Do What’s Right, and Risk the Consequences

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All those with agency are confronted by a choice. We can use that agency to secure for ourselves a safe and comfortable existence. We can use our life, that one unrepeatable product of four billion years of serendipity and evolution, to earn a little more, to save a little more, to win the approval of our bosses and the envy of our neighbors….We can, quite rationally, subordinate our desire for liberty to our desire for security. Or we can use our agency to change the world, and, in changing it, to change ourselves. We will die and be forgotten with no less certainty than those who sought to fend off death by enhancing their material presence on earth, but we will live before we die through the extremes of feeling which comfort would deny us.

– George Monbiot

The above quote is from a book called The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order (2003). It’s posted on my cubicle wall at work; it makes my mind tingle every time I read it. It is, quite simply, magnificent. And at the moment, quite apropos.

Everyone says original thinkers are those who “think outside the box.” That’s not enough for me. I want to take the box outside, smash it to pieces, set it on fire, and forget there was ever a box in the first place. I want to start fresh. Every. Single. Time.

We have reached a point in our evolution as a planet at which this sort of thinking is the only way forward. Postmodernism paved the way, pointing out the moral potency of language and reminding us that individual perception is at least as important as collective interpretation to understanding the world we live in. But I would argue that we’ve moved past even that: it’s time now for the rise of a new metanarrative. We must reassemble what we’ve so assiduously deconstructed. The individual must once again become part of a whole.

That whole is the global community. Not a new world order, necessarily; that’s a loaded term that conjures for many the abandonment of identity. Perhaps instead a “new world understanding.” Not the rejection, but the redefinition, of identity. Now that we have come to appreciate the value of the one, how do we build something bigger, better, and stronger on that foundation? How do we reconstruct?

Here in the United States, the first step toward this new understanding involves a reassessment of who we are as a nation. The “superpower” paradigm is no longer viable. The world doesn’t need watchdogs; the world needs good global citizens. We need to embrace the global community that, in large part, we created, by way of corporations like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s.

This means reining in those very corporate actors, the ones who give us such a bad name around the world. The ones that go into developing nations in the name of solidarity, use up all the local resources, enrich the local despots, and then move on to greener pastures once the well’s been sucked dry.

This means actually being a member of the United Nations: not just drafting resolutions, but adopting them in good faith, and living by them instead of just forcing everyone else to. Addressing climate change and the global economy as more than simply electoral leverage, and recognizing the multitude of ways in which our actions affect strangers on the other side of the planet.

It means thinking past national security and “peace in our time.” Not thinking in terms of our problems and their problems. Their problems are our problems; there is no parsing that away anymore. If that weren’t the case, the attacks in Paris wouldn’t be making us so nervous right now. We know how easily troubles move about the globe these days. The next step is to accept our responsibility for helping to solve them. Which includes taking in the refugee.

It means rethinking the idea of nationality itself. I’m not saying we should do away with our shared identity as American citizens. But we should not allow our definition of the United States to stand in the way of a united planet. We can be American citizens, and global citizens, at the same time. We simply have to find the will to do it.

I would wager that most people are familiar enough with the cultural meme of the Good Samaritan, so I won’t take the time to explain the whole thing. I’ll just leave you with this thought:

Who is my neighbor? Everyone, everywhere.

As my good friend Russell commented on my previous post, we need to have the courage to do what is right, together, and risk the consequences. It’s the only way to survive the future.

Spread the word:
Open the doors!!!

Open the Doors

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Everyone must understand: you can’t ask for solidarity when there’s a problem and then exempt yourself from doing your duty when there is a solution.

– Francois Hollande

Where do we stand, O Greatest Nation in the World?

In one week (minus change), our citizens will be crowded up against closed doors, gazing wistfully upon what lies beyond, fully prepared to beat the living shit out of one another for the chance to be free…to buy a 60-inch TV at a low, low price. And we (meaning our stuffed-shirt, pansy-ass politicians) will defend that freedom to the bitter end. We will go so far as to redefine “Friday,” which now apparently begins at 6:00 PM on Thursday. Because America stands for nothing if not greed (sorry, “free enterprise”).

Black Friday is always the brunt of hypocritical and futile rants. Not unlike Valentine’s Day at my Southern Baptist alma mater. But, like the angry students at my school, who stopped protesting as soon as they got dates, Black Friday editorializing tends to last about as long as it takes Wal-Mart or Target to open their doors, at which point the editorialists let slip the dogs of war and plunge once more into the breach.

