Sunday, October 23, 2011

Irish Sea

On the edge of last spring I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Wales to assist a photography project on the process of charcoal making.  After the project we drove out to the coast and I got my first look at the Irish Sea.  The sea water is dark and stormy - surrounded by whipping grass and quiet inter-coastal streams.  The sand is wet up to the walls of grass and sticks to your feet like mud.  I loved how the water and the sky didn't really define each other - instead they blend and became one sea.

These photographs were taken on film off a Pentax 6x7.  There is something incredible about film and I am starting to prefer it over anything. It is risky and frustrating -  not being able to use countless frames due to exposure or just way to much dust.  I love how you take photographs and don't see them for a long time - during which I constantly worry something isn't going to come out right. But, I tend to be pleasantly surprised most of the time.  The great war documentary photographer Robert Capa had 35mm rolls of D-Day film that he didn't see for months. Unfortunately due to an assistant error in the darkroom out of the 106 frames fired, 8 negatives came out. 8 beautiful negatives, along with the rest of Capa's WWII work, not only capture a few minutes on the bloody beaches of Normandy but also the entire canon of emotion of America soldiers during WWII. 

I hope one day to create photographs that will convey feelings or ideas that represent a greater truth.  A project of four or five more photographs from the Welsh coast will be on the website soon.

Be blessed,

Cody O'Loughlin

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

off the cuff

You may be surprised to find out that I (usually) put a lot of thought into what I write on this blog. Is it too long, or short? Does it sound too much like C.S. Lewis? Do I sound stupid or whiny? Among others, these are the things I consider. But tonight, for the post I was supposed to do on Monday, I'm just going to "riff" for a bit. I hope you'll indulge me and read on.

For the past three days I was working at PT's Coffee in Topeka, Kansas. Ask anyone in the coffee business and they'll probably agree that PT's is one of the finest coffee roasters around. They're mentioned in the same breath as Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Stumptown, Terroir, and the like. One of the reasons why they are so good at what they do is a dedication to excellence throughout the supply chain. "From seed to cup," as people in the coffee industry are fond of saying. PT's has relationships with farms around the globe and spends good money ensuring that these farms meet their high standards. And I got to spend three days working with these people, learning from them. I was offered a job with PT's about a month ago, and at that time I didn't have anything else so I accepted.

Right now, I don't have anything else. And I intend to un-accept the position here very soon. The biggest reason you may already have figured out. If not, read the first sentance of the second paragraph of this post. That's right, one of the finest coffee roasters in the country is in Topeka, Kansas. And if I took a job with them that is where I would be located as well. After three days I'm positive that I don't want to be there. But why? Why don't I want to be there? I think it has more to do with me than Topeka, to be honest.

There's a desire within me to be on the move. A couple of posts ago I claimed that I was a ramblin' man. And I'm afraid that if I take a job in Topeka with a company that I respect so much I'll quit ramblin'. I'll sit down, I'll work too much (it's in my nature), and I will look back on my life disappointed that I sold my soul for a bean. I don't want to regret not being able to do anything, and what I want right now more than anything is to be back at camp next summer. I can't take a position that I see as a career move, just to leave it six months later. I respect those people far too much for that. And though it may be crazy to set this opportunity aside, it's not in me to take advantage of someone for the betterment of myself. At least I try not to do that.

So the big question: what am I gonna do with my life? I sure don't know. But I wrote this a little earlier this evening:

"I want to be ok with sitting still for more than five minutes. I want to work because I love the work, not with the hope that it will burn off eight hours so I don't have to think during that time. Not to pass the time when I'm not on vacation in order to get to the time when I am."

Whenever I talk to folks about what I'm doing right now I usually say something like: "just trying to figure out what I wanna be when I grow up." Or "I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life." And the typical response depresses me:

"join the club"

"me too"

"good luck with that, I've been trying to do it for years!"

What? You mean to tell me that there's a chance that in forty years I still wont know what I'm doing? That I won't enjoy work, will have too much time on my hand, and clueless about life? I sure hope not!

I suppose the answer to the question above is: I'm going to try to figure out what life is about. I'm going to do what I love, and pray that I'll be able to make enough money to live. I'm going to travel, visit new places, and keep doing what I enjoy doing. And if God decides at some point to show up and point the way, I'll head in that direction. But for now I'm going to continue to seek Him and hope that I don't screw up His plan for me too much.

As if I could if I tried.


