Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Man on a Wire or Balance

The man on the wire took another step and with it, a shallow tentative breath. He held the pole out in front of him gripping it tightly, his knuckles were white and sweat between his palm and the rod made his hold a little less sure. A breath of wind sways the thick steel cable beneath the soles of his ready feet. In this moment he swallows, lowers his eyelids, and reminds himself once again how to place one foot in front of the other. He practiced for this so many times in his back yard between to oak trees. This is different, very different. The cold morning fog hugs his skin and plasters his thin shirt to his tense muscles. He remembers. The sun of a summer day one year ago melts away the mist of the morning and fills his eyelids with the flickering picture of memory. Birds sing in the treetops and bees drone over the flowers on the ground. The ground is only three feet below the suspension line. A drop that couldn't hurt an infant. He totters, falls, gets back on the wire. Repeat. Over and over, repeat. Practice makes perfect. If at first you don't succeed, he tries and tries again. If he were to make one such mistake now – to fall off of his wire – its best not to think of things like that. Again the line quivers and his eyes open, not quickly, every movement matters. His eyes take in the scene before him without his head conveying their direction. In front of him the narrow pathway stretches into infinity through the clouds before him he knows that behind him are over fifteen feet of cable, another thirty stretch forward. There is no turning back now. Another careful step brings him that much closer to his incredible goal. One at a time. One at a time. Slow. Steady. He does not dare look below him. To look down could mean the end of everything. He cannot even think about not averting his eyes to see what lies beneath his feet. His mind is steeled to the danger contained in the distance between himself and the hard unrelenting earth. Out of sight out of mind. The farther he is from the crust of the revolving earth, the nearer he encroaches on his certain demise. None of these thoughts cross his focused mind. The wail of sirens somewhere in the ocean of water-heavy air and the bite of what feels like shards of ice are not lost on his sharpened senses, but are quickly packaged and stored away, cleared from the mind's palate which must be relied on to keep his body steady on this line; better suited to carry a cable car than a human being. He felt the weight of his body tensing the wire and imagined each of his muscles doing the same. His chest rose and fell slowly, and his arms ached with the effort of keeping the pole steady before him. If he were to waver now – if he took one step an inch too far or too short. He steadied himself and drew his foot forward again. Again. He felt firm metal beneath his feet. The building. He dropped the pole and turned around. From there he gazed out at the city and then he looked down. Down, down, down. The world lay at his feet. One thousand three hundred and sixty eight feet below.

More on Balance later...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"How are you?"

Being a student at a Christian school I find myself consistently affronted with this question. It is to me a deceptively simple question which is in reality very difficult to answer. Lately when I am presented with this query I am speechless for a few moments, I don't want to be shallow, lie or give more information than people want to hear. So what should I say? How is this question best answered?
More often than not the simple answer is "good, how are you?" of course this answer is met with dissatisfaction. On the one hand if the person asking doesn't really want to know how you are doing then that succinct answer is great and they feel like they fulfilled their social duty in asking you, but you might be left feeling the dearth of their care and maybe a bit unresolved. You are unwilling to dump your emotional load on them until they ask and if they don't you have certainly been the victim of a terrible crime. On the other hand if the inquirer really wants to know how you are doing then you have not met their expectations with a simple, "good" or "fine" or "okay". They may have been expecting you to delve deeply into the emotional and complex parts of your soul. A simple answer, when given to that caring person, is usually countered by something like, "yeah, but how are you really doing?" to which they expect the essential truth behind your painted mask to reveal itself in all its burdened, unholy, glory. If you're in a hurry this is just annoying. If you've heard it thirty times that day it's also annoying. Who new that fine, meant Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional? I was under the impression it meant "fine". Now this doesn't mean that everyone who wants to know how their friends are doing shouldn't ask because its annoying. May it never be so. however, maybe there should simply be a little less reading into simple answers, or maybe there should be more thoughtful answers. Trying to come up with a different greeting than "how are you?" may be an appropriate solution.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Community -