This year ought to be different. This Black Friday has potential, in that it might stand out as more than usually black. While we press our noses against sliding glass doors, begging for a bargain, numberless refugees press their whole lives against our national borders, begging for our help. And unlike the doors at Best Buy, our hearts show little sign of opening. As we ransack the shelves at whichever den of capitalism we frequent, little thought will likely be given to those whose entire worlds have been ransacked around them.

Where do we stand, O Greatest Nation in the World? What price our souls? Have we, at long last, no sense of decency?

Spread the word:
Open the doors!

FearMeneutics

Wasn’t it their Jesus who didn’t care much for this life? Wasn’t it their Jesus who said to love our enemies? Wasn’t it their Jesus who said to give the tunic off your back? What the hell was the parable of the Good Samaritan all about if not endangering one’s own self to help another?

– Ruth (Out from Under the Umbrella)

My good friend Russell, of Russell & Pascal, sent me this YouTube clip last night. As some of you may know, in a previous life I occupied pulpits for a living myself. Before I realized what was required of those, not to mention what was spewing out of those, who stand in that spot.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Baron Lord Acton told us, and the authority ascribed to evangelical mega-church (and even mini-church) pastors is about as close to absolute power as clergy can get, short of being the Pope. It is also an extended exercise in electioneering: evangelical clergy are hired, not assigned, to fill their pulpits, which means they can also be fired. Which means they get very good at telling congregations exactly what they want to hear, to the point that it becomes difficult to distinguish between sermons and sound bites.

But even more disturbing than what the pastor himself says in this video is the wild applause in the background. My friends, I give you The Lynch Mob, otherwise known as Sunday morning worship. It is emotion running on pure instinct: this is how the same group can applaud Jesus’ admonition to “love your enemies” and their pastor’s support for killing those same enemies dead, all within six minutes’ worth of a YouTube clip.

This is not love, in any sense of the word; it is hate, fueled by fear, encouraged by clerical authority. And it is why I got out when I did–from flag waving to male chauvinism to homophobia, all disguised as God’s love and all justified by way of Scripture, I just couldn’t be That Guy anymore.

But let’s be clear–That Guy isn’t what Christianity is about, not completely. There are many Christians–including many pastors–who believe Ruth’s words, quoted above, and live according to them both in and outside of the church. Lest we forget that, and treat them as the above congregation wants to treat our Islamic brethren, here’s a few quotes that I found yesterday in posts about the Paris attacks, and our national response to them:

Before I knew it I felt the emotions move from my stomach to falling out of my eyes as I prayed for the leaders of this country, our current President, the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, for the prejudice in my heart, and the hate in my words-the words that I have only spoken to myself.

I prayed for the children sleeping in tents and on the road to safety, I prayed for the families that were destroyed and separated, both in Paris and Syria. I opened that prayer to every family, worldwide, that has been touched by terrorism.

The emotion made me pause as I began to pray for every mother or father boarding or placing a child on a boat in an act of love, making hard decisions, trusting the life of their child to both faith and chance; my pause provoked by both empathy and reality.

— — — — —

Act Justly: when faces of weary, worn and haggard refugees stream across my Facebook feed, I am reminded again and again that these are people. They have needs and desires. They require air to breathe, the same as do I. They have families and loved ones. They have felt love- feel love. Have been loved. Have known love. In justice, I must show love as well, offering what I have. Even though what I have might be small. It might be as small as a prayer. It might be even as faint as a fleeting thought or as fragile as the whisper of an image striking my mind in quiet, speaking to my soul. But to do justice, I must seek for the best for all human beings across this globe.

Acting justly starts small. If I cannot act justly to those I know and care for, how can I act justly for others in far-flung regions? It starts here. It starts now. It starts with me.

Love Mercy: I must cleave to compassion, strive to be kind, urgently aim toward benevolence. If I have, I must give. If I can share, I must allocate. If I can offer, so I must do. In considering others better than myself, I am showing that I love mercy. In placing others needs above my own, I am showing that I love mercy. In offering my life for the betterment of another life, I am showing mercy.

Our lives are not our own. Do we not believe that we have a Father that protects us? Is He not bigger than terror? Are we not held in the hollow of His hand? Whom shall I fear?

