Saturday, December 31, 2016

dappled things

Watching waterfalls, it is easy to be transfixed by the crashing of the water into the rocks below. But if you look above that scene of liquid disaster and flying spray, there is a scene of timeless joy right above it. If you watch, you can follow a group of droplets as it free-falls from the river, through the air, as it tumbles towards the tooth-like rocks that jut up to greet the stream as it splashes on the stone's knife edges.

That moment, as the water falls is a moment of frozen time. The water leaps from the river bed, tumbling through the air. Some of it is wicked away by wind and becomes spray. But some of it is drawn towards the rocks below, like iron towards a magnet. Wavering in the air, the water seems to be tied to no path. But it falls. Gravity pulls it down to continue its journey. It keeps falling over and over and over again.

And it seems impossible each time. Those water droplets, flying through the air, suspended before a moment before they fall, might go anywhere.

But they fall. They splash. They crash into the rocks that have also fallen from the ledge above.

It's a newer way to look at waterfalls, for me. To look not at the roar but at the silent, frozen tumble of the droplets before the crash.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

refulgence of his glory

In this sense, we are all victims, and the mythological instinct is a sound one which represents the human race as the collective victim of the devil, a personified principle of deprivation, the great 'despoiler'. Yet such a discovery can only be made by beginning from the particular facts of the violence for which I am responsible, not by a bland generalization. By discovering my past of oppression, I can discover my own self-diminution in the process; and in pressing back to the source of this vicious spiral, I discover the primary lack of wholeness, the primary deprivation, which is a part of belonging to the single human story.

But the freedom, the 'space', to undertake this process of discovery requires the presence of the 'pure victim', the symbolic figure who transcends the order of human violence, a figure first to be identified with my victim, then with myself.
--Resurrection, Rowan Williams

What do our creches mean in the midst of civil wars, senseless death, and rampant fear? Who is the infant Christ in a world of violence? 

Theophany is not native to the nursery, but this child lets history march over Him in her entropic, callous stride. He too will bear the whips and scorns of time, become a figure lost in dust of passing centuries, in which all humans, one day, vanish.

He endures the bitter snub of human forgetting. He, too, has been ravaged by history, as we are, trampled by time, humbling himself to our lowly fate of blind players, flailing on the world stage.
He who began time will watch his own time run out. His birth is almost as violent an effrontery as his death, and so we celebrate it all the more. For a God who can endure the indignity of history is a God who loves us more deeply than we could possibly imagine. A God who submits to being painted in the "chromatic pains of flesh," who exchanges ineffable unity for the indescribable particular containment of the particular of a human person is a God more generous than we anticipate.

Isaiah's words are trying to blow open Israel's imagination: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. None of these capture the immense beauty of the God whose love has given us Emmanuel.

Christ, the pure victim--the one who endures violence and never inflicts it--comes crashing into our world of violence, opening up space for peace. Peace the world cannot give, because the world is forever victim and violator. But peace that comes from love, undaunted by the night of death that presses upon Him even at his birth, a love that pitches His tent among us. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

a new matins

O strange feast and scandalous sacrament, that history should bear the weight of her author, written in a margin. Blessed is the insignificant century whose years bore the God-man.

O cosmic riddle and salvific joke, that evolution should have marched past the carpenter's son in His own crib. Blessed is the universe made newly-ordered to the rhythm of his cross.

O sheer gift and utter blessing, that Love would dare to enter into time. Blessed is even the death that touched Him from His birth.

O terrible God and Lord beyond our minds, that the impassible enters temporality. Blessed are the baffled minds who still believe.

O purest light and kindest Savior, that shocking love should come to live with us here. Blessed is this truth, too beautiful to be false.

Irrational marvel! and mystifying sign, that all the meaning in the universe lies here in the manger. Blessed are the few and tired eyes who saw his sacred feet. Alleluia.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ladies room

During these days, says Luke, Mary set out and to visit her cousin Elizabeth [insert Visitation story here]. It is so easy to zone out during these infancy narrative stories; accepting the story as expected, allowing it to become routine, and never surprising.
But wait, I thought, what is this story a picture of?

Did Mary go to Elizabeth for comfort? Did Mary arrive at Elizabeth's doorstep frightened, in need of comfort, disturbed, questioning her sanity, or feeling all alone? Was she scared of how she would tell her parents, dreading the thought of sharing this story with Joseph?

I thought of Mary, scared, uncertain of what the vision she had received was. The Protevangelium of James says that Mary "forgot" the message of the angel, and was troubled when she came to realize that she was with child. Perhaps it was in this scared, uncertain state Mary went "in haste" to visit Elizabeth.

Perhaps, timidly, she approached Elizabeth's door and called out for her cousin. Reached for the sure support and comfort of an older, wiser relative. Elizabeth's greeting to Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit, and knows that Mary needs a word of comfort. Her words, the Evangelist claims, are prophetic, they come from God, they are inspired. They are exactly the words that Mary needs to hear:

Blessed are you.
Imagine feeling your saddest, your most frightened, your most unsure, and being greeted with the beautiful, comforting greeting: blessed are you. Do not fear, Mary, whatever you are, whatever has happened to you, it is a blessing, and you are truly blessed. And your arrival here has blessed me as well. Elizabeth responds to Mary's fears with blessing. Thus freeing Mary from her own uncertainty to acclaim her joyful prayer of liberation and thanksgiving, the Magnificat.

This Bechdel-test-approved pericope gives us a beautiful paradigm for companionship and accompaniment. In her vulnerability, Mary seeks support, Elizabeth receives her vulnerability and blesses it with inspired words. Through Elizabeth's blessing, Mary's own blessing ascends.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

new Christmas

I walked into the dorm, and I walked into my home
not home in the sense of Casa Blanca,
not home in the way of DEREK,
not home in the mode of LG-02,
not home as in my mother's kitchen
a home that lacks the weight of memories
that linger in my childhood home,
a home that's not cozy and compact,
and full of tea and wine and
the fruit of Nash's crafting,
as DEREK was.
not the ramshackle glory
of the creaking, haunted Casa Blanca
not the soulless shell of a city apartment
filled with heart by loving friends,
but the comfort of new home,
one that's most surely mine
and not me,
but filled with bodies to love.
One can slip into the backdoor
into the bright and dingy stairwell,
like the warmth of wearing socks to bed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

anamnesis

I do not want to forget.
The sun shining off of the sparkling waters of the Harlem Meer
The woman running with her beloved Toto.

I do not want to forget.
Striking up conversations about Annie Dillard or White Christmas with the young folk. Teaching them my culture, as they have taught me theirs.

I do not want to forget the pattern of awnings as I walk home up Lexington late at night, because the 6 has stopped running.
I do not want to forget walking to the Astor Square stop, and hearing the train pull away as I run down the steps.
I do not want to forget the feeling of being on the prowl, walking down 9th Avenue.
I do not want to forget acknowledging how there is a latent attraction, and I wonder why latent attractions exist.
I do not want to forget the babies in the swings in Central Park, the smell of public bathrooms, and the willow tree blooming by the water side, swaying in the morning sun, and radiant with green.

I do not want to forget what it is to be young in New York City.
I do not want to forget.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

rose-bowl dust

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
--T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton"

Surely, God is in this quiet.
A silence falls upon us, as we rustle into place like autumn.
The silence fills with Eliot and Spirit,
growing with each stanza, each breath.
Restless hands and hearts sink into the silence
and the peace--
God--
so much peace descends upon us.
Not a worldly, global peace,
not the peace of justice,
a peace of just us.
This is the fruitful kind of quiet,
throbbing with creative thought,
words bursting through the air,
phrases wafting through the stillness.
This is the sort of silence
in which you hear your heart beat,
thumping against your ribcage,
pulsing with creative force,
keeping you alive, and enjoying it, too.
your heart is bursting.
It might one day burst out of you--
you cannot contain it.
This is the sort of silence that makes you want to reach for a pen,
but you cannot contain this in a pen.
The silence is so beautiful, you can't move,
as you grasp for it, reach to crystallize it,
it slips through, billowing beyond your reach.
Laughter is the asymptote of this silence.
Laughter climbs to the Joy of this silence,
we laugh until we reach this peace, together,
where our joy is complete in wordless eternity.

Monday, December 12, 2016

altagracía

There was a boy, dressed in an Aztec dancing costume, dancing before the altar. Dancing with drumbeats and various shaking rhythms, dancing a la the video Deandra showed us of David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. In fact, the dance moves were strikingly similar. As he danced before the altar, I thought of David. And, as he made his way to the front of the Basilica, the boy bowed before the altar. A simple reverencing towards the sacred. But his bow, in the midst of his dance, was full of grace.

We cold, stiff Midwesterners watched as they danced. The stinger of our hive instinct, that this dance is supposed to incite, apparently, plucked from our bodies through centuries of Puritan ancestors, good solid Protestant religion, and the gnostic fumes of American spirituality.

I thought that my Latin American students, who love the feast of Our Lady of Altagracía, and who appreciate any mass with a little more zest and movement than the average, would love this. This dance felt warm, alive, like it had just stepped out of a land soaked in sun. It was certainly born far from the cold winds of the Indiana plains.

I loved this dance, because it reminded me of many joyful liturgical celebrations with my students. It reminded me of Masses where I was the guest, welcomed into their culture. Where I was caught up in the hot joy, shedding my cold Midwestern skin.

