Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Monday, 2 October 2006

A New Direction

I've put off writing this because the pain continues, and the rock in my path remains. Congressman Smith's office has sent me a form to give them permission to investigate my case against Homeland, but the pain mixed with exhaustion, nausea, and vicodin-induced lethargy have made it difficult to even fill that form out.

But now reasonably doped up...You may recall my sharing of my decision to go to Yemen, coalesced in Assisi. There I received some powerful messages, to the tune that sometimes we are on one path, and find out later that the path was not actually the right one, but God still worked through every moment anyway; how our paths can be not what we expect; how God cares for the Arabs; that God will provide, and not to worry; and that real gain occurs by giving everything up. From this, I felt God saying I should go to Yemen to teach. But I've come to realize that this was the best choice available from what I had. I was passionate about going to Yemen- studying Yemeni culture and language- but not so much about teaching ESL. Frankly, the idea of teaching biology at an English-speaking Yemeni school down in Ta'izz sounded a lot more interesting, but for it being in a less traditional city, and the director not writing back. But I needed something- it would be too shameful to leave Morocco without a plan. So I decided to go. 2 days later I had a stroke.

I've been doing a lot of thinking. About why I decided to go. About why I got interested in Arabic culture in the first place, long ago. And what I'm passionate about. Thing is, I'm not that passionate. And I need to be. I need to be excited about God, and not just doing my duty. And I feel like for too long I have been lacking in passion. Oh, I enjoy studying Arabic culture, but that's not that which satisfies me the most, or where I enter a state of worship the most.

I've been realizing more and more that that place is studying nature. To give glory to God in His amazing creation. Actually, I have the struggle with my former school's teaching the intelligent design hypothesis to thank. Dealing with regular attacks on this matter forced me to read more and consider ideas that I had long ago figured out, and then dropped for other pursuits. I started off as a strong literal creationist, but became convinced in college, both scientifically and theologically, that evolution was the way. It has been years since I'd had to consider these arguments. So now I began to look at other authors, and see how God was present within a creation based on evolution. And I found it both fascinating and glorious. Truly, we serve an awesome God, who doesn't take the easy way out, but forms a creation that is actually involved in it's own creation! He asks us to partner with Him, forming something new- what we don't know, but He is the God of the Future, and all of salvation history is something more amazing than we can ever begin to imagine.

I have found that when I am happiest, when I am most joyful, is in nature, studying God's creation. I want to again see the romance within nature. It is more than simply a materialist machine- there is that of God in what He made. For all things come from Him, and he is in all places. Yes, he dwells more in those of us who are more aware of His presence, dwelling by His good pleasure, if you will, but He is also in all things. Francis of Assisi had it right, that we should refer to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Air- for they too are cocreations, and there is that of God in them. Creation is not to be appreciated simply because our human race will die if we don't, taking with it the rest of the planet, however true that might be. It's not to be appreciated simply because we are commanded to. But because, most of all, it provides a place to worship God. It is complex, it is wonderful, and comes directly from His hand. The numinous of the Lord is present within it.

I need to be in a place of continual worship. And for me, that's in studying nature. So I began to consider the idea of going back to grad school, to pursue marine biology, after a year of learning language and cultue in Yemen. As soon as I began to share this, I received multiple very strong confirmations from others, with the idea that I not go over to Yemen right now at all! This in turn fit with a recent sermon by my pastor, where Paul heads in one direction and is told "No", then another, and is told "No", and then finally receives a vision of "Yes". Our God is not a linear thinker, though he can work with linear thinkers, thank God. Often the steps on the journey are what we need. I needed to be headed to Yemen initially.

The passages I had received in Assisi I still affirm, but I realized one piece I'd left out- giving up everything for the sake of the Kingdom. Not just denying, but denying to come closer to God. I've started to realize that service is not as important as worship, for authentic service can only come out of authentic worship. But God will provide, just not in the path that I was expecting.

I was late to the conference this weekend because of the kidney stones. All of the recent medical problems have been a reminder that physically, this might not be the best time to be overseas. But because I was late I walked into an outbreak session at just a particular moment. They were talking about how God leads us in paths we don't expect; how going to the place where one suffers the most is not a good choice; but rather God calls us to go with our passions, which as my pastor often mentions, are what God gave us. They are gifts, to use well, and to prepare us for future work. Looking then at an accomanying sheet of the way different individuals naturally worship, I found my highest were intellectualist, naturalist, and activist- approaches that can all be fulfilled in a new approach. When the decision was finally made, and announced, the independent leadings of the Spirit in other people only became stronger.

