Solar Eclipse, a Glimpse of Tolkienian Humor!

Next time you see the see the Sun and the Moon, hopefully, it will not merely an incandescent ball of fire and a cold crater ridden piece of rock, rather your heart will be drawn to the unrequited love story between the angelic beings, Tilion and Arien. May be, it is not as unrequited as I make it to be, thanks to the eclipses!  And the brilliance of Illuvathar’s creation… pointing back to the brilliance of God’s handiwork.

Today’s Solar Eclipse gives an opportunity to talk about Tolkien’s romantic sly sense of Humor. As I was looking at the (partial) Solar eclipse at Houston with some friends from work, I remembered that Tolkien, in his creation mythology in the Silmarillion, has an intriguing story about the creation of the Sun and the Moon.

When Illuvathar, God, sang the world into creation, in the first go, the earth was lit by light of the stars and the white trees of Valinor (Paradise). After the loss of that light, the Sun and the Moon were created. Sun is a female Valar, an angelic being, Arien. The Moon is male angelic being Tilion. Arien and Tilion are in charge of steering the sun and the moon. The Sun was meant the govern Earth’s day light, moon the night.

Tolkien says that Tilion is an unsteady hand steering the Moon, often in incorrect paths, thus ending up on the same side along the Sun. The idea being that Tilion can’t help steering recklessly towards the Sun, being love sick about Arien. This is the romantic in Tolkien. In order to explain the Moon showing up during the day, he comes up with a romantic solution that is humorous in the Tolkienian sense.

I don’t know if Tolkien develops this theme further into what Solar and Lunar eclipses mean, in the mythology, as to the relationship between Tilion and Arien. But that is very Tolkienis thing to do – develop some intriguing possibilities and leaving the rest for imagination!

Next time you see the see the Sun and the Moon, hopefully, it will not merely an incandescent ball of fire and a cold crater ridden piece of rock, rather your heart will be drawn to the mythic ballet of unrequited love between the angelic beings, Tilion and Arien. May be, it is not as unrequited as I make it to be, thanks to the eclipses!  And the brilliance of Illuvathar’s creation… pointing back to the brilliance of God’s handiwork. All this to say this is Tolkien’s humorous way of adding a little bit more mythic meaning to our otherwise dreary existence on planet Earth!

The Art of Mindful Emotions

Part of the reason why political discourse is so broken in Universities and the society at large is because people tend to blame the other people for the unpleasant emotions that others trigger in them. When our emotions get triggered by something that is happening we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Do I do well to get triggered?” 

This Monday, we were discussing Jonah 4. Jonah 4:4 “Do you do well to be angry?” (ESV) stood out to me. It seemed to me that God was, in this ESV translation, phrasing the question from the point of view of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT). God’s approach is a very patient way of dialogue than a critical way of judging. God-like, in this case, the PCT therapist will attempt to try to look at the problem from the point of view of the client and try to ask questions that places the agency on the client.

Angering is a Verb:

Often when I think someone is making me angry, I think that the problem is with the other person. A PCT therapist will tell me that I am not angry at someone bur rather that I am allowing myself to angry or I am angering. The PCT phrasing, of making angering into a verb, puts the agency/responsibility for being angry on me. In many ways, God is doing this with Jonah.

God, in asking Jonah to prophesy destruction of Nineveh and then deciding to have mercy, changed the rules of the game on Jonah. Then, Jonah’s prophetic career was on line. One may be able to empathize with Jonah for being angry at God. But God helps Jonah see that he alone was responsible or how he was feeling and asks Jonah if that is what he really wants.

Anger vs Empathy:

Anger and empathy do not go together. When one is angry one cannot empathize with others. Jonah was angry that his prophetic reputation was at stake because God changed he rules of the game. In that anger he couldn’t empathize with the Ninevites. He couldn’t see that in his reputation being at stake, as in the failure of his prophetic word, meant that a whole city of over a 100 thousand people were being saved. His anger blinded his ability for empathy.

Mindful Emotions:

No amount of reasoning about saving people would have moved Jonah as long as he was stuck angry. So God had to first of all ask him to pay attention to his anger and question if his allowing himself to get angry helps at all. The point of God’s question was to get Jonah to be more mindful about his emotions and its broader impact. Only after increased mindfulness does God go on to talk about His heart and mercy for the Ninevites.

This lesson of being mindful of our emotions as a way of raising our ability to listen and be empathic is critical for personal relationships and for communal cohesiveness. Part of the reason why political discourse is so broken in Universities and the society at large is because people think it is ok blame others for the unpleasant emotions that others trigger in them. When our emotions get triggered by something that is happening we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Do I do well to get triggered?”

Someone may ask, isn’t there a rightful place for righteous anger. Yes, there is, but not when the need of the hour is more thoughtfulness, deliberation and listening. If you see someone abusing/hurting a weak person, then that is a place to allow one’s adrenaline and indignation to fuel an act in defense of the weak. Here is where the art of mindful emotions comes. Wisdom is in knowing when to allow one’s emotions rush into action and when to step back to listen. My sense is this – more than ever our society needs God-like thoughtful empathic dialoguers, than Jonah-like quick-triggered volatile reactionaries, both on the alt-Right and the violent-Left!

The Best Day of My Life Yet!

Over the past few months, as I have been praying, meditating, talking with folks about ordination the phrase that God formulated in me, spiritually speaking is, to be ordained is to rest in the love of God and invite people to experience the love of Christ. This is the “why” that I have been looking for. This is the ax that will sharpen my spear. This is the anchor that will prevent me from being buffeted by the relentless waves of evanescent fascinations. This is what Keirkegaard talks about when he says, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” 

I feel like I almost had an ontological change today! Perhaps not as dramatic as a pupa becoming a butterfly but a change to(ward) a new Identity. An identity that I find profoundly freeing.  Let me un-dramatize things a bit. Today, the Session of First Presbyterian Church heard my vision/call and voted unanimously (I am told) to recommend to be ordained as a Pastor under ECO. I still need to go through a long process with ECO to be ordained, but this vote of confidence gets the process started. I have a long road towards becoming ordained. I do not want to count the chicken before the eggs hatch. However, I want to take this special moment in my life and stake stock of the adventure that the good Lord has been taking me on.

3 years ago, in the Fall of 2014, after working for 10 years in Software development, mostly project management, I quit my job and went full time to the seminary following my call into a life of ministry of loving God and neighbor. It was a step out of safety into a new adventure. I did not know how the adventure was doing to turn out. By the grace of God, I graduated with a M.Div. magna cum laude, but the journey was not quite complete then. I still was not sure what kind of twists and turns the adventure is going to take. 

An important step in the adventure is the return back to the full time work life. After spending months in prayerful discernment, I finally landed at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) as a Church Planting Pioneer. Thanks be to God! 

 

Today is the best day of my life because, today, I was shepherded into the first steps of the final leg of the journey – to be ordained a reverend! It happened at the Session of the Pastors and Ruling Elders of meeting at FPC. The session spent a few minutes hearing my call to ministry and then voted to place me “under care” in order to be ordained through ECO. 

Question: Why does this event make today the best day of my life yet?

To appreciate why the beginning of the journey to ordination is the best days of my life one has to first understand the problem of my life… the problem of my life is that on a given day when I wake up in the morning I think I will to become a writer… when I am sipping coffee at Starbucks, feeling the heart tug of some vague tune of Pink Floyd coming over the speakers, I think I could try my hand at music… (in fact I bought a key board that I haven’t touched in months!) then when I see Netflix on my wind down to go to bed, taking notes on what was great on a given scene, or, what went wrong, I think perhaps I should try my hand at the movie business, really!  

This vacillation is the typical millennial problem of not committing to anything while being intrigued by too many fascinations. A typical millennial life with too many interests is more like a broom that just cleans up after people who have cut their teeth doing something well. A spear that does not come down to a point has no target to hit. The problem with being swayed by the vagaries of my momentary enchantments is not that my interests are too widely spread out, but rather I do not quite have a “why” around which to galvanize my resolute pursuits.

Over the past few months, as I have been praying, meditating, talking with folks about ordination the phrase that God formulated in me, spiritually speaking is, to be ordained is to rest in the love of God and invite people to experience the love of Christ. This is the “why” that I have been looking for. This is the iron that will sharpen my spear. This is the anchor that will prevent me from being buffeted by the relentless waves of my evanescent fascinations. This is what Keirkegaard talks about when he says, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” Thus I am freed from the tyranny of too many traumatizing options to choose from.

This apprehension of the inner “why” will fuel my activities, whether it be writing about the love of God or listening to hurt-angry people or preaching Christ. There is a deep freedom in knowing the “why” towards which my activities need to be directed as against being cursed with the tyranny of choice, having to choose from a plethora of options that entices my fancy. 

Today is the best day of my life yet because I am beginning to see the new identity crack open from the cocoon. A meandering larva becomes a pupa stuck in a cocoon, dormant. Then only when it ontologically changes to a butterfly that it comes fully to itself, knowing the “why” of its being – to spread its wings out and fly! My time in the world of software was one of meandering through many different interesting terrains… my time at the seminary was like the pupa that was incubating by without much movement, at times frustrating. Now the cocoon has begun cracking up and I am slowly emerging, out spreading out my wings and realizing that the whole point of my life – everything that has happened, everything I have endured, everything that has enchanted me had one end – is to rest in the love of Christ and invite people into experiencing how much Christ loves them! This is what freedom in Christ looks like for me in this phase of my life.