Alberta, Days 1 and 2.

Thus far I have:

  1. Visited the Calgary airport and was scared by their… unique baggage claim complete with sculpted beavers and mummified Indians.
  2. Marvelled at the oil pumps in just about every field and the kilometers and kilometers of pipes that go just about everywhere.
  3. Spent two and a half hours driving through what is essentially the flattest place I’ve ever been to.
  4. Bought a cold cut combo at Subway only to find out that it costs 60 cents more here than in Ontario.
  5. Eaten the most wonderful no name burgers ever courtesy of Nick.
  6. Had my picture taken about a thousand times. At least.
  7. Found a buffalo jaw complete with partial teeth. I’m devising a way to smuggle it back to Ontario.
  8. Walked a beautiful chocolate lab through the Kin Coolie Park no leash zone.
  9. Watched an episode of Gilmore Girls and Home Improvement.
  10. Slept in an actual bed with an actual mattress.
  11. Had the best coffee ever at the Madhatter Roastery in Medicine Hat. Ever. The end.

Now, off for more of those burgers.

dan (who is writing this on a Mac)

Word

There’s one question that I think we don’t ask or answer in scripturally-based churches often enough. I would think it obvious that Biblical authority is necessary for a church to grow and reach out and be successful in its mission. If scripture holds no authority, the church – which is, like it or not – based on the Word becomes nothing but another cultural collection of opinions, and not even a collection of opinions from this culture, but one from a culture long ago. And in a modern and post-modern world, the opinions of another culture are largely irrelevant, not to mention that there are already enough opinions to go around.

But even if a church doesn’t cast aside its admittedly strange positions on issues like – to pick one old horse to beat on – feminism, it still has to answer the question of where scripture itself derives its authority. Because face it, if the Bible is yet another collection of ancient spiritual advice, it’s once again just opinion, just like every other strange book written by strange men in strange cultures a long time ago.

I think it’s a crucial division to say that one can be a Bible worshipper without being a Biblical one. Or to put it another way, worshipping the words instead of the God who wrote them. Yes, the words are important, but apart from Christ – the centrepiece of the whole schebang – they mean nothing at all.

More to the point, the words of scripture derive their authority from the person and the work of Jesus, and any attempt to divorce them from that, be it by the uberhumanisation of Jesus or the deification of the book itself, robs scripture of its authority. The scriptures say this: the Word became flesh and lived among us. And it’s easy to forget that without Jesus, even that statement is bereft of meaning.

A New Life

I’ve often wondered how David could write about the law like he did. He fills the Psalms with writings about how the law is no burden but a delight: David meditates on scripture and rises with it in the morning to call visiting God’s house a joyful thing.

I tend to think of law as a burden, and goodness knows a Christian life is filled with them. Simply, I don’t get to do what I want, and I certainly don’t get to shape the law of love that I follow into something that simply validates what I want.

But the law is a delightful thing, I think, in that it points me to Jesus, but also a depressing thing as it points out my complete imperfection. Or, another way, it’s a sack of bricks I know I can’t carry.

The Spirit points to that new law of love and liberty, the point at which I can drop those bricks. Yet the new law is no different from the old law: it changes people. Being Spirit-filled means listening to the voice of God, delighting in scripture, and changing.

Or to bring it full-circle, a new law means a new life, and a new perspective, and a new way of going about things, and a new concept of reality. From that side of the veil, I can see how David writes a Psalm about delight in law; the law is that thing that points out the weeds, and the Spirit is the one that powers the arm to uproot them. Another way: I am a new man with old man tendencies, and the scripture and Spirit are the heart and lungs keeping me alive.

So, I start my week.

A New Law

I am not a good person to take your spiritual cues from. In many ways, I’ve failed as a Christian, and I know that, and it pains me. More acurately, it pains God. Or even more pointedly it pains my Father in that I haven’t followed his law, his Son in that I’ve treated his salvation like a common thing, and the Spirit in that I’ve ignored and suppressed his guidance and prompting.

That aside – as aside as it can be – I have been thinking. And you know what I think? The key to the Christian life is the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God dwelling in me, sent to comfort and to guide me. I don’t give him enough credence.

