50. For the sake of goodness
What I’m up to
I went to the movie theater two nights in a row this week. I watched Everything Everywhere All At Once for the third time. (Still mind-blowing.) Then I watched Top Gun Maverick. (Fun!)
Our school moved to online learning this week. I figured out a way to continue our mini film unit in AP Lit. We watched Memento together, and I found all the students’ 🤯 emojis in our chat so satisfying. Haha.
What I’m reading
Still plugging away at Love Marriage by Monica Ali, 10 minutes at a time.
Started The Netanyahus.
What I’m thinking about
Gun violence in the US, of course.
We left the US after Anna’s only year at an American public school. As a five-year-old, she had to participate in active shooter drills.
Here in Taiwan, when I walk down the street at night alone, I never think about guns. When I send my kids to friends’ houses, I don’t think about guns. As a teacher, I don’t think about guns. When my kids are at school, I don’t think for a second about guns.
Living in Taiwan underscores the utter senselessness of gun violence in America. American parents are considering sending their kids to school with bulletproof backpacks. It doesn’t have to be like this.
One of the reasons I stopped teaching government class is I no longer believe the US government works. I used to teach about the legislative branch, how a bill becomes a law, but I don’t know how to tell students that, well, actually… it’s money that works. Senators offering thoughts and prayers but passing no legislation receive millions from the gun lobby.
But I also don’t know what else to do but write my senators and rep, so that’s what I’m doing.
It’s in times like these that I turn to poetry. I just don’t have words on my own.
1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.
4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
What I’m learning
Three related thoughts:
When I watched Everything Everywhere All At Once for the third time, what stood out to me was Evelyn’s conclusion at the emotional resolution of the movie: if nothing matters and there are only fleeting moments when life makes sense, we just have to take what moments we get and cherish them. (As I’ve mentioned before, the movie brings me back to my favorite book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes.) I’ve been working through how this idea is compatible with my faith.
One of my friends told me the other week that after her dad died, nothing mattered anymore. She meant this in both a bad way and a good way. Bad in that she fell into depression. Good in that the things that used to keep her up at night like insecurity and other people’s criticism and wanting to be successful no longer freaking mattered, because her dad was gone.
My brothers were denied a visa to the US and couldn’t come to my wedding. After that, I didn’t really care about the details of the wedding anymore. There’s no way it could be perfect with my brothers absent, so it didn’t really matter how the flowers turned out or whether my hair was how I wanted it. Sad, but also awesome that I no longer felt the pressure for things to be perfect. I was free just to appreciate the joys of the day.
I feel this way about the world. In the moments I feel most fully the despair of the world — the fact that third graders are murdered, the fact that some parents can’t feed their kids, the fact that war happens even as we drink our morning cup of coffee, the fact that pastors are abusing congregants and then blaming them — I just have to get by day to day, thankful for any moment that I can feel joy at all. That sounds depressing, but it’s also freeing. Right? It puts things in perspective, making the little things that can wreck our days less powerful. But it also reminds me why we need faith. We know this world can be terrible. We hold onto the joys, the moments that make sense, but we also know that our lives cannot be perfect because life is often pain. So then we have to hope for more. We have to have the faith that there is more.
When I was a teenager, I experienced a long bout of sadness when I moved from the Philippines back to Taiwan. One of my friends told me that it was my opportunity to experience a new attribute of God: God as the God of comfort. When nonsensical tragedy happens in the world, I always question God‘s goodness. I never question his goodness to me, even in hard times, but I question his goodness to others, to those who are experiencing war, hunger, violence, loneliness. I have to believe that God is there with them even if I don’t see it. So I’m asking myself — what is the aspect of God I can experience now? Maybe it’s God as the God who mourns? The God who sees our brokenness? The God who wept? The God who was overcome in the Garden of Gethsemane? The God who valued children? The God whose child was murdered?
I don’t know. Somehow I try to hold all these truths at once: everything is meaningless, there’s joy in the moment, there are things we can’t change, we must fight for change.
What I’m doing
Wrapping up the school year. We are online this week and likely will be again next week. Thankfully we can still have graduation in person (this Saturday!). It’s crazy to me how another school year has gone by. I love the rhythms that come with working at a school, but it sure makes time just flit away.
I finally booked tickets to return to the Philippines this summer. It’s been almost 3 years since we’ve seen my family.
What I’ve saved (to read later)
I am enraged that I am not even a little bit surprised by this news.
This study found that those who live in socialist countries experience better quality of life.
This is a defense of “overwritten” books, which is a new-to-me name for my favorite genre (literary fiction).
I put together a simple guide for my students on how to contact senators and representatives about the gun control legislation we desperately need.
Until next week,