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When I was in 5th grade I remember my sister dating a guy named Joe. I didn’t bother to change his name here, because I’m assuming he keeps tabs on where I live. My parents didn’t want them dating and in an effort to gin up familial opposition, they told us Joe was a criminal. Not just petty theft though; he was stealing kids. My parents warned me never to be alone with Joe because he was a convicted kidnapper. For the next three years, until we moved away to Mississippi, I’d hold my breath as I checked behind the shower curtain and around my bedroom door, inside my closet and underneath my bed for one particular monster: Joe, the kidnapper my sister thought was marriage-material. Middle schoolers are supposed to have outgrown their fear of the dark, moving on to adolescent anxieties like flirting and puberty and making the JV squad. But something about Joe, or the version of him my parents sold to me, left me terrified of the dark.

When I think about the future, about a decision I have to make or a new life-stage or whatever, it reminds me a lot of those days in middle school. Only now, my fear of the dark isn’t manifested in a need for night-lights or bodyguards, it’s apparent in my crippling fear of the Unknown. Quite often, I give it the most authority in my life. Fear isn’t just found in the Unknown, it thrives there. It makes its home, it grows and becomes the monster in my dark, there in the Unknown. We don’t ever see the Unknown as a place of hope, of dreams or possibilities; the only possibilities we give light to are the negative potentials that lead to deeper hurts, darker pains, harder breaks.

And sometimes it isn’t fear that comes with the Unknown. Sometimes it’s anger. It’s not that I’m scared something might happen, it’s that I’m pretty sure something else won’t, and I’m mad about it. A brat about it. I don’t want to go there, so I pitch a fit, throw down my teddy bear and tantrum my way into avoiding my next steps toward the Unknown. If I get mad enough at God or life or “the way it goes” maybe then I can stay put a little longer, in neutral, in a holding pattern that keeps me from doing something I don’t want or think I don’t need, and in the process, I get nothing out of my decision but more of the same. A life devoid of adventure and risk and the rewards that come with the gamble.

Remember when we used to play Hide & Seek?  Inherent in the game is an element of the Unknown. Someone hides and we eventually take off after them, having added some mystery with our counting to 100 by tens.  We have to hunt in order to discover. Half the fun is in the quest to find each other. In Looking for Alaska, John Green writes about “the Great Perhaps,”—a reference to what could be. I don't think we can realize our future--our Great Perhaps--until we chase down our fears.

So, find adventure. Take risks. Discover the reward of life. Seek life in the authenticity of your fear and anger and disappointment. Realize life in the movement deeper into those places. Press in. Lean in. When your emotions are raw and you’re at your worst, when all you can see in the Dark are your fears and all you can hear in the Dark are your failures, when all you’re confident of in the Unknown is that you’ll hurt worse than you do right now, that you’ll do worse than you’ve done in the past, that you’ll no longer get to have what you wanted for so long—when the Unknown lurks and beckons and taunts you, give it your soul.

Because who decided the Unknown has to be an evil place, even if it is dark? What if the Unknown isn’t just where fear resides? What if it’s where hope is born? What if the Unknown gives feathers and wings to hope and peace and life on the other side of the threshold? What if the Unknown is borne of God, his adventurous way of drawing us into himself more deeply? What if the Unknown isn’t anything to be scared of or mad at or disappointed in? What if shame and fear and anger and sadness are perversions of what really lies in the Unknown: hope.

Isn’t that the point of the story of the exodus? The Israelites are being delivered by Yahweh through Moses and Aaron. They witness plagues and pillars of cloud and fire. Yet when they slam into a sea of hopelessness, with an army of oppression at their backs, they’re faced with the uncertainty of their Unknown. They choose oppression, a return to slavery, to what they’d always known, instead of believing that somehow, beyond all reason, the God of these plagues and pillars of fire and cloud could somehow muster up one more shenanigan. Well, He does. And isn’t that the point of the story? It’s not to prove the historicity of the Bible by searching for Egyptian chariots at the bottom of the Red Sea. It's about Hope vs. Fear. It's about our humanity vs. the supernatural. It's about trusting and hoping that something, anything, even the Unknown, is better than the oppression of our known Present. Hope lies in that dark, scary sea, waiting and ready to part the Unknown into walls of deliverance and adventure.

