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Monday, August 25, 2008

300+1


so this is the 301st post on northVUs.
cool.

what have we learned so far?

not everyone who reads writes.
not everyone who writes reads.
not everyone who argues fights.
not everyone who fights bleeds.

fair enough.

a movie that found its way into a lot of dialogue awhile back was '300.'

no doubt pretty much everyone has seen it in whole or in part by now. we've certainly seen the 'WE ARE SPARTA!' kick-the-guys-into-the-well trick spoofed ad nausium .

perhaps the reason that the movie wins for most of us has nothing to do with the fact that the underdogs lose but do so heroically. perhaps the movie works because audiences embrace the art of larger than life storytelling- and delight in the whole idea that it is the telling of the story that determines the impact of it, not necessarily the details, factual or fictional, that are covered.

the facts are historically chronicled and anyone with access to an encyclopedia can check 'em...

(you remember those epic, leather-bound, pre-internet, paper compendiums of all the most useful and useless information a baby-booming household could possibly ever need in order to participate knowledgeably in the realization of optimistic post-war self-actualization dreams)

...but the facts are embellished in the telling to the point where
xerxes is a godlike giant 9 feet tall
his troops are darkly intimidating and mysterious
his concubines mind-bendingly exotic ...

(interesting, considering this is the environment in which a biblical heroine named esther does some pretty great work as wife of this very same godking, saving her countrymen from a jealousy-inspired act of state-sanctioned anti-semitism)


and the simple warriors of sparta are commonly steeped in enough uncommon valour that their six-packs are denser and more well-defined than batman's body armour.

basic fruit drink facts but with redbull intensity.
scandalous pulp publication story telling..
pain and promise
treachery and triumph
hope, hype and heroism
alliteration galore and rumours of glory

yeah, like that.

but we recognize that the spartans fail, right?
miserably.
they die like dogs...
courageous, stubborn and proud dogs
but dogs nonetheless.

so why does a story of failure, gloriously told or not, captivate us?
because failure is not an option- it is a necessity. (Rev Edwin Lee)
because increscunt animi virescit volnere virtus (Friedriche Nietzsche)
(the spirit grows- strength is restored by wounding)

because we need to be inspired beyond failure and disappointment, lest we curl up in the fetal position and let life on fallen planet earth have its way with us again and again and again. we need to know that something good can come out of something bad... that the bad guys don't always win any more than the good guys always lose. that there is hope lurking in the backstory of even the most hopeless of life's episodes.

take, for example, the couch i recently bought.

i was excited because i knew that bringing this sofabed down into our basement would allow us to more hospitably open our home to travellers and such than the current lumpy futon situation. so when i saw this couch that appeared to match the rest of our basement in both function and form, and realized that it was even on sale, i jumped at the paperwork.

i knew it was perfect because it needed to be ordered.
no problem.
it would not be here for three weeks.
great- more time to get things ready.

so three weeks later, when the thing arrived, i had already arranged to borrow a truck from someone to pick it up, and had secured the helping hands of another to help get the thing out of the truck, through the door, down the stairs, around the corner, through the pocket door and into the media room where it would rest.

it was a bit of work getting the thing through the door. had to take the door right off, as it was a bit bulky to go through.

we had to lift it over our heads in order to angle it right down the stairs.

halfway down i realized that the packaging (all that clear plastic and cardboard that had served as protection during shipping) was making the thing bigger than it actually was, so i removed it while my friend balanced the couch in the stairwell.

that was went the bed opened up. we were, after all, holding it upside down and tipped to one side. springs will be springs.

so i tied the thing closed and then discovered the awful truth...
this couch wasn't going to go around the corner.

i should maybe step back and say that, after many more trials, new angles, greater force and such, i discovered that this now rather roughed up couch was not going to go around the corner.

back up the stairs it went, and around the front of the house to the garage, where it still remains to this day.

not that there's anything wrong with our garage... i had just envisioned something a bit nicer for any guests that might happen to roll through town and were in need of some free accomodation.

upon telling many others, i learned that pretty much everybody measures a couch before they buy it. even the good people at the furniture store were surprised that i hadn't measured first. by the time i came to ask them directly, news of my dilemma had already circulated amongst them.

granted, this is not exactly an epic battle. it is the everyday kind that we all face... but where is the hope? if i am to be numbered with the spartans, the 301st to fall in this, the 301st post, then i need to know that somehow my suffering has not been in vain; that there is something good that is to come of this...

the best i could do was to find an allegory

see, there is a way to get this couch into the basement.
essentially, what we need is teleportation: we need to disintegrate the couch on one side of the corner and then reintegrate it on the other side of the corner, through the door. we are in need of a carpenter.

now to find a saviour who will do this for free...

