Wednesday, December 17, 2008
So what would complete freedom look like? Complete freedom could mean freedom from everything (complete in terms of breadth), or a somehow more intense freedom (complete in terms of depth), or maybe both. Freedom from everything could mean -lacking- everything, according to the initial definition. This would mean a completely empty life: no possessions, no emotions, no achievements, etc. Clearly, this is not the idea we are looking for. Under my modified definition of freedom, freedom from everything would mean being unconstrained by everything, not obligated to anything. I think this would mean being unaffected by everything, however. (AGREE/DISAGREE??)
To my mind, being that detached from everything would be sad and boring, though, because if you don't care about anything at all, then there can be neither pleasure nor pain nor purpose in your life. The idea of detachment does have a sort of aesthetic appeal, though. Sometimes it seems like it would be worth giving up pleasure in order to be free from pain. My impression is that this is part of the Buddhist ideal: desire causes suffering, so you should endeavor to free yourself from having desires. Most of the time, though, I feel like that variety of freedom/detachment/distance would lead to a colorless, sterile experience of life, rather than a rich and exciting experience, and that the trade would be a bad one.
What about freedom that is complete in depth? Contrasting "deep" freedom with "wide" freedom implies that wide freedom would, in fact, be shallower, and deep freedom would be narrower, i.e., would exclude some types of freedom. Under this idea, you could be free in a complete manner but not be free from everything. I think the premise here would have to be that some types of freedom are desirable and others aren't, and that deep freedom would mean you were free only in the desirable ways. Alternately, we could say that only some types of freedom are "real" or "true," and that deep freedom would mean having all the true freedoms, but not the false freedoms. This is effectively the same as the previous premise (assuming that truth and reality are desirable). In any case, deep freedom would not have as large a set of freedoms as wide freedom.
To make up for having a smaller set of freedoms, each element in the set would have be somehow larger, if deep freedom is to have the same "magnitude" as wide freedom (i.e., also be complete). I have to admit, I'm not sure what exactly that would look like, or at any rate, how to go about describing this depth/largeness/greatness of freedom. (IDEAS?)
Perhaps my initial comments about freedom as an absence vs. as a lack of obligation apply here. Being free from homework in a shallow way would mean having no homework. Being free from homework in a deep way would mean having an unforced choice about how to interact with the homework. Maybe the professor said that this homework is optional, or maybe because you did all the previous homework assignments, your choice of whether to do this homework or not will have no impact on your grade. But maybe an even deeper variety of freedom from homework would mean that even though your choice about the homework does affect your grade in the class, your GPA, your learning, your reputation, etc., and even though you recognize all those ramifications of your choice, those are not the constraints that determine your choice. You are free with regard to the homework because your choice about the homework happens on a higher level than the homework itself. You make a choice based on some overarching principle, or some higher set up priorities. By higher, I mean less situation-specific, more general, more abstract. Bigger-picture. (That is a rather vague and formless definition. BETTER DEFINITION?) For instance, I could choose to do the homework because I believe it will enrich my mind rather than because it will get me a better grade on the test. (I might be mixing levels here, though... Please comment/correct if you think I am.)
This might work better with the example of fear. Let's go with fear of political persecution for holding some belief. You could be free from this fear on a shallow level: political persecution for that belief simply doesn't happen in the environment you exist in. (Hmm, perhaps shallow is not a good word here after all. SUGGESTIONS?) This is a fear that just isn't present in your life, so you are free from it.
But let's say you do live in an environment such that this persecution is a real fact of life. What would it mean to be free from this fear in that circumstance? The deeper freedom would be to be aware of the consequences of your belief and of the reality of the persecution--i.e., still be affected by the fear/persecution--but nonetheless to live without fear because you take your security and identity from a source that the political persecution and all its consequences cannot touch.
I think that at this point, at this depth of freedom, the question changes from "free from what?" to "free to what?" or even "free for what?" The answer: you are free for whatever higher cause guides your life and sets you free from this particular thing (and potentially from all other oppressions, if the cause is high enough). You are free to pursue that cause and that purpose. And here is a positively defined freedom! Freedom is the ability to pursue the ideal or cause or purpose that you believe in. Freedom is the ability to enjoy that ideal or cause or purpose once you attain it (if that is possible).
With this variety of freedom, you can respond to all sorts of events, but they do not shake you. You can choose how to be affected, because everything is evaluated relative to your higher framework.
I think this is the kind of freedom the Psalmist means when he says, "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free," and the kind of freedom Paul means when he writes, "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free," and the kind of freedom that is behind the jubilant exclamation, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Behind the trees (their bare branches like lines of ink), the Moon hung. I have never seen it so warm. The Moon was amber, honey, copper, like a huge coin, a physical presence, ancient and alive, burnished gold. I walked toward it, transfixed. Its edges did not bleed into the blackness at all, almost as though it were a hole punched out of the sky, revealing the warm, welcoming light behind the coldness of space. But the Moon was too solid and bright to be a hole. Rather, it was a golden disk laid on a black velvet cloth. . . But the sky has no wrinkles, and the Moon was standing, not lying down, not sitting.
In the end, the Moon is the Moon, and anything else is a diminishment. Each time I see the full Moon, I am pierced to the core again.
I walked on, finally, when the chill soaked my bones. The Moon vanished into the horizon. But its golden light stayed. I walked like my pockets were full of gold coins, warm between my cold fingers.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I stared Moonward, and the Moon stared back. What does my small scarred face look like through the black branches? What clouds boil around my eyes? The Moon stared as though none of it mattered.
I was the one who turned away first, to gaze at the trees standing like patient giants and the bright streetlamps that blazed like cold stars.
Tonight, I understood how one might worship the Moon.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Nothing brightens the mood of a homework-plagued student like happening to glance out the window and seeing the sky shrouded in bright pink and streaked with shining gold. The graceful bare branches of the maple tree sliced across the clouds, precise as patterns of ink. It took my breath away.
The sky is a transient painting, a study in color and space. The sunset is so beautiful because it is gone in ten minutes. Pay attention, or you'll miss it.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In other news, I am low enough on time that I anticipate not blogging for at least another two weeks. Priorities...
Happy Thanksgiving, at any rate!
Monday, November 10, 2008
(sweeping away the colors,call me. Don't sit in silence,
absorbing all the light,
stilling the quick movements)
gritting your teeth, gripping your pen,when the depression sweeps your words away
scraping its point across the paper.
You hold the pen in a clenched fist,
Don't sit in the cold silence
as the people pass in and out,Don't be the only still stone
and never speak your name.
in a world of leaves flying on the windwhen the depression comes
(They start to fall, but they never really land)
Don't let it sweep over you.
I know, it comes like the cold tide of a grey ocean.sweeping around your bare ankles, swirling the gritty sand.
I know, it comes faster than you could ever expect,
But don't just stand there,
when the depression comes (cold)don't stand there (shivering and soaked)--Move, climb:
and the wind sweeps in (chilling),
There is a solid place where you can sit,
and watch the world change:
the falling leaves, the inexorable oceanbut you'll be on dry ground
and the wind will roar around you
When the depression comes: call me.
I will sweep the falling leaves
[I wrote this during my free-writing class. But it was always for you.]
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Four hours of sleep and statistics homework still undone is not what I think of as good time management. What am I doing with my life? All the things that are most important. . . So it must be good time management. . .
