Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fear (NFTD #19)

My Father asked me this evening what is stopping me from going to Los Angeles...I looked at him eyes saying "Dad" and then spat out "ah money". Yet those words sat in my mouth asking to be mulled over and chewed thoroughly. What is keeping me from Los Angeles? How many years have I been trying to moved? As a friend asked this week in an email "when are you moving down here?"

I am scared. I like to have something, some bit of thread to follow before I step out boldly. Would I have been brave as Peter to walk upon the waves, or would I have asked for Christ to extend his pinky? Is fear the only think that has kept me from moving forward towards calling and destiny and blessing? In my looking down to see where my feet fall do I miss what miraculousness is happening before me? I wonder how many things I have missed out on because I was to scared to enter into the unknown.

And here I stand at a choice, application and GRE aside, am I willing to say yes and move fears and all down to Los Angeles at the end of this summer? To definitatively say YES I AM DOING THIS NO MATTER WHAT! Because it's calling, it's desire, it's faith and this time it will not be silenced. So many of the great stories start with a simple, choice the choice of no matter what. Is this what I will choose? I hope so.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

for the stories i will never know (NFTD #18)

It is a heartbreaking instance when the person who used to encourage you to eat your vegetables is now fighting you about eating theirs. There have been many times since March of 1999 when I have become overwhelmed with the effects of my Mom's accident. So many times I have listened to my little heart crying "this isn't how it is suppose to be", over and over again. And yet inescapably reality cries back "Yes it is". Loosing a parent is never easy and living in the constant subtle reminder that you can no longer pass as normal is a fast track to little bit's of shattering.

And today brought with it more bad news, my Grandfather is dying. Well actually to be honest he has been dying for the last year or so, but now it is more likely a manner of weeks than months. Even sitting here writing this I find myself stopping and pausing with the knowledge that very soon I will be without a Grandfather. With him goes another bit of my family history and part of me. Loss is this horrible thing and when it begins happening before you are old enough to ask the right questions to know the stories of old, every subsequent loss feels like a greater void. Like a hole in your understanding of who you are and why you are here. I have lost stories from my Grandfather and Grandmother Knippel already, although that side of the family was better with stories so many are clips in my faulty memory. Also there are always my Aunts, beautiful women who carry love, hospitality, and stories in their beings. From them I may be reminded and told the history of my muddle people. But from my Mother's family very little was told. Weird oddly out of place stories like the one about my Uncle, my mother's youngest brother, being caught smoking my Grandmother's pilfered cigarettes and Grandma making him smoke the whole pack until he was green and puking.

There is very little to hold though, so much hidden like my mom's baby pictures and photos of her growing up, the like of which I had never seen until I was given a box. Cleaning out my Grandparent's condo and storage unit, my Aunt and Uncle discovered a treasure trove of a life. Living though the Depression and so many other of the world changing events of the last century left my Grandparents with the save everything mentality. I never knew this as a child or even a teenager at least not consciously, yet I can remember something of this being said or told to me between high school and junior high. So many aspects of their lives was hidden, in storage, in propriety, in that damned frozen chosen mentality of the WASPy Presbyterians that my mom's family is. Their English and Welsh heritages accumulating to this reservedness. And so I find myself wondering if I know my Grandparents as I sometimes wonder if I know my Mother. The woman I love so much it hurts, who for years following the raping of her deep and beautiful intellectual mind and replacing it with a clarity of focus and belief never seen before, I couldn't figure out how to relate to with out words and ideas. I could only sit next to her and hold her hand sending and receiving our secret message of "i love you" passed down from the moment I can remember. And yet sometimes I wonder at all the things she can't tell me, those things that I search for in her letters and journals.

Loss is a bitch of a thing and I am tired of it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Away from the visions of Barbie & Ken (NFTD #17)

We are so obsessed with external ideas of attraction and beauty. Almost every media story line about relationships focus on shallow and surface elements of what draws one to another, yet in the end of most of these films it is not those things that create connection between the two characters. In fact many times the characters who we are rooting for at the end of the story don't seem to be good matches at the beginning. How many times at the end of a film, when the characters finally get together it is because they are connected in deeper ways than just physical attraction. More often than not it is because they have "fallen in love" with this person for all of who they are. It is the Bridget Jones echo of " No I like you very much. Just as you are", when it comes down to it aren't there various elements that make up attraction and in the end the looks are very little of what keeps two people together. It is those little sparks of connection and connectivity that happens between two people. I have often found the more time I spend with someone, the deeper I get to know who they are at their core, the deeper the attraction I have.