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

it's your jump



"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'
(Jeremiah 6.16)

the crossroads has become a traditional place for us- a recognized symbol of those times when one’s life transitions from one phase to another by his or her own volition. it involves decision- the active engagement of free will.

and we come to crossroads many times over the course of a life. there are always options to consider, factors to calculate in, outcomes and consequences to weigh out and ultimately a choice to be made.

at the crossroads of life, we selah.

another transitional symbol is the bridge. bridges are typically these carefully constructed causeways which join two very separate lands that are divided by some type of water hazard which is impossible to cross on foot, but even a huge log laying across a fast-moving channel can serve as one. whatever the form, the function remains the same because, like crossroads, bridges are essentially about movement into a new land.

for my family, a certain bridge plays a very significant role in the transition from childhood to manhood. however, instead of crossing it, the point is to jump off of it…

every culture has them... these things that young men do to prove they are old enough and old men do to prove they are young enough. they are portals which lead to that elusive and undefined wormhole in the space-time continuum called 'our prime'

this bridge, some sixty feet above the thompson river (depending on time of year), is such a portal.

What does it mean to be a man? Am I a man? What should I do in this or that situation? These boys are growing up into uncertain men because the core questions of their souls have gone unanswered, or answered badly. (John Eldredge)

on holidays recently back in my hometown, my sons and i went bridge-jumping. the first time i had jumped off of this thing was when i was about 12... i dragged my younger brother up and off with me a couple years later.

however, that was very long ago. at the time of our holiday, i had not been 'in the air' for about fourteen years and so my boys had grown up on the mythology, having never actually seen me or my brother actually jump. so we decided, amidst some well-meaning protest from both their mother and mine, to take the historic leap together. it was time. my younger brother went ahead of us and then the three of us jumped, hitting the water in order of age (or weight).

the boys will never be the same... nor will i.

somehow their passing through the portal also changed me- can't explain it really, other than to simply acknowledge that when we see something or someone differently, it usually means that change has happened on both sides of the lens.

anyway, a couple days after successfully conquering the height and gravity of the bridge, we decided to paddle a canoe out to copper island and go cliff jumping (something else i hadn't done since the last time i went over the side of the red bridge.) this jump was more precarious because, although it was slightly lower, there was the fact that in order to clear the rocks and safely hit the water some fifty feet below, the jumper needed to hurl himself more than ten feet forward from only a two-step approach.



after i had gone to essentially prove two things to the guys: that it could be done and that i had the jam to do it (yeah, i know- so lame), it was time for my older son to go. in order to tap into a little external motivation through sibling pressure, he asked for a countdown, and his younger brother obliged. he jumped, arms and legs flailing, whooping and hollering all the way to a rather uncomfortable enema that resulted from landing a bit wrong.

by this time i had made it back up the rocks and was ready to film my younger son- the one that had been just two months old the last time i had been here. he asked for a countdown and i refused.

refused?

it just seemed wrong to me to be somehow putting that kind of pressure on my boy to be like his old man, or even like his older brother. i was holding the camera, documenting (rather poorly, i might add) the whole thing, but it was his jump... it had to be his call when and how he addressed the challenges that were presenting themselves.

and anyway, there were enough boats anchored in the bay to provide plenty of external pressure to conquer this... nothing like moving through a rite of passage in front of a live audience.

so when he was ready, he took it on his own terms, silently but with perfect form. his brother, still in the water, could be heard loudly and proudly proclaiming 'he's only fourteen!'

every culture has them...
these things that young men do to prove they are old enough
and old men do to prove they are young enough.


all this business of growing up and never growing old seems to plague some of us to no end, but within all the confusion and quest for an identity that ascends to relevance and remains that way, never growing obsolete or otherwise outdated, there is the volition factor that has been in heartbreaking play since the beginning of human history:

you can do whatever you want.

the fact that we often want the wrong things out of life is probably a whole nother blog, but certainly the establishment of oneself in the bigger picture, having a role and a sense of identity within this role, has to do with the fact that, in the end, it's your jump...