"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day
The scariest part about 28 is that this year includes my 10-year high school reunion. I've kept in touch with maybe 5 people I went to high school with, and I've only seen or spoken to one of them within the last few years. So I struggle to decide whether it's worth the trip. Through the insidious MySpace, I've gotten back in touch with a few friends from elementary, junior high and high school who I would actually like to see, but wow...a whole weekend with Calallen High. I don't know what to expect from that. I was not unpopular in high school, but I was not popular either. I was a pretty intense student, and was friendly with kids from all of the cliques, including a couple of football players and at least one girl from the dance team (both major enemies of all those in band). Due to this intermingling, I was known as neutral space between the punks and the jocks. I was Switzerland. But as you probably can tell if you if you've read any of this, I am no longer so neutral any more. I'm not sure how that will work. I'm hoping that the my new exotic locale will overrule the fact that I am a Blue sitting deep in Red Country.
Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and came upon a story about the recent floods in Somalia. And I thought back to the gospel of inclusion. People who live in a land torn apart by war, who perpetually experience times of famine due to the alternating cycle of drought and flood. If this is not Hell, I cannot think what would be. I cannot comprehend a God that would not give these people peace and joy, full stomachs and safety.
In an effort to avoid the work I have to do today....a quiz. You can only answer with one word. No explanations.
1. Yourself: Quirky
2. Your spouse: Elsewhere
3. Your hair: Poofy
4. Your mother: Hmmmm... (is that a word?)
5. Your father: Funny
6. Your favorite item: Pen
7. Your dream last night: Strange
8. Your favorite drink: Minty
9. Your dream car: Efficient
10. The room you are in: Toxic
11. Your ex: Distressing
12. Your fear: Terminal
13. What you want to be in 10 years: Connected
14. Who you hung out with last night: BFF
15. What you're not: Ordinary
16. Muffins: Allergic
17: One of your wish list items: Debt-free
18: Time: Fast
19. The last thing you did: Coughed
20. What you are wearing: Casual
21. Your favorite weather: Chilly
22. Your favorite book: Political
23. The last thing you ate: Muffin
24. Your life: Dark Comedy
25. Your mood: Exhausted
26. Your best friend: Amazing
27. What you're thinking about right now: Vacation
28. Your car: Nonexistent
29. What you are doing at the moment: Listening
30. Your summer: Hot
31. Your relationship status: Confusing
32. What is on your TV: Plant
33. What is the weather like: Coldish
34. When was the last time you laughed: Yesterday
Tonight I went to see Bobby because it looked interesting and pretty much everyone working in Hollywood is in it. And I was just so struck by the hope that the people portrayed in this film possessed in this man. I look at the state of our country, when so many of the problems of the 1960s continue to ravage our nation and our world (many of them artfully hidden from the public eye), and wonder who, if anyone, will ever come along that will give us hope like that. American politics has become such a media showdown that it is difficult to even know what is what. We pick a party and hope that they are actually against the things they say they are, though we have little faith that things will ever actually change. Even in a time like this, when so many of us are so hopeful with the switching over of the House and Senate, the reality of it is that little may actually change because it seems like their hands, in so many instances, are tied.
The end of the movie is voiced over with a speech give by Robert Kennedy called "The Mindless Menace of Violence." Though the words were spoken almost 40 years ago, during a different time and a different war, they still ring so true.
This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.
This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.
I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.
Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
The church I go to now, CCfB, is truly, truly amazing. I know that I've spoken of this before, but it has been made so much more apparent to me this week. I gives me great hope for the future of the Christian faith that people such as those who are gathered with me at the YWCA each week, and those I gathered together with back in the day, exist and have not given up.
As I am a pacificist-to-a-fault, I cannot see a time when I would ever believe that violence is the answer to anything. Whether this means finding for the death penalty in a murder trial, or retaliation in a time of violence between two nations, I cannot wrap my mind around it and how this is getting us anywhere. Violence only begets violence, thus creating more violence and more injustice, more people seeking retribution. And I feel like answers lie in this sentence. So many things in the world that are not physically violent acts can be seen as acts of violence and sometimes escalate into acts of war. Not treating people as equals. Not being respectful of difference. Actively not meeting the needs of your country's poor. Sitting idly by while people die for lack of simple healthcare and nutrition. Seeking to deprive people of their basic human rights, because they are not a part of your mainstream. So with all of these things, in my mind, justice is found through equality. Using our food surpluses to make sure that everyone has enough healthy food to survive; using our technology and vast scientific resources to wipe out epidemics without care of the profit margins on these life-saving medications; providing the children of our country with an education so that they have the opportunity to compete; not seeing difference as deviance, as dangerous.
During one of the discussions that prompted this, it was made very clear to me that my ideals are not so practical. I am well aware of this. I, afterall, believe that if I could remove one thing from human nature, it would be competitiveness. Can you imagine...no greed, no war, no playground bullying, no sibling rivalry, sports played just because we like to play, advancement for the sake of humanity rather than profit and prestige? If only the world existed as it does in my head...
