God Dead in Yemen

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(Photo from Reuters News)

I had an appointment with God, set up for 9:30. She no-showed. I called to remind her, but got no answer. Three times, I called. Finally, a sleepy voice explained that  appointments with God are not a sure thing. God’s calendar isn’t set in stone. The voice suggested that I could either make another appointment, or open my eyes. Neither sounded like a good solution, so I turned on the news, sat back, and drank beer. The news was a mistake. And possibly, the beer.

In Yemen, for instance, I watched as my Big God became a little bag of bones before he died into himself. Bird legs twitching in the nurse’s arms, torso etched with ribs, beyond hunger, his eyes glazed over and he was gone. Out beyond where I can reach, he walked through the thin veil, fell, and died. I know the place where they’ve taken him. And like it or not, we will meet there someday.

The Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.”

But I’m not in a Rumi mood. I’m in a throw things kick things fuck it damn it shit storm fury at myself and all my fellow human-fucking-beings who cannot seem to get it together enough to make sure children are fed and safe. And yes, you too, you No-showing, Big-eyed God, Big hungry God, Big creator, Big sufferer, Big idea. How many miserable, awful, torturous deaths are you going to attend before you call this whole thing off?  Were you too busy dying of starvation to stop by? You in them, you in me, them in me. I, who have never known hunger, cannot look away.

God, wherever you are, I would like to remind you how insignificant and helpless I am. How sarcastic and selfish, how thwarted and inhibited. I’m tired, too. And disgusted. Thoroughly disgusted. Rich people make me sick. They make you sick too, don’t they? Well, not all of them. But why isn’t it enough that we’re trying? Can’t you help out a little? Or a little more? Flowers are nice. Food is better.

Finally, God seeps under the door. “About time,” I shout. But she’s wounded.

“Water,” she whispers. I run for a glass, and hold it to her lips. She drinks gratefully, and falls asleep in my arms. The wounds are superficial, but the blood is thick and red. She is so thin. So very, very thin.

Her eyes slip open. “We’re more alike than you think,” she says before drifting back to sleep. I want to protest, or deny it outright,  but I know she’s right. And this is not good news for either of us.

Click Bait

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God came roaring up in his 4-wheel drive pick-up, skidded to a halt, slammed the door, and stomped up my newly-poured sidewalk. His hair was on fire. He scorched the lower branches of the chokecherry bushes before he flung open the front door. “Who d’ya think you are, you worthless pieceashit?” he shouted. “Your writing sucks. You can’t speak for me. I’m the Supreme Being. King. Ruler. God Almighty. I speak for My Self. You need to shut your damn trap.”

Something was deeply untrue. My throat tightened, but my disbelief saved me.

“Wrong turn,” I said.

“Like hell,” he yelled, coming for my throat.

I stood my ground, looked him in the eye, and said “Fake news.”

He screamed and writhed like the wicked witch, diluted to shadow.

“How’d you know? How’d you know?” He squealed a dramatic piggy squeal as he sank to the bottom of the inky nastiness at my feet.

I couldn’t explain how I knew any more than I could explain my aching stomach and pounding head. It hurt. Everything hurt. Lies and dark money. Hatred. Malignant neglect. Greed. Ignorance. Threats. Vicious attacks. Click bait. Click bait. Death bait. Hate bait. I named it. I stood with the wounded. I refused to strike back. That hurt too.

“Good work,” the real God whispered. I nodded in complete agreement. It was good work. Hard work. I could see that God had taken the brunt of the hit. She was still a little bent over.

“Why, oh why do you bother with us?” I asked, only half-sincere. “And where do you get the patience?”

“I can’t answer that, honey,” God said. “But you’ll know someday.” She was tired, but there was still a warm light in her eyes.

“Well, forgive me,” I said. “But I seriously doubt it.”

“Doubt’s good,” she said. “Compassion’s better.” Then she drifted to the porch, to my treasured collection of petrified wood. She chose one of my favorite pieces, ate it, and settled down among the beautiful fossils to rest.

“Nooooo,” I wailed. “Not that one. Not there.” But it was too late. She was gone.

Oh, I how I hate being human sometimes, swirling around in our ugly soup, hope against hope, kin against kin. We keep extracting, gorging, and making weapons. How are we going to fix this mess? Compassion hardly gets any clicks at all.

