Tag: prayer

The cost of hate

We as a species can be so filled with judgment.  Visual creatures, we can be easily seduced by both beauty and similarity.  We like what makes sense without having to struggle, so we gravitate to people of like minds because we find that the most comfortable.  I understand this.  My whole life, I have been on the outside enough to witness how people can cling to the familiar even when it is destructive.

Only, that avoidance has led us to a terrible place.

Today, neo-Nazis are protesting in Virginia.  As I stared at news feeds with tears in my eyes, I realized I cannot be silent.

Hate has taken over too many souls.

One alt right terrorist ran his car into a crowd of counter protestors. At least one person has died.

What has made this acceptable?

From what mental illness does this murderous disregard for other human beings spring?

I am outraged.  I can’t deny the anger bubbling up within me as I write these words.  With all the volume I can muster, I want to scream at those alt-right Nazis: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  You are damaging everyone; no one less than your own soul. The people you are so busy dehumanizing are just as vital and beautiful as you perceive yourself and your loved ones to be.  No race, or religion, or income bracket, or gender, or sexual orientation, or political opinion can make someone less human.  Neither can those qualities make someone better.”

The alt-right has opined about the hardships heterosexual, cisgendered white people have suffered, but to blame those difficulties on people who do not believe or look as they do is madness.  It could be a comfortable insanity, one bred from generations of racism and blame, continued because it is easier than analyzing why those prejudices are there, but that is the opposite of an excuse.

Is this as simple as being terrified of economic vulnerability and a changing world, but not being able to widen their view to realize that everyone so suffers? I know no one who is secure financially, for whom a death or an illness would not upend everything. 98% of the country is in the same boat.

I am troubled by the entire concept that people who look like me want to take the country back.  The United States was founded by immigrants who stole land from those who were already happily living here.  We have paid a high price for the sins of our history – genocide of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment.

Do not imagine that this has nothing to do with the current situation. We are barreling down the same exact path. Not to mention, those protesting have a twisted but tight grip on the past.

Of what consequence is it to those neo-Nazis and alt right protestors spewing hate that the same sentiments were what fueled the Holocaust and Apartheid and lynchings?  Did they ever study the horror of the Civil War?  Given the T-shirts, the confederate flags, and swastikas, it appears to be a point of pride.  They are lionizing people who committed crimes against humanity, who spoke for the worst that we can be. Given the love of Hitler I saw proudly displayed in tweet after tweet, it seems that they would willingly throw their souls into a bonfire to revel in hate and the delusion of supremacy.

Take our country back implies oppression.  That we could be two generations away from mass lynchings, genocide on the scale that it boggles the mind, institutional racism that crippled large swaths of the country for decades and that continues to be a plague, I wonder: from whom must the country be rescued? How was this forgotten? Why did we become blind to our failings? How did we develop a taste for hate again, or has it always been a secret passion in the hearts of so many?

I cannot move past my revulsion over this orgy of hate.  There is no good that could ever come from it. With every speck of news I wanted to primal scream, howl out my horror. The willful, murderous delusion being paraded in the state of my birth, that one human being is of greater value than another, fills me with outrage.  How could we have gone through World War II, the Civil Rights movement, not to mention watching so much senseless suffering from Apartheid, the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda, and countless other examples large and small, only to have parts of the population that want to charge down those same roads again?

Only, I cannot hate them.  I cannot feel like they are less, even if I am terrified of their madness. I know better, because I know that we all spring from the same source.

When my paternal grandmother died, my mother found a trunk filled with artifacts from the early klan.  There was my biracial mother, so studiously passing for white, confronted by the ghost of my great grandfather’s hatred.  When she told me about it years later, I wept at the sudden, acute understanding that my heritage contained both sides: the lynched and the one in the hood; the slave owner and the slave.

Like everyone else, the potential for both good and evil exists with me. It means I cannot hate those who protest on behalf of hate; but, oh, God, I can pity them because they keep themselves from such wonders.

One of my closest friends told me about his work within the gay community after Stonewall.  But those protestors could not hear how brave and strong he was, because they could not get past the condemnation of his journey. Likewise, they would not be able to watch the queer-trans couple that is a model of compassion and love, without letting judgment cloud their eyes.  They cannot hear stories of the brilliance of black men and the unbreakable resilience of black women, because they have to feel superior.  To me this is a crushing sadness.  What is missed when hate is the focus!

