Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A speech I wish I would have given

In September of 2012, I traveled to Brasilia to attend the Fulbright Enhancement Seminar where I presented and learned of the research of the 2012 Brazil Fulbright Scholars. On the final evening of our reunion, we sat around a dinner table and gave final words of farewell to our cohort. I came up speechless at the time, perhaps too overwhelmed with the experience thus far, but it is with the recent departure of many of the fellows that I find these words now, and would like to share them.

I once asked a professor the difference between going to law school and going to grad school. He said that law school is learning how to fight for the truth, and grad school was learning how to shine light on that truth. While I might argue that learning to shine that light can be a fight in itself, I guess the take away is that one is not more valid than the other, rather that they are just compliments to the same goal.

I think, rather ironically, that this Fulbright experience has shown me that I am not an academic, not necessarily because I don’t want to be, but because I’m not built for it. I guess I don’t have the patience or the ability to produce and comb through copious amounts of research, but contrary to my former opinions, I now see the validity in the products of academic research, and that your fight, is indeed to battle through all the moments of personal uncertainty to find something real, because that is what you all are essentially doing: creating some semblance of truth in this world. 

One person who has been a prevalent figure in my Fulbright journey is the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Once an esteemed economist, Salgado picked up a camera at the age of 26, and three years later decided he was able to communicate the messages he found in economics more effectively through photography than academics, at least for him. But I read once an interview with Salgado that made me finally understand why even though in most likelihood I will never become a full-time social scientist, the field of sociology has been so apparent throughout my life. He said that every photographer needs tools to their craft, and those tools are sociology, anthropology, psychology and economics, that those tools are what inform his photography and in essence what makes his images so captivating. I realize now, as a writer and photographer, that these fields are tools to me as well, but I cannot produce them. 

I leave that task to you, the future producers of knowledge, if that is indeed the path you have chosen. I know this may seem elementary, but I now see why these rigid rules of research and methodology are ingrained into the practice. They are there to ensure this truth. And I guess what I want to say is that that is how I view all of you now, as guardians of the truth, and I ask you, to protect that truth, because there are those of us whose lives depend on it.

This is the last time I will see some of you in the flesh. This is not meant to be a dramatic statement, but no, really, think about it, when do you think there will be another time where we will all be together in the same place at the same time? Given how life plays itself out and the inevitable emergence of new friendships and responsibilities, the odds are likely never. Think about that the next time you are with someone that you might never see again. After that final goodbye, they will no longer exist as a main character in your life, but only as a faint memory in the course of your continued existence. 

So with this as our last meeting and most immediate bond with one another, I want to say this to you in closing: It has been a honor, a privilege and most importantly, a pleasure, to have shared this year with all of you. Knowing there was another person perhaps experiencing a similar experience at a similar time in a similar place, made the journey easier when it wasn’t. So thank you for your work, your support, and your strength. I’ll carry all of those with me, in my own fight for the truth. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Notes from my 19th trip

It's really fucking stupid, like really fucking ridiculous, that a thing, like a police operation, a fucking shootout, is what keeps me from seeing the kids in Maré. Give me any other reason and I can take that: they don't like me, I'm not a good volunteer, fine. I'll take that. But a violence birthed out of the greed of the powerful, that I cannot accept. 

              Death will reveal what really matters in life.

To the Writers: treat your words as if they were arrows you crafted under the guidance of the moonlight. Send them out w/ intention and care, and they will not miss their mark.

Being called "a boring person" is a much greater insult than most realize.

We seal our commitments in fine sheaths of words, we must grow aware of these sheathes.

'A dying wish.' I understand that phrase much more completely tonight.

This reality is still mine

I am merely a composite of the broken dreams of friends that have fallen before me, and I am here, to claim what is theirs. 

There is not much evil can do, against a man who is in love.

No matter how far we go, Flora, there are still things I am afraid to tell you, in fear that they will scare you off. There is something about you that terrifies me, and I am not one to scare easily. 

You met me at an interesting time of my life, Marcella. Would you believe that I left part of myself the day we met? Keep it. It is yours to have.

Jonathan, I don't know if you believe in formalities or any of that business, but you've been one of my greatest teachers. A fuckin' genius.

Sometimes I think about the way I am dressed when walking down the street. I must look like a fucking maniac to some people.

It's funny how in the most serious of monologues I have in my head, I can still manage to fit in the word 'horse-padoddle' in the delivery.

        It's strange for me to lie now. It's like eating rotten fruit.

I know we don't see each other that often, Flora, but even just walking w/ you a street, or a surprise peck on the cheek, just the memory of it, save me, more than you might know. I hope you know that every moment is divine to me. A true gift from the heavens.

