Vietnam Fun

I am somewhat drawn to the ridiculous.  Perhaps that’s why there are several pictures from my summer travels in Vietnam that are delightfully foolish rather than reverent. The experience as a whole may have been one of deep peace, but that does not mean laughter was not a part of it as well.  And that laughter began on the plane on the way there, though I am not certain of the airline.  Malaysia Air perhaps?

Airplane: taste the rainbow.

One of the first places we ate (that was recommended by our hostel) allowed Louise and I to experience the local bird.

Bird bones, bird head

One of the tourist type activities available is to take boat tours through various limestone caves.  However, sometimes the hands get tired of rowing.

Feet row.

And when the rain gets serious, so do the umbrella hats.

Lotus leaf umbrella

Lotus leaf rain hat

The ponchos get pretty serious too.

Louise loves the rain!

And finally, lychees are sometimes called sheep’s eyes.  This is not why.

One eye...

Two eyes...

...and some force-feeding

The Wise

It’s rare that I post anything I think about that’s more religious than philosophical, in part because I don’t feel comfortable sharing my faith much outside direct conversation with other people.  There are certain pieces of myself that are not for public consumption, despite the fact that I typically share just about anything with people if I can do so directly at a place and time of my own choosing. However, at certain moments sharing is necessary, even if only in an online and therefore somewhat distant manner.

One appropriate occasion for sharing comes from my first visit to the church where my youngest sister is now working.  The church itself is not my focus, nor is the sermon from her senior pastor – instead it was the “children’s moment” that grabbed first my mind and then my heart with a single comment.  In speaking about the Christmas story, one of the groups of people mentioned along with Mary, Joseph, the cow, angels, and shepherds was the wise men.  Specifically, the astrologers or magi who brought three gifts.

What was most pertinent to my mind however was not any of that, but the mere statement made that although the Bible states three gifts were given, we have no idea how many wise men were actually present.  I was suspicious of this at first, because I seemed to remember that somewhere somewhen someone had named the individuals present and that there were three.  Perhaps we just think that wise men had figured out that things work better when each person chips in on the gifts.

It did make me think about just who the wise men were and what role they would have played in their societies at that time.  A person who can afford to drop everything and wander off following celestial movements is not a person tied down with everyday reality.  Such people are seekers, like me, who quite possibly will never be satisfied.  I struggle to find fulfillment, especially at this time of year, in my life choices and lifestyle, in my faith, in my sense of purpose, and in my relationships.  I remain often not quite satisfied, which can be a source of consistent frustration.

Yet it is also a gift.  My inner restlessness has prompted me to not settle for a mundane existence.  I have done many things that others have not and never will.  I have traveled, lived abroad and in various cities across the U.S., experimented with multiple professions, learned, taught, changed, and thrived in a variety of environments.  And while all that movement can chafe at times, it has also made me something greater than I would otherwise be, something I can’t quite see clearly from the inside.  It will continue to transform me, and even though I will continue to struggle with the amount of change and questioning and self examination and development I take into my life regularly, I embrace the fact that I will in some manner be continually unsatisfied with my life.

Most of all I hope that that seeking means I will be able to give my own gifts to others due to those experiences and that continuing search.

The Life of the Mind

I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about brains.  Not perhaps in the Dr. Frankenstein sense of needing to collect some for a pet project, but still with a nod to my own mortality. In some sense that’s due to getting older and especially watching my parents get older and wondering what the future holds when my mind remains intact but my body can no longer respond to the mind’s commands.  But perhaps I’ll be fortunate and the mind will go first.

Regardless, I’ve been thinking regularly about the thinks I think because that patterning and association that goes on inside the head of myself and others is interesting to me.  I think differently than many people – that is, I process information differently.  My trains of thought are usually more grasshoppers than trains in the usual sense.  There may be an anticipatable trajectory or arc to them, but they change direction frequently and unexpectedly to those outsiders attempting to catch up or catch on.  Or perhaps they are more like teleporting insects of another type, that flit from here to there with no expected or regular results.  I occasionally wander around inside my own head, become bewildered and lost, and have to retrace my steps to figure out how I got here.  So far, I’ve always managed to find my way back out.

But are the thinks I think unique?  Probably not.  I would like to imagine that the stories I tell myself are ‘irrepeatable’ and will never again be known in this world. Language makes that unlikely however in that the words we use – in conversation, in written correspondence, in any spanning of that gap between two distinct minds – are all based on some sort of commonly accepted understanding of meaning.  And despite the fact that a gap of some sort remains – I am not you, and you will never be me – there is no certainty that as individuals, we are all so different from one another that I would not be at home if I could in some way merge myself into your thoughts.

This scares me.  I may be a unique snowflake, but the idea that the other snowflakes in this blizzard of humanity are equally unique and equally worthy in some way disrupts my independent pride.  The idea that I may have my own mind-self looking out from behind different eyes but thinking around the same sorts of well worn concepts and diligently pursuing the same formulaic ‘answers’ is depressing.  True, I may have new perspective or insight into a number of the great questions.  But is perspective enough?  Or do I want to be special enough to find my own new question?

Or perhaps there is nothing deeper for me to dig into unless I want to make a really big hole.  Perhaps I would be better off focusing on the path I’m taking, embracing the journey to find the same answers to the same questions once again.  Perhaps it is enough to identify, trace, preserve and make beautiful those still-shot images I recognized as some higher plane of Life through the words I use to bridge that emptiness between minds.  Perhaps writing as a craft is enough to give voice to the rambles undertaken by my ‘self’ due to unique neuron firing, genetic makeup, physical and environmental impacts, magnetic energies or lesser forces.

Or perhaps I demand something iconic that is my own.  Something more.