Monthly Archives: March 2014

Hangin’ with Mr. Lucas

It is possible that on a spiritual level we are all connected in a way that continues beyond the comings and goings of various life forms. My best guess is that we share a collective spirit or life force or consciousness that encompasses and goes beyond individual life forms. There’s a part of us that connects to other humans, connects to other animals, connects to plants, connects to the planet, connects to the universe. I don’t think we can understand it through any kind of verbal, written or intellectual means. But I do believe that we all know this, even if it is on a level beyond our normal conscious thoughts.

 

If we have a meaningful place in this process, it is to try to fit into a healthy, symbiotic relationship with other life force. Everybody, ultimately, is trying to reach a harmony with the other parts of the life force. And in trying to figure out what life is all about, we ultimately come down to expressions of compassion and love, helping the rest of the life force, caring about others without any conditions or expectations, without expecting to get anything in return. This is expressed in every religion, by every prophet.

 

Read more from the fingertips of George Lucas and feel no regret in doing so.

Also, just for fun on Lucas’ last sentence, two intriguing highlights from BBC NewsHour’s interview with Reza Aslan, a theologian who points out that Obama & Pope F “share the same values if not the same politics.”

  • “So, no wonder, then, that when the Pope preaches very similar ideas, the backlash to him from other Catholics, from other CHRISTIANS, is so complete; indeed, many of the same people, particularly in the United States, who so often claim to speak for Jesus are the first to CONDEMN the Pope for what he’s talking about with the poor. But, as I’ve said before, if you’ve got a problem with the Pope’s message, then you’ve got a problem with Jesus.” (2:33 -2:59)
  • I think what you’re seeing from the Pope is a man who is not really concerned any longer with either the bureaucracy of the Vatican or the complaints of these wealthy and powerful Catholic leaders. He is in a position of infallibility, if you will.” (4:57-5:13)
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All Things Go, All Things Go

In a post-work check-in with my roomie Kylie tonight, I confessed one of the items on my Chicago Bucket List (hint: it involves a red cooler and frantic tweet-begging, Chicagoans…). It’s a running document I’ve had for years and from which, having been here for 7, I continue to cross items off just as frequently as I add new ones.

I thought I made this list somewhere on this WordPress way back in the day but my search into the depths of these archives has proved fruitless, so I first scrape from memory the things I’ve done:

 

And confess how much more work I have left:

  • Pedal in the infamously secret midnight bike ride led by LUC Professor Gilfoyle
  • Manage to make a butterfly land on me while visiting Notebaert’s Butterfly Haven (perhaps while attending one of their Saturday morning yoga classes?)
  • Ride the Water Taxi
  • Visit the StoryCorps booth at the CCC
  • Do something really fun at Northerly Island (I learned about the snowshoeing adventures too late this year)
  • Go inside the Pullman Clock Tower (look at that neat-o view!)
  • In the same vein: visit the YAB mural near Morse & the Metra
  • Make friends with someone who owns a boat (#selfish)
  • Scrabble Sunday at Swim Cafe (it closed! But is reopening as Awake Cafe soon! Perhaps they’ll continue the tradition…)
  • Meet Ira Glass (let’s be honest– not just a Chicago bucket list item. THIS IS LIFE, PEOPLE.)
  • See Mark Bazer’s Interview Show (“a talk show in a bar” = the best tagline?)
  • Take my dad to Wrigley Field (you know it’s love when I’m taking him to a sports event, y’all)
  • Go to a concert at Ravinia (soon to be crossed off! John Legend on 6/16!)
  • MEET RAHM (my vision board, also known as my fridge, has his face(s) hanging on it for a reason)
  • Have a cab ride where it costs more money for me to get in than it does to drive the distance to my destination
  • Enjoy a Sunday meal at the Hare Krishna temple
  • Visit every “community area” in Chicago (37 down, 40 to go)
  • Nab a late-night tamale from the Tamale Guy‘s red cooler
  • Monday night free barbecue at Maria’s (that’s right, I said FREE NINETY-NINE. Couldn’t possibly love the place any more)
  • Kick up some sand at a Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam
  • Kayak on the Chicago River
  • Be on the air with WBEZ
  • Get weird at Funky Buddha Lounge
  • Indulge in some late-night 23rd-hour Tony’s Burrito Mex (which is so cool/frequented they don’t even trouble themselves to make a website)
  • Bike the Drive (Gene/Jean/Jeanne and I would really rekindle our love after a long winter apart)
  • Sunday High Tea at Pleasanthouse Bakery
  • Submit a request for a block party and have it approved (#WOV05? Stay tuned…)

The Three Questions

FIRST: Happy birthday to my dear, treasured friend Corey, who is celebrating surrounded by loved ones in a place that means a lot to him and in a life space that is worth every moment of questioning and struggling and rising above. You’re the tops. Wishing you love and light for the next 365 and beyond!

At the end of my junior year of college, I found myself in a sun-drenched little chapel full of people whose shared mission of leadership, community, spirituality (faith), and service I had helped bring to life for them and for the 3,000+ first- and second-year students we worked with as Loyola Companions. The year was by far my most challenging and emotional in my personal journey, but I was proud to be part of a group that made me strive toward something bigger than myself because, collectively, we found joy in showing generosity, hospitality, curiosity, and enthusiasm to others. I had learned how to be the best form of myself DESPITE my struggles because I had come to know my place with them and (more importantly) their place with ME, in MY life, during MY self-seeking.