As I see it, the law of the old covenant has been replaced by a new law: the law of love. Or, the commands of the old imperfect covenant have been fulfilled in the commands of the perfect new: I am alive in Jesus, dead to sin, and his law is to love the Lord and to love my neighbor.

But what is God concerned with? That’s the hard part. And before you charge me with digressing, this is why I mentioned the Spirit before. Scripture bears out that the spirit has been sent to guide me: why then am I not tuned in to him more? It’s obviously not enough to say love and leave it there. Scripture expounds on it, but it still doesn’t tell me how to drive my car; it’s simply not written to be that granular. But the prompting of the Spirit – he can tell me how to drive my car. Sounds a bit freakish, I know, but there you have it.

My problem is this: I want what I hate, and I hate what I get. I don’t like the law of love – and it you’re honest with yourself, you don’t like moderation and liberty either – because it’s too ill-defined. I want a new law to tell me how to live, but I hate the new laws people come up with. Only this sort of music, and only this sort of dress, and only this sort of drink, and only this sort of food. Yet I don’t hate these things because the kingdom is not about food or drink or clothes or music: I hate them because I am in the last analysis rebellious.

There’s the rub. The libertarian antinomian inside myself wants to believe that I’m actually freer than those inventing the new laws for themselves when the truth is that I’m one step further away from the law of love and the liberty of living in Jesus than the people with the made-up rule book are. At least they have a law! They’re trying to get somewhere; not particularly well, mind you, but they’re giving it the old college try. It’s the old rebel without a cause trap.

I’m a worse tyrant than God could ever be (and I know he isn’t). If I’m not a slave to laws of my own invention, I’m slave to laws of the devil’s invention; if I’m not missing the point entirely, I’m ignoring it on purpose. Or to put it another way, if I’m not wearing the scarlet robes of self-righteousness, I’m flaunting the nudity of my lawlessness, and in either case I’m supposed to be clothed in the humility of Jesus’ love and Jesus’ law and Jesus’ blood.

Ephesians has been perfectly honest in pointing this out: I am a new creature, not made to follow rote, but not made to wander aimlessly. I have the Spirit in my heart, I have the scripture in my head, and I have a soul destined for glory. How then can I still be hitting the ditches?

Before I go to bed…

I was visiting at my parent’s house (as I will be on Friday as well, and as I do most Wednesdays) and my little brother was watching me pour my mother’s chilli into a plastic container to bring home for my food-deprived self. So he asks me what I’m doing, and I say “Bringing this chilli home.”

To which he replies, “You mom must like that!” Now, he’s only 5 or so, and I’m 24, so I guess he thinks that I still live at home with my own mom. And I was like, “Um, we’re brothers, you know.” And he nods energetically and says, “And your mom is going to like that chilli!”

I shatter his illusion then by explaining that both he and me proceeded from the loins of the very same woman. Freakish, yes. Twenty years apart, yes. Separated by nine other children, yes. But miracle of miracles, we are kin! With the same mother!

I thought it was funny, though, that Josh didn’t really picture me as part of the family – I suppose I knew this would happen, that my younger siblings would never really get to know me as a brother, but it never hit me until that moment how abstracted I have become from my family proper. Not that I’m terribly sad about it: life happens, people move on, and in an immediate family as large as mine, things get lost in the shuffle. Not to mention that my life has taken me in divergent paths.

On a slightly different note, I’ve cleared a few IP ranges from the .htaccess file on the server here, so those of you unable to access this site before now will be able to take part like anyone else. Which is to say that you won’t be able to. I suppose it was silly in the beginning to block people from reading it, especially when there’s a mirror at http://www.xhan.com/blog/ and you could access the Google Cache just about any time you wanted to get any and all of the text you wanted. So that said, have fun.

One last thing: I’ve started a study of Ephesians, and it struck me as I read the first chapter how much hope is inherent to Christianity. Not just the hope of deus ex machina but hope for the hear and now in what we go through on a day-to-day basis. It’s amazing really, and I am thankful for the reminder.

Notes for the noontide.