Is it selfish of me to want more sleep?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
We passed through the realm of the trees, who stood in patient crowds upon the rolling hills. The ones by the wayside stared as we passed by, but said nothing--or if they whispered, I did not hear. In the distance, some trees were dancing.
Gold and russet and tawny and scarlet populated the landscape. Barren birches stretch the thinnest white fingers skyward. Perhaps their yearning for verticality drained their color, their substance: they poured their strength into stretching up and up, and could not spare any for other directions and dimensions.
Beside them, less emaciated trees flickered like garnet-red flames. Each leaf blazed with its own fire. The red trees seemed to smile at the world, like girls watching, laughing, tossing their red hair. The birches were austere, serious; these trees were joyous.
As far as the eye could see spread crowd upon crowd of trees, holding their land, watching over it, reaching for the sky. They stand together day after day, each beside the same neighbors season after season, as their branches begin to intertwine, and they drop leaves on each other's feet. Their society must be flourishing, I think, when arboreal cities can cover so many hillsides.
They outnumbered us--the flame trees, the white birches, the golden maples, the stubbornly green pines. We stuck to the road, and tried not to stare too hard as we went by. We didn't speak to any of the citizens there, and they watched us from a distance.
Someday I would like to go back to that kingdom, and see what the life of a tree is like.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I only properly appreciate the daylight when I've stayed up for the whole night and seen the sky gradually lighten. Even though I do not feel the black of night as a weight, its solidity outside the window is formiddable.
Night was black, like a stain. Inky darkness: for all I knew, the world might have melted and darkened into nothing while I was sitting here at my desk. . . But at some moment, the sky changed--not all of a piece, not to blue, but quietly, to not-quite-black. It wasn't light per se, but diluted darkness.
And then each time I looked back, the sky had flashed to a clearer color. The trees struggled into being, one leaf at a time. The dark faded, like water slowly evaporating. Nothing changed inside--J. was still sleeping, I was still typing, typing, typing. K. was still keeping me company. But the light that seemed so distant at first silently filtered into the room, and its arrival seemed not to add a presence but to create largeness, generosity, amplitude. Space and time blossomed before me.
Finally, I went to sleep, freed by the light.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Shadows pattern the wall as I write to you
The light from the setting sun is golden
filtered through the leaves (the maple's stars,
the lines and angles from the pine)
On the other side of the glass, the breeze
stirs the pine, the maple, all the leaves
(Their shadows dance on my gilded wall)
The light is the color of honey, of amber,
of summer, of a long and tender silence.
The sun sinks toward the horizon
(like a child sinking into sleep)
It does not blaze through the leaves
anymore, but the light still glows gold.
I would not trade that color
for anything. I need its warmth when
my heart shivers in the cold breeze
that shakes the leaves. (I do not know
how the wind gets through my ribs
to chill my heart. But it does.)
No one around me seems to mind the cold
Maybe they do not feel it, walking arm in arm
Beside them, I walk, and I know all their names,
and we all talk, but: we never touch
(I never tell them I am cold.) I watch
the sun setting in a pale sky, as the trees
darken, and the star and needle shadows
bristle together, choking out the light space:
and the pattern vanishes. I blink, and only
an afterglow remains, staining the white wall
to yellow, to cream, then to the ancient hue
of ivory, of an elephant's tooth, broken,
lying cold on the silent soil.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
When I looked into the water a few minutes later, I saw what seemed to be a small white jellyfish at the bottom of the cup. Its milky membrane wavered in the water. Its tattered edges fanned upward, as though it were swimming, but if it was swimming, it was trying to go down through the bottom of the mug. What was this sea creature doing in my cup?
The moonjelly was actually an incarnation of the soy milk I failed to wash out of my mug this morning. The day dried it to a skin, and the water softened it and loosened it from the ceramic, till it swam free.
I stopped drinking, but the jellyfish continued evolving and dissolving. It is trying to become a cloud of milkiness. It does not wish to be solid.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Why do so many boys talk to me? Why do I talk to so many of them?
I almost think it would be simpler for me to be a boy, given my personality. Then I could be friends with all of them, and not think about whether they were thinking of me as a girl or just as a person. Not that I actually wish I wasn't a girl, at all. But it would be simpler. Maybe.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
You tell me these things, and I can see you in my mind's eye. You are sitting at your desk, in front of your computer. The lights are off, and your face is lit by the light from the screen. It paints your skin silver and green, even paler than it already is. The glow shadows your eyes. They seem hooded, or even haunted. You are there alone, hunched over, in that dark jacket.
What do I tell you to ease your sorrow?
You need a mother to hold you, and tell you everything's going to be all right--You need a girl to sit in your lap and say she loves you--
No: You need a truth to grip your life with hard hands, and shake out the stress. You need a blazing light to shine on what matters, and leave all the rest in shadow. You need to know who you are. But it is not I who can tell you. All I have to offer is a short hug, and long listening.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The scarves were every color--black, yes, and white, yes, but also embroidered in gold, and purple to match a coat, and checked yellow and pink over a gray outfit, and red, and every pattern. Coats were cut long, hiding legs. The figures stood, all facing forward, perfectly still.
The voice hummed along, dipping and swooping, and at a word, the boys bowed, the bend rippling across the group like the wind across grass. The girls bowed too, all together, like dancers.
More words I did not understand, like the song of an owl, like the singing of the waves on the shore, and the crowd knelt, stood, bowed again, sat, touched foreheads to the floor, rose again. Each time, the girls moved in perfect unison.
No hand rose to adjust a scarf. No head turned right or left. No whispers slithered across the room. Everyone listened, and rose and fell together, as the voice chanted.
And then the chant was at an end, and fingers twitched. Head scarves were straightened, smiles exchanged. Figures detached themselves from the crowd, became individual girls. (The boys were individuals all along, though.) They found their shoes--heels, sneakers, flats, sandals, dress shoes--and found their way out. Quietly.
The rugs lay on the polished floor, their patterns all that remained of the chant's fixedness.
I left, and broke my fast.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
He talked and talked, and never came to a point. He repeated the same words, the same phrases, entire paragraphs: contextualist, literalist, C.S. Lewis once said, That's like asking which side of the scissor is more important. Works. Pauline, Petrean, Your Communion says. If they had understood, Eat his flesh and drink his blood. The Third Council, the Nineth Council, in 310, in 321, in 68, not the Nineth Council, that was later. Peter II is the last book, not the Revelations, Revelations is not the last book. Chronologically.
His lips never rested. Even when no sound emerged, they gaped and stirred, unable to stem the flow of words for long. Words and words flooded out again, in that peculiar accent. I had to focus all my attention to catch those blurry-bordered words falling from his shriveled mouth, as his thin, thin hands repeated the same wild gestures, trying to remember, remember.
I would like not to remember. I do not want to see, even in my mind, that greasy white hair, or that faded denim jacket/shirt/pants. Especially, I do not want to see those crouching, blurred teeth, or those restless lips.
What I would like to see is the purpose of that hour. Please tell me, with clean white teeth in a mouth that does not reek of tobacco and that does not judge. Please tell me, and I will try to listen. I am good at listening, even when the speaker is not good at talking. Please.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Find the comb. Tug it through your hair, like threshing grain. Feel the pulls of tangled strands sharp in your scalp. When your hair lies smooth and parted (docile), clear the comb of its web of hair. Tease one silken strand through your fingers. Then throw the whole tangle away.