I was handed a children’s book, as were all of the others before and after me when our names were called by our inspiring and warm chaplain leaders. I remember Matt laying it in my hands and, as he did so, reminding all 40 of us that my 2 co-coordinators and I had based our orientation retreat in August on children’s books that demonstrated the 4 pillars of our work. The book he handed each of us as a gesture of thanks for our intentional time spent companioning others was based on a story by Leo Tolstoy and was titled The Three Questions.

The book is very much a coming-of-wisdom story in which a little boy realizes the three keys to a life of fulfillment by asking these very important questions:

  • What is the best time to do things? 
  • Who is the most important one? 
  • What is the right thing to do? 

I won’t ruin the punchlines for you (though if you want to ruin them for yourselves, the moral of the book is STILL the second half of my “About Me” on Facebook), but the book is a profound little tale I continue to revisit year after year and slump after slump to remind myself of the simple fact that it’s not about being the best; it’s about being the best FOR. It’s increasingly less about accomplishments and titles for me (though I’m getting a little tired of fighting the world on this one) and more about how often I did what mattered most to me and to those around me. And all that clarity-enducing reflection came from a children’s book! I know. I KNOW. I’m always forgetting just how simple the deep truths of the Universe are.

In a refreshing and challenging conversation with my friend Emily (C-Rod, you know I’m talking about the one I tried to make you be friends with at UD!) the other night, her words brought me back to this idea that the complicated things we bring around with us in the form of baggage all the days of our lives should be– and need to be– unpacked to become more simple, straightforward ideas and statements in order to help us best advocate for ourselves and be more authentic in our relationships with others. (She’s so brilliant I can’t even begin to go there for fear of never returning to my point.) I (and she) do(es) not mean to imply that all things are black and white and the easy things are the best things. It’s more this idea that we get inside our brains and work things into a tangled mess when, in the end, all we can do and should do is know where we sit and how we answer questions so that we can represent those things in our pursuits, our interactions, our dreams, our pilgrimages.

And then.

She used the phrase “the stories we tell ourselves,” which coincidentally happens to be the title of a chapter in the book I recently began re-reading (see last post for a taste of Miller’s delicious honey of a life-changer!). And I realized how the story I’m currently narrating for myself is WAY too complex to pack the same punch as The Three Questions and my task should be to bring it back to the essentials. Cool how pattern-driven and profound my life is because of the people I know, right?

AND THEN.

She asked me three questions. Y’ALL, I TRULY CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP.

Her questions were about examining my relationships with others. We were specifically speaking about relationships I’ve invested lots of time and love and energy into, but I venture that it’s an interesting set of lenses through which we can look at a wide range of our relationships and interactions every day. Her questions, as (unethically?) ganked from a professor at UD:

  • What do you NEED from this interaction/relationship?
  • What do you WANT from this interaction/relationship?
  • What do you EXPECT from this interaction/relationship?

She actually drove it all home with a powerful fourth one: how do we differentiate between those three categories? Because we really should. It’ll not only help us reset our inner cardinal directions, but it’ll also help us discern the impact that we (and our wants/need/expectations) may have on others.

The easy part is laundry-listing what we know is resonating within us when we hear questions like this– to flush out those “stories we tell ourselves.” The more challenging part is finding the courage and conviction to tell our stories to others, abandoning all plot twists or hooks or flowery language. Just…plain and simple. When we are able to both recognize our straightforward answers and communicate them openly with others, we find ways to fit together and become a place of mutual belonging and codependency, similar to the feeling I had with my Companions crew in 2009.

I’m still hammering out some of my responses to those three questions from where I currently sit, but I have a feeling that they will be kept handy on my shelf to revisit on innumerable occasions, too.

be prepared to be surprised

what was the last thing that left you awestruck or in wonder of the universe? I’ve been searching really hard for those moments of daily joy, grace, and magic in my life as of late, and here’s why: i find that, when i allow myself to be struck by the simple paradisiacal details of my world, i am more curious, more grounded, more cheerful, and better able to shake off the many things that are bound to fall flat in our day-to-day lives.

as a chronically-late person, traffic jams and stalled public transit get me down. (don’t ask me how #dontrush2014 is going…)

as a relationship-focused person, one rude or thoughtless act from a stranger can deflate me.

as a young professional, a learning moment can rack me with guilt and self-loathing.

as a friend or family member, a single forgotten event or birthday or anniversary or unanswered text can make me feel like i’m not fulfilling my commitment to them.

i’ve been feeling the weight of the world in recent weeks (i’ll spare deets, but let’s just say march and i are not currently off to a great start), and so i’ve turned back to my boy don miller and his work a million miles in a thousand years for a reminder that so much of this life is within my control and i am able to both craft and interpret my journey however i please. one of the passages i keep unintentionally opening to is his chapter called “writing the world.” in it, he points out how quickly we move through life– so much so that that we don’t often recognize (or even comprehend) the sparkle of so many glorious happenings. he points to the fact that, while our brains are developing through our mid-20s, we “wake slowly to everything” over the course of more than 2 decades. since it’s all happening so very slowly, we begin very early in that development to brush off the miraculous and astonishing and take for granted the enormity of our existences and surroundings.

The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering. What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given– it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral. […] I’ve wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.

But I’ve noticed something. I’ve never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked out on was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they’ve chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable and are projecting their dreary lives on the rest of us.

i’m working to feed my craving for blissful admiration and shake a bit of my overdeveloped sense of self-importance that i have begun to tote around as my daily millenial baggage. it’s important to remind myself that i need to be patient enough to allow myself TO experience these things from my perspective, because that is the perspective with which i am able to see the world. but if i make the choice to don my rose-colored lenses when i rise each morning, i think i’ll be thrilled to return to a place of humility and growth and an openness to bear witness to the consistently extraordinary soon enough…