Friday, July 17, 2009

Ode to Lake Travis

The sun
Sucked Up Lake Travis –
High Pressure --
Into the cloudless blue sky
Of the New Summer.

Yachts and cigar boats
Litter now permanent
Sometimes islands,
Left as fossil remains
Or to be picked up and stowed away
Like the toys of youth
In some forgotten attic.
Icons of days gone by.

We pray and petition
For something different,
Like the past.
But the changing seasons --
Like Justice --
Are inevitable.

Convicted of history,
We pack our bags
For a Journey
Perhaps toward Purgatory –
The curse
Of the Promised Land
Chases us
Into the desert.

While the clean blue water
Of Lake Travis
Flows freely
In a majestic wave
Across time and space,
To quench, for an instant,
The incomplete metaphor
Of a thirsty universe.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last week I participated in a camp for kids. I bring music equipment and let them play on real guitars with real microphones and real amps. The kids here were kids in an apartment complex/shelter. Most of the kids had some kind of background of severe family troubles. I do this camp with a wonderful group of people in a nonprofit called "A Spacious Place" You should look at its website. I wrote the following about my experience"

I am so grateful to be associated with A Spacious Place. Last Friday was a very hectic day. I worked straight through till the last minute to leave for camp, got to camp and the afternoon was a blur and then got home hungry, tired and, frankly, wondering a little bit about why I had come to be that way. Was it worth it? It seems that I can often make out things to be more complicated than they are – less important than my ego would like – less successful than my own sense of evaluation dictates. I had looked forward to this camp since the time it started coming together. Months of expectations became a lot of mental/emotional baggage to carry into camp along with the equipment. In just a short time after the beginning, I felt frustration; I was being overwhelmed. So we all just picked up a percussion instrument and banged away for a minute. Jimi was supportive and upbeat and, well, just right there – that helped. I took a deep breath and tried to just give it all up. We were all just going to beat on some guitars, listen to Nickolas’ rap and just see what happened to avoid the heat, the office, whatever they had going on at home and all of that. That is pretty much what we did. I got a lot out of it. I will remember the kids’ exuberance and curiosity. I will remember looking up and seeing several of the boys hugging and crawling all over Jimi. I will remember the kids running in on Friday after we had been gone hugging me and asking breathlessly, “Where’s Nickolas?” It was touching that they knew we had been gone… that they were glad we were back and that they missed Nickolas after knowing him for only 2 afternoons. I will remember the smiles. I will also remember that slightly uneasy feeling of being just on the edge of chaos, the concerns I felt when I looked at these kids wondering what they would face in the future, what they had faced already – what they are up against in their lives. That ambiguity as to whether my desire to reach out and grab them was to show love, to protect them from the world, or, oddly, just to make them still and quiet for my own peace of mind…

I have no idea what, if anything, we “accomplished.” I have no idea how my methods, actions or plans would be evaluated as to “competence” or “effectiveness.” I do care about those things, and I will think about that and ask for input and try to do better. However, I think it is important to keep that evaluation in perspective. It is those concerns that can lead to fear that can lead to intimidation that can lead to the mental conclusion that I really shouldn’t try to do such things. I know that service is hard work. I know that service is often uncomfortable. I know that the rewards of service are very often quite intangible and ambiguous. Thinking about all these things I know about service, I come to realize that service and creativity are really the same thing. How we are compelled, as creative beings, to become involved in situations where all the rules of logic, our own experience and propriety don’t quite work, and we have to interact with each other and with God to cope. I think that in the middle of that, sometimes I get my clearest glimpse of God, sense a little of what God is about. Just for an instant. Then, it is time to look up and realize that one of the kids has just run out the door toward some kind of adventure that we can only perceive as sure trouble.

Again, I am so proud to be a part of a group that is willing to take such risks for service, for creativity, for God.

I am recharging my battery for the next one!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ghosts, Campfires and Other Faint Aspirations

Ghosts, Campfires and Other Faint Aspirations

Over and over and over
Just doesn’t cut it anymore --
‘Cause Wikipedia has all the straight facts,
Instant access --
And faith isn’t worth a damn or a dollar.

I watched the natives of someplace last night
On the Discovery channel --
Singing and dancing around the campfire.
Poor bastards
Don’t have 1-800, or text mail –
They will never have a winner,
Or know the score.

They performed anonymously
In the dim light of the torches
That flicker and blink,
Like the eyes of the anonymous gods
They dance for.

