Prescience

This past Sunday, I listened to a sermon delivered by the Reverend Jen Quigley, one of my supervisors at the chapel. Her sermon talked about the time she spent doing work at the Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center, handling documents that were in the Martin Luther King Jr. collection. While reading these documents, she came across names of several women who were active during the civil rights movement, a movement full of activism and, I would argue, prescience. For it seems that even with the strides that movement made in the 1960s, we are still asking the kinds of questions it raised today as we remember MLK day: how is progress made? How do we aim toward a better future while being active in the present? These are questions that remind me of the achievements many women have made, and the sense of foreknowledge that I associate with them and their achievements.

The association between women and forethought has a very long history. The Pythia, for instance, was an oracle who resided at Delphi in Ancient Greece. People would bring offerings to the temple at Delphi, and she was said to breathe in fumes from the earth and recite prophecies, which often were enigmatic and ambiguous. One of the more famous stories surrounding the oracle is as follows: When a king asked her if he should go to war, she replied that if he did, a great kingdom would be destroyed. The king subsequently went to war believe he would win, and his own kingdom was destroyed.

Then there was Cassandra, one of the priestesses of Apollo in Troy. The myths surrounding her recount that she was cursed by Apollo, so that she would tell prophecies that would come true yet go ignored by everyone. She was said to have predicted the fall of Troy, yet none of the Trojans listened to her. What happened next can be summed up concisely in a phrase my Latin teacher told me: “Ilium fuit,” which translates aptly to: “Troy was.”

Then there was the prophet Anna, who is mentioned briefly in the Gospel of Luke after the shepherds visit Mary and Joseph. The gospel recounts: “She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2: 36-38).

Each of these women had a gift of foresight, catching a glimpse of the future and deciding to speak or act accordingly. Unfortunately, in two of these cases, their words go unheeded. Remembering these stories reminds me of how often the valuable contributions of women in history go unnoticed. This was true for me on Sunday, when Jen read the names of women I had never even heard of, despite their contributions to the civil rights’ movement.

I recently saw the film Hidden Figures with my younger sister, which recounts the stories of three African-American women who served in NASA and made great strides in advancing early space missions in the United States: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These are stories that I wish I had heard while growing up, as they showed me how three incredible black women, among others, pushed scientific progress forward in the United States. In a time where the country is deeply divided over issues of race and racism, of progress, and of women’s rights, these are stories that need to be told. Not so that we can throw our hands off and conclude that we’ve moved past racism and sexism since these women existed, but so that we can acknowledge that these women are inspiring and ask ourselves: “These women were able to make their mark in spite of all the obstacles they faced. What can we do, as a society, to reduce these obstacles and make it possible for other women, wherever they are in life, to do the same?” That is the prescience, the act of looking forward, that I believe these women’s stories hold. They establish that progress is possible, and they ask us a question: What will you do in the present to make that possible in the future?

I went to the MLK commemoration at BU on Monday, which was entitled “Hope, Despair, and the Blues.” There I heard one of my friends perform, a friend who is currently doing research asking why there are so few female African American instrumentalists by interviewing musicians like her. She also is looking toward the future, trying to understand how the world of music can change so that it allows young, female, and black musicians to perform without barriers impeding them. I also listened to a speech by Kirsten Greenridge, a playwright, writer, and assistant professor at the school of theatre. She was speaking about her experience in the days after the election, and how her ability to write was affected by that experience. At one point she quoted a line from the musical Hamilton, a musical that I’ve listened to a lot recently: “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

This line was the refrain of one of my favorite characters in the musical, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. She and her sister, Angelica, articulate one of the core conflicts faced by the musical’s main character, Alexander Hamilton. On the one hand, Eliza entreats him to be present with her and their son, and to appreciate the progress that they have made. Angelica, on the other hand, perceives that Alexander always wants to keep pushing, never being satisfied with what he currently has. In the end, Alexander chooses the latter, driving a lot of conflict in the second half of the musical. What’s interesting is that these two women are framing this conflict much earlier, in the middle of the first act. The musical motifs that appear in the songs they sing in the first half also appear later on in the second half, when conflict breaks loose. In other words, the conflict they frame and the music they sing recurs, and almost seems to predict what will happen, later on in the play.

