Divine Intervention: Blessing or Curse

For a while, it is comforting to think everything happens for a reason. But honestly, MOST people who lay that on as a platitude mean that it applies when bad things happen to YOU. Just like so many go around with, “God is good” on their lips when they’re in clover, but blame others when the chips are down. There’s even a Muslim proverb that states, “Everything good in my life is thanks to god; the bad things, the rest, are my own doing.”

When people think of divine blessing, they usually think of largesse, of abundance, of ease and the absence of strife. A divine curse, on the other hand, is usually the opposite: ruination, famine, loss, defamation and sadness. If the presence of the divine is in both, who is to say which is the preferred state, at least theologically?

Diversity and conflict define us as individuals in a way that blissful homogeny never can. It is only along the fault lines that the world grows.

A loving god, like a loving parent, wants us to grow, right? And like a wealthy father (and by definition any divine being surely qualifies) they surely want “to give us enough that we can do anything, but no so much that we need to do nothing.” There’s a balance between hard and easy, convenient and difficult, joyful and painful that MUST be the underlying composition of any divine gift or inheritance.

The Buddha I think had it right when he proposed, “all life is suffering.” We suffer when we are without, surely. Without food, water, shelter, opportunity, we wither. But at the same time, unwarranted (or should I say untoiled for) abundance creates another kind of suffering. Without challenge, without effort, we become weak, shallow, malleable and cruel. Of the two conditions, the complacency inherent in luxury is the more dangerous, if not to the “soul” and our spiritual health, then as the result of the “rich man’s” problems (i.e., diabetes, gout, high blood pressure, obesity) that the majority of oppressed, underprivileged and cursed of the earth are blissfully free from.

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Water seeks its own level

Water seeks its own level,
on a quest to find the sea;
The answers we seek taste of metal,
our understanding like liquid drawn from a well
that finds the hard edges
of knowing, the galvanized pail
holding the essence of our being
in one place, in this world.

What is outside this frame of steel,
this skeleton that time binds to this space?
To where are we going?
From where did we come?

What can we know of answers,
we who will be one day poured from this bucket
into the ocean?

What need is there of questions then,
when we are part of the wave?

And to those who are still on the shore, separate,
how shall we describe
what is gained, what is lost?

“Wherever I look, I see men quarrelling in the name of religion —
Hindus, Mohammedans, Brâhmos, Vaishnavas, and the rest. But they
never reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Úiva, and
bears the name of the Primal Energy, Jesus, and Âllâh as well — the
same Râma with a thousand names. A lake has several ghâts. At one
the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it ‘jal’; at another the
Mussalmâns take water in leather bags and call it ‘pâni’. At a third
the Christians call it ‘water’. Can we imagine that it is not ‘jal’,
but only ‘pâni’ or ‘water’? How ridiculous! The substance is One
under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance;
only climate, temperament, and name create differences. Let each man
follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God,
peace be unto him! He will surely realize Him.” — Sri Ramakrishna
(1836-1886)

21 DEC 2004

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What’s the Point?

What’s the point? I want to ask
the Mormons on their bikes,
who leave their own nice neighborhoods
to share the view they like
that they are sure contains the answers
to what’s wrong with us,
and don’t mind spending hours
on the front porch. We discuss
the book they’re peddling, free of charge,
the origins of man,
how God moves in an unseen way,
while we do what we can.

Their exposition on their faith
leaves me, at length, unmoved;
while my opinion on the universe
remains unproved,
at least, to them, because my book
has either not been writ,
or none have yet to take a look,
or maybe, it’s bullshit.

My entire life has been like that:
I understand their plight;
despite my great attempts to speak out
where I think I’m right,
the bottom line is no one listens;
no one gives a damn;
the world wants nothing of the truth,
and who I think I am
to people out there, on the streets,
is of no great concern.
They’d neither light a fire to warm me,
nor piss so I’ll not burn.

So in the end, who gives a f**k
about some grand design,
about nirvana or great bliss,
my neighborhood’s, or mine?
F**k new ideas, f**k advance,
f**k thinking for yourself;
f**k listening to the cosmic dance,
f**k those books on your shelves.
F**k gurus, mantra, holy books,
f**k pilgrimmage and prayer,
f**k hours of meditation,
f**k all gods who aren’t there.

F**k cities, f**k the small towns, too;
f**k hypocrites and saints;
f**k those who swear there’s something else,
f**k those who say there ain’t.

F**k friends who never call,
and those who won’t leave you alone;
f**k every last iconoclast,
f**k every single clone,
f**k me, and then go f**k yourself
and when you’re finished there
f**k those too f**ked to give a damn
and f**k those left who care.

‘Cause what’s the point? You live,
you die — that’s it this time around?
A sack of meat that keeps a pulse?
That doesn’t seem profound
enough to build religions on,
or claim some higher cause;
why bother with psychiatry
to correct minor flaws
when the whole purpose seems to be
just feed and breed and die,
and in between kill off those
who don’t like your reason why.

