29 April 2006

Night Church and Snoring.

The two obviously go together, right? Well, maybe to the untrained eye, they seem like a randomn noun and verb placed together with a super cool conjunction. But I promise they are connected.

You see, my dads snore. Not obnoxiously, or in any omygodthereisabearinthehouse sort of way. They snore in the sweet, I'm-safe-here sort of way. I came home the other night, after a long evening of hanging out with friends and other misadventures, and as I walked through the kitchen, I heard the soft rumbles. I got closer to their bedroom and sure enough, they were sound asleep. And I felt safe. The same way I feel when I hear my dad cough in the morning in the bathroom growing up. He does it every morning after he gets up. Just part of the routine. Or the way I would listen to my mother walk around downstairs in the early hours before I had to get up. Safe. At home.

The next night or so, I discovered night church (or NatKirke, in Danish). I went to Our Lady of Copenhagen Cathedral on a whim and entered a candle light beacon of peace. Quiet, but not dead. Peaceful, not sad. You could go light candles, sit and pray, or just be. Every 7 or 8 minutes, a soloist would sing a prayer for a couple of minutes then the church would again plunge into reflective silence.

And I found it there. Home.

This past week has been rough. After three amazing weeks around Europe, coming back to Copenhagen and realizing the amount of work I have left has been nothing less than daunting. That in addition to missing home has really just worked its magic on me.

But these two highlights reminded me that home is here and at Elon and in Fairburn. Home can be where you feel safe and wanted and loved. I'm that with my parents. I'm that at Elon. And I'm that here.

I can make it for sure.


26 April 2006


250,000 disabled
9,000 homosexuals
1,900,000 poles (non-jews)
5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses
500,000 Gypsies

6,000,000 Jews

remember what happend, so it won't happen again.
remember the holocaust.
[yom hashoah]
holocaust remembrance day

Day of Silence.

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I
am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth
movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My
deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by
harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe
that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting
these injustices. Think about the voices you are not
hearing today.
What are you going to do to end the silence?
Today, thousands of students will be passing out cards with the statement above printed on it. They are remaining silent to raise awareness about the silence imposed on people around the world everyday because they are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender. Though I cannot join them in action today, I support them with my whole heart--and encourage you to do the same.
check out the website.
In memory of those who lost their life to silence. Be the voice for those who can't have one.
The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

24 April 2006

Copenhagen: Three Months Back.

Recently, I have been waking up with the creeping suspicion that time is fleeting. It’s not really a pervading thought, just a soft awareness that the time I once had in Copenhagen is no more. Then I look at my Calendar. 4 weeks. Wait, hold on. How did 4 months become 4 weeks?

One of the most remarkable things I’ve learned about Denmark, Copenhagen, and the Danes is that they all have the ability to be supremely redeemable. Take, for instance, the 3 month long winter we just experienced. “It will surely be spring by the time you get back!” That’s what my peers and I heard from every direction before we left on our three week long study tour break. Spring was coming! Get excited. I came back. Spring, apparently, didn’t come with me. Maybe it didn’t get the memo to show up in Copenhagen right around April 19.

But just when you have that day that you think, in the words of my friend Montana “weather be damned, the Birkenstocks are coming out!”and you suffer through a day of wet and cold and windy (the triple blow) without substantial footwear, and you go to bed thinking ‘what have I done? Is there such a thing as spring in Denmark?,’ you wake up to a warm morning. Well, at least warmer. And as the day progresses, you find yourself sitting by the lakes in central Copenhagen writing about Spring. And you think, “God, I love this place.”

Upon closer examination, it does seem like spring is certainly on its way. Trees, if you get close enough, are flooded with buds bursting to bloom (like that alliteration?). The Jon Quills are all out as are Daisies (which are surprisingly more vibrant in sunshine). People are soaking up the relief of spring—sitting on benches, running, walking, and just being…outside. At long last the winter spent in a series of connected buildings, bus rides, and train stations has given way to spring.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so glad to see this particular season in my life. Ever. I’m sure I was always excited for its beauty. But at home, in Georgia, it meant not only were flowers in bloom, but also pine trees. Everything turns a putrid neon green. And I mean everything. If you are outside long enough, you come inside looking like you have an eerily green jaundice. No lie…OK, well maybe exaggeration (but, hey, I come by that honestly—just talk to my parents).

But as I watch people (my favorite hobby at present), all I see is happiness. Smiles and contentment—each one glad to be relieved of their heavy winter coat (even if that coat is only to be replaced with another “spring” coat). But all the same, the heavy is gone. Swans are sprinkled along the lakes, white tales high in the air like wedges of Swiss cheese (complete with holes—sorry…I had to) as they search for food.

And sunshine. There is sunshine, and, believe it or not, this is the best kind of sunshine. It’s the sunshine that doesn’t allow itself to be beaten by wind, nor does it make you too hot—just warm and perfect.

Now, three months back, had you told me that this day would come, I probably would’ve believed you. Two months ago, I might have believed you with all I had in my heart to believe with. A month ago, I would have found me resigned to the lackluster winter (and just excited to be turning 21). If you had told me a week and a half ago that Spring was on its way, I would have looked at you, scoffed (at least in my head) and labeled you a wacko (again, at least in my head).

But as Gurney would say (a life-long neighbor in Fairburn who makes delightfully good cakes), “Well, I’ll be…” Sure enough spring came. And with it, Spring brought redemption to Denmark. As well as a whole bunch of pasty white legs in running shorts.

Spring also is a reminder that I will soon be departing. The day will come, in the near future, where I will have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made that have practically become family. To the two men who have wonderfully functioned and transitioned from substitute parents to real ones and told me that the tattoo WASN’T going to happen. (Actually, Per said “Jon, it’ll be hot now, but what will you look like when you’re fifty? Stupid, you’ll look stupid. And saggy.”—that was more than enough convincing for me). I also have to say goodbye to this place which welcomed me with open arms, even when my arms were closed to it.

Whenever you get sad about something ending, some chirpy little brat always pipes up and exclaims, with great conviction “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yeah, check. I always want to slap that person. I’m not sure I won’t be able to be sad to leave. But this is for certain, I will be smiling—primarily because it happened. What an amazing three months I’ve had here. And what a work filled, but exciting month I have left.

Here’s to the experience of a lifetime and realizing just how lucky I am to have had it.


22 April 2006

The Art of Pilgrimage.

Recently, I was avoiding work by browsing past writings, and stumbled upon this essay I wrote as part of a scholarship to study abroad. I had to read a book entitled The Art of Pilgrimage, and was asked to reflect on it. The book, by Phil Cousineau, is marvelous. In any case, I thought it was interesting to look back on how I was feeling and what I was thinking before I left on this journey. I've included pictures from my study break. For more (there were three separate trips), look here. Also, you can click on the photos to make them larger.

“Go without hate, but not without rage. Heal the World.” –Paul Monette

“Yet the Lord pleads with you still: Ask where the good road is, the godly paths you used to walk in, in the days of long ago. Travel there, and you will find rest for your souls.”
--Jeremiah 6:16

When I first approached the idea of studying abroad, it was more because the opportunity presented itself than an actual overwhelming desire to live a different life. The notion of studying in a country half a world away became appealing to me after I began to be introduced to the far stretching differences that exist in the way that different people lead their lives. I knew we all approached life differently, but what really grabbed my attention was the ability of others to be happy in their lives that were so drastically unlike my own. Even more fascinating, was that the more I researched, the more I realized that while on the surface we all seem different, there are threads that run deep through the essence of humanity and connect us together.

These threads became even more apparent to me this past semester as I worked with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. This experience threw me into a world of realized injustice and the revelation that such injustices are perpetuated because of ignorance of the ways and means in which others must exist. The real turning point for me came when we I read the quotation above. Monette’s simple yet piercing plea challenged me to look into the possibility of the world that lay beyond my classroom experiences. Maybe in order to heal the world, you have to experience it from another perspective.

Cousineau’s book, The Art of Pilgrimage, encouraged me to take my newly renewed passion for change to a deeper level. One of the lessons that struck me was to look beyond the mistakes or mess-ups, and find the holy in everything. Also striking was a Kabir quotation he referenced. Kabir writes “If you have not experienced something, then for you it is not real.” Cousineau comments on this quotation, explaining that pilgrimage is the same way. He describes pilgrimage as “the art of movement, the poetry of motion, the music of personal experience of the sacred in those places where it has been known to shine forth.” My obligation on this experience is no longer to simply study, but it is now to learn and live. I want to know what it is like to be the outsider, the new guy.

My months of preparation for this trip have been marked by visas and permits, ID cards and e-mails, but more importantly, they have been made alive by deep thought surrounding the purpose of the trip. The author notes that “all our journeys are rhapsodies on the theme of discovery.” As I study, live and grow in Copenhagen, I don’t expect to stay unchanged. I see my Atlantic crossing as a crossing into a self of new possibilities. It is the chance to truly experience a different life, another culture—all the while grasping and discovering the commonalities that cross cultural and geographical barriers.
Most vital to my journey, The Art of Pilgrimage has offered the reassurance that it is acceptable to search for God in the midst of my travels. It is easy to relinquish one’s faith to the prospect of adventure, but this text has allowed adventure and faith to mingle as I search for the spiritual roots of my beliefs.

Denmark seemed exotic—who really goes to study in Denmark? As I read the book and thought about the journey I was about to embark on, I realized that it was hardly about the book smarts or the name value, but it was about realizing the call within and the necessity to answer it. Maybe in my search for the answers, I can begin to identify with those who feel like strangers in the land I call home. And maybe, through that ability, I can find another avenue to access my faith and my God.


16 April 2006

My Grandmother Died Today.

Well, not today this year. But on this day in 1989 she passed away. I was four when she died. The only real memory I have of her is a single hallway in her nursing home before her death. I remember pushing her down that hallway in her wheelchair and her roommate eating something that seemed like soap. I remember her cold funeral and mama crying. I've seen pictures since and heard stories. Grandma Pittman was beautiful. I miss her, even though I never really knew her.

This morning I was in a taxi with my friend Ree on my way to the Dublin airport, when I suddenly thought how I'd like a little coke. To outside people, this thought might seem like a passing thought. But what is unique about it is that my grandma would always ask (or so I've been told) when you came into the house if you'd "like a little coke." Then I remembered that today was the day we lost her.

I think Easter might very well be my favorite holiday. It makes it all ok. It's easily the most dramatic of the Christian holidays. It's a veritable rollercoaster ride of emotions. Beginning with the penitential season of Lent, we are walked through the weeks leading up to Easter constantly being reminded of what lays ahead of us for Christ and ourselves, always trying to prepare for what's in store. Then comes Palm sunday and the triumph of that day. Things are going well, right? Think again. Maundy Thursday arrives and we are faced with the grim reality of what the next day holds. We share the Lord's feast, breaking bread and passing the cup commemorating the first time it was eaten. In the simple actions of sustenance, we find ourselves dreading the next day.

Good Friday arrives, and with it comes the solemn reality of death. It seems like we lost. Crosses are draped in black, churches are dark. Saturday doesn't hold much improvement.

But just when you think you've had all you can take. Just when you think it's hopeless and pointless and over. Just when Christ's words "It is finished" take on their most direct meaning--it is over--Easter morning dawns and defeat is no longer an option...only life.

Only life.

Flowers are everywhere, crosses are dressed in pure white, celebrating the ressurrection, and all the doubt you had about it all happing according to the plan vanishes in the triumphant simplicity of "it worked."

