Monday, September 27, 2010

The Genesis of Hate and the Teaching of Sin

The other day I took my son to the park. Another child saw his sewn eye and pointed and asked his mother what was wrong. I had no problem with his asking, but his mother severely chastised her son for pointing, for his natural curiosity, and for his child-like concern. She told him that it was rude to point, and made her boy, maybe only seven, feel hurt for asking. She could see her own rudeness, sin.
He then, turned and gave my 17 month old a dirty look. No wonder, as his mother had made him feel like dirt for his curiosity. This mother had succeeded in turning her son's wonder and concern for my son into despise and hate. The old cliche that kids are honest is true. I always had the question as to when that became the meanness that dominates our lives. This mother gave me an insight into how sin turns love into hate. My son own look at being hated told me that, in someways, I can't protect him. 
Poem I wrote about it:
On Seeing the Stares at My Son's Eye
I feel the bleeding Jesus. His blood
washes over me, allowing love. He called
for forgiveness as I called
for his blood. The sweat mixed with blood
from the garden has dried to the shade
sun baked earth. Below the cries
of the women, the curses of men
and shuffle of bare feet in the dirt,
there is beautiful horrible silence. 
In the crowd are slaves, like me, beaten and abuse
By the commerce of daily living. They come
To vent their hatred at the blasphemer
Unknown to most of them just a week before.
Like the broken well dug deep into the earth,
his blood continues to color the ground, color
The street, color the faces of desperation.
Step by step, God slowly died. No madman,
Asking about God and lamenting the murder,
Appears.  Only supermen of arrogance
Goosestepping across the human history.
Show up to mock, spit and celebrate the kingdom
Of death. Death. Death, a real possibility,
Shatters the mirror his disciples saw through
To understand the messiah and his promises. 
Here, Christ dies in every moment,
dies in every act of hatred, and dies
in many of my actions. To taste the new life
of the resurrection, we have to taste the cross
and his death. Weary of death,
we go to prepare the body of God.
Then Easter.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hight Art by Tito

The Beautiful and Dreadful Pain

The Beautiful and Dreadful Pain
-to Eric Korotish (1961-2010)

In celebrating a much too short
life of a young father,
the masks of “okay” and “doing well” fails
to cover the problem of summing up
a life. In came the catalog of achievements,
like some final resume or permanent record.

Permanent, like drinking bad Whisky, which
promise escape, coats our necks making us stiff.
Hundreds of friends come on a sunny day
to speak of his life and find the glue
of awkward silence. What can we say?

Eric was not a report card. Gone, yes,
even as we find fragment of him
in his son and his daughter, in our tears
from our stories. Memory massages our failures
to find words. The next day, I wake with a headache
from moving chairs and not getting enough water.

Jesus promised living water, water to wash away
the pain of death, the pain of suffering, and the pain
of living. Living, living, living means feeling like crap
at the death of a friend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In a time of Desert

We just had a very unexpected death at our church. He was a friend and I have been silent about it, even as it weighs down like a solid steel wolf trap on all of our lives. Though I am a poet, the words fall from me like colored leafs of autumn. I stand bare with my roots searching for living water.

As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Justice in the Hole – A New Way to Educate

The early church had a fondness for calling the Jesus’ Gospel the Way. The Way indicated a new way of living based on God’s love. Within the light of God’s love, we would find freedom, creativity and eternal live for God is the God of the living. Jesus, the new movement claimed, completely revised how we saw and experienced the world. Where other saw pain and suffering, the Christians saw the cross and the possibility of resurrections. Jesus reordered live and we could see possibility when there was none before. The Way was and is a new way of living.

I think about the Way as being a new way of seeing the world. Jesus would empower people that usually did not have power in their normal day to day life. The woman at the well was a woman despised by her community and then one encounter with Jesus changes her standing. Where she was alone at the start of the story, she leads the town back to Jesus at the end of the story. Jesus gave her life back to her.

I think about this Way as I contemplate the work of Dr. Sugata Mitra and his Hole in the Wall Education project (HIWEL). For those unfamiliar with the HIWEL, in 1999, Dr Mitra started an experiment outside his office in the Indian slum of Kalkaji, New Delhi. He put a computer in a wall with no instructions on how to use it. Soon, the neighborhood kids learn to use the computer and started to teach other younger kids of the slum to use it. Dr. Mitra stumbled onto a new method of teaching by harnessing a child’s curiosity and their natural wanting to lead younger children. He then move on his initial success and repeated it throughout the rural India. Same results. He tried his new methods with other subjects, molecular biology with preteens and after some adjustments, same results. Suddenly, children who had no future, now had new possibilities.

