Rather than leave a note on the staff refrigerator and continue the spread of ill-will I am posting my letter here for cathartic release.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to personally thank you for the disposal of my lunch this morning/afternoon.  How could you know that after working all morning and early afternoon I would want to fast until dinnertime?  You mindreader, you.  I realize that I did not properly label my containers and yes I do remember seeing the sign on the fridge that warned me that this day was coming.  What I was not prepared for however was a movement so swift and ruthless that even now I am bewildered and flabbergasted.  I picture you eyeing my grocery bag full of tupperware containers humming a malevolent tune, placing the bag upon the counter and regarding your destructive intent.  You open the first container and find a left-over piece of pizza from my dinner last night.  Admittedly cold pizza defies time and you flung it away with wild abandon.  Next you opened up my dinner from a few nights ago, quinoa with tofu and vegetables.  Now I thought that it was probably still good but thankfully you saved me from a potential stomach ache or worse.  Really, thanks.  You saw the dressing I made for my salad and I know that Gladware is a bit flimsy and you, thinking the plastic may leech into my food promptly disposed of the whole container. Thanks again.  Next you encountered my main course and truly I’m a bit perplexed by your motivations with regards to this meal.  When you opened the lid you saw the tomatoes and cucumber I picked from my garden yesterday and the organic lettuce I washed and broke apart this morning.  How could you have known that someone might want to eat this food?  Perhaps you have not had a salad ever and thought that this food was not fit for human consumption.  Maybe the vibrant colors of the tomatoes blinded your eyes and in a fit of confusion the contents were dislodged into the trashcan.

Whatever the case may be in these few moments that you cleaned out my food containers you acted in a very special manner.  You disregarded whatever common sense may have flooded your being and with machine-like precision wasted a perfectly good meal.  I’m sure that you are not always this heartless.  If you ever approached me and asked for forgiveness I would surely grant it.  Next time though, if you are going to go to all of this trouble, could you please wash out the containers.

Many thanks,

Matthew

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Why we are here

August 29, 2007

gorgeous flower

I’ve got a good friend who I recently discovered has a blog of his own. Please take a look…go ahead. Anyway I read a post there last week that made me think about why I do the things that I do. Being a human being involves certain complexities and often one is swayed to behave in a certain way according to rewards and/or punishments. You do one thing to get another, looking ahead you feel as if you can barely keep afloat as life keeps handing you new obstacles to overcome. And there are times when life is simply good, friends remember your birthday, the boss gives a word of encouragement, the dishes are done when you get home! The movement of being human can take one across the gamut of experiences.

Thrust into this stream one might wonder on occasion, “why am I here?” Fortunately there is no easy answer to this question and depends on the individual to begin to broach the question. Inspired by Rob’s post (sorry I can’t find the exact one) I’ve got an example from my own life on how to begin to find a meaning to this existence.

Since I spend so much of my waking life at work this has become the perfect playground for experimentation. In the library I can be found behind a desk and in a typical day I can come into contact with hundreds of people (both staff and patrons). My role is to provide assistance in filling a need. Someone may want to know how to get online, or where the books for ancient Egypt may be found. Underlying these interactions however is simple human connection. This is where I like to play.

It goes like this: patron approaches the desk where I am sitting to ask a question. I turn my full attention to this being and let the communication flow between us. I practice the fine arts of listening and observing all while providing eye contact and sound cues to display my interest and understanding. I don’t know if I can answer their question but I can be present with them in that moment as another human being. In ways subtle and non-verbal I assure them that I too am another being in this human experience. The question is answered (or not) and we part ways.

Here’s the amazing part: the lightness that comes into my heart with the meeting, the knowing that the connection was felt on both sides and understood at a level that may not be conscious. The two of us in a moment sharing a relationship and being there with each other. My work is done! And really all I had to do was completely show up.

