Bittersweet Birthday

In math we study functions of time: a system in so many dimensions dependent upon another for change, growth, dynamic behavior. Life is one such function of time, but no mathematics yet known is enough to model it. Life escapes the linear, falls squarely into the chaotic, and leaves us all wondering and questioning in every moment.

Yet some things are certain, and these equilibrium points change everything.

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Summertime Stepping Stones

I’m at an odd place in life. I’ve got everything planned out but nothing is certain–in fact, those things most certain are also the most unpredictable. It’s crazy. Sometimes I wonder if the fact I’m a Gemini predisposes me to a life of self-contradictory experiences.

I digress. I need focus, and I’ve learned what helps me focus is having goals, and over the summer, it’s been a longstanding tradition to keep a special set of goals to motivate myself and continue growing into the person I want to become. In fact, this might very well be the last summer when I can make such goals before the full force of adulthood whisks me away and the notion of a free summer ceases to exist. So I must make the most of it.

Let’s begin, shall we?

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Failure and Reprieve

This post has been in progress for more than two weeks. The title and idea came about even further back than that. It’s hard to trace the timeline of something ethereal: does it come into existence when the audience sees it, or when the idea is conceived?

Trifling nonsense aside, this has been a trying semester–for a myriad of reasons, perhaps my hardest yet–and words have at last come to challenge me. They stick to my tongue like tar and won’t say what I mean to say–or I don’t want to say what I really mean.

It’s like Alice all over again, but then, wasn’t that what I wanted to be? The mathematician-turned-writer-does-both like Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll himself? A moot point. A tangent. A space without definition, to be called “obvious” and “left for the reader to prove.”

What I mean to say is I’m exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I need recovery. This is perhaps the closest I’ll get.

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What Is Freedom?

I have a confession: I am bound in chains and sometimes I like it. My flesh is tethered by bands of leather and holy boxes inscribed with the word of God. The numbness under the straps speaks to me of security, reminds me of an invisible, all powerful touch.

The truth is metaphor’s a nasty animal that rears its head and paws at the dirt and runs off chasing wild game the moment you think it’s majesty might actually be your own.

But the bigger truth is this: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, about what it means to be free, about liberation, and all the chains we carry.

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Closet Confidential

Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?

I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.

It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.

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The Long and Short of It

I was out with friends watching Interstellar the other night. Afterwards we were standing around, trying to figure out the movie, some of us closer to understanding than others. I was one of these guys, trying to explain multiple dimensions to people who have never had to think outside three (and even had a hard time understanding those).

But I tried to take it further, make it clearer: dimension is not only a spatial measurement. We think of space in three dimensions: we can move forward/backward, left/right, and up/down–three measures, three dimensions. So what, they asked, is four dimensional?

It may seem like this will be a post about science, but hold on. Shortly, it won’t be.

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Three Winners

Sometimes the weather says it all: cold and bitter, turbulent, frustrated and uncertain–should it rain? Turn to ice? Remain indecisive, unfulfilled, until it blows aside?

Earlier this week three Muslim students at the blue school up the road (UNC Chapel Hill) were shot and killed over an alleged parking dispute, but in my heart, in my gut, I believe it truly was a hate crime. The small-town feel of our campuses was shaken, shattered.

The students, filled with fear, tragic loss. The weather said it all. A good friend, when I crossed her path yesterday, said it better: “They were our age, Darren. Our age.”

Since Wednesday I’ve heard nothing but the inspiring and heartwarming stories of these three students, their compassion, their faith, their service toward building bridges of understanding and commonness between diverse groups. And I can’t even bring myself to say their names, or write them, because to do so brings them too close, closer than I can handle. I didn’t know them, but I feel now as though I do, and it’s a loss I cannot bear.

I’ve thought all day, repeatedly for days, that hatred against anyone is hatred against everyone; violence against one is violence against all. And the oppression of Islam and Muslims in a Christan-dominated society recalls the same oppressions once faced by Judaism and Jews, and still often experienced if not at the same explicit and violent level as that experience by my Muslim sisters and brothers. I recall, as long as I can remember, the police officers guarding my synagogue’s doors, but what must they go through daily?

It’s rather atrocious, to think of it, that anyone should need security outside a house of worship, but that’s the virulent symptoms of a one-minded, belligerent society.

That’s not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that today they were Muslim, but they could’ve been Jewish. They could’ve been gay. They could’ve been me.

Our age, my friend said. I think too often of death, but death is abstract, and in my mind I run through my obituaries, hopes and dreams of what my life should be: …survived by his husband and their children… well-known for his books of poetry and fiction series… They don’t stop at 25. They stop at 70 or 80 or 90. My greatest achievements are not serving in student leadership roles or working as a tutor–in these obituaries I’m praised for inspiring a hundred mathematicians, for being senator or governor or even president.

They don’t end at today. They certainly don’t end at the end of a gun.

It’s tragic, but that’s the wrong word. It’s sickening. Vile. Evil.

The Sages once asked, “Why was the Temple destroyed?” And their answer was sinat chinam, senseless hatred–and I believe that it is this same senseless hatred that has shook our community and every day still threatens to topple our entire world.

God, however, has provided an alternative: Chesed, compassion and loving-kindness, the lifeblood of these three students and the service that defines their all-too-short lives. Binah, understanding, the open-minded willingness to accept and learn. And gevurah, courage, strength, the candle flame flickering in the wind that holds on, burns brighter, stays alight.

I pray. I cry. What else can I do? I keep breathing, living, believing.

Expanding Networks

For more than a year I’ve had a Facebook page for The Writingwolf. There I’ve shared interesting articles, links to both the fun and the profound, and helped publicize my blogging. For longer than a year I’ve resisted branching outward and expanding my social media network, but you may have recently noticed that’s changed: For the past few weeks, I’ve had links to both my Twitter and my Instagram profiles–where I’m Writingwolf2010 on both–but I’ve yet to make an announcement or explain why.

So a few words are in order–why have I branched out, and why should you follow?

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Elastic Heart: Societal Struggles

I recently saw a news story float across my Facebook feed about Sia’s new music video for Elastic Heart. The article mentioned many fans have criticized the video for its implication of pedophilia, yet Sia replied she had intended “to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody.” The response was succinct, but kind and validating, and her additional comments left me intrigued.

So I watched the video, and here’s what I think.

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Re: the Season of Giving

Gift Giving

My fiance holds the gift I gave him on the eighth night of Chanukah. Dec. 23, 2014.

With the Season of Giving going behind us, it seems fitting to take a moment to say thank you–both to the people who gave me gifts personally, but also to all the people whose generosity helped brighten the lives of others. It’s always seemed fitting to me that the gift-giving holidays are all clustered during winter, when we (in the northern hemisphere) most need the cheerfulness to keep us warm until the spring.

As any gift-giver may know, the easiest gifts to send are those that give themselves–like cash and gift cards. There’s something special about tearing off the wrapping paper and seeing precisely what you want to get, but for as long as I can remember there has been a different kind of excitement when I open a gift card–now I’m holding potential, opportunity, and I get to go on an adventure to decide precisely what I want.

This post is about one such adventure.

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