You live fully; you were endowed with the strength of love, the ability to feel... -H.H.

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COFFEE AS RITUAL

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Take a few moments to take in the words in the article linked below.

Craig Damrauer’s short piece points to an aspect of what meaningful coffee looks like.

As I apprentice as a roaster, and find myself increasingly in coffee circles, I ask how we can best view coffee as a catalyst, rather than an end in itself. Splitting hairs and elitism are not what coffee is about. As Kevin Sinnott writes in The Art and Craft of Coffee, “I’d prefer the worst cup of coffee with my wife to the best cup with her mother.”

Joking aside, there’s much more to enjoying coffee than simply drinking it. To land too far on either end of the spectrum- whether it be contentment with the supply-chain abuses and cardboard cuppings of commodity coffee, or the belittling of others for not being able to detect and define razor’s-edge subtleties, is unfortunate. Are we willing to sacrifice a bit more to provide security and dignity to third-world farmers, enter into their story and find out what good coffee truly is? Can we forego endless innovation for the sake of innovation, and pursue a more attainable contentment with what we have?

As with all things, there’s a balance to be sought. Enjoy Craig’s reflective words, preferably with cup in hand.

https://medium.com/re-form/how-the-coffee-is-made-25addefe7d5c

BEING SHAPED BY WILDERNESS (9/5/14)

Is I. Is complicity shedding
First felt as anxiousness. Recoil.
But now welcome absence.

 

Absence welcome. Beheld in common with few.
Compañero? Drink of this cup? De café.

 

Cultivated in difficult/ path/ building.
In rest broken (awake?) as unknown
Sniffs, examines and scrapes
Intruder/ or venturer/ who takes nights away.

 

Though unnecessary by some measure
Still nights/ unstill nights, a/way are chosen.

BEYOND REACTIONARY

OR

CONSIDERING GREY

Bill McKibben’s 2005 article “The Cuba Diet” creates a brief, yet accurate, portrayal of various aspects of Cuban life. A primer: contemporary Cuba has a number of features which create an unprecedented case-study in various divisive subjects including politics, poverty and sustainability. It’s been painted as the world’s foremost self-sufficient, ecologically-responsible, food-growing nation, as well as a daunting example of the stark conditions and oppression that non-democratic states can foster. Accordingly, one’s first inclination is probably to place Cuba, regardless of whether a conscious or sub-conscious decision, on one end of a spectrum- utopia or hell- depending upon one’s previous understanding of the world.

We do this with nearly everything. We simplify in order to make our world more manageable, whether it be spiritual understanding, classification of individuals, thoughts on nutrition, so on and so forth. This is understandable, and not necessarily harmful in and of itself. To ask that one withhold from making decisions or passing judgment until one not only has access to all facts, but understands them, is to require the impossible. The variables involved in the affairs of reality are infinitely complex and ever-developing. Facing this impossibility, is paralysis the answer? No. To be rendered powerless by the complexities of the world is unnecessary. In this case, with complexity comes hope.

Rather than despair or inaction, an awareness of this process, and consequent humility, in dialogue especially, should be produced. We do what we can with what we have in front of us. And we do this with the hope that others will do the same. The whole of reality doesn’t easily fit into a box of our own creation- precisely because reality is much bigger than ourselves.

(3/20/14)

Passive Reception/Vague(abond) Thoughts

All too aware, I found myself anxious. I didn’t want to do much of anything, but felt the need to do something, something to redeem myself.

“But why? Hadn’t I done enough? What am I even supposed to do now?” My mind was tired of the grappling.

I lay down. Time continued to flow, but I was imperceptibly removed. The passing of cars through puddles outside lulled me away. That’s all there was.

Cars coming and going and faint music from another room.

I woke to a clear mind and a healthy sense of being. I hadn’t done much, but I certainly had received.

What’s more refreshing than accepting that which is freely given? What’s more refreshing than grace?

“To be human is to learn to live with faith. We must die, but also learn to be okay.” (“Attachment”, Jeff Pianki)

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Yesterday I visited an old spot in a wooded area. I had been there one year before.

Frustrated with different events, I barreled from the Spring Arbor dining commons with reckless abandon, not caring that I was flying on a road bike on wet grass or that there were pedestrians milling about ahead of me. I knew I was done. I didn’t know where I was going, but I sure was going to get there fast.

I ended up in some woods. I sat, I listened, I wrote and I made up my mind. I wasn’t going to force anything anymore. And I was at peace with that.

I took a twig to remind myself of the promise, which to this day sits on the dashboard of my car.

While the twig lasted, my resolve on the decision did not.

Regardless, it was good to get back to that spot. It was good to be reminded of why I keep that stick on the dash and think about what it means now.

“All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin. But only in their leaving can they ever come back around.”
(mewithoutYou. Or Hegel)

11/01/13

“You like the struggle more than the progress,” she said, referring to a pieced together quote I’ve come to cherish and return to often. Truth has a way of hitting heaviest when it’s succinct.

