Hello from high in the sky our friend Naomi’s house in Ottawa! I’m excited to report that Mikey and I are en route to Ottawa safely landed and are ready for a week away! Our purpose for the trip? Attending and both speaking on topics for young adult survivors of childhood cancer and connecting with good friends in the Ottawa area. It should be a great trip – we’ve booked extra days to really explore the capital city with a trip to the museum, to Parliament Hill, and even to a hockey game – so amid the “business” there is also much “pleasure.” So thankful for the flights out and accommodations being provided for so we can have this experience! I know many people travel often for work and hate it, but there’s something that always gets me up early, full of excitement, eager to go when I’m traveling, especially with Mikey; the lure and adventure of flying and traveling (even a few provinces away) is still very real to me. Something about flying makes me gaze out the window and contemplate life; anyone else feel extra-thoughtful when they’re traveling?
I think I might be prompted to think more because of our great conversation last night at our weekly “Fat Tuesday” gathering! If you’ve been following along with my (almost) weekly posts, you’ll know that Fat Tuesday is what we call our once-a-week dine & discuss time with some friends. We rotate homes every month and choose a book or theme to study together, eat a home cooked meal (the host makes the main dish; everyone else brings sides) and then we recline (often with a glass of wine) and discuss. This fall, we’re studying a book by a great thinker, G.K. Chesterton, called Orthodoxy; you can read about the intro to the book here.
I love writing about our thoughts the next day because it helps me continue to ruminate…but first, the food!
There’s always a reason to celebrate with a Dairy Queen log cake – a special treat for the freshly 1-year-married couple!
After some table lounging and catching up, we moved to the living room and enjoyed a great discussion about last week’s chapter. It’s amazing how a book written in the 1800s can be so applicable to our lives today, which really proves that truth is truth and stands the test of time, cultures, and debates. The main thought behind this chapter (“The Maniac”), is that self-confidence can turn into lunacy and that building our lives on ourselves is much less stable than many of us think. Chesterton writes about the importance of mystery, saying that we shouldn’t be afraid of imagination because it’s a friend of sanity, not its enemy. Specifically, he writes about how two emerging worldviews in his day, who’d both purport “believing in yourself,” against mystery: materialism and idealism. See if this sounds familiar:
“I don’t believe in anything I cannot see.” Materialism. Everything must be explained in the physical and be able to be proven, which means there are no gods, angels, or souls; the earth was created and everything continues to move like a ticking clock, set in motion and moving on its own accord through nature.
“There is no reality – everything that exists exists only in your mind.” The Matrix, anyone? Idealism.
Chesterton brings these two points of view up because they were schools of thought that were only beginning to bloom in his day; now, both sound very familiar and it’s clear that many people accept one or the other. But Chesterton brings up the idea of mystery – of imagination and the unknown, the inexplicable. To the materialist, he says that your world must be quite small if you’re able to explain it all; how much bigger would it be if you were not the center of it? How much better and fuller would life be rather than the small view of your cramped earth that can be explained away? Mystery and paradox are at the center of Christianity (where Chesterton’s speaking from), but rather than this diminishing its value or legitimacy, it frees man from reducing everything in life to an equation and allows us to think bigger – to think beyond themselves. What a great thought and way to approach the mystery of being fully sinful yet fully beloved by God; of the need to die to your self in order to live; of the need for us to live our lives for the other in order to have a more enriched life.
To the idealist, then, Chesterton says that if we create our own realities, our minds cannot be that vast. In essence, you are trapped by the reality you create, and explaining the bad things that happen in life means they come back upon your own shoulders in your own reality. What a rough way to live!
Mystery allows for freedom. This must impact how we live, speak, and interact with others with humility, because, while we can explain some things in life, there are so many things we cannot explain that we mustn’t claim to know it all. Take the emotion of joy. Joy comes because we are genuinely, happily surprised by something. Sure, we can explain what happens in your brain when the synapses fire and neurons are flying when we’re surprised by something, but you can’t really put to words that feeling of when your breath is taken away. When you see a sunrise you weren’t expecting; when you travel for the first time and see the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal; when you first hear the words “I love you” from someone. There is mystery all around us! Unfortunately, I think many people, perhaps especially Christians, are intimidated by mystery and afraid because it means we don’t have all the answers. But there is freedom in that mystery! And the Bible is full of it: Ephesians 3 talks all about the mystery of God revealing himself to us through Jesus and the wonder of the cross. That God would choose to present himself in flesh in the form of a baby is mind boggling! That Jesus had to endure our sin and punishment and go through so much physical anguish for us is a mystery.
Photos that speak “mystery” to me from around the globe.
These mysteries and paradoxes aren’t something to be afraid of but embraced, along with logic and reason. Too often we build our lives on maxims that appear sound and that many subscribe to but that are simply untrue. Which brings us back to the first point about self-confidence; is it possible to have too much? To think too highly of yourself and to believe in yourself too much? Chesterton gives the example of those in mental hospitals – if you’re toting the “just believe in yourself” maxim, you’ll find that all those who truly believe in themselves are the ones who inhabit those rooms. These are the people who cannot open their minds up to other possibilities and thoughts but are set on their own version of reality – either what they’ve constructed in their minds or what they can only see, feel, touch, and explain. Embracing some mystery allows for growth, for a wider perspective; for a life of humility and openly admitting that you don’t know it all.
Whoa. Lots of powerful thoughts to think through…I’m not sure if the way I phrased it made sense, but thanks for reading if you made it this far into my regurgitated philosophical thoughts. I love that the words we read are so applicable for life even though they were written so many years ago. But, besides thinking about life, I’m also feeling happy with my Starbuck’s “perfect oatmeal” and black Americano sitting nicely inside of me. Gotta love travel food! I also packed some extras to beef up my meals (or at least breakfasts) on the trip:
A banana, some almond butter in a tupperware, cinnamon+chia seeds+flax seeds, and Amazing Grass super green powder.
I brought the Amazing Grass to give me some vegetables on the go because they’re typically harder to get when you’re traveling. I can add it into smoothies if I buy them and my water bottle (not as tasty but it works!) as it’s hard to stay at people’s homes, eat their meals, and eat meals out and get what you want vegetable-wise. Hopefully this will help a bit! I never mind eating out (I’m anticipating I’ll be doing more of this on this trip), but I am more aware of my portion sizes and snacking as a result, so my “game plan” for staying healthy is to make healthy choices and limit snacks on days we have bigger meals out. Workout-wise, I kind of like the challenge of squeezing in movement where I can and hope to get in a run or two but focus on some quick, high intensity workouts. I came equipped with my jump rope and Vibrams, so I can always get my heart rate up and do push ups and squats in small spaces!
How about tips on staying active and healthy while traveling?
Any response on what you Chesterton’s thoughts? How does mystery sit with you?
Oh – and please check out this week’s Tuesday Trainer from Lindsay – it’s a rest day over there (was for me today while traveling!) and many of us posted videos answering some fun fitness-related questions.
Be well & live well,