Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Soul

A simple square box,
brimming with secrets—
specters of the past
that haunt the present.

An onion,
peeled back, exposing
experience’s yellow layers.

A seedling,
struggling up from heart’s fertile folds
to root or rot,
depending on how it’s watered.

A Russian doll
inside a doll
inside a doll
inside a doll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Any religion that
treats others as objects
is a false religion.

Afriend suggests that we need to create a place for people to share their beliefs — a kind of religious wiki that could help nail down common-ground faith statements. That may be impossible considering the lines drawn in the sand by so many different Sneetches on the beaches of institutionalized belief. But I see what he’s getting at — an opportunity to consider who we are as spiritual beings instead of simply railing against the weaknesses of whatever it is that we’re not. So here’s a beginning, some thoughts from my head on the nature of belief:


Leaving room for faith is faith enough. I don’t have to know anything. I only need to consider the possibility. That’s where faith begins — with an honest question. It grows as I seek an answer (not, as so many believe, when I claim to have arrived).


As far as I can tell, most world religions have man and woman as creations of a higher power. That puts each of us at the same starting line. No man is better equipped to know God than I, and I have no greater access to truth than my neighbor. Any religion that treats others as objects — whether they be child, elderly, man, woman, colored, white, criminal, clean, homosexual, straight, rich, poor, illiterate, sophisticate, whatever — is a false religion.


Tolerance may be politically expedient and even necessary, but it is cheap compared to love. Intelligence, dexterity, riches, and influence don’t matter for anything if I’m unwilling or unable to love.


When wronged, I want revenge. But an eye for an eye compounds the hurt and blinds us both. Humility demands no reparations. And if the wrong-doer experiences remorse, coming to me in humility, I have lost an enemy and found a friend.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Global Warming

I saw a river of corn sucked out of the ground
and men — miles high — tearing at the edge of a hole in the sky.
A ridge of ice dripped away in the summer sun
while starlings swallowed New York.
But the people laughed
at a clown who could eat 300 hot dogs
and pray
and mispronounce his mother’s name —
all at the same time.
“The end of the world is near!” I cried,
and the band played a merry tune
while we danced.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dry Summer Storm

empty cardboard box and plastic
bags flew into the yard like weary gulls sometimes do in winter

Living in a basement — even with windows — I spend so much of my time looking up at the flowers in the front yard (daisies, petunias). The way the sun lights up their petals makes them translucent — so bright. But mostly I look at the sky. And Thursday night, it was dark — the round purple bottoms of storm clouds gathered overhead, pushed the last little bits of summer sunshine out of the corners of the sky. No rain. Just sudden darkness and a dry wind that whipped bits of dirt and gravel against the window and rolled garbage cans down the street. An empty cardboard box and plastic bags flew into the yard like weary gulls sometimes do in winter — so far away from home. But I couldn't write it down, couldn't imagine the forces at work. It was just another boring movie playing across the window screens. Couldn't change the channel, however, so I went out into the wind, tried to play my part, sat in the garden and weeded the carrots while the storm raced by.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Flour shifts shape as it's sifted,
filters past fine screen mesh,
fills the air with white
as it falls to the bowl's round bottom.

Grandmother's hands
scatter salt over the snowy surface
and flutter away to the cupboards
for Clabber Girl --
just a puff (like a promise) --

then gather shaky strength,
form a fist,
grip wire whisk
to cut in the butter.

I'm afraid.

But she smiles
while pouring the milk,
"Like making mud pies!"
And her eyes --
as her hands sink into the dough --
slowly close.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fidel Castro
ate all of
Cuba’s tobacco.

Astudent of mine, working on a paper about Cuba, provided the following four pieces of evidence that "Cuba would have better economic health and world relations if Fidel Castro had not come to power:"

1. Fidel Castro did not allow U.S. citizens to visit Cuba.
2. Fidel Castro cut off all trade with the U.S.
3. Fidel Castro lied about things such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and all.
4. Fidel Castro ate all of Cuba's tobacco, so they couldn't sell anything to make money.

With much prompting, I finally convinced said student to try turning at least two of these pieces of "evidence" into paragraphs, which resulted in the following:

1st Evidence Paragraph

When Fidel Castro came to power he decided to make Cuba a Communist country. Because of bad relations with the United States, Fidel Castro cut off all trade with the United States. He also didn't want Mr. Muhr to be a part of his leadership because writing papers makes him tired. Muhr had a history of papers. He once wrote three in one day. But then he ran out of cool pencils. This caused many problems with other countries because when they read his papers, they couldn't understand them.

2nd Evidence Paragraph

Yes, it is true. Castro did eat all of Cuba's tobacco in the years of 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and finally in 1988 when he discovered Cuban people didn't want to grow tobacco because they knew Castro would eat all of it. He found out that the people started to grow sugarcane so he ate all of Cuba's sugarcane in the years of 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and finally, 1997. This badly hurt Cuba's economy. People were very poor and could not provide for themselves. The government had to pay for every trip Castro had to the hospital. The grand total of his charges during all of the years he ate the tobacco was $1,314,321,645. During the years he ate the sugarcane, he added up a grand total of $6,108,342,123 in hospital charges.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Is Increased Efficiency the Purpose of Change?

People are afraid of the
unknown. They would rather improve efficiency than try a new task.

The institutional church, as it grapples with cultural change, has a tendency to preserve the status quo. Members take actions that result in a stronger system -- earthquake-proofing, putting on a new roof, remodeling the foyer to let in more light. But what if it's time to move to a new neighborhood? To leave the old building behind and start on a new journey?

People are afraid of the unknown. They would rather improve efficiency than try a new task.

I dropped a piece of doughnut on the floor, and it's covered with ants. Two ants are hauling off a section while a third crawls around on top. A fourth and fifth ant push and pull, stopping the portion's progress for a moment before letting it go again. In spite of this seeming chaos, the work gets done.

What's wrong with redundancy? Why do we need to streamline? To make processes more efficient? Aren't these kinds of discussions based on the premise that some people are unnecessary?