Friday, December 12, 2003

This week I've had pneumonia. I had wanted a week out of the office, but I hadn't exactly had this in mind. All day Monday and Tuesday morning, I wasn't really sure what it was, so I just hung around the house, which always drives me completely insane. I spend time on the balcony watching cars, or on the internet trying to connect with people "out there". I read the news more than usual, watch infotainment (NO tabloid stuff--I will only stoop so low), go outside for brief binges of sunlight.
Tuesday afternoon, I saw Dr. Ogden. He's good for the young professional patient--quick to the task, quick with his diagnoses, professional with his answers. I had a couple of embarassing questions to ask, but he answered without missing a beat. It's the sort of thing we're looking for with automated service.
Anyway, despite all that, I ended up in at the ER the next day, watching the personnel mill about like ants, each knowing exactly what they were doing, yet still running into walls every once in a while. I saw a student nurse who goes to the university at which I work; I smiled, and she smiled back, as if in partial recognition. I'm sure I looked quite different when my shirt and tie were traded for the "back to the wind" hospital dress/shirt/apron thing. When I got her attention and told her I worked in the financial aid office, her smile dissipated. It's nice to know our work makes an impression.
The ladies in the "room" across from me were talking about how they were going to redesign Howard Stern's logo and it occured to me how that might have sounded impressive if I wasn't drugged up on Vicadine and wondering if I'd be able to leave the hospital. So many things seem so trivial when you're faced with the fragility of your own health. It would be nice to gain some kind of solid perspective that balanced the variances.
So, to end a lengthy, but hopefully not pointless, post, I'm at home watching "James Earl Jones" dance on a Verizon commercial (that's so not him!) and getting flashbacks of token afros and poor quality film from KDOC TV. That's where in the universe I am right now. Send me a postcard or something.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Sitting at lunch, unsettled, the pen took hold of my hand and wrote this on the inside of the top of my take away lunchbox:

It all feels unstable at times;
at times, the best you can do is write
those thoughts, the recurring human experience
of life's ambiguity, the obscure messages
of all the noise in the world
beeping, flowing, chuckling, chattering, thrumming --
You don't get it.
At times, the best I can do is write it
on a disposable box
and throw it into the trash,
like a penny into a fountain,
a wish to become other than I;

