They say that fiery flames
beget cold ash, the certainty of beliefs
passed down petering out into the lukewarm
ambivalence of doubt and questioning.
These roots are the things that hold us still
each tendril like a link tethering us
to the ones who went before.
I write to find out what I am thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.
All of which suggests a certain absence of certitude which only fades when the subject of doubt is engaged through the meandering paths and rabbit holes it leads us through and down.
This is what (I hope) this space will be for me, a place where the discordant notes of thoughts often coursing through my mind on faith, life, books and a fair few other things can be engaged, each assay like the blow of a chisel which though insignificant by itself, builds on the past and slowly carves out a thing of exquisite beauty.
The bare, Spartan space just outside my window – which I can just see if I crane my neck a little just beyond its normal range – is just that, barely noticeable. At least it was until a few days ago when swivelling in my chair, the profusion of reds and yellows it has become caught my eye. So certain was I that the flowers were new that at an opportune moment, when I could pretend it was a casual question, I asked one of the guys to confirm. It turns out that I was right, the flowers had not always been there. The coming of a certain big man in a couple of days had prompted the ground staff into sprucing up our surroundings. I am thankful for the splash of colours which will remain with us for a bit at least, but what I came away with was the sense that big men everywhere carried weight. It is a truism, as an old teacher liked to say.
The end of January marked another milestone, six months out here at the edge of the world. Sidebar: there is actually some place called the edge of the world out here I hear, with sunrises which are something to behold. Unfortunately there is an internal lock down again but I have made a mental note to plan for extended weekend outside the province I am in. O’s up for it which should marginally increase the likelihood of it happening. So six months out here then which brings with it a slight sense of having weathered a storm of sorts. Finally getting an Abu name helps with that sense of settling in I suppose.
With shut borders and all, it doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere anytime soon which means one must make my seat at the edge of the world home, or as close to it as it can be. Several times over the past few months I’ve gone back to Nicky Gumbel’s talk from October where he talked about flourishing where you’re planted. It is what it is.
Alan Jacobs weighs in on love and death, and takes on the idea that the death of an 85 year old is less troubling than that of a 25 year old. To use that Trumpism, there are good people (ideas) on both sides
A head scratcher that touches bitcoin tangentially. I’m filing this in the but why? tickler file.
Today’s CoE #LiveLent Devotional invites us to reflect on baptism, and how it is a symbol of our death and resurrection with Christ. Here goes:
to this water,
let me go
beneath its flood
and die, and then
raised to freedom
and new desires.
Let me sense
across the hills
and the valleys
telling me, welcome
lost son, my prodigal
Work for me has focused on materials, particularly ferrous ones, and how they perform in a variety of oil and gas environments, on two continents; Africa of my birth and Europe where I have spent the last few years. My journey began in December of 2003 with being hired straight out of University in 2003 as a trainee engineer through progressing via a number of roles in various aspects of the corrosion and materials discipline and eventually leaving in October of 2008, thanks to a mixture of burn out and the opportunity to return to the university for graduate studies. Since graduating in July of 2009, I’ve gotten back into the Corrosion & Materials field first with a service provider and latterly with an oil & gas production company where I am Corrosion & Materials Technical Authority.
Looking back, the early years were some of the best, being hired at one of the biggest oil and gas companies as part of a cohort of four others helped engender a sense of being special with resources available to develop us. 2008, was one of the most pressure filled years, culminating in my leaving to grad school, a few months out and then a return to industry in 2010.
The future is one that is a bit of a toss up at the moment. I feel like to truly reach the heights I wish to reach – in which I am a broad based technical specialist able to contribute across design, operations and decommissioning – I need time in a design house or consultancy. That is likely to take a pay cut for some time to get into that slightly different field. There is also the question of my increasing interest in data science, analytics and machine learning and the real opportunities I see to migrate those critical skill sets into the oil and as domain. Perhaps the sweet spot would be to combine Corrosion Science and Analytics into a service (CorrSci Analytics?) I can sell as a consultant in future?
Maybe it is the shock of the delayed cognition of turning 39 – perilously close to the age of eternal foolishness – or the weariness of dealing on and off with death and grieving that births this feeling hovering over me that I can’t quite place. It is not entirely inscrutable: the little I understand of it suggests part of it is a heightened sense of my own fragility, the deaths – ranging from old classmates of mine to friends of my father’s – underscoring the fleeting nature of life and with it the sense of time speeding by. The other part that rears its head from the haze is the feeling of drifting, one day blurring into the next which is barely distinguishable from the one that follows it with the only discernible purpose being fighting whatever fire glows brightest both at work and in my personal life.
One of the most visible symptoms of this lingering disquiet has been a withdrawal from all but the most inescapable of contacts – work, family and the friends I have had the longest. I’ll be the first to admit I have never been the most outgoing of persons, but even by my standards the past year has been a new low for engagement across the board, from the spiritual to the mundane and then some more. Part of this reluctance to engage has to do, I suspect, with this feeling of drifting; the ones I might otherwise come across being reminders of the past and where I once was. There is also the small matter of the sense of feeling like I am at a crossroads of sorts, looking towards the next decade of my life and wondering if corrosion will continue to be a part of it, if tweaks are required to how I currently practice it, or if a wholesale change to something different is required to enable me reach the heights I feel like I need to. All of this makes taking time out to reflect for the next month a good place to start this rebooting from.
All told, one of the clearest lessons I have learned from the year of being 38 is that drifting is dangerous, particularly when it is a slow gradual descent in which the evolving present seems just familiar enough that no alarm bells ring, until at the end one finds oneself – to quote the lost son – in a far country. Once firmly ensconced there, returning can feel impossible, the distance between there and home feeling like a chasm so great that it cannot be bridged. More than I would like, I fear many times over the past year, I have tottered on the edge of that chasm sometimes beginning to slip and at others just managing to avoid taking the last step that would take me over the edge. It is a dark, dangerous and isolated place, one I am keen to step back from and begin the long trek home. Here’s to rebooting, and beginning again, yet again.
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 4:18–20).
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
My first encounter with this quote from Jim Elliot’s diary is lost to the blurred edges of memory but if I were to hazard a guess it would have had to be at one of the myriad youth camps and Sunday schools I was dragged along to in my teens. Jim Elliot’s story is a fascinating if morbid one, of martyrdom, forgiveness and building an enduring legacy, things which matter in the long run.
The view that meets my eye on day 1 of 10 in Paphos, Cyprus. Truly looking forward to chilling and bonding with S, and catching my breath after what has been two weeks lived on the very edge of sanity (A Nigerian Wedding will do that to you).