Sunday, March 20, 2011

Encouragement: Musings and a Poem: Learning to Swim Upstream

It's early Spring, and that's a good time for me.

This is a Facebook post, also a blog post, and a message to the leadership of Genesis Community Church.

Tonight's message from Craig Tackett was one of encouragement . . . involving a challenge to the church body as a whole to make encouraging people a priority, to see if we could actually change the emotional state of the Valley as a whole. Now, this may sound like high hopes, but i think Craig believes it's possible . . . and, because i respect him, i share his belief. It may be a seasonal thing with me . . . Spring always feels like being reborn. I've been very busy lately, seasonal work (also another reason why Spring has been particularly good for me this year), and my poetry postings have gotten pretty sparse. This isn't to say i haven't been writing . . . but i seem to have come to a "cycle change" where more of my hopeful poetry begins. Tonight, after church, i was given a poem . . . that's what it feels like, anyway. It is a message of hope, of encouragement. I want to share it with everyone, and hope that you'll receive it as a "gift."

Learning to Swim Upstream


and to you who might sell God short,

let me deliver this report

from the front lines

of a conflict that's gone on longer

than any fight, battle, or war

fought for oppression, for gold, or oil.

now, times are lean,

and those most desperate

are in need of aid,

and less are inclined to give, but

let me tell you this:

God is teaching

His people to swim upstream.

you were born for this,

to return to the Source

of your Creation!

every force, every obstacle,

every impediment

should only encourage you

to greater efforts, to inspire you

to creative survival.

think of the strength you'll gain!

if you bear up

during the hard times,

you'll truly appreciate the good.

this planet

is your neighborhood,

only a temporary residence

before you go home,

but quite a bit wider,

and wilder, than expected.

it's okay, God gets that,

He said it's best to start out small.

you know, in your

corner of the whole.

you'll learn to appreciate

the unobtrusive miracles

unfolding in obscurity,

the blossoming that only

the fewest have

the pleasure or the opportunity

to view. you will be shown where--and how--

to tear back the wreckage

and expose the Truth--and

because of that, the Beauty--

inherent in every

disastrous situation.

know your weakness, understand your flaws;

mark them with signposts

as rugged terrain

where you'll need all His strength

to lean on.

learn to swim

upstream, stroke by stroke.

be expectant

of the strength you need,

the courage for the deed;

they're guaranteed.

i've survived some pretty intense

battles; taking

the higher ground is tough.

but i gotta tell you,

the view from up here

ain't always pretty, but

you can see your target

very clear.

© Todd Pack 03.20.11

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Supernatural Solution

Supernatural Solution

"But I tell you, : Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be the
sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain
on the righteous and the unrighteous." -- Matthew 5:44-45 (NIV)

Christ's command, spoken to His disciples, was intended for all of us as well. It is difficult enough
for us to love--the word used in the above passage is from the Greek "agape," which indicates an
unconditional love--even those who are our neighbors . . . how much more so our enemies! It is
unnatural for us to love our enemies; it is, in fact, supernatural. Only God can provide the
strength necessary for us to accomplish this.

In the world's current state of affairs, this necessary love seems absent, even in those of us who
call Christ our Lord. It would appear, in fact, that certain types of hatred--and the hateful acts
that stem from this--are tolerated, or even actively condoned. When I read of or hear about people who profess to love Jesus who are directing hatred against political rivals or individuals who follow a different faith, I have to wonder exactly how we are expressing Christ's love (the immense love that led Him to die on the cross for ALL people, no matter how sinful). Rather than rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to allow us to love even those who persecute us, who oppose us (in theory or in reality), or even those we disagree with, it would seem that we rely instead on political practices, grandstanding, or complicated "excuses" for our hatred. In short, we are being more of the world than we are of God's Kingdom. The kind of "extreme love" that Christ taught and demonstrated confronts us with our hypocrisy. And, I say "we" and "ours," because I'm just as likely to fall into those traps as anyone. No, it isn't rational or logical to "love your enemies." It flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But there is no way to "spin" Christ's command to fit into our political, racial, economic, or national "agendas;" IF WE ARE TO FOLLOW JESUS, WE MUST LOVE OUR ENEMIES. Period. And that love must be visible, demonstrative, and unconditional.

