A Slow Flower

What a tremendous sin impatience is. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.

I am bookending this post with a couple quotations from a book I finished a couple days ago. They were such great lines that I really wanted to share them, though I couldn’t bring myself to offer much commentary on them.

Both of them strike me as particularly topical, relevant, and encouraging but at the same time, I promised myself that I wouldn’t keep hounding on the same old themes that I’ve been occupied with lately. I just need something else going on, as I’m sure you all understand. So while their content is really something I think we need to hear right now, I’m going to spend more time talking about their source.

I have finally read a book! The past couple months, I have been reading essentially not at all. No motivation to read, even things that I knew I’d enjoy. No drive to find something new, no yearning to refresh something old. Just general listlessness of the worst kind. But last week, I sat down, checked out an ebook from the library (that I had actually gotten by hold a couple months ago and eventually returned, unopened) and just started reading. I don’t know what switch flipped but I’m happy that it did.

I finished it altogether too quickly but I’m grateful that I at least had a couple days back in the enjoyment of reading a good book. It was the final book of a trilogy that I have quoted on this blog before, this entry being City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett. And what a wonderful conclusion it was.

Each book of the trilogy focused on a different main character, all three united in the first and then the following only having relatively small appearances by the others. Normally, this is a format of multi-book writing that I really dislike but these books made it work.

More on that in a sec but first, cat gallery. Lots of cute moments captured this week. And I’ll reiterate to whomever of my friends do read this: please always send me cute cat pictures. I may post them here, with your permission, but I will cherish them regardless.

Gah, I love them so much.

Anyway, these books were so interesting. Such a fascinating look into the way we construct our worlds, the agency we do and do not have, the faith that drives us–whether divine or wholly personal. I enjoyed the way the fantasy world was constructed, and how it held together in view of a number of existential plot-driven crises. There was a cohesive structure to it all, even if that structure was, by nature, bound to change.

It reminds me of something I often say in defense of reading fantasy and, particularly, young adult fantasy (which this was not, but the idea still applies). Regular fiction is great, no problem, but I love having the questions raised be not only vital to a person or a family or maybe even a town. The scale of fantasy novels tends toward the dramatic: the fate of the world, the universe, time itself.

When you raise questions with stakes like that, your answers may be a little less personally applicable but I think they’re a lot more clear. Fantasy can give an opportunity to ask big questions, provide small answers, and urge us to seek the rest in our own lives. That’s kind of what these books did.

I was particularly interested in the big questions because they’re ones I’m interested in with regard to this world. Questions about colonization, race, and governance as much as faith, sorrow, and personal agency.

This final book in particular sought out the hows and the whys along with the whats, perhaps even more so. In many ways, for example, it concerned itself largely with the question not of ‘what does a just society look like’ but ‘how can we begin a change from an unjust society toward a more equitable one?’ The status quo is a powerful thing but it is not permanent. We can always strive.

Change is a slow flower to bloom. Most of us will not see its full radiance. We plant it not for ourselves, but for future generations. But it is worth tending to. Oh, it is so terribly worth tending to.

Love Anyway

I heard a song this week and, besides being something that I aspire to in my best moments regardless, felt like a direct response to the world right now. The lyrics are simple but clear and the message is about as concise as one could wish: love anyway.

What dreams may come, what trials we may face, love anyway. I have nothing more for you this week.

 

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.

Alter

I don’t really have much to put into this post. I usually have lots of good ideas (or “good” depending on your perspective) for Christmastime blogs but this year, it seems, festive ideas are just out of season for me. Genocide was a real heavy hitter to start of with. And, honestly, I’ve been very tired this week. Not anything in particular, just not sleeping well.

But, in the spirit of combating the vibe of recent weeks, I have this inspirational quote for you, from someone who would know. Samantha Power said, “It is easy to get used to the morning news, habituated. But don’t. The morning news is yours to alter.”

The big question, of course, is how. And, like I said, I’m too tired to tackle that. Even so, I can know that it is possible to change the world. Somehow. Things are not set in stone. Or, if ancient Egypt can teach us anything, it’s that even if things are set in stone, they are not unchangeable forever. As I book I read recently put it, stone crumbles.

I want to offer you Christmas cheer. And I do have plenty to share. But I’m writing this late Wednesday night and the words just aren’t happening. Awake until 1 am on the reg is not my optimal sleep cycle, no matter how late I’m able to stay in bed. Nothing life-threatening, just not ideal. Psh, what’s ideal. I know that many are feeling it, this time of year. Tired, that is. Lots to do and high expectations of doing it all and doing it right.

So here’s my thing for today, I guess. It’s okay to do little, and it’s okay to do it half-bad. It’s okay to have some meh in your life if it means that you have some space where you can just kerflump when you need to. Worry less, rest more, relish calm when you can. We can alter the course of the world. But take care of yourself, too.