-El Señor esté con ustedes.
-Y con tu espiritu.

As the words rolled off my lips before I knew what I was saying, my muscle memory had already jolted me back to daily mass with my abuelitas. I remembered what it was like to be a guest there, too. And there I was welcomed into a tradition not my own, and found my place in it, and it has found a place in my body, my memory, my language.

I remember it felt warmer and homier than all these stiff-backed sons of German immigrants watching the Aztec dance.

I, too, am a stiff-backed son of German immigrants. And I was as unsure and awkward as the rest of them.

But then the boy bowed before the altar. And I was sure. That was gesture I understood. A simple reverencing towards the sacred. His bow, in the midst of his dance, was full of grace.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

christ our wonder

O great mystery,” cries the Christmas hymn, “and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger!”  The liturgical praise of the Church, from the Philippians hymn to O Magnum Mysterium, fulfills Gregory of Nazianzus’ command to his flock to “luxuriate in the word,”  and to “rejoice with trembling.”

Christ is boundless and, truly, “the only thing completely comprehensible about [the divine] is its boundlessness,” laughs Gregory, who I imagine is quite punch-drunk while delivering this oration. Heady on the soft vision of snow fall on a frozen world, staying up late to write his homily, and bursting with all the wonder of theophany that his sermon is celebrating.

The Divine Christ cannot be circumscribed by any proposition or formula of faith, but is constantly evading our definitions.

Thus, the Christian task is twofold. On one hand: to discover the shape of Christ’s boundless reality, chipping away the heterodox, to reveal the figure of the mystery. And, on the other, to luxuriate in the inexplicable wonder of Christ the cup who offers himself to our lips, to drink deeply of the marvel of God’s utter magnanimity to deign to be contemplated by weak human intellects. The Christian must praise “the incomprehensible one” who “has willed to be understood”  by poor humanity.

Oh great mystery, indeed, that Christ escapes our complete comprehension, and yet has blessed us by becoming a subject capable of contemplation

Oh new mixture! Oh unexpected blessing!”  shouts our wholly and holy intoxicated Gregory of Nazianzus on the feast of Christ’s Incarnation. God’s incomprehensibility is not cruel torture, whetting an ontologically insatiable appetite. No, rather, the Divine remains incomprehensible in order to “draw us to itself.” Piquing our wonder through the ineffable mystery of Christ, God seeks to “be yearned for all the more.”  By acting upon this holy yearning, we humans are purified, becoming, through imitation and grace, “like God,”  so that each one of us might become a new mixture of divine life also. Oh truly unexpected—and undeserved—blessing.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

towards all our ghostly good

 I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round  
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a doctrine that continually mystifies me. Each year as December 8th rolls around, I annually struggle to understand what exactly is so significant here that elevates this feast to a holy day of obligation. The meditations of last year never seem to have borne discoveries that adequately satisfy my questioning. What is so important that it merits mandatory Mass attendance? Why is this doctrine one that Pope Pius IX felt infallibly imperative to declare solemnly a dogma in 1854?

Read the rest of my Immaculate Conception reflections here. I think today has quickly become one of my favorite feast days, because it is one I understand the least.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

wish that we could talk about it

I miss the way we used to argue
Locked, in your basement
--LCD Soundsystem

Outside my window, the shadow of the valley of death is pitch black; and, just past it, the lights of a not-quite-semi-truck flicker down the small road that leads to the dining hall.

It's cold in that you don't want to leave your house kind of cold. I haven't taken out my AC window units yet, which probably explains why there are inhospitable drafts leaking into my apartment. The cold reminds me of when I would stand too close to my windows in my sunny room with the beautiful wooden floor to look out on the snow on the train tracks. I don't mind the drafts. They're just an excuse to wrap up in blankets. They're certainly better than the stifling heat of old buildings, that smells iron like the radiator, and makes you sweat underneath your turtleneck after walking up three flights of stairs.

Now, I live about as far away from Metro North train tracks as you can possibly get. And all the buildings are filled with dry, hot, air. I can feel my skin turn to paper and my hair crackle into dry threads. I miss falling asleep in my oceanic bed as the trains rumbled by under the roaming moon. The pipes sang in the middle of the night, I wrapped myself in blankets, and snow piled up on the roof outside.

Right now, the year is very dark. There is no snow right now, just bitter wind as the sun sets.

Today, I prayed in the chapel of the theology building with friends. The chapel of the theology building is situated at what could only be described as the hinge of the building. The chapel juts out like a tumor from the unremarkably L-shaped structure. It has lackluster windows, with various trees cut out of the stained glass. I don't know what those trees signify. I try to decipher their enigmatic symbolism with my stare.

But the sun that juts through the wood beams of the roof, and that darts through the glass trees is radiant. The poor winter sun is so wane and sickly, and musters up just a hint of golden right before she falls. But, in the chapel, the light is warm and healthy. As we sit there, the sun sets, and twilight seeps through the windows, as the chapel grows more silver and shrouded in dark.

I remind myself that on December 6th in New York, the pink strips of sunset do not arrive at 5:30, but at 4:30, and they are hidden behind the Trump developments on the West Side Highway, so I should count myself blessed that I get to enjoy the mauve sunset at 5:30pm at the end of a long day, the view blocked only by a few low buildings, and lots of trees.

But myself is not consoled. I forgot how concrete insulates, guarding a pedestrian from winter's coldest winds. And how quick the walk was from my doorstep to the subway station. It's much closer than the walk between library and classroom.

My blood feels so cold. I have completely forgotten the annoyingly sticky sweat of July, and how beads of perspiration roll down my back if I so much as move a hair. How can I still be the same person who sweated bullets on the subway platform? I can feel the blood pumping through my legs like iced tea washing down my gullet on a hot July day. I would not be surprised if the plasma froze solid in my capillaries. I am much colder than I used to be.

Perhaps it is only natural to greet the end of the year with nostalgia for what has been, and sadness that the sun's life has been sucked out of her. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

hang our harps

Something's flown in on
the change of seasons,
the sidewalk slush
makes me miss the
dirty city snowfall.
Some nostalgia's
fallen from the sky
in between the quiet
crystals,
coating the world
in silence and sehnsucht.

If I forget you East Harlem,
Let my tongue burn on
hot Dominoes pizza
that I have ordered,
betraying the memory
of your dollar slices,
lining the corners of
Lexington Avenue.

There's too much space to breathe here--
But this shy first snow--
like a dry subway breeze--
fills the rattling void.
I finally feel
that magic kind of
isolated and suffocated
all at once.
The crowded sort of lonely
lousy in the City.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

daily ritual I should call prayer

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it
--Stephen Dunn, Sweetness

We ought to approach prayer the same way we approach art museums.

There is too much to be said in prayer to say it all.
There is too much art in the museum to see it all (at least today).

We walk into the Gallery 127, looking for the Seurat everyone is making a fuss about. But a small Monet catches our eye.

Monet, with his sunlight, is telling us something about the sun. It is beautiful. He is speaking in a code we know, but we only know because we, too, have seen the beauty and we imagine it. He is revealing the sunlight in globs of paint, stuck inelegantly in the corner of the canvas.

With a magic code hidden in our eyes, we capture the message that Monet has encrypted in his gauche oils. The joyful globs of paint become sunlight. We now it is so, because we too have seen this vision of the sun: a specific sun we have seen peep through stormy banks of clouds on a gloomy day.

Just like Paul, Monet revealed the light, brought to light an inscrutable mystery, but in oils instead of ink.

If we were so intent on reaching the Seurat, which everyone tells us ought to be our destination, we would miss out on the Monet's small revelation.

We must stop and look at the painters who are shedding light today. We follow the small shards of beauty that catch our eye, stay with them as long as they enchant us, and continue on as our eyes begin to weary.

We'll stop by them again on the way out, and next time on our way in, and that small painting will take new meaning with each new visit, its daubs of paint a dappled beauty for eternal pondering.

---

We ought to approach prayer like a deconstructed latte. (Postmodernism's a hungry beast folks, there is nothing safe from her deconstructing powers.) Deconstructed lattes are a trendy new phenomenon in the coffee world, that I once discovered in a posh East Village coffee nook. Led there by Instagram and my fashion forward friend, I was witness to a ritual of coffee nearing the liturgical.

The barista presented us with a neat wooden board holding three small espresso glasses: one containing a shot of espresso,  one a small bit of "not quite raw" milk, and the third the two elements combined in an actual latte. The underlying logic behind this is that when you taste the two ingredients separately at first, you can better distinguish their unique tastes in the latte. You train your senses to look for these two tastes, and your discipline results in a fuller enjoyment of subtle differences in flavor usually glossed over.

When you begin your day with prayer, in the silent peace that radiates from the morning sun, you can better pause to find that peace in the chaos of the day. When you begin your day resting in the quiet embrace of God, it is easier, throughout the day, to taste the undercurrents of peace that run through the tangled events of life. In the morning's exercise of quiet, you have primed your senses to taste grace, and you can find its melody in the synesthetic symphony of the hustle-bustle of the everyday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

salvaged egos

Dear Little Old City:

I am always surprised to find you full of peace. It reminds me, in many surprising ways, that I continually forget and remember, of Kolkata, a sweeter gift than I deserve.

