Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Category Archives: College

Beauty and grace in His body, my siblings

I have been back home from my first year of college for roughly three weeks now, and have (obviously) neglected to post anything until now. A time for confession and some reflection on the future trajectory of this blog will come, but for now, here is the best I can do as a wrap-up reflection on my first year. I apologize if it sounds a bit too polished or refined in an impersonal way; it was for an essay contest after all, though I’ve made a few changes. All the same, I hope you enjoy reading it.

It is amazing what God can do with a mustard seed of time. In the span of two short semesters, the Lord has intercepted my mind and life with a throng of worthwhile ideas and experiences that continue to resound within my being and shape my thoughts. Yet towering above the rest stands one special, ongoing lesson: the beauty of the body of Christ – or more specifically, experiencing the richness hidden within the individuals who make it up, through the intimate vehicle of fellowship.

Even before coming to school, my journey in learning how to know and experience people has been an eventful one. Through the examples of several key influencing people in my life, God taught me the gift of reaching out to others in everyday conversations, and to seek to build friendly relationships with whoever might intercept my path. Because of these dear friends, I developed and cultivated an inclination for what might be called broadcast relationships. I want to know everyone’s name, remember details about people’s lives when they share them, and cast my social net wide enough so that no one is left out. Though I still have ample room to improve, I believe that this skill has served me well in my time thus far at college.

Yet even as God was guiding me through these lessons, He began offering me tastes, little foreshadowings of a greater prize awaiting my pursuit. I witnessed another dear friend whose friendships seemed an entirely different sort of creature from most of my own. This friend excelled in cultivating deep, one-on-one relationships with people; such intimacy felt foreign to my experience, but fascinated me. By this example, I realized many of the friendships I had (rightfully) sought to nurture were more broad than deep, and I soon yearned for deeper friendships. In several of my relationships back home, God indeed granted me a meaningful and satisfying bond, friends with whom I shared an intimate connection that pushed far below the mere surface – and by God’s grace, those treasured relationships have endured even while I’ve been away living the college life. Yet my longing for richer, one-on-one relationships has been fulfilled most substantially since my arrival at school. I did not go seeking for them, but God poured them into my lap; and by their presence in my life, even those relationships back home have seemed to take on a new and fuller tenor.

Intimacy is both to know and be known. The friendships God has blessed me with since going to my college have penetrated new reaches of intimacy and fellowship because of both of these factors. Vulnerability has been my teacher lately; under her tutelage, I have gradually been able to lower somewhat the walls that have always naturally surrounded the depths of my interior. Yet perhaps the greatest reason I have been able to do so is that others have opened their hearts to me. Since joining in the life of my school, I have known more than ever before the depth of a human soul.

In this area, senior testimonies have been an especially meaningful pedagogue to me, especially this past spring. A great number of seniors – many of whom, tragically, I’ve only been able to forge at best a hasty connection with – have laid bare their souls from that pulpit for the entire campus to witness, some with trembling voices and tears. I walked away from many of those encounters with my world altered; you cannot see everything the same way after being made aware of such an unseen wealth of struggle, growth, pain, victory, failure, healing, loss, and redemption. After one particularly poignant testimony of deeply internalized pain and the salve of fellowship that ultimately brought healing, I later returned to my room and penned a few reflections. I called each individual soul a cistern, “fairly narrow yet nearly bottomless,” its dark waters obscuring its secrets to all but the most perceiving eye, and only ever known in its fullness by the Lord who created it. “We are deeper than we ourselves know,” I wrote to myself.

Yet these semesters have been more than merely hearing accounts of the soul; I have also been given the opportunity to venture beneath the surface of some of my fellow cisterns. Almost by accident, this past semester I began the practice of informally, almost spontaneously meeting with my dear brothers and sisters one-on-one over a simple meal in the dining hall. Sometimes there was a particular item to be discussed, sometimes no reason to meet existed but fellowship. Several times, I built up my expectations unrealistically to anticipate some kind of life-changing conversation, and disappointed myself when I merely found another soul like mine across the table from me. Yet the simple act of fellowship over food, a type of breaking bread together, helped me to both open my soul to others, and to plunge beneath the mask of the abyss into the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ (though only with their permission). As of now, I have only barely been underwater; yet I have gone deeper than ever before.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful ways I have experienced the richness of fellowship with my brothers and sisters at school has been in our partnerships in meaningful things. The forms have varied, but I have been a blessed participant in several endeavors where we have been able to encourage one another in worthwhile ways, because of our engagement alongside one another in truly worthy pursuits. With Christ ultimately as our center of cohesion and the common object of our fellowship, our interactions have ever brought me to new heights of life and growth in Him. By the examples of my brothers and sisters, by their humility born of profound wisdom and maturity in the Spirit, my steps have often been checked from the prideful pitfall of Satan, and been washed instead with the grace of the Most High. To date, I have found no greater expression of the beauty and grace bestowed through the body of Christ than this.

As a product of a society and culture where the almighty appearance can spell the fate of a job interview or advertised product’s success, where the individual is emphasized over the community, and where many have all but forgotten the immortal soul of man, I can easily forget that the Lord placed a piece of Himself within each human being, in His breath and image. I can easily neglect the beauty of His Bride, the body of many parts sustained by His goodness and manifesting His grace. Yet by that very grace, I have come away with a far greater understanding of the depth of each person made by Him, and the overwhelming privilege I possess of intimate fellowship with my siblings in Christ.

If these lessons, though merely begun and received by an unsatisfactory pupil, are what God can give me a glimpse of in my first year of college alone, I stand in eager expectation for what He will do with my future time. May I learn to seek Him all the more as He continues to teach me with my brothers and sisters in Him.

By His grace,

  ~ Timothy

An Odyssey in Journaling: Seeking the Grey Eyes of Providence

I recognize the cheapness (as a blogger) and possible danger (as a student who’s heard warnings about plagiarism all his life) of posting here something I wrote for school. But blogging time is wanting, and I find myself compelled to somewhat venturesome (if not quite desperate) measures. At any rate, even though I wrote this for a lit class, it is a piece I would have shared even if I’d written it under different circumstances.

An unlikely parallel inspired this story.

