Don't Ask Me How My Trip Was

No one tells you that the hardest part of traveling is coming home. After nine months of not being able to drink tap water, and carrying toilet paper in my purse because “you-just-never-know”, I was ready to come home to Canada, to my family and Tim Hortons and a shower I knew would have hot water.

So why as the plane began its descent into Toronto was I feeling not only reluctance, but fear? I suddenly wanted to pull a one-eighty and go back to the humidity and mosquitoes and the glorious unknown of Southeast Asia. I didn’t want to face the cold weather, certainly, but I also did not want to have to face the dreaded question, “So, how was your trip?”

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I Have Nothing

It was an unforgettable, magical experience. Certainly one that you pull out during backpacker sharing time (or brag about on your blog). Yet my ecstasy was sobered when I realized that for the drivers, this was not some rich cultural experience, this was just another night. Only as I watched them begin to boil rice over a small stove did I realize that this boat, no more than six feet wide, was their home. For months at a time their lives are packed into dry bags, and stored beneath the wooden benches they sleep upon. They crouch and climb, pack and unpack, are at the constant beck and call of the tourists, and at the end of the day have not made more than $12. Click to read more...

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Good Morning America

Good morning America! How was your slumber? You have been asleep awhile, stirring at times but never fully wakening as you are now.

You looked quite comfortable, wrapped in quilts made by tireless hands of past generations. Notice the beautiful patches of freedom stitched together with the veins of courageous predecessors. I am so glad it has made you comfortable, God forbid it inspire you.

Tell me, was it stroking of your fragile conscience which lulled you to sleep? Or were you soothed by the passive silence?

Perhaps your consciousness was put to rest by the lullaby crooning, “not your problem, pass it on...pass it on...pass it on”.

I have been watching you sleep, and now I watch you awaken. There are those few precious seconds in between slumber and consciousness where the days troubles cannot yet touch you and everything is okay. But there is no stopping the light of day and now you see clearly how far you have drifted from shore.

How sly the nature of calamity, creeping in as it did and wreaking havoc while your eyes were closed. I didn’t know it would come to this, you whine groggily. Yet years from now historians will trace the unforeseen causes which have brought it to this, and your grandchildren will shake their heads saying they must have known it would come to this.

I have been watching your closed eyes, and now I watch them open. You blink away the film which clouds your vision and now you are seeing. Chaos abounds, your eyes and energy do not know where to rest. Do you not remember the sleep-talk you uttered? You promised protection. You welcomed the huddled masses who now wander lost and exiled.

Perhaps your eyes were not closed, so much as turned inward.

You are fully awake now, and you panic. The time for laughter has passed; even the greatest comedians have realized jokes about cheeto-coloured skin only go so far and people once laughed at Hitler’s shrill voice and jerky motions. The desperate refugees being refused access to the promised land are not chuckling over tiny hands.

Indeed, you are falling apart. But America, be patient. Before you can be made great again, you must first be made humble. Empathetic. Kind. Thankful. You will be healed, not by time but by love. Your bones will be mended through intentional decisions of love over anger, love over violence, love over fear.

Fear lights firecracker revivals - breathtaking displays of passion which are brief and relatively inconsequential in nature. Change through love, on the other hand, is not dramatic or particularly striking. It is quiet acts of kindness and diligent consistency in friendship. It’s the age-old phenomena of putting someone else’s needs before your own. It is much, much more difficult. But whereas the voice of fear is thin and petulant, the voice of love is strong, clear and will not be silenced.

So America, do not go back to sleep! Do not turn back over and shut your eyes; long not for the ignorance of slumber. Now that you have awakened you will never sleep as peacefully as you once did. Let your feet touch the cold floor, throw open the blinds and allow the discordance in the streets to perturb you. Rise with the sun which struggles to break the horizon. For though it looks like the darkest of nights, the dawn is surely coming.

2016 Didn't Suck, You Did.

2016 was the worst year ever. At least that’s what I have been told by the internet and countless millennials educated by the prestigious academy of Instagram meme accounts. In fact, when I typed “2016 was” into the Google search bar, I was given the options of “a bad year”, “the worst year”, and “a mistake”.

Indeed, this past year has seen enough tragedy and loss to be nominated for an Oscar. With tears and tributes, millions mourned the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael. With a slight shake of the head and a passing feeling of privilege and guilt, millions ignored the deaths of refugees, black teenagers, and war victims. Climate change got worse. Brangelina broke up. Donald-freakin-Trump became the most powerful man in the world.

