a failure waiting to happen

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am not a happy person. I enjoy the finer things of life, but I would not say that the natural movement of my soul is towards happiness. I am a bottom-feeder, lurking and relishing the murkiness of daily life, enjoying the mystery of the mud with a smirk. Who knows what shock may emerge from the gloom? Not I – and that is the fun of it.

And yet, with my cynical, feeble, reptilian eyes, I do love to see Goodness – yes, with a capital “G” – and Beauty. I may not be a hopeful salamander, but I like it when I see it.

A rather distressing thought occurred to me yesterday: The world has too many Puddleglums in it, and I feel in order to maintain the illusion of my own idiosyncrasies, I must evolve or die.

And so, I present to you my new exercise: 100 days of gratefulness. In all likelihood, I shall fail miserably at it. There’s really no point at all in starting, yet start I will.

Today, I am grateful for good laughs. My coworker has a phenomenal laugh – hearing him from the desk next to mine always brings a reflexive grin to my face. It’s nice to be reminded that I can have fun while learning to become good at something.

Advertisements

Beautiful Judas

What do I do with my body’s betrayal? How do I go on, my body is to blame for the sins of men? How can I shoulder the weight of that blame, when my attempts to avoid it fall short? And how do I continue on, when I must bear the shame and responsibility of my existence?

When a man – no, any man – must simply say “the body was too much, how can I resist?”

And their brothers say, “we forgive you.”

And they say to us, “repent of your unforgiveness. Your body is not your own.”

“You must love our brother like you do not love yourself. You must forgive him his weakness for our peace of mind.”

There is a deep, pervasive betrayal my body commits against me. It betrays my intent, my agency, causing me pain yet attached to me like the proverbial chain-and-ball. It drags me away from holiness, it denies me the church, it refutes my agency, personhood.

My body is my wife. What are you thinking, flesh of my flesh? What secrets do you keep within you? Why are you that which you are? I am a spurned lover, watching in confusion as she turns away from me.

But if she is my wife, I married above myself.

Hey girl, I want to plumb the depths of your thought process.

I love it when we reason together.

The way you empathize really turns me on.

Said no one, ever.

And in my jealousy, and my anger, and my despair, I have neglected the wife of my youth. I have turned away from her just as she turned away from me, hoping that in my neglect, we will unite again.

We are inseparable, yet we contain multitudes. Our tendons and neurons, linking each other together. We look out on the world as one, her eyes giving sight to my thoughts, her fingers bringing my imagination to life, her hands translating between myself and the world. Is she the silent partner, or am I? Do I silently accompany her throughout the world of objects, or do I guide her quietly through the worlds in my mind?

Between the desire and the spasm is the shadow that is us. Two-as-one, one-as-one, we stare at each other. I am her, she is me. And we are here, until death do us part.

The Falling//The Flying

The week between Christmas and New Years has a special kind of madness. A drowsy torpor overcomes the world, a deafening hush that creeps over our comings and goings. The rest of the year, we scurry from task to task, but for this week, we are the Lotos-Eaters.

Abandon all motion, ye who enter here. This is the way the year ends: with a strangled whimper. Draw your comforter to your chin and let the memory of the year smother you.

But as you drift into the gloaming, beware. Don’t glance behind; don’t look ahead. Close your eyes, for in the trees lurks a beautiful presence. It’s a thing with feathers, flitting from perch to perch. It promises the return of the sun, the sprouting of seeds, the memory of warmth. It fails to mention to withering of leaves, the oncoming cold, and the stillness of falling snow. So beware, and you may yet avoid the tightness of throat, the heaviness of chest, the perpetual heartbeat of the living.

fond goodbyes, in the modern sense

It’s the morning of my last class at Biola. Or maybe I should say “with Biola,” as Downing College at Cambridge University is literal and metaphorical worlds away from the evangelical Bible college of Southern California. Contemplating the past over a celebratory breakfast of coffee and avocado toast,  I am struck by the distance I’ve come since first enrolling in the University.

When I first graduated from YWAM’s Discipleship Training School in 2013, I was in danger of losing myself and my religion if I ever stopped engaging with the charismatic Christianity they taught me. This is not a criticism, but rather a reflection on weaknesses in my own faith.  Through the (often rough) ministrations of my Torrey and music professors, God put me through a metaphorical furnace that taught me to trust “even when … led into dark and wild places.” The further I get into this affair, the more I realize that to do the “Christian” thing well is going to require a lifetime of attention – and even then I’ll still be a rank amateur.