The Odyssey is undeniably filled with celebration of man’s tenacity and cunning in the face of trial (as manifestly embodied by Odysseus); yet as I read it for class, I found that it did not glory in man alone. I was struck with a strong appreciation of Athena’s providential role throughout Odysseus’s many exploits and struggles, and this sparked a memory from the ending of Lewis’s classic, The Horse and His Boy. As I wrote, I saw additional parallels of Odysseus’s story with certain biblical characters; these I wove into the fabric of the Homeric world as best I could.

Below, you find the result of my work. Enjoy!

*     *     *     *     *

To the journal,

Many years ago, a stranger came to my home in sunny Ithaca. As a god-fearing man, I welcomed him in, fed him well, and bathed him. Then I asked him his name, his parentage, his homeland and how he came to Ithaca, for I hardly supposed he had come all this way on foot.

He called himself Sallapiddes, hailing from the broad island of Crete far across the sea. Though I insisted, he oddly refused to receive any gift from my hand, and left my palace as swiftly as he had come. Before he disappeared, however, he left me a gift of his own – a small book, or journal as he called it, bound with a rugged skin much tougher than a bull’s hide. A sturdy strap of leather hung from its binding, to fasten it securely to my thigh; for he said that were I ever to go roaming beyond the sea and over the lands of men, though passing through scorching heat and raging seawater, this small book would know neither ruin nor tatter. If I kept it with me, I would never be at a loss to record all that became of me – my adventures, thoughts, triumphs and hardships.

Not many days later, mighty Agamemnon and bold Menelaus came to my palace, and soon after we departed for Troy. Since then, I have had many opportunities to write in this journal, and even more of which to write. Long hours have been mine of late to look back upon what I have written, the path I have followed since leaving the battlefields of Troy.

And I long to curse Sallapiddes for giving me so fine and useful a gift.

Night and day, I weep here on the shore of this wave-washed island, sick at heart for my dear comrades – all of whom I have lost. I remember the fury of the Cicones we raided, the savage son of Poseidon, the lawless Laestrygonians, deadly Scylla and those fateful herds of the Sungod… and it sharpens the anguish of my heart. Each of my men, my friends-at-arms, has gone down to the House of Death in turn; I alone have escaped their fate.

And yet, what have I escaped to? I sit here on the rocks and beaches, my eyes blinded by tears as I strain for even a glimpse of hearth-smoke drifting up from my homeland… How shall this end? Luckless man that I am! Am I fated to die here, far from my people and loved ones? Must I remain to be tormented on this accursed island – I almost say god-forsaken, except that I grieve as the captive of a goddess, the seductive nymph with lovely braids – for the rest of my days?

Oh deathless Zeus who marshals the lightening! Mighty son of Cronus! Did I not win your favor with the sacrifices I burned to you besides the ships on the broad plain of Troy? Have you forgotten the many thighs I offered before you, the many strangers and wayfarers whose sacred rights I never neglected because I feared your name?

And Athena… Oh bright-eyed Athena… why have you forsaken me? Have you no care for me in your lofty heart? Has my wile and wit ceased to impress you? Were we not two of a kind, man and goddess, partners in intrigue and craft, the best alive among gods and men at spinning tricks and displaying our wisdom?

Dearest Athena, daughter of Zeus who knows all… you were so kind to me in those years during the war. We men of Achaea soldiered on against King Priam’s craggy city… and you were there. You strode along my decks, the very goddess of cunning and wile, in person! You kept my men safe from disaster, you cheered me with your words, encouraged my fighting spirit and strengthened my hands when I needed you most. And yet since then, I have caught no glimpse of you, no sign that you are still with me, no assurance that I am favored by you still.

My soul weighs me down in anguish, I draw near to the grave. I long to die… and what then would come of all my cunning, my guile?

How long, O daughter of Zeus? Will you hide your grey eyes from mine forever? Where is your former favor? Will your displeasure rage like the foaming sea? O Athena, goddess of my past deliverance! Why so dead set against me? Why stand far off in my time of greatest need? Why… why abandon me?

I rend my heart, I blind my eyes

With tears of grief, I wound my soul.

I lift my prayer to the skies;

No answer comes to make me whole.

In vain I weep, an empty breath

Still pleading from my lips depart.

I live, and yet the House of Death

More happy stands than my own heart.

The thunder-lack, false eyes of grey

Confirm my purposed, wretched name.

Twas aptly giv’n that cursed day –

The Child of Wrath and Son of Pain.

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Dear journal,

I know not what to think, much less what to write… Can such fortune be true?

Several days ago, as I wept on the shore in my usual way, my lustrous captor approached me and bade me grieve no more. Without warning or reason, she claimed a willingness to send me off her island at last; she even promised bronze tools to construct a broad-beamed raft for myself, provisions for the long journey, and a stiff traveling wind to speed me homeward.

Naturally, I could not believe her at first. What had I ever known but capriciousness, unfaithfulness and trickery from the gods? Even after she swore a binding oath to not plot some new intrigue to harm me, I fed her smoothly spun words to assure her of her beauty as my desire to be with Penelope could not be contained. I even shared the nymph’s bed one final night to appease her, in case her mind took a turn for my destruction.

To cross the wine-dark sea afloat a raft is madness. Even deep-sea ships, well rigged and crewed by the best of men, cannot guarantee a safe journey across its vast gulfs, so full of peril and mortal danger. Neither have I forgotten that the god of the sea-blue mane, the lord of the sea, still seethes against me for having blinded his son.

Yet my heart pines for Penelope, mortal though she be… I long for the good, green earth of my native country, I yearn for the dawn of my return. My raft is nearly ready. Should the earth-shaker wreck my craft, I know that I can bear it. Already have I suffered much, in violent waves and raging war; my fighting spirit has learned to endure. Let the trial come! Let Poseidon do his worst – for I go to my native land at last!

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Journal,

Will I never learn the end of pain?

I departed from Calypso’s dark-wooded island dressed in her fine gifts and well-rationed with ruddy wine and choice meat. Seventeen days I sailed without incident, daring to hope that I might escape the notice of the earthshaking god who rules the seas.

On the eighteenth day, my peaceful voyage ended. The lord Poseidon of the sea, terrible in his power and might, saw my humble craft upon his domain… and unleashed his fury upon me. Fearsome thunderheads grew overhead, grey storm clouds rammed together with such force that the rain alone could have drowned me. From every corner of the earth, he stirred up the fiercest winds and roiled forth breakers that would have sent mountains cowering.