Loving your enemies isn't easy. JESUS isn't easy. But if you make up your mind now to follow Him, and constantly pray for Him to love THROUGH you, it can be done. A lot of the mud being slung at various groups of "THEM" could just as easily be flung at us. The first understanding a person has to have in coming to Jesus is that we are broken, and only by accepting Him--and this means following His commandments--can we ever achieve wholeness. Are you really that taken with the big-shots and the talking heads, the "experts" of this world? How does their integrity stand up compared to the Word, made flesh for our sake in Christ? I truly believe that if more people followed Christ's lead, and truly made that effort to let His love overflow from their lives on everyone--neighbors and enemies--that the world would change for the better. It's easy for our enemies to hate us as long as we continue to direct hatred at them; imagine how difficult it would be, though, if their "enemies" started showing them LOVE? It would stand their philosophies on their heads! If you're a Christian, a follower of Jesus, then take this time, NOW, to pray for the strength to love your enemies--personal, political, or national--the way Christ loved us. If this is too hard for you to swallow, though, perhaps it's time to take a personal inventory and decide what's more important to you: your personal, political, or national welfare, or the self-sacrificial servant life that Jesus taught AND walked out, even to the worst imaginable death of His time. The only solution to the hatred that permeates our world like a cancer is the supernatural one. Angels and demons wait with bated breath to see what choice we will make.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Those Really Bad Sins," or "The Sin Rating Game."

In the popular arena, some sins are raised to a "higher status" than others. When it comes to branding somebody a "sinner," there's usually one or two favorites that are considered "really bad sins" (as opposed to . . . what? sins that aren't that bad, even though they're still wrong?) Usually, the sin or wrong being focused on is one that's either a political hot-button, or one that's out in the open and easily accessible to public knowledge.

How would any of us handle scrutiny of our lives, our thoughts, and how we behave when nobody is looking? The Bible makes it clear that if we violate ANY of God's commandments, we're guilty of violating the whole law. There's not a truly righteous person on the face of the Earth . . . it was because of this that Christ took the burden of the law on Himself, being truly righteous, as a sacrifice for all of us, putting us all on equal standing before God. Everything now comes down to a personal choice: to either accept the gift that Christ gave us, and to live according to the guidelines He laid down in His own life and words, or to reject it.

We all stand under the scrutiny of God, and there's nothing that escapes His attention. It sounds callous and unfeeling to equate something like murder with, say, being envious of your neighbor's new Lexus, but from God's standpoint, they're all violations of His law. It's easy to pinpoint a murderer, a rapist, a homosexual, a member of a hate-group or a cult . . . but less easy to scrutinize on a level that would reveal envy, greed, usury (that's charging ANY interest, not merely charging undue interest--and our entire economy is based on something that the Bible calls sin), or other sins deemed "less evil." Sorry, you don't get a pass on those, either. Just because you haven't murdered somebody, but have spent your whole life coming up with ways to profit on other people's misery, doesn't mean you can strut around as a "righteous" man.

The Bible also makes it clear how we are to deal with sin when we discover it within the body of Christ--the church--and how we are to counter it. Christ made it clear, telling us that we're to go to the person, one-on-one, in an attitude of loving reproof. If that doesn't suffice, take a couple of witnesses (by this, He meant not two of your cronies, but two impartial witnesses), and if THAT still doesn't suffice, bring it before the body of Christ as a whole . . . and if the individual's sin continues, and he refuses to accept the determination of the church--of which he is a part--then "let him be to you as a heathen or a tax collector," basically treating the person as an "outsider." Still, even in that extreme case, there's Christ's command that you are to forgive someone who commits a sin "seventy times seven" if they come to you and repent. That means that the Church must also stand ready to receive back an individual who repents of their sin. Paul continues to expound upon this doctrine of "loving reproof," an attitude that is sorely lacking in today's Church. Just because person X is a Baptist and person Y is a Methodist, you're still part of the conceptual whole of the body of Christ. Here's another: just because one member of your church is a Democrat and another is a Republican, they must put aside political differences when coming together as part of the body. But this kind of infighting between denominations or factions has become so commonplace that it's tolerated! "Loving reproof" just went out the window!

