Go lie on the earth. A long time. Watch. And listen up..

moon030217g-y8

I spoke to Moon, Goodnight..

Nice tsunami today..

Were you the father, or the mother?

Listen to all the stuff I am talking about..listen because I have a lot to say and because it needs to be said (spoken,heard,remembered,relished) and- listen now- because it matters it does, listen (shh! I’m talking!) there are things that matter and will matter (make a difference) in the long run (and soon, very soon, too) please. Please, listen..

dinosaurs (all kinds), dragonflies the size of ducks, Siddartha, earthworms, pinworms, ringworms, Y’shua, chipmunks, whales when they still walked, cephalopods, termites, giraffes, slugs, shamen, SWAT teams, syncophants, swindlers, sword swallowers, sea slugs, frogs, Madonna, Gilgamesh: more noise. Much noise. Their noise.

Shh, please listen now..

to me.

Me, Goodnight..

Watching Mom just laying there, looking up, and moaning, and going away..

It’s the look of vacancy, of emptiness, where even the emotions of extreme engagement are barely discernible and able to be seen often only the flurry of flailing arms and gentle fists. Mom is “cold get me back to my room when are we going home I’m thirsty I’m cold where are my shoes when are we going home are we back yet?” She groans in gutteral chants, echoes against the emptiness, an almost-manic moaning that is loud then not loud but never stops..

Are we going home now?

Yes, mom, tomorrow

No today

OK today

when is he coming

who?

someone is coming he is bringing something from home

what?

Something I hope he’s ok and didn’t..

MOM! Look at the window!

What?

And for a few minutes again the moans and groans, painless physically, who knows emotionally, or if there is even a spiritually left? There are others, so many others here under one roof, under the same sky, under screwball heaven. There are jams of wheelchairs in the hallways, hollering, cursing, crying, calling. Does anyone know where they are, what day it is, who’s your daddy?

I try to sing something low and slow but she can’t hear. And there is the stink of somebody’s shit in the hallway and here comes the aide to clean it up but still it wafts, in waves it wafts and the moans now groans, perhaps a song perhaps the only way to scream, continue..

and now Mom is up on her elbows, wide awake, but not wanting to leave the room. She has a roommate who I never see- I look in the bathroom to see if she is in there dead, but I have only seen her once and then she was fighting with her nurse, You’re better than me! Leave me alone! And the pictures on her wall show a happy anniversary (50?) with a happy husband and happy children and grandchildren and now I don’t now where she is. I only know this about her: she is not in the bathroom.

There is nothing on mom ‘s walls- we don’t have to prove our love for her to others, that’s been done and if we loaded the walls down with pictures she would see none of them and know none of them- us- her progeny, her issue, her genetic touchstones with eternity, in the near galactic future anyway. Her comprehension extends now (it seems) to water, cold, some pretty colors, “home” (whichever one I don’t know and neither I think does she).

Shit. (the smell and the circumstances) Call it a prayer or call it a curse. They both sound the same. The line in McCarthy’s The Road: “There is no god and we are his prophets.” Or, there is and we are: Look! Look!  This is the way the whole world ends, the whole world ends, not with a bang, but a

whimper….

and claws scuttle across the ocean floor while we lie etherized on the corner of Main Street and Vine waiting for the Christmas Sale at Target or the end of the world whichever comes first. Both will be accompanied by moans this year. And aging cheerleaders in fading, fraying sweaters jump up and down in the twilight of the American empire urging the crowds with no money to find some more and buy some stuff “Duty! Duty! Duty! Gooooooooooo and Groooooooow GNP GNP GNP!”

She lies staring through eyes with no twinkle  at a ceiling where no conjured or suggested dreams are possible. The TV is off and even when it is on it is no more than a light and nothing but noise and there is no music and there is no laughter, maybe never again. Mom! Smile! Laugh! But she doesn’t know who I am or what the words mean or when she is going home, so

Shit.

Again.

It’s cold It’s cold When are they coming? Are they here?

Words of Love..