For all my brave talk to the nymph with lovely locks in the safety of her den, I knew fear then as I had never felt on the battlefields of Troy… Knees slack and heart paralyzed by terror, I would have gladly traded a death on those broad plains for the sure doom I was to suffer here.

With one resounding crash, a single wave as furious as Poseidon himself descended on my craft, hurling me into the sea. A nymph took pity on me… Even then, with the promised scarf immortal round my waist, I was sure of my death in those heaving waves.

Surely the god of the sea-blue mane could have ended my life then and there; then a new trick occurred. All at once, the raging winds ceased… but one remained, tossing me for two days. Again and again, I believed myself to be a dead man.

But on the third day – and I cannot explain why – this last wind died down as the rest had. I raised my head… and saw land. Never had I been so eager to plant my feet on solid ground. I swam for the coast as fast as my wearied limbs could take me.

Yet new dangers welcomed me as I neared the shore, perils more fatal than the first. I heard the boom of the boiling surf echoing as it crashed against the jagged reefs and ironbound coast, and my heart failed within me. My knees became as the water which surrounded them once more, and I choked with fright; for I knew to draw nearer would not be the embrace of safety, but to be flayed alive on the rocky coast. A steep, smooth rock face afforded no place for my two legs to stand, no foothold secure to guard me from death. Were I to clamber out, a heavy roller could well have dashed me to bits against the reefs – all that struggle for naught. And yet, I equally feared swimming further down the shore in search of some safe harbor, for a gale could easily snatch me up and hurl me back into the fish-infested sea, or some monster from the deep be set loose on me. Ready to retch in despair, I lingered in the waves that threatened to consume me, my mind tormented as the waters.

As I faltered, a colossal breaker swept me in towards the jagged cliffs of that grim coast; death was never more certain. I know not what could have inspired me then, but I lunged out and grabbed hold of a reef with the strength of desperation. Though the skin rubbed raw off my hands, I stayed on until the great wave’s fury had subsided. Yet even then I had not escaped death, for the backwash of the wave barreled into me full force, hauling me back into the heart of the sea!

A heavy wave fell over me, the billows enclosed my struggling body, and I went down, down into the watery depths… Weeds were wrapped around my head, and the deep surrounded me on every side. I had no will left to fight, no strength left to struggle, and I sank to the very threshold of that place where there can be no return.

And yet… I did not stay there. It is beyond my explanation how or why. All I know is that my dampened fighting spirit suddenly arose within me once more. Though tossed and beaten down on every side, I fought my way out of the depths and into the midst of the violent breakers. I struck out for the shore, scanning the shoreline for a sheltered seabeach, a sanctuary, a cove where I would be safe. By some great mercy, I found one…

I prayed to the god of the river, and he mercifully held back his surge and calmed the swelling tides. Washed ashore more dead than alive, my powerful body limp and swollen, my heart ready to burst, my mouth and nostrils filled with the brine of the sea… yet was I alive. I flung the goddess’s scarf back into the sea and forced myself to abandon the coast where I lay in search of a wooded shelter, bone-weary and fearful of becoming the quarry of some wild beast though I was.

Here I now lie. Exhausted, caked with brine, with nothing to cover me but the branches of this shady grove… Calypso’s gifts I forsook to the wine-dark sea. I have lost all but this infernal journal, which I found still stubbornly strapped to my side. Sallapiddes spoke truly, for it has fared through the seawater unharmed and with no sign of wear – a fate far superior to mine. Yet what has it become but a testament of my suffering? I yearn to hurl this wretched book back out into the fish-infested sea, as if that would drown my miseries! Instead, I pour my heart into its pages…

Already have I written too long. To think of writing after nearing death so frequently and terribly within the past few hours! But now… I feel a welcome sleep coming on.

Let the beasts have me if they will. Let me rest my weary self…

~ Odysse…

*     *     *

Dearest journal,

Can fortune be true? Can the lion change his mane, or the Son of Pain alter his title?

I awoke from my blessed sleep startled, unharmed by beats and yet fearful of what I would find. Too many times had I seen how violent and savage the lawless inhabitants of an isle could be. Yet it was the music of girlish laughter that woke me… Were they nymphs? Or people who eat bread and speak with a human tongue?

Compelled by my need, out I went in search of compassion. Only the modesty afforded me by an olive branch accompanied my steps. Soon, I came across the source of my awakening – a company of maidens, tossing a ball and laughing to their heart’s content on the rippling riverbanks. My heart sank; for though these were daughters of civilized men, how long could I hope to keep their audience in my current state? Legs made fleet by terror and shrieks of alarm would doubtless speed them down the jutting beaches to safety the moment they caught sight of me.

And so they did, scattering from my briny wolfishness like panicked sheep… all but one. The tallest and most shining among them stood her ground, petrified – her face told no lies – yet unmoving. Naked and terrible to behold as I was, she stood fast! I know not whether she is truly a daughter of man, or a goddess in glory, for she seemed almost too wonderful to behold; I cannot imagine what compelled her to remain while her maids fled. But she took pity, promising that for however long I abide on this soil, in the land of the Phaeacians who love their oars, never would I be wanting for food, clothing, or any other gift. She herself was a princess, the daughter of King Alcinous of the land.

The white-armed princess called back her maids. Teasing each other on in awkward obedience, they laid down a cloak and shirt for my shoulders, and oil to rub myself down once I had bathed in the river. I reassured them of my modesty, asking them to retreat a ways down as I bathed, scouring the brine from my hair and the brackish scurf from my shoulders and back.

As daughter and maidens of the king’s court, the princess and her maids with lovely braided hair have doubtless seen many impressive men before, those who excel in strength and beauty. Yet as I emerged from my bath, refreshed and glistening, they regarded me with such awe that I wondered if my stature and manliness had suddenly increased in their eyes. The princess herself – lovely in form and wise beyond her tender years – praised me as a deathless god! Surely a simple bath and rubbing of oil could not have changed my appearance so drastically? No matter, for then came that highest gift of the gods, of which it seemed I had been deprived for years: food.

Blessed princess, with bearing and grace that rivals those of the immortals who rule the vaulting skies above… In my hideous state and direst need, you drew near! Your face will I ever adore, and all my gratitude is due your name.

