Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nostalgia

Lazily drifting through an autumn river
amidst fragrant fiery reds, delicious glistening golds, and a remnant of spring green
a nippy chill creeps up my arm
I absentmindedly pull at my jacket
though I don't mind it much

Memories fade to fantasy as the present pours in
Tomorrows are patient enough

Friday, October 22, 2010

For Gonzo

Why don't I feel ok to be me?
Why did I delete that line the first time I wrote it?
I think you convinced me that I am weird
You told me a plethora of times, but I never got the memo
Then I found like minds
I still feel insecure
Will the lines rhyme?
Can they feel me as I bear my soul?
Probably not.
To you these are the useless meanderings of a lost soul
At best, a terrorist
To me, I am me
Simple, aesthetic, and counter-cultural me.

I don't want to be like you
I want to make speeches, paint walls, and bring others down:
I want you to be like me
Free.
Well as free as you let me be
Which isn't that free
I don't believe in America
I don't believe in progress
and because I do not talk like you, dress like you, paint like you, sing like you, write like you
smoke like you, tear my family apart like you, keep secrets like you, you make me feel ashamed
“He is no Picasso”
Damn straight! And he is no me
“His work is languid and full of angst”
Your work is boring, monotonous, and inhuman.
You should be trying to impress me
Yet here I am
Sitting in a dark room
alone
Wondering what you think of me

Do not pity me America
For I pity you
our hopes and dreams do not rest in the wallets of the CEO's and Presidents
They are carried forward on the hands and knees of those you demoralized
Again, the slave carries the burden of us all!
But we look just enough like you that we hide in plain sight
Some rebel
Some shrink
Some kill themselves
Kick a puppy long enough and he starts to think he deserved it
I am not your bitch
I am the Da Vinci of my universe and you a Medici-mind of mine

Why am I different?
Because I believe in something other than profits, money, wars, cars, dinners, sex, success, clothes, and celebrity?
I feel outside because I am
and, honey, the weather is fine
Come,
s
e
e

t
h
e

s
u
n

s
e
t

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Insanity

“Save us! Save us!”
Dust off those rugged old shoes
And wind this trek of hardship into a spire of redemptive glory

“Harken! Patriots, assemble!
Money trees, securities, dividends, and democracy!”
(Can you hear the cornered elephant whisper a devil's errand ?)
Stony bread and fishy snakes for everyone!

“Off with his..” (!)
Heads or tails?

Serpents glisten gold as a Midas touch
But a devil is a devil is a devil...
no matter how you dress him

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Boys Allowed

Sitting
seemingly aimless
stomach rumbling
pondering on the invisible edge

Mama's tears stain the pillows
Papa abuses Jack till he can't speak
Baby watches TV
learning how to want

“What's for dinner?”
The consumer asks
Dreams of tomorrow...

Wanderers in their own home
Laborers glued, stagnant
Opportunity knocks?
At a heavy oak door encrusted with jewels
No boys allowed

The Narrow Way

You have been deceived by a foreign way
But I will show you a narrow path
Winding through the hills of temperament
Opening up to the valley of peace

Those lagging will surely go astray
Ragged and decrepit
diverting from the course whenever the trek proves arduous

Those Free are free of commitment
Ever leading toward the promised land

Forward American soldier!
Leave your treasures
Forsake your “homes”
Listen, breath, and find where your heart leads you
Turn not your head from the light
Bright she may shine
But clear she guides the way

Peace, security, and other adulterated promises
What have they brought you?
The heart of man and woman burn with the fire of discontent
But are quenched with illusion

“Death to the unbeliever!”
Wisdom bows her head humbly and quietly marches on
Agreement is a bond too fickle to endure
But freedom leads her children home
with the bread crumbs of joy

All you need is love
yourself
your neighbor
Who else is there?

You have given over to a foreign way
But I will show you a narrow path
Winding through the hills of temperament
Opening up to the valley of peace

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturated Inspiration by Larry Swetman

A thousand ideas and a trillion words
Depression, suppression, and regression they go
Who am I urging headlong, my call?
I am a god among men
I have tasted forbidden fair
and serve it warm, glowing, and stagnant
Beatniks, freakniks, wear-travelers and beach tricks
Words lay flat under the weight of gravity
We breath life and fly away on a whisper of smoke
Ever expanding, reversing entropy
Fusing light into matter and verse into rain
Trickling with time and lathered in shame
Breath in my breath, run amuck... tear down my imagination
Saturated Inspiration
Woo me sweet muse
Out there
Here

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why I Cry at Night by Larry Swetman

I cry
because blood runs in the streets where children used to play
because daddys cant come home cause their resting in their graves
because bombs fall at night while families try to sleep
because I can hear their stomachs rumbling... thousands of miles away
because policy can build walls but not bring them down
because black is white and 2+2=5

I cry
because my prayers fall on deaf ears
because a loving inclination reeks of treason and sedition
because they pit us against each other like puppeteers in a cruel show of irony
because lies permeate air waves like a AIDS... infecting, destroying, and alienating
because you don't

War is a cash cow
Lionizing the green serpent until he is fat on the lifeblood of the innocent
No!
Freedom glares like sunlight off the eagle's back
It gently caresses and kisses the cheek of an infant



I cry because lies have become the truth
And we haven't even noticed

FBI Targets Peace Activists For Supporting Terrorism (NPR)

This article can be found at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130274688

More than a dozen peace activists in the Midwest will face a federal grand jury in Chicago in the next few weeks, in an investigation related to terrorism.

The FBI searched the activists' homes last week, confiscating computers, photographs and other materials that the search warrants suggest could be evidence of "material support" of terrorist organizations.

One activist, Joe Iosbaker, says that before 7 a.m. last Friday, he heard a loud, sharp knock on the door of his Chicago home. "When I came down the stairs, there were, I don't know, 7, 8, 10 agents standing on our front porch," he says. "And I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses. And I opened the door — and they showed me a search warrant."

Iosbaker, a labor organizer, says the agents came in and started searching the house, every inch of it.

Iosbaker's wife, Stephanie Weiner, says as many as 25 agents came through their house throughout the day, searching and removing items for 10 hours. "The house was turned upside-down, tip-to-toe, to such an extent that boxes from the '70s and '80s in our attic were brought down and looked through," she says.

Weiner, a community college teacher, says the agents went through their teenage sons' belongings, including notebooks and posters. They even inspected the words and designs on their T-shirts.

"It was a shocker. Um, we were stunned," she says. "I think I have to say we've suffered through a trauma."

At first, the couple was perplexed about why they were being singled out. But as the day went on, they realized they weren't the only ones to have been targeted.