Scandal after scandal, within and without, daunts us all as Christians. The empty-headed masses are greedy for scandal, maybe because when it attaches to a person of "status," it pulls them down to the same level as the rest of us (nevermind the stupidity of elevating a person to a higher status just because they're actors or have a lot of money to throw around or have some standing in the political arena). Guess what? They're human, and the fact that they're in the public eye more often doesn't make their scandals any more sinful than those of anybody else. I'm not saying just to give them a free pass; when it comes to leaders, Paul makes it quite clear that those who lead are, in accepting leadership, putting on themselves a heavier burden, and are in effect setting a higher standard for their own behavior. What we need to do is quit keeping track of other people's "sin scorecards" and start focusing on our own! It's really easy to throw your weight around when you're a member of the body of Christ and the people you're dealing with are not . . . but that's an abuse of the name of Christ, in effect "taking the name of the Lord in vain." Do you expect the World to accept your pronouncements simply because you're of the body of Christ? Why would you? The world is set against us. We have to be in the world, but not of it . . . we have to live with these limitations, but not give up. There were a lot of people i hung out with in Union Square Park who did things that i wouldn't do, but they knew what i believed and what i represented, and i never felt like an "outcast" because of it (maybe because the world as a whole has also rejected so many of them . . . which is one reason why many of them are closer to Christ than the ones who look down on them; all it would take, in some cases, is a little nudge for those "park rats" to embrace Christ).

We live in a culture--a world--that makes having "things" something to aspire to. Making more money, having more possessions, being able to "consume" more; these are the values that the economy, politics, and wordly power make pre-eminent. There is public outcry against kids who engage in immoral sex, but the culture as a whole glorifies it, practically screams sexually charged messages from every billboard, mall, newspaper, and television show. Marijuana, of which there has never been a single recorded overdose or fatality attributed to, is still rated a Schedule 1 Drug, right up there with heroin; yet drugs with life-damaging and potentially lethal side-effects are freely marketed by pharmaceutical companies whose "cost-benefits analyses" make a few deaths acceptable losses when stacked up against making a profit. Homosexuals are subjected to hate, vilification, and rejection; yet bankers whose crimes often escape scrutiny cause more harm and misery with the stroke of a pen. Those of you who look to politics and political leaders to "make things better" are just whistling in the dark. When Christ was tempted by Satan, He was led to a high mountaintop, and shown all the nations of the world, their riches, and their glory. Satan said, in Luke 4:5-7, "I will give you their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Now, you know if Satan had been saying something that was untrue, Christ would have called him out on it. But He didn't. Instead, He refused to worship Satan, to give glory and worship to anyone but God. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it? No, i don't think all world leaders are worshipping the Devil, but they are making some pretty shady deals with Mammon, and Christ said, "You can't serve God and Mammon." Mammon is an idiom representing material wealth and its attendant power. So one has to wonder, really, what our culture is coming from, what it's teaching, and who it most stands to benefit.

Sin is sin. There's no getting around it, and all of us are apt to stumble. If you're looking for a religion that allows you to put yourself on a high-horse and throw a parade for yourself while flinging mud at people who practice your personal hit-list of sins, then Christ isn't for you. We all have need of loving reproof. We all have need of a fellowship of believers who can understand our failings and build us up when we're fallen. And, most of all, we have the need of Christ's representation in Heaven, His salvation and perfect love, that are the only things that can stand us on our feet and make us ready to resist the temptations that the World constantly flings at us. You've got your own bed to make, your own house to clean. Until they're spotless--and they never will be on this side of Paradise--you can't go around grumbling about how bad other people's houses look.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Re-Creating the Language: A Poet's Responsibility