1. Dreading a social event, only to walk in the door and find most of your friends (who you didn't know were coming) are already there.
2. The fact that all babies love to meet other babies. I was on a very crowded train yesterday (due to Marathon traffic) and saw two babies meet up and become fast friends. If only things were still that easy.
3. Election Day! We hope that this one stays a beautiful thing, but right now it has beautiful potential.
Mr. Rushdie is decidedly anti-religion, as apparently most of the crowd there last night was. And I feel like it is understandable for him to feel this way. As an adult, he began to criticize Islam, which had been the faith of his family. And as a result, a fatwa was proclaimed by the Ayatollah, and millions of Muslims were instructed to kill him for a hefty reward. And this was not condemned by most of the religious world, even outside of the Muslim sphere. Imagine if GW had put a price on the head of Dan Brown for insinuating in The DaVinci Code that Jesus had married, and that Mary Magdalene was an apostle, and not a prostitute. And then Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, and the Pope all stood in agreement that this should happen. It's pretty frightening, isn't it?
1. Today was the first day I could actually justify wearing a scarf. I love scarves.
2. Fonts. I love them without reason.
3. Sweaters....almost as wonderful as scarves.
When I read this, I felt like I understood myself better. I didn’t believe in God until I was probably 20 years old. That seems young, but I had spent the most difficult years of my life up until then pretending and trying so hard to make it true. When it finally hit me, it was like nothing I had ever experienced, and my life has never been the same. But there is also a part of me that remembers life outside. That remembers the terrible things that Christians have done through history, killing people to further a religion, enslaving people to maintain dominance, demonizing people because we know nothing of their lives. So when I talk about God I am overwhelmed by it all. I think of how wonderful my life has been with God in it, the amazing experience of living in a community of believers and knowing that something better awaits me. And I think of all the people that have been denied this by a religious community that has at times been blind to the damage we do when we keep people out of our midst, simply because we do not agree with something in their lives, and we do not have the compassion to know that this is more important than any of that could ever be.
I have witnessed it over and over again, in both my personal and professional lives, people whose lives have been destroyed by the prejudice and bigotry and intolerance. In my recent surfing around the blogosphere, I came upon the blog of a man who is dying of AIDS. He is begging to die. He has been excommunicated from his church because he is gay, and now feels that, because these people treated him with such brutality, God has damned him and has given him this disease as a punishment for his misdeeds. And I am again overwhelmed. I am angry, so, so angry, that a church would do this to a person. That a family would allow this to happen. That someone would be left alone at the end of their life, dying of such a terrible illness, simply because society has demonized people for something they have absolutely no control over. I pray that someone will find him and tell him that we are not all like that. That God loves him and seeks him, and wants him to know that he is not alone.
If you feel compelled to take the test, let me know what you score. And don't worry, not everyone can get a -4.
When I first read this I was tempted to watch this thing as I kinda like to be outraged. But I think this is more important than that. I'm sure the ratings will be huge, as we cannot turn away from a tragedy, but I implore you not to add a number to this.
It seems to be our motto at my work lately "When I became I social worker, this is not what I thought it would be." When I was working at the hospital, I would see the pain my patients were in, and the often apethetic attitude of their doctors, and it would make me want to be a doctor. Now I am kind of bad at math, and thus chemistry, and am pretty quickly grossed out by smells and sights. But the logic of this is overruled by the amazing potential to help people and ultimately to save lives. And now at my job, I spend my days basically taking away people's right to self-determination. Yes, the things I essentially force them to do (i.e. taking medications, going to doctor's appointments, etc.) are things that in the end will make their lives better. But when they're yelling at me, calling me a liar, and various other pieces of colorful language, I feel a bit more like I'm doing these things to satiate my supervisors and their want for a peaceful building than actually helping these people live the lives they want to live. So now I want to go back to school to get a management degree because I feel like I need to run a program, so that I might be satisfied with how it is run. Some days I want to be a lawyer, because maybe then I'll understand the things that fundamentally affect the people I'm trying to help. Other days I want to be a writer, because I miss being creative in ways that don't involve people's livelihood. I still want to be a teacher, because I love and understand the mind of the rebellious teenager. And I still kinda want to learn how to play guitar and join Courtney Love's band (I love her...I can't explain it). It is in some ways a blessing to have so many interests and the want to do so much. But really at my advanced age of 27, shouldn't I just pick something and stick to it?
(1) My friends and I have talked alot about how lonely it can be to live in NYC. Surrounded by thousands of people all that time, yet knowing none of them. But today, I was encouraged by none other than the man who owns my neighborhood grocery store. I was there buying my consumables for the week, when he asked me where I'd been. He noticed that I hadn't been around for the past few days. I hadn't come in to buy anything and he hadn't seen me pass by. It makes me feel good that I have been here long enough to be noticed, and thought of. That I am not an anonymous person here. One day a few months ago we had a conversation about the Selena song on the radio and about how I was from Selena's hometown. He said "Oh, you're from Texas. I'm from Libya. It's alot like Texas."