I think that we don't really seek for our idealized version of "hot", rather we meet someone who may very well be the opposite of that ideal and yet they in reality are exactly right for us. One of my favorite moments in "500 days of Summer" is during the interview section when Michael Gray Gubler's character Paul is talking about his girlfriend he says something like "my ideal is nothing like Robin (his girlfriend) but you know Robin is better, because she's real". In the end aren't we all looking for someone who loves us, who we can love, who loves us for who we are stars , warts and all and who can encourage and inspire the greatness that already exists. It is only that person who we can be real and naked (in all forms) before who is worth all the trouble and energy and love and care. And this has very little to do with whether or not we thought they were f**kable at the first meeting. To risk one's heart calls for more than just "hi I think you're hot", it asks for another heart willing to risk.

If I ever get the chance to write a love story or film I want it to reflect a reality of relationships and the diversity of beauty with in people. Some of the most powerful and challenging films for me as a viewer have been those that risked showing real people in their stories not (no offense to all my beautiful and talented actor friends) the pretty plastic people we usually see in media. Two examples of these types of films are "disFIGURED" and "How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer", each were brave enough to tell a true story that included sexuality and sex scenes between real people so often not seen in film. When directors and writers take the risk of telling stories like these, they choose to chip away at our pristine image machine of media. They empower not only our seeing life as more diverse but also the broadening of life in the day to day. I am tired of seeing perfect and narrow visions of people, relationships and beauty. Not only should our media be diverse in racial and gendered representation but also in body and concepts of attraction and beauty.


so i have taken a two year break from watching "weeds" in part because as much as i loved the cast the show got a bit campy towards the end of the second season. honestly, does everything have to have elements of soap opera these days? anyway i finally have a computer where i can watch instant netflix and today i started season three. what i realized as i watched was that there is something of life and the gospel in this story. each time nancy gets into a deeper hole and doesn't think that she will be able to get out and yet each time in the end she is able to. my journey of faith has been much like nancy's journey, each time i think things can't get any worse they do and yet there is always grace in the midst of all the shitty things. what is most interesting to me while watching, at least the early episodes, is how when everything is stripped away somehow connection happens in a more raw and real way. it is nice to see the connection that is happening in the midst of this still grieving family. i wonder if at the end of the series this will really be a show about people processing their grief and pain hidden in the midst of a show about a suburban soccer mom drug dealer.

there is alway grace and hope...i wonder if that might be the reason that stories of impending doom are so popular because we are conditioned on the idea that there is always someone who get out alive. even in most horror movies, isn't there the trope of at least one of the main characters getting out of the story alive? we need grace, we want hope, we have hearts that even when shrouded in darkness still seek some kind of light. hope it is a powerful thing.

Just not quite there...

Just finished watching a film called "Crashing" which features Campbell Scott and Lizzy Caplan(who was on the first season of True Blood) and Izabella Miko (who is in Flakes with Aaron Stanford and Zooey Daschanel). I like the casting and some of the cinematic choices but over all really didn't like the movie. It is trying to be something interesting and provocative, but honestly fails. It is like pseudo-philosophy, creating an idea that looks like it is something of depth when really it is pretentiously shallow and postulating. Why does this happen so often? You see something that given the casting or the director or the plot over view, and it sounds like it will be something good and interesting. Then you watch the film and it becomes this waste of time, which in the end leaves you with this empty and annoying feeling. Like when you want a certain food, but for whatever reason you can't get the exact brand/kind to truly fill the craving and so you go to a second best which leaves this unfulfilled hole and in the end makes the craving even more potent and powerful. I am tired of the pretentious postmodern stories that in the end are nothing but esoteric posturing and smoke screens.