the crow cries, a sharp among flats,
and takes flight into all the blueness

Life is not bleak, but I couldn't throw away the words. The box, I obviously disposed of, the remains of my nachos untouched for satiated appetite. The day was beautiful; I sat there by the fountain watching the ordinary with amazement.
I find that happens sometimes -- looking at something completely ordinary, I suddenly have things about it jump out at me, grab me, unwilling to be remain ignored.
It happened yesterday at a fast food place in South Pasadena. I had a tray with two burgers in hand and I almost ran into a lady. I stepped aside and she smiled and as soon as she smiled, I saw it -- the almost caricaturistic (if that's a word) grin, the hat pulled over her silvery white hair, the plump form filling her gaudy green and blue dress in a cheery almost comical way, her thick glasses magnifying her eyes and by virtue of that her smile--it was like I had seen her before somewhere. I told Kathleen I wished I had an ability for sketching; standing in front of me I had had an archetype in the flesh, I felt.
So by the fountain today, the ordinary grabbed me -- so recognizable, yet so...bookish. Maybe that's what drove me to momentary insanity. Trust me, I don't make a habit of throwing away words. Insanity or no, I'm back to "normal" now, whatever that is. The cubicle is dulling to the senses after the orchestra beyond.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I ran into an old friend indirectly today. Her sister walked into our office for an interview and I didn't even recognize her. When I found out who it was, a forgotten past crept in through the backdoor to my mind; the memories left it open.
What directed us to the web we now live haunts us sometimes. In this case, there is a black box, like one of those flight log boxes on planes, telling why this and not that, the therefores a hopeful wish like candleblowing at birthdays -- you're not really sure if it will all turn out as you've planned, but you hope just in case hope is what will make a difference.
I just finished reading Till We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis) this past weekend. The ending of the book is open, a lot more open than the rest of it, yet it seems to be a tale we all live and dream, somewhere between this reality and that, trying all the while to forget whichever one we've currently disengaged from. Perhaps when the heaven's declaration becomes clear, we'll finally be able to decipher just what all those black boxes in life are, to understand why, even in love, we must continually find ourselves incomplete. In fact, if the tale is true, doubtless in the end we will know Truth fully, even as we are fully known.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Two experiences today.
I went to see a friend today in another department on campus. He's finishing his time working here at the school, heading on to other undertakings. When I got there, the farewell reception was pretty much over. The only people there were myself and one other guy I've been acquainted with for a little while. It was funny though. There was this lack of a point of reference from which to have a three way conversation. When I came in they were working out a way to have dinner sometime; they're both recently married, so I'm sure it was one of those connections. I got myself some coffee and stood at a distance until it seemed they were finished. The conversation moved to the topic of a tv show which, I not being a regular tv viewer in any aspect, I was not really familiar with.
I thought about leaving. How, though? I hadn't even gotten to talk to my friend, and now I had gone and gotten coffee, which made the idea of leaving even more awkward; now it would look like I came for the coffee. So I stood there somewhere safely distant, but close enough to allow them to feel like I felt like I was a part of whatever was going on. My soon to leave friend noticed my silence, I think, and turned the conversation my way. We began to talk about writing and poetry; in particular a poem I read in church a couple of weeks ago. This was awkward; the other guy and his wife left our church a few months ago. He looked like he was approaching the point I'd left. So I turned the conversation his way.
"So, uh, have you guys found a new church yet?"
He began to tell us of a church, then finally admitted that he and his wife had not really found a church home per se. They did however enjoy garage-saling on Saturday mornings, and she worked late Saturday nights so it was usually Sunday that they slept in and...
The fumbling conversation lasted for about 10 more minutes and we finally went our separate ways. I walked back up to my office with the other guy (garage-saler). Interestingly enough, though, as soon as we left the trialogue, our conversation was smooth. It was like the speed bumps were gone.
A second:
So I pick up my phone and dial up my voicemail after lunch, scroll through the messages to listen to the ones from off campus, the ones which won't necessarily have to do with work. When I get to the last message, surprise: A friend whose whereabouts had been an unsolved mystery to me for the past 4 years, a friend who had been my best friend in high school (these things don't really change),that familiar defamiliarized voice comes through the line, name which you haven't heard spoken in the first person since...but there it was. I listened to the message 6 or 7 times.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I've truly no idea why so empty.
I stayed home today because I wasn't feeling well, a sore throat, a wheezing lung. The funny thing is, though, I'm not sure I fully believe myself, even with all the empirical evidence. There's something underneath the fabric of life that tests everything we say, everything we do against itself--Truth, I think is what we call it, though I'm not entirely sure that that's all that is in my mind on these days. The disconnect I feel when I stay home for a day and don't see anyone--"and if no one calls and I don't speak all day, do I disappear?"--it's haunting. And I wonder why that is, why rest is so hard, why isolation is like losing substance. Afterall, isn't the point of solitude to gain substance?
Anyway, all this musing gets me nowhere. This week all converged: I tried to write something for a friend's company, tried to finish the Church Matching Scholarship applications at my own workplace, am trying to write something for the church service on Sunday, am trying to clean my house, am trying to fold my laundry, am trying to "get better" -- all the mundane things in the world. And that's where life is right now. Sometimes the mundane is more challenging than the superreal. Ha! Maybe that's why I'm writing now instead of folding shirts!
But I did need to write, to tell you what's going on. And I do need to hear from you, whoever you are, no matter how bizarre that sounds. It is not good for man to be alone.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Perhaps in my trek over years and land to the me I am now, I forgot those past atrocities, the darker portion of my self, a shadow history I'd rather not mention to anyone; not even to myself.
I read a story called, "The Decapitated Chicken" during my lunch hour today. The story is not a lighthearted tale. Whatever else the story was, though, is somewhat irrelevant for now; sometimes in our wanderings we stumble across something of a secret hatch in our minds to which a story or an experience, or even a person's voice is the key; suddenly, without warning, the door is opened to a memory forgotten, and a flood of recognition as well as some new sentiment about the happening, comes flooding into sight. Today as I read Horacio Quiroga's tale of four mentally disabled boys, I remembered a boy with a mental disability and speech impediment named Stephen.
Kileleshwa Stephen is all I can call him now. I cannot recall his surname. I hope someone claimed him. Such a happy soul, such a tenacious spirit.
We made fun of Stephen. We teased him at church. Behind his back, in his face -- it doesn't matter. That haunted me all of lunch time today and even has me crying now. It was the one place, you see, the one place he should have been assured love: God's house. Yet we children at times spurned him when he just wanted a companion to talk or play with.
So this is a confession, Stephen. Honestly I've no idea where you are right now, though I'd give much to know, and even more to meet you now and tell you you deserve so much more, you are so much more. In fact, strip away the humanity, the fallen shell, and perhaps you could fly -- an angel, a spirit of God even. We treated you like a lowly one, but I'm guessing underneath it all, my brother, you flew and still fly higher than any of us could ever dream of doing.
God bless you Stephen.