Another home was being searched in Chicago, belonging to the executive director of the Arab American Action Network. And in Minneapolis-St. Paul, six more homes of anti-war activists were searched, along with the offices of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. An anti-war activist in North Carolina says his home was searched by the FBI last Friday, too.

The search warrants were issued by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and signed by a federal judge. They sought "evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism."

Investigators appear to be looking for links between the activists and overseas groups the government classifies as terrorist organizations. The groups include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — and in at least a couple of cases, Hezbollah.

Iosbaker and Weiner say they've spoken out against U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the Middle East, but they deny they've done anything that can be construed as "material" support for those groups.

Weiner calls the searches an attack on a political movement.

"It was truly to intimidate, to divide, to silence and separate the movement," she says.

After the searches, hundreds of anti-war activists protested outside the FBI's field headquarters in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities, to denounce what they contend is an effort to squash free speech against U.S. policy.

But Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice says that's not what's going on.

"The FBI investigates allegations of violations of federal criminal law," he says. "We do not investigate any person or group because of their political persuasion or beliefs, and we support and defend the right of every citizen to peaceably assemble and protest."

Rice and the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago would add only that this is an ongoing criminal investigation, and no arrests have been made.

Several of those subpoenaed are to appear before a federal grand jury in the coming weeks, starting next Tuesday.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Battle For Your Mind

American politics are a joke. The wishes of the people are ignored for the policies of rich men completely out of touch with reality. However, no matter how irresponsible politicians are with our money I must admit the genius of the system.

The two-party system of American politics diverts the attention of the population from the real problems of poverty and injustice to minute matters of legislation. The state parades our vote like it is a privilege when, in fact, it is more of a curse. A vote in the American political process is a constant reminder of the bonds that hold us. We are forced to choose between two evils that do not represent the will of the people. Every day protests take place across the country in local communities outraged at the audacity of their government.

History is riddled with examples of the rich lording their influence over the general populace. 2010 America is no exception. When the top two percent of the population control nearly half its resources there is bound to be a disparity of rich and poor. In 1960, CEOs of major corporations “earned” around 90 times the salary of an average employee. Today, that number is closer to 475 percent. The rich really are getting richer and the poor really are getting poorer. What is worse is that those chosen to represent our interests have succumbed to an Orwellian case of swine flu. Corporate interests are as prominent as ever and showing no signs of slowing.

Our system has become corrupt beyond repair. Rich men pay for elections and are thereby elected themselves. The only way out of this mess, that they have created, is to work together. Every great movement for change in history has come from the broken backs of the poor who refuse to stay down. We are many. They are few. If we the people, the majority, redirect our gaze from the sinking ship of the American-capitalist experiment to the holy mountain of social co-operation, we may be able to find a society where the poor are fed, the homeless are housed, and the sick taken care of.

Our government has proven itself inept for 200 years with the genocide of the Native American people, the imperial ambition of rich and greedy, and other countless atrocities. It is time we demanded real change. Real change will come when we realize that we share a common humanity and therefore share in each other’s condition. While rich men sit on their thrones dictating freedom to the slave, the poor and destitute struggle for basic necessities. We can no longer allow imperial ambition and political banter to define our priorities. Our priority must be each other, here and abroad. One humanity. One love. It is time we took government into our own hands.

Viva la revolucion!

Friday, September 10, 2010

No More War

We, the people, of the United States do hereby demand the immediate withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East. The military actions of the United States of America and her allies against sovereign nations including, but not limited to, Iraq and Afghanistan are clear acts of aggression and must cease immediately. The justifications of these atrocities are the illusions of rich men profiting on the death and destruction of a civil population. We, those victimized by the blatant abuse of federal resources, denounce the use of federal taxes for the use of death abroad when so many suffer at home from the loss of their jobs, homes, and families. The invisible American laborer everyday tosses his gold in the bloodstained coffer of capitalism while their families starve and their elderly die. Money is appropriated for fantastic goose chases while children are malnourished, the poor freeze in the streets, and marriages crumble under the stress of economic pressure. The poor and middle class stand united against the schemes and greed of rich men who profit on the blood of the workingman. Terrorism in the western world is a direct consequence of western forces occupying Middle Eastern land. Withdrawal will facilitate a degradation of influence by extremist leaders attempting to recruit young radicals. Fundamental Islamists cannot engage a trans-oceanic enemy due to lack of resources. Therefore, when we withdraw the American-Islamist conflict will, by logical necessity, cease.

We demand the immediate cessation of American hostilities in the Arab world. If we are continually ignored and our wishes not heeded, we hold the government in contempt of Constitutional guarantees and therefore treason. We can no longer be lorded over by pompous politicians parading our vote around like a privilege. We owe our allegiance to no flag, country, or party. We, as human beings, declare the right of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The United States government, for too long, has ignored the will of the people for the sake of imperialistic ambitions of economic slavery. We demand justice and call those charged with the maintenance of the union to account for these crimes.

-Demosthenes

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How It Happened by Isaac Asimov

My brother began to dictate in his best oratorical style, the one which has the tribes hanging on his words.

“In the beginning,” he said, “exactly fifteen point two billion years ago, there was a big bang and the Universe–”

But I had stopped writing. “Fifteen billion years ago?” I said incredulously.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m inspired.”

“I don’t question your inspiration,” I said. (I had better not. He’s three years younger than I am, but I don’t try questioning his inspiration. Neither does anyone else or there’s hell to pay.) “But are you going to tell the story of the Creation over a period of fifteen billion years?”

“I have to,” said my brother. “That’s how long it took. I have it all in here,” he tapped his forehead, “and it’s on the very highest authority.”

By now I had put down my stylus. “Do you know the price of papyrus?” I said.

“What?” (He may be inspired but I frequently noticed that the inspiration didn’t include such sordid matters as the price of papyrus.)

I said, “Suppose you describe one million years of events to each roll of papyrus. That means you’ll have to fill fifteen thousand rolls. You’ll have to talk long enough to fill them and you know that you begin to stammer after a while. I’ll have to write enough to fill them and my fingers will fall off. And even if we can afford all that papyrus and you have the voice and I have the strength, who’s going to copy it? We’ve got to have a guarantee of a hundred copies before we can publish and without that where will we get royalties from?”

My brother thought awhile. He said, “You think I ought to cut it down?”

“Way down,” I said, “if you expect to reach the public.”

“How about a hundred years?” he said.

“How about six days?” I said.

He said horrified, “You can’t squeeze Creation into six days.”

I said, “This is all the papyrus I have. What do you think?”

“Oh, well,” he said, and began to dictate again, “In the beginning– Does it have to be six days, Aaron?”

