The Simba Life, Thrice

The third issue of my culture magazine The Simba Life is now live. Check out the full PDF, or peruse individual articles. There’s a listacular retrospective, an artistic rediscovery, a debate over which Relient K album is best, a coming-out story you probably have never heard before, and more.

Below is the briefing I wrote to set the stage for the issue’s theme, which was “what I learned this year.”

This year, I learned at least three things.

I learned (1) to be less skeptical of poetry, that sometimes writing a poem is the best and only way to embody a feeling, thought, or moment. I learned (2) that I love the little things at the library as much as the big ones: sharpening dull pencils at the desk; discovering stray receipts from 2012 in shelved books; picking up scraps with call numbers on them and wondering which book they led the patrons to; and returning abandoned books to the snug vacancy on the shelf they call home.

And I learned (3) that I could have died in fifth grade. I stood in my friend’s front yard in a sleepy suburb playing nonchalantly with a BB rifle as a police car pulled into the driveway, and the officer could have jumped out of his car and shot me dead because he felt threatened by the gun I had, however non-lethal it turned out to be. But I didn’t die. I received a stern warning, and I went home and cried about it when my mom got a call from my friend’s mom explaining what had happened. And then I forgot about it, until my sister reminded me of that incident after Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old boy playing with an airsoft gun in a Cleveland park, was gunned down on November 22 by an unqualified policeman responding to a call about someone pretending to shoot people driving by.

Did Tamir die because he was black? Because of the aptitude of the officer he encountered? Because the airsoft gun he wielded (stunningly similar to one I owned at that age) that a friend had just given him had its orange tip removed? All I know is Tamir is dead and I am not. The why is too sad to confront and too pressing to ignore.

There’s a fourth thing I learned this year, but it’s really the only thing: I know that I don’t know anything. What better time, then, here at the End of All Things 2014, to wrestle with the Simba Life creed—Run from it or learn from it—in the third issue of the Simba Life magazine, along with this issue’s contributors. What did we learn this year? Put on a pot of coffee and let’s find out together.