Always living by the Grace that made you smile,

Your friend,


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I sat in the dingy cubicle retrogressing every minute, it seemed, as file after file flew by, not a single one of them satiated, not a single one complete, but, for the moment, each one kept at bay, like hounds, like terrible Baskervillian hounds crying out for my blood, my sweat, and even a few of my tears.
Actually, working in a financial aid office is not that bad. From time to time, things are enjoyable. You show up, help people go home. You smile--whenever people come in; it's required by someone or something. No one's really sure what. Courtesy maybe?
I felt lonely this time around, like the whole world had drawn away and I was sitting on the last island on the Pacific rim watching the galaxy retreat from a distance.
Of course, this is all a psychological state; you're never really alone when it comes to your job. Try working for a week and not talking to anyone. If you're really alone, you can do it because no one else truly makes a difference in your work environment. But I'm guessing none of us can go that week without others. They're involved somewhere in the machine; just not always directly with you. That is, until you collide like bubbles in effervescent water, chaotically but necessarily since your movement is governed by greater forces. Then it's off on your way -- back home, a Dr's appointment, or simply lunch, or your cubicle. Meetings come and go, but really, what are meetings for if not to somewhat cancel out a few chaotic but necessary interchanges here and there?
Well, the long day is over. I'm off to bubble my way home before the tide brings me back in. Happy trails till then.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

On with the thread of human contact.
I talked to a lady today about the federal loan application process we use at the school. Students have to go online, read, answer questions, etc. It's funny. The process is supposed to make things easier, but some people call and complain about how it's actually more difficult.
And you've always got the people who seem to be calling just to vent. Like this lady. She spent about 10 minutes telling me about their frustrations with the website and when it was over:
"So, ma'am, were you able to complete the process? How far are you?"
"Oh, we already finished."
"I just wanted to was hard."
"I understand, ma'am."
There was an almost audible sigh. I could feel her tension release. I didn't make her any promises or do the customer service grovel. But I understood her frustration. And I wasn't just giving her a line.
Automatic teller machines, answering machines, unmanned electronic car washes, automated customer service reps. I have a calling card that I "refill" every once in a while. You used to talk to a person and they'd ask you which of the options you wanted, verified your number and said, "Thank you very much for calling AT&T, and you have a nice day sir." Now there is one of those female computer voices. "Please hold while your transaction is verified."(a weird clickety noise like someone typing) "Thank you. Your refill is available for your use immediately. Goodbye." I spent 15 minutes on the phone when I was filing my state taxes just trying to get a hold of a person so I could ask a question which didn't fit into the FAQs.
Inevitably, though, I think the reason we go searching like that is for contact -- to be recognized, to be understood. For assurance that we're not just a number, more liable to get lost in a digital age than an explorer would be wandering in the Australian outback. If you're recognized and you get lost, someone misses you, notices that you're gone, or at least that something is not complete. If you're just a number, you're only so much deleted or misfiled data, another paper on someone's desk.
Perhaps that's why we search the stars. We're looking for a personal rep on the cosmic customer service line; someone who actually cares.

Monday, June 23, 2003

It's been a while since I last blogged; my birthday's come and gone, I am now 25 years young.
Yet even in my prime, even now with only promise before me, I find a lurking sense of reckoning. I've been that way since childhood, I think, a yearning for futures which will one day be past, a kind of solemn echo as if my ancestor's and descendent's thoughts carried through Time's all but linear corridors to the place I stand.
I spoke with Mom and Dad tonight. Their voices came across the phone lines, sleepy yet content to hear me. Now I take their illnesses so much more seriously; it's funny how that happens. After a certain point, the young begin to ask the older whether they are okay, the older try to convince the younger that they are completely alright, a reversal of sorts. I don't like being all the land and ocean miles away from them, wish I could be in two places at once. I build my life here halfway around the world with a slight reluctance. But all will be well, I'm sure.
I finished reading Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner today sitting at the Boba Loca over on Beach and Malvern. It was kind of a funny feeling. I've never finished a book while chewing on tapioca balls. The substance of life, though, is on some level familiar, just like David Gray reminds me of a song I once heard but cannot remember. Just like Buechner feels like an old friend, a road companion with whom I've been for a while. I like his writing. He feels like a friend not because I agree with all he says, but more because I feel like he acknowledges my humanity. One more empathetic voice to the confusion, love, thrills and chaos that are life itself.
And as for you, my friend, I hope you know that you are thought of and cared for by at least one this evening.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Where I've been today
Rolling out of the deep recesses of subconscious halls paved with neurons and synaptic