I said, firmly, “Six days, Moses.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ron Paul: On Neo-Conservative War-Mongering

Is the controversy over building a mosque near ground zero a grand distraction or a grand opportunity? Or is it, once again, grandiose demagoguery?

It has been said, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” Are we not overly preoccupied with this controversy, now being used in various ways by grandstanding politicians? It looks to me like the politicians are “fiddling while the economy burns.”

The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”

Just think of what might (not) have happened if the whole issue had been ignored and the national debate stuck with war, peace, and prosperity. There certainly would have been a lot less emotionalism on both sides. The fact that so much attention has been given the mosque debate, raises the question of just why and driven by whom?

In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.

They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. A select quote from soldiers from in Afghanistan and Iraq expressing concern over the mosque is pure propaganda and an affront to their bravery and sacrifice.

The claim is that we are in the Middle East to protect our liberties is misleading. To continue this charade, millions of Muslims are indicted and we are obligated to rescue them from their religious and political leaders. And, we’re supposed to believe that abusing our liberties here at home and pursuing unconstitutional wars overseas will solve our problems.

The nineteen suicide bombers didn’t come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Fifteen came from our ally Saudi Arabia, a country that harbors strong American resentment, yet we invade and occupy Iraq where no al Qaeda existed prior to 9/11.

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible.

There is no doubt that a small portion of radical, angry Islamists do want to kill us but the question remains, what exactly motivates this hatred?

If Islam is further discredited by making the building of the mosque the issue, then the false justification for our wars in the Middle East will continue to be acceptable.

The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

Conservatives are once again, unfortunately, failing to defend private property rights, a policy we claim to cherish. In addition conservatives missed a chance to challenge the hypocrisy of the left which now claims they defend property rights of Muslims, yet rarely if ever, the property rights of American private businesses.

Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty.

The outcry over the building of the mosque, near ground zero, implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to those who are condemning the building of the mosque, the nineteen suicide terrorists on 9/11 spoke for all Muslims. This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservatives’ aggressive wars.

The House Speaker is now treading on a slippery slope by demanding a Congressional investigation to find out just who is funding the mosque—a bold rejection of property rights, 1st Amendment rights, and the Rule of Law—in order to look tough against Islam.

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

We now have an epidemic of “sunshine patriots” on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended.

Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Middle Eastern Wars and You

The millennial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most blatant abuses of governmental power in history. With estimates for the cost of the wars hovering around 2 trillion dollars, and a national debt to dwarf that, it is time we started asking very hard questions: what caused these wars, who is responsible, and who is paying for it? The simple answers: war mongering, the US government, and you.

Our foreign policy has a fever and the only prescription is non-interventionism. The wars in the Middle East, and consequently a free-falling economy, are the direct consequence of our commitment to ignore this debate. The wars with Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea, and a host of others, could have been avoided if we had minded our own damn business. Communist coups are not our problem. Islamic regimes are not our problem. Our problem is an inept government living in an Imperialistic fantasy world where we, the people, pay and die for wars they decide to wage. The Middle Eastern wars are estimated to cost you, the taxpayer, two trillion dollars. Our bases in over 130 countries will cost you even more in the coming years. In a time when our education system is failing, our markets are crashing, our infrastructures are crumbling, and our families are losing their homes, is it not more wise and prudent to direct our gaze homeward? We forget that the government works for us. We must take a stand. I, for one, will not pay for the musings of the imperial glory-hungry.

At this point, one may assert that we are bringing freedom and democracy to that region. Before the invasion of 2003, Iraq had never reported a suicide bombing. We are the cause of the unrest in the Middle East. Terrorist leaders cannot recruit on a religious platform alone. Potential devotees are persuaded by their common hatred of American foreign policy. Osama Bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks because of American feet on Saudi soil. Previously Bin Laden had even offered to fight Saddam in the Gulf War. Nothing unifies like a common enemy.

Political ties will tempt us to argue at this stage. No matter what one’s convictions, we can all agree, hopefully, that peace is intrinsically better than war. American foreign policy began these wars without our, or Congress’ for that matter, approval and it is time we demanded an end to it. The de facto reason the Middle Eastern wars wage is American presence in the region. If we withdraw, the war is over. The war could be over in the morning if you said so. So, what do you say?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

An Open Letter to The President of the United States

Dear Mr. President,

I am taking the time to write you a letter in the sincere hope that the voice of the American people will be heard. Such a great chasm of distance, both metaphorical and literal, separates us. Sir, we cannot and will not continue down this trail of tears that will lead to ruin for millions of Americans. Families are hurled from their homes; parents are forced to choose between medicine and food; and our debt, both individually and communally, are increasing at staggering rates. All the while, CEO’s make tens of millions of dollars a year. Sir, my mother cannot walk, lost her job, and cannot even afford to maintain a trailer because of these bastards. Why? What kind of system are we propagating when justice is measured by the size of a bank account? Do we promote justice, welfare, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or a work farm for the rich to become richer? President Roosevelt, in his final State of the Union before his death, spoke of a second bill of rights which guaranteed every American, the backs of whom America’s greatness is built, maintained, and repaired, the right to a place to live, food to eat, a job to work, education, and healthcare. Why have we degraded to a mechanism in which our clockwork is rusty and in disrepair while the face appears shiny and new? Our government must protect us from the rich and powerful else we have no reason for government. The Constitution guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a God-given right. Who are banks, Wall Street traders, and governmental officials to deny us? Mr. President, we will not be denied. James Farmer Jr., a well-known civil rights activist, quoting Saint Augustine pointed out that ‘“…an unjust law is no law at all," which means I have a right, even a duty, to resist -- with violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.”’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in Washington to promote civil rights. I am writing you for the same reason: to disobey. The hands of greedy men have taken our rights, as American citizens and human beings, from us. Sir, if we cannot remedy this illness then I will respectfully withdraw my American citizenship. Give me liberty or give me exile Mr. President but please do not give me any more bullshit. We, the people, of the United States of America, demand justice.

Please, re-consider President Roosevelt’s second bill of rights. Be the catalyst for the fire we need. Yes, you can.

Respectfully and humbly,
Larry Reginald Swetman

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Marijuana Legislation: Justice and Responsibility

“I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong." In a nation with 720,000 arrests due to an unjust prohibition, is it not time to re-evaluate cannabis' legality? This quote by Willie Nelson, long-time country music star and marijuana activist, asks the essential questions: Why is Marijuana illegal? Has cannabis prohibition helped or hurt society? What is the science and politics of cannabis? Knowledge is power and this article seeks to bridge the asymmetry of information with regard to marijuana's constitutionality. In the United States of America officials are elected to serve our interests. Is marijuana legalization is in our best interest? The US government has a shady history concerning marijuana law and it is time we, the people, stood up and were heard.

