Tag Archives: philosophy

Expo Pens

21 Apr

Mary's bathroom mirror

I reached for the faucet, looked up, and saw red lines covering the reflection of my face in the mirror. Maybe I should be concerned that my first thought was that I was obviously bleeding severely from my face, but maybe blood means more to the heart than red Expo pen on glass and what art isn’t painted with blood anyways? I’m glad my instincts are still in tact.

I wonder if we began to write more once we invented washable markers. I wonder if we became more eager to create once we had pencils with erasers. Without the threat of permanence, I wonder if we began to take advantage of our freedom to express ourselves without the fear of contributing to cultural posterity. It seems more likely, however, that we did nothing but provoke our perfectionist tendencies. There’s too much pressure that comes with creating art that can be erased. We feel the need to wipe away mistakes until perfection is achieved instead of simply accepting the work produced on the first try. When using a permanent marker, letters are different sizes, circles don’t come out round, but humans aren’t perfect. Even God didn’t get creation right on the first try and, unlike sinners, even a flood won’t wash away a Sharpie’s mistakes. With such permanence comes a sense of relief. A Sharpie shouts, “You better love me as I am!” while an Expo pen yawns and tells you to do better.

The problem with our reliance upon erasers is that our lives are not like the whiteboards we hang above our beds, in our kitchens, reminding us of appointments and needed groceries. Society imposes a great deal of pressure on us to not only be the best we can be today, but the best we could have been yesterday. It’s as though we’ve been building the cities of our histories with cement when we had thought it to be sand. Our need to rewrite the past leaves us spending more time scrubbing at our mistakes than laying bubble wrap for the future. We find that our efforts are in vain, attempts to erase past situations proving as successful as removing stains with spit. What’s done is done and our actions claim more than ourselves. We are not only writing our lives in Sharpie, but with a pen whose permanence influences the ink of those around us. When we go back to change the lines, we see that someone else has already finished the picture. Even with Expo pens in our hands and infinite amounts of time, we probably would never get a perfect circle, but when we all draw together, we can get pretty close.

Looking at Mary’s mirror, I wished the message of love had been written in Sharpie so that we couldn’t erase it and forget. Of course, I was naïve to assume that the words don’t reach beyond the bathroom into the past, present, and future. Those words are made permanent every time hellos are said in the mornings, tables are set for celebrations, smiles are shared over jokes. Those words are engrained into a life and every life that encounters that life and other lives in turn. They are made eternal by scars that are never formed, by wounds made unnecessary, by goodness. They become our daily chants as we redefine disability. They live on forever in every hug that reassures us that we were all penned perfectly the first time.

Decorating my room!



15 Apr

Last night I realized that not only can I hear the Disneyland fireworks from my room, I can see them too. If I stand on top of my night stand, push my head against the wall, and look through the glare of the window, I get a pretty nice view. Luckily, I’ve seen it before from the bowels of that magical place, but I don’t exactly remember how the story goes. Some evil queen tries to take the magic from the park, pirates blow cannons over the castle, the audience is reminded that dreams really do come true. The castle turns colors, music is set in time with the explosions, Tinkerbell appears at all the right moments.

Watching a Disneyland fireworks show from your window is the urban version of stargazing and seeing a plane fly by. You can’t help but wonder who is on the plane, why a handful of seemingly random people all need to go to the same place, from the same place, at the same time. There’s a story there. Maybe it doesn’t involve evil queens and fairy dust, but it’s a story nonetheless. Even if it is only a story about peanuts and Sky Mall, to some it is the most fantastic story ever told. Leaving home, returning home, family reuniting, new jobs, new houses, vacations, adventures, questions. How much human potential and anticipation can fit in such a little box?

