I don’t know about you but it’s always strange for me to go back to places I used to work.  Recently I happened into a health food store I once worked in and experienced that feeling of time moving on and leaving me behind.  So much was the same and at the same time different in unexpected ways.  I got many life updates as I scrambled to remember just where in this person’s story I had left off.  Eventually we’d get to a point where we were “caught up” and then I’d drift away looking around for the next familiar face.

We are always dying to each other.  And then being born again.

Carol, my old boss, shared a conversation that just couldn’t happen while I was still employed there.  We enjoyed the space of friendship that was not over-shadowed by the need for me to get back to work or maintain our workplace images.  Some of the veils could be lifted and we shared meaningful stories of the recent past.

I ate lunch in the cafe by myself recovering a bit from so much exposure and the fireworks present in even the most passing of conversations.  I discovered that my presence to my old co-workers reminded them of their previous selves that interacted with me in a time gone past.  Our meeting offered glimpses into time and reflections on what really happens when someone leaves and comes back.

I’m glad I walked back through those doors to pick back up conversations that had trailed off some time before.  I had been meaning to make my way there for too many months to let this opportunity to reconnect pass me by yet again.

I too have my memories of working there and was glad to relish in them for a short while.  I’m both the same and vastly different from when I was last working there.  How can that be?  The familiar faces too have changed but look so much the same to me.

I’m glad they were there to get me to here.  Thanks for those times in the past and a day for remembering who we were and who we’ve become.

Turkey Vulture Dreams

April 28, 2007

I wonder what the turkey vulture sees from so high–the perspective gleaned from looking down upon us all.  With nary a flap of their wings they can stay aloft for hours, lifted by  thermals that fill them with confidence and support slow descents or gracious climbs. 

I wonder if those static soarers are more highly evolved than humans.  They have traded in chevrolets and heartaches for summer drafts and nourishing carcasses.  Their love may be different than ours–although I’ve never seen them with their mates or chicks.  Methinks they take turns parenting so that their partner can get back to gliding and searching with clear vision for the animal perished by the road side.

I wonder if the turkey vulture would trade with me for one cloudless spring afternoon.  I would be aloft as the sun beat down, no thoughts in my mind–just knowing that I am the wind and the invisible that supports hollowed out wing-bones and feathers.  I am the man who drives to work and dreams of flying away. My wings are not yet formed–perhaps my mind brings them into being.  Until then I will wonder aloud to the turkey vultures circling in my dreams and beckoning me forth.

I work in a public library.  On Monday of this week the City of Virginia Beach spearheaded by the IT department put into place a filter on all city computers.  Under the guise of “network security” neither I nor my colleagues have access to restricted sites that have been deemed verboten.  So what do I do on Monday–I check different sites to see if I still can access them.  The Black Panthers and Aryan nation gone in one fell swoop.  Gmail no longer accessible along with any web-based email service.  Pandora too disappears because Internet radio is just too much fun for workers who must have minimal distractions.

I’ve also discovered that both Flickr and Photobucket are barred because they fall under the category of “Personal network storage and Back-Up”.  This designation has also knocked out Google Documents.  I know they have their reasons for blocking these sites and some of the filters might even have a sound justification. 

Regardless I say we must fight the urge to censor and let the information remain free.  Websites such as Flickr are part of the ongoing social Web experiment and to shut off staff access sends the message “I don’t think it is a priority to use the tools of the now and the future”.  We are backtracking into a climate of control and mistrust.  Evidently we could not self-regulate our web choices and now we have been given a leash to restrain our activities.  And the eyes that are forever watching our at work web activities have been open for quite some time.  With the monitoring of employee movement and now restricting actions even more, what is it we are trying to create and what is the ambiance of the workplace?

Libraries have always been a bastion of free expression and work to promote the hearing of voices from thoughout the community.  Every year we celebrate Banned Books week through flyers and book lists that encourage free thinking and risk taking.  The Internet has brought a new challenge to libraries because the information contained is not so easily hidden between the covers of a book but can be quite graphic and in your face. 

So the principle is still there that libraries provide access to information and now comes text and pictures and sound that moves with the click of a mouse and can bring the most offensive material right before your eyes.  The library does not know what to do so they skirt the lines of freedom and censorship. 

We pay homage to the censorship battles fought over books yet filter the Internet from some of the same content found in said books.  We pay lip service to the noble ideas of freedom and move behind the scenes to choke innovation and a sense of play in the workplace.  We restrict based on outdated notions of security and mindlessly create a  culture of fear.

To get my job done I can work around the sites that are now blocked.  That is not my main concern.  What troubles me is what I feel inside when I consider what censorship in any form does to the freedom of the individual.  I feel stifled and complicit in a sneaky campaign to control from the inside what should be naturally free-flowing. 

