Seattle, Washington, United States
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

when the mirror doesn't believe you're invincible...

Mirrors are a strange blessing.

Today, I was walking past one, reflective surface returning my image to the world with that unfeeling objectivity for which they are so well lamented, and I couldn't help but stop and laugh. I looked downright ridiculous. I was frazzled, my hair was poking out from my hat in a hundred places, and I had a dangerously wild look in my eyes.

It was kind of like something out of a bad psycho-killer movie.

I love to laugh. It is one of those brief human experiences that, along with breathing and sleeping, keeps us alive. But laughter at oneself? Ah! That is all the sweeter. It is the best kind of affirmation; if I forget that I am human, and therefore incredibly far from perfect or poignant, someone PLEASE hold a mirror in front of my face.

I take myself too seriously most of the time. I don't do it on purpose, and I don't think it is an intrinsically bad thing. Plenty of good has come from this serious attitude toward myself and what I undertake. But it is not liberating; on the contrary, it is quite demanding. To constantly believe in everything I am doing with a nearly inappropriate level of sincerity requires a commitment to maintaining the ideal version of myself, at least in my own head. When I fall short of that ideal self (which is far too often), it is a terrible disappointment.

But then I remember: that ideal self is a dream. I have bad days; I have ugly days; I have dumb days, and fun days; I slip up; I fall down (every day); I giggle too loudly, sneeze too loudly, speak too loudly, whisper too loudly; I just don't get much of anything right. So, the dream is in my head and the reality is in the mirror, staring back at me and collapsing into a strange sort of laughter - a very wild, very free laughter.

And isn't freedom the goal always, anyway?

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

to my OOTI family -

I'm posting pretty late in the evening today, because I just got back home from a get-together with a group of people that I consider kind of like my second family.

I'll keep this short, because it's really very simple. Sometimes people come together. It is the right time, the right place, the right moment for a real kind of connection to develop. They laugh. They yell and scream at each other. They triumph. They fail. They fight for each other. They are families.

Blood is not sanctified; it is not a necessary ingredient for love. All that is truly necessary is a moment of shared understanding, a moment which gives way to a commitment. That commitment is an easy and mutual decision: this other person is as valuable to me as I am to them. Trust in that obscure and gorgeous bond; it exists.

To my OOTI family: thank you for forging such a beautiful story with me. You all are why I tell it and keep on telling it. I love all of you.

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

sunday sip: the seaside

There is an Indonesian proverb which reads: "The sea becomes the shore, the shore becomes the sea."

I've spent my birthday weekend on the seaside with my family. The remarkable thing about towns near the ocean is the pervasive presence of that ocean in the town. Everything is finely dusted with sand; the air is salty; anchors decorate every house, and, of course, the sound of the waves breaking against the shore is always present.

It is a thoroughly spiritual experience, standing near the sea. All of the world's struggle for meaning is so easily read in the pull and push, give and take of the water as it exchanges sand for treasures from the deepest sides of itself. Nothing is far, nothing is near.

The ocean represents that middle point at which we should live our lives: everything - all directions, all depths and colors, all manners of being and non-being - are within reach.

Join me for a cup.
-michael

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Addressing Wolves

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.

That is a quote by Maya Angelou, a woman well acquainted with bitterness and anger - and with reason. She is, I believe, one of those people who has looked long into the sour of life, living beyond it.

Today, that is how I'd like to be. I am not a bitter person; to be perfectly honest, I do not have anything over which I could be very bitter even if I wanted. However, I think this planet is a bitter place. I'm fairly certain that the human race is tired of watching it destroy its homes, its dependents, students, masters, teachers, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers - itself.

I don't think we are angry enough.

We have been angry, very angry, in the past, but always too briefly and often too violently. Wars are our legacy here. If we were to be annihilated tomorrow, the cosmic history books would paint us as tragic heroes constantly killing our neighbors without realizing who was on the other end of the blade.

Sometimes - on rare and beautiful occasions - we march, make signs, write poems and songs, perform, speak, and peacefully teach. We try vainly to tell ourselves that these actions come from a place of goodwill and self-control. That is not the truth. Resistance, be it peaceful or not, comes from deep, obsessive anger - as well it should.

Anger is dangerous; it is explosive, but - when properly utilized - it is the most powerful weapon that the human being possesses. It is the catalyst for change.

But we are not angry enough.

Enslavement persists; chains obstinately remain to be broken; human beings are subjugated and objectified. We have not, collectively, remedied these injustices or healed the wounds they inflict upon their victims. Rather, we take our anger and foolishly direct it in the wrong directions, bickering among ourselves about how and when and why to fight the fires we so desperately need to douse. I'm as guilty of this as anyone I know: wrong anger.

Today, I saw this quote by Maya Angelou, and I knew it was the truth. Anger is that glorious wave that sweeps the land in the minds and hearts of men and teaches them the proper way to be, taking the bitter helplessness of victimization and transforming it into action if (and only if) the once-victim is committed to laying down their sword and fighting well.

It's been about half a year since a late afternoon, when, while sitting with a notebook on my lap staring at a blank wall, eight words dropped very neatly into my head and would not leave. I wrote them down, but have never seriously written them into something:

BE STILL THE WOLVES AND HOWL NO MORE.

When I read the quote that began this post, that is what I thought of - that line. I'm tired of watching wolves tear my world in two, tired of listening for them at night.

It makes me furious.

And, to be frank, I think that's a good thing.

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

Sunday, March 4, 2012

sunday sip: fire & wind - movement

Good afternoon, Coffee Lovers. Let me first offer an explanation as to why there was no post on Thursday. I was at a concert for one of my favorite artists, Trevor Hall, whose music I have quoted here before.

It is about Trevor that I'd like to write for a few minutes. His music is peace. The literal messages in his songs are peace, unity, togetherness. But his music carries a quality to it that, in its own mysterious self, is peaceful. Watching him play on Thursday night, I realized what that quality is; Trevor Hall espouses peace and unity with an overriding and indomitable passion.

When I was a few years younger, I was obsessed with the idea of passion. As I aged, somehow the idea of passion and the idea of peace became strangely separate, as if they were hostile foils to each other rather than necessary components in the other's equation. Watching Trevor play on Thursday reaffirmed something I'd forgotten: without peace, all passion is fire, thus consuming and unkind; without passion, all peace is still, cloth, without any true power or motion.

"Time has come to speak of this love,
spread your wings of your song and soul
to maintain internal heights above;
close your eyes and feel it unfold."
--Trevor Hall, 'Volume'


Join me for a cup.
-michael