A Two Talent Journey _ Chapter 3: Never Stop

Habakkuk 2:3

Russian newspaper May 10th 1945 declaring the end of WWII

College Students Create Nail Polish That Changes Colors When Exposed To Date Rape Drugs

Two Physician Suicides in the Past Week

intrainingdoc:

There have been two physician suicides in the past week, with NYU and Cornell setting up counseling centers. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families.

If you or someone you know feels like harming themselves or others, call 911 or the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

(via intrainingdoc)

More Video!

Casino Shore Dive, 45 meters, Catalina Island

A weekend with the brothers!

8/16-17/2014

Want to be Multiethnic-Get Ready for Discomfort

Living out the gospel ideal of reconciled community proved far more difficult, and wonderful, than we ever expected.

As our small core group continues to take steps of trust with God and each other, Re-create Church (http://www.re-createchurch.org/) is getting closer to starting our preliminary services on Sept 7th the the community of EastLA.  I agree with this writer, a multicultural church is uncomfortable, but it is also beautiful.  The only other thing that I’ve seen gather people of different cultures in the same room is good food.  But its even harder to get classes to mix-people of different socioeconomic classes.  We have a society that is used to segregation and self-preservation.  But the reason I joined this church plant (a new church) is because I believe in its mission statement.  I believe that to truly heal and grow into the fullness of who we are, we need to acknowledge our brokenness and work with others and God to recreate it as something beautiful.  

Our Mission Statement: We are a Christ-centered church for this generation that re-creates beauty out of brokenness through a gospel movement that restores people to God with truth, cultivates nourishing relationships and redeems our city and the world.

The Unacceptable Silence of Asian American Christians in Response to Ferguson

I was a little skeptical at first, but by the end, I really agree with this woman.

Keck Health Policy Interest Group

Keck Health Policy Interest Group

DSC_9254One of USC Connecting Californians to Care (CCTC) partners is Keck Health Policy Interest Group (HPIG).  On September 16th, we will be hosting a Covered CA and ACA lunch talk for medical students to learn about the basics of health insurance.  However, anyone is welcome to attend.  The talk will be led by our USC CCTC team and will take place 12-1pm on Sept 16th in McKibben 149 on the Health…

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Takamasa Promotion Video by Derek Yamashita

Stay With Me

White Privilege, Racism, the Double Standard, homophobia, dismissal/demonization of mental illness and Fatalistic Prejudice

Here’s a very short article by Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas, on how white privilege relates to the conversation sparked by Ferguson, Missouri.  White privilege is an acceptable form of racism that I got to experience as an Asian American growing up in white Huntington Beach suburbia.  Earlier I wrote a post on racism and how given our mind’s logical function of categorization, we are all perpetually prone to make unfair judgments upon other’s character based on their skin color or facial appearance.  But in addition to these topics of race, our propensity to prejudge people is ubiquitous and extends much farther than the issue of race.  We also hold women to a different standard in professional settings and even the home.  We treat people differently according to their sexual identification and orientation.  And we either dismiss mentally-ill individuas as weak or demonize them as “crazy.”  Whatever the case, we have all faulted in at least one of these judgment errors.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we have committed well over 100 errors in each of these categories.  In fact we are likely to judge several people tomorrow too.  Ultimately, these “categorizations” fall under two categories “like” and “dislike”.  Respect and Disrespect.  With Dignity and Without Dignity.  

We need to bring up conversations about race, gender, sex, health, and even culture, language and religion because these concepts are integrally tied to our identity as persons and people.  These conversations remind us that we are all human.  They show us our differences as well as our similarities.  These conversations show us how irrational it is let our initial “dislike” for someone influence our judgement on their dignity.  Its natural to like or dislike people at first, but I want to challenge us to ask ourselves if its naturally to strip people of their dignity just because they rub us the wrong way.  

