“Love is what happens to us when we are graced by the absolute destruction of everything we hope for.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro
“Love is what happens to us when we are graced by the absolute destruction of everything we hope for.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro
What a way to wrap up the first full week of March. Spring is right around the corner. For those who follow me and like my work the music today is for you.
Church of the Cosmic Skull.
The cosmic recipe:
one part glam
2 parts psychedelia
a dose of progressive
frosted with boogie and harmony
from their second album SCIENCE FICTION (2018)
The Church of the Cosmic Skull believers creed:
THE 7 OBJECTS
Recognize the hallucinatory nature of reality
Investigate all aspects of the reality-hallucination
Receive all phenomena with equanimity
Celebrate and uphold the freedom of art, science and thought
Meet mistakes with forgiveness and determination
Do what you want, with love in your heart
Maintain focus on the unity of all living things
Of all living things
the most fortunate are
those who escaped….
I saw a still-born hippo
floating in a pool,
it’s legs reaching to the sky
as it’s grieving mother swam, circling around it.
Why did the opossum cross the road?
Did it not see the car speeding onward?
Now just another memory of life
flattened on asphalt.
There’s a black man hanging from a tree, like my savior,
with a sacrilegious cross burning in the yard.
The sounds of wailing through tears
mocked by fleeing hooded jeers and laughter.
And I’ve seen a black man stopped by police
because of the color of his skin
Unjustly harassed, searched and thrown against the car
only to find nothing.
My dear Ophelia, drifting underwater
what was your last thought
watching the last air bubble, wobble
and rise toward a liquid sky?
To a woman: Did you feel free
the moment you jumped
from that high blue bridge
and flew toward the earth?
The broken red wings of your spirit
spilling through your cracked skull
onto the pavement one summer morning.
Your twisted body, lying there
in front of me behind the wheel,
on a street called North when you went South.
The subject of a undisciplined and indiscriminate passerby
who just had to wiggle out of her red van,
before the police arrived, get up close
and take a photo with her cell-phone.
The mosquito gorging itself
on the blood-feast of its host
takes no notice of the hand that will kill it.
The fly for all it’s many eyes
still cannot see
that it feeds, mostly, on shit.
Does the flower feel pain
as each of its petals fall until
all that is left is a withered stem?
Does the tree feel pain
when its limbs are stripped from the trunk
during the storm or when
this living thing is cut down
by the chainsaw massacre of deforestation?
I’ve seen wild mice care for the injured young in a nest disturbed.
I’ve heard the piercing, shrieking squeal of injured rabbits.
I’ve seen the Killdeer risk its life to distract a predator
and I’ve looked into the sad, fearful eyes of an unloved dog.
I’ve seen a deer hit by a car get up and limp away
only to die by the side of road while looking back
as if to apologize for disturbing traffic.
I’ve seen a butterfly with a broken wing
clinging to hope while wishing it were back in its cocoon.
I’ve seen the fish
stranded too long on the beach
its glassy eye blinded by sunlight
its gaping mouth filled with sand and
its scales sticky with death
In Alaska, I found a cassette tape
by the side of the road
the middle of nowhere
the wilderness, no one around for miles
wet and muddy, its case cracked
I don’t know what made me
pick it up and take it home.
I let it dry, cleaned it, rewound it and carefully placed the tape in a new case.
My proud first attempt at restoration.
Then I put it in the player and pressed “PLAY”
I was assaulted by the sounds of thrown objects
hitting something and someone,
cursing, screams, cries, anger, hatred, vicious argument,
begging and pleading.
There were no names.
and the sound of a crying child hiding in a corner whimpering “please stop”
Threats and the dull sound of fists hitting flesh
meting out punishment where once there was love.
I sat listening. Frozen. Unable to move.
As the sun set I cried.
I’ve smelled living death
The stink of blood mixed with piss
as the cancer-fill man stood naked by the toilet.
His unbathed pasty flesh clammy with sweat.
He is too weak to bathe himself so I have to help
as I try to disguise my gagging reflex;
and I wonder if this is what the mortician sees, feels and smells.
And I’ve smelled the death of a slaughterhouse
the mindless cruelty and knock of a thudding blow
to the head of a cow with a stunbolt
the still live animal lying helpless, it’s throat now slit,
blood gushing in rivers onto the dirty, stained concrete floor,
the twitching limbs of a dying years supply of hamburgers and steaks.
I’ve even smelled the death
of a carcass in the hot summer sun
at the dumping grounds of livestock no longer “live”.
Cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats piled indiscriminately
the rotting remains, not yet destroyed
lying in an open trailer to a buzzing soundtrack
the pungent waves of nauseating stink
this unmovable feast for flies and their maggot young
The bodies juices oozing
from the rusted corners of the container.
I’ve heard the uncontrollable impulsive
wailing of the living that accompanies
the release of the recently dead
Maybe I’ve seen too much
Maybe I’ve heard and smelled too much.
Maybe I’ve even said too much.
But of all the things that have touched me –
Have I let them move me?
Or do I stand in shock,
immobilized by the glare of oncoming lights
that are driven by forces beyond my control?
I sometimes wonder
if the luckiest child is
the one never born
into this world of suffering –
and of those already born;
if the most fortunate ones
have already escaped
the suffering that is yet to come.
You whisssper in my ear
your palpable smile
or a secret that only I am privileged to know,
some master plan,
some wisdom or
or just “I love you.”
The warmth of your breath
entering by hearing
and “hearing by the word of god.”
Familiar as a breeze
rustling the leaves
on a humid Summer’s day
under the shade tree.
These whissspering waves
ripple through my body
the beat of my heart.
My pulse registers . . . . .
excitement, a cherished connection
words and meaning lost in anticipation
virtue swirls into sweet sin
tingle of unending hope
inspiring passions aplenty
I dream of grabbing you and
holding you closer
than my own skin.
Some people claim “You MUST choose a side….” But everything I believe dictates that I stay on the thin unpopulated line between two sides – the middle way. I’ve lived too long and know from experience that when you create two sides and pit them against each other there is blood on both sides. It is unnecessary “blood” shed. Here are some songs from the 60’s & 70’s that have long been forgotten. But they teach us some important truths.
When we are in the midst of a storm – like the culture war that is raging here in America – there is only one way to get through it. Love is the lighthouse and forgiveness is the light in the lighthouse. Sure many people may say love is the light but that just seems to easy – even cliche. I think that the lighthouse is love because it is the foundation that holds the light. Forgiveness radiates. How does this work? Love is what we give to others and forgiveness is what we ask for ourselves. We are all perfectly imperfect. Have you ever noticed what happens when someone asks for forgiveness? There is an immediate pause, a respite, a calm, things immediately de-escalate. What would happen if the US asked Korea for forgiveness? What would happen if the opposing sides – non-racists and racists asked for forgiveness from each other? Would that not bring calm and open the opportunity for dialogue? That’s what we need – and we don’t need to agree – we just need to stop hurting each other when we disagree.
So please, let this be our mantra: “I love you, forgive me.”
We can ALL learn how to live on love and forgiveness.
Being a citizen of the United States Of America the past 8 months have been excruciatingly difficult to endure. We have a President (along with other White House leadership) with no self-control, no discretion, no discipline, no compassion and no love who continues to emotionally/psychologically abuse, harass and harm the very people he is supposed to lead. Never has so much damage been done in and to the office of President of the United States than has occurred under Donald Trump. It will only go to deepen the cynicism and distrust that people have for politicians. I think the notion of a politician being a force for good is not even possible with the current leadership. It has been depressing to daily and sometimes hourly see breaking news stories of how the President has, yet again, done something so outrageous and shocking that it is virtually unbelievable. We are being forced to watch a reality media show that is seemingly never-ending. And the media is focusing on the sensational. Now I have no great love for the media and that is about the only thing Donald Trump and I have in common. Our reasons for disliking the media are completely different. I would like to see more investigative journalism and less sensational journalism. Trump just decries anything he doesn’t like as “fake news”. But it’s NOT fake news it is the reality we live in.
This past weekend we saw many developments in the United States. The rise of racism, talks of secession, hatred for all things non-white. And in the past few months we’ve been seeing the increased likelihood of nuclear war with North Korea, Venezuela, and a trade war with China. Sure with all this “madness” it would be easy to throw in the towel and say it is WAY bigger than anything I can have any power over or change. But I’m not ready to do that. Now more than ever we need to be strong.
