all eyes on egypt: voyeur or supporter?

via reddit.com/user/latenightcabdriving

Events like the protests in Egypt allow me to have faith in the utility and value of social media. It’s telling that in order to stay updated, I’m checking tumblr, twitter, and news sites in that order. There is something troubling, though, as I “participate” in this historical moment that is unraveling. While the ability to upload a video to YouTube or tweet out what’s going on in real time are incredible exercises of activism and initiative on the part of people on the ground, I can’t help but wonder what is exactly happening on this end as I play that video or read that tweet. Am I a concerned global citizen seeking to stay informed? Or am I part of a big audience that is turned on by the fact that I get such intimate access to sensational events simply by opening up my web browser? The people of Egypt most definitely should broadcast what’s happening and the world most definitely should watch; however, I can’t help but feel something crude is happening when matters of life and liberty are placed within the confines of a monitor to be commented on by people who will, within 30 seconds, move on to a video of someone lip syncing to the latest Top 40 hit.

The cruelty of comfort.

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new hope

Today, my home church of the last five years (and more if you want to count our whole genealogy as a church) officially closed its doors with a “final celebration” gathering. I’ve been seeing many New Hopers across the blogosphere, twitterverse, and facebo…ok (can YOU think of one for facebook?) express their gratitude for the time spent as a part of our community and I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

There really are just too many things worth talking about as I think back on my New Hope journey, so I’m going to narrow it down to one. Many of us at New Hope are familiar with the airport metaphor that’s been used to describe our church—not so much a permanent destination, but a place where many from different paths converge for a time, refuel and then go back out to fulfill their purpose. It’s only just hit me now how true that metaphor has been during the life of New Hope. As I think back, the list of how many people we’ve thanked, prayed for, and sent off to wherever God was leading continues to grow. I am in fact a part of that list. I’m bummed that I couldn’t physically be present for the final party at New Hope South Bay, but I think it’s only fitting that I’m celebrating New Hope and all it represents as one of many who has received the blessing of “leaving” the church with full encouragement and support. I think the genuineness of the encouragement and support is evidenced in part by the fact that many of us who were sent off have always made it back to New Hope in one form or another. You can never truly leave family.

Now, it seems that there will be no official New Hope to come back to. As sad as that is, I’m confident that what doesn’t exist in name will still exist in essence among those of us who have shared life together as a church family. I can say that because although New Hope was hardly perfect, I believe it was made up of people who loved honestly and lived purposefully. On that note, I’m grateful  for what has been, and I look forward to what is to come, which hopefully will still include many hellos, hugs, and happy times with those of us who made it a goal to experience Christ and embrace humanity.

look up more

One of the "Eggheads" at UC Davis.

The image above may be said to signify the life of many a law student, myself included. I do strive for a balance of B’s (books, basketball and beer) but there is no denying that the weight of increasing debt and thinning job prospects tends to anchor my focus to the pages of my books. The spell was broken today, though, at least for a moment. I was briskly walking home, head down by force of my reading habits, when suddenly … right in front of me … there were two ladies and a gentleman … sitting in lawn chairs … in the middle of the street. Confusion turned to curiosity when I noticed the paint and canvases. Naturally, I stopped to see what the artists deemed worthy of their attention and creative labor. I saw the trees lined up along the sidewalk, some stubbornly holding on to their greens while others were in their reds, oranges and yellows, slowly undressing. I saw the sunlight peeking its way through the trees. I saw the workings of the autumn breeze as it induced a dance between the trees and the sunlight. I even saw the squirrel scurry up the tree that was both its home and playground. I saw what had always been there on my street but that I had not seen before because I had not stopped and looked up. I offered a smile to the artists as a token of my gratitude and finished walking the rest of the way home, my steps lighter and my eyes opened wider.

the ideation conference: from behind black rimmed glasses

Photo Courtesy of Beth's Blog

We are all people. A statement seemingly self-evident, yet many of us go about our day-to-day without living fully aware of that reality, because if we did, I find it hard to believe that 27 million would be enslaved in the world, that 1 billion would be without clean water, and that 3 billion would be living on less then $2/day. These numbers make it clear that we as a collective global community either don’t value the humanity in others enough, or we elevate our own humanity to self-idolatry too often. It’s usually a fair mixture of both.

However, if you can sift through all the ways most of us mistreat each other and our world, there are in fact those who not only believe in but genuinely live out the notion that we are all people, that whatever the circumstances, no one deserves to be denied of a chance to live life to the fullest. What happens when you gather a collective of these humanitarian leaders into one space and allow them the freedom to dream and collaborate? Welcome to the !deation Conference.

