The Humanity of Doubt

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Every time I read Shakespeare, I always seem to take away the following lesson: Don’t try too hard to look like you know everything or you’re just going to end up looking like an ass (perhaps very literally, if you subscribe to a belief in mischievous woodland fairies) because, as a general rule of the world, nothing is usually as it seems.

So, I try not to take things too seriously and try to remain open to the possibility that almost everything I have figured out up to this point in my life is completely and utterly wrong. It can be exhausting but at the same time very rewarding when you consider the fact that as a human, relatively ignorant within the context of the vast complexity that composes our universe, we aren’t really required to have it all figured out in order to have a purposeful, enjoyable, and impactful existence.

Takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?

Of course, as a Christian, I do believe in an absolute truth that centers upon a loving creator who redeemed the world through Christ. But that’s about all that I know for absolute sure.

Even Einstein, thought of as one of the most brilliant thinkers to ever think, said, “I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.”

I am not saying that convictions are unreasonable or unhealthy. However, a belief that the entirety of your understanding of the world is the lens through which all men and all women in all contexts do or should view the world is absurd and dangerous.

Keep inside of you a healthy dose of incredulity.

Tuck away a little tic-tac of uncertainty.

Faith is about trust in God, not certainty in yourself.

People are scared of doubt. Understandably so, the bible seems to forbid it. James said, “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” But we are also told by Paul to “Test [ourselves] to see if [we] are in the faith; examine [ourselves].”

Contradictory? Not at all.

One thing we must never do is to automatically equate doubt with unbelief. There is a component of will associated with unbelief whereas doubt is merely a wandering of the human mind through places that every rational human mind will always go. To deny doubt is to deny humanity. And to claim to never doubt is to lie to yourself and everyone else.

And don’t hear me wrong, I am not promoting some new age, humanistic pseudo-faith. I’m not saying that you must doubt everything.

But for the love of God, let’s try a little honesty for once! Let’s talk openly about doubts and fears so that we can stop pretending to be perfect and scaring everyone else into thinking they must be perfect, too.

If Jesus, in the midst of the most important moment in human history, hung on the cross, looked into the face of God, and shouted His doubt, then I am also permitted to doubt.

I will leave you with a concise and thought provoking quote by English poet, William Austin.

“He that never doubted, scarce ever well-believed.”

A Calm and Underwhelming Tragedy: Some Thoughts on Self and other Modern Contrivances

It seems like every once in a while some great truth of the human condition comes upon you when you really just aren’t ready for it.

Like when you’re sitting at your desk at home, drinking a $4 latte, reading mind-numbing Facebook updates, and telling yourself just 5 more minutes until you’re ready to actually start being productive with your life.

Anyway. It all started with a picture.

This one:

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That picture was posted on Facebook along with the caption “Watching a Haitian orphan react to the first picture of herself. Priceless.”

And I almost kept scrolling. In fact, I might have kept scrolling if it weren’t for the fact that I know the photographer. So if at first you’re a little  underwhelmed like I was, I understand. We westernized humans are an underwhelmed people.

The picture was taken by Kayla Anderson who, aside from being my favorite photographer, also happens to be my little sister. So yes maybe I’m a little biased, but let the image and her words speak for themselves:

That particular photograph was taken at an orphanage. Well, I call it an orphanage, but it has no structure, no funding, and no organization. It’s simply a place where around 100 children live who have been orphaned by the earthquake in 2010. I was there to tour the “facilities” (just 8 houses where all 100 children live). Immediately upon arrival, I was ambushed by excited children, fascinated with my camera. As I began snapping photos, I was especially drawn to this girl as she did not pose for the picture. She was simply smiling, as if that was her natural reaction no matter her situation or circumstance. So I took a photo and showed it to her. Her eyes lit up in a way I cannot describe. The only word I can find for it is “joy.” Tears ran down her cheeks and she put a hand up to cover her jaw-dropped expression. This was the first photo she had ever seen of herself, and I was blessed with the rare opportunity to give her that gift.

This photo in particular is a joyful reminder. It reminds me of a moment when I was able to bring good into the world—a moment when I wasn’t a photographer, but I was a humanitarian, and the camera was just the tool I was able to use.

There is no uncertainty, and I am certainly not the first to point out that we live in a time of increasing and rampant self-absorption. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, rambling blog posts, followers, etc.

We surround ourselves with these things in order to compose a “photo” of ourselves–an image that we create and edit and perfect. But it is not truly us. It is the us that we want others to see. It is the us that we wish we were because we are not content with ourselves the way we are.

And that, I think, was the arrow that struck me.

We are not happy with ourselves in our true, bare, natural, created state.

But this young girl with dirt on her cheeks and sweat on her brow cannot contain the pure and innocent joy of seeing herself for the perfect and precious thing that she is.

There’s just something so overwhelmingly beautiful about this.

