the trouble of denying ‘the one’

From a Christian perspective in the 21st century, admitting that there is such thing as a ‘soulmate’ is being increasingly seen as a dangerous faux-pas that can lead to complications for one’s faith: what if I never find ‘the one?’ or what if I marry someone and realize they aren’t ‘the one?’. These are not simple moral issues to navigate, but our preoccupation with concrete, practical solutions has driven us too far from the beauty and enchantment found in love and throughout all of life itself.

A recent example of this that sparked my urge to respond, was Margaret Philbrick’s “The Trouble with Finding ‘The One'” published in Relevant Magazine. My problem with this perspective is that it offers a rigid and bland image of human life. I certainly see the hope and truth that it offers, but I can’t help but feel that Margaret’s advice and general viewpoints deny the beauty, mystery, and enchantment that truly exist throughout the human experience. And this enchantment I have seen in a very familiar place—my own story.

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

Once upon a time, there was a girl roaming the halls of a quaint, private college. She had been going through a particularly lonely and soul-searching time and dated a bit along the way. Most of the relationships during this time had failed, mostly due to her inability to feel the kind of love she wanted to feel. She began to fear her future and what her love life would look like, but she found contentment with the idea of being alone.

There was this boy who always seemed to follow her around and she began to be comforted by his presence. She liked that he liked her but she was sad that she would never feel that same way about him. One day, he finally worked up the courage to ask her to coffee and she turned him down…

Well, a couple of days later they went to coffee with the intention of staying friends. As they began to talk, they found out that they grew up with the same rare family and friend dynamics. She shared how she grew up with two (much older) half-brothers, one was her mother’s son and one was her father’s and she met my best friend in first grade. He laughed and then shared that he grew up with two (much older) half-sisters, one was his mother’s daughter and one was his father’s. He had also met his best friend in kindergarten and his name was Jon Wilson. She thought he was playing some kind of joke to prove that they were perfect for each other because her best friend’s name was Jess Wilson.

It was all quite comedic and rather enchanting but she was not intending to fall in love with him. After a couple more friend dates, she was head over heels and never looked back for a second. It was the kind of love of which she had always dreamed, but the world told her it wasn’t possible. And they now live happily—and will continue to—forever after. She met her soulmate.

Maybe that made it better and easier for me: to not expect it and settle for much less. Although I can’t say it made my childhood or young adulthood easier not having believed in the power of magic and enchantment. It was not until I met him that I saw how God could work in miracles even in the ordinary parts of life that many of us have given up on. I have always believed that His will would be done no matter what, but I now believe that we have been limiting Him far too much. Just because humans are flawed doesn’t mean that magic isn’t real. Life won’t be perfect quite yet but it can be far more beautiful than you ever imagined.

“As you walk into Starbucks to meet the potential person for the first time, approach them with open-hearted faith, rather than a list of criteria you expect them to fulfill.”

Margaret is right, and her insights necessary, but if you truly feel called by faith into this life of beauty and enchantment don’t expect or accept dullness from the world just because you believe you have to. The world is a beautiful place that is filled with wonder. Please don’t stop looking for it.

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young adult life crisis

Some people knew what they wanted to do since high school. They have it all figured out…all planned. I really thought I was one of those people. I mean, I’m a type A personality, planner, organizer and controller of all things possible, but I still find myself at a fork in the road. I can not believe I don’t know what to do with my life. It astounds me.

I only make things harder by constantly compare myself to anyone who has reached some sort of success whether by working hard for it or not. I even find that I am jealous of my husband’s multiple talents and wish he could share a bit of them with me (which he has graciously tried to do per my requests), but my self-doubt and insecurity has prevented me from following any of my dreams. I’m not sure what my dreams are now and I wonder if that would still be the case if I had the confidence, drive and motivation needed for success.

Well, here’s to admitting that I find myself at the place where I so readily judged other for being at. Thankfully, now I can truly sympathize with others in this circumstance. I will be able to relate to and understand my friends, parents and most importantly my kids. My previous framework would have made that impossible. I’m thankful for that and I have hope that I’ll figure it out eventually.

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

 

searching for beauty

 “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

The world is perfectly laced with both beauty and brokenness, though brokenness is often much easier to see. Brokenness demands our attention by inflicting pain, drama and devastation on our lives—making us victims of the world. Sometimes we can’t seem to escape it and other times we are just drawn to it.

