Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Power of With

Yes, there are libraries full of books promising the secrets of life, the how to guides, and books that even try to make scripture into a tool of manipulation. Click your heals three times, close your eyes and tell the universe your heart’s desire. Pray the right prayer to God. The universe or God, white wand in hand, grants you your desires because you wanted it so bad. While fantasy is fun, this is not of the book I am writing. Within analysis you will not find answers to fulfilling your desires for a dream job, getting people to liking you, getting stuff, getting more stuff or getting fame or even getting success.

It may happen. It may not.

These are unimportant in the long course of our lives.

I speak of smaller things. I speak of bigger things. The good life, the honest life, the real life transcends time. Love transcends time. Jobs, reputation, wealth, fame, and even success are all limited by time. Chasing them is like chasing moving water with a wholly cup. A little may find your lips, but only enough to keep you thirsty. Going from success to success leaves you wanting, empty and frustrated without relationship or love. Think about the time you accomplished a great success, made the winning basket, got the applause. Why did it leave you empty so quickly after? Real living fills you with living water, quenching your thirst. Think back to a connecting to another, a great heart to heart talk, seeing you son or daughter walking for the first time, overwhelmed by the beauty of ocean line. Imagine.

Imagine that the worth of yourself and others is not measured by stuff, status or success. Imagine the worth of a life coming from your connection to others, to God, to your life, irrespective of your circumstances. Where prayer, ceasing to be a tool of wanting, births you into unknown adventures. A life of memories worth having.

I will not promise here of mysterious keys to life, hidden truths, or magical potions. That’s left for others. The key to the good life is simple and full of suffering. It is also fills us with joy. I will just share my experiences on being with others. Use what you can for yourself. Toss out what you want or doesn’t work for you.

Nor will you find anything new. Yes, I will share techniques to listen better. Yes, I will share ancient and orthodox Christian theology. That is what I have studied and have my degree in. I will also share what I have learned from the world of science. With the discovery of mirror neurons, the ancient truth of living a life of love makes the highest life has been confirmed by modern science. We are hardwired to be with each other.

With one a simple word, I will the hope is that we can reclaim the power of love. A word so common we ignore it, a word that is at the center of Immanuel, at the center of the divine, at the center of love without pretensions and without lies. Follow.

What we speak about here is joy, passion, and love. What speak about is a simply word “with.” A contemplation on such a small and common a word might look like a waste of time, and effort that a quick search of the dictionary or Google search settle any question on the meaning and practice of the word. But think back when you have connected with another, eye to eye, face to face, and for a moment time disappeared. Why did you connect with them? Was it that you were with them? Did you, for a moment, transcend yourself and found yourself carried away with another human to a different place than your normal life? Yet, paradoxically, you also maintain your own self. If fact you experienced your self at a heighten state. The theologian Martin Buber named such a being with another, I-Thou. He was right saying that the I of being with another is different from the I that is apart from the world. The I that can be with another is the real I. The I that touches God.

Remember such an experience. Think of a space and time when something came over you. Maybe a sense of beauty overwhelmed you. Whether it was nature or animal that you found yourself changed, even if just a little while. It could have been a song, music, art, painting or film that carried you away only the place of a heighten you. Wouldn’t these experiences be worthy of meditation, or at least a pause for reflection?

Could we repeat such events? Or at least be more open to them?

Stay with me, though. Yes, “with” is just a preposition; a word used a million times a day without thought. Defining a word can do one of two things either give one a greater understanding of the word or dismiss it. The word “with” does two important things. First it places one in relationship to whatever one is with. Second, it maintains our own boundaries in the relationship. To have no boundaries with the other means being adsorbed by the other. Obsession is not love.

There has to be a sense of compassion to love or it sinks to obsession.

Compassion simply means being with another’s passion. Communicate simply means sharing language with another. Common simply means being with duty. Community simply means with unity. The word “with’ gets to the heart of living, of loving, and finding joy. Learning to be with another will lead to a full life. “With’ teach us the heart of God. Emmanuel simply means God with us.

