There are three lines on the closing track of Cloud Nothings’ 2014 LP Here and Nowhere Else that essentially narrate my life at the moment. This post won’t be a review of that album (you should just listen to it), but I think these lines capture much of who I am and who I am becoming as a 24-year-old married man (boy? man-child? youth? millenial? person?) and second-year seminary student. I’ll also be so bold as to assume these lyrics apply to many of those who participate in this blog as a reader or writer. They contain generalities easily glued onto specific situations and just ripe for application! Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mean that as sarcastically as it sounds. Though part of me might wince at how bildungsroman this all is, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s where I am. Besides, aren’t we always “coming of age”?
“I’m not telling you all I’m going through”
Right? When are we ever honest about our real struggles or exhaustion? We’re constantly wearing masks, putting on costumes, saving face. Sometimes, too, there’s such an impetus to “just be open” that our vulnerability becomes stilted and contrived. In life, there’s often this simultaneous pressure to have all your shit together and be open at the same time, when we don’t realize that real vulnerability (and real growth) will more often than not leave us devastated and our shit will absolutely not be together. Along with that, I’ve found we’re usually only open about struggles deemed (somewhat) acceptable by social mores: anxiety, insomnia, mild depression, etc. When will we tell all we’re going through? When will I?
“I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else”
At WTS we talk a lot about being deeply present. I don’t think there is a more difficult task than this on our twenty-first century globe. For the most part we skip across the surfaces of our lives, but it’s not that we’re lazy or disinterested. We’re distracted. I can’t tell you how many times I leave conversations and immediately wish I had a re-do. I’m distracted by what I’m doing, where I’m going, or what I’m thinking—the person right in front of my face does not hold my attention.
Of course, there is slack to be cut in all this. We are busy people. I am a busy person. Still, I wonder, what prevents me from being present, from engaging in life sacramentally, amidst the activity of day-to-day life? Much of my seminary years have been spent trying to be “here and nowhere else,” and maybe recognizing that I’m usually somewhere else is the first step.
“I’m not you—you’re a part of me, you’re a part of me”
Throughout college and into seminary I’ve wrestled with the individual-communal tension integral to human life, and Christian life in particular. This line, I think, settles the tension by upholding it. We might be individuals, but who we are is undoubtedly shaped by the people in our lives. There’s a distinction here that preserves the dignity of an individual without falling into unfettered egotism. I’m realizing as I move forward that I am only who I am because of those who are a part of me. And honestly, I’m glad for it.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.