Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lions and Tigers and Bears

The New York Times Magazine ran an article today about the growing problems with the population growth of bears in the United States and Canada. If you have ever been camping or talked about camping with me, you probably know that the sole reason for me not wanting to go to Banff Canada is because I am deathly afraid of grizzly bears. Granted, this article was about black bears, and I may have, just in May, talked trash about how I'm not afraid of black bears. I have never run into one, but that is besides the point.

The article addresses the complicated issue of bears becoming more and more visible in suburban settings. Some people just want the bears to be gone, by any means possible. Some people fight for the rights of bears, and of course many lie in between the two sides. Here's the line that stuck with me, though, that addresses the attitude that people long held, and a possible reason for some of the current problems:

"For two centuries, as European immigrants moved west across North America, they sought to rid the landscape of any possible threat to themselves, their crops, their livestock; anything with big teeth — bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats — received a lethal round." And as much as I could talk about bears, this struck me as a profound metaphor.

I suppose that it makes sense that when a person is threatened, the most logical answer is to remove the cause of the threat. But at the same time it seems like that just places us within a nice, neat fence with everything that could potentially cause us to hurt--or even feel--at a safe distance. In some ways this sounds appealing: ultimate safety and protection. But in others it sounds more dangerous than the threats themselves. If I am destroying or ignoring everything that might be difficult--be that relationships, honesty, poverty, the list could go on--then I am ultimately remaining unchanged, then I think

I think

I think

is worse than the pain that I may have endured for a short while.

(Now, if you are out camping and see a bear...take this out of a hypothetical metaphor. Obviously.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

walking in brooklyn
before sundown
makes me wish
to be in london
along the thames
a firelit pub
at evening.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

walking home on tuesday nights makes me notice things.

the heaviness of days
of passersby
pressed the leaves
so close
to the shining-from-the-rain-
that they were almost one
except for the delicate veins
reaching out
wondering where
they had fallen

Monday, November 19, 2007

the best kind of monday morning

when i hear the rain
on the fire escape
and on the roof
i am glad.
for my fourth floor walk up
and the layers of down
that i am curled beneath.
for early early morning quiet
(except for that rain out the windows)
and eyes
not quite asleep.
but quite aware.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

To be heartbroken and staggering. In the best of ways.

I am trying to wrap my head around "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." It is a sad story. Dave Eggers writes what I think can be called a memoir, about the death of his mother and father and raising his 8 year old brother, all while in his early twenties. My thoughts are incomplete, and in order to complete them, or at least progress, I have to write. So. First, he brilliantly and honestly chronicles his thoughts into a piece of art:

"They are scared. They are jealous. We are pathetic. We are stars. We are either sad and sickly or we are glamorous and new. We walk in and the choices race through my head. Sad and sickly? Or glamorous and new? Sad/sickly or glamorous/new? Sad/sickly? Glamorous/new? We are unusual and tragic and alive." (p. 96)

"How lame this is, how small, terrible. Or maybe it is beautiful. I can't decide if what I am doing is beautiful and noble and right, or small and disgusting. I want to be doing something beautiful, but am afraid that this is too small, too small, that this gesture, this end is too small...Or beautiful and loving and glorious! Yes, beautiful and loving and glorious!...I know what I am doing now, that I am doing something both beautiful and gruesome because I am destroying its beauty by knowing that it might be beautiful, know that if I know I am doing something beautiful, that it's no longer beautiful...and worse, knowing that I will very soon be documenting it, that in my pocket is a tape recorder brought for just that purpose--that all this makes this act of potential beauty somehow gruesome. I am a monster." (p.399)

It is so rare to come across someone who is willing to actually spell out these inconsistencies within himself in an honest way. I feel like most of us have the gruesome part buried somewhere, scared to admit to it beyond the space of our own mind: we keep our faults and secrets buried way beneath the cranium, letting no one know what exists there, and not wanting to admit it even to ourselves. I admire his brutal honesty.

As for myself, despite my better knowledge, sometimes I pretend that it's possible to really have my act together in every way: that it's possible to live at all times filled with passion, energy, reflection, noble priorities, etc. etc. etc. This is one of the most exhausting myths. Something that my pastor repeats quite often the hope that Christ offers: "you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope." This is the beauty of the gospel, and I'm pretty sure the only reason why I'm still sane. Not that I remember it all the time (as long as we're on the honesty kick), but the moments that I am feeling most monstrous, I realize that I don't have to drown in it or be devoured by it.

Second, what I think is most interesting, and important, is thinking through how we are dealing with the monstrous parts of ourselves if we are forgetting the loved and accepted part.