Find the scissors. Make sure the light is on, and the door is locked.
Sit down. The mirror will stare back at you. Pay it no mind. The scissors will be reluctant. Pay them no mind, either. Take them in one hand, and drag the fingers of the other hand through your hair again. And then cut.
Hair falls around you, in clumps like mown grass, and in small rains, and like grains of sand dribbled between the fingers. It outlines your body on the paper. The scissors grow ever more truculent, but the silent mirror suspends judgment, and you keep cutting. Trees lose leaves with the changing seasons. It is only fair for you to change, too.
Monday, October 13, 2008
To be fair, there are extenuating circumstances for some of these cases. Irregularities in attendance and meetings tends to result from school holidays (notably, Jewish holy days), and the staff worker did in fact send an email to warn us that she couldn't come, even if I didn't get it until after the meeting had already happened.
But starting on time? It's not that hard to do. You make a decision about what's going to happen, in accordance with what is feasible, and then you act on that decision. Being on time is about following through on your commitment. It's about respecting the authority of the person who asked you to come at that time; it's about respecting the time of the people you are asking to come at that time. When a leader asks his team to come at 7:00pm, and he doesn't arrive until 7:03,--and most of the team is still not present at 7:10,--and then the people who are there are just standing in the hallway till 7:20,--and then once they make it into a room, nothing is coordinated for another 10 minutes--then that leader has insulted his team. By asking for that time and then not using it, he has made the statement that he deserves their time not because he's going to use it for something valuable, but simply because he asked for it, and that the other things his team might have been doing during that half hour simply do not matter to him.
At least, that's the message this scenario sends me.
Granted, his team still has free will to come late or not come. Granted, they may have every opportunity to ask him to change his policy. Granted, there may be reasons, even good reasons, that nothing can be done at precisely 7:00. Granted, the fellowship that can occur during that half hour is by no means worthless.
Nevertheless, some of this leader's team members honored him by giving up their free time, and he did not honor their sacrifice. The result is discouragement and frustration for the team.
You can probably guess that I am one of the punctual team members. I must confess that my irritation with this situation has, at its root, a hunger for acknowledgment and respect, and a desire for things to go according to plan, and a demand to be treated the way I want. Essentially, I am angry because my pride has been insulted. Ultimately, I am anxious because I don't trust God with my task-list. I have my own issues to work on.
But still. Could we please start on time?
Saturday, October 11, 2008
We both watched it, intently, but I kept looking back and forth between N. and the kite, my eyes traveling along the lines of the kite string. Her gaze never wavered from the rainbow kite above us. Her hands, though, responded to the kite's fidgeting. The angle of her body and the position of her hands echoed the gliding of the kite, spoke to it, puppeteered it. They both moved so gracefully, each absolutely absorbed.
There was nothing else in the world--only this duet. The ocean behind her was only a painted backdrop, a study in purple and green; the sky, likewise, was blue canvas; the sun, a tilted spotlight. It all faded away, for this moment.
The sun stopped setting, to watch, and even the waves paid attention. The silent sand stared up at the show. We were all in the audience, our lives set aside. All that mattered was this counterpoint: this exuberant kite (straining to escape, then plummeting earthward, then soaring toward heaven again) and this grave girl (concentrating, quietly). This swaying. This wind.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
But in Psalm 119, the law is something else entirely. I especially liked verse 32: "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." Here, the law is a path cleared for us through the wilderness of the world, which sets us free from the struggle to move forward and find direction. Moreover, "the path of your commands" is one we can run on. What kind of path would someone run on? Not on a path with traps set in it; not on a badly marked path, or a dark path; not on a path toward doom; not on a path with no known destination. You run with a light heart when you know where you're going and how to get there, and you want to get there. To the psalmist, the law is direction and guidance, and freedom. In following God's law--in running on God's law--he finds his heart free. . .
I would like to have a free heart.
Looking elsewhere in Psalm 119, the law is something that wards off shame (6, 46), that leads us to God himself (10), that is worth more than money (14, 72), that shows God's love (64), that gives delight (24), makes us sing (54), grants comfort (52), gives hope (43, 47, 74), strengthens (28). . . These are all such good things--not just in the sense of "morally edifying", but genuinely desirable. Freedom, joy, delight, comfort: not judgment and condemnation.
"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (v. 18) This is how I want to look at the law--not as a duty but as a gift and privilege.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Can anyone point me to articles or books that would help remedy the gaps in my grasp of these paradoxes? (I'm currently reading Orthodoxy, and I'm hoping that will address them a bit, but I need repetition.)
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Almost everyone spoke of reality as something frightening and unlovely. "About reality--it is to be avoided," one woman began, and spoke of avoiding reality by traveling, reading, talking. Reality is the music in the command, "Face the music." Reality is cold, hard--gray, unforgiving.
But then, "Reality is what you make it," several people said. Reality is your experience; there is no ultimate reality; each person has his or her own reality. To my surprise, this notion of extreme subjectivity was just as common among the sexagenarians as the teenagers.
The funny thing is, these two common ideas are mutually exclusive. If we make our own reality, then it is mutable and squishy, not unforgiving and hard. Alternately, maybe we are saying that people who perceive reality as painful and harsh are in fact victims of their own minds. Their suffering is their own fault--it's their reality!
Two or maybe three people hinted at the idea of a reality too large to grasp, greater than our experience, behind the scenes that pass before our eyes--something transcendent, what C.S. Lewis might refer to as supernatural. Of these, two are hard-core Catholics.
And then there was me. I didn't finish writing as I would have liked. (Reality in four minutes? Come on!) But I said:
Reality is a smooth cold stone pulled from the snow-melt river. Hold it in the palm of your hand. Wait for it to warm.
(kinda like "may came home with a smooth round stone / as small as a world and as large as alone." [e.e. cummings], now that I think about it.)
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
I am waiting for that day, when waves and winds will not be able to flurry me here and there. I am waiting to understand the restlessness that I cannot pin down as it scurries around my feet, climbs my furniture, tangles my hair, keeps me up at night. I am waiting to become a person who can wait in peace.
Without emotions shredding my thoughts, without emotions flashing across my field of vision, life would be so simple--
Life would be so colorless, without emotion.
I am waiting to find the right palate of colors, vibrant but not clashing, bright but not overwhelming. I am waiting for the right light, so I can begin painting.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The trees stand perfectly still behind the rain. Each leaf is waiting for its raindrop. Tiny globes of water glisten on the ends of the pine needles, each one a crystalline world poised to leap into the void. Around the pines, water flashes and falls and gleams and glistens. Each of the thousands of drops shoots down through space alone, splatters into the ground alone, vanishes as an individual--alone. The trees watch these thousands of births and deaths in silence. On a tree, each leaf clings to its twig, and each twig to its branch, and each branch to the trunk. There is no solitude.
The plummeting drops shatter on the pavement, explode in the grass. The collective noise of their passage roars in the air. I shut the window. I am inside and dry, in the quiet, in the stillness. My world is solid, not liquid. I sit on a bed which stands on the floor, which rests on beams and walls, which reach roots into the earth.