 The other day, I was passing one of the janky halal food trucks that line your streets, and the vendor was playing some Bollywoodish music on his little boombox-radio. Suddenly, I was back on AJC Bose Road, being serenaded home by the chanting of the Quran from minarets. That fuzzy, winding sound from the boombox radio became the haunting, droning call to prayer. Living right next door to a mosque had its fair share of faux pas (like the time I almost walked through a crowd of men on prayer mats praying in the street. oops). But the enchanting drone of Arabic floating through the chaos of honking bus horns and clanging tram bells that sounded day and night has left an ache inside my body. I miss that urban mysticism.

You, too, Dear City, make a lot of noise. You hide your pain and vulnerability in the dull roar of the subway, but your bruised welt is clearly throbbing underneath the pounding of train. We can hear it screaming loud and clear between your glib Spanish phrases and sardonic, self-effacing parentheses. Your sirens wail. We all know what that means.

You seem so stiff and formal between your skyscrapers. It seems that you are embarrassed of being imperfect. Stop that. Let down your façade. Embrace the August trash smell that blankets the East Village in the late summer twilight, delight in the peeling paint on old Harlem mansions in the bright morning sunshine. The process of becoming is not neat.

Look, there is a girl reading about death on the subway car, and weeping for the beauty of it. There is a man with a sterling silver wolf-head ring sitting across from her. There are two children--strangers, now friends--watching the lights of passing trains flash by them. There is a man flirting with the woman next to him. She is tired, but not too tired to flex that flirting muscle that has been limp and unused since April. None of them are much together, but on their own, they are each towering monuments of humanity.

Dear City, you are unkind to all the failures. And not to the glossy, resume-ready sort of failure. You are all about the failures who are candyfloss failures, who spin their losses into gold. You are cruel to the failure that is not just a saccharine, sentimental homage to "failure" but a real failure. We pray and yet our words fail. Somehow even this death can become Resurrection.

Rahner describes death as “the infinite fall into the liberty of God,” still shrouded in the mysterious darkness that has accompanied death since the first human breathed her last. But the Resurrection has changed all that. In death, Christ entered into the darkness, and "descended into hell", which Rahner reads as Christ descending into "the deepest level of the world," into the fundamental principle or unity. Christ has descended down into the fundamental unity, and transformed it, transfigured it in some way, so that now Christ is there. Christ is throbbing there, in the deepest reality of the world. Now, when we descend into that dark, deep loneliness of death, through our throbbing wounds to that dark, fundamental unity, now there is only light. Because Christ has brought it there for us.

Our entire lives are preparations for our death, which is really the final act of our entire life: a triumphant act of surrender and obedience in our life which is nothing else but a perpetual attempt to surrender. A woman dies a good death by living a good life, as she attempts to die to herself each day, she actually creates space inside of herself for life--real, true life, life in abundance, John's zoë--to take root. Now that Christ has gone before us, our self-offering is not a separation from God, but an entering in more deeply into his mystery. Perhaps this is not what death looked like before Resurrection. If so, how terrible and dark the world must have been before Christ broke into its fundamental principle.

Dear City: you tug at our hearts, you bamboozle our heads. Those of us more comfortable living in our head you demand our hearts; and those of us who would rather occupy ourselves with feeling you provoke our intellects.

Dear City, your noise drives us to silence. Silence leads to attentiveness. What can we understand about the world if we do not attend to it, listen to the sirens wailing, the toddler crying behind his mother, the pained look of the elderly man by the liquor store. Attentiveness. Listening. Virtues of the contemplatives. The more that we are alone in the heart of the world, the more we find others there. The more we are alone with Christ, the more we realize we can't shut out the rest of the world, that the love that floods our hearts simply has to break out of our small souls into the cosmos, or else the Eucharist is fragmented.

What gapes inside of us is a hungry need-love, seeking for gift. In that Eucharist, the God's first Gift descends into the fundamental unity of our being. He descends into our little hell, then that ravenous, grasping part of ourselves--that gaping hole inside of us that sucks in everything like a black hole--becomes the very font of life through which he sustains us. The journey of the Eucharist is the daily attempt to fill that yawning need with gift, and offer it as gift for the world.

The deepest mystery of our creaturely state is that we creatures, who do not even belong to ourselves,  can give ourselves away as gift. We dependent, needy, grasping hearts can become gift. That is what it means to share in the life of the Trinity: to give and receive, truly.

If our love were but more simple, Dear City, as the hymn sayeth.

You are a mystery tattooed on my heart. And I wish I could sear away the wound you scratch upon my skin. It is an obvious wound, hanging open in the wind, unsubtle and inelegant. I am quite embarrassed of the pus, so I shroud the lovely lines in gauze, for now. The design is too raw to contemplate without a small sting pricking my stomach. The ink leaks a small spurt of blood. There really was an injury here. The skin is really broken. But--
there is a lovely pattern emerging from the swollen scar and bleeding ink. And, that Dear City, is the gift you didn't know you gave me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

down the rabbithole

It may not be any of my business,
but let us suppose one day
that everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock sat down in them
if only for the sake of remembering
what it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs,
side by side with a table in between.

--Billy Collins, The Chairs That No One Sits In

When we dig back into our memories, there are often novel revelations hidden in the familiar stories of our selves. We neuter our memories, colonize them with the flavor of our own identity. The memories we've tamed--the ones we thought we'd known--the memories we've churned into submission, declawed from their stunning factuality and historicity, and assimilated into our own story--the ones we thought we had understood-- often rear under our scrutiny, shock us with their stunning other-ness, and jolt us into the past, back to that particular moment.

A sharp electric pinch stings my heart, as I am suddenly back in a time in which I was not the same person I am now. The person that I am now remembers this past epoch, and sensing the continuity of who I was and who I currently am, proleptically inserts the anachronism of twenty-five year old me into those memories. But when I return to those memories, recorded without commentary or interpretation, simply raw fact, I collide into my past self sharply, like when you round the corner of the subway staircase too quickly and knock into the woman juggling her Gristedes bags.

When I look back on the story--as it was, not just as I have woven it into my memory--I am amazed to find grace pulsing through this old conversation.

In this re-reading, I have discovered that my younger self is, according to my current standards, an irreversible embarrassment. I cringe, as I read old rants full of self-righteous narrow-mindedness, displaying empathy skills that are less than state-of-the-art. The banter is not subtle nor flip, it is mostly earnest and peppered with dramatic, enthusiastic, bombastic ALL-CAPS and exhausting the "shift + 1" keys. She is inelegant, and blissfully ignorant of being so.

I squirm as I re-encounter this old image of myself. This is not who I remember being. Or perhaps I do remember her, now that she is sticking out from my comfortable synthesis of memory like a sore thumb.

But even in the deep embarrassment of the private past, I feel grace tumble off each page of conversation. I see patterns she was missing. I look back at the dynamics of give and take that had her caught in their tidal pull, which she was unaware of. I watch as her naïveté is advantaged, and as her stubbornness rears its head. Then, in one single sentence, she speaks a word of such grace, with a wisdom I can now see, in retrospect, is far beyond what she possessed on her own.

Reading through the story, I feel my heart quicken and my palms begin to sweat as I approach that climax of grace. Will she say the saving words? Will she let this moment on which it seems so much later in the story will hinge, this small but significant watershed, pass by? As I read and re-read, I am surprised, each time, that she speaks up. Each time I re-read the conversation, I watch with dread as it seems that she will say nothing. The moment almost marches without arresting her attention. But then she does. She speaks. I can hardly believe it. Even though I know the story: I lived it, it is a part of me. But I am overwhelmingly surprised and relieved. I feel a shiver of grace run up and down my spine.

Grace is an interruption. Grace says to us: There is another way this story can go. Grace veers us away from the cliff edge we were careening towards. Grace can be a roadblock, a u-turn, a fork in the road, a new path opening up.

To witness grace breaking into our own stories, to re-discover how grace has interrupted, transformed, and molded our own narratives is a great gift. I should not be surprised that grace remains so fresh, so many years later, that its presence shines brightly, despite--or perhaps because of--the years that have passed. But I am surprised. I did not know that grace stamps herself so clearly into our stories.

The more time that has passed, the more clearly grace and sin seem to be revealed. At the time, in the heat of the moment, the wheats and the tares were all tangled together. But now, after several years of denouement, it is suddenly easy to identify the grace amidst all the dross. Because grace is not only in the story, but the force of the story-telling, grace illuminates the narrative, her light opens up, continually, with each new read. Grace shines genuinely through the fog of memory, her veracity indubitable, by virtue of its own unmistakable radiance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Park Avenue on a Friday Night

On my way to mass my head throbs with illness
the way it pounds
with the heavy drop of dubstep
and the thud of drink.
Park Avenue on a Friday evening
makes my head
shudder with its glit and grody reality;
the doormen learning on the glass panes,
foggy with their water droplet breath--
I am arrested by the sight of Degas' little dancer,
artfully arabesqued upon an antique end table
in an anonymously chic
foyer of some chiropractor's empty evening offices.

