Community

Community is the point. The point: the Image of God in us. “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness,” God said. (Genesis 1:26) I know the prescribed Christian spin I’m supposed to put on all of those plural pronouns. But I’m much more interested in the fact that God is talking in plurals, about Godself, than I am in the acceptable human definitions of that linguistic challenge.

Us. Not us and them and absolutely not us versus them. Just..

Us.

Our DNA (one of the languages of God, in my opinion, if you must know), was formed in the million year cauldron of dependence on others. An individual, on his/her own, in a prehistoric environment where animals and weather were both large and unpredictable, stood little chance of making it through the week alive. In a community, however- a family, a band, a tribe- individuals had a chance to live into another year and, in so doing, create new community members.

That was a plan that worked. We know it did, because we are here, writing and reading about their success.

It is in us to be in Community. When we have the opportunity, we will default to it, in fact, under the right conditions. You can read more about it, in five minutes, if you wish; or, you can watch Community happen in this video. It is a small and temporary Community, but it is a real one. Watch it form. Watch it include. Watch its power to make people forget themselves and be in communion with each other (on a subway!):

In a Community, individual egos are not merely shed, they are given over. It is not hyperbole to say they are sacrificed for the good of the whole. It doesn’t happen all at once by merely walking into a relationship with another, or others. It is a gradual movement, a gathering in which the “our image” of the above quote from Genesis becomes the defining mortar of the group (a group of two, ten, or thousands). One by one, individuals discover Community as they look up one day through new eyes and notice a new intensity of colors and movement; they begin to make discoveries about themselves that are..flabbergasting:

“I care for her more, far more, than I care about myself.”

“I want him to be happy at whatever cost there is to myself.”

They are more important than me.”

“I am loved.”

You can see the micro-beginnings of these statements even on that subway, can’t you? Unfortunately, we know that each person eventually arrived at their stop, and had to leave. But don’t we also know that there was a reluctance in each of them to do so?

Nobody wants Community, real Community, to end.

In fact, it is not meant to end.

So don’t let that happen.

(More to come.)

Airplane Crash, Death- A Happy Song by Bright Eyes

Yeah, that’s what this video seems to be about, but just try to watch it without feeling happy at the end. I’ve written the sung lyrics here so you can even sing along if you’d like!

“At the Bottom of Everything” by Bright Eyes

There are some major truths within these lyrics- I’ll write some more about them soon. In the meantime, look for some of those truths yourself. Why are we smiling at the end of the song? Is it just the great graphics or is there more? I’d love to hear your comments. I think many people are wanting to know about death, and be less afraid of it, possibly even learn about embracing it. Maybe you can help them do that.

Or maybe it’s not about death at all, but something else..whaddayathink?

If you’d rather keep your comments private, send them to thefirstmorning@yahoo.com

The sung lyrics:

One, Two, One, Two, Three, Four
We must talk in every telephone, get eaten off the web
We must rip out all the epilogues from the books we have read
And to the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair
We must stare, we must stare, we must stare.

We must take all of the medicines too expensive now to sell
Set fire to the preacher who is promising us hell
And in the ear of every anarchist that sleeps but doesn’t dream
We must sing, we must sing, we must sing.

And it’ll go like this
While my mother waters plants my father loads his gun.
He says, “Death will give us back to God,
just like the setting sun
is returned to the lonesome ocean.”

And then they splashed into the deep blue sea.
It was a wonderful splash.

We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul,
And to this endless race for property and privilege to be won
We must run, we must run, we must run.

We must hang up in the belfry where the bats in moonlight laugh
We must stare into a crystal ball and only see the past
And in the caverns of tomorrow with just our flashlights and our love
We must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge.

And then we’ll get down there,
way down to the very bottom of everything
and then we’ll see it, oh we’ll see it, we’ll see it, we’ll see it.

Oh my morning’s coming back
The whole world’s waking up
Oh the city bus is swimming past.
I’m happy just because
I found out I am really no one.

Pat Robertson and the Religion of Fear

pat_robertson.jpg

From the June 12 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club:

ROBERTSON: “The question would be, ladies and gentlemen, if a million Christians want to go to Saudi Arabia and say, “We want to pray,” you can’t pray in Saudi Arabia. You can’t have religious literature in Saudi Arabia. You can’t get together in Bible study groups in Saudi Arabia. As far as having special places for foot-washing and all that, no way. You will abide by Sharia law because they’re in control.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognize that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law. In the Quran, it says it very clearly. There are two spheres. One is the Dar al-Harb, which is the realm of war. The other is Dar al-Islam, which is that part that’s under submission to Islam. There is no middle ground. You’re either at war or you’re under submission. Now, that’s the way they think.”

