debt of lament

Senseless tragedy strikes us regardless of our careful avoidance tactics. We might bubble wrap hotel rooms to protect our toddling child. We might practice a compulsive prayer ritual before boarding an airplane. We might wear our seat belts and look twice before crossing the road.

Tragedy strikes anyway. The earth shakes. The kings hold their thrones with weapons and war. Cars drive by.

Tragedy strikes anyway. And when it strikes, we are left wallowing in the senselessness of it all, wondering what to say or how to act or who might have the words that will put the pieces back together.

A week after my brother died, I got out of bed, put my clothes on, got into a car with my sister and marched onto a dewy practice field, tooting my borrowed and banged-up mellophone. I felt dented and holey like the instrument, but I looked like every other kid. Smiling, marching, counting my steps.

As time progressed, the world began to insist more fervently that I behave and feel like any other 15 year-old: only slightly emotionally frenetic, like sparkles on a floppy 70s flower.  The demand to be as any other harrowed at my already withered, exhausted soul. In my small world, I was alone in a club of survivors of senseless tragedy. For many years in my teenaged life, I didn't know anyone else who knew the loss of the person who was more irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard and funnier than any TGIF sitcom. Perhaps my sister was in the club, but I think she found our brother more endearing and less irksome. Her love for my brother seemed purer, less muddled-up than mine. The fact is I felt alone enough that I was alone, left to make sense of the pain, left to make my outsides resemble my insides without taking to physical self-violence.

Enough time has passed that I know I am not alone anymore. I stare into the world today, into the eyes of my classmates, my friends, my neighbors, and strangers. I see a people trying to make their outsides match their insides. Our hearts burn at the senselessness of the world, but we don't talk about it. We don't rend our garments and throw dust on our heads. We get up and march on dewy fields, smiling, blinking back the waves of emotion in the corner of our eyes.

All our words are written down in chalk
Out in the rain on the sidewalk
If all our heartaches were in a stack
They'd go all the way up to heaven and back

We don't know all the trouble we're in
We don't know how to get home again
Jesus come and save us from our sin
--Buddy and Julie Miller, Chalk

This post is written as a contribution to a friendly synchroblog. Please check out the writing and art of my fellow bloggers.

iwritetoberidofthings, my baby, the earth
muddleddreamer, Indebted
Nightsbrightdays, Debt, n
Wordshepherd,  What do I Owe You?


sing on, michael bolton

I went to a small liberal arts college in that sat between a quaint white-washed town and a corn field. It was tiny by most standards. To this day, I can probably look at a picture of most of my classmates and tell you something about them. Even if I don't know their names, I know what department they were in or the types of people that they hung out with or where they sat in the cafeteria. Everyone knew everyone and everyone was in people's business. It was suffocating and exhausting, endearing and welcoming, depending on your personality, disposition, and ability to withstand silent Midwestern criticism.

As the beast of our human nature would have it, there was a group of people that was deeply alienated from the caste system of our school. They were the gays, the jocks who failed to participate in jock-stereotypes, the physically disabled, and the socially awkward. Some were able to hide their alienation while they pretended to fit into the system. Others were not so crafty--either out of indifference or inability to hide. Those who could not hide earned nicknames, ridicule, and scorn from their supposed Christian brothers and sisters.

One such soul was a man I remember only by his nickname. He was quirky, unshaven and unkempt. His shirts managed to tuck themselves in at weird angles and un-tuck themselves in unbecoming ways. But it wasn't his appearance that brought him attention, everyone is slightly unkempt in college. Rather, it was his uncanny ability to deliver a soundtrack to every moment of life.  He sang, whistled, and hummed everywhere he went regardless of what was going on around him. For this, he earned the nickname: Michael Bolton.

He loved church hymns, but his repertoire was as undiscriminating as his choice of practice room. He harmonized on the way to class, on the sidewalk, at the mailboxes, and while sitting in class. He often caroused his tablemates to join him in a dining room serenade, annoying anyone in a five table radius and earning the scorn of many. His joy for music was uncontainable and irritating.

I think of Michael Bolton often these days. I climb on my bike and often a song leaps into my head. It often insists that I sing and whistle until I arrive home. I can't keep the song inside of me, containment seems silly, futile, and perhaps even damaging to my inner-choir. As an immature wandering college student, I didn't understand Michael Bolton's need to continually sing, to recklessly abandon social norms to declare a melody to the world. Today, there is a small chance that I get it.

The world needs a song. My neighbors need my roommate to sing when she is taking the trash out. My schoolmates and fellow travelers need me to sing while I am on my bike. The song needs to be let out of its cage. We need the surprise of a voice, a whistle, and a hum to call us out of our slumber, complacency, our inattentive wanderings so that we might pay attention to the pain and the beauty of every moment in every person.


This post is written as a contribution to a friendly synchroblog. Please check out the writing and art of my fellow bloggers.

iwritetoberidofthings, i play music at bars sometimes
Nightsbrightdays, Music Ascending
Wordshepherd, Hail, Music