Because they judge so quickly, so wrongly, choosing to embrace a caricature of the foreigner, those protesters could not appreciate the stunning beauty of Spanish prose, the lyrical miracles tucked inside Sufi poetry, the way that other religions, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, and countless more can enrich their experience of faith.  Because of their race and faith, those protesters wearing swastikas and confederate flags could not hear the wisdom of Archbishop Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama, which makes me want to cry for them.

I wonder if their faith is too fragile to acknowledge other paths up the same mountain.

Given their hatred of everyone who is other, I wonder if they have forgotten “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” because otherwise  they could not be driving cars into crowds of counter protestors.

Honestly, I am having a real problem right now.

This experience is pushing my compassion to its limits.

I wonder if this is how my mother felt as she dragged that trunk down the stairs, staring in horrified disbelief at the books that called half of herself a monkey and an ape and accused an entire race of idiocy sight unseen.  It must have felt like such a betrayal; the hidden hatred of people whom she had lived with and helped.  I wonder how much of it was rage and how much of it was just despondency when she poured lighter fluid on that hood and robe and those awful books and lit them up.

That hatred became ash, dead and dust like the man who had worn them.

Right now, I am in pain, stumbling through my own journey, aware of how many of those people protesting would hate me because of my heritage, my physical health, my economic vulnerability.  I keep wishing to Christ that I am not simply shouting these words into the void when I say:

STOP WITH THIS TOXIC INSANITY.

Every human being – and that is what both those they deride and they are – is a worthy, valuable person.

I don’t care what you believe, who you love, with what gender you identify, from whence you came, what language you speak, you are worthy of compassion and love.

If we disagree politically, if we believe differently, that is no excuse.  We can still peacefully coexist. We cannot condone or encourage the mistreatment of others.

I am praying that everyone who protests for hate finds some ease for whatever agony drives them to this madness.  I hope they can stop before they start a war or harm more innocents.

Because, here is the kicker, all of us are human and capable of discernment.  We all have souls – and for this I pray, if for no reason other than saving themselves, turn them away from hate.

poem: how many times

How many times
have i prayed,
a monster of need,
tiny hands grasping,
flabby arms flapping,
begging,
disconsolate,
stewing in hopelessness.

Such desperation
is exhausting,
and it did me no good.

My worst nightmares
have begun to come true
and i cannot rise
to the occasion
higher
than i already stand.

The worst
has begun
coming to pass,
but such losses
dance
with contentment.

The dog’s last breaths
taught me
about gratitude,
about finding
loving kindness
even in agony.

With a teacher like that,
what could i do?

Suddenly,
all my praying stopped.

For if i can find
peace,
calm,
stillness
and joy
coexisting
with this pain,
grief
and failure,
then who am i
to pretend
i know
what i need?

7 may 2016

Things must change

I am writing this during my last day sitting in an artisans’ cooperative this year; Christmas Eve, 2015.

This marks an end of an era for me. A huge amount of the galleries in which i began this year are either moving, closing (or already closed) and a few others have had sales bad enough i have to make disappointing decisions. Most of my plans for the next twelve months remain purely in the realm of the  hypothetical. What i know i will do is make pen and inks, finish at least one novel, write as many poems as i can coax through me.  Soon, i will have another surgery, and afterward i have to dedicate myself to healing and transcending whatever comes.

Never before has it been so glaringly obvious and desperate: i have to reconceive how i move through my days, even as i acknowledge that my heart beats out art as much as blood. The question remains how to do this.  How do i walk that fine line between financial need and spiritual/sanity needs? As i wrote in a poem posted fairly recently, and the haiku below that i put on twitter, art is a fickle mistress.

Art is a lover
who keeps me chained up tightly
and would let me starve.

Starving is not a viable option for an irrepressible sensualist like myself. Giving up on art, which so many have told me is the most sensible option, also seems to be impossible. Yet, i fight against incredible anxiety and fears. As much art as i create, as much as i deepen my abilities in different mediums, i have been hoxed by this relentless worry. This cannot continue. One or the other has to surrender itself – either i continue making art and become relatively fearless in its dissemination, or i surrender to my fears and live a life painfully diminished.  i do not think i could survive the latter.

So, i have to find a way. There is no other option, really, this long succession of freelance and piecemeal jobs can be the stop gap, the way to keep going, until i find a way to make art consistently pay for bread and butter.  But i must keep my focus on that far off mountain top, where the work that gives me the deepest bliss and aligns my energy with the world so well actually maintains me.

One of the miracles in my life is that this past year has brought a slew of people who believe in me enough to help me get through some terribly difficult times. When i thought i might never throw again, my friends listened to my grief; they celebrated with me when i got back to the wheel.  Gifts of food, money, time, compassion and kindness kept me afloat. As i wrote earlier, this was the year of friendship. Perhaps that is how i can find my courage – to remember that there are people who don’t just want me to succeed but see it as something that will happen, with enough patience, stubbornness and resilience.

So, this blog is a bit of a shout out to the universe at large, steeped with both prayer and intent: help me change things. Help me find a way to make this work with the blessings and limitations i have. i cannot change the basic DNA of my being, so i have to find a path that lets me keep making art AND eat.

Things will change.

Things must change.

i am apparently too stubborn to surrender, so i must find a way to be courageous and maybe even a bit wise.

The whole engine of my heart and imagination manifests this transformation.

i wish you all the best for your coming year – may all people find greater peace, kindness and love in our worlds.

poem: The Big Girl Pants

Not only were
the Big Girl Pants
chafing
obviously,
they were not effective.

So, i burned them –

along with every deluded thought
that i can get through
this awful crisis
alone.

In twenty hours
it will have been eight years
since he broke my life apart.

In the intervening time
i have ridden a wild roller-coaster
between loss and survival,
crumbling over and over
in anxiety and fear,
only to recover somehow
and find a way to move again.

My scars were visible
no matter how i smiled,
showing through all my clothes,
turning up
unbidden
in my art.

Today, the duality,
the paradox,
between the two beings
sharing the shell of my skin –
the artist who laughs,
jokes,
feels so blissfully alive
in the flow,
and the one who
is so distracted
broken,
afraid,
disjointed
and impractical –
shouts at me so loudly
it causes physical pain.

If i act as though i loathe myself,
i am lying;
if i act as if i love myself,
i am lying.
Neither extreme is truth.

The first testifies
to the worst parts of me,
the shaking shadow of a person
who cannot help but believe
the most loathsome things
that has ever been said
about me.
The second
gives voice
to a joy
that seems indestructible.

In various moments,
both have validity.
Neither aspect of me
can survive on is own.

One would blindly go on,
making art,
ignoring all the world
for such passion;
the other would destroy
my soul
rather than
accept
i am worth
supporting or loving.

Without your help
i will fall into utter ruin,
weakness or art
slamming me hard
against the rocks
until i break into pieces
too small to reconstruct.

The Big Girl Pants
did not work,
nor the education,
nor the ambition,
nor the self-hatred,
nor the vicious punishment

It leaves me exhausted.

Since being an adult
is a failed experiment,
all that is open to me
right now
is to think
of the little child
who was so lost,
marooned in this life
and and the things
that always saved her –
faith that help would come;
complete, awesome gratitude
for even the smallest acts of mercy;
unwavering dreams that gave her rope
when she was falling
so she even when she hit the ground
she was never totally destroyed;
and the foolish, unconquerable
ability to love,
even those who were cruelest,
opening her arms
at the first breath of kindness.

She made no plans,
she suffered but she always
found in her dreams
what she needed
to heal from the injuries
of temporary surrender.
Her love for life was enough
to keep her going,
waiting
for that next moment to pray,
that next small miracle
that would save her
for another few hours.

Screw being a grownup.
Let me have the faith
of that suffering child.
this belief in limitless possibility.
i can really do worse tonight.

8 december 2015

the madness of poetry

Something strange accompanies this kind of inundation. This crisis has been going on for so long that i have lost track of its beginnings and my ability to see endings long ago vanished.

But i am like a cork, bobbing in a sea of failure, but still fighting for breath, still treading water. Either from stubbornness or stupidity, i refuse to surrender completely.  When i can open my eyes, i see so many others fighting the same currents i cannot complain of solitude.  For the first time in my life, i am surrounded as much by love as i am anxiety, which is a greater blessing than i can express.

12309914_10206910370509278_3227795177658048976_oThings are changing, although i do not quite know if it will be in time to save me.  However, this hardly matters in the face of tremendous glories.  Seven weeks after surgery, i can throw again.  My novel, long stalled by pain and exhaustion, has begun to reform in my mind and on paper.  A new collection of poetry gathers itself together, much to my delight.  There is an abundance of art, queued up in my imagination, ready to leap forward from my hands.

Most glorious of all, i am starting to notice world beyond the rim of my own navel.  The tucking in, the wounded hiding, that i needed to do most of this summer and right after surgery has begun to ease off.

i am opening up.

