Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Learning is a Journey Not a Destination

In this life there comes a time when we reach a certain level of expertise in one area which then creates a confidence that flows in all areas of life.  This is usually good and often considered emotionally healthy.  This has been my observation on my own and other people around me.  But sometimes the confidence we derive from excelling at one thing goes beyond some boundaries and it becomes a license to feel superior at everything.  This is not a good thing.  It makes someone emotionally, unhealthy.  It hinders learning.

Beat your last record.  With my recent attempts to engage in a new form of art, in spite of my 59 years of life experience and a PhD,  I have to position myself as a student/beginner putting all other measurements of my own abilities in other areas of life.  As a student, in this new area of interest, one of the first things I've learned is that if I want to excel then I have to tread the long road towards excellence.  I am at the starting point of this road and if I want to get better then I have to look at this road as one without end but with every step taken a new terminal towards my goal. The question would then be:  Is this terminal moving me forward or is this taking me in a loop?  There are no short cuts to getting better but to walk the road.  To keep on is the only way to get ahead and the only measure of improvement  is based only on my improvement from my own starting point. This idea positions me in the right place. If my painting is better than the last one I made then I am moving forward. Sometimes, subconsciously, I compare my abilities with others - which I think is a stumbling block in my improvement as an artist.

Strive to Improve.  It is good to appreciate other's works and skills especially if they are taken as inspiration to get better.  I'm my case, I follow a number of artists on Instagram to learn from. As they say, every expert was once a beginner.  No one skips that.  However, there are times when I lack the motivation to push forward because my improvement seems nil and unmeasurable.  But as in any advancement, the change is not guaranteed a constant speed.  Learning does not happen at a constant speed.  And yet this is all part of a balanced life I'm talking about.  One must strive at some areas while being proficient in other areas.  We learn from others while others learn from us.  No one monopolizes one side of the equation.  We all have a fair share of both ends.  This is how social balance is maintained. This is what makes the journey more fun.  Even my former elementary school classmate who is now a surgeon in Chicago admits to striving to learn about new advances/technology in medicine just to keep his practice current.  For what kind of world would this be if everyone is exactly as good as each other in all subjects? Nothing less than boring, I would say.

Look Up and Learn.  Sometimes when we start on a journey, there is an anxious longing to get to the destination that we miss to appreciate journey.  There is the dream that when we get to the top, that we will be great.  However, time and time again we see that the end is often  a let down.  The end brings us closer not to the imagined glory but to another level of a challenge.  I find it both stimulating and humbling to be at the bottom of the learning process (in art).  I can learn something new from those who have traveled the road longer than than I did.  And sometimes I hear them say something very simple but I keep that in my head and apply it in my next project.  On the other hand being on the bottom of the ladder also helps me appreciate the struggles of those who may yet have to learn what I have already mastered.  Learning is not a destination, it is a journey. 

"Painting is damned difficult - you always think you've got it, but you haven't."   Paul Cezanne

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Preaching Like a Pro

Today my son preached at the University Covenant Church.  It is very exciting but as his mother, I was concerned in the last two days and even waking up at three o'clock this morning wondering how he was dealing with the pressure of writing and delivering an appropriate sermon to a relatively big church - three times. 

When we saw the video later today, my husband and I were not only relieved but delighted. He is engaging with a good amount of humor. He has the characteristics of a good teacher. 😊   

The unexpected effect of seeing my son preach is the reminder that my husband and I are growing old - really growing old.  And so we must now consciously take on this journey with grace...😉

Friday, July 14, 2017

Conversation on Worship

Miriam and I were home alone, Tim was on his regular business trips to Taipei.  Getting up at ten o'clock in the morning is normal as a summer-privilege for Miriam. One morning last week Miriam and I were talking during a late breakfast, enjoying the fact that we were inside sheltered from the scorching morning sun, and the conversation we were having was intermittently interrupted by the busy birds in the patio.  Then the topic on worship came about.  Miriam often surprises me with her wit and understanding of life.  She is young but she understands concepts and how it is displayed in peoples lives.

Although the juvenile mind still lacks the experience to see the parallel image of the physical in the spiritual sense of the world, there is the transparency in every child that seem to peel away the filters that older people have put on over the years.  And hence the importance of having a regular parent-child philosophical exchange.  That was the case of our conversation.  Needless to say, we had a very interesting, sweet and honest conversation.  

It all began with a quote by David Foster Wallace: 

"In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.   And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship ... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive."  

1. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough.

2. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you.

3.  Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. 

4. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Think about it.  We worship that which drives us to the choices and actions we take.  It drives us to make sacrifices because we think that it is glorifying to that which/or whom we worship.  We suffer for which we worship.  We are fearful of what we worship.  We do not want to offend that which we worship. 

So this begs the question, who or what do I worship?  What consumes me?  Does it revitalizes me or does it drain the life out of me?  I was stunned at my own question.  

I've always assumed that I worship God.  I do the things a good Christian does, or so I think.  But if I truly worship God why then do I not have the peace that comes only from worshiping God?  Why then do I not think of God as often as I should?  Why then do I not choose based on what makes God look good.  Why then am I not afraid of the consequences of my lack of attention.  As I write these diagnostic questions, pictures of things that possibly could have won my worship flashed in my head.  "Do I really worship God?"  "Good question."  

To make a long story short, I admitted to my daughter that I seem to worship the welfare of my family.  It is what I think about in every passing day.  The thought of messing it makes me fearful. One might say it is typical for a wife/mother to have such concerns.  And yet it is obvious that I seemed to have placed my family on the pedestal that rightfully belongs to God.  (Lord, forgive me and help me adjust my life in the right way!) 

In like manner my daughter was able to easily recognize the thing that consumes her - high grades.  It is the trap that gets smart and over-achieving people.   

There is a very fine line between enjoyment and worship.  We enjoy the gift and worship the giver.  And from time to time we get mixed up.  When we take pride in the blessings that God has given us to enjoy and we begin to use it to define who we are; when we begin to value the blessing over the Giver;  when we begin to believe the blessing has power to give us peace and life - that's when we stopped worshiping God. 

Enjoy the gift and worship the Giver.