Farewell Tour

I remember it like it was yesterday, writing my first blog. Nervous as I typed on the keyboard to introduce that 18 year old has undergone tremendous change in four years. As the last semester of undergrad is underway for me, I can’t help but get emotional as I say goodbye to the place I’ve called home since my first summer at Boston University. You all know my story, a kid with an acceptance that “it is bigger than me.” Over the past four years I have had tremendous success, moments of extreme despair, and having to re calibrate who I am as a human. I wish it was easy, that I can share with you a how to of college, the secret tips, but, I don’t know. As I embark on my farewell tour, my last hoorah at BU. As Student Body President, as the longest tenure Marsh Intern, and as a senior who doesn’t know where he’s really going, I’m going to do two things. Listen and have fun.

I’m leaving behind talented seniors and non seniors and I want to hear their stories. For one last time I want to know what makes them come alive, why they are here. I feel like I’ve done so much talking since coming to BU, I just want to listen. I want to bask in being in such a unique environment, with a plethora of personalities, one more time.

Lastly, I want to have fun. I had my sad boy season, feeling bad about everything I thought and what I did. I just want to have fun and enjoy this farewell tour. I’m surrounded by great people, in a great city and I don’t know when that will happen again.

 

To a final few months of being vulnerable, of choosing to be a better person. and to putting drama behind me and moving on.

Lessons in Queerness

LESSON 1: 

I was talking about my work at Marsh a few days ago with another music student. He told me he didn’t know that I worked at Marsh, and hadn’t foreseen it because I’m a Hindu. I told him that right now I’m working on studying queer theology through an interfaith lens.

“In what world does that exist?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“In my world,” I replied.

There was a lot more I could have added: I never anticipated embracing it myself; I am only just dipping my toes in; it is both an academic and spiritual study. I didn’t say any of them. Maybe, in another conversation with him, I will. But for now I feel small in my knowledge of queer theology, lost, reflective, none of which are conducive to explanatory discourse. I also feel, more deeply than ever, that I am growing. So I embrace it. It is a beautiful thing, this tender growth, like the first unfurling of spring. It is as fragile as any seedling, and as potent as any, too.

LESSON 2: 

Queerness was my first taste of conditional love. It is a powerful thing, queerness, such that people recoil from it. I have always wondered what kind of strange thing it must be, to make a person’s view of you change in a split second, as if you’ve revealed yourself to be an entirely different person. It’s such a vulgar question: if you knew, what would you think? It makes my insides churn.

Within the act of revealing there is inherently a revelation. I claim it unto myself. If I do not, somebody else will use it against me.

LESSON 3:

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Angels in America, Tony Kushner

SEEK SOMETHING NEW, Hannah Pitt says, so bold that it takes my breath away.

As it turns out, people use religious backing to say a lot of nasty things about queer people. The biggest is shame. As if queerness is inherently sexual, naturally wrong, a revulsion, and by extension I too am all of these things. The tiny diya inside of me wavers, a small flame in the wind of the soul. Faith is a terrifying creature, because it implies that I could be carried, but I could also be let down.

When the first two lessons the world teaches you about queerness are conditional love and shame, it is hard to allow yourself the desire to be carried. It is much, much easier to tuck queerness in one pocket and God in the other, and never let them touch. One is ugly and one is pure and I am never quite sure which is what.

Right now? This is me, seeking a thread to stitch them together. Because this is my first step. A belief in that thread. I choose it. I will let it carry me forward.

LESSON 4:

God is one in whom all beings dwell and one who dwells in all beings, the Vishnu Sahasranama says. I believe this. I choose this belief.

 असतो मा सद्गमय ।, I have prayed for years and years every night: keep me not in unreality, but lead me towards Reality. I believe this, too. I choose this belief.

तुम करुणा के सागर,
तुम पालनकर्ता,
स्वामी तुम पालनकर्ता |

You are the ocean of Compassion, / You are the nurturer of everyone, / Swami, You are the nurturer of everyone, says the aarti prayer.

I am so sure that this is unconditional love. I am so sure that this is pride. And I choose this belief. 

