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Hello 2018… it’s me.

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Last year, I wrote a blog post about how my 2017 goal was to learn how to love myself. A year later, as I reflect on 2017 and what has happened, I am forced to face the fact that I failed miserably in achieving this goal. There’s a part of me that wished I didn’t make the goal to begin with. The rationale is that if I didn’t make a goal, then there’s no possible way that I can fail. Thinking back, I’m actually happy I made that goal, even if I did fail. It was in thinking and meditating upon that failure that has brought me to my 2018 goal. For 2018, my goal is to accept my humanity. Maybe it was too much of a big jump for me to love myself when I can’t even begin to be ok with myself. There is too much self-loathing in my daily life. I really don’t like myself. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I talk. I don’t like the way I move. I don’t like the way I think. I don’t like the way I feel. There’s virtually nothing in my life that I’m even remotely close to saying I like. And that’s a problem. The problem is that I’m so busy trying to be like other people, I can’t/don’t even know what it’s like to be me. I hate my flaws. I think it’s normal to hate one’s flaws but when every single part of you is deemed to be flawed, then what is there to love? However, it always amazes me that the very things that I hate about myself are the very things that people love about me. I hate the fact that I’m extraverted. It makes me think and feel that no one takes me seriously because I have a cheerful demeanour. And yet, my friends love the fact that I enjoy people and my outgoing personality. I hate that I feel too much and too deeply. And yet, my friends love the fact that they can always come to me with their problems and feel loved. The very things that I despise most about myself are the very things that define and make me who I am. I’m obsessed with perfection but I think I have gotten perfection completely wrong. In the Scriptures, the term meant complete. I need to be a whole person. Part of being a whole person is realizing my own strengths and weaknesses and quite honestly, being the best me I could be. Perfect doesn’t mean to have Zac Efron’s six pack abs, or the Rock’s bulging biceps, or the spirituality of a theologian like St. Gregory of Nyssa or the mysticism of someone like Teresa of Avila. Perfect is being the best version of who I can possibly be.

I know that it will be a challenge to be okay with my imperfections. I need to learn how to be okay with my humanity. I need to be okay with not being “perfect”. I need to be okay with being me. Perhaps, this is the stepping stone I need to learn how to love myself.

Dear 2018, let’s do this.

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When Worlds Collide: Doing Theology within a Community

johnchrysostom

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the Pappas Patristic Institute’s summer program as a Teaching Fellow in training. We had the option of choosing from a number of available courses so I decided to go with “Theodore the Studite and post-Chalcedonian Christologies” (taught by Dr. Thomas Cattoi) and “The Problem of Evil in the Writings of the Fathers” (taught by Dr. David Goodin). It was a great experience of studying and examining the primary sources as a community of learners and students.

One of the difficulties of studying theology within a community is the problem of pride: We all think that we are right in our particular understanding of an author or their work. This type of attitude is not conducive to learning, much less practicing the art of humility. Doing theology within a community can become problematic because it forces us to realize that others’ interpretation may be in stark contrast against our own interpretation. There is a tendency to become incredibly defensive and sometimes, downright hostile in certain situations. Trust me. I know. I have seen it time and time again. “I am right and that’s all there is to it” becomes our primary exegetical tool. There is no room for diversity of thought nor is there room for multiple interpretations. The desire to maintain a level of orthodoxy becomes an excuse to display arrogance and condescension masked in “spiritual” form. Sometimes I wonder if it truly is the “zeal of the Lord” that consumes them or their “zeal to be in the right.” In the way they act, there surely isn’t a lot of godly attributes to be seen and heard.

Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why I really enjoyed my time as a Teaching Fellow in training. It was great to hear so many diverse opinions and interpretations as we delved deeply into the texts that were given to us. And by diverse, I don’t necessarily mean that they were so diametrically opposite from one another… there is diversity even in similarity. What others were saying was not necessarily any different from how I would interpret a certain passage. Instead, they highlighted a different facet, approached it in a different angle than what I am normally accustomed to doing. There is beauty in diversity. It doesn’t mean that the concepts of right and wrong are unnecessarily jettisoned as if they didn’t matter. It just means that we need to be open to understanding things in ways that may seem foreign to us. By doing this, it allows us to think and cogitate about what others are saying rather than reflexively shouting down their ideas.

This summer program also convicted me about the power of leadership in being able to transform others. Through the leadership of the Institute’s director, Dr. Bruce Beck, and the numerous teachers who taught the various courses, we were constantly reminded of the need to struggle with the texts and acquire an attitude of humility and a posture of learning. The teachers were reminded not to take a lecture approach. Instead, we were asked to “come and reason together” à la Isaiah 1:18. As a result, I have come away with a humble heart that is more willing to hear someone out rather than use Scriptural passages as a cudgel to drown out their voice.

Not bad for a week of learning.

