24 October 2013

Movement is life.

I hate being in one place for too long. It drives me crazy. So, I find myself simulating movement. I take different routes to work everyday. I find different spots at different parks to sit in and contemplate. I try to look at the world in a different light, through a different lens. I wander aimlessly. I roam the streets in my car, caring more that I'm going somewhere at all than where I'm actually going. Restless. Unsettled. Characterized by my desire to move. Somehow missing that anchor in my soul—the one everyone else seems to have—asking me to stay, and settle, and find security.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that I've descended from gypsies. Long ago, two feuding clans set out from India in opposite directions, wandering the world for a thousand years, mixing with the natives they encountered, adopting their languages and customs before finally ending up in America. The Montagues and Capulets prospering for generations on opposite ends of the earth before finally settling down together in a remote corner on the edge of the Pacific, finding their legacies bound up in me, their names embodied in mine.

03 October 2013

And miles to go before I sleep.

Kairosn. The opportune time. The supreme moment. There's a theory that life on earth originated in some far corner of the universe. That earth wasn't the first place that lighting struck primordial soup. That the first microbes crash-landed here billions of years ago, perfectly preserved on some interstellar rock, flying through the cosmos, hibernating until conditions were just right. The off chance that life originates on earth is so slim—the lottery of lotteries, the million-keystroke Shakespearian play, the rolled back stone and empty tomb—that a more plausible explanation lies elsewhere. Let's let those other planets deal with the odds. All we know is that we've won.

The second kind of stardust is this. It's us.

28 September 2013

27 September 2013

"There's two kinds of stardust."

"You see the woman cooking bacon?" They were standing in the middle of the kitchen, looking towards the gas range, listening to the sizzling. The woman pushed around the slabs of meat, staring out the blinds, daydreaming. He was dreaming, of course, one of those dreams where you have a guide explaining things to you. He was dreaming of the woman he loved- rather, of the woman who loved him- and the life she lived after he left her. She never loved bacon, all their years together; she was a vegan. But here she was. Cooking.

"Every once in awhile there will be a person in a relationship who will continue to love, even when that love is not returned. That's called transcendental stardust." And he awoke, with some floating over his face, covering the view of his eyes.

15 September 2013

The Elder Son

I've always wondered what life was like before history. What it must've been like for our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers: the Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the countless others for whom we have no names. What we have left are fossils (bone, teeth, and tools), burial sites (jewelry, adornments, and clothing), trash pits (with the remains of animals and enemies), and speculation. Lots, and lots of speculation. The best known examples of our common thread with ancient humanity from this time period are paintings on cave walls, deer antlers turned to flutes, and a kind of compassion demonstrated by strong evidence of prolonged care for the dying and a seemingly deliberate arrangement of the dead. A certain notion of the future that goes beyond earthly planning, beyond the next few days, the next few seasons, years, and generations. A notion of the future that goes so far ahead it wraps back around.

The Neanderthals co-existed with the direct ancestors of modern humans for tens of thousands of years. Many scientists have come up with different theories of what first encounters must have been like (the Neanderthals ranged over a vast portion of Europe and Western Asia, so there must have been numerous first encounters) and why these people one day vanished off the face of the earth. Jared Diamond, for example, the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, suggests violent conflict and displacement. The same thing that happened in history when the Europeans first landed in America. A technological divide so vast, one culture could not help but completely dominate the other. It sounds like a sad fate for a people where much evidence suggests an intelligence on par with modern humans, a cranial capacity on average exceeding our own, the possession of a gene closely linked with advanced language skills, and a culture that valued the injured and held a capacity for a concept of the afterlife.

Others suggest climate change. Still others a volcanic eruption. None of these theories are mutually exclusive. They could have all worked in tandem, contributing collectively to the sealed fate of an ancient race of human beings. But an alternate explanation has come up in recent years, thanks to more advanced techniques in DNA analysis. That is, one of interbreeding. About 1-4% of modern European and Asian genes are believed to be inherited from the contributions of the Neanderthals. These genes are only present in Africans when present in both Europeans and Asians, but not the other way around, suggesting that these traits were brought into the gene pool after migration from Africa.

Paleontologist Björn Kurtén wrote a fictional account of a possible scenario playing out involving interbreeding. He called it Dance of the Tiger. In his short novel, he imagines a world where the Neanderthals are enamored when encountering Cro-Magnons. Their height, softer facial features, darker skin, ability to make speech with fluency and ease. All these things came together and captivated the hearts of Neanderthals. Whenever they could, they would interbreed. The only problem was, and this is supported by the same DNA analysis mentioned earlier, that when a Neanderthal woman had a child with a Cro-Magnon man, their child would be infertile. Much like when a horse mates with a donkey to produce a mule. However, when a Cro-Magnon woman had a child with a Neanderthal man, this was not necessarily the case. But DNA evidence suggests that in order to account for a 1-4% contribution to the overall gene pool, this only happened about once in every 30 years.

