Sunday, January 28, 2007

a brief social commentary #4. (i think therefore i consume.)

we are beyond survival. we have elevated ourselves from needs to wants, and with frivolous and rather embarrassing results. i do not know if any of you have traveled to a second or third world country but culture shock can really affect you, and sometimes worse upon your arrival home. when i was in india these past few weeks i had to face despair and utmost poverty, each day i had to walk by several people without homes, food, and no hope for either any time soon.

upon arrival to the states i had the opportunity to stay a couple days in new york city before i came home to florida. i was hanging out with a friend in soho, new york city and on the way to meet up i saw the most gratuitous store i may have ever encountered in my life. it was an entire store that was dedicated to dog clothing. sweaters, trendy t-shirts, even upscale collars that were studded with random diamonds and jewels, kept in a glass case for display.

normally i don't think it would have been a big deal to have seen a store like that but having just arrived off a plane from kalcutta, india this was utterly shocking and like i said before rather embarrassing to know that in mexico city thousands of people are looking through the trash for spare pieces of aluminum or other types of metal so they can afford a meal tomorrow. in africa today a boy's stomach pains are keeping him inactive; with no energy to even cry out for help. in kalkutta i saw with my own eyes a man walking on his knees, his back had been broken and now he hobbled on all fours and used rags around his legs so that the impact of the asphalt was minimal because he had no money to afford any type of medical attention.

we are beyond survival, we have met all the basic needs of cloths, shelter, food, and clean water; we are so frivolous that instead of buying a pair of pants for $19.00 at GAP we have moved on to $119.00 at nordstrams, and i am guilty as well. i refuse to point fingers or single anyone else out because i am one such consumer. i love starbucks, i could make the coffee myself at home, but instead i drive my suv across town and get my (almost) $4.00 cup of coffee.

i don't know whats next, something has to change in my life. i think this is just one area where i am out of balance. i don't have the answers either, i don't know what the medium is between enjoying life to its fullest and being a conscience consumer aware of the worlds needs and problems in ever fiscal transaction.

a lot in our society that we view as a normality or even a cause now appears to be a luxury to me now. take for instance PETA, an organization that i believe is a bit eccentric at times but overall i am against cruelty towards animals. PETA to me now appears to me to be a first world countries luxury more than anything else. we are now living so above our means that we can not only eat on a daily basis and choose what we eat, but now we can label what we eat 'good' or 'bad' morally. men, women, and children all over the world would give anything for a morsel of food today, and they could not care less which way it was or wasn't prepared or whether it was vegetarian, vegan, or whatnot.

i am not here to criticize the cost or moral deliberation of items or organizations, i am simply pointing out that there needs to be a reformation of all consumers in our culture. i am not the leader of this revolution because the cost of my wallet alone could have fed a small village, and the cost of my daily coffee half of what a farmer is paid in nepal for the purchase of his daughter being sold into sexual slavery. i am not the leader of this change but am willing to be a participant in the rising tides of change.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

lessons from the most successful shoe shiner

he sat and shined a shoe, that’s all i ever saw him do. he must have been 10 and he sat right next to his dad, imitating his dad while he scrubbed then shined shoes right outside the location on sutter street we were staying at in kalcutta, india. they had a very meager set up, with only a wooden box the size of a shoebox to conduct business, and a sheet that had been torn through to sit on while tourists such as myself walked by. i always noticed how both father and son alike would stare at peoples feet as they walked by, maybe to evaluate clientele, or just the simple fact that shoes and shine were what they knew, and what they knew best.
through a translator i began to build a relationship with both father and son, i would share my cliff bars with them in the morning, they thought they tasted funny which made me laugh (because i think most health bars taste like chalk as well), not like the normal "candy" that they probably had before from other tourists or maybe a special occasion or two.
i asked the boy what he wanted to do when he grew up, and he said he wanted to shine shoes just like his father. i asked again thinking that maybe he thought i meant "what are you going to do," and not my original question of "what do you want to do when you grow up." the boy once again repeated that cleaning and shining shoes is what he wanted to do, just like his father, right here on the street he had grown up on and known his whole life.
"success" is a funny word. it is a topic i struggle with because everyone seems to be chasing it but i don't believe that i have ever met anyone who will self admit tingly say they have found or achieved it. for me though i believe that i have defined it as obtaining enough material possessions that one can afford luxury and the comforts of life can be obtained with minimal struggle. i know this sounds as cued but isn't that what we are taught by society, the "american dream", and advertising?
this boy had purpose. it may have not been the life i have chosen but he had purpose. he was going to shine shoes like his father before him, and to the best of his ability. the boy taught me a lesson this past couple weeks, success is not defined by what you can obtain but by the pursuit of purpose with all your soul & mind. success to me is finding ones purpose no matter how obscure, different, or grandiose, and setting out whole heartedly to achieve it. what made shoe shining so insignificant in my eyes the first couple of days? it was because i saw no monetary outcome proceeding. what makes his job any more important than the ceo of a car company, a musician, or the senior editor at the new york times. nothing. it took a ten year old boy on the streets of kalcutta to show me that success is not defined by the amount of products we can consume but by the souls task of longing & belonging to what we set our hands out to achieve.

