Monday, March 23, 2009

Begotten Dukkha (Best Blog on here)

Begotten Dukkha

I am the prodigal son of a world that has lost its way. Money tumbles out of my hands the way dried leafs dance with fall breezes. I trail a line of entertainment down the width of a 20, roll it, twist off the ends, kiss the tip, and light the other end. Turning $100 into smoke is nothing; women, cell phone plans, and traveling paraphernalia are my current drugs of choice. Wastefulness is more addicting than heroine, more luxurious than cocaine, and its consequences are endured by people I’ll never meet. So, my days are spent strung out on guilt free excesses. I inhale extravagance, hold it in my lungs until they burst exhaling the American dream. The price for my addiction; an eternity spent in an alienated purgatory where everything is for sale but nothing is free. I can’t escape my primal drift towards a prosperity gospel. I fein for any innovation that puts the power of God in my hands; I want everything to be easier, faster, bigger, and stronger. My race, culture, and parents have provided me with the birthright of a god. Becoming a millionaire is a matter of good choices, a pinch of hard work, and time. I am the begotten son of generations of exploitation, oppression, and inequality. This is my blood diamond; it is my gift, it is my curse.
My salvation has taken the form of a fragile secret, an idea so delicate that it would weather if spoken out load. It is a hope rooted in causality; that by changing the external I can change the internal. It is a forgotten rite of passage, the idea of an internal jubilee, it is my hope of a cultural baptism. Let my eyes be open to witness an old man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. I am afraid of dukkha, but I know that it must bathe my soul in order to shed the expectations of king and become the man the world needs me to be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Martin and me

It was a little after 11, my ex girlfriend was editing my essay; I was getting her a “thank you for saving my butt” coffee. Tim’s was closed so I continued walk down Belmont. As I continued on my way I came across an uncomfortable situation, several feet away I saw a crouched man on one side of the sidewalk and his bike on the other. To get by I would have to walk in between the two, the idea made me feel uneasy. I increased my pace, clenched my fist, and mentally prepared myself to destroy (…maybe that’s a guy thing). Just as I passed him he clenched his stomach and moaned in pain. In an instant I was disarmed, stopped walking, and asked “are you ok?” With one hand around his stomach he looked up at me and said that he had forgotten his medication at home. I asked “can I call someone for you?” He said that a nice woman had lent him her cell phone and that his mother was on her way. I felt as guilt free as a man who had just flipped a looine into an open guitar case. He continued to talk to me as I searched for a pause to slip in an “Okay, sorry I couldn’t help, have a goodnight buddy.” After 10 minutes a pause was no where in sight and it became obvious that the guy was searching for conversation. I surprised him (and myself) by extending my hand and introducing myself. It was the first time I shook hands with a homeless person. I will not glorify our conversation; it was a conversation of continual loops. Martin (as he had introduced himself) would tell me how he was not on drugs or chemicals (not that I ever asked), then he would mention how he was allergic to the mould in the leafs, he would move on to telling me about his medical history, how he never thought life would be this hard, and then back to how he was not on drugs. With every loop I learned more about him, as each loop had a slightly different variation than the first. The second loop I learned that he was 44, the 4th I learned that he could build just about anything with his hand, the 6th loop that he thought the doctor’s medicine was cancer causing (never mind that he was holding an unlit cigarette). I continually thought to myself, what am I doing here? I couldn’t help this guy; I couldn’t give him money, I couldn’t let him borrow my cell phone, I couldn’t even lit the guys cigarette (not that I would). Everything that gave me more power than this homeless person, he wasn’t in need of. It was frustrating not being able to give him a $1 and then proceed with my life. Eventually his 70 year old mother pulled up in a car. I loaded his bike into her trunk; he asked me if I smoked…. anything. His mother ignored that comment and continued to thank me. I walked away unsure of what/if anything I had actually helped him with. I know it sounds cheesy but as I walked away I prayed to God for understanding of the significance of what just happened. I kept thinking about what I did/didn’t do and came to the conclusion that I had in fact helped him. I offered Martin something that is worth more than the use of a cell phone or some spare change, I offered him engagement. At that time in his life Martin did not need anything that the modern world could have offered, he need something as old as man himself. He needed someone to share the slab of concert he was hunched over on, he needed someone to share the cold with, someone to talk to while he waited. I have come learn, through being involved with the working center and beyond borders, that the most important part of giving ourselves is just that, giving ourselves. It’s a lot easier to flip someone a buck than it is to have a conversation with them. I’ve given 20 bucks to a homeless person before, I’ve even worked in soup kitchens before, but this was the first time I really feel like I had actually treated a homeless person as a human being, a peer even. If Martin had just asked for a loonie, I would have tossed him what I had in my pocket (or lied) and been on my way. He would not be a person to me, he would have just been a form of kinetic karma. Instead he asked me to become involved with his situation and we both grew because of it. This is not to say that the experience was life changing. This is not my enlightenment, but I feel that this is a stepping stone in the right direction, a small step forward. I know I don’t fully understand what it truly means to engage the homeless, but I feel like I have grown towards that direction.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Better shared