Pensées on Prostitution

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Photo: Getty Images

In a recent article, an esteemed friend (Julia Beazley) wrote about the current problem we have when dealing with the issue of legalizing prostitution. In her article,  she reminds us not to ignore the real issue on prostitution. A lot of the argument about legalizing prostitution revolves around the intended “safety” that legalizing prostitution would bring to those who practice this particular “profession”. By legalizing it, we can then enforce laws that could potentially create a safer environment for women who have “chosen” to be in this field of work. Beazley reminds us that

The violence is rooted in the underlying view among the people, mostly men, that purchase them that women in prostitution are somehow fundamentally different from their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives and daughters. This misperception justifies treatment of women as objects to be bought and sold. The very existence of prostitution requires a subclass of people who are available to be bought, sold and rented; people understood to be somehow just a little less equal than everyone else.

I know a lot of fathers who will move heaven and earth for their daughters. The moment their daughter’s little fingers wrap around theirs, even the most manliest man can be reduced to tears. They dream of a bright and lovely future for their daughter. Maybe she will become a doctor or a lawyer (especially if her parents happen to be Asians hahaha), a writer, a ballerina, a teacher, or even become the prime minister (or the president if you’re not in Canada)! I haven’t met a lot of normal fathers who ever dreamt a future of prostitution for their little girl. Probably because that would be incredibly sick and disturbing if they actually did! I would like to think that as a society, we can agree that wanting your daughter to be a prostitute when she grows up is wrong.

While I recognize that lots of things happen when a child grows up, I hope that our general views on protecting others from harm would not be something we throw out because of a change in someone’s age. The prostitute in the street is not a random piece of flesh to be bought and enjoyed like you would buy a chocolate bar from a vending machine. She is a woman created in the image of her Creator. She is someone’s child. She is someone’s sister. She is someone’s friend. She is a human being. She is not a piece of commodity to be owned and bought at someone’s convenience and pleasure.

We live in a broken, messed up world. I am not naïve enough to think that just because I think someone is wrong means that everyone will think what I think is wrong is wrong too. But, in a world of relativity and lack of absolutes in this post-modern world we inhabit in, there are general ideas that most people irregardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political stance do agree on. In general, we are all about love, peace, joy, and general happy things. We generally want peace instead of war. We are all about protecting the weak and oppressed against the power of the strong tyrant. And maybe this is just the idealist in me, but I really hope and pray that as a society, we would rise up to protect the weak and the disenfranchised who find themselves in the prostitution trade and remind them that they are not disposable sex objects but human beings who need to be treated with love and care. But then again, maybe that’s not me just being idealistic… maybe that’s just me recognizing and respecting someone else’s humanity. Maybe that’s just me being truly human.

 

 

Comments are always welcome. It’s ok to disagree with me and/or others, but we can disagree in a nice way that doesn’t result to denigrating or being demeaning to others in the process =)

Wednesday Writings – Dec. 5, 2012

Welcome to this week’s edition of Wednesday Writings!

I have some exciting news! I started my Facebook fan page for this website! Please click on the “f” logo up top and it will directly link you to the page. Click on “like” and tell others about it too! I wanted a forum to speak to you as my readers because I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to read my stuff. I would love to continue this conversation over on yonder Facebook page and hear more from you! =) (For a limited time, I have also added it on the sidebar for easy clicking!)

Background story about this poem: I wrote it awhile ago. It was inspired while I was on vacation. Sometimes, we need time to get away for the creative juices to start flowing. In terms of inspiration, Greek mythology ranks second only to Christianity as a constant theme in my writings. I have always been fascinated by the gods and goddesses with their capricious whims and avaricious desire for power. Supernatural creatures with unfathomable strength or special abilities. This poem is my personal reflection on our fragile human nature.

sirens

Credit image: Ulysses and the Sirens, J.W. Waterhouse, 1891, Oil on canvas

Portrait of a human

Riding the waves of this ocean called life
I am lured by the Sirens’ beckoning call
Slowly but surely, I find myself moved
Ever closer to their rocky shores.

Come and see, such pleasures for thee
Come and live out your wildest dreams
Come, for I can fulfill your every fantasy
Come, take hold of me, for I am truly Yours.

Logic escapes me, when faced with such a temptress
Reason flees, my mind lay bare naked
No matter how hard I tell my feet to escape
Step by step, they bring me closer to my fate.

If I then shall give myself wholly
What names shall I say, of those who bested me?
They looked at each other, faces confused
“Poor mortal,” they said, “have you really no clue?”

We are called by many names, but nothing changes
Time and time again, our wares render you helpless
Though warnings and alarms about us may abound
No human is immune, even the pious are defenseless.

We three, the unholy trinity of yore
Will ever devour you to your very soul
Mortal tongues cannot begin to describe us three
Money, sex and power – your names for we.

Suddenly, mine eyes began to see
It was as if a veil was lifted, their true forms they revealed
The lustrous hair, the luscious lips, the virgin smiles were but a mask
What was hidden underneath, too ghastly for any man.

I cowered in a corner, what destructive monstrosity!
There are no words to describe the fear, my heart rapidly beating
For there it was, I could not deny
Their faces unmasked – their faces were me.

Encouragement of the Day

“We make ourselves a ladder out of our vices if we trample the vices themselves underfoot.” – Saint Augustine