My freshman friends call me Spacebags Goat. Spacebags comes from something I posted on their class’ Facebook page last summer. These pages are where you can ask the important questions like “Who else likes taking picture?!??” and “Does it get cold in Seattle? That’s what I’ve heard :(” and “Am I the only one who LOVES country music here?” These questions bring people together around common interests (photography), common conversation topics (the weather, and Seattle’s lack thereof), and uncommon interests (country music). These questions also give returning students who really don’t belong on the page at all the chance to adopt the role of the mother/father/older sibling who has all of the answers. The sophomores—and some juniors—try to hype the freshman up for their first year away from home. I am the king of this. After months of not-school I was salivating for social interaction. The literal “natural thing to do” would have been to avoid Facebook like undercooked cafeteria meat and instead bloom where I was planted, whatever that means. Instead, I opted for the figuratively speaking “natural thing to do,” which was to join the incoming class’ Facebook group and snort up the their questions like an addict.
Wise sophomore me was eager to pass along his knowledge of adjusting to college life. This peaked in a video that I posted on the page. I was in the midst of packing for Seattle, so I made a video about packing. More specifically, I made a video about a very convenient tool that has simplified my packing life, allowing me to say goodbye to the frustration and anxiety that comes along with it. Let me introduce you to a close personal friend of mine: the Space Bag. Imagine a ziploc bag, but big enough to put a torso in—or seven bulky sweaters. You then suck the air out of it with a vacuum cleaner hose, and ta dah! you can fit everything you need to take with you into your luggage without a hassle. Obviously, I’m quite passionate about the Space Bag. I wanted to impart my secret to a new generation of SPUers, so I made them a 10 minute tutorial on how to properly use Space Bags. If any of them were weirded out by the sophomore obsessed with an As Seen on TV product, they had the decorum to keep on scrolling without saying so.
The first full week of the second quarter of my sophomore year of college is over. And, as it often happens at school, I have gone the week without a post here. Here are a couple of fragments about two strangers I’ve seen in the last week or so.
The first one is something I posted on Facebook while flying back to Seattle a week and a half ago:
There is a bearded old man sitting across the aisle from me in the airplane. So far, he has written a couple stanzas of poetry, the first line of which ended with “solitude,” and ordered the cheese, crackers, and fruit box—he fumbled with the crackers’ wrapper for a solid minute. Now he is on ebay looking through hundreds of antique Persian rugs. When I started writing this status, my intent was to say, “Well isn’t he weird,” but I’ve just realized I might be intruding on the privacy of my future self.
At several times during the flight I felt the strong urge to strike up a conversation with him. I waited for the right moment. Asking a stranger about his solitude poetry seemed inappropriate, but asking to see if he wanted help opening his crackers after watching him struggle for a while might have been a nice gesture. Or, I suppose, it could have made him feel pathetic. After an hour of his persian rug browsing, I considered tapping his shoulder to tell him “I like the pattern on that one” but I didn’t want to make him feel obligated to buy a rug he wasn’t all that interested in. They were at least $150 each, so it would have been an investment.
I didn’t talk to him.
In several days I will be flying back to Seattle. Christmas break will have ended, a month away from Seattle Pacific University will have passed, and I’ll have left behind another year. As I prepare for the new year, starting with Winter Quarter, I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I began reading it more than a year ago “for fun,” if that expression actually describes the motivation that drove me to buy the book. But school led me away from Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha and into the world of ancient Greece. Before I stopped my attempt to blast through it, I made it approximately a third of the way through.
If you are familiar with The Brothers Karamazov, you might recall when the Elder Zosima relates the story of his life to Alyosha and others as he is reaching his life’s end. He begins with the story of his brother, who, an atheist, became sick and returned to God before dying while still a young man. In the last days of his life, he was consumed with a joy and love that confused his mother, visitors, and doctor, who mistook his fervor for madness. It was this passage that I read on the plane back to Seattle nearly a year ago.
At Quest today, Pastor Eugene asked, “Do people know who you are?” After this he asked why Christians are silent about their faith. While I don’t like shoving things down people’s throats, I guess I would like people to know what I believe.
Last week I turned in a paper for a class (shoutout to Keuss and muh UScholerz). The paper was about the history of my spiritual life—six pages, single spaced. The last page was my personal creed, or what I claim to believe. While it is probably missing a lot, it does say what I believe. Here it is, slightly revised:
I believe in one triune God: the Father/Creator, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
I believe that God became flesh and experienced human life, but remained completely divine.
I believe that Jesus defeated sin and death through resurrection after crucifixion.
I believe that there will be a day of judgment for each of us, but I also believe that on that day we will be astounded by the infinite grace and love of our Father.
I believe in hell, but I have no clue who ends up there or how they get there.
I believe in heaven, but I don’t understand how it is both present and yet to come.
I believe that Jesus can save those who don’t know him by name.
It is Day Two of a three-day weekend. On Friday night a friend and I bussed down to lower Queen Anne to watch Leonard Cohen play at the Key Arena. It was a fitting prelude to what has become the most sedentary few days of this year. Between paragraphs of All the Pretty Horses, I’ve stayed up late watching Doctor Who, played Halo 4 with my 3rd Hill brothers, absconded to a 24-hour breakfast joint, and listened to Christmas albums with friends while sharing the parts of our lives that need a Christmas the most. The skies begin to dim by at least 4:30 pm, making more than half of the day night. Veni, Domine Jesu.
After my friend and I exited the bus at our stop, picked up some Americanos at Caffe Zingaro, and browsed a wonderful used bookstore, we walked a couple blocks to the arena. A cloud of white hair had descended in front of it and was slowly being sucked in. My friend took a final drag of her cigarette and puffed out the smoke before we entered the cloud.
It wasn’t just old people. There were middle-aged people, a few other college students, and we even saw one young family with two kids that had to be under ten. After picking out our tour t-shirts—mine with a sketch of a very haggard looking Leonard, hers with a beautiful bird perched on a branch—we found our seats in the upper ring. Out came the man with his old school backing band, Sharon Robinson, and the Webb sisters. The speakers weren’t blasting like most concerts I’ve attended, and the audience was fairly dead (we clapped in time for one song and most people only sang along in the chorus of Hallelujah, when the sound technician kindly aimed the stage lights at us for a queue.) Continue reading
My first examination of the school year was last week. It covered Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson—both of which I’m fairly sure I’ve mentioned here. The test was two short essays and one long essay. There were several options of what to write on for the long essay. I didn’t write on empathetic suffering in Mariette in Ecstasy, and I partially regret that. Take two.
My personal experience with nuns is minimal. I attended a Catholic elementary school in New Hampshire, but there were only two of them left in the teaching faculty. The sister that taught music retired form teaching during my time there. The other sister was my first grade teacher. The main thing that I remember about her was her love of whoopee pies. I’m not sure if that is how you spell the word for the two chocolate cakelets with cream in the middle, but autocorrect made it that, so I’ll take its word. My Mac is obese.
The lunch table was the central point of middle school life. It was a market of junk food and crude jokes. Cold lunchers like myself eyed the platters of hot lunchers with gut-shriveling envy. On the rare occasion I would slip into the cafeteria area and grab some garlic bread or a plate of pasta after everyone had settled into their place at a table and after my bagged lunch was depleted. I felt a bit foreign approaching the lunch ladies, but they quickly became allies. “Just take it. No one should leave the lunch room hungry.” Continue reading
Earlier today I was walking from my survey of music literature class to the office building of my faculty advisor when I realized that I was the only student in that part of campus. But I was not alone. I was surrounded by figures shrouded in black from head to toe. It was the closest I’ve ever come to running into the mafia. It wasn’t the Italian mafia, Chinese, Swedish, or 3-6. It was a large group of crows—what has been eerily labeled a “murder.” All black, hateful stares, forced nonchalant demeanors, sharp memories, and when you get a group of them together you’re going to have a murder… mafia.
I’ve also heard that a group of lions is called a pride. When I hear “the pride of lions” I think that the lions must especially pleased with themselves for some reason. Or maybe one of the cubs is displaying great potential in training for the hunt, so she is regarded as “the pride of the lions.” If lion parents had bumpers, her parents would have “Proud parent of a gifted prowler” or something to the effect.
The only thing I really pride myself in is a personal record—a PR for you sports-minded people out there. I have not vomited since the Ravens won the Superbowl. That was, what, 2001? Nerves spit-ups, sure. Acid reflux, a little. But not a full blown PLUGHHHH. I bring this up whenever a friend mentions a bad case of food poisoning or the upward stomach flu. “My dad is the same way.” Just so they know.