We’ve been reading Ephesians daily these last three weeks, and I think that 4:1 has adopted me as a sort of thesis statement for the upcoming year. I want to walk in humility and gentleness, in patience and love, attempting to live in peace and unity with my fellow Christians. Let’s be honest, I’ve probably failed already. But that’s the thing: I know this project is worth doing, even when I do it poorly.

The year ahead is one I have not planned for. It’s a great Unknown, a time without order or plan; a monkey-wrench in my 25 year plan. But I think that I can honestly say that I do laugh without fear of the future. Biola has not been kind to me, but it has been good; and for that, I give it my thanks.

I am reminded of TS Elliot: “Time present and time past//Are both perhaps present in time future. ” And so I trudge on into the unknown, carrying weight of time on my shoulders, tracing and transcribing the ancient patterns.

A Whirlwind Tour

Tomorrow, I leave for Cambridge. I’ll be gone for the entire month of July, and when I get home, I will have completed the final four units of my degree. The month of June has been a gracious liminal space, a time to transition from full-time student to almost-done student, with the growing expectation of being a student no longer. Well, that’s not entirely true. I will always be a student, but I will no longer be an undergraduate student.

How time flies.

the long road home

IMG_2641

I graduated. Despite the odds, I graduated. And I promise, I will come back and write a better post about it than that, but for the time being, it is enough to know that I did it. When I first went to California for university, I called that first road trip “the long road to purgatory,” which is, I think, indicative of a general, permeating pessimism I carry with me. Having graduated, I’ve come to believe that life is both the long road to purgatory and the long road through purgatory. But I digress.

I’ve come home. Or rather, I’ve come to the shell of a home I once had. The room I once called mine is like the mausoleum for another person, one I never met. She liked her knick-knacks, and had a fondness for dried-up, dusty flowers. She kept things I have no use for. And so, for the last few weeks, I’ve been exorcising the ghost of who I once was. Sure, she still lingers in the corners and the closet, but she’s no longer hiding under the bed. There is no bed for her to hide under. This cleansing, purging, exorcising has made me ruthless, and yet it seems to be a ruthlessness driven by necessity. I’ve come to the shell of a home I once had, a shell that must be repurposed and recategorized for the time being. For you see, what once was my home must become my home again, and for that transformation to be completed, I must burn with fire.

Before I can venture into the next unknown, I must confront the unknown in my once-room, once-home. The stillness of deep ocean and the flotsam of a tropical storm collide in this space and in my head: the tempest and the tea-kettle both invade and demand space. The old skeletons stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the new bones of a new life, and they all sway in the meaningless dance of things. IMG_2641

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.

In my beginning is my end. 

notes from tonight’s performance

I am suddenly aware of my physical existence. A fuzziness in my ears from listening intently all day, and a tickle on the arch of my right foot as I stretch it out on the ground in front of me. A mild cough that hasn’t gone away from that particularly bad cold a month ago. The sound outside of campus police patrolling the apartment complex after our drunken neighbors broke the wall last night. My reflection in the mirror to my left, and the taste of strong peppermint tea, cooling my mouth.

My thoughts are scattered tonight, but they’ve been scattered for a long time. My brain is on paper these days. There’s no room in my head to remember little details like, when is that term paper due? and, when is the exam again? I’ve been noticing a mental fog for the last while, when thinking feels like pushing play dough through a very, very small hole.

There’s something pleasant about just sitting here, drinking peppermint tea and doing nothing. There’s no music playing, and the silence is so sweet. You learn to appreciate silence when you’re a music major. I would say that the stillness is like music to my ears, but I don’t have to analysis tone sets and phrase structures when it is silent. At least not this silence. There’s something about concert halls and picture frames that have a way of creating expectations. Silence in a bedroom is bliss: silence in Walt Disney Hall is 4’33” by John Cage. Frames are magic. Frames contextualize happenstance, turning a nothing into a something, and a something into a Some Thing. Suddenly, where there was once something unremarkable, there is something that has been remarked. All because of a frame.

Framing this time of sitting as a Torrey project turns it into Some Thing, and every person who walks by enters into the performance, unknowingly.

Performative Nothing. I like the ring that phrase has to it.