Existential Quandary

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That’s what I would call it. I’d had an ‘Existential Crisis’ before, and it certainly felt like one. This one didn’t feel quite so intense. Although I recognized the depth of the question to be the same kind of depth that caused my crisis back in my twenties – I wasn’t in quite so much of a panic this time around. I felt the capacity for panic, but not the risk of it. It’s hard to explain, but I think ultimately the difference was trust. I had been down this kind of road before, and last time God got me through. Better than that, the journey actually ended with God being more glorified in my mind than He ever had been before. So I wasn’t worried when this new line of questioning came my way. I acknowledged it. I realized I didn’t immediately have a solution. And I allowed it to be. I just let it sit. Let it hang there. I knew an answer existed, and it would come to me when the time was right.

 

The more recent question had to do with the nature of “prime reality”, or what reality naturally is without intervention. The issue my mind was wrestling with was the assumption that, all things being equal (meaning if nobody and nothing was getting any help from anything or anyone) reality would naturally lean toward complete nothingness, and that the existence of God was some sort of extremely fortunate aberration.

 

That question hung on my mind for over a month. I wouldn’t say it was a difficult month, but I was quieter during that time. At the same time the fact of having an unanswered question brought to mind its own question of ‘was I being prideful?’ Was this one of those things where I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t understand and surrender to God’s sovereignty? Well absolutely God is sovereign. I didn’t need the question answered or unanswered in order to have that perspective. To me, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that ignoring the question would have felt like a cop out. This question had been brought to my mind, and I felt a responsibility to acknowledge it and do it justice.

I had grown up with similar questions in my mind, and I had gotten used to thinking that I had to get rid of those thoughts because they would anger God. I think in the back of my mind I always worried that if God can read my mind, and he reads my mind as I’m wondering how it’s possible for him to exist, then he’ll go “Holy crap, he’s right! Where did I come from?” and then go in a corner somewhere rocking and sucking his thumb and then all of reality will crumble.

I suppose there was at least a bit of trust in play as well. It wasn’t so much that I needed to understand everything (because I had already drawn the conclusion that a finite mind can never fully comprehend an infinite God) but I needed to know that God understood His own existence. But I keep finding that when I go for nature walks, when I surround myself with His creation and see the work of His mind, He simply does not come across as someone who’s freaking out from an existential crisis.

Which takes me back to the question of ‘is it okay to be asking these deep questions about the nature of reality in the first place?’ To which I eventually drew this conclusion: If God is a God of order (as opposed to chaos), which I believe He is, and if when God created us He determined both our capabilities and our limitations, then if He has given us a mind that is capable of asking the question then He has also given us a mind that is capable of understanding at least part of the answer.

Again, to understand everything simply will never be possible for a finite mind. But I believe it is possible to understand enough to be satisfied. So if God allows the question, then at the very least a satisfactory answer must be possible. What is satisfactory depends on the individual. What is satisfactory for me may not help a mind that has been asking far deeper questions. More over, by realizing that my concern was at least partially a trust thing (wondering if God understood the answer Himself) then by ignoring the question I would be in fact saying to God “I don’t believe you have an answer.” So in fact, by allowing my mind to ask the question I was showing trust in God, even if the answer didn’t come for some time.

 

I wrestled with it for over a month before a phrase popped into my head. “Non-existence is less natural than God’s existence.” I’m sure a trained theologian could put it into more accurate words, but it seemed to be the phrase that I needed to get my mind looking at the dilemma from the right angle. Then God reminded me of something I had actually blogged about a few years ago in a post titled Hypothetical Theological Debate.

 

In Genesis it says “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” and then it says, “The earth was without form and void”. There’s something in this passage that I think a lot of modern readers miss. I was raised Christian, but I was also raised in a world of science which tends to approach everything from a naturalistic perspective. And as such, I somehow got it into my head that the emptiness that existed before Creation was something that had always been, and that God somehow ‘came about’ and made the cosmos out of the nothingness that was already there, which means God was somehow either existing alongside the nothingness or he was a product of it. What this verse tells me is that even the nothingness that a lot of us tend to think of as prime reality, this absence of existence, is in itself something created by God. God made an empty space in which to create things, he didn’t come into existence in an empty space and then make other things. God was, at one point, all there was. There was nothing that was not God. No earth, no heaven, no void, just God. Nothingness was not even a thing until God allowed it to be. Needless to say that changed my perspective.

