Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why We Fight

I pull this section directly from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

The roots of this current conflict in Iraq are rooted in money. Even Najinksy, the eccentric Russian ballerina put it best. I know why wars are fought. Wars are fought over commerce [money].

Begin passage from Howard Zinn:

The United States fitted the idea of W.E.B. Dubois (noted Black socialist activist). American capitalism needed international rivalry--and periodic war--to create an artificial community of interest between rich and poor, supplanting the community of interest among the poor that showed itself in sporadic movements.

End passage.

This was in 1917!

Visionaries like George Orwell saw this coming. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us all of the the presence of the military-industrial complex. But the roots of this all started with the first World War. In reality, the roots of this started at the turn of the last century when America became an imperialist nation due to a totally unreasonable, irrational conflict with the Spanish in 1898.

My own great-grandfather, in a spirit of devotion, took his place amongst the throngs clamoring for war and glory. He was poor and needed money. In that respect, men from the poorest ranks have always fought our conflicts. My great-great grandfather fought, in true mercenary fashion, for the North during the Civil War.

Although much has changed, some things still stay the same.



sylvia plath bohemian
with emily post mother

new england
palmer method

mom wanted stability
put herself last

she's of that generation
you know

points out details

the world is always
full of something to
put into the sink.


dad wanted pie-in-the-sky
the death of the hippie dream
set him angry at himself

his bark is far worse
than his bite

sure once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin


daughter was caught in between

daddy's girl
always and forever


sorority sister
for the sake of connections

(and for the boys)


photo I saw of
mr. boring-but-stable
Buddy Wilkerson type

you know,
mr. nice guy

mom's favorite
no doubt

(I was always
good with mothers myself)

the ancient curse.

neither bad enough
nor good enough



she squints
she squirms

her face belies
no thoughts
the perfect mirror

married for thrill
not for security

a weakness for
musicians and need

and i
gentle reader

found my plath.

-28 February 2007.

Dedicated To Blue Gal

Blue Gal knows the members of Devo. (sort of)

Thought I might borrow their lyrics to make a statement.


It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place

Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world

For you,

for you,

for you

It's a wonderful time to be here
It's nice to be alive
Wonderful people everywhere
The way they comb their hair
Makes me want to say

It's a wonderful place
It's a wonderful place

It's a wonderful place
For you, for you, for you

It's a beautiful world we live in
A sweet romantic place
Beautiful people everywhere
The way they show they care
Makes me want to say

It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
It's a beautiful world
For you, for you, for you
It's not for me

It's a beautiful world, for you
It's a beautiful world, for you
It's a beautiful world, for you

It's a beautiful world, but not for me

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Warning From the Past

I have modified this passage for the common day, though
it is still timely and continues to be timely.

Certain people in the AFL-CIO are wise to this as well.

"A Warning for the Past"

Exclusive Submission to Portside

By Stewart Acuff, National AFL-CIO Organizing Director

"Driven by these provocations and frustrations, there
is the danger that America may be tempted to exert all
the terrible power she possesses to compel history to
conform to her own illusions. The extreme, but by no
means the only expression, would be the so-called
preventive war."

"Such historians must have learned that virtue has
never been defined by national or regional boundaries,
and that morality and rectitude are not the monopolies
of factions or parties. They must reveal the fallacy
of a diplomacy based on moral bigotry, as well as the
fallacy of one that relies on economic coercion through
the fancied indispensability of favored products. Their
studies would show the futility of erecting
intellectual barricades against unpopular ideas of
employing censorship and repression against social
criticism, and of imposing the ideas of the conqueror
upon defeated peoples by force of arms."

Sound like Michael Moore or Howard Dean in 2004? It
may sound like them, but neither of them wrote it and
it wasn't written in 2004. No, these wise words were
written in 1952 by C. Vann Woodward, one of America's
most esteemed historians as a warning during the Cold
War, in his book "The Burden of Southern History." They
could not, however, be any more timely than they are
today. The lies, falsehoods, and fallacious
braggadocio of this President are unequalled by any
other in our nation's history.

Woodward wants America not to use its power to compel
history to conform to its illusions. That is precisely
why the neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration
wanted to make war in Iraq, to force the Middle East to
conform to this illusion.

While a wise man 50 years ago cautioned the nation to
avoid preventive war, George Bush has based our
country's latest foreign policy doctrine on preventive
war. Woodward's warning serves as an indictment of
Bush. Bush has prosecuted a preventive war that is
unnecessary, unjust and evil. He has used moral
bigotry against all who don't subscribe to his narrow,
provincial and biased morality. With Rumsfeld's
dismissal of old Europe and the U.N., Bush and his
people think virtue rests with us.

Bush and his followers have scoffed at and scorned all
who disagree with them, causing huge police
overreaction, ever creating temporary police states
during demonstrations at the FTAA summit in November 2003
in Miami and at the Republican Convention in New York

And in Iraq, they are right now trying to impose their
will and ideas in a country by force of arms, even
going so far as to try to use CIA covert operations to
"help" favored candidates.

Iraq is going terribly, horribly wrong. Over 3,000
Americans have died and as many as 100,000 Iraqis have
died. Bush lied about the reasons to go to war. He
has and continues to lie repeatedly about how it is
going. He has obscenely gloated while people are
dying. And with his cocksure, "Bring 'em on," he has
invited more attacks and encouraged the insurgents.

The Death of Unions

People are growing away, more and more, from an industrial economy to an information based economy.

People who are able to utilize the awesome power of this new medium will make money. This economy is going through a massive quantum leap and where it will go is merely speculation.

I applaud the efforts of those who wish WalMart to be kept accountable for its actions
, but unions are sick and dying fast. The Union I was involved with at Cingular was toothless. Clearly, needed reforms should be implemented.

The Taft-Hartley Act might be repealed by a Democratic president, but it will be a challenge. We are moving more to the era of the independent contractor rather than the collective workplace.

Anything collective is moving overseas or has already done so.

Monday, February 26, 2007

new poem i've written

when I view your face

you must understand
I'm normally good with faces

it's kept me out of more
than a few bar fights before

(and less than a few bad

I see trusting naively
stoically posing
performing with blind devotion

but your face is more
than just firm

your features
more than total command

there's something
inauthentic about your story.

there's something
inauthentic about your face.

even during
the physical act of love

your eyes
betrayed your best attempts

you gulped like a fish
you thrashed

in innumerable pictures
you showed me

in stories you told me

of gay boyfriends
and liquor drinking partners
and potential presidential candidates' affections

and stories
I grew tired of hearing
within the first two months

you don't give much away
rest assured,
I am impressed.

there's another thing
(why do
I ever question anymore?)

something doesn't quite add up
some question left unanswered

the main one
(maybe you will someday)

why you skipped down the aisle

knowing full well
you were making

a mistake.

