Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two Prayers - A Dialogue

I've gotten some really good feedback on the previous two posts, so I've decided to make these dialogues a continuing feature on my blog. However, what follows is a little unusual. In the space below, I imagine what the two characters from my first dialogue would say in their nightly prayers, and so delve into their motives and hidden feelings. It will also hopefully serve as a testimony to the power of a personal relationship with God,

Nevertheless, you should keep it in mind that neither of these characters is me. These characters are fictional, so don't  go inferring anything about me from them.

Ezekiel Snider opens the door leading into his dorm. He notices that his roommates are busy watching some inane television show. No matter; he has bigger fish to fry. He slowly and deliberately unlocks the door to his bedroom, steps inside, and closes it again. He kneels down in front of his bed, and offers a sigh. Eventually, he closes his eyes and begins to pray.

Ezekiel Snider: Father, I'm sorry for not going unto you in prayer as often as I should have. It is really quite an oversight on my part, and I ask you to please forgive me for it. 

A pause

ES: I suppose that I'm thankful for the opportunity you've given me to attend's really been quite a junction for me to develop as a person. I'm also thankful for the friends I've come to have there.

He sighs

ES: I realize that I may sometimes be more condescending to people than is proper. I'm sorry for that. I try...I really do try very hard to be considerate and kind. But this is quite difficult. Father, please give me the strength I need to be understanding and empathetic, to show people that I care for them, and that I am listening. 


ES: Father...I ask you humbly for the ability to show love unto the people I meet. I met a man today, I think his name was Philip, and he did not strike me as a very happy fellow. Please bless him. And Father, if you ever grant me the pleasure of meeting him again, give me the strength to be more of a light in his darkness.

Another pause

ES: I...I realize that I don't have much of which to boast. I'm intelligent and witty, yes. But I lack even basic levels of kindness, and I know that I come across to people as conceited and aloof. Father, please give me the strength to deal with my weakness. No...please grant unto me the humility I need to be blessed with your....thy...Spirit.

He breathes in, deeply.

ES: Father, I love thee. I am so deeply thankful for all that thou has done to bless and show love unto me. I know that I am nothing on my own. But when I become filled with thy Spirit, I feel an indescribable love that seems to descend from heaven itself. When I feel this love, I know that thou art there with me. I still feel my weakness, but its gone. Father, please show me how I can have thy Spirit to be with me. I have tasted it, and its goodness has overwhelmed me. I...I feel thy love so strongly even now. Please let me know how I can cultivate it, or rather, please show unto me how I can share it with others.

He smiles, amidst the beginnings of tears.

ES: I thank thee for all my many blessings, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Meanwhile in another part of the city, Philip Delacroix enters his bedroom. He too kneels down at his bedside and begins to pray.

Philip Delacroix: My Father in heaven, I thank thee for the many tender mercies you have given me. I know I don't deserve them. Father, I'm sorry for my transgressions. I've done so many bad things, and I wouldn't blame thee if thou shut off all forgiveness from me. But I know that thou will not. 

He smiles

PD: I'm so amazed at the forgiveness which thou gives to me. To myself, I am worthless, but I know that I am glorious to thee. I am the lowest of the low, but I know that my worth is great in thy eyes.

A pause

PD: Please bless those who are dealing with the same struggles as me. I know that my trials have been good for me, but wouldn't wish them on anyone else. Please give them the hope which I know thou can give. Please show them thy love.

He sighs

PD: Please let me know what I can do to help people. I know that I focus on my own trials a lot, and I ask thee for the strength I need to show love to others. 

Another pause

PD: Father, I am so thankful for everything which thou has done for me. To think of a person like me getting all the glorious blessings that you've given's worthy of awe. Father, I am what I am because of thy tender mercies, and I thank thee for everything. I only ask for the strength to give it all back to thee.

He smiles again.

PD: Father, whenever I pray...I receive an increased testimony of thee and thy gospel. And I feel loved. I thank thee for that love, and I say these things in the name of thy beloved son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Dialogue about Bus Stops, Dead Fish, and the Value of Life

I've decided to continue my dialogue experiment. What follows is the encounter between Ezekiel Snider (a character from the previous post) and a character named Maude Patterson about suffering, life, and death. Also, if you're interested in Ezekiel's ideas, know that they were inspired by my reading of Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation.

