Thirty Fifth Kindling – Only Time

peeking_from_behind_a_wall_by_keruneos

 

As a boy, he used to hide behind the wall, ears stretched out. He wanted to hear what they were arguing about, what all the yelling was for. Deep down, he knew he was too small to make a difference – although he certainly wasn’t too small to know that a physical confrontation between man and woman wouldn’t be a very fair one. It was up to him to do something if it ever got to that point.

 

His mind would race with scenarios, both wild and pragmatic – he would listen for crashes and thuds, for sounds that would suggest that a certain level of violence had just occurred, a level of violence that had clearly crossed the line – even if he had no idea where or what that line was. In his mind, he would rush out from his hiding corner, reveal himself, and stop this madness – perhaps like a superhero.

 

Please stop! He would yell. Please!

 

But then he would look his father in the eye and see that reptilian rage within him – and it’d scare the living hell out of him. It was already too late. Reasoning and words, would no longer be enough. Only time. Only time. Only time would calm those fires within.

Thirty Fourth Kindling – The True Power of Books

books

 

During one summer a long long time ago, I picked up a copy of The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. At the time, I was weirdly preoccupied with the Big Questions – what is the meaning of life, what am I doing here, and is there really a god?

The third question, in particular, was something I thought a lot about, as I had been a churchgoer ever since I could remember. This book, written by some guy in Russia a couple of hundred years ago, took me on a 700 page journey; which, strangely enough, helped me grapple with that third question in a way no pastor or sermon ever could.

That was the summer I learned the true power of books. They can cross oceans and centuries. They can change a confused teenager’s perspective on Things.

That is why, when anyone ever asks, I say that I’ve always wanted to write a book; in hopes that one day in the distant future, a confused teenager riddled with existential angst might pick it up and feel like he understood the world a little bit better.

Thirty Third Kindling – I’ve Walked Away From A Sinking Ship.

 

sinking-ship

 

I’ve walked away from a sinking ship. Twice.

 

Each time, it felt good.

 

It felt good, for a short night.

 

But the saccharine taste turned bitter by the end of the week.

 

And pastures that promised green revealed themselves –

 

– as mere shades of the same old truth.

 

You are who you want to be.

 

And you alone, are responsible.

 

If you are not.

 

Go be.

Thirty Second Kindling – Letter

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To You,

Today I write to you in clarity, not confusion. In gratitude, not in accusation. Without influence, both inside and out.

I write it here, where it might not be appropriate, where it might be lost, not in hopes of views but in hopes that this might be the best way to you.

I hope it’s okay.

Remember that time when you turned to me, in kind, hoping that I’d look you directly in the eye, nod, and tell you I understand? Just like how I always claim that I do that with others? And instead I looked deep into the distance and responded with logic, with conflict?

And sometimes, with nothing?

I think about that time now, much, much later than you had hoped, and wince. It hurts. It hurts how confusing that must have been. How disappointing, even. I’m learning, but in a grateful way. Because you reminded me that there are lots of things to learn.

Because sometimes I forget.

My hope is that deep down, I can convince you that those times when you let me be there, are the times I truly remember – the other stuff fades and evaporates. To a surprising degree.

Which is wonderful to learn. 🙂

This is long, winded, and reminds me of circles. This is an attempt to tell you one thing, one thing above all things that are worth telling.

 

Thank you.

 

 

And if you ask: are you saying this to me?

 

My answer is yes.

 

No matter who asks.

Thirty First Kindling – On Black and White, and Grey, and Red.

 

Politics

Politics is hard. Talking about politics is hard.

It becomes a competition of who has the most facts and knowledge and statistics and hope and the tete-a-tete style-renderings soon hit an emotional boiling point. The momentum has built up into a head of steam, and after awhile it becomes more about winning than discussing. It becomes more about defeating than collaborating.

I bring in articles, links, infographics, anecdotes, and before long, the winning is what I’m invested in, and soon recency biases, slippery slopes, and confirmation biases be damned, I am going to plant my flag on this hypothetical war of words and win, damnit.

I bet my face gets red too, from all the steam.

And then I retreat back to my corner of the world, and think. What did that accomplish? Did I change minds? Did I expand my own horizons? Did I learn something I hadn’t learned before?

The answers are no, no, and maybe.

Why do I care so much? Why must I win? Why must I poke holes in the other side’s theories and ideas?

It’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of a world of black and white.

The binary system. Where things are an either-or. Trump-or-Bernie. Fracking or no fracking. Paying your fair share or not paying your fair share.

It’s a simplistic world, where categories are neat, organized, and carefully bundled.

And I admit, I delight in pointing out the greys around the fraying boundaries of the black and white.

It’s just that sometimes I get carried away and turn red.

