Breaking Statistics

I have a confession to make. I tend to put a lot of stock in statistics. I think it started in high school when I started applying to colleges. I had never really thought much about statistics before. They had never come up before. But college admissions statistics hit hard.

Some of the places I applied had admission numbers lower than 10%. That felt almost impossible. And then when you factored in the fact that those schools are trying to get a balanced entering class from all over the nation, those numbers decrease. And I bought it. I bought every decimal point and every fraction.

Because here’s the thing about statistics: once you start believing them (even for a second), you start seeing yourself in the other part of the statistic. In my case, I began to see myself in the 90% that didn’t get into the universities I wanted. This was because there are a lot of really talented, awesome, intelligent people out there. And it seemed ludicrous to suggest that I could ever be in the top 10% of them. And maybe because of that line of thinking, or, more likely, because the world sometimes does the whole statistic thing the way you expect it to, I didn’t get in to any of those statistically-challenging universities.

And so now I put a lot of stock in statistics.

My friend was talking to me the other day about this problem he had with something that Jesus once said. It comes in Matthew 22:14. He says, “For many are invited but few are chosen.” I understand that there is a whole discussion we can have here, depending on our individual theologies, about what this verse means. A lot of people have interpreted it a lot of different ways. But when I was explaining to my friend why I didn’t find this verse problematic, I realized something. This verse is about statistics.

Statistics are about how things are or have been. They don’t control the future. And so when Jesus says that many are invited but few are chosen, maybe he’s not saying that he’s picked those people already. Maybe he’s just saying that it’s tough. It’s tough to apply to prestigious colleges. It’s tough to graduate from high school if you are kid growing up in the inner city. It’s tough to follow God. And that’s all that we should believe of the statistics. Because knowing something is tough motivates us. But trying to divide the world into 10% and 90% gets complicated and stupid.

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Trusting Authority

When I was applying to college, my mom made me go talk to people from a really boring small honors college at a university nationally known for being a top party school. I had my sights set on higher things, more studious places. I was going to be a real academic.

But I went, and after my first meeting with the assistant dean at the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University, I knew it was where I needed to be.

A little over three years later, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Most of who I am today has been dependent on being part of the HTC or being a student at Ohio University. Sometimes, parents really do know what’s best for us.

When someone really cares about us and has more information than we do or a wider world view, they normally make decisions for us that we would make if we had all the information. That’s why I think my failure to not trust God is almost humorous.

God knows infinitely more than me. God cares about me infinitely. Why, then, would God want anything less than the best for me?

Sometimes I perceive God the way I perceived my mom when she was trying to get me to visit Ohio University. God wants me to give up what I really want in order to do something the way God wants it. But that’s not the way it is. God wants to stretch me so that I can consider the kind of options God considers for me.

Jesus said some stuff about this (Matthew 6:25-34):

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

God is going to dress us in clothes brighter than the flowers. We have only to let Her or Him.

Winter Break Is Like Camp

I’m a little bit into hiphop. For a white kid who grew up listening to classic rock and easy listening, this is kind of strange. I don’t quite understand how it happened, but I’m glad it did.

I like hiphop, I think, because I am a fan of writing, and lyricism in hiphop is more than putting pretty words together. The good kind is clever and conscious and political and sometimes life-changing.

One of my favorite artists, Childish Gambino (real name, Donald Glover), released his first full-length album a week ago. I have been listening to it pretty obsessively. It speaks to me. Sometimes albums do that. They articulate exactly where you are in your life. And so I have been finding all of the lyrics profound.

Childish Gambino in his hiphopster glory

There’s this one chorus, though, that goes “There’s a world we can visit if we go outside/ outside/ outside/ We can follow the road/ There’s a world we can visit if we go outside/ outside/ outside/ No one knows.” Or something like that. I find it very profound, but I don’t really know why.

Ohio University went on break today, which is cool. It’s cool to not have to worry about homework and class and stuff. But break scares me because I’m scared that even when I have no excuse for not going outside, I still won’t. We should never have to articulate that there is world outside. We should be engulfed by it.

The Interesting Business of College

Being a college student is interesting business. On the one hand, we are told repeatedly that this is the time when we get to start living – we have the freedom and the ability to really do what we want. On the other hand, there is an understood rule that we will be responsible, get our degrees, go on to occupy “meaningful” jobs and be productive members of society.

The great absurdity of life, as my friend once said, is that we don’t spend every second of every day doing something we love. Because, he argued, who, if not ourselves, are we trying to make happy? And if there is anytime at all to be happy, isn’t it during our life?

These are important questions to think about. The problem is that happiness is such a hard concept to pin down. Is someone who plays video games all day because that’s what she wants to do really happier than someone who goes to class because she has a responsibility to do so? I don’t think so.

Yes, we should be chasing things we are passionate about all day erryday, but we also shouldn’t let immediate gratification blind us to the fact that some of the things we want we are going to have to wait for.

What do you wish you were doing?