Pat Robertson is either an Islamic scholar or he is a liar. After claiming last year to be able to leg press 2000 lb. (breaking the previous record of 600 lb. set the previous year by a 21 year old football player in Florida), I think we may safely conclude that the latter word best describes him. More proof? Here’s Bishop Paul Hinder of the Catholic Church, speaking last week to Al Jazeera: speaking about the Christian communities in Saudi Arabia, he said: “It’s not an open church. Privately the Christians may gather in their houses in a very discreet manner. Of course it’s not easy to be a bishop here [in the Gulf],” he said. “But at least regarding the church life it is full of vitality.”

Churches meeting in homes, under threat of persecution..hmmm. That reminds me of those very first groups of new Christians who, in Acts 2, are described this way: “Day by day..they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Robertson says people in Saudi Arabia can’t pray because they don’t have churches to pray in. That’s like saying kids don’t pray at school because the principal isn’t allowed to get on the loudspeaker and lead them in a (written) prayer. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Jesus wash the feet of his disciples in a rented upstairs room? He didn’t need a church or synagogue to fill a basin and wrap a towel around himself, and his movement did pretty well for quite a few years, I would say.

Religion is precisely the problem, whether it adorns the pulpits of Muslim imams or the soapboxes of people like Robertson. Religion says that doctrine is more important than people. It elevates human depravities to sacred standing, as it picks and chooses supportive verses and half-verses from its sacred writings to give credibility (read: power) to whatever religious dogmatist has the fastest printing press, the loudest speakers, or the greatest broadcast coverage.

The birthrate of Muslims will cause massive change in the coming decades. It is much higher in every nation where Muslims live than is the birthrate among “natives” of those countries. And the Christian religion has done little to win the hearts and minds of any of those Muslim babies or their parents! (In the Gaza strip of Israel, recently taken over by the Hammas- militant Muslims- there are almost 1, 600, 000 Palestinian Christians, half of which are children. They are going to be forced to become Muslim, which probably won’t be difficult for them since the Christian religion of the United States and Europe has virtually abandoned them for many years, because religion says it is more religious to support Israel in their oppression of Palestinians, no matter what their flavor.)

The early followers of Jesus were persecuted, imprisoned, and even slain. Yet it was from their example of outrageous, self-giving love that a flourishing Church grew. They were followers of Jesus, not Christian religionists. They looked to Jesus for answers to their predicament and heard things like, “Love your enemy” and “Turn the other cheek.” Christian religionists, with monetary and egoistic interests in the preservation of their precious institutions, answer with “increase the military budget” and “send your children to war” and “call in your tax deductible donation to our ministry today.”

It’s a Great Story: Paul Potts Wins !

I’ve followed this story like a schoolgirl follows whatever boy band of the moment happens to be hot stuff. I am addicted to watching, enjoying, and sometimes even getting the opportunity of participating in the transformatiom of individuals from what they are to what they are becoming. Even better than his winning the “Britain’s Got Talent” competition, however, is the growing confidence in himself that Potts talks of. That’s what transformation- bottom line- is about: an appreciation for oneself.

Yes, the program is hokey. Yes, the drama is milked by the producers for all of the sponsor’s money they can get. No, the competition doesn’t mean much in the great scheme of world politics and economies.

But it does mean that at least one more person gets to experience self-acceptance, and to know that others appreciate him. And those are just wonderful things to behold..

Here’s the announcement of the Win, and a rerun of Potts’ final performance:

a Rose, a Bee, and God..

Our language liberates us, elevates us some would say, from the reactionary and instinctual responses of other animals to their environments. Because we can speak the names of the people, things, and circumstances around us, we can navigate our way through them with less attention paid to their shapes, sizes, smells, or potentialities for benefit or harm. We can relegate the warm and flesh-like whorl of magenta petals, and the sweetened air above them to a single word, “rose,” and move our attention quickly to the soft and moving hum behind and above us, “bee.” But, in doing so, we are likely to miss the yellow-gold dust spread so slightly in the center of the magenta whorl; and almost certainly miss, unless we are willing to wait, without motion, for the bee to land, the several motes of that dust which cling to four of the six bee’s legs folded aerodynamically against its body.

