Sunday, September 30, 2007
Today at church, had me pulling hair out of my shaved head
Just as she picked up the phone, a man advanced up to me quickly and was asking for money and help, so he could get a shower and something to eat, which rattled me a bit since I'm not such a good multitasker, especially for unexpected things. I regained my composure on the phone and finished up my conversation, and then spoke with him. He told me that he has been living in the bushes over by the freeway, and that some people had assaulted him a while ago and his shoulder was dislocated, and he needed my help as a brother in God. He pulled off his shirt so I could look at it and it didn't look good. The skin was all right, but underneath, the musculature and skeletal structure were pretty fouled up. I asked him if it was OK to touch his shoulder, he replied affirmatively, but he recoiled away at the slightest touch (I'm not sure how much was emotional and how much physical, but obviously there were issues he needed to get resolved.) He needed assistance getting his shirt back on and buttoned as well.
I gave him some money and told him he really needed to get to the ER to have it looked at, and that I had to get back inside to usher (it was really rattling to me that I was supposed to be inside really soon to pass the plate, and wasn't sure exactly when that was happening). I got back in with about a little time to spare, and noticed that he had followed and come in through a side door and sat in the back row among the other parishioners. As I was getting composed and gaining understanding of the greater context of the situation, it was all too frustrating that I had opted for the middle way* and now his welfare depended on the people he was sitting next to. I spoke to the other usher and explained about how I needed to go directly to work after the service, and could she put him in touch with the services we had in place for when someone comes calling like this?
Her response was a bit like what I suspected. We don't have a system or procedure in place for this kind of help. The person next to him would be able to find out and hopefully help. He got up and left before the end of the service and I'm not sure how much assistance was offered.
The toughest part for me was that our service was about community, family, Ohana (the Hawaiian word for the family of community), and was titled "No One Left Behind." I was collecting the offering and thinking of what we were collecting it for, if not to be able to help him. (I recognize here that we do need to raise money to reinforce the building so its safe in case of an earthquake. Presently, if there were a sizable earthquake during a service, there could be 200 casualties. I also recognize that there are many other programs that need financing, ranging from countering oppressions, and other forms of community outreach beyond services for the poor/homeless.)
*As should be clear from the story, I hardly feel myself absolved in any way. The middle way to me here was as if from the JC parable where the guy gets beaten up by robbers and left at the side of the road. The pious people all walk by and do nothing. The Samaritan takes him to the inn, feeds him, and tells the innkeeper to put it on his tab. I gave the man some money and left him to fend for himself with it.
When people are sleeping at the side of the highway with broken shoulders, I think its high-time we all realize that the government is barely providing for the welfare of the people, if at all. Who shall take up the slack? And when is the government going to stop taxing us at these high rates, if they're no longer providing for social welfare and education (I'm reminded here of the Oakland school kids who stand outside the grocery stores to sell this or that, so that they can have books...). I want that money for the churches, schools, and non-profits.
lyrics: Fu Manchu, The Action is Go.
colors: clear as water
mood: how do you suppose?
chant/prayer/mantra: peace begins with community.
Outdoor Advertising in Sao Paulo, Brazil and in Oakland, USA
Meanwhile, in Oakland.... Yesterday, we were driving west across the Bay Bridge, and it was around 7:00 in the evening. The new dynamic LCD-style billboard was SO AMAZINGLY BRIGHT that I had to cover up my rear view mirror with my arm. It was way brighter than any SUV or pickup with its brights would've been. I thought they got that "oops, too bright" issue ironed out. When we came home later that evening, it was less bright again. But it certainly was still outdoor advertising.
I don't care much for commercial advertising, even if some of the proceeds go toward a good cause. My reasons are too complex to go into this morning before I have my coffee.
lyrics: Click and Clack on Car-Talk
colors: yellow, blue, red
mood: sleepy. i woke up in the middle of the night for an hour or two, and had a weird dream shortly before waking up.
chant/prayer/mantra: tell the truth.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Jnana / Gnanam
Jnana, in my understanding, means body-spirit-connected wisdom, but those words don't quite suffice.
From the link just above, "Jnana is the awakened, superconscious state (karana chitta) working within the ordinary experience of the world, flowing into daily life situations. It is the fruition of the progressive stages of charya, kriya and yoga in the Saiva Siddhanta system of spiritual unfoldment."
Does that mean that if I'm touching a non-alcoholic beer bottle to my teeth, and introducing a feeling that I'd long forgotten (eew, bottle against teeth), I'm experiencing Jnana? Heh. I still need to look up "charya, kriya, and yoga in the Saiva Siddhanta system" before I can be sure whether we're talking about the same type of experiencing.
lyrics: I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans. - Willie Nelson
colors: brown, white, yellow
mood: surrounded by a mess of books
chant/prayer/mantra: may wisdom reside here.
four assignments/challenges for good people/ministers in a time of war
I keep forgetting the specifics of this, so I'm going to copy the important elements up here (these are excerpts from the sermon for the opening chapel of this school year, by Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker, the president of our school):
First of these assignments…we must conceptualize ministry as engagement with transpersonal social forces , as well as care for individual lives.
Assignment two: we must tear off the deceitful masks of war that allow violence to continue unchecked , and especially we have an obligation and responsibility to unmask the way religion provides violence with sacred face – calling war holy, and killing or being killed a form of love.
Third Assignment: we must remember all the dead, and weep with those who weep.
Fourth and final assignment for now: We must center our hearts and minds in love for life, daring to bring the colors of life and the energies of passionate caring into sites of devastation within, among, and around us.
The link to the whole sermon is above.
agape to everyone,
"Strephon kissed me in the spring, Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me And never kissed at all.