Thinking about these characters and the women I’ve talked about in this reflection has helped shape my idea of what progress is. Progress isn’t something that you can be complacent with and know will happen (as Harry Lennix, another speaker at the commemoration, expressed with words much more eloquent than mine). It is something that you have to look toward in the future and act so that you move closer to it. May we continue the stories of the women who have worked toward this progress, and may we remember their prescience in doing so.

Much More Alive

I originally wrote a blog post about my “Vibes” playlists. Roughly 1100 words in, I concluded that I did not want to sum up my year that way.

Each playlist was about a different summer Orientation session or week during the summer, or a month of school during the semester. Each five-song playlist contained songs that paid homage to different people and experiences in my life.

I had songs dedicated to friendships, to my former roommates, to my coworkers, to my former girlfriend, and to family. I had songs celebrating successes and grieving failures. I had songs for the ups, and the downs. There were songs for every significant experience last summer.

But the thing is, last summer taught me that every experience is significant. Every person I met came with their own wonderful stories, ideas, and beliefs that they brought with them into our collective human experience.

And it was not just last summer that took my existence and breathed life and spirit into it. This semester also did that.

For me, this semester was one of the greatest semesters I have had so far. This summer was one of the greatest summers I have ever experienced, and this year was actually one of the greatest years of my short life. Yet, it was also one of the worst; this was one of the messiest semesters I have ever had, and last summer was easily one of the messiest summers I have ever experienced.

There were moments of deep meaning, and moments of deep failure.

There were moments of deep meaning in meeting inspiring people from all walks of life last summer, in the late nights watching Bob’s Burgers with friends, and in laughing and working with my fellow Engineering Student Advisors. They were also in the small gifts, like a train whistle labeled “The Hype Train,” and in the acts of kindness from my coworkers that changed the very course of entire Orientation sessions for the better.

There were moments of deep failures and anxieties that I faced throughout Orientation last summer. These moments were in the stresses of realizing that I was missing a student during a session and in struggling to make sure I had something to talk about whenever I was socializing or working. I recall often struggling to muster up the courage to publicly speak.

There were moments of deep failure this semester. I ended up having to drop a class. As I discussed my options with advisors, and with my family, I remember how defeated I felt. It took me a while to finally embrace that I can fail and that I am only human and that I can accept my shortcomings. I also struggled with material in many of my classes and my plans often went wrong. I had to drop time commitments that I genuinely cared about and wanted to try. I also experienced the breakup of a very significant relationship in my life. I experienced the grief. I experienced the intense implosions of several important structures in my life. I saw a TV reality star who played to demagoguery become the president-elect of the country I am proud to be a part of. I saw humanity build more dividing barriers. I saw my general optimism challenged.

And in the midst of all this messiness, I also wrestled and struggled with genuinely being very present as much as possible.

And, I can happily say that I have grown a lot in that regard. I think I have gotten better at regarding the ground below me, the air surrounding me, and the life around me as sacred. I have begun to really learn how to be present, and I have really learned to take off the sandals like Moses, for I am on sacred ground.

There were moments of deep meaning this semester, from the many fun things I had done with my friends, to the many new people I have met, to the heart to heart conversations I had with people in the midst of let downs, pains and failures. There were moments of meaning in sitting around a campfire with Sojourn, and in the heartfelt and wonderful Monday night meetings with the other Marsh interns. I am thankful for the many conversations and discussions I have had this last semester that repeatedly pulled me out of my head and into reality, into life: right here and right now.

I am thankful for the new friendships and the old friendships. I am thankful for the successes and the failures. I am thankful for the life happening around me and the implosions I experienced. I am thankful for the growth and the challenges.

I am thankful for it all because it pulled me into reality. Every moment I felt intense pain over loss reminded me of how impactful we can be towards each other. Each and every one of us – momentary molecular stories made up of atoms and molecules and energy in time – have massive, lasting impacts on each other.

