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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This I Believe #2

Post your This I Believe Essays here by 12pm on Friday, January 29. Don't forget to bring the printed out version to class!

11 comments:

  1. This I Believe; Sacrosanct Experiences

    I believe any moment has the potential to be sacred. The most sacred are not those we work towards however, but the coincidental experiences that strike us with a poetic essence, those instances of beauty that resonate with something unspeakable. In the sense we most often refer to God, God is not required for the sacred to occur. In the sense I use that word, God is the sacred moment and exists only within those instances, with the person as the pivotal presence for the sacred to exist. Experiences with God induce moments of intense reflection; we may be forced to face ourselves in abnormal ways; we may be made to confront others; we may simply try to be, focusing only on the significance of the moment.
    One such happening struck me not 3 hours ago, while working in the studio. I tend to always have the radio tuned to the local station. The radio has no antenna, and so the station comes in with a lot of white noise. In the midst of my work, I noticed the melody of the song being played, focusing on it through the noise laying over top it, something similar to a lullaby or folk rhyme. And then I began to recognize the words; the song repeated the lyrics “Who created you, who created me?” for its duration. The moment struck me strangely, with this person, divided from my reality by the veil of noise, asking me about Creation itself. An imagined Holy Being, an Angel, infused with sacred essence by my Will, posed this question to me.
    Though it is impossibly complex to describe these experiences adequately, a familiar metaphor might help. Those experiences we share with God feel like that first instance when you open the door to a dark, cold room and enter the light of the sun, blinded by the light but feeling the warmth of its light on your face. In Plato’s Cave, the sacred is exactly the moment when the man turns to face the light and is struck senseless.

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  2. I believe in sustainability.

    Each man, woman, child, family, can plant a garden, collect water from a well, braid wildflowers into a crown and knot weeds into a necklace.

    We can plant the thick towers of windmills into our hillsides and our salty bays and count the rings collected around their stems like the ages of a tree. They will give energy like a tree gives oxygen.

    Factories will be opened in Appalachia to manufacture the over four hundred small parts it takes to create a solar panel. Green jobs will bloom for generations and the alien sites of mountain top removal will be healed as heartily as possible. Remove the invasive and remember ecology.

    The solar panels will travel to new mexico through magnetic trains and will float above the desert like thousands of mirrors worshipping our greatest natural source, the sun. A sun that licks the universe with fire, a sun I see with solely mystery.

    On the news, I watched sea levels rise and recede, I watched the President of the Maldives give a press conference underwater, I watched droughts creating genocide and developed nations splitting environmental refugees among their borders in a document meant to provide new hope for our planet.

    Every summer I sat at the edge of our lighthouse and watched the shoreline with the same wonder. Each year it went up or down, in and out, seeping over steps of rock when I was five, and leaving dried algae in its wake when I was fourteen.
    Our lighthouse has no electricity. We have an outhouse, a battery-powered fridge, a hose that goes from the lake to a hand pump to wash dishes in a small sink. We have a boat to take us to larger island for food, and we have flashlights, oil lamps, and candles corked in wine bottles.
    I believe in personal sustainability. I believe I was never happier than those summers without electricity. Our generation, our society is missing out on what it means to live close to nature, to see ourselves as a part of nature, not a separate entity sent to rake the earth of every precious recourse. I heard sandhill cranes like drumbeats, I heard the waves mesh with rock like a lullaby, I felt the breeze through open windows like every time you truly feel alive, I felt ice water rush past my body with each dive as a seal, and my bare feet wandered the island like every path was a way home.

    I believe in sustainability because I believe in that island. The relationships I cultivated with my family because of this environment all occurred outside and all occurred with the food we cooked, the hands we created with, the water that surrounded, and the imaginations that sought adventure and joy.

    Perhaps these are special because after I could return to the ease of nonrenewable energy.

    But I believe in happiness. And for me, happiness was sustainability.

    So I believe in climate change, I believe in capitalism, I believe in the strength of humanity to surmount the obstacles we have unwittingly created through centuries of upward growth. Green living and not green washing. The power of your own voice in altering our path. The power of the people.

