Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From the Encyclopedia of Experience: Human Being (2)

Sitting in traffic today, I mulled over Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth”, thinking “long, long thoughts.” My mind wandered over a great many things; how beauty in images and words draws me deeper into myself, as if there were some dried up spring inside me that had just been refilled, and now I were drinking from it; how that spring must be in all people, to some extent, though perhaps not as deeply buried in some as in others; how we have lost in ourselves some understanding of what it means to live and, in turn, what it means to simply exist.

At that thought, my mind swam through the layers of who I am. There are thick veils that surround any person’s understanding of themselves and of the world—the time period in which we live, the level of civilization in which we are embedded, the technology which is prevalent, and so on, and so on. We’ve redefined what it means to be "poor", what it means to be “well off”, what matters in life. I thought of agriculture and how for many in first world countries now, it is an industry, not a means of feeding one’s family (in the direct sense). When I am hungry, I look at my purchasing power (or lack thereof, as I did today--oatmeal is a life saver), not what kind of food might grow in the surrounding environs.

My thought-train picked up the pace. Remember, man-child, remember. The world was once building-bare, the bones of earth reaching above ground unleveled, the roaming creatures uncaged; mountains had paths, not roads, valleys trapped nothing but river pools and fallen boulders; people ran with or without shoe-soles or sandals, and clothing was woven from freely grown greenery or tanned animal hides. Beauty meant something different, away from pixelated propaganda and insecurities; songs were about something different; dreams were about something different again; remember a time before academic institutions or civilized social-structures or money, or bullet shells, or pavement, or heart transplants, or nuclear…anything… Remember…remember?

My vision began to fade as I turned my 21st century automobile into a 21st century parking space (that’s how they’ll refer to them when human beings as we are exist only as the imaginings of a child some 500 years from now). The sun was in my eyes now, as blinding as the layers from under which I sought a glimpse of true existence. I suppose, on some level, being human means being temporally myopic. But, oh, to be more!

Friday, September 21, 2007

From the Encyclopedia of Experience: Human Being (1)

It strikes me as odd that we do not spend more time seeing people as the expression of a time line of being rather than a moment; the person who cuts me off in traffic or sits opposite me on the bus is a receptacle of childhood senses, smells, sounds, sights, songs, a soul that has been touched by certain people, shunned by others. They've seen or not seen an ocean, dreamed of fantastic creatures*, excavated cultural wealth from family poverty, or demolished what has come into their hands. They think thoughts in private that escape my wildest imagining, the joy, the horror. In secret, they talk to God, or try to ignore him.
From time to time I imagine what I do not know of the being manifested before me--what it sounded like when his mother called him in from playing with friends, what games she played when she was 4 and the world was young in her, full of mystery, full of possibility; who that first person was that encouraged him or her, what his or her hopes are now; what those hopes would have been, had everything gone as planned.
To see a person this way, though still only a guessing, is perhaps to see more clearly, to understand that behind each face are, in fact, a multitude; behind each gesture, a universe that only One in all existence can fathom. And though it may at times be overwhelming, impossible as it is to know a person's entirety, it is that entire universe I am called to love.

*I met a man and his wife once at a burger place. He asked me to convince his wife (who I had just met) that there are no mermaids in the Indian Ocean. He was completely serious.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Tonight’s writing is in retaliation

Against chains that slither between my creative limbs,

The humdrum mundane plodding that keeps my mind earthbound

And unfree, clips words’ wings from feather to fibula,

Or melts wing-wax to send me plummeting from the pinnacle of invention,

And I fall, fall, fall,

Into left-right-left certainty;

A cubicle,

A keyboard,

A phone,

And files;

So many files

Scattered beneath my elbows like the down of a plucked chicken,

The ignominy of bindings that were supposed to be loosed sometime ago;