I have this thing where I fear rejection. I used to think it was a fear of failure, that if I asked people in a better way, then they’d say yes to hanging out or whatever. But I’ve realized it’s not a fear of failing or not asking correctly. It’s a fear of not meeting my expectations. The Unknown trades on expectations.  It’s why fear is so powerful and hope seems so unrealistic. Leaning in to the Unknown feels like we’re playing Russian Roulette with our hopes. Why believe when we have no proof? Why get our hopes up if they’ll most likely get dashed? Why believe in something when no one else believes you or in you or for you? GK Chesterton said that hope is “the power to be cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate.” Maybe we don’t have to be cheerful. Maybe it looks like pursuing our Great Perhaps, or maybe it looks like nothing more than a prayer of resignation. But hope lives in the Unknown. It has to. And it beckons us, it lures us, it begs us to believe, to have the courage to jump, to trust, to hope in our dreams and ourselves and our God.

God is love. I think maybe God is hope, too. And maybe things don’t turn out like we want. Maybe it hurts like Hell, or disappoints us till we can’t cry anymore, or angers us and we pout outside of Nineveh. But our fears don’t limit God or temper his hopes in us. God is for us. Even when we can’t see. Even in the Dark. Even when we are surrounded by Fear. God is there. In the midst of it all. Take heart. Take hope. God is the God of the Unknown.


Dwight and I

I think I'm the next Dwight Howard. And although our basketball skills are fairly even these days, surprisingly, I'm actually comparing myself to Dwight in a non-athletic way. 

I can't make a decision. 

And I feel bad for us, sometimes. We're as indecisive as can be, Dwight and I. It drives my friends nuts who want to hang out with me, if they're lucky enough to be the ones I decided to hang out with.
What do you want to do? 
I don't know. 
Want to grab food? 
I don't care. 
Well what time? 
What team are you going to sign your next max contract with? 

There's this part of me that feels flexible and easy going; whenever, wherever, whatever, I'm down. I'm easy. But most of the time, it's because I can't make a decision. 

It's evident in my sermons. I can't decide what direction to go, so I end up going several different directions in the same sermon. I can't figure out what classes to take, so I sign up for more than I planned so I can drop the one I like the least. When I'm shopping, I like so many different options that I sometimes turn into a temporary Calvinist--I decide that if Gap has it in my size, then I'll get it. If not, then it wasn't meant to be. And let's not even get into dating, careers, houses, cars, cell phones, computers, vacations, cities to live in, teams to sign with...

We have so much to figure out. To decide. To choose from. Dwight and I. It's no wonder we're always looking for something better. 

Because there probably is. 

And there probably always will be. 

And it seems so obvious to those of us not named Dwight Howard that if he'd just pick a team and sign a contract, if he'd just plug in and make the most of where he is, he'd be on the road to happiness. It's a road far more rewarding than the road to the Finals. 

It's easy to mock Dwight Howard, isn't it? To criticize him for not making up his mind, or scandalously, changing it. Yet I'm just like him. We all are. It's the nature of a culture that has more options at its disposal than any other civilization that's ever existed. 

We can't decide on anything because we fear missing out on everything. Somehow we've managed to avoid or escape or belittle the present, beguiled by the illusions of More and Better. We feel as though we're settling for something good, when an elusive Great is still out there. 

So I wonder, then, how are we making our decisions? What is guiding us? What do we really want? 

Do we want more stuff because we actually need it or because we're burying pain? Do we need an expensive apartment in Uptown because it's the best fit or because we want to impress our new friends? 

What is guiding us and what should be guiding us are often different answers. Is it our quest for fame and fortune and the fountain of youth, or our endless pursuit of self-gratification? 

What if we were led by a desire to embrace the beauty that already exists in our lives? Instead of looking for shiny new toys, what if we discovered the luster of familiarity exclusively found in our current ones? Instead of craving another expensive addition, what if we saw the worth of simplicity and the value of the ordinary? 

Sometimes God speaks in loud pulpits and louder music. Sometimes God moves in hot flashes of fire and bolder walls of sea.  Often times though, God is present in the simple, ordinary moments of life. A smile from a stranger when we need it, encouragement from friends that spur us to new heights of achievement, a gentle breeze, a homeless woman asking for money, the annoying driver that stole our parking spot. 