I want to propose an uncomfortable interpretation about our propensity to judge people.  When we disrespect people, we are saying they are without dignity as human beings.  But what dignity is an abstract and foreign concept in our post modern culture of logical positivism.  Therefore a more functional description of disrespect might be: To disrespect someone is to say they are not worth existing.  In other words not worthy of life.  In peacetime, this might just mean you never deal with that person again.  But our world is getting crazier, resources are sparse and conflicts are growing.  In wartime, disrespect might literally mean killing someone.  Ferguson shows us this dark reality.  And at the very least, disrespect might mean not really caring if that person dies.  This is extreme, but I don’t think it is unfounded.  Ferguson actually supports the argument I am making about disrespect.  We are living in a world ridden with conflict and problems.  The only way we can come out of this all together alive, is if we work together.  We need to work well with each other, all of each other.  And to work as a team, we need to respect each other, even if we don’t feel like it.  

Ferguson: Racism Is Not Dead

Click this link and take a look at these photos.  

It is unsettling to accept the message that Ferguson has been trying to tell our nation: “Racism Is Not Dead”.  But I want to honestly ask, will it ever be?  

I doubt it for a very logical reason: The human mind is faced everyday with a massive amount of stimuli from visual images from our daily routines, audible messages from conversations we’ve had, feelings and sensations from walking, exercising and even chewing our lunch.  Most of us use our taste buds three times a day, and maybe a fourth time for that sweet dessert.  And we smell tons of things as well.  In order to make sense of life, we categorize all the objects, sensations, feelings, concepts, and ideas we come in contact with each day.  And when we encounter a new object, our brain helps us instantly categorize it to its correct “folder” so that we are ready to have some plan of how to interact with it.  Science itself is founded upon this concept of observation and categorization.  And the two most basic logical relationships are causality and category (identity).  

So now that I put my audience to sleep, how does this at all relate to racism?  Categorization is Racism when applied to Human Beings.  Just as we deal with objects each day and categorize them, we also encounter people each day and categorize everyone we meet!  Young, old, father, child, boy, girl, extrovert, introvert, straight, gay, liberal, conservative, black, white and yellow.  However, we shouldn’t fault ourselves for the act of categorization since that’s the way our brains are programmed.  Instead, we should recognize that we do this, and understand the limitation of this action as applied to interpersonal relationships.  In fact, in many situations categorization is necessary and good.  My prediction that the child is immature, helped me take precautions to make sure they didn’t hurt themselves when playing with fireworks.  My prediction that the guy fit the male gender mold, helped me relate to them.  My prediction that the talkative person was an extrovert, helped me to pull out of the conversation early to care for my introverted need to sit in silence for a little. In war, my categorization of people based on uniform, helped me shoot the right person.

With objects, 99 times out of 100 my categorization of them and associated prediction of it helped me.  I dodged the rock that was flying at me because I judge all rocks to be hard.  Also with people 7 times out of 10 my stereotype of them is true.  However, there are exceptions.  And racism occurs when we fail to recognize our errors in judgement and instead continue judging people according to our preferences rather than reality.  Injustice occurs when we act upon that racism.  And injustice breaks communities, causes pain, anger, confusion, rage, violence and chaos.  

I want to through out the idea that: everyone is racist because we all categorize people, like we categorize objects.  We shouldn’t try to fool ourselves that we are “past” that stage.  However, we should take our judgement of people with a huge grain of salt because its a fact that people don’t fit our categorical molds as well as objects do. But what makes objects different than people?  There are many differences between these two entities, but the property of concern here is that objects are Not capable of self-initiated change, but people are!

Therefore I offer this unique take on this discussion: The lesson “not to be racist” is an insufficient and weak lesson that will never stop racism.  To cure racism, we need to understand the nature of racism-the nature of how our minds categorize people.  Racism is a product of immature thinking.  Like cavemen, we categorize people in the same way we categorize objects. A rock is a rock is a rock.  Water is water is water.  But a liberal person is not like the other liberal person.  The gay person is not like the other gay person. The black person is not like the other black person. The fundamental problem with our racist society is a flawed understanding of human identity: Objects have static identities, Humans have Dynamic Identities.  Humans can initiate self-change!  