What I admire about Dr. Mitra work is that it is inspiring. It also challenges our notions of what is possible. Also, his work is now being taken back to the developed world and it is also having success. We have to start transforming our educational philosophy form the older industrial model where children are though of as products on an assembly line. HIWEL starts us on a new way of looking at education, one more interactive and one that incorporates the human need to help with how the older children helping the younger learn.

When the subject of justice for the poor comes up, the usual responses are platitudes. Yet, the reality, we are to meet the Millennium Development Goals, we need less platitudes and more practical methods. Goal number 2 is primary education. Dr. Mitra’s work makes the reality of this goal imaginable. There is a Way, and the Way is a way of love.

Here is Dr Mitra's last Ted Talk

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the Day a Five-Year-Old was Raped, Murdered, and Left in the Wilderness

Reading my old poems, searching for poems of love for my book of love poems, I came across some poems of mine that I had forgotten and the touched me. Reading them it is like trying to touch a stranger, even as the stranger was once in my skin. This skin sags more, but as I remember this poem about when I learned about a horrible act, I relive how frustrated I was in the face of overwhelming evil. I still feel overwhelmed in the face of evil

On the Day a Five-Year-Old was Raped, Murdered, and Left in the Wilderness

How we drown in a waterless city. Little girls play
here. They will become bored uncertain teens sunning themselves
by concrete ponds. The males move through this city’s pollution

looking. Lord, we live in a panting place, despairing
the beginning. Life seems to stall until our death. Trying
to hold on only to the next generation of children

who will merely see the Milky Way as tourists, we stay
a stranger. To creation, to our life, to the carriers of our genes,
to each other, to ourselves, to the promise, to all this we cry.

And it all dries to grime that coats our cars, corroding
the exposed metal. What is to be said to her mother? Who can
pay such a cost? Helpless, we need your judgment to slap

our face with ice water, we need to wake up. This death
cannot be celebrated. We need your report of devotion
to rain upon us, to bind us. We need the washing down

of our air to ease our breath. We need you
to pronounce the “good.” News moves
past us on our technological screens. Untouched,

we offer opinions, suppositions, and ignore. Our police
beat up a black teen, and we wait for a piece that will explain
her pain. The spirit washes. Then we complain, “Where are you?”

Where are we? Drowning in our dust, we stall. Call us back.
Lord, send a fire to devour our strongholds. Shower
us. Make us weak, again. Make us live, again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Ancient Modern Story: a variation on a theme from Jorge Luis Borges

The rock has a long history. Anthropologists find traces of it in all human cultures. Bits of the rock are found anywhere human activity happens. From the moment it was stained red, it has been remolded over and over. Some of the minerals found in it have been use to make slave chains, the base of whips, and prison bars.

Iron was extracted from its core to make nails what would pierce the open palms of God. The iron became steel and found its way to other parts of the world like Nazi made ovens, in razor wires, in the fences that divide families and nations. Dr. Anderson’s team out UCHP found parts of the rock in the bullets that shot Gandhi, King and Kennedy. It is a key component in the making of war chariots, cannons, tanks, and jet fighters. It was forged into part of the cockpit of airplanes that changed the New York skyline. The rock seems to lead to great amount of tears. Dr. Kingston’s team found elements in the rock that actually causes madness and will devour all in its path, including the person infected. It makes us aware of the rock in others, but blinds us the the rocks effect on ourselves. It is a form of suicide.

Parts of the rock was pulverized and made into words. Here, the rock found the skull of innocence much easier to hit. Over and over the dust of the rock has found its voice in the millions throughout history. Making men insane with rage. It had the force to ignite genocide in Soviet Russia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and to many others that are, unfortunately like the stars of the heavens, countless. Its dust can be found on the streets of America, in the Middle East, and in even the heart of all mortal humans. The strangest aspect of the words of red rock is that it makes humans irrational. It has the tendency to divide people, and ultimately make us alone. Reasoning away the words seems ineffectual in ridding oneself of the words.

For centuries, God has been working on clear the debris and the stain from the rock. It seems that his blood does help in removing the effects of the rock. He gave a new meal and an timeless word to help in freeing us from the rock's words. The problem is getting the word out and having humans rid themselves of the rock from their life. This is the work of divine justice, love and power or simply the work of social justice.

One wonders if Cain understood the lasting effects of the rock with which he stuck his brother, Abel with. Cain’s rock has been with us since then. Sadly, I find the dust of the rock in my blood. I have to drink the meal of wine and bread to combat the rock in my own blood. I remember this dust flowing through my blood, as I remember the day of September 11, 2001.