But where is this joy in us? Where is this innate beauty when we look in the mirror—when we look in our hearts and see who we are? It’s there, but why don’t we see it?

I can’t help but view this picture and then feel like we have done something terribly wrong. I can think of no better way to say it than that we have bastardized and prostituted some profound inner beauty inherent in us as humans.

We dress it up to look like something it isn’t, manipulate it to grab the attention of others, bask in that cheap glory, and then redress it again the next day in another way for more attention and more pretended affections.

But this girl was seeing herself as she was and loving it to the point of speechlessness.

There is something profound there—something begging conviction.

You are guilty.

I am guilty.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no delusions that these words are anything different than anything that has been said before, and to attempt to tackle the whole stream of our self-obsessed culture is absurd. But to not try would be tragic. And, for me, I’ll strive for a life of bold absurdity over one of calm tragedy.

Look and see the beauty that not only resides within you, but rests upon you. In all of your seeming imperfections and less than societally ideal qualities.

You are created.

Beautiful.

Why You’ll Never Amount to Anything

Ok I should probably qualify that title a little.

IT SEEMS WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY OF SUCH EXTREMES

On one side you have people who are content to just laze around, riding on the coattails of everyone around them. And doesn’t it always seem to be the infuriating case that these are the people who things seem to always just work out for?

And then on the other extreme you have the people who try and struggle and worry over the fact that OMG I’m 26 and still in the same stage of life as I was at 23. Seriously.

Almost without exception, if you ask any twenty something what they want most out of life, the answer you receive will be some variation of the same: to make a difference–to be somebody worth being.

And then immediately you will see a sort of cloud form before their eyes as the enormity of this vague achievement becomes increasingly and painfully apparent.

AND THAT IS WHAT IS SO DANGEROUS

We have made “making something of your life” such a “thing” that it has become huge with no substance.

unreal…
ephemeral…
impossible.

We say to ourselves, “What does it mean?” “Where do I start?” “Everyone seems to be so far ahead of me, how can I ever hope to catch up and even compete with everyone else?”

Here is the major problem that I see in that line of thinking. We are heaping piles upon piles of worth and value and significance on everyone else at the expense of our own. We are taking our own worth, abilities, significance and value, gift-wrapping it, and giving it to everyone else.

STOP IT

That gift belongs to you–to me. It was given to us to use. We need to stop giving it away like a cheap, unwanted toy we got for christmas nine years ago.

You’re worth something. I’m worth something.

You can do things in a way that literally NOBODY else in the world can do them. That’s pretty significant.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. You’ll never be anyone else, and that’s ok. Actually, it’s better than ok. It’s perfect.

But if you keep trying so hard to amount to something, you’ll never amount to anything.

And please believe me when I tell you that the only reason I’m able to say all of this so emphatically is because I’m still crawling out of the muck of self-smothering myself. It is my desperate cry out to those crawling past me in the wrong direction saying, “Turn around! Nothing good back there, trust me!”

So stop trying so hard to make something of yourself and just go be who you are out in the world. Because who you are is worth so much more than you probably even realize.

Just Another Bad Translation: The Creative Struggle

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This is the result of a conversation I had with a fellow writer a while back. After a brief exchange on the writing process and the nature of creativity, some thoughts started flowing. Wheels started turning. I guess you could say this all happened in a fleeting flash of clarity. Or naivety. You can be the judge.

THE INCITING COMMENT

“It’s one of those things that feels like a bad translation when you say it.”

This struck an immediate chord with me because it sounds like the exact thing that goes on in my head every time I try to write something. It’s like there’s something very important trying to come out, but the paper just dissolves it to meaninglessness.

But then I got to thinking. Maybe that’s the point. And probably the same might be said for more than just writing.

Maybe all creativity is just a bad translation of something we feel is very important. And this thing that is so very important exists in a tumultuous nebulous of mind and heart, and we have to figure out a way for this to translate into something we and others can see—can make sense of.

And I think this happens for everyone, “artist” or otherwise. The difference lies in how the individual responds to this struggle—what they do with it.

THE TRUE ARTIST

My writer friend responded that it would be great if there were “a language of the subconscious.”

That, I submit to you, is the response of the true artist.

In today’s reality-show-twitter-status-update culture, most people don’t struggle much over what they say. At the push of a button, our words cross oceans. With less effort than it takes to clip a toenail, we can communicate across the globe. “Talk is cheap” has taken on a whole new meaning. So without a thought, we spout off the first thing that comes into our heads like it’s the most brilliant thing ever spoken, and everyone needs to hear it. And everyone does. People used to struggle over their words because giving them an audience used to take effort. It used to take risk and sacrifice.

But the most interesting people, the true artists, if you will, are the ones who still realize that the things they have the hardest time saying are the things most worth the struggle of figuring out how to say. Or write or paint or whatever.

They wish for a language of the subconscious. And then invent one of their own.