Far on the other end, it would be impossible to treat everyone like a unique snowflake.  We would spend too much energy if we tried to get to know everyone we know for who they really are in all their details and quirks.  And it is true that people share similarities.  So I need to categorize people and categorizing people is not wholly wrong.  However, in addition to categorizing people, we need to consciously and with effort practice the art of "re-categorization" and "non-categorization."  Re-categorization is changing our perception of a person to another perception that is closer to who they really are.  Non-categorization is withholding judgement, when insufficient information is available.  

I take my argument a step further here: The fundamental problem with racism is that we categorize people into two ultimate categories: Like and Don’t Like.  This dichotomous category must wholly be abolished to cure racism.  We need to realize that people we meet have the potential to change.  It’s likely that the people we don’t “like” at first are the people we least understand and have taken the least effort to try to understand.  And even if a person is in a bad place and is just really not “likable,” we need to realize there is probably an element of experiential, emotional, or physical illness and pain that has caused them to act that way.  At the very least we can relate and sympathize with their suffering.  To choose to not “like” someone is to choose to ignore their humanity.  

This leads me to a radical conclusion: If you don’t “like” certain people and you really judge them hard for it, even if its just because of a bad habit they have, you are a racist.  You are embodying the same relationship to another human being that the men who shot and killed these black men did.  A basic philosophical principle I would like to share is: We are all hypocrites.  We are all racists.  We are all victim, perpetrator and judge.  Only until we know ourselves better, will be be able to kill the racism in all of us.  

Pretending like we are not racist is the viral vehicle by which racism is propagated through populations.  

