Tag Archives: Thoughts

How are we defined?

October 2018

You are more than a word. Unlike a word, you are not static—you evolve like the very Earth you’re spinning on. Unlike a word, you are not solid—you were born 75 percent water. Unlike a word, you cannot be defined with an entry in a dictionary—you redefine yourself with each thought, with each action. Don’t let yourself be contained in the limits of a word, and don’t let others either. The ones who have been replaced with a label, condensed to a noun meant to divide them from you. If we must be put into words, let them be verbs. I breath, I dream, I hurt, I hope, I love, I live, and I bet you do too. If we must be put into words let them have life. Let them be human.

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For what are we equipped?

October 2018

The world of today is a culmination of histories, the stories of the people before us. Some of its most beautiful artifacts their acts of defiance against the ways of yesterday. One day our present will be woven into that fabric—our stories its threads, our legacy creating a world for the people of tomorrow.

There has only been one you in the history of this world. And the current arrangement of stars and planets and the particles upon them has only happened once. That means each of us in this very moment are specifically and particularly equipped for sharing something of unique and intrinsic value.

Art, in whatever form it may take, is a mode of empathy. Shaping and sharing the ideas and visions unique to us helps us to really see while looking and hear while listening when others do the same. Vulnerability – through words and movements and notes and brush strokes – is something to be cherished indeed.

So whatever your medium or method, make it honest and sincere and weirdly individually you. I promise I’ll try my best to do the same, and to remember that if I have the freedom to express I also have the responsibility to listen.

Those disrupting the pattern with the art you create, the words you speak, the life you lead, the way you use your freedom—I appreciate you and your bold acts of defiance.

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Where are the boundaries?

January 2019

Most divisions that exist—between people, places, ideas—are imaginary.

…They exist only because we’ve chose to make them so. They dissolve in just the same way.

Only as as powerful as we as we allow them to be.

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How valuable is the present?

May 2018

Somewhere between spring and summer as the water of the Bosphorus is waiting to warm and the clouds in the sky are waiting to part. Somewhere between Asia and Europe as the ferry’s passengers are on their way home at the end of the day or on their way out at the start of the night. There is a quiet eagerness in the air, sensing that the wait won’t be much longer now for summer to reach the city. Maybe two weeks, or three, but for now we’re waiting, waiting. In the rows of wooden seats people are mumbling about precisely that. The ferry is the old kind..the kind that rumbles and creaks as wind sneaks through cracks in it’s welded metal walls. Not like the new kind that’s sealed tight light a spaceship and glides over the waves instead of rolling with them. The strings of a violin are being put in tune. The volume is being adjusted on an acoustic guitar. Nobody notices until the notes meet in a melody. And the strumming of the violin and the plucking of a guitar become a time portal to the present moment. And all of a sudden we’re no longer waiting – we’re here – on the ferry, in the midst of a city split between two continents, where you can stand in one spot and travel a hundred different journeys in the course of a day, like the whole world is spinning around that very point. This is a moment too, and a precious one at that. And the musicians making the music have an open guitar bag at their feet. And no matter how much change the passengers place inside as they pass by at end their day or start their night, at the end of the spring and the start of the summer, couldn’t possibly amount to the value of this moment.

It’s all we have.

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What is absolute?

October 2018

We all keep something of field journal as we travel through life. In it we chart maps, we make observations, we note the things we know to be true.

We collect moments and press them like flowers in its pages. We place a stamp to mark the place we call home. We transcribe lines of music to capture the songs that we sing.

In many ways our field book looks like a dictionary, containing the definitions of the things most powerful to us. Things like ‘love’ and ‘strength’ and ‘freedom’. We make two-columned tables of concepts we believe to have clear opposites, like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We make lists with titles like ‘who I am’ and ‘who I am not.’

We bring this field book along on all of life’s adventures, pulling it out of our pocket and adding a new line each time we encounter something we’ve not experienced before.

In these books, we are taught that our strokes should be quite firm, notes quite permanent, definitions quite solid. That we should be unquestioning of its contents and secure in what we know to be true. That there is strength in the wielding of a pen.

But the problem with pen is that it’s permanent. And if we are paying attention, it is inevitable we will encounter things that don’t fit into the categories we’ve made. Things that push the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or that contradict entirely the definitions we’ve kept for longer than we remember: That to love does not mean to own or to keep. That seeming acts of goodness can also be self-serving and selfish. That almost nothing can be condensed into just ‘this’ and ‘that.’

These encounters are a test of our ego. Because to recognize they exist is to recognize we were limited in our views, that there’s something more there, or that we were wrong all together. And I believe our reaction to these encounters is everything. That there are too many people in high places with pens clenched tight, unwilling to go back, re-read, and re-write. Unwilling to take a step in a different direction. Unwilling to sing a different tune.

But if you ask me, there is something stronger than the wielding of a pen. Something much more suited to the the filling of a field journal, to the note taking of life.

A pencil is versatile: a tip that can make marks both light and heavy, shaded or scratched, and an end that can erase them all together. A tool which embodies that what was true does not define what is true. That who we were does not define who we are. That a story can change in an instant.

Because to move through life with an open mind is to fill page after page without being too attached to the contents of any one of them. To be amazed and intrigued when something calls for our notes to be re-evaluated and re-defined. That the sign of curious heart is a field journal full of words and scribbles and sketches and very few solid lines..cover worn and pages crinkled from the constant practice of being pulled from a pocket and flipped through forwards and back.

To live is to change. That’s why I choose pencil over pen.

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What is and what isn’t.

“The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.” -Kathryn Schulz, from her TED Talk “On Being Wrong”

It has been said that humans are the only creatures on Earth which can place ourselves in situations that don’t exist. That could mean fantasizing about the future or thinking back on alternate routes we might have taken in the past.

Does it mean we are the only creatures which can experience regret? Or the only ones who can experience hope? Does it mean we are the only ones who can envision a world that is better than it is now or a life different from the one we’re living?

I think it may mean we are the only creatures who tell stories, for whom the line between what’s fact and what’s fiction is often quite fuzzy.

One of my favorite films goes by the tile Big Fish, by Director Tim Burton. It’s the story of a man telling the story of his life, and the story of a son grappling with the definition of truth. Because, you see, this man’s stories are whimsical and fantastic and strange and beautiful, driven by hope and fear and dreams and love rather than logic or practicality. The characters don’t always have names and locations don’t always correlate to a specific point on a map. Time slows down and time speeds up and jumps from past to present to future and back. The lines aren’t straight and the pieces don’t fit together with perfect angles and this the son resents. And this he struggles to understand, until he follows the footsteps of these stories himself and realizes that fiction may indeed be closer to the truth than fact.

Because – after all – we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. And all we ever know and all we can ever tell is the story of our lives as we know it, and the stories of the events and places and people that have intersected with ours.

And those stories don’t always have a clear beginning. Or if they do have a beginning it’s not one we can pinpoint and often occurred long before any of the characters even existed. So there’s nothing left to do but pick a spot and start telling from there. And inevitably we have to hop back and forth into earlier and later times to get the details right. But that’s okay because life isn’t so easily segmented into moments than can be traced like a connect-the-dots. And unless you’re looking at a clock, I’m quite sure that time doesn’t move in a straight line either, and certainly not at a constant speed, at least not from where I’m looking.

And now I’m reading a book, the first book translated from the Kurdish language to English. I’ve been reading this same book for months now, and I swear that the more pages I read the more pages add on to the end. I pick it up and put it down and read other books in the times in between. The timeline is upside down and rightside up and its settings don’t exist and it contradicts itself and admits that it really makes no sense at all. And the entire book is about imagination. And it’s one of the truest stories I’ve ever read.

We are creatures on strange journeys, guided and followed by hearts and minds all our own. And as such, we are storytellers.

“I believe that all strange journeys begin with a step in an unknown direction. To become an imaginative creature you first need to take a step and follow a route without knowing where it goes.”- I Stared at the Night of the City – a novel written by Bachtyar Ali, translated by Kareem Abdulrahman

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Are we infinite?

