Rodeo

IMG_1091 (2)

Some days, I plague myself and anyone nearby with questions and hypotheses about the human condition. Why the pervasive sadness? Why the slow-burn rage? Why the pitiful denials, the hedonistic greed, and addictions to substances and behaviors that produce a temporary, phony nirvana? Why hoard, hide, and lie? Why hate?

If no one is around to answer, I remind myself that evolving is hard work: Containing and orchestrating our predatory nature (eyes pointed forward), our drive to mate and produce as many offspring as possible (those selfish genes), our instinctual avoidance of pain and death (neurologically hardwired)…

Trudging forward is no small task for the average human. We are also relatively communal—a blessing and a curse–a survival-based attribute (strength in numbers) that goes beyond survival. It’s one of God’s favorite evolutionary tools for prodding us forward (as the prophet Rodney King once said, “People…can we all get along?). Sadly, the answer remains no.

I also remind myself that we’re all mortal. Ironically, this is a relief. We give life our best shot, and then we’re gone: Blips on the screen, leaves in the wind, a brief twinkle in the eye of God. Our evolving and digressing is both individual and cosmic; I acknowledge the death within me, and I honor the dead among us who may yet find life. I hate that I will never have all the little answers. The big answer is love. The lesser ones remain to be worked out.

Snow falls, passions blaze, and the prey lurk meekly around the edges of light, testing the perimeters of the fence. For thousands of generations, we’ve made tools and told stories. Isn’t that remarkable? We’ve built fences, torn them down, and built them again. The earth recycles our bodies and our worst ideas. Broken down–broken way, way down–we are minerals and fragments of hope.

Sometimes God plays the straight man to my darkest humor or the fool to my imagined wisdom. Sometimes, the bad cop, sometimes, the good. There are forces at play I know nothing about; artists at work I have yet to meet. Yes. This is my first rodeo. My only rodeo. God pulls back the curtain, and behold! There’s an entire cheering section rooting for me. I’m riding wild bulls, roping steers, spurring a bucking bronco, and racing to the next barrel, where I’ll circle back around before I head to the finish line, a few strides away.

The party is almost over, but it has yet to begin. The heavens are filled with revelers: chanting monks, croaking frogs, liberated soldiers, plump children, sobbing men, and whirling women. Ah, the beautiful whirling women. Their skirts spin wide as they orbit, as colorful and defiant as umbrellas in Hong Kong. And the tears of the sobbing men; so much to regret. So much to restore. So many fires to gently put to sleep.

Fear of Flying

IMG_1574 (2)

God and I usually visit rather informally, but today, inspired by silence and a Guinness Extra Stout, I’m trying a different voice. I’m thinking God will recognize it anyway. Here goes…

YOU

 You who are beyond pronouns, do you hear me?
Energy expressed as love, do you hear me?
Creativity unbounded, horses galloping, do you hear me?
Paradoxical forces pushing outward, do you hear me?
Dialectical trickster pushing inward, do you hear me?

(I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be irrelevant. I don’t want to be nice to idiots.)

You who are able to blink away galaxies, do you hear me?
You who make the sky burst into laughter, do you hear me?
You who die every time anyone dies, do you hear me?
God of the rattlesnake, mosquito, quicksand, and lightening, do you hear me?
Silent stalker, raucous rioter, author of all disappearances, do you hear me?

(I need, I need, I need.   I want, I want, I want.   Do not give me what I deserve.)

 Embodied myth, homeless beggar, wearer of the purple robe, do you hear me?
Neighbor, knower, patient old auntie, slayer of falsehoods, do you hear me?
Pure white, thick black, coffin-builder, source of thinning bones, do you hear me?
Gravel road, narrow path, first breath, bargain basement, do you hear me?
You who write the storyline, you who refuse conclusions, do you hear me?

(I can see my way around you, through you, beside you. Let’s run away.)

 You are said to feed on worship, gorge yourself on praise. I don’t believe it.
They claim you have a magic formula for being saved. This is silliness.
We try to define the undefinable, cater to our narcissism, and say it’s you.
The great regression has begun. We are returning to our hatreds. We are coming undone.
I cannot imagine your suffering, but I am trying. Do you hear me?
 

(If it fits the plan at all, I would like to die into gentleness.)

My lungs collapsed as the savage Self of God blew through the valley. It whispered:

You’ve always wanted to learn to fly.
And you will.

And I said:
Amen.

 

The Way of All Flesh

20160430_133858 (2)

“Um, God,” I said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

I saw no way to ease into this topic, so I gulped and blurted. “I intend to end my life if I think it’s time.” My bravado belied my queasy stomach, but I don’t know why I bother to put on airs like that. God sees right through me.

“I know,” she said, almost tenderly. “And that’s an adaptive way to deal with your fear and sadness. A mental escape hatch.”

“So you don’t mind?” I asked. “You don’t care if people kill themselves?”

