Confession of a Tech Addict Sep26

Confession of a Tech Addict...

To most, “addict” is a term defined by drug or alcohol abuse, substances that can destroy physical health and break down relationships. When I think of addiction, my mind goes to Frodo Baggins and Gollum. Both characters experience a physical pain and a mental anguish when they are separated from the Ring for any period of time. They undergo physical transformation the longer they are in contact with the Ring and their relationships with other people are damaged because of their desire for it. Gollum killed his cousin for possession of the Ring, and will stop at nothing to get it back from Frodo. Even Frodo, who shows extraordinary resistance to its powers, is affected as the journey goes on. When he’s separated from it, he lashes out at Sam for doing nothing more than keeping it safe. My addiction, however, is not so obvious. I can relate more to Gregory House from the TV series House. House’s addiction is to the pain killer Vicodin. On its own, there is nothing inherently evil about that particular drug. Vicodin actually serves a very important and good purpose for House. Due to a physical injury to his leg, he lives in constant pain. Vicodin takes away the pain and makes it possible for him to focus on the complex diagnostic puzzles of his patients. I strive for change because I will never be healed if I don’t reach out. But House begins to rely on the drug for other reasons. It becomes more than simply a way to relieve pain or even a way to escape. It’s a soother of his misery and a way to occupy himself when he gets bored. Something that served a purpose for good becomes destructive as House’s relationships with Wilson,...

The Doctor’s Eternal Perseverance Jul27

The Doctor’s Eternal Perseverance...

“This traffic is taking forever.” “I’m never going to find the right woman.” “Waiting for the DMV took an eternity.” I recognize these statements, of course, as the hyperbole that they are, even as I speak them. But such a blasé attitude towards the concept of eternity and infinity cheapens it. I have never experienced more than a lifetime and my exaggerations do not come close to expressing what eternity must feel like. Therefore, to be patient or persevere in the face of eternity is an ideal that escapes me completely. I know there is either a finite time that I will have to wait or I recognize that death will claim me before I ever see the consummation of my hope, whatever it may be. What would happen, though, if somehow I could comprehend eternity to the point that, no matter what happens, I can push through? In the penultimate episode of the ninth season of the “new” Doctor Who (titled “Heaven Sent”), Peter Capaldi’s Doctor explores this concept of forever. He finds himself in some sort of elaborate trap with a mysterious stalker who elicits something we’re not familiar with the Doctor experiencing: fear. The Doctor is afraid of this… thing. We know it’s called “The Veil” only by the end credits, but, beyond that, we don’t know anything other than it was specifically designed from the Doctor’s worst nightmares to evoke a reaction of fear from the rogue Time Lord. The intense grief of losing Clara and the darkness of being alone can only be overcome by his memory of Clara and his love for her. The Doctor reasons that fear is being used as a motivation to coerce him to reveal his deepest, darkest secrets. As fear does its work,...

The Thorns In My Side Feb26

The Thorns In My Side...

The moon in the sky is setting in the west. We’re only a couple of days away from the new moon and what is visible above, to quote my daughter, looks like someone tried to use a hole-punch in the sky and failed miserably. We are also a little more than a month away from the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.  More time is spent in darkness than it is spent in light and I wait impatiently for the long days of warm sunshine to return. For whatever reason, human beings have found darkness undesirable. Of course, this may be because our eyes don’t function well in the dark and we get a lot of our cues about sleep, meal times, and periods of activity from the amount of light we receive during the day. Light is so very important to us. By “light,” I refer to the physical manifestation, but also the happy moments in life—the birth of a child, the achievement of a life goal, the marriage to a spouse. These things I’ve experienced and I treasure these memories greatly. But life also has darkness—failure at a job, the illness of a loved one, the sudden death of a family member. These are dark times. In our minds, we suppress these, we avoid talking about them, and, when we do discuss them, we get it over with quickly. We love the light and avoid the dark times in our lives. But the fact is, we need the darkness. I need the thorns in my side. In the book series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams, the theme of darkness, especially darkness of winter and cold, is prevalent.  The story starts innocently enough in times of light and warmth but,...

A Mennonite reads The Lord of the Rings Nov25

A Mennonite reads The Lord of the Rings...

There’s nothing quite like the use of grand and glorious battles in fantasy literature, where massive armies surge and strive to overcome each other, usually in a representation of the eternal struggle between good and evil. Heroes are created and even killed during these battles. Supreme dark lords show their true colours as elemental forces of evil and shadow. There is no ambiguity when it comes to who to root for in these struggles. It is always clear who is in the right and who is most definitely in the wrong. We who read such literature cheer for the heroes when they triumph, gasp when they face defeat, and mourn when they die. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories—including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion¸and all the other gathered tales that his son, Christopher, has collected over the years—are no exception to this. In The Lord of the Rings alone, we know of the story of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men that overthrew Sauron. We read the vivid description of the battle at Helm’s Deep and Merry and Pippin’s recounting of the Ents’ triumph at Isengard. Much ink and paper are spent, especially, on the Battle of the Pelennor Fields before the city of Minas Tirith where the forces of Sauron attempt to conquer the last remaining true stronghold of men in Middle-earth. Wars in epic fantasy are often presented as glorious, wonderful things to be praised. It wasn’t war that won the victory. It was selfless love and sacrifice that conquered evil in the end. For me, a Mennonite and Anabaptist (two Christian groups that are almost stereotypically anti-war and anti-violence), enjoying epic fantasy literature might appear hypocritical. On the surface, Tolkien’s battles may seem to be war mongering, but...

Leeroy Jenkins and the C word...

Life was going well for me and my wife in the summer of 2012. I had recovered from changing jobs and was establishing myself in a new position with a new company. I was graduating seminary in a few months and we were attending a new church. My wife and I had plans for our future. “Hey, Rob? I have this lump here. Do you think I should see my doctor?” If you’ve played games online in the era after World of Warcraft, then you might know the story of the group of intrepid adventurers gathered in a room in Upper Blackrock Spire, where they strategize about a particularly difficult fight forthcoming. These heroes even go so far as to get totally geeky about it and calculate the odds of their success to a 32.333 (repeating, obviously) percent chance of success. That is, until one of their group decides to just charge ahead. “OK, times up! Let’s do this! Leerooooooy Jeeeenkins!” The stunned shock and silence that follows for that brief moment before the realization that Helena brought her handbasket and they were all in it? You know that feeling? “Hey, Rob? I have this lump here.” There is no way to “stick to the plan” because there is no plan any more. Yeah, so do I. At first, my wife and I attempted to “stick to the plan.” I mean, after all, it could be nothing. We made the appointment to see the doctor. I continued with my work testing software. We shifted our focus from one congregation to another. Neither of us was yet 40; something as outrageous as cancer doesn’t happen to people our age, right? “Well, we’re not sure what it is. It doesn’t feel quite like cancer. Let’s get some...