Thursday, July 24, 2008
I don't mean you cut a shortcut through the park. Nor am I referencing a jog through a wooded area because it is cooler in the shade.
I mean this:
You head out your door, leaving behind your cell phone, laptop, ipod, camera, and backpack. You take water. Always take water.
You go to "the woods". Which woods? Where are THE WOODS? Doesn't matter, except they need to be a good click away from the cars, the hustle, nay, even the bustle of your usual world.
You have no time you must be back. You know that you will probably be back for dinner, and at the very least in time for the TBS rerun of The Office, but you don't know if your walk is going to take you 45 minutes or 4.5 hours. And you don't care, because the point of a walk in the woods is not to get a certain amount of exercise. Get your 30 minutes of increased heart rate three times a week action somewhere else. This is about life with no time constraints.
You begin to walk in the woods. Your mind turns to the things you should be doing. Homework, bill paying, calling your mom, finishing your taxes, ending world hunger, starting a blog, eating at Chipotle, cleaning your house, watching your children, etc.
You run out of things to thing about, so you start to look around you. You realize that while you were thinking, you wandered deep into the woods. The light looks different here, filtered by the trees. The path is more rocky, less defined. Shadows are thrown about, creating false images. At first you are startled by the silence, until you realize the world you have entered is less than silent. You hear the birds discussing what their children should have for dinner. You hear the squirrels chattering about the whether this year's acorn harvest will be worth a damn. You hear unknown insects whine and zip as they create a symphony that perhaps only God can truly appreciate, because God can't get mosquito bites.
You listen harder, more attentively, and you hear the trees telling ancient stories, with great pauses and sighs, like old men sitting in a diner. You hear the grass and bushes talking rapidly, ignoring the trees, trying to tell their own stories. And if your lucky, you may even hear the babble of a stream.
You pause at the stream to listen for a while, cooling your feet, letting the tales the trees, bushes, grass, and stream all have to tell you fill your ears and your heart for a while. The stories are old, but they feed the soul, so listen carefully. Your ancestors knew how to listen to the stories the woods had to tell, and if you work at it, you can too.
As you sit by the stream, you notice that the light is putting on a play on the water's surface. It dances here, dances their, now leaping to this rock, now rolling down stream. It reminds you of when you were a kid, and you loved to jump and run from place to place, looking for the best adventure possible. The light winks at you, because that is exactly what it is doing, and now you and it have a common memory.
After a while, you begin your trek back home. Now you are keenly aware of the wooded world around you. The shadows follow you, protecting you, growing big and tough and then shrinking away after each corner is rounded, each hill is climbed.
Perhaps you will begin to understand how those who came before us could believe in fairies, nymphs, fauns, and elves. Perhaps a part of you will begin to believe in them again. With a phone in your ear, an ipod in your pocket, and shut away in a car, it is hard to believe that anything other than the obvious world exists. But here in the woods, in the deafening, busy "silence", you can believe in something a bit more.
And then you come to the edge of the woods. You turn back, part of you longing to return to the stream, to stay in the woods forever. But the "real world" awaits. Dinner must be made, homework done, house cleaned. You stand there, torn. A tree quietly whispers that it is okay, you will be back, the woods will wait. It always has, it always will. So you turn, and as you do, a shadow moves, or was it a fairy, waving goodbye.
You return to your world feeling a little older, a little wiser. You have spent time in creation older and wiser than yourself. And for that, you are all the better.
We can't do it (most of us anyway) everyday. But I know that there are days when I need it, and I suspect you do to. So I ask again....
When was the last time you took a walk in the woods?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I recently went to see the movie Wanted. I will admit, a large draw was Angelina Jolie. And Morgan Freeman. For different reasons.
I must say, I truly enjoyed this film. It was exactly what I was looking for. It was not a deep, causes you to re-analyze your life cinematic event. Nor was it absolutely mindless dribble to fill a few hours.
The storyline has been told as long as people have been telling stories. A young man living a boring, droll life who discovers he has a greater destiny. King Arthur had a similar tale. Robert Louis Stevenson loved the thought of the ordinary being destined to greatness. Tolkien, Lewis, Twain, they all told this story. They just didn't have Angelina Jolie covered in tats.....but I digress.
There were two negatives with Wanted. The biggest was the pornographic violence. People didn't just get killed, their heads were blown off. The blood spatter was shown flying from behind heads when they were shot. Some may say that it is in the name of "realism", but I say that it is unnecessary. Shoot someone and they fall. A little blood. Stop the onslaught of gore to make the viewer cringe. We get it, they were shot and shot well. John Wayne did it too, but there were no brains on the wall when he left a place.
