Thursday, August 24, 2006


Key Words and Expressions

  1. Mercenary
    The words mercenary and merchant are ultimately derived from the same root. Both participate in the sale and exchange of property. Far too frequently we consider the other’s labor, actually, the other’s self, a commodity which can be exploited and destroyed for the greater good of ourselves and those who feed us. The entrepreneurial revolution often enriches the world with capital markets for the manufacture of fear and the sale of death.
  2. Proper
    That which is proper to us is not necessarily property. Too regularly that which is proximate disappears in that which is proper, and that which is proper is swallowed by property. It is not proper to posses an-other; It is proper to cultivate relationships with those with which we are familiar.
  3. Familiar
    That which is familiar is that which is proximate to us: most notably our family and in a larger sense that which is human – we are human before we are roles. It is proper for us to know what surrounds us: to use our senses to begin to comprehend what it means to live consciously, sensibly.
  4. Sensible
    Sensible living implies the proper use of our senses, particularly with that which we are familiar: our family and that which is proximate. So when the birds are singing we should listen to them rather than replacing them with a sound recording which is distant to us, or a simulation of something proximate. Sensible living requires a conscious awareness of life, present and eternal.
  5. Ephemeral
    Life is ephemeral. Life always happens in the present. The present is ephemeral. We must live each ephemeral moment.
  6. Utopia
    Utopian living is the sort of living found in what is off-topic. It requires conscious awareness of sensible life as well as carefully cultivated understandings of History, of genealogy. The mixing of the two results in a transformative, critically aware, transcendental, Way to Life – a Life of integrity.
  7. Integrity
    Integrity implies the proper mixing of different yet familiar parts. Integrity is formed when integral parts are engaged in such a way that each become inseparably complementary. A more complete world is found.
  8. Luminosity
    A new human becoming can be found through greater luminosity; That is, a greater awareness of beauty. Beauty is what makes us aware of the sublime, the sacred. as we find ourselves in the luminous presence of beauty, we must take a step back, stop our stride and become aware of who we are.
  9. Laconic
    This laconic moment brings us closer to a purity of being. We say little, only the little we know.
  10. Quiescent
    We become aware of that which is quiescent. Things that exist outside of and throughout time and space, as to be motionless is to be outside of change.

    Sources: Lewis H. Lapham, Luce Irigaray, Arlin Roth, Soren Kierkegaard, Kaplan GRE Study Guide

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The Rest of Our Marriage Will Be Better

Always the weather,
writing its book of the world,
returns you to me.
Ordinary days were best,
when we worked over poems
in our separate rooms.
I remember watching you gaze
out the January window
into the garden of snow
and ice, your face rapt
as you imagined burgundy lilies.

Your presence in this house
is almost as enormous and
painful as your absence.

-Donald Hall

Seven days ago I was painfully present in our house. I was supposed to be absent; present on the 5 p.m. seven train. I was four hours and 15 minutes late: an eight hour slumber had turned into a 15 hour haze.

Jennifer answered my belated call her heart quick, her eyes wet. Her voice seemed unsteady. She saw who it was just as her hand turned the doorknob of apartment B3. An evening out with friends turned into a night of desperation and frantic calling, fear and funeral planning.

Instead of a perfectly lovely evening of being present together, Jennifer was alone on the train planning a traditional Mennonite funeral with no preservatives (she wouldn’t have wanted any). She was considering a future in a cabin surrounded by quiescent snow, an attic in suburban Ohio, or returning to the primitive heat of her childhood in the company of her one-pound-less sister. She thought my college friend Chad would want to know.

But I wasn’t dead. I was just consciously absent and then embarrassingly, apologetically, present: too late. Jennifer was happy to see me. She felt that from now on our marriage would be even better. The future looks bright. Last week the sky turned its deepest blue of the year .

