Life, Love, and Why 2005

I’m in something of a bad state right now, and I’m not sure exactly how I got here or what to do about it. I’m not even going to attempt my typical philosophical analysis, partly because of apathy and partly because I’m pretty sure it won’t help. Instead, I’m going to use over-dramatic words to deliver a sense of what I am feeling. You may want to stop reading now.

Basically, I haven’t been able to think of a negative adjective recently that hasn’t in some way or another been able to apply (truthfully and in full reflective honesty) to myself. My “bad state” is not any low self-esteem resulting from that observation, however. On the contrary, it is precisely the opposite–I really can’t bring myself to want to be any different right now. Different than what? Well, my thoughts and actions are being ruled by desire, anger, passion, arrogance, loneliness, distrust, self-pity, impatience, selfishness, lust, frustration, jealousy, deceit, and fear, and I am enjoying it all too much to want to escape my dark little corner. I feel myself pulling away from my friends and not wanting to talk to them. I feel very poignantly the gulf that separates each of us, but I do not want to call on Christ to bridge that. I am tired of how different I feel from everyone, tired of the loneliness of which I am such a connoisseur, since it so quickly drives me to dwell on my self-inflicted self-image (self-illusion, self-delusion): dark, wrapped in a black cloak, hiding great thoughts and great power that no one else understands or cares to understand, seeing things others don’t, too proud to give up my precious individuality and collapse into the sea of mundane personality, of people who can’t see beyond their closed eyelids, can’t see or hear or smell or taste or feel the beauty that is in the world, the terrible darkness and sorrow that define the noble soul… This is what I imagine myself becoming, and I love it. I plunge in wholeheartedly and wallow in it, and it is a self-reinforcing cycle, since because no one else follows me to that place, it further illuminates the loneliness which defines the illusion. It is a dark and joyless fantasy which I adopt to become mysterious, to become a mystery which I desperately hope someone will want to solve (yeah, right). I cry out like a child for someone to do that, to come and find me in the storm of my own devising, but no one notices the whirlwind of aloofness ironically designed to attract; to everyone else, I am just like they are (but with flashes of melodrama, which is what this entry will be chalked up to). And so bitterness grows and becomes a palpable wedge and I want to run. I want to run now, away from the mess of misunderstanding and hurt feelings and people that have gone from being my salvation to being my despair. I want to be alone with myself, but then again that’s the last thing I want… I don’t know what I want, and this confusion goes right to the core of things and sometimes I am so befuddled with it I want to hurt people just so they will send me away. I want to hurt the people I am supposed to, whom I want to love, so that they push me away so I don’t have to love them, because I can’t give that. The black-cloaked, high-minded wanderer does not reveal himself in love! No–he is pursued and uncovered and persuaded to love by someone who has discovered how to do this pursuing and persuading, and then he is able to love. But right now, love cannot escape the cloak–his unnoticed “mystery” (plea for attention) suffocates it before it can be free and bring life…

It has been a long time since I have found so much ugliness in myself, and my response is isolation. When I am with people, I am only reminded of lack: they cannot give what I need, and I cannot be what they want… But when I am with myself, I am only reminded of my own insufficiency. (Oh yeah, God doesn’t seem interested in meeting those needs either). For the first time in perhaps ever, I feel hope truly dying. Hope that this community experiment would start me on a path that would remain new and exciting and would change my life forever. Hope that some girl that I want to love me would actually want that too. Hope that there are hidden and beautiful things just waiting to be named. Hope that I would stop writing blog entries in anger against God and just fucking submit. All kinds of hope, draining through the floor as I type. Underneath my cynical exterior, I have always been deeply hopeful. Now, I sit here and stare ahead, and in my deepest of hearts, it really does look dark. I moved to California for the hope of living out faith in a community that I could be myself in without neverending conflict, and for the hope of finding someone to love. A year later, I don’t just feel no closer, I feel tricked.

I don’t know whether it is God, the world, or myself, that has done the deceiving, and I don’t really care. None of the options make any sense to me. A month ago I was hopeful, and my life was as integrated as it had ever been. Now, I’ve never felt any more disintegrated, and despair is in my lungs like water, drowning me. All the things I thought were real and true have been laid bare, deconstructed, and at the bottom of many of them I see my own plans, my own machinations, my own desires, my own subconscious urgings…and maybe nothing more. I see the same motives of mine that have caused me so much pain in the past being replayed in new contexts, being brought out all of a sudden like a twist in the plot, and I’m devastated.

Enough words. Here is how I feel: I want it to rain for a long time. I want to call it forth and let it run like rivers all over, and I don’t want it to stop.

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

6 replies on “Life, Love, and Why 2005”

Hello Jonathan,
Remember me? I just saw you in Orlando last week- I’m the tall, dark, and balding GCM staff guy from the University of Illinois.

Wow man. Your vulnerability is amazing. I’m not talking about well thought-through processed and intentionally shared pieces of your feelings; I mean raw, unprocessed stuff: Like straight off the bone chicken strips versus those processed, intentionally shaped chicken “nuggets”- know what I mean? It is so rare to find people who are that willing, able, and have the time to go to those deep dark dusty corners of their hearts, sit, and look around for a bit. I really admire your honesty with yourself.

