but the best encounter
I’ve ever had
the best one
I was tracking a jaguar
in the jungle
which I usually don’t do
I saw these big male tracks of a jaguar
I’d never seen before and
I just took off thinking okay
I’ll track it a little while but
I shouldn’t be alone but
I ended up tracking it for hours and
it was getting dark and
I didn’t have a flashlight and
I can’t be alone in the jungle without a flashlight so
I turn around and
there’s the jaguar
in back of me
(Excerpt from an 8.18.14 interview between NPR’s Diane Rehm and zoologist/wildlife ecologist Alan Rabinowitz )
On a long walk today I thought about how difficult it is to develop a genuine conscience. It comes unbidden but only after we have worked long and deeply on ourselves — perhaps with a spiritual teacher to guide us — and only after we have been made to suffer the truth of what we are and what we are not.
When I think back on my own feelings of remorse, I am reminded of one event in particular, when I behaved very badly with a college roommate — a kind, gentle, and unassuming soul if ever there was one. Sometime after we had gone our separate ways, she appeared at my door with a man she met while traveling in France; he was, I have to say, on the very other side of beyond sexy, and throughout the evening I flirted shamelessly, outrageously, with him — all the while pretending, as I must have done, that she wasn’t even in the room, my friend.
When I remember this misadventure, I am pained more than anything else by what my behavior said about how little I valued her and about how unwilling I was to see her as a woman who could be desired by such a handsome man. In fact, I remember feeling something of a shock when the two of them bade goodnight and went off to bed together.
Over the years I have thought to contact her so I could apologize, but I have been stopped by my sense that the truest apology would be more hurtful than the original trespass because I would have to acknowledge how I must have had to diminish her sufficiently in my own mind to do what I had done.
We do this all the time: diminish and dismiss others in order to justify our own vast cruelties, which is murder bit by bit.
Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi horror film Under the Skin is not for everyone, but, once seen, it seeps and settles.
The film stars Scarlett Johansson as the alien femme fatale who is somehow birthed onto the west coast of Scotland for the apparent sole purpose of hunting down lonely men in her white Ford Transit and luring them back to her dark, oozy flat. What she does with them once there we cannot know for sure, but evisceration seems to be a part of it.
Yet trying to understand its precise meaning is a fool’s errand because the power of the movie is in the evocative: in the dark, rainy streetscapes; in the dialogue that sounds sieved through gauze; in the menacing soundtrack that is like “a locust plague of dry tremolos, the strings pressing down until the sound has reached a roar.”
Or in a startling erection, a hand pierced by a rose thorn, a vacant stare above blood-red lips, a rapist gone silent and scared.
What is most potent about Under the Skin, though, is its insistence on showing us at every turn the terrible and terrifying power of sex — a power we little understand, and one that awakens in us that which is at once alien and deeply human.
The other day, as I was walking out of a nearby CVS, where I had gone to purchase dish soap and aspirin, an employee called out after me, “Be safe!”
“You, too,” I tossed back absently over my shoulder.
But, what did she mean, I later wondered. Did she somehow know that, in a few days’ time, I would open myself again to heartache? And, what could I have done to prevent it? Turn right instead of left?
Or steer clear altogether.
I’ve been to three of the four Reel Talk events hosted so far by ReCreative Spaces, a dynamic organization dedicated to building community by offering “short-term, arts-oriented programming in unused, under-used, and unlikely spaces” throughout the DC Metro Area.
Each time I’ve come away with the sense that something very important had taken place for all who attended, something to do with building a better world a handful of people at a time.
The series offers participants a unique opportunity to watch a feature-length film on a topic of social importance—such as the impact of global warming on the planet or the effects of poverty on children—and then to engage in thoughtful, free-ranging conversation about it with the goal of articulating some concrete steps they might take to bring about positive change in their communities. At the heart of each event is a delicious meal prepared lovingly by a local chef—a meal that helps those attending forge new or deeper friendships with the others.
Something very special happened at last week’s Reel Talk, though, that made it stand out for me, something to do with a subtle chemistry at work. First, there was the dynamic Emily Arden—co-founder with John Kagia of ReCreative Spaces—and her capacity to make magic wherever she goes. Next, there was the exquisite, and exquisitely simple, meal prepared by Chef Tim Meadows of Nurish Food & Drink, which is located in the Anacostia Arts Center and which is where the event was held. Then, there was the movie itself, A Place at the Table, which offers an unflinching look at hunger in the US and sheds light on the fact that one in four children doesn’t know where his or her next meal will come from. Last, there was just the right mix of thoughtful, creative, articulate, socially conscious people with the heart and will to foster change.
