7/17/2017: On Self

This sent me spinning.

TaylorTweet

Kind of reminds me of my reaction when reading The Grace Awakening.

Is self-absorption wrong? Short answer—only when it lacks love.

If the focus on self follows a similar model to C.S. Lewis’s metaphor about ships, then no. If a person becomes absorbed with the self but does so as self relates (in love) to God or others, then it’s as right as actively working with or for others. For instance, recognizing/correcting/suppressing/dealing with one’s own anger in order to more healthily relate to a spouse is loving. And what about the person who, in introspection, further plumbs his own sinfulness, with the result of a greater appreciation for and dependence upon God? Sometimes love requires us to become absorbed in self.

However, a person who is only absorbed in self cannot at the same time love. That self-absorption—or perhaps, better, “ego-absorption”—is symptomatic of a lack of love.

Because of his adjectives, I don’t think, necessarily, that Taylor condemned the former. The type of self-absorption to which he refers seems to be that of the unloving kind.

As is often the case with “over thinking” or “worry,” people tend to define self-absorption by degree. If a person is “too” self-absorbed, it’s bad. But it’s not the degree that’s the problem. It’s the quality or the reason. It’s the motivation behind it. The man who cries “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” is surely thinking about his own sin. But he is also thinking about God’s goodness, and he desires to have the span between God and himself bridged.

It also reminds me of the little I learned about the Ego and Self idea. But as I understand it, Ego is the I, whereas Self understands I only in relation to We. The I doesn’t disappear, but it’s context is different. The Self is part of a unified diversity of communal individuals. The former is the lack of the love, and the latter is the love—the relationship.

I am afraid of being self-absorbed. To the extent that I become self-absorbed about being self-absorbed. And then I write documents to determine whether or not I’m being self-absorbed or justifying why I am. Taylor could easily be writing about my blog. And, at least in part, the fear of that led to the creation of this document.

A couple thoughts:

As saint-sinners, and assuming the I is the only alternative to love, all we think and do is, to some degree, self-absorbed. Until glorification, we cannot escape it. No man-created thought or system is safe. No man-understood thought or system is safe. We are wholly dependent upon God for anything not self-absorbed.

Learning by Keyboard documents are meant to depict the development of my thought life over time. They include sinful and incorrect thoughts. They also include some grace and some love. I imagine every form of thought and conversation from every person in this age, no matter how godly, follows the same pattern. Indeed, Taylor might as well have said, “I come across people sinning all the time.”

I’m not defending or diminishing the sin to which he refers. It’s sinful, and the goal of the believer is to love better.

But duh. Really. Of course artists will sin while arting.

But back to the LBKs—Taylor could mean my blog (I doubt it, but I could fit his model), but that’s fine. That’s part of being authentic and transparent. I don’t mean these articles as didactic. They’re exploratory.

To the degree that God provides grace through faith, as I work to obey, I will love while writing. And while thinking and learning. And thus to that degree, these documents will lean away from the sinful form of self-absorption and toward the more relational, loving form, in which relationship provides the context, rather than the ego.

But again, Taylor says this as well. #LordSaveUs

Verily!

 

 

 

Photo by Masha Danilova on Unsplash

1/19/2017: Thoughts on Inner Dialogue

I’m not sure if I want to have it or not. Tolkien doesn’t have a strict routine with it, though I believe he does have some commentary on things. Rowling also uses inner dialogue.

It seems that you can do a better job showing the progression of learning and feeling in the protagonist if you show not just how he or she acts but also how he or she thinks and feels. It’s a strength of writing that you can do this. It seems like it’d be a more fertile soil for showing the changes in the character, which is what the story is all about, really.

Are there any benefits to not having inner dialogue or commentary? It seems like it’d be harder for the reader to interpret what’s going on in the POE character. Readers would have to spend more thought on doing so, even if I wrote subtext masterfully (yeah right).

Perhaps one benefit would be greater show-don’t-tell and the effects it brings. It’d be like putting readers in the scene but not being players in the scene (even though I try to only show what the POE characters perceive anyways—just without their commentary). Whereas telling readers the POE characters’ thoughts is like giving them a view of the inside of the characters. What comes to mind is “Hills Like White Elephants.” But something to be pointed out is how hard it still is to know what’s going on there. You can do it, but you either have to be a good interpreter already, have that topic on your mind, or spend a lot of time and thought trying to figure it out (like me, and I still didn’t get it without help).

So this again brings up the topic of how intellectual should I try to make this? Assuming I could do it well enough, would it be better to make this more accessible or to make it more “masterful?” The latter seems a bit pretentious. I shouldn’t make something of the harder-to-do-and-harder-to-get without a good reason for doing so, and I think the reason that matters most to fallen me is because it’s the harder (and more prestigious) way to do it. At the same time, I do like the challenge, and it’s challenges that make me a better writer—“What’s the least that I could say with the greatest effect on the reader?” That’s always been a goal of mine, though I tend to still make things inaccessible to non-interpreters. Even trained interpreters have trouble with my stuff—even my professor. And that should say something (probably that I suck at subtext).

I really don’t know what to do.

Perhaps the answer is to have inner dialogue but to have action that speaks for itself, as if the inner dialogue wasn’t there. It seems like it’d be easy to use the dialogue as a crutch and to avoid trying to show through the POE character’s action at all. I think this would be a mistake. Indeed, it seems like I could do some interesting things with telling his thoughts and feelings and then having him act apparently other things—shows subtext.

Movies come to mind for showing through action only. I haven’t seen any (that come to mind) that use inner dialogue well. But there are many that do well without it. But a key difference is you get to see body language and facial expressions and you get to hear tone, which indicate a lot about inner dialogue, and which would be difficult to show without some kind of interpretive language being added concerning how they speak and act (in written form). This is actually something that came up a lot when writing my first draft. It’s hard to say how a person looks mad without having that interpretive description (or something like it or an interpretive metaphor for it), “mad.” It’d be lots of cues that could be interpreted a lot of ways, making it really hard to interpret. Doesn’t fit into “clear and concise” for any but the most patternistic and interpretive of persons. Not good.

Another thought. It seems common to think that persons naturally identify with the protagonist—they get carried through the protagonist’s journey and in some sense experience it as if they were the protagonist. It seems only natural to need to know what the protagonist is thinking as part of that experience. And again, for all but INTP literary persons, it’s much easier to know what he’s thinking to have his thoughts on paper rather than having to merely interpret them from actions and dialogue. I guess it depends on my audience, though. But I don’t want only literary types.

It seems like having no insight into the inner dialogue of the protagonist would work better in situations where readers weren’t supposed to identify with any single person, or something.

Another thing. It seems like readers would gain an intimacy with protagonists by learning their thoughts, whether those thoughts concord with the characters’ actions and words or not. And that’s a very good thing.

But I think I’ve stumbled into a muddled dichotomy. Writing an inner dialogue and revealing a character’s inner dialogue are not the same thing. Correlative–not causative. To the degree that a person masters subtext, and to the degree that readers can interpret subtext, an author can communicate a character’s inner dialogue. So regardless of which path I choose, 1) I need to get better at subtext (and never stop getting better at it) and 2) I need to think about what audience I want to pursue and what level of interpretive powers I should expect that audience to have. This second one is true of any communication. Duh, Patrick.

Another point, which came to mind while reading the final bit of this: https://janefriedman.com/internal-dialogue/

I have a lot of practice writing my own inner dialogue. I am doing it now. It seems wise to put that practice to use.

Try it. See if you like it better. If not, get rid of it. It may be more work, but that’s okay.

12/21/2016: Free To Act Pt. 2 (cf. Phil. 2:12-13)

The wisest things I could ever say would probably start with, “I’m pretty sure I have no idea what I’m talking about, but…”

All salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.

Present salvation comes in the form of “sanctification”—putting to death the deeds of the flesh and showing the fruit of the Spirit. It is a change in character with a resultant change in deed.

I recently wrote/recorded that I don’t think God wants us to wait until we have pure motives (as if we could even determine that…) before acting but that he wants us to act without fearing that we will fail to act purely. I won’t restate my reasoning here. But let me assume that it’s true.

Thus I act. If what I do is good (which includes having good motivations), then it came from faith, from grace. If what I do is bad or has bad motivations, or if I fail to do something that’s good, then I have acted from my own sinful flesh, and the Lord will discipline me in love, if he chooses to, in his goodness.

Even believing that God wants me to act without me knowing what my motives are or knowing for sure that what I am doing is right (something that’s probably motivated by the fear of failing anyways) is character change and a product of grace.

Recognizing my lack of faith and stopping it is an action. Reminding myself that God alone can change my character is an action. It could come from faith. It might not. If it’s good, it will have come from grace/faith. If not, it won’t have. But it’s an action, like God wants me to take, and it seems to line up with the Scriptures (“Be anxious for nothing…” “Do not worry about tomorrow…” “By grace you have been saved through faith…” etc.).

When I first started being liberated from my legalism and worry, I did this often. At the time, I wondered if my legalism had just morphed into disallowing myself from thinking about right action. But perhaps it was action from faith. Could have been either one, I suppose.

Likewise, strategizing a break from addiction is an action. Breaking addiction is an action. It could come from faith. It might not. If it’s not, God might deal with it. But that doesn’t mean don’t take action again. Whether it’s from faith or not, the action is still an action, even if it looks perhaps a bit different.

Still to be continued.

12/10/2016: Free To Act (cf. Phil. 2:12-13)

You are free to act.

God doesn’t tell us to wait on him to give us pure motivations or authentic motivations (pure motivations would be authentic…), he just tells us to do because it’s him in us working to will and to work his will. And he corrects us when we do wrong. And that’s it.

Something tells me he doesn’t want me to not do just because I might do wrong. Something tells me he will take care of me when I do wrong. That I have the freedom to act, knowing that I’m safe, that he loves me, that he works on me when I do wrong. And though those things may hurt, it’s good. So there’s a safety net, of sorts, in doing wrong. I am free to act because I could do right and because doing wrong is not the end.