    Rise up and live happily. Live within your means. Live without entitlement.

    Live in awe of earth.

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  3. I believe in entropy. Entropy is the random movement of particles through space, according to my chemistry teacher. It is the cause of everything. Without entropy, there would be no such thing as a chemical compound, and therefore no such thing as a human. This term didn’t remain a chemistry definition in my mind for very long. I soon realized that this definition permeated every sense of what it is to be anything, whether that be human or element. During class I began to recognize just how much our lives are governed by randomness, entropy; perfect, organized, proportionate, chaos. We are either born into wealth or poverty, pain or privilege, and every decision in our life is controlled by the random events and situations with which we are presented. Every person has just as much chance, just as much probability, just as much likelihood, to be as fortunate or misfortunate as anyone else. Entropy also guarantees a tendency to mix. We humans, and elements, can’t help ourselves but be around others. The closer we get, the more bonds form. The stronger the bonds we make, the harder it is for those around us to evaporate into the surrounding air. I think that entropy is the reason we are on earth. We are animals meant to meet, to love, to mate, to form connections with the world around us that would be infinitely weaker if we chose to be alone. We are meant to be together. The most promising thing about this sort of human solution, people in a solvent of events and happenings, is that there is always the possibility, even the probability, of making a bond with someone. I’m not proposing that there is only one person that is supposed to be with you, and that person alone is the only one worth searching for. No, my news is good news. According to entropy, because of the speed at which particles move, the probability that, say, salt will not mix with water is almost nil. So, more likely than not, I am probably within a short physical distance of someone who, under the right circumstances and following a certain set of events, I could form a bond with. In other words, in all probability, I will be presented with the opportunity to feel love, a bond as strong as the one between a sodium ion and the oxygen in a water molecule. Thanks entropy, for telling me that love exists.

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  4. Arms reaching down through windows created by displaced ceiling tiles, I feel small hands tighten as muscles lock bones: a seven-year-old vice. Hoisted through the now-empty metal grid eight feet above the kitchen floor, my son is gripped by his fear of heights. Muscles flutter with involuntary spasms while torrents of language trumpet his impending death, splashing hard against my face.

    Four years younger, his sister sits calmly atop the open rafters heavily draped in cobwebs thickened with time. She shines light into the fissure between two edges of a wall: webs of copper plumbing and electrical wire wrap around the small bird, shivering with no way to climb out. The wings we heard flapping inside the wall—the noise that beckoned us all into our ceiling—are spread wide. Trembling, it makes one last attempt to free itself. Peering into its panicked eyes, I hear the popping sounds of small bones within each wing. Eyes close. Muscles sink to stillness.

    We are told that fear is crippling. I do not believe this.

    Deer freeze in the face of danger. When danger approaches shaped as a motor vehicle, this instinct is deadly. We do not freeze. We are not crippled by fear. My son’s body shook with the violence of a vibrating bed in a cheap, roadside motel. The bird, fearing for its life, blinded by the light in my daughter’s unsteady hand, was not crippled by fear. It died trying to free itself.

    My fingers lock as tightly as my son’s: digging into my flesh as his did while I pulled him into the ceiling. I cannot release the box. Nor can I pull the ribbon to expose the secret inside. The note reads: “To be used when the fear of rejection becomes overwhelming.”

    My daughter, named to reflect my interests, is Lilianna Bird. We share no kinship with deer.