Every moment in which I felt intense pain over failure was a reminder of my humanity. It was a reminder that I need the people around me, that I can only work so hard for so long, and that I am not defined by my successes or failures. It reminded me that, the collection of material and energy that is me – and material is energy – is more than the sum of my successes and failures. A part of the definition of the sum of material and energy that make up an individual includes what the material and energy thinks of oneself and of the world; it includes what the individual sees. It includes how the being interacts with the many, many, many other sums of materials and energies, other beings, on our moat of dust suspended in a sunbeam. It includes the art and stories we make and tell. It includes our cultures, our identities. It includes much, much, much more than just our failures or even our successes. It includes so much more.

And so I am thankful for the people around me, and for all that has brought me to this moment, sitting here in the middle of the Photonic’s Center computer lab, writing a blog post recollecting and summing up my semester before returning to my probability problem set. I accept and embrace it all as I look back: the good and the bad.

And I look forward to seeing where all this messiness goes.

Stories

“A true war story, when truly told, makes the stomach believe.”

I read this sentence in Tim O’Brien’s fictional novel The Things They Carried when I was a sophomore in high school. The chapter that this line came from, “How to Tell a True War Story,” recounts how one of his fellow soldiers died during the Vietnam war. That story is retold several times throughout the course of the chapter, each one giving a slightly different version of events. O’Brien challenges what the meaning of truth is in a war story, and offers the definition above for what a true war story is.

You could extend this logic to include other kinds of stories as well. And here we run into a difficult question: what exactly does O’Brien mean by a “true” story? There is a kind of objective truth, one where the facts and details of the story match what actually happened. Yet there is also a more subjective kind of truth, a truth that appeals to a person’s gut. O’Brien is referring to this truth, the truth in a story that makes us feel something in response to it.

I read over my reflections from this past semester, and I realized a few things. One was that the reflections tended to stray from the theological to the more personal. Perhaps that indicates an unwillingness to tackle theology on my part, or a greater preoccupation with my own thinking these past few months. Which of these explanations it is, I can’t quite say. The other detail I noticed was that many of my reflections from this semester focused on stories. My reflections contained stories about Terry Pratchett’s First Sight and Second Thoughts, religion and science, Hestia and the hearth, the perpetual change surrounding us, and spontaneous moments of invitation. They told narratives of silence in response to death, teaching, and Hope. More recently, they have been reflections on being alone and losing one’s voice. In all of these stories, I found fragments of what I might call my personal theology–what I believe in, why I believe in it, and how those principles guide my everyday life and how I interact with the Divine.

More recently, I’ve been reading over the reflections of my fellow Marsh Associates. In these, too, I see stories. Stories that speak to truths their authors have experienced, truths that they have beautifully conveyed in their own words. These stories have, to use Tim O’Brien’s phrase, made my stomach believe. As I talk to these people who are my colleagues, coworkers, and friends, I see them articulate their own theologies in their meditations. I watch them create and continue to tell the narratives of their lives and beliefs. And occasionally, I am lucky enough to witness or be invited to the hearths that they have created here in Marsh Chapel and elsewhere, spaces that nurture them, support them, and in the words of Howard Thurman, make them come alive. I cannot thank them enough for their wisdom, their warmth, and their presence in my life. Since I began and continued through this semester telling my own stories, I’d like to end it by retelling some of theirs. I invite you to look over the stories that they have shared in the time that I have known them.

Nick: “Here I am, my identity in the collection of stories that inspire and drive me. Here I am, another paintbrush in the great canvas of Boston University.

Here I am, my biology telling a story: I am Hispanic and the language in my biology carried by generations of farmers and workers who lived in Colombia. This biological language in me now having traveled thousands of miles into the city of Boston.

Here I am, a calculator with feelings, like Wall-E. A Rodriguez, another one who constantly thinks about how much love matters.

Here I am, an engineering student. A person who loves math and science. A tinkerer.

