Sunday, May 22, 2016

Civil Libertarianism: What a Wonderful Phrase!

I’m talking about civil libertarianism today. I’m going to try to not be obnoxious about it, but I can assure you I will be. Most of the time when I talk about politics, it’s about stuff that makes me angry. Well, civil libertarianism is something that makes me happy, so here you go. Also, please excuse my cheesy Lion King references.

Civil libertarianism is a broad range of thought that encompasses both left and right wing libertarianism. It’s probably the most important aspect of the classical liberalism school of thought.

Now that all that pretentious sounding stuff is out of the way, what actually is civil libertarianism? It’s the view that people’s personal lives and decisions should not be subject to government legislation. So basically, it means no worries for the rest of your days.

It’s not specific to the Libertarian Party, either. I’d say, in fact, that the Green Party is also a civil libertarian party. The difference is that the Libertarian Party extends the concepts to the economic and environmental realm. But we’re not talking about those issues today. We’re talking about the civil realm.

The Nanny States of America

Civil libertarianism isn’t something you see even the slightest bit of in either major political party in the U.S. The new norm in American politics has become competing nanny government legislation, for both Democrats and Republicans. Bill De Blasio, the Democratic mayor of New York has been pushing really hard to ban the New York Yankees from chewing tobacco during games, on account that it’s unhealthy and sets a “bad example.” It’s a super insignificant example, but that’s exactly the point. Since when is something that insignificant open to be the subject of legislation? Here in SC, legislation was passed through the state senate and sent to the house that would hold private companies liable for crimes committed by immigrants under their care. The senator who introduced that legislation was Kevin Bryant (incidentally, Anderson friends, he’s up for re-election this year). There’s a lot of other examples of this sort of thing throughout the U.S. (especially in New York and California). Laws like this stem from the mentality that if something’s wrong, it should be illegal.

That kind of mentality is not even remotely what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind. Now don’t let me lose you here. I know that I personally zone out when I hear people talk about the Founding Fathers intent, because when they do, the next words out of their mouth usually aren’t even close to what the Bill of Rights or the Preamble say. The general principle of those documents is this mentality: each person should be free of government constraints until they violate another’s freedoms.

The consistency and practicality of this principle is surprising. Is someone free to murder? No, they’re violating another’s right to life. Is someone free to steal? No, they’re violating another’s right to possession. When you think of the role of government in this context, things can make a lot more sense (including the U.S. constitution).

The type of government that this sort of thinking produces is one that exists solely to protect its citizens’ rights. This government answers to the people before the people answer to it. It’s made of representatives who are employees of its citizens, since they are paid by the citizens’ tax dollars and chosen by the citizens. I believe this model was the original intent of the founders, and it’s a major contrast to the sort of parent-child relationship that many now think the government should have with its citizens.

Why it matters

We’ve all heard the mantra “power corrupts,” and it’s become a catch-phrase that Americans and others use when talking about government. It’s interesting, then, that so few are concerned about the scope of authority held by the government. Nothing is off-limits for legislation. In the 20’s and early 30’s, alcohol was illegal. During the Vietnam War, several young men were legally forced to enlist in the military. During the Second World War, Japanese-Americans were held in internment camps. In South Carolina, marriage between blacks and whites was technically illegal until 1998. To top it all off, Cuban cigars are still illegal for Americans to purchase. These are only a few examples of the bizarrely wide-reaching scope that U.S. laws have.

The founders of the U.S. definitely would not have been ok with the insanely micromanaging government we have today. No, it’s nowhere close to Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but why on earth should we use those countries as the measuring stick? It’s like saying “sure, I killed one person, but Jeffrey Dahmer killed seventeen people. So I’m not that bad.” The point is that if the government has power to govern people’s personal lives, then it has room to expand, and increase that power. The purpose of civil libertarianism is to keep the government out of those areas to start with.

Arguments against civil libertarianism (and why they don’t work)

Some of these arguments will be based on political theory and some will be based on religion.

