Tuesday, September 19, 2006

These are a few of my Favorite Things

"The Hills are alive...with the Sound of Music."

Know what that is from? It is one of the songs from Rogers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" which is a movie that I was practically spoon fed from birth (well, that and the Atlanta Braves. But with the way the Braves played this year, I'd bet Julie Andrews could pitch a better 9th inning that half our bullpen!! While singing!)
But, I digress. I can still remember acting out the grand party scene from the musical on our stairs with my little brother and Julianne Reed (we made Phil play 5 year old Gretl. Glad to see that this had no long lasting effects on his masculinity!)

Anyways, another song from this musical is also "My Favorite Things." When the children get scared during a thunderstorm one evening, Maria begins to sing to them a song about her favorite things:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things...

She says that when she is scared or hurt or sad, remembering her favorite things always cheers her up! Well, I am neither scared, nor hurt, nor sad...but I am STRESSED! And I thought that perhaps sharing with you all some of my favorite things might, A) bring a small bit of happiness into your life as you explore and fall in love with some of these and B) relieve some of my stress as well! So...enjoy my frivolous and silly post.

1) Pandora Internet Radio
My most recent internet obsession. You type in your favorite song or artist and they create a radio station around the key elements of the song. As they suggest each subsequent song, you tell them whether you like ir or dislike it. They then adjust your listening preferences and then suggest another song. I built a radio station around Derek Webb. The songs they play for me now have elements of acoutsitc and electric
instrumentation, sections of strings, sections of piano, major and minor key tonality, vocal harmony, and a dynamic male volcalist.

It's so cool. They have added some of my favorite artists to my radio station just from knowing I like Derek Webb (who by the way is one of my favorite artists. And he now has a website with his latest CD "Mockingbird" available for free download with his blessing. FreeDerekWebb.com)

2) Theological Ramblings

Anyone who knows me the tiniest bit knows that I am not your normal person. One of my abnormalities is the degree to which I love theology.
I am actually studying it this semester with Joe and Tara Donato. Joe put togehter this giant archive of articles on different theological
subjects from which we read each week before meeting to discuss. If you are ever looking for information on a particular topic, chances are, you
can find what you are looking for in the articles section of this website.

3) Movie Ratings

I hate going to a movie that a friend has suggested and then being shocked at the content of the movie. By God's grace, there are numerous websites on the internet that provide a play by play of the good and bad elements of a movie (sexual content, violence, language, and spiritual aspects. This one is my favorite. It's provided by Focus on the Family as well I believe.
They also provide insite on TV's, and DVD's and music. I just usually only use it for movies.

4) Internet Movie Database

I love this place. You can look up quotes and actors and random facts. It's just a basic fun site for when you are bored.

(This is a pretty boring and already known about link. But it can't hurt.)

5) Theologian Quiz

My friend Ryan got this link from his friend Mark. You answer the theology question and then it tells you how similar you are to theologians of the past. I was
78% Anselm and 73% Calvin. Luther was surprising low on mine, and Barth was surprisingly high. Obviously not 100% accurate, but fun nonetheless.

6) Emotional Modesty Checklist

So whenever the topic turns to dating and relationships, typically physical purity comes up. But I am a huge proponent of emotional purity and wish that people would be just as concerned with one as the other. But, when emotional modesty DOES come up, the question is always, "How do you know what's right or good?" On my friend Ryan's blog, the topic has been discussed almost to exaustion in the last half year or so. But a recent post of Ryan's prompted someone to post this comment which I found incredibly practically and useful, as did a group of 6 girls at my house. Hope you enjoy it as well.

7) Treadmill Music Video

So the whole world knows about You Tube. My favoritest thing on You Tube is this music video by "Ok Go." It's...well...in my opinion too amazing for words. And apparently VH1 agrees with me because they performed this on treadmills at some awards show (not sure which one, award shows aren't really my specialty).

8) Google Earth

So you download this thing and it shows you a satellite of anywhere in the world. Type in your address and see your house from space. Seriously. For stalkers like me (honestly, I was a HUGE fan of facebook news feed. Satisfied my curiousity MUCH faster!) it's a great thing. (Just kidding. It's not in real time exactly. And I'm also not really a stalker. But it is still accurate. Makes me feel like I'm in the CIA for all of 5 seconds. Actually, it makes me feel like I'm on the same level as Jack Bauer...which just rocks my socks off.)

