Monday, December 27, 2004

Aren't the holidays lovely? All this time to post. Enjoy it while it lasts!

I took some time today to go to the public library down the street, not intending to leave with anything since my bookbag was already full of Harold Bloom; of course I still walked out with two books: Poems from Black Africa and Under African Skies. The latter I have yet to read, but the poems, I've been submerged in for what seems to be the entirety of this evening.
Poetry that speaks to your soul as it longs to be is gold in paper coffers. Tonight as I read The Meaning of Africa by Abioseh Nicol, my treasury of experience was deepened.

"I know now that is what you are, Africa:
Happiness, contentment, and fulfillment,
And a small bird singing in a mango tree."
-Nicol, "The Meaning of Africa"

I long for home.
Times like weeping brothers and sisters all around the Indian Ocean, and around the world. Hold on. Just keep holding on.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas 2004 is now Christmas past. Of course the last Christmas song of the day I heard was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". There's something comforting about having a day of the year when most radio stations are playing the same songs, just different styles. KOST (a listen at work station) was playing soft-rock-by-the-fire-with-hot-chocolate versions. The classical station KUSC was playing more sophisticated voices singing the same songs. Ironically, (for an African in California) many times I heard references to snow and sleigh bells; the allusions to something many of us in this state are not really familiar with reminded me of "The Most Photographed Barn in the US" from White Noise; something in which we all participate, working feverishly to maintain a reality most of us have never directly seen or touched. I have sung Christmas songs involving snow and a particular white bearded, broad bellied old man my entire life. That this has only been even falsely manifested maybe 2 years of my life that I can remember...Well, I think I'll leave that thought alone for tonight.
The snow, reindeer, jolly old fat man and sleigh bells may be a far cry from my real experience, but maybe that's what everyone needs in times like these. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Wow, the last time I posted I was so enchanted with the ideal. Today I couldn't feel more disparate. I had a very unpleasant conversation tonight; one of those detours from all you've believed important to a different world you suspected was there all along, but never expected to meet head on. I hate those.
I found myself contemplating what matters in life--stability? Family? A "good" job? My friend suggested that maybe I took too seriously what should be more a "side" thing, something you do as a hobby.
And I think that's why I'm up writing at 3:00 in the morning.
Ironically, this all falls on Christmas weekend, the one weekend we're all supposed to be caught up in the ideal...
God help me.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I read Basho tonight. As I read through the moments of his life he had printed in haiku I felt a bond between us, and yet a distant sadness as well. His walk through nature was like that of Adam through that first garden, a cascade of delights that could only be spoken of sparingly, in humility and silence. Perhaps that's something the Japanese held on to in their poetic forms and understanding of mono no ke, the mystery of things.
So as I read Basho I smiled and sighed and wept internally for the revelation of man's soul as God intended it--companion of nature, audience and actor in the greatest work that will ever exist; yet equally, full joy, it seems,has eluded us since we left that first garden. All we can hold on to are the moments of being in it all--a picture beyond words.

How I long to see
among dawn flowers
the face of God
Man's end-
a bamboo shoot,
or less
Sick on a journey-
over parched fields
dreams wander on

-Basho (Each of the above is a separate haiku)

Monday, October 25, 2004

I know thing's may not be complete yet, but once some stones start rolling, their trajectory is sure:

