I can’t really call this a What I’m Reading because I’m barely reading these days… just finishing up Palace of the Peacock (Wilson Harris) and then The Secret History (Donna Tartt). I also read the Prologue to When I Whistle (Endo). But I have no posts prepared for these books yet…
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve also been interviewing for a job at a tech startup. I don’t know if I will be getting an offer or if I will accept it if I do. Feeling really undecided. It’s been good practice, in any case—I haven’t interviewed in a couple of years, and I’ve been getting rusty.
I’m getting so excited for fall! I am working on a poetry book (slowly but surely) which I hope to self-publish in a couple of months. Reading wise, not a lot of plans, just continuing reading books from around the world and whatever catches my fancy. How about you?
I am still reading (and enjoying) The Gate by Natsume Sōseki. I find more and more I enjoy books about historical zeitgeist, and this is exactly what The Gate embodies: Japan between the old world and the new.
I’ve also picked up Pictor’s MetamorphosesandSteppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. I was so impressed by Beneath the Wheel that it’s sent me on a mission to read the other Hesse ebooks my library has. The author’s note to Steppenwolf captivated me entirely, along with the first pages introducing a mysterious protagonist. The only reason I’m not well into it by now is because of life busyness. I hope to settle down with it for an hour or two this evening. Any other Hesse readers? I’m shocked he’s not more famous.
I watched Europa Report (2013) again with my mom, who hadn’t seen it before. I’m not sure if she enjoyed it quite as much as I did, but even on second viewing, it’s still one of my favorites! Told in “found footage” (webcams, vlogs), it reaches a level of plausibility that few sci-fi films can. Most of all, I love the subtle characterizations, social commentary, and gutsy female lead.
I recently reviewed two martial arts films on my other blog: The Swordsman and Shaolin. Both were excellent stories with sumptuous costumes, music, and cinematography. There is something so timeless about the “Robin Hood” story arc, central to The Swordsman and significant in Shaolin, along with the themes of family, love, and betrayal. It really shows you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you write a good story—you just need to put your own take on it.
And speaking of storytelling… Yesterday I watched Snowpiercer (2013) with my siblings. I enjoyed the trailer and the concept of the story: humanity’s last survivors segregated on a high-speed train during an ice age. I didn’t like the film itself… for me, there was too much unnecessary gore, socialist undertones, and unlikely scenarios, and the story was mostly told through expository dialogue. Your mileage may vary (no pun intended); my brother really liked it. I will say, it was a lot like the novel Blindness except significantly better!
I’ve been really getting into the band Deep Sea Diver lately, which is actually based here in Seattle. The musicality of the frontwoman, Jessica Dobson, is incredible. The songwriting also reaches that level of depth and philosophy I especially gravitate towards. Their music won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like rock, post rock, and indie folk, it’s worth a listen.
It’s been about two months since my grandpa passed away, suddenly. The last time I saw him, we were alone in a dark hospital room and I had to trust he could hear me because he couldn’t respond. I didn’t feel like writing about it online till some of the grief had gone. Well, it still makes me cry sometimes, but the reality of his absence has really solidified now.
He left behind a lot of books, many of which I’ve kept because he had excellent taste. He was a skilled learner, maker, and artist, though never one to boast. It faded as he struggled with memory loss in his last years. But what really stands out to me now, two months later, is that Grandpa is one of the few people I know who can be said to have left a true legacy, the family and home he cultivated and the faithfulness he lived. In that sense, he still lives on here on Earth, as well as in Heaven.
This is a personal post to share something important to me. It is not intended as a sermon / instructional essay. I just pray it brings help to anyone going through a similar journey.
Back in 2018, I reviewed Open Heart by Elie Wiesel and, in the same post, expressed my frustration to understand the purpose of suffering, especially Christian suffering. Why would God allow people who are following Him with all their hearts to be burdened with ongoing pain and unhappiness? It’s a deeply personal question, not only regarding myself but also the lives of people I love dearly.
Since then, I’ve battled the question internally and at times sought out other perspectives. I found some interesting insights (specifically from Catholic and Orthodox priests), but nothing I heard truly satisfied or convinced me. I’ll be honest: I’ve been at times alternately unhappy and even angry. I have 3–4 pages of notes and half-rants which I’d been planning to share as an update this month, in hopes that at least writing it out would be some sort of progress.
Then yesterday happened.
Yesterday was one of the worst days in recent memory—in recent years, in fact. Let’s just say, I have recurring Personal Issues that can make even “good” days miserable… On the surface, everything was great, but inside I felt utterly awful, fighting back tears even at my grandparents’ house. Yeah, it was a certified Bad Day.
I woke up this morning still feeling icky and almost skipped my Bible reading. But it’s pretty much a habit now, so rather numbly, I opened it up to where I left off, hoping it was a short chapter. It was Hebrews 5.
So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:
“You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.”
As He also says in another place:
“You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”;
who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
I’ve read Hebrews before but this was like reading it for the first time. It felt like the fog in my brain was clearing.
Wanting to make sure “it wasn’t just me,” I searched around for some commentary on this passage. I found this incredible video by John Piper, whose perspectives have been helpful to me in the past (obligatory disclaimer: this is not a blanket endorsement of Piper):
In a nutshell: what Piper highlights contextually is that Jesus, who was sinless, nevertheless had His obedience tested—proven—through the endurance of suffering. And my takeway was that if even Jesus’ obedience was tested, how much more necessary is it for mine to be tested.
I cannot describe how much peace and, strangely, joy this gave me. See, I had thought for a long time that life’s struggles would get easier, or at least plateau, once I had aligned myself fully with God’s will. But rather, I have realized today that that is not so. In fact, suffering has and will only increase, not merely because the world is a cruddy place (it is) but because God allows me to struggle in more incrementally challenging situations, for my own sake.
To make a silly analogy (but the first that came to mind): it’s like a game. When you pass a level, you are getting closer and closer to maximum excellence. But the levels get increasingly harder and harder. There is no easy sailing after you make it past beginner level. Feeling frustrated or discouraged with the harder levels doesn’t mean you’re a bad player—in fact, the opposite! Your skills are being stretched so you will get even better.
Bringing it back to faith…the endurance of suffering—as I understand the verses in Hebrews and Piper’s analysis—is our proof that we are loyal, obedient, and trusting in God and in the salvation Christ gave us. It does not earn us salvation; rather, it is “walking the walk” which is our time to demonstrate that, when push comes to shove, we choose God over idolatry, over lust, over despair, over anything that tempts us. And He promises never to allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). But He does allow us to be tempted, often via suffering, so our untested obedience may be tested and proven true. It’s tangible evidence of our vow of faith. This is important for us personally and for those around us to see.
At the end of the day, Hebrews 5 brings me relief, because, while suffering continues, it isn’t purposeless, like some wretched Kafka novel. It is actually fully intentional, so what I’ve fought through so far, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is no longer a nightmare, but has become a blessing.
So – I mentioned back in September I was starting a second blog about songs, poetry, and writing. After much ado, I finally got around to actually launching it…
There is not much yet; soon there will be more, since I’ll likely be posting more frequently there than here. If that sort of thing interests you at all, feel free to check it out. 🙂 I may also start posting film reviews on that blog instead (haven’t quite decided on that detail yet).
Also, if you have any good ideas for songs or albums to review, I’m open to suggestions! I like many different genres, lately more on the acoustic side of things.