New York Night by Gabriel G. Scheller

New York is beautiful.

I forgot how much I missed it.

So much life in this city. American remix.

Culture rich city. I’ll move there someday,

just to see the breakers dancing in the subway.

There’s no music there; the sound system’s busted.

D-line. Old man, hands calloused and crusted.

The music flows out of his fingers to his violin.

Bach. Dvorak.

I don’t know which one it is,

but it’s beautiful.

The notes send shivers down my spine.

So crisp and so clear, from his soul to mine.

Moving on. Late night. Lost.

Times Square.

Eerie neon piercing the cold winter air.

The streets are packed.

I bump a shoulder. I’m sorry.

Thousands of people, each with his own story.

So many eyes, so many faces, so many mouths.

One in particular manages to stick out.

A creature with many eyes; they keep blinking at me,

opening, closing, keepin’ a beat.

Its voice, its cry, warm and mellow. Its skin,

shiny gold. Carmel. Yellow.

The streets. The people. The music in my ears.

I throw him some change from my pocket;

I played the sax for 8 years.

He asked me why I stopped.

I didn’t have an answer.

He started again. I walked away faster.

Time to go. Where’s my train?

I hope I don’t get lost again,

but I make it on time.

Seventh Ave. MTV.

I remember that hot dog stand.

I’m actually early.

Good thing;

 Gramma woulda’ been worried.

I walk to a shop.

Penn Station is huge.

Buy some water.

Two men lookin’ used.

They have a tired, sad look in their eyes,

like their spirits are broken,

like they want to cry,

like they been to hell and back.

Put down their beers.

They were Brian and Tone.

They’ve forgotten

more than I’ve known.

A comment,

as usual,

about my ‘fro.

Be proud to be black.

[© GGS 2005, all rights reserved.]

Poetry and Art

The poets and artists silence us pontificators …

For Gabe, a poem by Chuck Liu

Kitchen Cabinet Cross by Richard Gifford and Lenny Bernotas

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Art and Inspiration by Gabriel Scheller

Art is passion.

Art is emotion.

Love, anger, hatred, bitterness,

hope, dreams and beauty

reflected in lead, ink, paint and film.

Art isn’t what’s popular.

It’s not spoon-fed baby food

consumed by the crying infant of society.

Society is crying for passion.

The type of art that captures.

Captures that moment.

That tear. That smile.

That laugh. That touch.

We all find solace in art

because it reaffirms

the feelings and experiences

we thought we only had ourselves,

but didn’t have the skill

or courage to express it.

An artist opens his heart. His soul. In the hopes

that just one person

finds solace in not being the only one.

Money doesn’t drive me.

The bottled up tears of my peers

are what inspire me.

[© GGS 11/2/05]

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[note: I had intended to post Gabriel’s film parody of MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL) today, but was unable to upload the file to YouTube. Perhaps another time. One of Gabe’s goals in auditioning for Next and The Real World was to manipulate the manipulators … even as he himself struggled to resist being manipulated by commercial influences.] 

A Tribute to Gabriel Gifford Scheller

Fall 06 007

Gabriel Gifford Scheller was born in Neptune, NJ, on November 27, 1984. He was the delight of his family’s life from his earliest days on earth, and welcomed a brother into his heart when he was two-and-a-half years old.

At age four his neurologist suggested IQ testing to get him into kindergarten early because he was so bright. His parents complied and were a bit stunned at the results. He was published for the first time that year in Highlights for Children magazine. He wrote this poem about being a different color than his family:

” A rock is a rock.

You don’t get different;

you just stay the way you are.”

Gabriel performed in his first play in 1st grade at Antrim Elementary School in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. The play was “The Little Red Hen.” It was an after-lunch classroom performance that his mother missed because she had fallen asleep with Gabe’s little brother. He never let her forget it. There would be many other plays, most of them at Trinity Bible Church, under the direction of Angela Derby and Cherie Carl. Gabe’s comedic gifts were first exercised formally at TBC.

In second grade, he and his family moved to the ethnically diverse city of Long Branch, NJ, and Gabe entered the Gifted and Talented magnet program the following year. He was published in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Junior magazine sometime after that. (This work is temporarily MIA.)

He began playing the clarinet and then the saxophone in 3rd grade at the behest of his parents … and always insisted he would never thank them for the privilege. This discipline afforded him the opportunity to perform with the Long Branch High School Marching Band at 1-2 Yankees playoff games, a world series game and a Yankees ticker-tape parade.