Joanne told us to “rant” so here goes. I will first start with the positive; recently a lot of us have made a considerable effort to hangout outside of class. Out of the 11-13 (I don’t know the exact number) there are about 6-7 of us who have actually made it out. Every time I hang out with these guys I have a blast. I feel that with every week I am getting closer to you and that before long I will consider you guys (cough, cough, girls…) to be actual friends instead of just Beyond border friends. I feel that these friendships have enriched my beyond border’s experience so far and will continue to enrich my experience on the back end of my trip. It’s funny how this common experience can bring this group within a group together. I am not one to call you out by name, but if you have seen me more than twice outside of class, you know you are one of the people I am talking about. I would also like to give credit to those select few in class who have made a personal effort to get to know me on an individual level, weather that be msn chats, watching movies on my projector, or even talking to me about something beyond BB. Please keep it up, you are making my last term of university the best yet!
To everyone who has not made it out yet, please do. There are 10’s of 1000’s of people attending UW, out of those 1000’s there are 13 of us who can relate to you. There is not a single person in our class I personally don’t want to get to know better, and I know that the others feel the same way. I get that you have exams, essays, and lab reports, but we all do. Exams will come and go, but this experience will ruminate throughout your life. Know, however, that this experience goes beyond class and traveling, but incorporates the relationships you make both here and there. So please make a effort to come out with us, because beyond borders, much like life, is better shared.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

this isn't living

I am having a hard time writing a new blog. I know I am supposed to write like it matters, and it does, but part of me is tried of writing. Some people have mentioned that they are getting nervous about the 10 week count down, but truth be told it is not going by fast enough for me. I want to stop going to class, writing about it, talking about, preparing for; in short, I just want to go already. When I was a kid I hated the beginning of December because Christmas was still so far away, 25 sleeps! Ghana is even further than that! What exasperates the situation further is that I am constantly forced to think about it. I just want to get out there and do, instead of stay in and talk. For 6 months we have been talking about how life changing it is going to be, how great it will be, yet we are still stuck inside. I feel as if I am a kid stuck in school during recess, or like a race horse held back by the starting gate.
One of my biggest sticking points about life is that you constantly wait/work longer and harder than you enjoy the end result. You have to wait an hour for a 60 second roller coaster, you have to work for 40 years to retire for 20, you have to study for 8 months to go to Ghana for 3-3.5. I know life is about the journey, and you pick more stuff up along the way then you do when you reach your destination, still, I just want to go! I will mention that I think the beyond borders program is set up this way it is for a reason, and I have learned more in the last 8 months that I have in the past 3 years. Still, I am stuck behind this gate for another 10(ish) weeks waiting, every second checking my muscles for atrophy. Just put me on a plain already, I don’t care if I don’t survive because this in and of itself is not living.