Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections: It's Nearly Over

When I read these days, I use bookmarkers salvaged at my job from trimming legal size file folders down to letter size. This yields an item 2 inches wide and 10 inches long, upon which I can note page numbers and the paragraphs on those pages in which words that I may later want to share here can be found. I currently have several books sitting on the table next to my recliner, the markers in each of which are heavily scored with notations yet to be used. That’s how it’s been, of late.

Today is the last day upon which I can post here in the year 2011. My output has fallen off precipitously. This will be my 89th post, the least number of posts I’ve put up in a year since 2007, the first year I had the blog. But in that year I didn’t begin posting until July. I blame Facebook, and my involvement in several writers’ groups there, for my neglect of this site. That is a convenient thing to blame. Last year I put up 235 posts. If I start to read into this, it scares me.

On the desktop of this computer, I have a file entitled “Ruth Stone” within which are words I clipped here and there with the intention of writing a post expressing my enthusiasm for Ruth Stone’s poetry. This enthusiasm came only as a result of a Facebook friend’s writing of her recent death, and his posting of a clip of her reciting one of her poems. That file has been sitting on my desktop, unused, for several weeks now.

Among the books on the table next to the chair in which I sit to do my reading, is a copy of Ruth Stone’s, What Love Comes To - New & Selected Poems. In that volume is one of those bookmarkers mentioned above. On it are listed the page numbers of poems to be considered for use in the Ruth Stone blog post which never got written. Looking back over these now, I find that they are each quite wonderful. But I don’t remember why I picked them, particularly, except for one of them, which would have significance for one of my friends (and, therefore, for me as well.) So that is the one I will use here:

Where I Am

I’m not in a stone dungeon
under the streets of some Roman city.
I’m only in darkest Binghamton,
a second-floor apartment
in the company of two cats.
I have a plastic bag of dates
that claim to be grown naturally.
But how else can dates grow?
I see them hanging in huge clusters
from date palms,
as I once saw them from a bus
in the foothills of Southern California;
the streets of a small town,
adobes, lounging Indians,
a trading post. Then the fields of irrigation
and the forced water
spraying the great furrowed squares.
But I am here, not in a stone dungeon,
but in Dungeon Stone--
darkest Binghamton.

*sigh* -- It’s been that kind of year for me, too; year through which I would not want to live again. I’m glad that it’s almost over. I hope that next year will be better. I hope that yours will be, too. The contents of the Ruth Stone folder on my desktop are yet to be used. Perhaps they never will be. Perhaps they will die with this computer one day, not too long from now, when it finally gives up the cyber-ghost? Or, maybe, I will decide to kick off 2012 with a Ruth Stone post yet to written?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reflections: Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

Here’s the thing: what is being called the 1% is behaving intelligently, if it is intelligent to act in one’s own best interest, even at the expense of others. They are sitting on trillions of dollars that could be used to create jobs. But they won’t use it unless the government will give them a guarantee that the government will do nothing in the future to hurt their bottom lines. They have been raking in record profits and they want a guarantee that this will continue for them, regardless of how the rest of the country fares. This is what they refer to as “free market capitalism.” It would be funny, were it not so disgracefully cynical.

If, however, you are not a member of the 1% and are voting for politicians who are supporting “free market capitalism,” you will have been led ask yourself a question and to answer “Yes” to it, when you should have answered “No.” That question is this: “It’s MY money, isn’t it?”

No, it’s not. You should listen to Jesus, not to Ron Paul. When Jesus was asked if it was proper to pay taxes to Rome, he asked to be shown a coin. When the coin was produced, he asked “Whose picture is on that coin?” The reply, of course, was “Caesar’s.” You know the rest of what he said: "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's."

If you don't believe in God, fine: simply substitute "society" for God and proceed accordingly.

The money is not yours. When you answer “Yes” to the question, you sell yourself out. You might want to think about who it is that has made that purchase.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rodak's Writings: a Protestant Poem

Consent: a Brief History

Idolized as consenting; much depends

on that notion. But what earthly woman

could say no to an angel? The lithe olive-toned

form of the maiden soon swollen, shaped

from within by the prodigy growing.

Consent, was it then, to the flesh-rending

pain? To blood, urine and feces?

To birthing the type of material creation?

Flesh formed of the Word and man’s fated future:

my mortal career. So, serpent or fish?

The loaf or the stone? The one without sin,

or the first one to throw? Rocky soil, shallow root,

barren branch, blasted tree. Second mile,

dusted shoe. The chaff and the wheat.

The eye of the needle. The dog eating scraps

down under the table. Gaudy lily, willful blindness,

dying seed, burning vine. The prodigal son and the

Gadarene swine. One taken up and one left behind.

Bushel and light; foolish lack of lamp oil.

The mustard seed sown. The better part taken.

The sheep and the goats. A foundation on sand.

The shirt after the coat. The imperial coin,

the last pfennig she had. The pearl of great price,

the house scoured for a shekel. The shepherd,

the wolf, the one pulled from the pit. The infinite

regression tracking back to the Garden and

the immaculate conception of Eve, who consented.

You horn-sounding viper! You whitewashed sepulcher!

My mother, a woman, not some pagan crop goddess!