The prefix “com,” etymology tells us, comes a word that means “with.” Com be with me in my exploration.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Silly Thing Called Love

How come we sound so trite and superficial when we speak about love? The jokes of seeing life as a Cumbia sing alongs by the campfire with endless supplies of smores come one’s way as way of shutting up any talk of love. The dream of love seems more a fantasy or a tool of manipulation. Do this because I love you.

Saying we should love one another and that we should try to be with one another makes us play a marble game of rolling eyes. The cat eyes shoot out any seriousness talk of love from the circle of life. Love, connection and community seems more of a kid’s game before we lose our innocence and reality takes all of our marbles. Love makes for good movies and pipe dreams, but if one really tries to be with another, well, understand that disappointment will bully us into reality. People disappoint. People hurt each other. Being with another poses real dangers. If we are to be with another in authentic way, we have to know the thorns along the path.

Yes, one of the dangers of advocating being with people tends to down play the opposite. It seems that connecting with others should be a slam-dunk when compared to being disconnected. Being alone drives our loneliness and angst. Yet, the truth is that most of us are disconnected from each other. Even in our closest relationships, especially in our closest, most of will disconnect by a variety of ways such as manipulation, pretense of being alright, stonewalling, and so many others. Then years pass and we wake to realize that we have wasted our relationships. The protective shell becomes carbon fiber strong as we age and then we realize that there are very few, if any, people that we really close to. Our children never call, feel guilty when they are with us and cry at our funeral. They never know how weak we felt as we held on their first day of life, until they hold their own. The pattern repeats.

Of course, I am saying nothing new. This is as old as humanity itself. Our fear of connecting and love, our wanting to be over others instead of with others defines the structure of our history. Disconnecting from others out of fear or out of control protects us from the dangers of being with others.

Disconnection is about protecting ourselves. In the older psychosocial stereotypes, being disconnected protects our ego. Yet, protecting the ego sounds a bit selfish and really does not capture the very real threat to us in opening ourselves to love. Jesus, as incarnate love, ended on a cross. If God opens into vulnerability and suffers a cruel death, what hope is there for us? We all have a cross moment of loving only to suffer.

The first memory I have is of a beating I had at the hands of my father. I refuse to eat spinach and got black and blue. I use to think this is sad and it was rare. While it still sad, in most people I know, their first memories are profound moments of disappointment. The scramble of the four year old to protect himself and understand the pain of being bad for not eating spinach and the betrayal of a father’s love, became a large facet of my personality. The first moment, not the last, of being disappointed in love shades my interactions with others except when love breaks through the protection.

We call opening ourselves up to love, being vulnerable, and vulnerable means the possibility of real hurt. This threat does present a possibility of real pain. People know this and that is the reason vulnerability is a risk. While calling the pull to disconnection an egotism, we down play the threat that being with another does posses. Going down a double diamond run thrills us we do risk blowing out a knee. God understood this problem as when Jesus opened up to others, he was strung on a cross. Opening up to love does open ourselves to love, and to suffering. The pull toward disconnection moves us toward safety. We also move toward a non-living existence filled with frustration.

Since, we need to connect with others by disconnecting we slowly starve like a anorexic. The next solution we try to disconnect from some and connect with others. We call this trust. If we can trust another then we can open up. The problem with this is that how do we find people we trust? Most of us are very bad at placing trust. Also, all of will break trust. Second withhumans being are all weak as we are, we fail to realize that at one point we will all break trust and everyone in our lives will disappoint us. We retreat into our disconnected safety. The dance of life.

What to do? Before we risk we have to know the dangers. There will be crosses, but there will resurrections. Say yes to life means being with others; being with others will mean pain. Being with others also means joy, love and caring. Can’t have one with out the other. Dr. Brene Brown remind us that when we numb, we numb the good along with the bad emotion. I will go further, when we protect ourselves from hurt, we also shield ourselves from love. We need love. There is no way around it; being with others in a real way will bring love and suffering. While this sounds daunting, remember disconnecting from others will only bring numbness and ultimately only suffering. The best option remains the risk of being with the others humans we share life with.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

High Heat and Cooking Chicken Stir-fry

I knew his eyes, worn out like thrift store laundry. I had worn those eyes before, hospital eyes of a powerless parent. the heat was just starting to work on chicken, soy sauce, hosin and fresh cut veggies. He looked at me, part of a church group serving dinner to parents weary from the hospital, with mistrust. The wok sounded like fast falling rain. All he wanted was some hot food and to collapse into his bed at the Ronald McDonald House. The last thing he needed was a bunch of do-gooders wanting his attention or his applause for providing dinner. His son was battling cancer that had already taken half his son’s leg. His face wore wrinkles of leave-me-alone. I understood his wariness. I had been nailed to the same cross of sick child’s parent.