P.S. A couple of friends have blogs, y'all should check them out:

Ian Meyers - The Trouble with Metaphors

Ryn Manby - Oh, the places you will go

Monday, October 10, 2011

singleness, calling, loneliness

For most of the past two years I’ve been single, in the sense that I’ve not seriously dated anyone for any serious length of time. For the entirety of my life I’ve been single in the sense that I’ve never been married. The past two weeks of my life have been very quiet and full of inactivity. I do a pretty good job of defining myself by not only what I do but also who I surround myself with. And for these past weeks I’ve been surrounded by married people and Neal, who is married to his job (I don't think there is anything wrong with that, by the way). In past blog posts I’ve said that I think that marriage is great and that whoever is called into it is blessed beyond what I can probably understand at this point in my life. But for me, right now, I’m not called to marriage. I’m called to singleness, and some might say loneliness. Before you feel too sorry for me let me say this: stop. Part of the reason why I write this blog is so that someone might be able to identify with what I’m going through and not feel alone. Not so that those who don’t can pity me. I don’t mean to sound harsh, just to the point. And now that I have that through on to the thesis of this post.
If I am a Christian, and if I am to subscribe to God and Christ’s teachings about everything, what do they have to say about singleness? What does the Bible have to say about such things? I first started my research at what I think is an appropriate place: the beginning. Genesis 2:18-25 says:

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,

   ‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

(Side note, I’ll be including the surrounding scripture to what I use. It’s a big pet peve of mine when pastors and teachers take only what they need and don’t let the Word speak for itself, so I’ll be avoiding that if I can)

So right away I find that “It is not good for the man to be alone.” I can agree with that, I haven’t much liked being alone the past two weeks. Unfortunatly I can’t do what God did and make a woman for me, so I’m “doomed” to wander about until I run into her. Or am I?

1 Corinthians 7 (Verses 1-9, 17, 24, and 32-35 highlighted)

 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

 But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.

 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

 But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.

 A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.”

Ok, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” I think we can all be on board with that, unless you’re married right? Well Paul doesn’t seem to be saying that…he seems to be espousing the kind of life he leads, an un-married one. But he goes on to say that he only wishes that every man was like him, and that everyone has their own gifts. It seems that he is saying that singleness, or at least the ability to lead a life without a spouse, is a spiritual gift. Never heard about that one growing up.

The main reason why Paul wants the Corinthians to remain unmarried is so that they will be “free from concern.” It’s his logic that if someone is not married, they can put all their focus on the Lord and His work, if they are married the wife and kiddos come into the mix. Makes sense, it would be a whole lot easier for me to pack my bags and move to Beofra than my Dad or Brother. Nothing new there, it seems. Just simple logic.

So that is Paul. For a moment let’s take a little break from him and move on to someone else: Jesus.

Matthew 19:1-12

 “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.

  Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH?” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’

  The disciples said to Him, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.’ But He said to them, ‘Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.’

Yeish. A marriage should stay intact no matter what, except in the case of sexual immorality. In my mind the disciples are thinking about all the marriages they see that aren’t immoral, but are a burden on those within them. I’ve seen those and it’s no fun to be on the outside of, much less trapped within. So they say “it’s better not to marry.” And does Jesus then go into salesman mode and protect the institution He helped create? Nope, He agrees and says that some have been given that statement, and some haven’t. I read that some have been called into marriage, and some have not. It’s not everyone’s bag.

I’ll let you look up 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and 1 Timothy 4:1-4. There are some more rules there for marriage, holding church offices, and such. It fills out the picture of who can do what a little more, so I’d encourage you to read through.

So what’s my reaction to all this? It seems that some are called to marriage and some aren’t. This isn’t something that I thought about before, but I suppose that it makes sense. There are some people who are made for it and some who would do terribly at it. But where does that leave me? I feel as if I am called to it…but don’t have it. Perhaps I’m overreacting to how life is right now. And maybe I’ve zoomed it a bit too much on my own situation and don’t have enough perspective. That’s fair and probably right. But as life is right now…I’m lonely. But that is ok. Weather or not I’m called to marriage is a moot point. I’m called to be right where I am right now and all I can do about it is try to connect to those around me while I can.

God has blessed me and my lonliness. God has blessed me with lonliness. Without it I wouldn’t have the freedom to hike to Maple Woods Nature Preserve and camp out the night before I get orentation at PT’s. I couldn’t even consider moving to Boston. But because of my lonliness, I can do all of that. And when you think about it, that’s a pretty good deal.


P.S. This one is for the local church: my job in life isn’t to get married and make Christian babies. My place is not with 20-50 single-somethings. And when I look at the groups that you’ve provided and find that there isn’t one single opportunity to connect with people in my age/career bracket that makes me think that you don’t care and that the important people are the marrieds, the young kids, the men, and the women. When you offer marriage courses but not singleness courses that tells me that you are willingly ignoring one of the two callings set out by God in scripture, and that’s wrong.

Monday, October 3, 2011

ramblin’ man

There’s a song by Lemon Jelly called “Ramblin’ Man.” Lemon Jelly is a group that Joel Marshall, my youth pastor in High School, introduced me to. For those of you who know Joel you probably already know what type of group this is. If you’re reading this and you were in a van that I was driving this summer while at Brookwoods you’ve experienced this group as well (all the ducks are swimming). For those of you who don’t know, Lemon Jelly is a chill trance group. This isn’t tecno music that you would find bumpin’ in a club, it’s something that would be better suited as the backdrop to a coffee shop that I would like to work in. I know that Sam likes them, and I know that at least Paul and Haddie enjoyed them as well this summer. Other than those three, though, there aren’t many folks in my life who got as much of a kick out of them as I do.

I bring Lemon Jelly up because of the song I mentioned at the start of this post: “Ramblin’ Man.” The song starts with one man asking a question:

“John you’ve been on the go ever since you were born, but I imagine few people in the world today have traveled as much as you have. Now why?”

With the reply:

“Well, I don’t know. I suppose some of us are cave-dwellers, some of us live in houses, some of us like to be loose-footed. I’m a rambin’ man.” (Here you can tell he says this with a smile)

This is where the song “kicks” in, if it can be called that. It slowly builds up around the strings, the bass following the same pattern, adding flute and chimes, when all this drops out and John repeats:

“I’m a ramblin’ man.”

The song then switches gears and John starts listing places. These are places, I like to think, that he has rambled through. They come faster and faster until one is layered on top of another and you can’t quite tell what is being said, only to climax with:

“I’m a ramblin’ man.”

Another instrumental section follows, the song finally ending on:

“I’m a ramblin’ man, and I’m gonna’ keep on ramblin’. Oh yes, I have to.”

What does it mean to ramble? And, more importantly, should on seek to be a ramblin’ man? According to

-verb (used without object)
1. To wander around in a leisurely, aimless manner.
2. To take a course with many turns or winding, as a stream or path.
3. To grow in a random, unsystematic fashion.
4. To talk or write in a discursive, aimless way (usually followed by on)

-verb (used with object)
5. To walk aimlessly or idly over or through.
6. A walk without a definite route, taken merely for pleasure.

According to the dictionary definition all you need to be a ramblin’ man is to lack direction or purpose. Our culture typically looks down on those of us who lack direction or purpose. In fact we often use the term “rambling on” in a derisive way: “the pastor rambled on about (enter soapbox issue here) for fourty-five minutes!” You could take the dictionary and practical definitions and say that one should not seek to be a ramblin’ man. One should seek purpose, direction, passion, and security.

The issue I have with that train of thought is that not only did I miss it at the station, I wasn’t even trying to hop on: I was down the street having coffee while it whizzed by. My life, while I couldn’t define as purposeless and directionless, is more so that than it has ever been. For the first twenty-four years I’ve been on this earth I’ve had a plan. Graduate high school, graduate college, get a job, try to get into grad school, etc. But all of that left me asking one gigantic question:


Why did I do all of those things? And the short answer is I did all those things because I was supposed to. And so know I am “rebelling” against the things I’m supposed to do and taking every opportunity I can to hop in a car with whoever will take, or go with, me. I’m driving from Alton, New Hampshire to Kansas City, Missouri with Hank and Chris. I’m riding around New Hampshire with Sarah. I’m driving from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina with Zack to go surfing and catch up with Carly. I’m telling my mom, somewhat irresponsibly I’ll admit, that I need to drive to Nashville the morning I need to do it. Most of these travels seem somewhat aimless and may classify me as a ramblin’ man. But all of the destinations had one thing in common: people I love were where I was going. And while I may, at times, mourn the fact that I’m “a jobless, woefully single, twenty-four year old dude living at his parents house” I’m not wondering aimlessly around the country or my life. The reason why I am ramblin’ about the country is because:

“Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

While I may be “woefully-single,” I can still love. And I may be jobless, but I can still share what God is teaching me. I can still connect to people. And I feel the most joy when I am connecting with people, loving and being loved by them. So that’s probably why I’ll get a job. So that I can keep connecting with and loving people.

Am I a ramblin’ man? I don’t know about that. Probably just a ramblin’ boy. I am only twenty-four, after all.