Andre Sanchez Story (Literary Non-Fiction)

07.21.2022 / philosophy

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Dreas Sanchez Story

I met Andre at a Christian Philosophy conference. He was 5’8’’, muscular, tattooed, and stoic. Almost everyone else ‘looked’ like a philosopher. This guy looked like a cholo. He walked into the 9am session on Divine Omnipresence with his red hat backwards.

The presenter, Dr. Arcadi looked like me: white, skinny, sporting a tie and a coat. Andre looked like a gangster going back to college. Despite appearances, he proved intelligent. During the Q&A, Andre’s questions were articulate and informed. He asked Dr. Arcadi about the creation by the Logos, the divine presence within the cosmos. He asked if Logos theology is just panentheism.. Dr. Arcadi responded calmly but with some strained magnanimity. Andre’s follow up question suggested that holiness was like the “vibrations” of the voice of the original utterance of the Logos. Dr. Arcadi’s patience wore thin.

Andre spoke like a rapper and moved like a rapper. He flowed, bobbed, and virtually danced as he talked. His accent pegged him as from New Mexico. His voice and manner were from the street, but his words were that of a seminarian… or a mystic.

After the talk I walked with Andre in the hallway, and we discussed Eastern Orthodoxy. I told him, “I was feeling your question.” He asked me my story.

“I grew up in a charismatic church, so I wanted vitality; I went to a great college, so I wanted intellectual depth and fidelity to Christian history; I was meditating daily, so I wanted spiritual depth. The Orthodox had all that.”

He told me, ‘Bro, I got chills.’ He spoke with earnestness and sincerity, like a child.

He tells me as we refill coffee mugs that he fought in Afghanistan. He had held friends dying in his arms, killed men, and came back to the U.S. with a clear sense that he has some purpose. He’s in seminary now, getting a B.A. in Biblical Studies and ancient languages. In cholo accents, he tells me he’s learning Greek, Latin, and some Aramaic. He speaks quickly, passionately, using his hands to puncture the air.

Andre is on medical retirement. He served three terms in Afghanistan, over the course of 7 years. He was a medic. They saw a lot of fighting. “It was kinetic,” he says. “187 wounded that first tour, and 17 guys killed, of our own. They lost a lot more than that.” He does nothing but read, research, and study. He hosts a men’s discussion group online.

At lunch, I sat with Dr. Arcadi, and two new friends (also tall white guys). We share opinions on our papers. I save a seat for Andre. The man is missing from the table. I find him and we continue our discussions.

I don’t have a place to stay in San Diego. I was going to get a hotel but want to save money. I ask if I can stay at his place and we can keep talking on the drive. He agrees. I have a sense of trust for this guy, his depth, his sincerity, his urgency.

After the conference, we meet up and head to his car. It smells faintly of marijuana. He is charging his vape in the dashboard. I ask him if he drives high. He says no but does admit that he charges his weed vape in the car.

We drive.

Andre has PTSD. He cried twice on the 30 minute drive. I listen and he talks voluminously. His narrative never strays far from his pain. He returns to it gravitationally. When he hits the center of the pain, the tears return. Then he bounces away and gets back into his heady, philosophical, exploratory narrative.

He is the most articulate spokesman about PTSD I’ve ever met, as well as being – clearly, in real time, right now – a sufferer of PTSD.

Andre was suicidal three days before this philosophy conference. Not that he was contemplating a gun or a bridge — rather, his definition of suicide was that he was contemplating volunteering to go to Syria for one last tour, volunteering for the most dangerous posts. Throw his life away by reckless service.

But then he found a philosophical conference about God.

He had never hung out with “real” academics this much. People who cared. Who didn’t just read things on the internet and post on online discussions. People who devote their lives to books. People who take ideas more seriously than money, sex, or status.

He said he lived in San Diego but we’ve been driving for awhile. Are we still in San Diego? As the drive stretches on, I feel a sinking feeling. I just flew in from the midwest, where I left my wife and kids to attend this conference.

