There I was sitting in Anatomy and Physiology I in the north side of Milwaukee with Top ADC NA Eric Yang. I look down at my phone and a notification pulses on my screen: “Missed call [unrecognized number]. New (1) voicemail.” Earlier that morning I almost had to skip class to cover a shift at the ER, and so I figure this call was someone calling to let me know they couldn’t work. “Whatever. I’ll listen to it after class.”

Two minutes pass and I decide to check the phone number’s area code: 344. “Alabama? That can’t be right.” Top ADC NA Eric Yang sees and tells me to search the entire phone number. Time stops.

Gimme a second.

I’ve thought so hard about this–about what I wanted to say, about whether I should even say anything. But I think I would be remiss to be silent because this isn’t about me at all. This goes back to before Sussex Family Practice and the ER; to before I moved into 1530 West Wisconsin Avenue at Marquette; to before the Spartans off of North Lily Road; to before the Homie G’s and sleepovers every weekend; to before Fairview Elementary sent me off to Brookfield; to before the second month of 1990. This goes way back.

Class ends and I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that we need to go find somewhere relatively quiet so I can return this phone call. He takes me outside for some reason. It’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and this kid takes me outside. I dial the number that the voicemail told me to call, but I misdial because I’m so nervous and it’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that I need a piece of paper and he produces a small notepad for me to jot the phone number down onto. I tap the screen on my phone 10 times. The phone starts to ring. Time stops again.

It’s surreal. It’s your dreams becoming reality. The overwhelming sensation I had was, “Is this really happening to me? Do I really deserve this?” There are thousands of applicants to medical schools every year–thousands even just for this one school–and I was chosen out of that group?

The man on the other line of the phone introduces himself as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, the school I had interviewed at 1.5 weeks earlier, and, after some small talk, eventually addresses the very happy elephant in the room: “Nathan, the reason I’m calling you today is because the admission committee has recommended you for acceptance to the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.”

Gimme a second.

I’m honored, humbled, and so grateful for this opportunity, but I would not be here today if it weren’t for all of the amazing people in my life. The list is endless and I have vaults of love for you all. In particular, I’d like to recognize and esteem my 4th grade teachers, Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore, and my incredibly supportive family. Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore poured so much of their efforts into my development and education as a young man in the Milwaukee Public School system. Their efforts exemplify the type of investment I want to make into the patients and community I serve as a physician. I can’t remember exactly what they taught me in terms of lesson plans, but what I do remember is their character and love. For my family, there is not enough that can be said. With two incredible sets of parents, growing up with the best (and “favorite”) sister in the entire world, gaining two more wonderful siblings when I was in high school and college, and having all of these opportunities before me–I know that I am blessed. I know that my life could have easily been someone else’s. None of this didn’t have to happen to me.

That’s why I share Lecrae’s track, “Gimme A Second“. There is one line in his second verse that goes: “And I’m so blessed, look at what he did to me! How could I keep this to myself? Somebody bled for me!” Those lines are why I want to share with you all news of my acceptance into ACOM.

This opportunity to train to become a physician is not to puff myself up. That’s the last thing I hope it does to me. Instead, it is to reflect and rejoice in what God has brought me to. I have this unique chance to enter a storied and prestigious profession. I will be offered a glimpse into some of the most vulnerable and hurting parts of our lives. I will be taught the delicate intricacies of our bodies and the maintenance of our systems. At my disposal I will have the inventory to fend off death and disease as best as we know how. These are all awesome things, and I did not earn this on my own. I worked hard in college, studied twice for the MCAT, and learned as much as I could about medicine–but the only reason I am here is because of God’s grace.

Christ bled on the cross atop of Golgotha so that I might live to love and find joy in him. By God’s grace I am given this opportunity to enter medical school, and, joyfully, it is my mission to serve in the same way that Christ served all of humankind: by considering the interests of others before my own, and by being obedient even to the point of death. In the same vein is one of the more impressionable quotes from medicine’s history attributed to Paracelsus, a physician during the European Renaissance: “This is my vow: To love the sick, each and all of them, more than if my own body were at stake.

