22 October, 2015

"I'm a spring person. I only like beginnings."

I was going to post a roundup of various articles, images, and miscellany I've encountered lately as a little kudos to those who are doing something to voice or repair the broken circles.

But instead of a list (after all, how many more lists does the internet need?), I decided to just share with you this one, beautiful little film called "Eleanor Ambos Interiors", which came on my radar via Design*Sponge.

© Sasha Arutyunova
"I get to see the beauty in different eyes, of different beholders, and it's always amazing...On the same canvas different creatures paint different paintings of their own vision, and I find that really wonderful."

"Invention. Invention is really the best."

Here is the sort of irony we love to encounter in removed, fictional settings for its dramatic power: A woman who has lived her life drunk on the pursuit of beauty, flying against the wind of convention -- now being slowly dragged down in subjection to her body which will eventual deny her the sense of sight, her main access to beauty. But this isn't fiction. This is the real-time experience of a real woman, and there is nothing romantic about the daily choices of attitude and action that she faces.

But here is also a simple and profound example of power as a generative thing. "Power" may not be the word that first comes to your mind when you look at Eleanor Ambos, but maybe this says more about our negative associations with the word than it does about Ambos. Andy Crouch has written and spoken extensively on power as servant leadership for the purpose of ensuring the flourishing of others. We are placed in the world and given creative ability so that all the possibilities of the world will unfold, will flourish, will be fully actualized. We are made to transform the raw material of the world in a way that elicits their "very goodness." As her body begins to limit her own ability to create, Ambos works to ensure that her eclectic empire of beautiful spaces and things will endure to provide other artists with the resources they need to create something new.

This is a sweet, sepia-toned snapshot of power as a generative thing that turns a functional space ("good") into a creative space ("very good"); as the feisty advocate of human creative potential; as humility that delights in the chance to make something possible for others rather than seeking personal gain. Enjoy this film, and then go make something!

16 June, 2015

"Trust me. It builds character."

A man and his noble hound
My father, with the silver hair and the voice that makes willing captives of any audience.  The mocha-rich, “they don’t make them like they used to” kind of voice that chooses words for their sonorous quality just as much as for their functionality.  An instinct for eloquence that enriches the conveyance of information.  

One of his knees is decorated with a long stuttering scar, a 4-inch white flag of surrender to the injury that ended his college football career and with it his days as a Virginia prep demi-god. Sometimes in my parents’ attic I look backwards on grainy 35mm Chuck with the blinding smile and a jersey for every sport.  Chuck before the knee held together by titanium and a spirit tamed by Aslan.  Chuck whose injuries built a training ground for life with a broken earthsuit.

God does not promise us easy but He promises reward, right standing, a good end.  This was the approach taken by my earthly father, too.  Through chore charts and sibling buddy systems and strict TV times he taught us that there are many things in life that are not easy but are worth doing because of their eventual sure reward.  You will pick all the ripe tomatoes before you can go play, and you will apologize and ask your brother’s forgiveness for hurting him, and you will only watch this much television per day.  And instead of scarcity you will find in these things a good life, a life of joy and service and hard work and pleasures more deeply enjoyed because you worked and waited for them.  

My father, the repudiator of the doctrine of instant gratification.  He taught his children to work and wait in faith, and he leads by example as he now endures an assignment whose end date is unknown.  I look at his shoes that will never again be creased from walking and I see a man learning to wait for the restoration of the body that is guaranteed by the deliverance of the soul. 

I am thankful for a father who teaches me to value the rewards of waiting -- the qualities of character formed by doing the best that you can and leaning on others when you can’t; the wisdom of perspective that says, “My life is one plot line of a bigger story written by an author I have learned to trust”; and the true rejoicing in victory that looks more like humility than ego.  Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

14 April, 2015

State of Normalcy: Freedom from Fear

The night I dreamed that I had an epic street fight with Halle Berry in the parking lot of a 7-11, after which she stole my car just as a chemical-biological terrorist attack rolled in to wipe out me and every other person in sight, I realized that I might have just the slightest fear issues.  (I currently have no issues with Halle Berry.  She would never want my dented Volkswagen, anyway.)

The really bizarre thing, though, is that chemical-biological terrorism is a very real possibility in this place I've come to call home.  So are bomb threats, shootings, political scandal, and blue collar crime.  They're so possible that we've adopted some level of fear as normal, like a background song called "National Paranoia" that has played for so long that you've stopped noticing it.

07 April, 2015

State of Normalcy: Freedom of Acronymed Speech

Something struck me recently as I caught up with an old college friend whom I hadn't seen in three years. It was almost an out-of-body experience; I heard myself describing my job, my commute, and the general experience of life and work in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area with such matter-of-factness. I realized how many things I have come to accept as normal after living and working here for nearly seven years, but that mean nothing to visitors or newcomers. How many words and acronyms have become part of my vocabulary, how many expectations I have adopted about time and systems and resources, how many particular articles of clothing or accessories I'm "supposed" to have in my wardrobe...Some aspects of this adopted normalcy are admirable qualities of DC and its inhabitants/commuters. Some of them are truly ridiculous and could withstand some gentle mocking. So this is where we're headed next on the blog: an exploration of this somewhat precious, somewhat cringe-inducing State of Normalcy.