I just got back from this dinner we had with the teachers for the children’s ministry (4th – 6th grade). It was a blast. First of all, the restaurant was really nice. It’s called The Blue Point, and it’s on Clement and 25th, just past Geary.

Anyway, I had a blast. Mrs. So, who heads the children’s ministry, is just a really really great person. I’ve written about this before, but the way she cares about her kids is just totally inspiring. It’s cool hanging out with older people. Her oldest daughter is 16 1/2 and has a driving permit. You don’t really talk about stuff like that with other YAGers. It’s refreshing.

Anyway, she said something that I just thought was so cool. She was saying how she had been thinking (not seriously) about sending her youngest son, David, on Saturdays to Jewish school. So he could learn Hebrew. The way she explained it, she said like you know, we all believe that Jesus is coming back and the Bible says that the Jews will come back in those times, so maybe David could help with that. She wasn’t totally serious, but I just thought wow. That’s pretty cool.

The teachers for the children’s ministry are just totally great people. At dinner tonight was Pastor Eugene, Mrs. So, Eric Chen, Lucy Liew, Connie Chung, Michelle Wang, Sarah Yi, and me. It was a great conversation, because they’re all such a cool bunch of individuals. The coolest thing was the feeling that all these people are really committed to making the church better, and you could just tell. Big hearts. Anyway, I was encouraged.

I got this fortune the other night:

Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.

It was one of the more interesting fortunes I’ve gotten because it doesn’t state the obvious. The thing is, is it true? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s obvious that the reverse is not true, that simplicity of character indicates profound thought, but what about as it’s stated. It’s an interesting question.

My company went on a nature hike last week. Once a month we try to do a “fun” activity, and this month we went to the Filoli area near Half Moon Bay right off of 92. It was a lot of fun. I love nature. Anytime I do something naturey, I really enjoy it. We got to see a couple deer, and other stuff. Plus, it was on company time, so that was a blast. I just didn’t want to go back.

Adrian’s put up these song lyrics that I guess he likes, I don’t know, he hasn’t said anything about it, but one of the songs he includes is Sting’s I Hung My Head. I just need to second that this song, off of Mercury Falling, is just totally amazing. For so many reasons. First of all, just read the lyrics. The cool thing about the lyrics, is that the line that’s repeated is I Hung My Head and it ends every stanza. The thing is, it means a slightly different thing each time. Sometimes it’s for shame, sometimes in shock, and at the very end, it’s literal. He hangs his head. That’s just a cool lyrical thing.

The second overwhelmingly cool thing about this song is that the meter is 9/8. But not your garden variety 9/8. If you’ve taken any music theory you know that meter is arranged and classified into things like compound double, or simple triple, or stuff like that. You can just by the time signature which one it is, because it’s pretty standard. 3/4 is simple triple, 6/8 is compound double (not triple; it’s 2 groups of triplets) and so forth (interestingly, 4/4 is simple quadruple, not compound double, because you count in 4, not in 2). Anyway, if you see a 9/8, you know it’s compound triple, 3 groups of triplets. It’s an unusual meter, kind of rare, but not unheard of.

The thing is, Sting doesn’t do it like that. He plays the song like a normal 4/4 song, like 95% of all songs, but with an extra 1/8th note stuck in there. It’s just absolutely cool, and kind of subtle unless you’re consciously thinking about it or as musically aware as myself. Listen to it and try to figure out the meter. It’s tricky, unless you’re me.

Anyway, that he manages to do that is just amazing. Because it has all these implication with like how the drummer drums and what all the imstruments play, and that he pulls it off, and what’s more, that it sounds good, so much that less perceptive listeners won’t even pick it up, is astounding. When I first heard it, I thought it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever heard.

