. The logs I still carry await the publishing fire.

On top of that, I have donated much of my free time to other pursuits. My post-postgraduation detox has seeded a growing interest in Faith and the Arts and how they interact with culture. This interest spans artistic fields, with writing at the forefront, and it involves a good deal of study and reflection. Additionally, I am writing a novel. I hope to further develop my craft, to landmark my vocational vision, and to further evaluate whether writing fits with my giftedness. I have set for myself an interim goal of 45,000 words by July 16th. So my free time has been reduced to a few hours per week, which I would rather spend with my family than writing vignettes.

So what am I to do with this blog? I’d rather keep it than abandon it. I can beat on it like some artful practice-dummy, and, more importantly, it provides a channel for dialogue with you.

An idea came to me a couple weeks ago. As I learn, I already tend to record impactful ideas, to write out my thoughts, and to catalogue useful materials. Why not just move these things from my computer to my blog, in the event that “Faith and the Arts and how they interact with culture” might also interest you?

Thus I have begun crafting a few new sections. At the top of this page, you can find links to 1) a catalogue of meaningful reference material and 2) my To Read list. I will also post thoughts and the like as they come (and as I format them).

 

Edit: You’ll notice these, too, have fallen by the wayside. So be it! Let the wayside keep them!