May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Why "the Devil" is "my Savior"....

today while walking the dog, and walking my sweetie to the BART stop, we came across a homeless woman. marie (not her real name) is no ordinary homeless woman. then again, is there really such a thing as an ordinary homeless person?

she went to our church for the first time last week with a friend of hers. so today on the way to BART, we stopped and talked with her for a while, before maggie got uppity to continue her walk and started barking. on the way back, we saw her again, and talked for about 15-20 minutes. she was spare-changing, and as i approached, she was miffed about some people who had just walked by and entirely ignored her as if she wasn't there.

today, marie was begging for money so that she could get a pregnancy test for her homeless friend. and she's hoping that soon she can get back into a low-rent housing somewhere. she has a bachelor's degree, and has things surprisingly well together (how together would you have your life if you had no home???). anyway, from the topics of our conversation, including her experiences, her interpersonal care for friends and the homeless community, and her sharp and honest wit, i suggested that perhaps she should look into seminary and ministry for two reasons: first, her ministry could draw upon the wealth of experience and character built up from the adversity she's lived through. and second, she could get student loans and get a leg up off the street.

when you have a project and you want it to get done, to whom is it best to apply the commission of that project? how much better would the disaster relief in new orleans been if the person in charge of FEMA been a new orleans resident, rather than somebody entirely uninterested? would one have a white person as the primary advocate for the rights of blacks, or a straight person for gay rights? true, sometimes people can go against the grain and do great work for communities that they are not "a part of" but that's the exception and hardly the rule. but the person who is going to make the most efficient use of resources and have the most drive is the one who has embodied experience within that oppressed position. those from outside the community, the best thing they can do is offer support -- financial, physical (actually show up and serve at the soup line, or build the low-rent house, for example), spiritual (prayers and positive intention), and mental (teach necessary skills) -- but for an outsider to take on the role of the primary agent for a project is something that will mitigate the strength of the effort, and i'd question why somebody would do that if there is a more embodied person available?

with a little practical experience working with institutions, she would be an ideal leader and advocate for the large-scale homeless project i'd like to see happen. all that would be left would be to get the resources together (monetary, raw physical goods, and human expertise). where would all that money come from?

well let's say there are 100k homeless people in each state. that means 5 million in the United States. my numbers could be off by a little, but certainly not by an order of magnitude, so this would suffice for a mock-up plan.

from the previous post, linked above:
What I really want is to establish a system of dormitory/ashram/hostel - style housing units (30-100 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)
  • laundry
  • 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
*weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-weekly visits.
Depending on location (urban/suburban/rural), the housing could be between 2500 and 10000 dollars per person per year. Let's say a round figure of $6000/person/year for housing. Food, done efficiently and spartanly, and with donations, could be $1000/person/year, especially if supplemented by gardening. Clothes, this planet is bursting with clothes -- most can be acquired through donation, and clean socks and underwear can be had for $100/year.

I'd like to take a moment to note that EVERYTHING in this plan will technically happen through "donations" in one sense or another, even the money, EVEN if it comes from tax dollars, or from volunteered labor. After all, aren't our tax dollars supposed to be (consensual - to the degree that we elect our decision-makers) donations toward the commonwealth and the good of the community, for things that we as individuals wouldn't/couldn't purchase on our own?

What about my assumption that career counselors, mental health counselors, and massage therapists would donate their time? Why would they do that? Because they fucking care about other people! (It grieves me deeply that so many people think of genuine caring as the exception, rather than the rule.) They recognize that there are other people who need what they've got, and that they are blessed with the good fortune to have the skills/resources they do. If you think of yourself as a caring Christian or caring person of any religion, and think twice about giving favors for free, you might want to recheck that definition. Sharing is going to be how we survive. And I recognize that sharing runs counter to our individualized "pull resources toward oneself" economic system. I think the sharing should stay, and the greed should go.

In some of my reading for the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen online course, he talks about zakah, or charity, one of the five pillars of Islam. Christians, make no mistake, I think you should hold your own feet to the fire on this one. If I could, I'd set up a charity competition between Christians and Muslims. And I daresay that at present, with respect to many sects of Christianity (the Amish excluded), the Muslims would be winning. Whether the United States of America is a Christian nation or a Muslim nation, it is indeed blessed with riches beyond the dreams of Jesus or Mohammad. The zakah essentially says to tithe according to your assets/wealth (2.5%), and not according to your income (though I think a combination of the two would likely be the most just, so people don't try to get around the rules by not earning, or by spending on perishable goods).

