Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Best Thing Jon Vickers Ever Said

Jon Vickers once asked me to get lunch with him when we were freshmen in college.  I told him that I couldn’t because I was eating Easy Mac in my room.  Despite this initial setback, Jon is now one of my best friends.

In our sophomore year, Jon and I decided to read the book of Acts from the Bible.  It was during one of these meetings that he unintentionally said one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard.

We were discussing the existence of Shakespeare.  More specifically, we were discussing how many people believe that Shakespeare never existed.  Naturally, we shifted to Jesus and the fact that many people deny that he existed (or at least deny that he was the incredible Jesus from the Bible).  It was at this time that Jon said the following:

I hope, someday, they try to disprove my existence.”

At first he didn’t think much of it.  Then I told him that it was an incredible quote.  We couldn’t just move on as if he hadn’t said it.  This had to be remembered.  It demanded preservation and analysis.

1) What a great use of irony.  The irony is that he hopes to be worthy of such remembrance that it causes some people to deny that he could have possibly lived.  It will take more effort to forget him than to remember him.

2) It is a superb use of sarcasm.  This isn’t the biting and hurtful sarcasm; that should be avoided.  This sarcasm serves an artistic purpose.  Of course he doesn’t want people to deny that he existed.  He doesn’t hope to be forgotten.  His hope is the opposite.  That is the point of the quote.  His hope is to be worthy of such an effort from critics in the future.

3) It is a commentary on doubt.  Some individuals in history are so exceptional that skeptical people will make a great effort to deny them.  Even in the face of legitimate evidence, some will refuse to accept their greatness.

4) It was not premeditated.  The quote came as a result of the conversation.  He wasn’t trying to be clever.  It was simply the truth of what we were getting at.  This is what an artist does.  He conveys truth through the mastery of his chosen medium.

It is a great quote.  Almost as good as, “Socks have no business in the bathroom.”

Jersey Shore to Usher In Apocalypse: World Leaders and Astronomers Warn

Everyone knows that Jersey Shore is a scourge against humanity.  But in recent weeks, prominent leaders from nearly every country have warned that the program is a sure sign of the coming apocalypse.

President Barrack Obama was the first to speak out.

“At first I thought it was simply another terrible reality show; something else to poison our already toxic and morally unsustainable culture.  Then, after watching the episode where Snooki gets punched in the face, I had a vision.  It looked something like this…”

“I was going to keep it to myself, but then I got a call from Kim-Jong Il.  He enjoys the worst aspects of American popular culture, so I wasn’t surprised that he had seen the same episode.  I was surprised that he had experienced the same vision of global destruction.  And I was further surprised to hear that he wished to join together in order to fight these (In his words)  “repulsive demons from Jersey”.

As President Obama received numerous phone calls from other world leaders, astronomers in Colorado discovered a massive asteroid heading directly for Earth.

“We have calculated that the asteroid will impact us on January 6, 2011.  This is the date of the season three premier of Jersey Shore.”

As the news of this doomsday asteroid spread, leaders from all over the world met at the U.N. to form a strategy.  Never before had the nations of the world joined together on such a level.  Unfortunately, and as all of you reading this surely know, the astronomers interrupted the meeting.

They had discovered writing on the surface of the asteroid (named “Snooki F752” ).  It read:

On behalf of the Galactic Alliance, and in the name of Gamet Var Moog III, this object of destruction has been sent to your planet.  We regret that it has come to this.  Honestly, we were looking forward to our first meeting.  That is until we received the signal from Jersey Shore.  Your species must be terminated.  You see, everything is connected in this universe, and if one planet sinks into shameless debauchery it is only a matter of time until it spreads to others.  The greater good must be considered.  Oh, and one final thing.  If you can cancel Jersey Shore and bring back Arrested Development we will stop this object of death and welcome you into the Alliance.  The choice is yours.  Keep Jersey Shore and face elimination, or cancel Jersey Shore and bring back Arrested Development (not make it into a movie, we mean the real show) and we save you.

World leaders are still deciding.  Season three promises to be even more outrageous.  But living is good too.  We can only wait and hope.

The Disney Vault

The Walt Disney Company has implemented a policy in which certain classic films are stored and released from “The Vault”.   For years, a film will be very difficult to find, and one has to either pay extra or settle for a bootleg copy until it is re-released by Disney.  This is to create artificial scarcity.  It’s a business strategy.

According to Wikipedia, these are the movies currently under this policy.

Believe it or not, I actually think this is a good idea.  In our instant gratification culture it’s good that certain material goods are withheld for a time.  We’re so used to getting what we want when we want it.  Sure, it sucks when you want to buy one of these films and you can’t get it without paying too much, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.  When it is finally released from the vault, you can choose to purchase it at a more reasonable price.  Disney isn’t keeping food from the public.  They are choosing to withhold specific forms of entertainment for a time, with the aim of maximizing their profits.  It’s well within their right as a company to do so.