sympathy, the zoo, & the fiscal address to the shadow of death

the air was thick; you could almost taste it, and seemed to reflect the street and vendor lights that gathered from every direction. my hands were in fists but it wasn't someone i wanted to fight, it was just my body’s natural repose to the surroundings. as i walked down the narrow ally way to the middle of the red light district in kalcutta, india i realized that my heart wasn't broken at all, actually for the short time i walked down the pensive streets it felt as if i had no heart. it had frozen, or dissolved, or cease to beat in fear of allowing my feelings to overwhelm me and my body simply curl up in the fetal position and sob. these were not women of the night, these were mere girls with makeup, a few cloths slung on their back and a juvenile mind that clinched to a few dreams from their youth.
that is exactly what they had, or the little that what was left of it. some of them couldn't have been more than 15 years old, maybe. i choked, not because of just their circumstances, but because none of them smiled, their eyes looked so vacuous, as if there whole bodies had shut down like mine wanted to, and their evenings were set to autopilot. i wanted to grab them, and run, where? i didn't care. not at that moment. i just wanted to transport every single one of them to someplace where they could cry again. where they could love because of love, where their soul wasn't bought for 20-200 rupees (a mere $.50-$4.00). but it doesn't do much to stare at their present circumstance, sympathy is an enabler, and i wasn't in a zoo, i was walking through the valley of the shadow of death with a fiscal address.
my lungs began to seize and my breath's got shallower not just because of the excavated pupils surrounding me in every direction but because of the shear amount of children running through the streets, for them this was home. these streets were where they spent the days of there early childhood learning about life, and what it contained. what is to become of them? are they destined to live the same as their parents? are they to be the ones i will walk past and eventually cry over 15 years down the road. i have to do something. st. luke said "to much is given, much is required," and that night much was given to me.
"brad" works with these kids each and every day teaching them a trade so that they won't have to repeat the lifestyles of the ones that have gone before them, i asked him what he feels when he sees the "kids" (both the girls of the street and their children) each and every night. he said that it still hits him from time to time though he has grown immune over time because he sees it so frequently, but then he said "there is nothing i can do about what is happening tonight, i cannot save anyone that has worked in this industry in the past or the present, my eyes are simply focused on what and who i can change in the future." as i sat in the chair just moments after the experience his words sank deep like the sting of a syringe, pushing medicine painfully into my arteries and permeating throughout my body.
my head aches to help now, i don't want to grow immune to a lifestyle were pursuing comforts in life is far more the venture than doing my part to help humanity for the better. imagine if everyone helped just one person in the advancement of his or her lives? imagine a world where the west did more than just throw money at the problems of the world and actually got involved in the caretaking of the innocent.
as the fog of the night cleared, as if even the night itself knew the lessons i would learn that fateful eve, i remember thinking that i regret that i had just one life to live for these children and children like them around the world. what is this short life that i should care what the world thinks of the level of my success. i now know that this savior complex that i was trying to evaluate and "treat" was not a complex at all, but rather was a mere introduction to the fate and destiny that lay before me.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

for you, this could be india.