Here, the earth is solid, dependable. It will not leave its place just because of the rain. Today it is raining, but tomorrow or the day after, my world here will still have its former shape. The rain will not have washed anything away. In other places, the rain has more power. . . Last night I watched the Indian film "Before the Rain," in which the coming of the monsoons is a real threat to the stability of a road being built in the mountains, and thus to the entire life of the British planter Moores, who has staked his entire fortune on a the project of building this road. The coming of the rain is a non-negotiable deadline. Meanwhile, his life and the lives intertwined with his are falling apart because of his careless love affair with a married woman from the local village. He tells her he loves her, truly loves her, and she trusts him enough to put her honor and her very life in his hands--and he fails her. Then he sends her away. But a person is not a raindrop falling alone and sinking alone into the soil. From the leaf of her disappearance follows a full tree of disatrous consequences. As Moores's unsuspecting wife, Sajani's distraught brother, and the entire village look for the lost girl, Moores does his best to bury the incident in his mind, and instead focuses on building the road.
Leaf by leaf, twig by twig, events branch outward. . . Nothing is in Moores's hands anymore, though. He had one real choice in this story, and that choice determined the tragedy that destroyed his family and wreaked Sajani's life. He chose to break the bond of marriage, discard his own promises, tear through Sajani's vows. He destroyed that one thing, and everything grew up around him, inevitably.
When finally the rains come, the road stays steady. But Moores, his friend, his wife, his lover, his son--all are gone. The Indians march for Mother India, and the rain pours from the sky upon an alien landscape.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
It's snowing this afternoon and there are no flowers--here, at least. I heard that in the next village a boy cliams to know a field high on the mountain where the flowers grow despite the cold, piercing the snow. Their red petals, he says, stand out like wounds. I see them: drops of blood on the cold skin of the mountain, blossoms of pain, grown from seeds of memory.
In this region, every mountain has its ghosts--travelers who lost their way and never retrieved it, spurned lovers who left society, hapless victims of weather.
The mountains loom over the hamlets that squat between them. Towering over us, they are our sky. Their crags teem with memories. We who live in the lap of the mountains can feel the gaze of those who have left our lives, but are not gone. No one leaves, really. They stay, and drive the clouds away from one peak. They stay, and gather the clouds around another, mounding up the roiling mists, wrapping themselves in fog. They stay, and send up scarlet flowers. They stay, and ride the snow flakes down to their old homes. They drift on the wind, they slide in the shadows.
We are never alone, not here, and there are no secrets. On a quiet day, we can hear the rocks whisper. In the wind, forgotten voices repeat their stories. Alone in this snow blanketed meadow, I can hear the sleeping flowers tell me of their dreams, as the snow continues to fall, bringing visitors from the past, from the mountains.
[Apologies for the content-less post. I am not getting enough sleep. I spend too much time discussing the difference between "soul" and "spirit" (a post will probably be forthcoming), and ineffectually trying to do CS even though there are people talking in my room.]
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I looked to my right over the shoulder of a man threatening me, out a blue-tinted window. The sun hung low over the violet ocean, drawing its reflection along the water like a narrow white path. I stared at it, but my eyes did not burn. The light stripes the glass, a single blazing line.
The man continued to explain why I had to die. I looked over his other shoulder, out another window. The purple ocean lapped against a burned shore. I see it still--
Felled trunks of redwood trees lie scattered across the blackened land like corpses of giants. A few trees, still standing, hunker down amidst the charcoal. The colors shine beautifully, but I want to cry. This scene is not supposed to be lovely to look at. It is so wrong that such destruction can have the iridescent colors of a raven's wing.
In the dream, I cried about the wrongness, and the man who wanted me dead turned and tried to comfort me. . .
Sunday, September 21, 2008
2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
I've been reading I & II Samuel, and I am so struck by the complete trust that David displays. I don't mean to imply that David never feared or faltered, but time and again he acts, risking everything, in complete trust. His faith is completely real and practical. For instance, he consults G-d about military decisions (ex. II Sam. 5:17-25), and unhesitatingly takes the answers he gets as clear and trustworthy. I want to have that kind of radical abandonment to G-d's sovereignty, and that kind of clarity when I seek His will.
I want it so badly because I don't have it now. So often I catch myself thinking of praying as a self-help deal, or as a bonding exercise, or a good habit to teach kids, or as a demonstration of belief, when really it is a direct appeal to the Almighty, which, regardless of how the pray-ers feel during or after the prayer, has unfathomable capacity to invite G-d's intervention. When I pray, I don't often get a definitive-feeling answer--certainly nothing as concrete as the replies David gets. When I feel like I'm risking something, I don't have the rock-hard conviction that David expresses in this psalm. And I want that.
I want to feel and live consistently with what I say I believe.
But for now, I'm going to memorize the psalm.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I need to be out in the greenery, in the waving leaves, in the wind that no one can cage or order here or there. I need to be in the world of blankets and dreams, scenes that swirl into each other and effects without causes, where perspectives shift moment by moment, and anything can happen. Give me reality or give me fantasy, but don't maroon me in artificiality.
Friday, September 19, 2008
you can't do ministry out of your own substance. You have to be full [hand gesture at shoulder level] of the Spirit, and you minister from the overflow. [...] So as long as you're trying to work out your own mess, your ministry is on hold, because you're not full. You need G-d to fill you up, and then you can minister.[This is only from my recollection, so please don't think it's entirely verbatim.]
She then back tracked a bit and said that we are always witnesses even when we aren't full/perfect/fixed. That last statement I certainly agree with, because anyone claiming to be a Christian, whether they act like one or not, is, by their life, making a statement about how Christians behave. The actions of every self-identified Christian add to society's mental image of a Christian.
I completely agree with the first claim, that "you can't do ministry out of your own substance." As fallen creatures, as works in progress, as humans, we can only rely on G-d. After all, "whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You [...] G-d is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25-26). G-d gives us grace to do his work here (Eph. 4:7), and everything we do, we are to do in Christ.
However, the claim that you cannot minister effectively until you are "full" seems inconsistent with Biblical teaching to me. How does this idea mesh with verses like "We have this treasure in jars of clay" (2 Cor. 4:7) and "Although I am less than the least of all G-d's people, this grace was given me: to preach [...]" (Eph. 3:8)? Paul certainly seems to think that G-d works through us while we are still broken vessels, lowly clay jars, utterly unworthy. Look at the examples of ministry the Bible gives us: the bumbling disciples (an "unbelieving and perverse generation" [Matt. 17:17]); the chosen king David who nonetheless commited adultery and murdered Uriah (2 Sam. 11); the entire chosen nation of Isreal, who fell into idolatry again and again (Biblical reference: the entire Old Testament. Or more concisely, Stephen's summary in Acts 7); &c.
There is also my favorite example of how G-d can use anyone: Samson (Judges 14-16). Now, obviously Samson did not come from adverse circumstances (see Judges 13); his environment is not the remarkable thing about his "ministry." The remarkable thing, actually, is how bad an example he is. Samson disrespects his parents, disregards the religious rules for purity, succumbs over and over again to lust, acts rashly in anger, etc., etc. He is horrible. But G-d uses him anyway. In fact, I get the picture that G-d uses Samson despite Samson's best efforts to the contrary. Clearly, Samson is not in tune with G-d's will, not seeing through G-d's eyes, not fixed, not done with his own mess. He is busy making his mess worse and worse, but G-d is busy working to liberate Israel through Samson's actions, in spite of Samson's character.