9) Free Chick-Fil-A for a year.

Ok. This site ITSELF doesn't actually give you free chick-fil-a for a year. There is something you have to do. What happens is that every time a brand new chick-fil-a opens, the first 100 customers get free chick-fil-a for a year (it comes in the form of 52 value meal coupons. This means a sandwhich, side, and a drink). But, lots of people know this and therefore you have to camp out in advance of the opening. I've now done this twice and the last time we camped out for 22 hours prior to the opening. To some of the adults reading this, this may sound INSANE. But to the poor college students out there, you realize just how stinkin' worth it this is.

This will link you to the page with all the grand openings in the next 60 days. Just call corporate and they will give you an estimated date of opening.

(PS, the gospel is typically presented at midnight as well by the President of Chick-fil-a. Not too shabby in the least.)

10) The Successor

I may be VERY wrong, but I think a lot of the people who read my blog are familar with Sovereign Grace Ministries. If you are, you'll love this link. I'm not even going to spoil it for you for explaining it. (There's even a comment by Mr. Gilland, the worship leader at my church in Gainesville. He's FAMOUS now!!)

(If you don't know what SovGrace Ministries are, e-mail me! I'd love to tell you more about this movement!)

11) Don't Despair!

Remember those stores in the mall that sold pretty pictures surrounded by a black border with a motivational saying on the bottom? In the mid-90's, they seemed to be all the rage. Well, this link is to...the exact opposite of that. For those of you who love satire and sarcasm, this is for you.

My favorites are Ambition, Compromise, Discovery, Loneliness, Mediocrity, Motivation, Potential, wishes,

12) Moleskine

I love to write. Journal. Prayer write. Vent write. Digest Write. Quote Write. Memory Write. Whatever Write.
And I LOVE to do it in my moleskine journal. They've been used by Picasso, Hemingway, and Van Gogh. Oh. And by Jessica Caldwell ;-)

Well friends, that's all I got. 12 of my favorite things which are all somehow linked on the World Wide Web.
Hope that this provided some form of entertainment for you. It certainly made me less stressed and less focused on my checklist of 73.5 things to do before the sun sets on the third day, so I'm grateful for that.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Paper Part 3

Lewis's problem (and more importantly, God's problem) with our desires is that we do not seek them near as often or with near as much passion as we should. This is a concept supported by great minds of many ages. Freud believed that if we all looked out for our own good, we all would be much happier. Blaise Pascal says that "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." It cannot be denied that every action of every day is performed with the hope of it somehow bringing us an increase in our happiness. The debate then is not whether man desires to be happy but more of the nature of God. Did he create man with desires to be suppressed so that we can more honestly praise God or did he create man with desires for happiness so strong and so intense that nothing on this earth can fulfill it?

"Although Lewis believes that all forms of pleasure, fun, happiness, and joy come from God, who gives these freely for all to enjoy, he admits that these earthly pleasures never completely satisfy us. 'We have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy, but they never quite satisfy our yearnings.’ God withholds from us ‘the settled happiness and security which we all desire.' Otherwise, Lewis says, we would think this world our home rather than a place through which we are passing.” These desirable things on earth are shadows and reflections of the greatest happiness and glory of all-God the Father. "There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent, the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself." The world has an inconsolable longing. It tries to satisfy the longing with scenic vacations, accomplishments of creativity, stunning cinematic productions, sexual exploits, sports extravaganzas, hallucinogenic drugs, ascetic rigors, managerial excellence, et cetera. But the longing remains. What does this mean? “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We will delight most in what we value most. Whether or not we pleasure in something is simply a barometer of how important that particular thing is. If you delight in spending time with your friends but not in studying for calculus, it is probably because your friends are more valuable to you. The man who is in love with a woman does not have to force himself to tell her how beautiful she is. It is a natural result from the overwhelming happiness in his heart. A pivotal quote from Lewis on this subject deals with this. "But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists, in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. Happiness does not compete with God, idols do...I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed."