I stood in the bathroom at Carl's Jr thinking of autoloansandfinancialaidandinadequacy. Someone took the trouble to transcribe their depravity to the tiled would-be-whiteness, something I would never do, yet something the darker corners of man's mind always identifies with. My office is such a far cry from the public scrawlings in lavatories -- all messages on those cubicle walls remind me of things I want to think about, the thin layer on the surface of a roiling deep.
My soul feels viscous. I pour myself over all I do today like cooling tar stretching, stretching, trying so hard.
The thoughts are a part of this syruppy mess, sticking to my movement like flies, stuck in habitual goo, stuck on all the things that are trying so hard to matter.
God, I want so badly to be relevant, to be tattooed with the rules of the real game, to be unimpressed with all else.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Obviously my mind has been on the things back home of late. Not really anything in particular; just the general situation.
In side scrolling video games, i.e. Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog,(hang in there with me even if you're not a gamer -- there is a point to this that has little to do with digital escapism) most levels have at least one place at which a jump seems impossible. You look at the space and either:

(a) it seems like it should be easy, so you get completely derailed with the fact that your incompetent character is being so lazy and disagreeable; because it's obvious that he (we don't get angry at female characters) just doesn't want to make the jump, and therefore keeps failing.
(b) the jump seems so impossible, it must be a manufacturer ploy to take up your time; there probably isn't any more of the game after that jump. So you save your comments for the infamous "they" who make everything in this world impossible for the sheer joy of seeing you feel miserable.

Well, (here's the relevant part) African politics. Sometimes I hover near that gap between who we all could be, looking over the manuals of mythologies and cultural archetypes, studying the way my people think in conversations, articles, and novels, questioning the place of spirituality in it all. It looks like we should be able to make it work. After all this time, after all the pain, tears and bloodshed, after independence and advancement, the affirmation of the rights we have as people, the develpment of education...sometimes, at the pinnacle, I'll see a breakthrough, have something to talk about in a country where the only portraits of Africa starving children, genocide, political unrest and aids, and, let's not forget, "the animals". A little while ago I saw a documentary on TV where these two journalists who live and work out of eastern and southern Africa were trying to bring out other portraits, not an array of beauty or redemption, but a complex album showing the lives of people beyond what news could ever captures. The man directing the program smiled, a chesire cat to Alice smile. I think he then asked about the wildlife. Or the starving kids, or aids. I can't remember which, but it was something we've all seen and heard about before. It was our gap and we had fallen short once again.
The sigh goes across the oceans' chaotic surface and through the airwaves between the Voice of America and the BBC, a squished dark current carrying our hopes, and our impediments wherever the weather will take them, to whomever will listen to them. I can still hear it. I think I always will. But the other side just seems so far...

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The Mind of an African Expatriate
Yesterday I was talking to a couple of friends of mine and was surprised to realize that I actually have philosophical and political opinions about the state of third world countries, particularly my own, Uganda and Kenya. The conversation, of course, was an exercise in nibbling at the ideological buffet; I felt so far removed from things, and the ensuing silence when my friends had left my apartment with sleepy eyes rumbled and shook something within me. I would like to think that all of us who live "overseas" still feel some connection to the place we come from. I'd like to think that the grumbling of my mind's belly was more than the resounding consequence of unpracticed emotional voidancy (as Soyinka would call it) and detachment.
Before I turned to sleepier escapes myself, I browsed our bookshelf. I was searching for something. I'm still not entirely sure what. I know you're thinking, "This guy is so surreal," but you try reconciling the identities of a man in, for lack of a better term, self imposed exile; deep within is a rift between what we are and what we once were, who we want to be and who we feel we can be. The only responses from the bookshelf were the echoes of unanswered questions, ever poised on the valley lip of realization, somewhere between who we are and who we are becoming, somewhere beyond what seems possible. World histories (that all may be one), political satires (for the good of mankind), technological philosophy, novels (part escape, part reality's excavation). Frustrated I turned my back on it all and headed to my bed.
I feel amazingly guilty sometimes. It descends on me every once in a while, a haunting lion of my past, present and unshaped future; You should be doing more. You ignore me and yet you embrace me. We two cannot mix like that forever, you know.
Barely audible, my whispered prayer. "Africa. I am...God save us."
I looked at the books by my bedside; UNESCO's history of Africa volume IV, Yancey's Reaching for the Invisible God, and the Bible. Then, after a chapter in 1 Corinthians, exhausted and helpless, I drifted off to sleep, to the lush countryside between Jinja and Kampala, the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, the dusty, busy bordertown of Busia, and finally back through the Kenyan highlands overlooking the pink pastel coloring of Lake Baringo's flamingos and into the heart of the city of my youth, Nairobi, the place of cool waters; my place of rest, even all these miles away; my home.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