I have maintained, for some time now, that it is the responsibility of poets in particular to re-invent, re-invigorate, and re-charge language. Over the years, we watch television and "news" where not only the language, but the information in dumbed-down; reporting the news has become rife with suppression by news corporations whose CEO's don't want to criticize the government that they've bought and paid for, so instead we're offered trendy stories of whatever movie star or sports figure has screwed up--along with an endless string of talking heads and media whores babbling about it--mixed lightly with news of the world presented with the proper "spin." Information about corporate, police, military, or government blunders (or out-right crimes) is culled relentlessly. One might argue that this is not necessarily affecting language as a whole, but i beg to differ. Language is, first and foremost, a way of communicating. It's a way of presenting information, a way of speaking a message, a way of sharing concerns and showing love and concern. When language is relentlessly "spun" by various political factions to support their viewpoint, or agencies within the government who don't want the masses to have TOO MUCH information, you have a gradual dumbing-down process that eventually affects everyone. This is one of the "trickle-down" theories that actually works in practice . . . Orwell would have called it "doublespeak," and decried it as a death-knell of liberty. Often, when we think, we "hear" ourselves thinking in language . . . Orwell's view was that the "doublespeak" would eventually result in people incapable of thinking anything that was out of synch with the official, established norm. In America, in particular, we assume that we have Freedom of Speech. After all, it is written in the law of the land, and it means that people whose viewpoints may not be popular can say, and print, what they want to. There are reasonable limits to this . . . language that commands or urges violent and destructive actions can (and does) fall under legal scrutiny. However, i'd like to go back to that word "assume." Rights and liberties, like muscles, are only strong when regularly exercised. Without that regular exercise, that vigorous stimulation, they become weak and atrophied, and will (like muscles) fail when they are depended on.

This is where poets come in. Recently, on, i was derided for my use of the word "proclivity." My insistence that i was simply availing myself of a wider vocabulary in order to communicate more clearly provoked verbal retaliation, the responder apparently feeling that i was being arrogant, or trying to "prove something" by using that word. Realizing that my responses were the equivalent of beating my head against a brick wall, i stopped trying to defend myself and simply ignored any further communication on the subject. As a poet, i realize that i have to embrace the vernacular--that is, communicate in the common language, the "language of the streets,"--i also realize my responsibility not to have an incestuous relationship with it! I use both street-language and (for lack of a better word) intellectualized-language in my poetry. I've never heard anyone complain about my use of the latter, although i have received some complaints about my use of the former . . . my response in those cases was that people are more apt to understand and respond to something that speaks in a way they are familiar with. When i use the larger or more complex words, or using the language of the streets, in my poetry, i'm not consciously aware of one or the other so much as i am the context of the poem as a whole. I occasionally drop "invented" words like "enphoenixed" (my own) and "frankenpoem" (coined by Ian Cohen), which are generally understandable in the context of the poem in which they're presented. I don't assume that my listeners or readers are English majors pursuing their Masters or Doctorate; by the same token, i don't assume that my listeners or readers are stupid (the way television does). I frequently use odd juxtapositions, either for metaphorical purposes, or to get people's minds in the mode of non-linear thinking. I want to surprise them, or shock them, a little . . . but i don't shock simply for it's own sake; i use it to call attention to something.

All of these things are tactics that i've seen other poets, and better poets than i am or will ever be, use. It makes me feel good when i see other poets challenging themselves or their readers/auditors with interesting metaphors, complex language, street-talk, witty turns of phrase, or shocking juxtapositions . . . all combined with the poet's eye to impart a message. Poets, i think, above all, desire desperately to communicate, to expose themselves and the culture around them to a critical and, sometimes, uncomfortable examination. The fact that some people regard poetry as "uncomfortable" is proof that it's working. In the Old Testament, the prophets often spoke their messages in a poetic form . . . that much hasn't changed. There are warnings implicit in many poets' work, as well as an unflappable determination to improve things.

