Risk an Act of Love

A quote from Paulo Freire on how true solidarity is a risky act of love.

Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is solidary; it is a radical posture. . . The oppressor is solidary with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor–when he stops making pious, sentimental, and individualistic gestures and risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis. To affirm that men and women are persons and persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce.

–Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Journey

There are times when I need space to reflect, a mountain to climb. A venture into the wilderness, where I can become, momentarily, a lone animal following his instinct, reliant solely on his own wiles. Once I am there, at the peak of solitary vision, all I can think about is going home. And so when I return to my safe harbor from the world, it is new, it is warm, it is imbued with the light of re-discovered love.

Grace Full

To be grateful, grateful, full of grace and grit and compassion and loving for every event and person that crosses your awareness, even when your caffeine coffee high is on its wending way downward. The people that before might be registered in your awareness as incidental or fixtures of the trash laden pavement become transformed creatures reflectant of a certain hue and shade of light that is dependent on their placement in that certain spot at that certain time on that certain street. There is nothing, yet, that you can say to them, but what must and needs be said is conveyed through the placement of your head upon your neck, the way your shoes plod onward, the way your hips and arm swinging and laden satchel are balanced moving forward beyond and through and with them. Because you have nothing to hide, no empty barren space of shame nor fear nor any diminishing of divinity that might take place in any human heart at any time when we grow distant from ourselves and thus and subsequently, each other.

When the tongue is full and pressed to the roof of the mouth in silent and overwhelming praise at the smell of this summertime air that swoons so softly up into this apartment where I sit, grateful, singing and typing rapidly into this network of praise, that I may reflect, as a deliberate practitioner, this life that I am so lucky to live and to choose to live and to have the opportunity to fulfill with fullness of life and love and complete awareness of everything that I am so fortunate to be capable of losing.

This is Struggle, These Words

Apparently, I am seeking to unfold a new methodology of articulation in this medium. If I was perfectly honest with myself, I would acknowledge that my writing is in some way a form of laziness, in that I simply write things off the top of my dome that tend to be similar in essence to something I’ve already written before. Which I’ve conveniently forgotten about. I burp up fragments from my inner sanctum of feeling, some containing a momentary burst of inspiration, but mostly just some convoluted form of self idolatry, perhaps.

It might be helpful at this point to give voice to what it is I want my writing to really be about: I want it to be about integrity, about the inner connectivity that binds all disparate individuals and strangers together into love and deeper knowledge. I want it to be about me, but not about the me of the surface daily mundane realm of miscommunicated passings, but rather about the me that is divine, the me that is you, the me that is us, the me that is everything and nothing. Less spectacularly, I want it to be about reality, and about the life that I live as told, pragmatically, from out of dry wit and a sordid heart. I want my writing to sing to you, to speak to you, to inspire you aflame, to nod your head in rhythmic understanding, to know exactly what it is I am talking about and to smile in recognition.

Most importantly, however, is that my writing expresses something that I am unable to express otherwise. That I learn of myself from my own act of self-creation. Thus learning of you, in that leap from difference to communal know-edge.

What is it that I am trying to say? I think I want to say that this is supremely important to me, and that I want it to be important to you. That I want this to be much better than what I am. That I want the world to be much better than what it is. That I want to write my way into you, in understanding, in peace, in confrontation, in commiseration, in fire, in quiet pain, in love.

Togetherness

We are rooted into each other, unabashedly interwoven, each one heart the sap that sustains the other. You are my best friend, my worst enemy, the one who knows me most and least, for without you, I would be someone else entirely. We can now only define ourselves together; apart, what would we be? Of what is our history but the discoverance of each other? Our love is something much more mundane than eternity; it is something renewed through struggle daily. This love is something that grows, that flowers, that yearns for ever more sun. This love is not simply something we have stumbled into but that we have earned, that we deserve. This love is something that we create. We discover each other again, every day, growing increasingly confident. We are still here together, in this new place, in this new day. It only gets better. Our love only grows stronger. This work we have put into our future will bear its fruit.

Engagement

I had surreptitiously slipped it in at the end of another post, but just to reiterate it more formally and proudly: I am now engaged to be married. My fiancée and I have been living together for some time, and we could have continued to live together for some time hence without the formal commitment of betrothal. But I came to an internal realization vis-a-vis formal and informal commitments: I had already demonstrated to myself that I was deeply committed to my relationship. Whatever my superficial doubts, fleeting emotional resistance, and mental ruminations might be, I want to support and love my beloved as fully as I am capable. I have lived with her in the mountains and pine forests of the Sierra Nevadas, journeyed with her through the jungles and mountains of Colombia, been bored to tears with her in San Diego at the home of my parents, driven across the American South in a truck with my Amazon parrot to live with her and her family in a dense city on the other side of the nation, and am now enslaved in a long commute and demanding work in order to make it in said city. Why would I do all this if I was not deeply committed? So why not ask her to marry me, and cast away both of our doubts and fears? To formalize this commitment is to turn away from the past, turn away from doubt about the present, and face fully the future.

