7.22.2008

Read this question first. What follows is a story I wrote in response (which kinda technically broke the site guidelines so it got deleted).

June 12th, 2067.

We're hovering down the windy, decrepit old road that used to be CA Highway 50, en route to South Lake Tahoe. Its so freaking hot, even at this elevation. There wasn't much snow this winter, and unlike when I was a kid, the snow doesn't last as long into the early summer as it sometimes used to. I remember skiing under the July 4th fireworks at Squaw Valley, when I was a teenager. Those were the days.

The lake used to be so blue. But with the climate shift and the slow but steady temperature rise, more and more algae were able to find it a hospitable environment. Despite its massive size, its always been a mostly motionless lake, feeding no rivers and being fed by none. And so nature took its course, changing what was once blue into what is now green. And carnivorous.

The cattle grow restless as in the back as we near the water's edge. Somehow they can always tell the difference when we're moving over water and not land, and they do *not* like it.

There used to be gambling in South Lake Tahoe. I remember spending birthdays in my early 20's there, pumping quarters into the slot machines. Once I nearly won a Corvette - if I had only put in 3 quarters instead of one. We'd regularly get drunk at night on booze bought with bucketfuls of coins. That was back when we still used coins. The strip is an overgrown ghost-town now - no one's lived in Tahoe since '58, when the last remaining locals either moved out or were...well...consumed.

The first whisperings in the early 50's came with a missing fisherman here and there. Then a family out waterskiing for the day. For almost a year, foul play was suspected. It was foul alright, but play had nothing to do with it: rumors started to run rampant of some kind of freshwater shark, or perhaps even a re-awoken dino, ala-Nessie. And then one day a kid with a webcam saw one of the first one to be seen on camera - a massive land-mobile creature, resembling probably most closely a squid, but with hundreds of small, muscular, leg-like appendages on the bottom of its torso (for lack of a better word). Its beak, rather than the upper and lower joints found in most of nature, was more like an octagon. The mouth alone was the size of a Volkswagon.

The rear hull creaked to life as the first cow was hoisted out and slowly moved back over the aft of the ship, lowered to just a meter or so over the water rushing beneath it. We were cruising at roughly 70 knots, which had proved to be a speed slow enough for the gunners to work efficiently at, and still fast enough to tempt the beasts to the surface for an easy meal. They would come from beneath, and behind - so while we could see the dark mass begin to appear in the water behind the bait, the cow never saw it coming.

Tourism essentially fell off completely in '52 when the first video went live. Scientists from across the planet descended upon the town, however, and for a brief while gave some semblance of life to it. But as there continued to be less and less sustenance in the lake, the beasts began to roam further and further ashore, and it seemed as though anything larger than a small cat was likely to be considered edible. When a whole research team went missing near Zephyr Cove in November of that year, the government finally stepped in. The lake and the banks surrounding it for 20 miles in any direction were declared emergency government property, and anyone still stupid enough to be living within that radius was evacuated.

6 years later, they called us. The creatures had now been spotted within a mile of the safety zone border, and it was estimated they had decimated most of the ecosystem between the lake and mile 20. They'd soon need to roam even further, and that would mean they'd soon find new bodies of water.

Target acquired. On my mark...fire, fire, fire - my spotter called flatly into the PA system.

Man-eating fresh-water squid sold at almost $2000 an ounce in many parts of Asia.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Nice, Thoughtful Man Named David,


Well, you don’t know me of course, but I happened upon your blog some time ago and one entry in particular here interested me. The entry was a while ago – apologies for being so delayed – but it was the one regarding your being a Five- (or Four-and-Change?) –Point Calvinist, and how that intersected with your choices about your dating life.

So, if you can remember back that far. . .I just wanted to lob some thoughts onto the table just as food for thought.

* * *

First, it is impossible to miss the very obvious signs of a life lived – and a mental life lived – with great care and a deep consideration for doing the right thing, both by God and by mankind. You seem genuinely thoughtful about your choices, your thought-life, how you treat others, and how your intentions and feelings matter to those around you.

It is refreshing to read this, as we all certainly can point to many young men out there – even plenty of Christian men – who are just sort of bumping along through the pin-ball machine of their daily lives without very much thought on where they are going, what their ministries and vision should be, etc. As a woman I can assure you that you seem certainly by all appearances the sort of man who might in fact (should this be God’s plan for you?) be a strong, sturdy anchor within a family someday, as husband, perhaps as father, but certainly as a figure of strength and earnestness to any of the people whom God might give you to live in covenant with. (Hopefully God will spare you having to live with anyone who leaves dangling prepositions at the ends of their sentences…Sorry).