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  5. I believe family secrets are sometimes better left discovered. Just because the past is gone and the discomfort of abnormality is left to decay in the recesses of our minds—this does not mean that our personal histories should not be discussed. I am descended from various monsters and saints throughout the history of the world. Though my parents exude the atomic mildew stench of ideal nuclear family conventions, we have also fraternized with the naturally occurring dysfunction that is bound to transpire among familial cohabiters. More interestingly, my ancestors combine to produce a vast array of blight and light; the monsters aplenty, the saints few and far between.
    The known part of my little legacy begins about 150 years ago with the slightly wealthy and suspected criminal, Mr. Foster and his wife, the young Irish immigrant. Over their lifetime, a plethora of children were produced, some with Foster’s slaves and others through his marriage. My maternal grandmother descended from that lot, her claim to fame being that when she was in her 20’s, she once scratched out the eye of a man who attacked her in the soda shop where she worked. Needless to say, he didn’t get anything he came for that day. She was as fiery as the red hair atop her head, and eventually after a failed marriage and disastrous affair, she married Lt. James Willman, the cool and collected motorcycle ridin’ alcoholic. My mom tells me that Grandpa James would drink a six pack of beer as he was driving home from work, all the while pulling out his own teeth with pliers because they hurt and a dentist was out of the question.
    My dad’s lineage is more obscure. He and his family are from Puerto Rico, and primarily descended from the native islanders, slaves, and to a lesser degree, European colonists. Though my dad has a rich and interesting past—he is a Vietnam War veteran and, as a soldier, he has been to five of the seven continents. His family history is much darker than that of my mother’s, fraught with poverty and domestic violence. As an older teenager, I can remember dad telling me stories of beatings he and my uncles received for insignificant trespasses. My abuelo never hurt the girls, dad would tell me, but he once beat uncle Nando until his ears bled because he had spoke disrespectfully to his mother. I learned from a cousin that my dad was temporarily disowned by his parents for marrying a white woman, and that my brother and I were excluded from my abuelo’s will because we are mixed children. The first time I ever saw my dad cry was the day he learned his father had died. His mother has been in touch more often since then. To this day, I do not know the meaning behind those tears. My dad retired from the army as a drill sergeant, and the only thing he ever raised to my brother or myself was his voice.
    Family secrets, like dank basements and musky clothes, sometimes need airing, if not for interest, then for reconciliation at least. Our secrets are as much a part of us as hair matted by tears and blood or the teeth that are sometimes to be found on the floorboards of a car. Our histories shape us into what we are, but they can also direct us away from what we never want to become.

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  6. First of all, Austyn...we have a common belief my dear.

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  7. I Believe in a Place Where the Sidewalk Doesn’t End

    “Mable, Mable set the table, just as fast as you are able…” The rhymes echo in the playground of my mind. The jumper about to enter the ropes rocks back and forth to the rhythm of the ropes, and the words of sing song poetry rings from twirlers and onlookers alike. A small Southern town rooted in the whispers of plantations, cotton, and the oldies still ravin’ about how Roosevelt is gonna save us all, marking even the innocent youth from day one. Our spectrum of color diminished to black and white, as if we like them, did not have colored television. But all these voices were silenced when the bell for recess rang. The boys split into teams for football or basketball depending on which teacher had recess duty and would allow an all out tackle. Either way, color disappeared. You were good or you weren’t, and the disgraces of losing resulted in, well…a less than joyful bus ride home.
    The girls grabbed the two ropes and dashed toward the sidewalk. I had rhythm; Markesha even told me so. She was a goddess on the playground. Suddenly, the ropes became a liaison, the songs became a liaison; and the liaison that had tied together a racist past to the present was divided. The two ropes of our town, the black and the white, were being twirled about, meeting in the middle. To the music and poetry, we second grade girls, some with cotton-top pigtails and some with afros, began jumping the ropes, our hurdles, as they crossed in the middle while singing and stomping - for once in perfect unison.
    Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. The beloved sound of my tiny feet hitting pavement became a knock on the door of reality. The bell rings.
    I wonder if maybe tomorrow we will take our ropes off the playground, into the classroom, and later into society where the tap, tap, tapping will be a mallet of justice and not just my mary-janes keeping time to Miss Mary Mack. I wonder if Mr. Silverstein would have ever guessed that the sidewalk ended at the blow of a playground whistle. Or maybe he too believed in a place where the sidewalk never ends.

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  8. Tonight she tells the story of Some Dog. Barely rescued from the jaws of a gigantic turtle, the foundling pup heals to the rhythms of stories told over a piece of old carpet, stories of strong dogs. An unwitting cause for unheard-of delicacies (including turtle noodle-bake, turtle omelet, and turtle ice-cream), Some Dog is a brilliant hunter who disappears in pursuit of human-sized groundhogs.