LESSON 5: 

I am so sure, unsteady but sure. I learn and I unlearn, I carry and I am carried. And, Lord, let me continue to grow. Inside me there is a relentless spring.

A view on judging others

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-5
The words in these verses have been on my mind. We are taught by our parents from a young age not to judge others, but as we get older and form strong views and opinions about things, it becomes second nature to tell others what we think they should do and how to live their lives; when they decide to do what they think is best, we judge them for not taking our advice, not agreeing with us, or just for not thinking the same way we do.
Jesus tells us to look at our own sin before judging someone else, and the Bible tells us we are to confront others sin with truth and love in respect. It can be confusing to hear “judge not” while at the same time discern and judge what is truth. Life itself can be confusing, and when we tell someone what we think, a lot of the times, we mean well and have good intentions. However, just because we may not intend to judge someone we still did and we must own up to it as Christians and do what Jesus calls us to do; we must not judge others, and also discern and judge and search for the truth in everything.  That is what we must do as human beings; love all people regardless of whether their opinion differs from ours or whether it doesn’t.  We must love each other in the same way Jesus loves us.

A Stranger’s Sahasranama

Vasuḥ: One in whom all beings dwell and one who dwells in all beings. (Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, 104)

Aprameyātmā: One whose nature cannot be grasped by any of the means of knowledge. (Vishnu Sahasranama Strotram, 248)

I’ve noticed I always begin these blog posts with a quote, a text to reflect on, though rarely is it a religious text. In fact rarely do I find religion in the outwardly religious. Faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill said a few Sundays ago, and I believe him. Faith is learning as much as it is unlearning. Peeling layers of culture from religion, self determination from survival, to understand the core of a thing. It’s a tricky, visceral affair. Is religion taught or is it learned? Does the act of learning imply a simultaneous act of teaching? It’s the diasporic instinct, hurtling us forward: I think often of diaspora as a liminal space, an identity translated through space and time, a being and unbeing. Learning and unlearning. My beliefs are patchwork at best.

That’s okay. I’ve come to find peace in the rootlessness, restlessness, a drive to seek out but not necessarily to find. I believe faith is a walk in the dark, Dean Hill, and also that we are always walking in the dark, faith or no faith, as a consequence of the human condition, the pervasiveness of unknowing. We live surprised by What Comes Next. It is dark, and there is always a desire to see. The time is nearing where I must place myself within a tradition, a history…It is in the exploration of the great debates of the Christian faith that I shall find my home,” Demarius Walker wrote in September 2013 and though I never knew him, have no perception of him other than sifting through these blog posts while procrastinating on writing my own, this resonates with me. (It takes some strange ego for me to dissect the words of a person I never knew and take them for my own. So my apologies in advance, Demarius, if we ever cross paths.)

  1. On placing: The business of rootlessness is displacement. Not untethered, but a rejection of tether. (This is also the business of diaspora, I think.) Perpetually a stranger in a foreign land, a dark land, and the darkness is familiar, since we’re all struck with it. We create tradition as much as we place ourselves within it. Forging through: it’s instinctual. It’s a realization. Stagnancy is impossible; even if we do not know what comes next it will come.
  2. On finding: Home is in the exploration. In the intersection, that beautiful and terrible intersection of finding and choosing, of self determination and survival, of faith and contingency. Sit and stitch them together. I love my patchwork beliefs. I carry them with me as I walk. Sometimes they are too heavy and sometimes they are too light. I believe that is not inauthentic to grow any more than it is to find.

Recently I have been carrying with me the thousand names of Vishnu, the sahasranama. They express a sense of movement and indelibility. To ground and to set free. I’ve also realized recently that the fact of god(s) having a gender makes me uncomfortable, so I appreciate that most verses in the sahasranama say merely One. I appreciate the way they feel when I carry them and the way they guide me forward, encouraging both the seeking and the finding. It’s a learning, and it’s also a choosing.