Beginning in elementary school and into high school, Gabe played baseball with little success, but much enjoyment.

His creative gifts were extensive. From early childhood into adulthood, he made cards and gifts for his family. His cards were always brimming with wit and humor. His artistic creations were elaborate, such as a lifelike origami replica of his dad and a polymer baby Jesus that adorns our family creche. He also wrote and performed many skits and began writing a novel while still in high school.

Gabriel’s generosity came naturally and began early. He began working at 14 years old, and delighted in purchasing deeply thoughtful gifts for the people he loved.

From the middle of 5th grade through 8th grade, Gabe was homeschooled along with his brother and we enjoyed many off-season trips together as a family. He also spent many hours working with his dad and grandpa renovating their rental properties. We called it wood shop. He spent the summer before his freshman year of college working for his grandfather as an iron worker tying steel on a major railroad bridge project in Newark, NJ.

Gabriel was a varsity scholar in high school and was inducted into the National Honor Society as a junior. He needed a sponsor and chose Reverend Elmer Jackson, president of West Side Christian Academy and summer camp in Redbank, NJ. Reverend Jackson strode regally to the stage in in his purple and gold kente cloth attire at the induction ceremony. Gabe followed and thought it would be funny to purposely fall down the steps as he exited the stage. He got a lot of laughs, a sprained ankle and a stern lecture from mom.

In his recommendation letter, Reverend Jackson said this about Gabriel:

“Gabe never complains, he accepts challenges readily and undertakes his assignments with an infectious enthusiasm. During our after-school homework club, Gabe has demonstrated great capacity to explain academic concepts to our students. He demonstrates the needed patience required for our special students while he works in class or during play breaks. His service has been deeply appreciated here. Gabe is one of the finest young men that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His work ethic is inspiring. Our organization and students (who actually stand up and cheer, if they get the chance, when Gabe arrives) are the better because of him.”

During the summers that Gabe volunteered, Bruce Springsteen took Reverend Jackson’s small group of campers to lunch and then into his studio to record some songs. Gabriel participated in two of these recording sessions. (The recordings are also MIA.)

As a high school senior in California, Gabe began working at Boomers Amusement Park in Irvine. He returned to this job when he was home from college on summer and winter breaks (except for the summer when he taught film at Camp Winnebago in Fayette, Maine). He interned at the TV Guide Network during his summers at home.

At Wheaton College, Gabe was well known for his infectious personality and creativity. He recruited friends to perform in his films, wrote and performed a thoughtful rap for a chapel service and competed in the annual talent show. As a sophomore, when his friends were caught in the infamous televised girls’ soccer game streaking incident, Gabe willingly confessed his supporting role. He used his creative gifts to provocatively challenge racial apathy and injustice in this community. As a member of GUP (Global Urban Perspectives), Gabe found friendship, camaraderie and an outlet for his passion.

One professor wrote this in an email: “[Gabe] was one of my most creative and talented students. I thought of him often and wondered what he would do with his many interests.  We shared many discussions in my office of his hopes and disappointments, and, as you know, he was a young man that had far more going for him than he could understand at the moment.  I’m saddened that we do not get to see the outcome of maturation. I was confident that passing through this particular stage of questioning and struggling, he would flourish, not in spite of, but because of the fortitude and pursuit required.”

After graduation, Gabriel worked as a manager at Boomers and then briefly as a car salesman. In February, he went to work for his dad at AllBrand Windows and sold 65 windows to his first customer. On March 22, he performed with great success at the Belly Room at the world-famous Comedy Store in LA. The club management did not believe that Gabe had never before performed stand-up comedy professionally. He was in final rounds of consideration for an upcoming season of MTV’s The Real World and will appear in an episode of MTV’s Next this summer.

Gabe’s gifts and accomplishments extend far beyond this summary and begin and end with his love for others, as evidenced by this music review that was published in the Asbury Park Presswhen he was 13 years old:

It Will Survive! Gettin’ jiggy with that ’70s music

“‘ We are Family,’ ‘Play that Funky Music,’ ‘Macho Man,’ and the ‘Hustle.’

These songs were the ‘Macarenas’ of the 70s. On ‘Pure Disco 2,’ there is a truckload of ‘I loved this song when I wa your age’ music.

I was at The Wiz with my mom and my brother. My mom was checking out the CDs while I was playing a kickin’ game of MDR on Playstation there.