You can tell God that the ocean is lovely and thank him for creating it. But would not it bring him more pleasure to see you ACTIVELY swimming in it, surfing in it, picnicking alongside it-that is SEEING his child enjoying what he has created for him. The same can be said of sex. That man who is in love can thank God for his lover and for her body and for her beauty. Wouldn't it make more sense for him to praise God by actively enjoying her beauty and her body and her presence? Freud is not wrong in that the ultimate human purpose is in pursuing pleasure. Sex is a beautiful thing created by a loving God who delights in his child's happiness, but even more so in his own glory. Lewis simply redefined what the pleasure is-the soul's delight in God. "The tragedy of the world is that the echo is mistaken for the Original Shout. When our back is to the breathtaking beauty of God, we cast a shadow on the earth and fall in love with it. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things-the beauty, the memory of our own past-are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sigmund, Clive Staples, and John Part 2

Here is part two of my paper on Freud and CS Lewis:

Freud said that people's thoughts are dominated by the pleasure principle. This is at the forefront or our minds throughout our existence. Lewis saw the primary purpose in a man's life to be his need to establish a relationship with his Creator. It is only within the confines of this relationship that we can experience happiness. “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Without this essential connection in our lives, any other attempt on our parts "...to invent some sort of happiness for themselves apart from God" will be futile. Man may seek happiness in marriage, education, employment opportunities, and sexual encounters. But this happiness will continue to be sought after time and time again with minimal satisfaction. Freud is a perfect example of this endless cycle. He even turned to cocaine as an attempt to lift his spirits and give himself a reason for living. But he would be the last person to say his life was defined by happiness. On one occasion, Freud discussed the elusiveness of his happiness by saying that every time "...you think you already have it in your grasp and it is already gone again."

Freud, and countless others, spend their entire lives searching for the one vice to fill the hole inside of them. They never think to look at God as the object to fulfill this longing. They believe that with God, you must toe this invisible line. God is viewed by so many as the cyber cop in the sky. God would never want us to enjoy these things that the world looks to for pleasure-sex, drugs, and alcohol. God would want us to wear our pretty little outfits and sit with our hands folded in our laps and become little puppets for the great puppeteer in the sky. Most of mankind would probable agree that if that is what Christianity is all about, who in their right mind would want to "buy into" that? It really would be the mentally insane or the feeble minded who called themselves Christians as Freud so often said.

So say this little prim and proper picture is Christianity. What kind of God would that be? This God would have created us with the innate desire and capability to feel happiness and pleasure and enjoy this sexual experience. But then, in order to love him and know him and BE loved by him and BE known by him, we would have to deny ourselves these pleasures and instead become a shell of our former selves? This does not seem to be a very loving or kind or all powerful God. A powerful God would be one who could take those humanly desires and form them in such a way that that can simultaneously bring glory to him and still fulfill our humanly desire for pleasure.

So either our desires will bring happiness to us AND glory to God or those desires will be removed by God. If we are delighting ourselves in the Lord, he promises that he will give us the desires of our hearts. Why then, can one not find happiness in these things apart from this relationship with God? "Lewis warns that although 'all pleasures and happiness is in its own nature good, and God wishes us to enjoy it, He does not, however, wish us to enjoy it without relation to Him, still less to prefer it to him." If one tries to love his wife without loving God he will find it to be an impossible task at times. Logically then, it would seem even harder to love God AND to love his wife because now his love capabilities are being split between two entities. The opposite is in fact true. "When we have learned to love God better than our earthly dearest, we shall love our earthly dearest better than we do now. In so far as we learn to love our earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, we shall be moving towards that state in which we shall not love our earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased." Christ himself said that any man who would lose his life for Christ's sake would find it. If we deny and die to our desire for happiness outside of God, he will bring to us a greater and more magnificent happiness than we could have ever imagined or created apart from him.

Somehow, Christianity has become a religion of unselfishness and this unselfishness does not involve doing good to others but instead doing "...without them [pleasure] ourselves." It is as if we believe God would be more pleased with the repressing of pleasure than in his child's happiness. "If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

...to be continued....

