Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M’s etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards.
I used to think that if the world—or I—were coming to an end, I’d start smoking again, and maybe have a cool refreshing pitcher of lime Rickeys. But that’s going too far, because if the world or I was saved at the last minute, I’d be back in the old familiar nightmare. In 1986, grace swooped down like a mighty mud hen, and fished me out of that canal. I got the big prize. I can’t risk losing it.
But creme brûlée, nachos, maybe the random Buche Noel? Now you’re talking.
The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember, and yet, I have not gotten out the lobster bib and fork. The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop.
The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.
And let’s not bog down on the stuff that was already true, before Ukraine, Gaza, Arizona, like the heartbreaking scenes of young refugees at our border, the locals with their pitchforks. The people in ruins in our own families. Or the tiny problem that we have essentially destroyed the earth—I know, pick pick pick.
Hasn’t your mind just been blown lately, even if you try not to watch the news? Does it surprise you that a pretty girl’s mind turns to thoughts of entire carrot cakes, and credit cards?
My friend said recently, “It’s all just too Lifey. No wonder we all love TV.” Her 16 year old kid has a brain tumor. “Hey, that’s just great, God. Thanks a lot. This really works for me.”
My brother’s brand new wife has tumors of the everything. “Fabulous, God. Loving your will, Dude.”
My dog Lily’s ear drum burst recently, for no apparent reason, with blood splatter on the walls on the entire house—on my sleeping grandson’s pillow. Do you think I am well enough for that?
Let me go ahead and answer. I’m not. It was CSI around here; me with my bad nerves. And it burst again last night.
Did someone here get the latest updated owner’s manual? Were they handed out two weeks ago when I was getting root canal, and was kind of self-obsessed and out of it? The day before my dog’s ear drum first burst? If so, is there is an index, and if so, could you look up Totally Fucking Overwhelm?
I have long since weeded out people who might respond to my condition by saying cheerfully, “God’s got a perfect plan.” Really? Thank you! How fun.
There is no one left in my circle who would dare say, brightly, “Let Go and Let God,” because they know I would come after them with a fork.
It’s not that I don’t trust God or grace or good orderly direction anymore. I do, more than ever. I trust in divine intelligence, in love energy, more than ever, no matter what things look like, or how long they take. It’s just that right now cute little platitudes are not helpful.
I’m not depressed. I’m overwhelmed by It All. I don’t think I’m a drag. I kind of know what to do. I know that if I want to have loving feelings, I need to do loving things. It begins by putting your own oxygen mask on first: I try to keep the patient comfortable. I do the next right thing: left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. I think Jesus had a handle on times like these: get thirsty people water. Feed the hungry. Try not to kill anyone today. Pick up some litter in your neighborhood. Lie with your old dog under the bed and tell her what a good job she is doing with the ruptured ear drum.
I try to quiet the drunken Russian separatists of my own mind, with their good ideas. I pray. I meditate. I rest, as a spiritual act. I spring for organic cherries. I return phone calls.
I remember the poor. I remember an image of Koko the sign-language gorilla, with the caption, “Law of the American Jungle: remain calm. Share your bananas.” I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, “I take care care of my own.”
I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours—I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water."
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love."
You taught Your songs to the birds first,
why was that?
And You practiced Your love in the hearts of animals
before You created man.
I know the planets talk at night
and tell secrets
A limb just moved before me,
the beauty of this world
is causing me to
“I recognized that Christianity had taught me that sacrifice is the way of life. I forgot the neighbor who raped me, but I could see that when theology presents Jesus’ death as God’s sacrifice of his beloved child for the sake of the world, it teaches that the highest love is sacrifice. To make sacrifice or to be sacrificed is virtuous and redemptive.
But what if this is not true? What if nothing, or very little, is saved? What if the consequence of sacrifice is simply pain, the diminishment of life, fragmentation of the soul, abasement, shame? What if the severing of life is merely destructive of life and is not the path of love, courage, trust, and faith? What if the performance of sacrifice is a ritual in which some human beings bear loss and others are protected from accountability or moral expectations?”
“Theology that defines virtue as obedience to God suppresses the virtue of revolt. A woman being battered by her husband will be counseled to be obedient, as Jesus was to God. After all, Eve brought sin into the world by her disobedience. A good woman submits to her husband as he submits to God.”
"But obedience is not a virtue. It is an evasion of our responsibility. Religion must engage us in the exercise of our responsibilities, not teach us to deny the power that is ours."
"A God who punishes disobedience will teach us to obey and endure when it would be holy to protest and righteous to refuse to cooperate.”
“Women are culturally conditioned to care for others, but not ourselves. We believe that having needs, feelings, ambitions, or thoughts of our own is not good. In this self-abnegation, we enact a culturally prescribed role that perpetuates sexist social structures. The needs and thoughts of men matter, but not ours. Christian theology presents Jesus as the model of self-sacrificing love and persuades us to believe that sexism is divinely sanctioned. We are tied to the virtue of self-sacrifice, often by hidden social threats of punishment. We keep silent about rape, we deny when we are being abused, and we allow our lives to be consumed by the trivial and by our preoccupation with others. We never claim our lives as our own. We live as though we were not present in our bodies.”
“What I was learning in the church was in sharp contrast to the theology of self-sacrificing love I wrestled with. It wasn’t the willingness to bear pain, or carry the burdens of others that transformed life in the places where life had been harmed by violence. It was strong relationships among human beings who offered their presence to one another.”
- Quotes from Proverbs of Ashes by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker
Stop Being So Religious
Do sad people have in
They have all built a shrine
To the past.
And often go there
And do a strange wail and
What is the beginning of
It is to stop being
- Hafiz, The Gift, Translation by Daniel Ladinsky