Monday, November 9, 2009

Out of the Ashes: Excerpts from my previous blog

What follows is a series of excerpts from my Myspace blog that i considered worthy of salvage. They're in no particular order, and i'll probably end up doing at least one more entry like this, but for those of you willing to wade through my rambling, here goes:


With God, ALL things are possible.
Now, THERE'S a scary thought! No? But consider--once something enters into the realm of Possibility, it becomes something that needs to be considered, to be dealt with. Jesus taught us that nobody who gave up anything for His name's sake would lose out--in fact, they'd gain more than they ever believed possible, and while that included incredible blessings, it also included troubles! Now, some people would whine that a loving God shouldn't "provide" troubles. It's probably one of the most telling points of debate in the whole of Christianity that what C. S. Lewis called "the problem of Pain" is such a roadblock. Our entire society, at its present, is concerned with the providing of and obtaining of comfort, convenience, and conspicuous consumption. To a culture like that, Pain is something to be avoided, detoured around, or subdued . . . our culture invalidates Pain, and equates suffering with Lacking. Poor people suffer because "they lack money," not because those who have money are lacking in compassion. Comfort, convenience, and conspucious consumption: those are the idols whose lies make us think that "if we're uncomfortable, something's wrong." I challenge that thought! If we're COMFORTABLE, something's wrong! People who have become empty shells for that triad of idols may lack suffering, but they also lack many other things. God brings us a fulness of experience that, while it has some hard nights and rough accomodations, also provides us with a deep and complex personality, not a shallow mirror for the corporations to preen in. It's a hard thing to understand when we're undergoing those "learning experiences," but when you look back on them, they often point to a refining process. God pares you down to the bare essentials, and then says, "Okay, now let's start over at the Beginning. Back to square one." People who look at my life at various points over the past 5 -10 years or so would think I'd had it really hard at times (as I did while those times were going on!) But, it is those rough spots, sort of the equivalent of scouring a pot, that helped me shine where I do. Getting back to basics helps you understand what you really need, and it further helps you recognize the abundance of your blessings. That is both an uplifting and humbling experience (as are most things in the Christian lifepath). With God, all things are possible. Things both wonderful and terrible loom over us with their Possibility. God, who spoke both things into existence, provides the perspective and understanding to deal with them. Revel in the richness of your experience. Rejoice that you can still feel and understand Pain, because without it you would never fully appreciate Joy. The bitter underscores the sweet. People who fall before the idols of comfort, convenience, and conspicuous consumption don't know what they're missing out on.


Slam poetry is, and as long as it endures probably will be, a rather chaotic thing. It will inevitably seek to break any bonds of conventionality that attempt to restrain it. People who come to the Slam are often seeking something, whether they're members of the audience or wordslingers themselves. Granted, its inclusivity is bound to invite a variety of elements that are, taken out of context, divisive, but given the common bond of appreciation of, and seeking expression and affirmation in, poetry. That perhaps is a rather idealistic and simplistic "definition" of Slam poetry and its denizens. As a working template, though, it might also serve as a potential model that the Christian church might consider!
It sounds ridiculous . . . on the surface. And yet, I've known many poetic communities wherein: the attitude towards the newcomer was warm welcome; there was a sense of, "you can let down you're guard here," a sense of safety and security that would seem contradictory to the rather intimidating concept; newcomers weren't expected to know the ropes, and early mistakes and missteps were to be expected; the generally flaky and quirky nature of poets was well-known, and having been through quite a few self-induced catastrophes, the poets tended to be forgiving of such things in others, and were there when one of their poetic siblings needed them; guidance was provided, and although sometimes poets tend to have a kind of abrasive "tough love," the love was clearly evident--that did not, however, mean that excessive indulgence or liberties taken by any one poet would be treated lightly. These attributes, placed within the framework of a Christian perspective, would certainly be considered admirable in any Body of Believers. As a "vagabond poet," I've surfed many sofas, and have found that Slam communities tend to "take in" any wandering poet and treat 'em well. Sure, household duties and some expenses were often shared, but it was a light thing compared to laying out funds for a hotel room and a solitary meal in a restaurant. Imagine a travel-weary man and his pregnant wife, probably a little rough around the edges, coming into your community, in need of a place to stay for a few days. I know plenty of Slam communities where they'd be taken in at the drop of a hat, given at the very least half-decent crash space in somebody else's home and a meal; how many churches could that same couple expect that kind of treatment from--would we even let them sleep in our toolshed?
Sure, I'm exaggerating a bit to make a point. But not by much. And as to those who would point out the scandal, the lust or drunkenness or plain-out stupidity that often dogs the Slam . . . are these so different than the same things that dog the Christian church? Simply stated, no. The difference is possibly that the Slam doesn't attempt to cover up its scandals, and the Church often does . . . so which is the more honest approach there? Did the Adulteress pretend NOT to have committed adultery in front of Jesus? Did Matthew hide the fact that he was a Roman sympathizer, or Simon the Zealot pretend NOT to be a freedom fighter committed to overthrowing the Romans BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY? No, of course not. We all have quirks and flaws. To utterly succumb to any of these quirks and flaws is wrong; but it is equally wrong to deny or attempt to cover up these wrongs. I suffer from these limitations, myself . . . there are things I've stood up and admitted in a poetry slam that I would be hard-pressed to stand up and admit in a Church, when someday I am going to have to stand before God and admit them, one way or the other . . . but, wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if there was a Church in which confession did what it can often do in a poetry slam . . . simultaneously make you aware of your own vulnerability while feeling utterly free? That awareness of vulnerability and sense of freedom and possiblity is a precious thing. Most of us experience it as children, less and less as we grow old . . . but Jesus said that unless we received the Kingdom of Heaven as a little child, we'd never find the way in . . . and in that condition that both acknowledges our own weakness and yet at the same time makes us free, a sort of free-fall, we understand the Principles of Grace and Mercy. Grace is the state that is, while it lasts, so much like flying; Mercy is the chute that we can absolutely depend on to open us. Perhaps Fear, turned upside-down, is Joy and Awe. If I've seen elements of all this in such a humble place as a poetry Slam, shouldn't I also be able to see them in the Christian church, and in myself?


