Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chaos in Verse

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Four dogs were happily stirring
While Cindy cat was stalking a mouse
A bra in the yard ‘cause one dog dragged it there
Another had hopes of cat doo soon being theirs
Biddy Kitty lurked quietly in dread
That the puppy would find her and slobber her head.
Treats were under the tree which wobbled
While carrots and cookies by dogs were gobbled.
For everyone knows that when moms are away
Most of the pets will bound and play.

Deb in her jacket and I in new boots
Had just sat at church with some hot, yummy soup.

(meanwhile, back at the house
Where a cat quietly looked for a mouse…)

Within our abode there arose such a clatter
With the dogs all a barking, saying “something’s the matter”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear
But something to chase, a whole herd of reindeer!

Up the dogs jumped, through the dog door they rushed
Barking so loud all else sounded really hushed.
'Round the big yard, they chased Santa’s sleigh
Never once wondering if it would ruin his day.
The wily deer led them on a merry night chase.
The dogs played their game until tired and in a daze.
After a bit, Santa called it a day
And thanked the dogs for coming out to play,

And he boomed his deep voice in a sing-songy way:
“on Dasher on Dancer on Prancer and Vixen
On Comet on Cupid on Donner and Blitzen
On Rudolph- you, with the bright nose-
Let’s get goin’, it’s no time for dozin’”
Up to the rooftop they nimbly jumped
Leaving the shingles not terribly bumped.

We pulled in the drive with our blue pickup truck
Little did we know, the dogs had brought us good luck.
Happy, tired and full, wanting nothing but our beds
We heard bells ringing over our hat-covered heads.
As we lifted our wondering eyes toward the sound
We heard a deep voice bouncing around:
“You down there, your coal’s under the tree
Right where my cookies and carrots should be!
No, not really, I’m just kidding
You know this night’s fun is most in the giving
And laughing and loving and joyously living.
So my best holiday gift to you this year
Is granting some time with those you hold so dear.”

Then quick as a flash
Bells ringing with the dash
A bright shooting star, like a new hybrid car
Headed north, toward a town called Afar.

(Note:  any resemblence to events past or present real or imagined is totally fabricated, well-mostly fabricated with poetic license.  Also, the rhyming and rythms were fabricated with poetic license.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who Says and Ant Can't

(written December 14, 2009)

I think that when ants die, they go to the warrior heaven, Valhalla, and steal food from the gods.

I watched an ant stealing a shred of cheese which was about eight times its size.

I admired its strength, daring and tenacity.

As I killed it, I wished it a good journey and good hunting in Valhalla.

Perhaps there is cheese there.

It only seemed right, to send it off with a warrior’s honor for its warrior life and warrior’s death.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Presenting Presence, Presents and Preparation

(written on December 12, 2009)
“The day you stop learning is the day you die.” –My dad

Thursday was my last day of classes for fall 2009 semester. I turned in my Rock and Roll final and we had a class wake for psychology of death. These have both been great classes. I had great instructors who aren’t simply steeped in the culture of academia. Thy both also live in the real world. They interspersed personal tales of life (and death) with fun as well as with academic insight. I will miss this semester. In a way, I already do, even though I’m no longer scrambling to write a paper or study for a test.

Did I mention that winter is here? Forget waiting for solstice to declare it. Winter is here! It’s time for hats and parties and gloves and snow and cookies and coats and wrapping paper and ice and carols and donating and Fffffrrrrreeeeezzzzziiinnnggg. And then hot chocolate.

A holiday tip: to wrap something really large, cut up a paper lawn/leaf bag. Separate the two layers, use each separately. Secure with duck tape and decorate by writing “NO PEEKING” in large black marker. You can also add stamped or drawn-on decorations as well.

If you are out and about and need a bite to eat, in the right column, I have added a list of my favorite local places to eat.

About an hour later…

Thinking I was done with writing this post, I started flipping through the Winter 2009 copy of UU World, looking for a quote to stick at the top and I was caught by two things, simply by skimming. (I need to read through the whole thing this weekend to find mre gems.)

The first thing to catch my eye was a fable by Doug Muder called “Ghosts of Unitarian Christmas.” I loved it!

The second thing ws a small column buried on page 49 called “OWL OUT brings sex ed outside the church.” I am so glad to see that this well thought out values(not abstinence)based comprehensive sex ed program penned by the UUA and UCC is being offered outside of our elite settings (yes, elite, I hate to say) and being brought to at-risk youth- those who most need guidance and stability and self-esteem building and recognition of life sustaining choice options! I would love for the kids I work with to get to experience OWL, the way that the kids that I volunteered with got to. I think it can literally save lives. At the end of the article, my heart skipped a butterfly beat when it was mentioned that the Obama administration has asked for information about it. I actually went on their website several months ago and mentioned OWL by name as an effective and balanced alternative to the lying by omission crap (not the words I used) that they teach in schools now. I wonder if Obama’s UCC affiliation or my note or someone else’s suggestion prompted this request.

YEAH for believing that people can make sound decisions, regardless of their age, social status, etc.!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Exploring the Paths of Possibilities

“Polls say that as many as 45 percent of Americans believe in creationism. Not intelligent design. We’re talking strict the-Earth-is-less-than-ten-thousand-years-old creationism.” –A.J. Jacobs, from “The Year of Living Biblically”

I spent much of November re-working a paper that I had written last spring on evolution and the god of Moses and human misinterpretation of, well, pretty much everything. The limits of language and the constraints and biases of interpretation really curtail our ability to experience a world beyond our already limited understanding.

We are really blessed in this day and age to have amazing ways to expand our vision and beliefs. Tools like the printing press, television, telephone and the internet allow us interaction with people from cultures, beliefs and even times different from our own, forcing us to step outside our personal zone of comfort and head-on physical view. We are, today, forced to use our peripheral vision to see what in days past may have seemed to be illusion or delusion, foreign or evil. In using our peripheral vision, what was lost may be found. Pieces of the puzzle that is humanity can be found and put into place to reveal a wider, truer understanding of who we are. Setting aside the narrow, concrete thinking of simply saying “I am who I am” and embracing the prospect that “I will be who I determine I want to be,” empowers us to think outside the factory made box that our culture too often dictates we “must” confine our thoughts in.

Trying to confine a god into a tiny box of one present moment from thousands of years ago, believing that the words, when translated, indicate a stagnant statement of completeness and immutable consistency, can be a dangerous thing to do. Wars are fought and minds and souls are lost over the human tendency to stick god in the tiny box of an ancient moment. Re-thinking that simple statement, “I am” into “I am becoming what will be needed,” a future, incomplete action, would open up possibilities for this limited, warring species called humanity. If we didn’t insist that there is only one way to be and instead focused on the myriad ways of becoming, perhaps we could strive toward lifting one another up to become and create in god’s image rather than try to deny the evolution of god and humanity and every piece of this beautiful, living earth from its magma center to its Mount Everest.

Perhaps, instead of living like this earth will always have unlimited, unchanging resources because it is created by an unmoving god, we could come to understand the beautiful, dynamic nature of earth and god, and know that as humans, we are stewards of the earth, responsible for her care and nurturing. We are her stewards because out of all of the amazing life in her web, we are the ones who have evolved to understand that in order to live, we must someday die, so that others may live. We understand the inevitability of our own death, and therefore should recognize ways in which to postpone the death of our living earth planet so our genes can continue on.

The idea of an unchanging god, perhaps, creates a belief in us that we can transcend death and if death is not real for us, then surely it is not real for this beautiful earth that is so much greater than our small selves in human minds, a physical transcendence and not just a spiritual one. Therein lies the danger: therein lies human disregard for the health of the earth, the lives of our perceived enemies and even our own lives.

Embracing an evolving god may, perhaps, allow us to expand our embrace of the idea of life beyond just a physical “I am” but to also include “I will be” a spiritual/psychological presence even after my body has returned to nourish the earth so that she may live yet a moment more in her physical form. We will be a presence of memory. We will be a presence of our impact upon the earth’s resources. We will be a presence of love echoing and spiraling out in gratitude form each pebble of kindness and joy that we tossed into the waters of humanity while our bodies walked the earth. And, perhaps, we will be a presence walking the corporeal earth in a form or a presence in some heaven or a presence when we reincarnate as a newt or as a bodhavista, or as a presence in the stomach of a worm in the stomach of a fish in the stomach of the earth within the planting of a stalk of corn within the stomach of a stag within the stomach of a human who carries the seed of a new generation in her belly. The possibilities are endless in the ways our lives can go on as a presence beyond this physical life, just as the possibilities are endless for the future of a god whose name is rooted in the present and future tense of “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”, “Adonai”. God as evolution itself.

(Even though what you just read is kind of what my sermon was about last weekend, none of that was in the sermon. But really, that’s what I meant behind the words in a round-about-analyzing-language kind of way.)

Closer to the end of the semester

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any How”- Nietzche

This past week, I have been intensly working on a paper for my psychology of death class. It is the second paper for that class, and I think I did pretty well with it. The paper was a book report on “Tuesdays with Morrie”, a book that I have recommended before. It’s a bit different, treating it as a resource for a paper rather than reading it because of a love of the written word. Both approaches definitely have their value, for sure, but they are different.

In my paper, I also drew extensively from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Written a generation ago, the truths between those covers is timeless and powerful. I also drew upon my own experiences of dealing with depression and loss in my own life.

Frankl is a concentration camp survivor, and Morrie Schwartz is a man dying of ALS who disburses life wisdom like gumdrops to sports writer, Mitch Albom. Both Morrie and Frankl have much in common to share with the world (if the world reads their books). Both men spoke about the psychological tension within each of us that propels us toward action. Both en spoke about the importance of finding meaning in one’s life. Both men spoke about the importance of love and beauty and detachment. These two books are written with very different voices and in different times. One written by a young man whose interest up to that point had been sports and money, about an aged man who seems young at heart and the other by a young man who has witnessed more suffering than most old men ever will. One is the story of a sociologist and one is the story of a psychologist. Both who found their life’s meaning in helping others to find theirs. Both books intersperse memories with wisdom in very different ways and each is poetic, direct and stark at times.

If I get nothing else out of my class on the psychology of death, I will always remind myself that my suffering is the same as others, no greater, no less. And that in the inevitable end, all will be made equal by death.