Saturday, February 25, 2006

Geographic Existentialism: Flatland

plains sunet : gove county : kansas

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my connection to Kansas. Perhaps this is brought on by my reading of a book called Not Just Any Land. It’s one man's compilation of interviews with writers who have lived in and written about the Central prairies. Maybe that is what has caused my thoughts to wander to the east of here—to the High Plains of Eastern Colorado and beyond to the flatlands of Kansas. But I think my sentimentality for the flatter places would have occurred on its own anyway. The book just intensifies my affections.

So, as I said, I’ve been thinking about Kansas. I’ve been ruminating about the land, and the feelings it evokes within me. I find myself longing to be out there, to be out in the middle of nowhere, where the flatness of the land mimics—no, shapes—the simplicity of the lives and the culture of those who live on it. The Plains are simple, and to me, that is beauty.

I tell people that I miss the flatness of my homeland. My friends here either question the sincerity of my divulgence, or they look at me askance, inwardly flabbergasted at the idea of my missing a place so unassuming and boring. Sometimes, I joke, self-deprecatingly, about how ridiculous I must sound. Missing the flatness—now that’s a hoot… And sometimes I just stare out the window of my car, wishing that Pikes Peak weren’t in the way of the horizon.

I cannot sufficiently verbalize how I feel when I think of the flatlands of Kansas. How do I articulate the essence of the land to which I feel so intimately linked? So often, my mind's media are light and motion and space, not exposition. And so I long for experience. Only personal encounter will do. I want to see the pure, piercing beauty of a prairie pasture set alight by the warm rays of the setting sun, perforated by a stand of cottonwoods, hardy and wise, their heart-shaped leaves trembling in applause of another day well lived.

On the flatlands, beauty is no volunteer. It must be pursued. It reveals itself only to those willing to wait. In time, though, the land becomes a close friend, sustaining and true.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Compassion, NPR, and Pursuing Happiness

I thought I’d post an update about my employment situation. Several of you have offered me counsel regarding the position at the nursery. That opportunity fell through. Apparently Jesus didn’t want me to work for cantankerous Larry this summer. Also, every opportunity I thought I had at Focus on the Family has fallen by the wayside. And, quite frankly, I’m glad. Knowing my vacillating political inclinations, maybe Focus, being so politically charged, would have been less than befitting.

God has decided to provide in another way: This coming Monday, I will begin working as the Volunteer Network Associate Temp at Compassion International (yes, the word “Temp” is in my job title, but we’ll get to that later). For those of you who don’t know, Compassion International (commonly referred to simply as “Compassion”) is a ministry based here in Colorado Springs, whose primary mission is to eliminate spiritual and physical poverty from the lives of children around the world. Basically, they are a child sponsorship organization. I will be working in the Marketing department, for the Compassion Sunday Campaign. Compassion Sunday events are held around the country in thousands of churches on a particular Sunday (though I’m not yet sure which one) in April. Though the events are sponsored by Compassion, they are facilitated by Compassion Advocates—individuals who have chosen to make it their mission to highlight the plight of poor children in developing countries. My job will consist of entering into Compassion’s database the names and addresses of participating churches, and sending advocates the materials that they request.

I have in my job title the oft-debasing word “Temp” because the position ends at the close of April. Please do not ask me what I plan on doing in May. I do not yet know. (Not to worry though—I have made a bargain with the devil, and he assured me I’d be independently wealthy by then.)

Though the position will not be the most stimulating or thought-provoking (it has the potential to be down right mind-numbing), I am looking forward to it. Almost everyone that I have met at Compassion is quite cheery, as if they have been injected with a sort of happy serum, or some such antidote that works to counteract the typical work-a-day angst. Lucky for me, my job should be mindless enough that I’ll be able to listen to “All Things Considered” and “Morning Addition” from National Public Radio everyday on the internet. How I do love public radio. NPR is does for my mind what bran does to the intestinal tract… Well, it makes me think, anyway.

The future, though unclear, is looking bright. As of now, I am considering very highly the possibility of going overseas at the end of my lease, which comes at the close of July. I have contacted several ministries that interest me. Opportunities range from teaching English in Central Asia or China, to reporting on and raising money for relief in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. No matter what I do, I plan to have more than enough fodder for my blog.

Please pray that doors would open and close, according to God’s will. I am learning that I will be much more effective in life if I live it to glorify God, rather than in pursuit of my own happiness (as unpatriotic as that sounds). Though I do not believe that God’s glorification and the pursuit of happiness are mutually exclusive, I have noticed that when I engage primarily in the latter, the two do become opposed to one another. But when God’s glory is my highest desire, His glory and my happiness seem to merge into the same yearning—insatiable, yet completing.