For Kristin
It was an eventful day for all of us, but for you, my dear sister, for you heaven must have panted in exhausted empathy. Even so, smile, though he may not be there today, smile and remember that you've gained another home, another family, another place and people to call your own beyond the one you've always known.
For my fellow lionson, David
California dreaming was never so surreal, I'm sure, yet in the surrealities of life we find ourselves, courageous, strong, happy and well. I know more was going on than you could show; more joy, more triumph, more gratitude, more nervousness. And the happiness; my brother, as you unravel it, it will guide your search for that city we all seek like a beacon.
A blessing: May you find happiness in heaven's chosen journey-mate for you,and may the road together be long, pleasant and complete.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I struggled to stay awake this afternoon, the candy wrappers piled in my trashcan like translucent leaves, covering a couple of Dr. Pepper cans. No, this was not a day of health consciousness, I must confess.
A student came in to see one of my fellow counselors--a straggler. He's still trying to register even though technically it was all over last week. I felt bad for him; his dragons have held on, unyielding, each one dying harder than the last. A missing document, a lost loan application, a denial, a delay. When he left, my coworker and I had a conversation about the direction of higher education, the way it's getting more expensive at private institutions, and the tension between the ideals we try to represent and the financial facts behind running a good university.
There's nothing for it. As an institution of higher learning seeking to hold to ideals, you must bend and break at times, sacrificing one ideal for another. And meanwhile, as workerbees, we employees somehow try to build bridges to the sacrifices "they" have made, trying to show a face, but to represent a name.
Perhaps it's not the institution that is the lengthened shadow of one man, as Emerson put it. Even so, a shadow stretches from some unknown figure, clouding heaven and obscuring our view of God's arm.
Take heart, friends; the dark may well be the shadow of the Almighty.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Finally Registration is over! Sort of. The students come milling through here during that time every year, apocalyptic looks in their eyes like we hold the key to their very lives...
And yet, each year, life rolls on. Some register, some don't. Some walk away with tears, others with stories of answered prayers. And here, in the cubicles of Metzger Middle West, my desk sits under the measurable condensation of tax forms, letters, phone messages, etc, etc, etc. Most of the questions get answered, some don't. And life rolls on.
I've been thinking this past week about what that means, meditating on Ecclesiastes. It seems we were meant for more than we think, and yet less at the same time. The moments we feel our fate has come, time carries us past in a wave. Almost before we can realize it, the moment has passed.
Outside time, I'm sure the vista stretches out differently--the leaps we make past those days where faith stretches out, almost intangible, those appear as brightness in a larger tapestry, each such spot framed by a myriad of colors which make up the rest of our days; coffee with a hurting friend, the smile at someone in the next lane of traffic, a phone call to let mom know we love her, the ache and ecstasy of real life. The picture is so much bigger, I imagine. But to see it will, I suppose, require getting out of here alive. I'm looking forward to that eventual moment beyond my tapestry, when "real life" shuffles out of the way and I finally know even as I am fully known.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

It's taken me long enough to resurface, and for that I apologize. Sub-current there have been many things going on.
I'm listening to Carly Simon right now. She died in 1995. I didn't know that. The first time I encountered her music was back in the 90's, I believe; a chance hearing of a tune that baits your mind as you watch the intro titles to "Working Girl". Certain musical artists dance on the fringe of my mind but never enter its center stage, one or two songs of theirs surfacing and resurfacing on my journey. Suzanne Vega is another one, "Tom's Diner", throwing its hook toward me as I watched the music video and heard the "made for MTV" version of the song.
Chance connections with people I may never meet, and yet somehow feel connected to.
That's exactly what the collective unconcious is about; the world we all seek to grasp, to live in, but only brush against during the wanderings and stretches of our imaginations.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Shock filled me when I heard the news about the beheading of Kim Sun-il, the Korean man in Iraq. I touched my neck with disbelief; that one could so easily cut through flesh and jugular of a man he had never known, a man who was not in the military, who was begging for his life...Mr. Kurtz's words come back to me, "The horror, the horror."
When you hear something like that, you find yourself staring at the undiluted poison of an evil nature, the noxious cloud that veils our origins as the creation that mirrored God. And even deeper, the devilish glint of the murderous blade--how can such evil exist.
A little girl somewhere in the US watched the first beheading on the internet, rapt, unsure of what to think, removed a little by the medium, but knowing reality was what she was watching. Reality was dark, cruel, blasphemous, grotesque. She went home, traumatized, unable to function, unable to stop crying, unable to blot out the knowledge that such darkness exists.
History is a testament to the grace of God; that a man who cuts off another's head so easily in front of a camera is still alive...I won't say what I find myself wishing or hoping.
They'll never hear it, but at least I'll know I've said it. My prayers are with you, all of you who knew Kim Sun-il. To his family, his mother and father, words cannot express my sorrow for you.
God will have his vengeance.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Well, I signed the paperwork for a new car (new to me) today. I still have some things to clear up before I can bring it home, but it's virtually mine.
Funny though, the way things work out to bring up more issues you need to take care of. I spent much of the evening after I got home brooding and reading my bible. You go into high tension situations like car purchases and you find yourself questioning the point of life itself. For me, the questions that came are, "Am I really who I say I am?" and "If I'm not, then just who the heck am I?"
As I read the Bible, peace came to me in Peter's second letter. I'll have to remember to thank him when I get There.