In other words, according to this theory, an entire race of humans died off because they loved other humans who did not love them back.

05 September 2013

"Son of David, don't pass me by!"

Do I have a simple summary of the thoughts and feelings these words evoke? Not exactly. I'm not there yet in my journey. For now, I have disjointed reflections, not firm conclusions. I have tangents and stories, not three point summaries. Reader be warned.

Cause I need more. The words came alive to me at a soup kitchen in the heart of San Diego, God's Extended Hand. A black minister and a couple members from his church came to share the good news with the homeless. He stood at the front of the room and illustrated how desperate Bartimaeus, called the blind beggar in the passage, must have been when he realized Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. They wailed, they bellowed, they pleaded in desperation, following the man passing by who seemed to be his only chance at a normal life. That's all he wanted, Bartimaeus, a normal life, and he wasn't about to hold back now. So he cried out, he pleaded, he begged; Bartimaeus, the blind beggar.

More than a fairy tale. How can you believe in the resurrection? How can you not? There's something compelling about perfection—it's the reason why we still study the ontological argument. You can't will something to be simply because it should. I mean, you can't expect reality to bend to logic's conclusion. Still, that gap exists between what should and what is, what could be and what has been. And I don't think that's a coincidence. I think there's meaning in the chasm, there's treasure in the tension.

I need someone real. I know a few people who are disconnected from reality. I was once one of them. If there is such a thing as a spiritual reality—think of it as an alternate universe, the other side, the end of the tunnel, where the wormhole goes, or whatever else you'd like to imagine—then surely it is a real as physical reality. The reality we live in and speak in and breathe in today. Then it's not merely something, it's someone, we desire. Martel's Ultimate Reality. The pinnacle. The ideal. The utmost.
So would you come?
Would you come?
If I begged you, would you come closer to me now?  
Son of David, do not pass me by,
cause I am naked,
I'm poor and I'm blind.
 

04 September 2013

"One of these things"

Where is the world we long for? Is it a figment of my imagination, this alternate reality where good prevails, patience wins, and virtue abounds?

***

I've found it, he said, dusting off an old manila folder as he pulled it from a bookshelf. I wish I had kept it in better condition. It's okay, she consoled. Open it.

He smiled at her before revealing the contents of the old folder. Handwritten letters and correspondences between lovers. Folded up notes. Construction paper hearts. All the little memorabilia he had kept over the years, for one reason or another. He had, after all, won her heart. After years of pursuit. After years of solitary longing, and secretly pining over her. She had finally given in, one day, to his advances. She had accepted his proposal for marriage. Their plans were in motion. Their life together was about to begin.

Was it the grand overtures of love? he asked. The ring, surely? My relentless affections for you? How about my steadfast faithfulness?

No, she said. Calmly pressing her fingers to his lips. Shushing him. It was one, and only one thing, and I won't tell you before we're married.

Really?

Really.

And they kissed.

03 September 2013

Still

I.

Do you still believe in a world that defies understanding? Is it possible that the unobservable acts in ways that we simply cannot comprehend? A seven year old opens a book amazed to discover that there are dragons inside. A three year old opens a book amazed that it opens.

II.

Try, just try, to imagine a new color. Think really hard about the perfect tone for your new musical note. Come up with a story, a story about anything that hasn't been told yet. It's not that we're scared; it's just that we're delicate. The tools we have to deal with the world around us, what we call "reality", are limited by the mediation of our mental faculties. We have our senses, indeed, but even as we can perceive certain patterns and attribute correspondences of these patterns to certain kinds of truths, we can only categorize them the ways we know how. It's like a spreadsheet with several columns, and sure you can order the items by weight, and size, and color, and put whatever you want into each row, and do whatever else you'd like—but how do you take the square root of the burden of a guilty conscience, how do you find the tangent line to the mysteries of the heart, how do you find the rate of change of one's affections for another's? These things cannot be measured, cannot be classified, cannot be dealt with by the natural tools and familiar ways we all operate in.

It's language that we use to describe language, but the confines of language we all long to escape.

III.

I don't know if you see what I see, but we tell each other so.

18 August 2013

Yes, I did it.

I know you do this sometimes too. Google your own name. See what shows up.

Early 2009, a post on another blog by someone who I do not know (or perhaps, just don't recognize), "John Cadengo; your posts were inspirational." Like a silent prayer to the listening gods that's somehow found its way to me. I re-read my work from back then—not entirely satisfied with it, but still, it touched someone and that's what it's all about.

Later, much later, on a collective blog centered around the experience of being mixed race, a writer quotes an article of mine. Strange, but rewarding, to have my work treated seriously, to have it connect with others, to see how they do and do not resonate, and why.

Lastly, on another note, I am 26 today. I never thought I'd be 26 today or any other day. I'm more than a quarter century old. Wondering how I got here. The term shipwrecked more relatable than ever. Yes, quite dramatic, but so is life. Crusoe, Cobb, and Christ. Men who knew the value of ordinary time.
Two of the fingers on his right hand
had been broken 
so when he poured back into that hand it surprised
him — it hurt him at first. 
And the whole body was too small. Imagine
the sky trying to fit into a tunnel carved into a hill. 
He came into it two ways:
From the outside, as we step into a pair of pants. 
And from the center—suddenly all at once.
Then he felt himself awake in the dark alone.
— "Easter," Marie Howe

06 June 2013

Fireworks

1.

Butterflies, she said,
there has to be a better word
to describe the torment
in my guts like I've been
split open—her insides
bursting out over a field,
already soaked, all ready
to make the preparations
necessary for plowing and
rending the soil and seeds.

2.

False starts, somehow,
make the most poetic advances.
Like the cry of a cymbal,
and the whine of a trumpet;
like the hesitation on a lover's face
as she turns away at the sight of you
to hide her secret smile till she puts on
that grimace only she can pull off.

3.

It's like being poured out
onto gravel, sinking between
the sand, as your toes
grip and grasp the little rocks
from the shifting ground
beneath your feet. They fall
between the places you'll go,
leaving imprints of each step
on your soul, like a tiny ocean
of ochre left in your wake.

***

Acts 1:18, Psalm 22:14

07 March 2013

Training

Today no one else showed up for running group. My half is in two weeks. I ran anyway. I ran 5.5 miles. That's the most I've run by myself since I've begun training. In December I could only jog 1 mile. I think I got to 1.5 or maybe 2. But back then it was so painful and I wanted to quit the entire time. But training within a community has enabled me to have the courage to persevere even when things seem bleak. Running with a group I've gotten up to 8 miles, just a few weeks ago. And today, even when no one was there, I was able to complete the course, and see it through to the end.

I think that's a major reason why God puts us in community. To train us. To give us opportunity to know what it's like to be with people, so that when we're not with people, though they are apart from us in the body, they are with us in the spirit. That's called a bond. With God, through Christ, we have a bond with Him that cannot be separated. So when we're out there running the race alone, because sometimes that is what God calls us to do, we will know that although our community isn't with us, they were but a shadow and resemblance of the community we have with God. His encouragements. His exhortations. His confidence given to us to finish the race.

In some ways, loving in a loving community is like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It isn't meant to be more difficult than riding a bike without training wheels. Yet, it is difficult, because you don't know how to ride a bike and you're just learning. Sometimes, we act as stumbling blocks to those who are learning to love. We shouldn't. We should enable people to love in the way they best know how by whatever means we can.

I remember one particularly difficult Saturday running 7 miles, and I was running with a brother from church. Before this season of training, I would always wear headphones and listen to music and try to drown away the pain. I tried everything. Gangster rap, and running to the beat. Eventually the pain'd catch up to me. I'd even listen to lectures or sermons. Praise music. I think the last two really did help, but I could not focus, and was only thinking of the pain. However, the past few months, I've just been running... To silence. To the sounds surrounding me. I take in the scenery. And I commune with God. I pray to Him, I think about Him, sometimes I'll spontaneously praise, best I can while out of breath. But this particular run, side by side with a brother, he just preached to me the entire time. Sharing testimony. Passages from the Bible. Advice and encouragements into issues in my own life. It's how I got through. Love in community.

I have another brother who I do accountability with. I tried organizing an accountability meeting with the guys in my small group. I tried working around their schedules, but no one seemed to respond. I decided, because of an experience in the past seeing it work during my fellowship in college, to set a date and be consistent about it and meet every week and if you could make it, you would just make it. The first week, only two people made it. It was ok, I thought.. That's fine. The second week, however, and every week after that, it's only been this one brother. He's much older than me. Wiser than me. Instead of me leading him, it seems, he's allowing me to practice leading with him. And I can see it. It helps. It works. And we're both growing because of it.

Training wheels. It's not that riding a bike with training wheels is easy the first time you ride a bike. But you need them or else you'll never know how to ride a bike. And making it difficult for the sake of being difficult won't help anybody.

