A Religious New Year’s Resolution

I wish sometimes, I really do..I wish I could slip into a 24 hour emotional coma where Bowl Games were important to me, where I cared for just a little while about what kind of car I drive, or what Jennifer Anniston thinks about anything.

I would like to breathe, just for a little while- long enough to gather strength against the endless soul-bruising I feel condemned at times to live within- I would like to breathe the foreign air of “I just don’t give a damn.” I would like to be able knock a beer (as the phrase is put in hard-drinking, easy-thinking circles) and know that it would stop the world long enough for me to go to sleep one night without a single nagging needle of over-extended empathy jabbing at my heart.

I would like to experience a whole day someday, a day that would enable me to remember what it was like to not have stories like these from this day acid-raining on my parade:

For Kurdish Girls, An Ancient, Painful Ritual of Circumcision

and

Egyptian Girl Kept As Slave in California Home

These two headlines happen to be fueled by Islam. It would be just as easy on another day to find such stories of cruelty, intolerance, or mythologically-based stupidity rising from Christianity, Hinduism, or Judaism. (If you doubt that statement, and don’t have the ability or skills to go Googling for yourself, message me and I’ll send some examples your way. At this moment, I don’t have the emotional wherewithal to subject myself to more such UTTER, AWFUL, DEHUMANIZING, GODDAMNING, DESPICABLE crap being dispensed incessantly by those who keep the gods of their foul fantasies trapped in the uncritical, unthinking, and unevolved confines of their reptilian, always reactive imaginations.)

Despite overwhelming evidence indicating otherwise, each of us really do have the kingdom of heaven beating somewhere in our beings aching, wanting, striving to find expression in the environments, large and small, in which we each find ourselves.  I also believe that each of us has the ability to cause that kingdom-of -heaven reality to be present and evident for the benefit of ourselves and others when we are aware of its presence in us.

And I dislike to admit it, but I must: that presence may best be found and understood by examining that which makes us most uncomfortable. In other words- for me- it is the boundary-pushing kingdom of heaven in me that makes me want to retreat at times, from it. I’d rather watch a football game and be excited by it, than contemplate the horror of a nine-year-old girl being hacked on because..because.. because NOBODY KNOWS WHY!!!  (“We don’t know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it,” says the mother of a little girl whose clitoris has just been cut off.)

The only thing I know to do is to do something- something, anything, each day, in however many days I might have, to expose, fight, ridicule, or- God,help me-  stand between religious cruelty and its victims. I can bitch, whine, or tilt at windmills, or I can do something.  I can look the other way, pretend my wishes of paragraph #1 have been granted, or stop exposing myself to that which pains me most poignantly, or I can make some tiny difference which- like a seed- may grow.

Therefore, I choose (and promise), beginning today, to do one thing each day to chink at the foundations of religion. I’d rather spread Doubt, than Blind Obedience. I’d rather make an ass of myself doing some thing, than not be noticed at all, doing nothing at all, causing not a single fissure in the landscape of a world where, because of the misogynist dogma of  fear-created gods, there are still little girls..

screaming.

God, damn religion too. Amen.

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Was Blind, But Now I See..Part I

Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see. (Blindness, Jose Saramago, pg. 326)

Luke 4:16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

I once was lost, but now am found..was blind, but now I see.. (“Amazing Grace,” John Newton)

I’m not anticipating with any glee whatsoever, what I am about to begin writing. Most of what I write (or think, or preach, or eat, or do) is motivated by Want– I want to write about nature; I want to eat mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy; I want to go to South Padre Island next week. And I will do, because I want to, all of those things.

But, kind of like the occasional serving of greens peas that I eat at a dinner party so I do not appear to be rude, there also those things which I, or any of us, must do. These personal essays about being blind are, therefore, motivated by Must, rather than Want.

(There are few things I find more repulsive to eat than green peas. Don’t ask me why; I don’t know why. You’ve got an illogical, indefinable revulsion about some food, too- I know you do. So I know you know something of the feeling I’m talking about. I put the peas in my mouth, try to keep my tongue from touching them, dare not chew [!], then swallow quickly, and hope I don’t obviously gag.)

After reading Jose Saramago’s Blindness several weeks ago, enough of a new vocabulary permeated the boundaries of my thinking, that previously unformed groups of thoughts, ideas, and even dreads began to coalesce into what has become, for me, a new coherence. Vague feelings of confusion and concern which have a way, when they are inexpressible, of descending (personally, anyway) into anger or depression, seem to be backlit now; I have been able to begin to think about them in new ways, shadowy as they might still be.

I was emerging, with a language, from a very real blindness which had been caused in large measure, by an inadequacy of words with which to communicate, to myself or anyone else. But it was not a good feeling: it was flat-out alarming! I had gotten used to living with a mild, unfocussed alarm over “what it is I do not know specifically.” But vague shapes and washed-out colors have now begun to gel and brighten; I can see them well enough to feel the need (I apologize ahead of time) to shout them.

This entry serves as a warning then: future entries will begin with this same title but be followed by a specific word. You will see words like Life, Death, Religion, Time, Science, Technology, Politics, and Evil following “Was blind, but now I see..” My point in telling you this is that you may not want to see, or you may be highly interested in the particular word of the day, but not want to read about what I am seeing. So be it. Skip that day’s essay, or all of them. My personal therapy is to write, and plant seeds of curiosity and thought in doing so. Some of those seeds will blow away, some will be eaten by birds, some will be washed downstream, but some might take root and grow.

And I think some of them, all of them eventually, must. And soon. We have lived under a veil- luckily, some of us- for so very long that it feels comfortable in the darkness. The air might be stuffy, we may rarely be able to discern real Light, but having gotten used to such things, we don’t even notice we are breathing harder and struggling to see with less and less success.

I think we’ve been blind; I know I have been blind, much of my life, to much of what I have only begun to see, to look at critically, and then to observe contemplatively. While we’ve been blind, others have been dying and suffering en masse because of the majority’s inability to see.

I know I’m not alone in my “shouting.” I am simply one more in a long long line of known and unknown men and women throughout the ages who could not stop seeing, once they had begun. I also hope there are many millions more that will transcend my voice and vision with greater eloquence, insight, and urgency.

Tomorrow’s word: Hope

American Soldier Throws Puppy off Cliff

Warning: It is what it says it is

Little things have larger meanings. Always.

Little sounds we make with our mouths, in combinations with other sounds, make words. Words represent specific things and our feelings about those things. Those are our thoughts- our personal reflections and opinions about the connections of things and people around us- and we are enabled through them to share ourselves with other people immediately, and through time.

But all of those personal thoughts reflect larger cultural and cosmological realities, too. They reveal our commonalities, our shared values and understandings of ourselves in community contexts. The things we say and do are not isolated events. They always have larger meaning.

Always.

Thus, the horror of this video.

Texas Youth Livestock Auction

This could be called “Yet Another Reason I Love Texas.”

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The local livestock auction for young people of this county is being held today. The winners in the various categories (swine, beef, and goats) get to auction their animals off to local banks, car dealerships, oil drilling companies, and other companies which bid BIG for the winning animals.

Now livestock auctions are being held somewhere in America every day of the week. And, yes, I know (and even agree with) some of the criticism of the livestock and meat-packing industry. But this auction has a whole different flavor (pun intended) than many of those other ones. This auction is one of those places where the spotlights and attention are young people doing well. And, while there is a difficult reality to be faced by these young men and women as they say “good-bye” to their animals, they are also learning about relationships in life, and being an integral part of a community that is vital to this area.

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These animals have been raised for meat production since they were calves, kids, and piglets. They have been tended to daily by their young owners, and handled often so that they would “show” well when their time in the ring finally came. The animals are as clean and spiffy as their owners.

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You’ll note that there’s not a lot of jubilation evident in these faces of these youngsters, despite the fact that they are walking away with a whole lot more money than they spent on the raising of their animals. They’ve experienced that it is possible- impossible not to– love an animal. But they are also learning about the purpose and hard work involved in raising their livestock. The ones who continue in ranching will never lose that tension between the care of their animals and the purpose of their being raised in the first place. Some of the gentlest, kindest people I know are ranchers who discovered that dilemma early on, and continue to face it daily.

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Another thing I love about this Youth Auction is that the organizers realize that people really do like to eat other foods besides meat! So the opportunity exists for cookies, cakes, and pies to be a part of the judging and auctioning process, too. This little boy just sold a $750 cake to a local bank!

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These are the kids who ride horses, have dogs and cats, grow up understanding and respecting the land, and who get to spend part of each day hoping for rain or shading their eyes against a sunset. They will never eat a hamburg in blissful ignorance of where it came from or be able to tolerate the intentional abuse of any animal.

Or any other person. Just watch them as they grow up and you’ll see what I mean. The lessons you see being learned in these pictures don’t end today. They are part of lives now and those lessons will will benefit all of us.

My Brother Is Dead- A Good Cause

I know a lot of visitors to this blog have found Miranda’s blog (My Brother Is Dead) via my page, and are fans of hers. This is a way of saying “thank you” to her and her family for sharing their grief (and Miranda’s writing skills) publicly, in such moving ways..

A scholarship fund, in her brother Kyle’s name, has been set up at San Francisco State University for students in Latin American history. My check is in the mail. Act fast, and it is still tax-deductible for 2007, too!