(I know
but you must know
for yourself)

------6 to 26 February 2007.

Why Many in the World Hate America

We've done this to ourselves. Now let us resolve to fix it.

The British are pulling their troops out. The Iraqi government doesn't want our troops there.

Rather than jumping on our high horse, we must listen to reason and listen to their side.

We should not deceive ourselves about the opinions of other people. While we see ourselves as morally sound and regard our good fortune as the natural and just reward for our soundness, these views are not shared by large numbers of many people in the world.

They look on our great wealth not as the reward of our virtue, but as proof of our wickedness, as evidence of the ruthless exploitation, not only of our own working people but of themselves.

For great masses of people live in abject poverty and know nothing firsthand of our system or of industrialism of any kind are easily persuaded that their misery is due to capitalist exploitation rather than to the shortcomings of their own economies.

Hundreds of millions, if not billions of these people are taught to believe that we are wicked, arrogant, brutal, immoral, and ruthless.

Our current leadership in Washington is partially to blame for all this.

And when we hear faint echoes of the same propaganda from our own allies, particularly the British and the Iraqi government, who no longer share our devotion to troop surge, our indignation turns to a sort of outrage.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


A story I wrote about a lesbian affair. I am male, but many of my friends are females who love other females.

sound over of conversation lips smacking against cigarette filters giggles rustling of plastic bags full of pills childish needless flinty flicks of lighters all culminating in squeals of girls who saunter up to the bathroom with their lovers to dose to swallow the necessary amount of water in the cheap plastic cups and upon doing so collapse onto sofas together in a heap of hair and rumpled clothing then fade in on where I’m sitting alone she has witch tits emily and jessica say they’ve been inseparable as long as I’ve been a part of this group of friends two years or more months or more I say what do you mean by that? they say well they’re all pointy and you know like cone shaped and I say ewww gross the lead girl the one who has been in charge of distributing the beans and who will later implore me to rub her head once the drugs kick in is named Maggie the woman in question is a short order cook at the local bar and grille and wears jeans that smell of the residue of the trade hot grease warm toast fried anything so Maggie is saying that I’m glad we’re all together tonight at my place and to you ourselves at home though I really don’t know anyone don’t really know why I’ve even here tonight just that I didn’t have much else to do on a Friday night I’m self conscious about most things about myself including the black hair around my nipples and my arms and my knuckles that I used to shave away out of shame and now just let grow to spite my mother when she visits when I was in high school she’d often say i don’t know why someone so pretty would ever leave the house looking so ugly not that I was ever the epitome of beautiful even when I tried to be fluffy and dainty I’m rough as a board and as plain as one but I was never content to complete bull-dyke out and buzz my head and wear some hideously lopsided visor camera pulls out centering on the black light meant to accentuate the drug being taken the lights dimmed now the clock nearly ten o’clock in the evening the stale stench of charred tobacco wafting in now and then as it is perfectly still night with no wind camera pulls overhead to me sitting alone solitary on the couch I dosed nearly an hour ago and I can’t say I know exactly what these green pills contain other than I manage to catch the strains of other peoples conversations as though they were my own thoughts for instance the pair next to me is currently vying for the title of world’s most annoying lesbian couple loud and all over each other and cooing to each other about promises made of ultimate fidelity you remember hun that when we get older we’re going to china to adopt a baby one of the couple the brunette one with eyes like a doe dislodges obviously intoxicated slinks across the floor and asks me abruptly to guess one of her secrets your secrets? I ask perplexed yes, my secrets sweetie she slurs and brushes a finger against one of my lips well I say thinking I bet that you almost died when you were a child and instead of the intended or expected reaction to something that outlandish she grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me how did you know that? who told you that? I’ve never told anyone that before tell me what powers you possess and quickly her partner drags her away from the issue with a deep kiss and everyone goes back to what they were doing so I resume staring at the ceiling the ceiling is a high a frame that reminds me of the small baptist church mom dragged me along to when I was a little girl I would lie in her lap and lie across one of the uncomfortable unpadded hard wooden pews and stare at the majesty of the rough pine planks that seemed to tower towards heaven while at the same time smarting from the scabs and scraps that inevitably crisscrossed both knees as a result of a Saturday spent playing outside in the woods camera focuses squarely on the center of the room Maggie claims that one of the group must be rescued Maggie is always rescuing someone usually it’s whomever she wants to sleep with but you don’t ask questions of Maggie this is maggie’s place and her drugs and her food that she has thoughtfully prepared for the occasion technically this is her grandfather’s place who few of us has ever seen he is apparently an eccentric old reclusive transvestite who just wants to be left alone he scarcely leaves his bedroom and his only condition with Maggie is that she not left guys sleep over this is hardly a problem I hear the loud rumbling of Maggie’s car departing the car has a broken muffler that she refuses to get fixed so as a result it is about as subtle upon entrance as she is multiple camera shots of women leading women hand by hand into bedrooms it is the time of night where the true meaning of this party becomes evident there was a time I once defended Maggie you know she’s bouncy they’d say and I like a fool would deny it time and time again you wanted to trust her you want to trust Maggie everyone’s slightly in love with her and so I am I suppose once this girl I barely knew pretty much threw herself upon Maggie deep down inside I’m sure the snake-charmer does have a heart so she did take the opportunity to remove her bra one handed I haven’t lost my touch Maggie said satisfied but then quickly lost interest and fell asleep next to the poor girl but at this moment camera zooms towards door the aforementioned dream-goddess enters with a girl around her waist Maggie surely does like the young ones this one can’t be more than seventeen at best and makes herself at home in front of the big screen television flips on mtv I just ate another bean on the way over Maggie says so what do you want me to do about it? rub my head she says I thought that’s what you got her for I say gesticulating towards the tiny body with eyeballs now glued to the screen nah she’s not my type she bores me so who is your type I ask skeptically well, maybe you tonight she says and without thinking I take her hand and walk into the bedroom with her the teen sensation scarcely notices we’ve left

In Honor of the Gay Super Bowl

Ah yes, the Oscars. Allow me to set forth an almost jaw-breaking yawn.

Let me put forth a few humorous/pertinent quotes from Oscar Wilde. is to thanks for these.

1. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

2. And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

3. No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.

4. There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

5. Genius lasts longer than beauty.

6. To be popular one must be a mediocrity.

and for the sake of humility.

Life is far too important to be taken seriously.

Reconciling Science With War

Ever since WWII with the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on two cities in Japan, we, the human race, have been placed in a great quandary.

