Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Greatest Joy of My Life -- by Josh

Nine years ago, next week, I sat entranced by the most incredible woman I'd ever met. She impressed me in every possible way and I had fallen crazy in love with her.
I knew at that moment something I'd been long suspecting: if this girl were willing and ready, we could form a truly beautiful life together. Thank God, a few minutes later she told me that, yes, she would be my wife.
I have learned and experienced so much since then, most of it thanks to her. I've been shown what it looks like to be unconditionally loving, to be assertive yet peaceful, to strive for continual excellence, to selflessly serve even when exhausted, to imagine new designs of art and thought, to finish what is started, to pray and feel on a whole new level of intensity, to belly laugh at life's mishaps.
I got to witness all of this, thanks to her compassionate reply of, "Sure."
I cherish every moment that I am gifted to spend with this woman, but more than that I am grateful for the two little miracles she has brought into our life. They are so fortunate to have her to watch and learn from.
She still makes fun of the way I proposed, but hey, the results speak for themselves. Whatever I said worked, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have her by my side and that she still hasn't tried to get away. I love you, dream woman, more than all the PBJs in the world, combined.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End Times

Disclaimer: My immense apologies if the topic of today’s blog post offends you. If it does, stop reading and I’ll see you tomorrow for another post, for that is not my intention. If you are, however, happy to read about my humble world-view and how I manage it in a place full of people who believe the world is ending, then read on. And I’ll be happy to discuss it with you in open, frank and kind conversation. Preferably cookies will be involved. With tea. Yes, I look forward to that.

"Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." -Baha'u'llah

My sweet neighbor believes that the world is ending. Soon. Perhaps not “Mayan” soon (and, for the record, Mayan people are still living among us, so please stop saying that they aren’t), but soon nonetheless. Every time we make small talk, she’ll tell me how one sector of the city doesn’t have power today or so-n-so is ill or how someone got mugged in the capital and she saw it on the news. Sometimes she’ll mention murders if she doesn’t feel I’m fully appreciating the gravity of the situation. Then, she’ll grab my elbow, pull me close to her, intensify her gaze and in a lowered, this-is-really-serious-kind-of-voice say, “These are signs of the end of times!”
She’s terrified. And yet, I just can’t bring myself to tell her that Jesus didn’t even have electricity. You heard it here. Things are getting better, not worse.
There was rampant illness in Christ’s time. People were not only mugged, but regularly murdered right afterwards—especially if you were traveling. The status of women and children? Forgeddaboutit. And don’t get me started on education or healthcare. The wonders of dental hygiene even are relatively new to the world. How cool is floss?
I’m never sure what she wants from me. Especially since—brace yourself—I believe the world already ended. And since the beginning of time, it just keeps getting better. So, I always just shrug and change the topic to boiled bananas. Do you think she’d believe me if I said the world is getting better? Do you believe me?
Allow me to explain, but I’ll be brief so we still have an excuse for cookies and tea later.
First of all, for you statistics-loving people, all the data shows that the world, as a whole, really does keep getting better. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. And for the rest of you: Exhibit C.
I had a conversation with another EndofTimesAdvocate who pointed out the tragic earthquake in Haiti as a sign that the world was ending. Umm, there have always been earthquakes. And if the world was truly getting worse, why are there people in entirely different countries without a single connection to anyone directly affected by the quake, emotionally invested and concerned about what happened in Haiti? Or anything that happens in Haiti? Why do they even care? Because it just keeps getting better. Humans are actually cooler as an entire race. We’re more aware. We’re more sensitive, empathetic and caring for not only our next door neighbors, but humanity as a whole. How incredible is that?!

