Untitled #3

The first pause happened on my way to work this morning, about halfway down the four flights of stairs that I take to the parking lot. Rain fell on Central Virginia overnight, and had just cleared away by around 8 a.m. A single strand of dark cloud cut the sky in two, with fire burning from either side of it to bring heat to what would be a beautiful Autumn morning. The sight was absolutely breathtaking.

The second pause happened shortly after lunch. Significant wind gusts were at play, the kind that make your shirt sleeves flap briskly as though you were about to take flight. The sun was perfect, accentuating the beginnings of auburn, rust, and golden colors that are just beginning to insert themselves into the leaves of certain trees, moving repetitively back over the rolling hill-scape to the horizon. This was the sort of Autumn day that I actually don’t mind.

The third pause came this afternoon as I saw this. Is it just me, or does thinking of what we see in our spheres of activity during the day in comparison to something that astronomically massive really have a mind-blowing effect on perspective?

There was a fourth pause, immediately after that, as I stopped to connect the three. We’re catching a glimpse of this phenomenon of life, both from the ground up and from the sky down. And I don’t intend to use the word “phenomenon” in a flippant way, here…the rain, the clouds, the sky, the sunlight, the gargantuan ring circling the 6th planet in our solar system…that sort of perspective dwarfs our concept of huge.

I’ve become aware…and hopefully I’ll become more aware…of this pulse around us, this energy of sustained life. Not random collisions of atoms spinning us into existence, but intentional, breathing, life…the same sort of life I try to create in the fictional realm with words, and that the musician creates with sound, and that the painter creates with images…taking the life that was there and molding it into signs and symbols of itself.

That’s something that I don’t think we could do if we stopped being aware, stopped noticing, the life that is in motion, not only around us, but through us…life of which we are a part. Life that’s always, always worth more than possessions, or wealth, or productivity. The life of our environment and of us. Life of immeasurable value.

And then, I see how eager we are to take that life, both criminally…

…as well as in ways that are considered acceptable

…and I hope that, if we take a few extra moments each day to appreciate life, that perhaps we would be more interested in giving it than in taking it.

Untitled #2

After my post yesterday, I went for a walk. For a moment, let us a put aside the fact that I’m only 34 and am perfectly capable of going to the gym, and that going for a walk is a lame excuse for exercise. I just needed to get away from a screen and clear my head a bit. Karen was whipping up one of her culinary masterpieces in the kitchen, and our apartment just isn’t that big, so, in order to get some quiet, I needed to escape for a few moments.

As I’ve recently mentioned, I like walking at dusk, experiencing a sort of thin place. Its sort of like mobile meditation for me. I usually notice people first…vehicles coming and going, college students returning from the gym, the sounds of enthusiastic football fans screaming out through their windows, people walking dogs. From there, I usually notice different kinds of cars for a few minutes. By then, I’m usually rounding a corner and walking up the back parking lot of our apartment complex, which is less populated, and my attention will turn to the sky. I eventually move around to a better view of the sky, and I can see its final fiery burst as it turns dark behind the visage of the Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance.

Last night there were more cars coming and going than usual (some in a bit of a hurry), and I was well around my normal circle when I realized that my head still just wasn’t “clear.” So I stopped. I found a bit of decorative ledge on the edge of the parking lot and sat. I let my gaze drift over the street a few hundred yards to my left, one the major arteries of traffic in the city. At that point, a beautifully commonplace thing happened.

There’s a computer repair store opposite our apartments on the other side of the street. The signs of this store, like most, are on some sort of timer, and backlight at a specific time each evening. That time happened to be just as I was looking at it.

Somehow, there was something absolutely profound in the illumination of that sign.

Don’t let yet your mind run away with you…I’m not about to draw some light vs. dark metaphor…that would be trite here. I just mean that I’ve walked that circle of our parking lot a dozen times in the last two months, and I’ve seen that computer repair store each time, and I’ve never noticed the sign, lit or unlit. Had I not stopped and sat down yesterday evening, I wouldn’t have noticed it then, either. I quite possibly would never have seen that sign light up.

Ultimately, watching a computer repair store sign illuminate isn’t something that alters my perception of reality, or even something that I’ll likely remember at all by next week. What impacts me about it, though, is the appreciation of that moment, because I think its symbolic of a thousand moments that brush by us as we’re rushing from point A to point B trying to accomplish…something. In my aforementioned pressure to reach goals and to accomplish my dreams, I am missing critical things in life…not just my life, but the life going on around me…that would be important to those dreams. And more important than that, its just life…teeming, substantive life, life from the Divine, life that I’m fortunate enough to encounter every day.

I wonder: how can we live if we’re missing life?

And all that because I needed to get some air and clear my head.

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I may be having a “pity party.”

No, actually, I’m pretty sure that I am. I have good reason to be, though. You see, it began about three days ago when I realized that I had written anything on only one day out of the last week or so. It began as taking a bit of a break to re-charge after moving two major writing projects from the “new” side of my desktop to the “working/awaiting revision” side of my desktop. The re-charge stretched into a week, though, with no words being tapped out on the keyboard. I’m not saying “no words of substance,” mind you…I mean no words.

The pity party didn’t stop there, though. Oh, no. Once the ball is rolling, its not so easy to stop the momentum, after all. I watched Yes Man with Karen this afternoon. The movie, in case you haven’t seen it, explores the theme of quality of life by propagating an odd pop-culture metaphysical approach that essentially breaks down to cost/benefit analysis, and packages it with some crude sexual humor…you know, like most Jim Carrey movies do. The sad and immediate result of the movie is that you leave asking the question, “am I really living, or being a slave to my day-to-day?”

I suppose that you could confront that question in many ways. A self-empowerment approach would be to push yourself to take charge of your circumstances. A faith approach would tell you to be content with where you are. An reckless approach would tell you to run. A prima donna approach would lead to you say, “I’m a (fill in the blank), and I have too much talent to be confined to this servitude!”

The correct answer, though is (cue drumroll)…umm…you tell me?

See, I’m not writing this boasting of an answer. I’m not writing this to provide any amazingly witty or thought-provoking lucidity into the problem at hand. I’m writing because I haven’t written in a while, and I feel I might go a bit crazy if I don’t silence my day-to-day noise and let some words to come out.

That’s difficult, though, isn’t it? Silencing the noise of our daily lives? Breaking free from responsibilities long enough to pursue what you want to do? I want to brush up on my French and my Greek. I want to earn a PhD. I want something I write to be the next Great American Novel. I want time to ponder and contemplate and think. In short, I want to live my life as though I weren’t confined as an adult. Sometimes, the daily things we enjoy so much stop being enjoyable, and the success we achieve stops being all that important. Those are the times you’re left with exactly the question that Yes Man asks, albeit poorly: am I really living, or am I just existing? Am I creating or just consuming? Am I trapped by religious ethics, or experiencing a spiritually vibrant life?

Am I writing a legitimate blog post, or just a whiny stream-of-consciousness on which I really shouldn’t click “publish” at all?

That last one’s tough. Its probably the latter, but I’m clicking “publish” anyway, because having words out there is more important to me right now. Those of you who managed to read this far: have you ever experienced this? How do you move forward? I’m interested to know.

And no more whining, I promise…well, at least not for the immediate future.