It is easy to condemn those who make weapons of mass destruction, but it is we who have created this monster.

Do not condemn the scientist, young man. Condemn rather the laymen who cannot agree amongst themselves and as a result force us to play the part of destroyer.

War existed before science. The crime which is done now is that war has made a tool and slave of science, and man's knowledge, painfully and laboriously compiled, is made the instrument of man's destruction.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Blessed, by Paul Simon

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit
Blessed is the lamb whose blood flows
Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on

O Lord, why have you forsaken me?
I got no place to go
I've walked around Soho for the last night or so
Ah, but it doesn't matter, no

Blessed is the land and the kingdom
Blessed is the man whose soul belongs to
Blessed are the meth drinkers, pot sellers, illusion dwellers
O Lord, why have you forsaken me?
My words trickle down, from a wound that I have no intention to heal

Blessed are the stained glass, window pane glass
Blessed is the church service makes me nervous
Blessed are the penny rookers, cheap hookers, groovy lookers
O Lord, why have you forsaken me?

I have tended my own garden
Much too long

The Problem with War and Peace

We are only half-civilized.

When we are at are war, we are bloodthirsty and vindictive. This was true after 11 September.

When we are at peace, we are fully civilized.

Hopefully we can evolve to a point where we all realize that we are our brother and sister's keeper.

Why We Must Care

So long as the world cannot contemplate the destruction without any deep pang of regret, so long will it be uncivilized. It is the same in the government of communities--the rights of the weakest and poorest citizen must receive the same support as those of the richest and most powerful.

Otherwise, civilization is merely a name and not a real force.

But without civilization, no individual is safe, no nation is safe, and in these days even the world itself is not safe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

New Job

Owing to recent revelations regarding John Edwards' campaign, I may be forced to shut down this blog.

I am currently under the employ of the Democratic National Committee and thus I have to be totally party line now.

I've been waiting for a job like this for a long time!

Wish me luck!

When The Democratic Process Drags UUs Down

This is what I feel like at committee meetings.

It's plain as paddy's pig what they're going to talk about and accomplish. Nothing.

But they have to slice the pig into bacon, and divide it into ham, and and pickle the hide before they can get down to the facts. And before they get down to it, everyone's forgotten what they were talking about.

Some that were on the ham committee think it's the ham that's the most important part of the pig. And those on the bacon committee swear that if it wasn't for bacon, then it wouldn't be any part of pig at all.

And so they all go away without making any decisions.

Why We're Activists

Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends

By Phil Ochs

Look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Riding down the highway, yes, my back is getting stiff
Thirteen cars are piled up, they're hanging on a cliff.
Maybe we should pull them back with our towing chain
But we gotta move and we might get sued and it looks like it's gonna rain
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Sweating in the ghetto with the colored and the poor
The rats have joined the babies who are sleeping on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot if they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already and besides we got the cops
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends.

Oh there's a dirty paper using sex to make a sale
The Supreme Court was so upset, they sent him off to jail.
Maybe we should help the fiend and take away his fine.
But we're busy reading Playboy and the Sunday New York Times
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer,
But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Oh look outside the window, there's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes and now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I'd hate to blow the game
And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

You Must Forgive My Frustration

You see, I was harassed verbally by someone who attends my church. Then she hacked into my e-mail account. She is my ex-girlfriend.

And the minister, rather than taking my side, took her side. I was told to not come back until September.

I fail to see the logic, being that I am clearly the one being harassed here. Wouldn't it make more sense if both SHE and I were forced out? And yet, she is still allowed to attend, being that she has threatened a fellow member of the congregation.

The minister took her side because she's been there longer than I have and she has given more money. But isn't that antithetical to the message of UUism? Isn't church as business the very thing we revile as Unitarians. I am deeply ashamed of my minister, my church, and their response to the matter.

But I place the blame squarely on the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta and how badly managed the situation is.

I am in legal proceedings against the church as to how badly handled this affair was.

I don't want this to reflect poorly on UUism as a whole, but it certainly does leave a bad taste in one's mouth.


The anti-Christ has been with us for a long time.

And he means BUSINESS. Big Business.

*ahem* Corporate domination of the world.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I saw something of myself in you
Too much, in fact

The way you preened
before a mirror
talked a little too loudly

Projectile vomited
your life story
in the direction
of anyone within earshot

They only rolled their eyes
clucked their tongues
made circular motions
around their temples

When you weren't looking

I tried not to notice

the intoxicated swagger
you seemed to mistake
for self-confidence

I never pointed out
the brightly lit stage
you strode upon

was held up by
contradiction and condescension

I knew
that myths and fairy tales
kept your heart beating

Thus I wasn't surprised
to find the death
of your last panacea

covered in your own blood

To A Special Someone

Where Did My Spring Go?

Where did the spring go?
Where did the trees go?
Where did the sun go?
Where did the bluebirds fly?
Why did the rainbow turn into shadows?

Why am I cold now?
Why does my skin sag?
Why ain't my back straight?
Why do my feet ache?
Where did my youth go?
Where did my life go?

Remember walking in the rain,
And getting soaking wet,
Now I got rheumatic pains,
And I really do regret it.

Where did my teeth go?
Where did my muscles go?
Where did my shoulders go?
Where did my chest go?

When you were loving me,
You were just using me.

You would employ me,
You would destroy me.
Now all I've got are varicose veins.

Where did the spring go?
Where did my hormones go?
Where did my energy go?
Where did my go go?
Where did the pleasure go?
Where did my hair go?

Remember all those sleepless nights,
Making love by candlelight,
And every time you took my love,
You were shortening my life.

Where did my teeth go?
Where did my hair go?
Where did my shoulders go?
Where did my chest go?
Where did my hormones go?
Where did my go go?
Where did my energy go?
Where did my skin go?
Where did my muscles go?
Where did my liver go?
Where did my heart go?
Where did my bones go?

Questions of Faith

I had my heroes

Once i had my dreams
But all of that has changed now

They've turned things inside out
The truth is not that comfortable no

And mother taught us patience
The virtues of restraint
And father taught us boundaries
Beyond which we must go
To find the secrets promised us

That's when I reach for my patience
That's when it all gets Blown away
That's when I reach for my patience
The spirit fights to find its way

A friend of mine once told me
His one and only aim

To build a giant castle and live inside his name
Crying and whispers in muted pain

That's when I reach for my patience
That's when it all gets Blown away
That's when I reach for my patience
The spirit fights to find its way

Tonight the sky is empty
But that is nothing new
Its dead eyes look upon us
And they tell us we're nothing but slaves

Down Down Down


Come to see her in the river
She'll be there to wave to you
In the hope that you'll forgive her
She will join you there.

