A Meditation on Graduation

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

–T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I’m not sure why those lines kept echoing in the back of my mind during the last several weeks of my senior year of college. Maybe I expected too much of the last year. College is a unit, a certain era of life, right? You’d think that it should have some sort of climax at the end. But such is not necessarily the case. I ended my time in school disconnected from some longtime friends, disillusioned with other friendships, working part time on a Congressman’s reelection campaign, and weary of the semester. It wasn’t party time. No festivities. Not even much joy necessarily. I took a day off to walk across a stage, and the next morning I was working. Back to the grind. Or perhaps starting the grind, which will continue the rest of my life.

That’s what I’m starting to realize. Life isn’t going to let up for me anymore. My entire paradigm of existence—the ebb and flow of semesters and breaks—has been shattered and forever lost in the past. For as long as I can remember, my life has been divided up into school during the fall and spring, and breaks during summer and over Christmas. That has a comfortable rhythm to it. I really like that life. I have no problem doing the whole studying, late night food runs, ultimate Frisbee, and living-with-my-parents-during-breaks thing. But no more. Like in the poem, the world has ended for me. Not with a glorious celebration or an emotional high, but a little breath of thankfulness, a slight pause, and just like that, it’s over. Continue reading →

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Purpose, Hope, Vanity and Death

Disclaimer: I mean no disrespect to my grandmother in all of this. I am, after all, indebted to her for my own life, which has been quite good thus far, and for that I am deeply grateful. She was a great blessing and joy to me at times, and for that I am also grateful. There is much I can learn from her life, but not all of it is positive. That is why I am writing this post.

My grandmother passed away just more than a month ago–the day before Thanksgiving. Her health had been in sharp decline the past several years, so it did not come as a huge shock, but it was difficult nonetheless. It was not so much the loss of the relationship that devastated me as much as the harsh reality of death, of a life ceasing to exist in this world, and knowing that we all are destined to the same fate. I spent some time meditating on it, and as I looked through the Bible, I soon found my way to the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 7 in particular caught my attention. It opens as follows:

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.

(Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 8a ESV)

When the funeral was held a week later, I was thoroughly depressed. And I had every right to be, for one thing about the whole situation continually impressed itself on my mind–there was nothing in which to rejoice. Nothing about it merited one bit of goodness, happiness, joy or peace.

If that seems overly bleak, yes, I know that death is part of the course of life. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. As a Christian, I believe that for those who know God, death is even precious in His sight, but I had no clear indicators about my grandmother’s spiritual condition, and the prospect of divine justice left little room for hope.

Furthermore, on an even deeper level, I believe death is a horribly unnatural phenomena. It is the great unknown, the void that we must continually face but can never experience. The absurdity of it drove existentialists mad. The terror of it has driven many more to a similar desperate insanity.

Continue reading →

Music Review: Vice Verses

It’s easy to choose one word to describe Switchfoot’s new album, Vice Versestension. Musically, this new work from San Diego natives bring the same rocking signature-guitar-riff-songs that fans have come to know and love, balanced, of course, by softer, but powerful, heartfelt ballads. Lyrically, it deals with many of the main themes from Switchfoot’s past albums. Vice Verses takes the band’s best qualities and strings them tight between the great hurts that confront us every day and the great hope we can have despite them.

This tension comes out as the songs bounce between an Ecclesiastes-type mourning of the vanity of life and a yearning for hope in the eternal life to come. As you listen to Vice Verses, this comes in transitions: it opens with a powerful upbeat trio of songs and then drops abruptly to “Restless”, one of the softest tracks on the album. Shortly after this comes the most cynical song on the album, “Selling the News”, followed by the much more tender “Thrive.” We don’t even get to the hardest song on the album until track eight.

Throughout the album, front man Jon Foreman’s lyrics paint a dark and gritty world in which we are strung between the evil and the good–the “in-between,” as he calls it several times.

It’s a world full of rampant deception, manipulation and confusion. “Selling the News” delivers a poignant critique of the American media and the masses who listen to it: “Begging the question/mongering fears/the truth just seldom as it appears/We’re selling the news.”

Continue reading →