Here I am, a Christian, an intern at Marsh Chapel. A person who loves reading theology, philosophy, and psychology. A lover of the humanities. A person who takes deep interest in these topics. Someone who came from Mendham Hills, from the youth group of Steve. A questioner. A person who deeply loves pluralism and diversity.” (Reflections on Identities, 10/18/2016)

Matt: “Fernandez was never seen without a smile on his face; his smile was electric. But his work ethic embodied the perfect opposition to the anti-immigrant population in this country. Fernandez had a gift and he worked hard to make sure that he was able to achieve his goals. He never gave up and always persevered. Like so many other immigrants before and after him, he came to this country with a goal and hard work ethic. He came for a reason. Nothing was given to him. He had to earn everything that he had. And he earned it.

Even though Jose Fernandez was a gifted baseball player, I believe the essence of his life was to inspire others. Whether it be on the baseball field or immigrant families coming to the United States, he used his position to help others. It is important to recognize how important his life was off the field, not just on it. May he rest in peace, but let his memory inspire others forever.” (Jose Fernandez, 9/27/2016)

Devin: “I heard the T tracks whistling for the first time in a long time. I went an entire day without headphones. Music is what grounds me throughout the day. It’s a common reminder that everything will be okay. It is like my portable bible. A personal connection to God at every moment. I went without them for 24 hours, I went without music. I couldn’t put on my headphones and ignore the various conversations and people that I might encounter. Most of the time I use them as a shield from being social. I’ve realized when I’m constantly putting myself out in the world as a social creature, I’ve left little time for self-reflection. Putting my headphones on is my way of taking some time to be in my head. Today I didn’t. I forced myself to listen to each environment I was in, hear the conversations, and be present. I’m torn if this time of being present is beneficial for me and I should go without headphones more often or is ignoring the world needed sometimes.” (I Opened My Ears, 11/3/2016).

Kasey: “In a world that seems to be getting louder every day, these quiet spaces are the key to our well being. We don’t have to ignore the noise but we need to find ways to take a step back, to sit in a darkened room, to bask in the simplicity of a candle flame. And it is in these quiet spaces that we create a space for answers, for clarity, for direction, for God.

When I came to the chapel today, my head was buzzing, clouded after a day where nothing seemed to come easily, where my world gradually narrowed until all I could see was my computer screen. But then I stepped outside, embraced by the fresh air. I ate dinner with friends, shared with each other about our lives—somewhat overwhelmed but knowing we’ll get through. And then we sat together, eyes closed, and minds relaxing, imagining that simple, calm, hopeful flame. And all of those other things melted away.” (Quiet Spaces, 10/18/2016).

Denise: “As far as I can figure, there are two interconnected beliefs at the core of my being. First, I believe in presence. I believe in being where you are. That sometimes the most profound act of service and love we can ever do is to be present with someone. I believe that when I am fully here, not only can I see others more clearly; I can clearly see God moving. I also believe in appreciation. In appreciating the moment. Appreciating the ride. In appreciating those in my life for the many ways that they bless me on my journey each and everyday. Appreciating the quiet moments of refuge in a cluttered bookstore and the books that change everything. This I believe.” (This I Believe, 11/2/2016).

Thank you all for letting me be a part of your stories, and for being a part of mine. I cannot wait to share another semester’s worth of stories with you.

Coming to a close

The semester is finally coming to a close. To be honest, it is a bittersweet moment. I feel like the semester has gone by so fast! The semester flew by! With that being said, I have been super busy and I am quite ready to have a break from all of the craziness of school and extracurriculars. I am not into the grind of studying for finals and am already preparing myself for the stress that it entails.

Out of my six classes, I will only be taking five finals. I say only because I could be taking six finals. In all seriousness, I am ready for the challenge. I feel like the more things I have on my plate the less time I have to goof off or not focus on my studies. Although I will most likely not take six classes again, I do not regret taking on this massive challenge.

I feel that in life sometimes you have to take the risk. You have to push yourself. Will everything work out exactly as planned? No. But you have to keep faith. That is at least what my experience has been this semester. At first I did not know if I would be able to put up with all of the work that was involved in taking these classes. Eventually I got used to it and it became normal.

