Tuesday, February 18, 2014
This In-Between Month, Day 1
I have always been fascinated by the in-betweens. Dawn and dusk and their strange grays, horizons, borders and shorelines- that no-man's land. There is a tension in the in-betweens, a solitary confinement too. And what is art without those visceral forces, that isolation?
Yesterday morning, after the chaos of an airport run, the smells of burning trash and dirty diesel exhaust, and all the craziness of a normal Haitian Monday, I sat alone in the terminal at Port-au-Prince's Toussaint Louverture International Airport. I scrolled through photos of the day before, an impromptu beach outing. These two precious baby sisters, reclining in a wheel barrow. The Haiti that I was leaving behind for a month.
It is hard to separate the feelings I get, the leaving a country I love and the going to a country where my son is. These in-betweens, they get more and more intense, more and more convoluted with each border passing. I feel like part of me stays, sojourns in that no-man's land, a little lost, never settling. My mind was on these thoughts and always the stark contrast of the poverty I was leaving, the luxury I would soon be in. I stared at my little cup of espresso, the last taste of Haiti for a month.
Later, as I sat waiting for my flight to New Orleans. A gentlemen, an entomologist by profession, sat across from me tearing pages from a magazine. Finally, bettered by my curiosity, I asked him what he was doing. He said simply, "It's too heavy." He was ripping out all the adds, another magazine's worth, and setting them on the seat beside him, making the very large magazine less unwieldy for his flight to South America. I jokingly asked him if he had paid for the magazine. He said, "yes, dearly." I laughed and remarked how the publishers were double dipping grossly, selling so many ads, and still taking their pound of flesh from their readership. He chuckled. I wondered aloud maybe most people buy it for the ads. Maybe they want to be told what to wear, and what to watch, and what to smell like. With the tone of a man who prefers the studies of bugs and not people he humored me, "Maybe." He continued to make his magazine lighter, the stack beside him grew to the height of another normal magazine, and I sat quietly. Finally I said, "Maybe people should do that with their lives? Rip out all the ads, all the pinned pages, all the critical analysis of the consumer at large. Maybe all those voices telling them who to be should be silenced as such." He looked at me, as if I were a rare species of cockroach, and as he stood he said. "You're way too young to be talking that way." And then he handed me the pile of pages and walked away.
I found a sunny spot, near the sky train, and spread the pages on the floor. A drunk British tourist, worried about my sanity, said, "Hey Jesus, don't let them tell you how to be, don't let them get to you." Indeed. To which his sober country mate said, "Leave him alone, it's probably just art or something that he's doing." Only when he said "art", it was like a curse word. I made the little mosaic below in honor of those concerned Londoners while bored and waiting to board.
The flight to New Orleans was easy and uneventful. Sleep tugged at me but the flying mostly west at that hour always means flying into the sunset. The strangest of in-betweens, you literally watch the sun setting in slow motion, and oh the oranges, the yellows, the reds glowing the clouds. And then on descent, between the layers of clouds, like the sun exploded and irradiated everything with color. By the time I got to the hotel in New Orleans I was too tired to write, too tired to make sense of what it all meant if anything. I took a miraculous hot shower, I laid down in a bed too soft, too fresh for words. I thought of Haiti, my little wood shack by the sea. I thought for a few moments I'd never sleep here, not without the rolling waves...but then I was gone. Into the in-between of dreams.
The word for 2013 was "selfie". The most watched youtube video, with over 600 million views in the 2013 calender year is a song called "Gentleman" which depicts a man being anything but that, instead it is a crude celebration of the heights of selfishness even if it's meant to be somewhat ironic. (Please, spare yourself the agony.) Is this the way we see ourselves, and others? The way we want to be seen? I am no pile of ads and neither are you I suspect. A photo taken of ourselves is mostly harmless, and a crappy song doesn't necessarily become ones life governing philosophy. But who are we to be?
Tomorrow I see my son for the first time in three months. I am always painfully aware that I am to set an example for him. And so the word that's been in my spirit, the one the ads can't sell you, the way they won't tell you to be, the one that flies in the face of all culture, the one that I am really bad at, is "selfless".
For me I want that word to mark my new year. To be the legacy for my son. And I find it impossible. And only with Jesus, only with His example and the sacrifice and power of the cross can I start to even begin to be selfless, which by any other name would be "Christ-likeness". Even as I type that word I know what it means and my soul shudders a bit and shrinks back from it. But I must. When I look at the state of my heart, my mind. When I take stock of my desires. When I look at the great needs in this weary world... Well it's time for change.
So will you join with me and swear off selfies for a year? Haha. Just kidding. (But that is a thought..) Let us make 2014 a year where we are selfless. Where we change our spending habits, our consumption levels. (And besides, it's "too heavy" to carry all that weight around.) Use less and purchase slave-free. Give more to those doing the urgent things. May the way people describe us become the word selfless. Hard as it will be, with Christ all things are possible.
Gonna try and journal this in-between month. Love it if you stop by once and a while.