Thursday, August 10, 2006


On Beauty and Strength

Some say that women possess an essential beauty to the exclusion of men who possess an essential strength: man is best realized in dynamic action – expressing strength; woman is properly placed when at rest – expressing beauty. I cannot say where strength becomes beauty or beauty becomes strength in the oft cited feminine-masculine binary. But I know my wife has a strong will which I think enables her to have a beautiful spirit. Maybe what we are trying to express as humans is not either strength or beauty but rather an essential integrity, (Integrity being in the highest sense the right or proper, the whole, combination of flavors, components, in such a way that each part enhances a whole and in turn each part.), an essential Truth. Maybe when we express this Way to Life in incarnate human consciousness and aesthetics we are truly alive.

The idea that strength is found in movement and beauty in rest, seems to me to be a furthering of a false dichotomy. That which is beautiful is at times at rest, in a state of reflection: a rock garden, a silent forest, the moon rising without moving over a sleeping city, a woman waiting in bed; but it is just as often a liquid, dynamic movement: a jellyfish swirling like a ballerina, or a ballerina twirling like a jelly fish, a whale breeching the surface, the movement of a bird in flight, riding a snowboard through trees on fresh powder – on top of the world (actually breaking all things down to quantum mechanics all things are moving and interacting in waves, nothing is static – while at the same time all things are static as particular particles).

In the same way as complementarity works in physics, I see strength and beauty as symbiotic – one completes the other and together they give Life integrity. Although it may be possible for both strength and beauty to exist in isolation, I think they are most Life-giving when they are united. Art, aesthetics, are most important when it increases consciousness – it makes one think or love. Often it is a uniting of logic with illogic (depending on your perspective) which allows us to re-imagine that which we previously thought of as static or dynamic.

Some say “nature is not primarily functional” rather it is primarily beautiful. It follows that mother nature or natural mothers (those who breathe for us and give us natural life while we are still in the womb) are primarily beautiful: women are not primarily functional. On the first point I disagree (and the second produces an unnecessary duality), thinking in the long term the nature we have today is a necessary function of life in the past – particularly among conscious things. That which survives is that which is fit to adapt to the constantly changing and interacting environment in which it is found. It is beautiful yes, but it is beautiful as a process of creation rather than as a static creation. And who is to say beauty itself is not a necessary function of Life? Does it not serve the function of making us think; of making us aware of the sublime?

Some say, “Beauty flows from the heart that is alive. We have known women you might describe as ‘frumpy,’ who seem to care nothing for their appearance. We have seen them become women who posses great beauty. We have watched it grow in them as they discovered that they were deeply loved.” What sort of shallow analysis is this? “Frumpy” women cannot be beautiful in who they are – they need to abandon their frumpy ways and achieve some sort of “I’ve been loved, I’m a movie star” status to qualify? One of the most beauty-demonstrating women I have ever seen is a Christian missionary from South Africa who lived in Tibet. She dressed and lived and smelled as though she was a Buddhist nun – she had a few hairs sprouting from her chin. Yet she exhibited an aura of being I had never seen before. I knew she was beautiful before we even spoke. I sensed it. I want to posses the same sort of confidence, strength and grace – like that which I see in the bright eyes of Thomas Merton. Beauty flows from being comfortable and content with who we are – from knowing who we are. Beauty cannot be contained by aesthetics alone – it must flow from a greater Spirit.

WORK CITED: Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Nelson Books, 2005

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Adventures in Ohio!

A few weeks ago we found ourselves in Wal-Mart looking for a long-anticipated blender when Jennifer discovered the source of my bad-smelling breath: I didn't use Crest. As we selected my solution a rainbow-clad interloper snatched the Crest right out of Jennifer's hands. Fortunately we caught it all on camera. We recovered the precious substance via Jennifer's savvy martial skills and proceeded on our way to interrupt the slumber of a Russian-looking all-night pediatrician (we took the Rainbow Man with us too).

story to be completed when this blog starts to cooperate . . . .

until then you can see the rest of the pictures here: