I used to always do this. End the year with some great profound thought, hoping to have made a dent on the world in the 365 days that had just passed. I wanted to be sure I was savoring whatever mysterious thing the ‘present’ is to be savored. Turns out, I think the present is better at savoring me than I am at savoring it. And it isn’t always nice about it.
But that is a blog for another day.
So many blogs, so little time…
Nonetheless, this year there were words that shaped me. Lyrics of songs, lines from television shows, tweets, words from friends; words of comfort, of truth, of hope, of betrayal, and even words I’d heard a thousand times before. All of these things have been swimming around in my head, particularly since I drove the 1300 miles home. Because I didn’t just come home: I left. I left something. Something that happened. So many somethings that happened. And I didn’t realize until just a few days ago that where my mind had been feeding itself on these words and militarily moving me forward, my body was struggling to keep up and my heart barely survived (jury is still out on its current state).
I thought, then, it was only right that I compile the words I fed myself on in the wilderness of the past year. For whatever they’re worth. I am emerging from said wilderness, donning furs and wild hair. These are my locusts. If you will.
10. Time is not the boss of you. — The Doctor
It’s true, you know. We are our worst enemies. And my great crime as communist dictator over myself is being in a constant hurry, as though death himself is chasing me, tailing me so closely, nipping at my heels — threatening at any second of any day to expose me for the fraud and the unimportant speck of dust that I am. Any of that may very well be true, but every once in awhile it helps when a mad man with a box and tails reminds me to relax. Even the end is not the boss of me. Because it has not gotten the last word.
9. When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all…grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better. — The Doctor
See above. And honestly, watch Doctor Who. Because who are you kidding not watching it.
8. What can you do, dragon, to erase the life and the laughter I’ve already lived and already laughed? — ND Wilson
This line, Nate Wilson tweeted during Holy Week. And every time I feel myself starting to resent my own pain or lose my breath to the death march of my ever-ticking clock, I hear these words. And I find myself a place to stand straight and tall and say them aloud. Because indeed, dragon. What have you left, now that it has finished.
7. Tell me how not to fail you.
Technically, this line was from a conversation in October of 2012. But the entirety of 2013 has been its response. If you were to dissect the body of the betrayal itself, this line would’ve been found in the bones. And where it has made the list of the most hurtful things I’ve ever endured, it has also taught me the exact tone of the terror of success. This failure was not the first of its kind, but if it is up to me, it will be the last.
6. Leonato: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
Beatrice: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth…
[Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, Scene 1]
Given the previous line, even in vagueness, I would think this is pretty self explanatory. I promise, this is as cynical as I’ll allow this post to be. Because the other reason I include this has everything to do with David Tennant playing a Scottish Benedick opposite Catharine Tate’s Beatrice in the RSC modern staging of my all time favorite Shakespeare. Get thee to Digital Theatre to watch it. Amazing.
5. This is water. — David Foster Wallace
I refuse to give this man, and these words, any explanation at all. For he needs nothing from me. You owe it to yourself to hear him say it. All of it. Trust me on this one. Click here.
4. We are here to build the house. — Sugar/Cheryl Strayed
Dear Sugar was a column on a website called The Rumpus that I followed closely until the big reveal of Sugar’s identity as the author Cheryl Strayed (who is a delightful person, btw). Be forewarned, my more conservative friends/readers, that her language as well as the subject matter is quite colorful (and most of you will likely take serious offense). But she is one of the greatest and most human writers, particularly as Sugar, that I have ever read. And these words became a staple in my Denver home and between friends in relation to intentionality in our relationships and in our greater community. In the spirit of these things and the lenses of I Peter 2, I give you the line in a bit more context:
It doesn’t matter what your head is working out—the monthly grand, the uncertainty of unemployment, the meta/feminist gymnastics. Putting faith in that crap might pay the rent, but it’s never going to build your house.
We are here to build the house.
It’s our work, our job, the most important gig of all: to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code. Not the code that only echoes imposed cultural values, but the one that tells us on a visceral level what to do.
3. It is not your job to give meaning to the world. Jonathan Rogers
I have only one word for this statement: Hutchmoot. Read my full thoughts here.
2. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:5
This. Honestly, what needs to be said after this. I submit only silence. For this is the bad news (darkness exists) and the good news (it has not overcome the light) all wrapped up in a few short words. It is true every morning, every evening, every loss, every gain. It is true or else nothing is. It is the only story worth telling. It is the only name worth having. It is the only reason to keep going. It shines, indeed, my friends. And it will not be stopped.
“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” [John Steinbeck, East of Eden]
If you have not read East of Eden from start to finish, make it a point to do so immediately if not sooner. It should probably be a frequent re-read for most of us who tend towards the cynical and exhausted, particularly. Because if there’s one thing I can say about my year and the choices I’ve made (far from perfect, mind you), I am proud of myself. I am proud to be myself. I am proud to have done what I did in the way that I did it. Because ‘timshel’ was said gently to me more than once by my Gatherer. And I had ears to hear. Here is the full context for the quote.
Better to fail doing the right thing than to succeed doing the wrong one. — The Doctor
You know who you are.
Remember how much light you have. — lyric from Ben Shive, who is nauseatingly talented and easily the single most underrated songwriter in existence. I will not only argue to the death with anyone who would say otherwise, I will seriously question your judgement about most things that matter. Have I convinced you yet? Anyway. This line. What else can I say but that I needed it? I did. How I did.
This, too, shall be made right. — Derek Webb
Because 80% of these 365 days will be added to the long list of tragedies and sorrows that will come untrue.
To 2014, friends. To killing the dragon, not being the slave of time or fear or failure or our old lives. To being better than we were — than we are. To Wisdom over folly, righteousness over easiness, Truth over the way it has always been. May we find ourselves all the closer to knowing our names, seeing our home, and being made real when another 365 days have passed.