Archive for the confused Category

Hope, still under examination…

Posted in christianity, confused with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2009 by Phil Alcorn

I’m never really sure how to start. I’m almost certain I have said this before, most likely many times. However, I’m also tired enough right now that I’m not going to bother going back to check. But it is true, I’m never really sure how to start off one of these blog posts…

Billy Connelly has the same problem, seemingly. He says the middle of the show is fine, whatever happens happens, but the start… the start is much harder to work out. Dylan Moran is the same, to name one of my absolute favourite comedians… within the first four minutes of his quite epic stand up show ‘Monster’, he tells us that he never really spends a great deal of time on ‘hello’. It’s one of those portals of conversation, he says, that people get very freaked out about… because you can use ‘hello’, and then you’re on your own. You have started something, you have engaged in dialogue in some way with another person, and you are now expected to make their attention worthwhile…

But alas, I am becoming side-tracked… although I am rather glad that I have now succesfully, with the aid of that little anecdote, managed to begin this post. We are now past the start… the pressure has lifted a little…

Now, looking back, it is now approaching four months since I last posted anything on this blog of mine. In that time, I have written two drafts which have gone unpublished. In the seven months PRIOR to my last post, I made a measly ten posts (if memory serves me correctly). I also believe that it was within that seven month period, although I could be wrong, that I undertook a slight blog redesign, giving it the title ‘Hope’ and changing the general layout. ‘Chasing the light’, looking back, actually held deeper meaning for me at that time (and still does) than I think I realised even then… even the site redesign of a much darker background and a picture of lights in the night seem to resemble the journey I was embarking on, a journey through dispair and pain, a journey chasing after the light in the distance…

I am aware that sounds perhaps a little overdramatic… but when I think about it, where I have come over the past year, where I have visited on this journet, I have been to some pretty dark places… places within myself, where at times I very nearly lost hope. I’m not saying that what I went through was more serious than any of the struggles faced by any amount of people on a daily basis… I am well aware that there or people out there who have dealt with and daily deal with problems far greater than were I have been… but still, suffering is all too real for the one experiencing it…
And some of you reading this may have noticed this in me when we interacted in the non-cyber world in the past year… and again, some of you may not. But hopehope has been an idea that has been driving me for a long time now. Even in the times when I feel like I nearly lost it, it was still shining its light for me to follow, to chase, to pursue…

This post is not about what happened to me over the course of a year. It’s amazing just how much can happen in just one year… things have happened in the the past 12 months that have been absolutely awe-inspiring, total high times… and there have been things that have been pretty low. And throughout everything, throughout the times of light and the times of dark, the shining hope has never gone away. Sometimes I wandered away from it, and it took other people to point me back in the right direction… some people have done that for me more times than they can know… almost like they were my ‘spiritual sat-nav’, though I doubt I have ever truely told them just how much they have meant to me…

That kinda got away from me a bit… but I will leave it in. Some things never change, and I still don’t like deleting parts of posts… it just doesnt fit my haphazard style! Anyways, like I said, hope has been a subject under a lot of examination by me over the past while. Even when I didnt realise it, the subject of hope was still invading my life, still turing up in the oddest places, in the most subtle of ways… and in doing so, it has made me think all the more about my own journey toward hope… about what hope truely means, at least for me. You see, hope is defined as confident expectation in the Encyclopedia Britannica. But, isn’t it the nature of all things to have an opposite? Light and dark. Black and white. Faith and doubt. Love and hate (or is it apathy?). Hope… and despair. But then, is dark truly an opposite of light, or merely a absence thereof? Is black an absence of white? Doubt an absence of faith? (with love, we perhaps are not sure whether apathy or hatred fits the bill here, but that is a question for another time). And so, is despair not an absence of hope?

Two days ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to ‘thunks’. Seemingly they are questions which on the surface seem ordinary, trivial… but questions which, when thought about, can make you stop in your tracks and really ponder. Now, that is probably a horrible definition, seeing as I’m going from memory, but you get the general idea… Anyway, it was from this discussion on thunks that she sprung me with a question that has been circling my mind for a long time now: ‘To understand happyness, do we need to have experienced sadness?”

