Some time ago… Life

Life is suffering.

If life is suffering, then what is true in life is true in suffering.

Whatever you believe, it must be coherent with suffering.

Some time ago… What does a homeless man think when he sees children?

I’m sitting in the park square, between the public library and fire department. Thirty children on a field trip are waiting in line by the public restrooms with supervising adults keeping a watchful eye. They had just toured the fire department, shiny red toy fire-helmets on their heads.

A few scruffy homeless men are scattered in the grass, watching them at a distance. I wonder what these hardened guys think of the children – “How cute”? Do they think of themselves, wishing they could do it all over again? Do they miss the innocence? Do they wish they could give the kids advice? Would they if they could? Or do they even care?
The children start to go again in their line, and cross the street. A fire truck happens to be stopped at the red light in front of them. The kids wave. A few firemen wave back, aviator sunglasses gleaming in the sun.
Who would those kids rather be when they grow up? I wonder which fate awaits them.

Some time ago… ‘never again’ again and again

After exiting the Halabja Museum, which documents Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds — this city where about 5,000 men, women, and children died from nerve, skin, and respiratory agents — I wrote this:

For as many museums we built to condemn and remember genocide, it doesn’t seem to stop them.


How can something so evil happen in a place so beautiful?

Beholding the evil and goodness of man… ancient brutality, world wars, forced hunger, and my own evil heart that does what it doesn’t, yet does, want.

“God Is Shy” – a story from Syria

Sad day yesterday – although every day is a sad day, seeing the mounting body count, the maimed, the refugees around the world, especially in the Middle East, and especially Syria – but yesterday, July 29th marks one year since Father Paolo Dall’Oglio disappeared in Raqqa while on a diplomatic mission. I know him, and spent time with him and his associates back when I was teaching with the Kurds. I hope to write more on him in the future, but can’t bring myself to it now. This article does it better than I can, anyway.

Quite Alone

Last night (29 July) the news came through from Syria that Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a highly respected Jesuit priest who has lived in Syria for thirty years, had been kidnapped. Rumours began to swirl on social media, first about his kidnapping, then about his supposed late-night release.

At this writing (30 July) it’s not clear exactly what’s happened, or where Father Paolo is.

This is no ordinary abduction (if abduction it is). Since the revolution began in Syria in 2011 Father Paolo has campaigned vociferously among the Syrian people and the international community for a peaceful democratic transition. In 2012 he wrote an open letter to the UN’s envoy Kofi Annan. Then the Assad regime expelled him. He has been living in exile since – and continues to call for ‘victory without revenge‘. His is a voice of sanity amid the madness which has engulfed his…

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Some time ago… Two words

Galling bitterness. These two words seem to capture it tonight. After a cold and dreary day at work I said a simple “bye” to a few coworkers on the way out the hall. Somehow I stopped at one guy and exchanged a few extra words. Somehow he gave me a ride down the hill to the apartments our company puts us up in. Somehow I end up in his flat. And somehow, somewhere in this process – I don’t remember where anymore – he breaks to me that he’s getting a divorce. She’s not the person he thought she was. She’s accusing him of things he didn’t do. Spreading lying rumors about him, while he keeps telling others she’s a nice person to hide what’s going on. She’s getting drunk, he can’t drink because he’s too distraught. He’s no angel. But she’s a money grabber. Periodically he puts his head in his hands and mutters “Oh -[an explitive or two]” near tears, but fighting them back.

What can I say? I know them both. We’ve had good times together. What can I say? I feel like an infant attempting to move an Everest of pain with a spoon. I listen. Empathize. Say I’m sorry. A word or two of hopeful cliches. Take his mention of motorcycles and run with it to let him think about something else, of better days, except for his stories of motorcycle accidents… phone calls involving divorce lawyers punctuate our talking. A couple hours pass. A friend of his comes over for a bit, then leaves. I leave too.

I go down the steps and into the dull cold night air, distraught and wishing there was something I could do. I go to my building and want something from my refigerator to give some distraction to this. It’s not there. Roommate took it. And he’s out somewhere now. So, I’m wrote this now. Galling bitterness – these two words for me ring with my feeling sorry for another human being. But I’m not going through his hell. His two words for tonight will be something else. Darker. And not just tonight. And not just two words.

On again

It’s been long time coming. I haven’t really stopped writing the past two years. It’s just on a moleskin notebook, the back of receipts or other scraps of paper instead of a blog.  The private pen, paper, and my lonesome eyes seemed to better fit the times for me, though admittedly fits poorly in the public internet’s immediacy. Not updating a blog for years is like blog suicide. On social networks you’re supposed to post everything for everyone to see all the time.
Has a people ever been so public?

Some Native American tribes in the 1800s had this superstition that having your photograph taken would capture your soul. Maybe that’s not all wrong.

Some time ago a friend posted a picture of me on social media. It caught my facial expression at a certain moment that somehow revealed, or exposed, something of me. I had no control over this – it was just put up as a nice picture, unasked. Why ask, anyway? Everyone uploads pictures of others – it’s actually considered a nice thing to do. Despite the photographer’s innocent gesture, I recoiled at this unwelcome capture of a side of my soul I usually conceal.

What I write is under my control at least. I can choose to publish it, even though anything written reveals something of the writer. It will. The past few years I’ve written the most in my lowest times. You might call it “depression” but that word doesn’t do sad feelings justice. I prefer to say more musical or philosophical-sounding things like “the blues” or “melancholy” or in a really cynical mood to myself, “the hole” or “the dark.”

All that to say, I will start posting a few things I wrote over my absence on this blog.

Each one will begin with “Some time ago…”

A bit of silence

I’ve been observing silence on this blog for a while. I’ve never had this much time away from it before.

I like silence. Sometimes it’s needed. To step back and contemplate, observe, and listen a bit more. Lately, I would rather take in and learn more than speak out. As the ancient saying goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

How responsible we are for what we say. Especially in cyberspace. Once you say it, it’s out there for any of the billions of internet users to access. Words are powerful. They can save lives or kill them. They aren’t to be used carelessly. I’m seeing too much of that. I don’t want to do that because I write on serious things. Perusal of my prior posts and drafts shows eating disorders, mourning the murder of my friend, the quest of the search for God, definitions of marriage, poverty…

Fools have no business commenting on these things. Funny thing about fools — fools usually don’t think they are fools to begin with.  Worse, some people think they are quite wise but are not. “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26.12). I don’t know if I’m a fool, but I do know I don’t want to be a self-recognized wise man.

For now, on a day when I turn yet another year older, I listen and learn, observing a beautiful yet terrible world, wishing there was something more I could do to make a difference. God give me wisdom!