AHA 20 Deep: Introduction and Prequel in Montreal

     This piece is a narration of my road trip with my brother.  It happened at the beginning of the summer and it went through Canada and the United States.  It would be helpful to inform the readers about the characters that are continually mentioned throughout this journal.  Christian is my little brother and he was the only one who traveled with me on this journey.  I will also consistently refer to a character named AHA.  AHA is my mom’s green Honda accord that bore us crazy teenage/young adult boys through Canada, halfway across the U.S. and back to Woodstock, Ct.  AHA is the car’s name because that is the car’s license plate tag. The name of the essay is called AHA 20 Deep because we drove AHA through 20 states/provinces.  They are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Quebec province, Ontario province, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 

What do I make of this trip with Christian? How do I interpret my experiences and comprehend what transpired in those eleven days? It’s not an easy task considering that we lost ourselves in a world that was so different and distant from Woodstock, CT and Wenham, MA.  In such a short amount of time, Christian and I journeyed over an insurmountable amount of miles, made our home in some of the most beautiful places on this planet and spent time with people in whom I never wanted to leave the presence of.  We lost a part of our internal composition and acquired new parts of our mental, emotional and spiritual anatomy.  It’s a difficult task in itself to identify what was lost and gained of our internal selves.  I redefined what traveling means to me, what photography means to me, I became a little more addicted to my special friend and her family, added more fuel to the flame for my desire for the road (without negating my appreciation for the homeland) and developed a cosmic brotherhood with Christian, one that was never established before.  What do I make of that?

Mine and Christian’s relationship changed dramatically over the course of this trip.  The agent that was most present in facilitating change in mine and Christian’s brotherhood was silence.  Christian and I would be in the cars for hours without saying a word to each other.  Many times, the passenger would be asleep while the driver was vibing to music.  There would be other times where both of us would be awake and we wouldn’t talk to each other at all.  Silence is such a beautiful, yet disciplined art to practice.  In many spaces that I have existed in, I have found that people are afraid of silence.  There are times in which a group of people will be sitting together and everything will go silent.  It is at that moment when somebody will declare with social confidence, “awkward silence,” which then causes the group of people to laugh in a nervous manner.  Why there is this expectation for something to always be said in social situations?  I think there are many times in which silence can provide something more beautiful and deep than words could ever.  This is my experience with Christian.  We were just sitting in those two seats next to each other, allowing a fluid passage of energy to permeate between ourselves.  This is what I mean when I say that Christian and I entered into a cosmic brotherhood.  We let the energy, the spirit, the Christ to enter into that space and bring about a closeness and understanding that Christian and I had never experienced before.  The cosmic Christ is an idea introduced by Alexander Shaia from his studies from the Gospel of John.  Christ is not just this man whose story is told in a few books of the Bible.  The cosmic Christ is this energy that flows all throughout the universe that brings about peace, joy, excitement, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and an overabundance of love.    Shaia chooses to identify this energy as the word, “cosmic Christ,” because it’s what makes most sense to him and his experience.  Interestingly enough, Shaia does not confine the ability to access this energy to be particular to the worship of the Christian god.  Whatever energy danced between Christian and I, it brought about greater compassion and love for each other.

It’s an interesting experience seeing Christian when he comes back from camp every once and a while this summer (this specific section was written in the summer) because I feel that we understood each other better than we ever did before.  I also feel as if there is something unique that he and I possess that nobody else possesses.  That’s what is so beautiful about traveling with other people.  You will have memories and a relationship with those people on a level that nobody will be able to have.  I have developed relationships with certain people that I have traveled with that nobody else will have with that person.  It is also important to note that those same people could have a relationship with other people they have journeyed with on a level that I can never comprehend.

The first couple days of the trip were spent in Montreal with not just Christian, but also my mom and sister.  This is because we were visiting my brother’s college.  We were able to see the Montreal Olympic Park, Botanical Gardens and Old Montreal.  In the Botanical Gardens in the Japanese Garden section, they have a bell that is symbolic for Japanese Peace Day.  On that day, which is the same day the U.S. A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the bell is rung.  The bell doesn’t make any sound though.  The beauty and power of silence.  I also appreciate it because it is an engagement into a very spiritual and humane exercise, while also making a subtle mockery at the inhumane actions of the U.S.

On the first night, I was trying to play around with different styles of photography.  As a result, I wanted to take pictures of people.  I was desiring to take pictures of anybody, but ended up finding myself taking a lot of pictures of people who appeared to be without homes. Why is that? Most of the times, it was because those individuals didn’t seem worried about people looking at them or it was because they were sleeping.  What I came to realize is that when I was taking pictures of the people who appeared to be living on the streets, I was victimizing them and their vulnerability.  Every day, those who do not have homes or much money will act vulnerable, embarrass themselves and sacrifice their dignity to ask for money to be able to survive.  When I was taking pictures of them while they were not looking, I was taking advantage of their vulnerability and abusing them and stripping away their dignity even more.  There were some of these individuals who were sleeping on the stairs of the church.  I love that imagery because it represents the poor making their home in the house of God.  I don’t know if that church tends to be welcoming to the poor, but nonetheless, I’m sure that that spiritual abode is more of a home to some of those homeless people than some of the other people who attend service there on Sunday.

To read the next part: AHA 20 Deep: Running Through the Six with No Woe’s

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