  1. But doesn’t Romans 13 say that the government is supposed to promote good and guard against evil? (I’m not going to quote the entire chapter, so look it up yourself).
    No, it doesn’t say that. It’s a chapter about how Christians are supposed to relate to the government in power. It basically just says you shouldn’t break the law. However, we also see passages elsewhere where people break evil laws because they violate their conscience, so that’s the catch.  
    As for biblical prescriptions regarding the establishment of government, I don’t believe there are any. However, if someone has a biblical worldview, then that would naturally effect the way they think a country should be governed. I would say that the numerous examples of brutal, oppressive kings in the Old Testament should serve as a warning against a particularly powerful government.
  2. But we need to protect American values!
    First, no. Just no. That’s Donald Trump crap. Second, if by American values, you mean life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then yes we do. Other than that, there are no “American Values” because America has always been a melting pot of different cultures. Also, America isn’t a Christian nation, and it never has been. The constitution is a document that was inspired by classical liberalism and enlightenment thinking, not preachers.  
    I’m obviously not disrespecting Christianity here, since I’m a Christian myself, but Jesus very clearly said that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). So for the love of Christ (literally), let’s stop pretending that it is. Also, the great commission wasn’t referring to government legislation, it was referring to personal actions.
  3. But won’t a libertarian government make it difficult to defend us from terrorists?
    Well, not really.  
    Naturally, though, it would be easier for the government to fight it if they had unfettered access to phone records and browsing history, and they already sort of do because of the Patriot Act (which was supported by both major parties). However, that kind of authority is so blatantly unconstitutional that it makes me want to vomit. Most things about American politics make me want to vomit, but the Patriot Act does more than almost anything else.  
    Also, if the U.S. practiced international libertarianism, then terrorism would be much less of a problem. It’s common knowledge that the U.S. was one of the chief sponsors of the Taliban during the 80s. This was because we had a common enemy: Soviet Russia. So the good ol’ U.S. of A decided that it’d be a good idea to give these crazy people guns, because they didn’t like communism, and anyone who doesn’t like communism is our friend, right? Wrong, obviously. Now, almost thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. lawmakers are ticked-off that Russia is killing ISIS members in Syria instead of us. According to senators like McCain and Graham, it somehow violates American sovereignty to be involved in a country halfway around the world from the U.S. 
    Now the U.S. is arming “peaceful” rebels who are fighting the Syrian government. What’s that verse in the bible about a dog returning to its vomit?
  4. But if you’re a Calvinist, then don’t you believe that man is totally depraved, and therefore unable to govern himself?
    Well, even if a non-libertarian government was in place, the leader would still be a totally depraved man. So man would still be governing himself. 
    I do believe in man’s depravity (you’d have to be blind to not believe in at least some form of human depravity). However, that’s one of the main reasons I am a civil libertarian. No matter how well-intentioned, a single person’s efforts to do good will fail if he is granted absolute power. In the same way, if people of the same mindset are the sole possessors of power, they will be corrupted, no matter how noble that mindset is, and will trample on the rights of those who don’t share their views.
  5. But don’t civil libertarians think that gay marriage should be legal?
    Yeah, so? Even if you don’t agree with a specific practice, at the end of the day, if that practice is not harmful to other people, there is no reason for it to be illegal. If you follow the principle of legislating morality, the laws become subject to perceptions of morality, which vary a great deal from person to person and worldview to worldview. I’m not making this argument from a moral relativist standpoint. I believe conflicting systems of morality are mutually exclusive, but again, that’s the reason that no one view of morality should become law. If each person is free to practice their religion freely, then you avoid excessive conflict. That’s why the first amendment exists. 
    Also, one of the arguments I hear most from people opposing the legality of gay marriage is “the government doesn’t need to redefine marriage.” Well, this argument makes no sense at all, because in order to redefine marriage, the government would have to have the power to define marriage in the first place, and that’s just foolishness. 
    However, there’s a right-wing and left-wing problem when it comes to this issue. Right-wingers often think that these practices should be illegal (or at least restricted). However, occasionally left-wingers go further than the protection of civil rights when it comes to these issues. Hillary Clinton, towards the beginning of her presidential bid, said that mindsets needed to change. Well, when it comes to loving people you disagree with, yes, mindsets do need to change. My question is, why is a presidential candidate talking about mindsets? Is she hinting that she will do something as president to change those mindsets? Since when does the government have authority over mindsets? Oh right, it did have that authority during the McCarthyism-era, when it was a crime to be a communist (or for people to think you were a communist). 
    Basically, legislating people’s mindsets is a two-way street. The religious right often pushes for the legislation of a Christian culture, but the radical left (at least the ones who aren’t libertarian-leaning) push for the legislation of a secular culture. The government should not legislate ANY type of culture.