My girlfriend and I saw Hearst Castle on Monday. Right now thinking about that is like imagining things as they'll likely never be, but it was such a great escape. Maybe I'll have some deeper thoughts to share when I'm finished with the purchase of my car.Concern clouds the imagination, and right now I'm perceiving life through pea soup fog.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Thursday, June 10, 2004

So I figured out the problem--the reason some of us feel...dissatisfied at work.
Financial Aid is kind of like Needles, CA. You don't really plan on ending up in it. You just do. It just happens to be on the side of the road to where you are going. There are places to eat, to get gas, etc. So you pull off, not really in knowing where you are. And you're okay there, as long as you don't stick around too long (no offense to anyone from Needles).
I remember when I was interviewing for my position, my boss told me, "Yeah, it's cool, as long as you don't stay for too long. Three years, maybe even four are alright. But after five, they own you." At this point he got this look on his face, like a prisoner who wants to tell you to get out while you can.
But you know what? For all the talk, it's not quite like he described it. He seemed, at the time, to think that he'd never get out. But when he got desperate, he found his courage and left the industry. He went into music full time, is working on a studio with a friend. He looked so happy the last time he came to visit, and I envied him for a moment, as you might envy someone who has already completed the leg of the journey on which you find yourself.
But my time will come too, I suppose, and hopefully before things become dire. Then I'll pick up my rucksack, the knowledge I have gained from my stay, and turn to the horizon, a better man for having been there. Because, after all, it's not a detour. It's part of the journey; a stop I unknowingly needed along the way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Thread of Human Contact
Met with a student's parent today.
"So is there anything more we can do?" He asked, his tone already lowered by the battle with hopelessness.
I had heard the tone before. Sometimes I'd see those same students a year later, everything fine and dandy, worked out by the One beyond us. Other times students would fade away like episodes on a tv series long gone, only memories, faces I longed to understand, but which never fully materialized before me.
The separation between us strikes a chord, though, or rather a cord, a tie between us: I've felt that way before. I know how you feel. We almost know each other as we sympathize, travellers laughing at the same cramped conditions or the same bumpy road. But as soon as we have met, we part ways, offering what we can when we've not much left, fading from each other to become, "I met an African guy once. Nice guy."
"I'll see what I can do," I said. As the man walked back out of our office, I admired his cheerful attitude; hope in the goodness of El Shaddai, I guess. Providence. I've felt that way too. And I believe that miracles make that connection possible.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I've had to come into work the past couple of weekends. Having to work more than 40 hours drains you creatively. That's part of the reason for the silence.
Living in silence or meaningless noise (white noise?) makes things two dimensional--I hear what happens, I see with my eyes, and yet to truly touch it--reality, I mean. It's like ephemeral jelly. All ambiguity and smoke.