Don't ask me to dumb down my language. Don't ask me not to discuss things that make you uncomfortable. Don't come to me expecting a poem that completely and neatly falls into your preconcieved notions of what poetry, literature, or language should be. I write, ultimately, because i don't know any other way of dealing with both my own emotions and the complexities of the Universe. I'm not asking for you not to critique me . . . i'll always listen to constructive criticism, even if i don't necessarily immediately agree with it. I'm asking you to understand how important it is to me that i keep working with the language, keep it moving forward, and keep breaking it up and reassembling it in order to prevent the arid locks of "doublespeak" and political or social norms from killing it. There's not much left of me but poetry, and for some reason, God's made it such a part of my life that it seems inextricable from breathing itself, and from whatever it is i'm supposed to be doing on this planet. I don't have it all figured out yet. I'm not a know-it-all, and if you perceive me as "arrogant," that may be as much your own fault as it is mine. Don't insult my intelligence by insisting that i need to "dumb it down," and i won't insult yours by assuming that you're already dumb.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Upcoming Genesis Covenant:: Core Beliefs & Personal Convictions

It's been a while since i've done any serious entries in my blog. A number of my poems i've posted directly to Facebook (most of them already having been copyrighted via PostPoems).

In order to clarify a few things, i've decided to express a number of personal beliefs and opinions in this entry. First and foremost, i'm a Christian. This means that i am a follower of Christ. I do not conform to any particular "denomination," even though i was raised in a Southern Baptist church. I think a lot of denominations are divisions over points of dogma, sometimes insignificant. Jesus said of the Pharisees, "You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!" I suppose a more familiar metaphor would be "You can't see the forest for the trees." What does being a follower of Christ entail? This was outlined in the Covenant that i have signed to join Genesis Community Church. Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God. I belive that the Bible is a necessary and sufficient guide to the Christian life . . . all the Scriptures we've been given as Christians have value that can be applied to daily living. I also believe that the Holy Spirit, which is likewise God, walks with us and guides us, and gives us insight into the Scriptures, and in effect provides a "direct hotline" to God through prayer. Of course, God doesn't always answer prayers in the way we expect, and certainly not on our schedule . . . which is why a lot of people seem to dismiss prayer. Prayer isn't handing God a wish-list; it's communication with God, actually CONVERSING with the Creator--that's pretty phenomenal in and of itself! As far as attempting to defend my Faith, i am not versed in apologetics, and not of a rational bent . . . i can only offer my own experiences, subjective though they might be, as personal testimony to my belief. I don't "beat people over the head" with the Bible, don't try to force God down people's throats, because--quite honestly--that's not how Jesus did it.

This is not to say i don't struggle with issues. Many of my close friends know the nature of my struggles, and i don't feel it necessary to detail that here--i've been warned before about "casting pearls before swine," and have learned that lesson the hard way--but suffice it to say that i understand that only God's grace and mercy could save me from disaster and, ultimately, doom. Part of the Convenant for Genesis involves, to quote from it, "righteous and loving discipline." This is both in giving and receiving. The Bible urges us to "lovingly correct" a fellow believer when they're out of line, and to accept such correction when it is given. This makes us interdependent, functioning as the body of Christ, much as a human body functions . . . if one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body is hurt by it. I certainly don't want any of my personal beliefs to become a stumbling block to fellow believers. There may be things that we do not agree on . . . but as a Christian i have to be willing to avoid becoming a hindrance to those who might be new in the Faith. I need to be held accountable, and to hold my fellow believers accountable. This is the only way a community can function effectively or healthily, Christian or otherwise.