Now, driving with a stranger deeper and deeper into a part of the world I don’t know. As he talks, as I listen, I become wrapped up in his world. My psyche is sliding deeper and deeper into the unknown. The Southern California sun is shining but it is getting darker.

We stop for groceries. His wife told him to get food if he’s bringing a guest. We’re supposed to get salmon and chicken and Chex in the blue box. We just walk around talking. In my grey sport coat and tie, black pants clinging to lanky legs, we are the oddest couple in the grocery store.

We’re still discussing metaphysics, religion, psychology, and epistemology. Eventually, I decide to split up so I can halt the conversation and run a chance of actually finding a chicken.

At his home, I meet his wife (who eyes me sideways), and he invites his best friend over. Before he arrives, I play around with his kids. I’m a goofball. He is discussing and cooking. I’m playing catch with the kids or discussing. We talk more philosophy. He offers me a THC vape. I decline.

When his friend arrives we get “into it” again. Andre and his best friend default to treating me as an authority. They ask me questions about everything under the sun, expecting me to have well-formed opinions. This is flattering. I hold forth. I try to satisfy their expectation of me as a guru. It was a trap. As soon as I asserted authority, they rebelled. They wanted someone who Knows Things to argue with.

Andre has father issues. I know this from how he is projecting onto me (we are roughly the same age) authority in order to fight with authority. But I also know this from his stories about his dad. Either silence or complaint — no positive stories. He complains about his COs in the military. Complains about God. And now, as an avatar of intellectual authority, he complains about me.

I keep a cheerful countenance. We eat, argue, and talk into the night. (Andre’s wife has concluded that I’m harmless.) We continue to talk theology but I also ask him about what it was like growing up in New Mexico, their friendship, and more of their life story.

Eventually, the conversation between Andre and his friend (both high by now) settles into their favorite (non-intellectual) topics. I have come to believe that Andre is a tortured soul, a brilliant mind, and must reconcile with his own (earthly) father before he knows any peace. I suggest as much to him. He wants to argue about it. I excuse myself to go sleep.

The next day, we return the conference and part ways. I’m grateful for the place to sleep and the connection. We’re still friends. We exchange an email every now and then. Last we talked, he was still angry at God.

The next I heard from him was on a YouTube video he took of himself. He was asked to leave the beach, refused, and got escorted out by police. The video shows him complaining about the police, and arguing with them as they escort him away.






What Judas Said

04.28.2022 / Misc

“Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?… Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”

Why does Jesus say “Thou hast said” in response to Judas (and Pontius Pilate too) asking a question? It makes more sense for him to say “thou hast said” in response to them, well, saying it – affirming that it is he (Judas) who would betray Christ.

I think the answer is in the Greek.

An alternate translation (and better in this context) of εἶπεν Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι ῥαββί would be:

“Judas said, “Master, it is I…is it not? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”

Judas said “It is I…” that’s why Jesus can respond “Thou hast said it.”

English questions flip word order “Is it i?” vs. “It is I” which makes these little moments from our Lord less comprehensible. When Pontius Pilate says, “You are the king of the Jews…?” Jesus says, “You said it.”

The question is formulated as a declarative statement, to which Jesus replies, “Thou hast said.”






Your Books Determine Your Life (and Podcasts too)

04.25.2022 / Personal growth

Here’s the argument in outline:

  1. Our thoughts determine our lives.
  2. Our thought patterns (habits of thinking) predominate over one-time thoughts, or thoughts that still take effort to think, because habits are effortless.
  3. To make a life change, we must make a thought change.
  4. To make a lasting life change, we must make a lasting thought change, i.e., form new habits not just one-time thoughts.
  5. The best way to take control over a thought is brute force. The best way to form new mental habits, however, is to read a book or listen to a podcast or hear a speaker… to “outsource” the thinking effort to that other source, over and over, until you internalize it.
  6. In this way, your books determine your life! (And Podcasts too)

Some comments on each point:

1. Our thoughts determine our lives.

Not in a particularly mysterious or magical way, but as a simple matter of cause and effect.

Read the rest...






Uncollections

03.07.2022 / Personal growth

People love to collect things.

Professional collectors exist for coins, records, cars, art, antiques, World War II memorabilia, books, rocks, dead bugs, celebrity signatures, and just about anything cool you can mention.

Other collectors who are more eccentric, idiosyncratic, or plain weird collect wild animals, pencils, unopened Coke bottles, back scratchers, Troll dolls or just about anything you can mention.

But normal middle-class people who are not intentionally creating “a collection” of things will tend to accumulate piles of stuff. Perhaps batteries, sci-fi novels, DVDs, empty containers, firewood, hoodie sweatshirts, or high heels, golf clubs, pool toys, or potted plants are taking over your house and your life.

The causes of overaccumulation are many:

  • fear of letting go.
  • “I might need that one day.”
  • “I paid a lot for that.”
  • “Someone could use it.
  • Greed
  • “Acquisitiveness”, that nice useful old word for the excessive tendency to acquire material things

Minimalists push against the natural human urge to collect things. They urge us to keep what “spark’s joy” or to keep to a set number of clothing items.

Our Christian moralists such as St. John Chrysostem and St. Paul teach us to share what we have (share from our need but share especially our excess) with the poor and needy. There is a bias against accumulation and therefore against collection. “Possessions can be justified only by their use.”

Read the rest...






MacIntyre on Virtue

02.05.2022 / Philosophy

My first attempt at a dissertation chapter turned into a master’s thesis about Alasdair MacIntyre.

I didn’t use it for the dissertation, except in bits. Who knows but maybe it’s good as it is for another purpose!

Read it here






Wheel of Time First Impressions

12.17.2021 / Culture

The Wheel of Time is not half so bad as I feared.

In the age of Star Wars Episodes VII and IX, one can never get one’s hopes up about a new show.

I started the Wheel of Time as a junior higher, and finished it as a graduate student.

In between finishing book 7 and book 8 of Robert Jordan’s fantastical, overly sexual, fetishistic, militaristic, amateur epic, I had read Anna Kareninna, War and Peace, become Orthodox, gotten married, had a kid, moved across country, written my own book, and more. It was “a minute” as the kids say.

The made for TV adaptation promised to be dismal. It was stuck in development hell for many years.

The finished product however is amazingly good.

Aside from the woke nonsense, which is excessively stupid and unnecessary, the core elements are there.

Thankfully they corrected a lot of Jordan’s OCD repetition and found the core of a compelling Hero’s Journey centered around a Christ figure overcoming Satan.






Give more

12.16.2021 / Personal growth

(Not advised to pick more than two at a time)

  1. Give more than you get in return.
  2. Work harder than you are paid to work.
  3. Express more gratitude than you immediately feel.
  4. Forgive before the other person apologizes.
  5. Listen longer than the other person demands to speak.

Report back in 3-4 weeks!






Notion (part 1)

11.23.2021 / Personal growth

It’s been one full week into August Bradley’s system using Notion.so to organize my daily tasks, weekly and monthly projects, and long-term goals, outcomes, and lifelong commitments.

I must say I was more productive than previous weeks but more importantly less stressed and less overworked at the end of a good day.

My projects list is organized, and manageable for the first time in, well, ever.

I have all my projects categorized and tagged by priority, by due date, by whether or not it’s started, by “do date” (date when I choose to do it even if it’s not “due”), and my own numbering system. I have 36 projects in total which sounds like a lot, but a “project” just means any task that is two or more steps to complete. And these projects span from today to June. So having them all laid out and broken into actionable next steps allows me to work steadily (be the tortoise!) on the most important ones, because I should not wait – and it quiets the less important or future-dated projects because they can wait.

This could be huge.