Strephon's kiss was lost in jest, Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes Haunts me night and day."
Once in a while, the time will come
To surrender everything you have to give
Once in a while, the time will come
To surrender everything you have to give
-Flaming Lips, "Superhumans"
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
"What do they expect us to do, float in the air?"
The headline story "Homeless Smackdown in Golden Gate Park" explains how the SF Chronicle newspaper staff made it their business to drum up support for rousting the homeless out of their encampments in the park. While I'm all for not having them live in the park in those conditions, I'm dead-set against harassing them, and "legally" taking their scant possessions and tossing them from the park into the streets of the town. When these human beings are kicked out of the public park and onto the sidewalks, then ticketed and harassed for loitering on those sidewalks, its apparent (to anyone who thinks/cares), that they are squeezed out entirely.
From the story:
The articles also generated a flood of letters to the Chronicle's editorial pages. The majority of those who chose to provide their opinions on the matter via this particular bully pulpit were hostile to homeless people.... Few of the letter writers acknowledged the logic and anguished expressed by the homeless man who plaintively asked: "What do they expect us to do, float in the air?"Ah, that you could, dear friend.
What I really want is to establish a system of dormitory/ashram/hostel - style housing units (100 people/unit) where we can have ~four people to a room with:
- clean cots/beds/bunks
- decent inexpensive meals (accepting donations from restaurants and grocery stores)
- clean clothes (accepting donations from anyone)
- career counseling*
- mental health counseling*
- a health-care ombudsman*
- multi-faith-skilled chaplaincy*
- a computer room with Internet access (for email and education)
- massage therapy*
- vegetable gardens
To do this project to the scope that I want to see it happen (each community has one or more of these -- enough to accommodate the entirety of those without homes in the community) would be a herculean effort for an individual or small-scale institution, but I see "herculean" as relative. If all of the congregations in each community banded together to create something like this, it could be done. If the government would either 1) revitalize the department of HUD, or 2) stop taking inordinate amount of money from us for taxes for war so that parishioners and good secular people could put that money toward bettering their communities, it could be done.
With large-scale community support, or federal funding, or a sizable grant from a foundation, I think something like this could get off the ground. Ideally, the services provided at these locations would become community-wide services, and could be sponsored by (and available to) the local congregations, non-profit organizations, and even local corporations.
I've got a mesa boogie amp at home, it hardly. Ever. Talks.
The switch on my favorite microphone is almost. Always. Off.
chant/prayer/mantra: what was that bit Jesus was saying about "if God provides for these birds, how much more will He provide for you"? God might wanna be provident, but what about when the unkind people come and arrest you for trying to accept that providence?
Thursday, September 20, 2007
With the surreality, the pastel-plastic classic treatment, and the rainbow ribbons, it rules.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Untolerable Racism in Jena Louisiana
Please take a minute to follow the link and add your name to the petition, even if you can't spare the financial support.
[pasted section follows]
I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening
today in Jena, Louisiana. I signed onto ColorOfChange.org's campaign
for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same.
Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat
beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the
tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more
Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney
then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded
that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best
friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke
of my pen."
A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA
did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard
fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted
murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges,
lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in
"their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young
men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press.
Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor
of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts
now. Please join me:
The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the
stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the
next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of
Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same
weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party.
The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a
young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran
away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students
were later arrested for the theft of the gun.
That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter
of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was
beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black
students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and
kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was
released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.
Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17),
Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an
unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged
with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last
month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was
convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated
battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his
public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's
parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court
prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the
judge could see them.
Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail
for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail
The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting
tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are
standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone,
their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can
make a difference.
Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get
involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that
DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet
gone to trial.
[end of pasted section]
[edit- I just saw on NME that Mos Def is also speaking out against this injustice.]
lyrics: "All the federales say they could've had him any day. They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose." Willie Nelson, The Ballad of Pancho and Lefty
colors: no time for that.
chant/prayer/mantra: Keep your dreams in sight.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Percentage of World Population by Religious Affiliation
2.1 billion Christians, 1.5 billion Muslims, 900 million Hindus. And there are more Unitarian Universalists than Rastafarians, but not by much.
lyrics: Instrumental this evening: Miles Davis' "On the Corner"
colors: yellow, green, blue
chant/prayer/mantra: let me/you/us by whole one day, and soon.
The Real Iraq Situation, from an American Infantry Perspective
Lots of valuable diplomatic and military strategic comments in the article, but this one rang the hardest:
"The most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in communities barricaded with concrete walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal. In an environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act.
Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are - an army of occupation - and force our withdrawal."
And I don't want to sound self-centered, but when can WE in America get back to a life of normalcy? When our congress people traded in our civil rights for secret inspections, we didn't want that. When war was declared, and with it a surge in the war against truth (and for propaganda) in media, we didn't want that. When can we have control of our f^cking tax dollars back, so they can go toward health services, infrastructure, and education, instead of war-based activities overseas? We don't want war overseas, we want a country with stability.
In causing the instabilities in Iraq, the Bush administration and their friends have also caused instability in the USA, and probably with trading partners as well. And why is the dollar so weak nowadays?
We loathe what you and your friends have done, George W. Bush. I believe I'm speaking for a LOT of people in the USA, and I believe that its not my job to prove that. Rather, its somebody else's job to try and prove that there could possibly be a majority of people in the USA who would support a destructive agenda such as yours, without the lies and half-truths continually propagated in the media required to support it.
lyrics: "The last thing I need the first thing this morning, is to have you walk out on me." -Willie Nelson
chant/prayer/mantra: peace. ad infinitum.