It’s a demonstration of just how much I have changed from the Monk of yore, the fact that I would even consider getting hitched. I have bloviated in the past against the institution of marriage, and swore that I was never to be married. I was an anarchist, a free spirit, a subversive and enlightened alien whose journey was determined by the happenstance wind. However, my resistance to the institution was challenged when both of my sisters, whom I love very much, became engaged, and I became involved in assisting them with their wedding planning. Because I admire and love my sisters, I had to come to a grudging embrace of their decisions to become married, and finally even came to recognize the reason why individuals would deliberately choose to formalize their temporal relationships. This was around the same time that I was becoming aware of how the personal is political, of how our personal development is integrally attached to our professional development, of the necessity for planning, diplomacy, and collective agreement in our lives.

So when the decision now came before me, it actually wasn’t a hard one to make. My life had already made it for me, and it was really just a matter of coming to terms with my reality. It didn’t feel weird to set about finding and purchasing a ring. It felt just about right.

As to the story of how I proposed, I’m afraid it was about as unromantic and informal a procedure as could be. Everyone loves hearing “the story,” as I’ve quickly come to realize once I made the announcement at my workplace, and so I might as well relate it here.

I had ordered the ring online from a reputable retailer, where you can design the ring yourself. I then left for New Jersey for a two day management training session, knowing that the box would arrive while I was gone. I was hoping that I could just put the box aside without opening it. But as soon as I got home, she kept asking me about what the box was and insisting that I open it. The box had no markings on it that would betray what was in it. I told her that I thought it was an Obama T-shirt that I was getting for having donated to his campaign, which is in fact being delivered to me shortly. I thought that she wouldn’t be that interested in seeing a T-shirt, and that I could then re-direct the conversation to something else. But she was not to be deterred: she wanted me to open the box. I tried several times to redirect the conversation, and had even hidden the box from sight while she was in the other room, but she continued to implore me to open the box, or to give her the box to open it herself. At that point, I decided that I might as well get it over with anyway, and so I said, sure, go ahead and open the box. It’s for you anyway.

She opened it up, and then got still when out of this big box was discovered a little tiny ring box. She said quietly, “What is this?” Even though she must have known quite well what it was. I said, “Open it up.” And then I asked her to marry me, while she was sprawled out in bed, and we were both in our pajamas.

I had had a whole proposal speech typed up and printed out, and I had meant to wait until my days off, so that we could take a walk together in the park and I could make it more dramatic. But instead, I just handed her the speech I had written and we read it together. In a way, this was more fitting for us as a couple in any case. We are pretty low key. For us to have one of those dramatic, publicly announced proposals, where the guy gets up on a table or loudspeaker at a stadium or something, would just have been too weird.

I think we both felt a little tripped out by the “adultness” of the situation. But it feels good to be able to make the announcement. We aren’t planning on a ceremony anytime soon, as we would both like to be more secure in our careers first. But at least now we can start thinking about plans together without feeling scared or weird about making them. Before, when we talked about future long-term plans, there was always this element of “maybe we won’t still be together at that time.” Now that doubt can be erased, and we can move forward in our relationship and individually in our lives.

Separation in Harmony

A friend said to me the other day something that resonated with me greatly, when we were discussing relationships and the problems or non-problems thereof: “It is important to separate, in a relationship, your own personal issues and development from the issues and development of the relationship.” Well, she didn’t say it quite like that, but I was already getting drunk off some wine that I was drinking so I disremember what it was exactly, but that was it’s general import. It struck me because it was something I had been attempting to articulate to myself internally, but had not yet arrived at in the cusp of outside understanding, which of course is why we have friends, so that they can state the unstated for us.

This is an important insight, on many different levels. At its most obvious, we must pay heed to the distinction of restraining ourselves from blaming our own internal problems on our partners, or from projecting our insecurities on each other, or what have you. But at an even more fundamental and general level, think of this in application to our relationships with wider society. How often do we blame our own issues on the problems of our society?

But let me disregard the more abstract and generalist applications of this idea and bring it back to myself. I have discussed my problems with over-analysing my relationship in the past, and it is a constant issue with me because I have strongly defined myself based on long bouts of loneliness, self-sufficiency, and a lone wolf lifestyle. For me to be in a long term relationship is still something that I find to be a novelty at times. I thus almost automatically question it and challenge its presence. How essential is this to my self-definition? Is this restricting my ability to be myself? These are the terms by which I question things. But we must note that these questions are fundamentally skewed, when brought into the light of the original insight with which I began this post.  Because I bring my own personal issues and stages of development and project them onto my greater relationship with my loved one, thus delimiting the capacity of my relationship on the terms of my own need and hubris.

Because the fact is that my relationship is quite beautifully stable in and of itself. It is only when I bring my own personal instability and lone wolfishness into the mix that I complicate and negate positive things. In separating my own problems and personal issues out of my relationship, and in learning to distinguish these issues from whatever issues I might share with my beloved, am I able to better appreciate what I do truly have before me.