Already has she driven back to the city, for in good sense, she recognized the scandal it would cause were a stranger like me to return by her side. But before her mules felt the touch of her shining whip, she gave me clear instructions, entreating that I wait for a time in a sacred poplar grove nearby. Then, once she and her shining maidens had reached her generous father’s palace ahead of me, I was to walk to the city and journey there myself. As for directions, she assured me the place so unmistakable that an innocent child could guide me there.

I write this now as I linger among the poplars, gazing on the bubbling spring and wide meadows as I ponder my turn of fortunes. Neither is it not lost to me whose sacred grove I walk in; these fine trees and spacious meadows belong to no other than the clear-eyed daughter of Zeus herself. I meander among Athena’s blessed forests, and yet… she does not come to me. Again, I see no sign of her presence, no assurance of her favor, even as I walk through her holy place.

With each pondering step, I long to lift my prayer to the vaulting skies in the hopes that her ear shall hear me at last. Yet I cannot help but burn with this ever-growing question: Athena, where have you been? Where were you as my craft was shattered by the famed earth-shaker out in the brine-filled sea? When I drifted on the surface of the deep, battered by the waves and awaiting my death for three weary days? Why did you stand afar? Poseidon is a mighty god, terrible and not to be trifled with; yet even so, could not your cunning have rescued me aright or spared me of a portion of my misery? Do you mean to hone the suffering and anguish I bear within me?

I do not neglect the assistance I received from the sea-nymph of the immortal scarf, nor from the river god in whose cove I took refuge. But I ask not what they have done; what of Athena? She is the one I long to see and hear. Is she not, in some fashion, my goddess? Where then has she been in the midst of all this turmoil and fortune?

But these questions have escaped my lips often enough since my trials began. Instead, I offer the following for the grey-eyed goddess’s consideration:

Dearest Athena, daughter of Zeus who wields the thunderhead, my helper and shield in times past – though bitter to my mouth and heavy to my stomach, I have learned to swallow the reality of your absence while I stood stranded in the embraces of Calypso. I have accepted that you abandoned me to the watery depths and the wrath of the fearsome earth-shaker while adrift on the broad back of the sea… Yet still I remember your kindness to me in the years of Troy. So as I have done so many times before, I turn to you with a strong plea – grant now that I shall find a vestige of compassion and mercy in this land, amongst the oar-loving people of Phaeacia!

Athena… heard you my prayer at last? Or is your face still hidden? Have my pleas finally turned your bright eyes in my direction? Or do I stand alone?

No matter; I have prayed. Even if Athena has truly left me, the time now is for action, not supplication. The princess of grace and compassion has surely reached the palace by now, and it is time I followed the route she has set. I only hope no trouble will spring up from amongst the old sea-dogs and coarser sailors tending their trim ships in Phaeacia’s fine harbor. I shall have to pass through their midst as a stranger garbed in the king’s laundry, and they cannot but notice me. May I find the compassion I seek among such a people!

Through many dangers, toils, harms

And violent sea god’s mighty wrath

A princess bold with whitest arms

Now bids me to a kinder path.

She trades my cloak of filth and brine

For oil smooth and modesty.

O Nausicaa! Perhaps divine

I give my thanks and praise to thee.

Again – though not from wine-dark sea

My prayers to Olympus rise.

I see no sign in poplar tree

Yet still I seek grey Wisdom’s eyes.

~ Odysseus

*     *     *

Most blessed journal,

Much has happened since last I wrote.

As I strode to the Phaeacian’s welcome city, I naturally feared that some swaggering islander would cross my path, rouse my fighting blood with taunts and end his life. Such an incident would greatly impede my journey to the palace, and even put me into a state of disfavor that would end all hopes of finding compassion. Yet none challenged me. I know not how often the Phaeacians encounter strangers in their land, but they acted as though they never even saw me.

As I entered their gates, a young girl came to greet me. A perfectly ordinary little girl, holding her mother’s water pitcher, no doubt… I asked for her guidance, and with a sparkle in her eye, she promptly replied that she would gladly lead me to the halls of wise King Alcinous and his good queen, Arete. She then sped down the streets with me in pursuit; no one accosted us, all ignored us.

Soon, we reached the resplendent palace. Here the girl rapidly related to me more of her beloved queen, and declared that with her favor would come hope that I might see my native land again. Then, as quickly as she had come, the girl sped away.

That vitality, that brightness in that young girl’s eyes… I have seen it before. And now I remember, the color of her eyes… that familiar color. Could it be?..

I quickly entered the magnificent palace court, and after gazing my fill, sought the queen. It was not difficult to find her, as the white-armed princess had assured me. Still, none took note of me; not until I had grasped the knees of my princess’s mother. Then did all marvel as though none had seen me until that moment. Regardless, I made my plea to her, entreating her mercy and begging her compassion in light of all I’d borne.

I shall spare the details; except to say that truly, truly have I found compassion among the kind people of Phaeacia. Even before I proved to them my strength in the contests or made known to them that I was Odysseus, man of exploits and raider of cities, they looked upon me as though I had the bearing of an immortal. They have embraced me warmly, treating me ever so kindly…

As I write, I board their swiftest convoy, loaded with more plunder than ever I might have gained from sacking Troy and manned by the best of oarsmen, ready to speed me homeward. I know not what I shall find there, what new trials and worlds of pain await my return. Yet at long last, I shall be in sunny Ithaca once more, the land I love and the land of my loved ones…

Again, I feel the strangest sleep coming on, as if that of death… These crewsmen know their craft, and my treasures are safely stowed. For now, I shall sleep, though I know not what lies before me. Perhaps Athena shall be merciful… perhaps I shall see her face at last. Her eyes, I may have glimpsed already…

~ Odysseus

*     *     *    *

Dearest diary,

At long last is my mission complete. The man of exploits, Odysseus, has reached his native home at last. I was there to welcome him myself.

He could not recognize me of course, nor his beloved land; not until I had stripped away my clever mist and unveiled my winning disguise. Oh that wily man… How suspicious he was! How careful and exacting! He trusts me above all the other gods and goddesses of the vaulting heavens, yet still he asked if things were truly as I said, if this land shrouded in mist was truly his cherished homeland. Even after I revealed my face, my long-sought face… he could not allow himself to lower his guard. Ever the cool tactician, he hid all signs of wonder and joy at seeing my face and form, the signs he strove after so frequently and so fervently all his years of trial.

