Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Week in Review: Doing What You Love, Forgiveness and my first Tweet

Sometimes I dream about blogging everyday, only to see days go by without typing a single word. It's almost like I need more time to process my experiences and my thoughts before writing about them. Fellow blogger and walker Skip Potts says writing is a sad vessel to carry thought and I think some of my hesitancy to write at times might be because deep down I wonder if my truest thoughts will slip through the cracks in that vessel and leave the reader with an mouthful of air rather than a nourishing drink. Yet language is what we have, so I use it, if not everyday then - at the very least - to compose a cracked clay cup called my: WEEK IN REVIEW

Saturday Evening, May 2nd

I didn't have time to complete a full 15-mile practice walk last weekend, so I was stuck with the option of an evening stroll. I left my apartment in Harlem at 5pm headed south to Houston St. to catch an 8pm showing of the documentary "Every Little Step" at the Angelika Theater. By 5pm what had been an overcast day was now sunny and bright and the temperature was perfect for walking. Within the first two blocks I felt that familiar flood of positive emotion. Maybe it is the power of Presence, of being somewhere and doing something that you love, of being in the moment and not wanting to be anywhere else. Whatever it is, it feels wonderful. Not wonderful in the way I imagine rounding the bases after hitting a game-winning homer while 60,000 stand and scream feels, but in a less intense, longer lasting sense.

My apartment is only ten blocks from Central Park and at 102nd Street I entered the park and committed to follow its East Drive artery all the way down until it flushed me out onto 59th Street. Not to be too corny - oh, what the hell I'll be corny - but I can't overstate how much I enjoyed "Every Little Step" of that walk through Central Park. All around me the park was alive with people and pets and sunshine and smiles and runners and bikers and blankets full of lovers and friends. In a few less words, it was a joyous place. I plodded along listening to my music and soaking it all in. Honestly, I didn't want it to end. You can't beat Central Park on a beautiful Spring Day. You just can't. To me, its what makes this city most livable and refreshing.

The walk from 59th Street to Houston along 6th Ave. wasn't as transcendent, but it was far from a chore. Walking never is for me. I navigated the crowded sidewalks of Midtown and then eased into the Village. I got to the movie theater early. That won't be a surprise to anyone who knows me. I'm always early, even when I try not to be. A pit stop at the Jamba Juice across the street helped kill 30 minutes and then it was curtain time. All I will say about the movie is this - I find it so inspiring to see people striving to make a living doing what they love the most, even when that dream is challenging. The thousands of people who came to audition for the revival of A Chorus Line all loved to dance and sing. It was an expression of who they felt themselves to be at a core level. It was their life's purpose. This movie was the story of all those thousands trying to get one of 16 roles. To me, it wasn't a story about how few people achieve their dreams, but rather a story about how beautiful it is that so many people are not afraid to GO for their dreams. There is a lesson in that for me. A rather large one, in fact.

Total Miles: 7.67

Monday, May 4th

At the American Bible Society we have a short 30 minute service each Monday called "Moments for the Word". Up until about a month ago, I never went. Then I noticed one of the services was about the story of the Good Samaritan and would feature the music of Keith Green. They had me at "Keith". I've loved that guy's music since I was a kid and Bob, Beth and Andrea introduced me to him in Summer Youth Ministry. But I digress. The point is after attending that one, the chaplain Julian asked me to do a scripture reading a couple weeks later for the Easter service. I accepted. Then this past week the speaker and performer was to be a Rwandan gentleman named Jean-Paul Sumputu and the topic of the service was Forgiveness. That's a worthy topic, regardless of your religious beliefs, so attended again.

Jean-Paul's story was harrowing and inspirational. Both his parents and three of his siblings were killed during the Rwandan genocide. Because he was a well-known singer and a Tutsi, he had fled the country in the lead-up to the government planned massacre. When he finally returned to his village he learned that his Hutu neighbors, including his best friend Vincente, had killed his family. Understandably, this filled him with emotions that led him down a dark path for a number of years. Yet in 2003, while on a mountaintop retreat in Uganda, he found the power of forgiveness and his dark path began to lighten. His testimony was that he realized that the power of forgiveness is that it heals yourself. It is for the victim, not the offender. It's a inner process, not an external one. It allows you to continue living without the weight of anger and spite. It's a choice you can make.

A few of us had lunch with Jean-Paul afterward and he talked about the realities of Rwanda in greater depth. There is a great resistance to forgiveness in that country. It's not surprising really. There is resistance to forgiveness everywhere - both in personal relationships and on the larger scale of national atrocities. As humans there is a part of us that wants to hold onto spite and feed a story of victimhood when we are wronged. The well documented irony is that, in the end, that spite and that story only hurts the person who holds onto it. It is like a diseased blanket that is grabbed because we feel a sudden blast of cold, but then we can't let go of it after the cold has gone and even though the initial warmth of it has been replaced by sickness. Meeting Jean-Paul left me with one lingering question: If he can forgive his closest friend who killed his family, who should I forgive? And what forgiveness should I offer myself?

Wednesday, May 5th

On the scale of important events ranging from 1-10, what I did on Wednesday night probably ranks about a .0002. But I thought it worthy of a mention nonetheless. Late on Wednesday night, after the Lakers lost a home game to the Rockets, I ended my Twitter virginity. I posted the following words of wisdom, destined to be studied years from now by historians trying to deconstruct the popular culture of 2009: "Why do I still care if the Lakers win or not? It's not like they are sitting around wondering how my day was. But it still gets me - a bit."

I'll let you sit with that for a while so you can comprehend its heft. There. That second and a half should about do it. It did capture some key things about my personality though. In 160 characters or less, it told a story of my love for sports and the changing spectrum through which I now view them. The subtext is that as a teenager and young adult I was way too invested in the performance of my team. I allowed their success or failure to affect my state of being. Today I'm almost at the stage where I can simply enjoy the thrill of watching sports played at the highest level without the attachment to a specific outcome.

So now I'm on Twitter. The floodgates have opened to another social networking avenue. But like all online social networking sites, it is merely a tool, not an end in itself. It is worthwhile to note that one of the main reasons I am taking this journey in August is to reestablish what is most true and most beautiful about life - face to face personal interactions with friends, strangers and family. Actual relationships are built on spending time together. The internet is a great communication tool that can bring us closer together. But for me, it is only a mean to a much greater end - spending time with people across the country over shared meals and shared roofs as a reminder that genuine human relationships is what makes life most fulfilling. Wow, maybe I should post that on Twitter.