Life On an Island

My grandparents live in, what I believe to be, one of the most desirable places that you could possibly spend your time. Balboa Island, California. The island is filled with big fancy houses and surrounded by big fancy boats. By definition, the place is pretty much LUXURY. However, a few weeks ago I spent some time relaxing in “paradise” but I could not stop myself from dwelling on this concept of island.

Not all islands are places of paradise despite what reality TV has tried to tell me. In reality, all islands have one thing in common and it’s not palm trees. All islands stand alone but at the same time they are surrounded. Islands stand alone because they are disconnected. Islands are surrounded because on all of their sides there is something that is not made of the same friendly material as they are. This makes islands extremely vulnerable to attack and to destruction.

Incase I’m not being clear, I’m not talking about actual islands. I’m talking about us, people.

Like an island I know that I would often prefer to stand alone and keep to myself just because it seems easier. It seems easier because when we stand alone and are disconnected we don’t have to worry about shaking when the rest of the land around us shakes. When we are disconnected from the rest of the land we don’t have to worry about other mountains falling down and burying us. As an island all we have to worry about is us.

But here’s the problem: we are surrounded. We are surrounded by oceans of trouble and worry that are completely unpredictable and uncontrollable. Therefore, when tidal waves of trouble strike we often don’t see them coming. But say that we do see them coming, we are still defenseless. We are not connected to another piece of land that can pull us out from underneath the pressure of the water as we continue to be submerged. As an island we are alone. As an island we are weak. As an island we stand on only what we are.

So why can’t we stand on just what we are? Why do we need anything but ourselves to lean on? And what guarantee do we have that the rest of the land around us will actually provide us with something to lean on?

I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize that even the biggest of fences won’t keep out the anxieties of life. So we can’t stand alone because we ARE vulnerable and when storms come we will be easily destroyed if we do not have somewhere to lean apart from ourselves.

So as much as it may suck, healthy people cannot be islands. If we want to go throughout life in a way that points to joy we will have to connect ourselves to the greater body of land.

So what does a greater body of land look like to you? Is it your family? Close friends? Coworkers? Leave a comment below and let me know in what ways you struggle as an island and in what ways you see yourself needing to be connected.

Thanks for reading.

These three images are a series of 250 photos that I took from the seawall around Balboa Island. I walked around the island counter-clockwise so they read from right to left.

Just Write It OUT

Sometimes we just need to grab a pen and a paper and forget about what our heart wants to write. Write what you NEED to write.

Lately my blog posts have been more on the serious side, which I don’t regret at all. However, sometimes we need to change our routine even if it seems like it’s not going to get us anywhere. I have recently realized that I have been digging myself into a hole of taking things too seriously to be taken seriously. If that doesn’t make any sense read it a couple more times.

When we approach life too seriously we forget what it can be.

So when we do this it’s not just dangerous for us but it’s also dangerous for the people around us. And yes, “dangerous” is the right word. It’s dangerous because taking life too seriously is destructive to relationships. It’s destructive because relationships hold their foundation in how well one person can understand the other. We will never be able to understand someone else if we treat them like a business decision, project, chore, object… People are SO much more complex than that.

So here’s the deal; how do we stop acting like task-executing robots that take life too seriously and start acting like people?

Let’s start by doing something that changes our routine. Today I changed my routine by trying to write something that was creative and fun. I took a childhood memory and bent the truth to make it into a fun story. But know that I am not saying that everyone should go write a fun and creative story to change up their routine. That’s just what I did. I did it because it took my mind off of the serious and focused it on something a could genuinely enjoy.

This is the short, cheesy, fun, not-serious, sarcastic story that I put together today. Let me know what you think.

If you thought this was horrible please let me know so I don’t waste my time trying to write “fun” stories.

I Want Out

When life gets hard all we want to do is get out. We define life as a box that confines and imprisons us when things don’t go according to our plan. We see everything from the perspective of the victim and never from the perspective of the villan.

