Saturday, March 2, 2013

Musing on Morning Midterms

          I remember one of my public school teachers who had a poster on the wall with a picture of a giraffe in a crowd of zebras and a caption that read: "dare to be different." Even then, I realized how absurd it was that an institution that harshly enforced mindless conformity would encourage me to act contrary to their whims. 
          Then I realized that the giraffe didn't do anything, it just was different whether it liked it or not, and remembered our teacher telling us that everyone was different. Then I realized that the goal handed to me by that poster was completely arbitrary, since I already was different from other people. I concluded that this poster was merely mindless psycho-babble used to distract me from the soul-crushing conformity being inflicted on me by teachers. 
          Do you ever wonder what you would say to your teachers if you had to go back to school, but you knew what you know now as an adult? Sometimes I almost wish I could go back, just because I feel much more secure about who I am and what I believe, and it would be so much fun to watch the backlash I would inflict on my environment. I've recently come to the conclusion that if I were to take the personality and knowledge that I hold today and put it into my 9th grade self, it would result in overwhelming disciplinary action, detention (actually I did get detention a couple times), suspension, expulsion, and it would probably lead to many arguments in the classroom, I would probably end up skipping school a lot, I would be labelled as a troubled child who had a negative influence on his peers, and I would probably end up involved in several lawsuits, on several medications, and I would probably receive a lot of psychiatric evaluation. It makes me look at some of those kids I knew who were "bad apples" back then in a whole new light.
          The most interesting insight I think I gained from this thought experiment was realizing that because my values are completely contrary to the values of most school teachers, it's ridiculous to hold myself up to their standards as closely as I did. Then I thought about some of the standards of my professors that I hold myself up to as a college student today (most of which are remarkably similar to my k-12 teachers!) and started thinking about how I would look back on this time later on down the road, as I look back on my k-12 education now.
If anyone was wondering why I'm not more upset with myself that I slept through two midterm exams this you know. 
In the big scheme of things, it's really not a big deal. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The grace of God

       So here's the scenario: I was nominated to be in an all-state colliegiate honors choir. Fortunately my institution is so liberal with their funding they wouldn't spring for hotel rooms in the large city the event is being held in. Also fortunate: the city is only about an hour away from me, making it plausible to drive an hour in the morning there and an hour in the evening back...on a busy interstate highway during rush hour and inner city traffic.
       I left my house at about 8:30 this morning, and got home around 11:00 p.m. All day was spent in rehearsal for this choir. It was a long day. As I was leaving, it had been raining, and was still raining, and my windshield wipers did not help clear my vision very much. So far so good.
       Add to that I'm trying to find the interstate driving downtown through a large unfamiliar city, and I'm having trouble seeing the lines on the road. I kid you not, the events described here are 100% true.
       I nearly hit a pedestrian. If I had not had lightning quick reflexes which told me to stomp on the brakes, I wouldn't have seen him. It helped that he was wearing dark clothes on a rainy night.
       I should mention: I had begun my journey by praying to God that He would keep me safe, guide me and give me His protection on the way home, because I knew I was embarking on a dangerous trip. After nearly hitting the pedestrian and not finding signs guiding me to the interstate, I started praying again.
       I found a state highway I recognized would take me North and inevitably take me home if I followed it long enough, but it led me through various residential neighborhoods and the speed limit was 30 mph. At one point while following this road, I saw a SWAT team van turn a corner at an intersection in front of me and pull over to the side of the road with lights flashing. This caused me to become unnerved and I cautiously passed the police officers handling what looked like a man in shackles and bringing him out of the van.
       I followed the state highway for about 20 minutes, before I saw a sign for the interstate. I started rejoicing at my good fortune, thanking God and driving home. When I was finally almost home and turning into the narrow alley that is my driveway, I noticed that it had been completely covered in ice.
       I did mention earlier that it was raining, did I not? Well, today is January. It's very unusual in this climate to have rain in January. Usually it would be cold enough for it to turn into snow and ice. That is in fact what it had been turning into through several storms for a month previous to this. If you're from a similar climate and following the logic, you may realize that this means that buildings are liable to have large icicles and bits of ice on them......that break off when it gets warmer........and starts raining.
       Well, in my neighbor's case, this buildup was a sheet of ice on the roof of their slanted-roof building that was about half a foot thick. I say was because it is not anymore. As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed one of my neighbors (there are multiple units in the building next to me) standing in her doorway, and motioning for me to stop.
       Long story short: I got to shovel many square feet of shattered half foot thick ice sheet. The ice sheet had fallen off the neighbor's roof about 2 and a half stories, collided with the pavement below, and shattered in all directions up to at least 20-30 feet away from the point of impact, and the driveway was now covered in ice, parts of which were large chunks too heavy to lift with my snow shovel. I learned from my neighbor that it had fallen off the roof about a minute before I pulled in the driveway, and that if I had been just a minute earlier, I could have had a large ice sheet a half a foot thick fall on my car, or worse, if I had been one and a half to two minutes earlier, I could have have a large ice sheet a half a foot thick fall on my head while I was walking back up the alley. Or if I had been earlier than that, I could have woken up early tomorrow morning to go back to the city, only to find that I couldn't get out of my driveway, assuming I wouldn't have noticed it falling off the roof from the noise it made (according to my neighbor that is unlikely). In any case I still would have to shovel to get out of the driveway tomorrow morning.
       I helped her remove the ice for a while, but eventually we gave it up as a bad job because head-sized chunks of ice were still falling off the roof overhead, and nearly hit us while shoveling.

This is a cool story, but I did I bother to explain it in great detail?

       If you haven't connected the dots yet: God is all knowing, all powerful, and answers prayer. I asked God to watch over me and keep me safe on the journey home, and what did He do? Just what I asked.
       Now, I'm not the type to go over-spiritualizing things, or making it seem like every little coincidence in life is God's doing. In fact, I often rag on Christians who over-spiritualize everything. I used to get into fights with my ex-girlfriend about how God works because she would take very small coincidences and say that it was a revelation from heaven, like hearing a song on the radio more than once. I do believe that God created a natural law to govern the universe, I do believe that's what governs most of our actions, and I think He did it that way on purpose. This is the way I think by default, because this is the way the world works, that's the way God programmed it to work.
       The point of this story is to demonstrate that I'm not so arrogant as to think the God never does any intervening in my life or that He isn't there looking out for me. I do believe God can cause miracles, I do believe that God can intervene in the lives and affairs of human beings, and most important: I do believe that He answers prayer.
       The other reason I made this post is so that you can read it do some self-evaluation. Does God know what you're up to? Do you let Him work in your life? Have you prayed recently? Is He in any part of your plans for the future? If the last time you prayed was the last time you went to church, you might want to consider at least giving Him a short update. He likes to hear from you and know that He's still important in your life.

       As I was helping my neighbor shovel the ice from the driveway she said something which might be burned in my memory forever: "You must have a guardian angel or something."
I paused for a moment to ponder what she had said and decided to make this post. It was an excellent reminder and worth sharing.

"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."-Psalm 91:11