Care about People

As a quick follow-up to last week’s post, I encountered a quotation recently which was super relevant but I forgot to include. No commentary, just a line from the writer James Baldwin who said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

What a beautiful thing unconditional love is.

Anyway, we’re in this week now so we’ll move on. This week has held… not a whole lot for me. Surprise. I have fallen once more into the unemployed, unmotivated bleh of nothingness that has become a bit of an annual affair for me. Still applying and things but it’s a big yikes. Whatever.

I have also been reading in the sun, one of my favorite things in the world, as you know. I have been trying to have friends, as you know, and trying to balance being honest about my needs with listening and honoring their needs. It’s hard to do both simultaneously, work in progress.


Because nothing is happening in my life, I would like to talk for a moment about the world and the people in it.

I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I have been to Russia. Twice, in fact, in the same summer. First, I went on tour with my university choir and then, only a couple weeks after our return, I went to study in St. Petersburg for six weeks. It was such an experience.

It is not my place to give you a rundown on recent Russian political history, current events in Russia, or the geopolitical dynamics involving Russia. Though, if you’re interested, I would encourage even a cursory look into those topics (as long as you remain humble about it; a cursory look isn’t going to make you any kind of expert). But those things are on my mind because things are happening and they matter to me because I’m interested but they also should matter at least a little to you because you’re a part of this world.

I do keep up on world news, because I find it interesting and I have some higher-level background on the subject than others may. And I like to pay special attention to a few places that have grabbed my heart in often random but definitely meaningful ways (see: Croatia).  But I bring up Russia as a place to start because I have several memories, specific and vivid (at least relative to my memory) memories, that speak so loudly to the kind of international understanding and across-boundaries/through-barriers camaraderie that is possible among people who are so very different and whose countries are not, shall we say, supposed to be particularly friendly.

Two fictional moments that I ponder often:

  • in The Phantom Tollbooth when one of the princesses says “Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy.”
  • in The Two Towers when the ents refuse to act and Pippin says “But you’re a part of this world! Aren’t you?”

We cannot all be responsible for keeping track of all that is going on in the world. And we should not be condemned to perpetual sadness because people somewhere are sad. That is not what I am advocating here. We have to live our lives, as they’re the only ones we’re able to live.

Acknowledging that, however, I think we do bear two responsibilities when it comes to thinking about issues in the world on a global level. First, though we don’t need to keep up with every single thing that is going on (as much as I am an advocate for reading world news), we ought to be aware that things are tough in the world. That we are blessed. That problems exist in other places, for other people, and those problems matter.

Second, as obvious and ridiculous as it may sound, we need to remember that the world is populated by human beings. Some would try to tell us that certain people–from a certain neighborhood/region/country, with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, who speak a different language, who are differently abled, who are otherwise overtly different–are distinct on some fundamental level and that they are not like you. This is a lie. Our differences matter but they are not fundamental. We are we.

I read yesterday that Americans are much more supportive of dropping nuclear bombs on people than I thought. When asked why, many respond that it is a quick, painless death and a sure way to achieve the desired results. But when people are given information about the actual effects are–the horrific, grueling, gruesome effects that nuclear weapons have on the human body–support drops dramatically.

So please. I know that you have to live your lives, that we are all inevitably trapped in a sphere that, on some level, we cannot make any larger. We simply don’t have the capacity. But please, please, care for your fellow people. They are facing problems, too, and they are, deep in their core, exactly like you.  Refuse to believe that any human being is less worthy of love, safety, provision, or life.

Loving your neighbor isn’t about who your neighbor is. It’s about who you are.

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Why You Should Be More Like a Bag of Tortilla Chips

I was reading an article the other day (I’m not linking it because I honestly don’t care that much) about how, apparently, there’s been a recent uptick in lawsuits regarding underfilled snack packaging. You know, like a bag of chips with four total chips in it. We’ve all been there. I guess it’s a whole genre of legal action, though I forget the name.

