Thursday, December 18, 2014

Friendship and Words

There is an old Yiddish lullaby that tells of a Rabbi teaching youngsters the alphabet. With classical Jewish tradition the Rabbi leaves the children with these final words, "When you grow up, you will come to understand how much pain and how many tears these letters contain. And joy. And majesty."

A little intense for a group of youths, but truer words have never been spoken. The power and gravity of our words goes further than we can ever imagine. The sentences we utter and the words we choose to use can have glorious ripples or awful repercussions. The tragedy lies in our ignorance. Most of the time we will not outwardly see the happiness or the dread our letters form. But pause for a moment and think of the last genuine compliment you received, how did it make you feel? Was it that hard for someone to notice something about you, and then articulate it to you? No. It was easy, but it likely made us feel very good, and perhaps even imbued upon us a desire to treat another with similar kindness.

I guess I am just nervous. I am nervous that I will live a life where I am not aware of the power of my words. And though I am not a media mogul, nor am I an obvious and influential pillar of the community I know that my words, like everyone's words have the power to resonate and change. My new dream, my new goal is to make a greater impact with my spoken word. Sure, I am a writer and aspire to touch people with the written word, but Lord knows I speak much more than I write. So I find it profoundly important to do better. I find that I need to use new adjectives. I am prompted to eulogize and compliment people with words they are not used to hearing. Why tell someone they look good today, when you can tell them there skin is shining, or that there hair looks like the hair of a Greek goddess? In short, I am trying to rid my vernacular of tired phrases and overused words. Describing everything as "cool" or "legit" is offensive to the vastness and beauty of the English language.

And on that same token I find it incumbent to rid my vocabulary of negative phraseology. What purpose does it serve me to complain? What advantage do I gain from criticizing and belittling another? Sure, it is outlandishly difficult to eliminate all negative speech from our dialogues, but why not try.

Now the topic of friends. The people we are closest to, sometimes even closer than family and with what words do we use towards them? Are we constantly correcting and judging our friends, or are we using powerful and poetic words to show them their potential? Just something to think about. The time we spend with our friends is incalculable, so why not try to infuse more positivity into one another's lives? All we have is our actions and our words. Volumes can and have been written on how to change our actions and behave better, but it all starts with the letters of the alphabet. The words we choose to use can change the world. Not only can they, but they certainly will whether we believe it or not.

I will finish with the everlasting words of one of my favorite authors ElieWiesel. In speaking of words, he said, "For some part of every word is sacred; all words should lean toward the sacred."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Always There: A Big Sister

I don't have a first memory of my big sister Brittany. I guess older siblings are things that don't come into our lives one day, but rather  things that have always been there, like trees or the moon. We aren't cognizant of their existence the moment we come to earth, but they have always been there nonetheless. And there is something wildly comforting about that. We don't have any memories without trees, and we cannot remember a time when there was no moon; we likewise cannot conceive of a world without our older siblings.

Yesterday Brittany turned thirty. Three years my senior, Brittany was always there at my side teaching, cajoling, playing, and taddling. She was always running around using annoyingly big words and organizing things that kids don't usually organize. I looked up to her in a way only a younger brother could understand. We were fiercely competitive and at times could not understand how stupid and immature the other could be. Brittany was the ring leader of organized fun in our house for years. She was the captain and my little sister and I were her obedient soldiers. Though many years have passed since we played "house" or pretended we were in college, or put on "circus performances" for our parents, her leadership and voice have remained with me. The things she says even until this day ring with a curious authority that I assumed would dissipate over the years.

But what has always been unconditional love has turned into something even more special. It is easy to love our siblings. Even if they are raging imbeciles, you share blood, and you share experiences you will never have with another. But sometimes is is difficult to like your siblings. They tell your parents when you do moronic things, they hog attention, and they know all your secrets. With Brittany however, I was blessed. I always saw her as a sister and a friend, and as the years trudged on and life got real, my big sister was always there. Our relationship became much more than brother and sister, much more than just two friends; we became two people entwined through eternal pasts and endless futures, with the understanding that one would always, always be there for the other. Maybe this sounds like a cavalcade of tired cliches, but my big sister is more important to me than I can adequately express.

I could write on for pages about what she has done for me, and how she has molded important years of my life, but suffice it to say, ole Brit is selfless and beautiful, a beacon of what an older sibling is and should be.

