Driving Through the Irish Mountains

I do not care to travel much.
It’s not so much that I don’t like
To see the sights and feel the shock
Of fresh experience. I do
Enjoy that rare experience,
But in my mind these things take time,
And time is rare on trips like this.

We rush so fast from place to place
That all we really see is our
Reflections on each other. We
Can survey our environment;
The study is what we perceive
The clearest in our chartered screens.
And in this rush, the mountain view,
Its waterfalls and craggy peaks,
Is vanished in a vasty green
That blurs the glints of treasure far beneath.

My inclination then is just to run
As quickly as I can — to hide
In some secluded, quiet place,
Far from the madding crowd, and hold me still —
To mine for what is hidden, what is real.

I often fail to find it, whizzing down
The mountain roads, but always there’s
A hint of something beautiful:
The way the pubs all close at ten,
Or how the Irishman says, “now,”
To mean a process is complete;
The sight of all the hills denuded of
Their trees and filled instead with sheep.
The sight of barebacked mountains has
A holy feel to someone raised
On tufts of grass and clouds of dust
That stretch beyond the skyline.
Plains! they call them.
Furling out another world away,
And furling always in my heart and mind.

And so it always shocks me, when
I see variety. It feels
Just like my first time driving through
A city filled with trees. The things
Amazed me, how in just a little time
Abandoned plots could be transformed
Into a checkered wood, and grow
So thick and lush with pines and firs
And vines of every species. Trees
Were everywhere, and everywhere I looked,
It seemed so deep and rich, enfolding you
The way a mother holds her child.
But once a little time had passed,
The trees grew old on me. Eventually
I longed to see the sky again.
I have no way to tell the sense I have
for going home: again to feel the wind
And gaze into a great big sky.

And this is how I come again
Upon these mountains jutting up against the bus,
My window sometimes flecked by giant ferns.
The road seems almost out of place
So smooth and even is its keel.
The clouds are flowing rapidly,
A breath above the mountain peaks.
I like to think that from those points,
My eyes could grace a hundred vales
And see a thousand stone-walled fields,
Littered full of grazing sheep.

I lift my eyes, and looking up,
I feel myself surrounded by the heavens:
Bits of home inside me, reaching out to every place.

The best kind of officer

Clauzwitz is channeling Aristotle again. He says that strength of character consists of having powerful emotions balanced with self-control:

If we consider how men differ in their emotional reactions, we first find a group with small capacity for being roused, usually known as ‘stolid’ or ‘phlegmatic.”

Second, there are men who are extremely active, but whose feelings never rise above a certain level, men whom we know to be sensitive but calm.

Third, there are men whose passions are easily inflamed, in whom excitement flares up suddenly but soon burns out, like gunpowder. And finally we come to those who do not react to minor matters, who will be moved only very gradually, not suddenly, but whose emotions attain great strength and durability. These are the men whose passions are strong, deep, and concealed. Continue reading “The best kind of officer”

Why I want to be an Army Officer

Below is the essay I was required to write as part of the application process for the Army Officer Candidate school. The title isn’t mine – it’s part of the guidelines for the essay. Of course I left out certain motivations, such as “to lift up and encourage the saints who are there,” and “we need the money.”

The first time I considered joining the Army was shortly after September 11, 2001. That was the first time it became spotlessly clear to me that every individual and every organization is responsible to God, not on the basis of their capacity, but their potential. Only America could be the “world’s policeman,” so America, by Providence, is – whether we want it or not. And therefore the role of defending civilization planted itself on our doorstep. Applied to myself as a Christian man, I have a responsibility to provide leadership and protection for my family, for my church, and for my country. Continue reading “Why I want to be an Army Officer”

Ambitious discontent

My greatest difficulty at present is that I am afflicted with too many ambitions. In the past 24 hours I have:

  1. Wanted to be a college professor,
  2. Felt called to prison ministry,
  3. Wished to start a Christian high-end grocery store,
  4. Debated whether to join the Army as enlisted or an officer,
  5. Imagined starting a young married couples ministry at my church,
  6. Re-structured my morning devotionals (twice),
  7. And planned a novel series.

Every one of these was a serious consideration, and not a passing whimsy. It’s like I’m suddenly seven again, except that I was never like this, even at seven.

What I can’t decide is whether this sort of ambitious discontent is from God or somewhere else.