Rising and sinking

August 26, 2007

Last night I had that sinking feeling.  It wasn’t necessarily sadness but the realizing of the temporality of existence.  For the length of the day, yesterday, I returned to one of my boyhood passions, volleyball, in a beach tournament with my brother.  I played all day! Even though I play volleyball throughout the year I don’t often get to play with my brother since he lives out of state and only returns to Virginia Beach sporadically.  We share a certain intuition when we are on the court that we honed during our youthful games under the summer sun long ago.  Being with him, playing, I was thrown back to earlier times, when we had days, weeks to just be boys.

During the tournament we persevered through 100 degrees celsius on court conditions and sand hot to the touch.  Muscles cramped and we soothed our bodies in the undulating waves of the ocean.  We started at 9AM and left the beach ten hours later the winners of our division, easy smiles on our faces and tentative walking back to the car.  We played and won and received the lucky gift of validation.

Returning to my sister’s house we were treated like champions and reveled in the sweetness of family support.  Surrounded by loved ones, playing a passion all day and reaping the rewards of success I found myself at the pinnacle of happiness.  Life!

And on the ride back home with my wife and nephew that sinking feeling found its way into my being.  A response to my great high, something was released inside of me to counteract and perhaps balance my day.  My mind took me to the eventualities of the ending of times such as these, when family is not there or the body cannot play like it once did.  I looked at my wife and felt a surge of love for her and the growing life within and immediately pictured my grandparents, my parents as young couples and their anticipation of their first child.

These mind wanderings were at times just emotions that brought forth blurry images and I could just watch them pass by.  Sometimes I would get caught up in these minor storms of thought and follow them through the circuitry of my brain.  And sometimes I felt like I was sinking and often I felt the rising above, a free floating that relishes both the ups and the downs.

Words are needed here

August 22, 2007

I believe that I suffer a bit from perfectionism.  If I cannot do something exactly right, or imagine myself not being able to do something than I shut down and lessen my exposure to the medium.  Let’s take this writing for example.  When I finally sit down and pull the words out– for the most part I am pleased with the work.  But imagining this process removes me from the writing and I go for days, weeks even without putting down my thoughts here in words.  This would of course not be a problem except that I would like to write more and read things that I have written.  I certainly see the cyclical nature of my movement–away and to the beguiling medium of words.

I know I am not alone in this movement.  Countless bloggers have written that post about meaning to write more but not being able to be cause of (fill in the blank).  And perhaps that external influence does inhibit the words from flowing though I believe that more often there is a push/pull that can leave one wanting to write and not stopping to act.  For me perfectionism is certainly involved: why not read the words of a master rather than stumble through my own jumbled prose?  Yet I keep returning to this blog or my journal because the intake of the words (however inspiring or well-written) eventually leaves me wanting.  I need to express, I want to find my own way through a story or an experience.  As much as I love the twists and turns, the elucidation and genius of others I pine for the creative pulse to balance my dreamer self.  Perhaps you do as well?

Bumps in the night

August 10, 2007

As a favor to my mom, G and I spent the night at her apartment for a night while she was out of town.  Mom’s place is not the typical apartment because she lives in an industrialized zone as the manager/caretaker of a self-storage business.  She has no neighbors and is surrounded by compartments that house other people’s stuff.  Part of our helping out my mom was the setting of an alarm system that protects the precious belongings entrusted to this establishment.

Earlier in the day my mom showed me how to both set and disarm the system.  You know that the alarm has been set when the “Armed” light turns on and you can hear one loud whoop resound outside.  The system is disarmed when the “Armed” light is no longer displayed and the confirmation sound is two short relatively soft beeps.

(2:30AM) G and I are asleep in the guest bedroom and through my groggy consciousness I hear G asking me if I heard the alarm.  I don’t know, perhaps, but more importantly maybe I’ll just roll over and fall back asleep.  Out of the quiet comes this loud rumbling noise (think herd of cattle) storming up the stairs. G yells and I run to the bedroom door and brace it, expectant of the onslaught.  I tell her to pick up the phone and dial the Emergency number (911).

