Thick darkness covered the earth

Last night, I sat at my computer tinkering in a spreadsheet, music tinkling in my headphones, with the lights turned on in the room and in the corridor, the comfortable sound of whirring machinery all around — when a brilliant light flashed outside the window, followed by loud a ‘whoomf’ sound, and between one breath and the next all the machines went dead silent and all the lights went out, plunging me into darkness–

thick darkness

for five seconds
(two breaths, enough for me to exclaim, “What the heck?”)

–then a ‘bump’ sound came from outdoors, the lights came back on, the machines spun up again. The world righted itself and all was back to normal.

It was between those two breaths that I thought, This is it. The apocalypse has arrived, and I am utterly helpless without my life-support machines and intravenous drip of electricity. What do I do now?

Sleep; Arise.

We buried a friend today.  He was a few years younger than me. Left behind a pregnant wife and a very young son, and many many loved family and friends.

He was too young to die.

I didn’t know him as well as others did, but we were fellow workers in the kingdom for a while, and had talked about what it meant to be a shepherd and fisher of people. I didn’t see him around a lot, but the evidence of his impact was all around me: in people, in words. Now I remember glimpses of him over the years: amongst friends, with his longtime sweetheart who became his wife, then holding a baby, then with his boy in tow.  Always amongst friends.

I hadn’t known about the illness until our senior pastor stood on stage one Sunday a few weeks ago and asked for the entire church to pray for him, because only a miracle could save him now.  In retrospect, I already had a premonition of trouble through my brief glimpses, though I didn’t understand what it meant.  I think he knew he was going to die.

But as we prayed that Sunday, I had a distinct vision of a lifeline thrown into a bottomless ocean, and many, many people climbing into the water down that cable — to save not him, but his family.  And the hands pulling up that cable from the surface weren’t human hands, but divine ones.

Indeed, many people, far more than I could imagine, rallied with support.  The friends told stories of his last few months alive, and said that his faith never wavered.  Indeed, burned even fiercer, encouraging and strengthening everyone around him, spending itself without holding back, until the very end.

It was an honour to be at the memorial service.

The Lord stands at the threshold of eternity, the keys of life and death in his hands.  And when he calls a man’s name, he can’t help but come.  To death.  To resurrection.

But he was just too young to die.  Was the work really done, when things were just beginning?  Is it time to lay down the tools, when one is just entering the height of his powers?  Is it really time to rest now, when there is so much more to do?

The man rests now.  –Rests, and rejoices before Christ our Lord.  But for us left behind, it’s time to rise and take up those tools put down, and remain faithful.  This is the way to defy the unfairness of it all.

Let’s start again.

Botched my webdomain migration and lost the original velivolans blog that resided at Hierofalco.net.  The database exists but is inaccessible short of digging into cPanel and phpMyAdmin, and I haven’t the energy nor motivation to extract it at this stage.  It may come back someday.

I want to try something new for this blog, combining a few different projects.  Let us see what comes of it.

UPDATE (5th Dec): Canto refuses to be melded with a workaday blog, so there it is, happy in its own subdomain.

UPDATE (14th Dec): With a bit of MySQL jiujitsu and a website backup (thank goodness for backups), all my posts at velivolans have been migrated and images restored. Everything should be as before. Success! Hooray!

Further adventures in webdesign.

In a paroxysm of inspiration and productivity, I spent the last weekend building my new domain-level website**, including making a fansite (a “shrine” in fandom jargon). Atom.io text editor on one monitor, web browser on the other monitor, with CSS Reference and W3Schools for reference, and a bunch of personal websites and domains for inspiration. The fansite took up most of the weekend: Took an old layout I created years ago, updated, streamlined and enhanced the markup; in between that, I did a ton of research and “content creation”.

**Have to deal with a few things on the backend over the next few weeks (including, er, migrating to a new domain that I recently bought), but soon, there will be NEW STUFF on my domain! Hooray!

Partway through, it dawned on me that I was enjoying the webdesign process. Earlier I’d ranted about my woes of manually converting my Tumblr into a static site built with Hugo. Quite a vast difference between these two experiences!

Continue reading “Further adventures in webdesign.”

Debating

Universalism, and the theology of Hell — with a fellow Christian, in our Bible study WhatsApp group.

Better working conditions for video game developers, complexities of crunch time and entertainment industry, and how fans and consumers should respond (without falling into impotent idealism or callous fatalism) — with some fellow gamers, in a Discord server.

Sundry aspects of Internet culture and digital life — with various Micro.bloggers on Micro.blog.

It’s been a good week for online debating and discussion. More remarkably, all were in semi-public spaces, all were low-salt and stayed that way, and ended with us shaking hands, regardless of whether we agreed or not.

I’m so pleased! Such diverse, civil debates!

Things I learnt: revelling in numbers and elements.

Probably says something about how I’m wired, that I get much more joy reading about materials and physical sciences and the inanimate/inorganic world, than about the biological sciences and living things. And there’s joy in learning about mathematics too. What is there not to love about numbers and elements!

Working with them, though? Chemical elements are a part of daily working life, but advanced math isn’t and takes a bit more effort to enjoy. But, while meeting prerequisites for freshman undergraduate science, instead of taking the standard math unit for science majors that everyone else took, I chose the calculus unit for math majors. The professor was engaging and I understood things intuitively, but found it hard to apply them, worked like a dog to scrape up a pass, and have since forgotten everything from that unit. Yet, given the chance to revel in the wonders and confoundedness that is pure math, I could not pass up that opportunity then, and I still can’t. (Doing a degree in math and physics has been on my bucket list ever since.)