Beauty, on the other hand, is silent, peaceful and slow to attract attention. Even the most magnificent sights can go unnoticed in the constant presence of pain. Beauty calls us to look outside ourselves and focus on something or someone else. It fosters compassion, love and unselfishness, while pain calls all attention back on ourselves and how unjust our lives are. Beauty must be sought after and protected, even found in the midst and presence of brokenness itself.

Beauty far exceeds the power and strength of brokenness, even in its quiet demeanor. The problem is not with the power of beauty, but with ourselves. It takes faith, courage and strength to put aside our pain and defense mechanisms and fully embrace the beauty woven all around us.

Coming from a devoted skeptic and conscious cynic—this applies to me most of all.

the not-so-dreaded adulthood

I have come to realize that I was in an existential crisis for most of my childhood, trapped by my circumstances and completely hopeless. I dreaded nighttime when the world got dark and my fears and worries became more severe. The majority of my life was spent in confusion and disappointment which quickly turned to anger. Being a child was difficult and I couldn’t imagine how much worse it would get as I got older.

The funny thing was—as I got older—the darkness slowly lifted. The new-found freedom I gained allowed me to experience life the way I truly wanted to. I was no longer trapped.

During high school I found Jesus.

And once I got to college, I was still trying to find myself. I dated along the way and came to the conclusion that I wasn’t meant to be happily married: God wanted me to have a different focus while on Earth and I was okay with that. As much as I always wanted that perfect fairy tale romance, it made more sense to just accept the fact that I didn’t deserve it or that it didn’t exist.

It wasn’t long after this realization I met my soul mate and best friend—he is now my husband.

I’m still awestruck by the way my life turned out.

Most people are filled with hope and wonder as children and watch it evaporate one harsh reality after the next. For me I realize things were completely different.

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loss of identity and the redirection of architecture

Hesitantly, I walk out my front door to my vehicle which allows me to access the roads. These roads allow me to go wherever I would like to, subjecting me to the forlorn decay of architecture that permeates the space humans have dominated. Architecture, in this essay, encompasses everything that establishes our inhabited places. Our inhabited places need to be looked at holistically, for buildings are constructed to fit our environment and way of living. Inhabited places includes roads, sidewalks, highways, parking lots, buildings, and homes. The harmful perspective we have exhibited toward the places we inhabit have perpetuated a sense of apathy toward our architecture, along with values that cause us to have a disposable view of our environment and ourselves.

Architecture was once commonly seen as a form of art and this idea began in ancient Greece and Rome. Before I go any further, I need to qualify the meaning of art itself. Being such a controversial idea, art tends toward a subjective nature and changes steadily in its meaning throughout history. For example, ancient Greece would define art as achieving some form of absolute beauty, which I can address more in-depth later on. On the contrary, a postmodern perspective on art would be that of relativism, meaning art is whatever you want it to be. This leads me to my own definition of art: the expression of thoughts, emotions, or ideas that cannot be expressed rationally, while always being an end to something, never a means. In other words, art is another medium of expression that is used mainly for that purpose, although can be enjoyed by others as well. Makoto Fujimura, an artist who has explored this idea in-depth says, “What makes us truly human may not be how fast we are able to accomplish a task but what we experience fully, carefully, and quietly in the process” (27). The process of creating art is just as important, if not more important than the product that is being created.

Some of the greatest pieces of ancient art exist as forms of architecture like the Parthenon in Greece. They were intentional about the buildings they constructed and had strong convictions about the importance of their creation. Their work was rooted in something of a higher essence. It was the attempt at pushing the boundaries of what is humanly possible for the sake of creating beauty. Rome held onto the same ideals and used them to glorify their Empire. Their goals in architecture were rooted in more worldly values, which were to glorify something on earth. Ancient Greece and Rome were able to create architecture that was pleasing to the public because of their primary intention and goal of creating. Whether they were reaching for something of a higher essence or glorifying something on earth, they had a reason for creating something worth appreciating. Architecture was far more than providing shelter and function—it is a medium for expressing thoughts, emotions/feelings and ideas.

Therefore, since art is a means of expression and architecture is a form of art, architecture is also a form of expression. A.J. Downing, one of the first great landscape designer in the U.S., explains the power of expression through any form of art, like architecture, says, “To be keenly sensible of the power of even the imperfect reproduction of such ideas in the various fine arts— poetry, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.—is to acknowledge the power of beauty over our feelings in another and a more personal form” (9). Although Downing wrote this in 1850, the validity of these words has not changed. Art forms, like architecture are a reproduction of feelings in a more personal way. Art forms have power, power to convey emotion, power to make a statement, and power to make people feel a certain way. Downing goes on to explain the idea of expression through architecture. He describes how relative beauty in architecture is man’s expression of his ideas. The more powerful expression comes from his religious and intellectual nature which are exhibited in Civil Architecture, which are things like temples, churches, and libraries. Downing also says, the second most powerful expression comes from his social and moral feelings which are exhibited in Domestic Architecture. The connection between art and architecture is one that has since been lost over one hundred and fifty years later. We have since lost this idea of the importance of architecture and the effect it has on humans. We have also since lost architects who value architecture as a form of art or expression. Architecture is no longer a form of art in today’s society, it is simply an occupation, nothing more. Fujimura says, “Art is a building block of civilization. A civilization that does not value its artistic expression is a civilization that does not value itself” (111). Art is essential to a civilization; it is the very medium that humans use to express themselves, a medium that signifies our humanity. A world without this ability of expression is a dull and apathetic world, a world where people are so preoccupied with their routines, they end up ignoring their surroundings and are too busy to care or too apathetic to notice.

This change in architecture is more accurately attributed to the events going back to the American Revolution, according to James Howard Kunstler who is the author of The Geography of Nowhere. He describes the foundations of American space and the ideology that was rooted in it. Americans were rebelling against the English rule and adopted a fee simple land ownership, which he describes as “land held with the fewest strings attached—the fee being simple cash payment” (25). This simple fee land ownership is opposed to being accountable to someone for land and how to take care of it. This seemed like a fantastic idea—more freedom and more individuality. Kunstler goes on to say, “Tocqueville observed this when he toured America in 1831. ‘Individualism,’ he wrote, ‘at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but in the long run it attacks and destroys all others and is at length absorbed in selfishness’” (27). Selfishness, being the result of freedom and individualism, to which we took years to come. Prior to this, Americans took care of their land and architecture. They were responsible of their land in their celebration of their new-found freedom from England. They held on to the ideals that they had been rooted in from birth and used architecture as a form of art and a way of expressing their humanity. As it naturally would, the ideals of society began to change as the American Dream became more accessible. It was now possible for people to work their way up on the social ladder. Money and status were the ideal, not beauty or expression of humanity. Americans were doing everything they could to make a name for themselves so jobs were now centered on making the most money. Since there was no government or town regulation on land, people began to neglect their space and in place came function.

With any change, there are both positive and negative effects. We must look at the things being gained and the things that are also being lost to determine whether the change was either beneficial or detrimental. Neil Postman addresses the change that occurs with any new invention or idea that is introduced to our society in his book, Technopoly. Although his main focus is on technology, he provides valuable insight to the way we need to approach change. Postman says, “Nowhere does he see any limit placed by nature to human endeavor; in his eyes something that does not exist is just something that has not been tried” (53). This is the perspective that many architects may experience as well. They continue to discover a better way to build with cheaper or more useful materials and building bigger and more functional buildings. In Alain De Botton’s book, The Architecture of Happiness, he writes:

Mastering the technologies of iron and steel, of plate glass and concrete, they drew interest and inspired awe with their bridges, railway hangars, aqueducts and docks. More novel than their abilities, perhaps, was the fact that they seemed to complete these projects without ever directly asking themselves what style was best to adopt (46).

Architects and engineers were so enthusiastic about the new materials and the possibilities they offered that they no longer viewed their work as a form of art. This quick and cost-effective method may be beneficial for corporations and middle-class families looking for homes in suburbia, yet not worth the negative effects that will be an outflow of the shift in values. With every major cultural change there is something being gained, while at the same time, there is also something lost. The values that our country was rooted in, the goals that drove people to achieve the impossible are what we have sacrificed through this change.