Two hundred years ago, if you explained to someone what the world is like now, you would have been institutionalized. Why? Because we're living in a whole new world. Believe it, buddy. That world is over. Done. History. Ended. No longer. So, they were all correct about the world ending. The details just got a bit embellished and somewhat scary. And they forgot to mention the part about it being a cycle which begins anew each time.
If you are sincerely interested in this particular aspect of Baha'u'llah's immense Revelation, please refer to the Kitab-i-Iqan which is an ocean of depth and beauty on the topic. I bet its even available as an e-book now. How's that for new world?
Otherwise, we can have that tea date.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brushing Your Teeth With Oreos -- by Josh

My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and the question is foremost in my mind: When should the real clean-up begin?
According to the goddesses of Pinterest (this via my wife, because I would never just scroll through Pinterest, I swear), cleaning your house with children present is like brushing while eating Oreos.  I could not agree more.
Housework has taught me a number of lessons.  My first cleaning-related realization occurred back in Oregon, in the difficult days before we moved to this island paradise and finally bought a washing machine.  All of our laundry loads were taken care of either at the laundromat or one of our parents' homes, thus happening on a weekly basis when we had time.  I would take great pleasure in finally finishing the wash, marveling at the mountains of clean, categorized laundry.  Then, that night, the mirage would dissipate before my eyes as the bedtime routine unfolded and piece after piece of dirty clothes piled onto the floor.
"Ugh." That's all I could say, other than the edited portions. 
Eventually I realized that this was an opportunity for spiritual growth, the notion becoming clearer that EVERYTHING is ephemeral, nothing, no condition in this material world lasts forever and that our life is not a project to be finished but an evolving state of gradual improvement, with occasional plateaus, dips and stains.  I guess I had a lot of time to reflect during the spin cycle.
So it is that I've arrived at a potentially dangerous point in my house-cleaning philosophy:  Is it really worth it to clean so often if it's just going to get messed up again? 
Thus the Oreo brushing.  If I clean today, the house will just get lived in again and tomorrow it won't look like we've cleaned at all!
At this point, I have to think of my laundry epiphany. I don't want to wear dirty clothes, so I continue with this endless cycle (I've even written a song about it: "It is the laundry that never endsssss, and it goes on and on my friends!!!").  Whenever I put on clean undies and non-crusty socks, I know that continuing the wash cycle is well worth it, to both me and my less-offended guests.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Captain, My Captain

In the end, moments are all we have. Strung together, twinkling lights. Twisting story lines marked by bright spots. Some are planned. Some, spontaneous. Some thrust upon you, offering a few ticks of the clock to decide what to mold, create before its gone.
I just spoke to my grandpa for the last time. I am certain. He could barely summon the words, "I love you, I love you," as my father gently sponged drops of water into his shaking, open mouth. Josh and I chanted prayers with him, just as we've done every day since his birthday.
We know the day he decided to go. He told us in his no-nonsense kind of way. I love that about him. And like that, he changed. Up until that day, every single time I ever talked to Cap't on the phone, I'd say, "Goodbye." And he'd hang up. The conversation was over, after all. No need for formalities. He never withheld tender words or tokens of his immense affection. Sure was stingy with goodbyes though.
After that day he decided to go, however, he started saying goodbye on the phone. He'd linger afterwards and I couldn't hang up, stunned at his gift. Seconds would turn to minutes until I was sitting in the ornate, yellow chair next to his bed. I'd have time to float across a continent, walk past his plum tree, up to the always-open-door, past the paintings, hand-thrown bowls, mementos of his humanitarian globe-trotting, bright colors favored by my grandmother long since passed herself from that very room. And into his room, where he lie, waiting. I'd sit and wait with him until I had the courage to hang up.
Snap me back.
Because I'm still here. On my island. On an island.
Sometimes, in the middle of those bright spots, you recognize what they are, how they'll look to our future selves. You start grabbing, demanding--remember this! Take it all in and hold tight! Those exact words. The painting hanging behind him. My father's hand resting on his shoulder as he bent to kiss my Captain's forehead in my name. His far away look. And as he gives less and less to this physical world, we begin to hold on to eyebrow raises, slight lifts of his hand, a change in the cadence of his breathing. Because this is all we know, really. This world.
And whatever you believe about what is next for my Captain, it happens all the same. His life transforms; he lives elsewhere. In memories, in the things he's collected, in the fibers of ourselves that he transformed, in his patients the world around who now hear because of him, are linguists and musicians and joyous people given a life so vastly different. You were likely affected by this man in some way, too. If you've ever had surgery, or known someone who has, which used a microscope--that was my grandfather who first introduced its use. A true innovator with an immense love for humanity. He steered the ship for many. My Captain.
I believe his soul takes flight, lingers and soars. And its a time to rejoice:

"O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain."
I love you, Cap't.