Elements!

Continue reading “Things I learnt: revelling in numbers and elements.”

Who will I be this year?

Had a birthday last week.

Inspired by this post (the blogger had a birthday about the same time as me), I’m also asking the question. Who will I be this year?

Someone who’s courageous to overcome fears and doubt and insecurities to reach for my dreams — whether it’s going on long-term missions, or finishing my novels, or making art again, or trying something new.

Someone who’s not afraid of hard work and risk and failure, who when I fall down will then get up again. And again, and again.

Someone who’s not too proud or self-conscious to laugh at myself, to make a fool of myself, to look like the ignorant dunce — if it means being humble and learning from others.

Someone who is ever more generous, who is willing to pour out my life to serve others… because it’s not about what I can give, but what Christ wants to give through me. He is the infinite source of life and capability.

“No” is a word that comes easily to my tongue, it’s a reflexive response to anyone making a request of me. I want to be someone who says Yes more than No. Yes to spontaneous adventures. Yes to an opportunity to be a blessing. Yes to risk and faith. Yes to something new and wonderful. Yes to joy.

Reviving a long-disused tongue.

I recently finished reading the first collection in
射雕英雄传 Legends of the Condor Heroes, a wuxia/martial arts serialized epic by Hong Kong author 金庸 Jin Yong.

This book is titled A Hero Born and is an English translation by Anna Holmwood; it captures the first nine parts in a 40-part serial. (According to Wikipedia, 射雕英雄传 has a character count of over 900,000.) I stumbled on A Hero Born while randomly browsing shelves in the local library. I’ve lived in Hong Kong but I’d never heard of 金庸, so my interest was piqued. Apparently he’s a household name there, who first published his stories as serials in the newspapers. I’ve since spoken to my handful of HK friends and acquaintances. All of them knew his name.

Through a combination of Wikipedia and Baidu, and my now more-intuitive-than-concrete grasp of Mandarin, I found 金庸’s complete serials/novels online in simplified Chinese, including 射雕英雄传 here. As good a time as any to practise reading and comprehending my mother tongue again.

I decided to read it out loud. It took half an hour, CN-to-EN dictionary in hand, to translate and read the first paragraph of Chapter 1. Though half that time was re-reciting it to help my recall of the characters.

Well… I already knew my Mandarin vocabulary has atrophied over the years, but the extent of deterioration is incredible, if unsurprising. Still, it felt like a slap in the face by an insidious kind of impostor syndrome.

Translation and recall is tough work, but this is worth persevering through over time. I’m thinking of transcribing the text by hand — after all, physically writing things does help with comprehension and recall. And perhaps, eat some serious humble pie and ask my Chinese friends to be language buddies.

And to think that my local library was the catalyst for all this. Aren’t libraries wonderful?

Conversations on persecution with a Chinese Christian.

Apropos of reading this article – recording this to remember.

A few weeks ago I was at a conference held by my church. There, I met a Chinese woman, about my age who also attends my church. I don’t quite remember her name, it unfortunately went in one ear and then out again, so let’s call her “Summer”.

Summer is from Zhejiang province, and had moved here to study a master degree in law. She has full barrister qualifications in China, but was interested in studying in our country to broaden her skillset.

She attends my English-speaking, very multicultural church instead of a Mandarin-speaking, mainland-Chinese church, because she finds the latter too staid. Something about Chinese nationals being conservative and restrained, especially ones who came to the faith while abroad. She prefers the exuberance and unrestrained expressiveness of our church.

I was astonished when she told me that she grew up a Christian in a Christian family. Most Chinese Christians I’ve met were converts in adulthood, so it was unique to meet someone who’s been a believer since childhood. While living in Beijing, she attended an underground/unregistered church. That church has since been shut down by the Chinese government, but she wasn’t in the country when that happened.

We had a conversation about the underground churches, how they compared to the Three-self churches, and persecution from the Chinese government. Summer’s description of a raid was surprisingly prosaic: police walking into a meeting and watching from the back of the room, taking photographs of each person, having a word with the pastors. A raid doesn’t necessarily end in arrests, but it is designed to intimidate both congregation and clergy. There may be consequences the next time, and what’s more, the government has facial recognition software. Now they know your face and name.

I didn’t get to ask Summer about how underground churches and their members elude governmental scrutiny. I did ask her how she felt about attending an unregistered church, when the threat of raids and arrest looms over every meeting. She said that living fully for Jesus Christ and his Gospel were more important than personal wellbeing. The pastor of her church refused to register as a Three-self church because he couldn’t let the truth of the Gospel be censored by governmental bodies and he would preach Christ without restraint.

We both agreed that the power of God is equally at work in Three-self churches as unregistered churches — the Spirit of God will not be restrained — but as far as Summer was concerned, she finds fuller and deeper expression of faith in the underground church, and persecution is the lesser price to pay compared to the fullness of living out her faith.

But she was also thankful to now live here in a country where freedom of religion is upheld, and she wouldn’t be persecuted for attending church. This privilege is something to be cherished, she said.

This is the first time I’ve spoken at length to a Chinese Christian who attended an underground church. It was an honour to meet Summer. I admire her openness in discussing the realities of faith under persecution, and I want to learn more. I haven’t seen her since that day we spoke, but will look out for her.