As I said before, neither of the major political parties here in the U.S. actually fight for civil liberties. This is especially true of the two major presidential candidates that will be facing off this fall. Trump is a textbook right-wing fascist with no soul. Hillary is a corporately owned populist with no soul. The only way either of these parties will lose power is if people vote for different parties. I’m not saying people shouldn’t vote for Republicans or Democrats, but blind party loyalty will eventually kill American democracy and civil liberties if people don’t cut it out. Look really hard at Trump and Clinton. They’re genuinely horrible people. And they’re fascists. Use your brain and vote for someone else.

If anything in this article has offended you, I apologize, even though it was probably on purpose. If nothing else, hopefully you’ll at least start thinking more skeptically about the policies and ideas put out by both major political parties here in the U.S. Keep the ideas of civil libertarianism in your head, and you’ll notice the consistency it has when applied to the role of government. I guess you could say it’s a… problem free philosophy.

Friday, May 13, 2016

BAM - Elimination. Lack of Education.

Emily's ENTJ twin here, 

United States Marine Lewis “Chesty” Puller once succinctly stated my current worldview in better words than anyone else to date. When surrounded by the enemy, and faced with death, he looked at his beleaguered marines and said, “All right boys, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us.
They can't get away this time!!!"
At surface, this displays courage, bravery, and certainly determination. However, at its base, it displays the same reckless anti-fatalism that I believe should permeate communication as well as my own management of relational conflict and personal struggles.

Recently I have become disenchanted with the failure of authority figures (in my life) to adequately respond to problems that are clearly within their ability and purview of competent responses. All life is communicative. To say otherwise is moronic. From the moment we are birthed, we cry out in protest of the bright light that has invaded our comfortable lives. This communication is ceaseless, and only stops when our lungs can no longer draw breath.

Clear communication is not a pearl waiting to be found, not is it a rare happenstance of amazing talented communicators. Miscommunication is a normalcy in relationships today, despite causing so much friction and pain.

Here are some examples:

-       I didn’t hear you say that
-       I thought you meant…
-       Why did you say…?
-       I wasn’t listening…
-       I thought you said…
-       Wait, what did you say?
-       What do you mean by that…?
-       I know you said xyz, but…
-       What I thought it meant was…

Miscommunication is usually a result of:
  1. A lack of knowledge regarding clear communication tactics ( which are simple, easy to learn and very foundational
  2. A lack of effort on the part of either party
  3. A lack of will on the part of either party
  4. A result of translation or telephone error where two parties cannot directly interact in a pre-ordained medium.

In my experience the first 3 make up the majority of scenarios where miscommunication occurs. My frustration stems from people that clearly exhibit number 2 and 3. I would offer to my reader (you), that clear communication can happen in every situation, and that miscommunication can always be avoided.

Here is the kicker. Will miscommunication always be avoided? Nope. But the potential is there! In my limited but intense years in this earth, I have found the following principals to be almost universally helpful

1  1)  Clear Communication is always slow. The first response that comes to your mind is always the wrong one (look up the wonderful book Verbal Judo). Think before you speak. The other person can wait, and most likely they will appreciate your response more.  
2 2)    Always always assume that you are the more mature communicator in the conversation. Never ever expect the other person to carry the maturity of the conversation, and never ever expect them to always react appropriately.
a.     A word on this principal. It seems drastic right? It seems ill-founded. Here is my reasoning. Your perception and expectations of reality are what determine your actions. Thus, if you stick all the agency of the situation on yourself, you cannot be disappointed when things go awry, because you are prepared for it. Let me also say, that this viewpoint does not exclude you form trusting your communication partner, or for that matter having faith in their communication abilities.
b.     In Krav Maga, and other martial arts, students are taught to go into a fight expecting to bleed. They are taught to expect to see their own blood, to feel pain, and to hurt. When their nose gets broken, and the blood runs down their face, they usually don’t freak out as much, because they expected it. The same goes for communication. You do not want miscommunication to happen, but rather, you are ready to face it, and turn it into clear communication when it does invade a important conversation
3 3)    There is almost never a reason to rise above a calm conversational tone.
a.     Disagree all you want, but a stern voice is only helpful in situations of parental authority, or high stakes, high-octane environments. In a disagreement between two parties, a raised voice can be the first step to ultimate communicative perdition. Why? Because its sets a standard. If you do it once, you are bound to do it again.
4 4)    Say “I feel” and “I think” as much as possible. Usually in a relationally tense conversation, accusations fly. Remember that accusations are the speakers “interpretation” of reality and do not actually reflect reality. Let the other person know, “ this is how I perceive your actions” so that they can diagnose the problem, and let you know where the disconnect is. Also, if you frame your accusation, “I feel like your ignoring me” the truth is more likely to come out, than if you accuse them, “You’re ignoring me!” One allows for truth, the other sets a party on the defensive.
5 5)    Avoid negative infinitives. In fact, avoid pendulums and infinitives all together. Always and never are the worst words someone can infuse into a conversation. The communication of pendulum emotions in general are just bad all the way around ( suck it, INFJ’s). Why do I say this? Because reality is never a one sided pendulum, despite you feeling that it is. Validation of a unrealistic feeling is counter productive to the conversation, and the conflict as a whole. You need to discard all false perception and search for the truth of the matter, which generally is in the middle.
6 6)    Listen. Listening skills allow you to think about what you want to say next. Listen when you don’t want to, and listen especially when your really angry Why? Because it allows you to calm down, and it allows the other person to feel like you want to know more about their side (regardless of whether that is true or not). As a question, and let them keep talking. Endevour to find out why they did what they did, and what you can do to help. The first thing that comes to your mind to say is always the wrong thing (Credit: Verbal Judo by George J.Thompson). Read that last sentence again. It is 100% true. Take a moment and listen to the other communicator in the discussion, calm down, and think about what you want to say next. Try to sympathize or empathize with what they are saying, and it will repay you in spades.

