Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cathedral of God

This weekend, I actually thought I had my first free one in awhile. But nope. The person I ghostwrite for called on Thursday, telling me that we had to make some major revisions on his thesis. There goes Friday night. Once again, he presumed that we could get it done in two hours, tops. He seems upset when I make a more realistic projection (that we'd have to continue on Saturday afternoon). Doesn't he ever learn? After a year and a half, he still continues to underestimate the time it takes to write a paper. Like I said, though, he has no clue about the writing process. And he thinks I'm cocky when I mention that I'm a good writer. Why is that cocky? I've loved writing since elementary school and everyone has told me all my life that I am a great writer or should be a writer. Its the only thing that I'm truly good at. The fact that I don't have a writing career yet is kind of upsetting. I was a born writer and the dream I will never give up on is my desire to be a published novelist.

The paper was still not finished at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, so we called it quits for the night and agreed to work Saturday afternoon until it was done. The paper was due by midnight. I was supposed to go hiking in the Gorge with a friend from church, but he never got back with me, which is just as well, because I woke up at 2 p.m. and got right to work on the final edit of the paper while waiting for the former co-worker to come over, with his girlfriend.

We finished around 7 p.m. I was relieved. I'm done with this ghostwriting nonsense. Well...if Sarah Palin ever needed a ghostwriter, I'd love to be hired to help out. I'm sure it would be tons of fun to work with her, writing completely made up stuff for her blindly loyal fans to snatch from the shelves of Walmart or Sam's Clubs.

This former co-worker is already talking about possibly going for a Ph.D in a few years. Seriously. I told him that if he's seriously considering it, he really needs to brush up his writing ability before then. There's not a chance in hell that I'm going to help him get a Ph.D. If someone can't write a coherent paper in English for a Doctorate, they have no business seeking such an esteemed degree. For now, though, his girlfriend starts her MBA program in the fall. He thinks I should get mine, but I was actually disillusioned with my college experience / degree. Had I known that I would still be earning the same salary after a degree that I was making before I got my degree, I never would have gone to college. I believe its nothing more than a scam to get people heavily in debt so that we will be easier to control (i.e., we have to work in crappy low wage jobs in order to pay off our debts and there's little risk that we'll rebel against our modern day form of slavery). College basically ruined me financially and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. So, why would I fall for the myth of a Master's Degree? That's just digging a deeper hole of debt with no guarantee that there's the salary I've been wanting to earn at the end of that brutal experience. No thanks. I'll stick with getting schooled by life and pursuing my own interest: mostly spiritual / psychological / political topics that have relevance to my life.

On Sunday, church service was held at Hoyt Arboretum, which I did not want to miss. Hoyt Arboretum is a section of Washington Park with a lot of paths to hike and plenty of trees. Weddings are popular in this part of the park during the summer. Hoyt Arboretum also has personal relevance for me. Christine (the lady I was interested in from 2007 through 2009) was supposed to organize a MAYAs activity at Hoyt Arboretum, but it didn't pan out. I had never been to this part of the park before, so with this chance, I was not going to miss out. I actually woke up early enough, caught the bus downtown, and waited for MAX at Pioneer Square. While waiting for the train, I saw an attractive young lady with green hair. It really looked good on her. She was with a few people, all in green clothes. The Portland Timbers had a game with the Seattle Sounders in the early afternoon. Who knew professional soccer could be so popular? The game was sold out and as the MAX passed by the stadium, there was a long line of people wearing the team colours (green and white). For all those people, sports seems to be their religion.

The walk to the part of Hoyt Arboretum that the Tuality Community of Christ congregation reserved was a bit longer than I thought. Though there were many paths that wound around the various hills, I decided to walk along the road, since it was the more direct route than the walking paths. Thankfully, one guy from the church put up signs at the road splits so I could find my way. What they reserved was a deck that overlooked the path far below. There was a winding path, with the deck serving as a kind of rest stop for hikers. The church service was informal. We just sat on the benches at the edge of the deck and did the usual prayers, testimony sharing, and a capella singing. Quite a few hikers passed by on the paths and looked at us. The fact that many people are hiking on a Sunday morning rather than being in church probably means that they are more secular or spiritual than "religious."

What I loved about the church service was looking up and seeing the super tall trees surrounding me (the photo above is something I found in a Google image search that resembles what I saw). The theme of this Sunday was "Bear Good Fruit", but the presiders used a tree theme, which was very appropriate. This included a reading of "The Parable of the Sower" (Matthew 13:1-7, 17-21). The hymns we sang (a capella) were: "Now Sing to Our God", "Firm Foundation", "Seek Ye First", and closed with "Sanctuary" (this has become a favourite due to all the times its sung at the Young Adult Retreats I've attended).

The testimony questions were: (1) In what kind of soil have I planted my faith? (2) How can I help my tree of faith grow? (3) How have you been a sower? or (4) When have you been discouraged about the yield and then witnessed surprising results?