My beliefs about poetry, spoken word, and such, are probably as self-evident as my Faith. They are deeply connected, because i feel that poetry is somehow my gift AND my calling. It is, along with the arts in general, one of the ways in which i feel the phrase "made in God's image" becomes evident. We have, within us, the desire and capability to create. When we do this to God's glory, God affirms our creations, and honors our using of the gifts He gave us. In addition, i feel that poetry and spoken word are particularly necessary, both as coping mechanisms and as communication. Paul told us to be "good citizens." In America, that's a particularly troublesome task, because if we hold to "the law of the land," those laws are represented in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This means that, in effect, we ARE the government, we ARE supposed to "watch the watchmen," and if we don't, we're falling down on the job. Freedom of Speech entails within it the possibility that some people might not like what's being said . . . but, we all need to remember that linked with that freedom is the Freedom of Religion, which as Christians we enjoy here in America to the extent that we often forget other nations or other times where this was not a guaranteed freedom. It is often through the spoken word, through poetry, that the alarm is sounded. I have a number of Christian performance poet comrades in New Jersey and NYC, and they are as adamant about this as i am, if not more so. The ability to work with words, to craft poetry, is also a heavy responsibility. When we are careless with our words, we can cause harm or confusion (not to mention looking pretty slipshod in the process). The status quo disregards poetry as a whole, dismisses it or downplays its significance, forgetting--perhaps--that when the Old Testament prophets spoke, they often phrased their prophecies in poetic form. (From what Pastor John Ault has told me, it's more evident--and more beautiful--if read in Hebrew). Psalms and Song of Solomon are, in addition to Scripture, timeless poetic works that have influenced hundreds of generations, religious and secular alike. The oldest evidence of written work we have is a Babylonian epic called Gilgamesh; there are examples throughout history of the impact of poetry on society, and this isn't even taking into account the fact that song lyrics are poetry, as well. It is important that we be aware of the erosion of the rights and liberties we enjoy, and decry the injustices in this country and abroad that are often falsely perpetuated "in God's name." Oppression, regardless of the target, benefits no-one. Racism, though not the only modality of oppression, is surely one of the most egregious and historically prominent examples. I'm going to take a flying leap here: Christianity and racism are mutually exclusive. Period. There's no way you can use the word of God to justify hatred and oppression. That is, in fact, taking the Lord's name in vain (i'll refrain from going into a rant about the fact that the words "In God We Trust" printed on our money is almost blasphemous, considering Christ's warning that "you cannot serve God and Mammon"). The spoken word, and the arts at large, are a powerful way of expressing these things, of airing grievances, of proclaiming truth, of openly communicating . . . and also of expressing joy, comraderie, love, and the whole span of emotions.

In my relationship with Genesis and this group of believers, i desire to be a useful and active part of the body of Christ. This means taking the talent i've been given and bearing fruit, of investing it wisely and to the glory of God. I realize that there will be those who will "politicize" some of my statements . . . i am willing to listen to them, and to explain my statements and the convictions that gave birth to them. Becoming a fucntioning and beneficial part of Genesis is something i have longed for ever since i split away from Grace Covenant before i moved to New Jersey; it was something i looked for in NJ and NYC, but never truly found. The sense of "coming home" to Genesis is powerful, and i sense the affirmation of the Holy Spirit that, yes, this is where i'm supposed to be now.

I've talked quite a bit about my feelings and beliefs about the Christian life, my thoughts about my part in Genesis, and about poetry and the spoken word as something that was God-given, and about the responsibilities all these entail. There are quite a few other things that i believe in or feel strongly about, but the ones i've discussed are in the forefront of my mind. It is Christ and the Cross that form the central point of everything; everything gets its meaning and is put in its proper perspective by focusing on Christ. I expect quite a few blog posts in the upcoming weeks to deal with some of my other tenets, and how they relate to the central point. I am fully aware of my limitations--my "thorn in the flesh," which may simply be a confluence of out-of-balance brain chemistry, keeps me intimately aware of them--and the periodic rages, depressions, flights of fancy, or racing thoughts, are things that i'm going to have to wade through and pray through, and having the support of a strong body of fellow believers as i do this will be a major blessing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Grendel's Glossary Phase 1: A random groupings of words that will crop up in my poetry.

HARANO: “Something like a shadow has fallen between present and past, an abyss wide as war that cannot be bridged by any tangible connection, so that memory is undermined and the image of our beginnings is betrayed, dissolved, rendered not mythical but illusory. We have connived in the murder of our own origins.” - Edward Abbey

The Pain of Loss

In the quote above, Edward Abbey, famed wilderness advocate, curmudgeon and spiritual father of direct-action ecological protest, complains of the loss of primal beginnings: his childhood, when he roamed backwoods and fields, carefree and intensely in love with the landscape around him. Beyond being a cry against the loss of wilderness itself, it seems a cry against adulthood and the discerning mind that accompanies it - the mature mind, somehow separate and discreet from its upbringing in Eden. It is a cry of anger and of the loss of something that can never be regained.

ULLAGONE: An ullagone is a funeral lament or a cry of lamentation.