7 7)    To shut down is to shoot yourself and all future hopes of reconciliation. I know that creeping feeling that can happen, before all of the sudden you start answering in as few words as possible. Not everyone has this problem, but some of us do.

a.     If you are the person that normally shuts down to avoid conflict or attack, realie that all you are doing is kicking the can down the road. This same conversation will come up again and again until you explode or shut down, and ruin a friendship in the process. When you next get that feeling like you are being antagonized and you want it to stop, instead of shutting down, do one of the following
                                               i.     Tell the other person, “Hey, I’m not feeling like I can finish this conversation in a good way, but I want too, do you mind if we take a short break and come back to it?”
                                             ii.     Tell the other person you are about to shut down, take a deep breath, and then let them know why you are feeling this way.
                                            iii.     If you are brave enough, just continue to talk, but don’t shut down, and let the other person know how you are feeling.

The blogosphere, tumblr, reddit, et al. are great examples of the straw man culture. We misrepresent our opponents in order to make ourselves look great. This however is the worst form of intentional miscommunication because it fosters anger, hate, and frustration that leads to hostile words. A sound byte culture is a culture destined for miscommunication and failure. ( lol ok that was a big claim)

Clear communication is a choice. It is a choice to try to do better in every conversation of every day of every week. There is nothing stopping clear communication from happening, and even though you feel like you are surrounded ( as Chesty Puller was), there is no excuse for clear and prudent communication to be absent. 

Also - that picture that Emily posted of me in the previous post is insanely outdated and I look really young (lol). I tried to edit it but couldn't for some reason. Believe it or not, I am much older and more unattractive than that. 

Also for those of you who got my title reference - call me and we can get married soon. 

Your resident communication wanderer, 

Thaddeus Tague

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Team Sounds Sweeter than Solo

Writer's block.

Every writer has fallen into a literary dry spell. Where words once gushed like an untamed river, there lies only drought. The past year has been dry. Rich with experiences, nourishing in content, but dry in my expression and portrayal of it. I haven't been overwhelmed and compelled to pour forth my experiences and emotions. My spring of ideas and creativity has felt stunted. Forced. So I haven't written much.

What compels me to write? What overwhelms my heart to the point that I lay it out on paper? What motivates, awes, inspires, captivates me to the core?

As much as I fight it some days, it's people.

Noticing people. Understanding them. Falling in love with them. Being amazed at the cracks and quirks and irregularities in their person. It all takes time. It takes patience. It takes slowing down. Stopping, even. And that's something I haven't much done over the past year.

Solo, I have no impetus to slow down and appreciate the world around me. Solo, I remain uninspired. That is not unique to me. We all operate that way. Emotional solitary confinement, whether externally or personally inflicted, deadens us.

That is why several authors have agreed to rejuvenate this blog. These are writers that I also call my friends. I have been inspired in some way by each one of them, and I know that their presence here will be incredible. They are each quite different from each other. I love that. Some are very analytical and will stimulate your intellect with their political analysis. Other are very compassionate, and will leave you in tears. Others are incredibly genuine, leaving you feeling known and understood. Regardless of who happens to be contributing to the blog, I have faith in their ability. I have faith in the variety and depth that they will invariably provide.

Let me introduce each to you.

Jared Bailey is a bright mind and a big heart, wrapping up his senior year in highschool. He has been one of my closest and dearest friends for years. Jared wanted to just put it out there that he is moderately attractive and equally as romantic. Humble guy. He is also one of the most kind, thoughtful, John Green-esque guys I've ever had the opportunity to know. You'll love him. Just get ready.

Moriah Cassano is a freshman at a coastal college, pursuing a major in communications and Christian studies. She is one of the greatest minds and sweetest souls I've known, heading into her sophomore year of college. And although she's sweet, she is also a fiesty, sassy Italian. That said, I've stalked her Instagram forever. Her outlook on life, people, and her surroundings is truly captivating. I am ecstatic that her worldview, and all the philosophy, genuineness, and joy that comes with it, will be poured out here.

Grant Looper is my self-dubbed crazy liberal friend, heading into his senior year as a creative writing major. I met Grant in my very first year of debate (which was a lifetime ago somehow), and have been sharpened by his dry wit, incredible mind, and kind soul. He's the slightly better version of Groucho Marx though. It's entertaining. He also writes album reviews for Indie Band Guru. He's wonderful. I'm excited about the variety he's going to add here.

Robert McCallister is a good friend of one my best friends, Jared Bailey. He is joining the Marines very soon. Even though I've only met Robert briefly at a tiny Waffle House for a late-night-snack with Jared, his broad mind, discerning outlook, and sharp intellect stood out. He is brilliantly capable of understanding and communicating intricate ideas. I'm excited that his love of truth and philosophy will be able to be communicated here.

Alaina Moore is our youngest contributor. She is heading into her junior year of highschool, and I love her to death. She's dating my brother, and if they break up, I will probably date her myself just to make sure she's still in my life. Alaina is incredibly funny. She's also smart as a whip, and sassy as one, too. I've watched her go through some crazy stuff. Alaina is a fighter. She inspires me, loves me, and humbles me daily. I am honored to know her and co-author this blog with her.

Jared Neikirk is a New York City dweller in his sophomore year of college. Jared is incredibly dear to me. He has found the tender medium between advice and judgement, and has held my heart while giving me clear direction so many times. Furthermore, he finds it pivotal to understanding his essence that I mention his affinity for ice cream. If character was measured in the quality of espresso you sip, he would universally be classified as one of the greatest.

Hannah Shope is going into her junior year at a small university in Tennessee. She is one of the most dear-hearted souls I have ever met. I tried to teach her how to be sassy once, and she couldn't say "honey" without sounding affectionate. She has zero sass within her, but she's a hopeless romantic in love with coffee, music, classic literature, and her Savior. Her blog posts will probably feel like a mixture of smooth coffee, cathartic laughter, and the tiniest hugs you will ever receive.

Thaddeus Tague is going into his senior year as a public administration major. He's an old acquaintance and recent lovely friend. He is a debate coach with me at Ethos Debate, and is incredible at what he does. He loves debating, of course, and also knows how to smoke a pipe. Thaddeus is hilarious, dearly thoughtful, and equally analytical. I love that he's a fellow-ENTJ. And yet not a scary one. I'm excited for the world to hear what he has to say.


Sunday, September 27, 2015


Sitting across from Ryan in Starbucks last month was a crazy, almost remarkable experience. Ryan has been my manager for the entire time I've been at Chick-fil-A. I started out there having a small respect-crush on Ryan. You know those weird crushes? They're not romantic. They're just like, "I wanna be you. Teach me your ways senpai."

But it took me two months until I basically detested working with Ryan. He just had perfect hair. Perfect smile. Perfect face. Perfect personality. He overshadowed me and I thought he wanted me to be more like him. Ryan said lots of things to me, but I always felt like I heard "git guhd." I thought I would be happy whenever the time came for Ryan to quit. And yet Ryan stuck around.

The rumor was December. Then spring. Chick-fil-A tabloids were buzzing with conjectures on the departure of our senior manager. And while the months passed, I kind of realized that the date when Ryan would leave was inevitably closer. I quite wanted to like him. I really wanted to see him as a human being, and not a rigid, smiling conglomeration of Monster, hair gel, impeccable customer service, and endless energy.