I didn’t realize it until after, but what was happening was a kind of imaginary fight between God and Non-existence over the “throne” of Prime Reality. God won. He didn’t even have to try. It felt like it had been a battle, and I think I came away from it feeling the joy of victory because of that. God was triumphant. I don’t often get a personal sense of God being the mighty warrior that I know He is. It seems a bit odd that it would take something like this to make me more aware of it, but I’ve learned that intellectual study is one of my passions, so of course God would use that to reach my heart.

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Existential Crisis

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I’ve been reading a book titled The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. It gives exhaustive descriptions of various world views (as many as he was aware of back in the day) talking about how to address various relevant questions like: Is there a God? What is God like? Why do we exist? What happens after death? Pretty deep stuff. Since I’m trying to understand the way different people approach these questions this kind of book was right up my alley, and I recommend it to anyone looking to understand the plethora of world views out there. (Warning: he uses a lot of big words. I myself understood about half of it.)

When it came to the section on Existentialism it reminded me of an occurrence in my twenties, which I think would be accurately described as an existential crisis. The train of thought also caused me to consider other questions that I hadn’t before, which I’d like to discuss in detail in a later post. For now, I feel like just sharing this story from when I was 23. I’ve documented portions of the experience in my personal journal.

As a child I was in the habit of freaking out whenever my brain tried to comprehend anything that was essentially infinite. I guess the way that my brain worked was that I needed to be able to contain information inside my mind in order for it to make sense, so the idea of an infinite universe really bothered me because if it was infinite (meaning without end) then I couldn’t possibly contain it, nor could I ever hope to. The same thing happened whenever I tried to understand Christian concepts like “eternal life” or “God had no beginning”. The idea of living forever used to terrify me because I couldn’t see that far ahead, and God having no beginning required trying to fathom that far back into a timeline that needed to end somewhere. As a child the only thing I could do to move on with my mind was ignore the questions, but as an adult that option felt too much like a cop out.

 

April 10, 2007

“It’s happened again, my mind has tried to grasp the infinite. Where did God come from? How did God come to be? The Bible says that He always has been – but isn’t that against the rules? What ‘rules’? God created all things. If there was ever a time He wasn’t around there would’ve been no rules to break. It’s no use trying to explain God’s existence through science because He created science. How could something He made be responsible for His existence? Something cannot come out of nothing. But by this logic nothing should exist at all.”

 

I remember more or less where I was at the time. I was at home. I remember that much. I think I was going back and forth through the house looking for something to do – something to take my mind off of it.

It had taken quite a few years, but my mind had finally touched on a very key factor in this whole line of questioning, and I could ignore it no longer. I shut myself in the bathroom, but that was probably a mistake. Isolation just made the realization louder. All of reality as I knew it operated on basic, fundamental and irreplaceable laws of cause and effect. Nothing can exist without something else causing it to exist. Logically, if you take this far enough back, you end up with a paradox. I finally realized that it was literally impossible for anything to exist – including myself. I’m not sure I can get this across strongly enough. It wasn’t possible for anything to exist. This wasn’t a logical conclusion. This wasn’t a thought or a feeling. I knew, without question, it is impossible for anything to exist.

I don’t perfectly remember what happened next. I think I blacked out. I could be wrong, because I don’t remember. But the fact that I don’t remember is possibly an indication that I blacked out. The next thing I remember was lying on the bathroom floor. I remember feeling the cold, hard tiles on my skin. I remember how solid they were, and I remember how much that surprised me. My realization that it was impossible for them to exist had no impact whatsoever on their existence. They remained as hard and solid as ever before.

I concluded two things from this. One – the universe I live in is sustained by something or someone other than myself. (Because if my mental breakdown doesn’t even have the slightest effect on something as insignificant as bathroom tiles then how can I conclude that I’m sustaining this whole universe myself?) And two – there must exist something in this universe or another that exists outside of my understanding of the laws of cause and effect.

The second conclusion touches on something philosophers have been trying to pin down for a while – the need for a Prime Mover. If everything comes from something, then when you eventually go far enough back you have to find something that was the first cause of everything else. For naturalists, even the Big Bang theory doesn’t quite satisfy, though it comes close, but even that still needs something before it to spark it. For theists the question of the Prime Mover seems easy – it’s God. But whatever answer one settles on, ultimately fails to satisfy as long as the understood laws of cause and effect are still applied. What I ended up having to conclude was that God is something outside of those laws as I know them. And if God is not the answer, then whatever the answer is must be something that exists outside of those laws. For me, being Christian my whole life, it was an easy transition to simply assume that God was even bigger than I had previously thought.

 

“As much as this thought freaks me out I am actually stumbling into a state of worship. Because I am here. Despite all logic on how things should work – according to my ‘rules’ – I am very much here, and alive, and thinking. If this were all an illusion it would’ve ended by now. This line of thought has brought me to a place of panic and instability that I had never known before and at the same time a place of reverence.

