December 24, 2008


Whenever I come home, I always have a list of "life activities" which I hope to complete in my time away from school. Movies, books, phone calls, walks, yoga, meditations, eating patterns, and so on. And then halfway through my vacation, I realize I have not done enough. I haven't read enough, I haven't done yoga enough, I haven't meditated enough, I haven't been vegetarian enough (I'm a struggling carnivore). But most importantly, I am burdened by the realization that I certainly haven't given enough.

And this got me thinking. What is enough?

I think "enough" falls into three categories: (1) Having enough; (2) Being enough; (3) doing enough.

(1) Having enough: The plight of humans is the fact that we have convinced ourselves that we never have enough. The problem stems from the fact that we quantify "enough" to such extremes that it becomes an intangible destination. We never feel satiated by our current state of being. And this pertains not only to money and things, but to status, trend, and success. We don't have enough clothes, we don't get good enough grades, we aren't making enough money, our project isn't successful enough, we aren't understood enough, we aren't spiritual enough. Law school in particular encourages such thinking: get good enough grades, so you get a good enough summer job, so you can get a good enough job, so you can get a good enough partner position, so you can have a good enough lifestyle. One problem is that even if we attain what we initially sought, we tend to move the rung of success out of our reach, and convince ourselves, once again, that what we have now, is not enough. The other problem is that we tend to not even want that which we seek, and if that's the case, then we certainly never feel as "it" (whatever that may be) is "enough."

(2): Being enough: The greatest lie society tells us is that what we have is who we are. If you get good grades, you're smart. If you have a high paying job, you're ambitious,. If you have lots of things, you're successful. If you have Bibles lying around, you're faithful. If you wear nice clothes, you're attractive. Sometimes I get so irked by these lies (particularly when I feel myself believing them), that I want to run away to destination unknown, free myself from externalities, and just be me--free of labels and objects and judgments (especially the ones I put on myself). But while we do not have the capabilities to run away from it all, we do have the luxury of going inward, in silence, tuning ourselves into the frequency of God, and listening. The fear is, of course, that in the quiet and nakedness of ourselves, we may not be enough. But I truly believe that such a fear is unwarranted. We are, in our simplest form and our most vulnerable state, enough.

(3)Doing Enough: There is a scene from Schindler's List which resonated in me so deeply, that I think about it often. It is the scene at the end of the movie where Schindler is about to leave his home and factory, which had employed and hid over 1100 Jews during World War II. As he walks to his car, hundreds of Jews congregate around him to express their gratitude. And as he stands before them, a man holds up Schindler's gold wedding band and returns it to him. And Schindler takes his ring, looks at it for a minute, holds it up, and choking back sobs states, "I could have got more....I could have got more." And the man responds, "there are 1100 people who are alive because of you." But Schindler shakes his head and responds, "I didn't do enough." And he looks at his car and cries, "Ten people, ten people I could have saved with this car." And he looks at his pen and says "2 people. I could have saved two people with this pen." And eventually he collapses into a man's arm, sobbing, "one more person, I could have got one more person."

This scene makes me cry every time I watch in. And it makes me look around my room, my home, my life, and look at things, worthless things, that would only have value if their monetary worth was exchanged for an act of giving. That candle on my dresser is a cup of coffee for a homeless man. That sweater on my shelf, a meal for someone who is hungry. That decorative bowl on my table, a pair of gloves for someone who is cold. And so on. It's even harder for me to reconcile the wealth that surrounds me when I return to my parent's home. The newly upholstered couch...a Thanksgiving dinner for ten.

And if Schindler, a businessman who saved 1100 Jewish people during the Holocaust, is looking around saying "I haven't done enough," then surely I have not done enough. Whose life have I saved? Who have I helped? While I may not be living in the midst of the Holocaust, we are all living in the midst of a genocide in Darfur, famine in Zimbabwe, utter rape and destruction in the Congo, and violence and poverty in our own cities. At what point will I be so profoundly moved by the emergency of human need that I start giving away what I have? And not only do I want to start giving away unnecessary things, but I need to start giving away more of myself. And in giving myself away, I hope to truly find myself, and in finding myself, I hope to know God. I personally believe that our faith is not ultimately what we profess, but what we do. And I personally believe that without acts of love and grace and charity, I cannot know Him.