As someone whose track record in benefiting this world falls well short of the opportunities that have been given to me, it was deeply humbling to be in the midst those whose life’s work ultimately revolve around the effort to give a chance at life back to those who have had it taken from them.  Speakers and attendees alike at the conference made up a powerful collective of those leading the way in creating long-term relief and solutions to the world’s biggest problems, issues ranging from global poverty to clean water to slavery to community development to education to broken relationships and everything in between. Forget comic books—I walked and talked among real-life superheroes over the past two days.

Don’t let the superhero tag fool you, though. Even though everyone in attendance was incredible, they were not superhuman. Some of the most enduring images from this particular conference were not necessarily when our guests of honor shared their amazing stories on stage, but when those same speakers stepped away from the lights and sat down to talk with the other participants. I’ve hardly been to any conferences, but even I know that the wall between ‘keynote speaker’ and ‘conference-goer’ is rarely broken, and at the !deation Conference, the wall was almost non-existent. Without this barrier in the way, what became obvious was that all of us there were not that different from one another, that we all have the same hopes of seeing humanity become healthier and if anything, we are simply in different points along that same journey.

Which brings us back to this: we are all people. We are all people not just in the sense of our worth and what we deserve,  but we are also all people in the sense of our potential and capabilities. As much as I look up to men and women like the amazing individuals who led our time at the !deation Conference, I am becoming increasingly pressed by the truth that these people who become icons in the world of non-profits and humanitarian work (and in any field for that matter) are not so different from those who are unidentifiable in the crowd. This in no way downgrades the ‘notable;’ it should upgrade the ‘normal!’ We are all born capable of imagining and dreaming, and so the questions should not be ‘How intelligent are you?’ and ‘How creative are you?’ but rather ‘How are you intelligent?’ and ‘How are you creative?’ I’m not saying just because we think we can, we will. I am saying that too many of us don’t think we have much to offer in the first place. That is not humility or even realism; that is hoarding that which could be of immense value to many. There is no need to short-change both yourself and the world.

All this to say that the !deation Conference was an incredibly inspiring experience, as well as timely, as I have been going through a lot of wondering and processing over what my soon-upcoming next steps in life will be like. Though all questions haven’t been answered, I have been emboldened to (re)commit myself to the ongoing movement to make sure that we are all people as it should be defined, to “Love Human” and “Do Good.”

To follow up more on the !deation Conference

Website: ideationconference.com
Twitter:
@theideation (#theideation)

holy human

Passent en un instant by vlad2902 (deviantart)

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours… Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. — C.S. Lewis

It is a certainty that one of the things most taken for granted in life is our fellow human. It is perhaps one of the Devil’s trickier sleights, allowing us to see others but not really notice, to hear but not really listen. Rather than acknowledge the potential beauty and weight behind all our daily interactions with our brothers and sisters, we prefer to cast gems as rocks, to have the lack of perfection that runs throughout all of humanity be reason enough to say that not everyone is worth our time and attention. There is no wrong in having preference or practicing selectivity in association and friendship, nor is it wrong to the denounce evil in others, whether mild or extreme. But how often do we choose to acknowledge the potential lying within every person good or bad, the potential to create, to reason, to innovate, to inspire? Truly, of all the things we are daily exposed to, “your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” The shortest of interactions can have eternal ramifications, and yet, we can buy a coffee while never meeting the eyes of the one giving us our change. Better late than never, it is time we realize that there really are no ordinary people and that our love and appreciation of others ought to be more reckless, not because nothing matters, but precisely because we take each other seriously.

digital relics

digital_-_manip

digital - manip by ~larkie (deviantart.com)

About a month ago, in the process of searching for something, I ended up uncovering all of the boxes in my closet and sifted through some old items. Tonight, I went through forgotten folders on my computer, old blogs, and pictures/videos I’ve uploaded. It just dawned on me that in both cases, I actually did the same thing. It’s not always as obvious to the one living through an era that what one is experiencing is worth appreciating since one is submersed rather than viewing from the outside (a fish doesn’t think twice about breathing underwater while we, humans, wonder at the miracle of gills). The era we’re living through is the transition from material to digital, or maybe we should just call it abstract. We don’t stuff shoeboxes anymore, we fill hard drives. We don’t write in journals, we post entries on blogs. We don’t make scrapbooks, we create slideshows. We don’t have “little black books,” we have slick, shiny, smartphones. Even Post-Its are digitally “stuck.” This is not to say the former material means are now obsolete. They simply are no longer valued for their practical worth, but for the decreasingly common pleasure experienced in getting messy with our hands. Ironically, there is now a certain novelty to doing things the old-fashioned way. I think what this says about us is that we aren’t quite ready as a population to move head on into this new world where property no longer contains the idea of something physically owned. Will we ever be ready? I’m not sure. I, for one, have a hard time letting go of physical reminders of moments in my life. But ready or not, it seems we’re destined to eventually reach a point on the human timeline where historians no longer dust off artifacts, but instead examine digital relics as they plug in portable hard drives that use outdated USB technology and browse websites whose URLs have been long forgotten.

