Set Your Watch & Warrant On It

It’s crazy to think that it has been — let me verify — almost three weeks since I last posted here* while sitting alone in a student union building 400 miles and a seeming lifetime away. The fire I spoke of hasn’t had a chance to erupt, but then the embers have heated rather than cooled, so this still isn’t exactly a story of failure.

The last few weeks saw me more or less focused on a single thing: the GRE. It actually got to the point where I no longer cared how I fared on the exam because even a complete bomb would be outweighed by the sheer relief of no longer bearing a doomsday clock over me every day. Despite all the people saying not to worry so much about the test, I couldn’t help but remember the words of one advisor who saw my performance as the true determiner of my eligibility for the funding I’m relying on. Those words still echo, still have me contemplating a retake. But I’m not ready to reset that clock. If another GRE is on my horizon, it’s at least a little bit distant, and will never resume its place in the forefront of my mind.

That space is now, as it were, available for rent, and that’s where this post (or, more accurately, the mental gymnastics I need to go through to articulate anything here) comes in. A month ago I promised something concrete. Not mere musings of a plan but something definite, something predictable, something to which I could be held accountable. That means more deadlines, it means measure of performance, but also productivity and a refusal to backslide like so many times in my past.

Admittedly, there is one complicating factor. The thing to which I must dedicate myself the most over the next couple months is the sort of thing not easily quantified or externally expressed: the grad school search. It will probably take me a week or two before I understand what that process looks like and how to streamline it in a way where goal-setting makes sense (i.e. “check x number of sites per day,” “contact x number of faculty per week,” etc.).

It’s worth noting (as I did to a friend the other day) that this is my first college search proper. I broke all the rules when it came to Grove City College: I didn’t look into the programs, the school’s reputation, the faculty, the job placement statistics, etc. I also didn’t look at any other schools. Not one. I read one brochure, visited one campus, applied early decision, got accepted, and attended for four years. In retrospect I am incredibly blessed. My failure to look at or apply to so much as a single other school means had GCC not taken me, I’d have been going to community college for at least a year. I can’t expect that sort of providence this time around, which means I’m starting from scratch at something most people have at least taken a trial go at once in their lives. Suffice it to say: if you’ve been through this process (particularly recently), I am very, very open to advice.

That said, I promised myself that coming home one last time would only make sense if I truly took advantage of the opportunity it afforded me to actually develop as, well, a real person, learning to shop on a budget, to cook for myself (or a family), to handle repairs and maintenance on things like my car. Perhaps my biggest challenge has been, and will continue to be, proper balance of leisure time. I am prone to excess and fixation, a reality both debilitating and ultimately untenable. There’s nothing wrong with, say, Borderlands 2, but there is something wrong with having played it for 26 hours in the past week (thanks, Raptr) at the exclusion of any other game, movie, book, or, say, going for a hike or (hello?) writing a blog or two.

The best way I can see of making myself diversify is if there is some external measure of success for others to see. If the only consequence of failure is letting myself down, then I’ll probably fail because, in the interest of honesty, I’m inured to that particular consequence. So, less because I think the world cares for my opinions and more because putting them out there forces me to have opinions, I am officially going to commit to the following:

  • 3 devotional posts per week (MWF)
    • EDIT (10/22 5:03 p.m. EST) – I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I don’t have nearly enough insight to warrant this one in particular. I am modifying this to be once per week, on Tuesdays, and I’m still not sure what I thought this would look like.
  • 1 album per week (published Mondays)
  • 1 photo-shoot per week (published Wednesdays)
  • 1 film per week (published Thursdays)
  • 2 books per month (published on the first and third Fridays)
  • 2 games per month (published on the second and fourth Fridays)
  • 1 game-culture post per week (published Sundays)

Now, I am also considering doing a weekly vlog. Those few of you unfortunate enough to have been subjected to my previous vlogging attempts will either be pleased (yay, schadenfreude time!) or petrified (oh god why please no) at the prospect. Still, I think it would benefit me greatly to develop the skills associated with the process, regardless of the level of success the finished products actually reach. Video editing and webcasting are huge and growing aspects of the Internet (particularly of the gaming community), and while I don’t have any plans to acquire streaming tech in the near future I think having a general working understanding of how to write for and produce a several minute video would be quite useful. If nothing else, it might improve my ability to achieve brevity.