Jesus is odd in how much he demands: everything. I know it, but it’s a hard thing to do. No, an impossible thing. But the giving of everything is so much more than a little time and some money; it’s organic and starts from the feet up (or from the mind down). How do you start converting your attitudes? How do you subsume your rebellion? How do you not go crazy?

On that note, I have some financial obligations that have recently ended (between transitioning from TORCR to LWRC, I was giving to some Christian ministries), and I’m starting giving to my actual local church. Well, my actual not-local-at-all church, but let’s not speak of that right now.

I love this verse:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

Revelation, if you must know.

Pull out the iron…

So apparently laptop related crime is on the rise. For various reasons, probably. The article’s a bit alarmist, mind you. But it makes sense.

  1. There are simply more laptops around. That means that more of them will get stolen, and let’s not even start talking about how people treat ubiquitious devices with less care than, say an executive might his sensitive laptop and its information.
  2. WiFi is concentrated in places, and much like animals concentrated around a watering hole, WiFi hotspots have a much higher concentration of people with laptops.
  3. It’s easy to unload hot laptops. Ebay, classifieds, friends.

The solutions are quite simple, I think.

  1. Be vigilant. Criminals hate attention. They don’t want to be seen, and a lot of laptop thefts are probably crimes of opportunity. So don’t give them the opportunity.
  2. Make it harder to unload the items. Not sure how this could be done.
  3. Make WiFi access more widespread so you won’t have to converge on hotspots.
  4. Let your average joe carry a concealed or unconcealed handgun. How many people would want to steal a laptop if, for instance, anyone watching would just pull his piece?

dan (not your ordinary Canadian)

If you feel like ignoring this rambling entry, I don’t blame you.

I have this thing, and I call it being badly adjusted. It’s like trying to wrap my mind around life and failing, but also like trying to pick between polar opposites and not understanding which one to grab ahold of.

I think the choices you and I face are often quite easy and hard at the same time; I would like to be both an advertising executive and an automobile mechanic. Easy to say neither is a particularly bad choice, hard to pick which one. I want to have sex with my girlfriend, but I don’t at the same time. Easy to pick which one is right, hard to do what you choose.

But at the same time, it’s easy to idealise choices irrationally: if it’s hard then it must be right. The honest truth is, I think, that the easy way is not always the out, and the hard way doesn’t always build up something within you. Escape from situations may sometimes be easy, but it’s also sometimes right. Not having sex with your wife may be difficult, but it’s probably wrong.

Wouldn’t it be better if everything were on straight lines and coloured black and white? Ironically, you can’t even say in black and white which things are written on straight lines. You can’t say that all ecumenical activity is wrong, for instance, and you can’t say every emotional experience is good.

But one beast I’ve never met is the easy choice that’s easy to both choose and impliment. Maybe it exists, just not for me. But mostly it’s between hard/easy, easy/hard, and hard/hard.

Kind of points me to a place where all the choices are on a straight line. You can call this escapist fantasy if you will. But even the escapist fantasy is the hard and easy choice. Easy to say that you want heaven. Hard to get there. Or, easy to type the words, and hard on the shoulders because the posture is bad. Either way.

Think of a plant. A tree. What tree chooses where it’s planted? None that I can think of. Think of a tree growing in a place where it was impossible not to, no matter where you landed there was water and there were nutrients. I grow weary of the choice, of the illusion that I have control and landing in grooves beside the wall where there is no water. This evening, for a moment, it was glory. But I opened my eyes and I am still here.

Don’t fear: this is no death threat or wish for oblivion. But sometimes the lap of Abraham seems preferable to even the sweetest things I can find here. You, love, you are not enough to complete me. You aren’t enough to bear me up for the long or the short that we do or do not have: does that break you? Or does it cause you to fall on everlasting arms?

Yahwilling I will see you soon: in this moment I speak to both love and Love.

Hello technology!

So today I aquired a Bluetooth headset for my work computer, complete with microphone and the whole lot. Seriously, how did I operate without said equipment before now? I can roam all over the office and call people from my Gizmo account (which I love). All I have to do now is purchase a few credits more than the 25 cents Gizmo gave me, and I’m in business! In fact, I plan on doing that tomorrow.

