I have a friend of mine, John Carl, that is brilliant and never sleeps and this may be the secret to his brilliance. There is a lot of time in life to read and create and be smart if you don’t have to engage in something as time consuming as closing your eyes for 8 hours.
So I have decided to embrace my insomnia. I get out of bed at 2:30 in the morning and feel pretty refreshed. I chat with a friend online in Switzerland and put up status updates to see if anyone wants to hang out at three in the morning. No one does, but I will still refer to this offer the next time someone yells at me for not making time for them. Time was made, people.
At five in the morning I gather my life together, which fits nicely in my huge Mary Poppins purse, and go to the Starbucks on Orange.
Driving there I felt very aware, expectant almost. I was intensely interested in what the people were doing in the cars around me. I felt a kinship with the people I saw standing in line at Einstien bagels. ‘Ah,’ I thought, driving by, ‘you are awake at five in the morning too, we are all in this insanity together.’ It felt like a shared secret, how pretty and still everything looked.
Starbucks is not technically open yet, but my barista gets the door for me with blurry eyes. I take a seat while they unwrap the foods and start up the coffee machines. I decide to wait for my order until they are more awake. I am feeling Different, and I am not sure why.
Within a few minutes my coffee is hand delivered, no charge. This is an excellent reason to come to starbucks first thing in the morning (or last thing in the night).
I take it outside to enjoy the cool weather. Across from me is a fancy 24 hour McDonalds. Two employees stand outside, smoking and talking. Again, I have a strange feeling of kinship. These people seemed to sort of own the night. While everyone was sleeping they kept awake the great giant of French fries and Big Macs for the precious few that would come in.
A rarity; maybe that was what I felt. It felt rare to be awake this early and enjoying it. Sort of what maybe it would feel like to have a crazy terror of a child during the day and a sleeping angel at night. 'A paradox,' I think. Jesus is chock full of them. All of this block seemed like a sleeping angel.
The two McDonalds employees cross the street. The man is tall, gangly. The other is a plump, slow moving woman. They are both African American, both young. My sense of kinship dies a little, in a way. They sit a few tables down from me.
The girl has long, curly hair coming out of her McDonalds hat. She clutches a purse and jacket and stares numbly in front of her. I can only see her profile, but she looks hard, angry. I know I can look this way when I really don’t mean it.
I look at her uniform and wonder what it would be like to wear it everyday. To deal with all things McDonalds.
There are true statements I can say about my life; my routine. I wake up in a beautiful bed, a beautiful house, to interesting and kind room mates. I open a closet filled with thrift store treasures and oddities. I drive my car and listen to NPR and work in a place where people respect and value me.
You can read this, but you can’t see it the way I do: words accompanying a rush of memories and sensations. These are just sentences to you like you read in any blog or book. The words you use to update your status today could be summations of profundity; reactions to incredibly emotional situations or fantastic experiences. But we all will scroll through and Like it, or Comment it and never really think of it again, because we are in our heads and you are in yours. Only the best poets and writers and perhaps lovers can ever show us a different way of experiencing life.
What would it be like if we could write these words and they were true:
I woke up and took the bus to work. I made hamburgers for six hours and joked with the other workers. I told a bum he couldn’t sleep in the restaurant. I watched the news. Then I sat down at starbucks to wait for the bus and some skinny white girl was staring at me.
What would any life other than our own feel like?
The man runs across the street, back to the McDonalds. I see her get up, lumber in his direction. Her purse and jacket are left on the table and for some strange reason I want to call after her that I will watch it for her. But I don’t. Her friends hat had dropped on the side walk and she retrieves it for him, sits back down. She glances over at me, and looks away. I look down, and maybe I am just as self conscious of what I am wearing as she is.
I think of my clothes and it makes me smile. A red sweater I borrowed from Doireanne. A black dress Caroline gave me. Stockings I found lying about that are probably Jaime’s and black heels my aunt gave me. I realize in spirit and in truth that I really am a collection of a hundred other people that have influenced and formed me. Usually thoughts like this depress me. I don’t want to be a reaction, I want to be my own true person. But for some reason, for the first time, this thought pleases me. I guess I usually thought of all the bad things I learned from people. My thoughts turned to all the good.
I learned kindness from Jenna, fashion too. Going far back, I got a love of knowledge from Tony Bowick. I learned how to argue from Giena. I fell in love with philosophy because of Matt. I saw how to make people feel important and loved by watching Tom. I received forgiveness from a wife I wronged; parents I disappointed; friends I hurt. Chopin from reading Megan White’s update about loving him and then punching it into my Pandora. Today I see my spirit is made of soft clay, and I think it’s beautiful for the first time. Because even bad impressions and the result of poor artisans can be redeemed through Him. From Christ I have a heart and know redemption is offered at every turn.
Sometimes I would prefer to be an Island, prefer to be a Robot. I hate being negatively affected by people. But me hating that is like hating that I have to drink liquids. It’s pointless, because I cannot change that fact. I will always be influenced by the people and situations around me. I will be constantly molded; so perhaps I had better chase the best relationships possible, rather than hiding from all of them.
Even though it is still dark outside, it is like I am experiencing an unexpected dawn. Words and ideas and sensations are flowing through me slowly and surely, like golden sunlight sliding over a meadow.
