Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Personal History of Reading and Writing (English Composition II Homework)

For as long as I remember, I have been reading books years ahead of the expected reading level for my age. In elementary school, I would soak up all the books I could, immersing myself in both fiction and nonfiction. Some of my fondest memories of this period involve reading the short stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe. Between the inscrutable detective hero of Doyle and the alienated anti-heroes of Poe, these tales provided some of my first inkling of the written power of the macabre, of the dark side of of life humanity. Looking back, I think these stories resonated with me because of the rejection and harsh treatment I received from my peers. Whereas I was really quite a fish out of water, books provided a space in which I could immerse in my element and flourish there. Needless to say, I read voraciously. Besides such morbid subject matter, I also greatly enjoyed works of fantasy, especially those involving dragons. In terms of nonfiction, I would often works of science and history, especially from the perennially brilliant Eyewitness series.

These affinities would stay with my all the way into high school, albeit in increasingly complex form. My love affair with the macabre and the fantastic remained as strong as ever, although by this time these were joined by reading in science fiction, especially of the dark and dystopian variety. So too, I began reading biographies of historical figures like Sitting Bull, Nikola Tesla, and H.G. Wells. Looking back, I suppose my choice of scientific reading material must have come from the budding young mad scientist’s reading list, because I was reading up on topics like antimatter and nanotechnology, which are very powerful indeed. Well, that’s all well and good but it carries a strong existential gravity, and I began to question why I was here on planet earth. Indeed, it was here that I had my first existential crisis, which is a very far cry from having a pleasant holiday in the sun. Realizing the objectifying gaze of scientific methodology could not answer this category of question, and that I was not the only one in all of human history to ask such questions as these, I turned my interest toward the study of religion and philosophy. Out of this period, I became a Christian, and gradually began to read up on theology with increasing intensity. But the real epiphany came when I was introduced to the work of New Testament scholars such as N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, and Craig Blomberg by way of my membership at the Theology Web forums ( Of these, N.T. Wright was an especially strong influence on my thought and writing by way of his tireless eschatological vision and brilliant written form. Drawing on his energy and style, basically Wright can be said to be the man who taught me how to really write, and to be heard by way of my writing.

I continued to read up on theology voraciously until I eventually hit a threshold at which the only way I could get any further with my theology was to turn to subjects other than theology and then apply my own perspectives back to these topics. My reading turned to matters of music, art, film, philosophy, other religions, anything with which I felt a strong affinity. In this way, my thought and writing became both unique and irreplaceable--for I ventured into uncharted forests where no one else would venture. And so it continued until the Spring of 2008, which brought introspective isolation and my second existential crisis following a semester of academic suspension. Regrettably, it now appeared that I was neither needed nor wanted by the world around me, and that I needed to refine the courage to be although none affirmed. For drawing on the Christian doctrine of grace and existential philosophy, Paul Tillich writes “the courage to be is the courage to accept oneself as accepted in spite of being unacceptable. One does not need to remind theologians of the fact that this is the genuine meaning of the Pauline-Lutheran doctrine of ‘justification by faith’” (Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be p. 164). Faced with few prospects for the future, it was here that I founded my own blog titled The Gothic Theologian at, where the rest of my writing history may be discovered in direct form.