 

“When genuine friends of God..repeat words they have heard in secret amidst the silence of the union of love, and these words are in disagreement with the teaching of the Church, it is simply that the language of the marketplace is not that of the nuptial chamber.” (Simone Weil, Waiting for God)

This is important. Because the Great Sausage Grinder that carries so much weight in the American Church doesn’t allow much gristle to make it into the morning’s meat patties. Or any fat whatsoever, or any extra spices. Or much taste. Bland is the standard; that way, aberrations are easily discerned.

Screw it. Pass the pepper, and the sage. Throw on some onions, and add some fat- some chicken fat- fried!-  greasy and crackling. Grind it all down again, one more time with fresh basil, and garlic and cilantro, and a spoonful of sugar..just because. Now grill that sausage over hot-fired mesquite, sprinkled with Jack Daniels, and slathered with a puree of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and oregano.

Good.

God.

Now, eat:

“I was afraid it

would screw up my art

and I would end up

writing sermons

instead of songs.”

(James McMurtry)

“Humankind has not woven the
web of life. We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”
(Chief Seattle)

Even after all

this time

the sun never

says to the

earth

“You owe me.”

Look what happens

with a love like that.

It lights the

whole sky.

(Hafiz)

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.
(Rumi)

Everything Is… (a poem by Candy Shue)

Everything Is – by Candy Shue

(from The Rambler)

autobiographical.

The newspaper

you read this morning.

The coffee you drank

while you were reading it.

The article about the couple

getting married at McDonald’s.

The toast you buttered

to eat with your coffee.

The knife you used

to butter it.

The truck that was double-parked

in your driveway.

The guy with the hand truck

who parked it there.

The smell of the cigarette

stuck in his mouth.

The music on the car radio

playing “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

It is all a part of you,

inextricable.

Even the strangers

standing next to you

at the post office

as you imagine what

you’re going to do

with your life

someday.

You’re alive, right here,

right now.

Aren’t you?

You’re here.

And here, right here.

The Dilemma of Death (part 6 of a series)

“Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with.” (Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, The Free Press, 1973, p.26)

I watch my dogs lying in the early afternoon sun. They are on their sides, utterly relaxed into the small variations in grade beneath them. A dandelion clump pressed against a ribcage does not seem to have the power over them that the corner of a misplaced pillow might have over me. Both of them are asleep within moments of lying down, utterly at ease in a safe place with their “pack” (myself, the other dog, and the cat who will occasionally make an appearance). They sleep as if they have been very busy all morning, like they’ve been running and running and are now exhausted. But they have not been especially busy at all. This is how they always rest- wholly and completely, without a single anxious thought about the future gnawing at their psyche. What looks like exhaustion to us is, in fact, perfect relaxation, complete wholeness between the dogs’ consciousness and physical bodies, without a single thought toward “splendid uniqueness.”

“The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self consciousness that goes with it.” (ibid.) In other words, animals have no awareness of the one way journey through physical life which they, like everything else, are on. They give no regard to their own Death; they are not anxious about tomorrow. (Tomorrow? What is that anyway?) Obviously, on some level, carnivorous animals are aware that the physical death of their foodstuff is a desirable state. And it may well be that some animals- dolphins and elephants come to mind- may recognize a consciousness within themselves that is finite. But humans are the only ones who institutionalized the awareness of Death Impending. Humans are the only animals who allow “Death’s second self” (That’s Shakespeare for Sleep) to be interrupted, ever, by thoughts of Dying. Humans are the only ones who can become neurotic about the prevention of things which might be harmful enough to cause death, or who are able to be addicted to substances which alleviate- in always failing measure- their preoccupations with Death.

Every faith tradition has some dogmatic and/or doctrinal tenets that deal with the awareness of Death with which all humans live. All faith traditions acknowledge the pain- fallenness, insanity, suffering- that accompanies this awareness of Death, and the vital need for acceptance of both that awareness and of Death itself. In lieu of that acceptance, the adherents of some faiths are given the option, within their faith’s teachings, of looking beyond death, into eternity. (I’m not here in this series to judge the content of various end of life scenarios, only to acknowledge that do exist and perform vital functions in the whole lives of many persons and communities.

The commonality of our pain takes different specific forms but all of them have dirt in common. All of our lives, after Death, end up in some way, in the dirt. As ashes, or sealed within a metal vacuum which slows down but does not stop the process of decomposition, or laid directly onto the dirt which begins immediately to absorbs the liquids and fats of life, dirt is our bed, sometimes quickly, always eventually.