The neatest thing is, of course, that we’re already using Google Talk in the office, and once they have SIP support and can connect properly to the Gizmo network, I see no reason why we can’t call straight from the Talk client (at least it should be technically possible). Doesn’t really present a problem seeing as the Gizmo client can’t be how these people make money – instead, it’s through their VoIP offering – which we could use as we see fit.

Or Google talk could impliment call-out services into Google Talk, which would be very, very nice.

By the way, you can chat between Google Talk and Gizmo already. For instance if you have Talk and I have Gizmo, you can just add danieljosphxhan@chat.gizmoproject.com to your Talk contacts, and voila!

dan (oh what an exciting time to live)

Stay

I just watched a really, really good movie called Stay. You all should know what sort of movies I like based on what sort of books I read and what sort of stories I write: I like wankery. Sorry, but it’s true. Movies that give my mind a good shake and leave more questions than they answer. Even The Sixth Sense in its suprise ending but more importantly the foreshadowing that accompanies the ending.

But I also like movies with style. Multi-layered films with texture and subtlety: stories that use the medium they inhabit to tell the story as much as the script and actors themselves do. The Matrix did this with its symbology and cinemography.

Beware that if you continue reading this, I present spoilers galore. If you’ve watched the film already, you’ll probably come out with a better understanding of what’s actually going on. If you haven’t, the story will probably be subsumed in your attention to detail while viewing it.

First off, the entire movie happens as the protagonist is prostrate beside a burning vehicle in which his mother, father, and fiance have all perished; he himself is mortally wounded. Most of the film is the story of him choosing whether or not – as he lies there on the pavement – to live, or to die. It is secondarily concerned with his guilt over killing his family (though it’s not his fault).

The film, every bit of it, takes place in that limbo: the traditional life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment before you actually kick the bucket. But instead of seeing his life – although you will see his life in various places throughout the film – he halucinates, dreams, whatever you want to call it, melding things he sees before going unconscious and the important people in his life.

His psychiatrist, for instance, is the doctor who stands over him on the road; the doctor’s girlfriend in the dream is a nurse who he works with.

Throughout the film, you’ll notice the odd transition between segments: they blend into eachother un-naturally, they cut and weave, and as the film progresses, they become more eratic and disturbing. Audio elements start intruding on the narrative in places, like when the psychiatrist visits the young man’s mother in the disturbingly empty house.

All of these things are indicative of the mental state of our protagonist: as he dies, the narrative becomes more fractured; scenes repeat and the camera shifts awkwardly.

This is all fine and good. But there are some other significant factors that go unexplained. For instance, the significance of the number three. In one scene, the young man and his psychiatrist are walking through a college after an art lecture; as they progress around the building, there are sets of triplets in just about every corner of each shot. In another scene there are three out of focus metal globes; they appear in the next shot as well, though it’s in a different room. The psychiatrist’s girlfriend has three scars on her wrist from attempting to commit suicide. It is three days from the time the young man tells his psychiatrist he’s going to commit suicide till the day he says he’s going to it. Personally, I think these groups of three refer to the three other people in the car. Or perhaps it’s an allusion to the entire film taking place during the three – admittedly hypothetical – minutes he spends dying in real life.

The main characters, as well, exhibit characteristics that are, frankly, bizzarre but at the same time understandable in context. The psychiatrist is the side of him that doesn’t want to die and seeks to save him; his previous psychiatrist is the side of him that doesn’t care. The girlfriend is a sort of neutral ground. She has no real good reason not to die – other than that there’s so much beauty in the world – although she’s tried to kill herself (not to mention the three scars on her wrist from self-inflicted wounds, as if to say that even if he lives he’ll bear the scar of those three people dying in the car forever). The man he calls his father, who he heals of his blindness is his own understanding of what’s going on: when the blindness disappears, it’s a signal of his mental grasp of what’s going on. Shooting himself is his way of launching himself out of the dream and back into reality to finally die.

Do I agree with the film’s point? If it has one, not really. But on the other hand, you will have to watch this at least several times to get it down pat. It may even freak you out a bit. But at the end of the day it’s an excellent, excellent movie, and deserves to be seen.