Friday, October 26, 2012

Icy Cold, Burning Alive

Unbidden, thoughts storm through my mind like a nor'easter, random, feckless, chaotic,
Torn, three souls instead of one, ripped between what is, what was, and what will be,
Madly, tormented and tossed like so much chaff,
Nerve-wracked, afraid of doing something - anything - yet equally scared of doing nothing,
Alone, surrounded by aliens, puppets, automatons, and slippery eels,
Uncertain, sureness and clarity seem like someone else's purview,
Irresistible, coldly forced by a faceless, shapeless Fate, but impelled toward naught,
Unattainable, peace and purpose,
Grieving, for losses real and imagined,
Regret, none for I am human and the plagues I suffer made a mockery by,
LOVE, its flame so bright, so hot, it casts back the shadows and enflames my spirit.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Withering Heights

So, here's the scene. A nondescript American 80's middle school; beige walls clad in high-gloss cinder block and red brick. Standard classrooms, with metal framed windows, the lower planes louvered out to precisely 14 degrees to let in just a swoosh of air. Thirty hormony kids, clad in jeans, Van Halen T's, corduroys, chamois button downs. Lots of bangs... First column, seventh seat back, three from the rear of the room.

I can still see my 7th grade English classroom and Mrs. B.  Although, truth be told, I imagine all of this through stylized amber-lensed glasses, and thus my memories are not meant to displace fact. My most honest, clear reflections can not be skewed by nostalgia; I never really studied or did much more to prepare for English other than attend. When I think back on it, I'm not sure I even read the books assigned for class. Suffice to say when tests or quizzes came along, I was less than ideally prepared. More to the point, I only gave a shit on test day and the day we got the test back.

Most days in 7th grade, I sat back in the corner praying to God for a snow day. And yes, I prayed for snow in October. In January, God may have listened, but I was asking for a awful lot when the leaves were still on the trees and Halloween was two weeks in the future. My prayers were generally along this theme; Lord, I willingly shall trade a snow day - today, right now - for the following; I will study/read/practice RIGHT NOW and for your effort - for this holy gift also known as a miracle - I will commit some future day to completing a good deed. Think "feed the poor" or "nurture the infirmed" or "take out the trash with out bitching to my mom about it". Apparently, God bargains hard and expected more, as I'm pretty sure my seventh grade year was a snow-free year. In fact, I think it hardy ever clouded up.

I asked God for other possible minor miracles, in case the weather thing was too ... mundane for His Munificence. I prayed for fire drills, teacher absences, teacher abductions, principal heart attacks, Communist invasions, and locusts. When I began to suspect God either didn't give a crap about my lack of effective study habits or was too busy busting up Apartheid, I started to wish to be imbued with my own magical power. I figured Big G could pass the heavy lifting off to me -- just give me a perk of two -- and I would miracle my ass into an A in English. Maybe I'd show some humility and just take an A-minus.

So the little attribute I began to wish for? Nothing major, just ... time stop. Yes, the ability to s-t-o-p freaking time. Hit the breaks, freeze the clocks, halt movement, instant "statuation" of Mrs. B. and all of my classmates. The way if figured it, I'd use the time while everyone else was frozen like Adonis to read the damn book assigned for class, or write the damn essay, or grind the damned vocabulary...
The hell of it? I swear God heard me loud and clear and granted my wish. But his gift to me was far more subtle than time time STOP. He granted me time SLOW, 'cause those English classes never quite stopped, but they sure as heck dragged.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ideas from a Man Who Lived

As my father's life ended, he took time to sort a few things out and write down his thoughts.  Here are his words:


Live on in memory, tradition, human kind

There is "something" in thinking pretty good, positive
  • similarities in all religions
There are good spirits, vibes

The Bible is a story
  • with contradictions
  • lots of good advice
Christianity must be a living spirit, like the Constitution, changing with the ages

Churches must face up to temporal problems:
  • divorce
  • drugs
  • mental illness
  • aging
  • death
Christ was an amazing person

A certain mysticism / ritual or ceremony is part of religious experience

Need to be a fellow traveler, helping along the way

Religion can be the opiate of the masses

If I am not myself who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?

