Archive for April, 2014

April 21, 2014

Pause for a Moment of Architecture Philosophy

I am currently working on a special project which is requiring me to delve into the history of the city of Dallas. I found this gem and thought it rather fascinating: 

[The] High Victorian stylists reveled in their disdain for ‘classical’ beauty, for this quality was tainted by its association with the Greek Revival. Instead, these architects sought to achieve ‘truth,’ ‘reality,’ and ‘character’ – terms easy to use but difficult to define. ‘Character,’ however, was easily understood by the Victorians. It was that quality in a man which expressed strength of will, forcefulness, determination, and fierce individuality, and which had forged not only a British colonial empire, but also an American empire from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. The dictum of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright that ‘form follows function’ stands appallingly pale in comparison. Part of the importance of Victorian Architecture is that it stands as one of the last monuments to that uniquely American ideal of what the individual can be, and ideal which is quickly disappearing in the twentieth century. It is symbolic of a time when a man at least had the opportunity to try to freely direct his own destiny with little fear of control, manipulation, and constraint by corrupt unions, government bureaucracy, or monolithic, multinational conglomerates.

 

– William L. McDonald, Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925, 43

April 17, 2014

Jack Reacher Books in Order

Not knowing what order to read a book series in is a unique annoyance, one which I would prefer to spare my fellow man. So, as a courtesy to the public, I am occasionally listing some excellent series with unambiguous order. This is Round 5. [You may also be interested in Round 4 (Lord Peter Wimsey), Round 3 (Lady Julia Grey, Lady Emily, and Miss Dido Kent books), Round 2 (Marcus Didius Falco), and Round 1 (Harry Bosch).]

  1. Killing Floor
  2. Die Trying
  3. Tripwire
  4. Running Blind/The Visitor
  5. Echo Burning
  6. Without Fail
  7. Persuader
  8. The Enemy
  9. One Shot
  10. The Hard Way
  11. Bad Luck & Trouble
  12. Nothing to Lose
  13. Gone Tomorrow
  14. 61 Hours
  15. Worth Dying For
  16. The Affair
  17. A Wanted Man
  18. Never Go Back
  19. Personal (due out September 2014)
April 6, 2014

Playing a Long Game (or, Finally, A Post That Isn’t about Books)

History, literature, and sports. are full of stories that extol the virtue of expending oneself completely for a great and noble cause. The best example of this is, of course, a Greek story. The first guy to ever run a marathon ran from a battle to report his army’s loss to Athens 26.2 miles away. Upon the delivery of his message, the poor fellow died. (Incidentally, this is a decent argument for not running marathons.) But then there’s Kerri Strug – y’all remember her? – who secured the gold medal for the Magnificent 7 by successfully completing a vault on a screwed up ankle, after which she collapsed. From stories like this, I grew up with the impression that “doing my best” meant doing everything physically possible, completely exhausting all my resources if necessary, in order to accomplish something.

My body and my heart and my mind and my spirit and all that stuff are very mushed together. I like to explain it this way: I am really really really all one thing. And while there are definite perks to being built that way, there are some downsides. I don’t handle stress well, and because of how incredibly corporeal I am, my body bears the brunt of my stress. Ever since I first got a glimpse of how this connection works in me, I’ve been trying to sever, or at least diminish, it. Instead, the effects of my stress change. It’s like stress is charging my body a toll, and when I figure out that I’ve (unbeknownst to myself) been paying in rubles, I yell, “Cut that out!” and the sneaky toll payer in me starts paying in euros instead. Case in point: I was so stressed my senior year of high school I started throwing up every Wednesday, like clockwork. It stopped when I went to college, but recurred periodically. I was thinking surely I had some sort of stomach problem, but my doctor eventually convinced me it was stress. And just like that, I stopped stress-vomiting… and started storing my stress more profoundly in my shoulders. This sort of shifting seems to occur regularly – and means that I am not dealing with my stress problem, just burying it under a different rug until it again becomes undeniable and overwhelming.

So I’ve been rethinking a lot of things. While it might be a bad idea for someone else to take on a stressful job, for me it can mean becoming completely debilitated. The stakes are really high. And I am a driven person, who really enjoys high-energy situations – but I am also a person with a body that is broken in such a way that high-energy situations can be really dangerous for my health. Thinking “Yeah, I’m not doing so well, but I can keep this up for the next 3 weeks before it completely lays me out flat” does not lead to a healthy lifestyle.

This whole idea that we are supposed to constantly be giving 100% does have some merit. The one thing we are commanded to do at 100% is love God – with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, as His sons and daughters, we ought to be loving God this way in everything we do. But as we love Him, as we serve Him, part of our job is to be good stewards. Sometimes we have a calling or person for which/whom we are to, like Paul, pour ourselves out like drink offerings (2 Tim 4:6) – like this woman. But notice Paul’s context – he is dying. I’m starting to think that kind of push-yourself-to-the-last-inch-and-then-a-little-more might belong in contexts with a definite finish line. Like death.

My Greek professor in seminary tried to help us come to terms with this phenomenon, telling us that we’re incapable of doing it all, and that we had to prioritize our goals and responsibilities – and allocate our efforts in a way appropriate to those priorities. For the next three weeks, he told us, our full attention was to be on Greek I. “So,” he told my married classmates, “tell your wives you love them and kiss them goodbye for the next three weeks. Because to do this well, to lay the foundation you’ll need for Greek II, you need to immerse yourselves as much as possible in studying the language.” But he went on to explain that we could not expect to give A-effort to everything in seminary – or in life. “You may need to decide that you’re going to be satisfied with a B in a class because you need to be spending more time with your wife and kids. You may need to give one class C effort so you can work harder in a class that’s harder for you to bring up your grade.” Rocket science, this is not… so why does it seem so hard to do?

The aftermath of my most recent bout with endometriosis (and the coinciding fungal disaster) has meant piecing together what it means to have a body with these limitations and this pain, what it means to play a long game instead of pushing myself to the breaking point time and again. And I think I’m starting to get an idea of what the puzzle’s going to look like put together.

Freedom in Christ means a lot of things. One of them is that I am free to say no. For a driven person like me, this has been a hard thing. I’ve been keeping the Sabbath for the last 18 years or so has helped tremendously, because I am used to practicing the fact that it is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, not my own, that makes me holy. That has been a huge encouragement and help to my faith. God is using the disciplined living out of the truth to change my heart and life – and to equip me to handle bigger, more uncomfortable truths I need to learn.