Monday, May 30, 2011

To sir with love: Happy Memorial Day

I took this picture in Boston this past week. I am posting it because although Memorial Day is for honoring those who lost their lives in every war: Afghanistan and Iraq signify the wars of my generation to date.

To be honest I probably would have never taken this picture a year or two ago. I was not always that supportive of the armed forces. I mean I have always loved America, but I have always just found our wars, extreme use of hard power, and military force disgusting. And for the life of me I could not completely separate that from the people involved. I am really sorry. And I mean really sorry for that. I will always be sorry for those past feelings.

But this past year I met someone who changed my view of the men and women of the armed forces for the better. And I am forever in debt. Because I really do feel like I am in good hands now. And I am so very grateful for that. I am grateful that you taught me to open my mind just a little bit more. I am grateful that you taught me about you. And what you stand for. Because that is something I can always support and believe in wholeheartedly. I know that you are a person and a truly good one at that.

So to that sir with love, thank you, and Happy Memorial Day. Today, I hope the sun shines and it is a beautiful day.

(I would also like to thank all those (sirs and maims) out there now and those who have lost their lives serving this country.)

Appropriate Song: For Good: Wicked Cast

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Can Atheists Pray?

It can be socially awkward sometimes if you do not believe in God. You know when everyone is "praying for Japan" or "praying for Missouri" and your just "blanking" for them. What am I supposed to say? What am I actually supposed to do?

I just consider it dishonest to say I am going to pray for something when I am not going to. I am not going to pray. I do not pray. But this does not mean that I do not think about these places. In reality, I think about these places and certain people in dire situations often. It often keeps me up at night: the chaos of this world. I worry about climate change, the hungry, the poor ,the unhappy, the sick, and everyone and anyone in between. Sometimes it consumes me. Rather than pray I try and envision some way I can help or do something truly meaningful in these situations. Of course, this is difficult in many ways. I mean I can always donate or volunteer or just give someone my time. But this often does not feel like enough in a world where countless are suffering.

I think prayer comes in when we feel like we cannot do anything else. Those who rely on prayer pray in hopes that the situation will get better when things feel very much out of our control.

For instance, my good friend Beni is currently living in Yemen. I think and worry about her safety all of the time. But I can literally do nothing about her safety on a day to day basis. It is so far out of my control aside from going to Yemen, adultnapping her, and bringing her here. What am I supposed to do? I usually tell her I am praying for her in "my atheist way." But what does that even mean?! I am still unsure. Maybe I will just start saying I am sending you "warm fuzzies." Of course, I am sure no one would take that seriously, especially the really religious folk. But that is their loss. I mean who does not want a warm fuzzy or even better- multiple warm fuzzies?

Sometimes it is tough being an atheist. But that is me. I am sure I will figure this out one day.

For now, sending you plenty of warm fuzzies!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Books can be dangerous

Helen Exley once said, "Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled, "This could change your life." Today, I found this note to Louisa May Alcott on top of her grave site in Sleepy Hallow Cemetery in Concord, MA. Truthfully, I did not come to the cemetery for Alcott, although I appreciate her work, I came to the cemetery for Emerson and ever more specifically Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's Walden changed my life. I am here at Walden Pond now. And it has been nothing short of an environmental pilgrimmage. I feel it all - the wildness, the beauty- just like Thoreau wrote about in his book. I feel the words in the air. I can hear him say "Live Deliberately, Jamie." I intend to, Mr. Thoreau. I promise.

Oh books! Enlighten me. Forever. What book (s) have changed your life?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An old stump is a good place for sitting and resting

Once there was a tree....
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree....
very much.
And the tree was happy.
But time went by.
-Shel Silverstein

Time goes by. We leave our childhood friend. The tree we always climbed. I just hope we all come back in the end. Just to sit and rest. To give thanks. To give something in return.

And the tree was happy...

Monday, May 23, 2011

L'Origine du monde

In the famous Parisian Musee d'Orsay there lies this painting by Gustave Courbet entitled "L'Origine du monde." It is quite possibly the most vibrant and true picture of the female genitalia that I have ever seen. Although, I can't really say that I spend a lot of my time examining the female anatomy, so my perspective might be skewed by my lack of experience in this area. But my lack of experience says something about the importance of this art work. I mean in my twenty-two years of living I have seen very few "real" vaginas for a extended period of time. I don't know. Maybe I am sheltered? I know it is out there. And I could very easily access dozens of images of vaginas if I were so inclined. But before I saw this painting (over a year ago) I had never really thought about really looking at vaginas. And I mean truly looking and examining them.

So I sat there and looked at this painting for a long long time. It was long enough that it warranted looks from some of the other patrons. But luckily being in an art museum, people are not really inclined to outwardly judge you for your presence at a particular painting, even if said painting is a giant vagina. I love this painting. Completely and wholeheartedly love it. And one day I will have a giant replica in my house of this piece of work. Probably in my bed room or bathroom but still it will be there in all of its glory. Now, do not assume that I am a crazed feminist. Actually, quite the contrary. In the token John Lennon sort of way I kind of love everyone. Women. Men. Both. Neither. Whatever.