The second negative was the sharp Fight Club overtone. From the self narration to the cinematography, I felt as though Tyler Durden was going to come out and beat me up for looking at his wife.....did I mention Angelina Jolie was in the film?
However, those two issues aside, I felt that the film had an underlying understanding of honor and sacrifice. This was portrayed in a way that is often missing in films today.
The main character Wesley, discovers he has been duped, that he has been tricked into killing his own father. He discovers that the very man who trained him to be an assassin is a traitor. (If you haven't seen the film, it is based around a man who is trained to work for a group of assassins that kills people based on anonymous orders. The idea is that they are killing to set balance, not for personal gain.) And then Sloan reveals that in order for the Assassins to truly fulfill their destiny, to stay pure, they would all have to die, as all of their names have come up.
The stage is set. Do the Assassins kill each other, thus proving that they truly believe in what they are doing? They claim they kill those they are required, no questions. But to do that to themselves? This is where the movie could have wimped out. It could have killed off just the really corrupt guys. Or just the ones that decided to compromise. And, it would have been okay. If Angelina's bullet had killed everyone, but James McAvoy had shot it before it hit her, he could have thrown in a cheesy line about fate not always being right, and the movie would have been acceptable. What put it over the edge was that it understood that for a story to be truly great, self sacrifice is the key. Thus, Angelina takes her own bullet as well. Everyone who, in order to uphold the integrity of the organization, had to die, dies.
Sacrifice is difficult. It does not always make for happy endings. I wanted Angelina to live. I wanted her to somehow survive the slaughter. But for the story to be a great one, she could not. The writer of this story understood that, and thus ensured a great tale.
Plus there are rats that are used as bombs, Morgan Freeman as a bad guy, and Angelina Jolie covered in tats getting out of a tub. So it had that going for it too.
All in all, on a completely arbitrary scale of 0 (bad) to 7 (fantastico) haggis (that is correct, on I Dream of Scotland we measure movies in haggis) I would give it 5. 5 Haggis. Don't worry, 7 Haggis is not easy to come by.
And now you know how my night went.
I observed many fascinating things, all of which I am too tired to write about. But I may soon write about one, all or none of the following observations:
-Girls at clubs are trying way to hard to be noticed while trying their best not to look like they want to be noticed.
-Guys at clubs have an extra level of testosterone that makes them both ridiculous and humorous at the same time
-Comedians all too often seem to substitute vulgarity and shock value for humor
-Girls with multiple tattoos are hot
-Guys with multiple tattoos are not
-Gay guys always get to grab girls in places that if I did it, I would be slapped
-Guys who get drunk and then get loud and obnoxious are not cool
-Tonight I finally heard the song 'I Kissed a Girl" in its entirety.....while watching two girls kiss....
-I hate clubs
Whelp, that is all I have energy for. Oh, and I should note that apparently my pup does not appreciate it when I am out this late. She gave me a very stern look when I came in.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I have also wanted to live in Colorado, Scotland, Africa, Guatemala, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, even Oregon lately (thanks to Bainy).
I love adventure. I love meeting new people, adding new stories to my repertoire. I have a hunger to experience the world.
But lately, that hunger has been tamed by a little something called loneliness. While I yearn to work for an orphanage in Uganda, study religion in Scotland, archive for the American History Museum in D.C., or build Habitat houses across the country, I also yearn for a deeper connection with those I love.
A great friend told me last night that he wanted me to get back "home" where he is, so that he and I can start working ministry together as we did years ago. The thought was tantalizing.
Another great friend in the same evening mentioned that if I don't settle in somewhere I can never expect to get connected, relationally or vocationally.
And it got me to thinking about a thought I had as I watched the sun set over the William Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland. As I watched this beautiful moment in an amazing land, I thought about how I wanted to share the experience with those that I loved. I had friends in Scotland, people who I truly cared about, but no one my heart was tied to. I wanted that. I wanted to share my adventure.
I still do. I am returning to Kansas somewhat with my tail between my legs. My Arkansas adventure left me feeling depleted, alone, empty. I have not made the connections here I usually would. I left West Virginia with friends that I contact to this day. New York was the same story. Scotland, most definately. In Arkansas, I will leave behind some great people, but the connection to the area and culture has not been made. The fault is mine.
So perhaps I have reached a point where the Great Wanderer begins to feel his solidarity. Or perhaps I just need to return to my "homebase" and get recharged. I honestly don't know. I still want to go. Still want to keep seeing, experiencing, exploring. I still want to look back 40 years from now and be able to talk about the people I have met, loved, lived amongst. I know that I will still have the itch to move.
What does it mean when the wanderer becomes the lonely wanderer? What does it mean when I can't tie myself to a place, because I am always looking back? Do I want people to support my desire to move, or to tie me down and show me a more stable way of life?
