Monday, October 18, 2010

"Who Am I" Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Poem

(written from a Nazi Prison cell prior to his execution)

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

March 4, 1946

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mayo Mystery

So, there was a big new jar of mayonnaise in the back seat of my car today. Someone gave it to me, since their family could not use it after all, but that doesn't count for this little story.

It was in the 90's today -- as in temperature, not as in a flashback to the 1990's when we were just trying to recover from the bad hairstyles of the 80's. Anyway, it was HOT. So, the mayonnaise, sealed, new, sat safely in the back seat of my car for the afternoon.

Is it safe to consume? I assume, since it was not opened, that it will be fine. However, opened and on a sandwich, unrefrigerated for a period of time -- now, that has its risks.

So, I puzzled ever so briefly about the mystery of mayonnaise. Sealed on a Opened. Warming up. Danger. What a fine line between good and bad! Just a twist of a lid.

The moral and parallel for my own life is deep. Oh, not really. It is simply that I live cautiously around mayonnaise.

Glad to Be Gone

Driving home from an appointment with my job this afternoon, the news station reported a lock down at a local middle school. I felt a sense of relief that I'm no longer serving in the traditional classroom. Although it was a bomb scare in a building close to the school, and not in the school, I still remember lock downs, the stress, the annoyance, the mystery of safety for the students and myself. I am grateful to have a gig as an educator that is out of the traditional classroom for many reasons, and this was one reminder.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Two Men Approach in the Dark

[Borrowing from Amy's & Seth's segment on Saturday Night Live, "Really?"]

About 7:30, already dark outside, and I'm settling in for the evening. Only one home out of four adults and one darling 7-month old. Dog, faithful Sam, lets out a horrific set of big barks that sound like he is saying in dog talk, "Something is NOT right." I have rarely heard that type of bark. I rounded through the dining room into the living room and he is facing the door, a heavy wooden door. The front door. I look around gingerly through a window and sure enough, not one but two guys whom I do not know are standing on the steps.

Really? Really? After dark? As if??

So, I follow rule #1: Never ever open the door for anyone you do not know.

They are in ADT shirts and have those little ADT stop sign logo like things in their hands on little sticks, reminiscent of songs taught to kids in Bible school back in the day prior to projectors. And man #1 says, "We aren't trying to sell you anything."

Really? Really? Then what are you doing on my front steps after dark knocking on my door with all that logo gear and a white notebook? Could this be Meals on Wheels and they moonlight during the day for ADT Security Systems.

Me: "I don't open the door for anyone I do not know."

Them: "We really are not going to try to sell you anything. Can we talk through the window?"

Rule #2: Strangers appearing after dark are not to be given opportunities to linger (and don't you be quoting me a "angles unaware" verse at this point.)

Me: "Not interested. I don't talk to strangers after dark," or something lame like that. I should have walked away with a "thank-you" at that point. My current and very effective security system is still barking...I mean BARKING at my side, perhaps why the gentlemen are standing back a bit.

Really? Really? After dark? Cold calling? Perhaps one finds more people at home. Does anyone really open the door for strangers still? And after dark?

Really? Really? Doesn't ADT's Better-Ideas-For-Sales committee watch the news and realize this is a bad idea?

Them: "You can try ADT security for free."

This ended shortly after that. I continued to explain my policy on strangers after dark immediately being stereotyped as predators. They continued to wedge words my way to turn a cold call, and getting colder, into a warm one.

I did not get the chance to say the only thing I need to say, "No thank you. Not interested." It would be so much easier and less aggravating to stick to my little script. It just bugs me: 1) Every part of life seems to be violated with sales pitches. Please buy. Our economy will stay crumbled if you don't spend; and 2) The door-to-door pitch people and especially the after-dark group. We all need work, but I can't help you if this is your choice. I don't want to buy more, own more, and I find what I want without a random visit with a random idea. Though I do know people, usually men, who do open doors and buy. You know who you are.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Night, Noise, & Neighbors: Coping with Late Night Loud in the Hood

Last night, again, as has been the case for much of the week, people had late night verbal encounters in front of their homes, in the street, by their cars, or by our home. Last night featured at least three separate groups and occasions. These interactions often continue up to and beyond midnight.

It has been a hot week, and we have had our windows open, which doesn't help block out the audio portion of the evening. Our windows are on the street side. Our sleep has been postponed and disrupted by the volume of the outside interactions, and it went beyond tolerable last night. We were treated to some young female in distress speaking phrases like "open the f---ing door," "are you f---ing serious?," "so it is my f---ing fault again?" Probably an argument/break-up, wouldn't you guess? And possibly the same couple due to the similar conversation we heard a week or so ago. Without the benefit of the bleeping out profanity.

There were women sitting outside a home talking and giggling. Two car alarms went off for way too long. Always someone running, which seems to be loud in the still of the night. Always cars coming and going, headlights, and different speeds with which they depart.

This is an annoying part of urban living and the challenge in "loving your neighbor." My loving YOUR neighbor might be easier. Mine? Not so much. And not after 11:00pm at least.

It is amazing to me how voices travel here at night, and how much we now know about the private lives of strangers. I’m tempted. I might buy in to the “If I can’t beat them, join them” philosophy to make a point in my frustration. I'll sleep in my clothes, have a plastic chair handy, head on out when disrupted, chair in hand, sit down with the late-night talk show neighbors, and join in. To make a point. Tempting.