Slowly, i am beginning to see a use to me, despite this precarious position.  Such grace came, in this case, from eight pots, at least half a dozen massive pen and inks and over thirty poems.  Anchored in art, everything else becomes either more possible or more ignorable.

For the rest of the year, i am anchoring myself in poetry, painting, pen and inks and pottery. It is the best defense against melancholy and stress i have found.  To encourage this plan, i have challenged myself to post something new every day, and so far i am off to a good start.  A decent line of posts has formed behind this one.

And for today: this poem, while short, is at least filled with madness and joy.

#

It can only be madness12304443_10206894248626241_7047647740143388939_o
that brought me up here,
giving words a chance to flow
when other things
should be done.

Yes, i was breathless.
Of course, i was exhausted.
Undeniably, the words
had to flow,
or i would not be here
ten minutes and three poems later,
wishing that there was a purpose
behind my actions
other than primal need.

One word following the next.
It is a flow
as essential to my life
as the journey of my blood.

Inside these patterns
of language and silence
inexpressible joy sings.

This is a supplication
for connection,
a prayer
to be heard,
an offering
of hope
in open hands.

i throw myself
into the madness of poetry
and pray it brings me
a soft landing.

28 November 2015

the delight in finishing

This is a quick and simple blog of gratitude.

If i did not finish a project today, i have come close.  A solid first draft from beginning to end.  Of course, this could simply mean that i am beginning the long process of editing – but it was delightful to have finished.  The words written in spurts and spasms over the  reminded me that i know how to stand even in the face of troubles.

In a lot of ways, i chose the perfect focus for my energies at this moment in time.  It helped me realize how far i have come and remember all the gifts i have been given.

Now, to start the editing.

poem: you wanted me alone

The first draft of this was written over a year ago, but how it still applies:

#

He said You wanted me alone.
Childless.
Miserable.

My love for him
flowed deeper than the ocean,
despite the pain of ending,
as he swore that it was impossible
for anyone to love me –
particularly You,
my Lord, my God.

Every single day,
those words float through my mind.
i cross the foot of the stairs
at the peak of which those statements
were first uttered,
and they float back down to me,
echoing ghosts of heartbreak.

No anger accompanies them,
no outrage,
just a quiet wretchedness.
It is hard to challenge
those damnations
while i have been trapped
in this long loneliness.

Every time i have allowed
my heart to rise up in the hope
that love might find me again,
the object of my desire has asked
for my bank account numbers
or hurt me.

Jesus, You have given me words,
You have given me art,
but in the depths of night
when i am alone,
i am aware that the products
of my hands
cannot hug me back.

When he said those things, Christ,
he believed them.
His attitude became proof
that i was utterly unloved.

How much of my begging,
Lord,
has been because of this grief?
Your love had gotten me through
so much trouble and trial
from the earliest days of childhood.

Losing that undid me.

In the years since,
how many times have i come
on bended knee,
begging for you to love me again?

When will this doubt
that i never harbored before
he said those things
ebb away?

When will they stop following me
through my days?

poem: Christ, i want to hide

Christ, i want to hide
from all my troubles;
life demands too much,
more than i can give.

Inside this warm womb
where pain is muffled
and words tumble out,
i hide in safety.

Only i’m dreaming
that you would force me
to confront this mess,
to rejoin the fray –

like a fisherman
throwing a small fish
squirming, unwilling
back into the sea.

10 august 2014

poem: please

Please.
The word flows like honey
thick with need,
taking on the golden hues
of love and hope.
Please.
It comes form my mouth
with alarming frequency
testifying to my desperation,
to this insecure vulnerability.
Please.
a thousand prayers and pleas,
all giving voice
to my most basic fear:
that i, alone, am not enough.
Please.
i lose track of my wants,
desperation seem so vast and huge.
My heart trembles and skips
and all i can do is reach out.
Please.
Help me.
Please.

poem: i could wail

Please, Christ,
i could wail,
shake my fists and sob,
rage at this torrent
of worry, grief and fear
that swells and recedes
like a constant tide
in my soul.

Only, I am just as full
of gratitude and love.

Today, after weeks of nothing,
i moved mountains –
well, shelves and boxes –
but that was enough.

Once more, Jesus,
i proved
that if i can move,
i will.

That knowledge is a blessing,
a shield against criticism
and self-loathing.

I give thanks
for all of life:
even the difficulties
that make me grateful
for the moments
of grace and joy.