To be continued.

(8/14/2017: I have since written a more nuanced explanation of what I’m talking about here, to be published later on. This is much too short to be of use to anyone. But this LBK was the first big movement on this topic that I had had in years.)

12/3/2016: Insecurity

Stems from a lack of value and faith in the grace of God through Christ.

Leads to a desire to be something other than myself—something that matches my idea of what it takes to meet the standard (the highest standard only Christ has met).

I spend my time reading what it takes to be an artist, hoping to find a description of myself, because I have come to view artists as that standard to meet.

If only I valued and believed the love, the imputed character, the eternal hope of the one who met the only standard worth meeting. Insecurity would have no place in me. But only by grace through faith.

So as it stands, until he returns and calls me home, I remain insecure (to the extent that I lack faith).

But such is the nature of God’s work. He uses the weak to demonstrate himself. He allows me to remain weak in order that the greater good be accomplished—that he be seen both by me and by others through me.

Him being seen for who he is is the most important thing in life. Worthy of my pursuit. But also worthy of my continued insecurity. For me to believe in this, I must also commit to the continuance of my insecurity. For the glory of God.

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.

11/4/2016: 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.

Always a Child

I am a late bloomer, but not in terms of physical growth. I have stayed around the same size since twelve.

I am talking about character growth—maturity. From the precarious perspective of self-judgment, it appears that I have finally begun maturing.

What Was
I remained an anxious, lazy, socially awkward teen late into my twenties. The curious combination of 1) my confidence of being right and 2) my terror of being wrong characterized me, including my inability to share and receive ideas, to make new relationships and to restore broken ones, and to explore new things. I was reduced to condemning and to avoiding condemnation, the latter taking up most of my time and causing a great deal of anxiety.

The warden most responsible for this was my southern-conservative, moralistic legalism. I felt constrained to meet the highest possible standard of maturity, and failure to meet this standard held some amorphous doom. This compulsion imprisoned me, driving me to manufacture character growth.

Child (Type 1) to Child (Type 2)
The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. The harder we pursue the boundary of possible knowledge, the farther away it appears, and simultaneously we are made aware of gaps in what we think we know. Thus, true masters in their fields are often the first to admit ignorance. This idea has been attributed to persons like Socrates, Plato, and Einstein, and I have found it to be true as I have studied at DTS. Five years ago, prior to the heaps of work my seminary studies have required, I felt much more confident in my mastery of theology and my ability to exegete. The opposite must be true as well—the less we learn, the more we feel like we know.

Building upon this, a correlation with maturity seems appropriate. An immature person thinks he is mature, whereas a more mature person realizes his immaturity and how unreachable perfect maturity is.

So we remain children either way. Either we fail to grow, ignorantly parading our immaturity as if it were maturity, or we grow, continually recognizing what appears to be an increasing gap, or disparity, between our maturity and perfect maturity.

The person who feels mature is a child, and the person who matures feels like a child.

The Recognition of Inadequacy and Acceptance
Through my late twenties, the standard I sought to achieve was perfect maturity, and inadequacy terrified me. This fear was further stimulated as I studied the Christian Bible within my moralistic, legalistic worldview. I saw the standard of perfect maturity rise higher and higher, increasing the disparity between it and my so-called maturity, no matter how hard I tried to manufacture my own growth. So in one sense, I was moving toward child (type 2); I saw the disparity. But because I rejected the notion that this disparity should continue to exist, my recognition was lifeless.

If maturity is characterized by a “continual recognition of what appears to be an increasing disparity between one’s own maturity and perfect maturity,” a person who rejects his perpetual immaturity (in relation to perfect maturity, thus rejecting the disparity) cannot grow. He will go insane trying to become perfectly mature (trying to remove the disparity), he will give up altogether, or he will lower the standard to something manageable (and less than perfect). I was on the insane route.

Thus, it seems likely that a person moving from child (type 1) to child (type 2) accepts her immaturity in relation to perfection, continually recognizing what appears to be an increasing disparity between her own maturity and perfect maturity.

During my first year in seminary, The Grace Awakening by Chuck Swindoll, among other things, served as a catalyst. Through no manufacturing of my own, I was made aware of my legalism—this worldview that led to my compulsion for perfect maturity, and I was convinced of its fallaciousness. My affirmation of the Christian evangelical doctrine salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone expanded from the abstract, legal sense I had previously accepted to the freedom I have in the present:

I am not constrained to grow in order to be free; I am free to grow, constrained only by the benevolent, divine grace by which I do so.

As a result of this paradigm shift, my response to inadequacy began changing. Perceiving inadequacy is becoming an impetus for remembering my freedom, and while maturity is good, such is not necessary or guaranteed (in this life). Rather than merely recognizing the gap between myself and the perfection, I have begun embracing it. I believe this reflects a move toward child (type 2).

I hope that the birth of my acceptance of perpetual inadequacy indicates that I have begun moving from child to child. If anything, I feel liberated. But even if this is not the case, I’m more okay with such now than I would have been five years ago.