Tag Archives: musings

A Sense of Belonging and the Miraculous

When I was washing my hair tonight, my mind wandered to what-if scenarios involving gunshots and holy texts.  Imagine, if you would, a group of friends (or strangers) traveling in one car on the way to an interfaith service.  With their destination just around the bend, they get caught in a crossfire at an intersection between a band of thieves and a few off-duty police officers.  Each of the five inhabitants of that car gets shot.  Legs, arms, torsos, and abdomens get punctured.

Or do they?

Customers at a nearby gas station hear the gunshots and call the paramedics.  After arriving at the emergency room and receiving treatment from the hospital staff, it becomes apparent that even though these individuals were each struck three times, none of the injuries were life-threatening.  Major arteries missed by centimeters, ball-and-sockets missed cleanly, and no reproductive parts were put in disarray.

Imagine the look of disbelief or curiosity on the nurses and doctors’ faces when they summarize the condition of the patients to the patients.  The Buddhist was saved by his Star Trek dvd box set that he clutched against his chest while driving.  The Muslim, sitting shotgun, was saved by the Qur’an leaning against his chest.  The non-denominational Christian was saved by the pocket NIV Bible he kept in his breast pocket.  The Wiccan was saved by an Oxford Dictionary, you guessed it, leaning against her bosom.  The football player was saved by his playbook and his 10,000 Youtube Subscriber award.

Would each person thank their god?  Would each person feel that their surviving is proof that there is a god and that there is only their god?  Or, would they be back to square one wondering that if they all lived, it’s impossible to know which god is “right” and if there really is a god at all? Which holy text is right?  Moreover, the football player puts a variable on things.  Either he made it because he was with deists or because it was a coincidence and his presence somehow negated the certainty that the rest of them had regarding the nature of the Divine.  The Buddhist would probably be the most chill, right?  He’d chalk everything up to the rhythm of life as would the Wiccan.

On the other hand, if this car were filled with atheists and one law-of-attraction practitioner and they were saved by various non-holy texts (a Bluray box set, a cookbook, an iPad, a giant stuffed bear), would they attribute their survival to coincidence? Dumb luck? Or look at the law-of-attractioner for an explanation?

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On Synchronicity

I was reading about synchronicity the other night and The Enigma of the Search in liminal moments where I was getting ready to sleep or waiting for an hour to pass.  I have experienced synchronicity in my life and have seen that extra dose of ain’t-this-cool that such events can bring.  Earlier this week I had my mind set upon obtaining  Criterion DVD box set but didn’t follow through with my intention because the price wasn’t right.  I told a friend about it and minutes later, he told me that Criterion as having a 50% flash sale for twenty-four hours and the promo code was LOVE.

Fast-forward to today.  I recounted what happened on my bookface and am copying and pasting it here:

There’s an adage about man making plans and transcendent entities just laughing. I made plans today to go to the Funwoody Barnes & Noble to get my morning caffeine fix and Mary Roach’s book Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War* followed by an oil change (and more). Well, I got to Barnes & Noble at 8:52 am, not realizing that they didn’t open until 9 am. Because I didn’t want to wait nine minutes for the doors to open, I went to a nearby Starbux for a soy latte. As I was headed back to my car, I heard a man’s voice coming from my left.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you have a dollar?”

I’d noticed this man earlier but didn’t think more if it. He wore all black and was bundled up like any cold temperature morning. I walked closer to him and asked if he wanted an almond croissant (which I got from Starbux in addition to the latte). He thanked me but declined as his hunger was focused on grits. I gave him a dollar, remarked that it was a good and sunny day not windy like yesterday, and told him to have a good day. He responded with appreciation and noted that I was a beautiful woman…presumably for not ignoring him and not giving him the stink-eye.

Normally, I ignore questions people ask me when I’m going back to my car (unless they’re about directions or the time). I didn’t ignore this question, though. Had my morning gone as I’d “planned,” I wouldn’t have had this experience.

Oh, and no oil change today because I have to get a timing cover oil leak fixed and there’s no sense and getting two oil changes in less than a week.  

It occurred to me that there was an amount of “pre-production” that had to happen in order for me to have had that experience. The book I wanted was supposed to be available at the Buckhead B&N, which it wasn’t when I went there on Thursday. They told me the Perimeter and the Forum locations had it. Thus, my trip to the Perimeter this morning. And, I typically get Saturday soy lattes from a specific Starbux and I didn’t do it this morning because I figured, “going to B&N, might as well get it there.” I ended up getting the book at the Forum.

I also picked up Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) on DVD.   I’ve thought about my actions from this morning and have only come up with this “reason” for why I didn’t ignore the man.  It would have been rude not to acknowledge him — practically, I was the only other person around at that moment.  It would have been so obvious to him that I was choosing to pretend he wasn’t there.  It would have made me feel bad and ashamed.  I wasn’t “thinking” any of this stuff, but a part of me knew it.

Hearing that question, “Do you have a dollar?” was like being on a stage with a spotlight shining straight into my face.  I’ve lived my entire life doing everything I can to be backstage or in the audience — never on the stage.  I won’t shy away from other audience members or crew members off-stage, but I have tried to hide myself in other capacities.  In that moment, the universe had seen me and I couldn’t make myself blend in with my surroundings or distract it with tales of absurdity or morbidness.

