SET IN STONE

I think, therefore I am. –René Descartes

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You will (hopefully) recall that my last post, STONE COLD DEAD, featured some of my favorite epitaphs published 4 years ago on SWI (a blog due to bite the dust in November). Ah, but the best laid plans….  The SWI editor announced on 9/1 that he would now need to pull the plug first thing on Sept. 6; thus today becomes SWI’s last full day on this earth.

This sudden passing prompts me to salvage another of my previously published posts from that body of work: a poem which poses a question I believe naturally arises out of STONE COLD DEAD. Unlike that post, it ain’t funny, but perhaps the poem’s saving grace is that what it lacks in humor, it makes up in brevity. It’s the least I can do on Labor Day.

LUCKY STIFFS

Are the faithful
dead better positioned
to be saved
than those who
lived with doubt?
Even a God
can’t help being
what He thinks.

 

 

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THE WICKED WHICH OF BEGETS*

Which is more naïve (naïver?) —
to believe poetry that rings true
….or….
to be a true believer?

Which takes more courageous thinking —
to whistle in the dark of faith
….or….
to face reality without blinking?

Which lays more cards on the table —
the persuasion  of the power of babble
….or….
the allegory of The Tower of Babel?

Which is the bigger cancer —
the answer that brooks no questions
….or….
the questions that beget no answer?

*with apologies to The Wicked Witch of the West (played by the late Margaret Hamilton in THE WIZARD OF OZ). In addition to her film career, it seems that Hamilton was also (according to Wikipedia) a Sunday School teacher in the 1950s, which carries my apologies beyond my title-play-on-words to the poem itself. May her Maker be as real as the great and powerful Wizard was a humbug, and more wonderful than the “whiz of a wiz” who Dorothy and her friends were told they’d see at the end of the yellow brick road:

 

 

A GOOD DAY TO WONDER

I was going to title this awkward post GOOD FRIDAY FARE, but thought better of it (a little too light to fill the bill). Or I could have titled it REALLY?. Really? I may be an ex-Catholic, but I still respect the meaning of Good Friday for the hundreds of millions who take the premise of this day at faith value. My breach of faith is not with the faithful, but with the premise of their faith — as explained in the poem which follows this paragraph of Christian apologia:

What’s So Good about Good Friday? asks Episcopal priest Justin Holcomb in a recent article. The origin of the term, he says, is debatable, but “Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins….all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures.” We can all agree, can we not, with the gross understatement that people have been sinning since time immemorial? But….

DIDN’T THE ANCIENTS EVER WONDER?

One of the earliest questions which presented itself to my youthful mind was that of election: Why had God chosen the Jewish people as the sole recipients of  His divine revelation and of the messianic promise? By what creative caprice had he excluded all others? –Morris West, Catholic novelist & playwright (1916-99)

After the Lord God said Let there be light, there was no one
to share the scene. God looked down and beheld a creation
too wondrous to keep to Himself. Flesh forward.
Adam, meet Eve.
But, inevitably, Adam and Eve stray.
They have a bad day.
‘Twas the serpent, they say.

Boys and girls, welcome to hard times
where life becomes a chance bet
begetters scatter and beget
until they forget
without regret
where they came from and divine not
what they’re about

until at last there emerges a Chosen People on
whom it never dawns that revelation comes with
implications: were untold others not equally in need
of deliverance from their benighted nature? If
what you don’t know can’t hurt you, why now the
Voice in the wilderness….and if it can hurt you,
how was silence justified? You see we still live
in the shadows of tribal primitives, still die in
the wake of unasked questions….save for He who
would die to save us from our sins, without asking
if the creator was in need of saving from His own?

Did my poem blaspheme, or did it pose a serious question (or did it blaspheme in posing a serious question)? Does your answer depend on whether you believe in an ALL-PERFECT, ALL-LOVING GOD, a MIGHT-MAKES-RIGHT GOD, or NO GOD at all? How far would you go to try to convince or force (as if belief can be forced) others to believe as you do? Isn’t it sad enough when members of one family can’t agree to disagree, much less the human family writ large? How much longer would you and your god have the world pay the price of religion’s aggressive side?

