Category: The metaphysical (Spiritual stuff)


**What follows is the result of unease. A spontaneous reflection on observation. Wondering what happened to the vagabond? Read on, friend. It was in this moment that I realized the vagabond was gone.**

I began this blog as an experiment in some respects. I had no real intention of making it any more than it was destined to be.

So much has changed (the words of a million introspects across our world) since I began this frame for words.

The dark man in jeans and brown fleece jersey is jumping and dancing as if he really is happy. The music doesn’t judge him as it does me, I suppose. I find myself reading Pathfinder, Candle in the wind, and other posts from my past.

He’s jumping side to side now as the masses wale out the words on the screen. I think I’m the only one sitting.

He really seems happy, that man over there. In the isle. He’s clapping his hands.

I’m typing a message on my cellphone. Legs are crossed and I wonder if the usher notices how out of place my frown is. Why is his face so blank? She must ask herself. Except she doesn’t look at me.

Purple backdrops, flashing greens and blues. A man on stage who sings with passion. His face is illuminated in the spot-light. I can see every move he makes. His expression is sincere.

What does he look like when he is alone at home later in the evening, I wonder. Is he still smiling then? Does the dark man keep on dancing?

What about me – do I keep the same blank expression once home and alone? In the dark of my apartment, without purple lights to flare my emotions?

I think I mostly do – but it’s not as if I want to be this way.

No longer am I the vagabond. But did he die or is he merely dormant – or maybe I left him in Thailand, left him to wander the streets of Bangkok till the day he dies – having already died to me.

Who am I now? No longer a vagabond or a traveler or a wandering pathfinder. No longer a missionary or a dreamer. Not a romanticist or a student.

Now just a steel ball in a glass-cad maze, rolling this way and that. A rolling stone gathers no perspective. Or so they should have said, not while rolling in a maze at least.

**An inner dialogue whilst sitting in a church one day.**

Vagabond obituary

The vagabond is dead. May the sudden haste at which this news arrives find forgiveness, readers. For swift was his demise, and in irony, as with the slow passing of time, the slow fading of his weathered face found its end in one frantic moment at the end of a sentence.

The vagabond was a man of the mind, born of it and defined by it. He was spiritual and sincere. He was fearful and free. He was designed on a question, and he was murdered by its answer.In his place must rise another, though none can take his place. Though another will use his platform, his words will linger on. As will his soul where he was left. As a specter on the streets of Bangkok forever. I will miss him.

**To my frequent readers, I apologize for unfulfilled promises (such as part 2 of my short story which was supposed to follow my previous post – like 6 months ago) and ask that you check in here again some time to see what is comes next – out of the ashes of the vagabond‘s demise.**

If I were to define myself with a single word, I’d hardly pause before making my choice: ‘Introspection’. I feel that this is often my greatest strength, and a great vice at other times. It’s hard to say sometimes whether it’s a good or a bad thing. I have spent the past 2 months more introspective than anything else. What being in this state means though is that everything I think and do remains internal and this is a vice to the blogger. I was struck by the thought today that no thought, not matter how grand, is worth anything in the end if it remains uncommunicated. More so then for the less grand thought, which may take on some worth when it is taken outside of the singular mind and put into the public domain. This last thought prompted me to try and take what has been going on in my world over the past 2 months and put it down through the keyboard before me.

What follows is an attempt to take as many of my thoughts and experiences and the information I’ve consumed whilst being overly introspective and put it down in a code widely used and recognised as English characters and language (an old fascination of mine is that we as humans can so effortlessly interpret alphabetical code on the fly).

I have gone through a few obsessions over the past 2 months, one was the careful watching and analysis of debates between the most widely known Atheists in the world, known as the four horsemen of the New Atheism and numerous Christian opponents. The four horsemen being Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. The two Christians opponents were William Lane Craig and John Lennox. I watched many debates available online between these characters taking careful note of the arguments and pausing the videos every now and then to think about my response to questions and attacks and to think about what questions I would raise. What I love about these debates is the iconoclastic intellectual ballet it produces as two above average intelligent and well educated gentlemen engage in a careful but instinctual battle of minds. Testing the steel of their minds against each others, as I watch I can almost literally see the concepts dancing around as if a great ballet in my mind (another facination: the connection between dance and combat/marshal arts – enter capoeira). These debates also show that no single-disciplined approach is sufficient to explore the topics of metaphysics, one needs biology, mathematics, physics, psychology, chemistry and philosophy. However I believe that philosophy has the greatest hand of all of these academic offerings in answering these questions. Physics may be the ‘hardest’ of the sciences (psychology being the ‘softest’) but Philosophical ideas such as logic govern the most fundamental laws of physics.