I think Samson's scenario is the most Biblically typical (if more extreme than many). Yes, it is vital to be filled with G-d's spirit. Yes, it's important to clean up your life. Yes, we cannot minister out of our own strength. Yes, we are more effective both as examples and as servants when we are living in accordance with G-d's laws. But: no, your ministry is not "on hold" while you are "cleaning up your mess." Samson never cleaned up his mess, but G-d still used him in a powerful (if bizarre) way. G-d is "the same yesterday, today and tomorrow" (Heb. 13:8); he still works in spite of his servants' flaws. What a comforting and humbling thought.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
What organ produces phlegm? you may ask.
Answer: the BRAIN!
Apparently, the brain grows throughout a person's life, which is problematic because it is constricted by the skull. What's to become of the excess brain matter??
Answer: Expel it through the nose!!!
...In case you didn't catch the implications of that momentous statement, I shall elaborate. This means that all the phlegm you blow out your nose or cough up when you're sick is actually brain matter that just didn't fit in your head any more. I.e., snot == brains. Yes.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Confronted with a beast, I may flee, but at least I know the enemy that pursues me. Once it departs to plague other locales, I can look around and understand where it broke through my fences, what enticed it or allowed it entry into my domain. I know how to treat the wounds these beasts inflict, and how to banish them, at least for a while.
And so I survive.
But sometimes there comes another menace that leaves no tracks, only a haze of melancholy. Anger is a bear, and grief is a wolf, but this is a faceless creature with an unpronounceable name. It descends noiselessly, and its shadow blocks out the sun. Cloud-like, it creeps into every corner. When I awaken to its presence, it has already penetrated my inner courts, and I cannot escape, nor drive it away. I can only wait.
I wait, and wait, cowering in its shadow and shivering in its chill. I wait, and try to go about my business, while it hangs overhead, shedding darkness and miasma. In its presence, I am weak and cowardly. I dare not look up, lest I gaze into its terrifying eyes. I wait, and sleep, and wake to find it still flapping about, and still I do not know how to drive it away.
But one day, something triggers a change. The shadow and the creature casting it glide away. The sun shines unsullied again, and I rejoice. But I rejoice with bewilderment, because I do not know what dismal region birthed this monster, nor what it wants from me. I cannot tell what drove it away, nor what might bring it back. Again, I can only wait. I cannot track a creature that falls out of the sky.
I put up little charms, hang garlic on my doorposts, drink tea with herb picked by the light of the moon, listen to my intuitions. But the mystery cannot be dispelled, and I must continue a life of uncertainty.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Does it mean I spend more time with that group of people? Does it mean I am most emotionally invested in that group of people? Does it mean I turn to those people for advice and comfort when things go wrong? Does it mean those are the people I start missing first?
In "The Devil Wears Prada," the neglected boyfriend says, "The person you're in a relationship with is the one whose calls you always take." Are the people who are my community the ones whose calls I always take? the ones whose company I seek out in favor of others'?
If Christians are supposed to be my primary community, what happens to the people that I naturally gravitate towards spending most time with and confiding in most? I'm certainly not going to ditch them. What do I have to do to live out my priorities? (and what are those priorities, anyway?)
[Advice and answers are welcome.]
JS and I paused in our walk to breakfast, as I bent to adjust the outside seam on my right pant. The seam was bent oddly, I thought, and that was why it was bothering me. But when my fingers pinched at the fabric, they found a small bump between them. "It's not just the seam--there's something here--" and my left hand held the bottom of the pant leg open for whatever it was to fall out. (An egg sac? I imagined. Probably a dried-up sticker from some plant.) It skittered scratchily across my skin on the way down, down along my leg, down through a jean tunnel, and fell my hand--
a small black thing, segmented,
gleaming, with two narrow wings and too many jointed legs--!
My hand flung it away. It landed on the sidewalk, a beetle-y bee or a bee-like beetle. A shudder convulsed me. That was in my jeans? How did it get there? Was it dead?
It did not move. We glanced at it, then scurried away, babbling.
Bees, please stay out of my pants.
(It seems this blog has an entomological theme this semester. I assure you, it was not planned. All events recorded thus far actually happened as described.)
[POST SCRIPTUM: I realized that, when I found the bee in my jeans, I had not worn those jeans since last washing them, and that I had hung them outside to dry in the sun. . . Apparently a bee wandered into them while they were drying, and just didn't make it out. What the heck.]
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Conway's Game of Life == first really intriguing thing learned this semester.
Permutation City == next book I want to buy
Jenny == Wikipedia addict
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
This post is in reaction to a scene I witnessed a couple weeks ago. I was at Berkeley, visiting friends, and on the way to lunch we saw a crowd gathered around two incensed figures. One, a red-faced man who looked to be in his late 50s, was gripping a leather-covered Bible and flourishing it in the air as he spoke. The other, unkempt and quintessentially Berkeley, was wearing a shirt that read "Adults are stupid," though he clearly fell into that very category at least by age. He slumped with his hands in the pockets of his baggy jeans, leering, while the Bible-waver proclaimed The Truth (his terminology, not mine, thank you). The Bible-waver's proclamations included the following: masturbation leads to homosexuality; all gays and masturbators will go to hell; the earth was created in 6 days; Catholics aren't saved because they "aren't born again"; evolution is a fiction; Muslims are going to hell; hell is eternal burning and pain; etc., etc.
It was bad enough hearing him condemn people right and left, and make patently false claims ("masturbation => homosexuality"??), as well as theologically questionable claims ("Hell = literal fire"??), especially as he was waving a Bible. But what truly frustrated me was that he intermingled with his wrathful blather some nuggets of the gospel: We are all condemned to die because of our sins, but God out of his mercy and grace wants to pluck us out of damnation and grant us salvation, and sent his Son to suffer the punishment we deserved. I believe this too, and it is one of my most precious tenets. To hear it lumped in with the garbage this man was spouting was like finding a favorite dress in the box of rags, or my favorite book shelved with a bunch of trashy romances...
The "lumping" of messages resulted partly from their being said all together by one man, and partly from their being received/interpreted as one whole by the crowd of amused and enraged college students surrounding the drama--and by Bible-Waver's opponent, Mr. Unkempt. Mr. Unkempt would interject sexual commentary ("But it's so fun!") or purely obnoxious quips ("The Bible doesn't say anything. The Bible doesn't talk."). When Bible-Waver paused for breath or asked a question, Mr. Unkempt would straighten up, pull out his hands, and direct his response to the surrounding students. He used a variety of rhetorical strategies, actually: accusing Bible-Waver of being proven wrong by science, promoting the "fun" of "jerking off" &c., attacking the Bible itself ("The big shots at Constantinople just picked the books that they liked."), mocking the views the other man expressed, mocking the man himself ("He is so red in the face. I don't know how he does it. Is my face getting red yet?").
Watching this shouting and insult-trading, I couldn't help voicing out some of the things running through my mind. "What about 'speaking the truth in love'?" about all Bible Waver's condemnations. "What about the unity of the body of Christ?" about his reviling of Catholics. "The Bible doesn't mention the word masturbation" to his insistence on that topic. I really wanted to ask him what on earth he thinks he can accomplish by showing up on one of the nation's most liberal campuses and telling people they are going to hell. Honestly, whose heart was ever changed by such a circus act? He didn't understand that the students around him were not hearing his message, only his anger, and that they weren't even taking that seriously. I wanted to tell him to go read the Gospels again, to look at how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery, the despised tax-collectors, the Samaritan at the well. Jesus acted with power, with authority, yes, but with love and gentleness. Religion that God accepts as pure is . . . I want him to go read Isaiah, Jeremiah, their scathing rebukes of the merely religious, whose hearts were not set on God. Love, for the day is near. . .