That question, or one very similar, has not only been on my mind for a long time, it has also been infiltrating my life in ways I never expected. Allow me to explain…

Heroes is a television show I fell in love with as soon as I started watching it. It is the secret (or not so secret) dream of every guy, I reckon, to be the hero… every childs secret wish to have superpowers of one sort or another. I mean, think about it… from when we were no age, we have grown up with the teaching that there are heroes and villains. The comic books we read when we were younger, the childrens stories we were told as we headed off to sleep… the TV shows we grew up watching, the movies we went to see, even the stories we were taught in Sunday School (if we went) taught us there were heroes and there were villains (though I find it interesting how in children’s accounts of bible stories, we never hear about the darker side of our heroes lives… with the exception of Jesus, every other bible character has a history we never seem to be told in Sunday School – David is a prime example!). Movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, Fern Gully… TV shows like Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Transformers, Thundercats, Bucky O’Hare… Comic book heroes like Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman… all these things taught us there were people who were good, and people who were bad. It was so clear, so black and white, so easy to understand… it wasn’t until we started growing up that we saw all the different shades of grey colouring our world. One of the first places it became evident for me was actually within myself… knowing what is good, and what is bad, and feeling this intense struggle, this intense battle between the two fighting within… the battle between good and evil, light and dark… black and white… and, inevitably, my actions came out grey. Sometimes I was good, and often I was bad… contrary to what media had taught me in my youth, I was neither a hero of justice nor a supervillain… I was caught annoyingly between the two. Neither hot nor cold… lukewarm, one of the very things the church in revelation was rebuked for…

Now, back to Heroes. Although a truely fantastic show, it too fell into the stereotype in its first two seasons. By the end of season one, we had seen two main characters develop and emerge into the world. One, the hero – standing for justice against all odds, a heart full of love (even his power is based off his ability to empathise with people), overcoming personal doubts and pain to stand for what is right and good and to defend his fellow man. The other, the villain. A character of true malice, of evil, acting out of a thirst for power and significance in the world around him… Light, and dark. Black, and white.

Jump forward to season two, and although situations have changed, the premise remains the same. Our villain, although now powerless, is still exploiting those around him, still murdering, still hunting to regain his power, his significance. Our hero, although technically fighting on the wrong side for a while, is still following after the cause of good, the pursuit of justice. And even then when he is helping the wrong side, it is because he has been tricked into doing so – still believing he is fighting on the side of good, of the side of the light. Yes, Heroes was at this stage still following along to the media status quo.

Jump forward once more, and we are in season three. At the time of writing this post, we are actually only halfway through the season, but the point I hope to make from it is clear from the first few episodes. To avoid spoiling any more of this fantastic series than I already have for those who have yet to see it, I will say only one thing about season 3… the lines become blurred. Black and white becomes a very realistic shade of grey… characters discover within themselves a disturbing truth, one which actually became the title of one of the episodes of the season… they discovered within themselves a duality. The potential for good, and for evil. The ability within themselves to perform acts of utmost heroism, and utmost evil. Essentially, our heroes and villains became humanised… we finally saw in these characters lives the truth which lies in each of us – we are grey.

And when I saw this happening in Heroes, it genuinely shocked me… I loved it, absolutely loved it, but it did shock me… that this theme of duality, of light and dark, ofhope and dispair had followed me all the way to one of my favourite TV programs! And it is still following me, coming up again in the conversation with my friend which I already mentioned… and so to return to that conversation, I now pose that question to you. To understand happyness, to we need to have experienced sadness? To understand hope… to we need to have experienced despair?

There is so much more I would like to say on the topic… I really clould go on and on, listing more examples from my life and friends lives which centre around this very question… but I’m not going to. This is already turning into one of, if not THE longest post of this type I have ever written on here. So instead, I shall finish with, in the way of Jerry Springer, a final thought. I mean, with all this thinking on hope, you also have to ask what the point is. What I mean is, you have to ask what the point is in thinking about hope to begin with… I like to believe hope still has a large part to play in this world. With the world in the state it’s in, with so much of the worlds population below the poverty line, the economic crash, the war in Israel and Gaza… I firmly believe that hope, the hope that Christ preached, can make a difference in the world today. But for those of us who try to help show that hope, perhaps this question that has come up for me time and again is even more significant than we thought. Surely to help people, we need to see things from where they are. To help people, dont we need to stand with them, in the onslaught of fear and pain and despair? To point them in the direction of hope, don’t we need to understand where they are? To truely appreciate all that hope is and what it can do… don’t we need to understand how far it brings us?