Again. And Again. And Again.

This is a very depressing post. It is, in basically every way, inadequate to the task it undertakes. It is not an exhaustive treatise either on my thoughts and knowledge or the subject area at large. It is a plaintive cry into the internet, where such cries are about as useful as they are satisfying. Nevertheless, I can only hope and pray that speaking is better than silence. And hope and pray for a better world

In the season following Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to say a few words. Not directly about that holiday–the misrepresentations and illegitimacy of which is discussed here, among a number of other places. While the spirit of the holiday seems innocuous enough to me, a white American, and I think the concept of thanks-giving is worth celebrating, the day is plagued by a kind of rose-colored and deliberate ignorance. It’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about but it’s relevant and I encourage you to educate yourself.

The summer after my senior year of high school, I spent two weeks on a mission trip in Kigali, Rwanda. My senior capstone course for undergrad was called “Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing.” For graduate school, I completed a program in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict. All this to say that the definition of genocide is one of those things that I have memorized because of course.

…intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such…

Sometimes people are like, “That’s genocide” and I’m like, probably not, actually. Other times, people are like, “That’s a bad thing” and I’m like it’s genocide. You get into things like “acts of genocide” and ethnic cleansing. There’s a lot to unpack and this is not really the place. All the same, I just want to say something about it because it has been weighing on me.

Something you hear a lot, usually in reference to the Holocaust, is “never again.” Something you see a lot if you spend any amount of time looking at the world around you is again. And again. And again. Historically, whether you look at native peoples in the Americas, the Herero in German Southwest Africa, Armenia around the First World War, or the Nazis and Japanese in the Second. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Myanmar right now. Certainly acts of the Islamic State. Possibly the Uighur detentions in China and the war in Yemen. So many places, so many people.

I don’t know, exactly, what can be done. Would I support committing money and lives to a military intervention? I don’t know, possibly. Do I feel powerless? Yes. Do I think that anything I might do would have negligible effect, if any? Probably. Should something be done even so? Yes.

And so here we are. This may not be a particularly Christmasy topic but I’ve felt for a while that I ought to say something. These words probably don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. My readers, I don’t imagine, walk international halls of power with authority to respond to anything I say. I don’t know that I really expect you to do anything about it, other than perhaps read world news a little more often.

I guess in all my learning in the subject area, I have two general knowledge take-aways for you. First, do not think that the Holocaust is somehow unique in the story of human history. While it has many unique aspects, it follows naturally from a long chain of events. Second, do not think that it could not happen again. Do not think that it could not happen here. Do not think that ‘never again’ was a promise the world ever expected to keep.

And, because I firmly believe in hope: let us all work toward a world in which such crimes never happen again.

The Wide World

Hello and welcome to the middle of June, where current temperatures in Gig Harbor are currently peaking around 63°F and in the next few days might exceed 90°. Also, here are some pictures of Bubba, notoriously difficult to photograph satisfactorily. He held still for a second and you can even see his face!

 

This week hasn’t held a great deal of excitement. I’m slowly starting to put things together to move. I’ve also put out feelers for buying a car which is gross because it’s way outside of my wheelhouse. I really wanted my first car to be electric but it’s not going to be feasible in my new circumstances, I don’t think, so I’m settling for a hybrid. Hopefully, that will just tide me over the few years until electric cars are much improved.

There was a second of news that caught my attention this week and since I have nothing else to talk about, I thought I’d consider it with you for a moment.

I don’t really care one iota about sports. It’s just not my thing. I am, however, obsessed with international sporting events–particularly the Olympics. While it was cool, when I went to Pyeongchang, to know that the people I was watching were the best in the world, that wasn’t really the main draw for me. I just really love international things. And since lots of people love sports but not international things, international sporting events are a good way to make people care about international things.

It’s competition, so it’s not exactly friendly in the strictest sense, but it’s not war. And I think generally there’s some camaraderie and learning that goes on. Certainly, international sporting events are not free from scandals and corruption and racism and whatnot. But overall, I think they’re pretty cool.

As an aside, having no conception at all of sporty things, yesterday I allowed myself to halfheartedly root for one team from each of the four pots and they are: Portugal (because I just read the entire Wikipedia article on the Estado Novo and it was interesting), Croatia (obviously), Costa Rica (because why not), and Australia (because have you seen them). I do not really care who wins but it’d be cool if one of them did, though I understand that it would be unlikely, except possibly Portugal.

Anyway. With all that in mind, it was with a deeply happy heart that I read this week that the 2026 FIFA World Cup had been awarded jointly to Canada, the US, and Mexico.

We forget so often but are occasionally reminded: more connects us than sets us apart.