Speaking of which, I haven’t done that today, and if you’re still reading I’d just like to thank you. If you’re actually looking forward to any of this, please let me know; historically, I tend to do better work when I believe other people care.

This publication process begins now, which means keep your eyes on (or, dare I say, subscribe to) Deus Ex Ludus for Sunday’s post. Monday I’ll post thoughts on anberlin’s new album, Vital.

Cheers!

*To be fair, I did write a fairly lengthy post on faith, games, and time travel last week.

The Arsonist, or The Escapist pt. 2

I hit my 23rd birthday in less than two months, and that’s a little startling because, in the story of my life, Chapter 22 may as well be entitled “In Which Nothing Happens.” There’s not much that can be done to change the events of that chapter, but as an author I realize I’m not completely without agency. If I work at it, I can make something of the rest of this year. I can scratch out the title and replace it with “The Calm Before the Storm.”
But if that’s going to happen, I need to work on my rain dance.
~ July 3rd, 2012

It’s raining today.

Yesterday, it was literally raining, as it tends to be at Grove City College when it isn’t snowing. I know it was raining yesterday in Grove City because I was there, and am still, though my heart has moved on. There were legitimate reasons to come here, but they’re mostly exhausted, and soon I’ll be leaving this campus, perhaps for the final time.

For me, this campus has always lent itself to melancholy after dusk. I’ve spent many nights strolling circuitously under cover of cloud and hood, sometimes listening to music, always listening to my mind. It’s hard to say which one is louder on most days. The last few, the latter wins hands-down.

Last time I was at Grove City I was accosted time and again with the question “what are you doing?” to which I had no answer. This time I had an answer, but the question changed: “what are you doing here?”

I have an answer to that too, but it has grown cloudier as the days have passed. In retrospect I ought to have come down a day or two earlier, and left this morning. Because my goal was to seek guidance from professors, and now I’m in the midst of two days during which no professors are here. Promise of a few social hours this evening hardly explains two wasted days. Try as I may to redeem that time, there’s no doubt it could have been better spent back home.

Yet herein I find a marked difference between past and present me: where I once spent my solitude wishing I were in the past, still here, remaking the decisions I regret, I now spend it wishing I were moving forward faster, leaving mistakes and this place behind to worry about themselves, eager for opportunities to make (or avoid) new ones.

Months ago I looked at my life and lamented how nothing was happening, wondering if something would, wondering if I could change. And change it did, change I have. Stagnation has become trajectory; my concern no longer inertia but velocity – moving the right way as quickly as possible. The ennui took not weeks but hours to appear; every minute lost seems a tragedy, one I now fight to avoid.

I ended Chapter 22 with a bang: I got a job, found a purpose, started losing weight, and reclaimed dark and dusty corners of my spiritual and vocational life. Chapter 23 is going so well. Everything I wanted to be doing, I am — and the ambition to do more is still alive and well, smoldering in place of the ashes I was afraid that ambition would become.

But smoldering isn’t good enough. Smoldering is heat suppressed, energy concealed, potential latent. I’ve always been a pyromaniac at heart, and I think it’s high time for combustion.

Time, as it were, to set fire to the rain.

Inertia

An object at rest will remain at rest until an outside force acts upon it.
A lazy bum will remain lazy unless something makes him change.