Chapter 3: Never Stop
Habakkuk 2:3
"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."
Almost nothing is known about Habakkuk, the eighth of twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible.  All he has in the Bible is one book of three chapters.  At most, since the last chapter is a song, Habakkuk is presumed to be a member of the tribe of Levi, which served as musicians in Solomon’s Temple.  
Habakkuk is unique among the prophets because he is the only one to openly question the wisdom of God.  In the first chapter, Habakkuk sees the injustices within the Israel people and a calls God out for letting “justice go forth perverted.”  In Habakkuk 1:3 he says, “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?”  To this God’s reply to Habakkuk is “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if I told.”  God says that he has taken account of Israel’s wrongs and is preparing the Babylonians with their a strong and merciless army to come and overtake Israel as their punishment.  
In distress, Habakkuk lifts up a second complaint to God questioning the justice of using an even more brutal and unjust nation to bring punishment upon Israel.  He ends chapter 1 saying, “Is he [God] to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?”
God responds with Habakkuk 2:3, a cryptic reference to some future vision based on his original promise to Abraham to remain faithful to the Israel people.  God continues explaining that greater woe will be brought upon the Babylonians themselves for their own wickedness.  But amid this cycle of injustice and punishment, the reminder of Habakkuk 2:3 to remember the “vision” is impressed upon Habakkuk.  Although distraught by Israel’s wayward heart  and the oncoming destruction by the Babylonians, Habakkuk’s response in chapter three is both non-sequitur and profound.  He lifts up a song of praise and joy to God!  He sings of God’s greatness, his power and might, his justice and his faithfulness.  He ends his song with this eerie and layered verse: "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places."~ ~ ~
I tell the story of Habakkuk to introduce the next chapter of this blog: “Never Stop”.  I started this blog 2 years and 2 months ago with the first chapter “A Two Talent Journey” based on Matthew 25:14-30.  Originally, I began the blog to record my various experiences during my gap-year before starting medical school where I worked with inner-city Hispanic youth in Hollywood, Japanese students in Japan, Navajo Indians at a homeless shelter in New Mexico, cancer hospice patients in San Francisco, Mother Teresa Sisters in New Mexico and San Fran and transplant immunologist researchers in Santa Monica.  But in Gallup, New Mexico, the blog began to take a life of it’s own as my experiences began to tell their own story about the “poorest of the poor” who are all around us.  From teens living in single mother families, Native Americans living with a painful history on their backs, dying cancer patients, Japanese individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts, to your neighbor next door suffering and pain are hard realities that are easy to ignore.  From a patient that I grew to know through his cancer and dementia, I learned from his last words “Thank you for the green light to heaven” that there was great beauty waiting to be found underneath this pain.  The Mother Teresa Sisters who devoted their whole lives to the service of those hurting the most in our society taught me through their joy that suffering did not limit the joy one can experience, but rather it was an invitation to enter greater joy.  To enter into God’s endless love.  
As that year came to an end Chapter 2: “Shattering the Glass Floor” became my mantra for beginning of my medical training, as I expressed my Hippocratic Oath in a painting entitled “Shattering the Glass Floor.”  The glass floor came to represent the reversal of values that I chose to live by, not seeking my greatness and happiness by breaking the glass ceiling above me, but rather seeking love, beauty, human connection, truth, joy, and God himself in learning to serve others.  
But as medical school began, a week after I painted that painting, I flew through the windshield of a car, shattering the windshield with my face, lacerating my lip, cheek, and neck and causing two of my cervical vertebral disks to bulge into my spinal canal.  Last year was a hard year.  Not academically, but spiritually somehow.  I felt as though I plummeted to the darkest rim my soul has ever been.  I learned more about human nature through medicine.  I saw more of its beauty as well as its stains.  For medicine, I learned that while united in profession, providers are disjointed in intentions.  I saw the human identity consisting of victim, perpetrator and judge all in one, while others were quick to lump people in exclusively one category.  With no common ground in communities, our existence is left to consist of desires and objectives and means necessary to get from A to B.  A flat world.  I struggled to trust people.  I entered despair.  I got a glimpse of what hope really is by learning what it was like to lose all of it.  
During last year, I saw a faith in Habakkuk capable of sustaining hope amid total despair.  I was puzzled and fixated upon Habakkuk.  How could he find the joy to sing praises to God while at the same time being distraught by Israel’s wrongdoings and the Babylonian threat to his people?  Then this summer, I did some philosophy reading on 19th century Danish Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  In his writings entitled “The Sickness Unto Death” and “A Literary Review”, Kierkegaard lays out terms to construct a concept of the self as both animal and spirit.  With this theory of human identity, he reasons 3 levels of despair and 1 level of pseudo despair a person can fall into. Correlated with each level of despair, is then a level of hope with practical implications for how to chose it.  
The first pseudo level of despair is the suffering that occurs when life doesn’t give us what we want.  Losing that job, drinking cold coffee, being hurt by a friend, tripping on a street curb, losing a loved one all cause a level of pain in people.  But during these situations a person might not readily say “Wow, I am in such a despairing state.”  Rather they would more likely say “This sucks.” This state of “suckiness” is a part of everyday life.  But only when life begins to “suck” so much, does the person enter the first state of despair, where they become actively conscious of being dissatisfied with their life’s situation.  A job or lack of a job, a relationship or lack of a relationship, their self image or lack of self esteem may be a source of torment for the person.  Their suffering is greater because it is accompanied by a dissatisfaction with their life.  If this state goes on too long, the person then enters the 2nd level of despair, where they begin to believe they are powerless to change.  The consciously suffer more because they are in a constant state of “suckiness” and dissatisfaction that is now magnified by helplessness.  In this state, the person will do everything they can to try to exit this helplessness, but if this state perpetuates, they will inter the 3rd and final state of despair.  In this state, the person enters complete hopelessness and total despair.  They don’t care about their present situation, dissatisfaction or helplessness any longer.  Life has lost its meaning.  Life has become torment and a literal Hell.  There is no desire for hope, because they believe there is no such thing as hope.  In fact this person will actively push away help others might offer.  A person in this level is also prone to become prideful and laugh at other’s attempts to seek “fleeting” pleasures, because as one descends down the levels of despair they become more and more aware of life. They might even mistake their own despair as “enlightenment”.  In this level of despair the greatest level of suffering is experienced.  
In summary:
Pseudo Level of Despair: “Sucky” situations in life. (All or most species can experience this. A rock cannot.)
First Level of Despair: Conscious dissatisfaction with their “sucky” state of life/situation.
Second Level of Despair: Conscious helplessness to escape from their “sucky” state of life and dissatisfaction.
Third Level of Despair: Conscious hopelessness and acceptance of total despair.  
Kierkegaard himself had likely descended down all three levels of despair—all those existential philosophers were depressed, and many were suicidal.  His theory provides practical solutions per each level.  For the pseudo level, the person merely needs to change their present situation.  For the First Level, the person needs to change themselves and from there they will change their relationship to the present situation.  For the Second Level, the person needs to regain empowerment to then change themselves and change their situation.  However, the third level is the trickiest, because that person has given up on self and existence itself.  Kierkegaard offers a radical and universal answer for this person: they need to reach out to the infinite and place their hope it in.  This “infinite” is open to interpretation, but it would be an a priori and eternal truth, being, reality, value, or concept.  Examples of the infinite could be: love, truth, reality, a deity or deities, science, goodness, balance, the goodness of human nature, power, becoming, etc.   Regardless of what the infinite is, almost every culture, even secular ones, has some sort “infinite” which supports the culture’s ultimate foundation for hope.  Kierkegaard says the person in the third level of despair needs to reach out to that “infinite” hope and just chose it.  Pure choice is the answer for this person, while the other levels are dependent on external circumstances.  The ultimate hope to defeat the ultimate despair, however comes both from within and from the infinite.  The choice of choosing hope is purely internal.  With this type of hope that can endure any external circumstance, the person then transcends the levels of despair one by one.  
It is that Hope that I dedicate this new chapter to.  ”Never Stop” refers to “never stop choosing hope”, even and especially within Kierkegaard’s third level of total despair.  For last year, I descended with Kierkegaard to this third level of despair.  But with his help, I learned what it meant to chose my hope in God with pure choice.  It’s a continual choice, day after day, morning after morning, second after second.  Practically this year, I will be learning to hope in people again, despite the stains in our nature.  I am learning what it means to choose people regardless of that person’s characteristics.  And with Habakkuk I place my hope in the “vision” to strive forward.  I am excited to explore and fight for hope in communities that have often fallen and stagnated into all 4 levels of Kierkegaard’s despair.  
"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."
Habakkuk 2:3