 

I sat reflecting upon that moment at a cafe across from MSU’s campus in East Lansing. I was using their outdoor patio, chilled, my clothes wet from cycling in the rain. I could have driven. But I chose not to. My only regret was not packing along a dry pair of pants. There are certain things that I have done or am doing that lend credence to what she said that evening. And I’m not going to pretend that there’s a simple reason behind those things.

 

For instance, for over a month now I’ve been telling people that I was going to write about sleeping in my car. I’d tell them that it would be better to write something clear and concise and then direct them to it, in order to save time and evade misunderstandings. I told two coworkers just that today. But I’ve changed my mind.

 

I don’t completely understand why I choose some of the struggles that I do or cling to some of the pain that I do. There are words that I can bring up that are true and defend certain actions- simplicity, solidarity, faith, frugality, self-discipline, trust, sustainability, freedom, minimalism- but they don’t completely encompass or express what is.

I’m going to paint something further with two broad strokes. I choose it because:

There is something in the struggle.
And there is something beyond the struggle.

Something in it: It’s choosing to live. I can feel it. The negative ramifications of my choices and perceived effects upon my own value come strongly and frequently. These are easy to fall into, but altogether serve as a beneficial reminder than I’m not simply following. I’m confronting something.
Something beyond it: It points beyond itself. It’s made whole by something that has yet to occur. It’s fulfillment is not completely encountered in the present. This has much to do with why I can’t fully explain it. I don’t know where it leads.

I walked briskly towards the Refugee Development Center this afternoon, a bike with two blown out tires at my side. As I strode, a bearded African-American man appeared in front of me. He was bundled up and washing the store-front windows in the November cold. He asked how I was. I said “fine, thanks”and asked how he was doing.

 

“Peaceful”.

 

The truth of his response was audible as the word passed beyond his lips. The winds quieted, and I continued my walk.

 

If you have the ability to be contented in your circumstances, and offer perspective to others, you have much. Words may not always be the best way to explain why. You may not need to defend your actions; maybe only persevere. I can’t explain why this man was as he was. But it’s what I want. The ability to show something; to have something to offer. Something more than empty words and rhetoric. Progress?

Ten/Twenty-One

Watching raindrops slipping down a window pane
I remember what I remembered then
When I knew not what I know now.

How much has slipped away. 
Yet how much is given-
Again and again.

We Miss You

A brief reminder I thought worth passing along.

On Leave(ing).

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—–

“To marry in order to enjoy oneself more will never work. To put marriage — union with the person you love — as your main aim, replacing everything else, is a big mistake. And it’s obvious if you think about it. The aim is marriage. Well, you get married, and then what? If you have no other aim in life before marriage, then later on it will be terribly difficult, almost impossible for the two of you to find one. It’s almost certain that if you have no common aim before marriage, nothing will bring you together afterwards, and you will always be falling out. Marriage only brings happiness when there is a single aim — people meet on the road and say, ‘Let’s walk on together’; ‘yes, let’s!’ and offer one another their hands — and not when people are attracted to one another and then both turn off the road in different directions

Life is neither a vale of tears nor a circus of entertainment. Life is a place of service, where one sometimes has occasion to put up with a lot that is hard, but more often to experience a great many joys. Only there can only be real joys when people themselves understand their life as service: have a definite aim in life outside themselves and their own personal happiness. Usually married people forget this completely.

Marriage and the birth of children offer so many joyful things to look forward to that it seems that these things actually constitute life itself, but this is a dangerous delusion. If parents live and produce children without also having a life purpose, there will be nothing to point their children to or guide them along the way. And then they will lose their human qualities as children and the happiness linked with them, and become pedigree cattle.

Those intending to marry, even if their life seems full, need more than ever to think and make clear to themselves what each of them is living for. And in order to do this, it’s necessary to think, and to think hard about the conditions one lives in and about one’s past, to evaluate what one considers to be important and unimportant in life and to find out what one really believes in — i.e. what one considers the invariable, indisputable truth, and what one will be guided by in life. Otherwise one does not truly know what he believes in, or whether one believes it or not.

If life is service, then the “good” consists of love. In order to love I must first train myself to require as little as possible from others. Unless I do this, I will be inclined not to love but to reproach. This demands a lot of work. Second, in order to love I must do something useful for others. This involves even more work. Lastly, it is necessary to learn gentleness, humility and the art of enduring unpleasant people and unpleasant things, and whenever possible not to offend. This requires the most work of all, and work that is non-stop, from waking up to going to sleep. But this is the most joyful sort of work.

