Close-lipped Mystery

As some people look at the Mona Lisa, so I look at Paris Hilton.

Her beguiling, close-lipped smile gives her a certain air of mystery and hint of reserve.

I remember, several years ago, seeing a videoclip of Paris Hilton and watching her move and speak for the first time.  I was a little disenchanted.  She is, after all, just another Hollywood star. (I wonder if seeing and hearing Mona Lisa move and speak would have been a similar experience?)

Regardless, it’s the still photos of Paris Hilton that live on in my mind, and for a time, I was fascinated.

The apex of my fascination occurred during her jail stay for drunk driving.

Do you remember the news at that time?  She was swept into custody in early 2007 and sentenced to solitary confinement.  She screamed for her mother as they took her away.

Days passed and then…she emerged.  But it wasn’t her.  Or rather, it was her, truly her for the first time.  She was completely transformed and completely herself.

Her look was different.  Her smile (and yes, she was unabashedly smiling!) was authentic.  Her eyes held peace.  She reminded me of cornstalks and blue sky and wind.  She was genuinely happy.  She had found God.

This is what she said of that experience:

I used to act dumb.  It was an act.  I am 26 years old, and that act is no longer cute.  It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me.

It was at this exact moment, when Paris desired to be a good role model for girls, that the popular media effected a ban on any coverage of her.

This is one of those close-lipped mysteries, too.

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Stillness of Life

It’s funny, but while I’ve always heard that life speeds up as you grow older — that the years spin faster and time moves more quickly — it’s also true that it becomes quieter as you age.  Minutes and moments seem to congeal into a sort of Mega-Minute; a lengthy, paused state that allows you to walk around each moment and inspect it, much as one might linger in a garden and appraise it, weed it, water it, savor it.

I’ve come to a point in life that is free of much clutter and much noise.  I’m not tied to a cell phone, I have a little job that does not rob me of sleep, and I was weaned from TV many years ago.  So now, with our children mostly grown and having work schedules and other things to occupy them, I find that I have time to reflect.

And what do I reflect on?

Nothing — and it’s the most interesting nothing that I’ve ever experienced.

But this “nothing” is not an absence, but rather a presence.  It’s not a void, but the removal of every obstruction from meeting.

It’s a still, small voice that I hear on the other end of the line.

It’s a whisper, like a signature upon the universe, which is everywhere and always there, yet hidden until noticed.

When I was a child, I heard this whisper often.  I lingered over flowers and ant hills, rocks and pebbles, and over every rough textured surface I came upon.  But then I grew older and forgot how to peer into things deeply, and so the years went their way.

But now it’s as if I remember, and I’m once again a child who is just becoming acquainted with the universe.  And the One behind it all.

Moon Lantern

I’m eight years old, playing outside in the fast-growing darkness at the end of a summer’s day.

I’ve just climbed up a little concrete trellis in the courtyard of a neighboring apartment building and am waiting for a little ritual to begin; the moment when an ornamental globe atop the trellis should be switched on.

I stand there and wait and soon in the gathering dusk the magic happens: the globe comes to life with its soft, warm light.

Now I’m insulated from the coming darkness, made secure by this light.

It’s as if I’ve suddenly become a grownup man, who sits in an easy chair in his own home with a lamp beside him, smoking a pipe and reading the paper.

Ah, all is right in the world!

But then a voice calls all too soon, calling me from three houses away.

It’s time to come in.

And so I leave, thinking that I’ll return another day, but though many days have gone by and I’ve had many a pipe and newspaper, and homes, and easy chairs and lamps, this scene still lingers in my mind as one of the most satisfying moments of home that I have ever known.