Chapter 3: Never Stop

Habakkuk 2:3

"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."

Almost nothing is known about Habakkuk, the eighth of twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible.  All he has in the Bible is one book of three chapters.  At most, since the last chapter is a song, Habakkuk is presumed to be a member of the tribe of Levi, which served as musicians in Solomon’s Temple.  

Habakkuk is unique among the prophets because he is the only one to openly question the wisdom of God.  In the first chapter, Habakkuk sees the injustices within the Israel people and a calls God out for letting “justice go forth perverted.”  In Habakkuk 1:3 he says, “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?”  To this God’s reply to Habakkuk is “I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if I told.”  God says that he has taken account of Israel’s wrongs and is preparing the Babylonians with their a strong and merciless army to come and overtake Israel as their punishment.  

In distress, Habakkuk lifts up a second complaint to God questioning the justice of using an even more brutal and unjust nation to bring punishment upon Israel.  He ends chapter 1 saying, “Is he [God] to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?”

God responds with Habakkuk 2:3, a cryptic reference to some future vision based on his original promise to Abraham to remain faithful to the Israel people.  God continues explaining that greater woe will be brought upon the Babylonians themselves for their own wickedness.  But amid this cycle of injustice and punishment, the reminder of Habakkuk 2:3 to remember the “vision” is impressed upon Habakkuk.  Although distraught by Israel’s wayward heart  and the oncoming destruction by the Babylonians, Habakkuk’s response in chapter three is both non-sequitur and profound.  He lifts up a song of praise and joy to God!  He sings of God’s greatness, his power and might, his justice and his faithfulness.  He ends his song with this eerie and layered verse: 

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places."

