Tuesday, September 28, 2010

an old friend.

Every time I go back to my old Philosophy I and II notes, I'm reminded of what Cheever used to always say to us: that we would always be our own teachers. At the ages of 16, 17 and 18, I was clearly understanding the concepts of the courses. I was applying them to my life. I was learning.

But, like I've said before and have been told by many, learning doesn't stop at the bell or the closing of a classroom door or at graduation. It's why I carried my Philosophy materials 300 miles south with me: to continue to learn.

Somewhere along the way, with all of the drama and the work and the fun and the stress and the adventures, I forgot to continue to live so much of what Cheever had helped us learn. It's like riding a bike though. You never really forget.

Krishna, Lord of the Rings, "the bigger picture," renunciation, Lost, the I Ching, Catherine the Fish, socialization, dukkha, Zen, koans ("Mu!"), Rumi, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Kabbalah as esoteric Judaism, Plato's allegory of the cave, Ken Wilber, memes, Aristotle, "weird," maitri, Descartes, The Matrix, empiricism, Peshitta, temptation, Sofia, retreat, east of Eden, morality/ethics/meta-ethics, passion.

Right now, at age 21, I can look back on all of those things and gather something new. When I read Pema Chödrön's words about "leaning into the pain of life," it means something different (and deeper) now than it did four or five years ago. "You have the right to work but none to the fruit thereof" still holds true, but I understand it deeper as well. So does the allegory of the cave, the moral of Catherine the Fish and everything I learned about myself on Senior Retreat.

I'm surprised, every time I realize this. And yet, I shouldn't be.

Though, there seems to be a difference between the high school-me and the me in the present. My writings were tinged with a belief in some higher power. In religion. In faith. I don't know how much that holds true for me right now. I don't know if I "believe" in "anything." I think if 3+ years away from my familiar surroundings have taught me anything, it's that hanging your hat on a religious coat rack is not necessary to lead a fulfilled life. To stress and worry and concern myself with a label--Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Taoist--is less important than working toward guiding your life in the "right" direction.

I don't know if I believe in God.

But there are some things I do know: I know I don't believe in the concept of hell and I know I don't believe in evangelizing. I do believe that everyone has a right to his or her beliefs and I do believe that religion, faith and spirituality can play a vital role in others' lives.

Above all--and this is really what I take away from Cheever's classes and from my own constant education--I believe in wisdom (Sofia, if you will) and that's something I'll stand by.

Dear self: As Cheever would say, "Carry on."

Monday, September 13, 2010


"If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days." -The Bell Jar

I re-read The Bell Jar instead of sleeping last night. I spent my morning wishing for rain. I walked to work with Jagged Little Pill blasting in my eardrums. You know what the funny thing about all this is? It's such an old habit, and it's so utterly ridiculous.

Tonight, I reconnected with somebody I hadn't spoken to in over a year. In the span of two hours, I realized exactly why Millie feels like I am one of the most emotionally disconnected people she knows. In my head, things make sense. Outside, it doesn't - that's the problem. But you know what? There are a lot of people who feel this way. We're all just trying to find a way, stumbling around in this weird world. I've gotten much more used to doing it alone than I probably should have, which is another major cause of my emotional disconnect.

So, that having been said...Life is too short to wallow. In five years, the shit you think mattered now may not matter at all. Don't feel sorry that you can't be who you wish you could be; focus on the person you actually are.

Blah blah blah. Change your life. You know, the usual.

Here is a fact: I don't know how to express myself. It's something I've come to terms with in the last few months. I thought I was expressive through my words, but that was just me hoping I'd found a career/life for myself. "I want to be the story," I recently wrote to someone. "I don't want to only tell the story." And I think it's because I don't know how to tell the story. I'm a low-drama person and I don't like to shove my feelings in other people's faces, no matter how big or little I feel.

I guess the short of it is this: I don't know who I am. I am not a writer. I am not an artist. I am not a musician or a dancer or an actor or a comedian. And it's actually a really good feeling. Six months ago that would've sent me into a panic. But now, there are no more roles to play. Now I can just be me and start working on being my own story and not the role others want me to play for them.

I want to tie this entry up with a nice, neat bow.

Yeah, that's it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

reaching out with hate.

About a month ago, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida announced the church would host the first International Burn a Quran Day on Sept. 11. Jones is opening the church doors from 6 - 9 p.m., inviting the public to join in a book burning of the holy Islam text. Dove World Outreach Center, a New Testament Church, is known for its conservative views, gaining notoriety in recent years for its anti-Islam and anti-LGBT messages. The church has also been vocal supporters of the Westboro Baptist Church - and that says almost everything you need to know.

Jones and the Center have been criticized heavily since announcing the plans. General Petraeus warned that this action would ultimately hurt American troops and citizens worldwide. And let's be honest: Americans already don't have the greatest world image.

"Maybe instead of addressing us, we should address radical Islam and send a very clear warning that they are not to retaliate in any form," Jones said to the Associated Press.

Lawyers have confirmed with Jones that burning the Quran is protected under the First Amendment.Which begs the question: Just what isn't considered "free speech"? You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theatre, but you can stand up in front of a congregation and preach that all of Islam worships the devil.

And then there's the concern that's best summed up in a phrase I read a couple of months ago: "Free speech for me, but not for thee." When it comes to our beliefs and convictions, it's difficult to be objective. So here is Terry Jones, ready to send a pile of books in smokes up into the sky, but if the tables were turned and those were Bibles on fire...then what?

Jones says God is leading him to do this, and this is just a clear example of someone not wanting to take responsibility for his stupidity. And if this is the kind of God that Jones says is the "right" God to worship or else eternal damnation is in the future, then I'll take my chances and stick to my own beliefs - or, rather, non-beliefs.

Rev. Nancy Dann at a rally in support of Muslim Americans.
(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
If you haven't seen Louis Theroux's documentary on Westboro, The Most Hated Family in America, you can watch it here. (Side note: I love Louis Theroux.)

Update, 09/09/10: US pastor Terry Jones cancels Koran burning | BBC News