We might even miss, because we know those few words, and the relatively few meanings that connect with our individual experiences of “rose” and “bee,” learning more about each of them. We might not take the time, or need to take the time, to experience more about the space between the bee and the rose. We might feel no urgency about the Mystery of magenta itself, or the Attraction of the rose’s scent to both the bee and ourselves. And wherefrom does that odor arise, anyway? And what else can we hear that harmonizes with that hum?

The words themselves, like the very words I am writing at this moment, are metaphors, agreed upon collections of sounds, sounds that are familiar to us and allow us to represent in minimally convenient ways, a whole flurry of color, sound, pageantry, and experience. We agree, you and me, to encapsulate our individual experiences from the past of “rose” and “bee” into the common ground of those single syllable sounds. We are communicating, but we are not- not yet- learning anything new about either being. We are liberated by our language from groping anew each time there is a need to, for some way to share our experiences. And, indeed, we are elevated from merely reactionary responses to our environments; we can tell someone else quite nicely, even with those inadequate words, not to poke at the bee, and to be careful of the rose’s thorns. (Why the stinger? Why the thorns?)

But if we are satisfied by the mere words, if the words themselves stop us in any way from wondering why? how? if? when?, then they have become impediments. If we allow the words, the metaphors, to stop us from knowing more, seeking more, desiring more, then they are doing us a disservice.

The scoop on words

Words for God
are like our words
for ice cream: sweet,
delicious, amazing.

But when I open
my mouth to pray,
I don’t want
words to hold
things up.
I just
want
to take
a lick.

–Cynthia Yoder, in A Cappella, Mennonite Voices in Poetry, University of Iowa Press

Stand Still Like the Hummingbird..

I wrote this a couple Sunday mornings ago, but didn’t share it with anyone. Maybe someone could use it today:

It is raining very hard this morning. Thunder and lightening are punctuating a dark, dark sky and I have been up for hours. I tried to go back to sleep by watching an old movie on Turner Broadcasting, the name of which I’ve already forgotten and will never remember again, but it was about a young Nazi who was brought to an American home during the War as an exchange student and who set about to disrupt the family, and who was foiled in his attempts to do so through the kindness of a Jewish woman (of course) and I’ve decided that aside from “Casablanca,” the dialogue of 1940s movies is always so stilted, formal, and utterly lacking in passion that I will from this day forward always choose to watch something else, anything else. It’s hard to realize what an effective propaganda tool the movies were during the War.

And I have a bit of a stomach ache, a bit of a headache, and while I was lying on the couch trying to sleep, my neck became sore.

Poor me. And church starts in just a few hours and after church we must drive two hours to Dallas for three days of Church Conference meetings.

But:

“When you find you can go neither backward or forward, when you discover that you are no longer able to stand, sit or lie down, when your children have died of malnutrition and your aged parents have been sent to the poorhouse or the gas chamber, when you realize that you can neither write nor not write, when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird. The miracle is that the honey is always there, right under your nose, only you were too busy searching elsewhere to realize it. The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous.”

Henry Miller, Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

Eight Love Poems..from ‘The Sun’

A many course meal served in small bites, from ‘The Sun’, a monthly magazine of essays, short stories, and poetry. Each issue has a general, but not exclusive theme. The June issue’s theme is Love, and this is a piece called ‘Eight Love Poems’ by Sparrow:

Question                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Can two nations                                                                                                                                                                                   fall in love?

Love                                                                                                                                                                                                 Love                                                                                                                                                                                                         is the                                                                                                                                                                                             first                                                                                                                                                                                               word                                                                                                                                                                                                       we don’t                                                                                                                                                                                                say to                                                                                                                                                                                         everyone.

A Phrase One Never Hears                                                                                                                                                             “My lover and I are doing our taxes.”

Sunlight                                                                                                                                                                                       Sunlight                                                                                                                                                                                             loves to fall                                                                                                                                                                                             on a bed.

Two Professors                                                                                                                                                                                When two professors                                                                                                                                                                             fall in love,                                                                                                                                                                                         their students rejoice.

Named                                                                                                                                                                                                    We are all named                                                                                                                                                                                   out of love-for                                                                                                                                                                                                            an uncle, a cousin,                                                                                                                                                                                    a dead violinist.

Often we forget                                                                                                                                                                                    the love in our names.

The Moon                                                                                                                                                                                             The moon loves                                                                                                                                                                               snow, because                                                                                                                                                                                         it reflects.

Ten Commandments                                                                                                                                                                        The Ten Commandments                                                                                                                                                                    do not                                                                                                                                                                                            mention love.