fire flashback

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / August 29, 2009

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times / August 29, 2009

Looking towards the Angeles National Forest, you wouldn’t be crazy to think it looked like a battlefield, and honestly, that’s not too far from the truth. With over 42,000 acres burned, 18 homes destroyed, and two firefighters lost, the effort to put out the Station Fire has become nothing short of war, with several more battles ranging along other fronts. Seeing the LA area ablaze brings back vivid memories of the 2007 San Diego fires, and I thought it’d be fitting to share a reflection I wrote on those fires at the time.  Hopefully some truths resonate for the situation now.

Something about fire has always captured my attention.  I can sit by a campfire all alone watching it all night and be completely satisfied.  Fire seems to have this essence that stops people in their tracks and forces them to look… to gaze as the flames seductively curl and dance up and around.  That side of fire is beautiful.

But it also has a terrible side.  Fire does not only breathe light and life, but it can bring darkness and destruction, black clouds of smoke announcing the coming of a march that walks to the rhythm of crackles and chars.  While I sit here in La Jolla, evacuation mandates seem to be spiraling towards this point as if the fire realized its center goal was to reach “the jewel.”  So many people, with the list of personal friends, family and associations growing more and more, have directly felt the impact of these wildfires.  As the flames literally loom in the background, I can’t help but be gripped by an anxiety that makes me wonder how big and consuming this is all going to become.

It’s funny, though, that in cities where the fire did not just loom any longer but actually rolled through, reports have been saying people pause from what they’re doing to look at the fire.  In a moment that demands panic and franticness, the response has been slow, undivided fixation.  The beautiful and awe-inspiring spirit of fire remains intact even as it goes about its ugliest deeds.  Both the unstoppable destructive force of the flames and its arresting essence that hypnotizes has reminded me how little we humans are in the context of all creation.  We’re but small specks in the grand scheme of nature.  We become so full of ourselves with our notions of “advancement” and “progress” and “technology,” only to find that we crumble in the midst of that which has remained unchanged in its behavior and character for ages.  With such a realization, I can only respond to God with the desperate plea, “We’re at your mercy.”  Cause where was I when he laid the earth’s foundation?  Who marked off its dimensions and stretched a measuring line across it?

And when God did those things in the beginning, he saw that all of it was good–all of it, including fire.  And when things fell to pieces with the invitation of sin, it was not just man that lost its perfect relationship with the Creator, but all of creation.  It’s from this I believe that the allure of fire is a shade of its heavenly quality, while its urge to envelop and destroy is a symptom of fire gone wrong.  And just as people will one day be redeemed so that the good and pure that God has instilled in us will be most magnified, so will mother nature.  The awe we experience today in a sunset born out of polluted skies, in waves born out of the earth’s grumblings, in flames born out of dry and parched land, is a small glimmer of the awe that will overcome us when we are with mother nature face-to-face as she was truly meant to be.

If this whole entry is any clear indication, my odd mix of feelings in response to these flames is anything but clear.  But in the midst of my convolution, I ask the one with true clarity of thought and purpose do his will, whether we understand it or not.

be unstoppable

I saw this awhile back on Jason Mraz’s blog and was meaning to re-blog it myself. It’s awesome on so many levels.

Sometimes an idea seems so crazy in your mind and well… it turns out it actually is crazy. Dance-shirtless-in-a-huge-field crazy. But isn’t it the truth that all of us as humans are actually a bit crazy at heart? Why do we kid ourselves? We make ourselves believe that the best thing in life is to ensure that what we do convinces others that we are normal, but who among us has ever truly inspired others just by blending in? It takes a little crazy, a little bit of seeing something that no one else sees, in order to inspire, to move, to innovate. Sure, maybe you’re singled out at first, but after awhile, your craziness rubs off on a few people. You take away the fear in others of indulging in their own craziness, reminding them that we’re all fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. And as more people finally begin to notice you’re on to something, it becomes clear that while two’s company and three’s a crowd, four is a party! The movement grows and what was once crazy is now genius. ‘Who thought of this?’ someone will ask. Many will try to answer, but few will actually remember that one person had to lay themselves bare before the world in order show that there really was some sense behind their madness.

