Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Suicide and the Reaction of a Fool

A young girl was going to commit suicide today.  I don’t even know her name, barely know where she lives – in fact, Google probably knows more about her than I do.  One thing Google doesn’t know though, it’s that she’s thinking suicide is the answer.

I read the urgent note from the pastor; he was asking for prayer on her behalf, and before I even got to the end of the note, I was asking him for an address.  After I asked that critical question I began to pray.  In reflection, my prayers were more focused on NOT getting an address, as I’m neither qualified nor bilingual enough to carry on this level of intervention.  One thing I can do in any language though is to sit and pray with someone.  I was on the verge of leaving work to go sit with a stranger and offer what?  At best, some hope - what sort of fool does this?  Who is willing to risk a good paying job and career with ample responsibility for the sake of a stranger's bad day?

I got a call an hour or so later informing me that the Police had been summoned and were at the house, not that it implied any level of success in defeating death but at least I didn’t have to worry that she was alone.  For now anyway things seemed secure but I can’t help think; what happens after they leave?  I know how the mental health system works.  I know how the mind works.  Those two items are in completely different rooms and the door between the two is sideways on the wall.  It’s confusing, lonely and unfamiliar – in any language.

I pray that I never hesitate to do what’s right for what’s prudent.  I guess this is what Paul implied when he mentioned that “he was a fool for Christ”.  I’ve learned that this world despises this particular kind of fool. We’re known a “saps” or “suckers”.  It seems that I’m this kind of fool, one who would risk everything for what seems to be nothing.  

On the other hand, I have a dear friend who once gave everything to save nothing.  Perhaps in [his] eyes, the fool is the wisest among them?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Big, Dutch Guy In Japan

This past week I feel like I've been living the storyline from the movie "Lost in Translation".   While I had assumed the movie to be a fictional encounter of an American abroad in Japan,  I'm now not so sure it was fiction.

Many times I found myself laughing - they'd bow, then I'd bow in return only to have them re-bow again so of course, I'd bow back.  This courtship dance seemed to go on for an awkwardly long time  before I'd finally say "enough" and break the sacred cycle.

After that little courtship dance we'd settle down to dinner. You know those awkward moments when you sit with strangers and then begin a conversation neutral enough not to offend anyone, yet focused enough that you don't end up "bornering" yourself in a dead conversation with no way out?   Try striking up a conversation when the only thing you can do is mime...  I typically do well in ambiguous situations but for me, with no language skills - each day is a 24 hour ambiguous event.  I'm not sure if the flowers at the dinner table are for decoration or eating.  I'm not sure if the bottles of condiments are  for "condimenting" or for straight consumption.  I really don't know if its true that "only old people" use the warm towels they bring before the meal for washing your face.  I didn't care - young or old, I scrubbed away like I was a three-year-old.  Everything is ambiguous and while you're emotionally vulnerable, you learn to simply roll with it.  Even last night's civil disobedience; 11:30pm at an empty of traffic cross-street while waiting along with a hundred other people for an insufferably long red light to signal green, with not a vehicle to be seen or heard anywhere, I simply ventured across against the light.  You do it all the time in big cities in the states, right?  In fact, if you don't you'll likely get pushed out by the folks behind you as your'e between them and the other side.  Not here thought, I swear I heard a collective gasp.  Clearly I had committed a great sin and in their hundred-fold eyes, I'd done the rough equivalent of not taking my hat off during the national anthem at Yankee Stadium.  Ambiguity in everything.

When the evening is finally over and you've fulfilled the obligatory drinks, dinner and karaoke thing, finally settling blissfully alone on your hotel room - safe from the expectations of others; you wonder how you'll make or through another day. You think back on the beautiful sensations you experienced, lack of the lack of auto traffic in a city of 30 million. The total absence of angry horns honking, the wonderful sight of hundreds of well groomed,  modestly black suited professionals headed the same way. Best of all,  the beautiful sound of hundreds and hundreds of shoes and high heels simultaneously leaving the safety of the curb once the light flashes green.  You can actually hear the shoes making contact with pavement  - try that in Chicago where all you can hear are horns, loud busses, garbage trucks and motorcycles running straight-pipes.  Even curbside garbage is neatly bundled and draped in blue mesh to thwart the birds.

All this beauty reminds you that you're in a different place and a toll need be extracted; to see all that beauty you had to pay a price. At the very least, you had to give up a bit of the "wild self" and endure some collective order and restraint.  We westerners bristle at the very thought of it.

To share these lessons at home would be a fool's errand.  This is a beauty that need be experienced personally as any attempt to verbally convey will simply be lost in translation.