The wok needed stirring. The wood spoon already had worn on the side from use. I looked at his eyes and saw a reflection two thousand or hundreds of thousands of years old. I saw my reflection. I wore a similar look at another Ronald McDonald House not long before.

My son, right after turning one, had to go through seven hour brain and skull surgery to fix a genetic fault that left his brain pushing out his eye. I knew the fatigue that comes doing nothing but being at the hospital, the fatigue that comes from worry over the fear of death, not mine, but my son. Powerlessness describes what it means to be human, but we, parents of the kingdom of sick children, have gotten good at hiding this fact. My son’s biology had taught me this truth. I remember how my son looked after the operation, like a plump blueberry. Five days later, he was playing peek-a-poo. The wonders of my son ring like a mystery.

After we came home, I felt the need to be with others going through the same pain. We met with our church and after some convincing we added a night of serving dinner at our local Ronald McDonald house. We, my wife and I, went to serve out of my being with my own weakness; the others went out love for my family. o

Since being a citizen of the Kingdom of sick children isolates parents, we were there to be with others. I wanted my church to offer an ear and a presence. We were not there simply to do for others, but to be with one another. We were transformed by the experience, but not without struggle.

The first few times we went to serve dinner, I found a problem. People want to help, and they found it easy to do for others. Being with another, opening up to a pain they were powerless to solve was something they had trouble with. They wanted to cook the hot meal, served with a smile, but they wanted to wait to eat and eat among themselves. The path of a waiter, professionalism, makes for a childhood fort easy to defend, a good way to avoid being with another. Protecting our weakness makes us easy cowards. I wanted them to eat with the parents, being with the parents and give the parents a place to put their story.

Cooking Mac and Cheese was easier. Hearing a story and being powerless to changed the outcome of the children left the church crew uncomfortable. The risk of love can be a double diamond ski run, daunting and relentless. Understandable, they feared.

The first night we grilled brats and burgers. When the food came out, I went to call my wife to see how our son was doing. I came back to the crew was eating in the kitchen waiting to clean up, and the parents out at the tables. I scattered the crew out to sit with the worried parents, to enter into the Kingdom of sick children.

Hearing their stories of babies the size coke cans, stories of cancer, stories of mysterious aliments both scared the group and made them come alive. Being with another even in their pain, transforms us making love possible. We slowly learned to share our own stories. Most of church helpers had stories of hurting children in the hospital, or pains to relate to. The families needed people to walk with them. Only by leading with our own stories could we learn to pray with them. Miracle of miracles, we soon broke the barriers and became united as one community. Then the next month and new people, and we would have relearning to breakdown the barriers, which keep us from being with each other.

So, I had gotten good at recognizing those eyes of mistrust, those hospital eyes. When I saw his eyes, I remember the days of praying at the hospital, doing nothing but looking at my son. I remember hating people call us brave, of saying that children were resilient, of listening between the words of doctors looking for clues to the fate of my son. Yes, I understood the temptation to punch some do-gooder in the mouth for wanting credit for serving some hot food. I could read the stirring of his mind, mixing with the high heat of the moment.

“I hated those long days of doing nothing at the hospital. It’s exhausting.” I said to him. I started the process of pouring the chicken stir-fry into a serving dish. His eye change and he recognized a fellow citizen of the Kingdom of sick children. We have our own language.

“Yeah, they sucks.” He answered. “What was wrong with you kid?”

We exchanged stories, the currency of love. I said I could not fathom what it was like to have a teenage son lose half his right leg. He said thanks. He said that the boy was getting good on his crutches. We prayed and then parted. I had to finish the stir-fried chicken I was cooking. Food is important. For a moment we were with each other. For a moment our burdens were shared.

Later, my now two year toddler almost tripped his sixteen year old. His son, indeed, was quick and agile with his crutches. My son was singing the wheels on the bus, when he tried to hold the missing leg. I apologized for my son’s action. He said to think nothing of it. Two sons, two fathers painted the scene. Somehow love revealed something. Somehow love prayed for us when we couldn’t. The flavors mixed as I knew, and the dinner was tasty.*

*This is the second part of my exploration of the power of with. I will post something about the power of with for the 30 days. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Question of the good life

             The good life! Yes, imagine a life fill with adventure. Imagine living as life reveals its newness in the present, each moment having the potential of meeting another human beyond fear, and with a deeper connection to others. Could we begin to live again? It seems like a dream, but it is possible? Living with power, each moment meeting our own lives as it unfolds! Many books offer a better you, I know. The heart of the self-help industrial complex is a promise of three things: being smarter, being healthier, being influential. Once smarter, healthier, or influential, then one will have a better life. But science and most religious text claim that the quality of our lives depends on our relationship. Most of the self-help aims at improving our branding and packaging.There lies a disconnect between the better self and relationship.
            Imagine, a chance encounter, unexpectantly, becomes a place of where love, the fullness of live, reveals itself. Can we live life as we did as children, with each moment full of hope, with each moment full of joy and passion, with mystery and discovery? Could we, despite the many years our calendars have flipped, befriend life again? Yes, live despite our cynicism. Somehow it has to do with love, we think.  It seems worrying about our packaging and branding works against our living a life of love, vulnerability and passion. How can love flourish if we always have an eye on the mirror?
            Yes, it sounds like a dream, to live a life of love. Strangely, it has to do with a four letter word. Remember love experienced before we became jaded by real life, before we developed walls of protection, before becoming adults. Yes, we can imagine, but is it possible beyond wishes or the lose of innocence? Love transcending our narcissism.  Love beyond accepting and to the higher mountain of affirming. Living like a beloved daughter or son at each moment seems like a dream of those unaware. The problem arises with the word love which has been load with trouble; it has been poisoned by being a tool of selling; it has been stretched beyond meaning into the meaningless mush of bland sounding pop music, a catchy tune we hum to our own annoyance. Greeting cards have stained “love” dark making it hard to see the orginal. Could there be another word?
Can love regain its power? There must be another word to draw us back the world we lost while young, when she work    Many times we know what we want ot say and then we lack the words to say it. My wif, when she wasworking on her dissertation, work look up and ask for a phrase or word because she was struck. I would ask her what she wanted to say, and the words would pore out of her. I think of this as I introduce the word I spent time understanding, and once understood, it changed the experience of my like for the better. It's a word that gets at the heart of both my faith and love. The word is the simple prepositon, with. *

 * this the start of sharing of about a book I am working on. I will share my investigations, scientific, theologically, personally and philosophical about the power of a simple four letter word. The word is so used without thought that most of ignore it, and yet as I have grown to understand it; it is at the heart of what it means to be alive and as I said in this post to living the good life. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

And so another 30 day challenge ends

Today, as I calculated is the end of my second 30 day challenge to write a poem. This one focused on writing love poems. My mind has been thinking what will be my next 30 day challenge. I have taken a couple of days off before staring the the next challenge and will do so. The next challenge will be working out the ideas for the book I am working on. The theme of the book is the power of living face to face as expressed by the simple word with. In the mean while tell me what you think about the last of my 30 pays of poems on love. I will continue to write love poems and read them and wlll post them periodically.