Joy and wonder were not the only affections he sought to hide. The thinly masked bitterness of his voice did not escape me as he quietly accused me of all he has believed true since the fall of Troy – that I had abandoned him, left him in time of greatest need, forsaken him to survive by his own strength and cunning alone. I know he feels all this; have not his questionings and prayers reached my ears all along?

For all his cunning and cleverness… Odysseus is a mortal after all. I understand that he is so. I understand his questioning and his doubt; yet he fails himself to see how little he understands. For I have not been deaf to his prayers as he supposes, or blind to his journal’s woeful tales. Neither have I ever left his side or abandoned him to a cruel fate.

Does he not know?

It was I who persuaded my father Zeus, he who loves the lightening, to set him free from lustrous Calypso’s captivity. My winning words liberated him from pining away all the days of his life on that rocky beach, and allowed him to turn homeward once more, as Fate had decreed…

It was I who calmed the winds when the god of earthquakes destroyed his craft at sea, who silenced all but the boisterous northern gust that drove him to the Phaeacian’s land, and I who stilled it on the third day.

It was I who inspired him to take hold of the jagged reef when death was most imminent, and I who filled his fighting spirit with courage when the roiling breakers swept him back into the open sea, little better than dead… Contrary to the will of Fate, he would have perished then and there had I been absent.

It was I who sealed his eyes with welcome sleep in his bed of leaves amongst the olive trees, where no beast did touch him…

It was I who sent the white-armed princess to the shore. It was I who stayed her heart and dissolved the fearful trembling of her limbs, though a naked man caked in brine stood before her – I gave his cunning the chance it needed to calm her fears and sway her compassion. I made him taller, more massive to the eyes once he had taken his bath to further the motion. I was the reason she saved his life.

It was I who cloaked him in a hidden mist as he walked through the Phaeacian’s city, allowing him to reach the king’s palace and the queen’s very knees unseen. I was the chattering, eager, bright-eyed girl who showed him the way to wise Alcinous’s palace. I lead him on, and by my craft did I incline the people of Phaeacia to embrace him with such warmth and reverence, encouraging their sympathy and awe and creating opportunity for him to display his marvelous strength. I heard his prayer amidst my sacred groves, and did not put him to shame.

I know that he is not fully ignorant of what I have done; our meeting on Ithaca’s beach seals this truth. This alone did I tell him, that I had prepared the Phaeacians to accept him so amiably – that I had answered his prayer – and this alone did he show me, that he knew the identity of the grey-eyed girl who had lead him to their city. Yet still is his knowledge a mere bud, a beginning of the perfect reality.

Through all his struggles, I preserved him. I protected him. I was his helper when all his best efforts and cunning were powerless to deliver him. Elsewhere, I aided him – crafting careful details to ease the way, setting his feet securely in a place of honor. Still have I strengthened him in a thousand ways he does not know.

And it was I who gave him the journal.

He does not yet know truly how I have helped him. But he will look back upon what he has written, over all the woes and hardships he has recorded. When he reads this journal over, he will not forget the inkwell of tears that flooded from his soul, nor the quill of sharpened anguish with which he wrote. Yet he will also see the many, many happenings and instances that have preserved and aided him, both in his times of most dire need and in the most minor of challenges. He will see that his path has been riddled with the strength of deliverance, and shielded by the might of steadfast protection. And perhaps… perhaps he will one day see that I never did abandon him. Not once did my grey eyes fail to trace his steps, or my wisdom falter to defend and strengthen his way. Not once did I forsake him. Perhaps when he speaks to his son Telemachus, with whom I made my role much more manifest, he will see it at last.

Odysseus sleeps peacefully now in the swineherd’s hut – clad in the disguise of my making. As I have shared with him, I plot with him now to ruin those suitors who bleed his house white. No longer will I walk in shadows behind and before him; now, he shall have me by his side, my thunder and form as ready proof.

There is much to be done still. As before, many things lie at hand which his own strength and cunning must accomplish if he is to succeed, even with my aid. Even here will he find a world of pain to endure and hardships to overcome. Even here must I hone the anguish within him once more.

But I am here to help him. I will be with him to the very end, and though it take him yet another twenty years at last to see… he will know.

Though stranded long in nymph embrace

In pain conveyed o’er sea and land

The man of sorrows flints his face

Yet ne’er forsaken did he stand.

Through stormcloud sea, in forest green

O’er sandy beach, pavilioned yards

A helper steadfast, yet unseen

Thy every footfall safely guards.

Though visioned not in poplar tree

Though futile seemed the anguished cries

Yet e’er my ear received their plea

Nor vainly did thee seek mine eyes.

          ~ Athena

Pensées from reading Pascal: A dead man changing my life

“Pensées” simply means “thoughts” in French, and refers to the title of a work by mathematician, philosopher, and Jansenist Blaise Pascal. Basically, no editing, no formal structure; just the free-flow of a brilliant mind at work. I can claim absolutely no pretenses of cleverness or profundity next to Pascal, but reading him does have a way of awakening the philosopher within. The following thoughts aren’t really organized or remotely polished, and they don’t even relate to what I was reading by him. They just flowed out, and this seemed like an appropriate place to put them. Glean what you will, ignore the rest, and just be glad that I didn’t go on for twice as long.

I was reading something by Pascal today for a research paper.

It was the work of sheer genius. I followed the brilliance of his arguments, laughed at the snarkiness of his expressions, and pondered the depth of his profundity. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore; I was mind-blown. I literally looked at my computer screen and said, “You’ve been dead for hundreds of years. Why… How is it that you can still have such an impact on me? That your life continues on in a way that gives it power to change mine?”

Think about it. A man who belongs to a location and era totally separate from mine has the ability to influence my life. How can that be?

What stronger proof is there that man is more than a merely physical, material reality than this?

Another human being worlds away, whose bones have laid in the earth for centuries or who lives in a place miles apart from my experience, has the power to influence me deeply. I don’t know where Pascal was buried, but it doesn’t matter because his effect on me has nothing to do with a physical connection. He doesn’t need proximity to move my intellect, my heart and my soul. Neither does any other human being on this planet for that matter. Anything you post right now as a blogger or comment-maker has no physical reality beyond words on another person’s screen, yet you carry the potential to shape that person through your actions just the same. You couldn’t do that if reality only consisted of matter. Atoms don’t have that kind of power.

