Monday, March 29, 2010

fasting day #1 poetry reflection

i like the idea of finding poems that speak to me and posting them as are two (one by me and one by someone better!)

-by leonard cohen-

You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
"This is not silence
this is another poem"
and you would hand it back to me.


everyone's hungry for something...
-by me-
this talk about your struggles got me thinking about the math of our lives.
if you subtract alcohol or love or sweetness,
what do you add to even the score?
because everybody's hungry for something
& the scales have to balance somehow.

when i gave up writing, i got religion
& it worked out so perfectly
that the two became almost mutually exclusive-
i could have words
or i could have the Eternal Word.
but not both.
never both.

this is what fascinates me about people
but it doesn't make for polite conversation.
most people want to tell you their successes
or assumptions about current weather patterns.
they don't want some stranger to wander up and say
"excuse me.
i was wondering if you could tell me
about everything you've lost
& what crazy things you've done
to try to make balance where there is none."
Judging by all the blank stares,
this must not be part of
How to Win Friends and Influence People.

but i don't care,
because i find it truly amazing-
what we're capable of
when we struggle like hell to survive.

& because the only balance i can find
between writing and God
is making my little, busted up corner of the world
a prayer.
one that begins
"O God of the eternal equation,
help the alcoholics
& the swaggerers
& the hobos
& the haters
& the lovers
& everyone who hasn't found you yet.
help us find the sum of our parts,
and help us exceed it, even briefly.
help us all find words for you,
the Eternal Word.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"the hurt locker" and mark twain

(Guernica by Pablo Picasso)

tonight i spent time with my friends (and some new soon-to-be-friends), watching The Hurt Locker and, on this 7th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion and subsequent War, how we feel about war, about soldiers, about violence in general.

As I walked home tonight, I kept reflecting on whether there are places in the world safe from violence. Is there good in the world? Are we really going to make a difference? I also thought about how old, and how barbaric, this warrior mentality is.

The perspective of The Hurt Locker, for some reason, also reminded me of Mark Twain's The War Prayer - it can be found in it's entirety here but the part that particularly spoke to me was the following piece of satire:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;

help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

This is what war asks of us (both soldiers and civilians)- this is what we sign off when we send troops to war. and, throughout the ages, in both words and images, people have tried to portray the true cost of this. Whether or not The Hurt Locker will succeed in making people think twice about our current wars is not yet known, but I would find it very difficult to finish that film without realizing that what we ask of our soldiers can be barbaric indeed.

it also helped me remember that, as a Christian, I have a special and beautiful call to use my faith to oppose the idea of a Warrior God, of a Killer Christ. These American ideas (which clearly were part of Mark Twain's time as well) seem to have taken root in our ideology. we use theological differences as an excuse for violence. we believe that a God of Love will forgive us, in the end, for this intense bloodshed. If we didn't think that, somehow, how could we support deaths by bombing, death by machine guns, death by the implicit and explicit costs of war? I don't think so, and now it's my job to figure out what that means for me. I guess what it means in the short-term is that tonight's dreams will be violent, terrifying, and profoundly sad. just like war...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

notes from a motherless child...

Who’s got a shoulder when I need to cry

I feel restless and I don't know why

Cry for help, but still feel alone

Like a motherless child a long way from home

730 days ago, i became half an orphan. and, while that's a lot of days to get used to it, i haven't. or, not entirely. i'm still no more able to talk about it, no more able to accept other people's sympathy or condolences. i'm still shifting into this role.

i still can't imagine that she won't be grandmother to my children, that i can no longer make fun of how her grilled cheese sandwiches never fully cooked in the middle. all those little and big things that make up one life lived.

when she was diagnosed with ALS in 2005, my mom decided that getting us all through her disease would be the best, and last, thing she'd accomplish here on earth. and she did it. she showed us how to suffer with grace, how to challenge and love God at the same time, and how to take care of each other as family.

even after 730 days, i can remember every minute of march 18th, 2008.

i remember the phone call from my dad and how i assumed my mom was in the hospital. until he said "I'm so sorry. There wasn't anything else we could do."

i remember driving home, stunned.

i remember seeing her.

i remember calling her best friend and breaking the news so God-awfully that i just couldn't make any more condolence calls.

i remember how kind everyone was - the food and cards and flowers and the overwhelming sweetness of people who knew her.

i remember that, sometime that day, we just started watching tv and laughing. because everything else just took too much effort. and it seemed odd and yet not.

the weeks and months after that were awful. i remember drinking a lot. i remember crying for no reason. i remember thinking that i'd always feel that way. i remember thinking, how can i possibly move on from here?

but, 730 days later, i have. sort of. i'm in a new place, surrounded by people i know my mother would love (when i was younger, she was always worried my friends weren't good enough for me), pursuing a vocation that i know she'd be proud of, taking risks just like she taught me to. knowing she'd be proud of me gives me some measure of solace. but knowing she'll never be able to tell me that, and i'll never be able to tell her how she inspired me to do all this, causes an untold measure of grief when i let myself think about it.

sometimes, this all just seems like a life meant for someone else, someone brave enough and strong enough to get through grief and build out of it a monument to a beautiful new world. today, i am too tired and do not feel like that person.

but, for better or worse, this is my life. and she, my beautiful mother, is one half of the foundation of this life. without her, i'll always be slightly off-balance, but it turns out, something beautiful can still be built. something she'd be proud of.