I don't know. I do know one thing. God does know. This is not a cheap cop-out. This is not me saying I will just wait, and listen, and not move until I am sure. The opposite is true. I know that I will have to keep moving, and that the only way I will be happy is if in that movement I am seeking God's plan. God's move. If I am following His path, then I will make the connections neccesary to sustain my joy. Not that I won't be lonely, but that I will at least have a purpose within the loneliness. This may not sound awesome, but it is.
I love to wander. I love to stay on the move. I suspect I always will. At the moment I am a weary traveler, but I suspect soon enough the joy will come back to life on the move. I suspect.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I am wearing greasy shorts and a stained t-shirt. She's somehow managed to keep one change of clothing clean to wear during her sojourn to the mat. Did she actually do her hair? I should have at least worn a hat.
She is studying. Math. Not history, which I know. Not science, which I could mock my ineptitude towards. Math. Which I know so little about comment is futile.
Her clothes are in the dryer. Mine are still in the wash. Even in our common need, we are opposites.
Not even my pup can bring us together. She had a lab. It ate the drywall in her bathroom.
Thus I read my paper, disheveled, distant, waiting for time to pass.
She folds her clothes neatly and walks out of my life forever.
Damn you laundry day. Damn you.
Friday, July 4, 2008
I love the Fourth. Not for the barbeque, the fireworks, the chance to see Uncle Sam on stilts, or even the all day patriotic country songs on the radio (my favorite is Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag"). Well, okay, I love it for all of those reasons, but I also love it because it is a celebration of what I truly believe to be the greatest experiment in democracy.
On this day, I like to truly reflect on how amazing our country truly is. And as you are here, you can reflect too. I don't think this will be a long post, just a brief discussion of this unique land.
We are a country formed by rebels. Men and women came to this country to start over, to seek new fortune. Second sons who had no fortune or land came to try their luck in a rough country. Persecuted religious groups sought freedom from persecution. America was the land of opportunity, and those who came here, dating back to the Norse explorers, found a land brimming with opportunity.
Then came the moment for freedom. Men who had everything to lose came together to demand a country built on the rights of the people. It is easy today to dismiss them as men who wanted to exploit and get rich by making their own rules. It is easy from our safe distance in history to ignore the dangers that these men faced in declaring their independence. But please do not simply gloss over the fact that by signing and sending the Declaration of Independence, these men damned themselves. To say to the most powerful empire in the world, "We will be finished with you now" took guts, brains, and passion. To condemn their families to years of poverty and death just so that something dreamed up in a stuffy Pennsylvania courthouse could have a chance, ONLY A CHANCE, to come to fruition. To know that failure meant less privilege for the colonies and hanging for the instigators. To know all of this, and to fight on anyway. THAT is an amazing action. THAT is what America was founded on.
And we won. Then America took to the business of building a United States, a unique form of government. Ideas were taken from ancient philosophy, French and English idealists, and even Native American government, but the end result was a new beast.
I could type forever about the way the experiment has gone, what has worked and what has not. The cost, especially to the Native American population of America's success, but I want to end in a focus on what America has always stood for, and why, on this Independence Day I think we Americans need, more than ever, to focus on who we are.
We are a beacon for acceptance and freedom. That does not mean we each individually accept every person and idea that is ever thought. It means that as a nation we accept every different thought. Allow it to try to survive. And, let it die off if it is not good. People groups from all over the world have moved to America to start a better life. Many, upon arrival, found that individual people did not like them. "No Irish Need Apply", "No Jews Allowed", "White Only" are all notices seen in America in the past. And individuals still hate and fight against some of these groups. BUT as a nation, we have created a place where people can have a voice, even if no one likes them.
We have a nation where on can be a neo-nazi white supremacist and openly write or speak about his/her hate. I may despise every word that comes out, but that person can say it without fear of being arrested.
We have a nation where an immigrant trying to start a new life with his family can work, get his child an education, and better himself without fear of being hunted down by those in power. Whether you want the immigrant here or not, this is a nation that gives them rights and shelter, and I am damn proud of that.
We are even a nation where a person can say that they hate the government, hate democracy, hate the President, and wish that the Communists had taken over. And they won't be arrested. Today, all over the world there are countries where expressing even the slightest dissatisfaction with those in power will get you arrested or even killed.
This country has its problems. The experiment at times is running pretty rough. But it is still a grand land where freedom reigns. It is cool these days to bash on America. It is not cool to be an American abroad. It is not cool to be proud of this country. I am therefore not cool. Because I love this nation, I love its promise.
I think to maintain this nation's promise we all must be diligent, well educated and aware of our world. We must know what the rights we need to fight for our, and how we can, within the government set up around us, change what we don't like. I think America can be a beacon to the world again. And this Fourth of July, I just want to say, I will fight like Hell to see that I do my part, and pray to heaven that ya'll continue to do yours.