Even my favorite mansion between
84th and 85th,
generally so fashionably devoid of life,
is lit with glamor:
the hint of high stair cases and adrenaline buzz of weekend evening
pour out her windows,
the lobby of 1060 Park
is lousy with wealthy waifs,
women who are fashionably
on the brink of starvation,
swaddled in fur.
Starlight from gold windows
and blue light from evening air
plunge me one or two drinks deep.
The soporific spell of a head cold corroborates,
compounding the celebratory throbbing,
until I am inebriated on New York's
blue blood.
New York plays my heart strings to the tune of his own name,
a selfish and efficient lover
whose rhythm thrills through my bloodstream.
I have lost the cadence of my own name.
I know now how he can
intoxicate, enchanting
with his gilt interiors,
fine woodwork,
and overpriced art from
a Chelsea gallery
peeping through the
Baroquely corniced windows.

January 26, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

final holy door

Save yourselves, and us.
That's what I'm doing here.

Fr. David's homilies usually contain a line or two like that. A wry joke, some saucy spin on a pious sentiment that refreshes the taste of something tawdry and hackneyed with a little spice. Today Fr. David focuses on the political aspect of this feast: a feast that was established in 1925 as Europe began to roil in political movements that would break into violent chaos.

To all of this, the Church, who for so many centuries had been another political player on the chessboard of Europe, said: no. No, we have no king but Christ, you can keep your Caesars. We are not afraid of them one bit.

How does one man, in 36ish AD, hang on a cross (a weapon whose ubiquitousness usually negates its horror, until sometimes, in certain lights and particular moods it sweeps over you, chilling you with its cruelty,) with a sarcastic sign above his head declaring him "Rex Iudaeorum," become in 1925, crowned "Christ the Lord, King of the Universe"? How does his kingdom reach from a small hill outside Jerusalem to Alpha Centauri and beyond?

It is completely mind-boggling that the meaning of the life, the world, and everything, was contained in one man, in one location, in one generation of history. How can the key to the sun and stars be this one story? It's frighteningly particular. How does the king of the Jews become the king of us all? How can it be that this one particular tribe of people, that this one particular race's story has become the story of all of creation?

It is in these moments that the crucifix is no longer a tame wall decoration. It is the picture of the torture victim, of the one we forget, of the poorest who suffer, those who bear the bruises of humanity's ugliness. And somehow, this one particular torture victim, who is God, has all of the answers to the questions that have driven humanity from its conception.

I do not know what to make of this. Except that perhaps nature's focus is not the laws of physics, that keeping gravity at play is not the sole focus of the cosmos. Perhaps human beings, with their stories: their falls, their tumbles, their pains, their victories, and their rebirths are more central to the task of the natural world than we imagine. It is not the secrets of the atom that are clamoring to be parsed, but the secrets of our neighbor and our selves.

Story is not tangential to the task of the world. It is its only task.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

you are part of my listening

The boy is silhouetted perfectly by street light in the glass bubble of the car. Although his metal SUV could crush my small Toyota, it seems like a fragile cage to carry precious cargo. Not much seems to be separating us right now. The light shines on us both. As his mother hits the accelerator, his body lurches forward as the car is set in motion. His face never changes, his eyes still locked ahead on the road running out into the snowy dark.

---

It was jarring, as I took the young girl's hand, to find that I sounded different. My voice sounded like my own, but felt like it was coming from a different place. My insides felt older. I helped her with the steps of the dance, and I felt a space inside of me that is used to cold-calling students in the back of the classroom, decipher note-taking from note-passing, and teach four year-olds dance moves open up. I hadn't even realized it had been closed. I was exercising muscles that hadn't been used in a long time, muscles I had forgotten that I wasn't using. Like flirting, after having not-flirting for a long time. You forgot that there was this whole skill set you hadn't drawn on in months. And you flex your flirting muscles, delighted to notice that they still work, their soreness only a testament to the exercise you've given them.

But this was a different set of muscles, one completely foreign to a university campus. It felt sort of like I was a teacher. But what it really felt like is that I was an adult. In a non-university world, the sharp division in the world is not classifications of strata of students, in the real world the simple question is: are you a child? Or are you an adult? And it's very difficult to always know that you're an adult--fully and truly an adult--without children around. But, in responding to a child, it becomes very clear that you are no longer one. Something inside of you shifts, to orient your posture differently into a stance of service towards this sweet Other who is still so acutely becoming. In helping that young girl learn the contradance I felt the supreme responsibility of adulthood, and I liked it. I felt more human.

The contradance was held in a wing of the church building that had slick wooden floors and a beautiful dome of glass, that I swear was something right out of James Cameron's Titanic. There was a balcony with arched alcoves which only lacked spectators to be something out of a posh 19th-century opera. Filling the dance floor was a collection of people who are my neighbors. Together, we gracefully (some more than others) bumbled our way through steps of the dance, learning new patterns and steps.

We were all learners here: the graduate students, the families, the couples on a Saturday night date, the elderly folks, the regal woman with the elegant taffeta skirt and script name tag, the sisters in bright dresses, the young woman in swinging skirts, the woman still in her grocery store shift shirt, the boys in jeans and hoodies, and the boy in the tartan kilt. The dance was the great equalizer: we were all novices and partners--partners in creating something beautiful.

This was a moment when the physical world seems to peel away, and although the scene hasn't changed, it is slightly brighter and more solemn. Some simple and stunning reality hits you square in the face, and it's a vision of a world exactly the way it is which is lovelier than the way you usually see it. As I danced alongside my neighbors, I felt that this was the heavenly banquet. That these are the saints who I will share heaven with--not some vague, fancy strangers out in the distant night--these are the people who are my reality, and they are the ones who are shining like the sun. Heaven is not populated with glamorous hypothetical humans: it is made up of the people we pass by each day. How much more fitting it is to dance with them than simply pass them by.

----

South Bend bled the sun out of the sky, in a terrible, testosterone-fueled nectarine burst of color. The vicious sunset colored the historic old mansions in nostalgic hues of mauve and rose. The stars were hidden behind the banks of clouds leaking bits of snow in to the fierce winds whipping up our scarves. The lights of St. Paul's shone grandly in the dark of the deserted intersection of Colfax and La Porte. The church was warm and elegant on the inside, an eloquent testament to human grandeur in the dreary bleakness of this November town.

Friday, November 18, 2016

jack-sparrow-self

This morning when I woke up there was a pink sky hanging behind the trees outside my bedroom. The light has caught me all off-guard. I'm trying to write responsibly, but I am distracted.

Just like my puppy, who is always chasing after Christmas lights and the dancing rays of sunbeam, I am distracted by this apocalyptic light. I am distracted by the light that catches me off guard, the sparkle of the seventy-degrees November sun on the brick and sandstone. The eschaton could not be more beautiful than this.

Sparrows hop on the ledge outside the french doors, wondering why winter has not yet banished them to warmer cities. They are distracted by the spots of sunlight filtering through the trees, and I am distracted from my writing to watch their impish scampering. Behind them, two small trees are still (somehow) a vibrant crimson amidst all the dun skeleton branches of their neighbors, the silvery linings of their flamboyant foliage flapping in the wind.

I am distracted by the scene outside the classroom: the light that catches me off guard, the beautiful oak tree outside of the classroom window that is right now, a brilliant scarlet flame against the uncannily radiant blue sky. There is a sense of fittingness to that juxtaposition. As if red and blue reveal here their true colors, it was for this moment they were made, so that their beauties can play off each other like the tree and the sky.

I am so distracted  by these banks of clouds that roll across the blue horizon. I wonder how fast the wind has pushed them from Lake Michigan.

I look up from my reading to star into the subdued and dignified light that is pouring into the library from the dying sky, a small bit of golden eked out from the sunset that catches the yellow tree by the patio flagstones. In the bright afternoon, the spinster sun is shining, bitter and still cold,
jealously emanating pale gold into the atmosphere.

God has also tasted wine, and was not distracted by it. He has tasted all of the goodness of warm bread, and felt the October sun and August breeze on his face. He has seen, felt, and heard all this, and still they came up insignificant in comparison with the heavenly banquet of his Father. I wonder what it could be that is so beautiful that even the God-man is does not fall in love with all this beauty at the expense of the beauty of that banquet. How beautiful can such a vision be if even sweet wine and sweater weather cannot distract him?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Polish Independence Day

Until I tasted basil vodka, I'd never tasted
grassy morning dew bite my throat.
Potato smoke, lingering from crispy latkes
stings our eyes, potato liquor stings our tonsils.
Warm wood floors swoop beneath us,
our madly spinning
tilt-a-whirl made from glowing walls
and glowing faces:
two blurry smiles, flushed with
music and with wonder
at the enchanted ease with which
our bodies understand another's.

Basil liquid loosening hips,
(you too can salsa like Rob Gordon!)
feet finding their own knowledge--
intuition fed by rhythmic freedom--
you watch them but
can't capture
their elusive magic-making,
the explosive orbital velocities
of two bodies, moving at the speed of love.


Monday, November 7, 2016

children of this world

Wheat and tares together sown
Are to joy or sorrow grown
--a harvest hymn

We are all suckers for a meet-cute. So many adolescent slumber parties come to mind, of a group of girls gathered on sleeping bags, swapping their parents' love stories, because isn't it just precious to think of Mr. & Mrs. So-and-So as swinging, young things running into each other by chance in a car dealer's parking lot.

Rewind a decade and change, and you are now the same age, feeling less-than-swinging most days, an abhorrent mixture of old and young, and now those happy mythologies of youth become horrendous nightmares.