One can find a very good list of debates free on the web here. I encourage you to take a look. These debates and arguments will seldom convince anyone of either stand point but what they do do for atheists and christians alike is to show that there is a deep integrity to the belief in the christian God, which has become the trend to deny allegedly in lieu of science.

In summary, some of the outstanding moments from these debates:
1) Richard Dawkins admitting to John Lennox that he was wrong in his book (The God Delusion) and in fact the Jesus of the bible emphatically did exist.
2) The late Christopher Hitchens being unable to offer a single refutation of any of W.L. Craig’s arguments for the explicit existence of the christian God through 3 rounds, ending in his forfeiting of his final chance at rebuttal/response to Craig.
3) Sam Harris adopting a fallacious stance of hostile ad hominem in his debate with Craig and again not responding to any of Craig’s arguments. I also seemed to me that he took a disrespectful stance of below the belt tactics, trying to shift the focus of the debate to topics and ends not helpful to the audience or his opponent. It seemed to me that he simply stalled the entire debate away.
4) The absolute refusal of Dawkins to ever debate Craig 1 on 1, this decision put him into a storm of hate mail and public slander from his atheist colleagues in Oxford and abroad. There is a summary of this story on YouTube here.

The next of my obsessions is still strong. I have been consuming a steady stream of documentaries on topics ranging from The cannibalism of ex-soldiers in Liberia to the Scientific truth behind losing weight to the truth behind Bodybuilding. I returned to the productions of my favourite Gonzo Journalist, the well known Louis Theroux from the BBC. I first discovered his documentaries when I happened to be up at around 10pm on a holiday night. A Louis Theroux documentary was showing, I think it was on “The most hated family in America”, it turned out to be a Louis Theroux festival and so I watched documentary after documentary until around 5am the next morning. I discovered this past month that there are a wealth of free documentaries available on the web, here are some of the best websites to access them in order of preference:
http://www.documentaryheaven.com
http://watchdocumentary.com/all_documentaries/
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/watch-online/
http://www.documentarywire.com/watch-online/
http://www.documentarytube.com/
There’s even a great android app that I make a lot of use of available here.

Some of the highlights:
1) In the cannibalism of Liberia doc (available on YouTube here) the documentary takes a sudden unexpected (even to the makers) turn when they become captivated by the intriguing redemption story of General Butt-Naked. A man who once notorious in Liberia, used to fight naked with his men as he and his followers believed that this combined with the execution and consuming of an innocent child would make them invincible. He describes to the cameras how he used to sit on his ‘throne’ beside the dirty street with his troop crouching around him, he would capture an innocent child and cut open their back and pull their heart from their living body and share it with his men. At this point the story suddenly takes a turning point when he describes the moment he stopped these practices. He says he had just finished this ritual and his men were out collecting water, they were almost back when he heard someone calling his name from behind him “Butt naked! But naked!!”. He turned around and saw a man and a woman in white, the light was radiating though the man and it was “as bright as the sun”.
This man said to him “my son, why are you slaving?”
Butt Naked thought to himself “I’m not a slave!” and replied “In this whole territory I am the king, I’m supposed to be a king!”
and the man said “you’re right in saying that you’re supposed to be a king, but you’re living like a slave”
Butt Naked replied and said “I don’t understand what you mean”
and the man said to him “I mean, repent and live or refuse and die”.
The man and woman disappeared and he went into battle but his pistol didn’t work and he “was afraid for the first time”. Now words by themselves don’t mean much but the documentary changed direction now and followed General Butt Naked. At the time of the documentary he was now not a general anymore but a caring missionary, travelling around preaching the gospel and running a shelter for former child soldiers. Honestly coming across as a gentle and honest man. He was transparent about his evils but clearly ashamed of them and no longer held in guilt by them, redeemed. He had also been exonerated and forgiven of his war crimes by the country. Draw your own conclusions but it sound like he had a run in with Jesus like Saul in the the book of Acts in the bible. It’s a story that is hard to ignore.
Skip to 32 minutes to hear this story first hand.

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General Butt Naked interview

** end of part one. See next post for more thoughts.

This post is a follow up to my last post on depression about a month ago. I felt that neither was it complete nor was it an satisfactorily accurate reflection of my thoughts. I realised that discussion or conversation may be the best arena for the topic rather than singular treatises.

So accordingly, this post includes a guest appearance by my good friend TUE over at theurbaneagle.wordpress.com. We have both battled bouts of depression at times and have both given a crack at understanding it. TUE first posted about it here in depression and faith part one. TUE’s post is well written and I recommend reading it.

