We do not treat love kindly

We do not treat love kindly
in these modern days;
we stumble around blindly
trying to find our way.

We put women on a pedestal
and claim to give them awe,
but the moment they start to fall,
they’re crucified for their flaws.

Male culture lauds the fight,
cheers heroes from the stands,
but what waits on his wedding night
for a hero with blades for hands?

It’s time to leave the path;
we must blaze a brand new trail,
embrace our flaws, release our wrath –
the price is too high for us to fail.

The story of a question

Today I want to tell you a story. It is the story of a question, and I have told it often to people in the past. It is the story I use to explain my thoughts and feelings on religion.

So here is my story of a question.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there is the Christian God. He exists, and is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and all-good. I make these assertions not only because of my math and science educational background, but because not everyone has the same beliefs.

So, given a God with these characteristics… Let’s say that you have the opportunity to ask one question of God, and this question will be answered with full and complete honesty. What question would you ask?

This is the part most people assume is a test, and they are right. But there are no right or wrong answers, merely answers that reveal things about each of us. I also ask for audience participation at this point, but since I’m telling this story online, I will forgo that today. Instead I will share some of the questions people have told me in the past.

I think my mother wanted to know why an benevolent and all-powerful God would allow for evil in the world. A good question; I’m curious as well.

A friend of mine who’d left seminary said he would ask for the meaning of his life. I’ve had others ask for the universal “meaning of life”, and that’s a good question as well – they both are.

I met a young woman in a coffeeshop who wanted to know why she’d suffered hardships recently. I understand that question as well.

An atheist friend of mine had a question that, while I don’t remember what she said, was so ridiculous it made me laugh. I remember her laughing off the opportunity, and it is her choice on how to spend the opportunity. As I said, there are no right or wrong questions. Our questions reveal who we are.

Which brings me to my question, which I have always prefaced by saying, “I will only tell you this if you let me explain WHY I’m asking it.”

My question is, and has always been: “Dear God (if there is a God), do you prefer beef or chicken cheesesteaks?”

That’s ridiculous, right? I recall my mother calling it “fucking stupid” when I first told her. I admit – it’s hard to see the value my choice.

So here is the story of why I would ask that question.

God knows everything; God can do anything. He is the president, CEO, and board of directors of Life and The Universe Inc. He has angels who serve him, people who worship him – and no friends.

Idolizing someone and putting them on a pedestal is not the same thing as being their friend. We may love celebrities, but we are not their friends. Our relationship with them is different than that. Then take God, the ultimate celebrity, and imagine the distance between him and the rest of us. Imagine the solitude of one who has spent the entirety of humanity’s existence watching over us, and trying to save us – most often from ourselves.

He may be the King of Kings, but I see him as the lonely king at the top of the mountain. He hears all supplicants, but does so alone. From the Christian creation story, he made partners for humanity, so we would not be alone. But whom did he create for himself?

Us? We are a mob of children who bombard him with our wishes and whims. Selfish or selfless, we ask and ask and ask some more.

Which brings me back to my question.

I do not care about the answer to my question. The point of the question is not to get an answer. I’m not requesting anything.

I am trying to make him smile, maybe even laugh.

With a seemingly lonesome existence as a caretaker, how many of us have turned to him to comfort him? How many of us have tried to make him laugh? How many of us have taken the gifts he’s given us and turned them into gifts for him?

So I want to use my gift to make him laugh. I would surprise him, though I assume he’s heard of my ambitions already (as I am not quiet about this story).

I ask him this question to treat him as a person. I ask him the same question I would ask a parent, a friend, a partner, or a child. I ask him the inconsequential question of what does he want for a meal. I narrow the field of answers to two choices – in part for comedic effect, in part to simplify the answer.

In doing so, I tend to one I perceive as untended. I care for one I see as forgotten – not God the Divinity, but the God who has walked beside us all our lives. I look after the one who looks after us, because it is important to be kind to others regardless of whether or not there’s anything in it for us.

Because that’s how we’re supposed to live, and treat each other. (In my opinion)

Interestingly, my question actually makes me something of a heretic. One of the characteristics of God is that he is not only all-knowing, but unknowable. And my question is about getting to know him, in a small but still very personable way.

I’m going against the grain, and walking a road that I don’t believe many stereotypical religious-types would walk. Perhaps they would, but I have yet to hear anyone ask a question for which they do not want an answer. In fact, I can see this silly question of mine being the sort of thing that overly zealous people¬†would fight over.

Beef or chicken? It’s obviously beef! People in the past sacrificed cattle to God, so therefore God would want beef.

Are you crazy? It’s so obviously chicken! God’s middle-aged now: he’s had a child, and raised that child to adulthood. Now God’s gotta take care of his health and watch his weight. That means white meat – chicken is the only answer it could be!

Beef!

Chicken!

*queue the religious wars*

Perhaps I’m a pessimist, but I can see that happening. It’s probably happened already, on different topics. Perhaps it’s even happening in our times right now.

Which is why this little heretic thinks God needs a laugh. Because, honestly…

Look at us. Look at any parent with small children. Look as us again – all seven-point-something-billion of us.

I think God NEEDS this laugh, and I think that laugh, that smile, is a good use of my question.

A dream by the sea

A dream by the sea,
a little cottage on the coast –
barely more
than four walls and a door,
but that’s enough for me.

A dream by the sea,
days spent on the dunes –
just laying in the sand
with a cold drink on hand,
but that’s enough for me.