Every choice you make is haunted by your parents' stories. You are confronted with the reality of each choice having the potential to open up a radically different path of life. Even the small choices seem like big life decisions. For example: If I don't go to this party, will I miss out on meeting the love of my life? If I go to this lecture, and not that one, will I miss out on making that connection with a mentor? If I go to dinner with these friends, and not those friends, will I never give a potentially life-changing friendship a chance? Do I stay in my comfort zone? Do I push myself? Do I move onto another relationship? Do I stick with what I have?

Which choice is right? And which is wrong? And how do I know I'm not making horrible mistakes with my life each day?

There is no answer, of course, to these anxieties. There is only trust.

And the necessary acknowledgement that good and ill are so intrinsically woven together in this broken world of ours that it is often impossible for us to discern them in the moment. The wheat and the tares are often only distinguishable in retrospect.

Selfishness, generosity, self-development, kindness, pride, love, jealousy, hope, sloth, and goodness are all mixed together inside of us. Our actions are touched by, informed by, all of these.

There is only trust. That in pursuing beauty, we will not be led astray. That in seeking joy, our hope will be fulfilled. That we are promised peace, and it will be ours.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

patch, matchwood, immortal diamond

so that our great tumor might be healed by an even greater medicine
--Augustine, De Catechizandis Rudibus

There is no place like theology graduate school for losing your faith. There is only so much the human mind can handle, before it collapses under the weight of its own prowess for skepticism. Questioning is a dangerous pastime.

But if I were to one day decide that this whole business of faith is a nonsense endeavor, a foolhardy undertaking for people too afraid to face the disenchanted reality that a human being is nothing more than a sack of water (and some trace elements), inspired by electricity, there is one moment that would give me pause:

Father Daley's tears.

Fr. Daley is the sweetest elderly priest, his boxing pastime apparent in his gesticulations as he lectures, his energetic stance, and slight but agile frame. His writing is lucid, wise and utterly astounding, yet he lectures to us gently, describing the rich meat of the early church writers in milky language that we toothless infants can digest. He has the careless toughness of a former generation, raised in wars, and the casually warm manners of the East Coast gentleman.

As he read Augustine's brief passage on the mission of Christ, Fr. Daley's voice caught in his throat. Something glistened underneath his eye. That the human race might know how much God loves us and might know this in order to glow with love for him by whom we have first been loved
These words seem simple and obvious to me, no deep poetry or elegantly romantic insight.

But I am now struck with a sober curiosity: what is this love that can provoke such a wise man to tears? This love can move the sun, other stars, and this priest to tears. I understand now the restless desires of princes in fairy tales to run after beautiful mystery maidens glimpsed in the woods. The love that moves Fr. Daley to tears is that mysterious princess glimpsed in the woods. What is that beauty? I want it desperately. It enchants me.

I may read all the books ever written about God, listen to all the lecturers, sift through all the theological treatises penned from now 'til kingdom come (aka this upcoming Tuesday), but I will never find a more eloquent testament to God than that elderly academic father's voice trembling with tears as he gently recited the syncopated rhythms and breath-tearing rhyme of Hopkins:
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and 
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, 
                            Is immortal diamond. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

heaven-roysterers

Driving up Ironwood as the late afternoon sun hits the autumn trees, lining the small avenue like Corinthian columns, transforming it into a regal boulevard, living columns hung with jewel-tone leaves, their gilt dandruff flaking from their branches with comic rapidity, carpeting the earth in a new crunchy, golden crust, I think to myself: this place is beautiful.

A man is mowing his lawn. There is a beautiful stone house, elegant and elderly. The streets here are well-paved. The lawns bristle a healthy brown post-summer-ripe hue, and closely hedge the cheerful, bleached brightness of the sidewalk.

The intersection of Bader and Ironwood is quintessential suburbia, and I love it. Especially now, when I can admire old deciduouses with vast canopies of common yellow, lit up by the bright sun like giant marigolds. Things can grow and breathe here between the tightly-angled sidewalks, which constrict some creative expression, while allowing a natural expansion.
--

Driving up (we can drive up and down Main Street now) the main drag, the Toyota slowly purrs her way through the twilight sun shining around the silhouettes of downtown's diminutive skyline. She growls a little as she trolls through the roundabouts. The car rolls around the curve of the road and the curve of the roundabout with the sleek elegance of a golf ball driven to a hole in one.

As we drive over the Michigan street bridge, its lamps flickering like drowning stars in the swollen turbulence of the autumn river, I think again: how beautiful this is. The quiet yawning of night and the peaceful murmur of traffic blend together in the quiet that emanates from streetlights.

Tonight there are no stars, just permacloud. But the air is fresh and biting, and tastes like honeycrisp and home. Like things dying, and strange new weather on the horizon.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

how should I greet thee?

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long I shall rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
--Byron

Letting go of people is harder than I once thought.
Or the process of moving on past someone takes just a lot of time.
It takes a lot of story happening, simply so that you move out of the chapter of your life that is marked by "Them" and move on to a new chapter that is untouched by their specific personality.

That is the first step of moving on past someone. You have to move on physically, so that their image does not barrage your daily vision.

--

You think of all the million lessons they taught you: what an indie band was, Who The Good Poets Are, the Edmund Waller poem you still know by heart, that "Should" is a moral statement, and one can never say "thank you" too much.

And you wonder if they remember what you taught them: Mumford & Sons, TED Talks, feminist theory, Martha is better than Mary, the taste of Vincent Van Gogh, and the importance of Pride & Prejudice.

--

There is a vague, and somewhat morbid, curiosity that perpetuates our interest in our dead relationships just as it perpetuates our interest in the human departed. Things that are gone are tinged with mystery: the beings we bury in the hard past or in the softer ground are fascinating in their inaccessibility.

I really hate losing things. Having a lose thread in the tightly woven fabric of life irks me. The unanswered question and the cliffhanger story, the lack of closure frets at me. Currently, outstanding objects lost include: one (1) blue maxi dress from Target, an unopened peppermint chapstick I put in my pocket last night, and my Dropbox password.

Losing relationships is difficult. It is a loose thread I am constantly tempted to tug at, to see what part of the fabric will ripple away.

We are so quick to insist that we are constant, that we are permanent. We like to think of ourselves as an unchanging constant, a monolith of stability. When, really, humans are fluid beings, morphing and changing, shedding our old skin as we grow into new. As it should be: stagnation is foreign to our nature. Until we reach our final destination, we are not yet fully ourselves. There are new chambers of our hearts and facets of our personalities to discover.

One summer day, I remember responding to a friend's text, and accidentally deleted an old string of messages that I hadn't intended to delete, that I was preserving there precariously like digital saint's knuckles. A cold surge of dismay rushed through me as I watched the small trash can icon fill with garbage, as each small paperless missile disappeared into the ether.

One of the truly sadistic features of my dumbphone is that, sometimes, in order to listen to new voicemails, you have to go through and re-save all the old voicemails you want to keep. In the process of doing this, you have to re-listen to old messages you've been holding onto since 2009. Occasionally, I purge old messages. But it takes a long time to let go.

Recently, I was scrolling through old emails. Emails that, as my mother will rightly tell me, ought to be deleted. One day. Eventually, we delete the voicemails and the text strings, accidentally or intentionally. The business of living crowding out all the miscellanea nostalgia would demand we retain.

Slowly, I can begin to look on old relationships with a fondness and detachment. They are memorials of people who once were, who have grown up into not something else entirely, but have grown deeper, newer, and perhaps truer to the final image. We can appreciate the goodness of what was there, and the doors of our selves that they unlocked, but recognize how they were timestamped from another lifetime.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

quarter-life crisis beatitudes

Last week, around this time on Monday evening, I lay awake in my bed, wondering: how long until my knees stop working? When will I experience back pain so debilitating I can barely walk? How long will this 20-20 vision keep up?

And other thoughts like: how is it that I am still in school, while friends are married with babies? Why am I twenty-five and in the middle of god-forsaken Indiana when I could be in New York? What am I doing with my life when some friends' careers take them traipsing around Dublin, Abu Dhabi, and San Francisco? How have I not been to as many weddings as she has? Will I ever make a salary?

Then I woke up and turned twenty-five on Tuesday. And was hit by the full force of the fact that those are the only first twenty-five years of life I get. There's no re-doing the first quarter of my life (assuming this is the first quarter, and not the first half, or the first two-thirds); what I've made is what I've got.

Somedays, I sit in church, feeling the ring of nutella-fat around my waist that's bulging over my jeans, feeling the scab on my chin from (again) fretting at the same blemish, and feeling utterly immune to grace.

Blessed are those who desire these things.

The beatitudes, Fr. David suggested in mass, are perhaps not a checklist of actions and outcomes, of achievements and rewards, but are a roadmap for our desires. The person who desires peace will keep seeking peace, and eventually find it, in their imitation of the perfect Son, becoming, like Him, a child of the Father. The person who desires to be meek: to temper their anger with gentleness, and offer up justice for grace will find that their kingdom has expanded from their own sorry little perspective to the entire world.

Blessed are those who can desire happiness, not of others' devising, but of their own making. And blessed is she who can stay true to that happiness, even in moments of difficulty. For she will never compare her lives with others, and be content with what has borne fruit in her life, and what has been left undone.

For the person who desires to change, grace promises that they will.
Grace promises that we will grow. That there's a constant invitation to happiness that is being extended to us, that we can ceaselessly attempt to accept. And if we do not, the invitation is still there. 

