Friday, September 29, 2006

Mindfulness and wisdom teeth

So, my mouth is feeling pretty decent by now, although I still cling to the ice pack that has been my good friend this week. (I got my four wisdom teeth removed last Monday)

Really, the amazing thing about it is that I've had to be completely aware of every single thing that I put in my mouth-whether it's water, or oatmeal or as of Thursday, a piece of toast! Chewing is a wonderful thing, and this whole week has made me more aware that the variety in taste, options, and especially the texture of food is a blessing. I've found myself craving things like carrots and pretzels, and especially vegetables in general. (It's kind of hard to make vegetables appetizing in a form where you don't have to chew them)

So, I'm glad for the mindfulness training that I've gotten this week. Having to expend so much effort to eat enough to give me any energy, and having such limited options has taught me (for the time being at least) to remember to pay attention. Providing nourishment and energy for yourself isn't something to be taken lightly!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

thinking parabolically

I'm in a great class about the parables here.

Every week, three people bring in a little five minute presentation which includes
a) a recitation of a parable
b) the context that they're dealing with
and c) a reperformance of the parable. (For example, today someone did 'the unjust judge' in terms of Emmett Till)

It's a great way of thinking about the texts/stories, and some of the folks were reading have some interesting arguments. John Dominic Crossan, for instance, sets up this continuum of literary forms, from myth to parable. His argument is that while Myth creates a world, parable subverts a world. (apologue0 defends world, action- explores world, and satire- attacks world all operate between the two ends of the continuum.) In other words, the very form of the parable is designed to break our established ideas about the world. This has led me to see more of how Jesus' parables fit into his other teachings that make use of the 'subvert to overcome' method. (ie- turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, etc... for those unsure of why this is subversion, ask me or check out wink's powers that be).

Last week I did a pirate retelling (in honor of National Talk Like a Pirate Day) of 'The Land of a rich man produced abundantly...' (The one where he tears down his barns to build larger ones, then dies.) We've been reading a book called The Parables as Subversive Speech, which argues that this parable is a condemnation of the rich man, because he did not return the abundance of the harvest to the community, its rightful owners. I named an Oberlin College convocation as my context, then told the story of the pirate captain Shankleford Firearm, to try to get at the too-often prevailing mindset of academics getting knowledge wherever they can and keeping it in the proverbial ivory towers. But see, it's better as a story, you know?

The professor warned that the class would get us thinking parabolically about most things before too long. It's already happening to me.

What if the widow in the Unjust Judge parable is to be read as God? What if the parable encourages us to take heart and keep praying (as Luke suggests) by reminding us that God keeps showing up, to grind away at the terror of Empire?

I'm also curious about how the Uncultured Man and the Ramayana story fits in. I can't do it justice here, but it's like a world-subverting/world-affirming tale combined. I think I might tell it to my professor sometime, in the hopes of figuring out what it does, in order to more clearly articulate how awesome it is.

I also continue to love the way that we go from the theoretical to the practical. For example, a riff on the Great Feast parable led us to a discussion about open and closed communion. Imagine an place where the smartest people in town gather and figure out how all this stuff applies to the local church. I'm in it. Hot.

Emily, Beth, Rachael: I think you should all consider going to seminary sometime. Maybe even this one. It'll teach you why wearing one of those little mustard-seed necklaces around might be a radical act.


healthcare songs

I've been recruited to play and sing with a small group at church. We're doing some songs for Health Care Sunday, where worship is focused on the pitiable state of health care in the US, and around those who work in health care, need health care, etc.

So, any suggestions for songs we should do? I have Rise Up Singing and the Internet, so I should be able to find lyrics and chords to most songs.


training wheels

today, i was listening to the magnetic fields on my headphones as I walked to school. It was a little like having training wheels.

When I listen to the Magnetic Fields and walk to school, everybody's walking in harmony, and all of the businessmen on bikes and five year old's with backpacks are transcendentally beautiful.

Someday I won't need the headphones.

ps- This seems a little trite after reading Emily's post.
But I think it's still appropriate. All this stuff together, just like the world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Adventures of Rachael (and Sue Monk Kidd)'s Book