Second: it is very interesting that you have spent so much time publicizing your thoughts on dating, these thoughts being – it seems to me, on one level – rather no one’s business. Do you feel a responsibility to justify your choice to de-prioritize dating – or pressure to ‘answer’ some party out there whom you suspect desire an explanation? If pressured to do so, I’m sorry for that, as one’s dating choices, thoughts on marriage, etc., are really ultimately very private, singular. They are between you and God, until they involve a third party…and even then, its still quite private.

But it seems you’ve gone to great lengths to communicate these thoughts (to someONE specific? to a group of folks? oh dear…to interested ladies in your life who may be watching you expectantly? to the Christian community around you? to yourself?…). Its as tho’ you published all this to say, nicely, politely “BACK OFF !!”. Is this so? If so, this is an interesting way to do it.

What do I mean, an “interesting way to do it” ?

Well, what I mean is this: I perfectly appreciate your fine display of your knowledge of the Calvinists’ five points, TULIP, etc. (as long as we’re all careful to put this in its proper historical context: as a theological, organizational instrument largely belonging to the era following the death of Jean Calvin himself, and belonging more to the Swiss confessionalist movements and continental congregations that struggled after his death with their great pastor’s theology in applying it to the tumultuous Reformation process in the 16th and 17th centuries, rather than – strictly speaking – as something that dropped from Calvin’s mouth straight from God’s mind…I grow weary of folks’ confusing without distinction aspects of Calvin’s own work with the work of his followers – “Calvinists” – who by necessity were dealing with a very different universe of theological and ecclesiological problems, and who, at times, took liberties to make rigid or explicit those things that Calvin accepted as belonging to God alone. He expressed this best, I feel, when he said one of the greatest, wisest things I think a man in his position could have said: “We must carefully study what is written, but we must halt at the mysteries.” Ahhh. I love it. Fantastic. Troubling that so many Christians heave on their rain boots and wade right into mysteries belonging only to God Himself, trying to codify and dogmatize and legislate their way through them, no?).

Anyway – sorry for digression – but yes, so your grasp of the points certainly seems dutifully correct, but what is a bit troubling to me is the rather large leap you’re comfortable making from a set of principles which applies directly and mainly to matters soteriological (i.e., pertaining to salvation) all the way to your plan of action (or inaction) in your dating life. . .

That is to say, when you outline the sovereignty of God in our soul’s saving - and therefore by logical necessity the deep, real passivity of our human action therein – you then apply it with some casualness, it seems to me, to the acceptability of passivity – yes, I believe that is the right word for it, despite its being a bit loaded – a passivity of a very real sort in your dating life.

Now, now – oops, hold on – before you counter-argue, please understand, that it is abundantly clear to me that throughout your life and work you are certainly NOT what I would call a “passive” sort of guy. Heck no – you are obviously an attacker of problems, a seeker of solutions, you’re a hard-worker and willing to go to great lengths, and at genuine cost to yourself in living without comforts and luxuries and softnesses of all sorts in order to do what is right – and to live in a manner pleasing to God and in service to the people on this planet that MOST OF US lazy affluent folk here in the United States have NO INTENTION of doing….You, my friend, do not strike me as having a weak or lazy or “passive” streak in you in the way that so many other men might (plenty of people, men and women, choose an easier life than you, choose a path of far less resistance, a more comfort-strewn path, etc.).

So. Let it be clear: it seems NOT that you are a passive man, but rather that you have made peace with a kind of passivity in your dating life that appears sensible at first glance but which, after thinking about it, almost seems like it might signify that you could just be kinda scared of the whole thing (dating, women, the craziness of the human heart, the dangers and excitements and disturbances of sexual feelings as they enter in the mix, etc. etc.). Hey man – its scary stuff! I’m not kidding – and trust me, I realize this. Dating is scary – probably women are scary! – and certainly the expectations of women around you, or women who are attracted to you, or your friends or family who might all have opinions…well, it just seems like you might have just written a blog that said:

“Yo folks – you know what? I’ll date someone when I’m good and ready. I don’t happen to feel ready right now, and when and if that changes, I may not even particularly decide to share it with anyone. But right now it just doesn’t feel right or maybe I’ve got uncertainties or timidities about it that just are what they are, and for now – until I get a very clear direction from God otherwise – that’s just how things are gonna be.”

