new life

Six months ago yesterday, thanks largely to the vigorous encouragement of a friend, I posted the end of a silence on this blog. Nota bene: read that before continuing. After clicking “Publish” (and after sharing the link on Facebook and Twitter) I ran out of my dorm room and screamed loudly. The scream didn’t really mean “I feel free” or “I’m scared shitless” so much as it meant “A lot of life is happening in this moment and screaming is the only way I know how to acknowledge that.” A girl walking down the hallway paused for a brief look in my direction and then kept walking, unfazed. Extreme expressions of emotion aren’t exactly out of character for me.

That moment was the culmination of a lot of anxiety, fear, hope, and prayer.

In my Dostoevsky class last year, discussion often turned to the topic of visibility—truly seeing and truly being seen. It is when we are completely visible to someone (Father Zosima’s “guilty before all and for all”) that we are most human. Being loved by others for our talents and strengths is easy, but when we make visible our imperfections, struggles,  shortcomings, and fears, we become open to the possibility of receiving a taste of unconditional love—the kind of love that casts out our fears and humbles us because we know it is not deserved. This love doesn’t say that you’re perfect the way you are; it knows you are imperfect but allows you to experience wholeness. Although God constantly radiates this love, I’m not able to feel, know, and receive it always, which is why allowing myself to be visible to others, the body of Christ, is so important to me. It helps me understand the power of God’s love.

Although I certainly felt visible when I posted my story online—indeed, almost naked—I didn’t need to post it for that reason. My family, friends, and professors spent so many hours listening to me and loving me before I even thought about sharing my story online. The reason I shared my story online was in the first sentence of the post. The profound loneliness and hurt carried by some gay teenagers drives them to suicide. In my post I mentioned Jadin Bell, the 15-year-old who hanged himself in an elementary school’s playground. Every so often another incident is reported by the news. A young person—typically a guy in his mid teens—commits suicide. The news reports reveal that cause was probably the years of bullying the kid endured for his or her homosexuality. Friends say, “When he walked into a room he always lit it up,” “If you were having a bad day, she would take the time to ask you and listen to you and let you know that you are loved.”

This is for you: You are loved. Stick around because it does get better.

This is for you: Go sit with that person at lunch tomorrow.

This is for you: Love your child even when you don’t understand them.

This is for you: Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Be visible.

This is for you: Stand up for the bullied. It hurts some people more than we know.

This is for you: God loves you.

This is for you: Loving someone else might just mean listening to them. If you think that loving someone like a Christian means first and foremost showing them the error of their ways, realize that it’s possible that the only thing she thinks about is all of the ways she is disgusting. Find out how she’s beautiful. Tell her.

This is for you: You’ve made it through a lot. Maybe it’s time to share your story.

I came to regret the name I chose for that blog post six months ago. It seems a bit dramatic at times. But it isn’t. Silence breeds loneliness can breed death. The end of a silence is the birth of a new life.

im abendrot

In orchestra recently we have been working on Strauss’ Four Last Songs, for soprano and orchestra. The words sung by the soprano are poems. Herman Hesse, a German-Swiss poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946, supplied the first three. The final song, “Im Abendrot” is a poem from an earlier German romantic writer named Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857). While all of the songs have a grandeur to them, “Im Abendrot” in particular draws my imagination out to explore.

I don’t speak or understand German, so my initial impression of the song was based purely on the melody of the soprano line and the orchestral accompaniment. Actually, my initial impression came from our orchestra’s first rehearsal of the song, without the soprano at all. After several weeks of playing it in orchestra, “Im Abendrot” had furrowed into my brain. I finally looked it up on Youtube to find recordings of it by many sopranos, including Renee Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Jessye Norman. After listening to a couple of recordings I looked up the lyrics.

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the glory of it all

In several days I will be flying back to Seattle. Christmas break will have ended, a month away from Seattle Pacific University will have passed, and I’ll have left behind another year. As I prepare for the new year, starting with Winter Quarter, I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. I began reading it more than a year ago “for fun,” if that expression actually describes the motivation that drove me to buy the book. But school led me away from Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha and into the world of ancient Greece. Before I stopped my attempt to blast through it, I made it approximately a third of the way through.

If you are familiar with The Brothers Karamazov, you might recall when the Elder Zosima relates the story of his life to Alyosha and others as he is reaching his life’s end. He begins with the story of his brother, who, an atheist, became sick and returned to God before dying while still a young man. In the last days of his life, he was consumed with a joy and love that confused his mother, visitors, and doctor, who mistook his fervor for madness. It was this passage that I read on the plane back to Seattle nearly a year ago.