Walk Humbly: when we refrain from extending ourselves, there can be issues of pride involved. But so can they become intertwined in our motives when we give. We must continuously contend for humility in all aspects of our life. If we have been chastened, accept and move forward. If we have been convicted, act on our convictions. If we feel strongly, question the motive that has brought about the feeling. If we do not feel strongly, we can then ask ourselves: why not? In humility, we are made more in His image. We are more of what we could be. More of what we should be.

I ask each of us—myself included—when considering what our role is in the unfolding story of world history (whether that be a story told close to home or farther abroad: what would Jesus do?

Let it be what I would do too.

— — — — —

Dare I grieve for the misguided, angry and evil young men who convinced themselves that this was for God’s glory? Dare I grieve for the mothers of these men and wonder if this was their aspiration? Dare I grieve for those who hold their faith as preciously as I hold mine and see themselves disdainfully numbered amongst the criminally insane? I dare.

— — — — —

To be Christian is not, willy-nilly, to embrace hatred and xenophobia, as some who view the above video might want you to believe. That video is one expression (albeit unpleasant) of a wonderfully kaleidoscopic faith that takes in a multiplicity of views and beliefs, many of which are built upon the very teachings of loving action that Pastor Jeffress’ words so effectively undermine. Not all Christians respond to the hermeneutics of fear.

I no longer think of myself as a Christian, but I would be remiss if I failed to defend the many men and women in my acquaintance who still are, and who would be just as horrified as I am to hear Pastor Jeffress’ message of violence and hate. In the hearts of many, God actually is love, and to be a Christian actually means living that love in a way that transcends the legalistic and the literal.

So, before you judge too harshly the whole based upon the part, remember what we’re talking about this week: if it is unfair to turn our backs on the Syrian refugees because of what the very few among them may believe or desire, then it is equally unfair to reject all Christians because of what this congregation has done to the Christian message.

Hatred is a mirror:
the only person you ever see in it is yourself.

I Now Pronounce You…

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Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.

– The Impressive Clergyman

If you glance at the sidebar of my blog, you’ll notice my “Credentials of Ministry.” A word on that…

Way, way, way back in 2003, before I absconded with an open(er) mind, the church I was working at in Missouri licensed me to “marry and bury,” as the saying goes. Between then and my departure from the ministry, I performed two extremely Christian weddings (cord of three strands, Proverbs 31 woman, husbands love/wives submit, and all that).

Then, having packed my clerical bags, I assumed that was all in the past…

…Until a friend asked me, quite recently, if I would be interested in conducting a secular wedding ceremony for his dad. To my surprise, I found myself actually considering it. And in one week and change, I will be doing it.

However, being unsure as to the continued validity of that first license, I decided to update my status by applying for ordination to the Universal Life Church, a process which took about three minutes and which is accepted, with certain exceptions, in most of the fifty states.

So, now, have license, will travel.

The online approach is unlike me. On one level, I feel like I just shopped for a term paper. On another, though, this feels…important. Formality doesn’t carry as much weight with me now as when I was “Pastor Vance”; after almost seven years of what our families would call “Godless marriage,” I find that two strands, tightly woven, don’t really need a third. If the online ordination offered by the ULC allows me legally to bring  two new strands together, then it’s good enough for me.

It feels important because there are people, like me, who believe that the parties involved are more significant than whatever religious legitimation might be brought to bear on the proceedings. A strong commitment between loving individuals, whatever their gender, trumps commitment to any particular theological or philosophical system. The latter is neither necessary nor sufficient to a long and happy marriage, and sometimes only gets in the way.

Also, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, it seems to me that someone needs to stand for the right–legalized, perhaps, but still not guaranteed–of all people to build a relationship with the person of their choice. I was once told that, if a same-sex couple looks hard enough, they’re sure to find a pastor willing to marry them. To which I reply: No one should have to “look hard” for permission to celebrate their desire for commitment, as if their love were any less valid than anyone else’s. So, look no further: here I am.

This is a feeble attempt to express my feelings on this matter. And I’m definitely not the A-Team. But if you’re looking for affirmation rather than approval; if you’re more interested in your commitment to one another than commitment to any particular faith; if the only legitimation you need is your love for each other; if any of this applies to you, then I’m your guy.

Now…let us eat cake!!!

Religiocracy

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Your Catholic blues, your convent shoes,
Your stick-on tattoos now they’re making the news
Your holy war, your northern star
Your sermon on the mount from the boot of your car.
Please, please, please
Get up off your knees.

