Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pep talk

I've been plagued with internal conflict. Most of the time I brush it to the corners of my mind; I am concerned with surviving, not thriving. There is a manageable but challenging to-do list before me, and I keep a brisk pace on the treadmill to just barely stay on top of everything, but in doing so I have pushed reflection to the corners of my life. It is only in the car rides (with the music blaring), and in the pre-sleep moments (with the fatigue setting in), that I catch a sliver of anemic analysis. My journal has gone neglected for many months, and my devotions are stilted by the guilt of shallowness. 

And so I've been wondering, what is right living? How do I level up? Where am I lacking? How do I love Him more? How do I love others more? (Why do I feel so shallow, empty, and dispassionate?) And, ugh, you know, boys. 

This week I went to my professor's office hours, intent on confronting him about his arbitrary grading practices. But the conversation turned out much differently than any other conversation I've ever had with a nigh stranger, I wish I could have recorded it. Instead he told me who I was. A diligent student more concerned with right answers than self-examination. An idealist who is unwilling to abandon her orientation to the world. He told me to stop worrying about my grade, and to stop "phoning in" on the homework. "You want to be a lawyer you have to learn to argue both sides," he told me. As he left he charged me: question your paradigm, challenge your own answers.

My sister frequently accuses me, "You always think you're right!" And I would respond, without irony, "No, I don't! You're wrong!" I have a healthy appetite for self-doubt. I am always asking myself, what do I think about xyz? I frequently look at my faith, or libertarianism, and wonder, could I be wrong about all this? I make a concerted effort to be intentional in my search for truth, because I believe the axiom that an unexamined life is not worth living. And yet, it's so strange, this has led me not to humility in search of wisdom, but instead to a self-righteousness and rigid justification. Why would I bother to believe something I had not examined and found to be valid? I had refused to believe my sister was right, and still my inflexible insistence proved her correct. It took an office hour with a crazy professor for me to glimpse that.

And so I asked my professor, how is it that I can come to question my own answers? What does that look like? "I couldn't tell you," he said. "Even if I knew, you have to learn it for yourself." 

This feels contrary to who I supposed I was. I am an idealist. I feel strongly and unflinchingly about the way things ought to be. I believe there is a right way to see things. I make decisions based on the peace they give me, presuming the peace that comes with rightness. I cannot abide conflict within me. Confusion and chaos is the enemy of my mental wellbeing and stability. "How do I learn to do what you're asking me to do without going crazy," I questioned my professor. "You won't go crazy," he told me. On what he bases that assessment, I just don't know. And I don't think he's asking me to let go of my idealism, but I think he is prodding me to examine the way I get there. 

Even now I feel guilty, sitting here, thinking about this. I have a mountain of school to get to. I have an even bigger mountain of laundry sitting in my room. I have people to get back to, connect with, touch base with. (And aren't people the most important thing?) I know doubt is important, and I value self-examination, but it's awfully time consuming and I wonder if I already do too much of it . . .

On the one hand, I find comfort in what Luke says: everything is not a big deal, there's no need to get worked up over the transitory. There really is no point in thinking one's self into despair, and stuff has a tendency to work itself out. Regression into the meta often ends in nihilism. Entropy may be a thing, but so is equilibrium. A heathy perspective is a balanced one. I need more of this pragmatism, and less of this solitary confinement within my own mind.

On the other hand, I also track with Josiah and what he's told me of his experience at L'Abri. Questions are not as valuable for the answering, but for the clarifying. The task is discovering and describing the "subterranean", the motivate behind the questions themselves. What is the root from which the plant grows? The deeper and more pervasive the question, the more hard-won and long-sought the answer is.

I don't know, this stuff is meant to be talked about. To be explored in community. That's the only moral-to-the-story I've got. I empathize with Georgia; I cannot bear to end with a conclusory pat answer. 


Nicole said...

"Entropy may be a thing, but so is equilibrium."

Seriously, Hayley, do you read my mind before you blog? This is something I am so familiar with. I don't have any answers but it's good to talk about it.

One thing I've found helpful is trust in the sovereignty of God. I am weak and a moron. He graciously reminds me of this on a regular basis. Saying "I don't know" isn't giving up if I finish the thought with "but I know the one who does". Keep writing about this stuff!! It does me good and I'm sure it does others good as well.

Caitriona aka Catherine said...

I agree with Nicole, it does me good to read what you write. I need to do some self-examination myself today. There is reconciliation needed in a couple of relationships so I need to examine myself, get rid of the crap, be vulnerable, admit that I am hurt instead of hiding behind anger, call upon The Lord for a spirit of reconciliation which is so foundational yet can seem so hard when we have to deal with our stuff and let the Lord deal with the other persons' stuff. To be willing to be reconciled no matter what the other person decides and how they respond. We can't control each other. So we ask God for self-control that we may enjoy Him and bring Him glory. (on to the last of your posts that I missed during our time of grief.)