The conversation below is transcribed from the comments in my previous post (you may want to read said post if you haven’t already though it’s not essential). I will update it as and when the conversation continues.

theurbaneagle:

I think there is complexity in this subject that will dip into the nature of sin, the nature of the promises of God, the interpretation of Biblical suffering and the understanding of the intersection between body and soul.

For example, suffering is known to not always be the result of sin (, but suffering/stress increases cortisol which over time makes one feel depressed via direct action on the brain. People who commit suicide have real, observable anatomical changes related to hormone and brain function from depression. One can then ask the question at what stage does the spiralling levels of cerebral serotonin become medical depression, and furthermore whether treating it is then a spiritual or biochemical issue. This needs to be raised because then treating depression with antidepressants is sin. And if it is not sin, does that mean that there is a true medical adjuvant to grace?

This is a difficult topic for many people. For example, can people post head injury be Christian? Does this mean that the linked aggression and depression issues are sinful? Or is it linked to suffering for God’s glory? What about severe hypothyroidism or diseases of excess cortisol?

There must clearly be a holistic model that first clearly defines aetiology, as in underlying cause. And sin must be included true. But in that should there be complexities linked to godly suffering and the normal physiological response, and also the role of the abnormal physiological system causing depression isolated from the above aetiology. As far as I see it, if you link the factors you would find that some depression is medical, but can be exarcerbated by a sinful response. Some suffering of godly origin can be exacerbated by a sinful response. Some suffering for one’s good will cause a natural physiological response akin to depression that forever molds one’s brain and experiences into becoming who God wants you to be. And like you mentioned, some depression is of a direct result of the sinful nature. This same process can obviously be dealt with in a sinful manner by the believer. There is overlap and I think valuable nuances?

You must be commended for tackling such a loaded, candid and complex topic. These are just thoughts from a fellow traveller and thinker.

(And scripture does clearly have the command “be joyful always”. So I cannot disagree with the picture you have painted. I am merely attempting to integrate my own thoughts.)

thevagabond:

Ok, let’s see. It’s taken me a month to distance myself from the topic so as to come back and respond to your comments. They are very good comments.

I must try to clarify one thing: I believe that it is sinful to live in depression, but depression most certainly is not a punitive result of sin. This is a complex but imperative distinction. What I mean is that all depressions are a result of the attribute of sinfulness belonging to this messed up world (think: death, violence, crime, etc.), but they are not a punishment from on high.

Perhaps an example will best illustrate my point:

My best friend dies in a car accident and in the mourning I fall into a deep and dark depression. My best friend’s sister mourns and is desperately sad, but never falls into a lasting depression. It appears to me then that I am mentally less healthy than the sister. Why am I less mentally healthy and more prone to depression? Any number of reasons including my biology, past experiences of evil, my own masochism. Whatever the case – there is some ownership that I must take in my condition. Even if it is biology – it is *my biology. What I am saying then is that the first step to recovery is taking responsibility even for the failures and weaknesses that are not directly my fault.

This is complicated and I continue to wage war against my inability to express it properly.

On the biology and anti-depressants as either substitutes for grace or their sinful quality:
Anti-depressants could never substitute grace, and grace couldn’t substitute anti-depressants either… Grace is not the mechanism of healing, it is simply an avenue to psychological peace, a peace that may result in seeking out a psychotherapist and medication such as anti-depressants. Grace does not heal it provides freedom to be what you be, even be you depressed.

Grace didn’t heal me. It gave me peace enough to look into what I needed to change in my perceptions and world to achieve joy again.

Head injury people and other disorders/diseases should be looked at in the same way. What grace does for all of these people is say to them (even if they don’t understand it) that despite their condition (which is a result of a broken world) it is ok and they are accepted for who and what they are anyways. Medical care does this intrinsically when the doctor doesn’t blame the person or look down on them but accepts them as what they are (definitive grace) and offers them the mechanism for healing.

I won’t respond to the rest of your comment just yet because I believe I have shifted what you will understand to be my standpoint. Please respond accordingly with the same or new comments.

theurbaneagle:
Thank you for the detailed answers. It is a loaded and incredibly deep topic. One that is also impossible to separate from personal experience. When I tried, I found myself too ignorant of the depths of the biology, psychology and theology which intertwines and somewhere snakes its way through highest truth’s treacle.

Can’t add much to this brother, your thoughts continue to be valuable to me and I’m sure to others.