    I met Some Dog in the words of a Wondering Storyteller, a sorceress whose melodious voice turns simple words into magic. “And then, tra-agedy struck,” she says, tragedy elongated by her Kentucky accent: stretching the first syllable, shrouding the hearer in pain. Rhythmic, pleasing, and spellbinding, her story is poetry. It does not matter that tonight is the coldest night of the winter. Some Dog warms us all: a pack of stray story-lovers gathered around a small stage, spellbound.

    Some Dog sniffs out my soft spot for Kentucky. Some Dog knows I am here to stay. Kentucky reaches out for me—after my childhood in Bulgaria, a year of college in Michigan, a half-dozen years in Indiana—and binds me to itself, again.

    So does the story of Some Dog: a tale of binding trust. It begs the listener to believe foundlings, too, can become useful. Abandoned dogs yelp poetry. Cast-aways on the side of a farmer’s dirt road are beautiful.

    I believe in Some Dog.

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  9. I believe in rain. I believe that dancing in the rain is good for the mind, body, and soul. I believe that there are rain gods and earth goddesses who appreciate a good rain dance. I believe in the lively sensation of cool drops dripping down arms that have been opened to the sky. I believe rain dances are best in skirts and dresses that are meant for dry-cleaning only. I believe that the water that springs from the fabric of these skirts and dresses during a twisting, twirling dance picks up and then disperses the joy of the dancer back into the world. I believe that these dances are best done barefoot and on grass or in mud. I believe that mud is pure not dirty.
    I remember the pouring sheets of rain on the Jersey shore. I can feel them rolling in off the ocean and pounding the summer homes that had been precariously erected. I remember playing jacks with my cousin on the screened in porch as these torrents of rain pounded their anger into the world around us. I remember feeling comforted. I remember the floods of the roads and the joy of wading around in the aftermath of such rains. I remember the coldness of being out on the pier in South Carolina waiting for the fish to be gutted as the rain began to fall around us. I remember being ten and soaked and desperately in need of a bathroom. I remember no longer caring if I wet myself because the rain would wash it away anyway.
    I remember ninety days of drizzle after first moving to Washington State. I remember loving to dance in those warm drizzles as I started an herb garden. I remember believing the rain was not only good for my herbs, but a sign that I was meant to be a medicine woman. I remember my dad's depression due to the gray skies and my mom's melancholy. I also remember my joy, happiness, and love of those same skies.
    I remember midnight rain dances in front of Hazelrigg and BSC as Kentucky Summer rain spread across the campus in joy. I remember running from these rains only to be over taken and encouraged to dance that all important rain dance. I believe that wet hair, ruined dresses, and joy are the outcomes of such dances. I believe the sky looks down at rain dancers and smiles knowing that the beauty of rain is appreciated.

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  10. I believe in trying to not regret the decisions I make. I don’t like the feeling of being stressed and upset for the choices I have made in my life. Yes, sometimes those not so smart choices don’t turn out well and you end up thinking of the better ways of going about things but I did have the choice to make a smart decision, I just chose not to. This used to upset me. The thought of, “oh that was so stupid, why did I do that? Or seriously, Layson? Did you really just do that?” but now, instead saying or thinking those things, I just think, “oh well” and move on. There is no point in dwelling over something that has already happened. I believe this has made me a better and happier person. I’m not saying I was depressed before this but I realized that I cannot always be perfect. I believe that by not regretting things, I feel better about myself and more confident, even if it was a bad choice. But hey, I like to now think, “That will be a good story to tell” instead of thinking “I’m going to get in trouble for doing this.” I’m not saying I make stupid decisions all the time but I do make them and yes my parents don’t always agree with what I do, who I date, where I go, what I say, what I study but it’s my life not theirs. I do try to make smart choices about the things I do but you know how life goes, it’s not perfect. When I do make my decisions, I think to believe that by not regretting them, I will be happier.

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  11. Paul's post on entropy makes my heart soar.

    Thanks Paul.

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