Consent! Few are chosen! You know not the hour!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reflections: Weblog Commentary

I have been meaning to launch this blog post for some days now, but I’ve kept putting it off because I couldn’t decide how to frame it. Rather than continue not to get the words online that I wanted to share, therefore, I’m just going to go ahead and post them unframed and let them stand (or fall) for themselves.
This material consists of a comment made by Ron King, a valued sometime visitor to this blog, followed by several comments made by me, elsewhere. I asked Ron’s permission to share this comment because it will be made available to my Facebook friends, as well as to readers of this blog. Ron made the comment in response to this post. I will edit Ron’s comment only to the extent that his very first sentence has been moved to the end of the comment. I do this in order that it may segué into the rest of the material, all of which consists of comments I made on a couple of different strings, to a couple of different people, following posts on one of my favorite blogs, Vox Nova. These I will simply clean up to stand alone, if any such polishing is necessary. I will offer them without comment, while inviting comment on them here. Without further ado, Ron King:

The problem for introverts is the early emotional conditioning of fear and rage due to the pain of being aware of not being validated by the primary caretakers and then the educational system. Consequently, the introvert is constantly under the intrusion of forces trying to make her/him into something she/he is not. This will cause a further retreat into self along with an ever increasing suffering.

Once the introvert has an awareness that being created in this way has a distinct spiritual purpose of exploring the dynamics of human suffering and the loss of love as the cause of suffering, then introverts can begin healing the false identity that has formed in reaction to a world that does not know how to love.

Loneliness begins to fade when the introvert begins to educate others about what it means to be an introvert. They can begin to teach extroverts what it means to be more sensitive. Every introvert I have known in my life has a passionate desire to be free to express their truth. The freedom is to be found internally and not externally. It is to be found face to face with extroverts, regardless of what they may say or do.

xxxxx[and now the sentence I've moved]

Jesus is an introvert.

Vox Nova: excerpt 1

Another commenter said of Jesus,

“…if he were conversant in Greek philosophy to any extent why did he not lay things out ever in a similar style.”

I replied,

Jesus perhaps did just that, when speaking to learned Pharisees; or, perhaps, to learned Romans. It is unfortunate that in the Gospels we are usually only given the punch-lines of his dialogues with his intellectual opposition. But, in most of what we are given, he is preaching to peasants and fishermen and shopkeepers, etc. There is nothing to be gained by speaking over the heads of one’s audience.

Any time I am arguing with a Catholic and I quote a Bible verse in support of my central thesis, and that Catholic then visibly pales, frantically starts making the sign of the cross and backs away from me screaming “Sola scriptura! Sola scriptura!” I am reminded that this once had some validity. Pre-Gutenberg, people didn’t own Bibles. Most people weren’t literate. What they knew about the Bible had to be spoon-fed to them by clerics. The priests don’t want to relinquish that power, so they preach still today against the “proof-text,” as though the text shouldn’t be a source of proof. I have to either spit on the floor, or chuckle. Hopefully, I usually choose the latter course of action. Luther, to his credit, not only translated the Bible into German, but preached that people had a duty to read it, and to interpret its meaning (with a little help from above), each according to his special spiritual need at any given time. This is not to use the Book as an oracle, but rather to use it as a learning tool; as a workbook for the student of the spiritual connection between heaven and earth.

To sum up: Jesus knew what he was doing.

Vox Nova: excerpt 2

I don’t know what “go to heaven” means, because I can’t conceive of heaven as a place. I can only understand heaven as a state of being. The upshot of that would be that only saints would “go to heaven.” One would need to be in a state of being compatible with heaven, i.e. “heavenly.” And by “saint” I don’t mean what the Church routinely means. What the Church means, in most cases, is something like “Employee of Decade” or “Distinguished Professor” or “Father of the Year.” So, what happens to the rest of us, I don’t know. That sad alternative may be what’s happening to us now. Being Christ-like does not mean being a really big fan of Jesus. It doesn’t mean liking Jesus, it means imitating Him.

Vox Nova: excerpt 3

I’m not so interested in the theories such as that Jesus went to India during “the lost years,” or that Jesus was the iniate of a Greek mystery cult, etc. I think it enough to speculate that Jesus was very probably literate; that he grew up in a Hellenistic milieu; and that he may very well have had some acquaintance with, and instruction in, both Greek (Platonic) and Roman (Stoic) ideas and used some of those, tailored to the levels of sophistication of his audiences, in his teaching.

I also think it very telling that Jesus was apparently not a Jewish nationalist. Reading the New Testament, one would get the idea that Jesus and his followers were wandering about in tranquil, almost sleepy countryside. In fact, of course, the area was crawling with insurgents and a constant thorn in the side of Rome. Jesus seems to have been totally aloof from all of this, which makes him somewhat less than ultra-Jewish in his thinking.

Moreover, if he had been nothing more than an unusually witty freelancing Jewish rabbi, I doubt that we would be talking about him today.

Finally, Socrates had Plato, and Jesus had Saul of Tarsus: the rest is history.

Vox Nova: excerpt 4

The difference, of course, is that Socrates and Jesus had visionary interpreters of real genius, both of whom offered a set of ideas too grand to ever be exhausted by subsequent speculation, or completely co-opted by "the world," and which, therefore, endlessly spark the imaginations of intelligent and creative persons who come in contact with them.

This is to take nothing away from the mediation of Socrates or Jesus. In both cases, their teachings were worthy of such interpreters. I assume that this was a necessary condition for the production of those interpretative bodies of thought.

I see the institutions--the Church, the Academy--to be like globs of semen; millions of sperm sent forth to produce one fertilized egg; millions of the "faithful" assembled to produce one true saint. And only the saint transcends.

Vox Nova: excerpt 5

The very last thing that a saint would want to be, I should think, is innovative or original. A saint is simple. There is nothing novel in the truth. The saint is proof that the truth can be received from its source and that life can be lived in accordance to it–not merely read about and acquired by rote for recitation on command. Man would get redemptive brownie points for the latter only if Kafka is G-d and the path to “heaven” really does lead one through the corridors and the various official stages and offices of some vast bureaucracy, beginning in the kindergarten of the parochial school and ending before the throne of judgment.
Your comments are welcome.