29 June 2015

Burning In the Name Of

The air is thick with the stench, the smoke resulting from the explosive clash between love and hate these recent days in the United States of America. There has also been a light, and strong rainbow light streaming out the gaps in the smoke. It's love versus hate, and even a hard-core pessimist such as myself can see that love is winning. But there is a shadow on my heart. Impatience upon the soul to hear some of us talk as they do.

On June 11th, 1963, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc sat down in the middle of a busy Saigon intersection, was doused with gasoline, then his hand struck a match thereby setting himself on fire. The photograph of his burning body, taken by Malcom Browne of the Associated Press, has become one of the most famous mass media images in the history of the modern world. He did it to protest the oppression of Buddhists under the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. He felt it was a necessary act to bring effective attention to persecution.

On June 23rd, 2014, the retired Methodist minister Charles Moore knelt down in the parking lot of a strip mall in Grand Saline TX, doused himself with gasoline then set himself on fire. Bystanders put the flames out but the pastor did not survive, dying later that night in a hospital. There are no photographs of the event of which I know. The Reverend Moore had a lifetime history of advocating for social justice, particularly to rid society of racism and the hatred of gays, lesbians and transgender folks. He felt it was necessary to inspire action for social justice.

On June 16th, 2015, the irrationally anti-gay pastor Rick Scarborough, indicated that he and his followers would 'burn' if the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage equality. He also made remarks indicating that leaders in the anti-gay marriage movement need to get out front and proclaim "Shoot me first!" to protest what they see as godlessness and the destruction of our nation.

Early in 2015, the would-be GOP presidential nominee and delusional charlatan Mike Huckabee stated in a video that he will "Call down fire from heaven" in defense of traditional Christian morals, to stand up against gay rights supporters and those who advocate for marriage equality.

On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to deny the right of marriage to LGBT persons, thereby rendering it possible for those folks to get married just like straight Christians get to do.

On June 27th, Rick Scarborough backtracked on his statements, saying he didn't really mean it. Mike Huckabee apparently cannot get through to God, because the skies have been remarkably free of flames or even a little bit of smoke.

For many years it seems, there has been an abundance of fire on the minds of those who proclaim strong moral, ethical or religious convictions. The main difference that has emerged is that those with love in their hearts were so moved by that power that they translated it into action. Those with hatred in their hearts, people like Rick Scarborough and Mike Huckabee, will never translate the power of that hate in such a way because for all their proclamations of being people of true conviction, they are really just mean-spirited cowards with big mouths.

Hate has nothing over love, not in the long run and the big picture. Love inspires truth, hate runs from it. They run. They are cowards. They will never set themselves on fire because they do not hold love in their hearts. Outside observers such as you and I may look at the actions of Quang Duc and Charles Moore and think them to be insane, but I believe that ultimately they set themselves on fire because they had more love than they knew what to do with in the material world.

The Rick Scarboroughs and Mike Huckabees of the world know deep down they will never set themselves on fire. They are so mean, so spiritually myopic, they do not see how the decent human beings they could have been have been corrupted by hate. Hate has its own rotten heart on which it gnaws, all the while pretending to feast as the soul crumbles. Love exponentially magnifies itself when unleashed. Love has courage and conviction of which hate can only dream.

Love burns.

31 May 2015

Sunday Meditation #42: Sketchy

Christ, I don't reckon I know what has gotten in to me. Springtime on the headland is usually a time of joy, even for a a child of the fall such as I am. The sea looks different, feels different, even smells different. Maybe it is life blooming a bit in the shallows and the depths, stirred up by the rolling of the waves. This spring, I am different.

More restless than usual. Head full of ideas that never make it past the daydream stage. The slush of thoughts not making it to the ice of clarity. The proof is in the scratch papers, notepads and detritus piled up on my desk. They form a dune banking up to the windowsill. The paper rolls and bleeds into the dunes. It is a curious thing to have a sandbank comprised of the ideas illuminated in ink that ultimately is wasted. The scribe in me feels shame at the thought.

There is no avoiding it. Truth in front of me. The very notepad under my right hand bears little in the way of words and much in the way of idle sketches. Sketches of what, some may ask. I cannot say other than describe them as architectonic, formal follies. Mostly they depict variations on cubic volumes, shaded with crosshatches. Towers? Obelisks? Cenotaphs?

That last idea makes me chuckle. Cenotaph is fitting. Little monuments erected in honor of ideas buried elsewhere in my mind, or somewhere in the cottage around me. The sea, even! The sea. It waits there beyond my windows. Jade swells reflecting an unquiet mind. My hands stop shaking long enough for my attention to be drawn to the sky. A mottling of pewter clouds rolls in. Beneath them I can see the gauzy stain of rainfall. Spring has been wet here so far. Much has been washed away under its maulings and caresses. This I know.

The cottage fills with that special light of overcast as raindrops spatter and hiss on the glass panes. It comforts me in a way that sunlight and blue sky do not. My hand continues to sketch. I am building something. No, I am searching for something that I have lost the words for but my heart seems to know from someone I once was decades ago now. I recognize some of the drawings from my adolescent years, the younger me sketching out abstracts in blue and red and black. Somewhat confused by what they could mean, not knowing how to quit drawing.

The paper fills with fragments of someone I used to know. I can see him there. The rain falls harder, and weariness floods my gut and head. I watch the drops fall into the sea where perhaps they trouble it just a moment. But the ripples vanish as the sea rolls on. I take that as a lesson for my heart, rippled and anxious, but rolling on.

13 April 2015

Magpie Tales 265: Miracle


Image via Magpie Tales

Our mystery came clear
upon Earth's awakening
rousing from young slumber
changing, molting, shedding skin
My golden height
Her fecund depth
Bind us to our miracle


12 April 2015

Sunday Meditation #41: Scenic Overlook on the Valley of Death

Preacher Man, he whistles past the graveyard, giving the crows something to gossip about. The eye the wrinkled black suit and cackle. Preacher Man knows they is laughing at him, their sable feathers all to the glory his dress lacks. He don't worry none, though. They is just birds. At least, that's what he tells himself. He composes a sermon in his head to call down God to walk with him awhile. The sun is setting, and you don't want to be alone after dark on the fringes of Hell.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...that's what the good book says, or so rumor has it. I tells myself that every morning to get my feets on the floor, and out the door. Cain't set still, evil finds you too easy that way."

The crows cocked their heads. Beaded ebony eyes with a hint of wisdom. They said nothing. Preacher Man laughed. A nervous titter disturbed the moss on the stones around the graveyard. He clutched his good book tighter. The cracked leather of the cover was stained with sweat. And maybe blood. Preacher Man didn't know. He started walking again, keeping an eye on the trees.

"Evil is not my main concern, friends!" he shouted to the crows. They rustle and murmur. "Loneliness is quite another matter. A creature of a different stripe. And it is on my trail. My trail!"

Preacher Man's voice echoed off the rocks of the valley then died amongst the cedars. He reckoned the crows cared little for him or for loneliness. The flock muttered, shifted, hunched their wings. Musical notes on the sheet music of the branches. Preacher Man shivered at the thought of unholy music, tritones twisting his mind into knots.

"I've been walking for days, friends. A mite slow, mebbe, but faster than it!" Little puffs of dust arose from under his hobnailed soles. "I've the Lord on my side, I tell ye. He'll carry me, this I know. He'll not let me fall. He won't." Preacher Man shook his fist at the birds. They laughed.

The track was rising up to the west. Farther along, too far to make out much detail, but Preacher Man could see what appeared to be a plateau. In the sky above it was a brighter spot, the sun a luminescent blob buried in the pearlescent wool of the clouds.

"Amen to that, friends and brothers. Amen. I can stay the night there." He quickened his pace, eager to make the plateau before nightfall. A slight breeze stirred the trees. Preacher Man thought he could smell rain on the wind. He welcomed the thought. His whiskey had run out three days ago, and the bottle was dry. Maybe he'd luck into a spring up there.

The grey light brightened, catching him unawares. Ragged holes appeared in the clouds, two not far apart. The clouds roiled over themselves but the holes remained open. Silver-grey sunlight speared down, washing over him. Preacher Man stopped, chilled, shivering. Behind him the crows whispered in avian argot, but Preacher Man knew they were talking about him. He turned to look over his shoulder. The inky black birds had alighted in the track, a thick mass stretching form one side of the track to the other between the rock of the valley wall and the graveyard.

The crows fluttered and stared. Preacher Man gaped. His bowels felt cold. Shaking, biting his lip, he turned his head back and decided he better start walking again. As he did so, he saw the other shaft of light up ahead along the track. It was shining down on the plateau, washing the side of the butte beside it. In the middle of the plateau, in the sunlight, Preacher Man could make out  a large black shape, vaguely human in outline. As he stared the shape lifted what looked like an arm.

It curled the arm, gesturing as if waving to the man to come forward. Preacher Man gaped, gasped, dropped the bottle on his foot. A dark stain bloomed out across the front of his dirt-caked trousers. He clutched the good book to his chest and stumbled up the track.

"All this time, you bastard, all this time," croaked Preacher Man, "I's thinkin' you were behind me. And there you are, in front of me. It's enough to make a man lose his religion!"

His voice trailed off into a wheeze. He staggered up the valley. Behind him the crows chuckled and danced. On the plateau, the lone black shape crossed its arms, waiting.