It’s strange the things that prompt your thinking. But I was reading Catcher in the Rye, and I read this article in Time about this book that talks about the author’s affair with J.D. Salinger. It says the book is OK but the author doesn’t turn out to have an introspective bone in her body. Heaven forbid that that should be said about me. A lot of stuff has happened to me this summer and I thought it would be important to sit down and think about it. Process, in campus fellowship speak.
A strange thing though, my dreams this past week have been incredible detailed and complex. And long. Last night was another. I don’t remember it exactly but I do remember I found out I had a exam in Father Clemo’s class (my AP US History teacher) and I had not studied for it at all. So I started frantically reading, but stuff kept coming up. There was another scene where we were all gathered around a table or something, maybe wanting to play Marathon. And among the people there were Eli Tsou, Peter Jung (my sister’s boyfriend), and two of my junior high friends, Yash Mehta and Theo Lam. Strange.
At any rate, it’s been an interesting summer. I think I’ll just talk about the non-China things. Graduation, by the way, was really interesting. The last week was the first time I got to know the director of Symbolic Systems, Prof. Wasow, and I feel bad about that because he really is a great guy. And it turns out the people in my department are just studs of the universe. Like I am just a super peon there. They were all award winners, doing crazy things, being national champions and stuff like that. Seriously, it was incredible. Ask the Berkeley people who came about it. High caliber major.
So after graduation my family went to Canada. Calgary and Bamff. That’s really a fun word to say. Bamff. It’s like one of those things they had on the old Batman TV show. Wham! Pow! Bamff! At any rate, that’s where we went. I guess the reason we went was, well we haven’t gone on a family trip in a long time. Like 1992, we went to Florida for some church conference. It was actually celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, and they had all these minority pastors in the Southern Baptist Conference come for a conference. So we went with my dad. It was actually really interesting. Because they had all the kids do a separate thing, which was cool. A bunch of pastor’s kids of 15 different minorities. They had a theme song, this really annoying song that the praise leader wrote, that for some reason I still remember:
Go with God let Him lead the way Go with God serve Him every day (I'm gonna) go with God, follow in His steps Go with God, Go with God!
Then the yelling part:
Go! (Go!) With! (With!) Go With! (Go With!) Go With God! (Whoo!)
I remember thinking these white people need to learn to praise. Hey, I was just a kid.
The conference was actually a little depressing because you’d think you know, since they were all pastor’s kids, they’d be different. I guess they weren’t totally messed up like some can be, which is good, but really they were just like kids at school, except female also. I mean, they thought the same things were cool, acted the same way, mostly did the same thing. I guess the biggest thing was the same traits that make people popular in the world made them popular there. They really didn’t try to act different. This is one thing that’s always been on my mind regarding the church / world. Anyway, they were no different. And there was also this predictable relationship that started between this guy and girl, both Chinese. The typicality of that was so sad.
Now that I’m on the subject, I might as well talk about it. Holden Caulfield mentions how digressions are a lot of times more interesting than the subject because it shows what the person is really interested in, because they don’t really know when they start. I kind of believe that. I dig digressions, so bear with me.
But it makes me think about the church being different from the world. I know I must have talked about it before, but I’ve always believed that the church should really value things differently than the world does. But really, this doesn’t happen. I guess what I mean is this valuing doesn’t show itself in popularity. There are certain things that make people popular in the world. Like self-confidence, charm, wittiness, smooth conversation, etc. And that’s fine, but you want to think that in the church, people are drawn to different characteristics, or at least value them differently. Like humility, integrity, conviction, stuff like that. And yeah that happens, but only to a certain extent, and really, both in the church and without, the same things make people popular. And that’s bothered me.
Before, I don’t know if I still do this as I’ve changed a lot, but I was more drawn to those people who willingly rejected things the world does. Believe it or not, me and my closest friends never swore, in elementary school, jr. high, and college prep. That’s one thing. I was also drawn to people who weren’t into the girl thing, or the sports competition thing, or the whole social game thing. That’s pretty much who I hung out with. I always thought to myself, although the world doesn’t acknowledge these people, maybe they’re not the most popular in the world, maybe they’re not so cool and some people think they’re losers, but that’s the world, and in the church, they’re the cool ones, or at least should be. And it was disturbing to me that even in the church, they often weren’t the most popular people. I guess I romanticized losers, social outcasts, because they didn’t engage in the social game that everyone else did.
I stopped doing that. The reason was I found out that a lot of times, these people I idealized didn’t reject these social games because they chose to, but just because that’s how things turned out. It turned out when they had the chance to get into those social games, they did. And that was depressing. Like my friends and I were never into that girl/alcohol/clique thing growing up. But some of them, going to college, just went unleashed, getting into all of those things, and how. That’s like one example. I just found out some of my fellow loser friends didn’t consciously reject these social games, but they would have engaged in them if they could. It was depressing, but I guess a good lesson to learn. I guess I just don’t idolize losers anymore.
I don’t know if I make sense when I use the term loser. But I don’t mean it derogatorily. I just mean it to refer to people whom society in general doesn’t see as cool. Maybe this doesn’t make sense but it’s pretty clear to me.
So what I’ve wanted to see since that disillusionment is people who can, who do have the capability to play that social game, but consciously reject it, seeking other virtues like humility, self-deference, things like that, and people who are honestly attracted to people like that for friends, rather than the standard self-confident, schmoozing model. But that is really hard to find. The most disconcerting thing about it all is myself. I think a recurring theme in my minds is how disturbed I am at myself, in particular socially. I’ve just really learned to play the game, to be mostly confident socially, to schmooze, to pretend you’re better friends with people than you really are. I’ve gotten good at that, and it’s disturbing to see me become that way.
Honestly, people want cool people to be their friends, both outside and inside the church. I mean, in the church, we’ll always include those sketchy quiet not socially adept people to things, we’ll invite them at all, but we really don’t want to be friends with them. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just being honest. I did used to think it was wrong though. But I went the opposite extreme, thinking these people were better because they weren’t socially adept. I guess I just learned that that isn’t quite the case, either.
I guess I’ll have to write about the summer another time.