I am very excited and so very grateful.

To celebrate the start of my summer reading program, I read an excerpt of “Remember The Time Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days” via a Slate retweet. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because I don’t really expect much of anything released post-posthumously. However, to my surprise, I found myself enthralled in the memoirs of Michael Jackson’s two bodyguards. Their recollections are unlike any others simply for the reason that, besides Michael’s own children (and perhaps their nanny), they were with Michael day in and day out.

After having grown up in the spotlight, headlining hundreds of shows globally, and commandeering a generation of popular culture, it was time for the King of Pop to return to Earth–except he couldn’t. When you look like what Michael looked like and when you did what Michael did like you can’t just fade into obscurity and live a normal life. He was at once extraordinary and “abnormal”. He developed on the stage, in the studio, and under our gaze. Thriller doomed Michael into an eternal cosmic orbit. Though a relic of esteem, Thriller was also a jail cell. Everyone wants to know what happens after you reach the top–and usually everyone just wants to see the fall. See also: Lebron James.

So as June 25th rolls around once again, I’m writing this blog to confess that I killed Michael Jackson. You killed Michael Jackson. Collectively, our stifling appetite to see his moonwalk and to hear his voice killed him. He was an artist that had an incredible gift for creating–and that’s precisely what I think killed him. Celebrity doesn’t care so much about the art as it does about the artist giving themselves to all of us. We all just wanted more and in the midst of that wanting we forgot that Michael had wants of his own. One day the King of Pop wanted to retire the crown. He wanted to be a dad and watch his kids grow up. He wanted to go shopping during normal operating hours. He wanted to walk into a bar and tell the bartender, “Give me a beer!” He wanted all of this and it was impossible.

This is all to say that I am trying to temper my appetite for celebrity culture. It’s perfectly fine to be a fan, but how do we separate fandom from idolatry? I hope that I never gush over a famous person if I ever meet a famous person. I want to treat them like I would anyone else: a handshake, maybe a hug, a few polite words (including “I’m a huge fan” or “I appreciate what you’ve done/created”), and then I’d be on my way–if any of this at all. All of those adoring fans outside of airports and hotels on Michael’s tours? They killed him. As an artist he loved it, but as a human it drained and dehumanized him. When all the world wants one man and that man gives all he has, Michael Jackson happens on August 29, 1958 and ends on June 25th, 2009.

On a side note: I am particularly skeptical about anything released after Michael’s death. In the first place, he had no part in the production of those releases. In the second place, those releases are simply the vultures circling Michael’s corpse. Michael had absolutely nothing to do with his family when the family band disbanded. It was cringe worthy when his brothers did the backing vocals to the posthumous release “This Is It”. Yes, it was touching that the family would do something so sensitive, but it also reeked of greed. I loved watching “This Is It” over and over and over, but in the back of my mind I knew This Is It seemed kind of forced. I really don’t think Michael wanted to do those 50 shows in London, but I wanted him to. I killed him.

Addition of Apples and Bananas

This is how I learned math.

Mary has 3 apples. Bob has 4 apples. How many apples do they have together?

Examples make an abstract thing practical, and for some reason they make understanding the abstract more possible.

As Christians, we still learn by example.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:3-7

In this passage, Paul employs the imagery (and example) of the soldier, athlete, and farmer. These three occupations are used as a means to living a better Christian life. He extracts the idea of a soldier aiming to please his commanding officer, an athlete training to compete for a crown, and a farmer’s diligence in the fields and infuses them into the idea of Christian living. The abstract idea of Christian life is made more real by these examples.

But what about the examples themselves? We treat them as a means to our end, but we never acknowledge the examples as ends themselves. Consequently, we are susceptible to consider Christianity in terms of something else. The soldier “does” what a soldier does. The athlete “does” what an athlete does. The farmer “does” what a farmer does. What does it mean for the Christian to “do” what a Christian does? What does a Christian “do”?

The Christian life is an abstract idea, and we’re just trying to figure out what it actually looks like. And my Chemistry professor during my freshman year was convinced he solved the mystery of the Trinity via example of the material phases of water. “Father, Spirit, and Holy Ghost? Well, there’s Solid, Liquid, and Gas. So there you have it. Go and tell your Theology professors that.”

In Matthew 6:9-13, we have Jesus telling us how to pray (emphasis mine):

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

Later in the gospel, we are given audience of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night of his betrayal. He walks further into the garden and falls to ground as he wrestles with the impending events: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Emphasis mine).

I was at a friend’s church when the pastor was expositing on this verse. My creative juices suddenly started flowing and I may have totally missed what the pastor was trying to explain. For some reason, like many of my other creative impulses, I started to think about Kanye West.

Kanye killed it–and then he dropped the mic. There really was no better way for him to end that show. Maybe if he had suddenly dissipated before our eyes, but that’s humanly impossible.

So here’s how I’m connecting the Lord’s Prayer with Yeezy’s “New God Flow” performance on BET Awards 2012. When Kanye dropped the mic, he said, “It’s done. I killed it. I said what i needed and you can’t say anything back.” When Jesus was in Gethsemane he begged for his burden to be lifted, but followed that up with, “You’re God. You already did it. You have planned what is necessary and it is perfect. There’s nothing I can really say to you.”

So what if “Christian” rappers dropped their mics after their shows? It would be corny to just drop the mic after each rap, but I think a show could capture a “redeemed” meaning of dropping the mic with good flow of energy throughout the show. I told my friend this and he said the first thing he thought of was pride and how dropping the mic might direct the crowd’s praise to the rapper instead of to God. But I’m convinced that we could train ourselves to see the act of dropping the mic in the following way:

1) It symbolizes that what was rapped is not the rapper’s own, but actually God’s. The mic is dropped symbolizing dispossession of the message conveyed via the lyrics.

2) When the mic is not in the rapper’s hands, who do we look to? Personally, I think about what just happened, what was spoken. Kanye’s rap was infinite, ripe with sick metaphors and allusions. When he walks off stage, yeah I suppose I could still cheer for him, but I could also cheer for the rap and marvel at what it spoke about (which, in the case of New God Flow, is Yeezy).

My hope with this idea is that we can further demarcate prophet and message, person and celebrity. Is this far fetched? Am I just dreaming that every rapper can be as cool as Kanye West? I mean, “Ask any dopeboy you know, they admire ‘Ye”.

I took Honors Physics in high school and it was easily the most despised course of my high school career. I was left behind as the entire class progressed beyond basic Newtonian physics. “Wait, change in velocity means there is acceleration, and a constant change in velocity means a constant acceleration?”

My teacher did this whole Socratic teaching thing AKA give the students a problem and let them fail miserably in groups of people while you say they are actually learning. I was a rather shy kid in high school–even more if I had no idea what I was doing–so the Socratic teaching method was lost on me in my youth. I wonder how many shy youths Socrates failed with his teaching method.

We were doing a problem that related velocity and acceleration and my teacher tasked us with ordering the results we found. For some reason my mind excited as I worked the problem through my head. “We’ll call this mild change in velocity, this one moderate change in velocity, and this one fast change in velocity.”

My excitement was short lived as the first group shared and quantified the changes in velocity. “This graph shows a change in velocity of 5 m/s which means the acceleration is 5 m/s^2.” Not a moderate change in velocity.

I’m a subjective man in an objective world which means I don’t measure quantities when I cook. Try my cookies. They’re different every time.

47th and North Avenue

47th and North Avenue. Neighborhood advertisement.

I title this entry as such and have taken care to choose the word “firearm”, but lack greatly in my choice for the word “abolition”. That is, “firearm” is chosen to set boundaries on what objects I intend for “abolition” to act on, but “abolition” is lacking in that it acts legislatively–not necessarily via heart, desire, or will. More specifically, “firearm” is to mean any fashionable device or object that can be managed by an ambulatory individual (and his or her partner in a direct supporting role) to execute physical harm or death upon another individual.