We miss out on so much if we remember only the physical reality around us. Pascal once wrote (in his Pensées) that he sometimes wishes God had never given us reason so that we could always experience him directly through faith alone; no gatekeeper, no passageway, no threshold in getting to Him. I’ve wished the same thing on occasion, but not so much because I desire God as Pascal did; I just get tired of dealing with all the obstacles in my way. Little do I know that reason is a gift from the hand of God Himself. Likewise, I grow weary of the many emotions I experience and will never fully understand, bewildered and frustrated by their constant fluctuation and obscurity, not realizing that this too is the gift of God. What would my existence be like if I were merely physical? Would I be any different than a rock with a more sophisticated arrangement of my atoms and molecules? Would I have any capacity for joy? Understanding? Longing? Pain? Life at all?

The immaterial parts of me give me the capacity to be influenced by others regardless of distance in time or space, and likewise grants me the incredibly potent ability to influence others beyond what I can only see, hear, taste, touch, and so on.

I haven’t the faintest idea if I’ll be having any ongoing effect on the lives of people living four centuries from now, as Pascal does. But by the grace of God, may it be an ability I receive in joy, contentment, and celebration, and exercise in wisdom, goodness, and grace.

A word from Remarque/The sting, the indifference, and the triumph

Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine guns, hand-grenades – words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.

~ Erich Maria Marque, All Quiet on the Western Front

I finished my first war novel yesterday, All Quiet on the Western Front, for one of my history classes… Had I read it, I might have been tempted to breeze through the story too quickly, or gotten distracted by the number of commas and somewhat run-on sentences (which I suspect partly results from it being a translation from German; then again, that’s how I write sometimes too). But with a good audiobook recording, there is no such option… Mere marks of punctuation become gasps, human pauses and tones rife with expression; the human reality becomes manifest in a way that can’t be escaped by skimming ink on a page.

I’m not advertising for audiobooks or discrediting reading out of a physical book in any way. All I mean to say is I had no way out. The grey world Remarque fashioned enveloped me, engulfed my soul as I listened. The battlefields of the Great War (aka World War I) in all their awfulness, desperation and numbing deadness, became real to me; as real as they could have been, short of my being there in person. I heard nothing but words, words; but I felt the horror of the world in them.

One of the greatest points of emphasis in our class has been how prior to WWI, the West was at the height of optimism. Progress was inevitable, Western superiority unassailable, confidence unshakable. Then came the war.

It was more terrible than anything anyone had ever known. It shattered the tower of optimism the West had been erecting for at least a century. The delusion strained and broke under the weight of millions upon millions of corpses, strewing the battlefields of Europe. The wonderful technological advances of mankind became deadly: artillery that decimated entire regiments, gas that dissolved one’s lungs from the inside, machine guns that could mow down dozens or even hundreds in a single battle. And this was progress?

No longer did the world seem orderly, rational, and always improving. Now, it seemed senseless, violent, chaotic and void of meaning. And so, the castle of modernity crumbled, and the ghostly form of post-modernity began to rise from the ashes. Nihilism and hedonism became respectable – what else was left? When the order of the universe seems to go to pieces at your feet, what else can you do but numbingly conclude that nothing truly matters? That the opiate of pleasure is all that remains?

The cry of Ecclesiastes became widespread: “Meaningless! All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Therefore, eat, drink and squeeze what little pleasure out of this rotten life you can, before it all comes to an abysmal end…

Yesterday we were under fire, to-day we act the fool and go foraging through the countryside, to-morrow we go up to the trenches again. We forget nothing really. But so long as we have to stay here in the field, the front-line days, when they are past, sink down like a stone; they are too grievous for us to be able to reflect on them at once. If we did that, we should have been destroyed long ago…

“Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line, because that is the only thing which brings us though safely, so we turn into wags and loafers when we are resting. We can do nothing else, it is a sheer necessity. We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which, though they might be ornamental enough in peacetime, would be out of place here. Kemmerich is dead, Haie Westhus is dying… Martens has no legs anymore. Meyer is dead, Max is dead, Beyer is dead, Hämmerling is dead, there are a hundred and twenty wounded men lying somewhere or other; it is a damnable business, but what has it to do with us now – we live… We will make ourselves comfortable and sleep, and eat as much as we can stuff into our bellies, and drink and smoke so that the hours are not wasted. Life is short.

Remarque could have merely described the numbing effect of the war on the main character and the other young soldiers in his novel. But he did more than that… he made you live it with them. He made you experience the sheer weight of the agonizing horror, the desperate purposelessness, and (eventually) the stoic indifference that these soldiers felt – that they had to make themselves feel to stay alive enough to function one more day. I felt nihilism creeping into my own soul as I listened; how can one believe in purpose, in meaning, in any sort of goodness in life apart from carnal pleasure, after experiencing what these men experienced on a daily basis for nearly four years? Each man was like a card in a deck, randomly shuffled and left open for the wind to whip about in any direction it pleased;  some straight into the fire, some only to be singed, some to be seared so badly that it would have been better if the whole card had been burnt, damned at once to the flames rather than this agonizing half-existence of torment. All at the whim of the breezes.

Little wonder that they became indifferent. How can life have meaning after a living Hell like this? What purpose or ultimate value is there in an empty, heartless existence of Russian roulette? A game without thrill, without order, without plan or purpose… only death for the randomly selected and emptiness for the survivor. A game so vicious that the only way to survive is to let it all sink down, down like a stone, into the recesses of one’s being… The sting is too much. Indifference becomes the only way to cope. It all must be… must be meaningless.

But that’s just it though… If there was no meaning in it all, if life had no purpose, if all of existence truly was nothing but chasing after the wind, a random game where it doesn’t matter who dies and who survives to emptiness… why would death matter? Why should we fear it so? Indeed, if life had no meaning, death wouldn’t either; it would have no sting. If there were no meaning or purpose in life, there would be no terror in dying, no horror at the atrocities of this world, no agony in war. Remove absolute goodness and you have an amoral world; and no longer can you be touched by the grasp of evil and suffering, because all is meaningless. The young men of Remarque’s novel let their feeling sink down into them, make their hearts stony, because they realize this. If they continue believing in purpose and meaning, they shall be torn to pieces by the horror before them. But if they are indifferent… if all becomes meaningless, then the terror of seeing death and unspeakable pain all around them is numbed. “Fear we do not know much about — terror of death, yes; but that is a different matter, that is physical.” The real suffering, the heart-pain one finds in seeing one’s comrades fall and writhe in agony… that can be muffled away if all is devoid of meaning. They cut themselves off from the feeling of death by cutting themselves off from life.