There are still a few classes left. I know that I must keep pushing myself and must keep pushing forward. If I do, everything will work out fine.

 

The Colors of Music

On May 13, 2016 hip-hop recording artist Chance the Rapper released his third mixtape entitled Coloring Book. The mixtape features collaborations from musicians such as Kanye West, Francis and the Lights, Justin Beiber, Kurt Franklin, and the Chicago Children’s Choir. The album received widespread acclaim for its fusion of hip-hop and gospel sounds. For many, like Devin Harvin and I, the album struck a special chord in our hearts. The christian influence was immediately recognizable and to us this became more than just an album. It was a celebration of the gospel music genre, and its ability to uplift and speak to many situations. One thing we focus on here at the Marsh internship, is growth. And so we have decided to attempt to deconstruct the various messages embedded in Chance’s album. We will do our best to explain all biblical and cultural references contained in this masterpiece.

While the entire album is worthy of examination, we have decided to focus on five primary songs.; All We Got (featuring Kanye West & Chicago Children’s Choir), Blessings, and Finish Line/ Drown (featuring T Pain, Kirk Franklin, Eryn Allen Kane, Noname)

All We Got

I get my word from the sermon I do not talk to the serpent That’s the holistic discernment Daddy said I’m so determined Told me these goofies can’t hurt me I just might make me some earl tea I was baptized like real early I might give satan a swirlie Wish I could tell you it’s ready Tell you it’s ready today They don’t give nothing away You gotta fight for your way And that don’t take nothing away Cause at the end of the day

Devin: This verse comes halfway through the first song on the album. It is deeply rooted in Christianity and the emphasis on the symbols of Christianity speaks volumes. The concept of the serpent is a direct reference to Satan and his control of the snake, and in Milton’s Paradise Lost, him becoming a serpent. Chance is able to effectively explain his theological belief in the pulpit (the sermon) and him ignoring the temptations of Satan. However, I resonate with his last few words, specifically, “you gotta fight for your way and that don’t take nothing away.” It speaks to his persona and ultimately the way he approaches the music industry. A hip hop album rooted in Christianity is rarely met with praise, and in his last few words, he reminded why the gospel genre fit this album so well. For years, the genre has experienced growth and struggled to maintain the sacredness, but continue to reach the youth. The upbeat style that feels like home to me stretched the older generations. Chance is stretching the youth, many who have strayed from the confinements of the church, and pulling them back in.  

Denise: The broader context of this song speaks to the importance of music. The song is truly beautiful, with the Chicago Children’s Choir backing Chance up, it reminds me of sunday’s at my granddaddy’s church. This verse is  infused with statements of perseverance and determination. Chance is an independent artist, he does not belong to a record label. “They don’t give nothing away” and other lines throughout this work are a testament to the hard work that Chance has put in in order to make it to this point in the industry. It is also filled with references to Christianity. My favorite line in this verse is “I get my word from the sermon, I do not talk to the serpent. That’s that holistic discernment”. As he opens his verse, Chance reminds the listener of the importance of listening to God in decision making. The importance of being guided by the word and resisting the temptations that are all around us. This verse makes it so clear that as Chance has worked to reach this point, he has been guided and strengthened by his faith.

Blessings

I don’t make songs for free, I make ‘em for freedom.Don’t believe in kings, believe in the Kingdom

Chisel me into stone, prayer whistle me into song air. Dying laughing with Krillin saying something ’bout blonde hair Jesus’ black life ain’t matter, I know I talked to his daddy Said you the man of the house now, look out for your family He has ordered my steps, gave me a sword with a crest

And gave Donnie a trumpet in case I get shortness of breath

Denise: This verse, and song, is interwoven with relevant biblical and cultural references. Which is part of what makes Chance so powerful. HIs references enhance one another and the song is laced with spiritual vocals. The blending of Christian language and current events is thought provoking. I love the reference to his belief in the Kingdom and that God has ordered his steps-the sense of freedom and purpose those lines bring, lift me up everytime I hear it.This song consistently reinforces God’s presence in every aspect of our lives, and it is honestly impossible for me to listen to it without feeling reassured that God “has ordered my steps” and appreciative of the many blessings in my life.