I want to accuse them of some wrong, but the more I think on this the more I agree with their vault policy.  The films are celebrated whenever they are re-released and Disney makes a profit.  There is an increase in value at both ends of the exchange.  If you simply have an issue with a major company making a profit, you’re going to have to re-think more than what movies to buy.

The Road Less Travelled is The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost published a poem in 1916 called The Road Not Taken.  At no point in time did he publish a poem under the title, The Road Less Travelled.  I point this out because I used to believe that he did in fact publish a poem with that title, but when I re-examined the actual poem in college I was surprised to find that the poem I thought I knew didn’t exist.  Here is the poem.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

The popular interpretation of this poem is that it is inspirational.  It is said to be a celebration of individuality and courage.  Sure, that can be found in the poem, but in which parts?  I will make those parts bold.

 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

If you focus on certain parts, you can extract that inspirational meaning.   The poet faced a difficult decision at a time in his life.  He made the choice to follow his own path, which is less travelled because most people choose the easier path.  That choice has made all the difference in his life, and the poet is glad.

That’s all well and good, but if you really look at what the poem is saying, I don’t believe you will come to the same conclusion.

First, consider the title.  It isn’t called The Road Less Travelled, but The Road Not Taken.  The subject of the title is the path that the poet did not take.  I had a professor tell me once that the title of the poem was The Road Less Travelled.  When I assured him that he was mistaken, he went home and did his homework.  Then he apologized.  This isn’t to say that I’m awesome, only to show you how easy it is to ignore the true title of this poem.  It makes a huge difference when you see this.

Second, consider some of these critical lines.

And sorry I could not travel both

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

We learn that the poet judged both paths to be about equal.  When he made the choice he had some difficulty because they both appeared to be good options.  He is sorry he couldn’t travel both.  Also notice that he is telling this with a sigh.  Is this a happy sigh?  It seems more like a sigh that would accompany melancholy.  This is the case if he is thinking about the road he didn’t take.  And notice that he doesn’t say anything positive about taking the road less travelled.  He only says that it made all the difference.  Is it a positive difference, or a negative difference, or a neutral difference?  What do you think?

Third , Robert Frost was one of America’s greatest poets.  Does it make more sense that his poem would be simply inspirational?  Or, does it make more sense that it is layered and not so easily pinned down?  Follow your own path kids, and you will achieve success!

And finally, read these words from Frost himself.  (I found this after I came to my own conclusion) 

“I wasn’t thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.” August 1953

 

 

Why did I go through the trouble to write about this poem?  For one, it’s one of the few English related things that I’m a snob about.  I admit it.  But that’s not the main reason I wrote this.

I want you to see how easy it is to miss the substance of something if you only give it a cursory glance.  This is a good example since people are often using the poem for simple inspiration and misrepresenting the title.

Do we do this with other things?

Things that really matter?

 

 

 

The Joy of Friendship: Part 7 (Conclusion)

To live in this world you have to interact with other humans.  We depend on each other for survival from birth to death.  That is simply the truth.  There are no guarantees about friendship.  Nowhere is it written, every person to live on this earth will have at least one close friend throughout their life.  Friendship is not a given, but a blessing.  If you have even one close friend in your life, you are blessed beyond measure.

The love of another human being is something that is to be either accepted or rejected.  If you are unable or unwilling to accept love and attention from others, you will find it impossible to experience the joy of friendship.  You see, without love there can be no joy.  Joy is not the experience of one loving oneself.  Joy is the inevitable outcome of one loving another.  It is a profound sense of wellbeing and gladness.

All of the things I have written about on this matter: desiring fun, uniting around a common interest, identifying with a group, developing character, sharing gifts, enduring suffering, and experiencing joy are all pieces to the whole experience of friendship.  If you can share in these things with another person, with a friend, then you have much to be thankful for.  And of course, there is much more to be said, and not said, about friendship.  I see only a glimpse of the awesome reality.  The road goes ever on…

I love my friends.  You know who you are.  Thank you for all of these things that I’ve written about.  Thank you for all of those things that I couldn’t put into words.

May this serve as a testimony to your impact on my life.

 

The Joy of Friendship: Part 6 (Suffering)

 

Suffering comes to all of us.  How we respond to it determines much.  Will we withdraw from our closest relationships in order to protect ourselves like injured rabbits returning to their burrows?  Or, will we allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable?  The first option does nothing to build character or strengthen friendship.  The second option is the path to joy.

When a close friend suffers, often the only thing you can do is be there.  You want to fix them, or heal them, or bring a resolution to their situation, but this is almost never a legitimate possibility.  You feel helpless, and often times they feel helpless, but there is nothing to do but endure together.

The willingness to endure suffering with a friend is the true test of trust,  loyalty, and love.  If you remain true in the dark times, it deepens the bonds of fellowship.  I will follow you, even into the very fires of Mordor. At that point, your friendship is more than what you can get out of it.  It’s about placing the other ahead of yourself. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

The value of suffering is found in its revelation of love.   The lesser things melt away.  The veil covering the heart is torn.  When the suffering has passed, and you’re still standing side by side, all that’s left is…

the joy of friendship.

 

The final installment of this series is coming soon.

 

The Joy of Friendship: Part 5 (Gifts)

In the movie, Ben Hur, the title character says to a good friend, “The greatest gift of all is your presence.”  Not only is this a nice play on words (Gift and presents/presence),  it is also true of good friends.  Being there for each other is more than a cliché.  What gift could replace the presence of a friend?

 

The Gift of Service

 

There are many reasons to serve others.  You may do it out of obligation.  You may do it because you believe it is the right thing to do.  You might even do it by accident.  But what is it like to serve a good friend?

To serve a good friend is a gift in itself.  We want our friends to succeed with happiness and dignity.  If we can help them along in any way, it is a privilege and a pleasure to share in their progress.

Friends will also work together to serve others.  Serving together is a gift because it provides yet another opportunity to help each other along.  One of the most fulfilling things I do is throw a cookout at my house for my friends.  But what makes it truly fulfilling is the effort that goes into it between my friend John and I.  John puts so much energy and passion into the event that I know without a doubt it would not be the overwhelming success that it is without him.  So when I experience the joys of a cookout with friends, I am also experiencing the fruits of service between friends.  This is a good thing.

 

Learning to Give by Learning to Receive

 

Have you ever found (or made) the perfect gift for a friend?  If you have, you understand the joy of giving.  Sure, it’s satisfying to see them appreciate the gift.  But what really counts is what went into the gift.  Many people don’t know how to give.  This is largely because they don’t know how to receive.  Only those who can receive a gift with gladness will be able to give a gift with gladness.  You may be questioning me on this.  Dave, I’m good at giving gifts, but I don’t like to receive them.  I like to see people happy when I give them things, but I feel uncomfortable when someone gives me anything. What are the implications of such a thing?  Why can’t you accept a gift with gladness?  Why don’t you deserve this good thing?  If you could only see that it is to the benefit of your friend if you accept their gift with joy.  They want to see you happy.  Truly, you are serving your friend when you accept a gift with gladness.  And when you experience this, you will be able to do the same.  Giving a gift to your friend should serve both parties.  Like any act of love, it is mutually beneficial, even if it takes different forms.

 

Enhancing Your Gifts

 

Are you an artist, or a singer, or a painter, or a florist, or a writer, or anything else that requires a gift?  Friends enhance these gifts in a number of ways.  They encourage each other to develop the gift.  They offer helpful criticism, which is part of the development process.   And since people have different gifts, they humble us.  I couldn’t draw like Nate.  I couldn’t begin to do the jobs that my friends seem born to do.  I couldn’t be a cop, or work at Bose, or fix cars.  But since they are my friends, I can appreciate the fact that they all have different strengths.  Everyone has their own special thing that can be used to serve others.   When a friend is better than you at a certain thing, and they don’t hold it over you, it melts your insecurities.  We all have something unique and invaluable to offer the world and our friends. It is good to recognize this.    It might stop us from making foolish comparisons.

 

Coming Soon- Part 6: Suffering

The Iron Rod Illustration

I’ve decided to take a brief break from the Friendship series in order to describe to you something that I have been developing for quite some time.  It is my theory on how to write an outstanding essay.

Imagine that it is the first day of school and I walk into class holding a four-foot long iron rod…

This iron rod illustrates your essay.  But what is it, really?  It is your thesis!  The entire substance of your essay is found in this structure.  You have no essay apart from it.  From one end to the other, everything is your thesis.  Consider the qualities of this iron rod.  Does it break off in the middle?  Is there an empty space between the top and the bottom?  Absolutely not.  It is solid throughout.  This is the chief quality of an outstanding essay.  It has a clear, solid thesis through and through.  The thesis is your purpose for writing the essay.  It is the subject and the substance.  An essay without a purpose from introduction to conclusion is not worth writing, and it is certainly not worth reading.

I also want you to consider the space around this iron rod.  What holds it up?  The ground!  It is grounded.  Your essays must be grounded in truth, evidence, and logic.  This iron rod can’t be held up by opinions.  Opinions are bright-colored insects.  All they can do is distract.  All they can do is cover up the iron rod.  What do we say about evidence?  What does it do?  It supports!  Supports what?  The thesis!  Your thesis must be supported.