My daily to do list (“TO DO TODAY”), on the other hand, is auto-populated each day with the tasks I’ve defined before had as “to do that day.” My to do list has a drop down for “today,” and “tomorrow” and “next week” and then a calendar view. The calendar view is a game changer because I can pick a day (say, 7 days from now), schedule a task, and when that day arrives it autopopulates on my “to do today” list. No transferring from Google Cal, no using two to do lists, etc.

I’m still learning his system for keeping notes and “mind vault” but we’ll see if it helps too.






Reflections on Chesterton

07.16.2021 / Culture

I’m on a quest to read the complete works of Chesterton.

A foolish errand. But even he wrote a “Defense of Rash Vows.” https://www.gutenberg.org/files/12245/12245-h/12245-h.htm…

I think I’ve read all his novels.

In graduate school, for about two years, I had to drop my Books to Read list and focus only on philosophy. This was a hard sacrifice. I gave up fiction for the first time in my life. After the pain subsided, I reintroduced Chesterton only (Librivox free audiobooks) because reading him restores my sanity. Graduate school is not a sane place. And Chesterton is cheaper (and more effective) than most therapy.

But after the novels, you get into Chesterton’s vast ouevre: essay collections, short stories, poetry, biography, literary criticism, and philosophy. Where to start?

I worked through them all. Eventually, after finishing the novels and books… I had nowhere to turn.

I started on his essay collections: Alarms and Discursions, the Defendant, Tremendous Trifles. I wasn’t super excited about these because I thought they were “second best” to his full novel or book-length works.

Then it struck me – the obvious fact – that Chesterton is an essayist. Even his best novels (Man Who Was Thursday, Ball and Cross, Manalive, etc.) are a series of short stories.

Father Brown is precisely a series of short stories.

Chesterton is a short-form writer. That’s who and what he is. Decades of journalistic writing formed him irrevocably into such. Now I see that Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man are a series of essays. It’s obvious once you see it but I didn’t before.

So now, as a matter of responsible literary criticism, I have to go back to his essay collections and judge them as his primary and preferred medium.

Alarms and Discursions. Tremendous Trifles. The Defendant. All Things Considered. These are the water in which Gilbert is the happiest fish.

Given all that – and you may freely disagree thus far – I ask myself: Which is best? As of right now, I think Tremendous Trifles is the best thing Chesterton ever wrote.

I will always cherish Man Who Was Thursday and Orthodoxy. Don’t get me wrong: they are world-class works. They light me up and restore my sanity.

But Tremendous Trifles is perhaps the most Chesterton-y piece of Chesterton I’ve come across.

It smacks you upside the head with his wisdom, humility, wit, and pithy humor. Each essay, revolving around the theme that small things are great, crashes upon the imagination like wave after wave of the ocean until you wonder why you never knew it before – and then convicts you of the answer: your pride. You did not see the greatness of small things because you (wrongly) assumed you were bigger than them.

I do hope that our separated Roman brethren will canonize Gilbert Keith, and not just because of his middle name.

Finally, I recommend to you, dear reader, the Surrender of the Cockney, which I shall be trying to apply to my life in this new season: I shall try to see my new city (Riverside) as a bumpkin would see it: with awe. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9656/9656-h/9656-h.htm…






The Imprinted Passion within a Dream

12.31.2020 / Philosophy

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Here’s a weird phenomenon: we remember how we felt about an event better than we remember the event.

Dante says in Paradiso Canto XXXIII:

As one who sees within a dream, and, later, the passion that had been imprinted stays, but nothing of the rest returns to mind,

The phenomenon appears after reading books, seeing movies or plays, attending plays or concerts, visiting friends, and so on. We remember the single emotion – like a color – that is “imprinted” on the memory, and we use that single memory as a shorthand for the entire experience. If the memory is good, we say something to the effect that, “That movie was great!” (or that party, that concert, that conversation, that book, etc.)

I remember loving “The Green Mile.” Not having re-watched it for many years, I currently have no idea what it was about or what happens or why.

I remember loving Avengers: End Game. Don’t remember what happens.

I loved The Rise of Skywalker. Don’t remember what happens.







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