My little brother came running over and said, ‘Gabe, guess what? Mom is buying ‘Pure Disco 2.’

I have to say that I was kind of shocked. I know my mom is weird, but this was pretty extreme even for her.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘here comes another one of her dumb CDs.’

We got home and my mom put ‘Pure Disco 2’ in the CD player right away.

‘I Will Survive’ started playing and she went nuts. She started dancing like only my mom can, yelling and singing with the song.

I thought it was really stupid at first, but then I thought it looked kind of fun to dance like that.

Soon I joined her and we were dancing together. The music finished and I was out of breath, but it was a lot of fun.

Anyway, the CD was really cool. It has a lot of keep-your-feet-moving kind of music, which surprised me.

I recommend ‘Pure Disco 2’ to anyone who likes to dance. It is really a bust-a-move kind of CD.”

Update 5/8/03:

I neglected to expound upon a defining element of Gabe’s life. He was a Christian. As an infant, he was dedicated to the Lord by his parents. He made a private confession of faith as a child and later chose to be baptized by immersion at Trinity Bible Church. In high school, he was a member of the Long Branch chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and was the student leader of the club in his senior junior year.

On the day Gabriel died, he made a public profession of his love for Jesus when a woman came into his workplace to evangelize the sales team. Rob Speight, the former TBC pastor who married Gabe’s parents and dedicated him to the Lord, flew to the service in NJ from Chicago (along with his wife Chris) and prayed the final burial prayer committing Gabe’s body to the ground and his spirit to our Lord.


Celebrating Gabe Fridays

Our friend Lenny Bernotas, pastor of Trinity Bible Church, preached a powerful sermon at Gabe’s memorial service called “Grace for Gabriel.” One of the many things that stuck with me from the message was Lenny’s admonition to remember how Gabe lived, rather than how he died. He quoted from Philippians 4:8

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

What good advice …  wisdom from God … wise, peaceable, etc.

Today is five weeks. I’d like to redeem this anniversary by dedicating it to a celebration of Gabe’s life and legacy. I’ll begin with a poem I wrote about him 10 years ago. Next Friday, I’ll post some work of Gabe’s—a poem, rap, cartoon or video. Something that celebrates his life and incredible gifts. But first …

Gabe

You came sparkling into the world,

a firecracker bursting multicolored across the sky,

your soft brown skin glowing with delight at

everything your eyes beheld—

I loved you from the first.

You spoke in sentences sweet

when barely a year had passed,

and when the wedding bells did ring

a granite floor was laid beneath your tiny feet.

The Lord has made a miracle,

he’s made one bright and true;

he sent it shining through the night

to come reside with us.

Never from that swollen golden crimson time

until this frozen grey has

my heart known a moment without

beating just for you.

[original poem © cas, 1998]

[photo: Making Scary Faces with Mom, Fairless Hills, PA, 1986]

 

NPC Wrap UP

 

The National Pastors Convention ended at noon yesterday. I’ve been to many conferences over the years, and I must say this was one of the most enjoyable. Beeson Divinity school professor/author/painter Calvin Miller touched on why this was true for me. In his session on Celtic Christianity, he described how different events attract different audiences. I was at home with this audience. Not only that, but the organizers were wonderful hosts to us journalists. I’m sitting right now at a dining room table covered with books, some of which the publishers would, no doubt, like me to mention. This brings me back to my first post from the convention. In it, I mentioned the fact that a session moderator had asked the audience not to blog about it. At least three others have now done so. Specifically, he asked us not to blog “provocative one-liners” and then he or someone else jokingly stated: “What happens in the Critical Concerns Courses stays in the Critical Concerns Courses.”

When I was at the Better Watchdogs Workshop back in September, we had a discussion about when groups that actively seek publicity suddenly bar the press from reporting on a public or semi-public meeting. There was not clear consensus on what to do in such situations. I said that I would comply with such a request, but vocally protest it and take it into account in future reporting, which is what I have done here. Let me add another thought: If authors and their publishers don’t want the press to report provocative one-liners, perhaps the authors should refrain from spewing them. It seems to me they do so to get a reaction. Both audiences and we in the press might also do well not to take the bait. Better to ignore declines in discourse than to advertise them.