The iron rod is resting on the ground, but it is also pointing up to the sky.  Only a strong and grounded thesis can point up like this.  So what does this mean?   An outstanding essay enables us to consider loftier things.  It allows us to contemplate the larger implications of your thesis.  It points to infinity.  This means that an essay is not limited to what you have written.  If it is outstanding, it will extend far beyond anything you could imagine.

At this point I would take out a roll of brightly colored string.  This string represents the elements of style.  It is proper grammar.  It is metaphor.  It is your own unique voice.  Everything that makes the essay more pleasurable to read.  Then I would wrap the string around the iron rod.  Notice that this string clings tightly to the iron rod.  Anything you do to enrich your writing will mean nothing if it is not wrapped tightly around your thesis.  The string leaves most of the iron rod still visible, just as style should never get in the way of substance.  Style must never get in the way of substance!

And that is it.  That is my Iron Rod Illustration on how to write an outstanding essay.

The Joy of Friendship: Part 4 (Character)

Friends teach us about the world.  They teach us about people.  They teach us about themselves.  They teach us about ourselves.

Friends build character.

Have you ever been friends with someone who had an entirely different perspective on life?  It can be very challenging to listen to someone with an opposing view without becoming angry or defensive.  But if this person is a friend,  how can you not respectfully listen? And even if you fight over the issues from time to time, aren’t you faced with the reality that a real person that I care about believes something different? What a challenge this can be to your own beliefs.  But what a healthy one.  It is too easy to demonize outsiders.  But if you can love a friend who opposes your foundational beliefs, and if they can do the same, what a gain that is to both of your characters.  I’m not talking about compromising your beliefs.  Absolutely not!  This is about strengthening your deepest convictions, while learning respect and patience and humility.

Have you ever been friends with someone who shared your perspective on life?  This can also be challenging.  The challenge comes when they share your most foundational beliefs, yet respond to them differently.  An example would be a Christian who had a different political leaning.  Certainly there are conservative Christians and liberal Christians.  Once again, it would be easy to place the opposing group in a box if not for the presence and perspective of friends.  How could you see their heart and devotion and then brush them aside as if they were less than human?  Once again, an honest friendship forces you to look the “other” in the face.  It will teach you wisdom regarding judgement.  And, it will force you to examine your own heart.

Friends also have the authority to speak hard truth to each other.  If there is trust and love between friends, there may come a time when one party must speak truth.  If the friend is acting in a destructive manner, it is more loving to speak the hard truth than to say nothing at all.

There was a moment recently when I suddenly understood something incredible about having close friends.  Friends bring out a certain something in you that no one else can.  The chemistry between friends is unique.  Having friends develops your character because friends contribute to your identity.  Each person has something unique to offer.

Now, I recognize that all of this has been positive.  But there is a flip side to all of this influence and character building.  If you don’t know who you are, or what you truly believe, it is easy for someone to negatively influence you.  Even if you are strong in your beliefs, you are still playing with fire when you allow unsavory individuals into your close circle of confidants.  If someone is selfish, or passionate about engaging in unwholesome behavior, how could they not influence you?  In the world in which we live, I’m afraid, it is easier to influence for the worse than for the better.  That is why we should treasure our healthy friendships, and work to sustain them.

Even one good friendship can save us from death in all of its forms.

Coming soon Part 5: Gifts

The Joy of Friendship: Part 3 (Cliques)

Don’t let anyone kid you, high school is all about survival.   You must find a way to survive, and that is the major cause of cliques.

A clique is an exclusive group.  Oftentimes, it is formed around a common interest.  A popular example would be a group of football players.  You could even expand it to include all “jocks”.  But it doesn’t have to be about common interests.  In many cases, smaller groups of friends join together to form a larger circle.   Safety in numbers.  Either join the pack or accept exile.

Obviously, there are many downsides to this system formed out of fear.  The idea of  “the group” may be used to pressure individuals against their will.  “We are going to do this.  You probably should to.”   And since you don’t want to be outside of the group, you go along with its ways.  Another downside could be that it is mistakenly assumed that all members of the group are friends of equal standing.  The reality may be that certain individuals are close friends and others are close acquaintances.  Confusion about the difference will lead to jealousy and all types of hurt feelings.

If a friendship is based on the clique, it is weak.  It is impossible to establish a deep and meaningful bond when the only time you’re together is with other members of the group.  Going to the movies, or out to dinner, or whatever it is kids do these days is not the basis of a friendship.  You can’t be friends with a group.

Yet, despite the drawbacks, cliques can serve as incubators for true friendships.

 

Up Next

Part 4: Building Character