If you want a workplace where new ideas are filtered in utero then this is the right course to take.  If you want creatives and innovators looking for employment elsewhere then your big red stopsign is sending the message that it is time to move elsewhere.

These may not be your intentions in censoring this material but your motivations are implicitly understood.  In the name of security you take away freedom.

Rooted

April 20, 2007

Stumbling upon a great site, Sunday Scribblings, I have words to offer the gentle reader.  I graduated from Virginia Tech a few years back and confess that this week has been tougher emotionally than any I can remember.  So this week’s inspirational boot got me moving in that direction.

Rooted

She stands next to him holding lightly to a pinch of jacket.  His face blank, glazed over.  She moves her hand to his jacket pocket to find the warmth of his balled fist.  The knotted knuckles unravel and welcome her touch as a slight smile alights on his face.  She leans into him, wavering met by steadiness.  He retreats to a different day, memory skipping through time’s vast waters and finding a gray island of recollection. 

Blue eyelashes. 

They brush on his face–butterfly kisses–and complement honeyed breath, soft cheek-to-cheek caresses.  Tracing a circle in his hair his mother retreats and twirls in her dotted summer dress. 

“Hey baby boy, it’s time to wake up.” She draws out the words, a continuation of her physical touch.

 His eyes find her flowing shape and the knowingness of love floods through him.  She pushes aside the curtains allowing rays of sunlight to fall on the bed, the sheets, his face.  He arches his body upward stretching to the end of the bed feeling the coldness in the untouched places of the night.  He remembers the significance of this day: his brother is coming home from traveling in Other Countries. 

Mother leaves the room and he languidly slides his feet to the ground.

His eyes involuntarily close and he is back beside her cupping the soft hand in his jacket pocket and looking out onto a field of maroon and burnt orange.  Points of candlelight sparkle in the growing dusk and someone starts to sing Amazing Grace.  They lean into each other and support saltwater flowing from their eyes.

Ah…I don’t even know how to start.  I can’t stop looking at the images or reading the stories about the victims.  I went to Virginia Tech and feel as if my heart has been broken wide open.  I feel paralysed with sadness and have cried more in the past few days than I have in years.  The senselessness of the whole tragedy.

I mourn for the victims and the family and friends who will be forever altered by these horrific events.

I equate my years in Blacksburg with a time of innocence and discovery, a sense that has been marred by one man’s angry rage.  How do we continue on with our lives after events so tragic?

Today I am sad.

Life Being Lived

April 10, 2007

At the wedding I attended this weekend I met an interesing man who shares the name of a famous french novelist.  He also plays the saxophone and made the wedding song special with his heartfelt solo.  I’d had a brief conversation with him before but we never really talked outside of pleasantries.  So sitting by the wife while talk was swirling around me I spied him alone at the coffee station.  I hesitated briefly and then went up to him to share goodwill and comment about his famous name.

We had an amazing conversation that ranged from the future of education to the subversion of the church in a young adult book.  Our talk only lasted about ten minutes and reminded me of the necessity to take a risk and step forward.  Now this may not seem like that big of a leap (approaching someone you barely know) but it is symbolic of what I call life being lived.  I could have easily just stayed in my seat and within my own comfortable little realm (and I almost did) but something shifted and I had to heed its call.  What that something is…

Now I’m not going to try and convince you that my life has been dramatically changed.  Something though is different.  I don’t know if the greens of the leaves are a bit greener or my smile comes a bit easier–life has been enriched by embracing life and discovering what needs to be discovered.  For my moment it was an enlightening conversation with a like soul.  In another moment it could be something remarkably different.  If I’m paying attention I will heed its call as well.  Will you?

I’m working on a paper today, the same one that has been plaguing my existence for the past week or so.  It’s actually not that bad but until it is done will skirt the peripheries of my thoughts like a shade of the night.  And what better way to dodge its piercing blow than to wander over here and allow some space between those academic meanderings.

I’m attending a wedding today with wife (a friend of her’s from an ex-work location) and look forward to a continuation of the good feelings exposed last night at the rehearsal dinner.  When it is time for the toasts I always get this feeling that hovers between wild excitement and mild nausea.  The opportunity for heart-felt expressions and if one is lucky an awkwardness that can thicken the air and make time stand still.  Fortunately that speech did not air itself last night but there was a gem delivered by the brother of the groom. Gonzago talked about the beauty of America and the opportunity for different cultures to come together in this land of the great Melting Pot. The bride is of Indian descent and the groom from Chile. 

Gonzago: (not exact) “And the coming together of these two cultures forms a kind of Superculture.  And this Superculture looks for weapons of mass destruction so that it can bomb other cultures.”

The audience erupts.

Political commentary in a wedding toast is a thing of beauty and in this setting his remarks ignited the sensibilities of the crowd.  I don’t know many people in the party but we are all friends on a common ground after his jab.  So the wedding should be nice and lovely and warm feelings abounding.

Enjoy!