Grace means I think to myself: I will not let this scab return. I will not fret at the blemish on my skin. This is the last time I will see this scab.

And in two months, when this scab is back, grace says that there is always next time. And so it will continue, until finally grace breaks through; and one day the scab disappears.


Monday, October 31, 2016

a spooky foray into politics

How often have a twisted a story to protect my fragile sense of self? How often have I ignored a potentially painful wake-up call, and protected myself in the comfortable haze of ego? How often have I failed to acknowledge wrongdoing or offer an apology? Does my stubbornness get in the way of reparation? Do I fail to forgive a friend, to see things from her point of view? Do I take ownership of my own agency in painful or hurtful situations? How often do I ignore the challenge of reality; a challenge that forces me to examine my own identity and actions, and extends the same generosity towards others that I practice with myself?

The next time I pick up a stone to throw at Donald Trump’s fragile masculinity, ego, or grasp on reality, may that stone instead turn into a mirror which reflects my own overweening ego and robust pride. Read the full examination of conscience here.

--
A brief note: I could also write a similar examination for Hillary, I suppose. Which would be fair and bipartisan of me. But I think it would be less entertaining and simply amount to: don't be corrupt (and for the love of all that is holy don't use a private email server).

I certainly don't agree with all of Hillary Clinton's policies, and she isn't my first choice for president ever (and full disclosure: not actually the choice I choosed this time). There's a reason that Obama handily bested her in 2012. Hillary has had a real pock-marked political career. Whatever this shady sitch is with the FBI and emails and servers and whatnot, it doesn't make her look the best. And I'll listen to you tell me that the Clinton Foundation is accepting money from suspect foreign governments, or that she's promoting a broken healthcare system, or that she's beholden to various corporate interests, therefore working in the interests of Big Money. I hear you. I feel you. And I see you.

But what I see when I watch Hillary Clinton during this hullabaloo of a 2016 campaign, and what so many other women see, is someone living a narrative I have felt. She is enduring an overbearing buffoon authorize himself, on the basis of his manhood and no other available empirical evidence, capable of a job he's laughingly unqualified for, which she is supremely qualified for and with which she is intimately familiar. She has waltzed through his hot-headed lambasting with a calm, unshakeable demeanor.

As I watch her wade through the vitriol a man who is far inferior to her foists upon her with poise and (somewhat robotic) humor, I am inspired. As someone still not saintly enough to laugh off being condescended to, I still find the struggle of being a woman in a man's working world irksome at times. In that regard, I count her as a hero. Perhaps I am more enamored with the Idea of Hillary Clinton, than the actual human candidate herself. And maybe that's part of why she's so successful: she is functioning as more of a symbolic figure in this campaign than actual figure. Despite the reminders that continually pop up that the real Hillary is flawed, and not our perfect feminist angel, the symbolic weight of her candidacy has propelled her campaign. Throughout this campaign, she has proved to millions of young women--and young people in general--that you can't let bullies yell you down. And that's admirable.

Now I'll go read about WikiLeaks' emails and some more Clinton-era scandals and get all un-inspired.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

a wee little man

Zacchaeus is one of those Biblical pericopes that still has not evolved past the bible school song for me. I hear Luke's story of the man that climbed the sycamore tree, and involuntarily start humming the tune that accompanies that story's narration.

So, when one of my classmates mention that his assignment for his preaching class was on today's Gospel, I was curious. Why should I care about this story? I asked.

So, he said, the story begins with the line: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. So, where was he going? Wondered my classmate. He tolle lege-d and discovered that Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem for the passover. He was on his way to die.

Knowing the trajectory of Jesus' travels, the entire story is imbued with a deep significance. As Christ is approaching the advent of his hour, the hour for which He came into the world, He stops, and encounters this smallest of men. Although Jesus is approaching the climax of his mission, which has cast its cruciform shadow over his whole ministry, he is drawn to care for this sinful human hiding in the Sycamore tree. The Son goes to save the entire world, but will pause that dramatic journey to save just one human being.

Is there any love more intimate?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

if there is solace in love

my soul is quiet in the sunlight
pouring through the silk screen of the
spiders' webs outside my window.
In the pure brightness of clear
morning air.
No stain has touched this yet.

peace is found in the navel orange that is
rising in the autumn sky,
catching the quiver of the sycamore
leaves, hanging on the trees
by brown and drying threads
the sycamore leaf is fringed in gold,
a halo-ed, hallowed, holy leaf
her green now dappled with
burnt color.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

the gift I mean to give

Adulthood means laying on artifice as thick as cake frosting. It means wrapping your personality in layer after layer of cool, impenetrable armor. It means lots of masking your identity in pretension and dissembling. 

And I get it. It's necessary, in a way. To build those bridges--networks, people call 'em--you have to know what words to say, what articles to have read, what television to reference. You have to accumulate the social capital in the coinage of a realm that's not your own. In order to get through the day, you sometimes have to push inconvenient emotions to the side, and ignore small stings.

It's easy, in the hustle and bustle of trying to navigate the exterior world, to let division arise between the external self and one's eternal being. It's easy to avoid gazing at the interior landscape. You shudder, thinking at what you might see there. You hide it away: oh that old thing? No one wants to see her. They--and you--are much more interested in this gauzy, glamorous creature that has evolved. This new apparition of yourself says all the right things, knows the right tune to play, and has calculated metrics for success. She's a hit. 

The problem is that all the Self we file away to "Later" is the good stuff. It's the stuff that is the real meat of living, underneath Instagram moments and twitter feeds. Below perfectly coiffed hair and impeccably tailored cocktail cultural commentary is the quiet heart of our humanity that so often gets ignored.

We are so afraid that if we drop our cocoons, we'd have to face that cringeworthy reality: an old self, which we've outgrown. We are so afraid that at our core is an embarrassment of a caterpillar: a clunky and childish version of ourselves, a burden on our new sophisticated, grown-up status.

What a surprise, when you peel away the layers of artifice, and shake off the immaterial, mannered self, to find that what lies underneath has transformed. You expect that when you unwind the chrysalis, you will find that embarrassing old caterpillar underneath. When you crack open the chitin shell you've built around your vulnerable soul, it's a delightful surprise to find that a winged creature has formed in the meantime. 

This is the gift that honesty has been trying to give us all along: ourselves. Which, if we had been paying attention to, we would have noticed how they'd grown: bright and beautiful, richer and deeper than before. Underneath the artifice, something magic lives, and a little humility and honesty is all it took to set it free.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

all is in an enormous dark

We are speeding--a verb used generously here-- through the trees that hem the South Shore line to Chicago. We glide past the glimmering reeds and shining ripples of Hudson Lake. The trees shimmer above the sky-clear water. The first strains of Familiarity play on Pawel's iPad. I smile. This is autumn.

October in Indiana is finally cashing in on its beauty. Cows wade through lush green, dark muds, and hearty wheats. The cornfields in Amish country are a husky burnt gold, the sunlight is more robust and brilliant, flashing off the golden, scarlet leaves. The forests are full of dying sunlight, outlining their slender, shimmering trunks. A few trees burst through the yellow golds with bold crimson-tipped leaves.

I am slightly annoyed, harsh critic as I am, that all of the trees are not turning into watercolors at the same time. I wish that all the leaves would turn their autumnal colors at once; I want a symphony of beauty, not just grace notes. I want a uniform response to the change in season from the trees.

--

Sitting at lunch with a friend, we discussed the peculiar phenomenon of human narratives. How is it that two humans can have two completely different stories for the same series of events? How is it that two people who shared a common journey can interpret that journey so differently? It is very odd, but only natural. No two human beings are going to respond to a situation exactly the same, just as no two trees responds to autumn exactly the same.

Like the trees, humans are arrested in various stages of growth; of coming to fruition. Their display of fruit is never going to be identical. As a narrative comes to a defining moment, one of the messy things about these crossroads is that it becomes apparent that these two human beings are operating in different seasons. Watersheds and crises reveal interiors that the quotidian course of life is designed to conceal. 

Like the trees, humans are not programmed like robots, to respond to stimuli according to a developer's code. Humans and trees respond to the events of nature in a variety of ways, and their eloquent, polyvalent responses are recorded in their leaves and in their narratives. How much richer our experience of the world is, knowing that there are many different versions of our stories out there. And all of them somehow lead to the full Truth, capital T.
--

I can no more force another human being to see a story from my point of view than I can force the trees to change. That is both infuriating and liberating. Infuriating, because of all the breath we waste trying to get others to see things from our point of view. But liberating. Once we have finally exhausted all our hot air and breathe in once again, we are free from the task of trying to turn the leaves to scarlet before they're ready. We can simply continue on with our own story, and leave the other trees to sort themselves out.

Monday, October 17, 2016

christ in times square

We, all, with one accord, driven by one deep impetus, push our way towards the front of the swarming mass of people, jostling for the privileged place of in the front, pinned against the NYPD barriers, by the crush of crowd behind us. Like a crowd of teenage girls in Sperrys from Westchester, we strain our necks to see the prophet we have come to see. But something greater than Ham4Ham is here.

We are not dedicated fans dressed in haute rap colonial garb, we are the homeless. We are the addicts living on the street corner. We are the man with the dog you pass without a glance. We are the boy eating the tuna on the subway. We are the woman with the grocery cart and the girl with the book and the sad face, tucked in the corner. We long for attention, but fear too much. We are wary of crowds like this one.