Then, just yesterday, I saw a bag of tortilla chips–Safeway brand I believe, if you’re curious–that was entirely opaque. You know, just a normal chip bag. Then I realized, most tortilla chips come in a bag with a little window. You can see the chips. You know how full the bag is before you buy.

And, this will tell you where I am in life right now, that Safeway bag of chips is now the topic of this post. Are you ready. Here it comes.

People are upset in those legal cases because they are surprised by what something has (or does not have, rather) inside. It’s shocking to purchase a snack product–movie theater candy was another popular choice because their boxes are bigger than grocery store boxes apparently–and end up with way less snack than the packaging would suggest.

I won’t get into how this is, at it’s core, why either capitalism is a failed system (businesses built on what is, at best, misleading and at worst, lies, are not enabling rational choice, the beloved principle of economists) or we are not living in a true capitalist society. It would be so easy for all chip bags to be translucent. Instead, surprise of the century, I’m going to make things personal and philosophical.

Here’s the thing: little cellophane windows in tortilla chips are what I feel people need more of in their lives. Openness, that is. Showing the insides. Not just so people know what to expect, and decide whether to know us or not, but so that we can simply be a little bit more known.

I know this summer, relational and social have been very difficult for me. Social is pretty much always difficult for me but that’s beside the point. It’s hard to be transient in the way that I have been for the past few years because getting to see inside other people’s bag of chips is a real challenge when you haven’t know them that long. The same holds true of online communities as well, where I have made some inroads toward relational but have again been stymied partly because it just hasn’t been that long. There hasn’t been that much contact.

And thus, the emotional response to the entirely not-see-through-able bag of tortilla chips. There are good reasons for having bags of chips with lots of air, or milk duds that only fill up the box part way. Things are delicate, sealing adhesives may melt the product or overfilling may fuse parts you want to be individual &ct &ct &ct. The question isn’t really “should there be any empty space” it’s more along the lines of “what amount of space is okay with me.”

The little tortilla chip window does not claim that there is not space. It simply shows you what’s inside and lets you make the judgement. And, it hopes, the window will be enticing enough for you to choose that bag specially.


As an aside, I have finally gotten to see these precious ones again. Bubba remains impossible to photograph reasonably, but Camaro is regal as ever.


Later that evening–after the whole chip bag revelation– I finally sat down to watch The Imitation Game which is a wonderful movie. I really enjoyed it and would recommend but it was, of course, very sad. The kind of tragedy that unfolds on several different levels morally, ethically, emotionally, and personally. Oddly enough, it resonated with my above musings as though the whole thing had been planned.

It is difficult to know people. Another mind is, and always will be, an enigma. We can only be ourselves and, far too often, being ourselves is a hard ask for people whose selves are different from the norm. Sometimes, letting people see inside your chip bag isn’t just difficult, it’s dangerous.

Yet we look all the same. We look for people who will let us in, show us their insides, and hope against hope that we will not find them underfilled. Slowly, and if all goes well, we find people who think the same of us. And call them friends.

Showing insides is hard, and I am so very bad at it. It bears costs but I do believe the risks are worth the rewards. So I hope that we can all take a deep breath and let some of our chip bag become translucent. It’s vulnerable, showing all that empty space, but how else are we meant to find the people who like us just the way we are?

Shel Silverstein, philosopher for the ages, wrote,

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by–
And never knew.”

Song

Since 14 June, I have driven almost 5,000 miles, stayed in ten cities, and been physically present in nineteen states plus the District of Columbia. Since 1 August of last year, you could add five more states and five Canadian provinces to that list. And now I am in Seattle. So close to being right back where I started.


Today’s my birthday but I don’t have any good birthday musings–or any musings at all, really. And because it’s my birthday, I don’t really feel like wringing any ideas out of my mind. I’m okay with a brief entry today.


Langston Hughes wrote that, “Song is a strong thing,” and I think about that a lot.

Conscription

This summer has been pretty cool. I’m grateful to have the means and opportunity to have this big trip. Mostly, I’m doing well. But a little bit, I’m not.