We live in a culture that has provided us with the perception that life should be all sunshine and rainbows IF we work hard, do good, help out, be polite, serve others, follow the rules… However, there are no guarantees to a happy life even if we do everything right. It’s life, it’s hard, it’s out of our control. I recently heard sermon from Justin Anderson at my church Living Stones. He quoted someone else and saying, “the only thing we can control is our response.” The truth in that statement is incredibly concrete.

We like to think that we are somehow magically empowered to control every challenge that confronts us in life. However, all we really control is the draw of our heart, which often times feels out of our control as well. Perhaps when we are faced with the loss or distancing of a loved one we can begin to understand this concept most clearly. In the situation of loss there is nothing that we hold in our hands that can stop the looming pain, there is no tool that can “fix it.” However, we still insist upon trying to fix what is wrong with us whether we did it to ourselves or whether someone did it to us.

In my life there have been many ways I have tried to handle pain and “fix” my problems. None of my methods have provided me with a conclusive fix. So with that said, I want to stand on the fact that both you and I are people. Because we are both people I’m going to assume that you have probably experienced, firsthand, much of what I have. And now that we can identify with one another I want to point out the responses that both you and I have when we encounter the beast that is hardship and pain.

OUR RESPONSES:

HIDE. Life got hard and we went dark. We continued to exist within our pains but we closed the curtains on all reality. When we hide we think that we will find comfort in not having to deal with the realness of our situation. We think that not having to see our problem will eventually make it not exist. But the reality is that our problems will always be there and our camouflage will never protect us.

GET ANGRY. Life got hard and we got violent. Sometimes we cope with pain through anger because we want justice how we see it. So we sprint down the path of anger towards the ultimate goal of “getting even.” But in all of our efforts to bring justice to our cause we end up punishing ourselves. This plays itself out when we find out that we can’t make someone or something hurt as much as we hurt. So when the hurt is not “even” we end up disappointed and even more angry with ourselves than we were before. Therefore, our anger will always lead to more pain.

GRIND IT OUT. Life got hard and we hung onto our hopes until they crumbled. We held onto a dream as it continued to fail and waste us, we held onto a person until they hated us, we held onto a possession until it disintegrated on top of us. When we try to “grind it out” it’s like we are standing in quicksand but think that we are standing on concrete. What I mean is that we will never find answers or hope in things that we know have already failed us.

RUN AWAY. Life got hard and we got out.  We left moments behind. We left someone behind. We left a story behind. We left behind reality. When we run away we let our hearts believe that no one will be able to help us except for us. We turn to the alternative of isolation because we are embarrassed, because we are afraid, because we don’t see light anywhere. And let’s keep in mind that running away is different than hiding. When we hide we are present but mentally and emotionally absent. When we run away we become totally absent because the fear of confrontation has consumed our mind.

This definitely has not been an all-encompassing list of how we respond to pain but I believe that it scratches the surface. And this is a surface that needs to be scratched. We avoid these topics because they are hard, embarrassing, draining. But, we need to talk about these types of things in order to tear-down the lies that live in them.

Let me know how you have responded poorly to your pain OR tell me how we should respond to our pain.

The sermon I heard from Justin Anderson on May 6, 2012 should be available here relatively soon.

MCA – Influence

Beastie Boys – Paul Revere 

Today Beastie Boy Adam Yauch passed away at 47. I wanted to write this short post about him because I believe that he was a person of great influence.

Yauch was known by most as MCA for the last three decades. On the stage his presence and lyrics would command attention in way that is completely foreign to most “rappers” of my generation. This is because he was more than just a rapper, he was a person of influence and a true artist. He had a passion for his craft and was naturally a master of it. He was a master of influence.

His influence has been evidenced by the numerous articles that appeared today on sites like RollingStone, Reuters, and MTV. Because of this I think that we need to see today as a time to try to understand our own influence. What circles do we carry weight in? Who is going to write about us if we are taken tomorrow? What legacy did we leave behind?

MCA was taken young and will be missed by many but he left behind real influence and a true legacy. So let’s remember his life by mastering our own crafts and carrying the weight of our own influence.