(2) Some of my friends have been putting up the Top Ten songs on their iTunes Shuffle list. It says something about a person. Here's mine:
- Ohio (Come Back to Texas) Bowling for Soup—Because you maybe want someone to ask you to do just that.
- You Give Love a Bad Name Bon Jovi—Because you gotta love Bon Jovi.
- Sweet Adeline Elliott Smith—Because Elliott Smith was amazing.
- Jesus Walks Kanye West—Because I secretly love him, and he's a frequent guest on my talk show.
- Give me Novacaine/She's a Rebel Green Day—Because both of these statement are true and right.
- More than Words Extreme—Because knowing all the words to this song in 6th grade made you cool.
- Move Along All-American Rejects—Because we are...moving along, that is.
- Strength, Courage, and Wisdom India Arie—Because we could all use some.
- Dancing with Myself Billy Idol—Because Billy Idol is awesome.
- I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers—Because it makes you want to jump up and down.
And so I end this big ball of random with one of Mr. Bukowski's balls of random...a poem...the house.
"At another time, Tom’s questions might irritate me: 'What’s one more than a hundred?' 'What’s one more than a thousand?' But now when he asks the questions about numbers, I don’t lose my patience; I associate. I think of the increasing numbers of innocent dead on both sides of this conflict. 'What’s one more than that?' he says. 'And one more after that?' I try to explain infinity. 'But tell me,' he says, 'when does it stop?'"
And just so this post isn't entirely self-serving, here's an interesting article to read.
so it's 12:30 saturday morning and my lovely evening of murphy walking, baseball channel surfing, and reheated pizza scarfing has led me to send you this list of reasons to stay in NYC...
1) at least there are new people to meet there that aren't incoming UT freshmen
2) the people you hate in austin are still here
3) you don't have to work in special projects anymore
4) it's not 105 in the shade
5) while i'm sure your fellow new yorkers do their fair share of pizza scarfing...at least it's made with the best quality tap water on the planet
6) you have the yankees
7) you have broadway
8) you have a hooker roommate...it's like the writer gods are screaming "THAT'S SOME PULITZER PRIZE WINNING STUFF walking around your living room naked"
9) ryan lives in texas
and most importantly... 10) you are fabulous and thus deserve a fabulous city...all that
crap about hill country charm and live music is crap...you're in F-ING NYC
Though I was not so religious, these were by far the greatest weeks of my summer. I painted cups and made bracelets and necklaces in Arts & Crafts. I stood by and watched the Campers vs. Counselors softball games. I greatly anticipated everyday at 11am when all the high school kids would get together in the "Gabezo" (really a gazebo) and sing as loud as we wanted. I always got a seat next to my friend Stuart, who had and still has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. And I hoped against all hope that we would sing Paradise Valley...or Ring Out the Message...728b, Our God, He is Alive. Now I appreciate the words of these songs for what they are, but then it was the music that was so beautiful to me.
But this week as I think about Camp Bandina, it is with a bit of sadness. One of my dear friends from my home church died last year about this time. The last time I saw him was at Camp, the summer after he graduated from high school, the summer after I graduated from college. I met him when he was about 11 and I was about 14. And though he was quite a bit younger than me, he has always been one of my favorite people. Such a kind and gentle spirit. I wish him peace now. One of my fondest memories of him was riding in his mother's Suburban on our way to Camp, him singing When They Ring Those Golden Bells into his portable Karaoke mic. It takes a special kid to rock the portable Karaoke mic. I think of him often, mostly when I'm singing a very happy song. I hope that's what he doing now.
Now when you hear "Park Slope Food Coop," you think organic, holistic, earth-friendly, peaceful, good karma flowing all around, everyone's aura is blue, everyone's qi flowing freely. But so not true. I feel that the Coop in a vacuum, much like socialist society, would be utopia--everyone giving freely to others, everyone provided for, equality and humanity would reign. But as we have learned, no one lives in a vacuum, no matter how we try. As my friend and I sat through Coop orientation, we were shocked again and again at the aggressiveness of the orientation provider. She told the couple with a child that despite the fact they were there for the health of their baby, if he didn't shut up they would have to leave. She told the woman who was there to provide nutritous food to her baby daughter that if her husband, who works long hours to provide for the family, could not come to orientation, their child will simply have to eat the pesticide laden foods found at the local supermarket. She told of how the coop chose to punish people for missing their shifts and how they had to implement extra security measures because people had begun stealing from the Coop.
I'm not sure which came first, the stealing or the agression, but in my head it was the aggression. I picture the first crunchy patrons of the Coop in the 1970s being peaceful, free-loving folks, but then their utopia was shattered by the rules and restrictions of the man. They felt the need to rise up, eating bulk items before they were weighed and silently, defiantly sticking the hemp dishtowels in their bags as a means to show their discontent. Going limp as they were dragged out by police called in to quell their uprising. Well, I am with you, my brothers and sisters. As I join your former Coop, I will get work on the inside. I will overthrow the aggressor. It shall be ours again.