Of course, the irony wasn’t lost on any of us that we were eating such a special, nutritious meal while children not far from where we sat were going without supper. But, this fact seemed to bring us closer to one another and to open up the possibility that we might find a way to reach out and to help the hungry children in our very own neighborhoods.
Yesterday, a 20-year-old runner from Fiji was shot to death in California. He was about to start school at the University of Louisiana. Last Tuesday, a lone killer gunned down a 14-year-old freshman at Reynolds High School in Oregon. On June 5th, a gunman who wrote in his journal “I just want people to die…” killed a Seattle Pacific University student. Days before that slaying, another madman with guns (and knives) murdered six University of California, Santa Barbara, students. And, a few days prior to those killings, a 10-year-old Wisconsin girl was shot on a playground.
In total, there have been 74 school shootings since 26 individuals, including 20 first-graders, died inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, according to data compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety. Just in 2014 alone, there have been 37 gun-related incidents at schools; 79 shooting-free school days out of the total 116 since Jan. 1. Thirty-one states have experienced school shootings since Newtown. ~ Quote
When I realized I was losing track of the number of children who had been gunned down around the US, I thought the very least I could do in a country that has lost its collective mind on the subject of the Second Amendment would be to send out regular tweets, such as the one below, chronicling the instances of baby murder and calling on members of Congress to stand up to the NRA:
Although I signed up for a Twitter account in 2011, it was only a few weeks back that I resolved to tweet. In part I had been feeling out of the stream of life and thought I needed to participate somehow in what has become such an important part of our global culture—and, to my surprise, not only among young people.
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, I also had some sense that “tweeting” would help me become a better writer in the same way that composing a three-line, seventeen-syllable haiku might. In fact, writing something compelling and marrowy in 140 characters on a topic that would be of interest to (theoretically) hundreds or thousands of others is no small task. Nor can one underestimate the inherent potency of the hashtag and its capacity to inform and enlarge the impact of any given tweet.
Now that I am “following” some 150 people or entities (mostly other writers and news sources, with Lena Dunham thrown in the mix), I have been made very dizzy by the sheer quantity of information—much of it otherwise inaccessible—literally at my fingertips. The Twitterverse, it seems, is a place where you can learn about the news almost before it happens.
There is quite a lot of dreck to poke around in, though, which means one has to be attentive, thoughtful, discriminating, smart—and triply so. Plus, with so much material to investigate, it becomes difficult to know where to put one’s attention so as not to scatter energy. Or so as not to become buried and bobbling in material that flows down like lava and carries with it bits of the sacred along with the profane. I have also discovered that, as in life, barkers and hucksters abound: My first five “followers” were thinly disguised porn sites looking to see if I wanted to have a good time.
For the past few weeks I have been visited occasionally by what I can only describe as a half-heavenly image of a flying-haired, bushy-eyebrowed satyr — were he to be crossed with Nigel Hawthorne’s mad King George in a diaphanous nightdress.
Sensual in substance and form, the apparition involves a meadow romp in which he and I are holding hands and dancing round and round in a clockwise circle. Knees high. Laughter spilling. So ineffably a thing of the spirit, I dare not write too much about it for fear it will not wish to return. Still, I can see that it is a signpost pointing me in the direction of my earthly future, one in which I throw off the notion that life is a vale of tears and I am its wailing wall.
How one errant “e” can turn a desperate, undocumented immigrant into a dangerous criminal
Mexican Immigrant Takes Refugee in Arizona Church
An undocumented Mexican immigrant set for deportation has taken refuge in an Arizona church. Daniel Neyoy Ruiz was ordered to report for deportation earlier this week. He instead took sanctuary in a Tucson church that once helped take in Central American refugees in the 1980s. Ruiz has lived in the United States for 14 years and has a U.S.-born teenage son. He said: “I’ll do anything it takes to stay with my family.” His action comes as President Obama is expected to unveil revisions to his deportation policy in the coming weeks.