Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Critique on Blogging

Blogging is a verb that I am only beginning to practice, and with that inexperience comes the hazard of carelessness. In constructing this blog I wasn't sure of what the theme would be, what direction I wanted to take in writing the posts, or even if my motivations were completely honorable. After a few days of publishing, I can't say that I have successfully answered any of these questions, but here are my attempts thus far...

I decided on a cliché and nebulous title like "A Published Mind" because I wasn't set on any single theme apart from a sharing of my own thoughts. Every post thus far (this included) has really just been a regurgitation of ideas I have been thinking about, without much commonality apart from the source - me. This lack of consistency brings up the question of why am I publishing a blog in the first place? Is it a way to gain notoriety, respect, a following perhaps? Is this an attempt at trying to prove a certain degree of eloquence or intellect to the world...? And if so, who is to judge?

As you read my blog, I assume that many of you are asking yourself these same critiquing questions. I'm afraid I cant do much to put those questions to rest, except assure you that I am wrestling with the same considerations when I make any post. I cannot force you to continue reading my un-cohesive posts, and frankly, my blogging should not be contingent on a devoted following. What I can do, is leave open a space to converse and share about the pertaining topics. I can't promise that all my posts will be well-written or profound (in fact most probably aren't). What I can promise is that my posts are written with a conscious attempt at objectivity, honesty, and care.

I don't want this blog to be a way of imprinting my ideas on other people. I don't want this blog to be an attempt at proving my intellectual worth to the world. I want this blog to be public reflection for the sake of reflection... void of hubris and pride.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to do so :)


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Re-Evaluating my Evaluations

Today I had the fortunate experience of working with an autistic boy at the archery range. His time at the range was both satisfying but also very challenging. I focused a large part of my time on improving the technique and self confidence of this boy, as he had a difficult time understanding the mechanics of archery and had a tendency to march off in a huff when he wasn't able to hit the target (which honestly, was more often than not).

Today's time at archery was preceded by a few sessions with Adam's Camp. In these sessions, I worked with campers whos ages ranged from ten to thirty. A common character trait these campers all shared was an emotional or physical disability, very often down syndrome. As with the autistic boy I helped coach through archery, these participants were challenged by the basic physical strength and dexterity to succeed in an activity such as archery, but tried none the less.

After both of these experiences I left with a feeling of both satisfaction and achievement, which is more than I can say about a "normal" lesson on the range. My time with these disabled children was filled with laughter and gratitude, but most importantly passion. Both the autistic boy and the disabled campers were filled with such alacrity when they achieved in hitting a target, and overwhelmed with angst when they failed to meet their expectations. This emotional reaction is not something I personally experience, and it is not something I find everyday on the archery range, or in many of the other activities we offer.

In reflecting on these experiences I have come to two interesting conclusions: first, perhaps there is a vocational opportunity waiting for me in working with this demographic; second (and more pertinent to this blog post), I reconsidered how we should view these people and their disabilities. I would like to talk more about the latter point, as the former might be a little less interesting and deals too much with the unknown future.

It is society's natural and visceral reaction to look at the disabilities of autism, down syndrome, and the like as an unfortunate problem and a drain on "normal" people's lives. With this response, we feel pity, sympathy and remorse for those who personally deal with these emotional/physical problems and those who care for the inflicted. I think this natural response is problematic, and causes us to (whether consciously or not) look down on the disabled and consider them less than ourselves. As a disclaimer I know that not everyone has this natural response, and I am speaking largely for myself here.

I can still recall a time when I was working at the Special Olympics this year and silently prayed to myself that our world could be rid of these diseases and disabilities, but then stopped. I began to consider the point that maybe these disabilities are character traits, traits that characterize some of the most gracious, joyful, passionate, and caring children I have encountered. In my prayer, I stopped myself and began to look at these people I was coaching as beautiful creatures that God had created. I began to look at these people as gifts rather than burdens.

When I framed the issue of down syndrome or emotional disabilities, I considered it to be just that, an issue and a disability. Now I am not trying to ignore the fact that there is still that element of disadvantage in the world; what I am trying to highlight is that these people who we often look at diminutively, are first and foremost people. What I am also trying to highlight is the point that these are some of the most beautiful, passionate and caring people I have ever encountered. In these brief experiences I have had with the "challenged" people of our society, I am growing more and more conscious of how I look at these people and careful of how I consider their presence in this world. I am working towards caring for these people out of love, and not out of sympathy. I am working towards appreciating differences as differences and not deficiencies.

In closing, I want to make a statement of humility and honesty. I write this post not as a person with much experience in the dealings and rhetoric of this particular topic. Having said that, I am open to criticism about my thoughts or words, and can only hope that they are not met by offended or disgruntled readers. Thanks for reading!


A Critique on Conversation

Conversation. It's something we all engage in (some more than others), whether by force or voluntarily. Over the past few weeks at SMR I have taken part in numerous conversations at the dinner table, in the sauna and during the many hikes through the Rockies. In reflecting on these conversations, I began to consider what the point of it all is. Certainly there is great worth in a Socratic dialogue about the meaning of life, or a Biblical inquiry about the piety of our faith; however, it is rare that I find myself in those sorts of exchanges. More common are the trite accounts of the day, gossip about co-workers, or attempt at a political debate. What I have concluded from observation, is that there are two forms of conversation: the rare-remarkable and the common-trivial.

I believe that we have these latter types of conversations because they are more satisfying and easily facilitated, while the former are often ominous and unappealing. I have had a few conversations where I find myself trying to recite my knowledge on the ideas of different ancient philosophers and ultimately prove my own intellectual worth through digging at difficult, unsolvable questions. There have been a couple of times where I have looked to digest Biblical text and deliver a scripture verse of two, perhaps for the purpose of better understanding modern ethics or exploring eschatological views. In my experience of both these topics, I find the study overwhelming and my own knowledge lacking. These are the rare-remarkable conversations; "rare" because they are difficult to solve, and "remarkable" because they can often change one's beliefs and open one's mind.

Having said all this, it is of no surprise that I have had few engagements with people that have seriously taken on these hard questions. More common are the trivial engagements of the day-to-day rituals such as work, food and plans for the weekend. Engagements that leave the participants satisfied and often amused... But to what end?

In closing I would like to say that I enjoy conversing on every level, and if a talk does not hold deep value, it is as much (if not more) my fault than anyone else's. My only concern in writing this post is that I will come off as pretentious and arrogant, which is not my intention. I merely wanted to share my thoughts on the week, and give you readers a topic to marinade on... Thanks for reading :)