– U2

It’s not me; it’s the Bible.

I have had just about enough of the line of reasoning that, after admitting freely that same-sex marriage represents harm neither to the social fabric or the institution of marriage, still insists that same-sex relationships must be opposed, because scripture says so. Or the Vatican. Or whatever.

When I ask for your position on a given issue, I’m not looking for a quote from the catechism, or the Pauline letters, or the Baptist Faith and Message. I’m asking for your position. If you must resort to the aforementioned sources, then I would humbly suggest that in reality you have no position. You may have subscribed to someone else’s, but you don’t really have one of your own.

Furthermore, there is something fundamentally wrong with a religion that is, as the old cliché goes, so heavenly-minded that it is no earthly good. With a God who makes his bones by setting people against each other instead of making them one. Anybody can promise pie in the sky by and by; it takes a real “person” to effect change for the better in the lives of individuals right here and now. With the former, there is no burden of proof; with the latter, proof is the burden.

There is something even more fundamentally wrong with a religion that preaches love while practicing discrimination in the name of love. This is the “milk” of scripture on which we’re raised: we must ensure inequality now in order to guarantee equality in heaven. We must forsake the self-evident present to ensure the all but imaginary future. Not to put too fine a point on it, but what the Hell kind of sense does that make?

No less an historical figure than Augustine himself embodied perfectly the double standard upon which this approach to “freedom” is based: when we are persecuted by them, persecution is evil, but when we, given the upper hand, persecute them back, it is the essence of Christian charity.

If, therefore, we wish either to declare or to recognize the truth, there is a persecution of unrighteousness, which the impious inflict upon the Church of Christ; and there is a righteous persecution, which the Church of Christ inflicts upon the impious….Moreover, she persecutes in the spirit of love, they in the spirit of wrath; she that she may correct, they that they may overthrow; she that she may recall from error, they that they may drive headlong into error (The Correction of the Donatists).

In this spirit of self-important benevolence, we greet the world. Give us freedom, that we might give you less.

On the one hand, we follow a teacher who promises life in abundance (not then; now), while on the other we insist on a hermeneutics that takes it away. We are living a “faith” that subsists on inequality and division, in the hopes that one day, way beyond the blue, when the roll is called up yonder, we’ll still be around to care.

Why?

Because we believe. Or so we’re told…

Who We Aren’t

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The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.

– Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

In his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark decision that struck down bans on same-sex marriage throughout the fifty states, Chief Justice John Roberts asked:

As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?

In all honesty, I’m not always sure who we are as a nation, but I think I can say with some confidence who we are not:

We are not Han Chinese, or Kalahari Bushmen, or the Carthaginians. And, unless at some point we’ve performed a ritual human sacrifice on the White House lawn, we are definitely not the Aztecs. I’d like to think we’ve made just a little progress since then. Even if one rejects the idea of biological evolution, no one who’s read a history book (outside of Texas) can possibly deny the reality of social evolution. We are not who we once were. And this is a great good.

We are not even the nation we were a week and a half ago. As President Obama so eloquently noted in his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, the events that unfolded in Charleston have had an effect on us as a people that no one, from the shooter to the Fox pundits to society at large, saw coming: we have stumbled upon (or been thrust rudely into) introspection, a quality sorely lacking of late in our public discourse. We have perhaps for the first time in a very long time stopped to consider the feelings of others. When the son of Strom Thurmond advocates the demotion of the Confederate flag, you know a corner’s been turned.

In this groundswell of respect for others (fleeting as it may be), the Obergefell decision seems only fitting. Perhaps we are finally getting it through our collective head that our LGBTQ compatriots are not aberrations, not threats to the social order, not “less than” anything or anyone. That instead, they are just like us: people in pursuit of happiness, people in possession of human dignity, people entitled to all the rights and liberty the rest of us expect to wake up to in the morning. Perhaps we’ve finally realized that the worship of God doesn’t require judgment of others, or that these men and women simply want a share in our society, not to destroy it. Perhaps; perhaps not…

Here, though, is where the rubber meets the road. Neither the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, or the Civil Rights Act a century later, signaled the end of the racist streak that runs throughout our history as a nation. Charleston proved that. Legislation and/or court decisions get us only so far. And they are what truly show us who we are as a society, because they take what once was adherence to the law (call it “plausible deniability”) and transform it into circumvention of the law. Alleged innocence flies out the window: we’ve now reached the stage of egregious (and generally creatively underhanded) denial of our fellow citizens’ rights.