Find out that now was the answer to answers that you gave later
She did the things that we both did before now and who forgave her?

Now you see how down you've fallen
Now you hear your conscience call
Thank yourself alone for not stalling
I'm not there to call

Call me a fool, 'cause I need her and see her but now you're gone
Something inside you will tell you
I'm wise to what you're spreading round.

If I could stand to see her cryin'
I would tell her not to care
When she learns of all your lyin'
Will she join you there?

Find out that now was the answer to answers that you gave later.

Our Priorites are Totally Screwed Up

Not to mention Anna Nicole Smith for two weeks before that.

Why are we so obsessed with celebrity and flaky news in the country.

We can't we be real with ourselves?

What I Would Say To George W. Bush Now

You hide behind a sham.

You are supposed to have more intelligence than any country in the world. Yet you pretend you cannot tell the difference between a false position and a true one.

You say you are a citizen of the United States but ignore the fact that you are first a member of the human race. You say your duty lies to America, but where does your duty to the human race lie?

Does your position as a citizen of the United States give you the right to destroy thousands of your fellow beings? Which comes first, your duty to your own kind, or your duty to your country?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thom Yorke Was Right Again

Come on, come on
You think you'll drive me crazy

Come on, come on
You and whose army?

You and your cronies
Come on, come on

Holy roman empire

Come on if you think
Come on if you think

You can take us on
You can take us on

You and whose army?
You and your cronies

You forget so easily
You ought to know
You ought to know

You're so sad
You're so sad
You're so sad

More Art and Chaos

Life on the Island of Eels

If you like eels,
then it's not so bad.

But if you don't like eels,
then it is.

Art and Chaos Day

when i am sad and weary
when all my hope is gone

and I can't put my finger on the time things first went wrong

I have a little secret I like to tell myself
and until now I haven't told anybody else

you may not see things my way
like my method or my reasons
but you can't tell me that I'm wrong

there's no heart you can't melt
with a certain little smile
and no challenge should be faced
without a little charm and a lot of style

so don't put your faith in time - she heals but doesn't change
and only a fool won't take the chance to stay the same

when I am sad and weary
when all my hope is gone

I walk around my house and think of you with nothing on
I have a list of things I go over in my mind
when I can just sit right back and watch the world unwind

you may not see things my way
I don't care 'cause I'm not asking
but you can't tell me that I'm wrong

there's no heart you can't melt
with a certain little smile

and no challenge should be faced
without a little charm and a lot of style
so don't put your faith in time - she heals but doesn't change
and only a fool won't take the chance to stay the same

Rules of Earth

1. People are often stupid.

2. Traffic, generally, is bad.

Life in General

One day Roger came home from work very upset.

"I can't go on!" he cried, to anyone who would listen.

"I can't go on! I can't go on!"

The next day was Wednesday. Roger woke up, put his pants on, and went to work.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lenten Remembrance

Though it has been years since I have followed the Christian calendar, a good friend of mine is Christian and for her benefit I remember this season of Lent. I remember that a very good man was put to death for challenging the status quo. There have been many such people throughout time.

Here, the words of the radical prophet Jesus of Nazareth.

"Then, with the crowds listening, he turned to his disciples, and said, "Beware of these experts in religion, for they love to parade in dignified robes and to be bowed to by the people as they walk along the street. And how they love the seats of honor at the synagogues and the religious festivals!

But even while they are praying long prayers with great outward piety, they are are planning schemes to cheat widows out of their property. Therefore God's heaviest sentence awaits these men."

This is what we are repulsed by as Unitarians. This is no less Christian than Christianity.

Despite It All...

Words of wisdom, even from someone whose politics we may abhor and whose viewpoints we may disagree with strongly (and understandably)


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

The Trials and Tribulations of...

Taking the high road.

My recent ordeal has tried my patience and my sanity like nothing else. But I know I will make it through.

I am a survivor, if nothing else.

The Five Stages of Grief

1. Denial - The initial stage.: "It can't be happening."
2. Anger .: "How dare you do this to me?!" (either referring to God, the deceased, or oneself)
3. Bargaining .: "Just let me live to see my son graduate."
4. Depression .: "God please don't take me away from my family"

5. Acceptance

Stage 5 would be nice.

Having Identified the Problem...

let us now resolve to fix it.

We are very creative in ways of pointing out how the world should be this way or how it shouldn't be that way. But let's put a plan of action into force and actually accomplish something, rather than spinning our wheels counter-productively.

Our faith encompasses a wide variety of different traditions, but to grow it, we must codify our traditions, make ourselves know to others, and above all--seek to expand our viewpoints beyond that which is comfortable-- else we shall lose membership and lose the opportunity to expand what we believe to other souls out searching.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I've Mentioned This Before, but

I don't see faith as a static, fixed point. Indeed, it seems to evolve over time.

And I am leaving behind my quarter-life crisis and all of the angst attached to it. Thus, my fervor and idealism have been muted to gentle pragmatism. I think I'm going to curtail my devotion to social justice and focus on my own spiritual development--see where that takes me.

You can't control the reactions of others around you. You can only control your reactions to your immediate environment. I take this as a mantra of sorts as I move forward into another part of my life. Minus the male pattern baldness, I am looking forward to it.

I'm not lost anymore. My self-esteem has never been higher. I am beginning to love myself, which is the first step.

The Kids at the Back Table

I went home this weekend and had a chance to speak to my baby sister.

She, in times past, has compared my faith tradition to the kids who sat at the back table during high school. I, in times past, have taken great offense to it.

But now I have begun to wonder whether she is onto something. We convert UUs have felt different and isolated our whole lives. Pun intended. We tend to be a faith of loners, discontents, and melancholics. And that's much to our detriment. We didn't fit in anyway, but we fit in together because we didn't fit in anywhere else.

I certainly was one of the kids who sat at the back tables during lunch.

And, I, for one, am beginning to emerge from my angst and my haze of post-modern existential crisis and realize that I need something more concrete. I don't need creedal requirements or dogma or restrictions, but I need something concrete. UUism is highly abstract and that's fine for discussion, but I can't wrap my arms around it. I can't use any of my five senses to contextualize it.

The closer I get to 30, the more I need something concrete and the less concerned I am with trying to not fit in to the mainstream. It just doesn't matter anymore. Who cares? Who gives a shit?

I'm exploring Buddhism and I hope it brings me what I need.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

From: The Mouse That Roared

A snippet from The Mouse That Roared. It is one of my most favorite books of all time and a book I return to over and over again. It is as pertinent today as it was when it was written, nearly fifty-five years ago.