In 1972, Richard Nixon, in the middle of the Vietnam War, ordered a congressional study- the Shafer Report- on the health concerns of marijuana usage. Nixon commissioned this test to silence anti-war activists. Hippies smoked pot: hippies protested the war. If they could not smoke pot, the argument went, their movement would suffer a serious set back. When the report came back, Nixon was not pleased. The report showed no serious health concerns from marijuana usage, but it did offer a criticism. It asserted that the criminalization of marijuana was both unconstitutional and unsustainable. However, Nixon had a war to win so he sowed the roots for another war: a "war on drugs."

Before we can begin to examine the war on drugs itself, we would do well to examine the history of marijuana legality in the United States. Between the years of 1600 and 1890's hemp growth was encouraged in the new world. In 1619, the Virginia Assembly even passed a law requiring all Americans to grow hemp. Its quick reproduction cycle, environmental benefits, and tactile use was indispensable. Hemp was used in the production of rope, paper, and medicines. In some states it was even used as legal tender.

By the early 20th century, Mexican immigrants streamed into the US after the Mexican Revolution of 1910: bringing with them the recreational use of marijuana. Just as alcohol became taboo due to the steady flux of German immigrants in the '20's, so too marijuana became associated with ill-wanted Mexican labor. Resentment and a flood of anti-marijuana propaganda grew with the Great Depression. This ignorant animosity led to tighter marijuana restrictions including the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. However, war and science would soon change many tunes.

During the 1940's the Second World War was ravaging national resources. In order to provide much needed parachutes and other supplies, the government offered draft deferments for the production of hemp. By 1943, American farmers recorded using 375,000 acres in the production of hemp. However, by the middle of the 1950's the government again flaked hemp production. Between 1951-1956 the minimum fine for marijuana possession was a 2-10 prison sentence and a fine of up to $20,000.

Kennedy and Johnson again shifted the political climate of marijuana in the '60s. They too ordered a report on the dangers of marijuana and again the tests came up negative. The report refuted the conservative claim that ingestion of the plant induced violence and crime. Finally, responsible leadership was steering public opinion from fear tactics to the truth. As a result, policy began to shift toward understanding and regulation. However, the Vietnam War was right around the corner.

Marijuana, in the '60s, was a countercultural statement. Marijuana smokers were the chief dissidents, and loudest voices, of the anti-war movement. The aforementioned Shafer Report of 1972, commissioned by the white house, showed conclusive evidence of marijuana's relative safety and negative evidence for a so-called "gateway effect." Nixon rejected the commission's advice, but the damage was done. Already, unjust federal law was being questioned by state congresses. By the middle of the 1970's eleven states had legalized the medical use of marijuana.

Unfortunately, at the Federal level, the proverbial stone kept on rolling. As a result of Nixon's stubbornness and ignorance, Ronald Reagan declared a war on drugs. He signed into law the "Anti-Drug Abuse Act" which began a $44.1 billion dollar enterprise between 1988 and 2006. In a televised speech in 1989, George H.W. Bush declared, without a vote from congress, his war on drugs without clarifying conditions, goals, or cause. As a result of fear tactics, miseducation, and ignorance, marijuana was pigeonholed in with hard narcotics. But, who gains from the prohibition?

The most rapidly expanding market in the US today is private prisons. Some may see this as a good thing: less criminals: less crime. But who is occupying these prisons? By 2008, over 750,000 arrests had been made for possession of marijuana: 1/3 less than the amount of total violent crimes (594,511). Rape, murder, armed robbery, and hate crimes all combined do not equal the amount of arrests for marijuana possession. The US government has flip-flopped on this issue far too often. It is time to responsibly and scientifically evaluate the claims of marijuana advocates.

A country in recession and in debt, we have spent 28 trillion dollars on the so-called "war on drugs." To what effect? While our national debt piles up and real criminals are roaming the streets, politicians and law enforcement waste precious resources on an unjust and unwinnable campaign. Cannabis is one of the most useful plants on Earth but corporate lobbying and political pride have kept the truth at bay. It is time that we educated ourselves and stopped leaning on the trust of a brainwashed generation. Hemp can be used for the production of rope, fuel, food, milk, paper, and a host of other benefits. Additionally, it grows at an astounding rate! Trees can take years to grow to maturity. Cannabis reproduces in a percentage of that time which makes turning crops much more efficient and productive. Who cares if someone smokes a joint in the privacy of his or her own home? Even economists agree that marijuana law reform is the wisest path.

Marijuana has been misunderstood for far too long. Prohibition started as a political bargaining chip and fear still feeds it. If society at large can wink a playful eye at marijuana use then it is time the truth was heard. We must combat ignorance with education and civil disobedience. James Farmer Jr. once said, "An unjust law is no law at all. Therefore, [we] have a right, a duty, to resist with violence or civil disobedience." Marijuana prohibition is an unjust law. Who is the government to make nature illegal? Did God make a mistake on the eighth day and leave some pot behind? No, cannabis is natural and should not be feared for the sake of a political agenda. It is time for cannabis to be legalized and only we can make a difference.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

(Untitled)

"Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life."

-Bob Marley

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How is BP taking responsibility for the Oil Spill?

Responsibility. If my dog uses the bathroom outside, my neighbors expect me to pick up its mess. No one wants to see canine refuse littering our beautiful lawn. Likewise, if I were to spill a quart of oil into my community swimming pool, I would be expected, if not forced, to make reparations. The law of common courtesy mandates that when I make a mess, I clean it up. British Petroleum has not learned this lesson.

On April 20th 2010 the Deep Water Horizon oil rig exploded killing 11 workers. Upwards of 40,000,000 gallons of crude oil have since gushed into the Gulf of Mexico affecting coastal wetlands, native wildlife, and local economies. What has been done to quell the flow? A barrage of outlandish quick fixes which sound as childish as the attempts. Initially, BP postulated that a 125-ton containment dome would suppress the flow. Methane freezing at the top of the dome rendered it ineffective. What followed were feeble, and somewhat far-fetched, attempts to add smaller domes (the top hat), force mud and golf balls into a relief line (the junk shot), and an underwater robot, equipped with a diamond saw, intended to remove a ruptured riser to make room for a containment cap. True to form, the saw became lodged in the pipe and the plan was aborted. What has been BP’s response to these failures? Chemicals.

