this specific corner; that specific room

plates-after-dinner

It ordinarily ends in this specific corner of that specific room.
The very first evening ended in that space;
this one did too.
Time lies but this corner does not.
Suddenly new yet very familiar.
Children asleep,
dinner settling,
dessert in process
with a final matching mug or glass.

A chair is pulled up closer, but not too close,
even distance in inches matter.
A reachable circle for the conversation,
and the laughing,
and the impressions:

the toothless, tooth-brushing PSA.
the self, that one time in the middle of that one story.
that customer who opened with the confusing concern.
that student.
that voice.
that dynamic with those relatives.
that signature characteristic.

and the repeated jokes:
likely jokes not actually funny,
but jokes always grow into their own funny the later they emerge in the evening.

It is a treasure buried in the middle of a field, though;
true every single time.
Safe now, later in the evening,
smelling like people smell at the end of the 14 hours
when spare deodorant is actually not in the glovebox,
and the meeting sprawled too late to manage a swing by any corner store
on the way to this specific corner.

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the melody of
perhaps some shared camaraderie,
perhaps some shared hilarity,
perhaps some disagreement,
perhaps some agreement of disagreement,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are doing,
perhaps some thick and layered asking of what the hell we are trying to do,
and what it is we are trying to chase after,
after all…

where were we?…

Safe now, later in the evening, after a perfect meal over which the perfect melody of
a treasure buried in the middle of the field.

Noticed now,
in this specific corner of that specific room.
Laughter and my own genes have left me sweating.
Food and beer have left me full.
Humanity and honesty,
Pretense prevented by exhaustion,
leave me speaking thanks out loud in between audible laughter
while driving home with a 14-hour smell that is not very funny.

After noticing that I’m sitting in this specific corner of that specific room,
the loud response in my cloudy thoughts is a refrain that continues to say,

Thanks be to God.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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until we know ourselves

A young boy in KKK robes sees his reflection in a riot shield held by an African-American state trooper. Taken in Gainesville, Ga., in 1992, this photo by Todd Robertson has resurfaced through social media. via Poynter.org Quote by Krista Tippett in Becoming Wise (2016), "...the human condition, in all its mess and glory, remains the ground on which all of our ambitions flourish or crash. The adage that "he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it" doesn't go far enough. History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves.A young boy in KKK robes sees his reflection in a riot shield held by an African-American state trooper. Taken in Gainesville, Ga., in 1992, this photo by Todd Robertson via Poynter.org

the human condition, in all its mess and glory, remains the ground on which all of our ambitions flourish or crash. The adage that ‘he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it’ doesn’t go far enough. History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves.

Krista Tippett, from Becoming Wise (2016). New York, NY: Penguin.

 

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we hail what heals

ART-CAN-SURVIVE-QUOTE

Photo: Donald G Jordan, Guggenheim, June 2017
Quote: Gwendolyn Brooks, from “In Montgomery”
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I don’t know how to tell you

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 1.26.10 AM

I don’t know how to tell you
why I’m so concerned about what is happening.
We are are both believers,
but I’m not sure if we thought we are
believing in the same thing.
We are both committed,
but I’m learning that perhaps we are not
committed to the same thing.

I don’t know how to tell you
that my friends are not celebrating.
We are both present day to day with the same news,
but many of my friends are being cursed, abused, or billed.
And many of my other friends,
those friends who look like we do,
are being celebrated, elevated, and paid.

I am trying my best to go back to what I thought we both believed.
I am trying to go back to questions about
the least of these
the stranger among us
the poor in our midsts
the meek
the humble
the generous
the innocent
the poor.

But it seems that while I thought these were the things
that aligned us on the same team,
you were saying,
sometimes threatening,
that these things don’t matter if the rich among us aren’t
privileged
reimbursed
taxed less
paid more
honored even when the poor are at their feet.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we believed in
very different things this whole time.
I thought we agreed
Jesus was standing up for the least of these.

I don’t know how to tell you that perhaps
you call it politics, but I call it obedience;
you say it’s not logical, but I say we weren’t promised logic.

I don’t know how to tell you,
but I think we’ve forgotten—
you and me both—
that we are not the least of these.

They are. 

The “other” is the least of these. 

The other that everyone has become so afraid of.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our lives.

I think our forgetfulness is costing all of our souls.

But I don’t know how to tell you this.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

to be there with children

refugee-crisis-post-header

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there with children.
Or even a single child.
When I fly I’m aware of everything I’m touching
everything my bag is touching
I’m aware of the food that costs four times what it’s worth.
I’m unsure of timeframes and unsure of connections and unsure of pickups.
But I’ve always been allowed in.
And I’ve always been allowed on.
They went through my bag one time,
me standing there embarrassed because my clothes were
thrown in and wadded-up and others were watching before we boarded the plane.
But I boarded the plane.
And I made it home to my home,
safe, neighbors I know, a language I know, a church I know.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be there now with children.
Or even a single child.
After running literally to save your child from
bombs
explosives
machetes
murder
sex-trafficking.
After running for God knows how long
(And believe me in this, God does know how long).
You follow the rules.
You do the paperwork.
You take the tests.
You pass the screenings.
You file everything you can with everyone they tell you to file it with
and then you wait
in a tent, or a classroom, or in hiding,
more than 24 months
104 weeks
730 days
17,545 hours
1,051,900 minutes
with children.
or even a single child
hoping that you’ve done everything you can to save their lives
or your only child’s life.