A friend recently told me about her boyfriend's apartment search. He saw a place he liked and put down a deposit right then. It was such a foreign concept for someone who's driven to Dallas five times in the past month looking for the perfect place to live. We need to practice contentment. And for most of us, that means we need to find it first. To learn to identify that feeling of satiation. 

Because what if the Best or the More or the Great that we're searching for is never going to be found by constantly searching for it in new or other places? What if Best and More and Great exist in the same place or the same things or the same friends or the same career, only it's deeper? Instead of searching outward for other options, better options, shiny new options, what if those better experiences exist right where we are, deeper down? With more investment? With more presence? With more attention?

I fear that our culture has taught us to look beyond, to crave more in order to arrive at happiness and excitement, and in so doing, we don't find it. We're never satisfied. Because everything is surface level. What we really want, what we really need is not the excitement and flash of newer things, but the richness of depth and familiarity and ordinary and consistency and simplicity.

I wonder if that isn't why our church experiences are so unsatisfying. And our friendships. And our careers... Contentment means we aren't searching outward but further inward. And as we move deeper into the beauty of the ordinary, common, everyday moments of our every day, we'll find richer glimpses of the God who satisfies.  

Beauty is Fleeting

It dawned on me the other day: I'm getting old. I'm 32. It's not actually that old. But I'm closer to 40 than I am to 20. I saw a collage of pictures of a man who wore the same outfit every year for 30 years or so for his school photo as a teacher. It was fascinating and sad to watch him age. I can't fathom what I'll look like in 32 more years, but I can tell you this: I won't look as good. Not as young. Not as tan. Not as dark-haired and debonair (just joking, I will). 

It's funny how much energy, emotional and otherwise, I put into looking a certain way. I want to be in shape, I want to be attractive, I want to be well liked and remembered. Physical, emotional, sometimes lapping over into my spiritual concerns, I want to develop and maintain my image. Almost every decision I make is about myself and how it will best serve me. When I am indecisive, it's not because I think about someone else all that often, it's because I don't know which decision is best for me. 

Our looks are fleeting. We are getting older. We are getting slower and fatter and grayer. Our popularity wanes with each new place we land. We want to be famous and liked, but to most people we're only remembered until the next person's flashy Instagram photo pops up in our feed. 

We can concentrate on our looks and likability, our success and popularity, but it won't last. And we'll have wasted our time and decisions on things that didn't matter and aren't remembered. 

What if we decided to make choices that helped people? That were more influential? That made a difference and were remembered because they mattered? And what if it only mattered to a few people consistently? (I'm sure it's another post for another time, but in our obsession to be parts of  "movements" we have lost sight of the impact of deep relationship. We want to effect mass change instead of transformation that can only happen through time and consistency and patience and love. It's easy to retweet something against human trafficking; it's harder to keep giving and investing in the person who keeps asking and taking without a thank you.)  What if we took other people into account when we made decisions? What if more money didn't mean we get to buy more stuff but instead, we get to help someone in need buy something at all? 

Looks, fame, money, us. We're all fleeting. What is worthwhile? What will define us? 


Introverted Jesus.

I was thinking about Jesus this morning, and I know, I'm in seminary, so that seems like a no-brainer after spending four years in school studying theology, but I mean I was thinking about Jesus. His humanity. And not in the two natures/one person kind of way or in the three persons/one God kind of way either. I was thinking about how Jesus may or may not have been an introvert. How he needed "alone time" and that after long days at church or school, sometimes I want to bury myself under the back seats of the church van while the disciples fight off the crowds, double-slap the door, and speed off in our 15 passenger getaway van.

I was thinking about how Jesus retreated to gardens and hillsides and mountaintops and boat hulls and deserts. Some think it was just his "quiet time," that we have biblical proof that a daily Quiet Time is a spiritual requirement. Some view these retreats as rare occurrences, that Jesus didn't really need that much time to recharge--he was God, after all. 

