Keeping Faith While In Despair

Hey all! I received the privilege of publishing an article on Self Talk the Gospel, an online writing community that I had been interning with as a Content Curator during the previous six months. I wrote a guest post for their Impressed Series, in which their writers describe an experience with a piece of literature that left a lasting impression.

For my article “Keeping Faith While in Despair,” I chose to write about Soren Kierkegaard’s book Fear and Trembling (even a year since graduation, my humanities classes are still ringing in my ears), along with my experience of faith and spiritual depression. Here’s a snippet:

Finally. I had finally encountered a fellow lover of wisdom and member of the Christian faith who told me that the authenticity of my faith doesn’t depend on how I feel before I go to bed at night, or how I feel during worship at church. That my choosing faith is what matters, as opposed to depending on whether or not I feel like I have faith.

You can read the rest of the article by following the link here. If you’re curious about topics of Kierkegaard, the nuances of spirituality and faith, despair, and/or my writing in general, check it out!


As I Lay Dying. I think you should read it.

“Sometimes I aint so sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.” –Cash

I, as a writer, kind of salivate at Faulkner’s narrative style.

Cover of "As I Lay Dying: The Corrected T...

Cover of As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text

The quote is from a character in Faulkner‘s novel As I Lay Dying, which I just finished reading for my American Lit class this weekend. Basically, it’s a mock epic about the very dysfunctional Bundren familythat takes up a treacherous journey to bury wife/mother Addie Bundren in her hometown.

The novel is divided up into short narrations by various characters–giving several obscure perspectives to see the plot through: the intense eye of the eldest brother Cash, the intuitive and insanely observant Darl, the horse-loving mystery son Jewel, the pregnant-at-sixteen Dewey Dell, the innocent and confused eye of little brother Vardaman, the shell-of-a-man weak patriarch Anse, the corpulent doctor Peabody, the over-religious Cora Tull, her practical husband Vernon Tull, and others.

Each unique character portrayal will make you stare in fascination. From the first image of Cash building Addie’s coffin in her view (before she dies), to Jewel rescuing the coffin from the barn Darl set on fire, even those with a good grasp of understanding will probably be asking “Seriously, what’s going on here?”–and it’s perfectly human to take a peek at Sparknotes for some assistance.

I mean…take the classic quoted chapter of the whole novel:


My mother is a fish.

P.S. I hope you realize this has nothing to do with the metalcore band As I Lay Dying. Faulkner made the name first.

Becoming a scholar

Hey guys………..

So I know I haven’t been around in a while.

…Yeah…5 months…it’s a long time since we’ve spoken…I know…I’m sorry.

Do you want to catch up? I do. I missed you. I know excuses are excuses, but I do have a few. Well, here goes…

Excuse #1:

The stack on the left contains all the books I read through completely, minus two: Antigone and Three Cups of Tea. The stack on the right contains all the books of which I was only required to read partially. Said reading took place between the months of September and the first half of December–you know, about 3 and a half months.

I was thinking about doing the math to average out how many pages I had read per day, but I got tired thinking about how I read more than 100 pages of Dante one day and stayed up until 6 am reading 3/4 of Three Cups of Tea in order to finish it before taking a test on it  before the next class (in fact, I shudder every time I hear the name Greg Mortenson now–less because of the controversy surrounding his work than my bitterness of losing so much sleep over a book with such an embarrassing writing style). Anyways, I got tired thinking about such an endeavor, and I figured you would trust me when I said I read a BUTTLOAD of pages a day.

All of this reading was my academic endeavor last semester. I had chosen to leave the main campus of Azusa Pacific for one of their “study abroad” programs called High Sierra. At the start of the semester, all I knew was that I would be living up in Bass Lake with 40 other students on a small summer camp compound (known as Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp), promised a bunch of outdoor adventures (backpacking trips, wakeboarding, rockclimbing and the like), and taking some Humanities courses. Alumni from other semesters had said something about a lot of reading, but I didn’t understand what they meant. I had spent my summer breaking in my new hiking boots, and I thought I was ready to go.

Three and a half months later, my mind had absorbed the classics of history, philosophy, and literature–of which Three Cups of Tea, the unfortunate requirement of my leadership class, should not be grouped with (still bitter).