Ezekiel Snider is sitting at a bus stop. He has an air of restlessness about him, and you could easily infer from his expression that the bus is quite late. Suddenly, a young woman walks up and sits down (almost) next to him. Ezekiel looks at her as s
he pulls out a magazine and begins to read. 

ES: Greetings! I'm Ezekiel.

Ezekiel looks at her expectantly. Maude peers over her reading, hesitantly.

Maude Patterson: Hi.
ES: I'd like to ask you a question.
MP [confused]: OK...
ES: What are your thoughts on suffering?

A pause.

MP: Wait, what?
ES: I have just returned from an encounter in yonder park. There, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting someone in the throes of distress, who made me think quite deeply about the nature of pain.
MP: I'm sorry?
ES: But I wonder - what are your thoughts on the nature of suffering? 
MP: OK - I'm just waiting for the bus. I'm not your therapist.
ES: Are you perhaps a philosopher?
MP: You're not serious.
ES: Quite.
MP [sighing]: No. I'm a nursing major.
ES: Have you perhaps experienced any pain recently?

Maude puts her magazine completely down.

MP: Do you normally ask girls at the bus stop if they're "suffering"?
ES: No. Only the ones who seem intelligent enough to respond meaningfully.

She looks at him, skeptically.

MP: If you're trying to flirt with me, you're doing a piss-poor job.
ES: Not primarily...perhaps only in an auxiliary or tertiary sense...

A pause, while Maude's face grows more dumbfounded.

ES: But the question remains: have you recently suffered in any meaningful way?
MP [sarcastic]: I fish died yesterday. 
ES: Was it exceedingly tragic?
MP: Not really...
ES: I offer you my deepest consolations. If I can offer anything to ease your suffering, I would gladly do so.
MP: No thanks, I...
ES [interrupting]: I have a theory about death, you know.
MP: Oh. Great.
ES: Time, you see, is an endless striving after satisfaction.
MP: Striving, huh?
ES: Yes, most relevantly on the part of your deceased fish.
MP: And what was he striving after?
ES: Satisfaction, primarily after food.
MP: Well, he's not eating anymore.
ES: Yes, and that necessarily means that time has stopped!

Maude looks oddly at him

ES: For him, at least.
MP: That doesn't really make me feel any better.
ES: But don't you see? Time stopped for your fish because he transcended it. He is free from the bonds of temporality and the chains of cause and effect.
MP:'re saying that if I stop wanting things, I'll die.
ES: Well, that's the only way you can cease to want things. As long as you're alive, you'll always want food, water, and air, and you won't be free of them until you're free of life.
MP: I like those things, though.
ES: But that's only because you've never been free of them. The prisoner is fond of his jail if he's never left it, after all.
MP: My life isn't a prison. I happen to enjoy it.
ES: But of course it is! The same is true of everyone who's ever lived.
MP: OK...then what's so great about life after death, according to you?
ES: It is ultimate freedom. The world, you see, is only an illusion. When to die you shrug off the veil of falsity you bore for your entire life, and you see the world as it really is.
MP: Does that mean that those mountains aren't real?

She points at Mount Timpanogos

MP: What about laughter? Or hot chocloate? Or Disneyland?
ES: They're illusions on all fronts.
MP: You're crazy.

She starts reading her magazine again.

ES: And why do I deserve such a descriptor?

She puts it down again, frustrated.

MP: Life is awesome. Anyone who doesn't think so is insane.
ES: On the contrary, my dear. Life is full of suffering, and the only ways we can escape it is when we come closer to death. Death is the great liberator, and by quieting the unceasing barrage of life, we can come closer to its paradise.

Suddenly a bus pulls up. Maude begins to get on, when she notices that Ezekiel isn't coming.

MP: You getting on?
ES: No. I'm waiting for a different bus.
MP: OK. Have a good life, I guess.
ES: I won't. But good luck with your endeavors, in any case.