so here it is the day before i leave to india and i realize that i only have about 1/4th of my "to-do" list done. but there right in the middle was a note to self reminding me to write one final modesty message before i leave to india.  its so funny, i mean i have only met a couple of you and yet i feel almost a, well as kant would say, a duty to you all. but its more than that, i like the fact that i have a chance to listen to you all (don't think i don't check the comments at least once a day!) and the chance to pour what life has taught me out somewhere other than just lyrics.
i want to thank those of you who bought a lithograph because with it we were able to get some art supplies for the girls and surrounding community, as well as fund the trip for myself and others. there is a daunting task ahead of us, a trip that will not solve the problem of slavery in the world with just one trip; it is going to take hundreds if not thousands of trips to put a dent in the worlds troubles, millions of dollars, millions of hours, and millions of compassionate hearts! but don't let this scare you. you can make a difference in this world.
you may not be able to go to india but you can help in your own community, one cause is not more worthy than the next. because i cross an ocean does not mean that i care less about my own culture and nation any less, i have just been blessed with the time and the platform to be able to expose to the world some atrocities that others may not yet know about.
there is poverty in your community, there are children even in your neighborhoods that are going to sleep without food, there are even some within miles of your house that are going to sleep with no roof over there head. you can help them! you may be in your town but to you this could be your india! is a place to start. they have a place for you to type in your zip code and begin looking around at different places you can help donate your time to. for you, this is india! so please go help your city, your state, your country, your world.
because this is your city, this is your state, this is your country, THIS IS YOUR WORLD.
i will write as soon as i get home my friends,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

when life was young, with summer tongues.

tear tear tear
off your skin
whats there within.
life on wooden swings
when all was young,
with summer tongues.
i i i
don't care to know
whose been before.
oh we could stand to run
nev'r look back at trains or tracks

and i'll kiss you in london
love you in france
sunsets in germany
spain we could slowdance,
somewhere outside,
somewhere outside.

wake wake wake
from lover's kept, on slumbers bed
your white like ghosts
so innocent, so innocent.

days in quiet'r homes
when life was young,
with summer tongues.
is this what you saw,
year ago
and farther from homes.

and i'll kiss you in london
love you in france
sunsets in germany
spain we could slowdance,
somewhere outside,
somewhere outside.

please please please
just come with me
to distant reach
what holds you back
from walks away
and needs to stay.

there there there
somewhere out there
are rooms to spare

skin paled like before
when life was young,
with summer tongues.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Thursday, January 04, 2007

true love is the only just and holy war.

i am so fascinated by love, this entity we all seek, and in some cases destroy. i think one of the greatest things about love is the aspect of vulnerability. we are opening ourselves up to someone that we have only encountered recently in the grand scheme of our life. up to this point we have known every thought, feeling, and action of ourselves; and then someone enters our little kingdom and demands to know and cohabitate in our thoughts, be apart our feelings, and create memories together.

    carl jung once said "when there is love there is no power. when there is power there is no love." i find that to be my favorite quote by mr jung to date. what i think he is trying to say is that when love is present we are inclined to do what is best for that other person, our motives and self centered behavior is soon replaced by the life pursuits of another entity, another human being. we have no power because we want no power. we choose to remain helpless to our own internal motives, we lower our defenses, we surrender our individuality for the greater good of the unity between two organisms.

     the opposite "when there is power there is no love," is also true. when one of the two beings in a relationship began to be in complete dominance of the other i believe something is amiss, now please don't confuse leadership with dominance. just because one of the parties in a relationship leads the relationship does not mean that he/she ('she' because in some cultures such as the indigenous alaskan tribes the female leads the community) is overpowering or overbearing. in fact correct leadership makes decisions based on what is best for my family/community/tribe and NOT what is the best decision for me. when there is an lob sided overpowering in a relationship, than the formidable force does not relinquish any judgement or decisions to the subjecting power, in this way physical, mental, verbal abuse usually follows to establish cave-man like dominance. when this occurs i believe, much like jung was insinuating, there is no love.

      dr. keen, a notable journalist for psychology today once said, "authentic love is a dance with three movements: solo, counterpoint, and coming together. leave any one of the three movements out and you destroy the dance. in a love relationship, people stand alone and apart from one another, enter into respectful struggle with each other and rejoice in their interdependence. in love, "no" is married to "yes", elemental forces like flint and steel meeting but not mixing; an encounter in which i and though stand firm."  