Love Lives

Drink from the spout of being with you.
Everyday the level rises and we continue,
beyond the sickness of our son, beyond the minor
and major setbacks. Drained at the night’s fall,
the glass refills with joy, with your business
in cleaning our house, with helping our son’s
vision, patching him even as he hates it. Yes,
I love in the middle of life, rather than
the fantasy of plucking out of time like
picking a silk rose that has all of the delicacy
of reality and none of the life. Life means
I fight glaucoma and you suffer a bad back.
Yes, we drain the glass. Yes, it refills. Miracle.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tone Deaf Sonnet

Tone Deaf Sonnet

To posses denies the truth of time. To measure
a human on the content of what his stuff, no matter,
the content of the stuff fools the mind into thinking
of permanence. Life moves on and we lose the things

that make us. This is why we tend to want our love
to never change. Yet, Time continues to bring
in the tide and take away. Our new computer devours
itself in a short while and becomes obsolete. We lose

our things, our strength, our eyes, but God remains.
That which we can never posses—love, God, passion,
Freedom—these are what survive us. Being possessed
by them gives u life. Soon, we will celebrate ten years

together and the clocks ticks on our parting by death.
Each day becomes irreplaceable because of your love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

After When Boy Wins Girl

After When Boy Wins Girl

Love, as hunting for genes, commands
the use of words like new weapon systems.
The delicate painting of an egg, hands
steady like an autumn boat on the Russian
river carrying chardonnay grapes
to a new home of oak in hopes of crafting
a balanced with hints of apple wine, takes
presence each day. Flaws form the stem
in which the blossoming branches flow
out. Fertilize the ground and with daily
water and sun does the work, with daily
being the key. The paint on the point
of bush grades the egg-white surface
with lines, cities, saints, memories,
turn into gifts for Eastetide. The pysanka
produces awe, but it takes sore eyes,
cramping hands. Love steals time,
and after we said “I do.” Love caused
to the real patterns to emerge.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Turtledoves All the Way Down

Turtle doves All the Way Down

The door opens after the bell is rung.
They say that love hits us like a left
roundhouse, as if love makes the head
ring. Weddings, are the work of
the temporarily delusional, or more
to the point, ar they common answer
the ring to living life? The latter
goes up and up without a stable

Friday, September 9, 2011

Love Poem Moderating Creeley, Robert That Is

 Love Poem Moderating Creeley, Robert That Is

I walk miles
to keep the fat
at bay. The ocean
lies hundreds
of miles west
on a road. To you,
I speak in riddles
out of finding the sparkle
of facets. Water
mixes with salt
in my body and pours
from small holes
in my skin. You are
found among our flowers
clearing the space
of weeds. And men,
who live close by,
sand a new deck
and soon will be
staining. Glass windows
break with a rock
thrown out of summer
boredom. Done with
work, on the way
home, I make
my way past the teen-
agers. Ancients spoke
of love in parables
that were like secret
boxes boy love to hide
stuff. By feathers
shed to make room
for new ones, I
walk by and on
to home. Go.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Drought cracks the Earth

Drought cracks the Earth

On hot days I miss you as you
work in dirt of our garden. I
work from before the sunrise
at a desk with glimmering images.
Virtual images in two dimensions
while my third, you, carfully
harvest the carrots in our backyard.
Summer moves to fall, and I fail
to find the red tomatoes on the vine.
Best, they say, to pick them green
and let the brown bag ripen them.
You work by playing with our son,
the two of you sing. Peppers continue
to get big, and I punch out.
Soon, I join the singing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Prophet Speaks in Helium

A Prophet Speaks in Helium

The clown on the bus today was proud
of how he rushed in getting ready and
made it. By hand, the woman attempts

to ignore him with a gesture of a false cough.
He, having none of it, speaks with an air
tank next to his side, which use to blow up

balloons that he makes into animals
for kids he has come to loath even
as they provide for his livelihood.

Yes, he woke with only eight minutes
before the time the bus was due to pass.
Forgo shower. Forgo hygiene, who cares

about the odor that children will smell..
Rush the yellow, blue, green and red
checkered vest and matching pants,

and out the door. The life of a lonely
clown and I think about our meeting
and how I almost missed you with my

rushing to beat the clock. I wonder
what it would have been like love
did not push me out the door. You

dance with me and if I did come
at the time of the bus, would to be
a smelly lonely clown boring those

next to me? You wake with to the giggles
sounds of our young boy with your hair
and my nose. I am grateful, so very grateful.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9-11 poem and rememberance

The Time Between 9/11 And 9/17
        -to the ten year anniversary of meeting my wife 9/17/01

In the flood of 9/11 remembrances,
I have to speak about my love.