Churches must help with the meaning of life

Churches must present a moral & ethical path

Don't Believe:

In Heaven / Hell or life after

There are bad vibes, panic, prejudice (Editorial: I think he means they don't exist outside of us, but rather that we create them)

In the infallibility of the Pope or Bible

In pacifism like Quakers  

In celibacy like Shakers

In the parable of the talents

In eternity; even the earth will some day disappear

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Mirror of Ourselves

No matter what your political persuasion, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is a national tragedy. For at least two families, it is a profoundly life-altering, permanent personal tragedy. If you are liberal, a conservative, pro-Obama, Tea Partier, an apathetic hipster, a soccer mom, or any other label you want to self-identify with, the death of a young man walking home from a 7-11 with Skittles and an iced tea should disturb you. If it doesn't, so be it. Click away, my fellow human being. Click away, as this essay ain't for you.

As a nation, we need to look into the mirror on this one. As I write this, I can say honestly I don't know what happened that sad night in Sanford, and neither do you. I'm not writing this to take sides on the criminality - or absence of such - of George Zimmerman's actions, from the beginning of his interaction with Trayvon to its painful, brutal conclusion. I'm not here, dear readers, to attack Florida's "stand your ground" law, its merits, its consequences intended and unintended, or its affect - real or perceived - on the safety of the residents and visitors to the Sunshine state. I'm not - in this entry - going to talk about the Second Amendment, the NRA, the Brady Bill, or other state's laws and regulations regarding gun ownership and use. And no, I'm not going to share my opinions about Florida law enforcement, and it's role in protecting all Floridians and visitors while enforcing the state's laws. All of these topics are important, and there is ample room for differing opinions, reasoned debate, and even disagreement. I hope to strike a different chord, hoping that each (any?) reader take even a few minutes to consider the humanness of Trayvon's death.

The famous Jewish proverb states, "Whoever saves a single life is as if one saves the entire world." Thus, its reverse implies that when one takes a life, the world is destroyed. Ignore, if you will, the literal meaning and focus on this simple idea; one young man's death also killed a tiny part of our collective soul. I don't know - but I doubt - if Trayvon's death was necessary. But I'm quite sure his life was necessary, a life that will never be fulfilled. Whatever promise he had, small or large, was extinguished and his family, and each of us, have been robbed of his future. He may have been a doctor or a punk, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is it was too easy, too common, too ordinary for a life to end in violence.

I again say I don't know who is at fault, and worse, we probably will never know with total surety. But that question, as important and profound as it is for the people directly and indirectly involved, is second to a more human question. Put as bluntly as I can, is anyone better served by Trayvon's death as compared to the life he lost? Are we a better country, civilization, a species ... with him alive, or with him dead? It's almost too easy to answer; he should still be with his family, and with us all. Whether he would have led a life of note or not doesn't matter a lick. He and we were robbed of ever knowing what he might have been. We all lost a little, and some have lost nearly everything.

We are our nation, we are the "We the People" our founders were writing about all those years ago. You are, I am, the libtard is, the right-winger is, the fat guy at the beach is, the chorus director at your church is ... the we in "We the People", and whether you like or hate them, we are responsible for the good and bad that goes on around us. So take some time to look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Can you see both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman? I can. Are you bothered by what you see? Are you proud of what you see? Can you imagine Trayvon is your son? Can you see George as you, or your husband? What would you wish for either of them, now that you are looking into their eyes? What would you change?

I see myself looking back at me, and I am Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I can see the promise of each, and the wreckage of both. I see myself, and I see a culture that is too accustomed to violence. I see hope. I see failure. I see a citizen, a father, a friend, a husband, a teacher. I see a man and a country who is dying a little bit at a time, and I see hints of resignation, of acceptance. The mirror is showing me an uncomfortable truth. What is it showing you?