BUT – instead…you laid a pretty massive theological justification over your choice to decline from the dating scene/dating-prioritization scene, whatever you’d like to call it.

I’m not sure you should so quickly take pre-ordination too far out of the realm of soteriology and into a realm in which you run the danger of obviating masculine initiation. And masculine initiation is in short supply these days – even amongst Christian men, who are spoiled like all the other guys out there with the prevalence of aggressive – even passive-aggressive – women who are simply NOT going to sit around still and ladylike when there are GUYS to HUNT DOWN.

Further on this point:

Your line: “I don’t think there is anything that I can do or not do that can stop me from winding up in the right relationship at the right time with the right person. . .” [maybe, but…] . . .“ If its supposed to happen, its going to happen. I can’t stop it. . .If the friend is the one, the timing will work out at some point.” [Will it? Or might God call you to step up? Maybe he’s already placed someone in your cross-hairs and you keep not-caring so much that that person might get snatched up by someone else? It happens sometimes. Sometimes you lose someone whom you later realize was very, very special. Very unique. Sometimes God permits people to marry, but with some private regrets. Sometimes God in His wisdom allows us to remain unmarried, but with regrets involving inaction or unwise action – or in-action - in the past. Sometimes God allows us the bittersweet consequences of our folly. . .sometimes he lets us experience the loss of something. . .did we have agency in this fate? Hard to say – we may never know. But don’t assume its always in God’s plan for you to not lose a great woman because you didn’t act. . .It happens. I’m telling you, man, it happens. I’ve seen it].

. . .But then, most chillingly: “It makes it ok to not care.”

Hmmm.

But then your next paragraph rescues you…and you talk about ‘due diligence’…(at which I must admit, I had to smile…Ahhhh - what a romantic phrase !…but I know what you meant…).

So, yeah, I’m not sure that the passivity with which we must rest in God’s mercy for the saving of our souls…is to be used as a grid which should be therefore lain upon other areas of our lives in which – especially dating, as a MALE – you HAVE to actually do some initiating generally because any wise woman worth her salt is NOT going to initiate things with you – at least not on a grand scale. The wise woman in your path is going to be warm, be receptive, perhaps gently reciprocate kindnesses or hospitalities or pleasantries…but will not be banging down your door and using the rather large female arsenal of manipulations to get your attention (e.g. “David, I want to pray for you regularly so you should feel free to share your thoughts with me so we can be very pious together and spiritually intertwined…blah blah blah…” you know how some girls can do. Or constantly engaging your thoughts or attentions in ways that you haven’t really encouraged, etc.).

No, the wise woman in your path is someone who might very well not even spend much energy on you at all…might be just outside the direct range of your radar…might just be hovering along the margins of your life, present but cloaked. This might be a woman you should view as worthy of considering in your meditations before God – not any more obvious one who’s pushing herself deliberately before you.

(You probably know all this, but I’m just spelling it out to work out my thoughts. Thanks for your patience!).

My point is – if you’re going to get to know a woman, even just as a good friend or possible date – you’re going to HAVE to not be passive – you’re going to HAVE to be scared and be uncomfortable and stick yourself out there…b/c if you’re NOT doing it because there’s a woman out there who’s making it rather easy for you, she may not be the right sort of lady for you. I know you already know this intellectually, but I’m just reiterating: usually the good ones are women who explicitly do not get all up in your face – but rather are only gently and unassumingly in your life, when they’re in your life at all.

So – if you totally rest on the concept that God’ll just drop a woman into your life without your struggling a bit, you might be missing out on some of the women who don’t make themselves very “droppable” in regards to men. They’re gonna require a little work – a little effort. Not a bad kind of effort (that’s not really how good love is, obviously)…but a stretching, healthy kind of effort. The kind that grows’ you, so to speak.