When I want to remove impurities from my drinking water, I run it through a filter: I do not add chlorine. BP chooses the later. 650,000 gallons of Corexit EC9500A, a dispersant that could cause 'unprecedented underwater damage to organisms’ and 'may cause injury to red blood cells, kidney or the liver' in humans,’ have been dropped into Gulf zero. Consequently, underwater plumes, extending upwards of 22 miles in length, have formed nearly a mile below the surface, further endangering the Gulf food chain. Over 400 species call the affected area home, and their habitat has not only been ravaged by the spill but also by the cleanup. On June 3rd, four days after the failed robot mission, BP aired $50M in commercials featuring Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, asserting, “We will get this done. We will make this right.” Mr. Hayward you are not getting the job done, you are not making it right.

Between BP’s misleading estimates, laundry list of safety violations and accidents, and apparent ineptitude in dealing with oil spills, you would think every effort would be made to remedy this disaster. Instead, we find Tony Hayward telling the press that he “would like his life back.” When your company skips inspections, bypasses safety protocols, and cuts corners to save money and thereby causes unprecedented environmental damage, you owe us your life until it is fixed. The only acceptable response to this disaster will be for BP to cap the gushing well, cleanly remove the oil, establish a wildlife fund, and make full reparations to all those affected.

Mr. Hayward, you want to make this right? You have our demands.

On Writing and Love

Writing is a very difficult process. Choosing ideas, taking angles, and gathering facts are but milk for the butter. The arduous process of churning those facts into an enjoyable piece is both time consuming and exhausting. A writer cannot sound like he is reciting a data set. He must turn statistics into poetry, numbers into pictures, and opinions into revolutions. He cannot waste a word. Stories must flow off a page like a river stream in times of peace and come down with a raging torrent during unrest.

Occasionally, he must create dissension. Freedom of speech is the right to disagree. The written word can alter the course of human history given the right pen. We writers then have a responsibility to treat every word as if it would change the world. Countries and kings have risen and fallen on this premise: I disagree. The written word is often the flint and the fire. Words can spark imagination, ignite passion, and burn a man alive, if left unchecked. If you are reading this, you believe in the power of the word. You are submitting your time to my opinions on writing. You have two options: agree or disagree – It is your choice. All I can do is offer my view of the world: it is a very cold place with one window and a locked door. You can see the sunshine from the sill but you are scared of the heat on your skin. You are afraid it will burn. You will never know until you take the lock of the door and go outside. This entry is the key. Open your mind to a world of possibility.

Writing is the language of truth. C.S. Lewis once said that the praise of something is not complete until it is expressed to another. By writing down my ideas I have submitted them to everyone for all time. My name becomes attached to my thoughts and I, therefore, become my ideas. I see the world and am displeased. I have a better way and here it is: love. Here, in one word, is my entire message. Love is the rhythm to the music of life but if we become deaf with indifference, we will forget where we are. The only way forward is together.

I have lived. I have written. I have submitted to your opinion. You must decide whether the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Perspective on Sexual Orientation

This is a letter I stumbled upon online:

Sunday, April 30, 2000
By SHARON UNDERWOOD
For the Valley News (White River Junction, VT)

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Suffering and Perspective

I was teaching an art class at the community kitchen last week where I encountered a homely lady that changed my life. I usually go to these classes in order to offer an artist’s perspective but today mine was altered. Having been unemployed for three and a half months has been very straining. I have barely gotten by on the good graces of my friends, loved ones, and, most importantly, Jesus. A few times I have found myself humbled and broken by my situation, but how bad is my situation?

The lady, whose name to my shame I have forgotten, sat at a table with me in order to paint a picture. Over the course of her work she started telling me her story: she was in her sixties, far from home (LaFayette, Arkansas), and lonely. Her husband of nine years and the adopted father of her daughter had died in a car wreck that left her in a coma. She awoke to a period of unrest in which her daughter was fighting the US military over burial rights. Needless to say, her life was taken out from under her. But her life was more than this man: her life was her dogs.

I have never heard a person talk about animals the way this woman did. She had two champion breed dogs that were lost due to unrelated tragedies. Oh, how she loved her dogs. She nonchalantly remarked to me that losing her dogs was like losing another child. But it was not her husband, health problems, distance from home, or her dogs that taught me a life lesson: it was her smile.

She looked like a woman who had been through hell. Her teeth were rotted probably due to her long cigarette addiction and her clothes shabby as a vagabond. But though she had walked through the valley she feared no evil for her God was with her. She spoke vehemently and joyfully of her faith that had sustained her. I often pity myself for not having the money to maintain a cell phone or pay credit card bills and cry out to God for my suffering. Suffering? No, this is not suffering. I am an intelligent and ambitious man with gifts, charisma, and the whole world in front of me. I have my health, food to eat, a car to drive, people around me to love me, and even a cigarette. She had lost everything she had ever loved yet smiled at me through her three front teeth with the sweet name of Jesus on her lips. I know no suffering and I weep for my pride.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Confession pt.2

At Church lately we have been talking about confession and gospel. As a result I have been taking an inventory of my life. What I have done, what I am doing, and what I want to be. Simply put: I have sinned and I sin, but I want to be like Jesus. But do I? Since becoming a Christian I have seen the sin slowly melt away. I used to be angry with my mother, steal, lie, and cheat amongst other things. I have been redeemed in many ways from these debilitations, but there is always another waiting. Even as I type, I am reminded of my failures. I have hurt so many people over the course of even my Christian life that I am ashamed. I am a half-hearted creature fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered me – I am far too easily pleased. I want so badly to look each and every one of them in the eye, with tears in mine, and beg forgiveness. Even so, I will still fail you. But that brings me back to my point: do I want to be like Jesus?

Jesus said that if I would follow after him it would cost me my life. Have I ever taken the time to evaluate the cost? Nope. I have, since becoming a Christian, focused so much on becoming free of my past that I have failed in the present. I have spent so much time praying for the world that I forgot to pray for myself. As a result, I have indulged and fattened myself like a calf for the slaughter. I pray that the Lord will save me even from my “righteousness.” Sure, I give to the poor, love my enemies, and worship, but I am far from the presence of God. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom: I am in bondage. I want so much out of life: I want to graduate from Princeton, I want a family, and I want to teach, but would I give all of these up to be like Jesus? Could I give up my dreams? I want with all my heart to say yes, but I cannot. These are good things that come from the Lord but, having come from nowhere, they are my salvation. They are my hope of something better. For years I have heard people say that X and Y were idols in their life and was a little apprehensive about labeling desires as such, but I am starting to understand.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The Apostle Paul said that the Kingdom of God was righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Notice what he did not say. He did not promise success, romantic love, or a good time. The glory of God is a man fully alive. To be alive is not a terribly sophisticated place to be. It involves two things: 1) Loving the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and 2) loving your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, to live a completely God-glorifying life I do not need anything but the Spirit of God inside me. But do I believe that? A tree is known by its fruit. For a tree to bare fruit is must be rooted to a source of nourishment. So, I propose a question to myself and to you reading this. By what stream does your tree find its water? Too often, I find myself anchored to the polluted water down by my dreams. Jesus said that His water was a life-giving spring. If my tree has to be cut down in order to be transplanted to the spring of life, will I welcome it? I hope so. How about you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Scattered Thoughts on Creation and Atheism

Before you read this I must warn you that it was written as a stream of consciousness. I apologize for the poor quality of the writing. If anyone is interested in my pursuing any of these thoughts in a more refined way let me know.

