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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Strange Courage

Hello, Coffee Lovers! I hope all of you had a wonderful and restful holiday. Today, I want to blog about a strange kind of courage I did not know I did not possess in great quantities.

It is the courage to publicly express the inner parts of oneself.

I'm sure by now you all know I am a poet, and (if you have been a reader for an extended period of time) you may have even read one or two of my poems. But I encountered an oddly paralyzing moment yesterday evening.

This story, however, begins a few days ago. My brilliantly talented friend Paige sang with the artist Letters and Lights in the song "Clouds" from his new EP. She did an amazing job (and all of you should go track down that song) and posted the song on Facebook, using the website SoundCloud. It was my first introduction to this community, which shares sounds, songs, and audio together free. I filed this discovery away and went about the rest of my afternoon.

That evening, one of my best friends was reading a poem I'd written and emailed to her. She remarked that my poetry sounds best when read aloud, that it, in fact, was meant to be read aloud. This, too, I filed away. And then I went to bed.

I read somewhere that the mind sorts, judges, and reevaluates information gathered during the day while we sleep. I assume my mind did that two nights ago.

I woke up with a curious idea. Why not make myself a SoundCloud account and read my poetry aloud, recording it, and sharing it with the world? It seemed perfect. So I did it, recording five poems, and posting one on Facebook. But, as I left my computer, total panic gripped me. It wasn't something I could understand or had a frame of reference before? Since when had I ever been concerned by others' opinions? But, for some reason, last night I could think of nothing but the possibility of huge judgment for this sampling of my work.

And now I think I know why. The five poems I chose to record were such personal manifestos, moments of honest, literary nakedness, that a judgment against them would have been a judgment against me at my very core. And that terrified me. It would terrify anyone.

And yet, I could not take the poems down. Something deeper than my fear of negative opinions drove me onward, murmured almost silently that this was important, if only for personal growth. So, I spent a period of time today thinking about my reaction. I'm a huge believer in the importance of straightforward and bracing self expression, but when it came time for it, I was frozen afterward. You see, my greatest shortcoming may be pride.

Proud people do not like to have their self image challenged.

But I think it's not only healthy, but necessary, that we open ourselves up to the possibility of huge criticism. Pride, at its core, is a series of half-truths we delude ourselves and the world with. Breaking through them to reveal the inner self, and indeed the inner ugliness, is in equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. I plan on doing it more often.

And, in case you were wondering, the story has a happy ending. I have amazingly supportive friends. Thank you. All of you.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/michael-abraham9

Sunday, December 25, 2011

sunday sip: the little joys

Whether you celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzs, Christmas, Yule, of a day of rest not really religiously motivated at all, I would imagine you're spending a great deal of time with your family or friends right now. And if you're doing that, I'd be willing to bet that something has, unexpectedly, warmed you, made you smile, maybe brought a tear to your eye.

Joy is not a tangible thing. It hides on a different plane of existence, and follows rules only it knows.

May it find you. And may it be unexpected.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, December 22, 2011

playing with the paper

Well, Coffee Lovers, we've finally made it. We are at that time of year that, depending on your age and tolerance for interpersonal conflict, you either love or dread. Most of us feel a dichotomy of emotion in this week. But, regardless of your emotions toward the Holidays, you are certainly under a considerable amount of stress as the snow (or lack thereof) piles up on your driveway and the in-laws shuttle across the threshold.

It really is, and I'm not being facetious, the most important time of year. It is that time when, in the midst of madness and nation-wide Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we learn to be peaceful.

The discrepancy between the number of times a day that I think about peace and the number of times that I actually say the word highly amuses me. I've been genuinely reflective in the past few weeks, much more settled into myself. And as that has happened, as the winter has broken her shards of lovely play-glass upon the world, I've seen something very important: we yearn for equilibrium, balance, stasis...but we never vocalize that desire! Hell, we never even act on that desire. We live in constant motion. Even our elevators travel faster than they used to. But we do not speak out against it. We just let is consume us, until we are even thinking faster than is necessary.

I know I sound preachy, but I'm a preachy person. I'm sure I'd do the Dalai Lama proud (he's preachy, too). But think about it. What do we associate the Holiday Season with? Family and fun, sure. But also: shopping malls, gift receipts, lines, checking watches, new recipes, old recipes, finding the old recipes, plane tickets and the subsequent rushing through airports, spending money and then worrying about money. . .the list goes on. I'm sure you've all thought about it quite a few times this week and last week, and maybe even last month.

I wonder what would happen if we treated this month of December like we used to when we were children. Everything was brightly colored and sparkling, and so we made ourselves brightly colored and we sparkled in every moment. We ran outside, kicking up snow until our feet, like our cheeks and noses, were bright red. We'd come running inside, plop down by the roaring orange fire and drink rich brown coco, and we didn't worry. We let someone else do the worrying for us. When we gave gifts we didn't worry about how much we'd spent or whether it would actually get used. We just gave it, and accepted the obligatory kiss on our little cheeks. Then we scampered off.

Children are not caught up in the drama of the season. Case-in-point? They play with the paper more than the presents.

