Monday, October 2, 2017

Week 96 - The Pseudo-Monthly Update (From September 18, 2017)


Stardate 45630-44
Time: 17.23..00

...I'm quickly realizing that my wide but relatively shallow pop culture pool doesn't allow me to effectively make this sort of an allusion. I don't know how to write Stardates! At least pops will get that one.

That's it. The long awaited email is actually just a poorly conceived and incorrectly executed Star Trek reference (Which I've only seen when our afore mentioned Pops tried living vicariously through his kids and had us watch a few of the movies). Weeks of silence come to a close with less updates than usual and even more bad humour than usual. I do expect to write a little more this time, though I don't imagine there would be more than a few more emails written during the 8 week period to come. This email is also the frankenstine stitching together of partial baby emails strewn about the digital landscape of like a month. Though do let me genuinely apologize for not sharing anything for so long and for the lack of sharing I will be doing. I love writing to you all. Like a ton. It's an awesome outlet and I have such a fun time telling stories and connecting dots and telling you how much I like writing you all. So, in summary: It's not you, it's me.

Alas, news!!
The same wonder, mystery, and frustration Harry describes the moving staircases from the first few books and movies would describe certain aspects of my life nowadays. We spend a lot of time working with new people. Sometimes they were what we expected, and even the people we expected to be spending time with, and sometimes some other staircase shifts into place right before planting the foot. It's exciting and fun and brings a constant unpredictability, though it's probably as annoying as being late for Potions was for our young wizard. These moving staircases of life lead to much more discovery than a singular flight or an elevator might.

There is a special homie named Brian Jacques who wrote a special series of imaginative books called Redwall... that later inspired an aspiration-driven PBS cartoon!... and this book might help describe some of my feelings towards my mission. Redwall is the titular name of a fictional abbey around which most of the action turns. That sounds like a boring piece of historical fiction!... and it might be... if it weren't for the charming part: the size of the problems/social conflicts/emotions/wars presented by the books were all affronted by small woodland animals. Instead of boring clerical stewards, anthropomorphized field mice took care of the abby. A diverse cast of woodland creatures assumed varying roles and personalities. There was the flippant hare who was big into running. There was the huge badger with the deep voice who was headstrong and stubborn. A crafty, wizened vole. A plucky, courageous mouse taking on the world. Those books hold a special place in my heart. A nightly image: Picture young Elder Hacker battling sleep clinging to a British man's recording of these books playing on an old CD player. And after months of really spending a great deal of time in the inner workings of an organized mission such as this, with missionaries coming and going, after making 8 billion phone calls to all sorts of random people scattered over France, I feel ready to compare the two! That was the point of the long ramble paragraph! You also have the flippant dude who's super into running. The huge badger full of boldness and self-confidence, sometimes too much. The young but fearless fella fighting all the problems of the world. And it's those characters that transform a logistical machine with leadership checks at various levels into the most creative and unique organization/culture I've ever known: a mission such as this. Small but varied woodland critters, or in our case, vaguely mature children, taking on the world and all it's problems. With a message that professes to be the answer to those very same problems. We've got the legendary.....
Elder Phair a Californien moved into the appartement bringing with him a goofy vocabulary that I didn't realize people really used. I've learned new uses for many classic words. Ex: "Pirate 101 is way more lit than Wizard 101 man." And that summarizes a chunk of one of my new roommates personalities. He is "hecka stupid" cool. I ran that one by him first to make sure it was grammatically correct. I've also been blessed with the company of an Elder Ethan Silva. A taller chap from who is technically Irish by birth but basically from Utah. He weaves a harmless passive agression with radical statements and a cool cucumber exterior to make his sense of humour. The number of once-strangers I've lived with continues to grow. Elder Abramson, who is the living incarnation of Dad-jokes also makes up part of the lovable cast.