It's such a paradigm shift. In this world of reality tv and check out aisles, this spinning sphere of moving trucks and personal space, it's easy to misunderstand what true forgiveness is.
I was talking to a friend of mine about it and it saddened me because so much of "letting things go" has become based on bargains, i.e. I will do this, if you do this. If one person doesn't hold up the bargain, though, the deal is off: bust the deal, face the wheel. Just what am I talking about? Here it is:
Forgiveness is this: in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Most of us look at these words and think, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm forgiven, white as snow, yadda yadda yadda."
But the paradigm in it--it's more radical than we sometimes recognize.
While we were yet sinners. If I could I would beat the living s**t out of you. I hate you. But we live in a civilized society. Just don't talk to me. F***ing moron. Christ died. I want nothing more than to be with you. I don't care what you think, what you feel towards me. Love is patient. Love always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres. While we were yet sinners. If you get any closer to me, you f***ing n****r, I'm going to wretch Christ died Let me into your world. We don't understand each other, but I want to know what makes you you, and how I can serve you and love you better.
So my friend justified herself to me. Told me she had done her best, yet to no avail. What did I expect her to do?
Love never fails.
I'm not going to tell anyone what to do. I've made my own bed and there's room for only one. But look in the mirror, look in the mirror hard. Who are you going to be? Are you dressed in white yet? 70x7 is more than 490 or 4900. I can't count that high. Not while I'm looking in this mirror. Not while I'm making this bed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Yesterday evening I found out that someone close to me passed away. It was dark news and immobilized me for a few minutes. She actually passed away several months ago, yet I had not heard about it until it was mentioned in a general newsletter from my parents.

The Word of the Day for Apr 23 is:
ineluctable \ih-nih-LUK-tuh-bul\ adjective
: not to be avoided, changed, or resisted : inevitable

So I spent the evening and this morning with intermittent thoughts of the loneliness of a soul. She was only 17.
We are so helpless in this world and at times death draws us away from our games and distractions to remind us of that. It felt pitiful to recognize my own efforts to forget my mortality, and yet what more can one do?

"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low...because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets...then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it..." (Eccl. 12:1-5,7)

Where now, the horse and the rider?

Rest well in His arms, Christine, my little sister.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Word of the Day for Apr 15 is:

defenestration \dee-feh-nuh-STRAY-shun\ noun
: a throwing of a person or thing out of a window

As I look at the pile of files on my desk and the phone rings and a head peeps into my cubicle, my savagery roils but the dark exterior remains ever placid.