We met on the Monday after
history was suppose to change us.

The War to end all Wars, which did
not stop war, left our nature unchanged,

As did Hitler, Auschwitz and Stalingrad.
Our long nature’s lust and longing 

for both violence and love remained.
Touched, perhaps, left us with a moment

of stillness to contemplate our horror,
until the moment of blood lust

and vengeance brought us back
to reality of the next war, bombs away.

Swords into plow shears, when? Love goes
down as a dream of water-downed fools.

But, I met you, six days after. Hope
pored from your shy ways. We danced.

You still own the blue fleece vest you wore
that beautiful bleak day willed with wonder

And fear. Many have died since we met.
The river of blood still gushes from the Dam

that broke us. Yet, God still rises from the cross.
And I wake each morning with you by my side.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Trinity of Questions about Love

A Trinity of Questions about Love

The wiffle ball curves
by placing the fingers
in the right location
at the moment of release. 

What doe that tell us
about the nature of love?

A river changes its direction
only with an influx of a
massive amount of counter
waters point the other way.

What doe that tell us
about the nature of love?

Typing increases dramatically
when the letter keys are felt
and not hunted by the eye
looking for the right key.

What doe that tell us
about the nature of love?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The choice

The Grand Failure of Achiles

Achilles, as he wacked the weak,
was fond of claiming destiny and fate.
“There was nothing to do,” he would
clamour, “It was for glory and meant to be.
So, do me a favor and die like a man.”
Prophecy, his thinking went, sent him
on his way of sending others
into flooding river of violent deaths.
But the prophecy, like all prophecy,
gave him a choice, glory standing
on mount of corpses or a quiet
life with wife and child. He choose
blood liberated from the body,
the with calm circulation within.

It takes more courage to live
a common life of love without applause  
Love moving in a thousand moments
without notice like ripening cherry
tomatoes. I chose another route.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The night move toward the fair

Spokane’s Pig Out in the Park Frames Love

The Music—free. The food—fried.
The chid—wild. Yet, the music
of you voice played off the festival
of thousands. A bit of pizza, some
ice cream, and the toddlers tasting
for the first time, spin sugar in the shape
of summer clouds. Cotton Candy.
Love tells stories.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Eyes’ Waterbug Movement

The Eyes’ Waterbug Movement

The passing glimpse
of your thighs sends me back
to moment of our first contact.

You lips spoke
about the strangeness of the movie
that we kept one eye toward.

My one eye keen
on small glances in the darken
cinema toward my companion, you.

I caught your hair
in the sideview. Your turned and
smiled, Your lips open to receive

buttered popcorn.
The way you sat in the chair
in the dark movie house turned,

My head burning
from our first date. I imagine the tone
of you skin beneath your jeans.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bad Exegesis

Bad Exegesis

The young preacher, with the habit
of claiming absolute authority
of the Bible when supports his world view
except the bits about the poor
or in this case the Song of Songs,
delivered a sermon on love with his chest out.
He, dressed in an ultrahip pink shirt
and with blond highlights in his manure
tea brown hair, spoke about the Hebrew
love poems as if he was a teenage boy
fed on firecrackers, junior high talk
of expanding body parts, and newest cars.
Love of Solomon was something to snicker
at like mucus on one’s hand. He counciled
that men should love their wives
as a sail catches wind, because it directed
a strong marriage through the turbulent
waters of modern life and it was a Christian
duty. It was what men do in between
the truly man things of riding jeeps,
having adventure or hunting with other men.
Love lead to strong children and is the spinach
part of marriage.

he does not feel the panting
deer, or the taste of pomegrante.
He reads poetry as rules and misses
the beauty. I remember the touch
of my wife that burned a trail
in the existence. Solomon
does not give advice to keep
a marriage strong; he sings,
yes, sings of the passion that over-
takes him in the moments in the Garden.
which overwhelms us. Why has
love become a joke or an occasion
for irony?

Come away, my beloved,
   and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
   on the spice-laden mountains