To the children of the sand,
It’s all
1 or 2 –
Yes or No –
Win or lose –
Right or wrong –
For everything.
No one needs an explanation,
Or a clue.
Hypothesis for History,
Computation for Comprehension.
Factual Fundamentalism.

I think
Simplicity is merely amusing anymore,
In a dream about falling –
I wake up,
I get up out of bed
And fall some more
In someone else’s dream,
Until they wake up.
On and on,
I sense
Faint rustling of the wind
Through my hair.
Destiny calls.

I like to dream.
All the dreamers and I
The stories
Drifting across consciousness
Like ghosts –
Perhaps holy.

I like the wind
That whispers and howls
Rumors and Proclamations
About movement and direction,
Perhaps perfection.

I like to dance
With the natives,
‘round a campfire.
In the dim light of the torches
That flicker and blink,
Like the eyes of the anonymous gods
We dance for.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King of Pop

I am struck by the change in images that occurred during the lives of Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson -- all "Kings of Pop" in their own time. The obvious metamorphosis and even deterioration that the "real" people underwent; obvious "deteriorization" from the idols of the popular image. Having never experienced the process personally, I can only speculate about the feelings that might prompt one to run away from, conceal and even "deface" the popular image, when that image has been taken, blown up and idolized by the public. I cannot imagine the pressure on a real person to attempt to live up to the image and expectations of a god. Ultimately, the fantasy overcomes and extinguishes the reality; the person withdraws into oblivion or we kill the real person to preserve the image we treasure. Then, we can remember the "King of Pop" and forgive or even forget that person behind the mask; the sad and macabre reality is irrelevant to our needs. I remember Michael Jackson as a child prodigy singing and dancing joyfully on The Andy Williams Show. He was plainly an angel, as are all children, a spark of life from the overwhelming heat of God's love. That is easy enough to see in the flush of youth, and obscured over time by our own efforts to capture, to become that angel in our human consciousness, our own self-created image. It is a hard lesson so public when the real Michael Jackson dies. Yet, I think it is vitally important when we truly look for "The Man in the Mirror."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trifling Realities Against All Odds

Trifling Realities Against All Odds

Our biggest tree in the backyard
Is just beginning to put out,
Swelling buds,
And shriveled, purple-looking
Leaf wanna-be’s.
Fig tree
Back near the fence,
Is decked out already,
Laughing in the spring breeze,
I knew it wasn’t dead,
Though I thought it would be a bitch
Without shade
On the deck this summer.
There hasn’t been a frost
In a month or so,
Almost certainly won’t be another
Until October earliest.
All kidding aside,
We need all the relief
We can get,
When the heat sets in…
So, I’m thankful,
Even in my ignorance.

I think about my mother sometimes.
Yesterday was Easter,
Under a magnificent blue sky.
My daughter’s disability
Creeps into my heart
Like a ragged, tired fog.
Our rituals,
Broken shadows
Against a mottled backdrop
That is racing by to some destination,
But very far away.
And I realize
Our movement is simply relative.
I can only hope
The destination
Is better for her,
Like my mother’s embrace
That I can barely remember,
But know so well.

The sirens
Are calling me again…
Ropes taut
To restrain me.
It is not so much music,
Like Nero’s violin --
But rapt attention,
While the flames are
The crew around me
Is anxious.
Not that I will fly away
But that I will stay,
And they will have to endure
The melody
That I dare not describe
Or play.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter 09

Easter 09

it was a huge full moon last night –
storm clouds two counties to the east.
another low pressure near-miss.
burn ban’s still on
so we won’t ignite everything --
at least until summer.

someone on the internet
says the crucifixion was a fake –
“cruci – fiction”
the vinegar was really a paralysis drug,
and Jesus escaped to Egypt
to make babies with Mary Magdalene.

water into wine…
I thought,
“if He couldn’t change us,”
“maybe He outsmarted us instead.”
I said to God,
“it’s still better than what You did to Job.”
We laughed together,
it was funny
‘cause it was an honest prayer.

the devil’s on a three-day weekend,
maybe shooting nano particle rapids
in a black-hole somewhere,
or doing something else just as relaxing
in a recreationally nihilistic sort of way.
Easter is his Halloween Holiday,
when the hobgoblins do all the work –
for the children to hunt.
services at sunrise,
to divert our attention
from the rest of the day.

i prayed and prayed
last winter,
when there was just nothing
else to do…

waking up,
going to sleep –
anticipations of
the times in-between --
like Easter.

and then there’s Jesus
up there
on the cross –
thinking about making babies with Mary Magdalene.