Also – another analogy to which you allude – you seem to also compare the finding of a mate to the way that God finds us…woos us, loves us, makes us love Him in return…You speak of this wonderful spiritual love-affair as tho’ it, too, involves a total passivity on our part. Now – again – of course in terms of our salvation, and in terms of our having no ultimate free will in terms of our soul – this is of course true. . . . . . . (Total side comment: I’m with Luther, tho’, on this…he never liked the term “free will”…In his response to Erasmus he always maintained that the will is never free – it is always controlled, in fact “ridden” is the actual German and Latin term he preferred, picturing the soul as he so brilliantly did, as a beast being ‘ridden’ at all times…it is either ridden by “the world, the flesh, and the devil” or it is ‘ridden’ by the Holy of Holies…[isn’t that fabulous? In between humongous glasses of beer the dude was able to get off some gems, no?]…Anyway – the topic of ‘free will’ or no ‘free will’ aside for the moment…. . . . . . But back to the point: so of course yes, we haven’t any free will in our soul’s fate – and in the biggest sense, in our lives in general. Here again Luther’s beautiful counter-analogy to Erasmus’ on how we should think of our role and God’s role in our salvation: Erasmus said we are as a “toddler” with God, unsteady and unable to get from here to there without strong hands and mature lifting, guiding, correcting, restoring in order to walk across a room…To which of course Luther came smashing back by saying Oh no indeed – no. When it comes to human beings and our need to be saved, we are not toddlers who contribute a little while God contributes a lot – no, we are as a “caterpillar in a ring of fire” : only a hand coming down and lifting our helpless, useless selves up from danger can save us from destruction. There is no equation more balanced or more equal in weight: it is God who does ALL, and we do NOTHING. “Anything less,” said Luther, “is an intolerable cheapening of the Cross”).

So. Yes. The Cross. It is all in all – it does all in all. We do nothing – nothing.
And in our lives as a whole pattern, God is clearly the Master Weaver: we may go to school and make choices and pursue friendships and work hard at our tasks (as opposed to just lying motionless somewhere, never working or living or interacting with the world)…but of course God is the Designer of the scheme and therefore in a very real sense we are. . .passive.

BUT – even in our spiritual lives…even in our respective love-affairs with God by which each of us in his own way has been wooed and won by God and drawn into a love-bond with Him. . .well, I don’t know about you, but even THIS relationship, tho’ designed from above and of course fulfilling ultimately God’s purposes and not my earthly ones – even THIS relationship involves some struggle! Some serious non-passivity – some hard choices, some facing of fears and stepping out of comfort zones…it involved some trust – very hard to do – it involved sacrifices (all worth it . . .but still! Hard, man !), it involved saying goodbye to certain habits or friends or lifestyles or addictions or patterns…it involved dying to self and often pain…it necessitated growth and long, cold, honest looks into the depth of my weaknesses and re-evaluating my over-grand views of myself…How ‘bout you? Was your coming to God – or is your coming to God still, over and over as we believers must do all the time – was it just like a little Hollywood film where you were utterly passive and God just dropped Himself into your life and BANG ! You were a believer and your life was immediately conformed to this new reality without your having to be pro-active, perhaps wrestling, choosing, electing, directing your appetites and impulses to frame them according to your new Master?

I think love – filial, agape, and even erotic love – all require some non-passivity in order really to be given a chance. To be brought to fruit.



BUT. David, as a man – the passivity you seem to have permitted for yourself following the logic of this blog, seems to take matters just perhaps one small but significant step away from the truer meaning of TULIP and the Five Points? (Maybe I’m wrong – I’m kind of thinking out loud here. . .).

But maybe is a more grandiose ediface to put on what is really just the leanings of a guy who maybe isn’t inspired yet to date? Who maybe just hasn’t found a woman who he’d really LIKE to be Un-Passive toward? (Again, ridiculous isn’t it? That dangling preposition? So sorry. You deserve better).

OR: are there in fact some significant women in your orbit who are worth getting to know, or worth exploring, even tho’ there may be risks involved? Perhaps some upfront communication from you could avert the most painful sorts of risks: “I’d like to communicate with you and just be friends…without it coming off as being anything romantic or leading anywhere…I’d just like to have you as a correspondent, a counselor, a sounding board…etc.” (Something like that?) Hey – its not passive, its active. But it can be done responsibly.

Passivity isn’t the only way to be responsible with your own or someone else’s heart.
You can also ‘use your words’ (as mothers with small children say); you can express restraint, wisdom. But still be active.


Finally.

You obviously seem very, very committed to your work and ministerial opportunities therein. Africa. The needy. Perhaps other ministries or mercy-oriented efforts.