Rachael kindly sent me a book on feminist spiritual searching, by Sue Monk Kidd, called Dance of the Dissident Daughter.
I brought it with me on my traveling and on my regular living last month. This is what the book did:
The book curled up with me to sleep on the couch in my new flat.
The book went to Kolkata for the 7th National Conference of Autonomous Women's Movements in India. Where the book heard rousing speeches ("the only globalization we'll accept is a globalizing of dissent") and waited through abundant translations (in a strong commitment to affirm diversities, everything was AT LEAST trilingually translated from podiums or panels -- and then translated in small groups from there, given India's vast language diversity). The book went with me on a bus rally through Kolkata. We were on the Sappho for Equality (LBT) bus. When we'd pass the bus of, say, the women from the NorthEast fighting state violence and mass rape, we'd try and do back and forth chants, against state violence and the criminalizing of homosexuality (Section 377 and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, specifically). The book was also witness to the sadness and frustration of realizing that -- unknown to me until the last day -- there was significant discrimination and abundant UN-hospitality to the trans community, who did not stay in the dorms with the other women. The book was there to hear a leader in VAMP quote one of my new favorite quotes, speaking specifically to sex workers' movements coming to the traditional women's movement, but with broad applicability: "We are here in solidarity and discomfort."
The book traveled across the Ganga river, profoundly sacred in Hinduism. The Ganga River that is prayed to and bathed in. The Ganga where clothes are washed and animals washed and people washed. The Ganga where people send their dead bodies, their corpses or ashes, as well as their small prayer lamps. The Ganga that is religiously pure, but ecologically/environmentally downright septic, according to my roommate. The Ganga where a woman's torso floated by me, as though that were just a thing to happen, in a small boat on a river at night, tourists and devoutees and dead bodies and dolphins.
Rachael, thank you for sharing with me your book. I tried to take it on some good trips. It tried to take me on some good trips, too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Procrastination and accountability

So....I was thinking, and was about to post a plea for help on the blog about how to stop procrastinating. Then I realized that doing so would also be procrastinating. So, I went and did three of the things that I've been successfully and quite unreasonably avoiding for a couple of days.

Thanks for somehow unknowingly and over the internet helping to hold me accountable!!


Thursday, September 14, 2006


So, today my friend Steve emailed me, telling me that when he was going to be in Chicago, so that we could get our puppets together.

I told him I might not be able to make it, because I have something else scheduled.

Here's the thing:
the other thing scheduled is ANOTHER puppet play date.

My life is awesome. Proof.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Whenever I mention that my current employment-- various restaurant jobs-- is not as spiritually fulfilling as my previous employment-- Director of Christian Education-- I'm always careful to allow for this current job to have some spirituality inherent in it. I intentionally have been saying "less" instead of "not at all".

Well, I've finally identified proof of the Spirit in my restaurant work. Like Jesus, I am being a servant. I carry the food. I clean the tables. I get people's half-drunk beverages accidentally poured down my collar when I carry stacks of glasses back to the kitchen. Sauces mess up my white button-up shirt. I get on my knees to reach the crack in the cushions of the booths where food gets stuck. This was all fairly boring until I realized that it puts me in a position worth meditating upon: servanthood.

As evidenced by my defensive reactions to not being perfect at the jobs I'm currently being trained in, I need to learn some humility.

the lessons you have hidden in gladiolas

One of my dissapointments with my current employment is their lack for need for me to create anything beautiful. They don't want me to decorate a bulletin board, create a flier, design a craft project, or put stickers on mailings.

The one opportunity for some creativity is the gladiolas.

Mama Romano's favorite flowers are displayed in two wooden bucket-looking vases on islands in between the tables and booths at Romano's Macaroni Grill. Inside the bucket is a clear plastic disc with holes for all the flowers to go through so they are evenly spaced.

Sometimes I get to go back into the kitchen, take flowers out of the box they're shipped in, cut off the bottoms, trim the tops, and arrange them. It's not REALLY arranging since the holes in the discs leave few options, but still, I am interacting with something that's there just because it's beautiful.

Sometimes I meditate on the artificialness of taking cut flowers out of a box that were probably grown in a human-monitored environment, and putting them in a vase where sunlight will never reach them. Or on the fact that they're already dead and will just get deader, or on the fact that I must snap the tips off-- the little flowers-to-be that will never bloom because we already cut them off from their source of nutrition and life, and that because of us they will never bloom. Not only will they never bloom, we remove their non-bloomingness from our must-be-blooming arrangement.

But the other day I meditated on something else instead. These flowers have been through a lot. They have put in a lot of effort to grow from a tiny seed into a sturdy green stalk budding with gorgeous white flowers. They have been cut off at the base, packaged in newspaper, and jostled around in a box. They are being trimmed yet again. Despite all this, they are prevailing. They manage to blossom forth in an unfamiliar environment despite somewhat harsh treatment. Instead of exacting vengeance by refusing to bloom, they Grace-fully share their beauty with anyone who cares to notice. They bloom, even where they aren't planted. These flowers don't seem angry. They seem forgivingly and regretlessly alive.

I've been praying this prayer,

O Great Spirit
whose voice we hear in the winds,
and whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear us.
We come before you as your children.
We are small and weak; we need your strength and wisdom.
Let us walk in beauty and make our eyes ever behold the red and purple sunsets.
May our hands respect the things you have made, our ears be sharp to hear your voice.
Make us wise, so that we may know the things you have taught your people,
the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
We seek strength not to be superior to our brothers and sisters,
but to live in harmony with ourselves and all of your creation.
Help us to be ever ready to come to you, so when life fades as a fading sunset,
our spirits may come to you without shame. Amen.

