“‘In America, we are blind because even though we have eyes, we cannot see. We are deaf because even though we heave ears, we cannot hear.'” Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, p. 187

This quote is from a Hmong immigrant speaking of emigrating to America from Thai refugee camps post-Vietnam War. Even though they were in the Land of Opportunity, they could find none. Men who once controlled regiments of soldiers were now struggling to find jobs as janitors.

The quote is reminiscent of a passage from the Bible in which Jesus exhorts to the crowd, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15). This statement seems a bit odd, but so do a lot of Jesus’s other statements. It appears that Jesus is telling the crowd to use their ears. Moreover, he’s telling people (whom usually have ears) to hear things. Uh, duh? Is that really profound, Jesus? Was that really necessary of your precious breath and time?

However, when read in light of Fadiman’s quote above, perhaps we can understand Jesus’s exhortation as a necessity for education or awareness. In the passage, Jesus is talking about prophecies and a guy named John. According to Jesus, John had been prophesied earlier in Israel’s history. It’s all old things. Which is probably why Jesus is telling people, “If you want to understand this, you need to learn and study it.” Likewise, when the Hmong man above was talking about having eyes and ears, yet being blind and deaf, he was poetically saying that he could not learn.

This, of course, translates well outside of a biblical context. We have eyes and ears, but do we see and hear?

I Saw the Devil is the most gruesome film I have ever seen. I have never hated a movie character as much as I did when I watched this movie. I didn’t just want to see him die–I wanted to be his killer.

The premise of the movie is that Kyung-chul is a cannibalistic murder-rapist who targets young and attractive ladies that are alone. The first victim we see is Kim Soo-hyeon’s fiance. Kim, after the murder of his wife, is given a leave of absence from his civic duty; he then assumes the role of bad cop. He tracks down Kyung-chul, beats him up, plants a GPS device in his stomach, and tracks him. Kim’s purpose is to make Kyung-chul feel more pain than whatever pain was inflicted on his fiance; he doesn’t want to kill Kyung-chul right away.

The most disturbing thing is that I empathized with Kim. Kyung-chul did the nastiest things and preyed on the most helpless of victims. It was so unfair what happened to those girls. I wanted to see Kyung-chul pay for what he did, and, in the midst of the movie, I abandoned my morality and fully desired to see Kyung-chul die slowly and in the most pain possible.

However, this desire was hardly fulfilled. Kyung-chul died a rather quick death. I wasn’t able to savor it, and I hardly doubt Kim savored it either. This caused me to question whether Kyung-chul’s death was justifiable in any sense. With disturbing remorse, I concluded that it wasn’t.

Revenge in the reciprocal sense is never justice. It is merely the outplaying of our beastly nature and will only serve to perpetuate a cycle of revenge. True justice is the abandonment of that cycle. Justice is forgiveness–especially when forgiveness is hardest.

I had no relational attachment to Kim’s fiance or any of Kyung-chul’s other victims, but I think I would find it hard to forgive him for his barbaric acts. How much more difficult would it be if I were Kim? Unimaginable! Yet, forgiveness would have been the most powerful and just thing to do.

This film opens up an incredible avenue of discussion on the topic of justice. What do we do with criminals? What is a criminal? How should punishment be allotted? Why are we so moved to be vengeful? What is justice?

What do you guys think?

I don’t get time to blog much anymore, but I have a very short thought that I’d like to share with you guys.

One day, I opened up my Youtube to see that my Youtube crush, Clara Chung, had affiliated herself with something called One Day’s Wages. I’m very familiar with the concept; my InterVarsity chapter practices it so we can add to our funds for the school year. However, the video made me realize the novelty in giving up one day of your wage.

It’s one day of pay — one day out of the 30,000 or so that you might live. If you’re a well-off, or at least comfortable, American, then you can surrender one day of your wage. It’s not going to hurt you, and it’s going to do so much for someone else — especially if that collective capital is used correctly and efficiently.

But what’s stopping you from giving up just one day of your wage? I think we are in a mindset that has conditioned us to consider how much we can give up before we become negatively affected. This assumes that we are in rightful possession of whatever we can gain, and that we are solely autonomous over what is ours. It makes sense if you consider evolutionary history: what you catch to eat is yours to eat. That’s how we think, right? If I work hard and earn money, that’s my money, and I can do with it whatever I choose.

I want to suggest, however, that, perhaps we aren’t in rightful possession. What if we began to think like that? Instead of being materialistic and hoarding our resources, we would begin to live in an opposite lifestyle. Instead of only thinking, “Yeah, I could give up one day of my wage,” we would also think, “How many more can I give up?”

A friend quoted to me an oft recited maxim: “There’s always room for one more leaf in the bag.” What if we thought that way in light of giving up a day of our wage? There’s always a little less we can live on. I want to suggest that perhaps we should start living like that. It will take habit and training, but life is habit and training.

Lao Zi says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

“You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.”

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!”

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In high school, my sophomore English class required that we write a response to Eli Wiesel’s “Night”. Like any high school paper, and despite “Night” being a powerful book, I procrastinated and threw something together the day before its due.

A few days later my teacher finished grading the papers, and she selected a few papers she felt should be shared with the class. She called me to the front and asked if I would read my short essay. I was surprised because I literally threw the words on the paper just a few days before. I hadn’t felt that I wrote anything particularly awarding.

I squeamishly read my essay in front of the class. Then my teacher asked for the class’ opinion.

The response was incredibly surprising. Either these kids were playing the teacher’s game, or they genuinely interpreted my essay into something beyond a response to a book. I will never forget one girl’s comment.