It is dirt over which we stand in “towering majesty.” It is dirt which contrasts so harshly with our names, our perceptions of our Selves, and the legacy we imagine ourselves leaving behind. It is dirt which covers our face to the world and finally blocks the world to our face.

Dirt is just..so damn final!

And that’s our dilemma. It is a dilemma for every human being on earth, too, and has been since the very first time human consciousness reached into an imagined future and put the 2+2 of life and death together. It added up to dirt then and adds up to dirt now, despite all kinds of conveyances, rituals, religions, and proposed alternative scenarios which have been placed in front that final “resting place.” (And note that phrase- “resting place.” It is one of many, many, many phrases and words used about Death which attempt to take a little bit of Death’s sting away.)

Elysian Fields await, beyond the River Styx, near the New Jerusalem, in the sweet by and by. We’ll visit some of those places and see what they might reveal about our fears, and our hopes.

Obama’s Speech to the School Kids- What I learned on the way to the end of my fears

At Booker T. Washington High School in downtown Dallas, they gave President Obama a standing ovation when they saw him enter on the large television screens. Booker T. is my daughter’s alma mater- it’s the performing arts high school. It’s Norah Jone’s alma mater, too. And something she is proud of, also.

So, when I saw the kids there jumping to their feet as the President appeared on-screen, I knew that the people to whom the president was aiming this speech were going to hear it. And as was evident from their comments, they heard it loudly and clearly in a way even most of us adult supporters of the president could not have heard it.

“He was speaking to me,” one small 9th grade boy said.

“He makes me want to get all As this year,” said another.

Many adults, especially- it appears- those of the Caucasian persuasion, were fearful of what the president would inculcate their children with today. I heard them breathing hard and sweating into the cameras pointed toward them as they screamed that the president had no right to tell their children what to think. Maybe they were afraid he would reveal the secret message of the fist-bump to curious fifth graders, or describe the joys of his parent’s interracial sex to shy high schoolers. Given the level of anger and suspicion many of these parents displayed, it is hard to even guess at what kind of jive they were afraid the president would brainwash their un-brainwashed children with.

And, despite the fact that even Laura Bush and Newt Gingrich endorsed the content of Obama’s speech, we know that in today’s America the facts don’t matter nearly as much as what a person wants to believe. If you want to believe Obama is a Muslim, there’s nothing anyone can say, show, or demonstrate that will dissuade you from that belief. In America today, among a certain crowd of fellow believers, you will even be applauded for hanging on to a belief despite the Truth that lies dying in the ditch nearby.

And there are still people waiting for the release of Michelle’s “Whitey” tape and for the Belgian Congo birth certificate of the president. And they’ll wait and they’ll wait because they KNOW they’re right and it doesn’t matter that that astronomy reveals the sun to be the center of the solar system, you silly fools, you can see that the sun rises and sets around the Earth, can’t you?

So here’s what I’ve learned today: All of that noise was preceding the speech was irrelevant. A whole lot of parents kept a whole lot of children out of school and away from the Internet and television today because they were afraid of something that bore no fearful meaning whatsover- liminally, subliminally, or otherwise. They were people being afraid, and that’s all. They would probably call it being protective, but they could have been protective at home, with some intelligent conversation around the dinner table tonight. They could have introduced their children to genuine critical thinking. I assume most of them are capable of that.

Since the noise was irrelevant, I should consider it so as well. AND SO SHOULD THE PRESIDENT! My argument with the president so far, indeed, my disappointment with the president so far is that he is spending too much time trying to be friends with people who don’t like him, did not and will never support him, and whose candidate in the last election was convincingly defeated.

President Obama: those of us who voted for you voted for change, significant change to happen. We wanted our country out of the twin sinkholes of Iraq and Afghanistan that we were lied into. We want war criminals tried, if that is what a grand jury deems them to be. We want sexual preference among adults to not be a factor at all in a person’s enjoyment of their full civil rights. Those are the changes we voted for above and beyond the need this country had for a president who was smart and who didn’t look like every president before and who was running with a vice-presidential candidate who didn’t scare the living socks off of us as we imagined him possibly becoming president. That’s what we voted for, Obama, not how many friends you could make among the people who had gotten us into the military and economic quagmire we are in now.