Amazing. Do it. The world, God knows, is filled with people who just don’t give a damn. (pardon my franais). YOU – David the Blogger – are clearly NOT one of those people. You DO care – and you ARE willing to live radically in order to realize this vision for a way to do Kingdom work.

And good for you. And many times I know from experience that such work is often better done by a single man – an unattached man. Not tied down, so to speak. Able to move freely without having to think of others’ needs, others’ wants.

But have you considered the inverse?

Have you considered how much MORE radically God could use you if you had a partner? As in, a woman who was simultaneously FULLY in your corner, and FULLY supportive of you as a man of action and of purpose, and who adored you and wanted to provide you with love and physical release and fulfillment and care . . .but who also would be able to say “Hey David you’re full of crap here, and let me tell you why” ? (!!) or “Honey, let me spin out another scenario from a whole other perspective: let’s think about this from more than one angle…What do you think of this, or that. . .?” etc. You get the point.

In other words, an editor of your instincts…a refiner of your strengths…and a loving corrector of your ego or denseness or myopias of all sorts.

How much more powerful for God might you be – as a man, as a worker, as a minister whether secular or ecclesial - how much more potent, might you be, within the context in which ‘iron sharpens iron’ ?

Its just a thought.


And no, I have no ulterior motive for saying this.
I’m already married.

But you’re such a cool dude…I thought I’d just shoot you these thoughts.
Sorry they’re late – best of luck.

Respectfully,

A Fellow Sinner and Wanderer

gwyneth said...

1. i think SOMEONE has a crush on davidchkjr.

2. because she wrote 3,396 words (or 7 pages, single spaced) about how his giving up on dating is no good.

3. i CHECKED how many words it was. that is longer than most of my term papers in college were required to be.

4. wow.

5. i am laughing at you. a lot.

6. but she used "soteriology"...you can't completely dismiss someone with that kind of theological vocabulary out of hand. right?

7. i am on a boat. there is wifi at the marina. AWESOME.

David said...

Wow. OK. Um. Yeah. Let's see. That's a lot to address, so I think I too will resort to a list.

1. I appreciate the thoughtful lengthy comment. In the future it would be nice if it could be made on the actual post to which it references, mkay?

2. I don't have much issue in publicizing my thoughts on dating, frankly I think the church's treatment of the issue as a highly personal and private one is a key miss. Related to that...

3. I believe scripture (and theology, etc.) is applicable to all areas of life, hence my approach to synthesize my relationships with my faith.

4. I realize he was French, but I think we've all pretty much agreed to call him "John" by this point, right?

5. I would counter that I'm the opposite of "passive" with regards to dating. In fact, I've very actively put it on hold in my life. Saying "no" was not an easy decision.

6. I didn't do it out of fear, and I don't understand why so many people think this is the case. I did it because I'm tired. I gave up, which is a different thing altogether from running away.

7. Thanks for wishing me luck, but as you might gather from my original post, I don't believe in luck.

Rebecca said...

Hee! no words. Enough have been said already (says the good girl who practically threw herself in her husband's lap).

Actually, one thing. I tend to think that when the right or "wise woman worth her salt" comes along for our beloved David, she'd be an ass not to throw herself at him.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, David! That first Anonymous person KICKED YOUR ASS!! I LIKE her...Tee hee...Its about time a smarty-pants know-it-all like you got a run for your money. I enjoyed her immensely...not to mention...she brings up some pretty amazing points, and your answer wasn't exactly classy...Spelling of names? REALLY? That's all ya got after that person wrote you such a thoughtful answer?? Damn. I expected better from you.

But whatever, you're young.

Yeah.
I totally hope that one writes again...bring it on, Anonymous! Do another one!

Anonymous said...

I don't know who that Anon. person is who wrote that first long thought, but I've just read it for the third time through and it just keeps getting better and better. David, you may not have appreciated or agreed with it, but if this is the caliber of thinking, scholarly person that this blog attracts, you should be pretty grateful. Wow - I can't get over how much that letter actually has helped ME think through some of my own conflictedness about being a guy who's not sure about singleness, etc. Anyway, sorry if I'm not making sense, but I just really appreciated such a learned, but gentle-spirited bit of wisdom and thoughtfulness.

David be glad that person cared enough about you to have taken the time to share so much of their mind. Anonymous - if you're reading this - thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I learned more from your thoughts than from half dozen sermons and Christian-y books I've read. Don't stay away.