Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year

Here is a post I wrote on facebook last year, as a reflection on the new year. RIP to all those who died that night, as well as all those thereafter, in the gory year of 2011. You are finally home.

This life.

Last night, I stood in church singing Christmas Advent praises, bringing my mind to the thought of the Eternal, the night after the church bombing in Egypt on New Year's. Right before I went to church, my father showed me a picture of some of those who were killed that night. I was surprised to see many of them looking younger than me, at 18. While I stood in church, I carried my five month old niece. Carrying my baby niece and remembering the young new martyrs this New Year's night, a strange sense of understanding overcame me.

One must pass through a stage of infancy before one can even function in the world, where one learns what it is to be human; a time that is actually filled with suffering--crying because of a diaper rash, crying because one is bitterly hungry, crying because one wants to go to sleep but just doesn't know how yet. A time of which we will eventually remember nothing. Some kids are evidently geniuses from their very infancy, progressing through the stages of learning much faster than the usual for their age. Others progress at much slower rates, sometimes reaching the understanding of a five year old when they are physically in their twenties. Everyone progresses through different stages at different rates. But all are equal.

This life is simply a stage of infancy, that we will not even remember as adults. Our real life comes when we die in the body and live in the Eternity for which we have prepared ourselves. In this life, we hardly gain a glimpse of the Infinite One, but in our Real Life, we will sit with Him, on our thrones next to Him.

I realize that these young martyrs are simply child geniuses. They have progressed through this infancy at a mind-blowing rate, and have left to enter their Adulthood, to form their real memories, to acquire the True Knowledge. Me, I am a very slow child. I cannot yet enter my Adulthood because I am only an infant in every but the physical sense of the word. I am just like Juliana, my little baby niece, drinking milk from a bottle, at most babbling unintelligible words, getting cranky at night. Yes, getting cranky when the inevitable dark nights of life come, instead of accepting them. I am still spiritually immature, I must still be nurtured, learn, understand, and misunderstand, over and over, because otherwise I would not survive in the Real World. If I do not endure this struggle, instead of partaking of the joys of the Real World--of Heaven--it would simply be suffering, because I would be too weak to survive on my own. You don't take an infant out of the house in the first couple months of her life, and much less out into the Kingdom. I would see the Real One, but not understand. The fact that I am still alive is evidence that I am not yet ready to become an Adult.

Fr. Bishoy said to look at the numbers. Out of the huge church in Alexandria, only 26 people were ready. The real tragedy is not that 26 people have died, but that only 26 people have died. Look at what happened in Baghdad last November, where the whole church was massacred. Everyone in the entire church was obedient and were prepared to enter the True Life. Yet this New Year, only 26 out of hundreds were prepared. And what about our churches in America? Have we even begun to prepare? Have we even been born into our infancy?

This year, I do not want to remain an infant any longer. I want to grow up.

This life is not Real.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unexpected Benefits of Fasting

Obviously the main goal of fasting is to practice, and hopefully cultivate, self-control. I've found that one of the means by which I am coping with the desires I am attempting to suppress while fasting has made me more gracious.

For example, when I was craving chocolate ice cream, I decided to go out and buy it, but instead of for myself, I bought it for my roommate as a little surprise. I could not enjoy the chocolate ice cream, but she could, and did, and it was as if I fulfilled my craving vicariously through her. I guess my rationale was that my craving wouldn't go to waste, someone benefited from it, and that made all the difference.

I did the same thing with my other roommate as well, again with chocolate. We were in the middle of exams and I had the urge to indulge in my favorite chocolates, using the excuse that it would encourage me while studying. I bought several bags of various chocolates and made a "trail mix" of them all. I was horrified by how much chocolate I had, just imagining myself gluttonously eating it all within a few days span, so instead I gave it to my roommate to enjoy while studying for her exams, and let me tell you, she made that chocolate last A LOT longer than I'm probably physically capable of doing. She greatly appreciated it and enjoyed it for weeks, and again that made all the difference.

Unfortunately, as a result of practicing fasting since my childhood, I am so accustomed to it that I enjoy fasting food, so fasting doesn't really push my self-control limits. Attempting to avoid my usual hypocrisy, as I craved homemade fries and sweet potato fries for dinner, I decided to make them, but for my roommate whom I knew would enjoy them. I ate a few, told her I was full, and asked her to finish them.

Am I cheating by vicariously fulfilling my cravings? It seems too good to be true, but it's working...

He is mistaken who thinks that the fast consists only in abstinence from food. True fasting is departing from evil. - St. John Chrysostom

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why I Would Want More Hours in the Day

A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of polyphasic sleeping, which I was absolutely intrigued by and considered implementing as my sleep schedule (still in the process of researching whether it is worth it, but appreciate the idea nonetheless). After being introduced to this concept, naturally I began to daydream as to all the things I could accomplish by needing less sleep, being more alert/energized without caffeine, and all in all having more hours in the day to simply do stuff.

It was interesting to find that during this casual reflection, I quickly came to a definitive list of the activities I absolutely enjoy the most in life. If my life were saturated to its fullest capacity by the following seven activities, I would be the happiest person in the world:
  1. going to church
  2. reading
  3. engaging in discussion with family/close friends/interesting people
  4. exercising/keeping in good health/improving my body
  5. writing (i.e. thinking and recording my ideas; not really anything creative)
  6. relaxing and enjoying the company of family and close friends
  7. some sort of volunteer work
That list is my current definition of living a full life--these activities being the greatest tools God has given us to use to continuously refine one's character during this developmental phase in Life, our juvenile time here on earth. How enjoyable it is to become the new Eve, to become the better person He sees that I can be.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A philosopher is a gadfly.

The philosopher is always considered a necessary evil. He is hated by most because he questions all, and will not shy at undermining even the highest authority. Yet he is also relied on in every age, for without his questioning, we would have no answers and no progress. This very same philosopher can be loved and hated within any individual, for every individual is a philosopher, with him sometimes urging one on to seek the truth, and sometimes tormenting one relentlessly when one makes a poor decision.

A philosopher is a gadfly. If you kill him within yourself to end the pain he inflicts on your conscience, rest assured that the pain and hell you will experience without him will be far greater suffering, that you would prefer ending life itself than living without this necessary evil within you. This necessary evil, urging you on to perfection, certainty, and highest purpose.

For a philosopher is nothing but a lover of Wisdom, and Wisdom is Christ.

The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death. -Socrates, The Apology