~ ~ ~

I tell the story of Habakkuk to introduce the next chapter of this blog: “Never Stop”.  I started this blog 2 years and 2 months ago with the first chapter “A Two Talent Journey” based on Matthew 25:14-30.  Originally, I began the blog to record my various experiences during my gap-year before starting medical school where I worked with inner-city Hispanic youth in Hollywood, Japanese students in Japan, Navajo Indians at a homeless shelter in New Mexico, cancer hospice patients in San Francisco, Mother Teresa Sisters in New Mexico and San Fran and transplant immunologist researchers in Santa Monica.  But in Gallup, New Mexico, the blog began to take a life of it’s own as my experiences began to tell their own story about the “poorest of the poor” who are all around us.  From teens living in single mother families, Native Americans living with a painful history on their backs, dying cancer patients, Japanese individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts, to your neighbor next door suffering and pain are hard realities that are easy to ignore.  From a patient that I grew to know through his cancer and dementia, I learned from his last words “Thank you for the green light to heaven” that there was great beauty waiting to be found underneath this pain.  The Mother Teresa Sisters who devoted their whole lives to the service of those hurting the most in our society taught me through their joy that suffering did not limit the joy one can experience, but rather it was an invitation to enter greater joy.  To enter into God’s endless love.  

As that year came to an end Chapter 2: “Shattering the Glass Floor” became my mantra for beginning of my medical training, as I expressed my Hippocratic Oath in a painting entitled “Shattering the Glass Floor.”  The glass floor came to represent the reversal of values that I chose to live by, not seeking my greatness and happiness by breaking the glass ceiling above me, but rather seeking love, beauty, human connection, truth, joy, and God himself in learning to serve others.  

But as medical school began, a week after I painted that painting, I flew through the windshield of a car, shattering the windshield with my face, lacerating my lip, cheek, and neck and causing two of my cervical vertebral disks to bulge into my spinal canal.  Last year was a hard year.  Not academically, but spiritually somehow.  I felt as though I plummeted to the darkest rim my soul has ever been.  I learned more about human nature through medicine.  I saw more of its beauty as well as its stains.  For medicine, I learned that while united in profession, providers are disjointed in intentions.  I saw the human identity consisting of victim, perpetrator and judge all in one, while others were quick to lump people in exclusively one category.  With no common ground in communities, our existence is left to consist of desires and objectives and means necessary to get from A to B.  A flat world.  I struggled to trust people.  I entered despair.  I got a glimpse of what hope really is by learning what it was like to lose all of it.  

During last year, I saw a faith in Habakkuk capable of sustaining hope amid total despair.  I was puzzled and fixated upon Habakkuk.  How could he find the joy to sing praises to God while at the same time being distraught by Israel’s wrongdoings and the Babylonian threat to his people?  Then this summer, I did some philosophy reading on 19th century Danish Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  In his writings entitled “The Sickness Unto Death” and “A Literary Review”, Kierkegaard lays out terms to construct a concept of the self as both animal and spirit.  With this theory of human identity, he reasons 3 levels of despair and 1 level of pseudo despair a person can fall into. Correlated with each level of despair, is then a level of hope with practical implications for how to chose it.  

