Sunday, April 23, 2006

Situation Update

Time for a sitrep.

(1) I've finished my thesis. It's 10 pages longer and 2 topics shorter than what I had intended to write, but it's over, it's done and I'm not looking at it again. I'm fairly sure my supervisor will take it as is.

(2) I'm finally done with my internship. I know I'll miss heading down to the cubicle every other day, but I've got some time for myself at least, except...

(3) My first exam is in a week's time. I've got some serious cramming to do in the upcoming week. That's not gonna stop me from taking breathers though.

(4) For those of you who have been sending me prayers/well-wishes about my financial situation, thank you. Things are looking slightly up. I've got a few prospects for part-time work during the summer, so I won't be forced to loiter on the streets or starve to death, except...

(5) I start bar review courses 4 days after my last exam. These review courses take up every weekday morning for the rest of May-early July, and I'll need to work in the afternoons to pay my rent as well. In short, I'm gonna be working my ass off during summer.

(6) For those of you who have been worried on my behalf about my visa situation, I'm glad to report a few more new prospects. It's way too early to tell if any of these things pan out, but I've got more than 1 decent opportunity in the works. I'm fairly confident that at least one of them will turn out well.

Thanks all, for those of you who have been putting up with my whining.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Deconstructing Faith

Tomorrow's Easter.

I'm Christian. I don't, however, profess to know all the answers. For example, I cannot believe that playing D&D is tantamount to Satan worship. Like Holly Q, I don't believe that Christianity should discriminate against homosexuality.

Does this make me a bad Christian?

I've had a long argument with Dawn over the nature of morals. I told here a while ago that I do not believe that all morals are subjective. I hold to that. There is the objective existence as we commonly understand it i.e the way a chair exists. There is also objectivity in the sense that a common view defines reality. Diamonds, for example, are valueable simply because everyone agrees that they are. Does that make their value false? Maybe, but it's still objectively obtainable.

Morals are real. God is real, even if God isn't three pounds of flax.

My greatest problem with my own faith has always been the state of knowledge. I do not know, for example, how men can claim to know God's divine will. If God is truly infinite, how can man understand God's will through our puny senses? The Bible? That is guidance, not a road map. The Bible does not tell a young french student whether to take care of his mother through World War II or to sign on to fight Nazis.

Who are we to know with absolute certainty what God wills?

Yet, in my uncertain state, I still have to make moral decisions - the first of which is whether I believe in God. The fact that I have to make a decision and the fact that I never know exactly what consequences my decision will have fills me with dread and anxiety.

The reverse, however, must be true. If I choose, it is ultimately my choice. If I choose to persecute homosexuals, D&D players, Muslims and the such, it will be my choice, not God's will. If I choose send the National Guard to Iraq, the fact that New Orleans didn't get the National Guard's help is not God's will, but mine alone.

My faith is not run on certainty, but best guesses. I feel an obligation to seek out the best thing to do in a situation. It does not mean I know it is the best thing, merely my best guess. It means I am never certain if what I am doing is God's will. All I can do is pray about it, believe in it, and do the best I can.

People have asked me why, despite all the shit Christians have put me through, why I still remain Christian. This is my answer.

"I don't have the right to punish God for Man's sins."

Monday, April 03, 2006

I Had A Friend...

...who I trusted deeply, who I literally spent much of my young adult days growing up around. Someone who was so fundamentally different from who I was, yet with enough mutual respect that these differences turned out to be some of the strongest bonds I had ever forged with another human being.

I use the past tense because I no longer consider this person a friend.

This friend came upon hard times. He had to take a break from his education because he could not pay his school fees. His father approached me, asking me to help him out. I did.

One loan became two, two became four, and four became many more. I've lost count of the number of times his father approached me for money, all the time promising that he would have it returned before I got married.

Then my wedding came, and the money wasn't returned.

My friend's father spoke to me, told me what a hard time my friend and his family were going through. He told me that if one, just one, of his ideas would work out, he would have enough to pay me many times over. When I put my foot down on not extending any more loans, the requests changed. Ideas. Questions. Advice. Anything my mind could lend itself to his cause.

One request became two, two became for, and four became many more. I've lost count of the number of times his father approached me for advice, all the time promising me that he would have my money returned to me soon.

Then came time for me to leave for the States. I'd long since given up on seeing any of the money. For an experienced businessman my friend's father displayed a shocking naivete about the way business works now. As I sighed at yet another heavy-handed, over-reaching, money-making scheme, I made my preparations to leave.

Before I left, I asked for help, contacts, anyone my friend and his father could put me in touch with. They did, and gladly. They promised me that I would have a warm welcome there, in the States. They promised that I would get the help I needed to get settled in.

I went to the States. I waited. I tried to get in touch with this contact. No response. Not a peep. I waited some more. Finally, I got on with my life, disappointed, but far from beaten.

And then came the request for help again. More questions. More thinking. More advice. By this time, I had been in the States for so long that whatever help he could give in helping me settle in was long overdue, and probably not needed.

It was during this time I found out my friend had been borrowing money off another mutual friend of ours. My friend lent him the money he had been saving for his honeymoon. When came time to repay, he couldn't. Except, this time, it wasn't for his school fees.

It was for an Apple Powerbook. When I found out, I recall staring bitterly at my 100-page, looseleaf notepad, which I had relied on to take my notes for the longest time in the States, because I couldn't afford a laptop with the little money I brought along.

I sent him a short, terse reply about exactly what I thought of his actions. I should have told him exactly where to shove that Apple Powerbook. I haven't spoken to him since.

I found out a short time back that he still wonders if our friendship would recover if I had time away. Perhaps he doesn't understand me well enough after all those years - my trust, once betrayed, is almost impossible to regain. Making restitution would only be the beginning, not an end in itself. Perhaps if he doesn't understand why I am so deeply disappointed with him and his family, then maybe, just maybe, I was the fool. I will not be fooled twice.

Why do I write about this now?

Because I looked at my account yesterday, and the money I lent him was the approximate amount I needed to remain here in the States.


And because no good deed deserves to be unpunished, let me now say....

...this might as well have been my story about Singapore.