I have a problem with winter.
The light that falls on the trees and rooftops here make it look like everything and everyone is experiencing muted emotions, like music robbed of all its vitality and heartbeat. I can remember being in offices or elevators, hearing that "muzak" that's supposed to be soothing, making my pulse pound until my head felt like a furnace, and I wanted to scramble up, yank that speaker out, and stomp it into the floor, screaming, "QUIT IT! YOU'RE KILLING ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT MAKES MY LIFE TOLERABLE!" But, see, in the winter I hardly even have that much energy. It sucks me dry, dries up all my sap, turns my pithy potency into something that would barely light a candle, let alone a bonfire. It's almost like my "disorder" is tied to the seasons. I feel manic pretty much for all of spring and a good part of summer. Autumn is when I usually have my flare-ups or flake-outs or breakdowns. Whatever you want to call them. And then there's winter, where I have a season where everything sort of collides with me like a big snowball. As Lou Reed says, "It makes me mad, and that makes me sad, and then I start to freeze." That pretty much follows the progression. I've leaned on a lot of people during my winter seasons. This year I'm not going to make anyone bear the brunt of my depression. If you keep on reading this, you've been forewarned: I plan on unleashing a lot of the stupid drama and angst in here. Maybe when the chrysalis breaks open again in spring I'll feel like I have been pounded into shape.
Some of the frustration I feel (and here those of you who are anti-religious are going to start squirming around in your seats, I know), is the way Christmas is turned into the Ultimate Capitalist Holiday. SPEND! GO! NOW! PEOPLE ARE DYING ALL OVER THE WORLD, YOU COULD BE NEXT, SO GO . . . RIGHT . . . NOW! RUN! RUN TO ALL THE SHOPS AND SPEND ALL YOU CAN! HELP KEEP THIS STUPID BROKE-ASS ECONOMIC SYSTEM FROM COLLAPSING! BUY MORE SHIT THAT YOU DON'T NEED, THAT YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY AFFORD . . . GIFTS THAT WILL BE EXCHANGED ON THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS!!! This is how we celebrate Christ's birth? You are bombarded on all sides by commercials that don't just perch on the edge of Blasphemy, they dive right in and take a bath in it. Every day, they continue to hammer the idea that "Captialism and Christianity go hand in hand." Notice how very few people quote that verse "You cannot serve God and Mammon (i.e., the Bank, Profit, Capitalism)"? We don't even NOTICE our own excesses anymore. That's what happenes when you're constantly beaten about the head with commercialism, you sort of go numb, and you suffer brain damage, too. So, brain-damaged consumers, pimps of the corporate whores, war-mongering capitalism-pushers . . . BACK THE FUCK OFF!!!! This year, if commercialism tries to hit me, I'm not just going to duck and run, I'm going to hit back. I've HAD it. I remember when Christ chased the moneychangers from the temple, overturning their tables and brandishing a braided whip (yes, that's what happened). There's a DIRECT APPROACH, laid out there in the Scripture, the Word itself, that FLIES DIRECTLY IN THE FACE of this whole Dragonball Z Fusion Technique of Economics and Religion.
Now, see, there's where I get mad. I want to grab hold of the things that Christmas SHOULD mean to me. Christmas, in its original context, as the focal point of History, the amazing concept of God-With-Us, God-AMONG-Us, taking on the flesh and doing for us what we could never do ourselves. It is that Gift that should drive us to give abundantly, not some farcical commercial contrivance. And it is in that Spirit that the gift should be given, not in some vanitorious "look-what-I'M-giving" sense or with some sort of hidden pretext . . . but lavishly, with joy. There are gifts you can give that don't come out of some catalogue or commercial--those are the best kind. If I make THIS important enough, can I stave off the frozen wastes of January and February as well? Or, if it were possible, to LIVE in that Spirit, CONSTANTLY, could all the Soul's Winters widen their eyes at the sight of blossoms that do not wither, warmth that does not grow cold, winds that are not bitter?
And, having said that . . . will you help, too?

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