Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Golem

exempt from the crushing
strictures, from the ills,
cruelties, and inevitable failures

A friend recommended that I read Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and it is amazing. Toward the end of the story, Joe Kavalier, a Czech emigre, is considering his life's work as a comic book artist and compares it to the Jewish tradition of creating a golem -- a living creature that has no soul and acts for the protection of its people. I found the following an inspiration:

"The shaping of a golem, to him, was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something -- one poor, dumb, powerful thing -- exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation."

And I wondered at my own golems, the words I've ordered on the page, the creations (some ill-conceived) of which I've been a part.

Monday, July 26, 2010

leaving the converted
in a land not their own
and dependent on us

Faith is fused with identity. I am what I believe. As a result, the discovery of a truth opens new worlds and changes my character.

What, then, is the danger of conversion, trying to bring others into truth? It is this. To convert is not to open up new worlds. Instead, its aim is to destroy old ones, leaving the converted in a land not their own and dependent on us, their human saviors.

Do you see that proselytizing is patronizing? That it is a way for us to lord over the less-enlightened? That it objectifies?

Too often, we seek to convince people that they must exchange their boxes for ours. This is sin. Our aim, instead, must be to help them tear holes in their boxes, to see the light of day, to enter this new world as free men and women.

But first, we must work on tearing down the walls of our own boxes. After all, the beam must be removed from your eye before you can take the speck of dust from your brother's.

Monday, July 19, 2010


On a high desert road,
where the wind chips away
at the skin of the world,
sand snakes
across the asphalt,
slithers into ditches,
and ravening packs
of tumbleweeds bite
at the tires of passing cars.
The sun, an open
wound, inflamed,
oozes into the horizon,
while a tattered stand
of junipers huddles
under the darkening sky,
and bats tremble
in their sleep
(rustling, restless dreams),
waiting for the night.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Way of Peace

Right of way is
something you give, not
something you take.

Is self-defense a natural right? American dads teach their kids to stand up for themselves in a fight. American moms argue with referees at Saturday soccer games. What are our rights?

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.

When I moved to Idaho, I had to take a test to get an Idaho driver's license. I'd been driving for five years, but I was nervous about failing the test, so I spent hours memorizing the Idaho Driver's Manual. I remember a piece of wisdom I discovered in the section on 4-way stops. The manual explained how the sequence of turns takes place. And then I read these words at the top of the next page. "Right of way is something you give, not something you take."

That's the core message of peacemaking. It's a difficult message. It's a message we ignore at the peril of increased conflict.

Since that time I've pondered these questions:

What about people who talk behind my back and slander my reputation? I should hold them up in love, noting their positive traits and building their reputations every time I get the chance. What about those who threaten or manipulate in order to get their way? As far as it is within my power, I must give them what they need, not what I think they deserve.

The only way to make peace, the only option for diffusing conflict is to refuse engagement. If they grasp, I let go. If they accuse, I refuse to argue my defense. When they break in, I make them welcome.

Jesus lived and died this truth. I pray for courage to follow.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

life at its fullest
is heavy with
vital contrasts

We live in a culture of violence, a place where it is "known" that the best answer — the pragmatic answer — to evil acts is stronger acts that punish or even kill.

I call myself a pacifist — a peacemaker — and as a Quaker, I'm not alone. The denomination has a long history of peacemaking. But if we are to make a difference, to actively bring peace to the world, we must teach our neighbors that life at its fullest is heavy with vital contrasts:

Unfulfilled waiting teaches patience. Through suffering, we learn to experience joy. Deep love — the kind that changes the world by giving life to another — comes best from a heart that's been broken.

Monday, July 05, 2010


And the fish swim
in the lake and do not
even own clothing.

Aristotle claimed that happiness is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake. We seek riches, he argued, not because we desire wealth but because we believe money will make us happy. We seek fame, not for the sake of being famous but because we believe celebrity status is a means for achieving happiness.

Yet so many people are unhappy. In fact, clinical depression is the leading cause of disability in North America and is predicted by the World Health Organization to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide (after heart disease) by 2020.

Mother culture holds up an ideal for reaching happiness, claiming that any goal can be accomplished through hard work and determination. We call it the American dream. But it doesn't seem to be working, and millions of people are coming to their senses, waking up and realizing that there's something wrong with the way we've been living.

Unfortunately, we've learned to quiet the questions that bother us by removing silence from our lives. So we know something's wrong, but we can't or don't take time to think about it.

Listen to the voice:

When it asks, "Who am I?" turn off the noise.

When it asks, "Why am I here?" stop what you're doing.

When it asks, "What is the meaning of life?" listen.

"What's it gonna take
to slow us down
to let the silence spin us around?" — Switchfoot

"And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing." — Ezra Pound

At Barclay Press.