If I were holding this reality together in my mind as some people suggest then it would have shattered during this episode but the LORD has sustained it – He has sustained me.

I have tried so long and so hard to analyze God and explain Him but He is so much bigger than my understanding, my logic and my rules. My inability to grasp this is just one of the reasons that God is God and I’m not, and for that He is worthy of reverence and praise.”

 

I wanted to share that story first. There’s another more recent episode that I’d like to share in a future blog post, but I figure this one on its own may be heavy enough for one day.

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A Time For Heroes

My biggest concern throughout this election process has been the messages behind it. I personally wasn’t keen on either candidate, and anticipated a difficult four years ahead regardless of the election results. My primary concern was the messages being sent by the voters.

We’ve been living in an era of progress – of empowered women – of men of strong character. And I believe that’s what most people want. Now suddenly the world is not so certain what we want.

I know there were many dynamics to this election. It’s not like Hilary was perfect either. I don’t believe the majority of Trump supporters voted for him because of the racism, sexism, bigotry and bullying. I don’t believe that’s what his voters were supporting, and I don’t begrudge anyone for their choices. That’s beside the point now. My primary concern is what it has always been – the message.

Intentional or not, the election of Trump sent a message to Americans and to the rest of the world. The message that this stuff is okay. That this stuff is encouraged and supported. That this will get you places. There are entire generations growing up today that have awoken to a world where that is the message they’ve received. What are they to make of that? Parents have a more difficult job than ever to encourage their children to grow up to be respectful, tolerant and wise individuals.

So let me speak to the writers out there.

Writers, we’ve entered a time when it is more important than ever to write the kind of characters that you want your children to grow up to be, to give them heroes to look up to, examples to follow. We need more Aragorns today. We need more Katniss Everdeens. The upcoming generations will need more examples of men being strong men and women being strong women. Strong in character, not just physically or charismatically. They will need to see what it looks like for men to treat women respectfully. For women to be attractive without it being about their bodies.

Parents, write your female characters with the kind of strength and dignity that you want your daughters to have. Write the kind of male characters that you would actually be comfortable with your daughter dating (difficult as that might be). Write the kind of heroes you want your sons looking up to. They need to be shown that this is the ideal, that bigotry is what’s out of place, that sexual assault is wrong.

I’ve heard too many stories of women being assaulted and doing nothing about it because they thought it was normal. An entire generation has just been sent that message, and it needs to be countered. We need stories of women fighting back, speaking up, making a change, fighting for others.

Forget about the election. Forget about politics. Hating and blaming is pointless and not what I’m here to do. I know it was complicated and I won’t pretend to understand all the dynamics of it. All that stuff is behind us now. What we’re faced with now is a message. We need a response. We need examples to give to our kids – to our teens who are right now in the process of deciding what kind of person they want to be. We need heroes now more than ever. Writers, we have work to do.

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Positive Reinforcement

I was feeling nostalgic for the original Borderlands game the other day, but after playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for so long I had forgotten how much of a difference there is in sniping difficulty. I think the pre-sequel spoiled me and I just got used to sniping being a much easier thing. I’d also forgotten how excited the characters get when you accomplish something.

 

So I’m playing the original Borderlands  and I spot an enemy in the distance. He’s just standing there. He hasn’t noticed me yet. I take out my sniper rifle and aim for his head.

 

I miss.

 

He starts running toward me in a straight line.

 

I fire again. I miss.

 

I fire again. I miss.

 

By now he’s almost close enough to stab me, so I start backing up while continuing to fire.

 

I miss.

 

I fire again. I miss.

 

He swipes at me with his machete. He misses.

 

I fire. I miss.

 

I reload my sniper rifle because I’ve emptied the entire clip.

 

I fire again. I land a headshot, but it’s not good enough to kill him.

 

I aim for ANY part of his body. I graze his right arm and he dies.

 

My character: “Nailed it.”

 

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Crimson Dawn

 

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This project saw several delays, but I can finally say that the sequel to ‘The Kingdom’ is now published!

My new novel, ‘Crimson Dawn’ is a first for me in many ways. It’s my first published sequel; it’s my first published attempt at writing groups of characters rather than just a few at a time; and it’s my first published book with such a strong focus on combat. All of these are aspects of my writing style that I’ve yet to show to my readers, and I’m anxious to see the response.