Monday, April 21, 2003

So I had lunch with a friend today. It was a far cry from the morning -- my confusion at first light and the surreal sound of Fluor Fountain bubbling up suds and froth while I walked by with my indecisive breakfast of Cinnamon Roll flavored oatmeal (it tastes better than it sounds) and Fritos corn chips.
But lunch -- midday. The conversation ranged over the experience of being a second generation Asian American and into the sociopolitical implications of the current "war effort". We even delved into third world country wealth distribution and why it won't work in reality, then we paused when we finally got back to the office. It was suddenly strange for me to stand there, the monochromatic scheme of filing cabinets and office partitions surrounding me in a sort of greygreen oblivion. The files on my desk called and phones rang. The conversation, of course, had to end -- we're in for the revolution of the mind, but not the type to skip out on work hours. But maybe I would...skip out on work hours, that is...maybe I would, if I knew how to change the world.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Good Friday.
Well, my visa came through a couple of weeks ago, for those of you holding on for the suspense. I'm finally back at work...that is, during the regular week.
This week takes eventful pause as my course shifts for a moment to retrospect.
Today, almost 2000 years ago, God died on a rough hewn cross, clothed in little, covered in much, but never submerged in his 100% humanity; oddly enough, I had a hard time desiring to recollect the event. I remember childhood when these days were shrouded in mystery, a dark secret the earth whispered every April, every Passover, but never quite understood...why did it happen? More importantly, whose fault was it? Judas? The high priests?
That last one causes my existence to shiver. But why not? After all, do I not try to forget his Godhood every day at some point? Do I not avert my eyes and yet beg for him to pay me mind? Do I not ask him to forget it all even as I thank him for it?
Well, today my qualms came in the form of work to be done; I have quite a bit piling up on my desk and though today is a day off, the files did not depart from my mind. At the same time, however, an unease settled in, the trembling of my soul; what would happen if I just went to work? I personally don't think it unholy to work on Good Friday and yet, if, as some say, the very meaning of "Holy" is "separate", does not treating it like any other day render it unholy, i.e. no different from every other day?
The uproar within me: Oh come on! I'm doing something noble. Coming to work on my day off!
I'm sure you've had the same struggle at some point, not necessarily concerning Good Friday, but perhaps regarding that fine line dissolving belief and relationship into religion, belief system and myth...
2000 years ago: "Eloi, Eloi!!!"
Today I didn't go to work. I looked up at the brightening day and despite the cheery air, my heart darkened. It's the one day I rue to remember, and yet the one day that separates myth from reality for me. I met two strangers in a laundry mat instead and looked for the mirror of my God's death there.
It was no myth that looked back.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Well, today was one of those days. I saw a documentary on National Geographic about an elephant that has been "fostered" by a man who takes care of a herd of cape buffalo. The elephant has somewhat imprinted this man and this herd of buffalo as its kin, protecting the man when he is attacked and "leading" the herd, so to speak.
Anyway, elephants have a need for physical contact so they often use their trunks to affirm each other, etc. Sadly, though, this elephant attempted to show such affirmation and need for touch by touching the buffalos' horns, of course to no friendly response. Whenever the elephant tried, the buffalo would shake their heads, annoyed, and withdraw.

Today I feel like I'm amidst a herd of buffalo.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Let me take you where I've been today:
Stepped out of the hazy sleep blanket into the sunshine between blinds, my mind a vortex sucking in reality, sickly under unreality, a wretched feeling in my stomach, and euphoria in my brain. For a while.
After tax returns and breakfast found my way wending down residential streets to the looming invisible globe, bubblelike in texture, full of air, full of hope and thin skinned rainbow promises; something like home, but not quite.
Down the street saw a woman cross, woman glance at me, woman walk wildly the other way, all dressed in uncertainty and the click clack footsteps of an educated fearmonger. Just for fun, caught up with the wavering frame and followed, just to the building, then uncertainty took a quick right, glancing furtively behind, fearful of a following; perhaps fear was disappointed. >pop<
Black framed in black, myself moving over blazing asphalt towards the cool interior, my office decked like a relic of some arcane knowledge, a map here, pictures there, and personal notes behind the storage bin, all this meaning nothing to anyone but me. Snoopy stares back from a card.
Breaking for caffeine and sugar later, saw several faces from the past --a friend's old crush, a philosophy student, a book cover once borrowed for the knowledge within, all the skeletons stare back now, dry bones that will be sucked no longer but for sentiment,i.e. the times were once good.
Even skeletons deceive.
And here, now, typing it all out, surrounded by papers from foreign hands, surrounded by voices over insulated walls, verses, pictures in mind of past smiles on faces now marked by care and laughter--the tales of our lives etched there where we can't hide them, a canvas stretched out for all the world to see.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

A couple of things:

Today I was listening to Third Day and thinking about how Psalm 50:10 says God owns "the cattle on a thousand hills."
Then I had a strangely juxtaposed thought: the Masaai of East Africa traditionally believe(d) they were given all cattle in the world by the creator. A laughable thought right? Well, they are right, at least, about the initial ownership of the cattle. Beyond that -- well, two words: Manifest Destiny. Their belief, it seems, is not quite as comparatively primitive as one might be tempted to think.
Gear Up
It seems in such ease I have taken up complacency as my diet and regimen, as many do; who, two years ago, lived in fear of planes or war in the United States prior to the current ongoings, allbethey contingencies at this point in time? Likewise, not fearing conflict or danger, I would gorge myself on the fat of the land, "putting my mind in neutral", as my dad used to put it to my brother's and my childhood chagrin. As it now stands I have a greater understanding of what he meant.
"All we have to do is decide what to do with the time we've been given." Something happened today which reminded me to check myself -- true war rages all around us, as I know you suspect deep within you; it's that billboard you'd rather not look at but at the same time feel compelled towards; it's that suicide wish that comes back whenever you fail; it's that horror at finding out that he's cheating on you; it's that dad that comes home and terrorizes his own family; it's that woman whose uncontrollable spending habits are pitting you against bankruptcy; it's that man whose uncontrollable desire for you inexplicably makes you feel worth less with each touch after ecstasy's embrace; it's waking up in the morning, any morning, and realizing just how little control you have; it's that car accident, that irrational fear, that hospital bed, that illness, that death, that dissatisfaction, that hunger. No matter how many books you read, no matter how many shows you watch, no matter who you're with, there's something...not completely right.
I know an answer, which does not make things right, but at least gives direction, explanation. And with that knowledge, I know enough to gear up. Because when it comes my way, as inevitably it will, there will be no time (Matthew 24).

Sunday, March 02, 2003

It's been a while since I last wrote.
Human pain is what this weekend was about too, so I don't know that now is the best time, but it's been a while, so I will take up my pen (or keyboard) and write.
I was talking with my girlfriend on Friday night about how I think of History as a metaphor for something larger that is going on; she was telling me about the coming of the Spaniards to latin America and the havoc they wreaked there and among the indigenous native American tribes with whom they came into contact. The dead multitudes seem a sad commentary if our very lives are metaphor
for the unseen. As if to counter my hopes in humanity's final resolution, a flurry of stories hit my life this weekend, other people's pain, the lingering trail of our inner darkness, and finally the reminder that, as Dostoevsky put it, I am "guilty for all". Yikes.
But the sun was shining today and over the tops of trees and buildings, I could see the snow covered shoulders of the mountains, a bastion of glory, and a reminder that not all need become completely obscure because of a little pollution.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

I got one of those random promo-trash emails in my inbox at work today with the subject: Name a star for someone special. I thought that was kind of pretentious, and of course proceeded to delete the email before even reading. It's kind of ironic to me that we who feel so disconnected from even our neighbours find such comfort in identifying ourselves with the stars, mysterioius fiery spheres beyond our reach, evidence that we are miniscule and our lives infinitely microcosmic.
I've always kind of wondered what Abraham thought when he looked up at the stars -- obviously interplanetary exploration was not even a concept in man's mind at that time, so what were the stars to him? And truly, how is that different from us? I'm sure he had his theories: pin pricks in the fabrick of material existence letting through the brilliance of heaven; the dust from heaven's kitchen floor left over from the recipe for earth; the jewels of the spirit world embedded in the canopy of God's ubiquitous cloak; the very darkness of being flecked with infinite good -- this last a metaphor for what it means to be a part of this world. Or maybe he just took it for granted as many do today and simply didn't question just why they were up there or what they were.
Inquisitiveness has always come at a cost; those who dare to leap past the lull of ingenuosity put themselves at great risk: look at it -- ridicule, torture, excommunication, alienation; even today's Babel Towers come at great cost and the price is often ruin. I wonder often if and when we'll actually get up there. We've been building that tower to the heavens for thousands of years and we can't seem to get past the gravity of considering ourselves gods; sorry, wrong word -- advanced.
A little lower than the angels, a little lower than Elohim. What does it mean?
The interminable stream of questions as I gaze out at the passing traffic on the 5 freeway clogs my mind most days; maybe one day they'll just be stars to me as well. Or maybe one day we'll reach the heavens afterall and find out exactly who we're supposed to be.

Monday, February 03, 2003

It's amazing how a turn on life's road can completely change your perspective. I listened to a friend of mine talking about a car she wants to buy -- it's pretty much her thing right now. She's even thinking of changing jobs for it. I don't blame her, in a sense. Life is pretty much take it as it comes sometimes, so you do what you can to get what you want, and if all things do not match up, you cut your losses and see how many toys you can get before all goes to pot, hits the fan, [other cliche unpleasant metaphor here].
In all honesty I think would be happy if certain smaller things could be taken care of, but I found myself lurking in Vanity Fair last night,, looking at iD soccer cleats. I play every so often and I thought about how cool it would be if I had a black pair of iDs with blue trim and my initials on the back, and along the side in metallic silver "Lionsclub" like some weapon of mystery forged in the depths of....(this is where the dream dissipated) probably some Taiwan sweatshop where kids are earning about 50 cents of my $80 plus shipping and handling -- then, THEN I realized just what it was I was in control of...
But I don't think it's an error to dream; actually it does many of us good.