I did not share a testimony. I thought about doing so and probably would have if this was held at the actual church. With hikers walking by the deck, I felt less inclined to share. Yeah...I'm that way. I have to feel "comfortable" with people before I "bare my soul" or share an opinion or experience. I did enjoy what others shared, though. One young lady spoke about picking up hitchhikers as an act of faith. She's done this plenty of times and nothing bad has happened. She also mentioned that its risky for the hitchhikers as well because they don't know what kind of driver will pick them up. Its hard to trust, due in part to horror / slasher films dealing with psychotic hitchhikers.

Another person shared about his hesitation to trust a teenage boy who had approached him while he was doing yard work around his house. The boy offered to do any work for money, food, and a place to sleep. He was reluctant, but something about the boy made him open his heart to a possible ministry service. He allowed the boy to sleep in the truck that doesn't run. He spoke at length about the scenario and how the boy told him that he (the boy) had never been treated well by people for a long time. This is a ministry or "planting of seeds" kind of thing that will stay in someone's mind for a long time. The man's wife shared that this was a big deal for her husband, because he had helped out another young man before, only to have his credit card stolen with thousands of dollars run up as well as a missing car that took a few weeks to recover.

Hearing his story touched me, though. I'm a naturally cautious (some might say "conservative") person. I'm risk averse and I don't trust people easily. I've seen how my brother's naive trust in people has been abused time and again. That's not going to happen to me. I don't mind helping people, but I tend to be more skeptical. I see all the time people trying to scam others and I have a low opinion of people like that. When I was a college student at BYU, I was horrified by the generosity of the elderly church members at the Orem congregation. They would often get calls from people who were traveling through and needed money. They would give the money freely, even though it was three elderly couples who were financing the operation of the church (I've heard that the congregation closed sometime in the past few years). I hated seeing them get conned like that by drifters who hit up churches for easy cash.

I consider Victor Hugo's Les Miserables to be the greatest novel ever written. The basic story is about a thief who stole from the religious people who took him in and how he finds redemption, even as an unforgiving police inspector continues to hound him, not allowing the thief to forget his past. Its such a great story of redemption (and a great musical). Even though the thief stole from the trusting religious people who gave him shelter and food, a seed was planted, which blossomed eventually. While I find inspiration in the story, my overly cautious nature means that I'm less likely to take the risk of faith. Perhaps this is something I should experiment with.

This beautiful church service made me think of a couple things my parents said when I was a child. I remember my dad saying on a particularly beautiful day while we were on our way to church that it was too bad that we could not have a church service out in nature, so we can see God's creation. There is something special about a worship service outside. This service (which had 14 adults and six children) was just perfect. Simple, but beautiful surrounding. Who knows? Maybe our little gathering inspired hikers who passed by.

The other thing my parents used to say was when we passed hitchhikers on road trips. They would say, "Its too bad we don't know if they are Christian, so we can give them a ride." Its because of this statement that made me associate "Christian" = "good" and "Non-Christian" = bad. Though my parents don't believe that anymore, I did inherit their cautious nature. When I owned a car and made road trips, I passed hitchhikers and didn't think anything of it. However, when I moved to Utah for college and then to D.C. after college, I packed the car to the hilt, so I had no room for passengers. For me, the biggest concern would be guns. You just don't know if a hitchhiker has one. Also, my view is that I don't travel unless I have paid for my transportation expenses. That's part of the travel. To not make transportation arrangements is poor planning. And that's not my problem. It is a risk, picking up hitchhikers. Others are braver than me. You can meet interesting people that way. However, another "problem" with me is that road trips are the most spiritual experiences I've ever had. When I travel, I love driving alone with my music playing. The longer the journey, the better. Picking up a hitchhiker means a conversation and not being absorbed by the music, the scenery, and the thoughts that run through my head when that combination happens.

Anyhow, it was a beautiful Sunday and an awesomely nice worship service. The presider even gave me a lemon and a Granny Smith apple (the only kind of apples I like). After the service, Jeff and his wife Janet (of Japanese heritage) invited me to eat sushi with them at a picnic in the park. Jeff is the hiker coordinator and he said that he didn't get my email on Facebook about Saturday's hike in the Gorge. He was the only one who hiked. However, I wouldn't have been up for it, since I got to bed late due to the paper. But, there's another hike this upcoming Saturday. We had a great, wide ranging conversation.

Ah...summer in Portland. It looks to be a great, relaxing summer. Its great that I'm no longer in a desperate work situation and having to focus on finding a new job. I plan to enjoy this summer as much as I can, to make up for the past four summers. Flicks on the Bricks is featuring Top Gun and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the only two I plan to see) in a couple weeks. There's also Shakespeare in the Park and Star Trek in the Park, performed by various acting troupes (for free!). Summers in Portland are a lot more fun than summers in Atlanta. Here's to an awesome summer! The summer I finally meet my soulmate? I'm ever hopeful.


Ben said...

Great stuff! I found your retelling of the testimony meeting to be very touching and uplifting. I totally get that same desire to make my long journeys alone. I actually just moved out of portland and back to california, and the drive all by myself was incredible. I saw that you went to BYU. Are you LDS then?

Sansego said...

Thanks for posting, Ben.

I did go to BYU (1997-2000), but I was not LDS. I am fifth generation Community of Christ (formerly known as the RLDS Church). Made some great Mormon friends at BYU and consider myself kind of a "Demi-Mormon" (ha).

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