This morning I decided they probably happened more than we know. I think the particular references we have in the Bible are important to the story, maybe to emphasize God's revelation on a mountaintop or to set out the hopelessness in a storm when Jesus is sleeping down below. But honestly, I don't care if Jesus was an introvert or extrovert, an Enneagram 1 with a 2 wing or a 2 with a 1 wing. If I'm being really honest (as if I haven't to this point) I hope Jesus wasn't my personality type because then I'd feel an even stronger responsibility to look like Jesus looked and to act like he acted--to live like he lived. 

But that's what got me. We're all called to be ministers of the Good News. We're all called to be Christ-like. We're all called to make disciples and speak hope to the ravaged and value the discarded. Extroverts. Introverts. ESFP. INTJ. Popular. Unpopular. Rich. Poor. Republican. Democrat. Legal. Illegal. Educated. Non. Seminary. Or not. 

As followers of Christ, we're all called to lean into him, to follow him, to be made into his image. To be different. To look different than the world around us. I used to think that meant that we wouldn't cuss or drink or listen to secular music. I used to think that meant taking positions that were controversial in the eyes of the world. Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson were good examples of what I thought it meant to look different than the world. We stand against homosexuality or abortion or divorce because the Bible says so.

Except I don't think that's what it means. I don't think we go around picketing our disapproval with specific lifestyles or choices or sins. We don't post statuses about a fallen world's reckless disregard for Christian morals.

They will know we are Christ followers by our love. We don't stand out, we aren't different, because we are judging others; we are different because we love others. I don't want coworkers to think I'm a Christian because I don't smoke or cuss. That's great if they do. But even better, I want them to know I'm a Christ-follower because I help the impoverished, because I help give voice to those who are marginalized, because I try to find those who are excluded by our world. 

That's radically different.

In a world that creates technology to find newer, more effective ways to self-aggrandize, caring about someone else is radically different. Disregarding a need to be popular or well-liked in an effort to make someone feel liked at all is radically different. Giving time and presence--even when we're exhausted--is radically counter-cultural.

I suppose I got thinking about all of this because students at my seminary don't necessarily look different. Some do. Some don't. I don't too often. We exclude and judge and gossip and criticize and evaluate as if we're judges on So You Think You Can Dance. We pick our friends and find ways to justify keeping those groups closed; after all, Jesus only had a few close friends. We read the Bible and find ways to neutralize the parts that give us heartburn; after all, Jesus didn't really mean to give away all our possessions to find eternal life. 

And I'm sure it's just my seminary. We're probably the only ones struggling to look different, not by words or opposition, but in our active love of others. But at least this morning, I am keenly aware that whether I like big groups or closed groups or staying away from groups altogether, Jesus did it all. Whether Jesus was introverted or extroverted or miraculously both in the same person, he had huge crowds and close friends and time alone on the hillside. He had moments of self-care, and I'm 100% convinced he had moments of best-friend-antics, practical jokes, and burnt food, as well. Yet he also made it his purpose in life to find those who were left out, to bring them in, to give them hope and show them they're valued.

Today is the 4th of July, a day that American culture celebrates with hot dogs and fireworks and parties with friends. Try inviting someone you normally wouldn't. Try getting to know someone you don't know too well. Try serving a little today. Take a risk. And be different than the world around you.


My Post-Rapture-Pre-Mayan-End-of-the-World Bucket List

May 21st came and went and indiscriminately left behind Christian and non-Christian alike. And while I don't believe the Rapture to be a future eschatological reality (I believe that Jesus will return; however, I do not believe He will remove the Christians from earth for a period of tribulation, etc.), it hasn't stopped me from developing my Pre-Mayan-End-of-the-World Bucket list. Since this is after the Rapture was supposed to have occured, I feel a little late in the game coming up with this. But, it's before the end of the Mayan calendar of events (December 21st), so at least I'm exhibiting nearly a year's worth of foresight.