And apply this to Iraq, Darfur, or any humanitarian situation you can think of.

"We cannot force a man to help us with our problem. If he helps at all, it must be the result of his own free desire to do so. It must be because he recognizes a higher duty than that which he owes his own nation. And he must discover this for himself.

It is true that there is a great deal in man that is deceitful," he said. "But the deepest force in man is towards good. It is for that reason that the murderer will help a child across the fence, and a soldier secretly visit the grave of his enemy.

When a man denies the goodness in himself, then he really suffers."

What We Often Forget

In UU circles, we often argue over semantics. This only divides our ranks and does nothing to boost our membership. It divides us, rather than unites us.

In regards to this point, let me defer to one of our elder statesmen, Thomas Jefferson. I'll comment after each pertinent point.

Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.

  • We have seven principles, do we not? And being that we are human, we are bound to violate them. We are imperfect. Some might say that we don't need principles at all, but that's a difference of opinion.

We have called by different names brethren of the same principle.

  • Be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Pagan, etc.

If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it.

  • We have the right to our opinion, but we do not have the right to force our opinions down anyone else's throat. We only ask the same as we would be treated by someone else.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mending Wall?

Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing: 5
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 10
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. 15
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 20
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across 25
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it 30
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 35
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 40
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Locked Doors

Locked doors, rose red
Locked doors, half dead

I see your face so clean in my space
And I want to believe that I hold the key to me

Locked doors, release
Locked doors, my peace

Let me retrieve, help me never leave
Cause I'd like to believe that I got the key in me

Locked doors, inside
Locked doors, all mine

I see hard times in me subside
But I've got to believe that I got the key to me

Friday, February 16, 2007

Taking a Break

I will be taking a break from blogging for the next couple days.

I've got to go back home to Birmingham to celebrate my Mother's birthday. I am going to leave late this afternoon and return home sometime Monday.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Embrace Reality

When you deny the reality of life, you appreciate it less. Meditate on the Buddha's Five Remembrances and rediscover the magic of life just as it is.

I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health.
There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are the nature to change.

There is no way to escape
being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

(The Plum Village Chanting)


The more I look into Buddhism, the more I think it applies to me.

I'm seeking a sense of inner peace within myself. I think Buddhism would be most beneficial in helping me live one day at a time.

I seek spiritual growth and I wonder sometimes if I have evolved past my chosen faith. Faith evolves over time. I don't see a faith journey as a static, fixed point. I think it's a destination rather than a hotel.

In Spite of It All

More words from the Buddhist tradition.

The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.

When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don't overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life--the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child the many flowers and trees.

To suffer is not enough. Please don't be imprisoned by your suffering. If you have experienced hunger, you know that food is a miracle. If you have suffered from the cold, you know the preciousness of warmth.

When you have suffered, you know how to appreciate the elements of paradise that are present.

If you dwell only in your suffering, you will miss paradise. Don't ignore your suffering, but don't forget to enjoy the wonders of life, for you sake and for the benefit of other beings.

(The Heart of Buddha's Teachings)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Don't cry for me
'Cause there's one thing I found out

I can live without you every day
and I'm better off
with you far away from me

People Take Pictures

People take pictures of the Summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,

And to proved that it really existed.

Fathers take pictures of the mothers,
And the sisters take pictures of brothers,
Just to show that they love one another.

You can't picture love that you took from me,
When we were young and the world was free.

Pictures of things as they used to be,
Don't show me no more, please.

People take pictures of each other,
Just to prove that they really existed,

Just to prove that they really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And the moment to last them for ever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.

People take pictures of the Summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,

Just to proved that it really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And the moment to last them for ever,

Of the time when they mattered to someone.

Picture of me when I was just three,
Sucking my thumb by the old oak tree.
Oh how I love things as they used to be,
Don't show me no more, please.

Meditation- Being in the Now

Okay, so I lied. I am incapable of analyzing everything to death and being uber-deep.
Here's a serious post.

But let me continue art and chaos with a selection from the teaching of Thich Nhat Hahn, a notable Mahayana Buddhist.


Being in the Now

We all have the tendency to struggle in our bodies and in our minds. We believe that happiness
is only possible in the future.

The realization that we have already arrived, that we don't have
to travel any further, that we are already here, can give us peace and joy.

The conditions for our happiness are already sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves to be in the present moment, and we will be able to touch them.

What are we looking for to be happy?

Everything is already here.

We do not need to put an object in front of us to run after, believing that until we get it, we cannot be happy. That object is always in the future, and we can never catch up to it.

We are already in the Pure Land, the Kingdom of God. We are already a Buddha. We only need to wake up and realize that we are already here.

Art and Chaos Week

My apologies for not posting in a couple days.

I've been thinking...and that's just the problem. Too much internal strife. Too many fires to put out. I need to focus on myself and stay away from the serious for a while.

Therefore, I denote the rest of the week as....*drum roll*


Enclosed is one of my favorite poems.

76. To a Mouse
WEE, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee, 5
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle 10
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave 15
’S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin! 20
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste, 25
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell—
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell. 30
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble, 35
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley, 40
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e. 45
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

From Fables for Our Times

The Very Proper Gander

Not so very long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and smooth and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children.

One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, "There is a very proper gander."

An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. "They said something about propaganda," she said.

"I have always suspected that," said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander's clothing.

A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. "They were up to no good," she said.

A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything.

"He said to hell with the flag, too," said the duck.

A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb.

Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander's house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife.

"There he is!" everybody cried. "Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!" So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.

Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.

(Source: Thurber, James. Fables for Our Time. New York, 1940.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Challenges to Small Group Ministry

Arguing with a Unitarian is like mud-wrestling a pig. Pretty soon you realize the pig likes it.

I'm sure you're well aware of how independent each individual UUA congregation, fellowship, or church is.

And small group ministry is certainly the way to grow churches. But we must get aware from our fear of anything that smacks of Fundamentalism and in particular, the negative experiences we may or may not have had from it.

We break down thusly:

1. Converts from Traditional Christianity
2. Born Unitarian Universalists

Thus we have two different schools of thought and modicums of expression. This is something that we have yet to reconcile fully within ourselves.

I must admit that my suspicion is that each small group model will have to be tailor-fit towards each one. Each has its own dynamic, macro/microcosm. Each has its own hierarchy. And by one, I mean each individual congregation as well as the born/convert divide.

I think of the UUA as a loose association, rather like a confederation than a union. It is tough to get UUs to agree to much of anything. And it is even tougher to define anything concrete rather than highly subjective and highly abstract to most churchgoers.