They are unable to handle the reality of death; not because it doesn’t matter but because it matters too much. And the only way they can bear the piercing, terrifying gaze of death is to make nothing matter. Only keep yourself busy doing nothing; pursuing empty pleasures that have no substance but distract for a time so that you don’t have to remember the emptiness within you. It can’t be filled, but it can be ignored. So let it sink down… it’s the only way to keep living.

Thus far, I have lead a stain-free existence. Even for a fairly well-off, middle-class citizen of a ridiculously privileged nation, my life has been remarkably free from pain. And when compared to the daily, crushing suffering of millions across the globe, it almost makes me sick. Certainly it makes we wonder… why should I be spared? I’m no better, I know that for a fact. And whenever I catch the smallest glimpse of the suffering others have experienced in this world, down through the years and to this day, my words fail me… but still, I must ask: Why so much pain, so much agony? Why the seemingly pointless suffering, the endless groaning, the futile pleas for relief? Why does death reign so strong?

I know nothing of the suffering of those soldiers in that Great War; I might imagine it pretty well on the receiving end of an audiobook through the mastery of a writer like Remarque and an actor like the one I opened my ears to. But even when I do suffer truly one day, I know that I will never know a fraction of the pain that they or other millions of inhabitants of this world and its history knew daily in their bones and hearts. I don’t have all or even most of the answers, and I don’t even have the true experience of pain to back up the little I do know. But what I do know is this:

There is another way. There is a solution, and it is not to turn one’s heart to stone, appealing as that is. It is not indifference, it is not meaninglessness or vainly chasing pleasure to make the pain go away. And it is not embracing the death.

It is life itself swallowing death up.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In our human frailty, we could not dream of speaking such bold words. Death is too mighty, immeasurably too awful for us to taunt… Yet when we serve a Lord who triumphed over the grave, who became the victim of death – and won anyway – only then can the victory be sounded. Only then is the sting of death removed – not by removing life as well, but by Life overcoming all the force that Death can boast. It is only by the triumph of Life over Death.

Today, I celebrate that triumph. I have no victory to boast of in myself; but I boast in my Lord who overcame all, who is Life Himself, who died and now lives forevermore. And because I am in Him, I do not fear the power of death.

One day – perhaps through war, perhaps through another medium of evil – one day, I will suffer, and this time not merely through my vicarious imagination. It will be real to me as it never has been before. Will my neat ideological categories hold then? Will I be able to keep myself from allowing a heart of stone to sink deep into me, to harden with indifference, as my only means of survival? If all my words were merely a theory, I doubt it. Better men than I have cracked under far less.

But because I stand in a reality, because my confidence comes not in an optimism in mankind or a philosophy in myself, I can say with full confidence that, by the grace of God, it will be possible to stand fast, with a heart of flesh that is willing to be broken again and again, and made new each morning by new life. It can be done; it has been before. I know not if I will be adequate for the trail – I probably won’t be – but I serve a God who is faithful. And no matter how weak I am, no matter how powerfully Death rears its head and crushes me beneath its load, the One who is called Life is greater yet.

I learned the sting of death from Remarque in a way I have never known before. I felt a fearful indifference bent on survival rise up in me as never before. But just maybe, I understand my Lord’s triumph over Death in His everlasting Life a little bit better this day because of it.

Wishing you a Resurrection Sunday filled with the true knowledge of His power,

~ Timothy

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite?

When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory, where is the prize?

When the grave robber comes, and death finally dies

~ Petra, “Grave Robber”

Deeper than I know

Deep_Cistern_on_hilltop_of_Bodhikonda

I have often walked away from senior testimonies this semester thinking, “There is so much that goes on on this campus that I don’t even remotely know about. So much struggle, growth, pain, victory, failure, healing, loss, redemption…”

But today, after hearing a testimony of deeply internalized pain and the salve that ultimately brought healing, I walked away with an even deeper realization:

What good is it to know of these things and yet not actually know them as they are borne by my brothers and sisters? To have eyes that see only the facade, blind to the reality of hurt and trial raging on the inside, hid within the faces I see every day? How can I love my brethren, and yet allow them to suffer in silence of their own hearts?

I’m only beginning to catch the faintest glimpses of just how ridiculously complex yet fathomlessly simple this creature called the human being is. Each individual, each person is a cistern, fairly narrow yet nearly bottomless, and sometimes with waters dark enough to obscure all but the most perceiving eye. The true depth of each one is probably a vastness only within the reach of God Himself who made it. We are deeper than we ourselves know.

Why then am I so easily contented with amusing myself with my own reflection dancing on the surface? Why do I not seek to dive deeper, beneath the mask of the abyss, as far as I am allowed to descend? I need eyes able to see and know that deeper reality, eyes able to discern when someone says they’re okay when they’re not. Eyes that understand pain and struggle when it is present, however well masked. Eyes that will display the compassion and grace that a hurting friend may need, rather than the presumption and reproach no man wants or requires.

Vulnerability has been my teacher lately. I have slowly been learning the art of unveiling myself, of lowering the walls that have always naturally surrounded the depths of my interior. I am still an unsatisfactory pupil and progressing only ever so gradually, but the recognition that I cannot have a relationship in the fullest sense of the word unless I allow myself to be known makes me continue. Yet intimacy is both to know and to be known. Even as I learn to allow others to know me, I must learn to know others – not always an easy task, perhaps never. Not all will allow my intrusion, and some rightfully so. I cannot and should not open my heart to all, and likewise, I cannot and ought not expect all to do the same to me.

Yet as I heard today, there are times when a friend is desperate to keep the pain internalized and out of sight, when the last thing they want to do is open up. But perhaps they need to. It won’t always be to me, but I may yet still have a role to play, however small or supportive in only minor ways. I suppose it’ll often depend on the degree of friendship and the specific circumstance.

But whatever the ache, whoever the friend, I pray that I may have eyes to see the hidden and pent-up pain, and the wisdom to be whatever kind of friend is required to fill the role God has for me there, however central or small it seems. Ultimately, I pray that I would have His eyes, and the heart to love others as He has commanded me to love, as He has loved me, and as He perfectly and everlastingly loves them.

