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Tears for humanity

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The day you reached that place was the first time you cried
for broken humanity.
You’d shed tears before, but they were tainted.
Innocent. But laced with the poison of perfection—
the belief that kills true love.

You didn’t realize at first that you stood in the place of understanding.
The place of confusion.
Black and white met there—
mingling, dancing.
Trying to keep up, you twirled and spun,
until all you could see was gray—
two colors obscured into one.
Indefinite.

Falling to your knees, you reached out to it—
the only color the world had to offer.
What else could you do?
“After all,” you said.
“This is the world.”

And that’s when you first cried.
When you realized that this dance was the world.
And all of humanity was caught inside.
Even your outreached hands couldn’t stop
black from colliding with white.
Impossible.
Much like perfection—
a belief that was now gone.

In its absence, your tears were raw.
Real.
You caught one and held it in your hand.
There, you could see the reflection of humanity.
The reflection of you.

And the dance went on around everyone.
Black, merging with white;
good, coupling with bad.
And in the middle of it all, humanity suffered—
the world mourned, because no one could stop the dance.

“What can I do for them?”
you screamed at the sky,
wishing the world was what you’d always thought it to be.
Wishing that the place of understanding was not also the place of confusion.

But it was.
And you cried there.
For humanity.
For the fact that you too, couldn’t escape the dance;
for the fact that you had nothing to offer the broken world.

Nothing but tears.
Tears you were ashamed of.
Tears that fell because you didn’t know
how to stop the dance,
and because you understood nothing
but confusion.

They were full of imperfection—
the thing that makes tears pure.
And as you cried, they pooled at your feet.
A well of possibility.
Kneeling down to draw from it, you realized,
you could not stop the dance, but you could give water
to the world.

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Written by liferenewed

May 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Second thoughts

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This past week I came across an article discussing Christmas in Zimbabwe, a country a country whose profound struggle against the effects of the global food crisis have been compounded by severe drought and the decisions of a tyrannical leader. And although the holiday season has come to a close, I thought that it was an apt piece to reflect on, particularly as we enter a new year.

When I first read the story I was particularly challenged by the way in which the author, Steve Scauzillo, juxtaposes the worries of families in Zimbabwe with his own family here in the United States. It makes a valid and important point about something most of us know, but rarely choose to think about: how well off we are.

And I’m guessing that if we are honest, each of us could add examples from our own lives to Scauzillo’s list. Families in Zimbabwe are wondering if they will have food to eat, while we are wondering if we will be able to eat what we want. We are wondering if we will get a job that pays enough for us to have a comfortable life down the road, and people in Zimbabwe are wondering if they will have life at all.

For me, the pivotal moment came when Scauzillo admitted that his research on Zimbabwe was causing him to think differently. After encouraging readers to do something to reach beyond themselves, he admits that he had begun to “have second thoughts about buying my oldest son that new cell phone.”

Simple as this passing comment seems, it is underscored by an important theme. If we stop and think about it, each of us could most likely come up with reasons that would justify the purchase of a phone for Scauzillo’s boy. After all, in America, almost everyone has a cell phone. And, after all, Scauzillo’s son may be in a situation where he needs the phone someday. Fair enough. The point is not to judge parents who buy cell phones for their children or to go off on a tangent about spoiled youth. In fact, the goal is not to judge anyone else but rather, to get us to look more intently at ourselves.

By having second thoughts about the cell phone, Scauzillo is questioning his own standard of living. And as we begin a new year, that is my goal as well. I want to constantly have second thoughts about the way that I live, to begin to ask if the choices I am making really make sense in light of the big picture. Are my purchases motivated by need or simply justified by whatever excuse I can come up with at the time? Am I making the best use of my time, or wasting it merely because that is what everyone else is doing?

By questioning my standard of living and the way I spend my time I hope that I will eventually get to the place where second thoughts become first thoughts—where I don’t look at life in the same way anymore. Second thoughts pave the way for a new way of living, and I think this kind of re-evaluation is what we are called to do. So, what’s my goal for 2009? It’s simple yet hopefully the execution of it will prove to be profound: I want to have second thoughts more often.

*Scauzillo’s article is hyperlinked above, or you can follow his link here:
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/opinions/ci_11307211?source=email

Written by liferenewed

January 2, 2009 at 12:34 am

Out of tune

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The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

-William Wordsworth

The road that Wordsworth saw his contemporaries paving in the early in the 1800s is sadly, the same path that society continues to follow today. The glimpse of change that he calls for at the end of this poem never really came, as we–humanity–continue to throw our powers away and offer our hearts as immoral and selfish gifts to things that do not really matter. I love this poem, and the way in which Wordsworth calls us back to nature, and points out how–as we get and spend–we are simply throwing away our powers. When I consider the consumer culture in which I live, and really think about how we spend our time and resources I can’t help but wish with Wordsworth that I could “Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.” Wordsworth longs to see Proteus, a sea-god of Greek mythology who supposedly had the power to tell the future. Unfortunately, had Wordsworth’s wish been granted, the story of the future would have told of a people just as sordid and wasteful as Wordsworth’s 19th century contemporaries.

I found myself thinking of this poem in light of the recent events on Wall Street; the financial crisis that American has found herself in is certainly an example of humanity’s impecable ability to throw our powers away. Granted I am no financial expert, and admittedly know very little about the the details of the crisis. But from what I understand, it has to do with the fact that our economy is based on a system of lending and borrowing. At the root of the problem is the simple fact that Americans have been getting and spending above their means. And one has only to look at the standard of living our culture subscribes to before he can recognize why. It is no longer enough to simply have shelter and food. For many, cutting back means taking less vacations or eating out less often.

If I stepped into America with no understanding of the state of the economy, you would have a difficult time convincing me that Americans were on the brink of a financial crisis. Why? Because I would see what I see everyday on the way to work, or when I stop at the grocery store: Americans, talking on cell phones, putting gas in their cars (despite increased prices), going to movies, and spending weekends at the shopping mall. I say this not to judge the culture around me, but rather, to draw attention to something I have been convicted about in my own life: living in the land of abundance, we have forgotten what true necessities are; we don’t really know what it means to be in want.

In an article about his perspective on the 700 billion dollar bailout, Tim Costello, head of World Vision’s Australia office, helped me put the whole economic situation into perspective: “When we describe a crisis, an emergency like Wall Street, suddenly the money’s there. When 25,000 children are dying each day from preventable disease and lack of food we don’t call that a crisis.” In this statement, Costello makes an important point. When the American economy starts failing, we scramble becausue something must be done right away–our future and the futures of our children are at stake. Yet when we hear about poverty and hunger around the world, well, we will do something about that soon–as soon as we have some extra money. It doesn’t directly effect our children or our future.

Wordsworth called us “sleeping flowers” and said that “we are out of tune,” and the sad reality is that, 200 years later, not much has changed. The winds of crisis howl, and the sea tries to alert us to the problems around us yet, “it moves us not.” The American economy is important, and I think it is important that we care about and protect those who are in danger of loosing jobs and homes. Yet, in the midst of this crisis, let’s not forget that, even when times are tough for us economically, we are still so blessed. When Costello points out there is a crisis that perhaps should be more pressing than the failure of America’s major banks, he’s essentially saying the same thing Wordsworth said in the 1800s: society is out of tune.

Link to article quoting Costello:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/25/2373853.htm

Read entire poem “The World is too Much With Us”
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-world-is-too-much-with-us/

Written by liferenewed

October 1, 2008 at 12:39 am