Anyway, back to the painting. I have to tell you why I love it and why I have decided to include it in my future home. I love it because it took a body part (one of my very own) which I always found kind of ugly looking and weird and made it into something beautiful for everyone to have the freedom to look at. Of course, facebook censored it, so I guess we do not really have the freedom to look at it in some cases. I am sorry, but I would much rather my little girl or boy see a real depiction of a woman's body rather than the airbrushed images of celebrities who pay to have plastic surgery, tons of make up, expensive food and fitness routines, and a whole team dedicated to their outward appearance. Come on if you are going to glorify a vagina, this would be the one. This does not depict a perfect woman with a perfect body. I mean come on, is your vagina perfect? No. And it is not supposed to be.

Now, I think it is a little presumptuous to call this "The Origin of the World." I would not go that far. Plus, I do not think Courbet could have predicted the whole technological boom that has allowed other forms of procreation. But it is kind of funny nonetheless. And I guess it is true that the first children on Earth did come out of a vagina the "natural" way. But still in that case it does take two to tango. I say all of this because I am not so much interested in the viewing of the vagina as a sort of "temple" to be worshiped aspect of this painting.

I am more interested in the exposed beauty of a unique vagina. So aside for my gripe with the title (sorry Mr. Courbet), I think this piece is flawless. To me, it is about being confident with your most private parts (quite literally). It is about being honest and true and exposing yourself without shame. So yeah, I think my vagina is sexy.

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
-Lady Gaga

Note: I am not advocating walking around with your vagina out as an act of exposing oneself honestly. Although, if you choose to do so under your own discretion (i.e. do not blame me) please make sure you share your story with me. Thanks.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When you have two months left in America...

First and foremost I have to admit that I am presently not much of a blogger. Although, I did mention in one post that I probably would not blog until I started packing (which I have not) so I guess I never operated under the assumption that I would continuously blog. Yet, I find myself worried that my blogging will also fail in El Salvador if I do not start getting into the habit now of blogging more frequently. Besides that whole argument "there will be more to write about when I am in a new place" is completely bogus to a certain extent. Given the fact that I have stalked a considerable amount of current PCV's I know that at a certain point things in your new homeland become sort of routine and you only have things to report on random occasions. Thus, I am going to start practicing now my "finding things to say even when I do not have anything to say" because let's face it: there is always something on my mind that I could theoretically share with the world (this blog). In the most cheesiest of ways, I am going to find something beautiful to post at least once a day. Maybe I will consider this some version of the 365 project.

So today's beauty comes in the form of something I will miss terribly when I leave (hence the post title). This is a place where I have tried to perfect the art of achieving inner peace. Most PCV's describe an uncomfortable and nagging feeling of idleness in their sites. Life moves at a slower pace and realistically they are not as effective as they would like to be in accomplishing various projects. This is no fault of their own but simply a matter of moving to a new country and figuring out how it works best. I know I will fall into this frustration trap. I am a classic type A personality: perfectionist, hard working, and determined. Not only that but I have ultimate "my way is the right way" mentality, even if other parts of my personality lead me to allow other people to try out their way. Plus, I am a runner. We hate staying still. I hope I have not terrified any potential new friends/future servicemates/or even potential employers with this description of myself, but I am only being honest. And if it just so happens that I am awesomely busy all the time during my service, which would probably make me incredibly happy but a bad blogger, then I only hope that I continue to respect the importance of idleness in some form so that I learn, reflect, and grow during my time in the Peace Corps. I must always remember that idleness at times is completely necessary and vital to our own development.

Anyway to combat this potential and highly likely problem during my service, as my time in America dwindles I have been focusing on appreciating idleness. I figure if you can find idleness charming here in America with the ever nagging Glee addiction, your best friend's Netflix account, random trips to Wawa (coffee), and endless supplies of anything, then you can find it anywhere, at least I hope. And here I have found it:

I know what you are thinking. Jamie, you are so weird. This is a random piece of grass on the side of Route 4 filled with loud cars whizzing by, their relentless pollution, and there is nothing special there: no flowers, barely any trees, and it is literally two inches from your house. But that is exactly why it is beautiful. First, I am probably the only person that thinks so. I doubt anyone goes in there to just sit and hang. Second, its emptiness is why it is peaceful. There are no distractions. It is just me and the grass. Third, the fact that it is so close to my house is perfect. Why have a special place if you cannot access it regularly?! And finally, I like to think of the loud cars as a kind of meditative song. It is constant, not too loud, and sort of hums me into a calm oblivion. An oblivion where I just sit and feel.

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." - John Lubbock