It's not so much the story you believe as the lie that I tell myself about you now that we can’t, or won’t, speak of anything else but history’s latest, loudest fool. We have forgotten how to praise the beauty of the earth, or to gripe about Kansas’ City’s offensive line; things indifferent. Things there’s nothing to be done about but to watch and share and marvel at in our frail kinship as shadows that range the dust for a span of years. But now we speak as if so much depended on changing every stranger’s mind; no language but argument, no volume but roar. We’ve become the billboard versions of ourselves— two-dimensional, peeling and bleached beyond recognition under the day’s steady scorch. Billboards have no history but someone saw our spaces were available and called the numbers. See? There it is again, the lie cropping up like billboards do on the side of the road, demanding one thing or another. Maybe I can’t stand the things you say and can’t understand who you’ve become or why. Maybe to console myself I ask those questions that have no answer so I can pamper my own vanities. Where did he go wrong? I’m sure you’re wondering the same about me, filling your mouth with tones of disbelief in between bites of dinner you share with newer and newer friends. But look, I promise you this; I won’t let what you say now erase our history; I won’t forget that Christmas talent show we did for our families and you helped me tie my tie, or building that quarter-scale wiffle-ball field, and turning that gopher hole into the dugout. I won’t forget the matter-of-fact way you told me that if I ate the lantana in your backyard, that I would die. I’d never even thought of eating a flower before, and all afternoon I kept wondering if it might taste as it smelled. I remember taking turns chasing your soccer ball so far down the street because you lived on a big hill and your folks were too cheap— or too neighborly—to build a fence and the way you introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail so that, within a few weeks, I thought I had a great British accent. I could go on. All these things that never mattered in any cosmic sense. We were small and young. Now we are older and have forgotten how to be small. We say all manner of things to people which should only be said to God, and probably not even to God. But whether you will or won’t you are more than the things you believe— and the things you choose to say— right now. And be your words ever so dark, so bruised with fear, I will never let them eclipse from my vision your bright and shining soul.
During conflict most of our conversations are emphatic and loud — “No language but argument, no volume but roar.” One causality is phatic, or seemingly insignificant communication — “We have forgotten how to praise the beauty of the earth, or to gripe about Kansas’ City’s offensive line.” Research shows that small conversations set up big ones. It’s so wise in times of bitter disagreement to retain the good — “the way you introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” True, none of these matter in the “cosmic sense” but by retaining the mundane, or seemingly trivial, we may set the stage to address what divides. Sadly, have we “forgotten how to be small”? – Timothy Muehlhoff
This image was created by Kip Henderson (BA Biola) for a public reading of Phillip Aijian’s poem, “Lament / Confession.” Kip works as an illustrator of everything from album artwork to video games. As an artist with a disability, Henderson seeks to create stories centered around strength and humility in the face of trial. While his art and storytelling give him an outlet for his love of creating imaginative fantasy worlds, they also give him a place to create personal stories about both his life and the lives of others around him.1