Before June 26, 2015, we could say that our attitude, our approach to the issue of LGBT equality, was about “the letter of the law,” about what’s written down on the hallowed papers and documents of our land. We could blame the Founders, pin it on the courts, whatever. Now, today, that ship has sailed: now it’s all about what lives in our hearts and minds, as individuals, as citizens, as human beings. Nooses on trees come from nooses in minds; hateful speech flows from hateful hearts. Who do we think we are? We are what we say and do.

Justice Kennedy foresaw the coming storm in the majority opinion: “Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty.” Anyone familiar with Jim Crow feels the truth of those words, some of us in ways the rest of us will never quite understand. And the choice, now, is ours: who do we think we are?

If we take Justice Roberts’ words as binding, it would seem we are who we ever have been, that we cannot change, that we cannot grow as a people and a society. We must always think as we have thought before; we must always plumb the depths behind rather than plotting out the course ahead. And that’s a dangerous frame of mind: if we think we are who we used to be, we’ll never realize who we might become.

The real question, as we move forward, is this: Who are we going to be, now that we’re beginning to understand what it means to be who we are?

Calling My Shot

19365_717013806513_9223634_39963040_868241_nThe earth starts to rumble
World powers fall
A’warring for the heavens
A peaceful man stands tall

– Megadeth

We have a set of very simple choices in front of us:

We can be part of someone’s bad day, or we can be that which makes it better.

We can be silent partners in a world in decline, or we can take responsibility for the shares we hold and work toward recovery.

We can take hold of what we have and hold on for dear life, or we can let go and share the wealth, precisely because life is so dear.

One of my favorite quotes, from George Monbiot’s Age of Consent:

All those with agency are confronted by a choice. We can use that agency to secure for ourselves a safe and comfortable existence. We can use our life, that one unrepeatable product of four billion years of serendipity and evolution, to earn a little more, to save a little more, to win the approval of our bosses and the envy of our neighbours. We can place upon our walls those tombstones which the living erect to themselves: the framed certificates of their acceptance into what Erich Fromm has called the ‘necrophiliac’ world of wealth and power. We can, quite rationally, subordinate our desire for liberty to our desire for security. Or we can use our agency to change the world, and, in changing it, to change ourselves. We will die and be forgotten with no less certainty than those who sought to fend off death by enhancing their material presence on the earth, but we will live before we die through the extremes of feeling which comfort would deny us.

Simple decisions? Yes: simple decisions with fearfully complex implications. Once I decide to step up, once I call my shot, life becomes a whole new ballgame. I said in an earlier post that this isn’t about me, and on one hand that is true. On the other, though, it’s all about me. It’s about who I decide to be in relation to the world around me. Which shouldn’t be about me. Who I decide to be, expressed in the actions I take and the decisions I make. Which, again, shouldn’t be about me. Never about me. The world has to come first, starting with my family (spouse, children, etc.) and spiraling ever outward. Because it’s not about me, it’s all about who I decide to be.

Small exercise: Pinpoint one aspect of “you” that might be conceived of as the weakest link. At its most basic, what sort of work does it need? For me, it’s all about patience (impatience, really). So I look to the traffic light. At its most basic, my impatience stems from a belief that my time, my affairs, are the most important consideration in the world, and when I find myself fuming at a red light, it can be boiled down, pretty much, to that selfish impulse. It’s all about me, and this stupid light is getting in the way.

My first step, then, toward moving myself out of the way and living a world-centered life is, oddly enough, about learning to let stoplights be, and recognizing the importance of others’ lives. When I manage even this insignificant little feat, then it’s not about me anymore. Stress levels drop, frustration falls away, and I’m free to love a world my selfish side demands that I hate. And once that first, baby step is taken, I’m ready for the next: I’m ready to cultivate patience in all situations. Waiting for a table at a restaurant, standing in line at the grocery store–am I really the only person in the world who needs to eat? Much as I’d like to think so, probably not… :0)

Impatience lies at the root of my egocentric world; remove the cornerstone, and the whole structure begins to weaken, and will eventually collapse. And that’s the goal. Therein lie the seeds of the new world order: it’s not about political systems, or religion, or economics; it’s all about who I decide to be.

Choose to be a peaceful person in a world of chaos. It just might be contagious.