I write this far higher than I can reach. I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to write brimming with confidence like I’ve learned my lesson perfectly, as if I knew exactly what now to do and had as good as accomplished it already… I honestly don’t understand how my writing flies so far above me; I am painfully inadequate when it comes to actually understanding and truly living the reality of what I write. But by the grace of God, may it be so.

Photo from Wikipedia

A restless Sabbath

I realized last night that I needed a day of rest.

From what I understand from Scripture (and there are people I highly respect who would disagree with me), I don’t believe that I’m morally obligated to keep a Sabbath. But I think God knew what He was doing when He set down the pattern of six days of work, one day of rest. Plus, given the holiday tomorrow, I knew I would (hopefully) be given enough time to pay my assignments their due.

And so, I decided today would be a day of no schoolwork.

The day flew by, even more rapidly than I’d expected. At first, it didn’t feel that different; perhaps it just took a bit for me to log out of the schoolwork mentality. But about halfway through the day, I was struck by a seemingly out-of-the-blue thought/conviction that caught me slightly off-guard:

I don’t want to just rest from academics; I want to rest in God. But what does that mean? What does it mean to find true repose in Him, and in Him alone? I sensed a longing, a restlessness in my spirit that I didn’t quite have an answer for…

A few minutes later, I attended a dance lesson today that left me totally and curiously drained (I’ve danced longer and more intensely many times before; I guess in those cases my adrenaline was enough to keep me from realizing how tired I was until much later). An hour and a half of involuntary, physical repose afterward had never been so sweet…

Perhaps too often, I go through my day running on a kind of spiritual adrenaline, unaware of my dependence and need for my Creator. And as I learn to remember the restlessness inside of me, I will find the sweet repose that only He can supply.

Lord… teach me to be restless for You.

“…our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

~ Augustine

A word from Pascal

P1000952

“Let us act as if we had only eight hours to live.”

“True fear comes from faith; false fear comes from doubt. True fear is joined to hope… because men hope in the God in whom they believe. False fear is joined to despair, because men fear the God in whom they have no belief. The former fear to lose Him; the latter fear to find Him.”

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know… Is it by reason that you love yourself?”

“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart… whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.”

“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”

“The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points… The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.”

“In every dialogue and discourse, we must be able to say to those who take offence, ‘Of what do you complain?’”

“It is a horrible thing to feel all that we possess slipping away.”

“Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”

“Those who do not love the truth take as a pretext that it is disputed, and that a multitude deny it.”

“I love the worshippers unknown to the world and to the very prophets.”

“We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.”

“Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed… A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought… Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

A wind-filled walk

After investing so much time and pouring so much energy into my first paper of the semester, turning it in and walking away  last Thursday was confusing; like stepping out of a world you’ve confined yourself in for too long, or removing a heavy visor that you’d almost forgotten you were wearing.

So I went for a walk. I can’t remember the last time I took a walk for the sake of taking a walk.

It was powerfully windy that day. I had thought I would be praying or singing, or at least humming as I went along, but I didn’t. I just tried to take in what was around me. The wind filled the silence.

The ground was much muddier than I’d expected. The surface of the lake wavered and shifted like a thing possessed. The gusts tossing and shaping the waters blasted my face and pocketed hands with cold. Inspired by a photograph a friend had taken, I diverged from my route to explore a new area. The ground grew muddier, the sights more breathtaking. The wind remained strong.

The Spirit is closely associated with breath or wind. Our breathing in and out daily is a reminder of the life that was breathed into our first ancestor, Adam. And now, as the wind churned and blew with strength, it made even what is not alive seem living. The near-barren trees shivered, the nearby barn groaned like a forgotten giant of old, and the waters took on a thousand quickened forms.

All this with no words.

Let it begin

Well, dear friends, it is finished. My first semester at college has come to an end and I am home once more. It has been a journey overflowing with fulfillment and growth, challenge and adventure, fun and laughter, all interwoven into an incredible tapestry of God’s grace and faithfulness.

As mentioned previously, I’d never had so many things to post about and so little time to actually complete the posting process. Consequently, my draft folder has accumulated several tagalongs — poor embryonic, half-formed things that I tried to raise to maturity and set loose on the world, but ran out of time to fully refine and develop.

But until January, I quite literally have almost nothing to do before I head back for my next semester. My hope is this surplus of time will yield an increase of posting; only keep in mind that many of the things I’ll be posting on probably took place many weeks ago. Hopefully, they will be entertaining, encouraging, and edifying in their own way just the same.

Be back soon,

~ Timothy

Political honesty

Over lunch the other day, I partook of a most fascinating (and entertaining) conversation with some friends. The basic premise was imagining a politican running for office on a platform of “total political honesty.” For example:

“If I am elected, I pledge to take whatever I want from my opponents and give it to my supporters.”

“I actually have no inclination, much less passion, towards this particular issue, and I have no intention of carrying it through when I am elected. I simply make a big deal of it now because I know it is important to you all as voters.”

“I am aware that my campaign has primarily consisted of negative ads defaming my opponent. In fact, this was intentional on the part of my team and I, as psychological studies have shown that a negative perception is more effective and impacting than a positive one, thus increasing my chances of attaining your vote even if I never say a word about myself.”

“I’d rather use lots of fancy, nice-sounding words than craft good, informed arguments. Flowery language appeals to a much broader base of people.”

“My foremost goal in this campaign is to win the election. So cast your vote for me!”

And so on. Extremely tongue-in-cheek, unlikely to ever happen in earnest, but profoundly entertaining to think about.

Please do not misunderstand me; this conversation was not directed at any political figure (past or present) in particular, and is certainly far from being applicable to all political leaders today. But it did raise an interesting question in my mind: how would people react were (unlikely as it is) a politician to arise who said such things? Would any actually vote for him? How many, and for what reason? How would having such a candidate in the line-up change people’s perspective on the political process? Would it force people to reevaluate why they vote for who they vote for? Would they become more wary, more conscientious, more informed and discerning voters? Or would it be business as usual?

All I can say is, I hope that any political leader (current or yet to appear on our ballots) who runs on a platform — or principle rather — of complete political honesty will have more noble aspirations than this one.