Thus, my Post-Rapture-Pre-Mayan-End-of-the-World Bucket List:
1. I want to live in Hawaii. My personality loathes structure and pressure and time constraints. I have Island Life in my bones.
2. I want to visit Australia (I think my wife lives there). I want to successfully hold a platypus (I know they're poisonous.)
3. I'd like to have an exotic pet. Probably not the platypus, but something in the cat or bear family. Maybe if wolverines weren't so temperamental. Instead, I'll settle for a lion/tiger/snow leopard cub or a panda/koala cub.
4. I'd like to go on tour. Not that my music is worthwhile at all. I just think it'd be fun to live in my car and travel the US and make enough money singing the songs I've written from my life experiences.
5. I'd like to win the lottery. I have a deal with God (I'm making this public for accountability's sake) that if I win the lottery (big stuff, not scratch and sniff or whatever they're called) I'll give half the money to Truett (my seminary). Now that is net, because half of it would go to taxes, so then the other half would go to Truett, and while I suppose that would be me playing the humble servant, I still want a cut off the top. So it's post-tax lottery winnings, half of that will go to Truett. And I'll even add a new piece to the deal right now: If I am raptured, I will endow whatever remains in my coffers to Truett since they'll need it.
6. I really do want to skydive. I'm incapacitatingly scared of open heights, but there may be no greater rush.
7. I want to try out for the Orlando Magic.
8. I want to learn Italian.
9. I want to see the Northern Lights.
10. I want a mermaid. (The good kind).
11. If space tourism really happens, I want to do that. Screw Vertigo.
12. I want to befriend someone famous, not for my edification, but so he/she can have a normal friend.
13. I am okay with that person being Scarlett Johansson.
14. Or Olivia Wilde.
15. Or Zooey Deschanel (the person, not the dog)
16. I want to teach the dog, Zooey Deschanel, to be social.
17. I'd like to step foot on Antarctica. Hopefully not falling through in the process.
18. I want to travel-blog. As in, I travel the world, and then I incite envy in all of your hearts by writing about it in juicy detail.
19. I also want to movie/tv show-blog. As in, I spend my day watching pointless crap in the hope of redeeming it through my reviews.
20. I'd like to be elected to something. Anything.
21. I want to write a novel. Fictional, since that's what a novel is, but I want it to basically be an autobiography. So an autobiographical novel. I don't want to embellish it either. Just type up my life for the comedic drama it is and hope you enjoy it as I have or think you should have.
22. I want my family to find happiness. Not the surface level crap either. Deep, passionate, invigorating, convincing, contagious happiness.
23. I would like to perform with any/all of the following:
a. Zooey Deschanel (the person) (you know why)
b. Neil Diamond (he was my favorite, growing up)
c. Eminem (b/c he taught me to rap)
d. Ke$ha (b/c she taught me how to dance)
e. Pitbull (b/c he taught me about amazing stage presence)
f. Jenny & Tyler (b/c they're my friends)
g. Coldplay (b/c of their audience sizes)
h. Dianna Agron (so I could propose to her on the spot)
i. Kari Jobe (so I could propose to her after Dianna Agron shoots me down)
j. Jars of Clay (b/c their's was the first song I learned how to play and sing)
k. David Crowder Band (b/c his was what inspired the first song I ever wrote)
l. Jon Foreman (b/c he inspires me)
m. Joy Williams (b/c I'm a sucker for chicks who can sing)
n. Leeland (b/c they taught me Christian music doesn't have to suck [Sound of Melodies!])
o. the Glee Cast (just for the fun of it)
24. I'd like my novel to be made into a movie with Owen Wilson as my rambunctious, goof-up, younger brother. Even if Jacob isn't really a goof-up. And then Ryan Gosling as my less attractive best friend who inspires me to greater acts of charity and loyalty by his best-friendedness (I'll let my friends fight amongst themselves over who he is). My older brother would be Denzel Washington. Not sure why. I would star as myself. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, and Jason Schwartzman will comprise my closest guy friends. My sister will be played by the older sister on Family Ties. Whatever her name was. Or maybe that one girl on The Facts of Life. Steve Martin would be my dad. Meryl Streep, my mom. A virtuous Mila Kunis and Dianna Agron will be the love interests I have to choose between. We don't know yet who I'll choose. Nico Stai will be the soundtrack. Morgan Freeman, the narrator.
25. I think it'd be neat to sell one painting. Not a charity thing either. Well, I mean it can be for a charitable cause--I just don't want to be the charitable cause.
26. I want to learn to read without getting sleepy.
27. I'd like to teach a graduate level theology/biblical studies class.
28. I want to pastor a congregation. Not in the preachy way, though I'd be doing that. But in the live life alongside each other kind of way.
29. I want to see someone come to know Christ. Not in the free-pass-to-heaven way. In the, they-really-get-it way. That life is about loving each other and loving God through that. That it's not about us at all. Or what we get out of grace. But that Grace finds us and keeps us and accepts us wherever and whatever we are.
30. I want my friends, and myself, to lose focus of our insecurities. To see past them to the accepting beauty of a God who desires us.
31. I want a six-pack. Not for vain reasons or insecurities. Mainly to see if my body is physically capable of it.
32. Speaking of physical incapabilities, I want to eat the Big 96er like John Candy on The Great Outdoors.
33. I want my parents to know my kids.
34. I want to sous chef at a big restaurant for a night.
35. While I'm at it, I want to be a Japanese cook for a night, too. Bad, Chicken.
36. I would like to hit a homerun in Yankee Stadium.
37. I'd like to throw out the first pitch to Game 7 of the World Series.
38. I'd like to be inducted into a Hall of Fame. I don't care of what.
39. I want to whitewater raft a river with hippos. Because they're dangerous, not because they're cute.
40. I'd like to ride a bull for as long as I could. Without cowboy boots.
41. I want to have a twin. Not sure that's really possible. He (or she) would be significantly younger than me now.
42. I want to name a kid Caeden. Cayden. Caden. Caydin. Caedin. I don't care how it's spelled.
43. I also want a Brent Andrew Newberry, Jr. so that there can be a III and IV, mainly in the hopes of seeing a Brent Andrew Newberry, V because everyone stops at the IV. I'm not sure the reasoning behind that, but I imagine the fourth wants his kid to have an identity of his own. Hopefully, my fulfilling this bucket list will make his name worth keeping to the V.