Long before any physics class, I understood Newton’s First Law of Motion. It was at work in the fingers that futilely tried to resist it by hitting a snooze button on my alarm clock every morning. It was in the the pockets of my gym shorts every day we had to do laps. It was the ink in every deduction off every paper I turned in late due to sheer procrastination. It was the Deadly Sin called Sloth. Newton’s First Law also says bodies at motion remain in motion. I’ll have to take his word for it; I’ve never been one to move.

I spoke recently of being ill beyond the confines of physical health. We’re all sick, of course, the kind of sickness Jesus claimed to have come to cure. Our sin weighs us down whether we acknowledge it or not. And the wages of sin is death, regardless of which sin. It’s inaccurate to call any sin more deadly than another.

The thing is, they’re all tied together. Pride goeth before a great many things that can be considered falling. It tells us that we deserve to be catered to, that we deserve the best of everything, that our happiness is the ultimate goal, that in fact pursuing happiness directly will result in achieving it.

And so we eat more than we should, and we are gluttons.
And so we become lethargic through our gluttony, and become slothful.
And so we become bored in our slothfulness, and our minds wander.
They wander to women, and we are lustful.
They wander to riches, and we are greedy.
They wander to wrongs, and we are hateful.
If we are not too slothful, we act out in wrath; else we kill our brothers in our minds.
Sometimes we even hate ourselves. This too is pride.

I have been at rest for far too long, and that is really all it comes down to. Without external forces to put me in motion, I have grown still, and in that stillness I have wallowed, and bid darkness come to me. They say with great power comes great responsibility — and by “they,” I mean Uncle Ben and Jesus (Luke 12:48).

For all its flaws (and they are manifold), Spider-Man 3 did one thing well: it showed how quickly one can be polluted, and how dangerous that pollution can be when it happens in one who’s gifted. I can’t fly or leap over buildings, but my imagination is incredibly potent. It’s been my gift, but lately I’ve allowed it to be my curse. If idle hands are the devil’s playthings, an idle imagination is the devil himself. You know the expression “things you can’t unsee?” When something is crafted by the mind’s eye, its capacity to stay and scar is multiplied to the nth degree. The things I most wish I could have never seen are things that I myself dreamed up.

This terrifying degradation is most tragic because it’s entirely preventable. Happily, it’s also reversible. The magnitude of the evil I’ve imagined points clearly to the magnitude of good I’m capable of imagining. The stories unfit for others’ eyes promise different stories, fit for all. Images, now burned, speak of uplifting artistry as yet untapped.

Inactivity has led me to the depths of darkness.
Activity, then, is the path I’ll take to the heights of light.

At least, that’s the plan (well, the plan comes in my next post). But the thing is, as of this moment, I’m still a body at rest, fighting against inertia. Whatever I propose to change all that won’t happen absent the outside force acting upon me. If there’s ever been such a thing as a “self-starter,” I’m certainly not it.

Prayer is first, for prayer seeks the First Mover to move me, the force that overcame the ultimate inertia and forced nonexistence to become existence. But short of saying “prayer is insufficient of itself,” I’d love more…direct assistance. The activity I plan to engage in to bring myself back to life will be much easier (and, more importantly — for this isn’t about ease — much more beneficial) if it is a social endeavor. Expect something less vague in the days to come.

three and twenty

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve sat down to write something here. How many ways I’ve begun. How many angles from which I’ve lined up the shot, only to decide the lighting wasn’t ideal, the exposure too great, the lens too scratched. Or, perhaps, you would believe, because you know: sometimes things happen in our lives we don’t know how to articulate. At such times you make a choice: fret about the words you’ll never find, or give up on keeping chronicles and let yourself get caught up in the moment.

I opted for the latter. Boston was a whirlwind which, having whisked me away for awhile, flung me homeward headlong.

First, what didn’t happen: I wasn’t fired. I didn’t quit. I didn’t hate my job. I didn’t chicken out, and I didn’t lie. Those seeing a homebound Bogert needn’t add another tally (for, of course, you’re keeping track) on the list headed “Adam’s Failures.”