Friday, January 31, 2003

I started reading Possession by A.S. Byatt this week. I'm really enjoying it; she has a delicious prose style, not the kind my brother might call "cheesecake" but rather a lighter less rich style, beautiful enough when examined in form, but not so much so that one is overwhelmed:

In early days she had had lots of quiet opinions, he remembered, which she had offered him, shyly slyly, couched as a kind of invitation or bait...

As a student of a literature program, I also find the interactions between the characters and the artwork they encounter to be very telling; characters respond and this is what makes art. The center of the first couple of chapters, one Randolph H. Ash, a victorian poet, is a character constructed, it seems, primarily from art -- the main character reads poems and purchases paintings, yet is surprised and even suspicious upon encountering something that might at present seem even more connected to the man himself.
I will not begin to tirade about the idea of the poet's great soul and the knowledge procured from a world above and beyond our own; my girfriend awaits my call, so I will keep it to this: It seems immersion in art and history gives people life in this book (at least in the first 30 pages) and it comes to a point with some that the rejection from the school of artistic study (in the cultural and historical sense) can very well be the destruction of what is whole in a person; the twist is, that very immersion in the past leads people to forget themselves, redefines their lives and worlds, perhaps even causes the loss of identity:

"Oh, it's all very interesting, my menial keyhole observations, make no mistake. Just it doesn't make sense and it leaves me nowhere. I suppose I envy you, piecing together old Ash's world-picture. Only where does that leave you Old mole? What's your world picture?

Interesting. But for all of you who perceive life from Val's point of view, don't worry. I'll write something mundane soon.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Today I received a note from an old friend in the mail. I was a little startled; we were really good friends a few years ago, but things happened, as they tend to, and we hardly see each other anymore but once every few months or so per a chance meeting in the mall or a crossing of paths in the street. Funny how things play with you like that.
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony, and I imagine sometimes that time moves along a path through a little minefield. Everyone hits mines at some point and all goes crazy for a few moments -- you lose a friend, win accolades, have a car accident, have a baby, get a new job or lose the old one -- all these things, good or bad, flip our lives upside down and in the chaotic aftermath we sit there and wonder, "Just what was that all about?"
So putting the note on my desk I stared at it for a moment, not really sure what to think; then, dazed, I turned to the pile of work waiting to be attended.
Maybe I'll deal with it when the dust has settled a little bit.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

This was interesting:
The Word of the Day for Jan 06 is:

epiphany \ih-PIH-fuh-nee\ (noun)

1 capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi to Jesus at Bethlehem
*2 : a sudden striking understanding of something


At times the past blows over me like the Santa Ana winds which now batter southern California buildings, street signs and trees, a relentless buffet, tearing up all familiarity with a reminder of things once gone:

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

There was a time when all was ahead - I recollect a conversation with a friend today:
"Nah, we've still got time. How old are you now?"
She frowned at me as if I had just invoked some cruel ongoing joke.
"I'm 26."
This meant nothing to me until we went further into conversation.
"Well, I'm still living in denial."
"I've already been there, Jon. Now is my time to decide. Last year I was in denial. This year, something has to happen. I have to take some direction."
I stared at her and wondered. I think I envied her and pitied her at the same time; so distraught, yet so determined; resolute in her disillusionment and completely ready to plunge into the unknown beyond.
Not all stories are sad, nor do all dark moments capture the essence of what is.
This is life. Real life. The light all around which casts a shadow on pockets of existence; the sunrise just beyond the hill before dawn's final revelation;

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

medias res New Year's Eve, 2002.
I paused outside on the balcony for a moment to reflect -- in the back of my mind the bubbles were already beckoning the newness, yet there was still something hanging on. I did all I could to close the case. The last year was buried, yet there were still tendrils dragging in my wake, like spiderwebs, unseen, yet felt and feared.
Even so, the new year comes on without pause, regardless of my readiness. I played video games for a little while before taking a deep breath and walking out the door to head over to my friend's apartment -- a celebration of the birthing of 2003.
As I drove down Beach, the lights blurred their way past my window like I was falling, flying into the new year headlong; and you know that feeling -- head, hands and feet over handle bars and that moment of flight? That's what I felt like as I hurtled and time hurtled and the world hurtled, all of it over the handle bars and into the new year, for better, or for worse.
Another day...Just breathe...I'm used to this by now.