For the Mayans,

Brent Andrew Newberry, I.
January, 2012.


Social Reversion

Facebook and Twitter have made us terrible people. We find our narcissism and codependency enabled by a social network of pseudo-friends. We are bad friends and worse people. We care about what we have to say or like or post; we're annoyed by others who do the same themselves. We want to seem brilliant or cool or funny or likeable or attractive or popular or hip or relevant or [insert adjectival insecurity here], and yet when we are in person with real, live, breathing human beings of people, we shut down, or worse, we stay the same.

We don't know how to be friends anymore. We don't know how to listen, to share the conversation, to ask questions and to genuinely give a care in the world about anyone else's life. We ramble, interrupt, talk over people, or just check out until it is our turn in the story. It's rude, it's childish, and it's glaringly self-absorbed. It's as if we haven't left preschool, our need to be impressive and accepted manifested in what we share about ourselves virtually. What even five years ago was never meant for public consumption is now the very basis by which we find our emotional security. We are living out an adult game of Show & Tell, only each of us is telling and showing over top of the other, more loudly and provocatively with each passing post.

I know we all do it. We are excited to tell about our lives. We're story-tellers. And that's great. Really. But every story needs an audience, and in this life we call our adventure, it just so happens that the rules follow that we take turns, that we listen when others are speaking, and we answer when someone is talking to us. We don't revert to infancy, when everything revolved around us.

We've experienced the evolution of social networking, from Friendster to MySpace (my own personal space) to Facebook with "friends" and Twitter with "followers." Is it possible to be any more self-aggrandizing? We have now equated ourselves to MLK Jr. and Gandhi and Jesus Christ; we have followers. For what? To hear us spout about sports or politics or random musings of our day? I have a twitter handle. But what does that say about us as a civilization when we have belittled friendship to an annual cyber birthday wish or reduced status-quo-shattering movements to pithy statements each of us are mandated to publish in 140 characters or less? We invite people to events, and now the people who get left off the invitation list are those most likely smart enough to have given up Facebook for its unfortunate ironies: in trying to connect us to the world via "friends" we have become more detached within our real friendships. In clamoring for more "friends" and "followings" we have stretched ourselves a million miles wide but only an inch deep. Don't call me, just text me. We're averse to intimacy.