It's cute because as intense as we both are individuals, we still manage to surprise one another from time to time.

It would be easy to say that I hate Seattle, that I am unhappy there, but the truth is, I'm not. I actually love it quite a bit, which makes parting w/ it all the more difficult.

We need to find the humor in the personal conflicts we have w/ others. Oh yes, it's definitely there.

Sometimes I want to try on your head for a day, Desireé, just feel what you endure on a daily basis. I honestly don't think I could handle it. 

When I think of my friends I usually laugh and give a slight shake of the head at the memory of their inappropriateness. That is a mark that I have chosen well.

Money just distances us from the most uncomfortable component to our survival: human interaction.

Sometimes I see just how this is a psychopathic cycle of good + evil, that every new cause that emerges is like the only one that ever existed in the history of the world. But it is a bump, a mere sentence in this never-ending fairytale of heroes  + villains. Is there really not escape, from this sick sideshow?

If you're friends w/ me, and you know you really are my friend, you're a little bit crazy, too. That's why I like you.

Being a writer is being lucky enough to clasp onto the tail-end of a vanishing fantasy...and putting that into words.

I can tell that my fighting days are soon becoming a thing of the past, but I see now why I worked so hard in those days. And they're paying off.

Being in love doesn't mean you sit around thinking about the person all day. Being in love is a responsibility, in the other case you just need to find a hobby.

You know how Pornstars are aware that millions around the world experience orgasm to their image? I wonder if they find that complimentary or just really, really sad.

When I think about how much time I spend in my apartment, I really am just a fucking kid, allowed to live in his world.

Snake charmers are interesting people. I bet they would make for fantastic conversation over a cup of tea.

It's that part of you that says, "No. This is not how my story ends." 

When I think about it, artists are unlike so much of the public. It doesn't surprise me when people just don't 'get' their artform

I guess that is why death is so tragic and how it is sad that we've grown into a world that throws life away so carelessly. People are meant to teach us, through their entirety. And if they leave this world, this life, the lessons are much harder to learn.

When I say that I am a boxer, like I punch people in the face and get punched in the face. That must sound absurd to some people.

If all you get form me is that you are entertained. That is enough for me.

If you've upset me, you've managed to sneak into my consciousness. Take it as a win.

Not knowing what to do w/ a full, sunny day, is a blessing we are no longer afforded to in old age.

I see why they say, "Respect your elders". They know places we were too afraid to enter.

It's funny that the word for "puzzle" in Portuguese, literally translates to breaking your head open. Sometimes Brazilians just get straight to the point. 

What a beautiful mess I am. 

Jean Claude Van Damme doing splits between two moving semi-trucks is one of the funniest things I've seen in my life. Come to think of it, his name is funny: Van Damme. He has to know what's up. 

To be where I am now, to come this far, is a fucking miracle. I owe it all to people

I'm like this guy, who really, REALLY believe some magnificent war is coming, but in reality will never happen. It's like I'm training for nothing. It's funny when I think about it.

I seem to remember, quite often, the moment, where my friends, who I view as so strong, stumble in a moment of disbelief in themselves. That continues to be one of the few things that break my heart.

My diet here is ridiculous. I pretty much live off of juicing fruits and vegetables, then fry the pulp in coconut oil and eat that. That is literally what I've been eating for like the past month.

            A good laugh is a band-aid to protect us from the real wounds.

Flora's really nice. She pretends to like my cooking.

Everything she says, I have that confidence in her that I can trust that is what she really feels.

I would really appreciate it if no one says, "it makes me want to read more, what this that and that?" It's clearly an excerpt so spare me the obvious. I'd rather have your silence. It says a lot more.

I can see what she is offering in her eyes. I wonder, is that what I am afraid of? And if I run, will she come after me? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being in love in Brazil

If I had to describe the experience of being in love in Brazil, I'd sum it up in one word: humbling. It's not so much the place that dictates the nature of the relationship, more like it just happens to be the setting in which I've encountered another person to completely change my conception of life while being in love. But truth be told, this narrative could happen any place in the world, just as long as the elements of fate are aligned correctly.

To recap my situation first arriving to the country, I had just gotten out of a relationship that taught me humbling lessons about love, that the highest form of love is indeed friendship, and that sometimes people hurt you not out of ill-intentions, but out of circumstance. It was quite possibly one of the truest relationships I've ever had the privilege of living, only that I had failed to grasp the reality of what 9 months in Brazil would do to our respective life stages, and the painstakingly obvious fact that in the end, I was the one that left. I was the one who ended the weekends out to the movies, the mid-week phone conversations of where are dreams were headed, the ten-minute morning embrace in bed before she went to work. It was me who ended all of that, not her.