Eggers and his friends started a satirical magazine, which is birthed from: "We need to change him. Inspire him. Him, everyone. Get everyone together. All these people. No more waiting...It's criminal to pause. To wallow. To complain. We have to be hapy. ..We must do extraordinary things. We have to...A collective. A movement. An army. All inclusive. Raceless. Genderless. Youth. Strength. Potential..." (p. 148). They start the magazine and have some mild success and many good times, but soon enough it becomes: "ever more depressing, routine, improved only by the occasional near death experience...I am at my desk, working on a spread debunking races, one in a long line of contrarian articles pointing out the falsity of most things the world believes in, holds dear. We ahve debunked a version of the Bible written for black kids. We ahve debunked the student loan program. We debunk the idea of college in general, and work in general, and marriage, and makeup, and the Grateful Dead--it is our job to point out all this artifice, everywhere..." (p. 304)

This is quite possibly the most depressing description I have ever read. To think nothing as sacred. To think of everything as deception. Life becomes satire. Nothing is real or true.

Clearly, this is not to say that I don't take part in (or at least watch others and laugh) commenting on the ridiculous aspects of our culture (much to the thanks of my brother and the Simpsons/Southpark episodes he makes me watch everytime I see him). But I'm becoming more convinced that without the knowledge that we are imperfect and loved, the result is hollow, passionless living...which is the opposite of what everyone was striving for to begin with.

I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all. But. We need to not hold everything at arm's length to prevent injury to body or soul. I just think that there is so much goodness and truth out there that we miss out on. That is heartbreaking. I can only hope that it causes me to stagger to the point that I have no other choice but to be honest with myself.

Friday, November 16, 2007

This is dedicated to a joy of life.

I get to hang out with Kendra Marie Bloom in two weeks. I am really lucky because she is really great. We are going to do some cool things like ride a city bus and maybe go ice skating. She makes me laugh, like in this picture.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

it got dark at 5 today. but.

tonight i walked home
and i noticed
that the seasons changed.
i was thankful
for my mittens
and thinking it was time
for a hat perhaps.
and i wasn't scared
of the cold wind
maybe because in my neighborhood
i can smell fire places
and the trees cover the streets
and the leaves falling down
are more of a dance
than a goodbye.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Greater than.

"The reason that we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest in these things that are so little and have no rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good and the only real rest...No soul can be at rest until it has judged all created things as nothing." Juliana of Norwich

These words have been in the back of my mind for weeks, begging me to sit down and actually reflect on what they mean. They come from a woman who lived in the 14th century who prayed that God would give her "the wound of true contrition, the wound of natural compassion and the wound of fullhearted longing for God." The choice of the word "wound" sticks out to me so much because why would anyone wish ill feeling upon herself? Isn't it easier to be comfortable? Spiritual, yet not overly involved in matters that hurt? Splashing around in the shallow rather than wading into the deep, swift and cold?

This is what I have been thinking about lately as I've tip toed through the shallow waters, wanting to be warm and comfortable and safe. But tonight on the steps of an altar in a church near Gramercy Park, I was blessed to talk and pray with some women who don't want to choose the shallow; who don't want to settle for beauty that doesn't satisfy; who want to weep with the weeping and spend themselves on the behalf of others.

I just pray tonight for a heart that doesn't covet what the world gives; for a heart that aches with joy and for beauty and for restoration. I want to taste what it means to be fully at ease in One who is so much greater than I and all the flippant little things I find myself chasing after.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Kristen Sometimes.

"It was after this that Charlotte began to dream she was fighting to stay Charlotte, and one night woke from such a dream struggling, even crying a little. When she was calm again, she did not feel sleepy at all, so she lay still, carefully and deliberately making herself remember Aviary Hall, object by object, room by room. Also she made herself remember things that had happened to her as Charlotte, but it was alarming how the details seemed to slip away from her."

I stumbled upon a new edition of my favorite book from third grade--Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. A girl in 1940's England begins boarding school and finds that she travels through time and switches places with a girl similar to herself, only in 1917. In the middle of the book, she she becomes stuck in the past and has a hard time then remembering who she really is. The passage I quoted above has haunted my thoughts for quite a while now. I began to think about how easy it was to become so preoccupied with life that your identity gets lost in the mess of daily life and gradually becomes less and less impassioned.

I have felt that way lately, which is incredibly tragic because fall is the time when my senses are most awake and inspired. I have found myself needing to set aside the piles of grading and planning and to do lists and phone calls I should make and remember, "object by object" where my heart actually lies, before it slips away and life becomes just motions.

At the core, this is a spiritual issue. When I forget that I am loved, forgiven and lavished with grace I begin to live in a way that calls out the world to give me meaning, which is so hollow...but also an attractive hiding place. It blocks my view of Jack Kerouac's haikus, and walks through tree lined streets and laying on my bed listening to La Ciengna Just Smiled and eating banana bread with neighborhood kindreds.

My lack of posts is due to this perpetual list making that cuts off the passion. But I'm working on remembering object by object, room by room...