Don't even get me started on how much I love my younger sister Danielle. But hers is a different story with the exact same ending, alas, a story for another day.  


"Be nice to your siblings, they're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future." 

~Baz Luhrmann

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Thanks

On the morrow is Thanksgiving. As always I am looking forward to eating mashed potatoes and seeing family, but I am also caught up in reflection, in what I am grateful for. I am thankful for the great harvest feast had in Plymouth in the famous and poorly documented "First Thanksgiving" of 1621. But moreover I am thankful for the little things in life.

I am thankful for conversations that go deep into that night, sinuous chats that have no real purpose or direction but seem to enlighten nonetheless. I am thankful for friends that understand you at an intense and visceral level. I am grateful for the vastness of this earth, the mystery and chance for discovery in new towns and distant countries. I am thankful for books, for without them I would lead a much emptier life. I am thankful for the pen, allowing me to create parallel realities and document my life. I am grateful for a family that never wavers in their capacity to love. I am thankful for soft T-shirts, cause those are just down right comfy. I am thankful for athletics for they bring a sense of adrenaline and competition that you cannot find elsewhere. I am thankful for the beauty of the world found in so many diverse and unexpected places. I am likewise thankful for photography, the ability to capture beauty in a single moment. I am grateful for affection. I am grateful for music. I am grateful for my faith that fortifies my limited self. I am thankful for love, sometimes a confusing and elusive power, in its purest form it changes and ameliorates this world.

The list could go on ad infinitum. I think the beauty of Thanksgiving is it is just one more reminder to us that we are  blessed, and that we have much to be thankful for. It is too easy to focus on what we don't have, on what we cannot have, or what we desperately want. But there is so much in front of us, beneath our obtuse noses to complain and be ungrateful. So this harvest season let us remember the Puritans, let us remember Squanto and the coming together of the Pilgrims and Indians. But mostly, let us open our eyes to the beauty that is around us, let us live presently and realize the blessing that life is. And while we devour turkey and stuffing, let us look around at those next to us and say Thank You.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Equinox Has Passed

Who suffers from a chronic and totally avoidable case of laziness? Anybody have the narcissistic condition of neglecting important things in life in lieu of doing what you want? Well, I will speak for myself. I often suck at life. I make long lists of things to do, only to find myself adding new boxes to check, with easier and more menial tasks. I daily and weekly goals to change and better myself, only to convince myself in the moment that I would be better off  just reading a book. I have debt and other seemingly endless matters of unfinished business that I would rather not attend to. Bottom line, I can be a walking, or more accurately laying on my bed-disaster. Murphy's Law doesn't miss a single day with me. If I don't have car problems, I have relationship problems, and if by some cosmic grace I do not have a worry in my soul, something unexpected will surely spiral out of control on the morrow leaving a detritus of unplanned pain and turmoil. This is life. I am not a pessimist, and am not one to obsessively self-deprecate. My point is life is rocky and stupid most of the time. And most of the time I resolve to change my life tomorrow. I wait for New Years' Resolutions. I wait for my next birthday, my next job, my next milestone. A few months ago I even decided maybe with the coming of the Fall Equinox I would make some needed alterations in my life. There is nothing intensely special about an equinox, but it symbolizes a change; a change in time, a change it climate. Perhaps the difference in light and darkness seems trivial, but the ripples of this astronomical event can be infinite. And so it is with our lives. Simply deciding to change your life tomorrow, or on Thanksgiving, or on Friday, or on Easter Sunday can produce infinite ripples in the sea of your life.

So, the autumnal equinox has passed without any grand efforts or changes on my part. I can wait for the winter solstice, or even hold out for the spring equinox to make new goals and create a new me. But I do not want to wait. Maybe I will use those dates, and January 1st to reassess things, but I want to start the rest of my life today. In fact, I think I will start when I finish writing this piece. There are things I want to do, and I must do them while the night is youthful. Carpe Noctum.

What if I fail? What if tonight my wild dreams prove overzealous and unreasonable? Oh the glory and blessing of tomorrow. Tomorrow can be our new year, tomorrow can be the day that we forget about our shortcomings and dominate the future. So find your next equinox, set back your clocks and live again.

"It's the first day of spring, and my life is starting over again." ~Noah and The Whale