Form follows function is a necessary principle that has been adapted in shaping our buildings and spaces in order to meet the demand of the function. Functionality cannot be seen as the only concern, especially not when it sacrifices the artistic expression of the architect or the creator themselves. I do not mean to say that architecture is purely a form of art, functionality is absolutely necessary in our everyday life. However, whether or not architecture is functional is not the question; man’s footprint in this world is enough evidence to prove that functionality is well understood. So somehow we are perfectly accepting of roads and buildings as long as they serve a purpose, even if they are painful to view. Peter Blake, a dean of the Boston Architectural Center, addresses the result of functionality being the ultimate goal in his book, God’s Own Junkyard. He explains how houses are being built on whatever piece of land man can find. Farms are being transformed into developments and apartments. More pavement needs to be laid for more roads and bigger parking lots to comfortably fit the amount of people who now own cars. This contamination does not end in the undeveloped use of the entirety of our ground, even the skyline is a space that has potential use as well. There are telephone poles and billboards clouding our view of natural landscapes and skylines. Man is not yet finished making his territory in this nation and this is sadly becoming a devastating reality.

Not only are we continuing to shape our buildings based on our values, but they are affecting us as well. This idea is very circular and will remain circular unless something drastic offsets this circular pattern. Winston Churchill gave a speech regarding the rebuilding of the House of Commons on October 28, 1944. He stated, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” As money and status become our main goal in our buildings, we begin to become apathetic to the architecture around us. Buildings tell stories and they portray emotions of the architect who designed them and the men who constructed them. Our buildings will continue to represent the values of our culture and will continue this cycle of shaping who we are in the process.

Our apathy toward the places we inhabit will perpetuate more apathy and hopelessness in our desire to do anything about it. Architecture should be seen as a form of art, like it once was. It should display humanity’s hope in something greater than itself. The value of art and beauty as it is seen in man’s inhabited space, has been lost; with that, an endless list of other values that are essential to a thriving community. This issue starts and ends with man. We are the builders of our environment and unless our values change, our architecture will remain hopeless. We are only as good as the limits we place on ourselves. This is certainly an issue if we believe that our end goal is function, comfort and status. We have nothing left to achieve. We have it all and nowhere else to go but down. Moreover, if our architecture remains hopeless, we will inevitably remain hopeless as well.

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transient longing

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

My heart longs for somewhere I’m not,
To see the world beyond famed landmarks,
Exploring the beauty of its unnoticed birthmarks.

My heart longs to simply roam,
A lost nomad wandering the roads,
A curious traveler knowing no home.

My heart will one day find itself a home,
To settle down in its dark and comforting cove,
Of a shelter carefully assembled of wood and stone.

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balloon mist

This is what I woke up to this morning on my way to work—a celebration on my car.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

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hope in truth, the essential dilemma of life

I am going somewhere…

Whereabouts unknown, harmonious melodies through the mode.
Time—an obscure illusion, progression guided by the road.

Conscious of flighty impulsiveness, all comes to a head.
Memories dance around the occasion, skin glistening with dread.

Transience emanates, friction of tires and pavement wears and deteriorates.
Movement maintains, resignation arises when peace finally validates.

Until then, I am going somewhere…

Some people say that hope is better than the alternative, even if means sacrificing truth. They say that it is a way to get us to the end of our journey better than if we got there in pain and distress. If there was nothing in this world to have hope in, than false hope could possibly be a valid answer to solve this problem of living…although I am not willing to accept that. My hope is in something I would be willing to die for and even more, something I am certainly willing to live for. Although I disagree, Friedrich Nietzsche was willing to accept the hard truth over ignorance:

“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”

weather it makes you happy or not…

“Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain-storms…soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves.”

As I sit here listening to the glorious sound of the rain pounding against the ground, watching as it gathers in a puddle and runs down the slope of the driveway and makes its way into a stream by the road, and smell the dampness of the breeze that flows through my window—I am at peace.

when life gives you lemons

“Whichever he adopts, you main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, where Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.”

Human weakness is the main theme addressed in the above quote, (for those who have never experienced The Screwtape Letters before). We are so focused on these minute details in life and want to fight for them as if they are our religion. We establish our religious beliefs by first evaluating them against the standards of our already determined political beliefs. This is not just true of Christians or other religious believers, this concept of the “cause” as C.S. Lewis mentions, is the cause of much unnecessary hatred among all people.

We live in a world where morality is confusing and all the lines are blurred. Instead of accepting this, we try and establish a road map of our world and begin highlighting all the roads we need to avoid. We then put all of our focus on why we are avoiding these roads and traveling on the others. We love the law and find comfort in it because it gives us rules to follow, but it only traps us by giving us a false sense of security in achieving righteousness or perfection.

Living it not so much about avoiding roads as it is just driving conscientiously. Freedom comes when we recognize that only Christ can help us navigate them—our deliberate persistence and arrogance in believing we can figure it out on our own only creates more road blocks.

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