solo- i believe that there needs to be a point to finding oneself, a journey in solitude, away from ones family and friends where a boy becomes a man, a girl into a women. i think too many times girls never become women because they never leave the shelter of their father and instantly assimilate into the shelter of a husband, meanwhile never learning what it is like to live on their own under the shadows of responsibility, financial decisions, and most importantly their own individual passions. how is anyone going to make someone else happy until they themselves know what makes them happy? why do we pursue a lifetime commitment without knowing what they themselves want to accomplish in this lifetime? the Bible says "seek and you will find." in light of that there needs to be a time of seeking before one can inevitably find someone to spend the rest of their days with; and by seeking i do NOT mean seeking out someone to be in a relationship with, but seeking life on your own. in lamens terms (& like i have said before) do not look for mr. right until you have completelty devoloped mrs. right. in the same fashion do not pursue mrs. right until you have developed mr. right.

counterpoint: finding love involves a point of adaptability, cohesiveness and compatibility. but no matter how much a person is opposite or alike there is always going to be some type of friction in a relationship. no relationship is going to be perfect, even the most fairy tale of sweeping romances will one day have the "its your turn to take out the garbage," or "i told you you were going the wrong way,"  discussion at some point or another. but that is not the moment when one should give up, just because you argue does not mean that they are not the ones for you, or that you were not meant to be. a great book for newly engaged, lovers, or the married is "the 5 love languages" by gary chapman. i think it goes into great detail as to where and how one views love, and the importance they place on different attempts at affection.

coming together: this happens only after you have realized the positive and the negative in the relationship, only after the moment (much like in the motion picture 'eternal sunshine for the spotless mind') when you say "OK" to each other's faults and accept them for who they are. good and bad, rich or poor, till death do you part. commitment. a vow before heaven and earth. but what an amazing experience, when you not only feel love, but decide to love the other person completely, and for ever. that is coming together.

and when the sun set's and the warriors return with their swords sheathed to their camp to rest, we look back at this battlefield in all its glory, all the bloodshed, and the dried tears, realizing only then that true love is the only just and holy war worth fighting.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

selah & the development of our sixth sense

"the sense of wonder, that is our sixth sense, and it is the natural religious sense."
                               -d.h. lawrence
        for a couple minutes i could not find my brother, he was right behind us and i had no idea where he went. my friend nick and i called for his name but to no avail. as i began to trudge into the woods a little deeper nick became concerned since my brother paul didn't know his way in, or out, of the unknown, and to us, uncharted woods. after backtracking, and yelling into the woods we finally all met up in a valley that was descending into deeper woods and even deeper snow this last weekend in vail, colorado.
      the clearing looked like a cross between an ansel adams photograph and stepping onto the movie set of the chronicles of narnia. everything surrounding us was painted in a a bleached white and all the trees simultaneously looked like dogwoods, each spaced just perfectly as if it were planned and designed around the three of us. as we sat there taking in the site and breathing in as deep as we possibly could we began to discuss the reality of amazement that passes us by as humans.
      i concluded that for our generation i believe technology and science has replaced the "sense of wonder" in our generation. we are more fascinated by the mechanics or conveniences of the latest and greatest more than a peerless cloud formations or the mystery of the inter workings of our own bodies. plato & aristotle once believed that "philosophy begins in wonder," and even Kant echoed the sediment on wonder when he said "two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."
       i believe every day of our lives we need to selah (jewish word meaning to pause and reflect) on the world around us; at some points it feels like we fill our lives with so much "to do" that we never stop and listen to what is happening around us. we are so busy planting the garden, weeding, pruning, and picking the flowers that we never take the time to reflect on the astonishing process of birth from the ground, the amazing colors in which we are experiencing in front of our faces, or the smell that illuminates the vicinity from around the plant themselves. 1961 nobel peace prize winner dag hammarskjold once said "we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason."  astonishing.
        early this morning i set out to wash the salt off my truck from the long trip from colorado to florida (i got stuck in the blizzard that hit denver and kansas so hard this past weekend). when i asked my 4 year old niece if she would like to help she jumped up and down, and squealed in normal hayden fashion, at the simple fact she could hang out with her uncle, be of some help, and possibly (hopefully) get soaked. i had to laugh because washing a car seemed like such a mundane task to me but to hayden this could possibly be the highlight of her young day. in more ways in our lives we need to approach each day as a child, we need to look through each and every moment as if it were the first time we have had the experience, the joy, the love, the admiration, of each and every moment we are alive.

"unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"
                                    -Jesus Christ