Maude rolls her eyes as she steps onto the bus. It pulls away, and leaves Ezekiel sitting alone.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ruminations on Suffering - A Dialogue

I've always had somewhat of an aptitude for dialectic, and so I've composed a few theatrical scripts and philosophical dialogues in my time. But I've never actually posted one of these dialogues on my blog. I intend to change that. 

What follows is my attempt to project the philosophical views I've held at different times onto paper, so as to better understand how these perspectives relate to each other. To do this, I've invented two personas: Philip Delacroix and Ezekiel Snider. By their exchange, I hope that both their characters and their philosophical backgrounds become developed enough to judge rightly. Let me know how I do.

Also, know that neither of these charactes is a reflection of me, per se. I am not as despairing as Philip is, and I only make him so because it seemed right for his character.

Philip Delacroix is standing in a park. Dressed in shabby clothes and donning a mop of long untidy hair, he walks hesitantly along a gravel path until he arrives at a bench. There sits a man dressed in a tweed bow-tie outfit, looking intensely off into space. Philip is about to pass him, when he says...

Ezekiel Snider: Excuse me!

Philip does a double take, but then notices the man.

Philip Delacroix: Sorry?
ES: You were about to spoil a magnificent view! Please desist from crossing my line of sight.
PD: Oh, sorry...

Philip goes to move behind the bench.

ES: Wait! What's your name?
PD [Stopping]: Philip.
ES: Excellent. Mine's Ezekiel. How do you do?
PD: I'm...fine.

Philip goes to move again.

ES: Hold your metaphorical horses! You need to calm down.
PD [Stopping again]: Excuse me?
ES: You're obviously upset about something.
PD: What makes you say that?
ES: You've given a very audible sigh three times in our brief conversation. What's wrong?
PD: It's none of your business.

He moves away again, but is stopped by Ezekiel's umbrella.

ES: A debate! That's what you need.
PD: What?
ES: A good dose of dialectical exchange ought to do the trick. Always does for me.
PD: But I'm not interested in a debate.
ES: Doesn't matter. Now, here's a question: what is suffering?
PD: But I don't...
ES: Don't think! Just speak!
PD [sighing]: I said I wasn't interested!
ES: Fine. would argue that all pain and suffering are the result of being overly involved with particular things. The pain simply goes away if you learn to let go, and abandon yourself to the flow of time.

Philip sighs and shakes his head.

PD: And I guess you're free of all that, huh?
ES: What, suffering? Far from it! I still struggle with it every day.
PD: And what is suffering for you?
ES: That's a bit personal.
PD: Do you know what it's like to fail at everything you try? Do you know how it feels to be shunned by people you thought were your friends?
ES: No. 

A pregnant pause

ES: Do you?
PD [wincing]: It doesn't matter.

Philip goes to walk away again.

ES: Wait! Have you ever tried just relaxing? Being like the lilies of the field? Trusting your well-being to the hands of the morrow?
PD [Stopping again]: No.
ES: Why don't you try it?
PD: I don't want to. Who said suffering was a bad thing?

Another pause.

ES: Uh....most people?
PD: You don't understand.

Philip goes to walk away again.

ES: Hang on! What do you mean?

Philip sighs again

PD: I have become the person I am because I have suffered. If I abandoned it, I would lose everything that I hold dear.
ES: But you said it yourself - suffering is pain. You want pain?
PD: I want to grow and love, and pain's the only way that happens.

Ezekiel stops to think

ES: Growth I can understand. It's like a workout, right? You break muscle fibers to grow.
PD: I guess.
ES: But how can you love through pain?
PD: Pain is humility. When I am hurt, I learn to forget myself in favor of others. I remember that I am only a sinner, just like everyone else. That's the great equalizer.
ES: But you are a child of God! You're glorious!
PD: I'm wretched. That makes me glorious..

Philip pauses, and looks off into the distance.

PD: I've got to go.
ES: Alright. That wouldn't be a bad idea.

Philip goes to leave

ES: Philip!

Philip turns around

ES: I can't say I agree with you, but you certainly are glorious. God bless you.

Philip smiles

PD: You, too.