So, while many many, many of my friends are Republican, most of whom I would take a bullet for (and they know it), I must tell them that I will not listen to their political views with any more fear. Theirr politics are coming to an end. The world can’t be the way it was in the 50’s; they’ve spent us into a hell hole of unimaginable depth, and while they can try to blame the other party for that, the statistics of Reagan, Bush, and Bush tell another story. Unfortunately, I voted right there beside them until 2006, when I saw the light. It’s not a bright light- Pelosi and Reid are both standing in it after all- but it is a whole lot brighter than the dim fluorescents pirated out of Enron’s headquarters.

And I know this: that the loudest among you old-timers- those who fussed the most about Obama’s Svengali grip on the minds of school kids, some you made asses of yourselves. And your kids saw you doing it. And while they no doubt still love you, they have seen you be wrong, over-reactive, maybe even goofy. Statistics show that that has happened a lot recently. During the 80s and 90s you preached and preached and preached about the takeover of schools and government by those with a gay agenda. You made bogeymen out of young men dying of AIDS so that you wouldn’t have to confront the sympathetic response you deeply felt toward them. (We all know it is easier to fear and hate than it is to give in to love, especially if that love- holy cow!- might be misconstrued as fag love!).

The point is, you painted the homosexual community into something it wasn’t. At all. Your kids went to college, got jobs, and moved into apartments near and with these men and women. They even became friends with them! They found out that you had been wrong about them, and that some of you and some of your preachers had been lying about them to you. They even found out that there seems to be a direct relationship between the loud rantings of an anti-gay protester and his desire to passionately kiss the object of his fury!

So you lost more young people in your loud and silly protests over this speech today.

Good.

And knowing those things, I won’t be so upset the next time. Your numbers are decreasing even as the spittle from your radio and television leaders is increasing. Even as the crazed rantings of Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity grow louder, more and more young people are hearing them, and the demographic slice of their advertising pie grows older by the day.

(Thank you again, young people of Booker T. Washington High School, Dallas, Texas. I’m giving you my own private standing ovation right now!)

Death? Not me! (part 5 of a series)

“[The] philosophy of exemptionalism, which supposes that the special status on Earth of humanity lifts us above the laws of Nature. Exemptionalism takes one or the other of two forms. The first.. is secular: don’t change course now, human genius will provide. The second is religious: don’t change course now, we are in the hands of God, or the gods, Earth’s karma, whatever.” (E.O.Wilson, Creation- An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, W.W.Norton & Co., 2006, p.83)

The philosophy of exemptionalism is an easy one to adopt as one’s personal worldview; in fact, we’re naturals at it! Here it is, stated in its most elementary form:

“All that bad stuff that will happen to you won’t happen to me- I’m special.”

This a belief that seems in history to just as easily evolve into a real psychosis of specialness. There are those persons who believe they can fly. And people on the sidewalk below them discover they how wrong, how not-special, they really were. There are those persons who believe they have been exempted from the side effects of tobacco, alcohol, or general slovenly living. Most of them discover by the age of 55 or so that “tomorrow” was not the best time to have waited to change their ways. And whole empires have thought of themselves as eternal when in fact, as the Holy Roman Empire discovered, they were just one angry, marauding hoard away from being a mere collection of sovereign nation-states.

And many of us harbor that deeply held and precious, but absolutely stone cold crazy belief that we will not die because there is technology just on the horizon that will save us, or a medicine that will cleanse our bodies of 40 years of smoking, or because our own ability to get out of the way of explosions, highway accidents, and gunfire. (“I never thought such a thing could happen to me!” the lucky ones say.”Those things aren’t supposed to happen in our neighborhood,” the formerly exempted ones proclaim.)

Or (we say) that Death, while important, doesn’t really matter because eternal life, with Jesus or with forty grape-laden virgins or any of a number of other scenarios based on one’s doctrinal beliefs subscribed to while one was still alive and of sound mind and body, will be the order of eternity. We SAY that, but then we pour fortunes into squeezing an extra couple months, a year, or a few years out of an increasingly painful, weakened, or dependent life.

