Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When I Grow Up I Wanna Be a Mystic

I don't know what to call myself when the conversation turns spiritual.

Which--to be accurate--it rarely does and I really miss that about my community back home. It was something we talked about, thought about. But, if anything, the topic comes up by way of introductions or passing questions, like: "Are you religious person?" or "Can you come on Sunday or are you a church-y person?"

I don't know what to call myself.

Am I a Christian?
Am I a Seventh-day Adventist?

And I don't know if I really care either. This only matters for the purpose of labeling. Of putting people in categories so that we can feel more comfortable with who we are. With where we stand. So, lately, I've been asking myself: What kind of person do I want to be? And I'm pretty sure I want to be a mystic.

  1. 1.
    a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.

Plainly speaking: 
I want to be thoughtful and calm.
In a place that makes me most accessible to the Divine.

This has been on my mind most recently because I listened to a pod cast called "You Made It Weird" with Pete Holmes and he interviews Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, that I had never heard of until this week. (Thanks, Bob Evans!) And while I find the pod cast host to be a little...needy, Rohr is "the man" and I'm excited to read some of his books.

Here are some main points from the conversation:

  • There are not only Christians and non-Christians in this world. There is a whole banquet of religions, faiths, and ways of thinking about the world and how we came to be who we are. Limiting faith communities to just snobby, hypocritical, old people is unfair and untrue. There are vibrant faith communities all over the world and they all matter.
  • Dualistic thinking (a.k.a. black/white) destroys everything in its path. It seeks to put people and groups of people and cultures and ideas into neat little boxes with which no one belongs in. It creates "us" and "them". It make us feel really good about ourselves, but is faulty and broken.
  • The contemplative way of thinking seeks to let things be without my own damn analysis. That person over there is not "good" or "bad" or "right" or "wrong" or "evil" or anything. They are just a person and my judgement is not important. Only quiet contemplation allows us to just "be" with people instead of analyzing them.

  • The spiritual journey can be broken down into three major phases:
  • Construction, Deconstruction, and Reconstruction
  • "The problem with conservatives is they get stuck in construction." They tend to build up a sturdy foundation and then spend their time defending and protecting it from everyone else. 
  • "The problem with liberals is they get stuck in deconstruction." They take apart the pieces and look closely at each and every facet, but never reassemble it into something whole.
  • "Reconstruction is where mystics live. It's the process of having a solid belief system, questioning it, and building something uniquely our own. Something whole and holy." It means accepting what's happening as if you chose it. 

  • Rohr says, "The mind can do two things: worry about the future and endlessly reprocess the past. Neither make you happy."
  • Holmes says, "We've homogenized and pasteurized faith into after-life insurance or an evacuation plan for the next world. What a waste of time. And the least compelling story there's ever been."
  • And dualistic thinking has turned faith into a win/lose scenario. You are in or you are out. You are good or you are bad. Rohr quips that this works out very well for the men who created it because some can be quite competitive: "Is it any accident that it was males preaching the gospel until the last thirty years? It was an exclusive domain of males so we took the great Good News announcing freedom and life and joy (present tense) for the world and we made it into a giant win-lose contest. At which--by our own descriptions--almost everybody lost. Now why anybody would buy that? That's not Good News folks!"

If there's one thing I found most intriguing about the pod cast it is this: My fundamentalist upbringing wasn't a stumbling block on my way to truth. It was a necessary stepping stone from which I built on.


I've spent the last few years casting a lot of blame on people and a system that felt limiting. That felt unfair and untrue. That felt sterile and unwilling to ask questions. But now, I'm considering that without that foundation--imperfect as it may be--I probably wouldn't be here now.
Asking questions.
Seeking answers.
Opening to whatever Life has to teach me.

It was all part of the process of becoming.
I've constructed.
I'm working through the deconstruction. 
Moving forward.

I want more Good News.
I want freedom and life and joy.
I want to look people in the eye without putting them in categories for my own enjoyment.
I want to practice mindfulness in a way that allows me to be here. Now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gone Away // Lucy Schwartz (cover)

I made a music video!

Here's my super low-tech procedure for filming on my iPad. I've found our kitchen shelf to be the best tripod! It's got wheels and the shelves are adjustable. Two-for-one!

However, because of the iPad case I have, it can only be set up at an angle. So I usually use jars of peanut butter or honey to keep it at a perfect 90 degree angle (you should probably write that down, these are "pro" tips).

And then, I hit record and run back and forth to see if the angle is right. Because asking Jeremy to help would be way too much work. Plus, it's fun to see the final product and know: I did that.

And then I stand awkwardly in front of the wall of kitchen appliances and sing to myself while Jeremy does the dishes and reads on the couch.

Or Jeremy takes goofy pictures like this one. Hee hee!

But after about 3 hours on GarageBand
two hours of filming
and three hours on iMovie,
we've got a finished product!

A shout-out to my friend, Trisha, who first introduced me to Lucy Schwartz and this terribly sweet and heartbreaking song: "Gone Away."


Bonus Info:
By filming myself from both sides, I've been able to see--for the first time--the differences in my right and left ear. My right ear is normal, my left ear underwent some tumor-removal surgeries almost ten years ago that left the canal wide open. I've been mostly deaf in that ear ever since, but now, I can't stop looking at it. Whoa.