POLITICHRISTIAN: A catch-all word for individuals who profess to be Christians in order to further a political agenda, or people who automatically associate a political agenda or party with Christianity. The former rely on the gullibility of the latter to secure their positions of power, at which point the guise of Christianity is maintained while they further their worship of Mammon . . . at the taxpayer's expense, of course.

F'WAH: Fwah, also spelled "F'wah," is a cosmic sound made by the Universe. Sort of like, "Om," but less dignified. It can also be used as a sort of enthusiastic greeting, usually immediately following the person's name. Also known as an emotion of impending disaster.

"Galactus! F'wah!"
"This cosmic notion fills me with a great sense of fwah."
"F'wah! I just dropped a live grenade into a bathtub full of scorpions!"

MUH: Similar in ways to F'wah (q.v.), but more versatile. Originally, "muh" was a contraction of "muwahahaha," a sort of quick way of adding diabolical laughter to a phrase. It now has a number of meanings, and is often used as a random interjection, or just dispersed throughout a sentence. At the end of a sentence, it adds an emphatic note to the whole. Standing alone as an adjective, it means something so bizarre or intrisically unique that it can't be described any other way. In front of an adjective or adverb, it acts as an intensifier. Muh is also associated with a pink paranoid chihuahua, although experts haven't yet determined just how this applies. Muh can also be used as a greeting, a challenge, a threat, or just something fun to scream at the top of your lungs (an act referred to as a "screamuh").
"Now, I will destroy the space station with my positronic ray! MUH!"
"That woman has muh hair."
"This was the most muh delicious dessert I've ever eaten."

ENPHOENIXED: A metaphorical rebirth, rekindling of passions and emotions that were thought to be lost. A counterpoint to Harano (q.v.)

WARRIOR MOMENT: Similar in many ways to an epiphany, or an incident of satori. These moments are difficult to describe, and in many ways can only be alluded to through metaphor. Instances occur, but are not limited to, incidents of artistic or creative breakthrough, and may be parallel to "Eureka!" as often expressed in the sciences. It is an event wherein the person suddenly realizes that he or she sees, or understands, things on a much higher level than before, almost a mental/emotional orgasm without the sexual component. (See my earlier blog entry on my first "Warrior Moment.")

This is part 1 of a series. I'll add more entries as necessary.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

After the Waterfall--The First "Warrior Moment."

Okay, here goes.

Over the years since this event, i've tried in numerous ways to explain it, quantify it, somehow interpret it in a way that people who WEREN'T there would be able to at least gain some understanding of how important it was, of its significance. Most of these attempts were poetic in nature, because it seems that metaphor is the only tool that comes close.

In April, of my 14th year . . . shortly before i would turn 15, in fact . . . i had an experience at a waterfall that defies any normal description. It was misty, foggy, but not-quite-raining, and the hills and trees were clad in that almost spiritual light green. It had rained for several days, quite hard, and i was taking advantage of the break in the rain to walk to a spot i had been before, once when i was 13 with my father, and in the previous summer (after a long walk that took me to it in a roundabout way). The waterfall is hidden in a cleft of the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway, on a piece of land owned by a friend of my father's . . . it was known that i wandered all around that property (in later years), but since i was not hunting and not intending any harm to the property, i was allowed to come and go pretty much at will.

The waterfall often dries up during hot, dry weather, but the recent rains had given it a considerable flow. I walked until i stood at the base of the fall, near the small pool formed there. On the walk up, i passed numerous bloodroots, whose delicate white blossoms would wilt shortly after being picked, and whose nacarat hue stained the hand that plucked them. Responding to some impulse, i stripped my shirt off and leaned into the fall to drink. The water is very clean and cold. As i did this, my heart-rate seemed to triple, and the only other way i can describe the "event horizon" is that all my senses seemed to suddenly "jack up," and i even got the impression that i was using senses that had laid dormant; i was PERCEIVING something that was, by any of the usual parameters i'd used to measure such things, beyond my power to describe. I stood up, looked around, my heart beating a savage tempo in my chest; nothing had changed . . . but EVERYTHING had changed! Half-formed dreams and images seemed to suddenly demand my attention. I walked away from the waterfall that day in a daze, seeing the woods and trees and blossoms in a completely different way, as if there were something BEHIND them . . . the concept of a "veil" was doubly appropriate, given the misty and foggy conditions along the Parkway.