A dream by the sea,
the wind and the waves –
the sound of the deep
rocking me to sleep,
but that’s enough for me.

A dream by the sea
while tangled in traffic –
despite the workday din,
my dream doesn’t give in,
and today that’s enough for me.

Curse you

Sometimes, we dislike people – to put it mildly.

Sometimes they do things that frustrate us, annoy us, anger us, or enrage us. Sometimes, we just don’t like them, and we can’t even put a finger on a reason why. And sometimes, we curse those we dislike.

I’m not talking about profanity. That core collection of words – the “fuck”s, “shit”s, and “damn”s – are almost meaningless in our current culture. In the words of Lewis Black on the topic, “These are the words adults use to express rage, frustration, anger.” And they serve their purpose, but they are not what I mean when I talk about cursing someone.

What I mean are the words we use, subconsciously, to criticize, insult, or condemn others.

Continue reading

Spirited debate

“You fool! Kiss her!”

The whispered words
wormed their way in,
the cadence climbing
to a damning din.

His thoughts theorized
her texture and taste,
urged him to urgency,
and warned him of waste.

But caution called out,
“Have a care for consent!
Don’t force on her a feeling
that would make the lady lament!”

But what is the fate
of this fable fell?
You’ll never know –
he doesn’t kiss and tell.

All in

I’ve been chewing on a thought for a while, and trying to get it down just right onto the page.¬† So, please indulge me, because here I go again…

“If you look deeply enough, you can see the world inside a single sheet of paper. You see the clouds in the page, for they carried the rain that made the tree grow. Without the rain, there would be no tree, and without the tree we would have no sheet of paper. The same could be said of the sun, or of the soil. The same could be said of the logger, who cut down the tree. And also the bread, that fed the logger who cut down the tree. And also the baker, who made the bread that fed the logger who cut down the tree. And as you look deeper, as you step further back and take a wider view, you can see the entire world in a single sheet of paper.”*

I encountered this concept from the Buddhist monk and poet Thich Nhat Hanh years ago in college, and I’ve recently heard people I know talking about it. They reinforce Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of interbeing – the interconnectivity of all things. They talk of harmony, of unity, of zen.

And while I also like the statement, I follow a different line of thinking regarding it.

I think of the times I’ve turned to others in need, and been turned away. I think about times I’ve been in pain, and no one has spoken up. I think about times I walked away, and no one chased after me. I read that concept, and think not of the interconnectivity of things, but of what happens when others ignore how connected everything really is. I think of severance, and abandonment. I think of responsibility.

I do not say these things to shame or harass anyone who had done such to me. In many cases, if not most, I know why others turned away. I know what they were struggling with. I know why they had no time for me. I saw their weariness. I know how toxic I was. I understand.

But the world is larger than my small perspective, and my choice to condemn or not condemn someone over this is a personal matter. The world is a much bigger place, and universal concepts must apply universally. And to that point, and with respect to the philosophy I brought up earlier, I make the following statement.

If there is a mess, and no one cleans it up, the mess does not go away. If anything, it grows larger.

So what does that mean? It means, to me, that if someone is in pain, and that pain is left untended, it magnifies rather than diminishes. It means that all the times we say we are too busy to help a friend in need…are times when we are betting that they can bear the pain on their own, or we are betting that someone else will appear to take care of them. We pass along the responsibility.

I believe that caring and loving people is something we must actively do. We cannot merely find time for people; we must make time for people. And in those times we don’t, in those times we walk away, I see as abandonment. I do not see people taking care of each other. I do not see them living a life that emphasizes the interconnectivity of everyone and everything. I see them as so caught up in their own life that they do not see the world around them.

And while it is not shameful to want to live your own life, The Golden Rule has always been to give to others as good as you wish they would give you.

Do we want others to treat us well only when it is convenient for them? Or do we want people to move mountains (or perhaps moving boxes) to help us in our times of need?

Do we want others there in our times of despair? Or do we want fair-weather friends who cannot, will not, and do not spend their time on those they deem “toxic”?

Do we want to feel the connectivity of the world, or do we want our own small islands of influence that we leave only when we can negotiate favorable trade agreements?

How do we live a good life? How do we live well? I freely admit – I do not succeed at this every day. Some days I do not even have it in me to try, and I drag myself through the mud with as much grace as I can muster. I try to do better the following day, and the one after that. Some days I succeed; others, I fail.

And so, I do no tell you all of this to shame you, dear reader. I do not say this to manipulate you. I say this because some words must be said. I say this because I have noticed those who walked away, who had no time, who had better things to do…

I say this because of all the stories I see and hear on the news, of the people for which others passed along the responsibility of care. I say this for all the tragedies that have occurred when the star called a human heart fell from the sky. I say this for futures we may yet avoid, for people we may yet save.

We are all connected. Just as the cloud, the rain, the sun, the soil, the logger, the bread, and the baker can be found in a single sheet of paper, I see all of you in me. I see myself in all of you. I see how helping myself can help you, and how helping you, ultimately, helps myself – and all of us.

*This concept was paraphrased, not quoted.

Love humbled him

For all his sins,
love humbled him.

His silver tongue
turned mercury,
and the ladies responded
with maniacal fury.

His vaulted looks
and raven locks
grew restless and
flew off in flocks.

The sexual skills
that once fanned his fame
didn’t change with the times
and the tiger grew tame.

But once his pride ruled him no more,
love came and lifted him up from the floor.