For now, I am going to sleep… it is very very late at night right now. But, please, do ponder that with me… and please, do share your thoughts.

Advertisements

Interaction…

Posted in blog, confused, creative, friends, randomness on April 2, 2008 by Phil Alcorn

Ok. Something new. Something unexpected. Something that may well fall flat on its face, though I hope it doesn’t.

I’m looking for interaction from YOU. Yes, you. You, reading this blog, right now. I am looking for you to leave a comment to this post. And in that comment, I am asking you to say what the word ‘hope’ means to you. And I for one certainly hope you take me up on this challenge…

Thanks guys. Peace out.

About me…

Posted in confused, personality on November 21, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

This is NOT a self-pity post, though I have a feeling it may end up sounding like it…

There are aspects of myself that I am sick and tired of. There are aspects of myself that I just plain hate. I am a weak guy, easily deceived, easily discouraged, lazy, unmotivated… at least, thats how I feel right now… And the problem is, I hate feeling like this. And I hate the fact that I have all these characteristics in me. And what I hate, above all else, is that I don’t know how to go about trying to change them.

Everyone strives to become a better person, I think. Everyone wants to better themselves, wants to get rid of those undesirable features of themselves, those bad habits. I’m a person, and I want to get rid of that which hinders me. I want to throw it off, so it doesn’t entangle me. But every time I feel I am getting somewhere, something pulls me right back down…

I was talking to a good friend a few nights ago on msn, and he asked me what was bothering me. I told him I wished I could see the absolute truth, the absolute truth of who I was… I’m not a very confident person. Don’t get me wrong, in front of people, in a group, with friends, with people I have never met before in my life, I have all the confidence I need and more. I have no problem jumping up and making a fool of myself in front of people… but when it comes down to it, when I’m on my own, I’m not very confident about myself. I just feel… useless, sometimes… and I often wish I could see how other people truely see me, ‘warts and all’ as they say.

Of course, the problem there is then that when you tell people this, if they are trying to make you ‘feel better’ they go overboard on the niceties, they tell you all the ‘good things they see in you’. Fair enough, it can be nice to hear… but its a rather biased collection of statements. It rather hear the TRUTH most of the time – good AND bad, encouragement and constructive criticism. That way, I can see how my own insecurities tie in with other peoples perceptions…

I’m not really sure why I typed all this. I’ve been warned a few times from various people about exposing too much of my inner self on this blog… but this is who I am. And I guess I had to type it out here to really see for myself what it is I think and feel…

silent for too long…

Posted in confused on October 6, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

I haven’t been blogging enough lately… I know this, because my mind is awash with many many thoughts and feelings and musings, and I haven’t unloaded any onto here to get them out of my brain…

Life has been moving rediculously quickly during the past couple of weeks. Its been no time at all, yet I’m already 2 weeks into term. This worries me… time is slipping by SO quickly, and its very easy to feel overwhelmed, even a little left behind, by it all. Especially when you’ve got so much on your mind, it feels like you can’t even catch up with what has gone by.

Just some of the things that have happened in the past two weeks:
I found out someone close to me has been diagnosed with cancer
Found out more friends of mine than I thought suffer from depression
Careful as I try to be, I discover I can’t control my own feelings
TWO main CU meetings have come and gone
I finally realised I am not a smallgroup leader anymore, which makes me sad
My sister got a boyfriend, who I have never met
I’m learning more and more the amount of stuff that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in CU and chaplaincys in Queens
I’m discovering more and more the intricacies of ‘church politics’
God is teaching me some more about what it means to TRUELY love (expect a post on this soon)
2 weeks of lectures are OVER

There IS more, but it isn’t stuff that is fitting to go in the public domain I think… If you’re desperate to know, you’ll just have to ask me.

Now, in saying all that, I just have to laugh… because despite all of what I just wrote, part of me still wants time to move faster and faster… I want the summer to come SOON!

Hmm… inner conflict…

patience… and endurance…

Posted in christianity, confused on September 21, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Following on from Run Fatboy Run, it actually got me thinking an awful lot about patience and endurance… Well, to put it a better way, thinking MORE about patience and endurance, as they had come up quite recently before…

Again, I don’t really want to spoil the movie for people… but it’s kinda pivotal to explaining my thoughts… so if you havent seen the movie and you want to see it unspoiled more than you want to read this post, you have been warned! This post WILL contain spoilers!!