And when I started looking for reasons to appreciate Ryan, I confronted the realization that his leaving wouldn't make me happy. It didn't. He quit mid-August; we organized a small pizza and ice cream party at midnight one night. I wrote him a letter, emotionally confessing my selfishness in equating his presence with my unhappiness. Thanking him for being the uncle/big-brother figure he had been for all of us, despite our (my) obstinate personality barriers.

Sam and I had the chance to have coffee with him that week too. I loved that. Outside of work, Ryan was even more of a friend than a mentor figure. He wasn't doped up on four Monsters. He wasn't in a button-up and tie. He didn't have a clipboard and pen in front of him. He didn't have eleven employees and young women and angry customers all clamoring for his attention. He was human, in jeans and sharing his dreams, heartaches, wistful hopes.

Ryan told us all about his future plans, heard ours', and then we tossed around ideas. Ryan glowed with anticipation of the next steps in his life. Camping on the beach, living in NYC, starting a graphic design business, finding a wife, pursuing everything he loves and has been called to do. His smile was infectious. Wonder and joy flickered across his face as frequently as every blink. It was contagious.

Whenever you see something that's changing someone's life, you have to ask yourself how it could change yours'.

And today I asked myself what more I needed to be happy. I moved out; and having all that adult freedom has not made me happy. I looked at my budgeting app and saw the record of all the things I’ve bought this year that I thought would make me happier. Not consciously, but sometimes we buy things and are like "Yeah. This thing will render a new and improved me." I guess I think that whenever I depart from Trader Joe's with four or five bags of sheer joy. But I don't know. Sometimes I still sit in my room and listen to quiet music and feel meh. Sipping my Trader Joe's incredible chai, no doubt, but even things that make life better don't make it happy.

Yeah. That's it. There's never enough "better" to get you to "happy".

And I think that's the mistake we make. Thinking that there's enough stuff to make us feel better, and that if we have enough of it, we'll reach happy. How can things have so much meaning, so much happy potential, before we have them? And yet once we acquire them, they lose their glow. It's that age-old quip "you never know what you have until it's gone", but why is that?

I think people get accustomed to the luxuries they have and consider themselves entitled to them. They lose their appreciation and wonder for the beautiful things they have, and they think themselves as possessors - rather than receivers - of things. Actually, maybe people begin to value things instead of their Savior. Instead of people. Instead of life, and blessings, and hope. They start to value things, and themselves.

That's what I've done, and that's what made me lose happiness. Caring about all the things I don't have, enjoying the future I don't yet know.  It starts to hurt. And we do it to ourselves.

But from this moment forward, just enjoy the moment. Enjoy the people, the buzzing of life's glory and hope, the sweet peace of a present and sovereign savior. Love it and pour yourself into it recklessly, and don't hold back anymore. I'm tired of holding back and overthinking and being bitter. And waiting for better times to make me happier. But nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and in that we dwell: joyful, hopeful, content.

It's the most beautiful, promising, purpose-dripping life we could ever know. It's a life drenched in passion and joy. And we won't ever live in wonder aside from that.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

For Sam.

He's probably going to kill me for singling him out like this. Or maybe not. If someone categorized the two of us by writing styles, my worldview is from a third-person perspective and his is first-person. I am more big picture. Feeling things on behalf of humanity as a whole. Understanding the weight of something when it impacts all of us. Studying people in general, being fascinated by the traits we share in mass. Figuring out how we interact with each other as a whole. I bring things back home by analyzing my feelings as an observer of myself. I am an observer. Sam is an experiencer.

He takes in life by gulps. It's all happening to him. Not humanity. He hones in on his sphere of influence, and he experiences it. He's a protagonist and his own antagonist. He experiences conflict, emotion, love, and change very personally. But he doesn't dwell on it, seeking to understand every tiny thread. He's a protagonist. He's a hero. He moves quickly, he experiences, and he moves forward again. He's slipping around the corners of his life with an open heart and a mind ready to experience everything on a first-person basis.

He's the hero observers like to write about.

St. Paul, Minnesota: Nationals week. Sam came with us just to be moral support and a hug-buddy for his best friend and me. That was the best. I loved having him there, and I loved experiencing an awesome new part of the country with him. My soul soared.

But as the week went on, conflict started scratching at the edges of our solace. And neither of us were really sure what was going on. One of those fights that's not really a "fight", per se. You don't speak crossly. You don't make ultimatums. Nothing harsh is exchanged. There's no spoken clash. Only a growing cold indifference.