I scream , “Who is it?”

“Dan.” (Dan!?!) “Your brother.”

“My brother?”

At this point I am slowly opening up the door to find my youngest brother Danny standing at the end of the hallway.  He is staring in bewilderment and my heart is racing with the adrenaline to fight off hoards of would be attackers.  G explains the mix-up to the phone operator and immedietly starts laughing with abandon.  I am a mess–wondering why my brother would barge into the apartment in the middle of the night while G starts to mimic my brave chivalrous movements of protecting her from harm.  What’s there to do but laugh?

My brother at least as disturbed to find us heads for the exit before I can speak to him.  I look out the window and he’s already in his car backing up.  G can barely catch her breath and I’m left fully awake in the middle of the night lying beside this shaking creature who sensing my seriousness is trying to still her quaking heart. 

My fear has been revealed and poof like that it dissipates and forms anew as silly relief.

Decision-making or not

August 5, 2007

We make decisions every day.  Most are unconscious: taking a shower, brushing teeth, putting morsels of food into the mouth and chewing mindlessly.  Some are conscious: which pants look good with the flower print shirt, should I have leftovers or eat out for lunch.  Then there are decisions that take a little more hemming and hawing: Am I comfortable spending that much for a pair of bookcases? Should I get the car repaired once more or start looking for a new one? (Can you see where I’m going with this train of thought?)

Next are the life-changing, everything rests on this moment, what am I to do decisions.  Some are reflexive and may fall more into the area of reactions as you swerve your car away from the child that darts into the road.  Some you can see coming from a long way off as a significant personal relationship grows or withers and results in the move towards marriage or divorce.  What all of these decisions have in common is that there seems to be a choice involved and we have at least a little control over the path we choose.

I’m not so sure about this.  I believe we have a lot less control over our lives than we may believe and these decisions we make are a product of many other factors that lie outside of our sphere of influence.  We go along as if we are in control of our fate when in truth we move along pre-programmed paths, the routines we cling to in reaction to the experiences we’ve had.  When there seems to be a great change in our lives there may be a shift and it may seem to stem from a specific decision we have made when in reality we had no other choice and our decision is a reaction to the environment around us.

Now this is not to say that we should all just give up and do nothing because our lives are already fated.  Truly I don’t think any of us could if we really tried.  I’ve got my routine and you’ve got yours and we both have things to take care of in a typical day.  We’ve got to believe that the decisions we make throughout our lives are made by us and therefore they are significant.  I think that they still matter but may be less self-generated than we may believe.  I could also be wrong, these are just my observations from investigating my own life.  What do you think?

A few weeks back I started noticing that a post I wrote in March was getting a lot of hits from search engine requests.  Sometimes as many as twenty people a day were visiting this submission by searching the terms “big sur”.  So I went and investigated and yes I did talk about Henry Miller and his time living in Big Sur but most importantly I posted a picture labeled big-sur-afternoon.  Ah-ha! That may be the culprit! I then proceed to Google images and search big sur.  Lo and behold my blog is the 4th hit out of millions of hits.  Somehow I had ascended the rankings and made it to the first page of a Google search.  How or why this happened I have no idea (and would welcome any input).

My stay on the front page lasted for weeks and then yesterday I noticed that there was not a single hit for this extremely popular post.  What happened?  Had I upset the internet gods?  Here is my theory: A few days before the stream stopped I received my first comment on that post.  Now I’m sure that most of the hits were people that just wanted to see or copy the picture and had no interest in the accompanying words. (As much as I would like to believe) And finally someone had not only visited but took the time to read the post and leave a great comment.  The bubble had been burst–the connection made.  The magic of the internet played itself out, my picture no longer in the top ranks yet my words touched a soul out there and I in turn was touched.

For fun I searched Google images for Big Sur and gave up after looking through the first twenty pages.  I have scrambled back into a relative anonymity and await that next moment of serendipity when a random click alights on these pages.