So, there is a point in the movie when Simon Pegg’s character is running in the marathon. He is running a marathon having done not enough training and not being in the best shape. Not only that, but at this stage he is running on a badly sprained ankle. He is running to prove to his ex-fiance that he has changed. He knows she may not care, but he is wanting to prove to himself as much as anything. So anyway, he comes to the point where he simply ‘hits the wall‘…
He has a choice to make… to give up, give in to his pain, fatigue and exhaustion… or to go on, break through the wall, and prove himself… needless to say, to go on would feel like agonising suicide with every single step. To give up would be sweet relief.

I’ve been finding myself in similar situations lately… wanting to give up for example, or wanting to say something when I know I should hold my tongue… wanting time to pass faster, wanting things to be different… wanting to blog about more than I probably should…

But there you go, in that last paragraph I used the word ‘wanting’ 5 times… it was all about what I WANT… and as God has shown me, so VERY clearly, in the past, what I want may not be whats best for me… and even when it is, to have it right away may not be appropriate, or indeed what is best… to give up may not be the best decision… to have things a different way may not be whats best, for me or for others… no matter how much I may want things to be different, or want to give up, or want things done quicker or slower or even wanting to understand!!!!!!

I don’t know what God’s plan is. I don’t know why He would choose me for the tasks He has chosen me for. I don’t know why He allows things to be the way they are. I don’t know why He permits things to be so difficult sometimes… I don’t know why some things take so long, and why some things don’t take long enough. I don’t know why I’m meant to experience some things, and other people are meant to experience other things. And I WANT to know why… but there you go, another want… sometimes what I want is good for me, sometimes it’s good for me in time… sometimes it isn’t. I just wish I UNDERSTOOD the decisions God has made… I know and I trust that they are right, and they are best… but it can be so frustrating when you want to know WHY… especially when you work with a mind of maths and logic!! lol

Anyway, I kinda deviated there slightly… patience and endurance are hard – especially given everything I talked about in that little rant… it’s hard to push yourself when you’re so ready to just give up and ‘die’. It’s impossible, actually… I guess thats why patience is a fruit of the Spirit – it has to come from God! And endurance… I just pray that God would grant me more and more patience and endurance as I live out this little life… and some wisdom and understanding would be nice too… 🙂

putting it into practice…

Posted in christianity, confused, taking action on September 11, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

So, how does it all work out in practice?

I’m back in Belfast now… not back full time, but I am staying up here for a few days this week while I help out with some international student stuff… had a good time with it today, showing the new students to their rooms, having a chat about where they’re from and what they study…

Now, being back in Belfast means another issue has come up… kind of a big issue (and please excuse the pun, seeing what I’m about to discuss…)
I saw my first ‘Big Issue’ seller of the new academic year today. I also saw my second, third, fourth and fifth Big Issue seller of the academic year. I don’t want to say ‘homeless person’ because the truth is I don’t know if they have a home or not. That very well may be an issue in itself, the fact that I didn’t ask them about themselves… or say very much at all… but it isn’t the issue I’m dealing with right now. My issue at the moment is that after all my preaching about loving people, I’m not sure of the best way to love the big issue-ers and the people on the street… is it right for me to give money to every one that I see? Is it – dare I say it – ethical? The Bible tells me to steward my money well… so is giving money to every one I see (and I see a lot) the best way to help? Especially if I’m a ‘poor’ student? Maybe it is… maybe giving them something financially IS the best way to help them…
On the other hand, is it buying them something to eat or drink, that will warm them up? Meeting their physical needs? Maybe…
Is it offering them a room for the night? I certainly couldn’t do that for all of them… but for one, or two? Is that the best way? Maybe…
What about talking to them? I have to say, I’ve tried that before… many don’t speak english, and I don’t speak much BUT english… but maybe the best way to help them is to take the time to talk to them, try to chat to them… show them they are worth talking to? Maybe…
Maybe its a mixture of the above… I honestly just don’t know… How do I work out what their greatest need is? I don’t think financially I COULD give to all of them… but does that mean I shouldn’t do it for one? Isn’t one person worth it? I certainly couldn’t take them all in… but could I take in one, or two? Maybe not when the other guys are living here too… or is that just an excuse?

I honestly just don’t know… I’m having a very confusing night… part of me would rather just give up on the issue and watch TV… but I REALLY want to know the answer to this!!