I wrote a poem on identity in Spanish (here it is in Spanish & English)

Video: https://youtu.be/9Z83Vzjiot8


¿Quién eres? Ellos me dijeron. No estoy seguro—jamás estoy seguro. Pienso ¿por qué? ¿Quién quiere saber?   ¿y por qué tú quieres? ¿Quieres celebrar quién soy yo?

¿Quieres apoyarme cuando alguien dice malas cosas sobre mí/mi mamá/ mi hermana/ mi gente que creció como crecí/que se parece a mí/ que hablan como yo? Me preguntas por qué tú quieres ensuciarte las manos conmigo o me preguntas por qué tú quieres ponerme en una caja donde puedes entenderme más?

Soy una mezcla de lenguas, bailes, y músicas. soy chévere, triste, y feliz. Soy hijo de miles de años de historia—cada en el mismo tiempo. Soy el guardián de mi hermano. El amigo de mi vecino. Solo hijo de mi mamá. Quiero ser liberado de la caja. Quiero una identidad por mí—para mí. Quiero escribir mi historia y que niños como yo puedan escribir la suya también.

Yo soy yo.

Si te digo quién soy no me hace más y si tú no sabes eso no me cambia. ¿Entonces, si te digo quien soy yo—si trato explicarlo—eso me ayudará a ser libre? ¿Si te cuento mi dolor intentarás entender o mi dirías que soy loco—quizás demasiado sensitiva? ¿o que ‘si dejo de ser una víctima mis matones se irán’?

¿si lo comparto contigo, quieres rezar conmigo los ojos cerrados mientras tomas mi tierra o quieres tomar mis manos y caminar? Soy poderoso. No quiero un héroe, pero me gusta amig@s. Quiero compartir todo, pero por favor antes de que lo haga, dime: ¿quién eres y por qué quieres conocerme?

Cuando tú me preguntes ‘Quién eres tú’—¿Quién quieres saber?


 Who you are? They ask me. To be honest, I’m not sure—I’m never sure. When they ask I think why? Who wants to know? And why do you want to know?

Do you want to celebrate who I am? Do you want to support me when someone says bad things about me / my mom / my sister / my people who grew up as I grew up / who look like me / who talk like me? Do you ask me why because you want to dirty your hands protesting and protecting with me or do ask me why because you want to put me in a box to understand me better?

I am a mixture of languages, dances, and music. I’m cool, sad, and happy. I am the son of thousands of years of history-all in the single moment. I am the guardian of my brother. Friend of my neighbor. Only son of my mother. I want to be free from the box made for me. I want an identity for me, by me. I want to write my story so that children like me can write theirs too.

I am me.

If I tell you who I am, it does not make me more, and if you do not know who I am, it does not make me more. So, if I tell you who I am — if I try to explain who I am-will it help me be free? If I recount my pain to you will try to understand or would you say that I am crazy, perhaps ‘too sensitive’? Or will you tell me that ‘if I stop being a victim my thugs will leave’?

If I share my stories with you, will you want to pray–eyes closed while you take my land– or will you want to take my hands and walk together? I’m powerful. I do not want a hero, but I like friends. I want to share everything, but please before I do, tell me: who are you and why do you want to know me?

Next time you ask me ‘Who are you?’—¿Who wants to know?

 

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‘The Drivers Seat’

My baby cousin just finished up college. He’s got some free time before he wants to think about and apply to graduate school. Responding to what he’ll spend the next year doing he told me that that he’s just going to take things as they come. I asked what he dreams of doing. He replied there are things I wants to do and I know it’s going to happen just as a result of living. I’ve got no qualms with that.

It’s like Lego–all the pieces we stack and how we stack them make up what the game looks like later. Yes, the pieces will certainly fall regardless of us, but we can also pick the pieces to use, choose how to place them, and where they land.

I think the later is being in the drivers seat. That allows the most efficacy in the game. Winning/losing aside, a significant part of the future of the game is on us. We can do what we want. We can make what we want.

I’m reminded of the last lines of William Ernest Henley’s If 

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
I wonder if taking life as it comes is taking ourselves out of the drivers seat. Maybe wanting to be in the drivers seat all the time is too alpha. What of our role-models? How did they live—how do you live?
What do you think?

The Invitation

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Onwards and upwards my friends.

We haven’t control of what happens to us, but we can control what happens afterwards. Response-ability. Imagine being so unafraid as to embrace and celebrate what can come from each moment. Bold. Bright. Honest. Imagine a life like that.

When it rains, do you hide or dance in the puddles?

I’m inspired by them who dance.

I want to spend my time with them; my life. The ones who remind their loved ones of their love. The ones who celebrate the darkness as much as the light; who seek the light in the darkness and in the light, reflect on the stillness of the dark. The folk who know that the world today is negligible compared to tomorrow. That tomorrow is just a factor of what we do today, and what we aim to cultivate. It’s the ones who sign up to till, dig, and build with us; without being asked.

The doers are cool, but it’s the ‘crazy ones’ who excite me.

Those people unafraid to get wet messy- to do things different. The ones who hurt, but still hold up; Struggle, but still support. The ones who ache, yet make a point to uphold, uplift, and empower. They who know moments are fleeting, but they dive in pursuit after of each one.