I know that making a film is hard work...I've worked on one or two before. I also know that writing a strong and interesting script can be challenging as well but what I don't understand is how so many craptastic scripts can get made, especially with talented actors. But then again maybe I can, yes I seem to recall a horrible but pretty film from a few months ago with a great cast that was incredibly beautiful yet in the end failed to hold my attention. A Single Man, by fashion designer Tom Ford was a very pretty film with a lovely cast and yet I walked out of the theatre feeling like I had lost two hours of my life that would never come back. Maybe I am jealous because I would love to be working on a well done film or maybe I am just tired of being disappointed. Whatever the reasons I feel frustrated after watching "Crashing", it might have been an interesting short story but failed to hold my interest as a film.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Truth... (NFTD #16)

I have been reading a book by the french media theorist jean baudrillard called "the conspiracy of art" and let me say first that this is a great book...very interesting. So many things are filtering through my head while reading this book. One of the elements of this book that struck out at me was the idea that contemporary art is meaningless in part because there is no external means from which to critique it. When everything can be considered art, then is there anything that is art? In many ways I agree with this concept. It is extremely complicated to talk about art these days when so much falls under that category. I mean when someone can close themselves up in a store front window living there for a certain period of time and call that art, how can we judge what is art and what is well, exhibitionism or created for shock value?

I am finding that the older I get the more I understand the importance of having an external means from which to define things. Taking into account the fact that this means of adjudication must be flexible and open to a diversity of expressions there is a great need for art to have means of definition. I strongly believe that there is a different between something being artfully done and something being art. And yet I couldn't give a clear criteria for what differentiates the two, much like faith. I know that there are things that are TRUE in so strong a manner that everyone (baring the psycho and sociopathic) would agree were true. While we may not always live in accordance to these TRUTHS they are ingrained in our cultural psyche and ethos and have been ingrained in those of generations. We need something outside ourselves to create structure and order to life, we crave it. And I believe it is possible to enter into that while also allowing for some plasticity in how we construct it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mirrors (NFTD #15)

A mirror is something that shows a reflection, the intent is to help you see better. Like offering you the sight of smeared lipstick a cross your two front teeth before you walk into the next room to meet your blind date. Or the revelation that your white dress shirt has a stain in the middle of it before you walk out the door to give your first major project. Yet there are also mirrors that distort the image and make it more convoluted, say like the mirrors in a fun house or those in a dressing room. Either way there are really only two types of mirrors those that bring clarity to a image and those which distort and pervert the image.

People and relationships can function in a similar manner. In their best sense good relationships mirror back to us who we are in a honest and clarifying way. Sometimes we don't always like this reality because we are a people who like to hide. We "hide" our dark and shadow selves for fear of rejection or scorn or shame. And there in lays the beauty of healthy and good relationships, those who mirror our image back to us do this in a way that does not reject or scorn or shame, rather they offer a clearer view of who we are so that we may become our best selves. In a healthy engagement mirroring brings the freedom to be whole in ones understanding and vision of self. Those whom we are in relationship with offer critical vision because they can see the Imago Dei (image of God) for which we were created and bear even in our worst and most shabby condition.

One of the most striking elements of a dis-functional or unhealthy relationship is the presence of perverted and distorted mirroring. The criticism of this relational dynamic does not call forth freedom or the Imago Dei but instead crushes and seeks to possess and destroy the created image of that person.

Over the last day I was able to go back to Seattle and see friends. It was a great journey even though it was short. The sun was shining and it reminded me of all the beauty Seattle has to offer. Almost everyone I saw this weekend mirrored my present reality, happiness, back to me. While that may not seem like a hugely significant thing it was. For the last three years I lived in Seattle I was fought a pretty constant battle against fear, stress and anxiety...happiness felt like something that I would never be able to feel again. So for these dear friends who had watched that battle to bear a very different image of who I am was a little moment of delight. Their seeing helped to remind me of all the work I have been doing since moving down to Portland and how incredible it is that I am at peace even when things are not idea. My heart, mind and spirit are finally beginning to find rest and peace in the midst of chaos. I am able to find PEACE, this is huge.