Anyways–oh, the classics! I read through the works of St. Augustine, Aristophanes, Herodotus, Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides, Dante, Milton, Galileo, Homer, Hildegard of Bingen, Virgil, Machiavelli…Yes, the reading, the mind-probing daily assignments–it was hard (and it’s really a shame that thinking a lot doesn’t burn a ton of calories). Despite racking up a massive sleep debt by the end of the semester, though, I think I fell in to a strange sort of love. Instead of drilling my brain with typical textbook knowledge, I was interacting with the original works of historic brilliant minds that have affected the way people see the world even today; I was learning about hospitality, the arguments of politics, mysticism, friendship, man’s pride, purgatory, predestination, how Aristotle and Plato influence Christianity, special revelation versus natural revelation–this, my friends, is scholarship.

Instead of throwing up dates and trivial information, I had to discover the argument of Aquinas in his writings on law. Instead of falling asleep during lectures, my classmates debated about what really is “The Good.”  I took a scene from Paradise Lost and rendered it into a drawing of Adam and Eve. I wrote a paper about Plato vs. Aristotle on art and another about the history of the philosophy of time.

I became a scholar.

And some people thought I was just going to summer camp for a semester…

The Hangover (or The Really Really Bad Headache)

It’s always nice when your teachers give you extra credit just because they saw you somewhere. It makes the college student feel that there is indeed light in this world.

I hadn’t heard of Billy Collins until my Literature and Writing professors started talking about him–and how we could get extra credit for watching him read his poetry for a campus event.

Now, I have literally heard Billy Collins, and he gave me way more than the benefit of extra credit; first, I found out that poetry lives when it’s read aloud by the poet. Any of you who have studied poetry in the classroom know how very painful it can be to sit through a read-aloud session with a group of unenthusiastic students. But when the actual poet reads–it’s like seeing a Van Gogh in person for the first time; you can actually see the thickness of the paint and the beauty in the colors as they truly are instead of the sucked-dry version that the printer created.

Second, I learned that poetry can hurt your face because it’s so hilarious. Most of Billy Collins’ poems had some sort of humor in them, even the more serious ones. A particular poem with a particularly dry sense of humor made me laugh so hard I had to fight to control myself from being that one person in the crowd who takes laughter to that shutup-and-listen-you’re-annoying-now level.

“This poem is called ‘The Hangover,'” he said. “Now, I know I’m at a Christian college, so none of you know what that is–” he grinned– “so just think of it as ‘The Really Really Bad Headache.'”

“If I were crowned emperor this morning,
every child who is playing Marco Polo
in the swimming pool of this motel,
shouting the name Marco Polo back and forth

Marco Polo Marco Polo

would be required to read a biography
of Marco Polo-a long one with fine print-
as well as a history of China and of Venice,
the birthplace of the venerated explorer

Marco Polo Marco Polo

after which each child would be quizzed
by me then executed by drowning
regardless how much they managed
to retain about the glorious life and times of

Marco Polo Marco Polo”

Book Review: The Bell Jar

A few days ago I just added another book to my favorites list: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.

I had come to knowledge about Plath through the praises of her works by my favorite musician, Josh Dies, and by reading her poetry(which was fascinating as tattoos, paintings, and sad movies) for my A.P. English work last summer. A friend lent me the book, encouraging me by her own positive experience to read it…so I did.

As formerly mentioned, I rather enjoyed it.

“It was a queer sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” –First sentence in The Bell Jar (isn’t it AWEsome?!)

The storyline follows a college girl’s developing insanity through neurosis. Basically. Obviously, there’s more to the story than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be a classic.

Plath writes in first person, which makes her character Esther Greenwood very real and personal as the story develops. The way Plath crafted Esther’s thought patterns makes her world of madness come alive through intense descriptions and jarring realizations–personally, I never thought, “Man, this chick is crazy and lame and should get a life!” Rather, I was fully able to see the world through Esther’s perspective, strangely able to understand her hopelessness. The writing clearly sets The Bell Jar apart from other books; there is not a word in it that deserves the blah category or says “I am here to make the author sound smart and you feel stupid, mwa-ha-ha!”, and I believe Plath has created a uniquely raw and interesting piece of work.

Here, why don’t I just show you some examples from the book?

“People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn’t see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing p0ems people could remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn’t sleep.” (Ch. 5)
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked […] I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. (Ch. 7)

“I didn’t want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” (Ch. 9)

If you’re looking for something interesting and different to read this summer that’s above Stephanie Meyer’s reading level, I recommend this book. Because of thematic elements (as in stuff about trying to die, ya know), I would say it’s certainly for more mature audiences. But if bizarre life concepts interest you…I bet you won’t be able to stop reading.