An Ibuprofen or Two

The Arizona condo sale fell through the cracks;
the dog adoption went to the dogs;
all the stress has put an ache in my back;
I hurt so much I can’t even think of a jog.

And so I’ll just lie down for a while,
dream of winters in the Arizona sun;
soon on my face there will be a smile
and hopefully a sweet little trail run.

But first I need an ibuprofen or two
along with a vodka martini or maybe a few.

What Are We Going Through? A Dilemma?

What are we going through? It isn’t easy, especially considering human
nature beginning with the metaphor of scapegoating — of Adam and Eve
and the blaming of male against female and female against snake.

A purge? A catharsis? A newfound freedom? Liberation? Long overdue
empowerment? He did this and he did that — unthinkable, horrible,
acidic, corrosively destructive of fragile lives, predatory
behavior and a patent violation of women’s rights — human
rights.

There is sexual exploitation and predation and then, pedophilia, and
there isn’t much doubt about those, but what about harassment and
flirting? What is the definitive definition of sexual harassment?
Saying no?  That certainly must be respected.

Is it all in the eye of the beholder? Is it subjective? Is one woman’s
harassment, another man’s flirting? If he thinks he is flirting and
she says no and he continues, there is no doubt about that, but what
if he stops? Is he still guilty of harassment, if called on the carpet
and the whistle is blown no matter how many years later?

What about incriminating motives made for less than honorable reasons,
perhaps simple vindictiveness for what was experienced erroneously as
harassment years before?

Given our society’s dismal history of dismissal and sexual objectification
of females and historic forgiveness for “boys just being boys,” I will
opt for the courage of females to call out bad, unethical and perhaps
illegal behavior.

And that isn’t even considering sexual harassment and exploitation
and predatory behavior among gays.

What is being called out is all so sordid, but calling it out is
liberating and empowering…except when it’s dead wrong and so
the dilemma is with us and then who do I, an old, white man,
given my demographic’s culpability, think I am even to comment on
this?

Maybe I should just shut-up, but then the thought of the one
false, incriminating, defaming, reputation ruining accusation is
made and I cringe for the falsely accused and then judged in
the unforgiving court of public opinion.

Perhaps, when courts of law are not an option, it comes down
to simple numbers of people (overwhelmingly women) who have
nothing to gain except breaking the chains of false guilt
and fear rising up to dispel society’s umbrage.

He Heard

He heard on the radio, for the first time,
about another “Trail of Tears,” this time
a trail of tears for Michigan (his home),
Wisconsin and Minnesota, the trail of
tears of the Ojibway (Chippewa), forcibly
removed from their home in Northern
Michigan of hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of years across the forbidding
waters of Lake Superior by canoe to the
death march across Wisconsin into Minne-
sota. Is there no end to European hubris
— white supremacy showing its ugly face
again and again and again into 2019?
Apparently not. The Death March goes on.

There Was and Now There Is

There was a time in their youth
and naivety, they thought they
would be the cure for what ails

the world. Then time passed and
they got older. Some grew up;
some became cynical; some

became starry-eyed; some stayed
the course and learned that they
were not called to cure anything —

that that wasn’t their business but
their vocation was to help heal,
bring together, resolve and that

curing is simply putting a lot of
salt on something perishable and
hanging it up for a long time. And

so, the wisest of the one time
passionate, idealistic, never-
the-less, naïve youth realized

that their calling is quite simple
— witnessing to the divine heal-
ing that comes with concerted

compassion, attentive listening,
mindfulness and holding the hand
of those in need of healing,  in-

cluding those healers folding
their own hands in a posture of
reverence and prayer at their

own need of healing and feel-
ing that universal, relational
healing presence.

We Don’t Know Them*

“I don’t know him. I don’t think
I ever met him,” so go the denials.
It’s too close for comfort. And
the truth in the denial is that

they don’t know him, the person
dismissed as a mere volunteer, the
person who passed through the camp-
aign, the fellow conspirators, the

professor, the Russian banker,
the “coffee boy.” The cliché is
that there is no loyalty among
thieves, but the young (naive

perhaps) foreign advisor lied out
of loyalty and is called a liar by
the one for whom he lied. No, they
don’t know “the other,” because they

don’t know themselves — empty
vessels thundering denials like
frightened tweety-birds, “I never
met him,” and it’s true, in an

ironic way, just like St. Peter
in the courtyard outside where
Jesus is interrogated. In that
moment, Peter really did not know

Jesus while Jesus was too close
for comfort. Guilt by association.
And so we, too, run from others
who are too close for comfort who

could hurt us with incriminating
testimony in a court of law or
simply by showing us our shallow,
self-deceptive, cowardly selves,

like Peter cowering in the court-
yard. They are all too dangerous
and no, we don’t know them (even
fellow thieves not just Jesus)

because, perhaps, they know us
all too well.

*Thanks to a Frederick Buechner meditation for the idea.

News Cycles Move On. Shock, Grief, Sadness and Longing Linger.

The statistics of fatalities mount with every senseless attack on party goers, concert goers and church goers; the news gets reported and there is outrage over the sheer number of guns available and there is the lame lament, “Now is not the time for politics. The victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers,” but by the next day the news cycle has moved on except for the families of the fatalities. Time has stood still in the horror of the moment.

The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 killed between twenty and forty million in one year, more than all those in the four years of the Great (how can that be said?) War and the most vulnerable were between twenty and forty years of age; then the news cycle moved on except for the families of the fatalities. Time stood still in the horror of the moment.

My grandfather, age thirty-eight, who had been a captain in the Swedish army before leaving Sweden for a life of hope, promise and happiness in the US, caught the Spanish Flu from returning soldiers. He died leaving my father, thirteen, an orphan in a strange land, my grandmother having died previously giving birth to a still-born baby girl. For the orphan, time stood still in the horror of the moment.

When my father was fifty-six, in ill-health and wrestling with ghosts from his past, he committed suicide. I was seventeen. In five days, I will turn seventy-three and I still ache for the grandfather and grandmother I never knew and their dashed hopes, my father, my mother, my sister, my children who never knew their grandfather and I ache for myself. News cycles move on, in some sense, shock, grief, sadness and longing linger.

And then I remember some of my father’s jokes, his humming and singing songs (Stars are the windows of heaven….Peg ‘O my heart, I love you….), his reputation as a compassionate, caring man who, in spite of his sorrows and demons, regularly visited and helped feed the homeless on Skid Row in Chicago and how proud he was of me and I am inspired and comforted.

The Stuff In Between

The poet wrote of birch leaves
lying imbricate on the ground –
the definition likening the word
imbricate to scales of a fish
neatly overlapping. As I read
the poem, I looked up at yellow
birch leaves fluttering in the
cold east wind and landing every
which way but imbricate on the
net covering the pond. I could
barely see the gold-fish looking
up in my direction through the
wet, soggy, jumbled leaves.
Sometimes all the messy stuff
in between keeps us from seeing
each other.