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Connecting Scripture to Sigmund Freud to CS Lewis to John Piper

Last Fall, I took a class at the University of Florida titled "Freud and Philosophy." Basically, it was a comparison/contrast class of Sigmund Freud and Clive Staples Lewis. It was a fantastic thing to be graded upone reading "Mere Christianity" and "The Abolition of Man." However, we also had to write a final term paper. As THIS fall semester has begun, I have had less and less time to sit and tap my thoughts on the keyboard, hence, my blogging has seemingly ceased. So I decided to blog my paper in bits, and perhaps get some feeback from some of you that read this. (Also, since I am incapable of emailing it to Joe, he can read it this way!)

This is not the whole paper. Just a few paragraphs. I'll put a few paragraphs up every other day or so. The basic thesis of the paper is this. Sigmund Freud said that we are motivated solely by the pleasure principle, and that the greatest pleasure we seek is sex. I contend that CS Lewis (and Scripture) would not disagree with the first part of this statement-humans are motivated by the pleasure principle. However, the greatest pleasure is found in Christ. (It's kind of a feeble attempt to connect Scripture, Freud, Lewis, and of course, John Piper.)

So read, enjoy, think, and remember that I am no theologian, so be kind in your critiques!!

(Also, I begin with Freud. So this first post has little biblical truth to it, but it is rather a summary or sarcastic analyzation of Freud's theories.)

Sigmund Freud and Clive Staples Lewis represent two of the greatest minds of the last few centuries. Both of these intellectual giants published volumes of manuscripts on almost every subject one could possibly imagine. Each provides for his readers a different motivation for all of the basic desires-love, family, religion, death, and God. These are the base needs of each individual in the core of his humanity. More often then not they argued from opposite ends of the spectrum and seem to have been irreconcilably split. No where else is this more visible than when dealing with the concepts of happiness and the pleasure principle. On the surface, these men could not have been more diametrically opposed, but when one looks closely, it becomes obvious. Both Freud and Lewis agreed that we are motivated solely by our desire to find pleasure.

Freud states in Civilization and Discontent that the purpose and intent in a person's life is to seek after happiness and, that this happiness is equated with pleasure. This becomes one of Freud's most basic and universally known theories: the pleasure principle. It is the opposite of the reality principle and requires instant gratification; it is unconscious and pays no attention to consequences or reason or to the well-being of others. In Freud's model, this is also known as the id. This “pleasure principle… dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start.” Freud believes that all of our other desires and hang-ups can be traced back to either gratification or suppression of our desire for happiness and that it truly is the main focus in life.

If all people purely are seeking to pleasure themselves through sex, should we not all be much happier than we are? Should not life be a series of hookups and one night stands so that woman A and man B can find gratification of this primal urge? Freud believes that the reason for unhappiness and unfulfillment in life stems mostly from the standards that society has placed on sex. The sexual norms do not allow us to satisfy ourselves any time and any place. Therefore we are in an almost continual state of sexual frustration. Even when we are experiencing this pleasure, it is a very time limited thing and can only last for so long. Then we return to the unhappy state from whence we came. In addition, we can not experience this ultimate pleasure until we reach a certain pubescent age. Up till then we are taught that our sexual urges are wrong and something of which to be ashamed.

These two concepts-1) our lack of sexual experience until a "proper" age and 2) this idea of a proper age and proper sexual behavior- tie back to Freud's guilt complex. As we act on these impulses or deny these impulses, we are denying ourselves this basic universal pleasure. Therefore, we begin to experience guilt. It may be the noisy guilt which is characterized by an undeniable sense of wrongness with very little stimulation. It might be on a more subconscious level such as quiet guilt or the silent guilt. Either way, as we refuse to fulfill this pleasure seeking part of ourselves we develop more and more guilt. The irony of this is that as the repression increases, the guilt increases, and the conscious awareness of it this guilt increases. This causes us to dwell more intensely on the repressed desire and consequently, create more guilt.

This seems to point to happiness not being something that should be repressed. It makes no sense for humans to have a constant desire that can never be satiated. In the same way, sexual pleasure seems to not be the pinnacle for our satisfaction. If we have a never ending desire to be happy, why would the only fulfillment for that be something that lasts for mere minutes on the grand scale of things? Perhaps sex is ONE of the satisfying things we can experience, but it seems unlikely that it is truly the end all and be all for our deepest desires.