The global, big-picture situation is grim. Yet despite visions and plans which extend beyond and beyond, we do not live global, big-picture lives. Our lives are composed of quiet, paltry decisions, made in a blink and surely inconsequential to The Grand Scheme of Things. How will I spend my day off? What should I eat? Which apps do I want on my phone? Shopping and burritos and infinite social media apps are not the cause of calamity. What’s mine is mine. I do not affect nor am I affected. Sorry Donne, but man is indeed an island. Or is he?

We like the thought that each moment, day, and upcoming year is ours to do with as we please. This may be true, but so is the fact that your precious moment is also somebody else's, and seven billion other’s precious moment as well. Time, simultaneously, is intimately personal and utterly public. This clearly contradicts our individualistic lifestyle, so instead we deny this paradoxical nature of time and the interconnectedness of man. We assume that what we choose to do (or not do) will only affect my personal bubble of time and space.

It is this nearsighted perspective which makes a repeat of 2016 not only possible, but likely. This paradigm allows easy access to the greatly coveted “innocent bystander” seats, from which one has a nice view of the show - perhaps free popcorn - and the allowance to judge and critique brutally while assuming no responsibility. You may even get a free sense of entitlement thrown in as well.

So, 2016 was the worst year ever, and somehow also the best year of my life. Because time is personal, and time is shared. It is both claimed, and communal. Home is a place between walls with family photos, where shoes and masks come off; but home is also a city, or a country. We are responsible for the care and well-being of our community (mankind), in the same way that we are responsible for the dishes in our sink. We belong in The Grand Scheme of Things whether we feel it or not.

So, 2016 was not the worst year ever, for every year shoulders great beauty and pain. Like each year before it, 2017 will burst forth in chaste hope and will be crest-fallen by June. But while with hopeful hearts we teeter on the brink of the unknown, let us resolve to forgo our tunnel vision and never tire in our pursuit of beauty and love.

 

Dear Toronto

Dear Toronto;

I’m sitting here on my cozy apartment balcony, sipping coffee as I always do, and over-romanticizing things as I usually do. I can’t help but think about how I sat on the balcony of my first apartment overlooking the cityscape three years ago, convinced it was the greatest apartment ever and the most beautiful view I had ever seen.

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Stars, Whales, and Ecclesiastes

Blue true dream of sky. Trees in italics. Water like a bed sheet rippling in the wind. Clouds like wispy baby hair. Lazy adolescent sun dragging its feet across the kitchen floor.

 I felt as though I was in a Group of Seven painting as I observed Georgian Bay from my canoe. Wholly distracted by the beauty around me I was a perfectly useless canoeing partner – forgetting to paddle most of the time, and when I did remember, paddling on the wrong side of the boat. Yet it was the kind of morning that distracts canoers, inspires poets, and makes awaking at ungodly hours worthwhile.

It’s easy to pray in a place like this, I thought. It’s easy to be good.

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Mere Enthusiasm

I love watching people speak about what they love. Without realizing it their eyes catch fire and a smile fights at their lips. Words which have been harboured much too long as mere thoughts are finally given the chance to be spoken, and they are spoken with utter delight. Each statement, word, syllable vibrates and glows because it is believed in. Do you know how many words are spoken that are not believed in? Too often are superfluous facts simply rattled off from memory, and words are spoken only to fill a void of silence (which is a sheer calamity in itself, but I will save that harangue for another time).

 

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Art is Moving

Listen how Tupac accompanies the bitter dirge of those whining about how hip hop has changed (Meek is weak, man); watch as Mona Lisa nods along with the stiff-necked folk who mourn the renaissance era (anyone can splatter paint on a canvas and give it an obscure name).

Those who complain about how art has changed are the same people who still have iOS 7 on their phone, and mention how cheap coffee used to be every time they pull out of the drive-thru. They like things to stay the same; I mean, why fix what is not broken right?

 

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You Are Here

As a child, I used to practice what I called “Now-ing”. I would slip outside and steal away somewhere beyond the prying of my mother or the pestering of my siblings. Then, quite simply, I would plant my feet firmly, stretch out my arms, take a deep breath, and think about Now.

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You Are Here Part 2

As humans, we are within time. Our freedom and power in all its glory cannot lengthen the day beyond twenty four hours.  We are slaves or subjects to the turning of the calendar; handcuffed to the bridle of a runaway stallion racing across setting suns and greying beards.

There is but two aspects of time in which God commands us to concentrate our concern: the Present and Eternity. Scripture constantly encourages – nay, rather, demands – believers to attend to these two things.

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