** Writer’s note: for at least 3 years I have wanted to pen some of the thoughts that were resultant from my struggles with depression in the past. I have literally thousands of notes scrawled all over the place from during and after those periods of depression all representing bits and pieces of the over all understanding of life, pain, happiness and meaning. The subject matter and the thought in it’s entirety was always too large for me to sit down and write about. I have managed to begin to collect and make these thoughts tangible though, the full account will only come out in time in numerous writings, but here for a start (I am pleased to have made) is the first. Regard it for what it is, beware of the presuppositions you encounter it with in your own mind and read it to the end or parts of it will be misunderstood.** 

What to do with my life… a question that makes my heart faint and threatens my happiness within seconds of beginning to stroll down the path the thought takes me on. I write from feelings of anxiety and fear that I must battle fervently for the sake of my happiness which I owe to to God and myself as a Christian. One of the rules of being a Christian that people forget concerns happiness. We are obliged and we have a duty to be happy or at least not unhappy, or rather a better word would be ‘joyful’ despite any circumstances and irrespective of our surroundings. There is a story related through a letter from Paul the apostle to the church in ….. of a group of christians who are said to have rejoiced in their persecutions. Their homes were ransacked and they were saddened and hurt by it but remained joyful.

There is an interesting duality here in the underlying life of a true christian. Christianity recognises that there can be sadness alongside joy. I have not come across any other teaching or philosophy that recognises this as yet besides those of christianity. I have experienced this duality of emotion for myself and this gives me confidence in my belief in it’s truth because I can not deny my own personal experience, knowing that I am not delusional or psychotic as some might suggest in offense of these assertions. There have been times when I have been sad and not at all joyful. At these times it would seem that there was none of the duality of which I speak – only a double portion of sadness perhaps, something deeper than mere sadness in fact: depression; despair; despondency. These feelings I would argue are unGodly feelings not acceptable to God. What this means then is that times of real depression (psychologically recognised depression) are also times of sinfulness in the person who is depressed. This thought needs patience and tact to deal with though for what needs to be understood is that being depressed is not usually the abject fault of the person who is depressed. In fact it is usually mostly the exact opposite and the very core and poison of depression is this; the state of being unable to change one’s own fate and the feeling that one could not have avoided it. The feeling of helplessness; the inability to pull oneself out of one’s own shadow of despair or to have avoided the initiation or continuation of it’s vicious cycle.

These thoughts come from someone who has been clinically depressed and recovered twice in his life time. Once as a sub-10 year old and once as a 21- year old. Here is what I believe in light of what I have said thus far stated clearly before I explain myself more precisely:

I believe that it is sinful to become depressed and it is a sinful way of life to live in depression and hence one should realise one’s deserved fate: to face judgement for this sinfulness.

but…

…and here is the definitive and most important point following this assertion: details forthright, God forgives those who surrender to the realisation of their guilt and who repent and he gives them the power to change their lifestyle and world such that they may find freedom from the depression they have acknowledged their guilt for.

Let me attempt to build upon and clarify these above remarks. I believe that the perfect person (who would be a perfect christian) would be able to fend off and avoid depression despite their circumstances and the events that may afflict them. Even with depression – a disease that seems to attack and take over a life with almost no fault of the person being afflicted, the person does have some ownership in the situation. Though this ownership may be very small – if they had spent their entire life being perfect, praying continuously, preparing their mind and heart tirelessly in all they did and had they been setting their mind on the things above (God and His consciousness of reality – this being the knowledge that all will turn out for good in the end), if they had done this, no matter their situation they would not have fallen into depression.

The first step out of depression for an imperfect person then is the realisation that one has some ownership in one’s situation. The realisation and acceptance that “I am guilty and this is partly my fault” is important and difficult and possibly very painful. The second and more important step out of depression is realising that this is ok and normal – that it is a worldwide truth that is true of every human being that has ever been. The depressed person should realise that to have ownership in this failure to be joyful is part of who they are as a human being, just like everyone else. This step leads to the next step which sets the first wrungs of the ladder out of the ditch of depression in place because the next step is very good news. The news is that the very one who set the standard (God) by which one must judge oneself a failure has long ago set out a plan to forgive the failure and sin of depression as well as bring the depressed person out of the depression they have ownership in through this forgiveness. This is possible because this forgiveness is that which provides opportunity for the one who does the forgiving (God) to provide the power needed to break free from the clutches of the depth and darkness of depression. Since it is God who set the standard by which one must condemn oneself – God himself is only free to help one out of depression once the crime and sin of falling into and living in depression as been forgiven and eradicated.

Freedom from deserved guilt is the first step on the ladder out of depression.

So I found that my realisation and acceptance of responsibility for my part in finding myself in my sorry state of depression became the very mechanism by which God’s forgiveness could rescue me from my depression and sin. In Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Roman church he speaks of this paradox when he talks of how the law came first to point out the sin which only gave more life to sin, being hidden beforehand… but it was only after this stage had been set that Grace, which could only come once the life of sin was brought to light through the law, could take its place in the centre of this stage and put the imposter (that is sin personified) to death and bring the life of forgiveness and positive change (redemption) to the forefront.