But not today. Today someone has come to speak to us. And we are here to listen. He touches the face of the woman next to us and smiles. If he would do the same to us! There are others here, of course. There are two loud men in suits. They are young. And possibly drunk? It's 10am, but they smell like expensive whiskey and the trendy speakeasy bar around the corner. Their shoes are very nice. And their hair is matted by a French pomade made from babies' tears spun into a delicate silk, not by the crust of street dust and soil from park benches.

They shout out to our prophet. It is not quite heckling. It is a question of that class clown in high school who wanted to get the teacher off-topic. Because they are afraid of serious thinking. And following lines of thought outside their comfort zone. They want to pretend to learn, but never leave their zone of proximal development. He listens to them. And responds with a laugh. We all laugh in return, even the two loud men. They seem non-plussed. And, for a moment, sheepish. For a moment, as they drop their swagger and the posture that comes with suits, they are not two braggadocios, but human beings. We lose sight of them. But perhaps they stay to listen.

Our prophet turns to us: and weaves a story with his voice. More mesmerizing than Lin-Manuel's raps, funny and humorous--better than the stand-up acts we've seen here-- more alive and biting than Colbert, a story that cuts through the chaos of Times Square's morning air. A story that we've known all along, but is new today. The fire engine sirens, the pounding of the 1 train underneath our feet, the honking of the taxis, and the purring of the tour buses, all subside into quiet, and the only words we hear are this man's story.

'Rest, Eat, Drink, Be Merry!' cries the heroic antagonist of his story. We can hear the bitter ring in his voice, it matches the bitter ring in ours. We have not rest. And it is not ours to "be merry." It is the lot of those who smell like money at 10am. We are surrounded by their large barns, holding their harvest. "Your life will be demanded of you." Our prophet's voice sends shivers up our spines. We are surrounded by careening trains, by the dangers of bombs, by mass shooters, collapsing skyscrapers, hurricanes, earth-quakes, homicides, overdose. It seems, any day, that our life will be demanded of us. And what will we have to leave behind? What will mark our time on earth? To whom will our carts and plastic bags belong then? It is not a glorious inheritance, but these are the boundaries of our small kingdom. We have not stored treasure up for ourselves. We have nothing to leave here.

But what is it to be rich in what matters to God? Our prophet leaves; he slips into the crowd, and we lose sight of him. He is gone. What is it to be rich in what matters to God? Are we rich in that way? we wonder. Unclear. We disperse, but our bags are lighter now. The man next to us who was bent over is walking straight now. There is a light in our eyes and a lightness in our step, because someone saw how fully human we are, and made us that again. Our activity has new purpose, a new richness, because we have some hope. And a mysterious new goal: to be rich in what matters to God. This strange man with his strange sense of wealth and kind, unsparing sense of humor has brought us hope. The artist next to us, wearing strange patterned leggings and a brightly colored blazer, her hair also matted--into trendy dreadlocks (saves money on shampoo)--is writing furiously. Her pen flows with the fire from the prophet's voice. She has found hope, too.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

the force of something lovely

 a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
--Luke 10:38

Theology is not for the faint of spirit (although it's ideal for the faint of body. No hard labor here). Staring down with mystery day in and day out is a recipe for a vertigo of the soul. Especially in studying something like systematics or the scriptures. The precariousness of history smacks you upside the face, and I can feel my mind drag my soul down rabbit holes of deconstruction. Each meal is flavored with bitter, salty doubt.

As I listen to the daily readings at mass I think: well, was this even true? True, as in, historically accurate. True, as in cold, hard facts. The sort of true that you don't find in your mother's love or a conversation with a friend. The sort of true that is available nowhere in life, outside of math.
There's no reason why it shouldn't be, but there are no compelling reasons that I can see for it to be.

I glance up from my words, and the morning sun shines across the backboard of my desk. Slats of light, elegantly cut from my blinds shimmer across the pictures of friends, my Hamilton playbill, and old birthday cards fixed on my pinboard. The sun creeps her way through the green light of the trees and scatters my kitchen table with warm light.

Something about that light is so magnificent, I have to write about it. I don't know what strange and sudden instinct it is inside of me that demands that beauty be praised by caging it in monochrome and one-dimensional lines on a page. But it is not a choice. It is an impulse beyond my control.

As I read of Mary sitting at the feet of the master, I think: this story is beautiful. And I believe. I believe that this story is the product of the force of beauty. Compelled by a beauty they can barely articulate, someone saw something quite beautiful, and they had to capture it in words. Perhaps everything else is muddled in the historical record, perhaps everything is garbled in the oral tradition. But the beauty of their original vision endures.

Monday, September 19, 2016

corps de ballet

I.

She dives through the air,
hanging from the light
without a safety net.
She will fall until
she finds the ground below her too far,
and doubles back.
up her invisible rope.

II.

Laden with dew from early morning fog,
silk threads of spiderwebs hang limp and damp,
bejeweled with liquid crystals
encrusting the fragile fabric of
a woven home.

III.

She's perched--
a queen on her
webbed throne--
life radiating out from her
succulent body,
woven into the threads that
support her abdomen,
swollen with blood.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

the death of the last Apostle

Margaret sits in her armchair. Her armchair is a cozy, white-and-yellow gingham chair from her mother's sitting room. Maggie remembers sitting in it many afternoons as the sunshine streamed in through the window, slats of sunlight shining through the crisp white shutters on the windows, creating shimmering, quivering bars of light and shadow on the floor. Dust danced in the sunlit air. Splayed out across the braided rug, she would read Nancy Drew or Agatha Christie and feel the sunlight bake the shiny maple floor of the sitting room. Then, the vinyl played the Beatles or Johnny Cash.

Now, it plays Chopin. Even on sunlight days, the blue raindrops of melancholy piano fills the room. And Margaret reads P.D James when she reads. Most days she just sits and watches the dust travel aimlessly in the sunlight. The sunlight catches all the soft grays and silvers on Margaret's soft head and lights up her fluffy white hair like a constant golden hour.

Margaret is very old. Most days she can't quite remember how old she is. She can remember how old her daughter is, however. Her daughter is sixty. But doesn't look a day over thirty, Margaret thinks.

Margaret has a world of memories in her head. Very small ones, like baking an apple pie in October, with fresh apples picked from the apple trees out back. The apples are small and very tart. They have a few holes from birds' beaks or worms, leaving them looking somewhat misshapen. But they are rosy and warm with autumn sap.

She remembers when the city paved their street one summer. The smell of tar and fresh asphalt baking mixes in her memory with the sounds of children running around the yard playing tag, and climbing trees out in the back, and her daughter running inside with blood dripping from her knee.

She remembers lying out in the dark November night, watching the Perseids under flannel sleeping bags, and drinking hot chocolate with grainy synthetic marshmallows. She remembers the odd ombre mauve of the night sky, and the small streaks of light against the inky vault of sky.

She remembers the feel of cold water from the waterfalls trickling over her toes. It feels like mountain air and mist rolling over the rocks, tumbling through the moss and through the dogwood trees.

All these memories fly around in sunlight like specks of dust. And will vanish in the corduroy shadows when the blinds close.

Friday, September 16, 2016

first time sandwich-maker

The young boy behind the counter, in his black uniform, and bright yellow apron, worked at the pace of glaciers carving the Mississippi.
Instead of reading, my eyes kept wandering off the page up to counter behind the deli glass, mesmerized by his methodical, gentle movements.
He lifted the egg white discs off the industrial baking sheet with thoughtful, delicate motions. Gently, he slid a plastic-gloved finger underneath each gelatinous circle and loosened it from where the heat had melded it to the pan. With the utmost care, he stacked each circle on the other, lightly placing a thin sheet of waxed paper between them. His movements were meditative and precise, full of the prayerfulness of monks illuminating vellum.

Hot oven, he called tentatively as he pulled the toasting bagel out of the industrial robot-like oven (nothing of the home or hearth about it), warning his fellow workers of the danger of the oven door. But he had the certain authority of one who is following the safety protocol to the letter, betrayed by his novice zeal.

He gently placed an egg disc on the hot bagel. Next, he cut an avocado. Thoughtfully, and with precision, he sliced the green fruit into wedges.

He scooped them from the dark rind, and gently splayed them on the bagel's top half. He carefully arranged the slices, so they fanned out, a lush peacock's tail on the burnt bread background. Meticulously, he turned each one so that it rested on her neighbor, until the bagel half was covered with undulating waves of green.

Once the sandwich was assembled, he carefully wrapped the bagel in foil, tucking in each corner, folding it to make a clean and perfect package.

I'm sorry I got avocado on here, pointing to the ticket, extending the foil-wrapped bagel cheerfully, arms stiff with shyness.

Oh don't worry about it.
And thank you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

you gave me backbone

and if I could I'd go back further
to the times before I knew you
to the pictures that sometimes scream inside my head
as if there are some kinds of sadness even you cannot contain
I'd hold your hand there in that shadowy darkness
whisper that it will be ok
we'll be together soon
--Mother, by Alvy Carragher

My "field research" over the entire year has been the relationship between mothers and daughters. As I witness interactions between friends and their mothers, my sisters and our mothers, or other mother-daughter pairs in general, I have been jotting down mental notes.

The relationship of mothers and daughters is anything but easy. There is, it seems, a toxic but inevitable play of resentment and guilt that colors the deep intimacy of mother and daughters.