I think I'd like to spend this Holiday bright like that, too.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

Sunday, December 11, 2011

sunday sip: scuffed corners

Sorry for not posting on Thursday. It was a very busy week. But I'm here now, for a more or less sip-ish post.

I'm sitting at home currently, coffee cup in hand, right in the center of my house. And I'm looking around with fresh eyes this morning, trying to see past the familiarity. I like what I see. There is a cornerof a wall to my right that has been so scuffed, the support beneath the paint and wood is visible. There is a leak under the sink with a bucket and lots of trust beneath it. There is a scratch on the floor, adding plenty of character to the hardwood. That says nothing of the broken drawers.

These things (including the broken candle on the kitchen table) have never detracted from my view of my home. They make me smile, maybe - I think - because they remind me of myself. Our house is so meticulous in some things, and yet broken in all of these beautiful little ways. None of them impair it, lessen its value, make it less hospitable - they just serve one purpose: to remind all who venture here that human beings are alive within these walls. As cheesy as it is, I wholeheartedly hold with those who speak of the differences between houses and homes.

But I think we, as people, are like that, too. I know plenty of men, women, boys, and girls who are not present in themselves. There is no peace with that which is cracked or scuffed or out of order. They live in a state of constant self-condemnation and self-improvement, which, in and of itself, is not bad. But their refusal to see the ridiculous, clowning kind of perfection in their own flaws makes them, somehow, incomplete.

To be perfect is an icy road my friends. Here's to leaky faucets and broken candles.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Sunday, December 4, 2011

the candle

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of a post on Thursday. I was on a weekend-long school retreat, which was phenomenal. However, it's not what I'll be writing about today.

I adore words; you all know what. Reading books and poems is like consuming food; it gives me strength. Writing and thinking them is like breathing; it is necessary. But, as with anything, there are some words I simply feel uncomfortable with. One of those words is love.

It reminds me of four dreaded letters that fall, more often than not, out of the sky as a great condemnation to feeling. Where is the safety in love? Where is the assurance? "Oh you love me? Fantastic! Where's the prenup?" This is our world. We have forgotten how to be okay with our most base feeling, our most base commitment, because it means, all too often, manipulation.

I'm not just talking about romantic love. Romantic love is its own little disaster, but I'm writing about the love we are supposed to see everywhere, the love of friends, mentors, students, family, even of perfect strangers. Where is that love? Did it ever exist? Did we blow the candle out?

Or are we just struck with a malicious case of cultural - nay, global - amnesia?

I wrestle with this question a lot, and, if you notice, I use the word love very little on this blog. How do we trust something that hangs in the air between two people, but can never be seen, bought, sold, felt, broken? Is it perfection or imperfection that spawns this? Is it a feeling or a promise? Is it both? Is it that moment of falling or the sensation of firm solidarity?

Obviously, I'm not the expert. None of us are. We have ALL bought the same thing, the same mainstreamed lie: love is just a sensation. Oh, foolish man wake up! Love is why you keep your head above the water! It is why you look into the eyes of your mother and weep sometimes! It is why there is no ground beneath your feet half the time, why there is a ground the other half. It is the heart of your every passionate thought, the soul of your every throaty cry. Every time you've raged at the sky, every moment of perfect stillness - it has happened in this force, greater than gravity or the will to dominate. It made the world, and it will end it, I'm sure, eventually.

You see, Coffee Lovers, I don't know if God exists, and if It does - I don't know who It is. I have no idea if it's Allah or Yahweh, Zeus or Krishna. I don't know if It resides in each of us, if there are More than one, if It remembers that we're down here, looking up. I'll never know and you won't either. But I'm confident of one thing: even if God doesn't exist, love does.

It always will. For as long as we have children, as long as we have flowers, as long as we have homes and homeless and hope, there will be love. It will drive us to the heights of insanity, it will pull as back form the brink, it may push us over. It will rip us in two. It will sew us back up. I believe in it.

I hate that word, and I always will. Love, amor, liefde, ai, pyara, cariad - they're all words, and words have a definite beginning, a definite end - a shoreline or a continent; they break eventually. But as a friend of mine told me this weekend: "The ocean just doesn't end! Stick your feet in the water here and you know it's the same water a person in China has their foot in! It's incredible, just so beautiful."

It is. It really is.

I write this today because there are some things that are too big for just one person, for a hundred or a thousand people. I feel like my life is a lot of big things right now. Unfortunately, I'm sixteen and still foolish. In preperation for what is waiting in tomorrow or the days beyond, I'm terrified of saying, doing, or being the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. There is simply no instrcution booklet for life, and I'm only just beginning to figure that out.

But I sat down at coffee with a friend of mine today, and we were discussing these happenings, and in spite of the looming hopelessness, we grabbed each other's hands and looked in each other's eyes and decided we'd just love ourselves, each other, and the world through it all. So, you see, I'm realizing it's all we've got to hold onto: the hands of our friends and the love that those hands represent. Call me corny, tell me I'm melodramatic, but don't forget your darkness is dark until you remember where you hid the candle. When you find it, let me know what dreaded four letter word was carved into its waxy surface. I'll hate to say "I told you so."

So, I'll probably say "I love you" instead.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael