Sunday, October 29, 2017

Live Patiently with the "Not Yet"

Last night, I sat with my friends L and J in J's apartment and talked and had chartreuse. L pulled a Henri Nouwen book off the shelf -- one I've read before -- and read this section out loud. Waiting, being patient, living in tension -- it's all the opposite of my usual instinct to go solve, fix, or answer problem or question. It's a beautiful thought though. L's lilting voice reminded me of good truths. It's a season of not yet for some things and as we near advent, I think too how the world is caught in expectant waiting.


“A part of you was left behind very early in your life: the part that never felt completely received. It is full of fears. Meanwhile, you grew up with many survival skills. But you want your self to be one. So you have to bring home the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, because you have become quite a formidable person, and your fearful part foes not know if it can safely dwell with you. Your grown-up self has to become very childlike – hospitable, gentle, and caring – so your anxious self can return and feel safe.

You complain that it is hard for you to pray, to experience the love of Jesus. But Jesus dwells in your fearful, never fully received self. When you befriend your true self and discover that it is good and beautiful, you will see Jesus there. Where you are most human, most yourself, weakest, there Jesus lives. Bringing your fearful self home is bringing Jesus home.

As long as your vulnerable self does not feel welcomed by you, it keeps so distant that it cannot show you its true beauty and wisdom. Thus, you survive without really living.

Try to keep your small, fearful self close to you. This is going to be a struggle, because you have to live for a while with the “not yet.” Your deepest, truest self is not yet home. It quickly gets scared. Since your intimate self does not feel safe with you, it continues to look for others, especially those who offer it some real, though temporary, consolation. But when you become more childlike, it will no longer feel the need to dwell elsewhere. It will begin to look to you as home.

Be patient. When you feel lonely, stay with your loneliness. Avoid the temptation to let your fearful self run off. Let it teach you its wisdom; let it tell you that you can live instead of just surviving. Gradually you will become one, and you will find that Jesus is living in your heart and offering you all you need.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

More European Street Signs I Woefully Misread

It's not easy being an American abroad. Between being peppered with questions about politics and having your feet stick off the end of the bed in every airbnb, it's hard to relax while on vacation. But most confusing is the signage on streets, ferries, and in public buildings. I chronicled my puzzlement at cryptic street signs in the Baltic a few years ago. This summer I went to Italy, France, and Belgium. Though my tan from my Mediterranean summer is fading, my confusion over a slew of subtle signage persists.

Demon goats are prohibited.

Slow clap.

But first, let me take a selfie.

Commence nose picking.

There is a correct way and an incorrect way
 to hold hands -- I can only say I agree.

Níðhöggr, the wyrm of Ragnarok, lieth within.

When your hair is so thicc small children get trapped in it.

Enter the Thunderdome.

This is the anthem, throw your damn hands up!

High five, bro!

No matter how close we become, we can never truly connect
with another human being.

Please refrain from decapitating people
with steam shovels.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stanzas for My Son

Stanzas for My Son by Douwe A. Tamminga (translated from the Frisian by Rod Jellema)

Don't curse with your mouth
if you suddenly come across an owl
lamenting above the overgrown yard
of Europe's nighttime rubble.

If you sometimes have to dip your bread
in tears, still stand faithful watch
through the night over this old land:
grieve over our grave, but not without hope.

Keep silent often and share your blanket
with those who can take the world's sorrow —
but don't dress yourself in scarlet clothes,
in the glaring costume of a fool.

Don't get caught up in every crowd
that scowls or looks askance at the spoils
the good earth gives. And if they hoist 
stormflags above the Tiber or Seine or Thames,

tighten the black crepe to muffle your drum.
Don't march along with the swelling music.
Son, follow no other way than this: 
accept being a stranger.

Advice to a Son by David Landrum

Advice to a Son

If you would marry, marry a dryad—
one with dark green skin and nappy hair.
She will be amazed at many things: the taste of tea,
soft beds, bouquet of bottled wine,
music and oranges, the sure rise of bread.
She will show you wonders too: how she can weave
a blanket or a garment out of leaves or build
a nest in boughs where you two may safely
spend the night; how she will disappear into a wood
and come back laden with wild radishes,
mushrooms, nuts, and apples.
When enemies attack she will disappear up a tree.
You will think yourself betrayed, but then
vine-lassos will descend. Your enemies
will disappear, jerked upward
kicking in astonishment. And you will listen
in the dead of night, after warm love,
as she tells what it is when arms transform
to branches, fingers to leaves, feet to roots
drinking the wetted earth—of seeing without eyes,
breathing at every pore of bark, feeling
the sunlight shape the rings that are your years,
and of the fronds that reach
to breezes bearing bundles of fresh rain
of softly singing lullabies of snow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

from A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes

Like desire, the love letter waits for an answer; it implicitly enjoins the other to reply, for without a reply the other’s image changes, becomes other. Perpetual monologues apropos of a loved being, which are neither corrected nor nourished by that being, lead to erroneous notions concerning mutual relations, and make us strangers to each other when we meet again, so that we find things different from what, without realizing it, we imagined.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

from A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes

"A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. 'I shall be yours,' she told him, 'when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window.' But on the ninety-ninth night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away."

Sunday, October 1, 2017


This morning, a Catalan friend sent me several videos, all scenes from today's referendum for Catalonian independence from Spain. I was shocked and horrified to see civil guards shutting down streets and polls, even in her small town of 14000, and attacking peaceful voters to stop them voting.

"If they just let us," my friend wrote, "the result would have been no. That's Spanish democracy."

Violence is its own referendum. The central government preemptively turning military force on civilians to prevent the democratic process is a greater call to independence than any vote.

Sigh No More