As a daughter, you know that you have inherited the world from someone. This world is given to you from a certain perspective, we come into the world already carrying our parents' baggage, and the sins of our parents certainly bear fruit in us. How could they not? We do not experience the world as an impersonal laboratory or a pleasant vacuum of nature. Our world is, quite literally, the people we are born to. We first enter the world contained inside the body of another. How could we not be affected by her beating heart, her nightmares, her laughter, the food she eats, the emotions that run through her fingers and her spine, and the stories that she carries with her each day. We are captive to this person. We cannot ask or choose our parents, we are given to them, and from the very beginning of our journey, our course is marked by particularities we cannot control.

How can you not resent these imperfect creatures for being imperfect? How can you not despise their scars, because you see them reflected so clearly in your own heart?

From all my research, I have found that mothers feel immense guilt for not being perfect. It makes so much sense. We see our anxieties and imperfections begin to mark our children; how could we not hate ourselves for being absolutely, vitally perfect?

But we inherit so much more than a set of qualities from our mothers. We do not simply inherit blue eyes and genetic predispositions for anxiety. We inherit from them a story, a living story that we are part of. We are born into a narrative. Like all stories, it is full of pain and imperfections. It is full of scars, wounds, and sadnesses. And we are born into a wound. Our very birth creates a wound inside our mother's body. Our arrival in the world is marked from the start with woundedness.

But how miraculous that our arrival is not into a company we must earn to keep. We are born into a web of relationship even as we breach. From birth, our identities are etched with a character we did not ask for. Our very self is fraught with meanings we never intended, but were born into.

We are born into the world our mothers made for us.

Even in the hurt, the family bickering, and the pain, there is something beautiful in all that.

My mother would say little on the way home,
her eyes now and then filling with tears.
Perhaps she was thinking of that garden,
the one she tried to replicate year after year,
every last pole bean and zinnia,
the one she left to me.
--Mothers and Daughters, Jo McDougall

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

mechanics of mercy

Their wings drooping like cloaks,
dipping into the swampy summer waters of the lake,
two vultures perch on the branches that
turret out from the bank,
two dark swans roosting in the trees.

The daughter vulture
looks up into
her mother's carrion-hungry
eyes.

We only have a few fish,
she says
well that's enough,
her mother croaks,

The fragments are abundance
as it is.

Monday, September 12, 2016

weather patterns

Lord, there will be storms
cold will not displace
heat without a
war
and summer
will not be usurped,
or give o'er her kingdom
without a fight.

The nip of a new season
bites our face,
with careless
concupiscence,
lascivious lover
that she is.

Hidden in sunshine,
the autumn wind
surreptitiously
sneaks into the
flowering goldenrod,
black-eyed susans,
and cornflowers,
whispering of
their imminent
end

Sunday, September 11, 2016

naturalia

How is it that reading
small lines of black and white
invariable and unchanging
dead and cold
is supposed to uncover
the mystery of force
and growth,
change and love?

How will we come to know
the love that blows the
grass up from the ground,
that pulls the sun
from sunup to sundown
if we never run
in dappled forests,
sunshine pouring
through rustling leaves,
fresh and virginal;

if we never spin
under the sun-roof of the sky,
her blue so deep it burns our eyes,
saturated with violet sun,
so close we can almost touch
her plump and fulsome clouds
that migrate from horizon to horizon;

if we never marvel at
the elegance of swans,
the simple mechanics of a
summer squirrel,
hoarding his nuts away for autumn;

if we never see
glassy lakes mirror trees,
so perfectly,
a new world is created in the water;

if we never raise our eyes
from simple sidewalks
to see a sky pock-marked
with lights from other worlds;

if we never look?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

it's on again

Darling when you wake, remind me what we've done
That can't be shared, or saved, or even sung

There are some songs that hold within them worlds, stories, and movements of our lives.

I began to play Familiarity, and the twinkly strums of the Punch Brother's strings filled Meredith's room, with the throbbing, abrupt, erratic beats of the rhythm punching underneath.

As we listen to it together, I find myself suddenly not in her room. Although my body may be there, the interior me is transported back several months. It's as though my body is simply an empty shell, inhabited by different hermit crabs. As the song begins to play, I swap out the current crab for an older, more familiar crab.

You know it and so do your friends
And you can sing together 

Instantly, I felt myself back at my desk at school, in the midst of April ennui, pounding away at lesson plans, editing spreadsheets, or grading computer quizzes. I could feel my feet tapping away under my desk, and turning to make faces with Joe, listening to the buzz of talk in the faculty room hum behind me.

A ringing bell, or programmed drums or both
I couldn't tell but I rejoice

During the crescendos, I feel all the possibility and promise of May pour back into my heart and veins. Spring in New York is full of vitality: of sap rushing through living things: of blood rushing to the head. Like ivy, it overtakes me, it seeps into my blood like intoxication.

We've come together over we know not what

As the drums spin off into an allegro, I repress the urge to jump on my bed, as I did one June afternoon in my sunny East Harlem bedroom. Unbidden, a smile creeps over my face, as my heart pounds in time to the music. I feel sidewalks under my feet. I see the East Village around me: that stretch of Avenue A between 14th and 13th street. I hear the roar of summer wind around me.

I see an end where I don't love you like I can

The tender, lilting voice of the violin milking melancholy chords reminds me, with a sharply sad sweetness, of the lake outside my window at Kylemore Abbey, and the smell of mountain air rippling across the lawn into my room. I'm reminded of the ascetic concrete floors, and the luxurious pillows. I'm reminded of the damp greenhouse of the mountainside, of climbing waterfalls, of rolling down hills. I'm reminded of the rich abundance of July, and the fresh feeling of floating through the day, the soft trills of melody billowing through my room along with the sunshine and mountain wind.

Though I'm not sure where we'll go
To worship more than what we know

As the final, spellbindingly suspenseful notes, gently drip out of the speakers, inconclusive and elegant, I remember all the feelings of the beauty of living inside of a liminal space. Where life is moving forward, the world is shifting under your feet, and each day pushes you forward into something unfamiliar and new. But, in the background, there is a theme constantly humming, running up and down like the opening notes of the mandolin. It weaves its way into every morning as you brush your teeth in the sunlight. It works its ways into your day, as you sing it softly to yourself in class and into your toes tapping inside your shoes. And it lingers behind your eyelids as you fall asleep to the sounds of the ambulance sirens roaring by.

Now, it contains all of those moments, and each punch of the drum brings them all flooding back to you: an entire world contained in each note.

As long as you're there I won't be alone

Friday, September 9, 2016

things as they are (circa April 2016)

Those who are waiting are waiting very actively... If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment." - Henri Nouwen, The Path of Waiting

My friend sent me the above quote last week, when I was waiting.
Over the past couple of months I have been waiting for many things: waiting to decide on a graduate school, waiting for winter in New York to end, waiting to see my boyfriend, waiting for all the puzzle pieces of life to drop into place.

About three weeks ago, I was jolted from my passive waiting, as I visited Grad School A, and I thought: this is what is happening. 
I didn't want Grad School A to be what was happening. But there it was.

And if that was what was happening, then I needed to fix my lack of want towards it. My emotions and desires were bucking and pulling away from the reality presented. When our emotions are jarring with reality we have two options: conform reality to fit our desires, or conform our desires to fit our reality. And the latter seemed like the more plausible option at this point.

--

The word "waiting" to me instantly signifies a suspension of movement. When I think of the word "waiting" I think of everything coming to a halt, a pause, a stagnation. You are simply stuck, you cannot move forward, as you sit and wait for the light to turn green.

Waiting, however, is actually where all the real work of living happens. The real journey is the story of what we do between now, when what we want is just a desire, and then, when we are united to it.

Over the past months, I discovered each moment of waiting was such a grace.

Seeing this waiting differently started on a run one very warm weekend day in February. I thought to myself: How embarrassing will it be if I don't get into Grad School C? That is what I thought.

Whoa, whoa, Renée, I responded (to myself). What does that even mean? What's that attitude all about?
Well, it means, if you don't get in, you were not smart enough, and not intelligent enough to get in. In short, not worthy.
Interesting, Renée, so conversely: if I do get in, it will prove that I did it, all on my lonesome. That I am the End-All-Be-All-of-Magnificent?

Or, rather, will it not be simply gift?

Is it not true that the only reason we have received the gifts we have is because of the goodness of others? We find the gifts we do because of the goodness of the men and women who have mentored us to where we are now; the goodness of our parents; the kindness of many thousand strangers.

Are not the good things we received simply gift upon gift?

--

When I was waitlisted at Notre Dame, my prayer of waiting became: Lord, help me to see what is happening. Help me to see things as they are, not as I would have them.

I have these desires: may they not blind me, but rather illuminate the path. Help me to see the deep reality of the present moment, and the movements occurring within it. Help me to see the present moment, because the present moment opens up into the future.
What is is the story. Not what might be.

We have to find the story to find reality. Finding the story means accepting our part in it: our denial is part of the story, our inaction, our actions, the things in our control, what is out of control, our despised emotions, our ignored emotions, and all the deep Mariana Trenches of mystery that slosh around inside of us that we explore painstakingly, with care, with only one small submarine light for guide.

But that is what waiting is for. Waiting is a search for the present moment, and trusting that what is truly present will guide us into the future.