Friday, July 29, 2011

I am From

In 9th grade I wrote one of these poems. At 21, I wrote another.
I am from music
It bubbled up inside me without my asking for it
from running through the sprinklers
fresh picked berries in the evergreen-laden fields of western Washington
I am from peace
scrumptious Sunday feasts, family bike rides, and 'love sandwich' as a code for the group hug we did
after family prayer each night.
I am from a sea of good looking people
who still had problems, fears, and sins
I am from a life without grandparents
who could play with me
They all meant well
and I didn't realize the value of that wisdom
until my grandmother was brimming with dementia,
neck deep in forgetting
and I longed for her to remember
the glorious life she had lived, the legacy
she couldn't recall.
I am from time alone
crafting a world full of books and made up names for colors and Celine Dion blasting through my ancient Walkman.
I am from the time before texts
when calling was the scariest prospect
and Star Shots from the mall with my friends crowded out my bedroom door.
I am from sleepovers, secrets, and curiosity
from homemade bread, steaming fresh from the oven
from cheating at babysitting
and popsicles in July
breaking bones on the trampoline, skinning knees on blacktops, quitting gymnastics
and declaring my life's mission into a sky full of night and promise
I am from simple things: the same bed, the same church, the same freezer jam
See, I am from the extraordinary squeezed from the mundane
like a ripe piece of Juicyfruit
a life milked for all it has been worth.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Are You Optimistic About?

I started reading a book by that title, a compilation of essays by "today's best thinkers."
Today's best thinkers, apparently, are optimistic that religion will soon be eradicated, that people will realize God isn't real, and on, and on, and on. I got pretty fed up with it. I sent a scary email to one guy who is a fancy philosophy professor, at least one hundred years old, and actually not optimistic. He's actually quite crabby.

But I am optimistic, and I want to tell you about it.

I'm optimistic that someday women will revolutionize against unrealistic expectations and ridiculous media messages and demand a change. I picture riots in malls, clawing at the airbrushed Victoria's Secret signs demanding justice; writing in to Carl's Jr. and them pulling their awful ads; magazines losing subscribers by the billions because we've had enough. It makes my heart smile.
 I'm optimistic that I'll age gracefully, like my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. I'm confident I'll embrace wrinkles when they come and still value age and wisdom over silicone boobs.

I'm optimistic that one day the education system will be reformed by a legislature who gets it, and that teachers will realize how foolish the unions are, and that somewhere and almost everywhere children will get a high quality education from K to 12 from caring professionals who love what they do. I'm hopeful that I will be a vehicle to such change, as a reformer and advocate for, ummm....reason and logic? Yeah, that's it.

How did things possibly get here? How is it possible that a big enough knot of people thought all this standardized crap was a good idea, when we believe in America as the melting pot of greatness in talents and abilities that can't even be described, let alone measured by fill-in-bubbles?
Well, back to optimism.

I'm optimistic that collectively we will realize how broken we are and use our collective genius to make repairs.
I'm optimistic about the creative capacity of humans everywhere in solving problems, pioneering innovation, and making the world more beautiful. I'm optimistic that the world will go in a positive direction, creatively at least, because of the innate nature of human beings. I'm optimistic that the hoards of folks working jobs they hate will eventually give voice to their dreams, follow their bliss and set fire to the system that claims money as the answer to that aching pit in your belly. I'm optimistic that the composite good of the world will outweigh and eventually stamp out more bad than can replenish itself.

Yes, I'm optimistic that the nature of human beings is inherently good, with potential broad and deep enough to stretch in all directions and blanket the world, shape it into an all-around wonderful place.

What about you? What are you optimistic about?