‘Where is all of this coming from? This hyper sensitivity and…sense of beauty?’ I wrote in my journal. And then it kinda clicked.
Last night I went to a time of prayer and worship in my friend Coles house. I usually don’t enjoy those things; it feels odd and forced. But it just wasn’t. I can’t tell you why, or be sure it won’t be terrible the next time; but it was amazing. It wasn’t cool, we weren’t edgy or hip. Nobody was posing or trying to throw out sound-bite intelligence as so often heard in conversations these days. Everyone seemed slightly uncomfortable at first, but also expectant. And I understand why some people keep going to prayer meetings, and some do not. For some, the hope that they leave changed, that they experience the presence and fullness of God with other people outweighs the fear of it being …well, weird. And during the course of the night I thought of the Plato (or Aristotle? I always get this one confused) analogy of earthly and spiritual bodies. That we are shadows on a wall, and someone who always looked at the wall only would think shadows were the primary existence. But if they turned around then saw people, they would understand what shadows are and how they are made. So I guess I felt like I was in a room of shadows and as the night continued everyone turned around and I saw people in color and form.
But that means that most of the time I am a shadow as well. And this morning in starbucks I felt like a real person, looking at the real world.
Sean read scripture over us last night (and for reasons close to my heart it is one of the most beautiful memories I have, a moment I studied intensely as to never forget it). The scripture he chose was from 1 Corinthians 12:25 “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependant on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, ever other part enters into the exuberance!"
I have left community in the past year because it has hurt, I have been hurt and have hurt others. So it seemed wise to leave. And maybe it was, for awhile. But even beyond my hurts, this spiritual body has given me so much happiness and character. I witnessed first hand how sickness can infect a church. But I have also witnessed first hand how Bradford has infected me with joy. How being in a room with other believers made me healthier when I left.
Along the same lines as this is when Paul talks about how body parts should not despise each other, a hand should not sulk because it is not the neck. Every part of our body is important (except our pinky toe or something, right?). Now, for contextual sake, Paul is using this analogy for people to not compare themselves or think some positions in a church to be better or worse. I looked at it more personally, as me literally despising parts of my body, and how ridiculous that is.
I ignore my emotions because I prefer logic. But both are mystical gifts, and both are given to experience the world through. Who am I to say which should have a greater preeminence? I can’t go through life covering my nose because I prefer to see.
The world has been destroyed by mans cold logic just as much as his passion. Emotion and logic are swords made of silk and metal. People logically thought the world was flat; logically believed witches wouldn’t float; twenty years ago people logically believed the Miller-Urey study, which proved that life started through electricity charging an earth atmosphere of methane and ammonia. Adding lightening to the mix gave you amino acids- building blocks of life. This logically proved evolution, until NASA logically told us that the earths early atmosphere was carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Inert gasses with no reaction to electricity.
Does this prove God? No. Does it disprove evolution? No. It just proves that knowledge changes. That logic must be balanced with emotions. And for those of us that are more emotional by nature, logic must be considered.
I do this with my spirit as well, this picking and choosing. I am not just an animal that hungers and thirsts. I am also a spirit, an artist and dreamer. But most of the time I focus on the real world, on my shadow only.
Last night I was a spirit, and this morning I have real eyes and spiritual eyes and even using the word ‘real’ doesn’t make sense to me. Physical eyes, animal eyes, I have. But they are both real in us- the angel and the animal.
We are all familiar with the idea of starvation in the physical world. I know that eating brings vitality and health; but sometimes I do not want to do it. Starvation seems preferable. I think I do this spiritually, too.
And last night my spirit had a banquet. Christ, when the devil tempted him to turn rocks to bread-
‘It takes more than bread to really live.’
We can starve ourselves physically and die. We can starve ourselves spiritually and not really live.
I have a feeling that my eyes will fade. That not everyday will feel like today. But I do know that I am committed to doing everything I can to continue to see people in this way. And that means not only reading and praying on my own; I have done that immensely this past year. But it also means really meeting with believers.
I don’t feel very comfortable in big churches anymore. It is difficult for me to worship at Status. And I have to confess that it is easier for me to tell people that- than to actually find or start a small group where I can interact and be spiritually uplifted. A true human temperament-it is always easier to tear down someone elses passion than to build your own.
I can’t ignore the rest of my body. I can’t keep praising my brain while shaming my heart. I can’t ignore my right arm while adoring my nose. I need all these things; whether I like them or not. I need healthy community, so that I’m shaped the healthiest way possible, and to not die of shock when it gets sick. I don’t kill myself when I get a cold, and so I can’t keep walking away from churches either. I need to experience horror to experience joy; I need to know loneliness to fully appreciate companionship; I need to feel the world as much as I think it, to pray and read in my closet and to gather with others.
When I left starbucks the sun was just thinking about rising. The sky was still inky dark, with a slightly lighter blue halo on the horizon. And it looked very familiar. I had been at starbucks many times when the sun was just setting. It made everything look exactly the same, and if we were dropped somewhere with no sense of time or direction, we wouldn’t know if the sun was setting or rising. We would just have to wait and see. And so another paradox that made sense to me, and comforted immensely: endings really are beginnings, and beginnings always mark the end of something else. And this is Good.