I started watching the director’s commentary to Pleasantville on DVD last night. It was great. In case you don’t know, Pleasantville is currently my 2nd favorite movie of all time, just behind The Shawshank Redemption. That might shock many of you, but it’s true. I realized that I never really explained why I like the movie so much, or if I did than I didn’t do it well. Anyway, the weird thing about movies is that in a sense, you can’t really explain why it’s good to you. It’s just like music – you can point out some things about it technically that are cool, but you can’t explain why particular movies or music resonates with you. There’s something about it that’s so fundamentally emotional that it escapes a tidy explanation. It just kind of hits you, and when it comes down to it, that’s all you can say.

I can try to explain some good things about the movie though, why it appeals to me, but I can’t explain why it appeals to me so much. A lot of Christians are against the message of Pleasantville, because they see the message as being (have you seen it yet? Maybe you shouldn’t read until…) anti Christian, in that the movie protrays the fall from Eden as being a good thing. In addition, it presents promiscuous sex as being a good, enlightening thing. It’s true that these are 2 possible, probable interpretations of things in the movie, and I don’t really agree with that. But I really do feel that these things, while there, are really ancillary and not the main point of the movie at all. To get hung up on these issues is valid, but I think to miss sight of the main point (or what I see as the main point) is sad.

I hate it when Christians and Christian groups get so narrow sighted that they lose sight of bigger things. For example, I came across this web site where they kind of rate movies in their appropriateness for children based on categories like sex/nudity, violence, profanity, offense to God, stuff like that. It’s a noble idea, but they are so one-sided that I feel like they miss out on bigger things. For example, Shawshank gets a pretty low rating, which is justified, because there’s a lot of brutal prison reality there. But while that’s fine, there’s no mention whatsoever of the redeeming, I would say Biblical message in the movie. And that to me is just sad, that you’re so caught up in how bad something is that you can’t see at all how really great it is in other, more important respects.

Pleasantville is a little different as a part of the theme can be considered offensive, but like I said, I believe that’s secondary.

Let me explain why I like the movie. To me, what the movie is about is a fear of change. That is, the black and white world represents a person or society’s attempt / desire to have a simple, “pleasant” life. The problems occur when things challenge that simplicity. A common response to that is to try to keep that from happening, either by pretending it’s not real or by trying to keep it from being real.

The thing I thought that was insightful about the film is that it pointed out that the underlying cause of a lot of intolerance in American society historically is caused by the same fundamental fear of change. Some people criticized that the movie tried to do too much, but in my view, that was the point, that all these different disparate things have the same cause – a fear of change, or a fear of something new that threatens the status quo.

So he fits a lot into there; “subversive” literature like Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye, and Huckleberry Finn, music, with the different Rock N’ Roll and Jazz played in the movie, challenging art, racism, fascism, stuff like that. It all plays off of fear, and all these little things that seem almost throwaway are very intentional and I thought that was very cool. Because it’s true; a lot of these things have the same underlying cause of people being afraid of things changing.

Anyway, it resonated with me because it was something that had been on my mind when I first saw it. Eli was telling me about some speaker he had seen (I am fairly sure I’ve mentioned this before) talking about the new technologies and science breakthroughs and the troublesome implications of them all. Like with biomedical advances, computer advances, there’s just a lot of troubling implications, with like privacy and ethics and stuff. And that needs to be addressed. Anyway, one thing he said at the end (this guy’s a Christian) is that a common response, especially among Christians, is to be afraid of all this change and try to deny or repress it. But he was saying something like (it was a while ago and I’m afraid by now in my memory it’s more my take on it than what was actually said) we should embrace it, accept it and deal with it, and that that’s the proper response. For some reason, that really resonated with me.

I really dislike it when people react to something that might change their world poorly. I really do feel that the proper response as Christians is to really not necessarily embrace change but accept it and deal with it that way, other than in other ways. I really feel that in the past when Christians (who more than others have been resistant to change) have not done this, it’s left a big scar on the reputation of Christians in the world, and that’s just a shame and a sin. For example, most Southerners during the Civil War were Christians, and the largest Protestant denomination in America today, the Southern Baptist Convention was formed when Southern churches split to uphold slavery. That just sucks.