I wonder what I would write if I just started writing. What am I thinking about? Well as I sit here and type I am reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s endeavor to type out great novels. He once typed out “The Great Gatsby!” I kind of want to do that, but I am not sure I have the patience. What would it be like to write that prolifically: to describe scenery like a poet, understand characters like a psychologist, and play God as I complete the story. A character’s life is in your hands: his selfhood, his hopes, and his dreams are yours to fulfill or crush. I wonder what it would be like to have such power? Being God must be a terribly difficult gig. However, if God is God then I am sure that His joy in being God probably sustains Him through our ragamuffin exploitations of life. God gives us life, directs us through it, and has the end all planned out. He is completely in tune with this project. We think of God as having the power to curb reality, but do we think He has the responsibility. I mean sure there could a supreme being that created the universe but it could have been by chance. What we cannot object to is the now. Right now time is passing as I type. Women are giving birth, little boys are being put to bed, and old men are saying their last good bye to their sweethearts. Even more so, gravity is staying at a constant, the Earth is still spinning, and the moon is still keeping the ocean levels in check. What is holding all this together if not a sustainer? One may appear to natural law but who made natural law a constant? We do not know that tomorrow the Earth will not fall of its axis and drift into the sun. What we do have is faith. Faith that things will keep on going the way they has always gone on. Why? Probably because we have experienced it our whole life and therefore take it for granted. Sure, things have acted this way for at least 24 years, so why not one more day? I guess all I am trying accomplish is to show that it takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a Christian. The difference is control. Secondly, I want to show that belief in a creator God is not enough. If there is an Almighty creator, then He must be an Almighty sustainer. The universe is ordered, was ordered, and, we assume, will continue to be ordered. Order cannot be taken for granted. The difference between a garden with no gardener and a garden with one is the garden. It is much easier to explain ordered existence as a purposeful act than an accident. Chaos is found in nature all the time but what do we seek to do – order it. This is the reason for morals, social structures, and community. We seek to put things in their proper place. If a smudge appears on your window your first instinct is to clean it: why? For a window to be a perfect window it cannot have smudges. Likewise, a man should not kill another man because it is not in man to do so. With the window we clean it; with the human we… Therefore, it follows that if someone says that something is one thing then they are attributing to it qualities which, if the person or thing is acting in accordance with its nature, define it. If its exhibited qualities do not match what the thing is then it is re-ordered to function properly. This presupposes three main points: 1) function, 2) dysfunction, and 3) redemption. For any of the three of these to be true a case must be made for purpose. If a case is made for purpose, then a separate case must be made for a purposer, namely a creator.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Birds and Needs

Jesus once said that His people need not worry about what they will eat, drink, or wear. Having been unemployed going on three months, believing this is a matter of life and death. Recently, there has been a bird that comes to our back yard to feed on the trash sitting in a can. Every day I see the bird fatten himself on this trash. Today, however, the trash was gone but the bird still came and searched the area for his meal. I was moved by the bird’s need so I got him a piece of bread. The sourdough bread I gave him was infinitely greater than the filth he was eating, yet had to wait. I think this is how God works with his people. We become satisfied with the trash we feed on until one day even that is taken away. We come back to the same place looking for the meal that has sustained us only to find it gone. It takes God moving in someone else to make the bread available so, despite our need, we must wait. God Almighty moves the hearts of men to give food, clothes, and shelter. We simply must have faith when the filth is taken away because it is only a matter of time before your feast is tossed in front of you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Parable of the Composer

Once upon a time a great composer wrote a symphony whose beauty had never been heard. The themes were timeless, the intricacy brilliant, and the structure flawless. The composer, recognizing his achievement, commissioned an orchestra to perform the piece. Upon hearing it, the players were honored to play the piece. However, upon performing it they considered their lives’ work as musicians complete. As such, they decided to indulge in drunkenness to celebrate their victory. The party was so long that the musicians were still drunk when they arrived to play the next performance the following day. The piece was played in a sloppy manner and in no way resembled the masterpiece they originally performed. The rest of the showings were cancelled due to the lack of precision required to play the piece. Upon hearing of this travesty the composer was fainthearted of knowing that his work would never again be heard. He therefore took it upon himself to take the entire orchestra into his home, sober them up, and re-teach them how to play the piece. It took several attempts and failures for the composer to realize that he himself would have to play with them in order to show the passion and beauty of his work. As the orchestra listened to him they were moved to tears at the fervor and emotion with which he played. Empowered with a new sense of purpose the orchestra endeavored to imitate his passion. It took several attempts and much time for them to re-master the piece but with the composer playing along side them they finally found within themselves the music that had eluded them. The next performance not only equaled the last but, with the composer playing the lead violin, it surpassed it in beauty, passion, and greatness. The entire country heard of it and consequently came from miles and miles around to hear the music of life.
Such is the Kingdom of God. Yahweh, the great composer, created the most beautiful and complete work in his great creation. He commissioned humanity to play this great symphony of life and taught them the music of love. However, they became drunk with corruption and could not play the music of love anymore. Try as they may they could not live life as it was written by the Great Composer. He himself had to become part of his creation, his orchestra. This we find in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. He humbled himself to be one of us in order to teach us how to live and love. Upon experiencing this love humanity is moved by his performance to imitate him and thus restore the music of life – love. The Church, the orchestra, still fails to love and mess up the performance but with the inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of His people we not only perform, we shine. The whole world will turn out to hear this good news, this symphony of love and thereby experience life as it was meant to be.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Confessions pt.1: Desire?

Who am I to claim to have a desire for the living God: The Holy Almighty source of all that is good? Should I desire him, I would not fumble about seeking with the ecstasy of romance, the pleasure of cuisine, or the freedom of alcohol. For what experience can I have that is not simply destroyed by its author? Is not the lover greater than the love? Is not the chef greater than his dish? Is not the drink more powerful than the man? How much more can we say of the originator of all these things. Is not the Lord the ravishing lover for whom we long? Is not the fashioner of the act of creating more to be desired than a third-hand creation? Can not the inventor of drunken pleasure bestow more celebration or comfort than his invention? We seek the scraps from the table in an alley when the dining room is reserved for His children. Who am I then to claim to desire God?