I also really understand where you’re coming from. You’re definitely not alone in the feelings you just described. I know we don’t really know each other, we’re thousands of miles apart, and this is actually my first EVER “blog” entry; but, I just want you to know that I am mourning with you bro. I wish that I could extend more to you than that. I know exactly how you feel. I have experienced many dark times myself. I wish I had some answers and some ways to fix the loneliness and darkness that we so often feel, I’m seeing though that I can’t. I am also seeing, though, that even when I am filled with rage and loathing, despair and loneliness God has not deserted me. In a way, it has been in those deepest places of wounding and darkness that I have had some of my most intimate times with the Lord-although it never felt like it at the time! My wife and I recently had a little boy, Alex. He was born in an emergency C-section, and wasn’t breathing. It was here where I felt the most powerless, alone, insufficient. My wife wasn’t conscious of what was going on, my son was fighting death, and the room was silent. Where was God? Even in the middle of that, I fought with God. Even then, I ran face-to-face into my desire for autonomy; my inability to allow my own power to come to it’s end…”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect when your power ends…”- Pavi shared with me this topic of power and our insufficiency. I’ve been thinking about it for months.

Psalms 13 and 42 have come to embed themselves in my heart recently. “Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me…”— David really has captured my own desire with this line, and maybe yours as well: “I want it to rain for a long time. I want to call it forth and let it run like rivers all over, and I don’t want it to stop.”

Lord, may your rain flow over us; drowning us in your grace, and bringing new life to these weary hearts. May the roar of your waters cover over the condemnation and accusation we hear from the world and even from ourselves. May your rivers sweep over us and carry us ever closer to you- where you meet us even in our anger and loneliness and the darkness we find ourselves in.

“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true and every man a liar!” Romans 3:3

Your companion through the muck,
Dan Herron


Of course I remember you. Thanks for your words and your empathy. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to go through that experience with your baby son…

I’m glad you know what I mean about the autonomy thing. So we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the scriptural reminders as well; I like the psalm you quoted and while my desire for rain was probably more selfish and punitive and out of a desire for the world to mirror my internal state, the imagery in those lines is powerful, whatever state the psalmist was in.

so glad i read this entry this morning. you put words to movements and shadows in your soul that resonate with some elusive demons i see in my own life from time to time; i can perceive them but can’t seem to name them. thanks.

I’m fighting back tears right now…and I’d like to say it’s because I hurt for you…but truth is, you have held a mirror up to me and I see myself in your words. I can’t say I know exactly what you mean, or that I am feeling exactly what you’re feeling because I just don’t know. But in the words you wrote I see myself and you have forced me to examine a lot of crap in my heart that I have been working hard to ignore lately. While riding a stationary bike in my living room this evening (don’t laugh too hard at the mental image) I read something else that did the same thing for me as your entry. It is a chapter entitled Darkness out of John Goldingay’s autobiographical Walk On. Goldingay is a theologian (author of Models for Scripture) but more importantly, he has had the horrible darkness of MS imposed upon his wife and he has taken care of her/watched her change and deteriorate in their long years together. In this chapter, he spends a decent amount of time talking about the one thing the psalmist talks about in Psalm 27 (“one thing I ask…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord…”). Then he quotes liberally from John of the Cross:

“Yahweh’s house, Yahweh’s beauty, Yahweh’s temple sound like a fair focus. It is just the thing that John of the Cross wants us to focus on. When he pictures us deliberately imposing darkness on ourselves, he talks about us needing to be inclined:

‘not to the easiest but to the most difficult, not to the most delightful but to the harshest, not to the most gratifying but to the less pleasant, not to what means rest but to hard work, not to the consoling, but to the unconsoling…
To come to the pleasure you have not, ou must go by a way you enjoy not; to come to the knowledge you have not, you must go by a way in which you know not; to come to the possession you have not, you must go by a way in which you possess not; to come to be what you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not.’

The statement is terribly negative, but it is meant to give us a focus, to strip us down, but to strip us down to what matters. It invites us to ‘one thing.’
We are free not to volunteer for the self-imposed darkness but if the other darkness comes to us [a God-imposed darkness he mentions previously in the chapter] it imposs itself. It is a common feature of training for ministry. People give up the focus they had before and are on the way to another focus, but while they are training, they are in between. They may take to training like a duck to water, but they may hate it, and they may then lash out at the church and the seminary and the universities and – if they dare – God. When they do the last – lash out at God – then they are getting somewhere. They and God are doing serious business because they are in the dark and God put them there, and the question is what is God going to do about it. The answer is usually, ‘Nothing for a while,’ because quick salvation would short-circuit the process and rid them of the chance to discover who they are in this uncomfortable place with yesterday’s focus taken away.”

I don’t presume that this connects with you…I only share it because it connects with me in much the same way as your entry did.

For the most part I’ve known you by the heavily-armored exterior that you usually wear in public. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see more. Thank you for giving me some courage to let more of myself be known as well.


It is very interesting reading this blog after just finishing reading your January 2005 blog where your outlook and hopes for community, etc in SF were so high. I so identified with your hopes in the initial blog concerning life after college, and not wanting to do the typical thing of allowing work to dictate where you live and instead base it on people you want to live together with. I have had and still have some of those same desires/struggles. I admire the fact that you have gone out there and done it and are continuing to attempt it.

I keep thinking that there is some life out there where things do go as planned and where I am living among a community and living out some sort of purpose for which I am atleast somewhat created/gifted for. It always seems just out of reach or being lived by someone else. Frustrating. I have this idea of what I want, but it never comes to fruition to the extent i would like or for the length of time i desire. Does anyone have this? Does it last more than 6 months? Sorry, maybe i am being even more depressing. But I think I identify with what you are saying and feeling. If nothing else, we are not alone.

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