Devin: I think what makes this music connect so deeply to me is that it is based so heavily on the black church tradition. Every line in this initial verse reminds me of home. His talking to “his daddy” and the fact that he feels his steps are ordered. These ideas are things I grew up accepting. Moreover, they have become the part of my spiritual make-up. I see the reality Chance is writing from, I feel it everytime I go home. That belief he holds on to so tightly throughout this song is something I too hold on to. The beauty of this music and this verse in particular is that it is subject to multiple interpretations. The reference he makes to the Black Lives Matter movement is clear but so many cultural references are lost in translation. You can argue that this can show a divide within the many variations of Christianity.

Finish Line/Drown

Lord rain down on me so I can move on water.Like children at the altar, like God inside my house I love you, I love you, you looking holy like Mama.You made a church out of feather. So when she fly to the Father. She know the choir gon’ follow and all the offering paid She gave my name away to your holy house She like my blessings in disguise She like her Jesus mountain high So He can watch her lonely child I know my God I know my God seen His breaks and His edges Are jagged for giving that pain to His city in gold Like everything is everything Like all them days He prayed with me Like emptiness was tamed in me And all that was left was His love

Devin: This is not a Chance verse. It is the last authentic rap verse of the album. Chance gives the final utterances of hip hop to a black, female rapper who talks solely about God. Noname is what she is called and she touches on so much in so little time. There is too much in common. So many theological claims, so much joy and an overwhelming sense of hope. In the end all that was left was his love. That is enough for me. Every line is personal. Sure it talks about her own life but it’s more than that. She talks about a personal connection to God. He is a friend. What I see is a change in the way God is being perceived by this generation. The idea of a scary and powerful God that only is present when things are bad won’t work for me. To Noname and to me and many like me, Jesus is a friend. “Mounted high” but he’s there when I walk. I couldn’t relate to a verse more. I don’t think she was doing anymore than showing her heart. She was speaking for no one else but herself, but she spoke to me.

Denise: This is Noname’s verse, not Chance’s. As Devin mentioned the placement, topic and deliverer of this verse is significant. This verse is absolutely full of biblical references. This verse is delivered in such a soulful, powerful way and conveys such hope. It is honest and uplifting. The verse in and of itself is incredibly beautiful. When coupled with the back up vocals and instrumentals, it is breathtaking. The end of this verse is particularly poignant.”Like emptiness was tamed in me. And all that was left was His love”. All that was left was His love. I love this because I regularly pray to be filled to overflowing with God’s love, and Noname sings that prayer in the most beautiful way. It is a powerful way to end a powerful album.

Denise & Devin: We both acknowledge the ability music has to changes us.Music can evoke emotions, speak to the world we live in and remind us where we came from.I think we came into this blog with no expectations, the beauty of it is that we finish writing with a similar mindset. I think we both found new reasons why we appreciated the music, in some aspects Chance was right when he said “music is all we got.”

———–

Conclusion: As we wrote our reflections, we listened to whichever song we were discussing on repeat. We both came into this loving this mixtape, but as we listened to each song, identified the parts we wanted to highlight, and heard the musical brilliance-the album took on a new meaning. I think the hardest part was remembering that music is messy, similar to religion in many ways. It isn’t as neat as we would like it and taking each lyric he spoke with a different lense. It was harder than we expected and more time consuming to understand what we actually thought he was saying. It was a good exercise and I’m glad we did it.

Many Thanks

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone I would like to reflect on the great time that I had off. The break was not too long, it never is; but, it was much needed. After a long period of time that had me inundated with schoolwork and extracurriculars, it was nice that I finally got to have some time off. There were no better people to enjoy this break with than my friends and family.

I appreciate every moment that I got to spend with them. They brought me back to sanity and relaxed me after I had been stressing so much from my schoolwork. The support I get from my family is something that I feel I do not appreciate enough.