This is indeed a radical departure. I did teach marine biology the last few years, and it's what my undergrad was in, but for years I have put it 2nd to other pursuits. I feel it's time to return. It's been 15 years since I've studied it, so I don't know what kind of school I can get into. I have to take the GREs- General and Bio, and the Bio will require a lot of study, particularly in the cellular area, where I am weak. And then I have to find a professor doing work in the area I'm interested in, as in science, it's not the school you pick but rather the professor. And this is no mean feat- there's no listing anywhere of what all the professors are doing in the U.S. And I'm interested in something rather specific.

I want to go back to study intertidal invertebrate ecology. But particularly in the tropical desert island capacity. And even more particularly, the island of Suqutra (Socotra), a fascinating place that I've long wanted to research. It's the largest Arab island in the world, owned by Yemen, but closer to the Horn of Africa. The people there speak a language that diverged off Arabic 1000 years ago (and you remember how familiar Canterbury Tales sounds to us these days). They are ethnically a mix of African, Arabic, and Portugese, and were once nominally Christian, though are all now Muslim. Fierce winter storms keep the island isolated for half the year, and it's only recently that limited regular plane flights began to the island- previously you had to cross open ocean for 3 days in a 30 foot boat. But the flora and fauna of the island is incredible. For millions of years this island has been isolated, and so classic island giganticism has developed, with an incredibly high number of endemic species. This is to be expected from the most isolated piece of continental rock in the world. Cucumbers have grown to the size of trees, and Dragon's Blood trees look like upside-down umbrellas- these exist nowhere else on the planet. There are an equally high number of unique animals. But though the UN has been working recently on preserving the land there, and had only done preliminary research, the marine life is even more unstudied. There are hints at incredible endemic diversity, with a unique confliguration of the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabia, E. Africa, and the Indo-Pacific creating an ecology like nowhere else on earth.

I want to help to preserve this zone of diversity, by studying it, catalouging it. So that we can learn from it, and benefit from the organisms, with perhaps new medicines to be discovered. So that we can preserve it and keep the ecosystem alive. But most of all, so that we can have it around to be aware of the unique way that God has put the system together, and worship Him for that. Praise God, he does not only think 2-dimensionally, as the Klingon fatally did in Wrath of Khan. Yes, He is to be credited with incredibly complex interations in the now. But even more so, He thinks temporally, with ongoing changing complex interactions through evolution. So I want to see how these organisms interact throughout times, and in the now; how they behave; how different invertebrate rely on each other to create a stable ecosystem. And that which was incredibly difficult for me at the time, dealing with the propositioning of the intelligent design hypothesis- even this, I now see, has become part of God's providence.

To do this, I have to find a professor working on Suqutra- so far I've found mostly only non-Americans doing any work there, as Americans tend not to do studies in the Middle East. There is a possibility of a Welsh school- I do need a school using English as it's base. But if not Suqutra, then a professor working on desert tropical ecology, or intertidal invertebrate ecology, who will be willing to let me have my project to work on. This is a long road ahead. In the short-term, find some work and a place to live here in Seattle. I could go over to Yemen for a year, like I ws previously thinking, but I don't feel like that's God's best. And being here gives me a couple extra months to study for GREs, and makes applying to grad schools by December a whole lot easier.

I'm not giving up on studying Arab anthropology and language- just putting it to the back for a few years. I am quite shocked to see the turn my life is taking. It's not how I planned. But I am feeling very lead into it. The vicadin I'm taking makes me sleepy. During Open Worship at service this past Sunday, I had a waking dream, vividly seeing a number of roads being laid out over the ocean- another confirmation. But this is also scary- for 15 years I've headed in one direction, and now it's a brave new world. I'm excited to see what God might bring.

2 comments:

quaintance said...

I hope you are feeling better! I think Dr. Turner at Bangor looks like a good person to at least talk to; he likely could guide you to others. My intuition tells me you need some moleulcar training also, as biocollection cataloging these days is moving towards genetic barcoding rather than the morphological analysis and description alone as of old.

@bdul muHib said...

Today, after another visit to the ER last night, I'm starting to feel better. The nice pretty woozy-making drugs they gave me last night helped- I think the pain was starting to build on itself. And the prescription for intense advil as well- my kidney was getting backed up and starting to swell, causing pain there. Today I've had to take much less vicodin to survive.

If I were to get some molecular training, it would be minimal- I definitely have no interest in sitting in a lab doing barcoding. I'd rather be out there collecting and sending in the information.