I was never considered "normal" by any of my peers, but this marked the beginning of a time during which i no longer CARED. "Fitting in" was impossible to me now. I had experienced something that catapulted me into a state that might have been called "satori," or "epiphany," or--as a poet friend of mine, Marty Evans, called them--a "warrior moment." (Marty was with me years later, in Georgia, when i experienced a similar moment, and though i didn't know how to describe it, he seemed to understand, and that was the first time i'd heard the term "warrior moment" described to me). I felt as if i'd been yanked halfway in to another world, a dream-world, a parallel dimension, or what-have-you. THE NEXT FEW YEARS OF MY LIFE, I WAS IN THAT STATE. My dreams became more vivid, my fantasies more intricate, and my beliefs marked with something that some people called "mysticism" (and my mother, God bless her, used the term "unrealistic," but in all fairness, it did seem kind of "unreal"). I could lay down, close my eyes, and see clear images of places i'd never been, and wrote many of them down in my notebooks of the time . . . over several years, i'd described worlds and places and creatures, drawing partly on my knowledge of mythology, that to me seemed all-too-likely.

I once discussed my mother's resistance to these things to our youth counsellor at the church, who told me that my mother might be afraid FOR me, because i believed these things. Years later, Pastor John Ault, a mentor and good friend, told me that--because i was an artist--i had the ability to experience on a creative level what Paul experienced in 2 Corinthians 12: Paul describes being "hijacked into paradise . . . whether in or out of the body, I don't know, God knows." He said there he heard "the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard." It's no coincidence that immediately thereafter, Paul describes his "thorn in the flesh," "a gift of a handicap, to keep me in constant touch with my limitations." He says it was BECAUSE of the "extravagance of these revelations" that he was limited by this (and he does not describe it specifically). I began to understand a lot about the creative gift i was given, and that the very extremes that i experienced through it were the "flip side" of the limitations i experienced. In latter years, it would be described (or, rather, categorized) as "anxiety-depressive disorder," "bipolar disorder," and so forth. I think those are just words that people use so they can gain some kind of "handle" on it. I don't really pay that much attention to the terms or diagnoses anymore. That moment . . . and some of the other moments that have come, rare but undeniable, almost frightening in intensity . . . were worth anything i suffered because of my inordinate imagination and fucked-up brain chemistry.

When people who are rigid or narrowminded in their outlook encounter things like these, their minds reject them. They run to a psychiatrist who prescribes some chemical concotion that allows them to "numb" the feelings. They focus on their jobs, on TV, on mundane things, and try to deny that they've been afforded a glimpse of wonder. It is what Michael Yaconelli would describe as "dangerous wonder." Wonder, and awe, are often uncomfortable feelings, partially because modern society lacks these qualities. They, along with imagination, are generally neglected by people whose focus on "rationalism" and "practicality" have actually stunted their growth. Sadly, too many of these people are Christians. I consider myself blessed, extravagantly blessed, by these few glimpses of an almost terrifying wonder, an eclipsing awe, that--despite my inability to fully describe them--have remained fixed in my head, indelibly written on my soul. My vain efforts through poetry to communicate the experience at the waterfall . . . or any of the other "warrior moments" in my life . . . are, at least in my mind, only reaffirmation of what happened. I was "let in" on a secret, was temporarily caught up in the Mystery that i pursued for so long, without knowing that perhaps that Mystery was pursuing me as well. I think Heaven will be much like those experiences, only heightened and endless . . . to live such a way, in the presence of the Almighty Creator who allowed such a flawed and fragile creature to glimpse them, is--in a way--almost terrifying. If it were not for God's love and mercy, the things i experienced would have undoubtedly broken my mind. Perhaps they have. I would consider nothing more honorable than to be broken for God. It may be that that first "warrior moment" was NOT the most powerful i will experience, though none that have happened since have neared that supernal level. I can only thank God that, somehow, those very things that limit me, cause me grief, and trouble my sleep, are also the essential flaw that He works through, His strength coming into its own through my weakness, and--in an outpouring of undeserved grace--allows me to experience moments like these.