What are we? Do we even know?

Or does it depend?

And on what?

Maxim of the Day

Patience is a virtue, and I ain't got it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

-James Thurber

Much Ado About Nothing

Democrats still on shaky ground.

Forget the Pelosi flap. That's much ado about nothing, but it is delicious irony to see the White House defend her.

Baker is right. The Democrats can still screw this thing up. Their hold on Congress, is at best, tenuous. And I would argue that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a coherent plan for the anarchy that is Iraq right now.

But I would disagree that the Democrats have a lock on 2008. I do not want Hillary Clinton to get the nomination. I do not think she can win and I do not want her as my next president.

h/t to the British press for calling a spade a spade, like that surprises me ever.


Let us all become conscious of our places of wonder, places that heal our souls and make us feel whole again.

And let us resolve to share these with our friends, children, and loved ones.

In this way, let us begin to repair our brokenness and reclaim some of the values that strengthen our spirit.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More Art and Chaos

I can't feel the same again
Now that I found you

And I won't be the same again
Now that I found you

Once it was so easy
Now it just ain't that

And you won't believe me
Cause I, I never knew

I want you to remember the good times

And everytime I see you
A sadness falls upon me

Cause I still love you
And long for you and me

I want you to remember the good times

Bad Victorian Literature Parody

There's so much stress out in the world.

Time for a little art and chaos.

I title this piece: Bad Victorian Literature Parody.

"We must come together against all odds, futitive and impervious though they may be, to resolve our grevious situation."

"Whatever do you mean, kind sir?" spoke the dirty man with nary a tooth in his head, nor proper shoes.

"Well," spoke the similarly attired one, "Our urination situation has become rather precarious. No longer can we fertilize the street of the village square with our own secretions."

The second man scratched two fleas which had nested in his underarm before contemplating this issue further.

"Have they not considered that it is not enough for us to defoul our own clothing, bodies, or mud-plots?"

The first man tipped his imaginary hat to a passing lady, then replied,

"They find us revolting, they say. Though I daresay they cannot understand a gent's desire to be so uncouth after imbibing intoxicating liquors".

Aghast, his companion let out a mock shudder.

"This is most upsetting, yes, yes".

A Few Thoughts On War

  1. You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!
You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a
terrible thing!
From a speech to Prof. David F. French at the Louisiana State
Seminary, Dec. 24, 1860

2. I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine;
even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and
lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers ... it is
only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the
wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more

3. There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.

-William Tecumseh Sherman.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Getting the Word Out

What’s holding us--Unitarians, Post-Christians, Religious Liberals---however we choose to denote ourselves-- back is what holds back a lot of very smart people.

We compartmentalize ourselves beyond all recognition.

We assign such pedantry to rudimentary concepts that it just divides us and cuts us off from each other.

It’s nice that we can speak in words of more than three syllables, and it’s nice that we can identify things as Christian or Post-Christian or Post Toasties.

Academia suffers from the same thing. How do you get this concept, which is, I must admit–quite abstract, around to most people?

Most people in AMERICA (much less the world) don’t have college degrees. They’ve never set foot in a college classroom. How do you get them to know that Unitarian Universalism or Post-this, post-that is for them?

Meanwhile why we intelligent folk spin this and spin that, let me pose this question for you:

Could there be a Unitarian Universalist out there who just doesn’t know he/she has a home for them?

Do we want to, dare I say, evangelize—or does the mere thought of it send such a chill through our bones that we think this ought to be like the Masons?

I think not.

Thom Yorke's Take on It

The latest Radiohead album, Hail to the Thief, was tinged with anti-Bush and anti-Iraq quagmire references.

I enclose one in its entirety called 2 + 2 = 5. Hopefully our Orwellian nightmare will soon be over.

Are you such a dreamer?
To put the world to rights?

I'll stay home forever
Where two & two always
makes up five

I'll lay down the tracks
Sandbag & hide

January has April's showers
And two & two always
makes up five

It's the devil's way now
There is no way out
You can scream & you
can shout

It is too late now

You have not been
paying attention!

I try to sing along
I get it all wrong

"All hail to the thief"
"But I am not!"

"Don't question my authority
or put me in the dock"
Go & tell the king that

The sky is falling in

When it's not
Maybe not.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Anger at the Current State of Events

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back
it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they're
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers'
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta tions.

That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I'm nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Allen Ginsberg, Berkeley, January 17, 1956

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Meaning of Youth and Altruism

Don't try to be too good, she said, it will kill your youth.

Words spoken while I was washing out the bottles, cans, and assorted things to put in the recycle bin.

Spoken during a Super Bowl party. While everyone else was enjoying themselves, I was quite happy to be washing out the bottle to be recycled.

I could psychoanalyze the meaning behind the words and not accomplish a thing.

So here's what I took out out it.

I'm not TRYING to be anything. Trying to be something you're not isn't altruism; it's narcissism. It's selfishness, not selflessness.

When I'm stressed out, I do manual labor. The first thing I do in any crisis is laundry. I'm good at it. I succeed well at it and feel a sense of accomplishment.

I appreciate the sentiment, but for me, I'm not trying to kill my youth. I'm not sure if youth is a condition or a state of being. I'm more inclined to think the latter. Those of us who try too hard to be whatever it is we think we ought to be and then have our mid-life crises may regret our youth or what we didn't do.

But I've pulled a lot out of this past stressful month. It has made me quite a bit stronger.

As I said earlier, we worship the religion of LOVE, not MONEY or FAME or all those other things that other people might strive for in the days of their youth, whatever youth is.

Words of Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote I drift back to when I am in recoiling from some perceived hurt.

  • You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both.
    • October 1842
Take God to mean whatever it means to you. Go in peace.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Spreading the Faith

This is C*UUYAN and 25 Beacon's take on spreading the faith.

Written by David Concepcion

(Quite lengthy) Don't have cut and paste option on blogger, sorry. :-(


“UUvangelism: Spreading the Word of UUism.”

The gym was the last place I expected to get into a theological discussion, but that’s what happened to me a couple of months ago. I was working with a personal trainer at Bally’s. They have a rack of TVs set up over the elliptical riders to give some of us something else to focus on while running. CNN is almost always on one channel. At the time I think there was a news segment about gay issues, either one of the states’ decision to ban same-sex marriage or the Kansas religious group that tours the nation protesting the gay lifestyle. In any case, my trainer was upset about all of that and didn’t really understand what all the problem was about. We had a bit of a conversation about that stuff, but then he asked one of those questions we Unitarians cringe at, but always expect to hear at some point: “Are you a Christian?”

