Monday, March 28, 2005

Just a little something from my journal...


A day of mourning and grief. A day of cosmic change. The continental divide of history.
Salvation and remission.

A day of loneliness and isolation. Sadness. Excruciating sadness. And death. A tearing of the curtain – a thick curtain that had meant separation for so long.
Renewal and reconciliation.

Hope fulfilled.

Pain. Intolerable suffering. Agonizing death. Humiliation and shame.
Healing and restoration… Rebirth.

Bad Friday.
Good Friday.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Beste Inbreker...

I thought it was an amusing sign, a typical Amsterdammer's tongue-in-cheek response to adversity. The sign in our neighbor's window read:

Beste Inbreker, Na 3 inbraken in 18 maanden valt hier echt niets meer te halen. Maak anders een afspraak om te komen kijken. 06-21584879. (Dear Thief, After 3 break-ins in 18 months, it happens to be that there's really nothing left to take. Otherwise, make an appointment to come by and look... And then his telephone number).

It was a noteworthy sign. I felt bad for our friend and neighbor, but I wasn't overly concerned about our own protection of property or personal well-being... And I thought it was admirable how Harm could put the best face on things. Little did I know that our household would fall victim to the same fate less than 12 hours later. While we were gone to church on a sunny Sunday afternoon, someone pushed in the framing to our living room window and helped himself to our laptop computer. It was a quick smash-and-grab; only the one item burglarized... but it was a big item, and regardless we were left with the mess to clean up.

Now we've been working on our own letter to the "Inbreker":

Beste Inbreker, Onze computer is vervangbaar, de fotos van onze kinderen niet. Wij willen graag alleen de fotos terug. Alstublieft. (Dear Thief, Our computer is replaceable, the pictures of our children are not. We only want the pictures back. Please.)

In the end, we’re glad that life goes on. The memories of our lives are permanent, even if the prints and the electronic files are not. The cost of a new computer is recoverable. The hassle and frustration of rebuilding a system is temporary. We have no choice but to move forward...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Tram lijn 7 - Richting Flevopark - 22:49

The tram rumbles to a stop in front of me, offering an escape from the billowy sheets of soft spring rain. It's on-time, and I'm pleased to be on my way home late this Wednesday evening, riding tram line 7 in the direction of Flevopark.

I'm surprised to find the tram so full, though I am still able to find a seat a bit toward the front. A glance throughout the tram reveals dozens of strangers facing each other with cold, casual stares... two teenage girls, speaking a valley girl dialect of Dutch... a middle-aged Lebanese man with a thick, black moustache... an old Chinese woman with a red "Dirk van den Broek" bag... a scruffy-faced man in a black leather biker's jacket, gazing absently at the emergency exit signs while petting his small dog's sleek white fur...

The interior of the tram is bathed in flourescent lights the color of skim milk, illuminating the human condition. It is a tram full of Elenor Rigbies. All the lonely people-- where do they all come from? All the lonely people-- where do they all belong?

As we approach the crossing over the Amstel River, the tram slows to a crawl. Nice and easy over the slightly jagged tracks where the drawbridge separates... The moment of pause comes at the middle of the bridge, offering an impressive vista of the rain-soaked city. The delicate ancient church towers of the Zuiderkerk and the Oude Kerk off to my left; the stout silver "skyscrapers" of the Amstel business district off to my right; and thousands upon thousands of golden windows, row upon row in the tightly packed houses spanning the space in between.

The soundtrack in my head switches to Ray Charles singing "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?," a song from an old friend who never returns my messages anymore... And as I return the cold, casual stares of these familiar strangers in the tram, I am gripped with a sense of sadness. I realize that I am lonely, too. I understand that no one in this sea of humanity is capable of offering the companionship and completion for which I truly yearn. We're all looking for something that cannot be found on this tram. A higher level of discourse is required, a transcendent comprehension of completion and companionship. Do they understand this, too? The man with the dog? The old Chinese lady? The tired Lebanese man? The chatty teenage girls? Or is this truth so inescapable that it's imcomprehensible?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

a moment of pure joy

Such a pitiful scene... A cold, wet, miserable excuse for a day. Cheeks chilled and clammy, twin columns of chartreuse mucous spanning the distance between nose and upper lip. Eyes betray a sense of exhaustion and defeat...

Yet he will not go inside; he will not have his nose wiped. He spurns the warm cup of tea waiting within the house, because he cannot bear the thought of leaving his snowman and his slushy, snowy, back yard...

Indeed, this is a moment of pure joy.

Friday, March 11, 2005

eulogy for a videographer

I've been asked recently about my involvement in the video industry (or lack thereof). And considering that I spent a significant portion of my life studying telecommunications at the university level and working at the professional level, it's a fair question... Yet I find myself having to admit that much of this part of me has died over the last couple of years.

