Monday, December 26, 2011

Susan Sontag's In America.


It makes me feel nasty and conflicted to wish I'd bought more things just to prolong the opening of presents on Christmas morning. Things no one needs, like DVDs of movies that were just decent.

It is this casual desire for an overflowing pile under the Christ-mas tree, like the plume of a rocket that blinds you in its brightness, noise, and atomic bomb shaped cloud spreading in slow-motion, that fuels the economy of growth.

The more they can have us think that way, of perceived-manufactured/in/a/board/room needs, the more presents we buy, the more things are created, the more jobs created, the more americans we can have employed, the happier the president is, the happier america is with the president, the more kids we can afford to have, the more taxes we can ingest, the more farms we can subsidize, the more dominion over creation just like God promised.

Conflicted, because it is such a joy to see your mother feel loved with presents and the thoughtfulness of her children.

and it seems to me that growth is terrifying, and obviously terrifying, and yet every smart economist speaks only of growth. Maybe they must mean smart growth, that starts to exchange breadth for depth... growth in quality of life for the individual, not just the population of the suburbs and the strength of track-housing-development. Maybe.

that said, the spirit of Christmas is a beautiful thing. I love beautiful things. I relish it. but I think of Tolstoy,

'What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness.'

The world as it is, all beautiful things on this planet have a shadow. The ocean is a killer. The rose is red with blood. The shadow we are called to fight and shake, if at least perceive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family, today

I come from remarkable people,
or said the same, ordinary people

who have pushed beyond the human-family tradition of awkward
shoving and turning stomachs of things said and unsaid, the jamming of imperfection into the too-tight baby clothes of expectation.
I opened presents yesterday in one warm room with my former step-mom of 18 years,
now without legal status in my life, but still referred to as a 'mom', in spite of the
truth of her being the impetus of my parents split, my single dad, my brother and his 20 year old wife, myself with a never-spoken-of-in-front-of-me difference from the rest,
my half-sister and her newish boyfriend, my former step-sister and her three sons
of three different fathers, her ex-husband wearing a large jersey and looking tired but
friendly and cautious, my former step-brother and his wife and child and three
children of an undisclosed father,

and the house was alive with laughter and Christmas and prayer before the meals
and cigarettes on the front porch and scripture before the opening of humble presents
from grafted-in family that hardly knows me but proudly calls me 'brother' and brags about my life of traveling and Africa.

and now today, my single father sits with my single mother, the woman he left for another woman 25 years ago, and we watch A Christmas Story together, and we are a family. Laughing in full volume. (this comfort was a long time coming, through much thickness in the air, but it came)

And this generosity of community is not all-forgiving, or all-endorsing. It is not so heady as that. It is the survival of the heart. It is generous, and less patient for change than understanding of this condition of frailty and hunger and tiredness of vice.
It feels modern, but I doubt it is, as the human tenderness that overlooks what 'should be' for 'what is',
that loves and welcomes and is kind,
is as old as humanity
and the child born of this day.


There is nothing we’ve imagined

that is not just a reordering of what we’ve seen.

No place or creature is original to the mind of man.

But the mind of man is an original of the place it woke up to.

Your thoughts are the mechanics of the arrangement of your

memories of senses,

in play with the longings inborn, waiting to haunt a body of thoughts.

And so, we get our stories.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The sun is telling us the truth.

The truth of God is being told at every moment, by everything.
If it seems a lie, it is not a lie, but a half told truth not yet realized. (sometimes I think our fear of lies is fertile ground for lying)

A rich man happy in his riches is a half told truth:

the honest story of man's search for meaning, his temporary belief in
his present comfort, his many beautiful things,
the certain and coming erosion of that joy, and
his necessary movement to find new happiness, or certain misery.
Sometimes that movement is jumping deeper into the half told story:
more things, more riches will appease the relative boredom of purpose
that comes with achievement...
but again, it is the first half of the story, the repetition of an exposition already told.

It is God sewing into us an insatiable desire for meaning, for true mingling-belonging in the universe that cannot be owned, but only belonged to. And the hunger to own is just the bastardized craving of being one-with. How the rancher, when he owns the land, feels it a part of him, and extension of his arms.

I see man, made in the image of God, bastardizing his making with lies. Speaking half truth or poison in an attempt to create reality in the mind of another. But even if a man is doing so, squandering his birthright of creation... the Lord of truth is righting his wrong with nothing less than the Universe and its ever-present working.

I see God telling the truth in everything.
Each day dies at dark and mourns until it is reborn again in blinding sharp white glory sunrise.
Everyday we must die to our self and believe the night lasts only so long as to reflect
on our death, and then believe in the coming sun.

The seasons also tell us of this true cycle of spirit.
The tides tell us.
The stages of human life and aging tell us.

And the sun, what a story of God:

It is the source of all life,
It is the marker of day and the opposite of night.
If you abuse it, if you get too close it will kill you.
If you stare at it too long, without reverence or bowing your head,
you will go blind.

How obvious it must have been to ancient people to worship the sun.

And the truth continues: if you try to find energy from other sources,
like oil and your own toil, you will some day run out...
and you will surely destroy the planet and the place you call home. Maybe not today,
but this is a half told story.