They are always there to help me and guide me through the any struggles that I may have. They also are able to help keep me up when times are good. Finding anyone who can do this (friends or family) can make a world a difference. I know it has for me.

Without their constant support I do not know if I would be in the same position that I am today. I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do for me. Although the break was short, and I feel like I did not get to see people enough, I am glad that I did get to spend whatever time I could with my friends and family. I would like to thank them so much for everything they have done. Thank You!

 

Silence

When friends ask me how my Thanksgiving was this year, my answer can be summed up in one word: “quiet.” There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which being that I lost my voice as soon as Thanksgiving break began.

To be fair, it did return within several hours, only much more softly and in a much lower pitch than I am accustomed to. But at the time, it was both an alarming and amusing experience to wake up and realize that I could hardly produce sound, let alone talk.

Our voices provide an incredibly powerful instrument of expression and connection. When singing with choirs, I have sometimes felt a profound, intimate connection with  the people around me through the music, the rise and fall of harmonies overlaid with liquid, flowing rhythms punctuated by occasional rests and breaths. Some musicians I’ve talked from my home congregation in Brookline have described feeling the presence of the Divine in their exultation through music.

So what does it mean to lose this instrument? On the one hand, it was somewhat distressing to wake up unable to produce much sound. On the other hand, the silence was also a little comforting. It gave me more time to reflect, to think, and to sit still.

I remember the verses from 1 Kings 19: 11-12, when Elijah is waiting on a mountain for God to pass by: “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”

I should point out that in some translations of this passage, the sound of sheer silence is instead written as a gentle whisper, or a still small voice. There is a subtle difference between these different readings. Sound can be described as soft or gentle, but it is much rarer to see silence described with similar terms.

And yet, I think that silence comes with textures of its own. There is the quietness that comes with being in solitude, the awkward pauses that settle so quickly when people run out of things to say. There are the harsher forms of silence, those that come with deep feelings of hurt or from turning a blind eye to something.

Then there is the kind that I find most comforting: the one that comes from understanding that there is nothing that needs to be said. The silence that comes with solace and being at peace, even if it is only for a moment. This silence carries its own sort of warmth–faint, and perhaps difficult to detect, but present all the same. Losing my voice reminded me that such moments of this kind silence do exist. I hope to encounter it as the semester begins to come to a close.

Rest

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It is time for rest, reflection, appreciation, football, being with family and friends and green bean casserole. But this year in particular, Thanksgiving came at an important moment. November was a hard. The mountain of work and effort of processing was draining. By Thanksgiving break, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Last Tuesday I realized that this was the first time I would celebrate Thanksgiving without my parents. My brother and I had opted to stay together and go to a friends house, rather than traveling to meet up with the rest of our family. Though we had decided to FaceTime on Thanksgiving day, I was beginning to realize the traditions I have always taken for granted that I would miss. I came into the week with a lot of lingering stresses. What I found in the next couple days was a lot of peace and love and exactly what I needed.

In my last blog post, I talked about Sabbath moments. My thanksgiving break was full of them. I found rest in the movie nights, and homemade meals. I found peace in secluded bookstores and little coffee shops. I was made whole by the hugs, dancing and laughter.

This break I was reminded of the importance of rest, that it is crucial to slow down, withdraw from the schoolwork and internet and spend time with loved ones. My

I came back from this break refreshed and renewed.

These past few days Matthew 11:28 has been on my mind. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I have a lot to be thankful for, I have been blessed with incredible people in my life, an education, so many opportunities. But this year, I am most thankful for this time to rest.

Hardest Battles.

Last week was much needed. I buried the anxiety that the papers I have, created and the impending exams coming in the next few weeks, and focused on family. I surrounded myself with love and laughter and family I had not seen in what felt like so long ago, and nothing felt more natural. We came together for a holiday that I no longer see the beauty of except for the fact that it brings families together.

Sadly, a holiday that unintentionally or intentionally, celebrates one of the many dark period of American history this year, came at the same time that Native Americans at Standing Rock are protesting to save their sacred land now.