Peace, however awkward, be with you on this Good Friday.

 

 

 

BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Listen to the soul complain, “My body pissed
And bled and needed sleep, confused its lust
With love, and when I learned to coexist
With doubt, my body crumbled into dust.”
–Timothy Miller, poet and writer

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Will the reader get into the spirit with me?
In this, our little mortality play, I play the devil’s
advocate on stage earth, while you are ordained
for the role of God’s altar ego….so to speak.

You have the better part, really — the star-power
and the glory — versus the infidel, the bad actor
who casts doubt on words that are righteous and
sacred and good and true and abundant unto salvation.

Still, open-minded (why not?) to the possibility of
immortality, to the appeal of Pascal’s Wager, let
the show begin. In the opening scene, you assert there
will be hell to pay if I refuse to see the light, whereas

I have nothing to lose if I choose to believe….who/what?
In whose God do we trust? Does it matter? If not, what
the holy war is the word of one divided god all about?
So my character dares to challenge your assumption

(assuming it is your assumption) that believers will
be saved; independent thinkers and skeptics, such as I,
will not. You insist there will be Beelzebub to pay, but
this glorious time, it’s not your call. Trumpets sound.

A voice from on high proclaims, Well done, good and
faithful savant, for even fool poets give soul-searching
top billing over hopeless credulity.
The curtain descends.
Of course, it’s only the first act.

 

 

 

 

KNOWS JOBS

WE LIVE IN IGNORANCE

Who knows why?

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FOR ALL WE KNOW

When one’s faith is fetter
And hope faces test,
Faith knows no better
Than hope for the best.

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The above pretty much encapsulates religion for me as a natural antiphon to the question of human existence. It is only logical to assume that there is not only a reason for life, but a creator of it. From those conclusions, lacking direct knowledge — possibilities become suppositions, suppositions become mantras, mantras become answers, answers become beliefs, and beliefs become truth: religions, collectively speaking.

I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist.  –J. K. Rowling

Well, life does exist….unless you and I and J. K. Rowling and billions  of other passers-through are figments of some creator’s imagination — which, I suppose, is a possibility. As for the rest, revelations are a dime a dozen, and, bargains though they be, I’m buying none of them.

And that, my friends, is why I’m a deist (just in case anyone’s curious).

GOD AND SURREALISM

Let us begin, as we humans are wont to do in this world, with an assumption: that the universe was created by a creator (hereafter called God). Let us further assume that, by the grace of God, you have arrived at this point in time a mature person of reasonable intelligence, inquiring mind and critical disposition. Your detractors (if any) may call that a bit of a stretch, but what do they know? In any case, let us not quibble.

Whether you’ve had a secular upbringing or been religiously programmed, you have become increasingly aware of your own mortality as you’ve matured. If you’re a Christian, may your faith see you through; there is nothing to be gained by reading on. Otherwise, your answer-seeking has led you to look into the doctrinal and immortality beliefs of various religions, and to have been struck by the multitude of contradictory differences. Whose truth is true?

You sense that there is something surreal about this blind-leading-the-blind way of resolving life-and-death questions. Rather than finding the comfort you were (understandably) seeking, you’ve ended up discomforted….perhaps even wishing that you were a more simplistic soul untroubled by (or oblivious of) inconsistencies and contradictions.

From an amoral standpoint, the universe is awesome beyond belief. Elaboration of the point would belabor the obvious, so elaboration will not be attempted. In any case, it is the moral aspect of creation that cries out for answers. How can wrong be right? You know the usual suspects: disease, suffering, ignorance, injustice – particularly as these afflict the innocent and the helpless.

Religions may attempt explanations and preach or demand faith, but you know deep down that faith is a hollow substitute for treating another being as you would want that being to treat you if roles were reversed. The Golden Rule seems to apply to us, but not to the creator of the usual suspects. That is the surreal reality of this life. If there is a next life worth living, it is impossible to see how this remains unresolved.