December 2017

“I wonder if we have endless parts of ourselves to leave behind or an infinite amount of ourselves to paint over with experiences and people,” I heard you ponder to yourself the other day, at this point in your journey.

And at this point in mine, I’m pondering the little pieces of my heart left behind wherever I go, some bigger than others. And you saw a moment the other day where I felt their empty spaces. And I guess that can happen when you live like we do. Diving in head-first to the world around you – letting it bend you and shape you and permeate you – is ible to put a strain on your heart. And what a beautiful thing that it does.

At the same time your heart gets to feel this incredible sense of fullness that it wouldn’t get to otherwise. And you get to feel this immense fascination and curiosity and wonder and love for life that you might not be able to explain. And your mind and your strength and your courage and your dreams, they’re all kind of sparky. And sometimes you can’t remember which of your dreams were dreams and which were life. And that makes it worth it, I think. Worth it in every way.

But back to your pondering—

I’m beginning to believe that the more pieces of ourselves we paint with experiences and the people we share them with, the more multi-faceted we become. By interacting and interlacing with the world around us we give ourselves depth and color and complexities and substance.

In that sense, the more we uncover in life around us, the more there is to uncover within ourselves.

In that sense, we’re infinite.

“…two pieces of random blue sky pieces that don’t seem to fit anywhere.”

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How valuable is the intangible?

April 2018

It is said that nothing happens until something moves.

A smile in return to the tip of a hat, shared stories with the person in the next bus seat, a penny left behind on a sidewalk..right side facing up.

I’ve been thinking lately about this idea of contact points, which are the most fitting words I can think of to describe the way we move and touch the world around us, how we interact with the people and moments we encounter along the way. Each one leaves an impact, big or small, positive or negative.

Sometimes those impacts are big, and those are the ones that people recognize and remember after we’re gone. But what I think are even more intriguing are the small ones, the ones that most people don’t notice, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve left behind. Those contact points, those small impacts, are untraceable..unattributable to one particular individual. Instead, they become a part of the world around them.

A moment in it’s unwritten history.

A note in a song.

Maybe that’s what comprises the energy of a place, that intangible thing which makes you feel at home in a far-away land. The songs woven into it. And we, as a part of that place, are the leavers of notes. The writers of melodies.

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What is ours to keep?

October 2018

Like a firefly on a calm night, sometimes beauty appears in an instant in front of my nose with a warm glow too lovely and too close to even think about reaching out my hand to touch it. By the time I do it has dimmed and faded back into the breeze with a trail of twinkling light. If I should chase it, it will send me jumping through the grass in my bare feet stumbling over bumps and stones as it flickers through the air above me. If I should enclose it in a jar and hold it in my hands, its light will surely dwindle the longer I pretend it is mine to keep. But if I should sit patiently and appreciate its presence in the fleeting moments it makes its light seen, maybe it will land and stay a while and share the sky with me. And we can wonder together if those stars which dot it are made of the very same things as we.

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What is ours to give?

October 2018

Wherever you may go, for whatever you make take—be it memory or a story or a moment captured in a photograph—leave something in its place. A bit of good. A piece of your heart. A dream. A wish. Something only you are capable of sharing.

So often travel can be a one-sided experience..consumption of places and the things and people they hold. Life on the other hand is about balance..a give and take at each turn. So when you go somewhere—be it for a day, a week, a month, a year—go not to travel, but to live.

Be a part of that place and the people who make it what it is. Live like the locals. Roll up your sleeves. Earn your keep. Observe without judgement. Listen without a response already written out. Skip the research. Forgo expectations. Instead, let those places and people define themselves to you. Give them the chance to tell their own story, then contribute a line of your own.

Curiosity will get you far..further than you ever imagined. An open heart and open mind are keys to unlocking the possibilities of a place..and the possibilities within yourself. Because exploring this world is both a responsibility and an opportunity. One to add depth and color within ourselves, and one to leave strokes of those colors behind in the places we’ve touched and the ones that have touched us.

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What is our responsibility?