I can like Saint Augustine trace my desire from the womb to the typing of these words. When I was but a babe was I not contingent on the good will of a mother emptying her store of milk for me? Was I not helpless in her arms? How much more was I helpless in the provision of the life-giving nourishment in my mother’s bosom? In retrospect I see my dependence on my mother but never have I acknowledged my utter frailty at the hand of the sustainer of all things. The very air I breathed upon first being born was no accident. If the Lord is God Almighty then it was He, in his good mercy, that chose to sustain the atmosphere around me in order to provide me with my first breath. How ungrateful was my response. I simply cried and moaned for more to be given when life itself was just graced upon my feeble lungs. Had I been conscious of my need I would have fought my way from the doctor’s arms and worshiped the provision of God Almighty. Yet, I was an ungrateful servant wanting more from the creator when, by living for a moment, I could have been content to die. Yet grace overcame.

The Almighty God in His infinite wisdom and mercy chose to spare me the death my rebellion deserved in order to lead to his throne consciously. He has chosen to bless me with every good thing while I mock him by pretending that I have somehow earned more. “But preacher you knew not what you did as a child.” Neither do I know now what I do. The Sovereign King, from a nail-pierced-cross, cried for His father to forgive grown men for their actions because of their ignorance. What hope did I have of understanding as a child? Yet great is His mercy! I, like the soldier piercing His side, have been cried over “Father forgive him, He knows not what he does.” Throughout my childhood I was at war with the loving and gracious provider of all good things without passing a second thought to the life support machine attached to my soul. I was a dead man walking through life pretending not to notice the cancer in my soul and the weakness of my desire. Every time I hit my mother I was convinced she deserved it. Every time I cursed their names I was convinced more should be done for me. Every time I slept with a roof over my head, food on my plate, and a guard at the door I resented those who had “more than I.” How great is my pride!

Behind the veil of ingratitude to my parents and all those loving enough to provide for us, was a universal sin of ingratitude for the actual provider of all-good. Every breath I took was an affront to my lungs for I used them to sin against the oxygen giver. Every strike I landed on someone who cared for me I sinned against my hand that was given to hold. For every complaint I lodged in my mind I brought my mind into my mire by turning it away from the miracle of provision at the hand of the very God Almighty. The walls of my childhood are scarred with marks from the nails of anxiety crying out for what I now know is eternity. Indeed, eternity resides in the heart of man for to what else can I attribute my desire for more? I simply did not know what more was. I longed for romance when I wanted joy. I longed for food and drink when I wanted a holy satisfaction. I longed for a high only achievable by holy joy. It is not that my desires were too strong but in the spirit of C.S. Lewis they were misplaced and too weak.

From my infancy through my childhood I spit in the face of my provider, expecting something more because there was more to have. Worldly satisfaction only leads to a holy discontent for wherever desires are met they are found to be insufficient. They do not satisfy because only the source will quench such a thirst. A dribble in a stream will not satiate like its parent waterfall. There can a man not only drink, but wash and swim. The only peace treaty with God Almighty is not to simply acknowledge your desire for the only thing that satisfies ,but to journey to the spring with contempt for the mud pies you once called meals. Until we realize the blissful ecstasy of a romance with God Almighty enough to leave everything else behind, we will continue to scratch the walls of our hearts trying to break free of worldly desire. Our desires are ingratuitous treasons of the worst kind, but He is patient and merciful, offering the drink of holy joy if we could only come to the river. Oh Lord Almighty, creator of heaven and earth and all that is good, show us what it means to desire you! Or else we will continue to desire trash as our feast. Lead our sinful hearts to Jesus’ heart, who faced with a disobedient decision to live, chose obedience to death which resulted in naught but life. Oh that we might see! Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer we remain content in rebellion unless you change our hearts to desire the holy. Breath in us Holy Spirit that we may love what is holy, cherish what is pure, fight for what is just, and despise what is evil. We want to desire not to live in the shit, but die if it results in our truly living. Forgive us our sin for Jesus’ sake and overcome our weakness, despite our wants where necessary, to covet holy joy only found in your heart. If you leave us to ourselves we will fail so come quickly Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Honesty?

Honesty, while always having been considered one of the virtues, I believe is grossly undervalued. It is the lifeline between two human beings. In the wider world it is the act of opening a door for diplomacy and understanding – but why? Honesty is an admission of fearlessness. The person who is free enough to be honest is one who has no fear of judgment, ridicule, or retribution. It definitely takes courage to be honest. I do not, here, want to simply defend the virtue of honesty: I want to show the advantages of it.
Robert Frost, in his poem Revelation, says “we make ourselves a place apart behind light words that tease and float, but oh the agitated heart till someone really finds us out.” Why is this? If we live our lives behind masks we are safe from the shame of our past, right? That’s the key. All of our presents and futures we feel are inhibited by our past.

How someone views us in a moment then is contingent on where we’ve been. If they don’t see then they don’t know. If they don’t know we do not have to worry about being denied. After all is not this at the heart of life. We interact with others because we want them as a part of our lives whether it is strangers on a bus or two lovers melting into one. However, we have this preconceived notion that if others find these secrets out then they will leave us. Insecurity and security are both why we lie: Insecurity for fear of abandonment and security because we have faith that our lies will save us the pain. How then shall we live?

When someone is honest with another person, a rarity in our world, the other person is left with two options: a) become abashed and confirm the fears outlined above or b) love. Complete understanding, if it is even possible, has only one logical conclusion – love. No one, when he understands why someone has done this or that, can hate for it is there that he empathizes. Therefore, it is naught but our own pride that keeps us lying. True humanity, true communion, knows no fear for it finds its completion in love. Without fear we stand naked to our neighbor; with honesty we trust them not to laugh.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Love?

I often ponder the nature of love. Throughout the ages love has looked like so many different things that I have trouble distinguishing between what we mean by the word. But then I ask myself is it a feeling? If Christians are supposed to love the Lord God and their neighbor as themselves what does it mean if I don’t feel? How does it differ from romantic love? Does it differ? The following two quotes are the best definitions I have heard thus far.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
-Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Well maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who'd OUT DREW YA
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen in the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
-A Verse From Jeff Buckley, "Hallelujah"

Freedom has a scent
Like the top of a new born baby's head

The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I've seen enough I'm not giving up
On a miracle drug

Of science and the human heart
There is no limit
There is no failure here sweetheart
Just when you quit...

I am you and you are mine
Love makes no sense of space
And time...will disappear
Love and logic keep us clear
Reason is on our side, love...