So if depression is ungodly, what about sadness? Does christianity disallow one from feeling certain emotions? No it does not, but a dichotomous duality (a duality that consists specifically of two different components) must exist. If there is sadness, there must also be some happiness or joy as well to parallel it. Part of being a christian then is to not let oneself fall into depression, and if one does, to fight and work hard to get out of it and attain joy within the duality again. A christian should strive to keep a sense of joy as one of the feelings in their duality of emotional existence. The other feeling can be anything as long as it is justified within the scope of the teachings of Jesus. Sadness at one’s home being ransacked or destroyed. Anger at the injustice of losing a loved one. (as a side-note, some emotions that are difficult to justify within the scope of Jesus’ teachings: fear; jealousy). These are all ok and good to feel. Part of being a mature human being and part of being what God intended us to be is to feel, to not become a Stoic or a robot. We must have hearts that bleed but countenances that are joyful. 

** Writers note: if you have read this far, my congratulations and thanks. This has become one of my longer writings and longer than I prefer for this medium (blog) so I have ended it here. More will come at a later stage. Peace.**

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

**Writer’s note: What follows are some thoughts directly transcribed from one of my favourite moleskin notebooks that I carry around and record my thoughts, questions and ideas in and in italics are my current thoughts on the transcription. These are mostly curiosities that may or may not end up as longer posts in the future. I have a stack of molskins, the following excerpts are only about 30% of one of them. I hope to use more of them with more finesse later.

I am curious: what was the attitude of the early christians and general educated public (pre-Athenasias) toward the scriptures (before the canon was constructed)?

I realise that a rational belief doesn’t quite cut it for tough situations. A purely rational belief doesn’t go far enough, only a belief coupled with faith goes far enough to bring relief and peace when we run into trouble too big for us.
** I have been slowly reading through Romans, and chapter 7 specifically from the message version comes to mind with regard to the comment above.

Why is it that I continue to go to church at all? To continue to be encouraged to believe.
** A friend of mine TUE and I call ourselves and others like us coffee-shop christians. The kind of christian that often doesn’t feel comfortable in a normal Sunday church service. I realise that church serves (among a few others) the following purposes:
– fellowship: being in contact with other believers who can support and understand your world view.
– edification: being put into contact with good solid teachings on the fundamentals and complexities of the christian faith.
– service: being in a community that helps to put you to work practicing your faith so as to have a well rounded faith – practical and theoretical for the sake of a respectable (and not hypocritical) pursuit of truth.
– preaching: a place to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard or grasped it so that they might begin their own pursuit of it.

What this year has taught me (2011):
– I am smart; I enjoy teaching; I like robots; I miss fighting; I like assignments not tests; faith > belief; I can do this romantic relationship thing.
** I doubted for a long time whether I was actually capable of maintaining a mature and good romantic relationship. 9 months with theillustratedwriter.blogspot.com have taught me that I can.

On post FINAL DESIGN dissatisfaction: one has to learn to focus on the things that one has done right. You can’t; and it’s too easy to focus on the mistakes. Even though there are so many things that are/were correct.
** A note on human nature I think. Surely this must be adopted into any successful human philosophy – obtaining the ability to consider the mistakes and dwell on the successes instead of the opposite. Does Christianity preach this? I think so – the concept of the grace of God deals with this.

Below are my notes from the planning for the predating outing on which I hoped to impress the illustrator:

image

** it worked

How to write music? What way works for me? Do I start with guitar or words?
** I must still discover the answers to this. I only have one song with both lyrics and words. The words came after the music. A lot of acoustic guitar (as opposed to electric) and practice with singing this year (2012) has helped a lot.

Humility = accepting other people’s flaws.
** Not one’s own.

On challenging people to improve upon a flaw: this is good but making them feel bad is not alright. Maybe it is? But how do we/I balance this art? Show acceptance? How?
** This is a question that should come up for any leader. Part of the answer may be found in Hebrews 12 with regard to discipline being painful for the moment but reaping the final result of righteousness.

Humility, shyness and fear. How are they related? Shyness – there is pride in this too.

Should we be careful to have less regard for people as well as more regard for God. Are these directly inproportional?

So what if you gain the whole world (like professorship and academics) but/and lose your soul? Do I follow Wilke or Ingles or Jesus?

Some thoughts on meaning in life:
Ravi:
– Wonderment
– people/friends/family

Frankl:
– love of a person
– hope for a future something
– an activity to keep one occupied
(All of these are items based in the future)

** CS Lewis: Don’t be too concerned with the future or the past because neither exist such that one may be lead astray from reality based truth. What about time transcendent truths (those which are based in the future but we know them to be true now) like Frankl’s hope and Ravi’s wonderment? These become present tense. Hope of a future something is only edifying then when it is an assured hope. Christianity calls faith “the assurance of what is hoped for”.

The role of relationship? A helper. Someone to pursue life with.
**A partner in the pursuit of all life has to offer.

Notes from Thesis work in Mechanical Engineering final year:

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The end of the world: should we fear it as christian?
** I am still unsure of the answer to this. We should be nervous but confident. When the day comes we will be in awe. Neither/both fearful and full of joy. Our Lord and saviour will be returning – but we will face judgement in the face of his glorious and frightening perfection. Judgement founded on grace toward us who have come to him in need though. So awe rather than fear I think.

* Note from the Author: these are merely my thoughts. Some of them not put together or explained all that well. Read with grace.*

Readers, supporters, friends, family, internet trolls: I am off on a journey to South East Asia. Welcome. Here are my thoughts:

The idea snuck up on me like a ninja in the night. I’m not sure when I first began to dream of travelling to the East. It may have begun when I read a book by Sam Sheridan who travelled across the globe learning the fighting trade. Boxing in the USA, Brazilian Jui-jitsu in South America, wrestling in Russia, Tai Chi in China, Muay Thai in Thailand.

It may also have been the Kung Fu movies I love – crouching tiger, hidden dragon; The forgotten kingdom. It may have been spurred on by my love for martial arts and my training in Kickboxing (etc).

Mostly though – I think it was a fascination with their philosophy. Eastern philosophy has something to it that it’s western cousin just can’t quite capture. Something spiritual, something beyond logical constructs which paradoxically form illogical constraints that dull the honest search for wisdom. A wisdom beyond ontological argument and Niche scepticism. Eastern philosophy at it’s best is the oasis in the desert of the western paradigm.

Now I stand ready to take this single step so as to begin my journey of a thousand miles. Confucius would be proud. My visa is in the works, my airplane tickets are bought and payed for, the money I’ll need for this mission is raised… Just one month from now, I am off.

I will be travelling with my own philosophy into a completely new world drenched in the philosophies of a different sort to those I’ve grown up around. My philosophy is a christian one. The philosophy as taught by Jesus of Nazareth – as such; I go with a mission to make His glory known, simply through living as a man moved by His truth, glory, love and hope. I will be involved in education in Singapore and Thailand through local churches and mission organisations. In Singapore I will help to teach and influence Vietnamese School students and in Thailand I will offer myself as an aid for Thai students to learn conversation skills in English.

There is more though.

I think I have one very specific calling (among others)- to write. Not necessarily right now (I am not wise enough or skilled enough just yet), but one day – I must fulfil this mandate to write of what I discover – mixing experience, philosophy, apologetics, politics, history, science, technology and theology. I must discover the essence of Buddhist transcendence and Hindu fragmentation and learn to apply Christian truth to Buddhist culture and Hindu practices. If Jesus isn’t applicable in all places – he isn’t applicable at all. I must learn and apply different perspectives, like filters, to this analysis of Christ and his message so as to free my philosophy of the peripheral and base it on the essential. I believe the whole truth is right here in the bible – but it is clarified when one applies and examines it across contexts – therefore I must make an effort to experience other contexts. I believe the truth of the gospel is applicable to all people and across all contexts – but to demonstrate this I must widen my understanding of the world and it’s people. I feel as if God has something to show me, some story for me to discover and some perspective to gain from which to write about it. To a large extent that is what this trip is about. An investment into preparing myself for the work I must do for the kingdom of God and for the kingdom of the world as time takes me on this train ride onwards through my life.

“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” – Confucius.
“And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” – John 3v19.
“Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life”” -John 8v12

Please stand with me in prayer and support as I go off in this light to discover and learn;

Regards,
Jeremy (aka Jack Figure)

* Note from the author: this note talks of topics not yet fully resolved in my own mind, and may be retracted or edited in the future, please approach it with due grace. It covers sensitive topics and I have somewhat skirted around a few areas related to my arguments. Sometimes in searching for truth one must abandon comfort and force oneself to begin to form an opinion and this is my public attempt at doing so *

I work in a field that I enjoy where I can also make a difference in other people’s lives – and I do this from the perspective of my life philosophy – which is based on the teachings of Jesus. I am no militant evangelist but a philosopher and a man in search of truth, so when I come across a person in a distressful situation – I give encouragement and advice based on the philosophy I live by – sometimes this means advising people to seek God

This is the premise from which I understand evangelism at this point in my life. Evangelism is such a dirty word these days. Understandably so. Most evangelism – or at least the type that most people (of whatever persuasion) are exposed to is a closed minded endeavour to bully or provoke a listener into abandoning all they have ever known for something alien and seemingly harsh.