The Kale and I

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You know how with certain friends, topics of conversation get redundant? You blah-blah along, engaging in excessive commiseration until you no longer hear each other? Well, this can be very bad for relationships, but it’s especially dangerous with God. She and I’ve been veering that direction lately, which is not surprising. Things here on earth are alarmingly dire on the surface, and few of us see balanced, loving ways forward with such apparently heartless, dishonest leaders and deep black chasms between us. Awful times for many, and awful times coming for more. I don’t pray on my knees. I talk with God with my fists in the air. I glare, stomp, wheedle, whine, kick, and cry. I threaten to leave the relationship altogether.

Sometimes, I drag God down. She’s more than willing to empathize with me. The face of God becomes a sea of deep emotion. It reminds me of when I had my tonsils out. My mom leaned over the hospital bed, her face tight with worry. “Honey, if I could, you know I’d trade places with you in a heartbeat,” she said, all choked up. Dad put his arm around her, and took her to the hallway. The surgery went fine.

God has said that same thing to me many times. Only when my mom said it, I got braver. When God says it, I get mad. This Life Force—this amazing creative generous wise beauty of an entity, this fucking confusing unfathomable inscrutable friend of mine—I want to rip my heart out—or her heart out—and bury it deep in the still-fertile soil and let things begin again.

Oh.

Wait.

It’s spring. I’ll be planting seeds. I will touch each one. They’ll grow. They’ll bring forth fruit. Surprisingly, the kale wintered over and so did I. For how many more winters, I don’t know, but I see my summer image in shallow waters, only a little worse for wear. And there’s God’s summer image, beside me, in the deep black earth, in the deep black faces, in the deep black gloom–smiling a ridiculous toothy grin, rays of light spewing from her mouth. What a maddening friend. Utterly ridiculous.

Waiting

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I have a terrible, miserable cold. It struck a day before some kind of chemical rained down on children and other innocent beings in Syria. At first, I thought God wasn’t coming by because of my germs. Who can blame him? This is one bad virus. But then suddenly I saw him on the news, dark hair matted, eyes glazed, legs peppered with red eruptions of flesh, curled around the pain of human depravity. A film crew had caught his image, there among the least of them, burned and screaming. I touched the TV screen, sending God what I could send, which felt like nothing. “God,” I said to the image. “God, I see you. I see you.” But then I turned away. I went to bed disoriented, waiting, my soul as congested as my lungs. I couldn’t let myself cry. I was too sick.

The next day, I glimpsed God in Egypt, standing among corpses and mutilated bodies, directing emergency workers to the injured. I didn’t turn away this time. Mesmerized, I watched the dead moving toward burial, the keening of those bereaved washing over me as I stood inert, depleted. What a fucked up, dreadful world. And what am I to make of God, always down in the thick of it? Hungry, imprisoned, bereft, tortured, excluded, persecuted, hated, ugly, alone.

I used to think I knew how to join, how to be of use. I used to have firm white bones and clear ideas. I used to be young and impudent. Now I listen more. My steps are slower. Now I raise my eyes to the hills, watch the sand hill cranes float by, and wait. I’m a bruised reed, a smolder candle. Waiting. Grateful for the grasses and willows whispering sweet nothings in the wind.

 

Sad

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This morning, long before daylight, I woke to the sound of someone crying. It was God. She’d been crying quietly all night, but as the wee hours waned, her sobs grew louder. The darkness just before dawn is a tough time for a lot of us. Years ago, when I first heard God crying, I was shocked. If anyone should be able to cheer themselves up, wouldn’t it be God? Just go make another planet or something, I’d thought, wanting to get away from that oceanic, gripping sorrow.

But if you’ve ever loved anyone or anything at any time, you know that backing away from the sadness only twists and distorts—it doesn’t make it go away. So after I realized I wasn’t going to abandon God or hide from the grief, we made a little deal. God doesn’t back away when I’m sad, and I try my best to stay present when God’s heart is breaking. The roughest times are when she considers how much hatred is leveled in her name, how much suffering we inflict on each other, or how trashed this stunning little planet has become. These things catch up with her sometimes.

I often find comfort in the lap of God. It’s far more awkward when God tries to fit on mine, but that’s what needed to happen. My lap expanded to the size of a mountain range, my arms grew a million miles long, and I wrapped them around her, nice and snug. Then I swayed to the subterranean beat of the cosmos, murmuring the bits of hope I could muster, singing fragments of lullabies that came to mind.

“Sweet Lord,” I whispered. “You try so hard. You love so deeply. You’re a worthy, excellent God.”