The songs are in your eyes
I see them when you smile
I've had enough of romantic love
I'd give it up, yeah, I'd give it up
For a miracle, a miracle drug, a miracle drug

God I need your help tonight

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear your voice
It's whispering
In science and in medicine
"I was a stranger
You took me in"
-U2, "Miracle Drug"

Love is not a jubilant feeling: It is not ecstasy. The romantic ecstasy of being in the arms of another is just that – ecstasy. However, if love were limited to such things I, nor no man, has ever loved. Ecstasy, while milk and honey to two young lovers, cannot hold the bond of love. Love is bearing to the edge of doom. It is carrying the weight of another’s burden so they do not have to. It is realizing that if your legs were taken from you love would be a crutch to stand on. Love is not triumphant: it is not romantic. Love is a raw unadulterated commitment to another’s well being even at the cost of your dignity, comfort, or dreams. Love is finding solace in the mire for you are not alone. Indeed, love costs something. It is a breeze that carries up the soul to contentment in the midst of the blazing heat of pain. While we long for love to sound like Shakespeare melting from the lips of a kiss, we must realize that it is actually the tears shed for a life lived in selfishness and the hope of redemption. True love is the conviction that if all were lost for the sake of another, the bliss of holy joy would satisfy. Someone once told me that love is prevalence. Romantic ecstasy longs to bring two people together: love keeps them there. Love endures: If this be error and upon me proved I never writ nor no man ever loved.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christian?

I recently took a trip to the Yellow Deli in Chattanooga Tennessee. I had always been apprehensive about visiting the place because my peers had always painted the proprietors of the restaurant as a “cult.” As a Christian and someone who wants to love those around and appreciate their belief for their belief I was curious. Minutes after stepping foot in the establishment I discovered that the place had a very “hippy feel.” Since I am inclined toward the message of peace and love I was curious. I picked up their informational newspapers expecting to find something strange or eccentric to compliment the d├ęcor. However, this is not what I have found out, from the literature at least.


They call themselves the 12 Tribes of Israel: a separatist Christian group that lives a strictly communal life. My first question was obviously “is this really a cult?” Having read their newspapers I cannot disagree more. The community is based on the principle of unequivocal love and respect – sound familiar? However, many communities can make this claim. What the others cannot claim is to profess Jesus Christ come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-2). They have a motto that there can be no community without blood and there can be no blood without community- thereby acknowledging Jesus' work. This group takes very seriously the call of Jesus to forsake the world and follow him. The pamphlet quotes Jesus when he says that he came to bring mother from daughter etc. For the 12 Tribes this is no “spiritual” call: it is a commitment to literally leave the world behind and follow “the Master’s” way.

As a Christian, a scholar, and a man with very deep scars from the world and its evil, I resonated with this message. Christ does call us to leave all behind and become a new creation. Now the 12 Tribes ,specifically, may have eccentricities and practices that we are uncomfortable with, but we cannot overlook is their zeal for our Lord. If their practices result in resurrected-Jesus glorifying love and community, what right have we to call them anything but brothers. But my qualm is not with calling anyone anything except us calling ourselves Christians.

What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the message of the one true God making the world right through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Jesus said this would be fulfilled when we are one (John 17). He even went so far to say that our oneness in love is the way to show the on looking world the love of this universal redeeming God. Every Christian reading this, who is not splitting hairs over definitions, will agree with this assertion, however, do we, myself included, actually love this way? Nope. Oh how we’ve fucked that one up! Jesus’ Christianity is radical and should indeed cause the on looking world to question. Sometimes it even calls his disciples to question. Did we think he was kidding when he said sell all you have and give it to the poor? Is he understanding when we don’t love one another as we love ourselves? Does he overlook our human weakness to desire sex, money, and hedonism? By no means! He dealt with it on the cross. I am the chief of sinners in these matters and so I do not pass judgment on any of you, my family. However, I do call you to recognize the meaning of the word family.

Within a family bound by love there is no fear, anxiety, judgment, deceit, greed, hate, malice, or slander. Conversely there is openness, rest, acceptance, truth, giving, love, peace, and edification. Who among us would dare claim any of the latter and deny the former? Politics and philosophy aside, as much as it is possible, how many Iraqis would Jesus kill for freedom and democracy? Zero. How many people could he look on with contempt? Zero. How far would he go to make it in this world? If we are honest about the Jesus of the Bible and stop trying to create him in our image we, as a Church, splintered and cold, would repent and pray as one: Baptists and Presbyterians, Catholics and Protestants, American and Iraqi, Chinese and Indian, boy and girl, man and woman. We would not fear judgment but hope for revival. True love casts out fear but we hide, not behind our religiosity, but our hypocrisy. We call ourselves Christians but as a community look nothing like Christ. We are as separated and incomplete as a broken lamp while the light lay on the floor. We don’t care to pick up the pieces and pray for a miracle because we are convinced that we are honoring Jesus with our pathetic attempts at piety.

If we are to follow the Christ we must leave the world behind forsake our “lives” in order to live. There is no room in Jesus for fractures- only bonds. And until we are ready to admit our sin there is no room for grace. If this offends you – good. A wise man once said that if it is not offensive it is not the Gospel. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. So brothers and sisters in the words of Derek Webb:

who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'cause we married in to a family of immigrants

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom

there are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think

I repent.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Art?


I used to try to think about what art was. Was it a painting? A way of life? It took a stone cold night listening to good music and feeling newness that I realized that to understand art I would have to think from the outside. Be something else: something completely different because here I experience in retrospect. I’ve always been told that hindsight is 20/20. I feel it ethical therefore and exemplary of the good for you to give me a chance to prove that I am what I think that I am before you start coming to conclusions.

What am I? L’Art c’est moi. Not really. The art of my tattoo is that it is completely untrue. By labeling myself as something universal I admit my own insignificance. However, my conscious is astute enough that by having the ability to view myself in relation to the divine I thereby prove my existence. Discovering life is really the closest experience we have to what we are looking for in Art. A sunrise or starry night is brilliantly and infinitely more beautiful than the Mona Lisa, Guernica, The Last Judgment, and Lavender Mist combined.

The human being, when he is presented with an experience complete with observer, object, and reaction he is gaining that which he sought from Art. Love is art; kisses are art; ecstasy is art; but also suffering, loss, and tears. You think I sound a bit Taoist eh? No, I do not accept evil; I simply acknowledge it. By curtsying, I size up my opponent, measure the distance to his heart, and wait. The human experience can be lived under the guise we call Art but the rabbit hole is very deep. Do you really want to ponder the unanswerable, see with alien eyes, and feel every minute? If you follow be prepared: long is the road to a life well lived. Even more so it’s a damn shoddy one. But if you can get out of the car, slow down, and look around you might be pleasantly surprised. Follow me: I’m late.