When the message of Jesus comes across as unfairly harsh and closed minded I believe something has gone wrong in relating it. However – there is danger in avoiding this line of thinking too, and I come now to one of the toughest questions in christiondom today:

Can I be a christian and open minded at the same time? Does being a christian mean that I must close my mind to whatever else and become what I protest to hate: closed-minded?

What do you think? I think we tread on sensitive ground and a part of me wants not to go on exploring this question for fear of the stern words I may receive. A quote comes to mind though:

“There is nothing so self defeating as a question that has not been fully understood when it has been fully posed”: Ravi Zacharias quoting CS Lewis

What this statement gets at is that the inquiring mind must first set adequate and appropriate foundations and devices in place before attempting to answer profundities with due eloquence and sensitivity.

It is important to realise that one does not sacrifice open mindedness by holding onto certain philosophies and ideas. Every person has a perspective from whose balcony they look upon the world. Without a perspective that one firmly holds onto, one is blind. And to be blind is to be closed minded.

What I have come to believe is that though it requires a delicate application of wisdom, one can in fact be open minded and hold on to one specific and exclusive perspective or philosophy simultaneously – on one condition:

The exclusive philosophy to which one holds must allow for the free will of others and hold that each individual is only responsible ultimately for them self.

Where evangelism seems to go wrong and cause hurt is where the evangelist denies the free will of him he evangelises and wrongly assumes a greater responsibility than he is fairly due for the listener’s life and beliefs. I believe that when correctly done; it is the role of the evangelist to provide and present argument, persuasion, doctrine freely as being what he believes. He should do so with conviction and passion – for passion is stirred by true belief. But – this is where his responsibility ends. He may even pray for the patron of his conversation but he must leave it then to them to ponder and act or act not.

Within the christian worldview – what follows humane and godly evangelism is a matter between God and an individual.

Being open minded means accepting that people believe what they believe – it does not mean rejecting what you already believe or feeling under obligation to reject it. One should be ready to give a thought to someone else’s beliefs and weigh them up against their own but refusing to adopt someone else’s beliefs does not make one closed minded.

Jesus was sure and uncompromising in who he was (God incarnate) and in what he believed to be true, and he stated it in no uncertain terms – but he was open minded, listening to the arguments of others before questioning them and stating his own.

If  being a christian did in fact call me to become closed minded and bigoted it would in fact be a case of “Missionary Impossible” for me.

It is from a careful, confident and open minded approach like this that people become receptive to arguments on matters of such sensitivity and importance, approach people in any other way and you will misrepresent the gospel and our God – for our God is one of love, compassion and wisdom, as well as of justice and holiness.

I think that a life well lived is one in which someone seeks God and finds peace in a life given over to Jesus. Heed my words, I believe them to be true and critical, but take it upon yourself to bring them further or leave them here.

Dear friends and family

The past few months have been dense with learning experiences, challenges (spiritual, emotional, physical) and God. I arrived here 3.5 months ago and this fact surprises me every time I think upon it because it has felt a lot longer. I think part of the reason for this is that back at University time really flew, especially in final year as a Mechanical Engineer, the continual deadlines came at me each week and the mounting pile of work and concepts to comprehend meant that I was always on the move.

Students never stop moving. They are a passionate demographic. Whatever they are doing, they are generally doing it with everything they have. I always felt as if I needed a few more hours each day; the effect of spending a long period of time with the constant feeling that one is short of time leaves the impression that time passes by very quickly. In contrast to this, life here in the valley is still very busy, but only to a fair and manageable degree. In University I needed 28 hours per day, here I need 24 hours per day and so my life feels balanced. This is what I have been searching for and have gone in search of this year – balance.

I would describe the work that I am involved in here as two part time jobs. The first is as a Maths teacher at Kwa-Dinabakubo Secondary School and the second is as a general project team member where I assist with the weekly teaching and other projects that go on in any way that I can. Usually this includes video camera and multi-media work. We try to record each teaching and message that is given in both video and audio to put on CDs and DVDs. I also am the only one around with a car available and so another duty of mine involves taking people where they need to be for the different programs.

The school work is my main concern though, this job has become very close to my heart and is a vital part of this year of mine as I try to ascertain what to do with the years that follow this one. I am testing a hypothesis; I want to know if I can truly make a life out of teaching. I am considering acquiring a diploma in higher education and becoming a travelling teacher, spending a few years at a time (up to 10) in different countries, starting in the East (Japan, Thailand, South Korea, etc.).