Last week I had the chance to chat with my darling friend Annie who lives on the other side of the country. We were talking about my application and how things were going studying for the GRE. I was expressing to her my fears and anxiety around my gpa and the GRE score. To which she reminded me (mirroring) that my gpa was for GRADUATE level course and that I did complete all of them and am in possession of a Master's degree and that many of those who are applying for this program are undergraduates. She said something like "you have already proven that you can do this work". And for whatever reason Annie's words took root in my heart and brought a peace and a clarity of vision which I had lost sight of over these last few weeks. Her vision of who I was helped me to more clearly see and remove the distorted image I was letting get in my way.

In these ways I feel so blessed to have been offered better vision through my friends words and observation of who I am.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

of the heart...(NFTD #14)

Tonight while watching my favorite show, "Bones", I was reminded of how hard it is to trust your heart. It hurt to watch a fictional character choose safety over a risk worth taking. My gut reaction was why? "Why would you do that? Don't you know...?" But the character doesn't know, much like some of the children I have worked with who don't know how to express how they feel or what they are feeling. It is to much for this character to allow them self to feel what they feel so they choose their head, their safe place and I think in the end if this story is well written which I believe it to be the character will be offered the space to see what they have lost and choose it again. Watching this exchange I saw a bit of myself, the battle between my head and my heart where the former takes over and shuts out the latter. At first it was a form of safety and much needed for me to survive the things that were to great for me to carry. Now it is what has been limiting my ability to move forward and become who I want to be come, who I am created to be. My form of protection has become my form of spiritual and emotional suicide.

Fear can drive how we engage with the world in such a limiting way. This emotion when it keeps us from situations and people that are meant to be blessings can rob us of the life we were made for. Is it really worth all the safety we get in exchange for the loss of beauty and irreplaceable gift being offered through taking that risk? How can you walk away from the path that has and continues to mark your life? I think of CS Lewis the great teacher & writer who in spite of all the reasons why he shouldn't have choose to love and marry Joy Davidson. Yes, it cost him dearly but it also blessed him and I believe he would say that the cost was worth the heartache because the pain was overshadowed in the end by beauty of having opened him self up to loving this woman. To quote him, "Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal."

As much as it scares me to do so I want to reflect Lewis in my life. To bear a willingness to risk: for love, truth, beauty and those other things which are truly worth the cost and the pain of feeling. This day I began a journey to get to a place of integration, where my mind and heart and spirit can come together and work in unity with each other instead of battling each other. I have spend twenty eight and a half years with my heart waring with my heart. A few hours ago this began to change and I am beginning to be release from the fear and anxiety that has marked my life. Some day soon I will no longer be the character I watched tonight, turning away from the lover of the characters heart. Instead I will choose to dance. to risk, to open up to love.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Darkness (NFTD #13)

Given the storms that have been hitting the northwest this week today is a very dark and gloomy day. The type where you want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a good book and a big cup of tea or soup while the fire rages in the fireplace. It is a day where my heart longs for cosieness and protection.

In addition it also happens to be the saturday of easter weekend the darkest day in the liturgical calender. Because this is the moment before we know that in the end it will be all right. This is the place in the story where you are almost certain that the character you have grown to love will not get out alive.

A few months ago I saw "A Single Man" and the feeling of anger and frustration with the end of that film is the feeling of this holy saturday. You have been taken for a ride that has ripped out your guts and you are told that we have arrived at the end of the tale. What strikes me today is how much I live in the end of "A Single Man" instead of Easter Sunday. I profess that I believe in redemption, healing, and miricles and I do just not for my self. My heart longs to see big things, drastic changes, and the beauty of God's action in the hearts of people and yet I don't believe that he will choose to work like that in my life. Some how I don't think that I deserve or are worth that action.

My best friend's father and I had a conversation about this and how it related to the novel "The Shack" a few months ago when I was in Los Angeles. He asked me if I had read the novel and what I thought of it and we got to talking about my relationship to God and what it is I truly believe about God with my heart (because the things I believe strongly with my mind and spirit don't always connect to my heart). The central element of that conversation was that I don't think that I am worthy of God's action. That I have this underlying thinking that somehow I will do something so apathedic or bad that God will not allow me to enter into life with God. Ironically I hold very strongly to a theology that is centered in the idea that God is such a loving God that God persues even the likes of Judas because God is one redemption and hope. The idea of reconcillation for the WHOLE of creation is vital to my understanding of God, and yet I often question whether or not I am part of that process.