The same can be asked of Disneyland. Lines are long and restaurants are crowded, but that congestion is created by people. People don’t simply surround us with stuff, with the insides of vacuums, but remnants of stories and reminders of life. When humans mark their territories, nothing is insignificant. A candy wrapper left on Main Street belongs to someone who chose that specific item because of a third aunt’s cousin’s grandfather’s preference for it. A line for a roller coaster is the temporary home of a kid that wore his Superman shirt for a reason. Your blue Prius is parked in the Daffy Duck section of the parking lot next to a Suburban that was born in Massachusetts, lost a mirror with a teenager in Nebraska, chipped its paint with road trippers in Central America, blew a headlight with a mom in Tennessee, and is now owned by two grandparents from Beverly Hills that can’t believe that Disneyland is open that late. Find the story there.

They always say to be nice to others because you don’t know what stories they are telling in their footsteps. I say to be nice to people regardless, but know that the holes in their sweatshirts and the scars on their knees are not a result of accident. We would never be bored if we started to trace the threads of our blankets or wonder why there are scuffs on the floor. Collect all of the stories held inside passing planes and you will never need works of fiction. Real life is exciting enough.


7 Apr

The priest asked us a question. It was a rhetorical question, but when he asked us to tell him the traditional Catholic Holy Thursday ritual, Stephanie raised her hand and said, “It’s the washing of the feet!” Yes, the great washing of the feet. It’s the ritual that never fails to showcase how much we would rather be watching the service from our couches than the pews. Let God take a year of my life before anyone comes close to these bunions. Strike me down with your strongest bolt of lightening if these toenails are touched by anything other than my lavender luffa and these two rightful hands attached to the same body.

Forget that feet are a reflection of what we’ve been through, telling stories of what we’ve made them endure and how far we’ve made them travel. Forget that feet are the only part of us that can most accurately predict the future, ignoring the doubts and assumptions of our minds and leading us to places we thought we understood. Forget that feet are the greatest mascots of simplicity, reminders that moving forward is instinctual. Forget that feet are beautiful and look fantastic in a nice pair of cowboy boots.

Instead, remember that we probably invented rhetorical questions because we are afraid of answers. Thoughts don’t leave the brain fully formed, emotions don’t leave the body with stickers of approval, and even the most detailed of maps can’t tell us where we are walking. Remember that our feet are about as far from our brain as possible, evolution telling us that our thoughts only pretend to pave the roads we walk. Remember to trust.

There’s something to be said for autopilot, for a dog’s ability to find its way home, for those moments when all you want to do is sit under a tree and there just happens to be a park nearby. To offer your feet is to sacrifice control, to realize that you never had it in the first place. It is to begin to answer rhetorical questions and abandon hope of ever saying anything coherent while doing so. It is to be excited on Holy Thursday mass when the priest comes by with a pitcher of water and asks you to take off your shoes.


3 Apr

Swearing is becoming quite popular in our house. While this is nothing new for Sarah and Stephanie, it’s surprising now that Mary’s favorite expletive is no longer “Oh brother!” I do miss her old phrase, but there is something satisfying about tucking her into bed, her neck cracking as she lies down, and having her tell it like it is. When the world has handed her such a burden in life, a bit of profanity only seems appropriate. Of course, once settled into bed, she’ll talk of those who are suffering worse than she. Is that enough guilt for you, world?

Although we lose clean water and social approval, it can be gratifying when a filter goes out. Despite an ability to wakeup with the impression that each day is a new opportunity, a new beginning, there is something to be said for the weeks, months, and years that are slowly piling behind the filters of our histories. We try to ignore the backup, try to remain pleasant despite conflicting orders from our emotions and impending breakdown. This is why we go to movies and watch reality shows, waiting for someone else’s filter to break so ours don’t have to. Aristotle defined it as catharsis, an opportunity to reflect on the characters’ emotional breakdowns on stage so that we won’t have to go home and have them ourselves.

In this house, however, we are the ones putting on the show. Now, I am not asking for a game of dodge ball with the dinner glasses, but it’s possible that a little swearing is just what this house needed.  It is a reminder that maybe we should look underneath a fountain from time to time, take note of all the dirt it has collected over the years in order to spurt out clear water on the other side. Maybe Connor’s tantrums and Mary’s expletives are a bit of spring cleaning. Maybe I can chuckle every time Sarah passes my door with a string of expletives in toe. But then again, at five in the morning, maybe not.

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