It culminated on the last day. I left TP finals early to seek some time alone. Time away to think, to gulp in silence, to ponder, to understand, to reconcile. I got some ice cream and went to sit alone by the lake at the university. I felt like an emotional rock. Stony. Grey. Indifferent. Resolved, but offering no resolution to our relationship. And that sucked. I wasn't quite sure where to go from there.

And to be quite vulnerable, I was relieved when he texted me. Asking if he could come meet me, saying we had opened the doors of conflict together and should shut them together. He told me how he felt. I listened, analyzed, and thought. I understood, but I contributed nothing. And that was driving him crazy. For an experiencer, watching an observer observe things isn't very telling. It fails to allude to what's going on in the soul. He repeatedly asked me what I had to say about all this. But I didn't really know. For me, understanding is power. The second I understand a situation, that's the moment I have a grasp on it. And I didn't really understand myself enough yet to talk about it.

I didn't understand so I said nothing. My soul wasn't satisfied, so I refused to soften his.

He wept. He prayed over us for several minutes and then cried. It startled me and broke my heart: at least a thousand emotions caught up and churning between my mind and my heart. I've never cried in front of him. I cried over the phone once. But I've never even let that outward display of emotion be his. I've always been scared of how he'd react to it. Scared that it either wouldn't be appreciated or scared that it would be, and that I would feel weak.

I learned a lot about myself just watching him cry.

And then the understanding came in torrents. I saw some fundamental differences that had been causing conflict this whole time. I saw what he didn't understand about me, and I saw what I had never noticed about him. I saw the grace and the forgiveness that we both hadn't grasped. I realized that he was an extraordinary person, and that I was too. And that we were fundamentally different, but that every experiencer needs an observer, and every observer needs an experiencer. I saw him as a protagonist for his own story, not an antagonist of mine. I understood the differences and no longer felt affronted by them.

Deep down, once he understood them, I think Sam no longer felt threatened by our differences either. That's because understanding is power. "Knowledge is power"? Knowledge is worthless if you don't understand it. That moment where we were both so emotionally handicapped - one weeping, one stone cold - became one of the most pivotal in our relationship. Suddenly, we didn't just know a lot about each other. We understood each other. And that opened our hearts.

So this is for you, Sam. Hence the title. Derp. Thank you for pursuing me, for chasing me, and chasing the understanding of me. Thank you for loving me for the person I am, fundamental flaws and differences alike. Thank you for being a hero, and for not changing that about yourself, and having a heart that is so vast and so open to understanding and loving to new depths. An open mind is only as good as an open heart, and your heart's response to knowledge is cherishable. Thank for seeking God, and for seeking God with me. Thank you for seeking truth. And wanting to embody truth. And for all the times you've been truth to me.

"You are an extraordinarily and spectacularly flawed human being, and I love ya." -Sam, 09-02-14.

^Back atcha.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Letter #5: Words.

Dear you,

“Every single day that passes by is making me more dishonest. There’s too much I make up as soon as I wake up; too much I make up for me. But I’ve decided to keep you out of all the lies, and see you the way you are.”       -Magic Man lyrics

I’m so good with words and yet such an amateur. I know what words are supposed to do. What they can mean to people. What any given string of words could do for someone’s soul. I’ve learned how to make words stick. I’ve learned how to create what people will remember.

But I haven’t learned how to verbalize the things I want to say the most. And it’s not because I’m unwilling. I don’t know how. And what good is it to say “I can’t put it into words” when words are all we have?

In a way, it’s always been fear. That sensation that drives me to grip my deepest emotions tightly, lest the masses grapple and trample them. Expressing myself feels like scattering pieces of my heart. It leaves me feeling worn. Devalued. Frayed.  Laying a soul bare is risky business.

Some people would call that introversion. But to me, it feels like lying. It feels like failure. Hiding the truth because of fear. That’s lying, right? And lying – hiding – is the most soul-shattering failure I’ve ever known. It binds you. It ties you down to who you don’t want to be.

That’s where you come in. I’ve never felt the pressure to be self-protective around you. Since day one, you’ve been a deposit box, and to life-changing degrees. Yeah. You’ve changed my life. With you, I’ve never dolled up my soul; I’ve never idealized yours’. We’ve just kind of been gruesomely honest, and without pressure to struggle less painfully. And I mean, every conversation hasn’t been like that. In fact, you’re usually pretty chill.

But I’m not saying that there haven’t been 4:30 AM mornings where I’ve just emptied out my soul to you. The parts that I can’t put into writing. The insecurities that even my own mother sneers at. The fears that I will never get over. The scars that I didn’t know were there, until too late. And you know what? I’ve been able to continue struggling through those things with you. Together shouldering burdens. I’m always eager to learn and analyze people's souls, putting others' pain into psychological terms sometimes. Oversimplifying them, too. And I don’t know, sometimes I feel like a huge jerk because of that. Meanwhile, you’ve never labeled me. You’ve never pressured me. You’ve known me, loved me, and grown me sheerly as a companion. And for that I’ve been so, so grateful.

When other people see that something is wrong with you, they feel responsible for fixing you. As if they could come up with a solution. You’ve never done that to me. You’ve listened to what I have to say, in all its incoherency and rubbish. And then you’ve gently loved who I am anyway, providing endless valuable perspective along the way. I wouldn't know what that looked like without you. I didn’t know what it felt like to love somebody so powerfully just for who they are, and nothing else. I didn’t know that I’d just accept you as you were, and find that returned 1000x.

I can’t get over how much I’ve seen from knowing you, the beauty you offer this world, and the depth you brought to my heart. Cheers to you, showing me hope, transparency, and depth. I love you a lot. That’s the best way to put it.

I would word it better, but I can’t really put it into words. Stinks, considering words are all we have.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Letter #4: Now

“When you’re living through someone else’s soul, you learn to love who you are with.”
-Paradise Fears lyrics

Dear you,

When I look at you, I can see it in your eyes, your expression, feel it in your words. The sensation of being trapped, stuck in a rut, a square peg in a round hole. Yearning for the promises of the future; feeling the pangs of an inadequate present. Ready to move on. Ready for anything but here.

And my heart goes out to you with cavernous empathy. It’s because I understand you. So many similarities, you and me: so much in common, so much I’ve taken for granted all this time. So much to love, and so much I could’ve been learning from you. Hindsight offers up the regret of not ever looking at life through the lens of your soul. When we fail to do that, we fail to appreciate each other for who we are. We fail to love who we are with.

That concept, of loving who you’re with. Expanding the walls of your heart for one more raw, naked, human soul. Learning to appreciate someone for their value as a human being, not simply what they offer you. That’s a concept I’ve only recently come to realize.

We tend to shift focuses towards the oncoming rather than the at hand. I do that so often. And yet there’s so much to love, so much to savor. It’s such a waste, that every memory of time spent with those I love is tainted by a focus on the future rather than the present.

Idealizing what will be; taking for granted what is.
Walking through IKEA, him reading books to me in Swedish, finding out we have the same taste in interior design. Glowing with the anticipation of someday building a house together. Finding joy in the future; cheapening the vibrant joy of memories currently being made.

Discussing graduation with my mother, realizing that I’d be done with my credits sooner than expected. Wanting to graduate early. Her vehement refusal. The heated words, the bitter hearts, the broken relationship. Seeing so much hope in the nearing future that the present seemed devoid of blessings.

Sitting on a bench in the hallway of Anderson University, tired from a long week, soaked from the wintry rain. Recoiling from the outside world together. Needing the solitude and peace of each other’s company, needing to compensate for the meaningless social interactions of our everyday life. My head resting on the wall behind me, drifting in and out of a hazy sleep; him reading Time Magazine noiselessly by my side. And his warm hug wakes me up.

“Why the hug?”
“I was reading about this old couple that got Alzheimer’s, and they forgot about each other. And I wanted to hug you while I could.”

I am not a master of loving who I’m with; seeing the good in what I have. But I do know that there’s such a joy in it. The most beautiful word is 'now'. There will be no joy in things to come if we don't love what we have. What will make it intrinsically better by that point? It'll become the present, just like everything else before it. Inadequate, taken for granted.

"And I wanted to hug you while I could.” This is when I learned to love who I am with. This is when I learned to savor the present, and stop taking it for granted. This is when I learned the futility of placing my joy in the future, what I don't have. This is when I learned to drink the blessings of what I'm given in the present, in the here and now.

For what it's worth, in the present, I have you. And I dearly love that. I dearly love you for who you are. Knowing you has taught me to love who I'm with and who I have. You make it easy. I'm glad for the here and now, because it's where you are.