Mysterium Dei

Deep, dark … Ocean mysterious abiding,
Keeping untold secrets forever in hiding;
In the soul of humanity ever confiding,
Yet inscrutable and past comprehending

Is there fear here where you are so near,
And part of us who are part of your heart?
Or overcome by your waves, drowning
Beneath your frowning vault of heaven

Living, deadly … Ocean forever existing,
Roiling and churning, forever insisting,
Enveloping the Cosmos, ever persisting,
While humanity floats, ever subsisting

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Simulacrum: Shadows Passing Shadows

“But if that is the case,” he asked himself, “and I am taking leave of life with the awareness that I squandered all I was given and have no possibility of rectifying matters, what then?” He lay on his back and began to review his whole life in an entirely different light.

When, in the morning, he saw first the footman, then his wife, then his daughter, and then the doctor, their every gesture, their every word, confirmed the horrible truth revealed to him during the night. In them he saw himself, all he had lived by, saw clearly that all this was not the real thing but a dreadful, enormous deception that shut out both life and death.

— From “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy

Frosted windows open on snow-covered plains so barren and lonely, with the far horizon so thickly gray, with the assurance of more of the same, and all is as silent as death, so silent that even the voice of God cannot be heard. We need life. We need life.

Shadows passing shadows in the shades of shadow trees. Life is a vapor. Mostly ghostly and blithely ignorant, they know something is missing, these spectators of men. And again the church bell tolls for another someone who never lived but finally died. And the gray coffin is lowered into black earth as phantoms cast forth hollow eulogies beneath the dancing shades of the same shadow trees.

The sun rises on an empty beach on an empty Sunday, where the waves make no sound, and the preacher stands perched on the podium preaching redemption to reprobates who cannot hear. But they pad the pews and smile self-righteous smiles, while girls grunge with Jesus round their necks.

Boys and girls dance round the boy, poking and prodding, teasing and laughing — laughing and teasing, prodding and poking as the dance goes on and the tears freely flow. There is pain and suffering driving the victim insane, but does anybody care? He will take his own miserable life, but will any mourn his passing?

jollain_hyacintheAnd the lovely Hyacinthus, radiant reflection of Beauty, draws his last breath as Apollo weeps for love lost and the world buckles at the passing of the divinely desirable boy, even as his blood gives birth to the flowers that will forever bear his name.

Two hearts bleeding. Two souls suffering. Two minds reeling. Two bodies slowly losing feeling. Two lovers void of love, rolling one over the other, making lust in a haversack with hyacinth in their hair. This is the memorial they offer the boy, who now joins as one with Mother Gaia.

A firefly crawls across the concrete, dying in the heat, but no one hears the slowing heartbeat of another life worth less than three-pence, delivered to deconstruction in total destruction as the thrawn sun thrashes its body at dawn.

Blocks of brick are stacked on blocks of brick, as below asphalt streets burn in the glaring sun. Alleyways are filled with scattered litter blown in from shattered lives, and the moon is full at the witching hour.

Smoke rises from the smoldering city as ash rains down thicker than the citizens, who run to their own burial for cover without looking back to see poppies growing in war-scarred fields. Their translucent bodies back into the black of cavernous caves, where they bark against the darkness.

The emptiness of existence is heavy. The vacancy of persistence in existence tangible and terrible, but do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know the profundity of the gaping hole in their soul? Can they feel the absence, and if so, do they know what left the better part of their heart so damn cold … these passing shadows?

Women and men, soldiers and scholars, priests and pious hypocrites stand beneath a rugged Roman cross, and what do they see, but Life nailed to wood for the sake of life? But do they even know … these passing shadows? Do they even know they need a savior? Do we know…?

Beyond Abhilāaṣhā

Waking-life is the ruthless taskmaster, leading to disaster,
But what is at the heart of this center-part of our reality?
It is the heart itself, filled with wanton desire
That reaches higher and burns in blazing fire
Of the soul with gaping hole which naught can satisfy
In ten thousand years of fears, nor can riches rectify
With truth the Self that lives within to defy many lies
Of destitution and all spiritual pollution of this world
Of Soul circumvolution and execution of tranquility;
So now reject desire, lust, and anger and the dangers
Of this life, and learn the nomenclature of wisdom;
Indeed, wisdom from above, and secure divine love,
And so shall you be free upon bended knee to see
Far beyond the bondage of mere earthly knowledge
With no stoppage nor even shortage of pure wisdom,

So shall you overthrow the taskmaster and avert disaster

Note: Abhilāaṣhā means “lust” and/or “desire.” This poem was inspired by my friend and fellow writer, Kunal Thakore, particularly hisAnd from Scribbles is Born Art.

The Evangelical Rump of Trump

Can we expect an unprincipled man to lead with wholesome values? Can we expect an immoral leader to lead with virtue? Can we expect an arrogant and domineering man to lead in the humility of a servant? No, and yet the vast majority of evangelical Christians are doing just this, having sold their souls, and sullied their reputation, in following Donald Trump with a loyalty that would impress Napoleon Bonaparte.