That's why I can't really be sad for my grandma, for not knowing her. Because It worked, I know that the loss of this life is inconsequential in comparison to what we have coming.

Easter is a grand reminder of the promise we have and of the future we look forward to.

Thank God.


14 April 2006

It is finished.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in HebrewAramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the Nazoreanthe King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,Aramaicin Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19. 16-30

12 April 2006

And so it begins....

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26. 26-30

10 April 2006

Moscow, St. Petersberg, London...you know how it goes.

The past week and a half have certainly been a whirlwind.

St. Petersberg was the first stop. They city itself, particularly at night, is amazingly beautiful. It's really a rather romantic city. But it's cold. (I know, it's Russia...right?) And it's dirty. There are apparently no emmisions standards because there is some hardcore pollution. And it's angry. Not in any particular GRRRR sort of way, just pissed off. Everyone seems mad, and it rubs off.

Everything was huge there too. From the monumental Winter Palace to the 4 minute long escalator rides down to the Metro, it seemed like everything was 10 times bigger than it needed to be.

After a visit to the Hermitage and several walking tours, we made our way to Moscow on the night train. Seven hours later, we arrived in Russia's capitol.

(I should state somewhere along here that I felt like death-on-a-stick for the better part of my time in Russia, so obviously that reality colored my impressions of the massive country.)

Moscow was much different. Very metropolitan, the city is vibrant with life. What was particularly fascinating was the extent that Russia's soviet past lingers on. From constant walking through metal detectors to a very present police and military force, it was clear that the country was a people working through a lot.

In Moscow, we toured and rode and walked and toured. The most surreal moments of the trip were spent in Red Square, where I had flashbacks to the 1989 World Book Encyclopedia set that my mother brought home from Palmetto High School when it clossed around 15 years ago. I remember reading about the USSR, and seeing pictures of St. Basil's Cathedral (with its colorful coupolas). I was there! I saw Lenin's moseleum, walked around the Kremlin and by the river.

I think Russia, while offering an amazing experience, also gave me real insight into the reality of America. We think we are better than everyone else.

I can hear the scoffs now. "No, we don't!" Yes. You do, and so do I. I walked around Russia half the time that I was there, mumbling in my mind about the lack of efficiency, commenting on the constant military presence, or making general assumptions about the culture. All of which point to one thing--the thought of superiority. And what irritated me even more about it was that I didn't want to be. I'm not supposed to do that, to think that. But I did. It was there, regardless.

Something to work on, I suppose.

Right now, I'm in London. I'll head to Dublin on Thursday, then back to London for two more days then home to Copenhagen to finish out the semester. Crazy.

much love to all at home.


01 April 2006

The Top Memories (Good and Bad) from Vienna/Budapest Spring 2006

After a day of rest, I have decided that a good way to debrief Spring Break Part 1 would be to list out some favorite memories of the trip.

Bus Ride:

(1) Whoa. 24 hours. Enough said.

(2) Upon entering Slovokia after a mean looking Passport agent passes by. Jon to Mike: "If he wanted me to pee my pants, all he would've had to do was say 'boo!'."


(1) Needing reassurance and the apperance of St. Stephen's Basilica.

(2) I don't care who you are, farts are funny.

(3) warm weather, what? Do I still know how to dress for that?

(4) What a view!

(5) Folklore show in which it was clear that our group was American, with a capital A.

(6) Gellert Baths, massage, warm water, naked people. faded elegance. wonderful.

(7) Climbing to the top of the tunnel overlooking the chain bridge and watching Budapest at night for and hour or so. Simply amazing.

(8) Outdoor Cafe's


(9) Don Giovanni at the Statsoper and falling asleep.

(10) Having a nun and priest mistake Brittany for my girlfriend.


(12) Some of the most beautiful churches.

Just some thoughts.

Check out pictures of my adventures during spring break here. This is NOT the same link as before.