Speaking of Calvin Miller’s session “Praying as a Creature to the Creator: Finding God in the Thin Places of the World He has Made for You,” this was the only talk I attended for personal edification. I have appreciated Miller’s writing and looked forward to hearing the sage speak in person. For the life of me, I can’t tell you what he said. Partly this was fatigue, partly it was his speaking style. He was like a whirling dervish, flinging out poems and jokes and sturdy bits of wisdom with some sense of structure, but a structure I couldn’t follow. I suspect I might be like him as a speaker, struggling to express something coherent—only I don’t like chaos. I’d also skip the fat American jokes, as any regular reader of this blog can attest. (I’m sure the attractive, ample woman beside me didn’t appreciate them either.) And I would skip the multiple reminders to buy my new book, though I think he can be forgiven since he mentioned that his previously held eschatology had fooled him into not planning for his golden years until he was in his fifties. I had already bought The Path of Celtic Prayer at any rate, and don’t regret it.

I only wish I had gone to hear Jim Wallis talk about his new book, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America, instead. I had heard Wallis on Thursday evening in a short interview with Efrem Smith. Even Smith was skeptical of Wallis’ protestations that he is not advocating a Religious Left to counter the Religious Right. Wallis said he is preaching spiritual revival, for without it, neither party will effect real change.

Krista Tippett‘s interview with Bishops Rucyahana and Wright was impressive. She picked up on some of the themes I spoke with Bishop Rucyahana about regarding the Anglican splintering. (Wright corrected my reference to it as a “split” in my interview with him.) I encourage anyone who cares about our world to check the Speaking of Faith website for the air date. Currently, an interview with the late John O’ Donahue is being featured. I’d never heard of O’Donahue until bloggers began reporting his death earlier this year, and then a dear Irishman who is not a churchgoer told me his “relations,” as he calls them, were friends with O’Donahue. I’ll be acquainting myself (and my friend) with him shortly.

Long after the convention site had cleared, I spent 30 minutes with N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham, England. Wright gives fully-orbed answers to interview questions and I had a lot of them to pack into a short span of time. They centered on two themes: his thoughts on the Anglican “splintering” and his thoughts on what Phyllis Tickle calls “The Great Emergence.” I’ll not share what Wright said about the Anglican situation, except to say this: He rejects the critique of Dr. Vinay Samuel in The Anglican Mainstream that his position on the Global Anglican Future Conference is essentially racist. I intend to explore this theme elsewhere.

As to his views on the emergents, he spent time with some of them at Soularize in the Bahamas last year and thinks there are some serious Christian thinkers among them. He hadn’t heard of Peter Rollins, who has been described to me as the premiere “emerging” philosopher, and was unfamiliar with Rollins’ more questionable ideas. He thinks the emerging church is a reasonable response to the modernist mega-church construct. A couple times Wright had said post-modernism “preaches the Fall” to arrogant modernism. I asked him if he didn’t think post-modernism communicates an arrogance of its own. He agreed, which may be why he is stressing “post-post modernism,” an idea he defined for Tippett. My notes are unclear on this point, but he said something about the church leading the way forward as society is fumbling about between modernism and post-modernism.

Here’s what struck me about Bishop Wright:

That he is a brilliant scholar and orator is obvious. I have now heard him talk passionately about the importance of prophetic voices several times. (I couldn’t agree more.) In this context, at the closing communion service, he gave an erudite description of courage as the culmination of countless small decisions over time that lead those who have it to make incredible sacrifices when it counts. So I asked him, “Who are our prophets?” He was a bit startled and said he had been speaking theoretically. After a minute or two, he named the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. For example, he said Williams had effectively argued against euthanasia before the House of Lords. I threw out a couple American names. He affirmed Jim Wallis, even if he disagrees with Wallis in bits.

Here’s the thing: In the preface to Wright’s new book Surprised by Hope, he confesses to potential critics that he has not really known grief. He has not known grief. Sit with that thought a moment. He talks about courage and prophecy as theory. Well articulated ideas are vital to life and society. I am grateful for them. As a journalist, I sometimes feel inadequate in the face of them, but I have been intimately acquainted with grief and have known something of courage. Such experiences change everything about how one views the world. My enthusiasm for Wright is a bit chastened by this revelation.

In the Intro to Philosophy class I attended when I was interviewing Dallas Willard, he mentioned three kinds of knowledge: reason, experience and authority. I can lay claim to the first 2/3 of the equation. As a journalist, 2/3 of a whole may be enough to find the gems amidst the bunk. There were a lot of gems at NPC.

[photos and text © cas, San Diego, CA, 2008]