Once upon a time, evangelicals were known for their adherence to Holy Scripture and Biblical standards of living. They were committed to “demonstrat[ing] that Jesus is real and that his salvation radically changes … lives through … faith, actions, service, relationships and community…”[i] And an integral part of this involved living a virtuous life, as well as promoting such virtues in the larger society.[ii]

Now, however, the larger part of the evangelical Christian culture in America has taken a fortress mentality, surrounding itself and the current President with unquestioning and practically unbelievable walls of defense, not only overlooking Trump’s obvious blemishes, but also somehow excusing his blatantly anti-Christian attitudes, perspectives and actions:

Trump’s unapologetic materialism—his equation of financial and social success with human achievement and worth—is a negation of Christian teaching. His tribalism and hatred for “the other” stand in direct opposition to Jesus’s radical ethic of neighbor love. Trump’s strength-worship and contempt for “losers” smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ.[iii]

And how any self-respecting American, much less an evangelical Christian, can do anything less than cringe at the innumerable kitschy tweets, caustic remarks, unbridled imprudence, and callous quips is beyond imagination. But “the moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption,” according to self-professing, evangelical Michael Gerson.[iv]

Then again, evangelical associations, groups and leaders have benefitted from Trump in very tangible ways. For example, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Iowa’s Family Leader (in 2013), $10,000 to Samaritan’s Purse (2013), and a whopping $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (2013). On top of this, Trump drew the largest convocation audience in the history of Liberty University in 2012, and was referred to by Jerry Falwell Jr. as “one of the great visionaries of our time.”[v] And yet as Gerson points out:

Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, and whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.[vi]

And this is a high-stakes game that the evangelical Christian community is already losing, as witnessed by the continuing, mass exodus of professing Christians from traditional, evangelical churches.[vii] There is an undeniable hemorrhaging that can only be stopped by evangelicals actually being  what they profess to be, and genuinely living the way they say they believe Christians ought to live … and this decidedly does not include playing the rump of Trump.


 

[i] William Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Global Dictionary of Theology, 298

[ii] David J. Atkinson, David F. Field, Arthur Holmes, Oliver O’Donovan, New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology, 881

[iii] Michael Gerson, “The Last Temptation: How Evangelicals, Once Culturally Confident, Became an Anxious Minority Seeking Political Protection From the Least Traditionally Religious President in Living Memory,” The Atlantic, April 2018 Issue as published at https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/

[iv] Ibid

[v] Betsy Woodruff, “Why Evangelicals Worship Trump,” The Daily Beast, August 2015 as published at https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-evangelicals-worship-trump

[vi] Michael Gerson, “The Trump Evangelicals Have Lost Their Gag Reflex,” The Washington Post, January 22, 2018, as published at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-evangelicals-have-lost-their-gag-reflex/2018/01/22/761d1174-ffa8-11e7-bb03-722769454f82_story.html?utm_term=.2c9d531bb063

[vii] Terry Heaton, “Evangelical Christianity’s Big Turn-Off,” Huffington Post, September 12, 2017, as published at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/evangelical-christianitys-big-turn-off_us_59b2b0f3e4b0bef3378cdf91

There Was This Boy So Regal

There was a boy of ancient lore, who walked so regally through every door;
He was ruddy and strong, wise and as stately as an eventide song sung long;
He grew in stature and knowledge, and naturally knew what to do each day,
As he perfectly balanced work and play, and would say only what was right
In sight of everyone under the sun, because even in the dark he lived in light
So bright that many thought he’d been forged as a knight by heaven’s might;
And so it was that on a battlefield fierce he dared to pierce the enemy lines
With but sling and sleek stone by which he alone slew the one giant of fear,
Who stood so near on dreary day, while his people watched with admiration
And sensation as the great, husky foe fell to the ground with terrible sound;
Then did the army gain courage against pain of war and tore into the field,
Led by this brave boy whom history knows simply as David, born to be king

Grace

Grace . . . she wears rags but clothes you in silk and gold;
She is the milk of heaven but earthbound and quite bold;
Grace . . . she has no discretion and is never in recession;
She makes the wild one mild but strong; meek, not weak;
Grace . . . she’s not cheap but is free to befriend everyone;
She takes the laughter and scorn but is never torn apart;
Grace . . . she came with blood for every vein, not in vain;
She acts like a mere child but her prize is becoming wise;
Grace . . . she is bound by divine duty to restoring beauty;
She wears no masks but basks in bright sunlight of glory,
And this is her story . . .
Grace


Note: First published in February of this year, now republished due to some renewed interest as well as for new reader-followers. Blessings to one and all!

A Paschal Celebration

Out of the darkness the Light brightly shines,
As death itself is swallowed up in living Life
Breathing in the wicked halls of dark Hades
With walls lined by chained, mournful spirits,
But there are no shackles to be worn by you,
O Beloved, for you have born the very worst
And you have overcome, coming victoriously
Into the very throne room of groaning Sheol
To snatch the keys of death and hell
To be cast in your living well of Life;
And already the bell tolls the coming of dawn
As your tomb yawns in an awakening sunrise
That will be the greater surprise of all history
For death itself cannot hold in your bold Life
Just as the stark dark cannot overcome Light;
Yes, you are like that fabled phoenix, Beloved,
Rising from ashes with healing in your wings!

To one and all: Happy Easter! Blessed Resurrection Day!