You Could Have Died Before You Were Born

Here is a love poem I wrote for my wife. What do you think?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mystery and Evidence within the New Atheism

Tim Crane's post in the NY Times's The Sone, suffers many of the same problems that many of the New Atheism, mainly stating unsupportable premises as true and the then taking these premises to the casino royale of philosophical overreach. Looking at at few starting with his first:

"According to their view, religions — by this they mean basically Christianity, Judaism and Islam and I will follow them in this — are largely in the business of making claims about the universe that are a bit like scientific hypotheses. In other words, they are claims — like the claim that God created the world — that are supported by evidence, that are proved by arguments and tested against our experience of the world."

These three faiths are actually revealed faiths, and not at all like scientific hypotheses by way of experimentation. Moses carries down the tablets of the law given to him. Jesus says he's from the Father. Mohammad recites what the angel Gabriel gave him. At the core of these faiths is revelation. The evidence really does not support Crane's assertion here. By trying to place it in the world of faith, he wants to argue that faith (or Abrahamic faiths) have to conform to a scientific standard of evidence. But his own assertion here fails its own test. Second:

"What is more, while religious belief is widespread, scientific knowledge is not."

Dr Crane makes an interesting move here. He makes scientific knowledge based on how well the normal person understand the details of scientific theory and then he dismisses normal person understanding the details of theology and only looks at common believe. Taken in such a way, he then can ignore much of the evidence to the contrary. It is a great move to push his agenda, but not so well in that ignores reality. Is scientific knowledge really not widespread? If you take the same standard of knowledge that Crane uses for religion, the common believer believing in Jesus' rising from the ead, but not being able to give a detail theological explanation of the Trinity, and apply that standard to scientific knowledge of the general public and suddenly a different picture emerges.

Not a day passes that the media does not tout the latest discovery of science. Science or better scientism (those who take the mantel of science) governs more of how we live our lives than any religion. How we eat, what we eat, how we talk to each other, how best to raise our children, what we teach and how we teach our children. There is no area of our lives that science does not touch. A study says cinnamon is good in lowering our chances of getting diabetes, then offer to the store we go. Omega 3 suddenly is in everything, as science tells us it good. Even some of the current problems come from our naive accepting of the proclamations of science. The controversy of vaccinations being a source of autism started from an article in Lancet in 1998. People accepted it out of a strong faith in Science. When the article proved bogus, then proposition already had become faith.

The final assumption he makes is drawing a dichotomy between religious and science worldviews. In science, the exception invalidates the rule. So, if there are scientist that are religious, then the evidence invalidates Crane, along with many of the new atheists, dichotomy. If one can be both, then then cannot be mutual exclusive. So, the existence of Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, Ken MIller and the many other well respected scientists who also have a faith invalidates the claim.  

He ends his piece by having tentative support for Steven Jay Gould's NOMA, “non-overlapping magisteria,” but more a peace gesture to the irrational believers, than a heartfelt belief. But the only effect of this gesture was to land him onto Sam Harris's Reason Project's Hall of shame. No mystery here. Any article that does not support that the antireligous bias of Sam Harris, the Glenn Beck of the New Atheists, has to be attacked.

I end with an aside about Sam's Hall of Shame. I think that the Reason Project has one of the few Hall of Shame who includes a more prominent thinkers than its board of advisers.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love Poems for Valentine's (Poems to Make Her Fall in Love)

I have just published my first ebook, Love Poems for Valentine's  (Poems to Make Her Fall in Love) It is a how to book. How to use love poems to get ourselves into the experience of love. I have been fascinated by mirror neurons and their effect on us. We may be creatures of compassion and our basic need is to belong. I realized this by dusting off my love poems and polishing them up, I again got in touch with my own experience of love for my wife Lace. Below is a poem I wrote about her and also a  video about the poem I made. Tell me what you think. And of course by the book, it is about as much as a simple starbucks visit.

The Mambo Queen
to my wife

Hips dance with a deep understanding. She
bids with her merengue's progression. Salsa hot,
and she teaches the grace of shaking. How to
understand her round mango dignity? How

she moves with such fructose. Some jerk her around,
as if she was a paper doll. And she is not over-
come. Others, smooth as polished apples find
her matching them. The graceful pair patterns

the merging eternity. She rumbles the rumba
of slaves refusing to be chained. Transcending,
and echoing the truth, she keeps time. Her feet
voice freedom, her lengthening legs promise life.

Can this be true? Can we find the divine in union?
Lovers eat the motion of beats, humming the melody.