Blessed

As humans, we have a tendency to take the things we are blessed with for granted, in more ways than one. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with us, or that we are bad people. We are all guilty of this and most of the time we get so caught up in our own lives and what is going now with “me” that we forget to think about those around us, those who we know and the strangers that we don’t know. We keep saying we’ll get in touch with the people who love us and care about us, but life, school, extracurriculars, and other commitments  get in the way. What we need to recognize however, is that we all have blessings in this life that others do not have. We all have family and friends that love us and want us to be happy and healthy and will do a nothing for us; there are people in this world that do not have that. We need to recognize that family and friends are blessings that God gave us. Our health is a blessing, and our ability to get a good education is also a blessing.

The fact is that we are surrounded by blessings every day and we sometimes don’t even realize it until were handed something that reminds us how blessed we truly are. Personally, I was raised in the mindset of “count your blessings because there is someone who has it worse than you” and that always resonated with me because you never know what the future holds, and the only one who knows what the future holds for all of us is God, because he created the world. I call you to think more about what you’re blessed with and count your blessings. We do need to ask God to give us an open heart to see the blessings in our life!

 

This time it’s different.

I’ve thought a lot about how things have changed in the seemingly short span of a year. A lot of changes have happened and I didn’t know what the future held, especially because at this time last year I was visiting BU for transition day and learning very quickly that things were going to be different, in more ways than one. I remember January 27, 2018 like it was yesterday, and sometimes it still does feel like yesterday. So much information was being thrown at me and I didn’t even know if I was going to like going to school at a place that seemed at the time so big and crowded. However, I’m here and I weathered the storm of a first semester at BU successfully, and because of that I feel different about this semester. I’m not worried, I’m optimistic that things will be amazing for me.

This semester, it’s different; this time it’s different. I’ve found myself at BU, and have grown in ways I never expected I would. I never expected that through my time at Marsh I received the call to ministry after I graduate. I never expected to find a second family at Marsh. Then again, I never expected to do as well as I have at BU either. I’m not afraid of what my future holds, because I know that God will provide and is with me in every class, meeting, and more. He is what keeps me stable and for that I will always be grateful. I’ll always have the memories of the past and of Wheelock and I’ll look back on those memories fondly and happily, but it’s time to move on because it’s a new semester with new adventures and chapters to write, and I cannot wait to see how the story unfolds.

Semester Goals

Another semester is upon us and this one has started rather differently than the past others.

Coming back to campus has not been as easy. It has posed some challenges both expected and unexpected. Whether it be from the winter weather or academics, it certainly had me in a melancholy state for the first few days. I found myself drudging through the wet slush and thinking about why I was feeling so down. Then, yesterday during some most needed time of prayer, I came to a realization. I have no reason to feel so down.

I have been graced with friendship, family, love, and so much more. Of course there are times when I will feel unlike myself or out of sorts; however, I should never feel alone or down when I have a support system that is so caring and prominent in my life.

This also made me think that too often in these winter months, people are quick to escape from point A o point B without any awareness of those around them. Therefore, in this coming semester, I have made it a goal of mine to say hello more. To greet those around me more. And to share a smile whenever I can so that I can maybe spread some “light” (pardon the cliche) as much as possible in a time of the year that is often dark and gloomy.

In the end, I guess what I am trying to say is that family and friendship are powerful allies in the fight against winter blues, and making the effort to connect with them should never be overlooked.

Winter Thoughts

Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat, only thou and I, and never a soul in the world would know of this our pilgrimage to no country and to no end. (Tagore)

Winter for me always conjures introspectivity. It’s a quiet place, and I grew up craving it like a true Minnesotan. Early morning routines in the dark: pulling on boots, tying the laces tight over thickly knit socks. Jacket, scarf, hat, gloves. The cold stealing my breath even in the huddled silence of a dark car, waiting for the engine to warm. Every year, without fail, it snows hard on my birthday, like a gift.

I’ve always loved winter for this feeling. In the eighth grade my class trekked up a few hours north to Ely, Minnesota, to stop at the International Wolf Center. Only a few hours’ journey more and we would have been at the Canadian border. Up here there was no particular sense of space or time, with entire boughs of waterfall frozen in unforgiving slats of ice, the temperature well below negative twenty Fahrenheit, slurring my sense of passage. My toes were numb even with heat packs stuffed into the tips of my boots. Settled well into the Iron Range, the water from the faucet tasted like rust, so I sipped at half-solidified apple juice from my water bottle as I snowshoed across a long stretch of tundra. At night we howled for the wolves. The sky was somewhere between dusk and dawn, a heavy purple. Two wolves howled back.