I read a short reflection about loneliness a while ago. The writer spoke of how we find ourselves in lonely places in several ways. Rarely a choice, it might have been a conspiracy of circumstance or Divine Providence. Most of the time, he said, we experience solitude by conscription.

To be sure, there are voluntary alonenesses. As an avowed introvert, I am well acquainted with many of them. But these that he was talking about are of a different sort. Being a conscript in the legions of the solitary does not restore, as being alone so often restores me.

I have spoken of this before on this blog, and many indicated that they had felt something similar. Some kind of mash mixing loneliness, homesickness, fear of missing out, fear that we are better friends with others than they are with us–just general ennui. Sometimes, I feel very needy for companionship. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “My friends are my ‘estate.’ Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them.”

Throughout my travels this summer, I have been so deeply blessed to have People to See along the way. Just yesterday morning, I left my sister’s after an extended stay which they were gracious to host me for. And before that, new friends in St Louis, old friends in DC, a friend in Pittsburgh and friends in Michigan… Lots of friends.

But at the same time, seeing them all has been so temporary. My life currently is so transient, so liminal, so ephemeral (though I’m not sure such a fairy-magical word feels all that appropriate). It’s a little frustrating not to be living around friends that I keep up with in person on a regular basis. I like my friends. I would like to see them.

Instead, I remain unmoored and adrift, awaiting the time when I can exit this enforced loneliness. A time when I can once again Be in a Place and Do Things with People. Or, at least, begin making inroads toward doing so, since we all know that I am not a fast friends-maker or overly-aggressive doer. One must remain hopeful.

I have become more aware of my neediness in this area. Neediness not necessarily in a bad way, though I guess that’s not really for me to say. I struggle with the idea of burden–surely my friends will not be burdened if I bother them a little but I am equally sure that at some point it just becomes annoying. I just don’t know what that point is, and I would be loathe to conscript another into something that they didn’t sign up for. That’s kind of my whole issue to begin with.

On that note though, quick plug, if you are my friend, please always feel free to send me a message or arrange a little video chat. Literally always. I’m all about that communication life. (See? V Needy)

Part of the problem, of course, is that I am unemployed and have just a lot of time on my hands. There’s only so many job applications, so much Netflix, exercise, gaming, or reading that I can do at a time. So I have plenty of time to sit and stare at walls, which I literally do, trying to stop myself from messaging all my friends a million times because, you know, they’re actually doing stuff and it’ll take a sec for them to get back to me. Not an awesome way to spend my time, I’m working on it. But here we are.

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An Arizona sunset

Someone inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite life sayings recently. They said “Belong where you are,” and I immediately thought “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Here’s the thing about flowers: sometimes, they’re grown in greenhouses. Naturally, they belong in the ground somewhere. But they are perfectly capable of being stored indoors for the winter or when they’re young or whatever the case may be.

So I guess that’s what I’m going for at this juncture. I may not be in the ground I wish to be in or even in any ground at all, really. But I can–and may we all–bloom anyway.

 

No One Braver

Because sometimes, you just need to have a post titled after lyrics from Hercules. If you can’t immediately summon up the line I’m referencing first, shame on you, second, listen to the whole thing. What a great song from a great soundtrack. Fun fact about me that you can use if ever you want to woo me: my favorite line from that song is “Is he sweet? Our favorite flavor.” I just think it’s so cute. I’d love to be someone’s favorite flavor.

First things first, after Hercules apparently, I have not been doing anything much at all this week. I truly have nothing of note to report. I tried to help start a batch of pretzel buns for my sister and added approximately one-third of the appropriate amount of yeast. It was remedied adequately but yes, I continue to be a yikes baker.

After that thrilling accounting of my week, we have our little gallery of kitties. I had so many excellent pictures, it was a challenge to narrow it down at all, but here are my top two from the week. I just want you to know, since I’ve been with them pretty much all day every day for a week, they really are this cute pretty much non-stop. It’s wild.