Shine On!

If nothing we do matters,
then all that matters is what we do.

-Angel

This could be heaven for everyone…

Stop thinking in big, defeatist pictures, and start thinking in kibbles, bits and pieces. Not what can we do. What can I do?

What can you do?

We can build heaven together, but it takes all of us, acting individually, to act together. No one can do it but us. Baby steps. Smiles here, caring touches there. That waitress that keeps dropping stuff? Don’t tip less; tip even more than you normally would. Life’s not about being served. It’s about serving. About being of service to the strangers around us, in the interests of abolishing the term forever. About acting in ways that surprise, that take expectations and dash them to pieces. That transcend the status quo in order to establish a new one. That raise the bar, set a higher standard, that turn human nature on its head and give the human spirit a fighting chance at survival.

It’s not about retribution; it’s not about getting our own out of a situation. It’s about taking what should be our own, and cutting ties with it, giving it away, giving it up. Leggo your ego. Let. It. Go.

Put your self down and step away slowly.

I.M.U.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe lives in wisdom,
who sees himself in all and all in him.

– The Bhagavad Gita

Please listen. Because this isn’t about me; it’s about you. And it’s about me.

I recently said, in an e-mail to a friend, that I was taking some time to rethink my goals for this blog, because the endless cycle of bravado and breakdown was proving unsustainable. It occurs to me, though, that this is what life is: we’re all teetering, all the time, on the brink, poised on the precipice that separates false certainty from overwhelming doubt. It’s a shell game, this search of ours: we move our fears from one place to another, like Sisyphus, up the hill, down the hill, and back again.

Happiness is an elusive animal. Here I let Edwin Arlington Robinson speak for me:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

In one of my latest posts, I commented that I don’t feel like I belong. On reflection, I see how selfish a statement that is. Who am I, that my belonging or not is what really matters? And what of you? Do you, in the dark moments, in the shadow of gathering clouds and pouring rain, feel that you belong? And if not, where does that leave me?

That’s not as self-centered a question as it seems, I think. Whether you be clod or promontory, we stand or fall together, we fade or remain as one. But we have to understand and honor that connection for it truly to bind us…and by binding us, to set us free. Free from ourselves, in order to be each other.

Let me try to explain.

I have walked in some very dark places. I still do, and I always will. Sometimes, the darkness by its nature obscures perception, redefines sight. When you can’t see past the nose on your face, your face seems to be all that there is. And so I forgot something very important, vitally important. I’m not alone, here in the dark night of the soul. You’re here, too. All of you.

For every face in this world, there is a mask hiding it from view. Masks we’re taught to wear by those who’ve worn them before us. We think we are all different, because the masks make us so, but underneath the masks we wear we share the face that matters. The human face, the face we recognize in one another on those rare occasions when pretense is dropped and the masks come down.

Please understand: I say this not by way of claiming a position of gnostic clarity, but as one whose mask is set firmly in place. If I pretend to be wise, it is because in doing so I may momentarily fool myself into believing I have any wisdom to share. If I pontificate on the “real meaning” of friendship, it is because I myself have no idea what that “real meaning” is. If I claim selflessness, it is because I can just glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m self-involved enough to think that light is me.

Really, the light at the end of my tunnel is you. You are what I cannot live without. All of you.

I will not apologize for my weakness, because my weakness stems from my humanity, and without my humanity I wouldn’t be in such need of yours. It’s like this, see: each of us is a piece of the puzzle, and each of us is a puzzle. We are missing pieces, and pieces are missing from us, at one and the same time. Call it a God-shaped hole; call it a donut hole–whatever its shape, we are each of us incomplete as we stand, and it isn’t more cowbell that we need. What we really need–what I really need–is to see the ways in which we fit together. Buddhists call it “interbeing,” but what you call it doesn’t really matter, so long as you know that it’s real.

Of course I belong. I belong to you.

Eternity in an Instant

328px-ClessidraEternity dwells in the instant between Out and In. All that came before, all that comes after–this is but a shadow on the face of Now.

The past lives in me, but I cannot live in the past; the future waits for me, but I cannot wait upon the future. History weighs me down as the clock-face drags me forward. I must cut ties with either, lest I lose my Self to both.

Out. In. Life and death, promise and doubt, intermixed in a multitude of single moments.

As I breathe, I am eternal.
I need no farther horizon
.
There is no grander view.