Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Good Laugh

Sorry I've been scarce on here--I've been under the weather the past week and a half or so--ironic since this is one of the few places in this country that hasn't been covered with snow the last month. Anyway, this video quickly got me to feeling more like myself:

I hope you can all hold onto those smiles into 2006! If you've got nothing else, you've always got that.

Friday, November 04, 2005


That’s how many people have died as a result of a quake a few weeks ago in Pakistan. I can’t wrap my mind around it.

As the radio newscast went on tonight to describe the seemingly insurmountable needs of the victims, I thought of exponential weakness, how I don’t give even $5 sometimes even though I could, and how that $5 multiplies every time I don’t do the right thing with it. I thought about how the world is so full of resources, yet so chaotic and disheveled, we can’t get the most needful things to the right places.

The representative of a large relief organization talked about how this has been a bad year, which is part of the reason for the so called donor fatigue. I gave something for the tsunami victims. I can’t remember how much. Apparently it didn’t hurt very much. I gave something for the hurricane relief in Louisiana; bought a friends’ CD at a benefit concert. In all honesty, perhaps it was more to my benefit than that of the hurricane victims, homeless, trying to build new lives. I give to Compassion, but my heart is sometimes elsewhere…

Tonight, after hearing that newscast, I walked the aisles of the grocery store trying to piece together why some of the things I was buying seemed to be so necessary. I thought of the homeless Pakistanis getting ready to face a Himalayan winter in, if they’re lucky, a tent or a poorly repaired shelter. I thought of millions of children worldwide starving, while I decided whether I wanted Cornpops or Crispix. I thought of the tsunami victims whose lives were swept away as I picked out my lowfat yoghurt.

Something is terribly wrong with this. That’s all I can say and feel right now. I almost didn’t write this blog because when I switched on the tv the Lakers were playing—it pacified me.

Something is horribly wrong with this.

We are such broken cisterns,

The water You’ve filled us with,

Drip, drip, dripping,

Down the drains of our appetites and whims,

No sorrow all the while for parched throats

And dusty feet in the desert far across the sea,

So far, yet so near,

Next door, in fact.

The hungry kid shivers in front of African night firelight,

While I videogame street fight, not quite thinking,

Or even seeing the sleight of devil’s hand,

In one land, or another,

Crazy politicians and their mindgames,

Crazy patricians and their money and fame,

Crazy militia men, madness or glory their aim;

But I find my sick soul sucking it in like honey,

Until you purge me with your Sorrow;

Purge me, All Knower,

Make me live…


Perhaps broken wells can still hold water.

The world is so full. People, throngs of people, on every continent, brushing up against each other, breathing earth’s air, carrying things back and forth like ants busily rushing in and out of our anthill domiciles. So many things, myriads of manufactured goods, boxes of grain, greenery, groceries, books, crates of cars, barrels of liquor, drums of oil, floods of water, molecules multiplying to overrun it all, plant life thrumming with photosynthetic energy, slicing through thick earth’s crust like a chaotic shell of creation once ordered, now wild and uncontrollable.
We live in all this, seemingly unaware the whole while of the pandemonium that surrounds us. The honking of horns, the bleating of sheep, the crying of babies, the shushing of the wind in tree branches as they crackle with excitement.
It must all be saying something. What, I wonder? When I lay my weary head upon my cotton puffed pillow, pull the blanket up to my chin, and the silent air hovers above my sleepy frame, as I drift off to another world, I listen to what whispers outside my window, a subtle lullaby of place and time, the chef salad bowl of life on earth getting tossed and dressed in seasoned madness and splendor. Imperceptibly, I hear it—the word on a page of God’s imagination, as the page turns, and I float off to my dreams before the crashing in of another day.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My dad emailed me today, asking me to find a particular poem for him, which he had once used in a talk he gave. I used the key words that he had given me:
Jesus, Carpenter, 200 miles, poem
Google gave me 91,700 hits.
As I continued my search, the whole place around me seemed to shift at the impact of a life lived almost 2000 years ago, according to historians; a life I still believe continues, in every sense of the word.
In most of the world, each day's date refers to that time. Millions of lives are changed because of what happened. People die because of it, people go on living because of it, I believe miracles happen in his name, books are written, songs are sung, debates are held, hope is given; in this very room where I sit, the foundations of this building were set, the mortar and plaster and airconditioning ducts were installed, the carpet was laid, my desk and computer were put in place for me to do what I do, all because someone was inspired by a man who, almost 2000 years ago, in a region halfway around the world, took three years of his earthly life to embrace and magnify the mystery of God's person. Oh, I have my beliefs about who he was, whether you may agree with them or not, and why he did what he did. But the place where I find myself today is one of reflection on his impact.
Simply staggering.
That's not just human. It can't be.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is
constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret..." -Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I got an email from an old friend today; something I had done right in the past had been brought to memory, bringing a smile, as the email brought to my face when I read it. As I read the message, I felt those wings we all strive so hard to maintain, but which we can only feel in our best moments, the moments we make someone smile, or feed the needs of another person. At those points I feel most alive, most real. And sometimes, these things, which we seek to preserve, become the profound secrets that make us us; along with the darkness that often does show up, we carry as part of ourselves the good we possess in our clay-jar beings.
I say this here and now so that no matter how your day was, you can look into your own treasure store of such secrets, received or given, and remind yourself of the goodness in the world.
Blessings, friend.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A poem from Saturday morning:

Living God
In you I live and move,
and have my breath,
Can I see you in it all?

The vast mountainscape,
churning ocean,
tipping tides, now near,
now out of reach;

Can I hear you over the rumble
of city-people-life,
the growling engines and
jibber-jabber cell phone talk,
the hissing barristas,
pounding car stereo bass...

I have strained ears and eyes
to touch your face,
to see your hands;
and hurtling through outer space,
all creation groans as the metro bus
lurches by, each breath of diesel fumes
floating up like incense, like a prayer,
like trees stretching ethereal branches to

You are there, I'm sure,
aware of it all,
creating it all somehow,
hearing the nothingness in noisepollution,
and the distant cry for salvation
in the opening of a bill heavy mailbox.

I see you in it all,
though my eyes and ears search endlessly,
and my fingers only filter wind;
I see you, and there I bury my hope

-Jon Seruyange, 8/6/05
Went to a blog that I check on and off when I can. Someone I don't even know. But the blog wasn't there. I got a message about a URL not being found and yada yada yada.
I just sat there and stared at it. It's funny. I don't even check the blog everyday. Yet, somehow it felt like being cut off from someone I know. I tried several times to access it, but the same message kept popping up.
So, you anonymous blogger, all I have left is the book you mentioned, "Salamander". I actually ordered and am reading it. Ironically, my connection to you, a bookmark on my browser, no longer works.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I've reheated my coffee from this morning 3 times today. It must be radioactive by now. Monday always whacks me on the head in the morning, drags me through muck most of the day, and spits me out like Jonah's whale whenever the day ends. But that's okay. K kept me going with her belief in me (Athos, I know you're wretching right now) and I was held up by reheated coffee and Madeleine Peyroux. As the day goes on, it becomes more and more about believing you actually are a super hero in the making rather than seeing that you're not where you want to be. Or as the Little Engine put it, "I think I can, I think I can..."
Hang in there people!

For those of you who are in both of my online worlds, I'm going to be crossposting my blogs on both blogger and myspace (Crossposting--oh the horror!) If you don't care, keep reading whichever one you prefer!

Monday, April 04, 2005

3:08 and only time for a quick rant. Here goes:

I'm not entirely sure why it is that certain people simply do not wish to reciprocate a smile with a smile. I mean, the way I see it, we've got one chance at each day, one shot at each individual interaction with a person. I have a chance to make you happy, frustrated, ticked off, sad, depressed; why waste an opportunity? So I try to smile at people I pass on the street, at grocery checkout clerks, especially if lines are long and they look tired; at nurses who are giving me injections (you know that actually helps the shot feel less painful), at people who come into my office. Yet, despite my attempt, some people just don't seem obliged to respond in kind.
Example: A guy in the administration building lobby is sitting there with his daughter, obviously waiting for a university tour or an admissions appointment. As I pass through the lobby, we make eye contact for a couple of seconds, so I smile. He gazed evenly back at me, as if trying to break me down or something. What, I ask you, would compel him to such disinterest in the general human good?
Earlier, a student had come into my office, a grimace on his face. This student seems particularly poorly socially adjusted since I've seen him several times inside my office, as well as around the campus, and on every occasion he has the same "I'm just upset that I have to even look at you" expression on his face. You know, every time he comes in I get stressed out. It's not that I'm afraid of answering his questions. Just his presence stresses me out. Yikes. I smiled anyway as I let him in. He frowned back. I proceeded to speak with him in as congenial a manner as I could muster, but wondered all the while at his...lack of social grace.
Finally, a breath of fresh air: a lady came in with her daughter. She was clearly distressed and wondering how to make things happen financially--how to cover a tuition that seemed 10s of thousands of dollars out of reach. I smiled at her as she came in, and she responded...with a weak, tenuous, but genuine smile, even as tears seemed to well in her eyes. As I gave her counsel, the smile did not leave her face, and I thought, finally, someone who gets it!
When life is difficult, you see, the one thing we can do is smile. We can't change circumstance, we can't make other people like us, we can't change "the rules" all the time. But we can change our facial expression and our attitude towards those around us. View others as an obstacle, and an obstacle we have become to them. But and the opportunity to feel good for a couple of seconds is not wasted. For you or someone else.
Okay, here ends the rant.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I took some medicine today--a random excursion into downtown L.A.. I found myself smiling as I passed between the tall buildings, some ornate, some plain, some standing there like old pilgrims, dreary looks on their facades while clusters of pedestrians clung to the thin cracked sidewalks at their feet.
A pleasant surprise--the Walt Disney Concert Hall stretched her curving form like a metallic contortionist on the corner of 1st and Grand, a treasure in the crowded streets. I hadn't known I was headed towards the building, and had actually never seen it in person before; now she seemingly billowed between the straight edged streets and edifices.
After rubbernecking as I drove past, I reluctantly followed the streets back east. At the apex of an arching overpass, the lights amid darkness below winked at me like a field of flourescent flowers. I remember thinking vaguely, "That's where all the stars went."
All the while, Sounds Eclectic was playing on my radio, a soundtrack to my drive. I found myself thinking of my brother, out in the wide open spaces of South Dakota, and how the music had changed shape when I had visited there for his wedding; the songs seemed to take on new tunes. Music is a lot like Gehry's concert hall: free of form, full of vivacity, filling the spaces between buildings and over open fields as needed; and always, always lending a little room to breathe wherever we find ourselves.
With the illuminated downtown buildings in my rearview mirror, I rolled down my window and inhaled the cool night air, my dose until the next time done.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I read an article a little while back about Tuvalu, an island nation that is slowly losing ground to the ocean (literally), disappearing as time passes, or so it seems. It made me wonder how much of my identity is linked to places, temporal geographies from my experience. Nairobi, a monolith in my self perception, has changed since I was last there.
Yet even so, it remains, in my memory, home. But what happens when home disappears?
Perhaps for those natives of Tuvalu who pass on the memory of a place as it once was, it will be like a demolished house or neighborhood; a somewhat melancholy nostalgia, a reminder that like places, we as people and cultures change. Despite appearances and sentiments, home is really just a stop along the way.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A couple who are friends of mine are grieving the loss of their first baby today. Born last night prematurely, the baby did not survive the night. There are a lot of things that go on in my heart when things like that happen around me. I see the pictures of myself and wonder at divine planning, wonder at the fact that I am what I am, and yet I survived and others did not. I won't pretend I understand, or even that I fully trust what I know intellectually to be true--that God's plan overrides the mess we sometimes see down here. We often say the words, as believers in God, but don't examine the unresolved things that lurk beneath the hardened crust of faith.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Her voice came over a couple dozen miles of phoneline, drowsy, speech slurred slightly.
"What's the best day you've ever had?" As she drifted off to sleep again, my mind raced over the course of my life. It seemed that the answer should have come more easily; I've had many joys in life since my childhood. Cookies and Sesame Street, walks to "the store" with my big sister, Street Fighter marathons with my older brother, mischevious exploits with my best friends in middle and high school, hanging out with the guys on my floor in college, and of course, my relationship with the sleeping beauty on the other end of the phone line.
As the thoughts kept coming I noticed a theme; every day I could remember, triumphant, depressing, whatever, every day had its darks and lights. That is, every day was a little gray. And actually, I wasn't that surprised. I mean, no one really expects to have a "movie day" where one day defines who you are for the rest of your life. Although that works well for movies, it would actually be kind of depressing in real life; watching your life's momentum slow, its definition clear, your parameters set. Maybe it's just me--I'm a lion, whatever I may appear to be on the outside. We don't deal well with cages.
After much thought, the idea of "the best day of my life" slipped through my fingers like so much water, elusive. Back to the present. Her soft rhythmic breathing over the phone line brings me the image of her curled up under her comforter, the soft light of her desk lamp illuminating tomorrow's to-do list and a neatly organized room. Today's list, completely checked off, is in the trash.

Under moonlight's watch
Sweet forgetting of today--
New day's sun still sleeps

Perhaps I cannot define the best day of my life. But this is best moment of my day.