I don’t know about you but I never know exactly how to answer it. The short answer is, at least for me, is no I’m not. I have been a life-long Unitarian Universalist. My parents were married in a UU church, one of the only denominations at the time that could really officiate a mixed Jewish-Catholic nuptials. With that and the fact that I’ve spent almost my whole life in UU churches, I consider myself a Unitarian by birth. Not a Christian. However I do recognize that the history of Unitarian Universalism stems from a Judeo-Christian background. And many Unitarians do in fact consider themselves Christian UUs. We read from the Bible, and take that tradition as one of our own. But we also take from so many other religions, including Eastern philosophies and other Earth based traditions. So it is hard to say a firm no to the question “are you a Christian?” So with that murky background, I tried to explain what I am and my spirituality in between getting my already sore muscles stretched out.

“What do you believe?” he asked. I briefly mentioned the idea of the seven principles and brought up one of them, because like all good and upstanding UUs, I don’t remember all seven principles. I brought up the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings, mainly because it’s one of the easier ones to remember.

“So do you guys support gay marriage?” I said yeah and that many of our ministers were the ones marrying gay and lesbian couples. I spoke about this for a bit and said it’s a fairly liberal faith. “So you guys are mostly democrats?” I of course said no, and then tried to explain the demographics a little, which is very diverse. With each question asked, I wound up giving a succinct answer at first. But then in order to have a fully rounded answer, a more accurate answer, one that tries to fully encompass our entire demographics and theologies, I had to backtrack and convolute what I had already described. When I finished my conversation, I never felt I accurately said anything about Unitarian Universalism.

This isn’t exactly the elevator speech that Reverend Bill Sinkford, the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, urges us to formulate. Still it is part of the same process: the process about engaging other people and being able to explain what our religious identity is, who we are. It is about honestly and straight forwardly declaring our religious affiliation and not hiding who we are. It is about spreading the word about Unitarian Universalism. I know this is a concept that is almost anathema to many UUs, but it is a concept we need to embrace.

Now, when I started writing this sermon, it was about spreading the word of Unitarian Universalism, not necessarily about how do we as UUs explain ourselves to the world. However, it is almost impossible to talk about one without the other. These two ideas are linked. In some ways, one can argue that a big factor in telling more people about Unitarian Universalism is that we already have a hard time explaining Unitarian Universalism, either to other UUs or ourselves.

If there’s one thing has always disappointed me about being a Unitarian it is that though I have spent my entire life as a UU, experience day to day existence around me from a UU perspective, I have not been given the tools to clearly articulate that existence to others. When I was in Sunday school, we learned about the Judeo Christian tradition, Buddhism, Taoism, a little bit of Islam and Hinduism, but didn’t really learn much about Unitarian Universalism until I was 14, which is when most of the youth enter the Coming of Age program. When I was in that program, it was good on teaching the history of the religion and helped us to formulate our own theology, in my opinion the language given to us to explain that theology, or our denomination, to others wasn’t adequate. Without that language, any conversation about Unitarian Universalism is a struggle.

For those that come to us from other religions, it can be equally tough to explain this faith. How can someone who grew up in a fairly dogmatic religion explain what it is now like to be a part of a covenantal and non-creedal religion? How do people use a language other than the language of the faith that they grew up in to explain Unitarian Universalism? When we compare our religion in relation to others, we succeed in explaining what Unitarian Universalism isn’t, but still not truly describe what it is. At best, people get the gist of us as one of my coworkers termed “some sort of all inclusive thing.” At worst, the explanation of Unitarians can come across as “you can believe anything you want” which is far from the truth.

Still there has been enormous progress in developing a language of religious explanation. When I was a teen, the seven principles were not even a concept. Now they are almost the first thing that people first thing people say—or take out of their wallets. Programs such as Building Your Own Theology and Articulating Your Faith are helping our youth, young adults and other members to gain the tools they need to express their beliefs articulately. Next year there will be a pilot testing of a uniformed Coming of Age curriculum for all UU congregations. So our ability to express what our faith is, is growing and our vocabulary is expanding.

So now having said that, why do we as Unitarians have such a hard time letting people know that we are Unitarians; and letting people know that we are out there? Like my conversation in the gym, there isn’t an easy answer. In my opinion, part of it has to do with how other religions try to grow their ranks. Historically we all know the stories of conversion by the point of a sword or of missionaries converting indigenous populations to a religion alien to their culture, and we are repulsed. But more personally, I think we have all been repulsed by people of other faiths making us feel that our beliefs and faith are worthless—for some people it is why they have come to our faith. It need not even be fanaticism that hurts us, but even the genuine belief that one way—their way—is the only way that turns us off, as if somehow our own experience is moot. So to ensure that we don’t hurt others the way we have been hurt, we choose to affirm all paths, recognize each person’s unique perspective of the divine truth. We refuse to evangelize and proselytize to ensure our respect towards others. It is very admirable to do so. However by trying to not force our beliefs onto others, we create a bind for ourselves because we inadvertently keep ourselves from even broaching the subject of what our beliefs are, keep ourselves from the potential to share, not force, our faith with others. Even, to a great extent, ourselves. A few years ago at the UU General Assembly in Cleveland, Ohio, I ran into an old high school friend outside of Kinko’s. We looked at each other startled to see each other in Cleveland of all places, until it struck us that we were both there for General Assembly. It turns out he was a life-long UU like myself, but neither of us knew it. We never talked about it, we never had any communication about such things, so it remained a secret for about 16 years. This shouldn’t by any means be a secret, but by limiting our communication with others, we lose any opportunity to define who we are and let people know that we exist.

It would be nice to believe that we only need be receptive so that those may find our doors; that if we are truly an answer for people, they will seek us out. At best, that is naïve; at worst, arrogant. How can we be a faith who actively promotes democracy and not provide people with choices? When you withhold information from people, how can you expect them to come up with the right answer? It is akin to getting people into a voting booth and expect them to make an informed decision when some of the candidate’s names are blacked out. Granted they might get the right answer, they might make a correct choice for them, but it will be more from stumbling upon it rather than knowing it. We should not let people stumble around in the dark. I remember some years ago, when involved in a discussion about people coming to Unitarian Universalism, one young woman mentioned that a man at her congregation told her, “Well, if you’ve found us, you’re welcome to stay.” This is second hand information of one anecdote, but if it even represents a small percentage of UU congregations, this religion is doomed.

The late Minister Emeritus of Boston’s First and Second Church, Reverend Dr. Rhys Williams, used to end all his sermons with a benediction using the words of the Reverend Theodore Parker:

“May ours be a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere;
its temple, all space;
its shrine, the good heart;
its creed, all truth;
its ritual, works of love;
its profession of faith, divine living.”

