March 20, 2019

The date says it’s spring.                                                                                                                The feel of it says winter.                                                                                                             Snow and rain compete.

His Knees Buckled and He Sobbed

It is said that children spend the first ten years of their lives worshiping their parents and the remainder of their lives trying to forgive them.

I read an autobiographical poem about  the poet experiencing  Stendhal Syndrome when he looked at Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and it had something profoundly disturbing to do with his relationship with his father and I got to thinking about familial relations — parents and children.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the father is saintly, perfect seemingly, wise and, of course, the son is a prodigal, meaning “one who spends or gives foolishly.” Read bad. Good dad, bad son, but that’s not right, not even close.

Okay, I get that this is supposed to be about God as the father, but how many children reading the parable get that? What they get maybe is “Yes, that’s my dad,” and later “Wait a minute, that’s not my dad and why am I cast as the bad one?” Maybe there should be an asterisk attached to the parable explaining that the father should not be confused with our fathers.

Oh, then there is “the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children…,”
and that makes a lot of sense given the fallibility of parents and it is nice to see the balance — good dad, bad son, bad dad, good son, good mom, bad daughter, bad mom, good daughter. That certainly works to level the playing field, but that’s not right either. No wonder this whole familial thing is so fraught with difficulty and danger like navigating the potholed streets in Michigan in the spring.

My son told me the story of when he barked at his wife and his son overheard. My grandson then shouted, “Bad dad” at my son.  Well, my son isn’t a bad dad, but a child’s mind goes to those simplistic, absolutist labels.  Part of the problem is when we don’t get beyond them.  It would have been even more damaging if the situation were reversed and my grandson did something that my son didn’t like and my son said to him, “You are a bad boy.”  Well, he isn’t a bad boy. He simply might have done something my son didn’t think appropriate. Identifying a person’s being as bad is an act of shaming. Naming an action of a person as inappropriate might evoke guilt over the act but there is no judgment on the person’s worth as a person.

Such labeling itself is misguided and fraught with danger. That labeling of the intrinsic worth of an individual isn’t fair. Let’s take good vs. bad as a state of being, as an act of shaming out of the picture and just talk about humans who do good and bad things, right and wrong things — ultimately all forgivable things. And then there are all the things that are just a lot of things, the neutral things done without value or judgment added, the things done to get through the day, the “warp and woof” of everyday life. The quest becomes acceptance and forgiveness and all its benefits, especially to the one doing the forgiving: “Please forgive me; I forgive you, I love you.”

It usually takes a while but it’s great for us when we get there, assuming we ever do. For me to say that to one parent, that parent had been dead for ten years.

The poet, in an explanation of the poem, concludes that he doesn’t understand what was going on with his extreme emotional reaction to viewing the painting.  For his sake, I hope some day he does and that may be the subject of another fine poem.

Stream of Consciousness Prayer after Reading a Meditation

Has it always been like this
(Oh, of course, the potential
is always there, mostly as
potential, occasionally as
an actual), or have the furies
been loosed? I’ve been
leaning toward the latter
based on personal experience
on the road ways with
aggressive, rude, selfish
driving and combative
encounters not to mention
stupid, silly disputes among
neighbors and reports of
increased random incidents
of bullying and violence not
to mention the growing
incidents of hate crimes and
fear mongering not to mention
that after a while there’s a
feeling of helplessness afoot
to do anything, anything at
all about it and so, I keep
coming back to “as much
as it depends on you, live
peaceably…,” and that is
more than a sufficient challenge
because my ancient brain, my
alligator brain kicks in and
because of who I am, I hear
fight more than flight and I
am inclined to be more a part
of the problem than a part of
the solution and I have to let
go and let God and realized that
everything depends on mercy,
mercy, mercy. Oh, mercy, me.
Lord, have mercy.

Preparing a Flank Steak

He happened on a food article on how to prepare a flank steak.
Flank steak is growing in popularity due, perhaps, to the
growing appreciation of Mexican cooking where flank steak is
a staple of fajitas. It had been neglected for thicker, juicier cuts
like ribeye. Flank steak is thinner and tougher than a lot of cuts
of beef, but according to the writer, if done right, provides a luscious
alternative to the other cuts and, actually, can stand on its own among
them. A major component of preparing the flank steak is to let the
steak rest immediately after cooking so the juices can reabsorb through-
out the meat otherwise when you cut into it all the juices will pour
out onto the plate and the meat will be dry. A second component is the
cut. The writer said always to cut across the grain in very thin slices
because if you cut with the grain, the strands of flesh will be long and
tough and chewy. So, after you’ve been cooked by life just rest for a
while and let your juices redistribute through your body and when
you are then cut by life, be sure to stand against the grain because
you should, at the very least, put the best you forward when you
give yourself up to be consumed thus showing that you can stand
on your own among the best of them.

