Note to Self : Open Your Eyes

I always know when I’ve traveled well because, at some point in the middle of the coming and the going, I feel my soul stretch.

As someone who infrequently practices yoga, I am very familiar with the physical discomfort that can come along with a stretch. Not a pain exactly {though the older I get the more that comes into play as well}, but discomfort. The discomfort is a feeling that says, “This is not normal. This is, quite literally, out of my comfort zone.”



Most recently, the travel that pushed hard against my comfort was a trip with my young son to Portland. It is undoubtedly a beautiful city that abounds with both natural and man made wonders for a toddler and his mother to explore. But it is also a city that deals with poverty and homelessness in a way that, for me, is almost excruciating at times.

Unlike a lot of modern “first world” cities, Portland doesn’t let its inhabitants or its visitors pretend that poverty doesn’t exist. The mouths of the hungry and the “best new restaurant” are, more often than not, nearest neighbors. The path to the newly constructed bike park is lined with the acrylic tarp and cardboard homes of those too unfortunate to properly stay out of the rain.

Portland, unlike so much my modern day world, doesn’t have an algorithm. It’s doesn’t allow me to block the things I’d rather not see. It doesn’t allow me to mute the anger and the fear and the pain of my neighbor.

Pain and anger and fear: how much of our lives do we spend simply trying to avoid these? How helpless and inadequate do I feel when, instead of hiding from these things I am forced to confront these things in myself, let alone the wider {colder, lonelier, more fearful} world outside of my control? And what does any of this have to do with creativity?

It means, I think, that we can’t be selective in what the world gives us. Eyes that are closed to the ugly cannot adequately see the worlds beauty. Ears that have muted the disturbing screams are less able to hear the thoughtful whispers. A heart that is numb can not adequately love.