The other day I had a moment where there was a lull in an otherwise busy day and happened to wander into a very pleasant conversation. Some women were reminiscing about the days when we had laundry hanging outside on a line. Well that was the apparent subject matter anyways. The underlying idea was a sort of nostalgia about the community which they enjoyed as children. Laundry is one of those simple things that reveals and represents a sense of community which seems to have been more easy to come by in past years. They observed the openness of putting your delicates out on a rope for all the neighbors to see and in return seeing their linens, blowing in the breeze. You could watch the neighborhood's children growing up as you saw first diapers, then tiny dresses and little overalls. Now we carefully stow our laundry in washers and dryers, efficient and low profile. In a similar fashion, families carefully sequester themselves in their homes and leave quickly in their traveling box, tinted windows make them a little less visible. Things now are fast, they work so perfectly, life is a well-oiled machine! That means relationships are a bit farther off on the radar. When you can drive by the old neighbor mowing his lawn instead of having to walk by there's no danger of being stopped for a conversation, that might make you late to work. Things fit so well in boxes and the more private the better.

Wait -- that doesn't seem quite right.

Community is beautiful.

People laughing, talking, working together to create a better more nurturing living environment, thats more like it. I'm afraid that that form of community has flown away on the wings of time. And yet, hope is not altogether gone, communities still exist and people still speak to one another. O God let us not forget the blessing and yes the necessity of the comfort and company of our brothers.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We're Back

I only put in one earring this morning before leaving my room, I'm having trouble typing, I have no appetite, my eyes are red and burning. Every muscle in my body aches so I can barely lift my arms or legs. I am having trouble focusing and when people ask me questions I have to ask them to repeat themselves, sometime more than once. I keep tripping while I walk across perfectly smooth surfaces and my vision goes fuzzy from time to time. My brain feels as though is shutting down one compartment at a time. No I'm not old, no I'm not dying of any terminal disease. I am a sophomore, nursing major in the Torrey program with an alter ego who is in ROTC three times a week. 'Welcome back troops' reads the banner announcing our dorm mixer, intending to get the students excited about being back at school. Don't get me wrong I am happy to be back, 'a life without learning is like being blind and can't see' but I could do without the symptoms of a mentally ill patient. On the plus side I have already read 1/3 of the Psalms, Machiavelli's 'The Prince" and the first book of Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene" and just beginning 'A midsummer Night's Dream'. Welcome back troops! Fight for an education, for self-actualization, for meaning, for friends, for food, for rapidly diminishing parking spaces, for sleep. Good luck all.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Santa Monica

Walking through Santa Monica is a trip. Although its a beach city you get an LA vibe because of all the different people who live there, work there, and tour there. Stopping in the promenade to watch a group of self-proclaimed acrobats and break dancers I began to experience this new place. One of the performers was from Brazil, another form Argentina and a third from San luis Obispo, the host introduced them so his port of origin remained a mystery. They shamelessly panhandled for money and made racial jokes which produced some nervous laughter and lowered eyes from the surrounding crowd. They urged us to come closer and advised us not to leave. Promising to give a good show in return for rich white people's money. They started their work doing some pretty amazing stunts. Someone in the crowd shouted something about the American dream. After the street show the crowd dispersed leaving the odd dollar or two behind them.
A man plugged into a speaker strummed loudly on a guitar, his black vest embroidered with celestial bodies glinting in the sun. Not far from him a rather forlorn looking girl snag "My Heart Will Go On" pleading with the passersby for an audience with her look.
We passed numerous homeless people sleeping on the grass with piles of blankets and cardboard boxes, or working their daily job. Begging. They held up their bits of cardboard declaring their homelessness in bold black marker letters. One man sat in a wheelchair cradling a sign in his lap that told each passerby that he was in need of hand surgery. He rested his withered hands on either arm of the chair. As I walked down the pier I ran into another crowd watching a man who claimed he would be the first "black African American to fly" and that he was happy to be out of prison, but "DON'T RUN"! he yelled as his face shifted rapidly from an impish smile to a serious, hard mask. "The police are right there"
He played music through a speaker from a gold iPod nano and danced to an "animation" mix he said he made while in prison rather than fighting. He would occasionally reach down into his bag and pull out a Michael Jackson, or Obama mask and continue his dance. At one point a little black girl gave him two dollars and he yelled "Thank ya sister! Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King!" The little girl looked confused and looked back at her dad asking what he was talkin' about.