And now I wonder if flight is even possible—

I take word wing and launch…

-js 5/6/07

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

There is little that haunts me more than death; not because death is ultimately in charge, or because there is a finality in death for the individual who is leaving this life. I know and believe firmly in the resurrection as Jesus taught it.
Still, there is a taunting that happens when you hear about a death. The height of the tide of terror that comes with being human rises before you. You're confronted with the infinite in light of your finiteness, the magnitude of the goals you had in light of the miniscule and microcosmic life you lead. There, as the broken creature looks back from the mirror, you are reminded of what it means to be lesser than something, powerless against something.
Today I found out that an old family friend had passed away. As I sat at my desk,I was unsure what to do. My mom's voice left the message on my voicemail like a take it or leave it offering. As I deleted the message, I realized that until recently I had not thought about the kindness with which I had been treated by that friend, all of this in my younger years, many of these kindnesses forgotten in the propulsion of time. I wanted to curse. I wanted to cry. Our friend will be in heaven--I know that I will meet with him again.
But to live out this life, to continue to bear a facade of fluency and control of the art of living--that is what troubled me. I cannot continue to pretend that all is under my feet and that I tread upon it with the light steps of a hero. A hero I am not.
As my mind struggled to swim through this troubled current of thought, words that I had quoted in a paper I was writing earlier today came back to me.
"I am the resurrection and the life...Do you believe this?"
Oh God, with every fiber of my being, I am trying to not only believe this, but to live like it is truth as well.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Okay, so here's what happened: Sunday in the late afternoon we went to the park where I first asked her out when we were in college. I brought along my box of memories from our relationship--cards, little things we made together, ticket stubs, etc. I had included with those things a DVD of the movie we watched on that first real date, The Wedding Planner. While there, we also looked at pictures from our dates and special days over the last 6 (yes, six) years.
From the park, we then went to Cafe Hidalgo, the restaurant at which we ate on our first date. The entire time, of course, she was so sure I would pop the question while we were at dinner. While she and I ate, my friend, brother, guardian angel Jeff set up a table for us on the balcony/terrace above the restaurant. When we had finished eating, and she had given up on the idea of me proposing, we left the restaurant, and took a detour via the stairs to the upper area of courtyard where we "happened upon" a beautiful table set up with candles, rose petals, martinellis and a couple of glasses. She immediately wondered whose table we had stumbled upon. I assured her it was ours, and had to show her the pictures and poetry I had written for her, spread across the table, to convince her; at this point, of course, she knew what was going on. Up there, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me and she said yes through tears and laughter! :)
The entire time Jeff took pictures from a hidden location--if they turned out alright, and when I get a copy of them, I'll post them in my pictures section of my myspace page.
Needless to say, I've been smiling all morning!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Recently I’ve found myself longing for a certain sense of place and experience. Sitting in my cubicle at work, my mind draws me past the puce panels and ringing phones out front, to a place somewhere else. Yesterday, as I entered such a state of mental escape, I looked through some of the photographs from National Geographic’s Picture of the Day website, each image acting as a portal for me to jump from world to world; hot springs in Yellowstone, vast deserts in Egypt, the countryside in Iceland. None of these pictures were by themselves enough to detain me—I was searching for something different.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience at some point—you start off thinking it’s homesickness or that you need a vacation, but as you get home, or as you think of what you’d do with all that free time, you realize that there’s a chance fulfillment may not be guaranteed there; escape, yes, but the feeling that you have landed…

At the waning of the day, I sat in my car on the roof of a parking structure in Anaheim. I was waiting for someone, not just loitering, if you were wondering, but in a sense I was waiting for something else, rest or inspiration perhaps. Turning the pages of the book I’ve been reading, I found a travel marker left by Longinus:

Nature has appointed us men to be no base or ignoble animals; but when she ushers us into life and into the vast universe as into some great assembly, to be as it were spectators of the mighty whole and the keenest aspirants for honour, forthwith she implants in our souls the unconquerable love of whatever is elevated and more divine than we.

I wish I could tell you exactly what it is that I look for in the world, in life, in the pages of books or the flicker of film at the cinema. The comfort I find in Longinus' passage is that we as people have been trying to express it to each other from the beginning, and have even come quite close. Still, the war of minds and words rolls on. Each day I wake up and continue my search by God’s side, on some days more earnestly than others—by God’s side because I’m quite sure he’s the only one who knows what we search for through and through. I still haven’t landed. But I’ll let you know, my friends, when I have.

Monday, January 15, 2007

For the final days of 2006, after all the hullabaloo of Christmas had subsided, I spent most of my time wading through boxes of miscellaneous paraphernalia, packing, or whatever it is you call that lost wandering through your things right before you move to a new place. For those of you who didn’t know, I had to move at the end of the year due to health reasons. Without getting too much into that, I’ll say that period seems to be something of a foreshadowing regarding this coming year. A step ahead, two steps behind, I find myself entering this year frantically groping and fumbling toward transition. In a number of areas of my life, this will (hopefully) be a year of challenge and growth, as any other year would (hopefully) be. Still, this year, more than most in the past, promises to leave my life looking quite unpredictably different at its closing. Already, I live in a new place with people I met about a month ago, in a house I never really knew existed. I’ve already had surgery, bought and started reading a new book—I took a $2 chance on an African author of whom I had never heard. But I will not get too carried away with change.

So what will 2007 be about? When the clock struck midnight January 1st, 2007, I was actually at church. I had been so engrossed in packing and cleaning up at the place in which I had lived for 3 years that I hadn’t really had time to think about resolutions. As I’ve often been challenged to do by my brother’s consistent example, I desperately searched my mind and hopes for inspiration. Then I was struck by what I was doing, in that particular moment, as well as in the few days I had off from work. I was trying to hurry transition. Obviously, the clock didn’t move any faster or slower than predicted, but my thoughts and efforts lurched toward 2007’s beginnings like a car threatening to stall and take off at the same time. My hurried packing and cleaning up was nearly causing me physical injury. Time to push down on that clutch.

So, then, 2007 will have to be about rethinking the way I do things—perhaps the “word” being “master plan”.

We’re two weeks in, but, hey, I’ve already moved and had my maxillary sinuses scraped out—what’s your excuse? As in any year, my friends, I do not dare to promise perfection by the year’s end, nor do I even dare to promise to be “accomplished” in this area of my life by the time next year rears its head. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward…”

Here’s to 2007 and its master plan, and all the intrigue, suspense, and possible drama it may bring. More on how things are developing here soon, my friends.

Sigh. I now feel like I can actually begin the year.