We do need to look at both sides of a story but we also need to address and stand up to those values and positions that would harm others or enslave them for ones own enrichment. For example: The American Constitution has a provision for free speech and lawful assembly. These laws apply to ALL people – even people who believe differently from me. So for neo-nazis, white supremacists etc; we must acknowledge they have the right to protected free speech (we just don’t have to like it). Just like people who oppose them have the right to protected free speech. Now I know a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable with that notion. But as a follower of Jesus Christ I am a FIRM believer in what he taught about loving ones enemies (I’ll explain more on that later). It’s just that in these troubled times it is difficult to STOP, take a moment, consider, weigh ones reactions before making those reactions public. But that is exactly what we must do. I do not love Donald Trump’s policies I specifically hate his approach to what should be collaborative, positive working relationships. I hate his non-stop “twittering”. But I do NOT wish him dead. I hate now Trump and many in the white house continues to hold his business interests (even if they are in his children’s names – who are his official presidential advisors and aides) creating conflicts of interest. I cannot hate a man who is misguided, foolish, delusional and emotionally unstable. I can honestly say I’ve had to think about this long and hard. The past 8 months have shown me that we all have the capacity for hatred but we do not all act on that. I understand why people may think that the only way to solve this crisis we face in America is to kill or assassinate Donald Trump. I understand because I felt myself slipping into the same hate for hate thinking and had to stop myself. I pray to God that Donald Trump is not assassinated. Here’s why. I don’t have any confidence in the Vice President that would take his place. And killing Donald Trump would only give the alt-right extremists the martyr they’d love to have – which they would use to justify further violence. On top of that as a Christian I am against the death penalty for anyone because I believe that just as God gives life he also takes it away it is not up to man take life away. And anyone who behaves abominably should have the opportunity to change or, to use an archaic term, repent. If they are killed we are depriving them of that opportunity. So death is NOT the answer. But Donald Trump should be impeached and that needs to happen ASAP (in my opinion). I seriously doubt that Trump will survive to the end of his first term.
Sadly America can only blame itself for creating AND electing Donald Trump the tyrant. No one should be surprised by what he is doing. He used the same tactics in his reality TV shows. People who have participated in his shows “THE APPRENTICE” and “CELEBRITY APPRENTICE” have noted how Trump would pit people against each other, he would harass and harangue people to create and build drama in the show. He is a victim of his own celebrity – believing in a false value of self. Unfortunately, we can see that what works on television isn’t what works as a world leader. He has also gotten support from an “Evangelical Right” that uses scripture to justify and encourage Donald Trump giving him a false moral justification for all he does. This same type of Evangelical movement that uses the Christian Bible to justify white supremacy also supported Hitler and The Third Reich (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Evangelical_Church). I also think it may be time to do away with the electoral college. There was a time when the electoral college had value. But in the internet age the electoral college is an archaic institution that can only do more harm than good. It is time to elect leaders only by popular vote.
Now about love. It may seem odd and unlikely to read about love in this type of post. I think it is necessary to bring the needed balance and provide level-headed options to the discussion. Please consider this; how do we love a tyrant, a despot, an oligarch, a hate-filled man? We CANNOT react in the ways he reacts. We can find ways to slow down the discussion allowing time for all parties to think about their positions. We can act respectful to them without agreeing with them. We can seek to remove them from their position for their own good. Donald Trump is clearly over his head and he is being battered on all sides continually and that would be enough to make anyone crack. The kindest thing we can do for America is also the kindest thing we can do for Donald Trump. Impeach him. Remove him from the position that is causing him so much distress. And wish him well as he leaves. Now I’ll be the first to admit this is easier to type than actually practice. Love is not some easy fluffy romantic notion – it is something we have to work at.
One of the benefits of writing this is that it also reaffirms what I believe and helps give me the strength I need to practice what I “preach”. I cannot hate Donald Trump I can only hate the carnage he has created while in office. I do not believe there are evil people only evil actions. And I choose to not act evil or out of malice toward my fellow Americans, or any living beings. And if I do act evil (because I am human and have occasional weakness) it is a weakness that I quickly seek to remedy.
Matthew 4:43-45 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Feel free to agree or disagree on any and all points. That’s why it’s called free speech. We can disagree and still be respectful.
***If you think more people should see this post – feel free to re-post.
Probably like most people, the desperate situation in Syria that has been going on for several years sickens me. I am so disgusted with the politicians playing with innocent peoples lives. But is there hope?