Now, what is happening: I’m studying for GRE (as soon as my review book arrives from Amazon tomorrow; that is, my second review book, because ironically the guy who moved home to focus on test preparation managed to leave his test prep materials in Upton). I’m scouring vast repositories of information in search of a graduate program that will mold me into what I finally, firmly, determined I need to become: a professor.

Lastly, what will happen: I’ll continue to do a small amount of remote work for ten24 under title of independent contractor (because, hey, we liked each other). I’ll take the GRE in early October, and give my professors a heads-up that I’m hoping they’ll recommend me. I’ll see if substitute teaching is a viable option now that I’ve had my fingerprints taken and sent off to OSPRA. But mostly, I’ll write.

Because push has come to shove, and I can’t stand that I spent a year not doing what I expressly believe I was born for. I was created with a distinct proclivity for criticism and curiosity, a need to understand “why” and an inability to simply accept “because” in reply. Where I find answers, I feel drawn to pass them on to others, a trait tedious in conversation but perfect for written discourse. What I lack in generation of ideas I make up for as one heck of a conduit.

Don’t mistake that for pride. At least, not arrogance. Read instead a watch recognizing it was made to tell time, and to tell time better than a compass or a sextant; a tool embracing its purpose.

There is, I’m coming to appreciate, a difference between self-love and selfishness. I’ve exhibited little of the former and much of the latter, and it’s long past time for that pendulum to swing the other way. We are called to love others as ourselves; ergo, to love others more I must also learn to accept who I am and embrace it. That doesn’t mean ignoring faults or flaws, but it does mean zooming out and refocusing on the bigger picture.

In that picture there are three loves: Christ, Geekhood, and Arguing. I know that last one doesn’t really seem like a passion proper, but there it is: I like to be right, and to know why I’m right, and I am driven to establish rightness wherever I see a wrong. Like the metric in last year’s Catherine, I tend to view life as a spectrum between chaos and order, and I’m pushing ever on towards the latter.

I’ve never struggled with not arguing enough (your eyes rolling yet?), but the other two passions seem to ebb and flow a bit too much, so henceforth (hear me, hold me to it) I plan to be extremely intentional about “plugging in” to both.

That’s where you, faithful reader, may have a role in all this, because as it stands I’m pretty much coming from a clean slate insomuch as news, articles, podcasts, and communities (for gaming, anime, devotionals, sermons, etc.) go. If you have favorites, pass them along. If you want to start a dialogue, let’s talk. If you want to set up a game night, let’s play. If you want to organize a Bible study, let’s plan.

Meanwhile, as I begin to write, and as I consider undertaking some sort of professional endeavor, I have become acutely aware of my dependence on friends and family for publicity. Not that I expect you to take to the streets over this blog, but perhaps someday in a month, or three, I will have something I do need shared, at which point it shouldn’t be a chore or burden, but mere reciprocity between friends.

I’m blessed with an extremely talented, creative group of friends. Some write, some preach, some sing, some play, some record. Many do all of the above. And each, carving a niche in the web, relies heavily on people like me to feed and water the seeds they’ve planted, to bounce ideas off of, to reap and sow encouragement. Remember that selfishness I mentioned earlier? That’s me expecting y’all to celebrate my work while I ignore yours.

So that’s going to stop too. Right here.

See that, back there? It stopped.

I’m going to be intentional about investing in the lives and passions of my friends. And if you count yourself among that group, and you have some project you think I should check out? Consider these ears officially opened.

This post is long and rambling and I’m going to draw it to a close in a moment. After saying nothing about turning 23 and embarking on a new year, I felt like a progress report was necessary. But that’s all this is: a report of work in progress, to which I’m merely adding a few to-dos. Other goals are coming along swimmingly. I’ve been consistently in the Word for three weeks. I’ve lost about 15 pounds.

And autumn, my favorite time of year, is already rustling through these New England trees, bursting with promise.