I came up with this thought, that whole blurb above, while running today. I was about halfway through.. I couldn't see through my glasses. Fogged up. Snowed in. I could perceive perhaps the idle glow of traffic signals and the surrounding city lights beyond the boundaries of Central Park. But I couldn't really see clearly. Only the thoughts in my head and the small, still voice of God. I smiled as this thought occurred to me and looked at the ground. My favorite number, written in spray paint on the asphalt I had just jogged over. I gave a small chuckle to myself. Though I could not see anything, and though numbers or signs shouldn't hold too special a significance over me or the way I lead my life—it was a small enough chuckle to remind me that this is a moment to remember. A thought to keep in my head. Something to share.

The other thing about training wheels is that they have to be symmetrical. Have you ever seen a bike with training wheels for some reason or another the father (sometimes mother) installed incorrectly and made unbalanced? The child in wild disarray wobbles from side to side as they attempt both to learn to pedal and balance in a way that they'll never need to know to balance once they actually learn to ride a bike. The child is learning the wrong things. When the training wheels are unbalanced. When the yoke is unequal. You have to maintain balance, and of the sort you intend to thrive in. Or all that you learn will be for naught.

When I was in my startup, there were four of us. Two of them knew no programming at all. One minored in it but wasn't really willing to join me in the code. We were a tech startup. But I was the one carrying all the burden. The feeling of walking in an unequal yoke has scarred me and damaged relationships in ways that should never really have been damaged. If you are driving a car, and all your tires are slightly flat.. It's not great. But it won't damage your car. If one tire is extremely flat and the rest are all overfilled, it will cause your car to lean to one side, straining the axel, and adding undue pressure and tension in places the car was not designed to handle.

Any relationship can end up like that, honestly.

Some days I am struck with terror at the thought of the realization of being utterly alone. But today I am reminded, I do have community. Many friends reaching out to me. Responding to me reaching back out to them. Even after a prolonged period where we haven't been involved in each others lives or I haven't been able to invest as much as I'd like.. And they're still there for me. Praying for me. Encouraging me. Reminding me of what's important. Even rebuking me. But all for love. And it's worth it.

Fighting sin in your life on your own is like battling a hydra with a sword. You cut off a head, and two grow in its place. A never ending hack and slash that just grows darker and darker until you've no more recourse, and have exhausted all your resources.

Only God can truly cut off the head of a water serpent so it doesn't grow back. He does that through the turning of our hearts. Repentance. The fear and awe of the holiness of God.

06 March 2013

A. Heel & Some Thoughts

Every chance I get I'll tell someone about how I'm training for a half-marathon. 13.1 miles, I'll mention. Exuding, sometimes, confidence.

It's not that great. I don't think most people actually care. But I have a co-worker who will ask me from time to time how my joints are doing. I complained a few weeks back about my ankle, wore a brace when I walked around, and even saw a podiatrist (a foot doctor, a word I learned when I took my 2.5 quarters of first-year ancient Greek). He told me that I had good movement of my ankle, and to rest it. I had been ramping up my training too quickly, he said. I should slow down.

Have you ever seen a canary fly? He asked the question like the title of a poem that runs into the poem. The kind of poem that's spoken, and you forget that it's been speaking because it blends into you. That sort of poem. The kind that blends into you.

I'm training for a half-marathon, everyone. 13.1 miles. The most I've run so far was last week. 8 miles. That was a doozy. Am I ready? Not exactly. But I've for some reason or another attributed special significance to this race. Placed all my hope into it, as if by crossing that finish line I'd reach a break through. I told myself some months ago that this marathon would be in some part symbolic of my spiritual life. My walk with God. My transformation from unrepentant sinner to sanctified saint. I had a lot of things to work on. Character flaws to address. Insecurities to confront.

I suppose I signed up for this race almost in some part as if to prove something. That I could endure any kind of trial, work through any sort of pain, if in the end the outcome were worth it. Some culmination of months of hard work and dedication. A catharsis for my stifled life. But it seems, as the deadline is drawing near, life is actually just getting more complicated. And far from the catharsis I had hoped the race would be, it'll be more like a lame duck. A gun firing off only to have the smoke clear and reveal a little red flag on a stick unfurling to say:
BANG! made in china

22 February 2013

Dehydration

I had a dream (nightmare) that I had a kid and he had birth defects. He was shaped like a ballpoint pen and had the voice of Marcel the Shell. I tried to raise him, but my dad sat there watching me and got frustrated. He took the child and started taking care of him. He said, "Who taught you how to raise a kid?" And I said, "You!"

14 February 2013

At the zoo

You might see lions.

I prefer trees. Some choked by thorns. Others like vines climb walls. The best grow vines for chimps like swings. Ropes like stairs. Shouts like croaks. Faces hopeful flowers.