I’m in love with people who see the world in all of the variety it holds.

I’m enthralled by the people who see their life as greater than ‘what’s your plan.’ The ones who build large webs of experiences sometimes in wild pursuit of their passions and sometimes because it just make sense. I want to be atlas for the people rewriting the story, nixing the narrative, unbuckling themselves from ‘towing the party line’ towards doing what’s right, what’s best- what matters.

Nee how ma from Taiwan!

Nee how ma from Taiwan!
“One may explain water, but the mouth will not become wet. One may expound fully on the nature of fire, but the mouth will not become hot. Without touching real water and real fire, one will not know these things.” — @Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind 

tldr: travel, explore, run wild–whoever you are, do.

I’ve had a blast over the last few months. Departing from NY in Sept 2016, I headed for Colombia and finished off 2016 in Medellin. I spent the holidays at home and then started another adventure which took me through parts of America (Denver/Portland/Los Angeles) and now I’m in Asia for a bit. By now you know that Indian runs as deep as American does within me, but I’ve never explored East Asia.
I’m writing you from Taiwan. It’s a beautiful island with an utterly complex relationship with the Chinese and a lot to offer the world. Since I landed a split under 2 weeks ago I’ve met amazing people for engaging conversation and dialog. Some of my favorite conversation has been about the future of Taiwan.
Taiwan just elected their first Female President and are on their way to being the first Asian nation to legalize LGBT Marriage. With all the colonization that’s happened here, identity is complex for everyone. And that means they’re a bit more understanding. And a lot more relaxed. At dinner the other day some young (20s-30s) Taiwanese folks and I got into a discussion about economic development in Taiwan. It’s a market where labor costs more than non-industrialized countries, but pay isn’t nearly as high as industrialized countries. It’s also a place where people work an insane amount of hours. There are some ideas around how to make Taiwan a competitor in the global market–ideas like diversifying their manufacturing (would set them up with direct competition against German Small/Medium Size manufacturers). If you’re interested in the future of Taiwan or playing a role, my friend Jane is working on building community to attract & retain the best global talent here. Also, shoutout to the Global Shapers in town. They’re new to the scene, but damn are they poised to do something big. I’ve also been kicking it with a lot of the folks in Climate Activism. They’re suuuper cool–chemical engineers, physicists, food scientists. They’re all trying to make sure Taiwan grows green.
Food can do more for you than nourish your body–it has the power to inspire–to feed your mind. I took a trip to Jiufen with a new amigo I met at Meander Hostel. He’s an Edmontonian. I’ve got another friend from Edmonton (Nate!) and I love those guys. They’re a class unto themselves (also Nova Scotians are doope). My new buddy is a food scientists in Edmonton and wants to change the way food is used in Edmonton. One quick example is about Ramen–you can boil ramen in beef stock for hours on end and that’s how you get legit good Ramen. Or you can boil it in some hot water and throw some bones in there for a bit. Both get you Ramen and get people fed, but one is the best way of doing something. We had a really kickass conversation last night about how doing things the best way or continually better might inspire people to do things in their own lives better. For him, food takes center stage and Edmonton is where he can light that fire. American food chains are opening up there all the time and people in Edmonton, Canada love going to those chains. What if they had a better more unique option. Not building for the purpose of growth, but building Mom & Pop style where the kids are doing their homework out front and Mom/Dad are cooking in the kitchen. A really Eddie Huang story. Creating so that you can create/inspire/involve community.  I’m with it. Can’t wait to go to Edmonton and see what he makes happen.
Yesterday I took a trip with two ladies to Yangmingshan National Park. One [24] from Holland and the other [30] from South Korea. They were incredible in their own ways. The Holland friend was finishing up her Masters in International Development and she concentrated in immigration. She’d never worked a “real” job a day in her life and was massively focused on career. The other had worked as a computer programmer, an event planner, and now a marketer running around South Korea for TomTom. I was amazed by the two stories, but the thing that was most visible was that my new Holland friend was stuck in her own way and afraid of what the world had in store for her. On the other hand, my friend from South Korea was open to what could be and dove into new experiences with wild pursuit.
I’ve spoken about this Uncertainty Paradox in the past. It made me wildly happy that my South Korean friend dives forward into life. I do hope that at some point my friend from Holland recognizes what she does have rather than what she lacks. Perhaps then she’ll be interested in action.
We can all do a bit more to get out of our own way. Whatever the future is, it is what we create. Brick by brick, our actions today will create the world we live in tomorrow. We have that power and have a decision to make with it. Inaction is a decision too. =)
Warmest regards,
Marv
Jiufen, Taiwan (This city inspired Spirited Away)

Craziness

It’s February 19th, the second month and 19th day of the human calendar. The year is 2017. Donald Trump, the 45th President of America. In resistance, we often leave his name coldly at 45 — he who shall not be named. 45 does a lot to engender conversation, curiosity, fury. He frequently releases media that is borderline lunatic and undebatably sociopathic.

While 45 works to carve a throne in the White House, America has not changed.