Sitting in this darkness today I find that I want two things: healing-leading to joy and hope, and direction with out doubt but marked by confidance in the calling. In the tomb of my chaos and fear this is the light that I hope for in the vision of tomorrow's celebration. It is a prayer to be opened up and healed, for my eyes to be light with a new form of vision. To be moulded into a new form and being the one I was created to be in the first place.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

our bodies are burning on the alter of culture...

I just finished reading a strong and powerful critque of the relationship between Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series and the hierarchy, sexuality, and relationship dynamics present in the evangelical church. This incredible paper is my friend KJ's thesis paper which she blessed me with by allowing me to read it. Post reading I find I am left with so many emotions...many of them similar to those felt in certain Christian contexts as well as those which came up while reading this book series and other cultural stories. One of the strongest emotions sitting in my body right now at 12:18am is that of grief. Why why why is the question that keeps running through my head. So often I find that when confronted with stories of women who are harmed, especially in structures, systems, and stories that condition them to participate in the harm as part of goodness or love, that why screams so loud it threatens to break my heart.

KJ in her paper brought up the biblical story of Tamar, what is interesting is that there are actually two stories of women name Tamar in the Old Testament both of whom are connected to the linage of Christ. The first story comes from Genesis 38:1-30, this Tamar is the daughter in law of Judah. The essencial of the story are: Tamar marries Er son of Judah who is evil and is killed by God, then according to Levirite law (pop culture reference if you have seen Deadwood this is why Sheriff Seth Bullock is married) she (because she has not born a child with Er) is then married to his brother Onan who sleeps with her but does not ejaculate so that she cannot conceive because the child would be his brother's and not his and for this wickedness God kills Onan. Levirite law then stipulates that Judah give his next son Shelah in marriage to Tamar when he is of age which Judah agrees to but does not do for fear of his son's life. During this passage of time Judah's wife dies and Tamar realizes that she has essencially been screwed over by Judah and so she goes about gaining her rights. She disguises herself as a protestitue and sleeps with Judah to finally conceive a child through his family line and seek the protection she should have had a his widowed daughter in law. When he finds out she is pregnant, not knowing he is the father, following the law she is taken to be stoned until she produces evidence marking Judah as the father of her two sons. And at the end of the story Judah commends her for seeking what was rightfully her's: "Judah recognized them(the markers he had left with the protestute) and said "She is more righteous than me, since I would not give her to my son Shelah." vs. 26 NIV

The second Tamar is a sadder story one of the explicite rape stories in the biblical narrative 2 Samuel 13:1-22. Basics of the story are: Tamar is one of the daughters of King David, the sister(meaning they had the same mother) of Absalom. Another of their half brothers Amnon is in "pain" over his lust for Tamar. Their cousin Jonadab counsel's Amnon to fain sickness and ask for Tamar to come and feed and care for him so that he can have her alone and sleep with her. This Amnon does and he rapes Tamar. And then with all of his "desire" alievated he turns to her in rage, and she pleads with Amnon to fix the rape by marrying her. To this request he violently expells Tamar from his rooms. She is now a cursed woman and seeks shelter with her brother Absalom, who protects her from this while the father of all three Tamar, Amnon and Absalom, David the King who God loved does nothing.

For both biblical Tamars they are denighed voice and strength, in their harm they are asked to honor their abusers above themselves. They are seen as objects not as equal or valued beyond their ability to give pleasure (masterbation) to their abusers. And in these stories I see the same questions and harms and structure that are addressed in KJ's paper and are up held in Meyer's books. KJ writes about the subtle messages that are inbibed by women and men with in the church and culture about the roles of women in relationship to men specifically in sexual and relational dynamics. There are concerns about the great harm and collusion that happens when ideas that lead to the glorification of abuse and power with in a relationship get confused with developing ideas about love, passion, desire and faith.

All of this biblical synopsis to say I was inspired and challenged by the writing of a friend this evening. And my heart screams why are women and girls being burn on the alter of lies about love? Why are our good desires of connection, sex and love being filtered through shoddy and unhelpful representations of a violent and destructive fantesy, because it looks shiny and whitewashed on a curserary glance?