“I liked how you used the imagery of the Nazi officer sorting the prisoners into separate groups as a card dealer. It makes you wonder whether life really did feel like a gamble or game to the prisoners, and whether the Nazis felt that way too.” I am the Nazi officer, dealing you cards: Life, Death, Life, Death.

I was astounded. There existed no premeditation on my part to include such imagery, nor to elicit such thoughts. I threw this thing together at the last second.

It makes me wonder whether other people experience similar events. It makes me wonder whether an artist’s art can evoke similar depths of meaning when the artist really had no intent. It makes me wonder on the elusiveness of meaning, and whether we can really say what we want to say and only what we want to say.

What if the Bible is like this, a homework assignment carelessly put together the day before it is due? What if Christianity is like the girl’s comment, seeing something of substance when the author had no intent of indicating that substance?

If you are truly happy, then you are not making a mistake. Do what you are happy doing. I’m wary to say, “Do what makes you happy,” only in that makes, in that phrase, is deceitful. “Do what you are happy to do,” I think, delivers a more intimate and true relationship between joy and occupation. ((Ultimately, it’s probably a trivial detail, but if you really scrutinize between makes as a consequential preposition and are as an essential proposition, it seems a vast discrepancy.))

I know that if I didn’t love school as much as I do, I would be in New York City — not Milwaukee; I would have two cases — one for my clothes, and one for my cello — not a backpack and duffel bag; I would own Dvorak’s Concerto in B Minor — not the 5th edition of Organic Chemistry; I would sit in the streets, alleyways, and under the bridges playing melodies and harmonies to compliment the urban symphony — not in lectures or labs. ((For the life of me, this has been my biggest struggle at undergrad: Balancing my passion for theology against my passion for a career in medicine — and then in the mix there is the dream of dropping out of school altogether and being a street musician.))

Have you discovered your gift, your passion? The two are more closely related than you may think. You will love your talent because it is what makes you different. It is what makes you special. It is what separates you from the crowd, the diamond from the earth, and the comet from the stars. When you, cherie d’amour, discover what you were especially made for, you and I will share in something beautiful.

I remember writing this after watching the trailer to Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Seeing how happy Michael was with his work inspired me. Great talents are there to inspire others, so that we might find our talents, so that we might inspire others.

Post note: I realize I may have not used the French in my title correctly. It’s pretty, and that’s all I really care.

Pictured is my angry little sister. She clearly has not identified her passion and gift in life yet. There’s still lots of time left, so I am hopeful.

I’ve taken a recent interest in politics, it’s genesis in the building hours of the signing of Health Care Reform within the House of Representatives. Though clothed in sensation, this birth was born of disgust and repulsion. I watched the Minority Leader speak as his regretful words grew into a growl, and then into an embarrassing roar. With my shot hearing and poor knowledge of politics, I was later informed that much yelling occurs in congressional meetings, and that such savagery isn’t all too uncommon in political arenas; I was recommended Parliament for a benchmark visage.

I always imagined our political leaders as civil and well behaved, sorts of heroes that endeavored into what I never desired to set foot in. Clearly, this was my youthful imagination. Though a gross generalization, yet possibly a reputable claim, our political leaders are monsters. I was disgusted at the idea that I voted for these representatives — let alone, could vote for them. The incivility and rash immaturity was strong foundation for me to believe that democracy, in very blatant terms, sucks.

Days before reform passed, I conversed with a friend about these things over dinner. We began to discuss different political systems, and my dinner partner enlightened me of the varieties. Days prior, a friend introduced, in my mind at least, a rather novel idea: That the Nazi political system was efficient and possibly one of the best political systems; had their supremest and anti-Semitic views not been so central, the Nazis would have been a legitimate and powerful political presence in Europe and perhaps the remaining globe. What drove this home for me was that an efficient and select few governed. Under the assumption that they ruled for the best interests of their citizens in a virtuous pursuit of truth and goodness, it sounded the purest political establishment.

Which beckons us back to The Republic, where Plato dreams a city governed by Philosopher-Kings and -Queens. This, I believe, is the perfect political system. For years this genuine theory has circulated itself through the minds of thinkers, yet it has not been realized, and, I am confident to assert, will never happen on this Earth in its condition and nature.

This is a sharp transition from political theory and critique to spiritual application. I discussed this in brief with my roomate as he prepared for his slumber, and I drew the parallel that the Lord’s Kingdom would be as Plato had dreamed: Governed by a ruler(s) trained in ethic, virtue, and truth — always seeking the Good. Such a ruler is God. The ideal political system will be realized in the Eternal Kingdom, and that Eternal Kingdom will only be in place when the New Earth and Heaven are created. It would be impossible to install that system from the top-down in our day. We could, and nations have, establish such political installments, but they will either fail or turn brash. If we want Plato’s Republic, we need a revolution among the common folk — a revolution in desires and interests.

Now for the real spiritual application: My roomate commented that when I revealed my unabashed desire and dedication for such a ruler, he thought of the Anti-Christ. Had I been cast in a dramatic sequence, shivers would have ran along the vertical of my spine, and a dark and dreary musical assemblage would have blanketed the screen. That did not happen, but it did cause me alarm. Had the Anti-Christ appeared prior to that exchange of conversation, would I have dedicated myself to him or her? It prompted me to take a more serious look at Revelation and eschatology. I’m skintly knowledgeable of the End Times, and this is reasonable concern for any believer. Attraction is the bane of us all, but Revelation provides groundwork to beat it.

( Photo via Will Burrard-Lucas )