“Life is energy, and energy is creativity. And even when we as individuals pass on, the energy is retained in the work of art, locked in it and awaiting release if only someone will take the time and the care to unlock it.”—Joyce Carol Oates (via theparisreview)
“Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be—a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they—and all of us—have to be able to think about a world that works differently.”—Samuel R. Delany (via theparisreview)
…because we can have days where we hike for hours and go cliff jumping, and then have days where we just sleep forever on the banks of a river, cuddled up in sunlight with our books for pillows.
This is a madness, I know it. Something I didn’t plan, nor what I wanted. But I am grateful. And I am not one to say no to an adventure. And I am ever curious to see just how far down the rabbit hole I can go.
One thing is certain though. I am happy. Really happy. There are so few people in the world that can be called an adventure buddy. People who don’t say no, who don’t worry, who don’t let the bullshit get in the way. She wants to show me her world, and I want to show her mine.
Be it either within the decorated pages of books, along the banks of ocean and river, or on the high places with nothing but the horizon to show us we haven’t yet reached the stars.
…i could drown in it. I woke up with an old hymn stuck in my head. One of those days that it feels like every step digs us deeper into the sand. But thats the point. Life is hard and we have to keep moving. And the sunlight is still so damn beautiful.
On a rainy March night, on the corner of 72nd and Amsterdam in Manhattan’s upper west side, I sat against a public phone next to a man named Charles. He was older, perhaps in his mid-fifties, or early sixties. Underneath his milk crate, wrapped in plastic bags, stuffed in an old backpack, was everything he owned; a change of pants, a bible, a phone book, and a little bit of hope. We talked for an hour or so. He used to work labor. Construction for a company up in the Bronx, but a reoccurring knee problem got him fired. His age and his lack of qualifications never found him another job. When I talked to him he couldn’t even remember how long he had been out of work. Years he said. Too many years.
How does a college kid respond to that? I had a job. I had professors, friends, even my parents back in Connecticut who could help me out if I was having trouble. For a few weeks during the September prior, when I was without a place to live, I had couches to sleep on. Beds to share. I slept on a bench one night for the novelty. It rained, and it was miserable. But this was his life. He didn’t sleep on benches for the novelty, he had no other choice. How could I, with all I had, and still have, respond to him?
In the Gospel of St. Luke, in chapter 12 it says, “For those who have been given much, much will be expected.” What does that mean? What is expected of us? Of me?
That night we hoped and prayed together. The next time he saw me he cried, telling me that when I prayed with him it gave him strength. He believed his homelessness was part of God’s plan. Over and over he said that he was being taught something. Deep in his chest he held the hope that one day it would be better.
I have sat with many homeless men, and so few have had his hope.
Homelessness is a growing problem in the United States. With few large organizations in place to help these men, women, and children, many remain on the street, or seek other avenues out of their helplessness. Drugs, alcohol, violence, crime, even suicide, seem like viable alternatives to days and nights on the street. And many of the smaller, locally run groups just don’t have the resources available to them to help all those that need helping.
Probably the biggest obstacle in serving these people is this; we distance ourselves from them. We call them the homeless, the poor, the itinerant, the hobos, even the phrase “these people” keeps us at degrees away from them. But they are human. They embody the same hopes and fears, struggles and passions that every other person has. They are flesh and blood, saint and sinner, just like you and me. We get scared because sitting with men and women like this make us question what we have. They make us wonder if there is something more than how we live our lives. I have been spit on, cursed at, and mocked just for sitting with my friends who don’t have places to live. Is that all that humanity is capable of, or is there more?
Charles sat in the rain and asked for a little help. A few coins for a meal. Two dollars for bus fare. Some souls attended to him, but most just passed him by. Is that what our world is? When those who suffer sit in the street, or lay in our doorways, has it become the norm to ignore them? Or mock them? In his book The Stranger, Albert Camus writes, “I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” It is hard work, acting with compassion toward each other, but there is not a more pressing task, nor one as important.
Rains have swept these city streets of any memory. Rushing water has carried the residue and chaos of our desecration toward the sea. First to our rivers. Then to the source of life. For once we pulled ourselves out of the deep and let God shape our bones from dust and mud. He was the breath that gave us shape. The song that started our dancing. But our children have grown violent. We have turned from the light and become nocturnal. No longer do we dance and sing. We have become slaves to our own depravity. And I can feel the darkness in my chest growing and spreading. The pestilence of a complacent soul filling my blood with poison so that no grace may find me.
Is not ignorance the greatest of all sins? Are not our closed eyes the worst of our transgressions? Though many have looked, few have truly seen. In this, the moment of our greatest weakness, is not our humanity worth fighting for?
I’ve been having trouble sleeping. It’s the dreams again. The ones where I’m falling through the earth and the world gets small behind me. And then I stop. Deep underground I can hear the creaking of the great machine as the world stumbles on. There’s a shaking, and a rumbling, and suddenly I’m covered by rocks, and they’re laughing at me as they press down. I try to scream but the air dies in my lungs.
And then I wake up. Amber light sifts in through the blinds and I know it’s the middle of the night. I know you’re not next to me, and all I want to feel is your breathing. All I want to hear is the tremble of your heartbeat. All I want to feel is the tug of the sheets. I want to breathe your air and taste your skin.
But you’re gone because I pushed you away. And all I want is for you to come home.