Chapter 8: Spontaneity

When I graduated from high school, I went on a two week long trip through Europe with my parents; the entire trip was wonderful (we went through Austria, Hungary, Germany, and France), but my absolute favorite memory from the trip was the last night of the journey. We were staying in Paris for several days, and had already done a lot of the tourist-y things: we’d been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, gone to the Louvre, crashed in a pew in Notre Dame after walking all over the city, walked down Champs-Élysées and ogled L’Arc de Triomphe from a distance, driven through the red light district at night on our way back to the hotel from visiting Sacré Couer — you know, all the tourist-y stuff.

However, on our last night, we had seen several signs for a chamber orchestra concert in an old cathedral that was outside the normal tourist district. It looked like the kind of thing that local people would go to, and was definitely not geared towards tourists. So, my parents and I decided about thirty minutes before the concert that this was an appropriate activity for non-French-speaking American tourists to go to! We hopped in a taxicab and managed to communicate to the driver where we wanted to go. Somehow, we acquired tickets, and arrived inside the cathedral just in time for the concert to start.

It was absolutely exquisite. There was a guy who got up at the beginning and said a bunch of stuff in French that we didn’t understand at all, and then they started playing music. There is something magical about sitting in a cathedral in a foreign country, listening to a string orchestra playing beautiful music. I don’t even know how to describe it in words — you have to experience it yourself. It was a small taste of heaven.

But that’s not the reason why this is my favorite memory from the trip; the reason I treasure this memory so much is because it was one of the very few times on the trip where we didn’t have tour guides telling us where to go, what to look at, and what to do. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t have anything against tour guides. But my natural inclination is to explore, to find things on my own, to not plan things too much, and to just… be spontaneous. I love the feeling of finding things that no one else in the world has ever found, or seeing things that no one else has ever seen. So whenever I go to a new place, I always try to take some time to just explore, and not go to the same places that everyone else is going.

This inclination towards spontaneity bleeds into other areas of my life as well, much to the frustration of my more organized friends. When I cook, I often just throw stuff in a pot until it looks right. I couldn’t tell you how to recreate the thing I made, and about half the time I can’t even do it again. I also get really tired of leftovers — I can’t eat the same thing more than three times in a row. And I don’t like redoing recipes frequently; oftentimes it’ll be six months or a year before I repeat a recipe. When I take pictures (one of my favorite pastimes), I just shoot things. I’ve spent a lot of time studying what makes a good picture, and I’ve spent a lot of time studying how my camera works — but once I get behind the lens, I just shoot. I can’t tell you how, or why. It just happens.

My adviser in grad school likes to describe me as a very “intuitive” person. I think what he means by this is that I just do stuff. I get an idea and I don’t waste time worrying about whether it’s a good idea, or whether it will work. I just do it. And I’ve certainly wasted a lot of time doing some pretty spectacularly stupid things, but I can’t help it. I’m too impatient, and life’s too short to waste time thinking about it. I want to experience it to the absolute fullest extent possible. I want to see new things, try new things, do new things.

I guess if you were going to ask me about my philosophy towards life, that would be it. To do. And the things that scare me the most — the things that I stress about and lose sleep over at night — are the things in life that would prevent me from doing. When I worry about death, or illness, or financial hardship, it’s not because I’m afraid of the loss that is inherent in these things. I think I can honestly say that I’m not afraid of death. What I’m afraid of is not being able to live anymore.

Jesus talks a lot about life in the Bible, especially in the book of John. And one of the things he says over and over again is that he came to earth to bring life, and bring so much of it that it overflows into everything. There’s a story of Jesus standing in the middle of a big crowd of people in the middle of nowhere, and it’s been days since anyone has eaten anything. But the crowd
won’t leave, so Jesus asks for some food. One of his friends brings him some leftover scraps, and Jesus turns those scraps into enough food for the entire crowd several times over! And I believe that is the perfect illustration of what Jesus wants for me. He wants me to experience so much life that I can’t even fit it all in, because when I’m experiencing life that fully, it will seep out of every single pore of my body, and soak into those around me.

It’s one of the greatest mysteries (translation: contradictions) in the entire Bible, then, that in order for Jesus to bring me that kind of life that is so infectious and overflowing, he had to be killed in the most brutal manner possible. But here’s the thing that really gets me: the life that Jesus said he was bringing was so over the top and infectious that the Bible says that he didn’t stay dead! Now, I don’t really know how that works (did he physically become un-dead, or was he just a ghost or a spirit, or is this whole thing just a metaphor? Who knows!), but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that what was once dead can now experience life again, and that means I have hope.

It means that I can have the freedom to experience and to {\em do} life without having to worry about the consequences. It means that when I’m in a foreign country and I don’t speak the language, I can experience beauty in hidden places. It means that I can throw caution to the wind and go jump out of a plane someday, or fly into outer space and walk around, or visit a country torn by war and famine to show them love. And it means that in doing so, I can’t help but bring life to the people around me. Because that’s how real life works.

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