THE TRUE CYNIC

That last section might sound a bit cynical to some. But I think art takes a healthy dose of cynicism.

Because the cynic does not take it for granted that he is right. Or that what he says is the end of the argument. He doubts even himself. And he always asks questions.

Stop asking questions, especially of yourself, and everything becomes stagnant. Beliefs, relationships, conversations, art, everything.

WRITING FOR OTHERS

I speak of art in the specific terms of writing because that is my form, but these concepts are transcendental.

What do you art for?

I write for me.

It’s something that I have to do because it’s how I express myself, explore questions, work through doubts, pray, challenge myself, and just generally function as a person. If you worry about writing to please others, convince others, or win others, your work will seem insincere.

When you let your writing dig through the depths of your thoughts and emotions rather than trying to say something in a way you think others will find entertaining or brilliant, your writing will become what it could never be otherwise—truly unique and absolutely fascinating.

TALK AS ART

And these concepts are not just limited to writing or art.

I’m a pretty reserved person now, even more so when I was younger. And, of course, I was picked on because of it. I used to hate myself in those moments. The incessant talkers were the ones worth something. They were entertainers, dazzling the masses with their clever wit and quick tongue. And what did I have to offer? Silent observation. But then I learned the concept of idle talk.

Since then, quietude is a trait I’ve come to value, both in myself and in others. It is in this quiet that we struggle with our thoughts and the meaning of our words. It is in the quiet that we learn what it means to be an artist.

Art should be a picture of struggle. The minute you use art to convey something you think you’ve got figured out, you’ve lost it.

Art is in the question, not the answer.

Art is conflict, not victory.

Here is something that I wrote as an angst-y teenager that I think relates:

He hears the language of his thoughts and sets himself to the task of deciphering them. He speaks, but he gets them wrong. Most of the time, he gets them wrong. But the intelligent person knows this so he tries harder next time. But he gets it wrong again.

So he stops and thinks and considers while others talk and talk and laugh and ask him why are you just sitting there. Say something. Contribute! But he knows that he has something important and delicate to say and he will not break it again. He hates himself for it, but he loves it, too, so he keeps quiet and swims around inside his head. He can hear his thoughts telling him deep, dark, and wonderful things. Sometimes terrible things, but they are things that only he can hear.

ART AS EVERYTHING

The true artist struggles with his art as much as with his thoughts, his words, his conversations, his religion, and his relationships. Because he knows how truly wonderful and delicate and important it all is. Nothing is for nothing. Nothing is wasted and nothing should be taken for granted.

A good writer is a good artist is a good thinker is a good listener is a relentless struggler.

But what do I know?

This is probably just another bad translation.

Vincent van Gogh said it much better in fewer words:

I am an artist. It’s self-evident that what that word implies is looking for something all the time without ever finding it in full. It is the opposite of saying, “I know all about it. I’ve already found it.” As far as I’m concerned, the word means, “I am looking. I am hunting for it, I am deeply involved.”

A Conversation with Myself: The First of Many Inconsequential and Somewhat Self-Deprecating Blog Entries

Hey there. You must be lost. You’ve wandered, explored, and traversed the world wild web wilderness, and all of that searching has led you here? To my website? Yeah, you must be lost. But since you’re here anyway, let me show you around!

When I began to think about what my first blog entry should be, it went a little something like this:

I said to myself, “What would be something really interesting that would grab a lot of people right away.”

Myself answered, “I dunno.”

“Not helpful, thanks.”

“Sorry, but if you don’t know, I certainly don’t know.”

“True.”

“Idiot.”

“Anyway, certainly there is something unique about the way I see things. Certainly there is some deep knowledge or expertise that I posses that would benefit, further, or improve the world in some way.”

“Maybe, but probably not. It’s kind of all been said. And probably better than you’d say it.”

“You’re not helping. And you’re being mean.”

“Again, not my fault. I’m just the messenger.”

I don’t often have conversations with Myself, but when I do, Myself is generally not very helpful, encouraging, or even really very friendly for that matter. I prefer to do things without really consulting Myself if I don’t have to, most of the time.

I see things the way I see them and sometimes I’ll share those things and maybe someone somewhere will find them interesting or funny or even just have a “haha, this guy get’s it” moment that helps them feel better about themselves.

So feel free to comment, share, argue, tell me to shut up, whatever. I guarantee you won’t say anything meaner than Myself has already said to me. I’ll just tell you the same thing I tell Myself, and that is, “Thanks for your opinion, good sir, I will take it seriously under advisement,” and then go about my merry way.

I don’t know if all of that serves as an adequate introduction, but it at least gives you an idea of the types of shenanigans you’ll have to endure if you decide to stick with reading this thing. If you want to know any more about me you can click HERE which takes you to the same place that clicking ABOUT ME above will take you. I just like to make things easier for you guys whenever I can.

Cheers!