Our constitution remains the north star for the nation, a 200 year barely revised document. The revisions that we have brought, amended the right to vote and brought people of color and women into the fold of voting — though we are still working to ensure all of the protections to them that White men and women enjoy.

White Supremacists like Steve Bannon continue to infiltrate the highest levels of policy making and the lowest levels of law enforcement. Though, today at alarmingly high numbers today. White Terrorism continues to be the form of terror that takes the most American lives. And guns continue to cut away at our community (read about this Seattle man who was sleeping with his wife in bed on a weeknight when a stray bullet flew through a house, ricocheted off another house and right into his bedroom–killing him.)

We’ve got a lot to contend with. But we’ve always had a lot to contend with.

It’s not news to us.

The nation remains a place where remarkably talented people from around the world come to pursue higher learning and bolder dreams. A nation where our own people care deeply about those around them and stand up. These days, our sense of community and shared identity seems to mesh much more. Maybe one good thing that comes of it is that we are more compassionate and act on those values.

Donald Trump is the leader of the United States of America. But, the moral arch of the universe always bends towards Justice and Americans are here to pressure that arch ever closer towards a nation where all people can be equal and enjoy the bonds of kinship, community and crony capitalism.

Originally posted on Medium. February 17th, 2017.

MM

Wasi Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. We met four years ago through the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and I’ve admired him since. Wasi is a leader in his faith community and in the Pittsburgh community at-large. In the aftermath of this week’s terrorist shooting at the Quebec City Mosque, where a White Nationalist shot dead 6 people as they prayed, his words are particularly important:

 

Sunday night in Quebec, 6 people were murdered and 5 people were injured at a mosque during evening prayers. Most people I know probably don’t know this but I actually work at a mosque, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and have done so for almost two years now. As I went to evening prayers last night I couldn’t help but think about what happened. As I looked around the room last night, I noticed a lot of similarities between the men killed and those who stood beside me in prayer. They were also academics, civil servants, small business owners, and more importantly parents, friends, and loved ones. They were from several different countries. One of the brothers killed was a grocery store owner like my father. Another two were inseparable friends who were always seen together, which brings a few people to mind for me. They were people, human beings.

But I do not see the same outrage from people as I did when other tragedies occurred. I do not see the new profile pictures or the hashtags or the vigils. Instead, I see several outlets falsely reporting that a Moroccan Muslim committed this crime. Instead of mourning with us, just more blame. It made me wonder if it had been our mosque on that night and we were killed, would the country be as indifferent? The anti-Muslim rhetoric may just be noise to some people, but it leads to tragedy for many. This attack is not a lone example of violence against Muslims, it is consistent with the trend. The FBI reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes are up 67% in America, and being the executive director of a mosque I know that most go unreported. Trudeau announces that he welcomes Muslim refugees, and then there is a shooting at a mosque. Trump announces a ban on immigrants from several Muslim countries, then a mosque in Texas is burnt down. The hate crimes spike when the ant-Muslim hate speech is at its highest, that’s simply a fact.

People are praising this ban, saying it makes this country safer. Safer how? By keeping all of the refugees out who are fleeing war ravaged countries? Over 50% of them are children. Or keeping Muslims out? You are more than 400 times more likely to be killed by falling out of bed than you are by a Muslim. The people in the world that are being killed by the thousands by these extremist groups are Muslims.

I understand why you might think better safe than sorry, and I’m not calling my friends who support the ban stupid. But it’s not that simple. We just banned the Iraqi translators who saved the lives of American soldiers. We just banned the Yemeni children who’s parents we killed and homes we bombed (10 Yemeni women and children were just killed in the first drone strike of the new presidency). We made a religious exclusion that allows anybody besides Muslims to come to this country. Our constitution won’t allow this, that’s not America.

But why take the risk? That is the definition of a slippery slope. This mind set is very dangerous, and exactly why leaders throughout history wanted their people to make decisions while afraid. With this logic, wouldn’t it just be safer to throw me out of the country as well? Muslims are evil right? Or they might be, so let’s just be safe.

Honestly, I am not upset with people because of who they voted for or what prejudices they hold, we all have some we have to battle. What makes me furious is that politicians can support this legislation and call it a victory. Nothing was accomplished. We are not safer, we are more divided. We are not progressing as a society, we are taking another step back (Also, this is being used in ISIS propaganda as we speak which makes us less safe). Keep your opinion about the borders, but please do not take this as a victory. We were promised jobs and growth and new opportunity, do not let the defamation of a few minorities suffice as progress in that direction.

And please, if you do not understand someone’s point of view, talk to them. I don’t like Facebook and never post really, but I’d be happy to message you. I’ve seen several people who forgot they were my friends condemn me and my faith, but I have not had one person ask me a question. Ask my perspective. I’m sure I hold some views that are incorrect, educate me. Just because we are different does not mean we should be divided as a country.

All I can think about is how we as a country can stomach killing civilians, creating refugees, and then demand to shut our borders to them without feeling a single pang of empathy at all. If that’s your opinion, that’s fine. But if you did not feel any pain when you made it, that’s not fine. This path, one devoid of love and empathy and communication, will not end well for any of us.