A little farther on a woman with a painted face, in a faded purple belly dancer costume clanking together a pair of zils in either hand and balancing two swords horizontally atop her head. I continued on past the caricature stalls and cotton candy vendors to the edge of the pier. Several people had set up fishing lines, some possibly hoping to catch dinner. As the faces lined up on the railing stared out at the vast ocean I turned to look at them. Some stared longingly at the sea, others gazed at their lover standing by. A man who clearly carried his house on the purple mountain bike next to him jerked up his fishing pole and I watched him start to reel something in. I looked at the people several of whom had turned with interest to this small commotion. He seemed accustomed to people stare at him like another attraction on the pier as he tried to catch fish beneath the pier. He hauled up a small fish and a man above him asked if it was a catfish, he replied through several missing teeth that it were a drag'n fish. Another voice said nice cat and he said even louder that it were a drag'n fish if you would look its cuz it has a face just like a drag'n. No one seemed to hear him.
Walking back along the pier I noticed a poster board sign hoisted above my head by a wooden stake assuring me that God (& Jesus) were the energy in the universe, and more that I didn't catch. On the backside I was given the opportunity to see David the preacher man's youtube video all about it. I looked at the man who I assumed to be David, holding up the sign, walking down the pier with his eyes straight ahead. I passed the flying man, who had restarted his act, promising to fly again for a new group of people and the acrobats were still dancing and "passing the collection plate a second time like church". A black man wearing nothing but a neon green thong hanging some scraps of leopard print cloth was talking about just standin' there bein' blessed and nek'ed.
Most of these people were asking for money, but they had another common thread. They had no time for shame. People bared their bodies, danced, sang, exhibited their lagging, or lack of hygiene, and need for clothes, slept, caught fish, ate, and spoke to crowds of people, without missing an opportunity to ask for more money. Most of these things are considered private by the middle class. Desperation and pleading did not seem to be a part of the mentality of these people. Rather they acted as if this was their daily job and they were just doing what they needed to do to get by. For the majority that means exploiting themselves and accepting that they have been stripped of their privacy because they have been stripped of their homes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I get to these points in my life where I am simply, and thoroughly overwhelmed by the amount of information in the world. It begins when I become truly interested in some train of thought or genre of discovery. One such example is recurrent in books. As they say, one thing leads to another, and this is no less true in a library. As I'm sure that I am not the first person to realize this I will simply restate an idea here. Every book is somehow connected to the others. Whether it be an obscure reference, an obvious allusion, a connecting quote, or the need for support, authors continually refer to their predecessors and contemporaries throughout their work. As I read I begin to make dent in whatever reading list I currently have going. Then to my great delight I discover those connections which will lead me to other great authors and engrossing books. I add the manageable handful of book titles, lets say three, to my list. I move on to those books and find a few more, then to my dismay my 'to read' list has suddenly become ten times as long as the list of those I have finished. The realization of how much there is to discover and, along with that, that my life is limited, often result in a cessation of my trail. This not suddenly but gradually. My fear of the ever growing mountain of literature before me causes my noble quest to ebb, and I simply leave off at the tail end of the book I'm just finishing. I would assimilate this feeling to a soap-box car's journey down a hill, It begins rolling, not propelled by any motor and gradually, due to the incline of the hill, it picks up speed. The only problem is as I realize I'm going too fast and move to implement the brakes, I realize I have none and shut my eyes anticipating a crash. at the bottom of the hill, rather than impact, I feel a gradual decrease in in speed and eventually roll to a stop thanks to gravity. There are certainly more books in this world than I could ever read. It is only after I forget about that that I can actually read again. Then of course the cycle begins all over again. However, it does not end in hopelessness, rather it causes me to stare at the world which contains so many books in wide eyed wonder. Leaving me in utter awe and dazzled amazement at the sheer magnitude that the written word covers both spatially and conceptually.