January 2019

If we are freedom, we should set another free. If we have power, we should should empower somebody else.

…Sometimes giving someone the gift of your unexpecting, unjudging, undivided attention is freedom in itself.

A gift we can give, no matter how much is in our pocket.

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What should we expect?

January 2019

Reality has a way of mirroring expectation.

…What we put forth is what we get back.

Expect to find beauty and beauty you will find. See the light in others and light they will share.

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Where is there art?

January 20The most creative act we will ever undertake is the act of creating ourselves.

…A work that we may never finish. But that perhaps the artists to come will use our

Living is art itself.

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What is the trouble with maps?

August 2017

In life it’s not easy to say where one moment ends and another begins, like chapters in a book where you can pause, mark a page, and jump back in right where you left off. No life’s not like that.

One moment flows into the next and placing endpoints between them seems like a tedious task. To make things even trickier, time itself doesn’t seem to flow at a steady pace. I get the feeling that if it weren’t for clocks we’d find it moving faster in some parts and slower in others, dependent—I think—on how close in proximity our brain is wandering to where our feet are planted. I think happiness has a little something to do with that too.

Even so, moments in time do exist. Usually they can’t be defined, and neither can the impact they’ve had on us, but they’re there, they’ve happened, and they’re happening all around us right now as I’m piecing together these thoughts I’ve scribbled down on various scraps of paper.

Maybe we can’t define those moments with words, but perhaps we can in the smiles we’ve smiled, the tears we’ve cried, and the people we’ve shared them with. It seems to me that what we really are is a collection of all the things we’ve experienced up until now. In that way, perhaps the most beautiful gift someone can give us is their story, the story of the moments that make them up. And if those moments are best defined by the world around us, then maybe that’s what we are after all—the world, everything we’ve touched, and everything that’s touched us, both the good and the bad.

Maybe not. But I do like the sound of that.

There are times in our lives that are the big ones. The weighty ones. The ones that shape all the times to come next. But the funny thing is, those are often the very moments that feel simple and small while they’re happening, passing by quietly and appearing insignificant to an outsider looking in. Sometimes we ourselves don’t even know their significance until after we’ve lived them, when we stop and think about the person we were at the start and realize it’s quite different from the person we are now.

And that’s where I am today translating scribbles into type, somewhere in the midst of those significant moments, unable to say precisely where until the passage of time has given me a bit of perspective and wisdom. In this moment I myself am a  collection of all the things I’ve experienced until now..the things that made my eyes wide, my mind spin, and my heart race. The people too. The ones who stopped me in my tracks, spun me around, and sent me off in a new direction. I am result of the world as I’ve encountered it and who I am now feels quite different from who I was when I began, from the inside looking out at least.

I decided to make a map. A map tracing the path from where I came to where I am.

If I drew this map overlaying the globe you could follow a line from the heart of the USA to the heart of the world, a city defined by its inability to be defined, smack dab in the middle of Asia and Europe, East and West, Ancient and Modern, Peace and Chaos. You could then trace that line across the Bosphorus, down to Israel, and over guarded walls into the refugee camps of Palestine. You could follow it behind the wheel of a beat-up old car to the corners of Lebanon and Syria, and atop the back of a camel to the Bedouin camps of the Arabian Desert in Jordan. You could run your finger from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, up into the clouds circling the misty mountaintop villages of the Black Sea in Turkey, where people live as close as they can to reaching up and touching the stars. Round and round you’d trace this map, across the Aegean to Greece, along the Adriatic to Bosnia, over ups and downs until you’d follow the path right back to where I started.

The only problem is, I’m not where I started at all.

That’s the trouble with maps, you see. What they don’t tell you is that it’s never really possible to go back to the beginning, at least not with all the bits and pieces you had when you began, but maybe with more than which you started.

So I decided that instead of a making a map I’d take a trip down the rabbit hole, to the corners of my brain and the center of my heart to figure out how it’s possible to be standing right where I began yet, at the very same time, in a place that I never could have expected.