“Blessed Be The Children”
“Blessed Be You And Me.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

knowledge and Belief in God

It is certainly harder for me to believe in the devil than it is for me to believe in God. I think this is the problem for many atheists and agnostics. Perhaps subliminally, they ignore the undeniable and universal experiences of God in the nature of things, and challenge me to prove that God exists. It seems strange to me, admittedly in the context of my training as a lawyer, that the atheists appear to have been granted the power to impose the burden of proof regarding God. Consider, for example, a basic component of nature that almost everyone agrees upon – gravity. Any knowledgeable scientist of today will agree that there are situations in nature in which all our equations and understanding of gravity do not work; in those situations, they could not satisfy any burden of proof that gravity exists. Nevertheless, we do not have “antigravityists” running around accusing Newton and Einstein of being superstitious idiots. We continue to cling to our belief in gravity just as the soles of our shoes continue to cling to the surface of earth; Hawking and the other best and brightest of scientists continue to postulate that there is a “theory of everything” which will, after all, prove that our experience of gravity is not the figment of anyone’s imagination. They are skeptical of the proof, the understanding, but have no doubt about their experience. The experience is tangible and real in their lives, beyond doubt even when the equations, explanations – “understanding” – the way we express the tangible and real experiences remain suspect.

I recently heard an ardent contemporary Christian philosopher, Peter Rollins, expound his strategy that he doubts God’s existence, but does his best to act as if there is a God in his day-to-day affairs. We might characterize the “doubt” as an observation about our equations, explanations, “understandings” of God, like the scientists who distrust the explanations of gravity. We walk around affixed to the ground, the planets orbit around the sun, and what we experience is tangible and real. It doesn’t make much sense, in my opinion, to surmise that we “doubt” gravity, but act as if gravity exists.

One might attack this analogy because we cannot think that there is any other way to act other than consistent with gravity. I would respond by asking: “How do we know when we are acting as if there is a God? and, “Where do we get the idea that we can act any other way?” Just as in the case of gravity, I would say that we (all people) call on a great deal of experience and history of experience, “laws” (like the “laws” of gravity) and other objective circumstances to educate our collective “beliefs” in God (like “beliefs” in gravity).

In the case of gravity, we expect that some brilliant scientist may well come up with new equations, theories or explanations that put our concept of “gravity” in some new context; on the other hand, we do not expect that this new “understanding” will have the result of people and things flying off the face of the earth willy-nilly. I believe that the same is true with respect to our belief in God, and the derivative understanding of the way we relate to God and nature, including the way we relate to each other.

Of course, Rollins is very well justified in aggressively challenging our understanding of God, and our articulation of God’s ways, just as the physicists have continually challenged our understanding of gravity, putting that understanding to test in all situations we can experience. However, I believe that this process is mischaracterized if it is considered as an attempt to “prove” God’s existence, which existence I think we all know just as surely as we know that gravity exists.

Perhaps I am dancing on the head of a pin. I think not. I believe that there is an important element of “knowing” past “understanding” or “belief” that is essential even as we are critical and challenging toward our articulations, underlying assumptions and understandings of the source of “understanding” and/or “belief.” Perhaps that element creates a level of confidence vs. cynicism, a level of hope vs. despair, and a level energy vs. the lethargy of depression, a level of meaning vs. nihilism.

Atheists often attack theists by emphasis on the way theists, often defined as “christians” in these dialogues, have acted in many of the atrocities of history – for example, wars, genocide, slavery -- and have adversely responded to the empirical findings and implications of modern science – for example, evolution, birth control, environmental protection. I cannot in good conscience, assert that my actions do not fundamentally indicate what I believe in. On the other hand, I would respond that people, including me, do not always act in conformance with beliefs, because my volition over my actions, and my beliefs (and “understanding”) are both admittedly imperfect. Nevertheless, I would assert that it is impossible or very improbable that we can act other than in conformance with what we know; when I screw up, I somehow inevitably know that I have screwed up; I somehow know that I need help in some fundamental way; I somehow know that the help is available in the nature of things. Thus, I instinctively get on my knees and reach out to God with an open heart and open palm. The atheist simply reacts to that same instinct in a different way – reaching out to God with palms facing outward.