50 cents, a left turn, and an olive-green creeper

The other day I was feeling sick but I wanted to venture out anyway to buy fabric for a quilt I'm working on (it was my day off). There was a lot of traffic, it was really hot, and I thought that by drinking water just before I left I could get away without bringing a water bottle along (being sick made me tired and therefore lazy). Not so. Pretty soon I was feeling miserable and really needed something to drink. I parked and stood at the corner waiting for the crosswalk light to turn on and thought how ugly all that concrete and car exhaust and traffic looked, and felt pretty depressed about the human race. I crossed the street. I searched the little plaza for anywhere that would sell drinkables, and saw a sign above the flower shop advertizing chocolate and wine. That was my best, if long, shot. Inside a woman was happy to show me their various canned sodas. I picked strawberry lemonade. She asked for fifty cents. I said I just had a credit card. She said they had a minimum purchase rule. I asked how much it was, thinking I could buy some flowers or something. But she said, "oh, just take it. it's on me! no problem" she added in response to my thanks. my throat was saved!!! I went next door to The Quilt Crossing and bought fabric. The ladies were very helpful. After getting back to the car, I headed toward the exit. Another car was in front of me, looking for a break in the four lane traffic to turn left, same direction I was headed. The traffic started backing up behind a stopsign but a car approaching from the left stopped before us and waved us-- both of us-- through.

After receiving these small acts of kindness from strangers, I wasn't feeling so depressed.

Next time I went back to The Quilt Crossing and waited for the walk sign at the corner, I noticed that, in the dirt next to a fire hydrant surrounded by grey concrete, a tenacious plant was growing and thriving.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

So here's what we'll do, David

Okay, David, so here's what we'll do.

We're going to get a bunch of brilliant people. And then we'll have them teach classes to other really smart people. From a huge variety of traditions and backgrounds.

And also this: all these people are going to be focused on theorizing about and working on the exact context that you are most interested in. And all of their brilliance will be focused into finding ways to more effectively work in the context in which you want to work.

I like it here.


dream interpreters?

I dreamt two nights ago (two mornings ago) that my middle-school scoutmaster was driving me somewhere, and I made him stop because I saw two boys on the side of the road, and one of them was beating the other with a flail. He finally agreed to stop, and I ran over and snatched the flail from the boy. This kid was really, really evil, and so was his friend, and they danced around me, and told me that even if I could take their flail away, I couldn't get them to take the mime out of their box. I now saw that the box that the flailed boy had been leaning over was indeed big enough to fit a mime, a la the gimp in pulp fiction. I called out to the box "If you're in there, make some noise!" because I didn't believe the evil boys. The box moved. I tried to convince the boys to let the mime out, whom they had taken prisoner some time ago. I wrote them a check for twenty dollars as an attempt to ransom the mime. They would have none of it, but someone who might have been my friend Gracie showed up. Finally, sick of it, I tore the lid off the box with my bare hands, and a grateful mime achingly climbed out. He thanked me (even though he didn't talk, I suppose still faithful to his mime-ness.) As me and the mime were about to get the hell out of there, I noticed that the person who might have been Gracie was standing by the box. The boy were trying to convince her to get in, and I called to her, but slowly realized that I wouldn't be able to stop them from trapping Gracie in the box.

Then I woke up.

I don't know what this dream is all about, but it's the scariest one I've had in recent memory. I don't often have nightmares, at least ones I remember, and this one was striking and disturbing. Maybe it's about the whole "you can't save them all" thing, or about frustration about the sheer amount of evil in the world, or something.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

first day. And, world can't wait.

Today's my first day of seminary, so keep me in your prayers. I just had my first course, which is called "The Parables in Preaching and Teaching", and it looks like it's going to be really good. We're talking about parable as a subversive genre, so that the stories are not just subversive in their content, but also their form. We're going to be doing some classroom presentations that are limited to five minutes in order to get a handle on the power-in-brevity that the parables offer. There's only about ten folks in the class, and I'm the only first-year, first-degree program.

It's also, of course, really igniting the storyteller side of me. Naturally. I'm really glad to be here.


On Sunday afternoon I stopped by the big, main branch of the Chicago public library, named after Harold Washington, on my way to church. A woman stopped me on the street, and I thought she was going to ask me for change (as do 90% of the people who stop me on the street) but instead she gave me a flyer for October's 'World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime' march and day of actions.

Now, I think that driving out the Bush regime is a worthy goal, but looking at that flyer made me just feel exhausted. After spending hours and hours to organize Obies to DC last September, the last thing I want to do this September is help to organize another big march or rally. I'm getting frustrated looking for actions that will actually help end the war in Iraq. But, on the other hand, if everybody thinks like me, and no one shows up to the Anti-War march, then everyone will assume there is no anti-war movement.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that the World Can't Wait campaign is spear-headed by the Revolutionary Communist Party, and I've never had much fun with those guys. I want a revolution in my methods, I guess.