“Depends,” God said. “I care enormously about your suffering. I suffer with you.”

“I’m not suffering right now,” I said, ever the defensive, egocentric one.

“Then why are we having this conversation?” God asked.

My words tumbled out. “Because of the enormous pressure people feel to stay alive. To defend life at all costs. To survive. To frame death as the final defeat. They pin it on your will. Like when people finally die, it’s ‘God’s will’, or when they live, it’s ‘God’s will’. But then, somehow, it’s our job to keep inventing ways to prolong our lives, and no matter what, we eventually die, and sometimes, slowly, painfully, and without any brain left.”

God gazed out the window. “Scary,” she finally said, mostly to herself. “Expecting conscious mortals to make compassionate decisions…sometimes I wonder if I’m asking too much.”

“Compassionate decisions?” I echoed, thinking, “Could she possibly mean that choosing death, ending a life, could be a compassionate decision?”

The Eternal Allness, the Beginning and the End, the Ever-present Force, the Planner, Sustainer, Granter, Architect, Experimenter, Lover, Truster, Sufferer, Giver, Taker, Saver, Waster—my side-kick and nemesis—smiled like a patient third grade teacher.

“Sobering, isn’t it?” she said. “But yes. You already consciously end millions of lives without compassion, out of greed, neglect, or fear. You execute. And you honor those who give their lives for others. You end the suffering of your beloved pets. You can’t excuse yourself from these contradictions, nor can you legislate them away. Here it is: Sometimes, in the larger scheme of things, choosing to end a life, even your own, is choosing Life.”

“Stop!” I said. I’d lost my bearings, overwhelmed with the wrenching images and conflicts. The dialectics of existence. Ending suffering. Murdering thousands. Politics and greed that result in starvation. The human capacity to grow food; invent medications; toy with life; dole out death. The human longing for perpetual youth. Slippery slopes and higher visions.

“No worries,” God said. “I’ll stop. But I’m not going anywhere.” She grew galaxy-big and atomic-small. She swam in a sea of amniotic fluid, danced a bone-rattling dance, died in the arms of a weeping father, and pulled the sky apart so I could see through myself. She wrapped the individually-beating cells of my heart around her little finger and licked the rings of Saturn like they were strands of taffy. She was being light and heavy, silly and serious. She was kaleidoscopically steady as she pulled the arms of morning around me. Not my morning—her morning.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she repeated, stroking my forehead. “And in a way you cannot possibly understand right now, neither are you.”

Taxes

IMG_0648 (2)

God and I stayed up really late last night, watching pretty much anything we could get on regular TV. Except we avoided the news, or anything like the news. Being both omniscient and omnipresent, God has a harder time avoiding current events than I do, but we colluded as best we could. I ate left-over soup. God wasn’t hungry.

God stretched out on the loveseat, and I got my yoga mat, intending to do a few sit-ups during advertisements. The TV droned on.

“What’s on your mind?” God asked.

Nothing,” I said. “Why do you think we’re watching Big Bang reruns? Just call me Empty Mind. Checked Out. Clueless. In fact, let’s not talk right now.”

“Okay,” God said. The TV droned on. God got another pillow and dozed. I turned the lights down low and watched her instead of the TV for a while.

“What’re we going to do?” I silently asked the sleeping God. She was so beautiful. The steady rise and fall of her chest, the perfection of her eyebrows, her out-breath filling the room with a wild mixture of sage and lilac, animal musk, homelessness, and newly-minted money.

My human condition crept into the room, and settled beside me. I tried to slap it away and just watch God at rest, but it snuggled up, greedy, ugly, lazy, mortal, needy, vengeful, and as afraid as ever.

Look,” I whispered to it. “What if we could rest like that?”

My human condition gave me a sideways glance. Almost a dare. Then it eased itself alongside God and went to sleep. I curled up fetal on the floor. The TV flickered, grabbing at my attention like it was for sale. Which it is. Everything is for sale. We all have our price. Except God. Some may not realize this, but you can’t buy God off. And God really isn’t into tax breaks that hurt the poor. With God, it’s more of an all or nothing kind of thing. But she’s never believed in trickle down economics. Never.

God stirred. “Rough week,” she said sleepily. “C’mere.”

My human condition had sprawled itself into all the available space. The loveseat looked uncomfortable to say the least, and I was about to refuse, but God had opened her eyes. I can never resist those deep pools of unspeakable welcome.

So I awkwardly squeezed in, between my human condition and God. In the tangle of all those urges, elbows, and defeats, God found my hand. “Tomorrow, do what you can do,” she said. “Tonight, rest.”

“But that’s the problem,” I said, already drowsy. “I don’t know what to do.” Then I slept. And now she’s gone. And my human condition is awake, demanding breakfast. I’m struggling to be hospitable.

“That’s it,” I hear from the corner. I make more toast and watch the snow drift down.