The first pseudo level of despair is the suffering that occurs when life doesn’t give us what we want.  Losing that job, drinking cold coffee, being hurt by a friend, tripping on a street curb, losing a loved one all cause a level of pain in people.  But during these situations a person might not readily say “Wow, I am in such a despairing state.”  Rather they would more likely say “This sucks.” This state of “suckiness” is a part of everyday life.  But only when life begins to “suck” so much, does the person enter the first state of despair, where they become actively conscious of being dissatisfied with their life’s situation.  A job or lack of a job, a relationship or lack of a relationship, their self image or lack of self esteem may be a source of torment for the person.  Their suffering is greater because it is accompanied by a dissatisfaction with their life.  If this state goes on too long, the person then enters the 2nd level of despair, where they begin to believe they are powerless to change.  The consciously suffer more because they are in a constant state of “suckiness” and dissatisfaction that is now magnified by helplessness.  In this state, the person will do everything they can to try to exit this helplessness, but if this state perpetuates, they will inter the 3rd and final state of despair.  In this state, the person enters complete hopelessness and total despair.  They don’t care about their present situation, dissatisfaction or helplessness any longer.  Life has lost its meaning.  Life has become torment and a literal Hell.  There is no desire for hope, because they believe there is no such thing as hope.  In fact this person will actively push away help others might offer.  A person in this level is also prone to become prideful and laugh at other’s attempts to seek “fleeting” pleasures, because as one descends down the levels of despair they become more and more aware of life. They might even mistake their own despair as “enlightenment”.  In this level of despair the greatest level of suffering is experienced.  

In summary:

Pseudo Level of Despair: “Sucky” situations in life. (All or most species can experience this. A rock cannot.)

First Level of Despair: Conscious dissatisfaction with their “sucky” state of life/situation.

Second Level of Despair: Conscious helplessness to escape from their “sucky” state of life and dissatisfaction.

Third Level of Despair: Conscious hopelessness and acceptance of total despair.  

Kierkegaard himself had likely descended down all three levels of despair—all those existential philosophers were depressed, and many were suicidal.  His theory provides practical solutions per each level.  For the pseudo level, the person merely needs to change their present situation.  For the First Level, the person needs to change themselves and from there they will change their relationship to the present situation.  For the Second Level, the person needs to regain empowerment to then change themselves and change their situation.  However, the third level is the trickiest, because that person has given up on self and existence itself.  Kierkegaard offers a radical and universal answer for this person: they need to reach out to the infinite and place their hope it in.  This “infinite” is open to interpretation, but it would be an a priori and eternal truth, being, reality, value, or concept.  Examples of the infinite could be: love, truth, reality, a deity or deities, science, goodness, balance, the goodness of human nature, power, becoming, etc.   Regardless of what the infinite is, almost every culture, even secular ones, has some sort “infinite” which supports the culture’s ultimate foundation for hope.  Kierkegaard says the person in the third level of despair needs to reach out to that “infinite” hope and just chose it.  Pure choice is the answer for this person, while the other levels are dependent on external circumstances.  The ultimate hope to defeat the ultimate despair, however comes both from within and from the infinite.  The choice of choosing hope is purely internal.  With this type of hope that can endure any external circumstance, the person then transcends the levels of despair one by one.  

It is that Hope that I dedicate this new chapter to.  ”Never Stop” refers to “never stop choosing hope”, even and especially within Kierkegaard’s third level of total despair.  For last year, I descended with Kierkegaard to this third level of despair.  But with his help, I learned what it meant to chose my hope in God with pure choice.  It’s a continual choice, day after day, morning after morning, second after second.  Practically this year, I will be learning to hope in people again, despite the stains in our nature.  I am learning what it means to choose people regardless of that person’s characteristics.  And with Habakkuk I place my hope in the “vision” to strive forward.  I am excited to explore and fight for hope in communities that have often fallen and stagnated into all 4 levels of Kierkegaard’s despair.  

"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."

Habakkuk 2:3

Time to move on

Photo-story: Panama

More photos from the Ministry of Health. Mid-way through is my vector group, exhausted and tired after a very long week.  Further down is a “scare-tactic” sign that reads “If you don’t kill them, they will kill you”.  The pictures then illustrate “trash” + “mosquitos” = “death”.  It is supposed to communicate the urgency of cleaning your houses to prevent mosquito breeding sites that can spread the deadly dengue fever virus.  The vector control team has to use vertical paternalistic methods to control dengue fever from spreading through the community.  We came alongside to help design a non-paternalistic community-based intervention to help improve community compliance from a voluntary vs imposed approach.  But although the vector control team had to play the hard “father-figure” role when necessary, Inspector Edwin Franco reveals his soft side with thumbs up and smile!