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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Kiss Me, Kiss You

When I was twelve, I was "Polly" in the school play, "The Boyfriend." This part required kissing. I remember reading that portion of the script, and being petrified. When I auditioned, I had no idea there would be kissing involved.

On the day of rehearsal, I made absolutely NO effort to act the part. I stood on the end of the stage, with my arms firmly crossed over my stomach, and my face set like granite toward the director.

"Jason, kiss Christin," Mr. Slater said. And I didn't move. I stood rooted to my spot as thirteen-year-old Jason approached me. He leaned his head toward mine, but I didn't move an inch. I'm not sure just exactly what Mr. Slater was expecting and now that I look back, I think he handled the whole thing pretty poorly.

First of all, what sort of an adult puts two kids on a stage and then orders them to kiss? Perhaps other twelve year olds were off kissing people, but I had barely touched a boy by that time. I had had boyfriends, but the minute we became boyfriend, girlfriend I did everything in my power to avoid them. I never looked at them. I never sat next to them. I never even talked to them, except by passing notes through friends.

Jason looked at Mr. Slater hopelessly, and I stood there rigid as a board. Mr. Slater, who was a tall gray man, with black hair, and a big lump on the side of his neck, was known for his ill-humor. He snorted in disgust and shook his head. Just kiss her on the cheek, he barked. I'm not sure whether or not he was annoyed at Jason for being unresourceful, or me for being defiant.

I remember the rush of blood to my face, and the wet spot left over from Jason's lips. I'm not sure how I managed to continue acting through the rest of the rehearsal.

By the end of the school year, we performed "The Boyfriend" four nights in a row to a full house each night. As an adult, I wish I had taped those performances. I would love to watch my little face the moment each kiss happened.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(Non) Violence

This week, my students read "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. This is the second time I've read it, and I was profoundly moved by it again. The patience with which King addresses his critics, astounds me.

As a believer, I understand that the nonviolent action King took was the higher road. It was a road that began in the New Testament with the life of Jesus. But as a human, I find myself moved to anger over King's account of the many injustices he and his nonviolent protestors suffered.

They were told by the white church to "Wait, now is not the time for protest." They were held at bay by the white moderate, who paid them lip service, but refused to champion their cause. As a believer, I know that it was only by the grace of God that King was able to so completely embody the fruit of long-suffering. As a human, I'm increadulous. How did he do it? I find myself sympathizing with Malcom X and the Black Nationalists, who allowed their action to be fueled by anger.

Since I teach at a community college, I had to be careful how I directed the conversation. The students invariably mentioned King's appeal to God's law, the epistles of Paul, and to the church. Jesus came up. A comparison was drawn between the way both men met their critics with nonviolence, and yet both were killed.

How was I supposed to handle this tenuous topic? I struggle with leading discussions on a daily basis. I hardly know how to direct my students. I'm not sure if this was the right approach, but in the end, I asked them this question:

What is it in human nature that compels us to respond to nonviolence with violence?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Silly Story About Living in The City

A man walked into a park. He decided to take a stroll. It was a sunny day, but the breeze was cool, so he decided to walk first with the sun on his back. This way, his black fleece absorbed the heat.

In the distance, he saw a crumpled figure sleeping beneath a tree. At first, he thought this was one of the park workers, taking a snooze on his break, but as he got closer he saw that the rumpled figure was homeless. There were bags tossed around the body, and a dirty blanket stretched out beneath the legs.

The man blinked and kept walking toward the homeless sleeper. He looked up at the sky, a plane barrelled by. He turned his head and noticed the roar of the freeway. He tried to block these things out. He breathed deep, remarking to himself how different dirt felt then cement. As he walked he paid close attention to the way his feet hit the earth. With each step there was a hollow thump, as if the weight of his body was going deep into the soil. "This is not like the crack of pavement," he thought "which throws my weight back. Yes, dirt is a much better place to sleep." He looked up at the homeless body and chewed his lip. "Imagine - he's found himself a haven."

These thoughts went on for a few more seconds, and the man got closer and closer to the homeless knapper. "I'll loop around him," thought the man. "Like a circuit on a race track. Loop around the body, and make my way back home." He made a tight swing around the body looking down as he went, noticing the shadows, and rumpled cloth. He looked at the face which was full of shadows and rumples too, and without warning he bent over and touched the man.

"Hey" he said. The homeless man rolled his eyes open with a grump. He snorted and breathed in saliva.

"What?" he asked sleepily. Squinting his eyes at the light.

"You look very comfy," said the man, squatting down on his haunches.

The homeless man shook his head in irritation. His eyebrows screwed up into a big knot, and then he rolled over with his back to the man.

"What do you find the earth like?" the man asked, picking some grass and running it through his fingers. "You've probably slept in some pretty tough places. I bet this is like cushions to you." The man reached down and pushed against the dirt. He looked up and thought about the way his apartment was surrounded by cement. The way his door was met by plastered steps and how he had to walk fifteen minutes to find a lawn. "Yeah, a man could live on dirt!" he said, kicking his shoes off, turning around putting his feet in the grass.

After a bit, he heard the gentle whizz of the homeless man's breath. And so the man leant back, feeling the heat from his fleece, feeling the heat from the sun, and he got sleepy. He put his head back and let the light push red through his eyelids.

In the distance, a plane flew by, three cars motored home, the electric lines buzzed over his head, but he felt the stillness of the earth beneath his body. He could smell, for the first time the scent of the evergreen above them. A small bird whistled.

This is where life should be lived, he thought. And he fell asleep.

He slept for a very long time. He slept through the afternoon. He slept through the night. He slept through the week, and soon he slept, until his boss had given up on him, and the milk had spoiled in his fridge, and the rent had come due. He slept until he lost his job. He slept until the food was alive in his cupboards. He slept until he was evicted. He slept until the park had become his home, and on that day he woke up. He saw the blue sky above him. He felt the hollow thump of dirt beneath him and he sighed happily.

"Looks like you've found a comfy spot!" yelled a woman strolling through the park. She was already barefoot too.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Equally Yoked

Last night I flipped to the Christian radio station here in Los Angeles called KFSH - The Fish. They happened to be running a commercial for a dating service called "Equally Yoked." It went something like this:

"Here at Equally Yoked, we know you want to fall in love. Let Equally Yoked help you find that special someone. We have hundreds of thousands of people enrolled in Equally Yoked and we even have a special guide to help you stay equally yoked. Let our professionals equally yoke you!"

And all the while I couldn't shake the image of two egg yolks walking hand-in-hand, laying their slippery yellow heads on each other's shoulders, and a big red heart bursting above their love.