I learned a lot from reader feedback on the first book, and tried to address those hopes and expectations in the sequel. My fans wanted a longer story. This one is more than double the length – although that’s not what I set out to do but the story kept expanding on me. My readers wanted to see more of the world. I have introduced characters from a variety of cultures in this sequel and taken time to talk a little about each. My fans want to know what happened to the wyvern “Ruth”. I made that the very first scene.

I hope my readers enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. It has been in the works for a while and there are some characters I have been very much looking forward to introducing to the fans. It is the encouraging words of my fans that inspires me to keep writing these adventures, so thank you guys. I hope I continue to earn the admiration you’ve shown me thus far.

To find ‘Crimson Dawn’ on Amazon, click here

If you’re interested but haven’t yet seen the first book, click here

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Deep Question #8

Deep Question 8

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Interview with Captain Colin Wade from ‘Singularity’

Singularity cover jpegRecently another blogger was interested in interviewing a character from one of my novels. I volunteered Colin Wade, the spaceship captain from my sci-fi novel Singularity. You can read the interview here. This is the first time one of my characters have been interviewed before. The results were fun. Thanks, Lynne! 🙂

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Now Available for Speaking Engagements

DSC03052_crop_cropFor the past two years I’ve been speaking at schools and public events about my life on the Autism Spectrum and what it was like developing from lower to higher-functioning autism. I’ve found myself in a rare position of being able to communicate and inform teachers and parents about what that experience has been like from an inside perspective. Although it wasn’t until recently that I began advertising my speaking more openly.

So far I’ve spoken on a daytime talk show, at schools, at a church, and at autism-related events.  It’s been a very fulfilling experience to be able to share my experiences and help others to understand the condition.

If you are looking for someone who can talk about autism with inside experience, click on the link Schedule a Speaking Event to look over my information for doing speaking engagements. Or if you know anyone who might be interested, then please send them the link.

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Snowman (Hug Me Maybe)

elsa-coronationshrink65I HAD TO CANCEL THE BALL

I FELT LIKE TWO INCHES TALL

WE KINDA SKIPPED OVER FALL

AND THEN I SEE YOUR FACE

I’D FROZEN THE FOUNTAIN STILL

I MADE A RUN FOR THE HILLS

WE ALL WERE FEELING THE CHILLS

AND THEN I SEE YOUR FACE

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IT STARTED SNOWIN’

COLD NIGHT WIND WAS BLOWIN’

GLOVES GONE, HANDS WERE SHOWIN’

FINALLY LET-GO-IN’ BABY

 

 

HEY, I JUST MET YOU

Frozen_29shrink60AND YOU SEEM CRAZY

BUT YOU’RE MADE OF SNOW

SO HUG ME MAYBE

IT’S HARD TO KEEP COOL

WHEN LIFE GETS HAZY

BUT YOU’RE MADE OF SNOW

SO HUG ME MAYBE

AND ALL THE OTHER BOYS

KINDA CHAFE ME

BUT YOU’RE MADE OF SNOW

SO HUG ME MAYBE

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BEFORE YOU CAME INTO MY LIFE I MISSED YOU, SNOWMAN

I  MISSED YOU, SNOWMAN

I MISSED YOU SO, SNOWMAN

BEFORE YOU CAME INTO MY LIFE I MISSED YOU, SNOWMAN

AND YOU SHOULD KNOW, THEN

I MISSED YOU SO, SNOWMAN… MAN… MAN… MAN… MAN… MAN…

anna elsa frozen babies crop

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Upcoming Release – Crimson Dawn

 

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Well this one has been a long time coming. When I published ‘The Kingdom I didn’t expect it to receive the favour it did, particularly the demand for a sequel. It took me some time to think of where to take the story from there, but two things fans commented on was they wanted to stay in the world longer (The Kingdom was a very short novel), and to see more of that world, which made part of the direction clear for me.

For anyone who hasn’t read ‘The Kingdom’, the rest of this blog post contains SPOILERS.

One thing I knew from the beginning was that the focus would have to change. The story of Roy and Nevaeh has already been told in full. But what remains unfinished is the fate of Allandor itself. And to tell that story, the focus shifts toward Daxion.

I also needed to add a few characters, from different cultures, in order to give my readers a broader sense of this world that they were only briefly introduced to in the first book. One thing my readers often compliment is the character interactions in my books, so I knew compelling characters and lively dialogue would be key to this book having the same heart as the first.

A specific release date has not yet been set, but the plan is for publication this Spring (2016). I will keep my blog updated when digital and print versions become available.

As with every book release, I’m both excited and nervous. I’ve been waiting a long time to introduce some of these characters to the world, and I hope my readers are entertained. Check back with me in a few weeks and see if I’ve got an official release date posted. And thank you for following my work!

 

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