Her head was tucked, body curled. Her vibrations were pulling me to pieces. She was in real pain.

“Gentle God,” I said. “Remember the good old days? When you were having so much fun, setting earth in motion, and sprinkling stars everywhere. Remember that? It must have been awesome.”

“Yes,” she said, her voice murky with grief. “So much I remember. So much I hoped.”

“And you can still hope, right? I mean, it isn’t over yet, is it?”

“I don’t know, my friend,” she said, with a deep, unsteady breath. “I honestly don’t know. You tell me.”

Dawn arrived. God wrapped herself in light, splashed her face in the falling snow, and thanked me as she became the song of the great horned owl, calling it a night. Heading for bed. This was good. We both desperately needed some rest. And then, it’s clear, I have work to do. We all have work to do.

Where things are written

imported-from-the-camera-april-2014-412-2“Hey, God,” I yelled, angrily turning off the radio. “Are you aware there’s a large, huge, ginormous number of people down here using the Bible to control and hurt people? They’re yanking it around. They’re managing to make it say hateful things.”

“Yeah,” God said.

“Well,” I said, after waiting to see if God might want to elaborate. “Well. Could you step in here? I mean, they’re doing some real damage. You would not believe it.”

“Yes, I would,” God said.

“So, what gives? How can they do that? How can you let them? Somehow, they’re ignoring the basics, drilling down on obscure things, acting like know-it-alls. They’ve gone after gay people, and women, and brown skins, and they adore rich people, excusing all sorts of crap that you wouldn’t like. And acting like they don’t have to love anyone but themselves, and like it is okay to hate.

“Are you jealous?”

“What? No. Are you nuts? Fuck no. Hell no. I’m like that Psalmist. I only hate those who hate you. I want to chop off the heads of their babies…” I was being as sarcastic as I could possibly be.

God began to materialize, and she wasn’t in the best mood. She shook her head, and removed her hairpins, so her long thick mane fell to her waist. Her black eyes blazed. “Don’t do that,” she said, her voice stern. “You know better.”

“How?” I snapped back. “How do I know better, huh? There’s ugliness everywhere, and contradictions, and things that don’t make sense, and impossible commandments that no one even attempts, but then they try to defend things like capital punishment, and war, and they lord it over others. And forgiveness? Ha! And humility? Give me a break. And Mercy? Justice? Truth? Not a chance. It’s just greed and fear, greed and fear. We’re humans. By definition, we kill each other.”

God could see I was pretty wound up, so she waited and let me spew it all out. I ranted a bit more, but gradually grew calmer. She motioned for me to sit down, which I did, reluctantly.

“Honey, you’ve been reading with your eyes again, trying to fight judgement with judgement, fire with fire. Hunting for convincing words—written words—strokes of ink on paper. Screaming for answers in an answerless world.”

Oh, this made me crazy. I leaped up and grabbed for her hair. It turned to water. I drank. Her beautiful body turned to rain. I bathed. Through the clear water, I could see my heart, beating. I could see what was written there. In the profound silence of her absence, I could hear the tender whisper of this one small life I am trying to live.

 

The Value of Hate

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I stayed in the city last night. Slept in my favorite closet at my daughter’s little place. This morning, as anticipated, the woman who purports to hate her dog was up early, screaming obscenities through the thin walls. The dog is a little Corgi with the requisite liquid brown eyes, short fat legs, and wagging tail. It has no apparent way to defend itself.

According to other neighbors, the verbal assaults have been steady for the past five years, and include constant haranguing about the dog’s inadequacies and sins: stupidity, hair shedding, eating, drinking, looking, lying down, getting up, needing to go outside, and, well, being a dog. Strangely, I’ve rare even heard it bark.

The few times I’ve seen them outside, the woman walks close to the dog, yelling in an ugly voice. She openly declares her hatred for the dog, as if this will garner sympathy, connection, or even affection from her neighbors or passers-by. The dog looks innocent, but her ranting suggests such horrid behavior that even the most sincere dog lover might wonder about the incorrigible nature of this awful little dog.

So my daughter has orchestrated a rescue. She found someone willing to adopt the dog, and I helped her negotiate all the strange requirements necessary for the dog to move to a happy place. She chats up the neighbor most days now, tries to set a date, listens with patience and empathy, and waits for the dog to be handed over. She waits, and chats. And waits.

My daughter is too young to realize the enormous value of having something to hate.