In closing, I would like to thank any and all service men and women for their part in defending and supporting our country. Your sacrifice and passions keep America safe, keep America running, and should never be dragged through political mud. Every nation must have its honored warriors who keep the people free to live (and blog). You do that for us. Our thanks, my gratitude can never be conveyed here in full, but please know that I am honored to live in a country protected and served by you.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The bed had a black tar substance in it that no person could ever identify....or destroy. Being an extended bed, it was long enough to sleep in comfortably. I know this because I once took refuge in it when visting a friend at college whose dorm was kept at around 90 degrees. And I often napped in it when my brother took piano lessons.
In college, the truck became known as the community moving vehicle. Many a friend came along, needing something that could move his/her belongings. Some didn't even need me. Just the truck. There were days when I myself had no clue where the truck actually was, because someone had taken it to haul a fridge/couch/drum set/cooker. Sometimes it came back with an extra ding or two, or a new scratch, which was most often dutifully pointed out to me, followed by my statement, "Who could tell that one from the million others?".
My philosophy on trucks has always been that they are created to be used. If you are afraid to use them, buy an SUV. Thus the truck was lent to the world with no fear, because it was deemed indestructable. And indeed, for the five years that I drove it, mercilessly asking more of its V6 engine than any man should, it seemed so.
Alas, all loves are not meant forever. The truck finally met its end after a multi-state move pulling an overloaded U-Haul trailer. After a month of having to stop-start and curse it into action every morning, I had to give it up. I sold it to a friend for $300, and called began a search.
And perhaps here is where I made my mistake. I thought to myself, "It is time to grow up and get something real, something nice that people will like." And I did. I bought a 2003 Toyota Tundra. The exterior was spotless. The interior nearly so. It had okay mileage for a Toyota beast. The bed was shorter than I really wanted, but not too small. And the price was good. I fell for it, fell for the allure. Fell for the image of me in a new truck.
But I have discovered something about my nice, shiny object. It has, in many ways, come to change me. A few months ago, I actually stood outside of my truck and admired its beauty. I actually felt myself "bettered" by owning such a symbol of manliness and maturity. In a month, I am changing jobs, and my truck will truly become "recreational". I will no longer use it for work, and I began to envision it as a symbol for my new self. I wanted to get it a topper, Rhino-line the bed. Keep it waxed, shiny, and clean. Retire it from true use, and allow people to see it and love it. I even began hesitating to allow others to drive my truck. I did not want it hurt.
At the same time, I began to decide that it was time to change out my lifestyle. I needed to save up and buy a new TV, mine was too small and I had owned it for years. I needed a new camera, mine does not take pictures that are discernable by man anymore. I needed new clothes, new furniture, some flashy kitchen appliances, and a kickin' sound system. I needed art for my apartment, not just old family pics. My books needed nice shelving, so that they could be presented better. An overhaul was required....now that I was changing into a "growned-up".
Then, somebody backed into my truck. She didn't have insurance. She lied about that. My truck has a huge dent in the back. I was furious. I tried to tell myself that it was cool, it was only a truck, but it had grown to something more. I felt defeated that my thing of beauty had been wrecked. And even though it can be banged out and fixed, I felt that the truck was somehow damaged, destroyed beyond repair.
And then today, I was hauling some lumber to my job site. The lumber was too long for my truck bed, so I stuck it through the rear window and held it as I drove. Then I hit a bump....and cracked the windshield.
My once fantastic truck now has a busted windshield and a dented side. It is dirty and full of tools and building suppied. Some that I work with have started to tell me it is going to end up looking like the old truck. At first this bothered me....
....But then I got to thinking about the old truck. About my truck philosphy. About how freely I loved to hand over the keys to see the people I loved accomplish tasks required of them. I thought about how much more comfortable I was in the Dodge, knowing that, while it was a beat up old beast, it fit me.
And I realized that I had fallen prey to idolatry. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I had. The truck became something to be put on a pedastal, to be revered. Not a tool for life, but a trophy of who I had become.
And that, dear reader, is not me. So, I am getting the truck fixed. I will make it smooth and shiny. I will have the windshield replaced. I may even spring for the truck liner and cover some day.
But I will also give it out freely to be driven by those who need it. I will haul what needs to be hauled, scratches be damned. And when someone returns it to me with scratches, dents, and dings, I will not be discouraged. I will remember that this is what I have always wanted, and love that my big, bad beast of a Tundra can make the world a better place, even if it does come out looking a little worse for the wear.
*Disclaimer* I love my truck. I am blessed to own such a sweet ride. I am not complaining about the actual vehicle, simply the road I allowed it to take me down....