Actually, ironically, the dream-oriented and creative part of me seems to be as alive as it’s ever been. Perhaps even more so. For one thing, I find that creativity is a vital component of church leadership. Furthermore, I love to express my creativity and artistry in alternative ways (deze blog, bijvoorbeeld). Sometimes, something comes up like a writing project or even a video project-- and I find myself excited to play a meaningful role. However, I think the part of me that I’ve let die is my membership in that video technology culture. I don’t continue to read the latest journals. I don’t keep up on the latest stuff being put out by Sony, Panasonic, JVC, etc. Even when I was in that culture, it wasn’t the technology that drove me (I would always hate it when video guys would size each other up based on what kind of camera package they were working with). I was in it for the art… the creative expression. The time in my video career that I was most happy and most satisfied was when I was shooting on a crappy 8mm consumer-quality handheld camera and editing in a simple A/B roll editing suite (no effects, no bells and whistles, just simple cutting). And there’s just a part of that culture that doesn’t accept such “mediocrity.” You’re kind of made to feel ashamed if you don’t keep up on all the latest information. I just didn’t have the heart or the time to give to that culture. So when I made the decision to step out of that culture (a year before moving to Amsterdam), I knew that a part of me was dying. Since, I’ve become a dinosaur. Technology changes so quickly and opinions by professionals are so strong that I just cannot keep up… at least not at this stage of my life. But I’m actually glad to resign myself to this death as a video professional.

So now, when it comes to videography, I’m not up for jawing about the latest industry trends or ogling at fancy state-of-the-art equipment. It’s become like a foreign language again to hear someone saying, “Dude, have you seen the new Panasonic XX-1234? I’m so stoked about the future of HD technology. It’s wicked cool.” But I am up for involvement in the creative process, for blending technique and thought, and for living out artistic expression through development of the church and through re-discovering myself as a writer.

The videographer in me wouldn't ever want to rule out the possibility of a resurrection, but for now he's content to nap in the grave.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Season for Everything

I miss the cornfields on Gorrill Road. Walking that solitary lane was a respite from the pressures of life, an escape from the gravitational pull toward insanity. There was clarity in the cornfields of Gorrill Road, away from the noise, the traffic, the varied cacophony of town. Each step beyond the fringes of Bowling Green and into the countryside was a palpable move away from stress and confusion. Walking amidst the cornfields of Gorrill Road was walking with God, in the purest sense of the concept.

The transition in seasons could be easily observed from the vast fields of the countryside. Nothing changed very much in the scenery surrounding Gorrill Road, except for the corn and the weather. January and February were cold and white, drifts of snow scattered across the fields with any visible clumps of earth or broken stalks of grain standing frozen and lifeless. March and April were a time for change and fluctuation, a softening of the landscape, the fields becoming brown and black again, a smell in the air of something about to happen. May and June brought warmth, light, gentle rains, and the first shoots of green, peppering the flatland with color and life. Through July and August, the corn would grow and swell, like the climactic movement of a symphony; from small blades and tender shoots timidly peeking through the freshly plowed soil to generous husks and strong stalks towering over the land. In September and October, the green would fade to gold, longer shadows, cooler breezes. And in November and December, the landscape would gradually die, the rigor mortis of winter setting in slowly and patiently.

In those days, on those walks, I felt more alive simply knowing that the cornfields of Gorrill Road were caught in the same cycle of existence as I. Sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, I would drift through that countryside with a sense of profound, mysterious awe and understanding. I wanted to capture the experience of Gorrill Road as a testament to my own life experience. Indeed, I often thought about dragging out video or photography equipment, painting a small "X" on the asphalt, and establishing a ritual of recording the landscape to enable some kind of time-lapse view of this window on existence...

But I never followed through. In the end, I guess I felt that it would have been a violation, a pollution, a corruption of that sphere. Not just practically, but ideologically. Such an intrusion would have diminished the sanctity of those cornfields on Gorrill Road. Still now I miss that view. I yearn for those walks. I can't help but wish that I had that footage. Some solace, some reflection, some simplicity. A symbol recalling that there is a season for everything, a time for every purpose under heaven. Today, separated from the cornfields of Gorrill Road by years and by thousands of miles, I can only remember.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

tug of war

The image of a daffodil poking its way through a blanket of snow is a powerful symbol to me. The timeless tug of war between winter and spring. Hope and despair intermingled... a promise of what's to come with an unavoidable reminder of the present reality.

I hope for spring, and indeed the daffodil reminds me that it's already on its way. The days are longer, and nature seems to instictively know that something better is coming. But while the snow falls, we wait. It can be awkward and difficult... Yet with a proper perspective, the juxtaposition can be breathtakingly beautiful.