Some of it is convenience. Some of it is fun. And I imagine Acquaintance-ster didn't sound like a runaway hit. But where friendship used to be defined by those who pack up your apartment with grunts and sweat and pizza, who came to your rescue when you were stranded, who took road trips with you just for the adventure of it, it's now been reduced to a running tally of classmates and coworkers numbering in the hundreds or thousands, many of whom are indistinguishable by name alone. Our social networking has single-handedly sucked the life out of a word, irreverently mocking the sanctity of something beautiful. For a society that prides itself on its technological advancement and cultural superiority, it's somewhat ironic then that its crowning achievement is a faux-society composed of our collective primal selves to such degree not seen since our ancestors were hunter/gatherers.

I remember watching lots of different kinds of movies growing up. Cartoons or Commando or the Goonies or Pete's Dragon or The Care Bears. And all of those are nostalgic for me. But when I saw Save the Last Dance in high school or whenever it came out, I remember getting goosebumps at the part with the gang members. Not because I was scared of the Crips, or because I secretly knew I could make it as a member. It was because of the bond, the loyalty of their friendship. It was moving at a moment in the movie that wasn't necessarily intended to be so. But it's funny now; I find that moment just as jarring today as then. I don't need universal acceptance or respect or likeability. I need friendship. Real and unrelenting, loyal and redemptive. I need people who want to hear my stories, sure, but who need me to hear theirs. I need people who rally around me in trouble or joy, who "get" the things I "get," who challenge and make me a better person. I don't need 1200 friends to follow me to my own personal space on a website. I need real friends with whom to travel this adventure. This life that's as much their story as mine.

I'm not giving up Facebook or Twitter, and I'm aware the irony of such sentiment originating from the format most solely responsible for our lapse into infantile narcissism--a blog, but I do want to be more conscious of my own approach to life, and the virtual reality that is social networking. I don't pretend to have it all mastered, and perhaps this is my hope for accountability, publicly chastising the very forum within which this is being shared. I don't know the best way to fix our culture, if it's even possible, or if it's even worth the effort. I'm sure there'll be money in Facebook Rehabs and a Facebook patch and Facebookette gum and Facebook Anonymous chat rooms. Or maybe we could become less self-absorbed and more self-aware, taking note of our tendencies and making good on our struggles to change and grow and really live. I suppose we'll have to do it one person at a time. So for me, and for you, my friend, stop talking about yourself for a bit. Ask your friends questions about their lives. Give a damn. Give them the chance to Show & Tell.


Vehicular Little Man Slaughter

It is a typical weekday evening: me hungry, needing food, wandering out to the local grocery store, buying more than I can eat in a month because I'm shopping on an empty stomach. I load everything into my car, losing track of everyone and everything around me, save the car door next to mine that has me recoiling in fear and anger over the reckless manner in which it thrusts itself open. Decompressing, I hop in the car, and looking over my right shoulder, I flip it in reverse. As I start to back up, I hear panicked yelling, and I turn to my left to see the family with the lousy car-door etiquette frantically waving their arms at the same frequency as their screams. I slam on the brakes, and equal parts terrified and offended, out from behind my car walks a midget.

A dwarf. A little person. Whatever the proper noun is these days, I almost back over a human being whom I did not see in my rearview mirror because he wasn't tall enough. I almost commit vehicular little man-slaughter.

I try to beg for forgiveness. Adding ironic insult to near-injury, he can't see my profuse apologizing through the 25% tint of my driver's side window. I momentarily consider rolling down the window to have a face to face apology, but the logistics elude me. And what would I say? "I'm sorry, I didn't see you there." Is there a more humiliating way to address his near-death experience? Not only did his family have to wave me off the kill, but now I'm going to rehash the entire sequence by highlighting that the one thing he's most insecure about is actually what would've been most responsible for killing him?

It's difficult enough that he can't drive to the store or push his own cart or help the nonagenarian in her motorized cart grab the jelly off the middle shelf, but now he has to consider his life a game of Frogger just in walking through the parking lot? All because I was consumed by my first world hunger pangs and attention to car-detailing? My life is a conglomeration of me-moments. I live for myself, about myself, to myself all too often. I've got blinders on, and I don't see the world or people around me enough. The things I love are the things I feel the world should love; the things I'm focused on are surely the things with which the rest of the world is absorbed. I fail to take simple moments of un-self-awareness, to see what other people are doing or thinking or saying. I want to live life to the fullest, and that shouldn't look like a mosaic of self-portraits. It needs to involve others--lots of others. Love your neighbor as yourself. If I was doing that the world would be a super-loved gig.

I suppose nearly running over a man lends itself to introspection and gratitude. I've experienced both. But I'm hopeful, beyond the relief of such a potentially life-altering moment for both of us, that it might yet be life-altering for me. I want to be a difference-maker in the lives of others, and not merely by running them over.


Counting to a Trillion

I've been thinking about the US National Debt for awhile. It seems that the number "trillion" is thrown around so much, it's either so large it's inconceivable to most Americans or we're just so used to the Tiger Woods', ARod's and LeBron's that millions are petty cash and billions are the new million. That would make trillion the new billion. Except that's preposterous. Have you ever tried to count to a million? How about a billion? I don't think you'd live long enough to count to a trillion. But seriously.

Look at this.
We have 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour: 3,600 seconds an hour.
24 hours a day: 86,400 seconds a day.
365 and 1/3 days a year: 31,564,512 seconds a year.
Let's say the average person lives to be 80. It's a nice round number that I'd like all my loved ones to surpass, but nonetheless: 2,525,160,960 seconds in a lifetime.

WE ONLY LIVE 2 BILLION SECONDS! To put that in perspective. If you wanted to count to a TRILLION, you'd have to count 396 numbers a second, for EVERY second of your life, to reach 1 trillion. I mean, I can count "1234567" before the next second ticks. That's it. I could maybe get to 10 each second. But 396?! Per second? For the rest of my life? Now that's just counting to a trillion.

As of 10:37 and 8 seconds Central Standard Time, the US National Debt stood at: $13,253,598,236,404. That's 13 TRILLION! So that means that based on my elementary math skills, it's roughly 13.2 times 396 to figure out how many numbers you'd have to count per second to make it all the way to 13 trillion. That would be 5,248 digits. You would have to count 5200 digits a second (thats, 12345678910,11,12,13,14...5,248 in your head) EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF YOUR LIFE to reach the number 13.253598236404 trillion.

Or to look at it differently, if you were to get paid for every second you lived, some poor schmuck (I guess China at this point) would have to write you a check for $5,248 EVERY SECOND in order to total 13 TRILLION DOLLARS by the time you died. I'm lucky to make 5 grand in 2 months! But EVERY SECOND?

Or what if you only get paid for how many seconds you actually work in a lifetime.
Average day we work: 8 hrs or 28,800 secs.
Work week: 40 hrs or 144,000 secs.
Work year: 50 weeks (leaving out 2 weeks vacation, unpaid) or 7,200,000 secs.
Avg working lifetime: Age 25-65 or 40 years or 288,000,000 secs.
Total earnings per "working" second: $46,019
That's enough to cover a family of four for a year. 40 g's a second is about the only way to become the world's first trillionaire.

Need more perspective? Alex Rodriguez signed a $275 million contract in 2007. For 10 years. That's $27.5 million a year. If a game is roughly 4 hours in duration, and a season is 162 games a year (not including injuries or the postseason), then that is 38,880 seconds of playing time (or "working" time) over the course of one season. That means ARod is paid around $707 per second he is playing (I know his contract is not structured based on seconds played but on other criteria, most of which, if not all of, are guaranteed). To reach the total of the US National Debt, he'd have to get paid 65 TIMES what he is making currently! If we're making $40,000 a year, we're paid approximately $.00625 per second. That's less than half a penny per second! ARod is making 113,120 times as much as us per second, and yet his salary is 65 times less than the rate of the national debt. Just for fun: we'd need to get paid 7,363,040 TIMES what we are currently making per "working" second of our lives.

I don't know if I'll ever take the time to count to a million. Certainly not a billion. And the fact that it's physically impossible for me to count to a trillion is incredibly sobering. Our national debt is gargantuan, and it isn't going anywhere but up. I don't know the way to solve it--tax cuts or higher taxes, spending cuts, freezes or increases. But I can tell you this: the debt has gone up $106,063,860 in the few minutes I've been writing this. That's 1/3 of ARod's contract in just a few minutes. Or in terms of life-seconds, it will take 3.35 years for you to live another 106,000,000 seconds.

If counting sheep doesn't work for our insomniacs, try imagining them as dollars in the national debt. That oughta knock you out. Nothing like counting to a trillion.

Or 13.