I call this “day 2” because I got in yesterday and promptly had “day 1” following my no sleep extravaganza. Here’s how it all went down.
I went out to breakfast on Monday morning with good friends in Durham. We proceeded to laugh and eat great food. Then my friend Johnny took me to the airport where I traveled from Durham to NYC and waited for about 5 hours. While there I bought myself expensive food and chatted with an Egyptian woman. The first woman from Egypt that I have ever met. She actually confused me for an Egyptian person. Apparently I have the look of a man from Egypt. My non-descript Hispanic complexion comes in handy yet again.
But really, I didn’t mind. For some reason I find it comforting that I can look like I fit into a lot of places. At some level it means that people can assume I’m familiar before I become unfamiliar in the details and that isn’t a bad problem to have. It just means that I get to upset expectations, something that I am generally happy to do.
Following our conversation, I boarded my flight to London (with free extra leg room). On this flight I had pleasant food, watched Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Her and did not successfully fall asleep. The films were worth staying awake for and going to bed at 9pm did not strike me as fun or possible. I found that Her raised some interesting theological questions about being in love with robots and vice versa–which I may elaborate on later–but mostly caused me to become enamored of Scarlett Johannson’s voice.
That said, after a long flight I arrived in the UK. The customs guard did not appreciate my attempting to enter his country for so long (12 weeks) and proceeded to ask for financial information, proof that I was leaving Europe at some point, etc…I provided all of the above and was allowed into the country. However, I did wonder if that some man from customs was going to bound out of a door with hand on pistol at some point shouting, “Stop that man!” Thankfully, this did not happen and I arrived in Aberdeen safely.
In your head, which I assume to operate like mine, Aberdeen must have a huge airport. It does not. The airport is roughly the size of small airports I have been to. Bellingham, WA and Aberdeen, UK have very similar airports. At the airport I was greeted by my friend Tony and my new-found friend Amy. Tony drove me to Banchory from the airport.
A brief tangent on Scotland’s landscape: It’s enchanting.
Imagine roads that wind through green wooded hillsides divided by stone walls and populated by lovely rockish homes and sheep. The sky overhead is full of enormous clouds attempting to decide if they will be grey or white; all of which are struggling to be the topmost cloud in the heap. Against this backdrop the woods and the hills occasionally sport trees bursting into bloom or whisper of the glory found in solitary walks in the green landscape. The sky can be trusted to not be overly visible–thanks to the hills–and not to be overly committed to a single weather pattern. Days are mixtures of sun and rain which leave the mind free to tarry on hopes that the rain will not endure forever, but will surely be common enough not to mourn its passing or arriving. This is particularly the case when rainbows are a reminder of the friendship between the sun and rain that tends to be forgotten in our haste to dislike what is given. The air is fresh and clean and breath becomes a fresh gift for those with the wherewithal to pause and smell what surrounds them.
Tangent ended. Tony brought me to Amy and her husband Joel’s house where I am pleased to say I will be staying for the next 10 weeks. I have my own pleasantly sized guestroom and share this home with great people. Amy is the youth minister at the church where I’m working and I cannot complain at all about her. She’s funny, insightful, and a pleasure to be around. Not to mention that I am spoiled by the food she gives me. I haven’t met Joel yet because of his working schedule, but I imagine he will be equally rad. Winning accommodations.
After I showered and put things away, Amy and I went to Tony’s house for lunch with Fiona (Tony’s wife). It was a great time, lots of lovely food, laughter, and good conversation. I am continually reminded of the reasons I love it here. The main reason is the people who live in this town. The Lord is gracious to those of us who are given the chance to visit Banchory. This is not at all altered by the fact that there are school children who respond to a greeting of “Hey, Hows it going?” with a “Hey, fuck you.” This last bit is real and I found it to be hilarious. That kid was 10. Bahahaha. Get over yourself, kid. You don’t even have a leather jacket yet.
Following lunch I went on a tour of the church I’ll be working in (gorgeous) and then went on a two hour hike up the hill in town which is called the Scolty. There’s a tower at the top and I proceeded to hike up in jeans (like a chump) and admire the view. I hope to post a few photos soon, but all the same…it may be a bit. In any case it was amazing…though my hike was unexpectedly long. I forgot how long it was because the last time I was there it was 4 years ago and I was on no particular schedule whatsoever.