I'll come back when I'm a little more solid.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Hanging out at Dennys tonight I overheard the conversation of some guys at the next table. They were talking about that big question mark that hangs over our heads: God.
It seems we know that God is God, but religion presents a problem for us. Who to follow? With the evils of man infused into the religions of the world in one way or another, with the feelings of inadequacy we encounter when faced with the "rules", how can we know the Way?
A few weeks ago I met a man at a gas station; he came to my window to see if he could pump my gas for a few bucks. I declined his assistance, but gave him the two bucks I had on me anyway, along with a little booklet. The lettering on the front asked, "Would you like to know God personally?" He looked at me and sighed.
"Man, I do need to know God."
I felt for him, just as I did for the guys at Dennys, not because I have the answers, but because, even knowing God, I still face some of the same questions.
Well, the crux of the matter: We as humans, it seems, are put here to seek God's face. If that weren't the case, I doubt I'd be able to find the same conversation at a Dennys in suburban La Mirada as I found at a gas station in East Los Angeles. We're engineered to ask questions; that means questions are not only okay--they are us. The questions are answered, one way or another; sometimes by direct response, sometimes by a faith in the parts of God's character that we understand. I think we just need to keep asking them. We can't know all of the story while we are in this world; and as soon as we stop asking the questions, we've settled for a significance that is only as big as the chapters we live here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

As I was working today, I received a letter from Juneau, Alaska. When I make contact, passively or actively, with places like that, or people who have lived in places like that, it captures my imagination. I was raised with World Book Encyclopedias readily available at all times, though, so rather than simply speculate, I looked the place up on the web. I've always wondered what Juneau is like. I found some pictures, but something which interested me even more was this statement:

"Juneau (pop. 30.000) on the ‘Gastineau Channel’ is the capitol of Alaska. No roads lead to Juneau, you either take a plane or a boat to get there. When you travel by plane (just over two hours from Seattle or an hour and a half from Anchorage) you take a chance. Rain, snow and fog can be bad in Juneau and quite often the airport must close down, so that travelers end up in either Seattle or Anchorage instead of Juneau."

As I read this I wondered what a "normal" life is like up there. I wondered if there were a lot of strangers in Juneau, whether you grow up waiting for your first plane ride out, or whether plane rides are simply a part of everyday life; and the weather--what is it like for an Alaskan who grew up in Juneau to be down here, or for a Californian to go up there? Not exactly deep questions, but valid nonetheless, I think. The "normal" human experience is so limited by our incapability to imagine what is other than ourselves or our own experience.
Standing yesterday in the art gallery observing the art of some of my friends and acquaintances, I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe that's one of the reasons art is so important; it's one of the things which truly takes us outside ourselves.
Well, for reasons I'd rather not think about or explain, I'm up and on the web at 1:30 in the morning. It's been a while since my last post, so I thought I'd drop into your day and say hello.
The story beyond that will have to remain obscure, but me being up at 1:30 can, if you've enough imagination, serve as a beginning, in medias res; a beginning in the middle, if you will.
Tomorrow's work. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Thursday, January 01, 2004

2004. I don’t think the stream of cars ever stopped on the 5 freeway last night. I spent New Year’s Eve sick at home; nothing to dampen my spirits though. Thanks to TV you can always have company, even if your choice of it is limited. Dick Clark and later Conan O’Brian; I often wonder if those people enjoy working on New Year’s Eve. Dick Clark has been hosting his “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” for the last 32 years. That means the man hasn’t had a private celebration of the holiday for 32 years. He’s a public man, I guess. Either that or a hologram.
So what’s 2004 going to be about? Courage, say some. My old roommate is going to try to quit smoking. Then, of course, there is the cliché resolution that floats around everywhere—people plan to lose weight, look better.
Time. That’s what 2k4 is going to be about for me. In whatever form it takes, time is fleeting; the end of the day at work when my to do list stares back at me unchecked, the evenings that fly by with a lot of hurrying but nothing to show for it, the weekends where Sunday evening seems to follow Friday directly. Even more than all this, though, I mean taking time. Resting, listening, getting away, doing nothing. The world is a crazy place, driving us all forward at the fastest pace we can muster and ever making us go faster. Sometimes we just need to step off the track and sit under a tree, stop and smell the roses so to speak. Time. It need not be our enemy. Remember, clocks are a man-made invention.
So, to 2004. I toasted with no one last night, so I’ll toast with you today, my friend. To 2004 and all the beauty, wonder and opportunity each day of it will hold.