Friday, May 16, 2014

Compared to Magazines

As I write this I am preparing to lead a trip of engineering students on a two week trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  I can't sleep.  I need to pack. My thoughts are racing.  So what do I do? In a fit of procrastination I decided it was time to write a blog post!

As I sit here at midnight I am listening to a song called "Mother India".  It’s one of my favorite songs. It's about the mutual brokenness of the third world and the first world.  It has been my observation that both of these "worlds" are really screwed up. Of course, Texas and Haiti, for example, are very different in some ways. I don't mean to minimize that. But there is a shared human experience in both of them. We're all really broken, but on us all are the fingerprints of a genius Creator.  The song captures this well and ends with a great hope.

Father God, you have shed your tears for Mother India
They have fallen to water ancient seeds
That will grow into hands that touch the untouchable
How blessed are the poor, the sick, the weak

The Serpent spoke and the world believed its venom
Now we're ten to a room or compared to magazines

There's a land where our shackles turn to diamonds
Where we trade in our rags for a royal crown
In that place, our oppressors hold no power
And the doors of the King are thrown wide 

My favorite line is Now we're ten to a room or compared to magazines.  Do you get it?  In the so-called "third world" people are often crowded into slums - a family of ten can share a 100 square feet. Poverty is horrible. And in the "first world" I know many folks tangled in the web of consumerism, comparisons, or body issues; a web spun by media marketeers. Our lives are constantly compared to magazines.  Both worlds are broken. There's wisdom in this song. I consider it an anthem of my calling.

"My calling"?  Isn't that a bit medieval, you say? What is that "calling" of yours, Mr. Joan of Arc?

I hesitate to write it because I might be wrong, or partially wrong, and embarrass myself in the future by saying it's such and such.  Or perhaps I will embarrass God if I say my calling is "this" when he's been trying so hard to get me to see that it's "that".  So let's put down some caveats.  This is what I think it might be, or perhaps it's just what I want it to be, or perhaps it's what I think it is tonight as I'm loosened up on Xanax.

[This is me being goofy at the Haitian elementary school to which we are bringing solar electricity next week! Photo credit: Angela Chancellor.]

In this part I'm going to refer to myself in third person 'cause there's no one else to talk to at this late hour.  
Is he serious? Why is he all "loosened up"?  Is he an abuser now? I don't think so.  It's not "abuse" if you have a prescription and take it per the doctor's instructions. The Xanax is for the insomnia he's been having lately. Even so, it makes me him a little buzzed and less inhibited. Will this help him write? Perhaps it will pharmaceutically dislodge his writer’s block like ex-lax for the blogosphere.

Why is he having insomnia?  It usually comes about this time of year (early May). This year he's busy with grading finals and helping his son with his Eagle Scout requirements and coordinating a dozen other engineers to go to Haiti in three days and teaching summer school and moving out of his house - all within a 60 day window. He's pretty stressed out. Oh, and he’s building a time machine out of discarded flip-phones fished out of a dumpster. Discarded flip phones are plentiful because of their obvious inferiority at wasting our time compared to newer touch-screen phones with way more apps.  

I'm going back to first person now.
My phone's touch-screen is broken. Not broken like the world, broken like glass.  I dropped it too many times and now the screen looks like a spider web. But it works just fine. It doesn't hurt my fingers to slide on the broken glass, and if I can't read something because of the cracks I just slide it up or down to a less broken spot.  I can waste time just fine. 

In this unfocused post I think I am trying to talk about what it means to have, and identify, one's calling. I do an amateur job of this in my freshman engineering classes helping students figure out that they can't all be Iron Man.  I paraphrase Frederick Buechner when I say God's calling for you is this: the intersection of your gifts, talents, and passions with the world's great need. In my class, I unpack this idea to help the students understand it.  But I don't have to explain what that means in this post because there's nobody reading this except me and the third person. I like writing in the third person.  How did I get in the third person, anyway?  Did he eat me?  Did I use a shrink ray to get really small so I could walk around in his guts and take selfies by his pancreas and stuff?

Yes, that's exactly what I did.

But seriously, to the best of my knowledge, I think my own calling, or the intersection of my gifts, talents, and passions with the world's great need is this:

to be Iron Man myself. 

No that's not right.