In both ways of approaching Death (or not approaching it), fear is the prime mover. It is the fear of meaninglessness, nothingness- the bottom line fear that maybe our professions of faith are only words we have said, or that maybe technology or pharmacology might be too late for us. (“Damn the FDA!”) We don’t want the days and years to add up to a whiff of smoke or the memory of the last friend or relative left standing. So we are afraid, living our lives in a reserved but ever-present dread of the end.
The profession of faith can dull the sharp edges of contemplated death, but- for whatever reason(s)- the ‘sting’ is still present.

I think there are superficial reasons why that is so; and some deep reasons why that is so. And there are even deeper reasons that every human being on Earth shares. All of the various reasons are interesting (I think) and need to be talked about. The deepest reasons, however, are profound and- once we understand how we share them with all human beings- they can serve as areas of new empathetic relationships among various human groups from whom we might otherwise feel separated. They can further help us understand why we want to shoot over the heads of those who others are telling us to call the Enemy. And they can help understand what it is about us, and the Other, that truly is special.

Death’s War of Words


“Without the creation of abstract images of the enemy, and without the depersonalization of the enemy during training, battle would become impossible to sustain. But if the abstract image is overdrawn or depersonalization is stretched into hatred, the restraints on human behavior in war are easily swept aside. If, on the other hand, men reflect too deeply upon the enemy’s common humanity, then they risk being unable to proceed with the task whose aims may be eminently just and legitimate.”
(Richard Holmes, Acts of War, quoted by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in his book, On Killing)

Grossman’s book is about the military history of killing the enemy. And his conclusions are fascinating: getting the enemy killed has not been an historically easy thing to do! Soldiers don’t want to kill other soldiers and many, many of them- based on statistics and evidence gathered from all of America’s wars- have shot over the heads of enemies, or not at all.

Empathy is something we, for many years, thought we learned about in civic class or Sunday School. It may have been enhanced in those settings, but it turns out that our brains are wired for empathy- the million year evolution of our species demanded that we cooperate with each other in staying alive. Mirror neurons in our brains allow us to read, to an important extent, the minds and feelings of others. We can then match our actions to theirs, either consciously or, more often, unconsciously. It’s silly and obvious to say but, under normal circumstances, we know what the person near us (sitting beside us, or in our gunsights), we know how that person feels about their own death. We read it in their face and in their body language in exactly the same way, it turns out, that we feel it in our own body. Thus, it is very hard to pull a trigger. And thus, military trainers needed to do something about that.

And what was successfully taught beginning, Grossman documents, in the early stages of the Vietnam War, was a purposeful, dedicated de-humanizing of the enemy. Slopes, Gooks, and other such words were not only used (words like that have always been used in war), but they were institutionalized during the soldiers’ training! It makes it not so hard, at the time, to kill an old Gook, even one that appears harmless. (Those Gooks are up to no good! They’re not like us! They don’t have feelings like we do! They speak mumbo-jumbo. There are too many of them. They’d kill us if they had the chance! Etc., etc., etc.)

The empathy we feel toward another person that prevents us from killing them, is the same empathy that causes us to share food with a stranger who’s hungry, or to support orphanages, etc. We understand, without jabbering about it, that Death is also a big deal to the Other. The only way we can get past that empathy, the military has shown us, is to artificially re-shape the Other into another, lesser image.

And I’m wondering (which is the point of this off-the-path excursion into war) I’m wondering if we haven’t been encouraged by a whole line of people through history to artificially re-shape and re-make our ideas of Death into something other than what they naturally are. Have we been coerced perhaps into fearing Death in ways most of the world’s inhabitants historically have not? Have we become too eager to fight Death without knowing how or when to stop “raging against the dying of the light” as Dylan Thomas wrote?

I wonder if it might be possible to be able to see our present reality from a slightly different angle? Maybe in the final years we should have a greater opportunity to tend, rather than to mend; to move toward hospice rather than the hospital. It sounds cruel what I’m saying, doesn’t it? But I’m saying that these gentle suggestions of mine have made to sound cruel. We have, so many of us, been trained to be good soldiers in the economic battles, right to the end.