Aside: I highly doubt definitions will actually matter in this post, so you can basically skip the first paragraph.

My best friend in college had some unique ideas that I might accurately describe as outrageously founded in love. He once suggested that, organizationally, we might express apology and love to a certain member through a “love” tunnel (I forget if he actually called it a “love tunnel”). The idea of the love tunnel was that every member would line up–one person across from another, each pair adjacent to another pair. Each pair would lift their hands and join them with their partner’s. The idea was that a certain individual would come into the room, see the tunnel, be invited into the tunnel, and would feel the cheesiest yet (somehow) most genuine expression of our love for him or her. When my friend shared the idea, I gawked. I did not want to be associated with such a juvenile act.

But now I sort of do.

I was walking out of the mall parking lot onto the sidewalk near Panera the other day, and I saw an armored truck on the other side of the street. My beautiful twisted dark fantasy mind began to think about how I might rob the truck, what kind of living I could manage if I entered theft fulltime, and whether I would have the audacity and character to pull off a heist. Then my moral conscious took a turn and begged that I consider the moral implications of such activity, that I consider how an armored vehicle might exist in an America of firearm abolition.

Thieves would reign. Armored vehicles and their staff would have no defense against individuals that somehow gained inventory of firearms. This, of course, is why armored vehicle transporters require firearms–for defense.

But there is another defense–founded in outrageous love–and I completely imagined my friend suggesting this as the new minister of the Department of Defense: instead of a love tunnel, armored vehicle transporters would employ the “love wall”. The love wall is a wall of individuals committed to non-violence. Any and every time an armored vehicle must make a collection, a wall of individuals would join elbow to elbow and enclose the armored vehicle and their staff, creating a closed tunnel of sorts (I suppose the “love wall” is the daughter idea of the “love tunnel” literally) for the armored vehicle transporters to safely travel through and make their collection. The idea is that this wall would deter individuals with hot red hands–and hopefully those with a violent inclination.

Threatening or killing an individual guard is not as intimidating or easy (in any sense) as threatening or killing a mass of individuals. The love wall demonstrates true non-violence. Too often, I think we are misled by the idea that non-violence means being the weaponless armored truck driver and carrying boxes full of cash, hoping that we won’t be the helpless victim to a firearm wielding thief. That’s hardly non-violence. That’s being a stupid and ignorant dweeb. Non-violence requires that we be outrageously creative in love.

If more people were committed to the idea of non-violence and were willing to actively (non-violence is NOT passive) surrender their lives for this idea, maybe the love tunnel and love wall would not be such a cheesy idea. Perhaps my friend’s outrageous ideas would be the norm in a firearm free world. And maybe I would owe my friend an apology for gawking.

Ahh Motherland!

Ahh Motherland!

I must have been listening to a story on public radio when I began to think about this. I don’t know if it’s worth anything, but munch on this.

We, the citizens of the United States of America, have stolen the idea of defending our country from countries that actually have to defend their countries. I suggest that the rhetoric of “defending” is more appropriately applied to countries’ whose soil has been invaded. In this definition, the American Revolution is the only instance in which America has truly defended herself. Yet, we continue to employ this rhetoric and romanticized notion of defense, this idea that our fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are bred with a patriotism that would seek to die in defense of all things American.

Is this an example of neo-colonoialism, neo-imperialism? Are we yet again re-appropriating what is not ours to claim as our own? It is rather odd if you consider the idea. We employ the rhetoric of defense which is stolen from countries America has often pressed to use. I think immediately of Vietnam and of Laos, and then of Iraq. In each country, America claimed to be defending democracy, if not the homeland. And in each country, the native constituents were defending their country as well. I suppose I argue that they more deservedly own the rhetoric of defense than America, and that America ought to drop further use of “defending America”.

If this is, in fact, a thievery of such rhetoric, I then ask, “Of what gain or use?” If my arguments and thoughts stand, then it is a very subtle and overlooked vice of American “virtue”. We steal and we don’t even know it. We are blind thieves, stealing as if it were ubiquitous and justified.