When considering marriage, therefore, a couple needs to think and live as lovingly as possible so that they can find out whether they are really going along the same road and whether or not it’s good for them to give each other the hand. If they are sincere, the thought of marriage will lead them to what is higher, to find ways to bring more love and truth into the world. They will marry because it will enable them to attain this aim. But once having chosen what is higher, it will be necessary for them to put their whole heart and soul into it, not just a little bit of oneself; a little bit is no use!”
-Tolstoy (Personal Correspondence)

—–
I continue to go. I move on after periods of time much too short. My heart and mind know that this can’t be kept up forever. Since my freshman year of college, I don’t think I’ve remained in any one place for more than six months.

This last leave was half voluntary. California’s Rim Fire, the fourth largest in state history pushed us from our jobs and living arrangements to safer ground- the Yosemite Valley. Our season was clearly over. We were given a choice: to take new positions with Delaware North, or get out of dodge. I chose the latter. This choice brought me to Los Angeles weeks before my scheduled arrival.

It’s been wonderful seeing my brother. He’s been super hospitable, generous with his time, space and resources. As an RA at the University of Southern California, full-time student and part-time IT guy, he has plenty asked of him. Despite that, he’s been  willing to put up with me.

The city and campus are very impressive. I can feel that I don’t belong here though. In a couple weeks, it will again be time to move on.

I wonder how this transitiveness affects myself and my view of others. I think I have a tendency to plunge to certain depths with persons whom I see a certain trait in much faster than is usually desired or is expected. I think there are times when I don’t want to put any effort at all into meeting or getting to know people. I think that there is a strange subtle reinforcing loneliness that I tend to embrace at times, rather than trying to put myself out there and surmount it.

Further, how do I serve others in the context of this semi-nomadism? What am I trying to achieve through this constant reshuffling of persons and surroundings? As a start, Tolstoy’s recommendations as far as service to others, and how to love and view them are spot-on: to require less, offer something useful and do such things with the right position of heart. There are major strains of Christianity that view service as being a matter of simply being polite with others, avoiding profanity and supporting worthy causes. A commitment to justice and loving others is held to, yet not tightly enough to raise eyebrows or cause discomfort. Although this does require work, and is a step in the right direction, it simply isn’t enough.

It’s the faith community’s equivalent of “green consumerism”. There are a plethora of companies making a killing based solely on the fact that there are many, many people who want to make beneficial changes in this world and their lives, yet lack understanding of a handful of primary natures: that of change, that of sustainability, that of labor, that of necessity, that of exploitation, that of subsidies and trade agreements, so on and so forth. What you end up with are unnecessary products with “green” labels being embraced by the public and furthering corporate profits and control, as well as abuses of the environment and human rights.

Tolstoy’s first admonition, to ask less of others or to need less, can be a clarion call for Emerson-style self-sufficiency or a heavier dependence upon God. One of these ends unhealthily. Those well-versed in self-reliance understand that the term is a misnomer. To depend on oneself for everything is dangerous-emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. The other form of dependence however leads to a genuine back-and-forth, or “relationship”, something spoken and written of much in Christian circles, but not always present. I digress. Tolstoy’s admonition that we should ask less of our fellow humans and planet has gained in relevance exponentially since his passing.

Beyond getting rid of unnecessary burdens upon that and those which are outside of ourselves, the ability to offer something is imperative. To tear something down without offering a replacement or alternative is senseless. Negation and removal only get one so far. Being proactively beneficial requires understanding what is worth doing, creating, sustaining. As Tolstoy mentioned, it does require reflection and work. But it is a vocation worth pursuing.

The last step Tolstoy offers is one of the heart and discipline. This is the one Andrew Murray speaks so eloquently about (humility). It’s the one that ties Paul together with the sound of clanging cymbals (love). It’s the one that we are to known by (love). This is the one that we must find ourselves before we can offer it to others, and gives worth to all of our words and actions. It’s one that we in the Christian community tend to lack, myself especially.

These three concepts can, and should, fill a lifetime.
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After Los Angeles, I’ll be heading for Lansing, MI. God willing, I’ll be:

1.) …living at an intentional community where members focus their time and lives towards knowing God and serving Him and His creation.
2.) …living an extremely spartan existence (first-world standards). In short, my “room” will be smaller than most bathrooms and sitting on four wheels.
3.) …interning at Lansing’s Refugee Development Center, hopefully working out aim #1.

And after that, I hope to attend a five month long farmer training program just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska.

In between the lines of the moves and rapid changes that I’m embarking on, I see what I am heading for. It’s slow going, but I think that it will be achieved. Something having to do with knowing what I believe, what should be done and what I have to offer. Although I’m tired of leaving people whom I don’t want to leave and meeting others knowing that that’s likely what lies ahead, I continue. To tie in Tolstoy’s primary subject matter, maybe someday I’ll meet someone on that same path- extend hands- and press on. Maybe not. I’m not sure it matters much.

Much love,
Taylor

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“Understand: the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible–it’s to dismantle those systems.” -L.K.
(liberalism vs. radicalism)

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Most Is Trivial. Not All, But Certainly Most.

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(The pictures are mine. The video is not.)

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