Saturday, April 23

Colors --- Soup is here! He arrived Thu mid-day. So funny how time passes, and some friendships are unharmed at all!

He's a trooper, for sure, coming to two long play practices for two nights in a row! As of midnight last night, we're looking pretty good for today's performance. Altogether, there are about 15 friends I've invited who've said they'll be coming! Lovely!

I've been elected again to the Local Spiritual Assembly.

My move to Quebec in late August/early September is definite now. Charlotte has made arrangements with Guy-Claude (brother-in-law) for my food/lodging to be compensated, along with small monetary contribution. I will be responsible for my niece 3-5 days per week, as Charlotte resumes her PhD research, and I'll be helping with general tasks as well. I'll probably bring my car, which will be an added asset.

This is exciting for so very many reasons! mainly to strengthen our family bond, train me in the rearing of a child, and I will have some time to study, research, write, and try to get published in Performance Studies and related publications.

Since my next move is to go to Japan or South Korea, I've decided to work really hard on my go playing. This ancient Chinese strategy game is evidently _huge_ in these countries - sometimes they even televise competitions, with full commentary and all! I happen to love the game. Robbie and I play semi-regularly, we have those monthly "Sushi & Go Nights", Rob is very practices and can keep teaching me techniques, and even Shawn has recently taken a liking to it! It would be a good social "in" if I move to the Far East.

Thursday, April 14

I wrote this on 4/11, I think:

Clasping --- Saturday was a day. That's for sure.

It's quite a long story, but to keep things short, I had to face many challenges, not the least of which was having to decide to give up on going to the Tori Amos concert I've been anticipating for over a month, and wishing for for much longer than that. Play practice was most of the day on Sunday, and there was no way I could do both.

It got to the point on Saturday, then, that I was completely overwhelmed, shaking, and struggling to get through each next moment without fainting (I might be slightly exaggerating). The good news is that I came out on top, stronger, and happier (although my mood was sketchy at best for the rest of the day).

Saturday was also the day we went up to Cockeysville (right outside Baltimore) for the Youth Night up there. This month we had 8 people (down from the 12 we had expected). Next month there will most likely be more still, since it's been so much fun, and the word is spreading.

More importantly, though, the Richmond youth are getting to see a bit more of each other! So on April 23, the opening evening for the musical I'm directing, in addition to the show, dinner, music and dancing, we're having a youth after-party! Our friends from Baltimore are planning to join us (despite having a Core Curriculum training that weekend!). Also, Martin Kerr will be coming with half-a-dozen friends from the Norfolk area. I'm also inviting a couple of friends from the DC area, and if we're REALLY REALLY lucky, Soup will come out to visit too!

Anyway, play rehearsals have been going well, and everybody's very excited!

Shawn showed me a new scene she wrote for the play she and I will be putting on this summer. We determined we want it to open mid-August. Then I can move in with my sister in Quebec end August (I don't yet have the final ok, but that's the plan for now...) Anyway, the scene is just fantastic, and with every new piece I read, I've been getting more thrilled. It's really going to be amazing.

I read Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet" over the weekend. Wow. I am blown away. I was hoping to read it at the Just Poetry Jam last night, but I caught up with sleep instead.

The PSP (Sony's "Playstation Portable") is one of the sexiest things I've ever seen! I would really love one, but will probably never purchase it... Orion and Robbie were playing each other in "Lumines", a tetris-like puzzle game, on the way up to Baltimore. I've played it once, and loved it! My mom is setting up to get herself one as well (although she's still having a blast with her DS and all her gameboy games...)

Wednesday, April 13

Averages --- I've really been enjoying work this week! I'm usually luke-warm about it, except when I manage to focus on the idea of service long enough to feel good about what I'm doing. This is the hardest job I've had, because the eventual service that is rendered through my work is difficult to perceive. So it turns out bussing tables for IHOP was a lot more fun for me. danio in an 8-5 office... funny that would be my most common job. My dad did that most of his life, until a few years back when he said enough is enough and got a groundskeeping/landscaping job, which he enjoys today.

Brit pop... what an interesting phenomenon - so weird we get almost none of it here...

Soup will be visiting me from Cali next week, and he'll see the play too, so I'm super-psyched! plus my Baltimore friends are coming down, and Martin and a few of his friends from Norfolk, and maybe one or two from DC. Wow! Funny that I'm not really worried about the play. We're performing in less than two weeks, and we're really not ready! It'll be what it'll be, and that's that.

Sunday, April 3

Sinner --- before I discuss the movie "Sin City", know that I am not recommending the movie to anyone - that would be far too risky a recommendation.

The "funk" from my last post was helping to prepare me for seeing this film. It's a stylized (mostly black & white, with comic book effects) representation of the ultimate city of sin.