Instead of wondering if I’d passed the test, I’d like to know, well, what next?

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*I saw the book mentioned on this Reddit thread.

Football and MMA aren’t forms of art?

The Golden Globe Awards were last night and if you’ve launched any social media or culture outlet today you probably know about Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.  She spoke on the geographically diverse talent pool in Hollywood and that if they were kicked out, “…we’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

Sure, athletic competition is certainly not a fine (high) art form (painting, pottery, sculpting, architecture, music, opera, theatre, poetry).  The activity itself, though, is a performing art as much as dance.  Moreover, as televised football and mixed martial arts are very much part of the visual arts (photography, film, video, digital media), I argue that the representation of these athletic experiences, especially with an audience, is artful in their own voyeuristic physics-at-work ways.  Sanctioned body trauma and sometimes in slow motion. Sweat ricochets, inertia observed, crash-test dummy whooshes, and it is a wonder why some of us like to watch adults inflict physical pain onto each other for entertainment.*

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And now for some other performing arts that is just as athletic but without all the violence.

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*Of course, NFL Films changed profoundly how we think about football game play vis-a-vis how we see it.

NFL 2016: Falcons peck the Saints and some Hidden Figures for ya

The first film I watched at the theatre this year was Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2017).  It is in my list of favorite films of 2016 (it opened in select theatres on Christmas Day and nationwide on January 6).*  The sports inspirational can be a sub-genre of the biopic, can the science inspirational be one too?  I don’t remember the last time I watched a movie where the audience clapped when the ending credits began.

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It’s obvious that the film wants to inspire and bring to light a part of history that many of us may otherwise not have known about, but Hidden Figures also reminds the viewers about the social norms of the times without being too cynical or overly tense.  Archival footage and newsreels serve to ground the film in its historical context while the wardrobe, the set design and the acting highlight the vibrancy and tenacity of smart women who weren’t timid.

A more sobering message, though, is that talent and genius still requires advocates and guides to flourish.  In a Subject-Other/Dominant-Subordinate dynamic, without the support of those with the authority or clout, all the hard work and good manners of the Other wouldn’t get a chance to prove its value.  Even when you’re confident without being arrogant and absolutely deserving of an opportunity (or reward), when was the last time you succeeded in your goal or reached the next outpost without assistance?

Theodore Melfi’s film is based on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s book of the same name.  Read more about it in this NPR article.

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In other news, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons had a roll around the gridiron at the Georgia Dome today (the 199th and final regular season game here).  I started watching the game a minute into the fourth quarter — the Falcons were way up with points to the Saints’ 13.  By the bottom of the quarter with less than a minute left in the game, the Saints had decreased that score difference substantially.  Falcons 38 and Saints 32.  Final score.  Get game summary, stats and play-by-play here.

 

*The others are The Magnificent Seven, Moonlight,  Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, Certain Women, Hell or High Water, Things to Come, and Lion.

A Time for Hearing

Whenever the seasons change, particularly from summer to autumn, and the temperature fluctuates enough to bring out or put away certain types of clothing, my nose gets extra snotty or congested.  I was expecting it to happen this year, but it didn’t…at least not in the usual way.

Instead, my hearing decided to go on a semi-hiatus for a week.  One moment in the middle of the afternoon, everything was fine, and the next moment, part of my head felt like it was underwater and the other part seemed okay.

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Machine sounds were very loud (vending machines, laundry machines, ice machines); I could “hear” the vibrations of automobile traffic before “hearing” the actual engine noise of the cars; human voices were almost painful to the ears.  After a couple days and nights of much research, I’d hypothesized that my hearing troubles were partly psychosomatic and partly my body’s confusion about where to put the mucous. And the sinuses seemed as good a place as any — the pressure under the eyes and nose without the snot running or doing that oozy drip-drip-drop from nostril to nostril.

Things have improved but I’ve felt horrible, truly horrible, on a level I haven’t before imagined.  I *almost* would not wish this experience upon the most cacophonous misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, theophobe or all of the above.

I’ve taken for granted many of my body parts before, but I’d never considered how much I would miss being able to hear normally.

On account of environmental factors (air quality), I don’t think the mucous is going to recede completely any time soon.  It’s bizarre the way the body fights against invaders and protects itself from pathogens — by making you feel terrible.

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For many Americans, today is a reason to eat all the major food groups (while still allowing for dietary restrictions) and to thank each other for whatever…

but the shadow over the feasting grows larger and larger every year.  I’m not giving thanks on this day in its creative history iteration.  I am, however, grateful for many experiences and people I’ve known (for better or worse) and the facets of the world that never cease to amaze and irritate me.  Sometimes, each time is like the first time.

History repeats itself because the equations have to be balanced.  Too much weight on one side always conjures weight on the other.  History repeats itself because there aren’t enough dissenters (of every stripe and flavor) in positions of agency and consideration…who would do things differently without threatening anyone’s way of life.

Harmony might be the goal, but if co-existence cannot be reached first, in what reality could the former take shape?

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The Army-Navy game will be on December 10 this year at 3pm east coast time and televised on CBS.

And now for some Bjork.