We already have, in our most minimalist state, eough. We are in our purest form enough. But what we do should never be enough, because once we convince ourselves otherwise, we
compromise ourselves, each other, and most importantly, God.

December 15, 2008


I'm heading back home today. I use the word "back" both literally and figuratively. I am literally flying home today, as in traveling. But I am also heading "back" in the sense that I am going to regress. You see, I have noticed that every time my family is together, we regress into our childhood roles. When we're not home, we're mature, grown ass people. I'm in law school doing real law school things, my brother is in business school learning about accounting, and my sister is in college engaging in philosophical discussions about social constructs. And then we get home and every day is 1989.

Scene from 1989: I'm staring into the camera, doing a choreographed dance to a "A Tisket a Tasket." And I'm really good at it... I even adlib some "doo dah doo dahs" as I shimmy my shoulders and whip my chicken legs around. My brother proceeds to run across the screen, making weird noises and holding some type of concocted gadget. He's a ghostbuster, obviously, and he's fighting the bad guys. He throws a pillow in my face and yells "you got slliiiiiimeeeedd!" "BREN-DDANN," I shriek and elbow him in the stomach. Pause. I turn back to the camera with a sickeningly sweet smile and continue dancing. My mom laughs at me (not with me) and then scans the room with her camera, wondering aloud, "where's Shannon?" And sure enough, the camera scans to little Shannon, alone in the corner, rocking away on a plastic pony, talking to herself or one of her imaginary friends, it's too tough to tell. Soon after, the camera zooms in on my dad, and he makes a goofy face, which is kinda funny, but no one really laughs (it's better not to encourage him), and the scene ends.

Not much has changed almost 20 years later. I still seek validation from my parents and try to entertain them with my trivial accomplishments (look mom! I have a blog!). Brendan spends the day playing Xbox and seeking to live vicariously through a character in a video game (He's 27, but that's ok). My dad putzes around the house making horribly corny jokes that are almost funny. Shannon is in her room, doing her own thing, and giving two shits about the scenes unfolding around her. And my mom walks in and out of each room, all up in every one's business, making comments that she thinks are funny, and laughing at us.

Part of us can't help it. We are who we are! But then there are times when we're being OTHER than who our family THINKS we are, and our family still responds as if we're the same. For example, just recently, when my parents came to L.A. for Thansgiving, I turned to my mom, gave her a big hug, and genuinely told her how much I loved having them here. My mom looked at me and responded, "Ohhhhh, you suck up." I'm sorry....WHAT??!! "Mom!" I exclaimed, "I'm not seeking validation, I'm simply expressing my love!" To which my mom laughed.

Here's another example. I come home from exams. And I'm feeling pretty good about myself and slightly knowledgeable about the law. We're at the dinner table having a conversation about politics. Somehow the law comes up. I think to myself, this is the perfect opportunity to contribute a small piece of the plethora of knowledge I have accumulated this semester. So, I chime in something about civil liberties and tell my family a story about a prolonged detention of an American citizen in Iraq. It sounds like a pretty good law school story--legal jargon, political relevancy, and exemplary of a civil rights impact litigation case. The only problem is my speech dyslexia kicks in and I add, "You can read the guy's biopsy online." Pause. "Biopsy?" my family responds in confusion. I stare blankly. "Yeah." I respond, "biopsy." "You mean 'biography'!?" they shriek and laugh hysterically. "Oh Kerry..." they say patronizingly, shake their heads, and smirk in that "you're such an idiot, I can't believe you're in law school" type of manner. And suddenly, any small bit of pride I had in my law school education has disintegrated. And I've returned to the characterure of myself from 1989.

What's so interesting about this regression is that it is actually more symbolic than I would like to believe. It doesn't just happen with family, but it happens to each of us, every day of our lives. Each day we wake up and we regress into the role we played the day before. We wake up believing that we are a certain way. Because we have told ourselves so. Because our family sees us as so. Because our friends see us as so. Because society tells us we should be so. And somewhere along the line, we started to believe that we are fixed characters. And so we start playing the part. And suddenly, we are not just playing a character, but we ARE that character.

And then we label ourselves based on these traits: I am Kerry, I am a girl, I am 25, I am straight, I am a law student, I interned here, I will be working there. And then, we begin to tell others how they should perceive us: "Oh, I'm fun, but I don't do fun things," "I'm a morning person," "I don't like watching tv," "I always do this, but never do that," "I believe in this, but not that." And the next thing we know, we've created a nice little image for ourselves. And two things can happen, we cling to the constructed roles we've created or try to free ourselves from them.

But if we're not these roles, then who are we? That's what I'm trying to figure out. I'm trying to let Kerry just be Kerry, but struggling to free myself from the confines of constructed roles. I'm trying to learn how to work outside myself, but still remain connected to my inner-being. I'm trying to be just here, in the now, but find myself creating a persona for later.

When Buddha was asked, "What are you? Are you a God or a man." He responded simply, "I am awake." And I think at the start of each day, that's all we can ask ourselves to be. Awake. Nothing else, no one else, but awake.

December 14, 2008

Hi, It's me Kerry.

I must admit...I'm a virgin blogger. I didn't even hear the word "blog" until about a year ago, and when I heard about them, I thought they were pokemon cards or something. But as I learned more about them, and even read some, I decided that not only do I enjoy blogs, but that I would like to have my own. (I have ownership issues, but we'll discuss that at a later date). And why do I want one? Well, I certainly do not think I have much to offer you. But it feels good to write, and it's freeing to share, and it's humbling for me to feel vulnerable. So, I guess, in all honesty, this blog was created for selfish reasons. Sorry :)

So, here I go. Since I started law school, my thought processes have become severely limited. I realized one day that it had been a very long time since I last pondered. Like really pondered. Or daydreamed, for that matter. And even when I tried to ponder, I found myself dissecting my thoughts in a legalistic formula--issue, rule, analysis, conclusion. Even my thoughts on God, which were once fluid and deep, started to fit into this formula:

Issue: Who and what is God?
Rule: God is _____
Analysis: Here, in Holy Book X, verse Y, God says Z. Because God is (insert rule), Z is true. While other people may argue A, those people will probably lose, b/c the judge will find, based on precedent, that God is (insert rule), and thus Z is true.

This is a perfectly sound and satisfactory argument. A winning argument, nonetheless. And although I should be proud of such legal analysis, there is only one problem... although I may understand the law, I don't feeeeell the law. And although the law is a means to an end, it is not the end itself. And, although I value the significance in rules and procedures, I kinda don't give a shit (excuse my language), because I really only want to focus on the substantive part.

Besides my dislike for rule statements, I also don't really like words. I have never been articulate, in fact I claim the contrary. I have this weird habit of making up words and then convincing myself that the words exist. Take, for example, the word "disdainment" (n. meaning disdain). I don't know why I thought "disdain" was an insufficient noun and thus added "ment" to it, but I did. I also mispronounce words wrong...a lot. I diagnosed myself with "speech dyslexia" a view years ago, which was a good idea. Because once you tell people you have a "condition," they do not think you're as stupid.

In all seriousness though, I do struggle with words, particularly their meaning. They bog me down and, unfortunately, for a very long time they hindered my faith. I spent so much time analyzing and interpreting words, that I forgot to see the story the words told. And I realize, that this happens to so many of us--we become obsessed with words. We quote religious text, we regurgitate verses, we sing hymns, and with each word, we hope to get closer to the truth. And these words can be beautiful, and comforting, and they can bring peace. But we also must note, that these words can be swords, and can bring harm.

Father Richard Rohr observed, "Christians have become obsessed with the words that Jesus spoke, as opposed to the life that Jesus lived." And this is true of all religions. We read spiritual books and texts, desperately hoping that these words will be sufficient to make us faithful. We spend so much time reading and preaching, that we forget about doing. We preach of the poor, while we step over the homeless. We preach of justice, while we seek injustice. We preach of nonjudgement, while we judge our friends. We preach of peace, while we engage in war. And despite the fact that our actions falter, we still choose to focus on getting the words "right." And I am the first to admit, that this is me.

And so, in honor of disliking words, I have decided to write a blog!! (haha believe me, I know how hypocritical and ironic this is!) But I hope that through the emptiness of my words, I can explore a language that has no words, and that is Love. And through Love, I hope to explore God.

Thanks for listening.