Thirtieth Kindling – Art Is The Answer

art-is-the-answer

Conversation is hard. Because alone-time is my sanctuary, I am a bit more comfortable with silence than most. And so, in the midst of conversation, I allow for long pauses.

Which causes some to squirm.

But, there is a moment when I switch personas. From the quiet-type to the talk-your-ear-off type. A key is turned, and it unlocks an avalanche of thoughts and musings and opinions that pour out of a stream that will never run dry.

It’s when I talk about Art.

An important book for me was The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky. It was a meditation on institutionalized religion. It finally gave me the answer I needed to free myself from Sundays at the church. There are flashes of The Grand Inquisitor in that short story I wrote as a high school kid, an assignment for English, that I was (most appropriately in hindsight) skipping church to write. A moment I’d later write about in my personal statement for college applications — that mundane Sunday afternoon in front of my computer when the words came flowing out of me all at once and I realized that I had just found my own voice for the first time.

In the short story, the gods all sat in a movie theater, munching popcorn, as they watched the theater of life. Which was us. It was my biggest fear, in terms of god. What if we were not his sheep, carefully tended to in loving ways? What if we were entertainment, a reality show chock full of a comedy of errors?

Dostoevsky gets an assist on that one, for sure.

During another momentous yet mundane year, I remember scrolling across the rows and shelves at the local Blockbuster store. I picked out a DVD with Nicole Kidman on the cover. It was called Dogville. I watched it that night.

I still remember the feeling of awe as the ending credits rolled up, photographs of the Depression Era juxtaposed against David Bowie’s soulful rendition of ‘Young Americans’ in the background. It opened my eyes. Cinema was powerful. It was not just entertainment. It could contain a message. It could change minds. I was hell-bent on finding other examples of this.

After navigating the filmography of Werner Herzog, Michelangelo Antonioni, Terrence Malick, Jia Zhangke, and many, many others — I remember feeling a sense of nourishment that I had sought in those churches way back when. The true metaphysical act, indeed — this thing that we call art. And I’ve set my sights on consuming the purest versions of it, as much as I can — in hopes that in its place would bloom a vision of my own.

But upon entering The Real World, under the swift pace of responsibility and bills, I’ve managed to delay and delay. I have romanticized visions of it one day hitting me, like it hit Murakami as he sat, watching a baseball game one afternoon. In the name of comfort, of convenience, of “not having the time,” I’ve managed to delay and delay and delay even further. Hopefully, today will spark a change. Where I go seek it out, instead of waiting for it to come to me. Or perhaps, it is already inside me.

For all meaningful questions, Art, is the answer.

Twenty Ninth Kindling – Plus You Pay Your Taxes

bob

Yesterday, I was taking a Lyft car to the airport, and the driver was listening to the delightful local FM radio station, playing all the latest hits the kids are listening to these days. While most of the tracks failed to catch my attention, one song in particular stood out. That song, titled “Nothin’ On You” features a rapping gentlemen named Mr. B.o.B. and features a Mr. Mars, who I am not very familiar with. I was particularly interested when I heard the following verse from Mr. B.o.B.:

 

Baby you the whole package
plus you pay your taxes

 

In short, I was intrigued.

Not only was I intrigued at the lyrical technique of rhyming “package” with the word “taxes,” I was most interested in the sentiment behind this verse from Mr. B.o.B. He indicated that a key component of his dating criteria was one’s history of compliance with IRS regulations. That made me think. If he met a beautiful woman on Tinder, and she was intelligent, independent, thoughtful, kind, gorgeous, but happened to run a cash-only business in which she slightly under-reported her income, would Mr. B.o.B. suddenly think twice about courting her? And also, would he take her word for it, when he inevitably inquired about her tax liabilities? Would he demand to see her latest tax return? And would last year’s tax return be enough? What if she was a conscientious objector to Obamacare and was levied a penalty for not signing up to health care? Would his libido suddenly take an opposite turn? I had so many questions.

And then, I got curious as to what B.o.B. stood for, and here is what I found:

Shakespeare once asked, “what is in a name?” B.o.B’s name has so many definitions, but his music can best be defined by one term…exceptional.

B.o.B means different things for different situations. If you enjoy being on Cloud 9, B.o.B can stand for Bring One Blunt or Bring One Beer. About your money, then Business Over Bullsh!t is for you. Perhaps your skill is education, then B.o.B means Books Over Bullets, or if you enjoy B.o.B’s self-created production it means you have his Beats On Blast. The important thing to B.o.B is that when it comes to entertaining you, “I got everything you need when you need it. I know how to make you sing.”

For some reason, the above paragraphs were punctuated with a sentence in all caps:

AND I DON’T HAVE A JOB

I particularly enjoy Books Over Bullets, and have decided that is what B.o.B. means for me. I sincerely hope that he knows how to make me sing. So, dear friends, I ask you:

What does B.o.B mean for you?