Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fire Inside

I love camping.  There is nothing quite like stripping yourself of the comforts and stresses of everyday life and retreating to the woods.  The thoughts that have been dammed up by the barriers of a full schedule are suddenly released, like water spreading through a floodplain.  Biochemistry, physics, and western civilization instantly seem as distant as the Internet that steals so much of my time.  For a couple sweet hours, my mind can roam through the plains of my own mind instead of delving into the knowledge of others.  During this time, thoughts have time to fully evolve and progress, giving way to insight that is normally left at the wayside.

This post is quite delayed, as I am referring to a men's camping retreat that occurred two weekends ago.  If you seek an explanation for this time lapse, you should reread the first paragraph.  Regardless, this camping trip was a necessary break and gave me a good deal of insight to some big issues I have been facing.  To begin with, it was extremely encouraging to be surrounded in Christian fellowship with so many of my brothers on campus.  Time spent together with no agenda other than to enjoy the company, build each other up, and to retreat with God was absolutely fantastic.  And as is the case when my mind can run free, I came up with an analogy.  If you didn't catch it - that last sentence rhymed, so I stopped it where it was.  I came up with an analogy while sitting at the campfire, listening to a lesson/discussion about sin and what it means for us.

On the outskirts of the fire, there was one log that rolled out of the main pyre as the wood collapsed as it burnt.  This log was hollow and the interior was slowly smoldering.  As it was no longer in contact with any of the other logs, the only burning of the wood came from the inside.  Science time - due to the limiting amount of oxygen inside the cavity and the comparatively small surface area, the log burned at a much slower rate than that of the other logs that were burning from the outside.  Returning to the larger picture, this burning log was practically useless for anything (except making analogies) as it provided hardly any heat, as the fire on the inside was insulated by a think, hard wall.  However, as hard as wood may be, the fire eventually won out, and the flame finally broke through the shell.  Almost instantly, the wood was ablaze, finally providing the heat that it was originally placed in the fire to provide.

To tie things together, you need to know the main issue I have been facing recently.  To make a long story extremely short and simplified, I have almost certainly changed the path of my future career.  A childhood dream of mine was to become a veterinarian someday, and I have been pursuing that path ever since.  However, after filling out pages and pages of veterinarian applications, I realized that I had no real enthusiasm for the future.  I began to seriously consider what I was passionate about and what I wanted to accomplish in my life, as well as praying for guidance.  Once again, I am extremely shortening things, but as of now I feel that I am being led in another direction completely - public health, especially focusing on international health and development.  And I am really excited about it!  For the first time in a long time, I am actually enthused about graduate school and incredibly excited about what God will allow me to accomplish through this.

This is where the log analogy picks up.  Every person has a fire burning in them, a fire that when released will change the world.  However, that is the key - it must first be released.  Like the log, nothing really is accomplished while only the inside is burning, insulated from the real world by a thick wall.  In my case, stubbornness has been that wall.  Veterinary science is what I wanted to do ever since a child, and that is how I have focused my education and planned my summer experiences.  However, that idea was a remnant from myself many years ago.  Since then, I have had innumerable experiences and have grown into the person I am today.  And that person is better equipped for other causes; however, I have refused to accept this as I refuse to give up on an old dream.  However, God is gracious enough that he intervenes when I need it most, and the fire has began to break free.  Like the fire in the wood had to work through the layers laid down year after year before the wall was breached, so has the years upon years of my planning had to be broken through for this fire to arise.  After all, it is quite literally like throwing just under 20 years of planning out the window.  I can't wait to see where all of this is leading me!

I enjoy epic statements and quotes, and am planning on ending most of my blog posts with one.  However, all I keep thinking of is this...

"Burn baby, burn!"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Paradoxical Problems

"That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal."
~Zeno of Elea
Not many people are familiar with Zeno of Elea, a largely forgotten philosopher from ancient Greece.  A contemporary of Socrates, Zeno was a Sophist that urged the questioning of all beliefs and values.  He is remembered primarily for his paradoxes, which follow the method of reductio ad absurdum, which literally means to reduce to the absurd.

The Dichotomy Paradox is one of his most famous paradoxes.  Recorded in Aristotle's work Physics, Zeno states, "That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal".  Obviously, if you are moving anywhere, you are going to reach the half-way point before the final destination can be reached.  However, that is where Zeno's paradox steps in.  Let's say you are going to walk a mile.  Before you walk a mile, you must first walk half of the mile.  Then, before you can finish the trip, you must walk a half of the remaining half of the mile, or one fourth of a mile.  However, walking a fourth of a mile means that you must walk half of that, or an eighth of a mile, before you can reach the final goal.  This pattern continues until only fractions of an inch remain to the destination, yet, it can never be truly reached.  This is because completing the original task requires accomplishing an infinite number of tasks, which in Zeno's mind proves that all motion is an illusion.  

Luckily, we all know that this is bogus.  We all have made it somewhere in our lives - disappointingly enough, I have never seen a person approaching the bathroom in some kind of weird, perpetual journey.  Experience wins over a claim that is the result of over-analyzing a simple phenomenon.  Interestingly enough, this over-analysis of a process has led to the idea of the Quantum Xeno Effect, which claims that constantly measuring a quantum system in its initial state can stop natural processes that would occur otherwise.  All scientific jargon aside, I feel that this can happen in our own lives as well.

How many times do we lose focus of our goals because of their small, trivial components?  Here I am, a senior graduating in May, with nothing standing between me and my future.  But instead of gazing ahead at the amazing grandeur of a full life, I have spent the past couple weeks running around preoccupied with minor details.  Instead of viewing my choice of graduate school as an awesome opportunity and blessing, I have only seen the application process as a giant chore - another in my list of many.  I have been trying too hard to orchestrate the events of my life so much recently, I have realized that I have lost all enthusiasm for the future.  This is the Zeno effect in progress: by focusing so much on each individual step, I am stopping God from shaping my life the way he has planned.  

From this point on, I am looking up.  I will not be engrossed with each footstep of the journey, expecting to reach the finish line by following a path that I determine.  I am simply not that capable.  I will not lose momentum in my life by constantly over-analyzing things - relationships, plans, situations, or anything else.  Instead, I will look to my ultimate goal - to the purpose and life that I was created to fulfill.  God will lead me to this beautiful destination, on a path to that I could never find on my own.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 3:12-14