It all started with a question, a question that was never really answered. But that question led to another. And then another. And in a way, the path between those questions is my map. It’s not an organized map, by any means, a proper narrative where things fall in order and connect from page to page, beginning to end. Rather, it’s random and weird and incomplete and certainly not entirely pretty. But I guess that’s how any good rabbit hole worth exploring should be—a little bit scribbly.

..to be continued..if I can figure out how the rest of these paper scraps fit together.

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What is the meaning of ‘intimacy’?

January 2019

Maybe intimacy really means honesty.

…If that’s the case, I have been more intimate with strangers than people I’ve known for years.

If that’s the case, perhaps we should all be just a little more intimate with ourselves.

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What is the meaning of ‘vulnerability’?

January 2019

Vulnerability is perhaps authenticity by another name.

…Both are exquisite.

Both are rare.

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What about the spaces in between?

September 2016

After crossing out of Palestine but before crossing into Jordan, there is this weird stretch of no man’s land that doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. Just this strip of pavement lined by barbed wire fences in the middle of the Negev Desert. It’s a strange feeling; standing somewhere barren and beautiful, alone, not knowing quite where you are other than ‘in between.’ I think it’s kind of special—a space that can’t be defined. It’s not here or there. It just is.

And I got to thinking about this idea of spaces in between. Particularly, the periods of our lives that lie within where we came from and where we’re going. An undefinable pin somewhere on the scribbly roadmap of life.

Those periods of time are innately uncomfortable. They’re fuzzy, they lack answers. But what if we could accept them for their beautiful inexplicableness, like that strip of pavement somewhere in the middle of the Negev Desert? What if instead of tension we felt energy, instead of discomfort we felt wonder for the infinite possibilities contained in this very undefined moment?

This idea of embracing the spaces beyond definition isn’t limited to periods of time. It applies to people, beliefs, ideas—life. It’s easy to say that something is on or off, right or wrong, good or bad, but rarely is anything all one or the other. It’s more complex to acknowledge that relationships and choices and thoughts fall outside of those boxes. And maybe we can’t describe them at all. And hey, maybe we don’t have to.

When we can take that person or belief or idea or that undefined moment on our journey and simply accept it for what it is, whatever it is, life becomes less rigid. It becomes flexible, fluid. Our inclination to categorize turns into curiosity for the shades and hues of colors we haven’t see before. There’s freedom there, and truth, somewhere on a spectrum with no endpoints. Infinite shades of grey are more honest than dimensionless blocks of black and white…and lots more fun, if you ask me.

My favorite way to think about things which can’t be defined is in terms of who we are, our identity. Am I an adventurer? An artist? Am I young and reckless? No, that’s too simple. I’m something much more complex. It takes intention to live in this world without categories or labels. It takes bravery too, to say “I’m not here or there. I’m not this or that. I just am.” (And that other person is too!)

So let’s appreciate the periods of life in between milestones. Trust that wherever we’re headed is worth the journey. Accept the moments in time that aren’t quite here or there. Embrace the people and ideas that aren’t easily defined. And let’s always remember to love ourselves—whoever, wherever, whenever that might be.

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February 15, 2015 · 8:26 am

What is our most value possession?

January 2019

Perhaps the most precious thing we own is our story.

…The only thing we own that transcends time and space.

The only thing that is truly ours.
I believe the most precious thing we can give is a piece of out story. If someone should give you such a gift, treat it with the utmost care.

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Hi, I’m Lauren. Born in the Midwest and living in the Middle East, I’m on a bit of a personal mission to reduce the spaces between.

With endless questions and an extra helping of curiosity I created this blog as a way to reflect on the places that curiosity takes me and the answers (bust mostly more questions) I find along the way.

My hope with Miss LaQuist is to collect, share, connect the dots and one day make sense of what it means to be a member of this human family and resident of this global village.

I hope you will comment, message, share, and if nothing else..follow that spark inside you that has the potential to light up the world.

Best wishes,
Lauren


Have a story, bit of advice, or maybe just a hello? I’d love to hear from you!


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All material on this website may be shared or reblogged on other sites so long as a link directly back to Miss LaQuist blog is provided.

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