"Hope is not dead." That's another thing Elder Phair said. In referring to a fellow missionary who was struggling. And that really got me thumbing through my thoughts. I'm worried and sad there is a general lack of hope nowadays. What percentage of the time am I genuinely hopeful for something? I don't think but a handful of people would auto-describe themselves as hopeful. At least for me, hope was far too often something I used to combat a hard time or struggle through something... as opposed to an attitude that defines and shapes my daily actions. It was more of an entity I looked for when I felt like I needed it instead of an internal reflex pushing me to push myself and push others. Hope is what bridges a high love to a high level of expectations. I think hope can be manifest in even the smallest of things. Imagine a day where you would be actively hoping for things at all moments of the day. Hope blossoms into confidence, trust, love, and all other manner of flowery adjectives. I'd be totally down to say hope should be a fondation of society, government, and basically all human relationships.... though it's just not mentioned enough. :(

Hope is really cool. And I'll explain why using a long backstory from my childhood! This time we turn to a television show that landscaped and designed a huge portion of my early development: Avatar the Last Airbender. Those with small smiles to wide grins on their faces understand. At maybe the midpoint in this animated series, the joyous and robust monk that protagonists his way through the show finds himself quite down. Disappointed by those around him, the loss of his best friend, probably himself, the difficulty and challenge of the next leg of the journey, and a slew of other things we've all tasted once or twice, he runs across a sign-- graffiti really-- at the mouth of a dangerous path scrawled, "Abandon Hope". And he decides maybe they should do that. Maybe they should stop looking ahead, and stop dreaming, and just place one foot in front of the other. Hoping became the much harder and more painful thing to do. After much danger, romantic subplot, the comedic relief character doing his thing, the group makes it out. Only to have a member of the group enter into labor and struggle through childbirth in the wilderness. In the pivotal and touching scene, Aang, the now calloused, hopeless, step-taking shell gets to hold the baby. And he cries. And the mother names the little baby Hope. This whole email has been referring to hope as some abstract entity that will help us all out, and here's where it becomes concrete. In my younger years, I did know how to hope; albeit I would have loved to. Though I didn't realize I needed to love my little niece and believe in her success to hope. I didn't realize I needed disinterested, unfeigned dreams in order to hope. I didn't realize I needed to have  specific names in mind to hope for things. I had to hold a little baby, or a career ambition, or a belief in God, or whatever else in my arms and cry to hope. That's why I was so bad at hoping. And hopping.

Speaking of other things of Asiatic origins!!! I have a fantastic new friend named Mieko!  I wish I could show you a picture. Mieko is a Japanese grandmother who has 4 kids. We asked her once what her husband does and she told us, "he just plays golf." And he's not a professional golfer either. Mieko is an ex-tea ceremony coach/instructor (literally that scene from Mulan with the grumpapotamus making sure people pour tea right-- though she's far less grumpy) turned professional artist studying at the school of fine arts here in Paris. She doesn't speak English at all, though she does speak a little French. We didn't really understand her well when she told us about her art the first time, so we thought she was just a nice old lady who'd taken up fruit-bowl-painting in her spare time. Once we got our Japanese translator involved (a friendly Stanford graduate named Zack Rodgers) we found out she's been featured and galleries and all kinds of stuff. So needless to say she's one of the coolest and most culturally intriguing people I've ever met. With our combined trilingualism we've been doing some translations as service and so that we might teach her. You can't imagine the affinity I have for my new Japanese grandmother!

The Versailles palace is off in the distance behind us

Blame it on television but I think there's a tendency to make episodes of things. It's that pesky desire to make things ordered and understood and clear rearing its head again. And I'm not too sure if I like that. It creates a lot more ends, starts, separations than we need? Maybe we need episodes and compartmentalism. That to say that I'm really sad and nigh hurt and the impending end of my mission. At least once a week my heart is broken by some reminder. Not to say there isn't a ton of hope and enthusiasm surrounding the other exciting adventures that await. It's more like I'd prefer the bandaid to get ripped of. Except it's more like an arm getting pulled off instead of a bandaid. Maybe two arms. An arm and a leg? That's the expression!

I love you my friends. I will see many of you frighteningly soon! Have a more hopeful week than the last week!

Look at this baby wrangling a sea serpent

This one has angel babies riding swans with bows

Versailles gardens are very large!

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