It is very moving and a wonderful benediction and it should be a good and genuine call for our religion to achieve its potential. However it fails to reach the level of a call. As a writer, especially a screenwriter, I know it is extremely important to always write in an active voice. Your words have to be doing something, you have to do something. Parker’s prayer, as lyrical and descriptive as it is, should not really be used as a call because it is in the passive voice. “May ours be a religion…” “its temple is…” “its shrine is…” It is not active, it simply is. Even the part about ritual, an active religious practice, is “works of love.” Where “work” should be a verb, it is used as a noun. Again there is no action, it just is. The activity isn’t on the part of our religion; action relies on the various metaphors. It reduces active participation to passive observation. Again, this is a prayer, not a call to arms; and prayer, in some sense, requires sublimation and implies action elsewhere, often beyond ourselves. But this seems to me very similar to how we as UUs approach professing our faith. We act passively, hoping people come through our doors, then later discuss why we are a smaller religion and what we can do to grow our ranks. But action gets hopelessly lost in committee. Making sure our faith, like sunshine, goes everywhere requires action on our parts.

So how do we do this? How do we spread the word of Unitarianism, even our own theologies. And I don’t mean converting people. I simply mean telling people we exist. We need to realize that there is a huge difference between proselytizing and marketing. Granted in today’s commercialized and branding infused society, it doesn’t always seem like it, but there is. Proselytizing is trying to recruit or convert people from one faith or another, often on the idea that one faith is the only true faith or religion. Marketing is simply letting people know that something exists and is out there. We need to do more of the latter, and not confuse it with the former.

Simply put, I think the most radical thing we as UUs can do to spread the message of our faith is to open our mouths. Speak to others about who we are, who we truly are. Let people know that you are a UU and proud about it, and if it comes to it, explain what you believe. We feel it is a very difficult thing to do, but it is deceptively simple. We already speak openly about these things within our own community, with each other. We debate, discuss, communicate our ideas and beliefs all the time. We just need to take it to the next step. If we truly believe in the sacred community, if we believe in widening the circle to encompass all, we need to push the boundaries outward. To do that we need to speak openly outside our boundaries.

Yes, in opening our mouths, we make ourselves vulnerable. I was taught long ago that without doubt, there can be no faith. While doubt in spiritual matters is a good thing, it is not necessarily a good public thing, and increasingly, and unfortunately, these days it is often not a good public speaking thing. So keeping to ourselves seems to be a safe option. Dennis Palumbo in the reading from his book, Writing From the Inside Out, points out that to come from a “core of who we are, is damned hard. Often the results are just painful, ambiguous, uninformed.” Certainly I experienced this just trying to talk to a guy at my gym. But since then, the conversations I have entered into when talking about my spirituality have improved. I’m talking to friends even coworkers outside of the church community about what we are and the response is very receptive. I am getting better at explaining what Unitarians are and aren’t. I am able to talk about who we are a lot more clearly than that time in the gym. It is only by working through the awkward conversations that we improve the ability to express ourselves; not even our spirituality, express ourselves. As Palumbo points out, “the most important things a writer needs is the awareness that he or she is enough.” Similarly all we need is the awareness that we, our spirituality , our theology, our faith, are enough. Armed with that awareness, who are we not to speak our faith out loud? As Marianne Williamson wrote in her book A Return to Love, in a quote often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?”

To put it even more simply, using the Jewish philosophy, for if not us, who? We should be able and willing to let people know who we are, all of who we are, for no one else will. No one else can describe our faith better than we can, and we need to open our mouths to do it.

Luckily, our denomination is getting better at spreading the word of our faith, too. Over the past two years or so, the Unitarian Universalist Association has been working hard at a media campaign called “the Uncommon Denomination.” You may have seen or even own one of the bumper stickers. The campaign was a combination of public relations work, media outreach and welcoming and hospitality outreach training for participating congregations. The successes of the campaigns in Kansas City, Long Beach, California, and Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, has led to the campaign becoming a full program along the lines of the Welcoming Congregations or the Journey Towards Wholeness. It has also led them to expand their outreach work. At this past General Assembly, Reverend Sinkford announced more and diverse approaches to community outreaching, including getting larger member churches to contribute money to major marketing campaigns in their areas, and a telemarketing strategy in some places. In all honesty, the telemarketing idea made me cringe, and it made me think that we’re willing that UU joke to life: “What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness and a Unitarian? Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason.” Despite that, it does prove that the UUA is serious about growing the ranks of our religion.

The Uncommon Denomination bumper stickers are one method that has gotten a lot of visibility. Bumper stickers are actually a fun way of making a statement. A bumper sticker that a friend of mine had on her car was all letters that said, “IM A UU R U?” Of course that works perfectly for our faith since we are a religion that loves acronyms. Some people have asked her about it and she has struck up conversations because of it. But a bumper sticker I saw recently had a word and its definition. It says “UUvangelism” defined as “spreading the good word about Unitarian Universalism.” It definitely made me smile and brought me to speak to you today. The comedy of the bumper sticker is fairly obvious. Using language to take back something from a dogmatic religion and apply it to our own faith tradition. What is funny to me is that it is easier for us to stick a bumper sticker on our car and advertise who we are, yet we can find it hard to talk face to face about it. I was handing our a couple of bumper stickers about family values from the UUA at my office, and as it turns out one of my coworkers is a UU. I never knew this, because once again no one ever talks about spirituality. This is an attitude that needs to shift. We need to open our mouths, for if not us, who?

I think I’ve heard every UU minister say in every sermon that our faith has a message that the world truly needs. If that is true, then we have to take the discussion of that message out from our own communal walls and to the general population. We don’t necessarily need to learn to shout from the rooftops, but we need to be willing to engage people and talk about who we are. If ours is truly going to be “a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere,” then we have to be active and open our mouths. Yes our faith has a message that this society, this country, this world needs now more than ever. So it is more important than ever to be, at the very least, willing to tell that message to others. It is both simple and not easy. A lot of times this will mean struggling to find the words to say what you mean. It will mean having to try and condense your own theology into a “elevator speech.” It will even mean having to step out of your comfort zone and try to reconcile the notions of recruiting and elucidating. But if we can learn to do this, if we can truly and openly be ourselves, our whole selves which includes the spiritual self, we can glean a little information bout our faith to people who are willing to listen and who will be receptive to hearing about a faith that is meaningful to them. If by doing this we come closer to letting people know that yes, our faith does exist, then yes, it will be worth it. So may you all have struggling, awkward conversations about your faith, and may you open your mouths to let people know who you, and we, are.