Sunday, May 19, 2024

A Poem Becomes a Prayer

Egyptian Poet Mostofa Ibrahim
My son-in-law shared a beautiful little poem that seems to be all over the Internet and attributed to Poet Mostofa Ibrahim. I wish I could find a book of his poetry... everything seems to be out of print or so rare that it is unattainable. I resonate with with this poem anyway... and all I've done to transform it into a Christian prayer is to address it to Jesus and aim it at myself (replacing each 'you' with an 'I'):

Lord Jesus,
May I never be the reason why someone who loved to sing,
doesn’t anymore.
Or why someone who dressed so uniquely,
now wears plain clothing.
Or why someone who always spoke so excitedly about their dreams,
is now silent about them.
May I never be the reason someone gave up on a part of themselves
because I was demotivating, hypocritical, or even worse
— sarcastic about it.

—A Prayer Inspired by poet Mostofa Ibrahim

See the original Poem by clicking here.

What especially strikes me in the original poem is that in spite of being treated in the manner that the poet speaks of I still do it to others. I can be that critical voice, that mocker, that dream crusher that guy who uses sarcasm as a weapon.

Which is precisely why I saw the need to personalize it, address it to my higher power and make it into a prayer I recite often.

I start my first course in pursuing a certificate in Spiritual Direction this Wednesday through Divine Mercy University. I know that as a person who has sponsored many people in recovery that I have much to improve upon in learning to walk with people gently, truly seeing the true, good and beautiful in each person I encounter.

I sense that this prayer will be a small but important part of that journey of learning to be a truly empathetic companion on life's journey to souls that want such a companion.

God's will, not mine be done.

Friday, January 26, 2024

My Friendly Digital Divorce

I decided to move forward with the digital divorce...

Today I monotasked. I walked into the store without any tech to buy an old fashioned object called an alarm clock. 


So I can deliver the divorce papers to my phone tonight.

I no longer want to sleep with it or even be in the same room with it when I'm going to sleep, sleeping or waking up.

I want it to be a friendly divorce. I'll still visit digital land and I'll pay attention to our children (this website is one of them). But I'm not sleeping with it any more.

This is all part of a series of little experiments I'm trying in order to live life less attached to the digital realm and live more just as a human, interacting with his surroundings and the people in it.

It has been a long time coming. I remember the decision to leave my phone in the car when going to Mass about six months ago. So freeing. It became a permanent habit about one month into the experiment.

Excellent Ideas and Scholarship

Felicia Wu Song's book, "Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age" is what has encouraged me to try more experiments in this realm. I am grateful for her work and look forward to seeing her in few moments here at the Calvin College Fine Arts Center... in fact I better get going, her lecture is about to start. Back in a bit :D


Ok, back in the saddle. 

Dr. Song gave us an excellent presentation and then a fine Q & A afterwards. She is a brilliant scholar and yet delivers her findings with tact and kindness, you won't be shamed by her for participating in the alarming trends that she exposes. Rather, she gives you simple ways to set proper working boundaries in your use of technology.

Which is why I'm referring to my relationship with the digital realm as a friendly divorce.

No, I don't want to sleep with it anymore, but I still value the toolset it has to offer to help live my life. But not on its terms anymore, or not so much I hope. I hope to extract myself from the seemingly compulsive attention to it and perhaps focus more on my marriage to my wife, my relationship to my family, friends and God.

So as I continue to experiment in this new way of divorcing myself from the digital, I ask your patience. I may not check my phone as much. I may leave it behind more. I might not login as much.

Who knows, I might be able to learn to more consistently engage with the world around me full of trees and grass and people and rivers and well, just all things bright and beautiful. I hope you can forgive me and maybe even join me... there is strength in numbers.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Barbie: A Thousand Excellent Questions

I was able to watch the Barbie Movie with my wife this week and I must say I was deeply impressed. It isn't too many movies that ask so many good questions.

Being a student of anthropology and phenomenology I found the movie fascinating. It poses so many excellent questions about what it means to be human in such rapid succession that I would have to watch the movie in slow motion to catch them all. One of the lead characters (a mom who had played with Barbie dolls as a child) posed several pointed and excellent questions out loud, while most of the questions (equally valid) were masked under sarcastic and often dark humor.

This movie kicked my inner Mr. Curious into gear and below are a few of the questions it triggered me to ask:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What does it mean to be treated like an object?
  • Who am I?
  • What do genitals mean?
  • What happens when genitals are not present or distinct?
  • What is the patriarchy?
  • What is masculinity?
  • What is matriarchy?
  • What is femininity?
  • What does it mean to be a mother?
  • Why is fatherhood absent or a joke?
  • How do stereotypes harm us?
  • What is the difference between a stereotype and an archetype?
  • What do we do with the wounds of being objectified and/or oppressed?
  • Why did pregnant Barbie get discontinued?
  • Why is it not OK to want to be a mom?
  • What happens when you realize you actually have distinct genitalia?
  • Why didn't Barbie completely destroy the need for playing with baby dolls (despite the haunting implications of the opening scene)?
  • What happens when the function of genitalia is removed from society completely (Barbie Land)?
  • Why on earth would any human wear high heals?
  • Is girl's night or boy's night helpful? What does it mean or point to?
  • What are tears? Why do we have them?
  • Is all pain bad? What is its function?
  • What is the function of bad breath and other bad smells?
  • What does it mean to have a real body?
  • Just how important is embodiment?
  • Does my body even matter?
  • Is matriarchy better than patriarchy?
  • Why is the definition of feminine beauty so convoluted?
  • What is the true source of beauty?
  • Is there a way for man and women to live in complementarity rather than struggling to dominate one another?
The truly profound thing about this movie is I didn't sense it trying to force any easy answers to any of these questions. That is a rare gift in our world today in my humble opinion.

The very next night Margie and I watched Oppenheimer, the story of how the power of splitting the atom was harnessed for the mass destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It was a tedious and heart breaking movie to say the least. But it did add a couple more questions to the thousand excellent questions thrown at me the night before:
  • What is worse: twisting the function of nuclear energy into a weapon or weaponizing human sexuality into a game of thrones and domination?
  • What is the more powerful force: human sexual interaction or nuclear fission/fusion?