Trees

"Paris! Paris!" they shouted.
"Beirut, Beirut," some whispered.
"What can we do?" I asked.
"Bear the storm & seek the sun," said the trees.
"But Trees, do you not snap from the force of the storm?" I asked.
"Sometimes," they replied. "All the more reason to be rooted together."
"That is a wise thing, Trees. But what of the hurt? You lose so many," I said.
"The losing will always hurt. But the standing helps."
"That's also a wise thing, Trees, but hard to do."
"The world is a hard place. It is why we forest & grove together, making the soil soft."


I wrote this yesterday in pieces via Twitter. Sometimes, it’s easier to work out grief and tired frustration in tiny bits. I shared it with a few people, and it seemed to resonate. So I share it with you.

From Beirut to Paris to Yola (and minutes ago Kano, another Nigerian city), it’s easy to lose yourself in the emotional exhaustion. How, unless it is our loved one, do we keep up with grief in this world which seems so content to hand us so much? At some point, we just don’t. We accept the numbness to the violence, to the images of death and hate, and we live our lives as best we can knowing that we’re surrounding by terrible things that await just beyond the light of our tiny campfire.

Which is why I talk to trees about it. Or to the breeze or the stars should the trees be otherwise occupied. But the trees are the best listeners. They remind me that time is long, stretched to accommodate ring upon ring upon ring. That time is hard, hell-bent on stripping protective bark. That time is lonely, content to outlast the best and the worst of us until all our noise is the quietest quiet. We can learn a lot from the trees. I think we have to, lest we give in to our anxieties about how we can possibly make it in this hard world. And maybe some of us will give in. Some just do. But if we collect ourselves, grow ourselves collectively, then maybe it’ll be that much easier. Maybe we can love others when we can’t love anything else. Maybe they can do us the same kindness. Maybe. And then, maybe the world will be a place of trees again, which is a nice thought.

Encountering Homelessness

Check out the rest of Logan's series on friendship.

Working at Network Coffeehouse, the goal is to be friendly. Christians being friendly; that’s what Network is. That’s what we do.

Sounds pretty simple, but oddly this makes answering questions about what you do a little challenging. The never-ending question that follows after I’ve explained this is, “Do you have success getting people off the street?” or “What do you do to help people get off the street?” or “How many people get off the street there?”

People want to hear about goals and a narrative of meeting those goals. Numbers tell a surface-level story that is easily accessed, digested, and understood.[^1] Goals and mission statements are a narrative about what an organization will do. It’s a pitch. We then act within that story to conform to the pre-constructed narrative.

But Network is about encounter. Narrative—our attempt to construct meaning—only occurs after encounter has already taken place.[^2] John Hicks, the guy who founded Network, says, “We are friends with real-life poor people.” Friendship takes encountering another person and opening yourself up enough to be encountered by someone else.

The second part, opening your heart to another, is the really hard part. Ryan Taylor, the co-director of Network, has been saying for a few months that a major part of coming to Network as staff or a volunteer is encountering the beggar within you. When you serve the poor, especially at a place like Network where the distracting varnish of goals and pre-set narrative is nonexistent, you will encounter parts of yourself you otherwise try to ignore: racism, prejudice, anger, sadness, loss, loneliness. Every shift I run at Network I meet myself at my very best and my most callous, passionless worst—sometimes in the exact same interaction.

In a nutshell, I found myself saying this at a professional networking event last night. Let me tell you, people looked at me like I was a crazy person. This, too, reveals our poverty. Our unwillingness or inability to encounter a person beyond a narrow narrative constrained by success and failure is a kind of societal violence we participate in without even thinking about it. We minimize each other and ourselves when we fail to encounter each other fully.

Pay attention. It’s the only currency that matters.

  • [^1]: Kierkegaard calls this “glittering externality.”
  • [^2]: Narrative often (always?) functions as a way to gain power over our experiences or the experiences and actions of others.

When We Are All Armed, We Will Finally Have Full Security From One Another

There’s been another theater shooting. This time in Louisiana. This is not crazy. There’s nothing abnormal about this situation. When we are gathered in public spaces, we should now expect to be shot. It would be crazy to think otherwise.

Black people in America have been telling us forever, basically, that they expect violence at all times. They are wary of it. They look for it. They carry themselves in a certain way to fend it off. They are not crazy. The rest of us have been crazy. But no more.

Now we can join them and experience violent force established by government, codified in law, and supported by a vocal, extremist fringe of this country at all times and in all places.

Those who support the violent status quo would have us arm ourselves. When we are all armed, we will finally have full security from each other. No longer will we need to relate to each other as anything other than a possible threat. We will all be rogue actors within the indistinguishable morass of violence we have created together.

Violence is our purpose and our aim. It is our revelation. Our telos. Our eschaton. Our apocalypse. Violence gives meaning to our lives. We should expect it at every moment.

Stephen Lee Beggs

The anniversary of my dad's death is right around the corner. I've been thinking about it recently, and about how I learned he died. I think about him often—not always fondly—but I have to admit that in years past I have completely forgotten to observe his death. Not every year. Some years. Payback for all the years he forgot my birthday, I guess.

I don't know what's different this year. I'm a father now. I guess that's part of it. Just a minor life change. You know.

Still in grad school, I woke up late. Listened to the traffic slide by our Nashville apartment. Listened to the neighbor downstairs coughing. I pulled up the covers and turned on my side. Grabbed the iPod Touch off the bedside table and checked out Twitter. Jumped on Facebook.

Who's Sean Fonseca?

"Logan, I think you are the right Logan. I see you changed your last name. I am your cousin Sean, from your dad's side."

Oh, that Sean Fonseca.

"I am sorry to deliver this news, but your father, Steve Beggs, died yesterday of a heart attack. Please call grandpa. I know he would like to talk to you."

I'm sure there were some other pleasantries and condolences but I've deleted my Facebook account two or three times since then and I don't remember them.

I can't think of a more bleeding edge way to find out your dad died than through a Facebook message.

I immediately put down the iPod, got out of bed and went to the computer to read the message again. Something about a bigger screen. I called Elizabeth, told her I was fine stay at work. I read the message again. Wrote back to Sean. "Thanks for writing. Sorry you had to be the one to deliver the news. Will write more soon."

I felt a lot of things. Relieved mostly, sorry to say. It had been three years since we had spoken father to son, son to father. It felt like the time was coming to mend things, and I didn't look forward to managing a relationship with him for the rest of his life. Well, no worries now.

But I also strongly remember—I suppose it's beside the point—I also remember reading Sean's message again and sitting back in my chair, sighing, and saying to the empty room, "Fuck Facebook." To this day, when I tell someone the story they get a funny little pained expression on their face, and they kind of laugh and say, "Really?" and shake their head. "Yeah, I know. Facebook, right?" Hah hah.

I don't think it means anything or tells us anything about who we are. It just is. It's something that happened to me. And fifteen minutes later I was walking to my Kierkegaard class wishing I felt sadder about it.