An Age-Old Dilemma

There is a woman who lives a
life of integrity, an integrated
life, a life where things fit
together into a whole, actions

reflecting words and vice versa.
Her core values of justice, mercy,
peace and forgiveness are lived
out in action. Some say the woman

has a prophetic inclination. Some
say she is uppity and acts unbecom-
ing for a woman. She certainly
knows how to anger people with

the things she says and writes. It
is almost a compulsion, maybe a
curse, this trying to set things
straight, to seek justice, to defend

the rights of the helpless, to lift
up and affirm the notion that all
of life is sacred and that we should
handle that sacredness with care

and love. Sometimes her actions are
interpreted as being unloving and
not compassionate. She is like the
preacher who steps on his parish-

ioners’ toes to which they say he has
gone from preaching to meddling. The
woman doesn’t even know where
this comes from except that the father

she admired but who died when the
woman was young, had integrity,  so
maybe it was handed down through
nurturing and conditioning, but the

woman’s father hardly knew his father
or mother, both of whom died as young
immigrants and, of course, the woman
didn’t know her grandparents. One day

she received a note in the mail from a
distant acquaintance who was research-
ing his past and came across the fact
that the woman’s grandfather had been

falsely accused of impregnating a woman
but because he cared for her, paid child
support for years. The note said that the
woman’s family DNA exonerated her

grandfather. Maybe it’s nature, maybe
in the blood, leaving the woman with an
age-old dilemma: Is it nature or nurture?
Both? Whichever, she’s just grateful.

 

In Solitude With Others

He loves immersing himself in solitude —
a place far from the madding multitude.

Not alone, he cavorts with writers galore
and experiences diverse thoughts to explore

in articles, poetry, fiction and non-fiction books,
essays and wandering other literary nooks.

He’ll set the writers aside anytime he wants,
(they aren’t offended)
reflecting on their thoughts hoping to ensconce

wisdom, from up-and-comers to old masters.
Such rumination evokes tears and laughter.

Sometimes in a crowd he can be quite lonely
but in reading and contemplation,
his is a solitude that feels almost holy.

Sorting

And so I wake to comforting,
inspiring, challenging, wise
words in meditations and poetry,
words with honesty about life
and reality from the writer’s
perspective and it is wonderful
to read such thoughts. Some-
times my mind wanders and I
go back and pick up the read-
ing approximately from where
I began to lose concentration,
sometimes re-reading a line or
two, which I don’t mind because
it is all good. I do this because
such attention is for my benefit
and I believe the writers want me
to benefit, otherwise why would
they have written what they did?
Then I catch up on the news of
the day and as one poet put it, in
a poem I read just this morning,
“the shamelessness of men….,”
and I am grateful for all the care
in helping me to sort things out
and not drop into despair.

A Guy I Really Respect

A guy I really respect
said, “I’m queer,” and
I had known he was gay,
so, what could I say?
That’s A-okay.
Then he looked at
me and said, “You’re
queer, too.”
What could I,
a straight guy, do?
He followed that with,
“We are all queer here.”
and for a second,
I thought to steer clear
of where
he might go with that.
But it turns out he had us there.
The Rev. stood in the pulpit
and quickly explained,
“I’m queer as in gay,
but we are all queer
as in peculiar people
along Christ’s way —
peculiar in a way
that counters the world’s way.
Where there is hate,
we are to love.
Where there is injustice,
we are to rise above.
Where the world is judgmental,
we cry mercy, mercy.
Where the world suppresses rights,
our non-violent protests create controversy.
Where there is violence,
we are to live in peace.
Where there is exclusion,
we make inclusion the centerpiece.”
So, even though I’m not gay,
please feel free to call me queer.
For, in Christ, I’m proud to be
particularly peculiar.

A Pip-Squeak and An Orange-Topped Mocking Bird’s Tweets

He’s a pip-squeak of a guy,
maybe with a “Napoleon
complex” — for sure a white
guy susceptible to and

influenced by white supremacy
hate speech, incited from quite
a distance — the distance from
the U.S. to New Zealand. From

his internet diatribe one can
ascertain that he is a fan of
the occupant of the White House,
someone who has fooled so many

with his viral, tough, white guy
talk inciting violence here, there
and apparently everywhere. How
has the occupant fooled the racist

base? He’s pretty much a racist
himself, but he doesn’t identify
with that base at all. He despises
them; they are all beneath him in

his distorted mind; they are have-
nots; he thinks he is all in all and
has it all; except down, down,
deep, deep, he’s hollow and needy;

he panders to those he despises to
get the adoration, the money, and
the votes, and that’s what makes him
so dangerous, dangerous enough to

unleash the hate-filled violence
of a Napoleon wanna-be all the way
away, down under New Zealand way.
And the stats just keep going up

and up and up and getting worse
— fifty Muslim worshipers dead
in two Mosques in peaceful
neighborhoods. And the hate

goes on and grows on as the fear
and violence go on and on with
the screeching tweets of the
orange-topped mocking-bird.

Bad Dreams/Good Outcomes

She dreams that bad dreams
will cease and desist
and now she’s told to hope
these dreams persist.
Why?
It turns out these dreams
have the purpose of
helping her work out things
keeping her from love.
How?
During the day, filters keep us going
to act appropriately and sanely
even without our knowing
or working painstakingly.
Ah!
During the night, work unresolved
and unfiltered goes on
helping us with troubles to solve
eventually laughing and having fun.
We hope.
She has yet for the fun to arrive
but takes comfort in the sense
that bad dreams keep us alive,
and from committing daytime violence.