 

Anyway. Some of you may be aware that, while Anastasia is my favorite animated film of all time and is now technically owned by Disney, it is not one of my favorite Disney movies. Buying the rights doesn’t really make it yours, you Disney scum. My favorite Disney movie is a tie between Hercules because of course, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Both have incredible music and great stories but let me tell you, Hunchback is what we need right now.

I was trying to make this a silly, upbeat post about fun Disney sing-alongs. They’re fun and silly and why not. But then, having started this, I saw a friend on Facebook post a gif from Hunchback— the moment at the festival when Frollo commands “Silence!” and Esmerelda responds “Justice!” Absolutely iconic. There’s bravery in defeating a hydra but golly if there isn’t more in standing up to injustice.

I could almost have a Sorcerer’s Stone moment here and don’t even get me started on God Help the Outcasts. Maybe I should’ve titled this post “I Thought We All Were the Children of God” but I’ll leave it as is because I originally intended to go the lighter-hearted route. Alas, I’ve gotten sidetracked by social justice, as one does.

Fun transition: I’ve always felt weird about Facebook fundraisers. I do not know why; it hasn’t stopped me from donating to other people’s on occasion but I have never done one myself. But I started one on 4 July because I couldn’t not. It’s in support of RAICES which, from all I have read, is a pretty great organization. I don’t really know what else to do but at least I can say that I’m trying.  I recommend donating to them and/or organizations like them, and making it a recurring donation if you’re able.

The state of the country such a thing, you know, I couldn’t not say something about it. I still don’t really know what to say, exactly, I get that outrage fatigue is a real thing. I’m not at Hercules level brave, and certainly not at Esmeralda level. But I hope and pray that I will always be one who says Justice when the powerful say Silence.

 

Meet Me

I once had a fortune cookie that said “You will step on the soil of many countries.” I really liked it and kept it, it’s still pinned to the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom. I haven’t left the country this week but boy have I been many places.

Since last we spoke, I have passed through twelve states. From Maryland to Missouri via West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From there to Oklahoma via Arkansas. And from there to Arizona via Texas and New Mexico. It’s been a lot. But there have definitely been some wonderful bits along the way.

When I went to St Louis, I drove across the Mississippi River and saw the Arch from the bridge… and that was sufficient for me. The arch was pretty much the only thing I was aware of for the city, and it wasn’t really a landmark that I was committed to seeing more than, you know, just seeing. I’d much more recommend Forest Park, the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, as an attraction to see in the city. I was only there for one full day and I saw the park and the botanical gardens and was more than satisfied. Love a good botanical gardens.

Of course, the main thing was to have friends to see there, they made the stop delightful rather than just pleasant. Knowing people and building community with them– even if it’s only for the briefest of visits– it just felt validating to make new friends. Maybe validating isn’t quite the right word but anyway. Definitely want to visit again. Compare: Oklahoma City, where I saw no one and did nothing other than sleep and was meh about the whole thing.

The beautiful drives, though. For the most part, I actually avoided a lot of the really boring bits (Oklahoma through north Texas and Ohio through Illinois notwithstanding). I always set my navigation to avoid tolls on principle (though the principle is to not pay tolls, rather than tolls are necessarily bad). What that means is that I often enjoy some routes that are a little more endearing than the major interstates. Driving through the tip of the Appalachians and across pretty much all of the Ozarks, for example, was pretty superb. And I did play spectator (as best I could while paying attention to the road) to some incredible lightning the night I drove into Oklahoma City.

And now here I am, back in Arizona at my sister’s. Obviously, a major highlight is seeing her precious kits in person again.

 

They really are twenty times cuter in person, as hard to believe as that is. I just really love cats and I’m so happy that I know people with cats that I can visit. Cats have definitely been one of the highlights of the summer so far.

I have no musings and no further updates for this week. Job applications continue to be sent out and continue to be rejected (though I remain grateful for a formal rejection instead of institutional ghosting). It’s kinda looking grim. But hey, I made cool new friends this week and I think that will buoy me for a good long while.