Of course, Mr. Unkempt frustrated me, too, mainly because everyone agreed with him. But he wasn't claiming to represent anyone besides himself, whereas, to my mind, Bible-Waver was claiming to represent Christ himself, and failing miserable. I was embarrassed to be associated with him, and furious.
But what does that fury make me? A hypocrite. I'd like to think I do a lot better than Bible-Waver, but in the scheme of things, I really can't judge that. God being infinitely good, anything imperfect is so much less, so bad, relative to him, that all comparisons here pale. What does it say about me that my immediate response to this man who is supposed to be my brother in Christ was not to pray for him, but to condemn him in my mind? not to point out where he was right, but to distance myself from him in my friends' eyes? not to see him with God's eyes of mercy, but to be repulsed by him? (Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, have mercy on him, a sinner.)
I'm not saying, however, that I was wrong to be deeply frustrated by this encounter. I hate that God gets misrepresented. I wish more Christians knew James 1:27, and acted like it. If they did, I bet a lot fewer Berkeley students would support Mr. Unkempt. We are called to be a revolution in the world, and instead we are waving signs and shouting at drug addicts. (Lord, have mercy on your broken people.)
Monday, September 8, 2008
"Where??" I whirled around, but saw only leaves, that glowed only in the waning sun.
"You didn't see it? Wait, there it is again. Look!"
"Where?" I searched the leaves and vines, in vain. I waited anyway, watching. I was looking for a glowing, floating thing, like the searchlight of a microscopic airplane. Nothing, nothing--Until suddenly: a flicker of pale light! and again, flying. There! and gone again, leaving the leaves like an empty stage. But I had seen the star, the firefly: a green spark in the green forest. I had expected a leisurely movement, a gentle and steady light. Instead, I glimpsed a dancing spark, a flicker of the fey in a life of the predictable. Now I burn to dance as a firefly, in the green wood, at dusk.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
(Writing, I think again of the little cricket fluttering and bouncing against my palms and fingers. It is so dark in this little skin-cave. Is he terrified? curious? exhilarated?)
His tiny feet and graceful antennae brushed my skin as he flitted back and forth like a caged fairy. My roommate and I ran giggling through the hallway. Just as I thought I couldn't bear the tickling any longer, I tossed the cricket over the railing, down the stairs. Again, he fell like a small star.
As the door slammed shut, the stairwell behind us filled with chirping.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Human activities such as attending school have distinct stop and start points, but no matter what the calendar says, the seasons turn over gradually. Here I am: across the country again, spending my day in classrooms again, keeping notebooks again. Here I am, thinking it's fall again. But outside the confines of my own scant life, the sun still blazes as hotly as it did in August. The verdant forest still drinks in the light, and the sky arches its blue back as it did all summer. The calendar announces September's arrival, but the world turns slowly.
As slowly as the seasons change, I change slower. The contents of my mind remain tangled. Summer's passage may have loosened the knots, but I still cannot follow the path of any one thread. Here I am, in confusion again. Here I am, making the same decisions again. I am back to my problems, back East, back to French, back to work, back to my friends, back to my habits. But I want my habits to change, like the color of the leaves. I want to pass into a new season.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Who needs therapy when you could have a pen and paper and solitude and silence?
But in all seriousness, I really do underestimate the importance of the role journaling plays in my emotional and spiritual state. I think it may be even more vital than social contact. . .
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Generous is not a word that we typically hear applied to G-d. But Ephesians constantly refers to G-d's riches--"the riches of G-d's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding" (Eph. 1:7-8). I think it is really easy to think of G-d in the vein of the Graeco-Roman ideal of moderation and rationality, as distant, calm, dispassionate, measured, even cold; or in the traditional fire-and-brimstone sense, as the harsh judge or strict father, even as the almighty punisher ("Smite me, o mighty Smiter!"--Bruce Almighty). It is easy to think of G-d as being like human authority figures, who give according to law and merit, sparingly, if at all.
But that is not who G-d is. He is generous beyond our comprehension, eager to lavish undeserved riches on us, his spiritually impoverished children. He has given us "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (1:3), He forgives us because of "the riches of G-d's grace" (7), calls us to "the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (18). He is extravagant! This is not some carefully meted out giving, but an overflowing from His unfathomably good character into our lives. Ephesians' epithet for G-d is "G-d, who is rich in mercy." He calls us to abundance and riches. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . . But because of his great love for us, G-d, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ . . . in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace" (Eph. 2:1, 4, 7).
Don't allow your mind to reduce G-d to a sterile abstraction, devoid of character and interest, when in reality He is fuller and richer than we can begin to conceive.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
(The bath towel is here because I showered across the house from where it belongs, due to the construction workers who were taking up the whole middle part of the house, and then I didn't want to return it to its home, again due to the occupants of the kitchen/living room. An ant is crawling over the towel. It mostly manages to stay on the tips of the loops of thread, but it is struggling to cross them. It has an easier time on the band of towel that doesn't have loops, though. And now it's scurrying across my keyboard. And now it's gone.)
I feel so girly for wearing this dress. Then again, I am not wearing for anyone or any event. I don't know why I am so averse to the trappings of girldom and to the label GIRL (the one said with a roll of the eyes). It's not a bad thing to be a girl. I don't want to be anything else (though I suppose at this point I could be labeled WOMAN. Huh.) But I hate conforming to the stereotypes, and I deliberately avoid doing so--which has the unfortunate consequence that I am being reverse-psychologically controlled by the same stereotypes I want to escape. Grr.
I'm perfectly happy to be a girl. I just don't want other people to think of me as one. How does that make sense??
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Maybe not. Maybe I should just get more sleep.
But I am overflowing with other people's words and problems. It's hard to tell just where the brim is. Sometimes other people's problems spill over the dividers into my own issues. Other times, I see reflections of my own past months (weeks, days, hours) in my friends' presents. I hardly know what perspective I'm seeing from. Maybe every life is the same one, recycled over and over again, but seen from slightly different angles, overlapping in impossible ways but collaging into one unified (if confusing) piece of truth, like a cubist painting that the mind cannot quite resolve but must simply accept.
And maybe not.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I don't know how one goes about seeking a purpose. I recommended to my friend self-examination (asking himself what drives him, what satisfies him, what grieves him, etc.), and experimentation (does volunteering make him feel fulfilled? or art? or fixing things? etc.), and reading books (to get exposure to other people's thoughts on the matter).
What I do know, though, is that life's purpose comes not from another person, or even really from inside yourself, but from G-d... (It's late and I don't feel like elaborating at the moment. I'll try to fix that later. Or you can ask me if you really want my comments!)
But that begs the question of how I can find out what G-d's purpose for me is. I don't have a good answer for that one, either. (Wow, I'm helpful. :-/ ) But that brought up church, and what makes a good church, or a good church experience. What does it mean if you never feel "the divine presence" at church? What gives you that feeling in the first place?
Feelings are so subjective and complicated. They are hard to talk about, hard to understand--slippery in the mind, elusive, like floaters in water that slide and swim out from the scooping spoon that tries to remove them. I don't know how to explain. All I have is the vague answer that your emotional experience of G-d is largely dependent on your personality (=> how you "fit" with your environment) and your internal state. Perhaps I should have said something about it depending on where you are with G-d: your moral habits, your spiritual disciplines, ... Trouble is, I don't really know what I'm talking about. My ideas are all vague. (I'm too young, too inexperienced!)
So many questions, so few answers. Good thing I get more chances to talk to him later. Good thing G-d can work despite his servants, not just through them.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Light has deserted this entire house, except this glowing screen, and I keep thinking I should push myself to my feet, uncross my legs, wend my way across the den (rendered maze-like by rearranged furniture) to the light switch that waits so stoically on the wall. I should not maroon myself in this blackness, should not fix my eyes on the screen. I feel like a traveler lost in a trackless forest, drowning in black branches and susurrating leaves, who can see only the moon, and so stares up at it. His world telescopes into that one white disc. His mind blocks out all that is around him: all he would be able to see in the day, and all that is beyond all that he would see. The dark still presses, but it slips off his mind, which is concentrating all its power on the Moon, the waxing gibbous Moon. He hugs himself in the dark dark dark, this small figure, and leans his head back. He gazes and gazes, lunatically.
And now I will darken my moon (my computer screen). I will rise and thread my steps through the furniture, tread gingerly across the papered floor, find my room, my bed. Find sleep.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Sometimes I forget the feeling of sand on bare feet: the grit between the toes, the sinking in with each step. The sand was especially soft this evening where we were walking along the sunset-ly shore. My feet sank deep, and the footprints gaped like the entrances to caverns, with water seeping into the bottoms. We left parallel trails of pockmarks along the edge: where the ocean mingles with the sand--where the sand dances a frenzied dance in the swirling water, and settles back into being a solid--where the crowd of sand particles welcomes the seeping water into its embraces, and absorbs it like a city absorbing a new wave of immigrants--where the boundaries is fluid--even the boundaries between solid and liquid and airy element: where the waves reach, and creep, and turn back, and water sprays, and foams.
The freezing water foams white, and the setting sun gilds it. The waves crash in silver and lace and steel. Nothing stops the sea.
Monday, June 9, 2008
This is going to be a summer of structure. The practical reason is that my internship (40hrs/wk) forces me to plan out my time expenditure; the emotional or spiritual or personal reason is that I need the constraints and rhythms of habit to bring me to the place I want to be in relation to G-d and my own sense of self.
Confession: This past semester, I was singularly undisciplined in all sorts of domains. It started with emotions and a relationship, and drifted into my time management, and then my spiritual/personal life, and even (a little) academics (in my patterns and methods of getting things done, and my attitudes--I still finished things and did well in the end.) It wasn't even so much whether I did or didn't do things, as how I did them: with what frame of mind, what internal state. I couldn't concentrate, couldn't settle down. Disharmony dominated me.
Which is not what G-d's will is.
I am seeking integration and . . . something else. Purification? Harmony? Growth? All of the above, I suppose.
My means to those ends is habit. Goals for the summer: memorize the book of Ephesians (with my sista!), have quiet time every day, keep Fridays as Sabbaths (from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Friday, no computers, no spending money, no secular reading). I also want to read various books / learn various things, keep up with this blog; see friends, ride my bike, cook; sleep. Blog-wise, I'm going to try to post Tues/Thurs/Sat. Three days a week is fair, right? I'll start that schedule tomorrow. :)
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I have to decide whether to take a break from blogging for the summer, too (since I'll be really busy with my internship), or to discipline myself to keep writing. . . Any comments?
Free, unburdened, they skipped down the stairs, leaving their final footprints on the dark green linoleum. Outside, the rain fell on the verdant trees. It is still falling. The sky is shrouded in soft gray.
I should be studying, but instead I am typing this, and remembering the goodbye hugs--the "I love you"s--the "call me"s--the "I'll miss you"s. The empty rooms feel barren like trees in winter. Their doors are shut, locked, but the emptiness seeps out. . .
The elation of those going home lingers in the hallways like perfume.
I can't wait.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The swans were at the mill pond, too, white and gracious like angels on the water, with their cygnets between them. On the lawn, the Canada geese were herding their grazing babes, yellow on green. I never knew so many birds deigned to dawdle with their young in the domain of the earthbound humans.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I can't tell dreams from truth...
If you want me,
Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waters
All of your waves have crashed over me...
Trying to pull myself away
Caught in a pattern and I can't escape...
What direction? What direction? What direction
Life begins at the intersection--
What direction, what direction, what direction, what direction now?...
Here we are now in the falling stars and the rain
Don't wanna be the only one you know
I wanna be the place you call home
I lay myself down
To make it so, but you don't want to know
You take much more than I'd ever ask for...
Dare you to move
Dare you to lift yourself up off the floor...
I just wanna live
Don't really care about the things that they say
Don't really care about what happens to me
I'm tired of lookin round rooms wonderin what I gotta do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't wanna be anything other than me
[artists/songs: "If You Want Me" from "Once"; song whose title and artist I don't know; "Trying to Pull Myself Away" from "Once"; "Faust, Midas and Myself" and "Awakening" by Switchfoot; "Hamburg Song" by Keane; "Dare You to Move" by Switchfoot"; "I Just Wanna Live" by Good Charlotte; "I Don't Wanna Be" by Gavin DeGraw]
Friday, May 9, 2008
Sorry for a rather surface-y post, but it's past 2 and I've been studying CompSci. Midterm tomorrow...
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The courageous aspect is that anyone can read what you posted. Rather than you selecting a trusted friend, relative, therapist, etc., to bare your heart, with the confidence that what you say will stay with that person rather than being scattered all over the streets to be trampled and torn like yesterday's newspaper, in blogging you are baring yourself to the world. In a sense, writing an honest blog is like the proverbial nightmare of being naked in front of a crowd.
The cowardly aspect is that you haven't sought out any particular person to trust. You haven't committed to anyone the gift and burden of sharing something no one else will hear. In asking someone particular to listen to you --to give you their time and attention, to care what you have to say, to continue caring for you once you've said the things no one is supposed to know--you make yourself vulnerable. You tell someone you trust them, and if they turn out to be unworthy of your trust, you are more shaken than you would have been if you had never trusted in the first place. To extend the metaphor of nakedness: Speaking to someone directly can be more frightening than addressing an anonymous public in the same way that being naked for someone you care deeply about is more of an emotional risk than exposing yourself in front of strangers who do not know you and whose opinions you can easily blow off.
Which variety of physical nakedness is more of an emotional risk depends on who you are. I suppose the same goes for the emotional or intellectual nakedness of communicating. The courage/cowardice mixture must depend on the particular blog and blogger.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I did not feel until I saw the flowers. I did not cry until I read their stiff cards.
We will never see him again. The colors are too bright for such a dark time. The colors are bold, are harsh: are like life. We are here in a room devoted to his death, yet life is all around.
We leave the room, slowly, holding dampened and crushed tissues. We go out into the cold night air, under the black sky, and the silent stars. We go out into life.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
And what I forgot is that hunger is such a powerful focusing agent.
I fasted on Wednesday, and it felt like all these cobwebs and clouds of schoolwork-stress and interpersonal drama and just plain hurriedness were brushed away, and I could see and live clearly. Focus. I always know G-d is there, always know the principles guiding my life, always seek connection and peace--but I don't always feel it. The spiritual I tend to think of as influenced mainly by my relationships with people, my moral decisions, my G-d-seeking habits (church, reading the Bible, etc), rather than by the state of my body. But when I didn't eat on Wednesday, even without spending hours in prayer or formal worship, I felt so close to G-d and reality. Hurry and worry are like cataracts, emotionally and spiritually. Fasting made those scales fall from my eyes.