So far the hypothesis is being proven true. I still thoroughly enjoy teaching and find that teaching comes naturally to me. As I step in front of a class and begin to open my mouth; it is as if a switch gets flicked and I go into ‘teaching mode’. I have learnt that I thrive in an atmosphere of organised chaos where maths lessons become more of a dialogue than a monologue by the guy in front with the chalk in his hand. I find that my training in engineering has prepared me such that I am able to answer questions even on new areas with just a few minutes of quite thought – giving me the freedom to provide a free sort of classroom environment. One in which every mind is engaged constantly.

I also know the value of discipline though, having learnt that without a certain amount of discipline one becomes shackled by one’s own languidity. I spent the first few weeks at the school walking around with a stern expression and a stiff gait, demanding respect from the kids. Thus when I arrived in my first class, the first impression was already one of someone who won’t take nonsense. This backdrop then gave me the freedom to introduce a less strict atmosphere into the class whilst retaining control. I enjoy a good joke, whether made by myself or one of the kids in the back row, and I believe this helps to build upon that relationship I hope to foster with the learners. In the end I want them to feel comfortable to come to me with maths questions, and life questions. On this front I have had some measure of success already. There have been 4 or 5 kids that have opened up to me and who I have done my best to guide in one way or another (with God’s help).

These are some of my thoughts on my mission thus far. Peace and grace to all my supporters. Thanks for the support. You are making a difference.

Jeremy (aka Jack Figure)

Athens. Greece. Philosophy. Socrates. The Areopagus.

Do any of these words illicit interest? For me, ever since I was a small boy, these words have held interest with me. It began when my mom read me bed time stories from a book of Greek myth. The stories of Zeus and the Olympians, Heracles and the acts he had to perform to become a god. Minotaurs and Centaurs, Icarus, his wax wings and his genius father the inventor.

I was reading a little bit of the book of Acts in the bible this morning and came across a fascinating little section of the book narrating the time that Paul was in Athens, atop Mars Hill. The Hill renowned in Greece for it’s religious profundity. Atop this hill was another place called the Areopagus. This was my kind of place. This was a place where people would come together to do nothing other than to tell or hear some novel, new thing. According to verse 21 those that went there were accustomed to hearing new things and speaking of new ideas. They also served coffee and had a wide array of books on philosophy, theology, apologetics, science fiction and fantasy.

They didn’t have the coffee or books in reality, but if this place was around today it certainly would. The Diogenes club from the Sherlock Holmes books. The Exclusive books and attached coffee shop. A place for intellectuals to meet where ideas were held in higher regard than almost anything. A place where intellectual soliloquies were the currency and wealth was in the mind/imagination.

These were the people that hung around in the Areopagus. People well versed in the ideas of the time and the philosophies of the day. Two of the philosophies represented here when Paul arrived were the Stoics and the Epicureanists.

Stoicism: In this philosophy the perfectly reasonable intellectual person will never suffer emotional hurt because all emotional hurt is due to not thinking correctly about something, making unreasonable rationalisations. The perfect Stoic would use his intellect to avoid all emotional pain.

Epicureanism: In this philosophy, ultimate meaning and purpose is similar to hedonism but with the additional desire of reaching an existence of physical painlessness.

I think that we find a lot of Stoicism in our world still today, especially among Thinkers: Scholars, academics, intellectuals. I have realised that I was a Stoic long before I knew there was a system of thought called Stoicism. This system of thought holds that if someone where to attain perfect intellectual judgement when considering all things in the act of introspection, this someone would never be subject to emotional hurt and pain.

What do you think of this?

Here are my thoughts:
1) I believe it to an extent, however, I am a cynic in that I do not think anyone can actually achieve this state of perfect intellectual judgement.
2) I actually believe that experiencing hurtful and painful emotions is part of the human experience. I read a lot of Isaac Asimov and the one aspect that often highlights the difference between human and robot is our subjectivity to emotional influence. He who feels no pain is simply not human.
3) I believe that sometimes the correct thing to do is to feel emotional pain. I believe that it may be unpleasant but truth is avoided when emotional pain is avoided. Sometimes the truth is painful and one has not fully grasped it if one has not felt the pain of it. Poverty or violence to a loved one: if there is no emotionally painful response to this – something is wrong. In fact one might realise that this person has not truly experienced the truth of real love.

Historically the Stoics and the Epicureanists were strongly opposed to each other. In the story in Acts, the Epicureanists and the Stoics both oppose Paul and seek to hear his arguments for his belief system. Many years later most of the followers of Stoic thought and Epicurean thought would be persecuted and destroyed through the unholy work of the ‘Christian’ ruler Justinias I. In the story, Paul did not try to destroy or persecute them, he simply raised his objections with their thoughts and proclaimed his own thoughts. Many, the bible says, were convinced and converted to Christians that day, and the others, Paul left in peace for God to deal with in grace, hope and love.

These were my thoughts this morning.

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