I remember discussing the possibility of a long-distance relationship in which she merely responded, "I think staying together will prevent you from living your life fully over there." While I protested profusely with a stubborn posture, assuring her I was well aware of how to absorb my experience abroad, in the end she was right. And all that I've felt and experienced here so far, I owe to her, for letting me go.

I find myself in a similar situation now, though with less dramatic consequences, and an opportunity to actually make it work. Perhaps it is a mistake to be writing this publicly (the included parties will more than likely be reading this at some point), but the experience thus far has been challenging, at times downright confusing. I will say the person I've met is unlike any force I've encountered before, one that is seemingly my perfect compliment and counterpart. We have similar visions of the world, indulge in the same life pleasantries, just that she sees things in people that my anger often blind me to; that the way someone is, even at their worst, is merely a momentary snapshot of their entirety, and if I am to adhere to what I've come to learn in all my travels, then it is that the core essence of people is that they are good. I guess if I am to write my feelings about her succinctly, it is that she makes me want to be a kinder person to the world.

But to be completely honest, I am not without my doubts. I guess you could attribute this to a cultural particularity or just a difference of personality, but I am often left wondering where she is, sometimes literally  where she is, and sometimes in the relationship in general. But the truth is, nobody ever knows where they are headed in life, and that trajectory could change at the drop of dime, so in some ways it is pointless to worry about a future that has no certainty of happening, and the best I can do is to live the present moment as fully as I can. But these temporary lulls of silence has also revealed some deep-seeded insecurities rooted inside of me. Why do I need to hear from her all the time? Why am I in such a desperate need of this constant affirmation that I am loved?

I guess I've learned to accept that the nature of our relationship just isn't meant to be one where we are around each other a lot of the time, but that doesn't diminish the importance of when we are together, in fact it probably enhances it. I've found that in my own pursuits, I too have little time for love, and those few precious moments that I do share with her, they are moments of healing, of rejuvenation to my soul. And I'd like to think that maybe, I'm the same for her. When we see each other now, we sometimes spend hours in a silent embrace, and I am absorbing every morsel of a cure that gives me strength to face the battlefield of life.

I suppose the thing I worry about most is that I have no idea where this is headed, and I sit constantly in the shadow of fear that one day she will leave me, that life will call her upon a path where I am not included in the cast, something that I have done to so many people in the course of my own life. I guess the best that I can do is hope that our paths are headed in the same unknown direction, and to prepare - to train - as hard as I can, that if one day she finds a calling to run ahead without me, I will find the courage to let her go; because someone once did that for me in the past, and it was truly an act of love.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Notes from my 18th trip

             Politics basically fuck everything up.

Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is to be happy for them.

There is something so strong about her light that my dark side is afraid to even show its face around her.

All I can do is hope, that our paths are destined to go in the same direction.

You're the type of person that I'd be willing to do something a second time, just cuz your presence would bring a completely new experience.

With love, I feel like I am constantly resetting new contracts to abide by, new guidelines to follow, but then a sniper element comes in, and just destroys any sense of predictability. 

Saying you would be a certain way given a certain situation, and actually being that person in that situation is the line that separates heroes and cowards.

              My arch nemesis, I see now, is cowardice in all forms.

Younger people are meant to fuck up every once in a while.

I think the goal is to leave pieces of myself in as many places around the world before I dispose of this physical being.

Boredom, fatigue, hunger, sunshine, they are all just demons in disguise.

I'm amazed at how in the most dire of situations, I can somehow still mange to be such a sarcastic asshole.

Betrayal is just a type of wound to endure.

It's like, take a moment to step back and take a collective look at the entirety of your life. Do you like the picture?

What I am afraid of is while I think she is the last piece of my puzzle, I may just be one along the way to finishing hers. But I guess the beauty in always leaving that vacant space is that the game never ends.

Sometimes I feel as if my purpose in life is to transmit people's hate through my body. A place for people to throw their disdain for the world, because that shit is hazardous.

Think about the people who have to deal w/ other people's shit, like literally their shit, their biological waste. Those people should be given more regard in society and not treated like something that they handle on a daily basis. That shit is a blessing, not having to think about our shit.

             I have to be the same refuge for her as she is for me.

God, what a pain in the ass I must have been for my parents.

To say boxers are violent w/ a sense of judgment, is saying you are not. And if that is the case, you are denying a part of your humanity.

Your greatest strength and greatest weakness often reside in the same place, sometimes the same person.

I'm certainly not the most talented fighter or the best, but you'll really have to fucking fight to get that win over me.

I once said that 2011 was all about being the runner-up, 2012 was all about winning and 2013 was all about building. That for the most part has remained true, only that, I've come to find what I'm building is completely different from what I first intended.