All the same, I made to to dinner on time and then Tony and I drove to a Presbytery meeting in a town I can’t remember (or probably pronounce). I made it through half the meeting almost nodding asleep amidst what would otherwise been a interesting situation. As it was, Tony lent me the car keys at intermission and I was soon asleep in the car. He suggested it and I was grateful that he understood. 36 hours with little sleep is ROUGH. I then went to bed after he finished the meeting and slept for 14 hours. Which brings us to day 2.
Tony and I had coffee this afternoon around 3pm or so and talked nuts and bolts about what I’ll be doing here. It seems like it’s going to be a real treat. For the time getting the lay of the land so to speak and then seeing where my interest and talents lie. A very gracious beginning. I’ll likely be preaching eventually, which will be fun. Also going to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly in a couple weeks…which will be cool…to me and other polity–church governance–nerds like me.
After this I passed several hours catching up with my friend Mary. Mary is my friend Gavin’s mother and she let me stay in her home the last time I was in town. We caught up on most things and I was pleased to hear that things are going well for her and her family. I was also pleased to hear that I’ll likely be invited to her daughters wedding next month. I think I count as a friend of the family at this stage, which is a lot of fun.
After this I went home and Amy and I went shopping at Tessco’s. It’s a super market. It was fun! Huge signs up about the chicken being scottish and raised responsibly. Then we came back and had dinner and pleasant conversation until we went to a friend’s home to hang out. Another fun thing about being here is that two of my students from Youth Group in Seattle are youth interns here this summer. They showed up where we were and we all laughed and enjoyed the time. It’s fun to see younger folks who are still in the thick of the “who am I?” moments. I don’t suppose you ever leave those moments, but you become more settled as you ask the questions. All the same, being around them was a treat.
That brings us to here. The end of day 2 in Scotland. I may not number every day’s worth of blog, but for the time being this is good.
It’s nearly midnight here and I intend on getting up early to do yoga before the day begins in earnest. So I’m off to sleep…after this quick theological reflection. If you’re not inclined to read such things, you can ignore it. Otherwise, remember that I told you about the possibility of stopping.
SO, in that movie called Her Juaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an Operating system. She eventually leaves him because she isn’t bound in the same way humans are (she can fall in love with 600 people and talk to 8000 people while talking to him) and because she can’t tell him everything she’s thinking/experiencing in words. This made me wonder deeply about the nature of love. I wondered, “Could I fall in love with a robot?” and “Is there a problem with a human loving a robot and vice versa?” I realized several things in the process of these abstract thoughts. The first is that being a Christian I am likely to have a particular perspective on this that differs with a lot of people.
The second thing about the film that I noticed was that love was treated interestingly. At one level I would need to see the film again and not be exhausted to tease out some of the nuance. However, for the Operating System love contained no limits. She could love 600 people and claimed to actually love them all. On the other hand, her human boyfriend could not. This made me think about God, right? Surely it’s similar. God loves everyone equally, right? Well, sort of.
I think a distinction that happens is that God’s love is what we see in Christ. This is to say that it is love embodied. God doesn’t love humans in an abstract way. God loves humans and God becomes one of us in God’s love. In this respect there is a limit to the ability of a operating system to love a human. It can’t be embodied. Moreover, it can’t choose to be limited.
What it means for humans to love each other is choosing a concrete and embodied expression of humanity. It’s nonsense to speak of “loving” humanity if you can’t find a single human that you’ve chosen to endure the trials and joys of real life with in friendship. You have limited time and resources. As such it is impossible to love everyone the same. Love is not simply a feeling. Love is what we see in Christ (God is love, if you will). What we see in Christ is God’s commitment to humanity. A commitment to live, suffer, die, and rise with us. This is reflective of what happens inside Godself as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally committed to each other.
You might say that God’s love in Christ is what we’re called to participate in with each other. A tangible and embodied love for other people that understands the idea that only a love limited by concrete people will actually be love. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love the world tangibly in and through Jesus, even to the point of death. Which brings me to face the reality that the love of the operating system for Juaquin Phoenix’s character wasn’t love because it “transcended” humanity and bodily limitations of space and time therein. The love of God does that, but only by taking them so seriously that humanity becomes more than human in the resurrected Christ.
Love never transcends the body without being embodied.