TBT: A Marriage in Heaven

Lately I’ve been using Thursdays as a way to remember special moments with my fiance in our journey together toward marriage and the relationship we’ll be able to build on the other side of our immigration journey.

But tonight there’s another couple I want to remember.

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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.

Depression

One year ago, as I walked the brick path around its first bend on my way to class, I saw the trees in crystal clarity. Every leaf was outlined in high-resolution detail. I felt excited. Thankful that I was alive. That I was negative.

But just as quickly all that happiness turned to hatred.

What had I done? How could I have been so stupid? So reckless?

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Anger

One year ago I woke up early to stop by the Counseling Center before class. I walked to the second floor of the Student Health Center. The building is industrial, white, modern. The brightness made me feel better, if “feeling better” meant anything.

I walked up to the counter and asked to make an appointment. They sent me to a computer to go through a mandatory screening that lasted maybe twenty minutes, and then I got to schedule an appointment. The soonest time for the counselor I wanted to meet with was a couple weeks, but I took it anyways. It was a start.

It was a start.

But the day was still only starting.

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Hope in Evolution

I’ve been reading through my archives in preparation for relaunching my blog next month, and paging through my personal history has been both trying and inspiring. At its most basic, it feels insurmountable, and with posts averaging about 1200 words each and over 350 posts, that’s a wall of 0.4 million words to read through, all while balancing committee duties, education, and personal wellness goals.

However, it’s been amazing to watch the evolution of my writing quality from month to month, which has given me hope my blog will continue to improve as time moves on–especially after it’s been visually and thematically remastered in the coming weeks. It has also reminded me of some often forgotten ideas that could continue to bring light into my life if I take my own words, said so long ago, to heart now.

Most amazing of all is how, given time, my words of yesterday have grown into blossoming trees today.

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If You Please

This weekend was none other than the 25th annual North Carolina Pride. Actually, the event has been going on all week, but it culminated with the Pride Parade on Saturday. I had the opportunity to go once before, and it was a lot of fun and so sunny all my pictures were washed out from the intense sunlight.

Yesterday it rained.

But in this rain, the festivities went on with a crowd as strong as could be, and after the parade I ended up in a lengthy conversation with a visiting Christian who was shouting to all of us that we were sinners and would all go to hell. I hadn’t realized how significant that encounter had been until I reread today’s teaching.

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The Chick-Fil-A Boycott: Solidarity or Stupidity?

Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way.

If you’re feeling a little lost, let me catch you up: Just last week, Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy said his company was “guilty as charged” for standing against same-sex marriage and later added, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'” Pretty offensive. Needless to say, this was really no surprise–Chick-Fil-A has openly donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups in the past, all of which has prompted continual boycotts of eating “mor chiken.”

But perhaps this is a step in the wrong direction.

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The Man Who Lied to My Face

My thanks to the man who lied to my face. His sniggering tone and that smirk he showed me made me feel deep inside those recesses of my intuition the falseness of his words. He could not fool me–but I would not be fooled into false understanding. I sought out sources stronger than his sordid sounds and confirmed my suspicions: That to my face he had spoken with such falseness not even the devil himself would have found it fit to speak.

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Family Values are Under Attack

That’s right, folks, you’ve heard it first from me: Family values are under attack. People across the nation are fighting for the right for same-sex couples to wed, to adopt children, to raise families with love and compassion–and our family values are under attack.

You might think I’m on the wrong side of the fence here, but you’d be mistaken.

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It’s Out of This World

Long week. I know time cannot be properly perceived from a three-dimensional perspective, but I didn’t think it could feel so long. Or be so exhausting. However, I was treated to a delightful morning today, able to attend services bright and early, bathed in the brisk winds of a coast-crossing hurricane. It really was lovely weather save for the humid heat. And the melodies, the Torah reading, the discussions during kiddush. It really was a good way to start the day.

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