So, what Bawa says (from a very theo-centric viewpoint) is that according to God/Allah, "what people do not realize is that it is I who created the nourishment that is permissible for them. Anyone who claims [the stuff of] this world as his own, anyone who grabs the world and says it belongs to him, has changed into satan and is surely going to hell." Those are pretty strong words and I don't see it exactly that way. I would say instead that to the degree that a person claims property for him/herself they are Satan, and they are in hell. I've seen it happen to me and I've seen it happen to the people who walked by Marie. When they/I walk by, it is with a feeling of "this spare-changing person is asking for my money, for my time," but Bawa essentially says that property is theft from the world's sharable resources, and claiming something as yours puts one in enmity with the world, which will ultimately reclaim any resources we temporarily usurp. Does a tree own anything? I guess technically trees compete for resources (sunlight, air, soil nutrients) with other trees, undergrowth and the like, but if they were able to, I fear they'd do a better job sharing than humans....

I'd imagine that not all Muslims follow the tithing rule, in much the same way that most Christians don't give 10 percent. The real problem is taxes -- they are supposed to be donations toward the commonwealth and the good of the community. Instead, I just read on a USA Today front page as I walked by the newsstand, that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is presently at $2.4 TRILLION dollars!! By my estimates, for that kind of money, we could easily have already equipped the entirety of the United States with solar energy.... (I think I might be getting myself mad here (or perhaps its the USA Today article, or perhaps its the Bush Admin's expensive (in oh so many ways) cowboy-style foreign policy)).....

Back to the topic at hand... If it costs us in the range of $10k/year to support the homeless and help them get back into the economy, that would be 10,000 x 5,000,000 people ONLY 50 billion dollars per year. In other words, for the price of these two wars, we could've eliminated homelessness for 50 years (and on reflection, all of our lives would be better for it). Think about that.

you can laugh at my behavior
that'll never bother me
say the devil is my savior
but i don't pay no heed

and i will go on shining
shining like brand new
i'll never look behind me
my troubles will be few
-Supertramp, Goodbye Stranger

colors: red, white, yellow

mood: ready to go to work.

chant/prayer/mantra: help your friends, and that's everybody.

pax hominibus,

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

for future ref: here's a group that a friend found:

it's a housing cooperative, but i think that if a program like this could get off the ground, other variants like it could work as well, including those that take in a few homeless people, at maybe a 3 to 1 ratio or so.
And here's a related post I made from the online Bawa Muhaiyaddeen course I'm taking:

The other day, amid reading the newspaper, the Bawa readings, and living my life, I had a revelation based on synthesis of the three.

If you check out my blog post entitled "'the devil' is 'my savior'..." ( you can get some of the details of the internal and external conversation I had with a woman in Oakland without a home.

The inspiring insight I had was related to Bawa's statement about everything belonging to Allah, and when we arrogate/claim it for ourselves, we are making Satan exist. After all, if there's a shirt on our back, or a house on a street, it really is technically just *a* shirt or *a* house, and only becomes *mine* when I take the privilege of ownership away from the commonwealth. (Though I'd really rather not share my guitar and amp with others, because they're extra special and I don't want anyone messing with the settings, intonation, stringing, etc.)

I do believe that an easy way to see "Satan" is to identify gher (the ungendered pronoun) as "the adversary." Instantly, we see that the homeless person asking for money is our adversary trying to drain our economic resources, and our life force. But the only way we see that is if we claim "our" economic resources and life force as *ours.* And technically, the homeless person would not be creating the adversary, but only shining light on the existence of the adversary that we've created. No wonder ppl feel yucky when they walk by.

But that wasn't my insight. My insight had to do with the idea of knowledge. Adam and Eve had their fall when they ate from the tree of knowledge. But knowledge doesn't categorically mean stored information, like what one could proffer in a braindump or store in a book. Knowledge is also as in the profane "for unlawful carnal knowledge" meaning to apprehend something, or to arrogate, usurp or claim it.

Could the fall of humanity from grace, and the eating of the tree of knowledge, actually be identified as the claim made by humans that we own this place and everything in it? According to the revealed scriptures and most sensible religions, we were given the Earth and all that's in it in order to be stewards of it. To me, that means we're leasing this world, and our lives within it. I wonder how much of the damage deposit (that we never even paid in the first place -- everything was fronted to us) we'd get back when the landlord comes to call...

To quote rev j d "After all, aren't our tax dollars supposed to be (consensual - to the degree that we elect our decision-makers) donations toward the commonwealth and the good of the community, for things that we as individuals wouldn't/couldn't purchase on our own?"
That may be the way it should be, or
is to the north east, but down south
the community gets nothing in return
for their taxes except the privilege
of getting to keep their homes.
Not surprisingly this practice of
widespread Government corruption and greed
leads to widespread poverty.
That combined with the pride of the
locals prevents them from asking
for help, instead the locals take
by force what they could not pay for.
So it is my observation that evil
begets evil, in other words
corruption in the Government leads
to an ever increasing rate of violent crime. The solution to this
is not to build more prisons like some would
propose. Nay, to stop evil you must
stop it at it's source, we must put
an end to Government corruption before it's too late.
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