Nonetheless, I sat ar the table and realized I was thankful for the stress and the feeling that work assignments would never stop. I was thankful for every quiz, internship duty, and essay. They made me cherish these moments even more. Every second with my grandfather was a good one, especially during a year where we almost lost him. The stress made me thankful to be back in the safe environment of my marsh associate Monday meetings.

One of the biggest questions I’ve always asked is why does god have us struggle? Why the make the people who only wish to praise and live more like his Son, go through pain and tribulations. Those people in Standing Rock have had they people wronged for hundreds of years, why do they need to go through more? I’ve usually answered this question by not answering it at all. I move on and focus on 3 weeks from now when everything will be better.

I recently was on twitter and I came across a quote that said, “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors.” Maybe that is what happens to us. Maybe we are one of Gods strongest warriors. I don’t think we get to chose if we are. However, if we are his strongest warriors, I deeply believe there is no battle that God would put in front of you if it did not help you in the end. That idea seems problematic for a lot of people, it is the solution for me.

Grieving Heartbreak

This week was very long – and yet, I do not recall doing very much this week.

I had one midterm. It took a lot of energy to motivate myself to study for it. It took a lot of energy to sit down and work through the notes and the practice problems. It took a lot of energy to prepare myself to face the exam. But I still tried. I still tried to sum up the courage to work through the problems because the courage is there somewhere inside me. I am not sure if I succeeded.

I was invited to see a movie with my friends from Sojourn last night. It took a lot of energy to motivate myself to go and see the movie. It took way too much energy to be social. Although I am an introvert, I have not felt like an introvert in a looooong, long while. I usually have the courage. There were so many times where I stumbled in my words while talking to my friends and where I would pretty much shut off because I was hearing myself and what was I saying?

I met with different mentors and very close friends all throughout the weekend and early week. Each time, I tried to rationalize my situation. Why? Why did this happen? Where did I go wrong? Did I treat her well? Was it a lack of communication? I tried to attribute logic to my heartbreak. But, at this point, what was logic going to do to help with the pain of a heartbreak? Only time can heal it.

All it takes is time. At the end of the day, all I can do is keep going because there are no other remedies for this. Numbing the pain away will not help. Ibuprofen only numbs the painful symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the fever. I also can’t ignore the pain. It’s there; the pain is real and ignoring it will only prolong the hurting. Fevers do need to be dealt with, after all. Nobody with a fever tends to decide that while having a fever is the perfect time to go skiing or  go ice fishing or do anything really.

It’s incredible how much pain one can feel as the result of another individual, and how the pain makes you feel broken and empty. It feels like a portion of yourself is dying away. It feels like a death of a sort, a death that is as unstoppable and impending as physical death itself. And yet, no amount of bargaining, no amount of denial, no amount of anger or sadness can stop or delay the inevitable. It simply comes crashing down and one must accept that the decision has been made and the heartbreak is real.

It took me a while to fully accept that this is real. In fact, I almost wrote that last sentence as: “It took me a while to fully accept that this is probably real.” Even now, I’m struggling to accept my current state. Heartbreak is a lot to deal with, especially when you spent a quarter of your conscious existence with your love. It hurts, and then it hurts. And you look around for comfort while facing the pain, only to find that a lot of that comfort and security is no longer there. And then it hurts a little bit more.

But at the end of the day, I am not unhappy that it all happened. And by it all, I don’t mean the heartbreak. I mean the relationship: from start to heartbreak. I am thankful to have had such a wonderful person in my life for such a long time. And, I still think romantic love is an incredible thing.

It’s incredible how much comfort, security, and love one can feel as the result of another individual, and how the love makes you feel courageous. It feels like a portion of yourself is stronger. It feels like a portion of yourself is finding new life, a new life shared with another individual. It is a new life that strikes the individual with such strength and surprise that the only reaction is to let go of the damaged armor and to let down one’s guards.

So, while I might feel cynical right now, and I might be grieving a heartbreak, it was all worth it. It was all worth it, and I can only accept and forgive and forget and just simply wait, rest, move on, and let the healing come over time.

And, that is all okay.