When my delays are over 45 minutes,
my insides begin erupting.

And then you hit our shores,
passing our lady of liberty promising you welcome as you’ve been
running,
literally,
for your children’s life
or even for your only child’s life.

But then we tell you,
Christian mother
Christian father
Muslim mother
Muslim father
Human mother
Human father
that we don’t understand you
or your children,
or even your only child,
because you aren’t from here.
So in our loud and uninformed anger
we feel better trapping you
and your children,
or even your only child,
in customs in our airport for an indefinite amount of time,
or in your tent, in your classroom, or in hiding,
until the death you’ve been running from
takes your life and the life of your children,
or even the life of your only child.

Pray for us.

Pray that God would shout at us
as we look around our comfortable rooms
at our children,
or even our only child,
and remind us that children, or a single child,
another human in the image of God,
or as Christ has said,
remind us that it is Jesus Christ himself
who remains trapped in the airport tonight,
or in the tent, or in a classroom, or in hiding.
That we have sentenced Christ to death again
from the comfort of our living rooms,
and under the auspices of protecting our own children,
or even our only child.

Pray for us.
We can’t imagine what it must be like
to be there with children,
or even our only child.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the [a]orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
You shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in…

 

sitting with friends of friends and friends


The world becomes small like a teak table in the backyard garden or the kitchen table with whiskey and ice remains taunting from the bottom of short, stocky glasses. 

The world too becomes expansive like the universe or the waters pushing friends over time zones, or the silence waging war on words desperately needing to be spoken, heard.

Sitting with friends of friends and friends over odds and ends, over last sips of whiskey and belly laughter, possibilities seem reachable and hopes seem connected and frustrations seem reasonable and injustices seem harrowing. 

But it is now shared. 

Shared among strangers strangely connected by that which we do our best sometimes to believe and our best other times to run like hell from. 

That thin and thick moment, then, the world is so small and so expansive and strangers make confidants, and space feels like home no matter where feet have landed. And life pounds maddeningly worthwhile and heartbreaking all in one sharp, softening, shared moment with friends.

One more tiny drink gets poured for everyone.

djordan

Belfast and Banbury

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silence encourages the tormentor

elie-wiesel.we-must-always-take-sides

“Are you German?” he asked as three friends stood beside him; two stood to his left, one to his right.

“No. Of course I’m not,” I answered, realizing as the words came out of my mouth that being a white American to me meant I was only American; I was not German or English or Jewish or Irish or Scottish or Russian or French or Norwegian.

“No. I’m not,” I answered, realizing how blond-haired and blue-eyed I was when the question was asked, and realizing that I felt guilty because the color of my skin and the hue of my eyes and hair about five seconds after the question was thrown into the hallway as we sat waiting on others, now at the end of the Holocaust museum in Israel.

A profe soon rushed him and his buddies out of the museum hallway and through the exit doors moments afterward, I say now with a more red and more sweaty countenance waiting on the roughly eight dudes behind me in my group who were making their way through the horrifyingly real and terrifyingly factual Holocaust museum in Jerusalem over ten years ago. I rub my hands through my blonde, nappy hair.

We left the space soon after.
We ate dinner in New Jerusalem.
I sent a girl two tables over dessert for her birthday through our server who afterward informed me she was engaged “but appreciated the knafeh.”

I’ve gotten so old.

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Elie Wiesel died today.

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If I was reasonably intelligent and generally wise and not from West Tennessee, it would not have required the “Oprah Book Club” stamp several years ago on his book Night for me to have ever heard his name walking through Target looking for Coke Zero and classy toilet-bowl cleaner.

But I’m not reasonably intelligent and generally wise, and I am from West Tennessee, so here I was.

And here I am.

A white American male who has been told both it’s all my fault and also I must protect what I’ve “earned” at all costs. I’m left confused.

+++

I walked through the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis a few years ago with friends and coworkers from one of my employers and an organization that values my deepest insecurities and deepest hopes.

I wept.

We wept.

We debriefed later that evening, and I could only wonder, “Would I have been that one random white dude standing in a sea of black men and women demanding justice, respect, and equality.” I told our folks at dinner, black and brown and white and pale, “I hope I would be one who stood up against those plowed by horses, intimidated by canes, and hung by ropes in the days of my parents (not my grandparents).

I later learned, driving through Alabama to visit friends, these hangings were in my own day. They were not carefully removed to parents or grandparents; It was the right now.

But I could only hope that I would have been one of those few white folks in the crowd demanding justice, respect, and equality for the “other” in those days.

Those days which are these days.

Elie Wiesel died today.

And I am hoping in my less trustworthy but more important parts that I will lean into Wiesel’s character and spirit and honor.

+++

It may take me down, but I must stand up for those who are pushed under. I do have blonde hair and blue eyes. I benefitted from both slavery. But I need to answer “no” to the teenagers in the final hallway at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. And I need to answer “no” to my coworker. And I need to answer “no” to the person who checks me in to vote a few months from now where I’m held at ethical gunpoint and asked if I stand for nothing or if I’ll fall for anything.

Rest in peace, after such incredible chaos, brother Wiesel.

I cannot be neutral.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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