Don’t let the fear of being different keep you from showing everyone how you dance. You’ve got to be unstoppable.

no, it would not ‘behoove’ me…

Texas lawmaker states Asian-Americans should change names to make it “easier for Americans to deal with”

News article: http://tinyurl.com/clwzvn

Easier for Americans to deal with? Really? As if we “Asians” aren’t American citizens either? Just a slip of the tongue, perhaps, but people need to understand that the face of America is no longer white. It takes nothing but a quick stroll through any major U.S. city to see that. You would think during a time where our president is black with a name like Barack Obama that something like this wouldn’t have to be an issue, and from a state representative, no less. I’m sympathetic to the fact that Brown will probably receive more insults than she deserves, but considering her position, she really should have known better. It’s tough enough that Asian-Americans (and other hyphened Americans) have to live up to some conceived “American” standard that is often white in color. Telling us to get rid of our names is just adding insult to injury.

adieu, france

So I’m sitting in my Paris studio, letting my last night as a temporary resident of France slowly drift away and trying to gather some thoughts about what exactly has happened here the last two months. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll fully realize the impact of this trip until I’ve been removed at least a month or so. It’s one of those things you can’t take notes on while you’re in the middle of it, like maturing or sleeping. You can only look back and then suddenly realize there was something bigger going on you weren’t aware of. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

But for now, here’s a random top 10 list to recap my time in Plélauff and Paris. In no particular order…

  1. Public transportation: Hell, not just Paris, but all of Europe is so much better connected than the U.S. The high-speed trains are awesome (and France’s in particular are supposed to be some of the best). Don’t even get me started on the cool rent-a-bikes. And of course, I’m really gonna miss the Paris metro. I’ve tried the metro systems in four major international cities now (New York, Seoul, Bangkok, Paris) and I like the Paris metro the best. Then again, I’m a bit partial to the area.
  2. Crêpes: Didn’t eat out much at all here, but I definitely loaded up on crêpes. The sit-down crêperies are cool, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of taking a bite out of a fresh street crêpe in your hand while you’re walking through snow. And how lucky was I to find that the best crêpe vendor I came across was right by my metro stop.
  3. (Real) Winter: It was below freezing the majority of the time I was here. And I loved it! I’m always going to remember that the first time I experienced a real winter season (aka non-Californian) was in France. But I really am looking foward to getting back to 70-degree sun and beaches.
  4. Teaching English to “French villagers”: It was only for a month, but I don’t think many people can say that they’ve taught English in a small French town in the middle of nowhere. It was so nerve-racking and fun.
  5. Christmas: I already mentioned some of my more thoughtful musings about Christmas in rural France, but I forgot to mention what we actually did to celebrate. All of us at the Camina Centre had a big fancy-pancy meal, complete with starter, main course, cheese, and dessert (and of course drinks—I tried kir for the first time). And then Marie-Pierre gave us a free dance lesson. You ever had to do those group/line/couple dances in elementary school with that crazy music with all the fiddles? Ha ha, we had a blast.
  6. Poverty: Just because it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world doesn’t cover up the fact that the poor are in great numbers here in Paris. There was a particular woman who would beg at the market I always went to and I tried (very sheepishly and feebly) to interact with her. People always talk about how things like music and math know no language barriers. Well, it’s the same with poverty.
  7. Laundromats: I don’t know if it’s just a Paris thing, but the “lavaries” here are no joke. 3+ euro for a medium-sized load? 1 euro for 10 minutes of drying? No wonder I decided to wear my underwear longer by turning them inside-out. Just kidding (or at least that’s what I’ll let you think…)
  8. Nutella: I’m an official convert. Move over cereal—Nutella and bread is now the staple breakfast meal. I hope I’m not let down by the American-made Nutella which is actually made with different ingredients than the French counterpart.
  9. La Roue de la Fortune: Otherwise known as The Wheel of Fortune. When I was in Plélauff, Lisa and Daniela had their dinner schedule revolve around watching the French version of Wheel of Fortune in Marie-Pierre’s living room. It didn’t take long before I was also trying to guess the answers while eating my pasta. It’s so much better than the American one. The set has cool lights. The rounds are more exciting. The two hosts are some mean French guy and his cute dog. And I guess it helps to have former Playmate of the Year Victoria Silvstedt as the “Vanna White” for the show.
  10. Dog crap: Yeah, that’s not what you think of when you watch all those movies filmed in Paris, but there’s dog crap everywhere! Ok, I’m being a little unfair, but I was literally always looking at a slightly downward angle while walking the streets to make sure I didn’t have a fail moment with a pile. And this is apparently after a move by the city to clean up the doggy doodoo.

Well, til the next adventure…