I love this song and video by Maher Zain. It’s filled with powerful images and allegory. Enjoy. Will love prevail through you and me?
* if you purchase this song from iTunes – all proceeds go to Syrian humanitarian relief work. Help The Syrian People: http://humanappeal.org.uk
– Rabbi Rami Shapiro
***about the photo: this image was taken at an abandoned mental institution called Molly Stark State Hospital. The local county has turned the grounds into the wonderful Molly Stark Park near Louisville, OH. The buildings still stand in their slow decay with boarded up windows and doors because the cost for demolition is too prohibitive.
At the age of 53, I can tell you that I have had many jobs. And over the years I have read many job search books and spoken with job coaches. Every single job coach I’ve heard and every job search book I’ve read has said to “Do what you love.” They appeal to the narcissism that exists in all of us – something most of us deny about ourselves. I think the biggest harm is that this approach raises unrealistic expectations – i.e. if you do what you love you can expect to love what you do. And I’ve done that – I’ve taken jobs doing work that I loved. So why have I ALWAYS been disappointed? Why do I always end up hating what I loved? Those are serious question and they are not addressed in any single job search book. Job coaches just dismiss the questions saying that I just haven’t found what I love yet. But, what if the point is to just work and it doesn’t matter what you do? What if you can find some sort of peace, satisfaction and consolation in what you do even if it’s not what you love? What if it’s not the job you do but HOW you do your job? The longest job I held was for 15 years. It resulted in a near nervous breakdown and personality shift. That was a job that I started because I loved that type of work. What job coaches and books fail to recognize that the work you do is not important because it’s the people you work with that make the job enjoyable and you can actually come to love those people instead of the work itself. It’s the people that make the job lovable or hateful and miserable. And unless you learn how to deal with the different personalities of the people you work with, accept them in spite of their values and practices you will never be happy no matter what you do.
At the time I left my previous job that I held for 15 years, I started to read the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh. It was in these Buddhist writings that I started to explore the ideas of mindfulness and adding that to my Christian faith. It not only helped me understand myself but from this also evolved the notion that it doesn’t matter what work I do. In spite of the tasks I can find enjoyment, happiness and even love based on how I was mindful of others and sensitive to their needs. Whatever emotion you attach to it – the job becomes meaningful because of relationships not the task itself.
At the time I came to this realization I was unemployed, between jobs. Disillusioned, tired, depressed and unsure of what I did want, I decided to look for work that I COULD do instead of work I wanted to do. It opened up a whole new realm of employment possibilities. The first thing I did is go over previous performance appraisals and made a list of two columns of things that previous employers thought I did well and things they thought I sucked at (although they would label it “needs improvement”). There were contradictions which is understandable because of two things. 1) We are contradictory beings in nature. 2) When you ask 10 people about something you’ll get 10 different opinions. Being fully aware of the contradictions and differences I started looking for work that would be acceptable based on the abilities perceived by others. I’d see a job description and ask can I do this job well based on my abilities and skill set. If I could answer “yes” to that question I would apply – even if I didn’t have the education degrees that the employer said they wanted to see. While an educational degree is helpful it does not ensure success in either obtaining a job or successfully doing the job. Once I had the interview I answered the questions by talking about my experience and skill set based on what the employer was looking for. Now, I’ve always hated interviews. But I found that since I already knew what I could do that it didn’t matter if I got the job or even loved the job. What mattered was I knew I could do the job and it was up to the employer to decide if they were going to take a chance on me or not. I took the same mindfulness approach in the interview which relieved the stress of the interviews.
What happened was something I was not expecting. I took a job doing something that had never appealed to me and would never have previously chosen because I would not have seen it as something I could love. I have found the job rewarding, challenging and just what I needed. I’ve worked this same job now for 5+ years and do not have any regrets about taking this job. Sure there are times when I wonder, “What the hell was I thinking” but that happens in every situation in life. Sure there are things that make me angry about work but I’m able to move beyond that not let it affect my work. It’s the people that matter more than the job itself. When I keep that in mind everything works out.
Now this may seem simplistic and like a bunch of malarky. But its worked for me.
(fyi – the art in this post is #77 from my Messages From The Future series which will be published in book form in 2014.)