Still aimless, jobless, and technically homeless but what are you going to do. Here’s hoping progress on those fronts comes sooner rather than later.

Nacotchtank

In Australia, it is becoming a relatively common practice to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where important meetings and government functions take place. They recognize the people who occupied the land they are on and sometimes are given a little bit of relevant history by a representative of the tribe. Australia has a VERY VERY shaky history with indigenous people, in ways similar to and distinct from the US, but that is evidence that at least some effort toward peace and justice is being made.

I had never heard of the Nacotchtank until yesterday, when I decided what I wanted to write my Independence Day blog post about. They are a tribe that is no more, one of the countless victims of White People in History. Facing encroaching violent settlers and dwindling numbers, they departed their homeland and became absorbed by larger tribes in the area.

They lived throughout what is now the District of Columbia, including on Capital Hill itself. Archaeological relics, including pottery and bones, have been found under and around the Supreme Court, White House, and Bolling Air Force Base. We owe them at very least the name Anacostia, some weird Latinization of Nacotchtank. In case you haven’t heard of it, the Anacostia is the river that flows into the Potomac in the southeast part of the District.

The National Museum of the American Indian (which, yikes, not even going to talk about that) has said that they only briefly mention the tribe because it essentially ceased to exist in the early eighteenth century, instead preferring to speak with the living tribes in the area–which they do, so that’s good. I’m not convinced we need to go back and find all the historical groups, especially on the East Coast, that’s just not really possible.

However. On some level, we need to remember. Not only were other people here first, people were here first and we deliberately exterminated them.

To be clear, I think America is a good idea. I appreciate the thought, and in many ways the reality, of the United States. But there’s a lot of very dark history that we consistently, as a nation, refuse to reckon with. I think that’s a big reason why there’s a lot of very dark present times. Because people who are not indigenous feel no compunction about railing against ‘illegal’ immigration.

ALL WHITE PEOPLE EXIST IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE OF COLONIALISM ie theft, murder, and genocide.

In a practical sense, yes, we are here and we have set up a government and that government should function appropriately. But in a sort of macro sense, we are still an occupying force hostile toward the local population. In a practical sense, immigration policy needs reform of course but is itself, in principle, a valid thing. In a larger way, though, borders are arbitrary and imaginary so why not let any and all people live anywhere they wish. Reality is a thing that we have to deal with, definitely, but so is morality so…

I do not imagine or expect this country to be perfect. And as a citizen, I am certainly not exerting every possible effort to effect the change that I wish to see. Even so, I think it is important that we, collectively, at least are trying to work toward justice and peace in a meaningful way. And we aren’t. Instead, we’re setting up concentration camps and killing innocents, then dehumanizing them by calling them illegals.

This is a pretty good place to live. A good place to be born. Especially but not exclusively for white men. But most of the ‘American idea’ stuff also exists in other countries and a lot of them do it better. Now more than ever, I just don’t feel much like celebrating. I don’t know exactly what should be done, Australia is an example of some bare minimum effort but isn’t necessarily the template to follow. And I think that I, as a white guy, probably shouldn’t be the one figuring it out. At least not on my own.

But here and now I want to apologize for my complicity in the oppression of indigenous peoples here and abroad. And I want to continue to do better.


I apologize, I’m too upset thinking about all this to include cats. I don’t want to subject them to this level of negative emotion.

Leaving tomorrow morning for a brief stop in St Louis. Wish me luck, it’s a long drive.

Glitter

I have been staying in the DMV (not to be confused with the DMZ, or even the Department of Motor Vehicles) this week. In case you’re unaware, that would be the colloquial name for the national capital region–District, Maryland, Virginia. Mostly in Maryland, but hey.

I have a number of connections in the area and it’s been good to catch up with a number of them. I was here only last spring but wasn’t able to see all the people I’d have liked to see but now, being here for a bit longer, I have been enjoying reconnecting a bit. Met some people, will meet some more this coming week. It’s been very restful and restorative.

Plus, you know, the anxiety of still not having a job. Moving on.

Next up, I need to have another little cat gallery. I have been very grateful to stay with one of my friends here and she is the lovely mother of the lovely Jackson! So a special feature on him this week because I finally met him in person. He is absolutely adorable and is one of the few cats I’ve ever met who does the little ‘chirp’ thing that I sometimes read in novels. He does it a lot but it isn’t really annoying, mostly it just continues to be cute (and cat mom, who hears it all the time, agrees).

He especially likes shoulder and hip rubs, in case you ever meet him.

Though I have heretofore seen precious little of fireflies in their peak season, I have been blessed to see some truly dazzling displays this week. Sitting in the dark on a park bench, watching a hot and humid night unfurl its shadowed glories, seeing a sparkling landscape echo the slowly emerging stars overhead. Sara Teasdale said, in reference to the stars and applicable to fireflies as well, “I know that I/ Am honored to be/ Witness/ Of so much majesty.”

Some of you may yet be unaware, but people like me don’t actually die. Instead, when our time comes, we either dissolve into a shimmering cloud of glitter or dissipate in a cloud of noxious fume, depending on how we lived our lives. Fun fact.

There is so much hurting in the world right now. It is a world filled with troubles of various kinds but in particular, I feel outraged and helpless about the horrible situation around immigration right now: raids, concentration camps, deprivation, fear. It is not right. I do not know what to do.

When faced with stuff like that, I don’t know how to be. There are some things, like contacting your congressional representatives and donating (in any way) to organizations like these (and as I’ve said before, even better if you’re able to support them long-term). I don’t know if that stuff really makes a difference, you know? How can I live my life in a way that is moving toward glitter in such circumstances?

I have not read Middlemarch by George Eliot but a friend recently drew to my attention a section toward the end. Regarding the main character, she writes:

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I do not think that there is anything inherently noble in living in obscurity. I wonder though, there must surely be some kind of valor in a life humbled, either in spirit or by circumstance, where one remains firmly committed to goodness. The kind of life with sufficient glitter in the metaphysical sense but not a whole lot of external, visible glitter.

Clearly, I have no idea what I’m saying at this point. Something about trying to help, something about being good and humble and selfless. Take from this mess of a post what you will. I hope our actions makes the world better.

Needable

Before we do anything this week, to avoid my sister’s ire, here are cats. Because cats are very needable.

 

This week, I’ve been in Pittsburgh visiting a friend. It’s been a lovely visit and I’m exceedingly grateful for the hospitality. It’s definitely a city, not sure that it’s really my scene. Some really cool architecture in some neighborhoods. Loved the botanical gardens and I’ll be going to museum-ville today so that should be good. You know I love a good museum day.

All in all, other than getting lost in Cleveland (which only worsened an already not-great opinion of the city and Ohio in general), a decent start to my current stint of unemployed nothingness. Been fairly productive with a few things that have required productivity. I was a little lax my final week or two in Glen Arbor but I’ve mostly made up for that, I hope. Still waiting to hear if I’ve gotten a second interview…. prospects are looking dimmer every day but who knows. It would be an amazing opportunity if I got the job.

A few thoughts for today. It’s not entirely accurate to say that all of my worldly possessions are currently crammed into my little Prius C, but it’s not entirely inaccurate either. Yes, I have plenty of things at my parents’ houses, but everything that I actually live with is coming with me on all my adventures this summer. It’s an odd feeling.

My mother has frequently ribbed me, more or less playfully, for being a minimalist. And while it is true to some extent, I also feel like it’s largely been a product of my circumstances. I’ve lived, for at least a year, on three different continents in the past three or four years. Having many possessions simply isn’t that feasible. It still feels weird to own some actual furniture, such as it is, because it almost feels superfluous to my needs. It isn’t, not by a long shot, but it sometimes feels like overkill to own, you know, a single chair or a laundry drying rack or mattress. Though, let me be very clear, I really love my mattress.

I’m not a wildly evangelical supporter of minimalism–at least, I wouldn’t consider myself such. I long to settle somewhere long-term where I can nest a little. But there is definitely something to be said for owning only things that are directly useful or have been individually and thoughtfully considered as necessary components to take up space in my very limited car. Even having only been in Michigan for a number of months, the vagaries of packing and the inevitable few purchases ensured that when I left, I had to make some decisions about what I actually wanted to take with me.

Perhaps it’s worth a moment of contemplation. Not that you should get rid of all your other things, but what would you take if you could only travel with what fit in a car? What are your necessary things, whether practical or emotional?

An illustrative example: I’m one of those people who never really intends to own media or media accoutrements, preferring to stick with streaming and a laptop for the time being, at least. However, there are a few essentials that I need to be certain are always accessible so I bring the DVDs with me. The Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Rings extended movies, and Anastasia. Those are some things that are guaranteed space in my car because they’re necessary even if I don’t need them, per se.

I guess that’s really the question here. Not about the top things that you’d bring with you, but the things that aren’t exactly essential but are distinctly need-able. Your Anastasia DVD, Gudetama mouse pad, or refrigerator magnet from Milford Sound. Your several extra sets of chopsticks, in case you ever have guests and you make East Asian food. Your cool wooden beard comb, in case you ever grow a long beard again.

In research, it’s a thing to say that something is a necessary but not sufficient condition for something to occur. Food, water, shelter–these are necessary for life. But they aren’t quite sufficient, either. We all should have something that isn’t strictly necessary but is essential all the same. I’m glad I have mine, and I’m glad they all fit!

Keep Us Star Gazing

We have come to it. There are a number of things that I have in my head to say for this, my final blog post in Michigan (at least, for the foreseeable future). But I’m not sure exactly how to say them. So I’ll just say some random stuff, quote the Muppets, and call it quits.

First and foremost, thank you to all my Michigan friends. This would have been a difficult year indeed without people as interested in Malta, as disgusted by delicious food, as committed to board games, as open-minded, as talented and compassionate, and as concerned with God’s voice (and so on and so forth) as you lot.

As my year in Korea came to a close, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones that you didn’t mean to take. And, departing this apartment tomorrow, I think that continues to hold true. Glen Arbor, Michigan, was not a place I ever would have imagined myself calling home but here we are.

I have learned so much this year. From students, coworkers, friends, church, the place itself. Living in Michigan afforded me the opportunity to go to the Q Christian Conference in January, to road trip through three major Canadian cities, to see three Great Lakes and an overwhelming myriad of mediocre ones. Though unexpected, this journey has been rewarding indeed.

Before we get any further, I want to take a sec to have a little Pride moment. Because of my traveling and things this summer, I won’t be able to take part in any formal Pride celebrations but the month itself retains a special importance and I think this is a good day to reflect for a moment.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Pulse shooting which was unutterably devastating. It is so important to remember. And if I may deign to say anything at all about it, it is this: to those who contend that the queer community is a force of harm and destruction, come and see, the harm is done to us not by us. Please stop harming us by your actions and beliefs, your words hurt more than you can know.

Now hold onto your socks because we’re going to get real cheesy here.

In the midst of darkness, there is a mysterious light. After rain, rainbows. Hope is the thing that keeps me going, the thing that makes me look at the stars and dream. Sometimes, that dreaming comes at such a cost but still we look to the sky because we have caught glimpses that hearten us when we are downcast.

Whether along the unseen path of my own life or the course of nations and the hearts of peoples across the globe, I can envision a future that is brighter (and more colorful) than today. A future wherein love is love, and most everything else is love as well. A future in which none will grow weary of seeking good for one another because we recognize that the connection of our shared humanity is more important than any difference. A future of knowing others, being fully known, and loving all even so. I hope and pray that we strive for that future, together, without ceasing, neither forgetting the darkness nor fearing its unknown, radiant light.

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Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.