F**k war. F**k peace.
F**k those who think
that either one can fix
a world where children are shot down
by raving lunatics.
F**k newscasts, f**k those on-the-scene
reports that never say
each one of us played some small part
in how we got this way.
F**k schools, if all they try to teach
is how to get along,
the best fraternity to join,
or how to load a bong.
F**k infancy, f**k youth,
and you can f**k the middle aged,
who somehow act as if they’ve turned
to some important page
of life, and yet prize youth and beauty;
as if they’re still there,
despite the fat around their waists
and gray now in their hair.
F**k getting old and being old,
used up and of no use
except to buy up scooter chairs
and suck down carrot juice.

F**k Democrats, Republicans
and anyone who spouts
it’s not their fault the world is f**ked
or they’ve got a way out.

‘Cause what’s the point, I ask
because I’d really like to know;
I’d like to teach the world to sing
and tell it what I know
Not because “it’s my duty,
for the Bible tells me so,”
but because it seems so pointless
to just live, and go,
without affecting anyone,
or causing them to think
about the reasons that we’re here,
and why in this small blink
that is human existence,
why we bother to believe,
and when no one will listen
why the thinking man must grieve.

08 OCT 2006

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U.G.

In English, it sounds just the same:
a senseless string of words
embued with some sense of mystique
used to convince and tame you;
to teach you follow and not lead;
that first impulse is evil.
If what you seek you have right now,
then why the mad gyrations,
austerities, and endless rules
to curb now’s inclinations?

What higher purpose would you serve
that others claim is worthy?
A thousand saints are born and die
each day, and yet it makes no difference:
if an altered state of mind
could change the world,
it would be changed by now.

Who has convinced you that the truth
is out there for the finding?
If they possessed an ounce or two,
what good is that to you?
They are no different, save for this:
when someone gave them manna
they asked after the recipe
and did not stay for dinner.

What meal can satisfy your urge
that has no form or substance?
What is the point of starving, then,
to merely birth a vision?

The gods, if they exist at all,
have no need of your mantras;
they will enlighten who they will.
Your efforts make no difference.
In that case, why expect reward?
Instead, just go on living
as if this one was all you had;
and nothing will be missing.

31 JUL 2006

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But It Ain’t

If this were a Christian country
by Jehovah’s rules,
there’d be much more compassion
and glad suffering of fools,
less hands out full of gimme
with mouths full of much obliged,
no clear advantage to the rich,
less chance of a free ride.

There’d be a lot less hoarding,
much less emphasis on fame;
the suffering of even one
would bring all others shame.
Equality would be the rule,
and bigots would be shunned;
there’d be no race for riches,
nor a need for all these guns.

An even-handed justice would
inform our politics;
and none would need to worry,
from the ghettos to the sticks
on whether their best interests
by the corporate lust was served;
the good and kind would be rewarded,
just as they deserve.

At least, that’s the great theory,
but in practice, I’m afraid
that we have used religion
to create this world we’ve made.
We’d be a Christian country,
but we’re quite afraid of saints;
so holier-than-thous, be thankful
that Christian it ain’t.

05 MAY 2006

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A Sense of Place

Six years, the longest I have ever been
in one spot without moving out and on,
and still this place does not possess my bones
the way it would if I had come of age,
or taken my first steps, read my first book,
lost my virginity or first paycheck,
under these spreading, great magnolia trees,
through hurricanes and floods and summer’s heat.
My ties are severed to those memories;
there is no real connection back to where
the formative in me began to set,
to where grandparent’s porch-swings gently rocked,
or drifted snow blew up against the house
so high it blocked the window of my second story room.
There is no chain between me and the land;
what sacred space I ever found is gone.
And even when I visit, after years and miles away,
only their ghosts, if that, remain as shadows.
As always, disconnected from my peers,
whose constant habitations in one sphere
I wished to share, but never had the chance,
the sense of place in me is hollowed out.
At home, but homeless, my spirit abides
in pieces cast among my former selves;
How long before I call this city “mine”,
and recognize its rhythm as my own?

2 AUG 2005

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Art of the Midwest

I understand the Midwest: there is no substitute for work,
labor being the sacred art that transcends even grief.
What is madness, but belief that toil will not resolve conflict,
and an aversion to the sweat through which the Holy Spirit flows?

I understand the Midwest: no outward sign of strife or tears;
the stock pot never brought to boil that simmers on, each passing year.
The art of work is Midwest art; a beauty to be utilized,
from steady hands held firm despite a frailness to be disavowed.

I understand the Midwest, and the metaphor of Luther’s hands:
despite the drudgery entailed, the Lord’s work will be done.
And those whose hands are smooth, without a callous or a scar?
They tend to the demented souls who cursed, are unemployed.

I understand the Midwest: Sandburg’s rough Chicago smile,
the farmer’s tan, the sweat-stained cap, the sun-bleached overalls.
What is madness, but excuse for someone else’s hands
to lift your shovel, tote your bale, store up your share of coal?

I understand the Midwest: steam that blows the whistle there
must be imported from the coast; what’s native turns the wheel.

28 JUL 2005

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