I savor this feeling, that break in continuity, the ground still solid beneath my feet but taking me somewhere I do not quite know. When I think about faith I let my mind settle here. Recently I have been meditating on this hushed place. It finds me, or I it, in times when I am sure of little else but snowfall. Last December I meditated fiercely here. I had just dislocated my left shoulder and been prescribed four weeks’ rest from martial arts. It had been nearly two years since I had gone a night without martial arts, let alone a month’s worth, and I was so unsure of what to do with myself, literally– learning a strange body, foreign bones, foreign motions– that I would sit and watch entire nights go past me, the sky turning gray then purple then dark. What is strength? How am I finding meaning in weakness? How am I finding meaning in growth? I prayed: please, let this have some meaning, if nothing else. 

This December I find myself in that clearing again, wordless. Though this time I know there is meaning in that which is difficult, inevitably and without fail. There is meaning if we seek it. Some context: I haven’t written and reflected like this since mid-October. After coming out to my mom I found myself putting back the smallest pieces of myself together, mending that which I didn’t know had to be mended. Always I have kept my queerness separate from normal life, tucked away from the good me who loves her mother and her mother-temple, and the rush of intimacy with which I had to confront left me breathless. Almost too much meaning. Retreat into a quiet space, not contemplative, but protective. The snow came at just the right time: love in insulation. Faith too big a bite to chew as a religious concept, but necessary as a definitive one: I trust. I believe. My god loves girls who love girls, I’d like to think, but this is a thought to unpack in the spring.

Even in the times when we are desperately unsure there is a space for contemplation. When I howled under that glassy sky, feeling maybe stupid and maybe hopeful, I let the frozen snow beneath my boots carry me forward. In the absolute silence that can only come with tundra two wolves howled back.

What a Dollar Really Cost?

How difficult is it to obtain a job? Beyond that, How difficult is it to obtain a job with an organization that allows you to speak your mind. A few days ago, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for doing so. His comments were “to not just offer solidarity in words” but “to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” 

His point of view is not one different from my own. When defending his claims he stated

“My use of “river to the sea” was an invocation of a long history of political actors—liberal and radical, Palestinian and Israeli—who have called for their particular vision of justice in the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. For many, justice will come from a two-state solution. For some, like me, justice will come through a single bi-national democratic state that encompasses Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. I strongly believe that this is the best method to achieve peace, safety, security, and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. Justice requires that everyone, not just a single side, is free and equal.”

What’s so bad about this? He speaks of justice and peace in an area that has been contested since 1948, where violence has ensued against innocent people. Whats the remedy for this? Staying quiet and being a slave to another’s mindset. We know how much are skills are worth, but can a price be put on silencing our opinion.

I end this post with these words inspired from Soolking’s song Guerilla. 

Do we truly know how tough it is to sing love in the middle of war? Unfortunately, there are some who face this moral dilemma in their daily lives. Additionally, there are world leaders who have no cure for war; they don’t want one. They do not want peace because they do not know war.

 

Reflections,etc.

The holidays are  a time to reflect on what we have and look forward with hope at the future, the year we have ahead of us. Christmas itself has become a very commercialized holiday, with advertisements and commercials for the hottest toys, technology, etc. We get so caught up sometimes during the holidays in finding the right gifts, and Christmas lists that we forget what Christmas is really about. Christmas isn’t about shopping or spending money. Christmas is about celebrating the arrival of Christ. The holiday season tends to be a stressful time for college students as well, with finals being all that we think (and worry) about. We need to focus less on what is out of our control.

As a side note, I’ve always been the kind of person that wanted to be in control of everything. I don’t know why I wanted to have so much control over my life, I guess it made me  feel better knowing exactly what was going to happen, how everything was going to happen, etc. I’ve learned this semester that I cannot control everything and I certainly don’t have to micromanage my life down to every detail. I’ve learned I have to let God take control.  With God in charge, I know everything will be okay.