And I don't mean to say that simply not eating fixes things. It's the attitude of sacrifice, of seeking--of putting into physical practice a longing for something better--that does it, I think. Motivation and direction shape the fast. When your body keeps reminding you, "I need food. I hurt. I hunger. I lack something," you remember, "The thing I really lack is G-d." You direct your thoughts as though herding a giggling group of small children who keep running this way and that.
Not by my own will power, nor by some simple mechanical effect, but by some mystery, some grace of G-d, the fast brings clarity. I see. I live.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The day was gray and damp, rain splattering down onto the sand, leaving it pocked and patterned. The rocks on the shore gleamed like pearls. At this beach, the smooth stones all seemed translucent and bright: a garden of tumbled quartz, rose and white and peach and lavender. The occasional white seagull floated on the gray water, arching its wings and squawking.
We scrutinized the tangled beds of blond reeds washed up on the sand and stone. We stooped and selected the things that didn't fit: inorganic-looking rods (discarded straws), strands too brightly colored to belong (escaped plastic ribbons, curled), bottle caps blue and red, the corpse of a tin can, frazzled and frayed rope. The shriveled skeleton of a popped balloon. With chilled fingers, we teased these artifacts out of the reeds, collecting them in a huge dark sack. The black bag flapped in the ocean breeze and dragged on its belly across the lovely-hued stones.
Beside us, the waves murmured. Overhead, the sky continued to cry, as we crept along the shore, discovering and discriminating. Each moment was like one of the shore's sleek stones, and every stone was like a jewel, and I wanted to take them all home.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Anyway, it turns out there was a ridiculous amount of drama amongst the 16th century mathematicians looking for the cubic equation. How amusing/disillusioning--I thought mathematicians, being analytical and logical and intelligent and (back in the day) male, would not be prime candidates for secret-keeping, betrayal, public fights, insult-hurling, etc. But apparently not! Maybe Cardano and Tartaglia's silliness can be blamed on their being Italian.
Or, if we take the view of men v. women expressed in Candide, we could blame it on their being male and therefore impractical and idealistic and obsessed with honor. Hmm.
But anyway, the thing I am currently really interested in is Euler's formula, which yields the infamous "e to the pi times i equals 0." How do you wrap your mind around the idea of raising something to an imaginary or complex number? I need to look into this more.
What does it say about me that looking at this kind of math makes me so happy, huh?
I think it says I'm my father's daughter. :)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I will wait for time to wash my world, wait for a return to the plain sense of things. Time will dull some colors, brighten others. I will overlay new memories to gloss over the old, and a bed or a couch will no longer shout stories. I will not have to cover my ears to close out their clamor. I will go on, and on. Memory will soften in the sea and drift away on the tide, and it will not matter.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I'm not properly sick now--just heartsick.
I am self-medicating with loose fitting t-shirts, too many chocolate cookies and an excessive amount of ice cream, pizza, long conversations in the sun or on the phone, long walks with no proper jacket or shoes, extra doses of church. Max, effusive as a puppy, is the best antidote to the poison of a person I just cannot deal with. Crying cleanses the stuffed feeling in my eyes and chest. The cold of a clouded morning numbs the pain in my heart. I am avoiding homework. Instead, I sneak outside (abandon my cell phone, who cares if it rings?), ditch my shoes at the base of a pine tree. It takes wriggling and pulling and twig-breaking and leg-scraping, but I squirm up into the crest. The bark chills the bare soles of my feet, my palms. I want to cry, but tears do not come when I call them.
I break off a twig with its explosion of pine needles and tear them off bundle by bundle. Each bundle has five needles. I pluck those one by one, too, letting them fall through the criss-cross of sticks and branches below, until this seems too sanitized and controlled, about half-way through the bouquet. The needles are not as pungently-scented as I am accustomed to expect, so I tear into tiny segments and crush them in my palms. They leave my already sap-spotted skin tinged green. When I drop them, they scatter through the air, falling, falling.
It is cold and secret and silent. I would like to be a pine tree, clothed always in rustling green needles, fresh sap oozing instead of blood and tears and sweat. Trees cannot cry. Neither can I . . .
Do the trees ever want to weep?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Now that I am away, I can almost afford to listen to my body.
Almost. I will hear it, no matter what. My body does not stop talking to me. I (my choosing self) is done. Done in. I need to collapse on my metaphorical back and stare at the symbolic ceiling with blank metaphysical eyes. I have no more words. I will not--cannot--respond to my chattering body even to tell it to shut up. I only sigh and shut my eyes, and my body's craving threatens to drive me crazy. Somehow I need to get my body outside the room, and lock the door.
Stop. Stop telling me what you want. Don't bother wanting things you cannot have, things you were not happy with when you had them. Don't tell me you were really happy with them--I know you weren't. Stop editing the past. Stop revisiting the past. Stop wanting. Stop whining.
And I too am light. I was a dark drop of despair, plunging through endless space--but the sun shone through me, piercingly, and now: I have evaporated, am drifting in the warm air. I will not fall.
There is a lightness in me, a clarity at my core. My heart floats, steady, steady. I breathe in, and it seems the whole sky dwells for a moment within the vault of my ribs. Breathe in, and it seems for a moment I rise off the ground, that the sky lifts my weight. The balls of my feet touch the earth, but no weight rests on them. Breathe in. Breathe in, and the sun shines on my cold heart.
And breathe out and come back to the world.
The sky releases me, lowering me carefully. I am, again, my small self. But the sun is still shining, and the naked trees are putting out hopeful, knobbly buds.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Flight is, physically, a running away, regardless of motivation. Whether you're physically running away doesn't say that much about whether you are running away in the sense of being a coward, though. Sometimes the hardest thing isn't the right thing. Sometimes trying to deal with a problem is the source of a new problem. Sometimes you have to leave.
Courage is facing your fears, is doing the right thing in the face of fear, of hardship. But if you have fears pressing you in every direction, courage also means running away from some things. You look one fear in the eye and walk towards its object determinedly, head up, heart beating fast. The monster looms large before you, horrifying. Your feet drag, your eyes dart. You hesitate, look around. And then you choose to keep going. You see the monster, and you continue towards it.
The thing is, in choosing that direction, that monster to face, you have turned your back on a host of other fears. The faster you move toward the monster you have chosen, bravely, to face, the faster you are running away from the other threats. They snarl and slobber behind you, and the onlookers shout and jeer that you are running away.
You are running. But "away" and "toward" require a frame of reference. You are running: away from the starting line, toward the finish.
Whether your running away is more important than your running toward pertains primarily to your motivation. Motivation: the moving force. Fear of the monsters behind you? or courage to face the monster before you? Activity, or passivity? Are you the agent, or the acted upon? Do not let a fear be the agent. Fear is meant as a message, as a tool, as an energizer. The decision is yours to make. You, not your emotions, are the agent.
I made my choice. I picked a direction. I am going there, and I am necessarily going away from where I am now. I am running. Forward.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2) Away from sin and hindrance, toward the right and the Light. Toward the person who turned away from shame, turned toward joy. Turning, turning, turning, away and toward. Turning into the person I want to be: being "transformed by the renewing of my mind." (Romans 12:2).
[note on the title: from Judges 19: 17, via Joyce Carol Oates.]