Anyway, there used to be this big uproar regarding the types of music that could be played at church. Nowadays, I don’t know any statistics or anything, but it seems most churches have adapted a “contemporary” worship style. Those dinosaurs who insisted on a specific musical style, saying anything else is of the Devil, a la Bill Gothard, are fringe today. So it was pretty much a waste of time.

So in my view, the church has been particularly resistant to societal change, and that has often been bad, as it reflects poorly on our image to the world. And the Bible tells us we should have a good reputation, or be faultless, so that when men criticize us they would be shamed. We should of course stand fast to fundamental unchanging principles. But I think the church has confused some of those with things that keep us comfortable, and safe, and that’s wrong.

In fact, part of what I like about Pleasantville is that I feel it’s like the call of the Christian, that you need to escape your pleasant, safe world, and really live a more radical one, where you’re awakened to greater realities, a reality that’s far more exciting and real than the sleepy existence you’ve had. It encourages me to be radical, to not seek comfort, but a greater understanding of reality.

Of course this wasn’t the movie’s intent. But the great thing about movies is that it is what you get from it, not what was meant. I like Pleasantville because I feel like it encourages me with a message I need to hear as a Christian, even though that’s a message I’m kind of synthesizing on my own. But it’s the same thing with Shawshank. That to me is the most encouraging movie for a Christian like ever. But it’s not meant to be. But that doesn’t matter. It’s what it does for me. Anyway, I’m rambling now.

You know those old beer commercials where you see a bunch of guys doing stuff and drinking beer and they say, this is the life. I feel like I’ve been living the life recently. And for some reason it bothers me. Anyway, last night, I cooked myself a nice little dinner. Had some salmon, steamed asparagus (a great vegetable), and rice pilaf (Rice-A-Roni: only the best) and washed it down with a nice White Zinfandel from Gallo that comes in those tiny 4-pack bottles. An altogether pleasant meal.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And it bothers me a little bit. I guess I’ve always been uncomfortable with people who enjoy this life too much. The hardest people to witness to, I’ve found, are those that really enjoy this life and don’t recognize their need for something more, for Christ. Repentance is the first step to salvation, and when people enjoy this life too much, that doesn’t happen.

Plus, there are a bunch of verses that say how we shouldn’t enjoy this life. Like a lot of the Beatitudes indicate that those who suffer in this world will get a whole lot more later. Other verses are even stronger about it, saying that we should turn our laughter into weeping and mourning. And of course that we should give up everything material and not for Christ. So it’s troubling a little when I find myself enjoying this life.

I know the answer to these questions (probably) is that it’s OK to enjoy this life, I mean, Jesus’ first miracle occurred at this big celebration and he added to the merriment by providing more alcohol. God commanded the Israelites to celebrate certain times of the year. It wasn’t just allowed, it was commanded. Celebration is good, as long as it doesn’t cause one to get more attached to this world.

But I don’t know, I can’t help but feel a little bit unsettled about it. I can’t totally explain it. I guess what it is is it worries me that I’m becoming too knowledgeable about pleasure. Like fine food and wine. If I don’t know about it, there’s no problem. But the more I know about it, the more I need it. So now, good food and wine are important to me. I guess that’s what worries me. Plus I’m afraid I’m becoming a snob. Stanford does that to you. It kind of sucks. But really, although I’m a student, I’m pretty much living an upper crust life. And that bothers me.

But I’m happy. Life is great. Love is great. I highly, highly recommend it. But I’m so happy where I am right now. I’ve got a decent job for the summer, I’m looking forward to the academic year because I love academics, I love my place, I love what I’m involved with at church, I’m happy with the people I know and see, I’ve got my baby. All is well. And strangely, that contentedness bothers me. How can I say I’m content if I’m troubled? I don’t know, it’s kind of paradoxical but that’s pretty much how I feel.

I know what I want to change though. Better times with God, more evangelism and clearer service with the church. I love church. Church is a great thing.

Love is all you need; all you need is love!

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