Friday, February 24, 2012

Spring clean

Thanks to a few unexpectedly free afternoons this week, I was able to get my spring cleaning done.

I dusted and vacuumed, washed sheets and aired rooms, re-arranged and re-organized. I found things I thought had gone missing forever, and re-discovered things that I’d forgotten I had.

I found an old letter from a friend, confiding how bored and frustrated he was with life in Manila while he waited for his application to a prestigious American university to come through. Today, he’s got his dream job in New York. Which goes to show you that things have a way of working out if you just work hard and wait out the tough times.

I unearthed some stories from my creative writing phase, and decided that if all else fails, I could try becoming a scriptwriter for Filipino telenovellas.

I found a pretty key-chain I’d brought home from a trip and never used. I’m using it now. I found stamps, which meant I didn’t have to run to the post office to mail birthday cards for my nephew and my dad.

Last but not least, I found an old, blank greeting card. I don’t remember if I bought it for someone in particular, or if I bought it simply for the inspirational quote on the cover. I don’t even remember when I bought it. But finding it was like one of those reminders that nothing happens by accident, because the words on it were just what I needed to refresh my perspective. 

The quote is from Emerson, and I typeset it onto a fresh background. Here it is:


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Travel close to home

Some time ago I quoted writer Adam Hochschild, who said that you don’t have to go very far to enter into worlds other than your own.

In this spirit, I took some time this spring break to pretend I was a tourist in my own town. I walked into Chinatown to photograph a building that caught my eye on a previous walk, and discovered that it’s part of the new Woodwards complex.

Not everything down there is new and sleek and modern—there are lots of old brick walls and dingy alleys left that are strangely beautiful in their own way.

Farther along Cambie Street there is a new cooking store/school called The Dirty Apron. This will be the destination for a future trip, as I had just enough time to check out their window display posters. I liked the vintage look of the distressed display type on the textured, sooty paper.

A great way to spend the afternoon, and I didn’t spend a cent!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Silence, the Miracle Minute, and the Tree of Life

A wonderful lady reminded me this weekend of the difference between being busy and having a full life. Many times “busy” is just a code word for aimless activism that’s just as bad as idleness. 

When things get “busy” there’s a little cure called the Miracle Minute, which simply means taking sixty seconds to take a deep breath and let silence settle your soul.

There’s an old-fashioned saying that silence is golden. As with many other old-fashioned things, the importance of silence seems to be feared and despised these days. What are we so afraid of hearing, I wonder, that we try so hard to drown it out with all kinds of noise.

I’m looking to start a movie club, so last night I watched The Tree of Life with some friends. I think it’s a brilliant film, combining the very best of all art forms: cinematography, music, drama, poetry. The story line, simple yet profound, unfolds between ballet-like sequences portaying the creation of the world, the “eternal music of the spheres.” It was meditative and lovely, like being in the innermost recesses of someone’s mind, watching them dream, hearing them pray. 

It’s the first movie I’ve seen that didn’t try to fill every moment with dialogue or sound effects, which just made me appreciate the value of silence all the more.

From now on, instead of saying “Life is (super crazy) busy,” I will try to say “Life is full”... and, with the help of many Miracle Minutes, really make it that way.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Does good really win?

I’ve encountered this question a few times this week. Does the good really win?

Looking around at the world today, it might seem naive or just plain foolish to believe that the good ever wins. Evil does seem to prosper, and often it’s truly because good men do nothing.

But wait a minute. Haven’t you noticed that evil very often flaunts itself? “Look at me, notice me,” it seems to say—perhaps to trick us into thinking that it’s more prosperous than it actually is.

In contrast, an essentially good action or person is often quiet, discreet, modest, and humble.

Which is perhaps why it’s so easy to forget that good exists, and why, when good wins—as it very often does—we so easily miss it.

I was just reminded of this principle today when I watched this documentary on Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse who, with the help of friends, rescued thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

She was a women of tremendous courage but also of amazing humility.

“I have many faults,” Irena says at one point during the film, “but one thing I can say about myself is that I’m very organized.”

The atrocities of the Holocaust were staggering and unspeakable. But all the children Irena rescued survived the war, and many of them are still alive today to tell the tale. Irena herself was imprisoned but miraculously saved from execution and set free to live a long life and marry the man she loved. She died peacefully in bed at the age of 98.

Near the end of the film, William Donat, one of the rescued children, is shown returning to Poland to find Magda Rusinek, one of Irena’s friends who smuggled him out of the ghetto. Reunited, they embrace. They are in tears. But, “It’s all right,” says Magda. “It’s going to be alright.”

“Everything is alright,” says William.

So does good win? I believe it does—every time.

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