Gone Away
by Lucy Schwartz

I've been finding puzzle pieces of us
Kept in the dust
I've been hiding letters and photograph frames
To forget your name

We were never meant to be this damn broken
Words were never meant to be this half-spoken

Falling in the space between the universe
And all we see has gone away
Gone Away

I've been tracing my steps in fingerprint clues
And clips of the news
Wondering why in our lives the wind calls our name
And we're never the same

We were never meant to be this damn broken
Words were never meant to be this half-spoken

Falling in the space between the universe
And all we see has gone away
Gone Away

Winding Circles take me back to
The place I knew when I was with you

Falling in the space between the universe
And all we see has gone away
Gone Away

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I'm Waiting for my Face to Fall Apart

I'm waiting for my face to fall apart.

For my fragile skin to slide right off of my cheekbones.
For the fine lines.
The wrinkles.
The crow's feet.
All the things I'm supposed to dread.

In the mirror, I don't see me
I see a face anticipating disintegration.
Expecting decline.
Dreading decay.

Because I've been taught to fear the long descent.
To worry about the passing of time.
Each new day
is just one step closer 

to the worst thing a woman can possibly be: 

to no longer be available for the world's consumption of beauty.

to be used up.

to be closed for business.

to stop paying my rent in this world for occupying a space marked "female."

And the more I think about it, 
the better it sounds.

Monday, May 18, 2015

If I Had A Little Brother, It Would Be America

Living in Korea is a regular reminder of the bigness of the world
and the smallness of me.

I've spent a lot of time these past 21 months reminding myself that...

Just because it's different, doesn't make it wrong.
Just because I don't understand, doesn't make it stupid.
Just because it's not America, doesn't make it second-best.

There are a lot of countries on this planet and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity I've had to travel to only 1% of them. Travelling to a new place reminds me that I am part of something so much bigger than myself, my culture, my language, my way of doing things, or my home country. I think we often forget that we belong to each other. We are located on different parts of the globe, but we're all on the same one.

And sometimes, I think we get really proud of ourselves for being "America."
As if that means the same thing to everyone.
As if that carries a significance that is automatically positive to everyone we meet.

Now, I love America.
I love our national parks.
I love our freedoms.
I love the fresh air and the open space.
I love my good friends and family that comprise this great country.

However, some parts of our American way of life, makes it really difficult to see and understand the rest of the world accurately. For example, here is a map of the world showing how much of our news media coverage (in 2007) was about ourselves (79% in relation to other countries).

And when you take out the U.S. news about ourselves, it appears that we really only think/talk about one other place: Iraq.

Here's the TED talk if you're interested:

And for all the attention we give ourselves in America, we certainly don't have it all together:

Our government--while democratic (yay!)--is sometimes a joke, particularly to a global audience.

Our public education system needs a lot of work.

We constitute 5% of the world's population, but use 24% of the world's energy.

The U.S. poverty rate is the third worst among the developed nations.

We rank 21st in the world for our empowerment of women (behind Cuba and just above Mozambique).

We put a higher percentage of our people in jail than any other country on Earth.

The U.S. spent more on military defense than did the next ten highest defence budgets combined (includes China, Russia, U.K., etc.).

Over 66% of us are overweight.

We lead the world in mental disorders.

We lead the world in eating disorders.

And one out of every five U.S. children are living in poverty.

We've got a lot of work to do.

And we are far from the "greatest" country on Earth
(I don't even know how one would prove that...)
And I think that's okay.

And I can still love my home country knowing full-well of its flaws.

I love America like you love a little brother.
He's pesky.
Sometimes a little rough around the edges.
Not always a model of good manners or behavior.
But you gotta love him.
Because he's yours.

For more reading along this idea, check out
"To Make America Great Again, We Need to Leave the Country" by Elliot Gerson.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Three Year Anniversary: Proud

I don't have much money.
I don't have a career to speak of.
I don't have any kids.
I don't even have a dog.

But I have a marriage.
And it's one I'm enormously proud of.

That might seem an odd thing to say. A marriage is not exactly a tangible possession I can show-off to my friends at a high school reunion. It's not a status symbol in the way that a full-bank account would be. And yet, it's the thing I have poured myself into for the last three years and it feels like, I should have something to show for it, but I really don't.

I suppose I have pictures.
And some numbers.

Like day number 1...
Photo James Goff

Day 365
Photo Chris Johnson
Photo Richard Young

Photo Richard Young

Day 730
Photo Bob Evans

Day 763

Day 880

And today, it's been 3 years

1,096 days

26,304 hours

1,578,240 minutes

We've lived in 3 cities, moved 6 times.

And we've visited 7 countries.

But pictures and numbers don't do these three years justice. 

Because I don't have pictures of that time I totally lost my cool over that really stupid thing and had to apologize. A few times. Or that time his words really stung. I can't show you a picture of the moments where I've stood at the kitchen sink and thought, It shouldn't be this hard. Or that time we went to bed with so much left to be said.

But I can tell you that it's all been worth it.

And we're still smiling.

And learning how to love each other better.