The characters are corrupt politicians, perverse cops, prostitutes, thieves, rapists, killers, drug addicts, etc. and that's putting it as mildly as I can imagine

Needless to say, it was a horrendously difficult movie to watch, especially for a danio. I only saw it because I was with friends and didn't know anything about it (and somehow the title didn't dissuade me)

Although I left the theatre disturbed, shocked and worried, some hours having elapsed, clarity seems to emerge, strangely. I'm started to wonder if all of that sex and gore was really so gratuitous.

You see, the problem is that, even though the protagonists were trying to do good, they were, by most standard respects, bad people. Except that I've been thinking the opposite now: even though they were bad people, they were trying to do good. So even if the "heroes" lied, killed, and otherwise abused others in disturbing ways, the image that remains is that of their inner light, their struggle to overcome all adversities, including those imposed by their own selves.

It really feel that in the end, what stands out in this bleak and depraved world depicted here, it's the distant, glimmering spark of light that retains its resonance, especially in the face of such looming odds. This could be due to my own perspective, but it's at least in part, if not entirely, the goal of the creators of this movie.

We live in such a dark time that it takes a movie that gruesome to hint at the atrocity of our current world.

These two quotes from the Baha'i Writings hint at a similar theme:

"All that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to the truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 44)

"Shouldst thou step a little way into the worlds of severance, thou wilt testify that no day greater than this Day and no resurrection mightier than this Resurrection can be imagined, and that one deed in this Day is equivalent to deeds performed during a hundred thousand years -- nay, I ask pardon of God for this limitation, because deeds done in this Day are sanctified beyond any limited reward." (Compilations, Baha'i Scriptures, p. 37)

For many years I have struggled with my own humility, as mentioned in my previous post. It is always the case that by just shifting my perspective, I realize that I am no better - in fact, that I am much lesser - than those I come in contact with throughout my life. For they are struggling much more than I am, in many cases. This is why I am never in a place to judge. But how do I live in a way that reaches upward toward the standards set by my Lord without putting up barriers between myself and others? Why are none of my friends or even acquaintances thieves, prostitutes or killers?

God alone can soften my heart, so the battle is always the same: to make my heart the home of none other than God.

What a world we live in, which is both so perfect and so confused...

Saturday, April 2

The Funk ---

How to fight off "the funk"

Some how, danio got overtaken Monday evening by a case of "the funk", as Jason put it - in other words, I was feeling kind of "down", as Liesel put it, or "un-madeline". Whatever it was, it was less than pleasant, and I'm still not sure why it happened. My best excuse is that I was "down" for the sake of being "down"...

The performance of "Home" went rather well, but since I went first, the audience was not settled, couldn't exactly focus or concentrate (this is always the case for the first performance or two), and I had just stepped out of the restroom... So I had a hard time connecting to the audience. I also got a rather poor score (one person did give me a 10). It dawned on me when I got home that I actually had some slight expectations, but they aren't clear. Generally speaking, I think I had this idea that I was putting more heart/soul than your average poet, that my message was clearer or more important. Basically I had not been very humble. This was flipped on me when the series of performances so blatantly displayed an incredible degree of openness, wisdom, love, dedication, sincerity and sacrifice.

So I was praying to God, searching for the strength to overcome these negative thoughts, and begging for assistance. Now, this is not an uncommon practice of mine: when I find ways in which I have fallen short of the standards destined for me by God, I pray for spiritual growth, cry some, sort things out in my head, and then get up to do whatever I've got to do next.

Well this time, what I had to do next was call Liesel back. She said "Are you ok? You sound a little down..."

"I'm fine", I said

"Are you sure?"

"I am a bit tired..."

"Oh, that might be it"

I thought for a second, "Now that you mention it, I may not be feeling so well..."

Shortly thereafter, Liesel mentioned that she is my friend, and I can call her any time I want if I ever need anything. This opened me up for talking about what I had just experienced and prayed about. Liesel, then, not only validated my state of being, but also gave me an opportunity to be weak! So I grabbed it! The next day I had a conversation about this with Robbie, who listened lovingly, and made comments which only a friend who knows me in and out can make; then I spoke with Jason, who mentioned that he was going through a "funk" very much like what I was feeling.

So!! in a matter of 36 hours, thanks to loving and encouraging friends, along with sincere prayer, I had overcome "the funk"! My visit with friends in Baltimore the preceding weekend had helped to strengthen me as well.

My goals for the next year-and-a-half or so include directing a play in Richmond, doing some kind of service or traveling teaching in Benin or Mali, living in Quebec with my sister Charlotte for a couple of months, teaching English for a year in Japan or South Korea, and moving to Martinique... We'll see how far I go with all of this...