Sunday, June 27, 2010

My New Spiritual Name

I started walking around my neighborhood a week ago and introducing myself as Mr. Happy.  I did this for several reasons
  • It almost always makes other people (and me) laugh, which releases enrorphins and endorphins in turn make you feel better.  Laughter is, indeed the very best medicine, as our shared wisdom tells us.
  • I live in a rough neighborhood, and I don't really want people to look up my name, and find my phone number and address
  • It's just plain FUN
So when I  arrived at the Psychiatric ward at Barnes Hospital, still in a very "Mr. Happy" mood, I keept introducing myself as "Mr. Happy.  This brings me to yet another reason for using the name:
  • Names have POWER.   They inform us as to who we are and intend to become.
  • For example, my brother's name is "David Joel"  David means Beloved.  Joel means "Gift of God".  So his name means "Beloved Gift of God".  Very intentionally, my parents gave him a wonderful name
  • There are traditions in many cultures where upon reaching manhood or passing a rite in a religion, the person is given a new name, which again encapsulates and prophesies about whom they are and whom they intend to or may become
This morning I decided on (for now, I can always change my mind as I change): Joyce J. F. Happy.

Let me expand:  Joyce Joyce FUN, Happy.
Explanation:  If you say Joyce a 2nd time you are "re-Joycing". . . the rest is self-explanatory.  Rejoicing in God leads to FUN and Happiness.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Worm Jerky - Bridging Earthworms, God, and our Inadequate Language.

Photo by Timothy K. Hamilton - Creativity+
 Subtitle:  How to write about worm poop and God in the same blog post.  ;-)

You can start calling me "Life Saver" if you like, but this story Isn't about me. It's about being a "good neighbor", about earthworms, and ultimately about God, and the inadequacy of our language with regards to the sexuality of God.
I don't know if you've ever seen them. . .but on hot days in my neighborhood, the sidewalk is often littered with the dried up remains of the bodies of one of Nature's finest inventions:  The Earthworm.  Grace and I have jokingly called their carcasses "Worm Jerky"
Ecologically, "worm jerky" is a very sad, instructional and didactic example of what our current way of paving over and cementing the urban landscape has done to some of the most essential creatures to life on earth. Hear a snippet of Joni Mitchel "they've paved paradise, put in a parking lot".  Earthworms have FAR predated us, and have the amazing capacity to squeeze, extrude, and wiggle their way into the topsoil eating dirt.  Now I'm not recommending eating dirt, nor am I suggesting that we defecate outdoors, just to be entirely clear.  Yet the ability to squeeze out of or rather through tight situations is decidedly to be admired. That's in fact what the worms do, and amazingly, their process of going where no man has gone before, eating and pooping does significantly more good for the Earth, than our process of doing the same.
To continue our story. . . When I was returning home from a walk, I spied an earthworm crossing the sidewalk, trying to find some nice cool, loose, damp soil to tunnel into.  Since I supposedly am a higher life form (certainly debatable, and often worth questioning), I was able to recognize both the futility of his effort and the unlikeliness that he would find "greener grass" on the other side.  So I decided to save his LIFE.  Now, that neither makes me a saint nor a hero, because:
1) I learned so much about how earthworms are able to squeeze through tight spots because I had to change my grasp several times due to his ability to reshape his body.  Shape-shifting  is a technique we usually attribute to Demons, Wizards, and RPG heroes.  And here I was, watching the process before my very eyes. (tag: noticing and awareness)
2) I had so much FUN dropping him in my Square foot Garden  (SFG)   If you are not familiar with this urban gardening concept, I found it to be transfomational in the art of gardening in small places, with maximum  yield, and continuous harvesting. The photo is of my SFG, not perhaps in it's prime, but nonetheless a visual example.  Once I dropped him in, he was not able to tunnel into the ground down to the wet underworld he knows so well and calls home.  It's a sort of homeless home, because earthworms don't nest, or have a place to go home to at night,  (kinda like Jesus, eh?) but their home is an extended "neighborhood", where they live, and dine, copulate, eliminate, and make a difference.  The Earth is their home.  They pass through it silently, unnoticed, under-appreciated, working day and night, eating constantly, but leaving the Earth better wherever they go, just by eating, slithering, and pooping.  Once again, don't try this at home, we humans get arrested for similar behavior.
3) It was actually a selfish act.  There is rarely, if ever, an activity we do that is NOT self-serving.  Put more graciously, the good we do in life always makes us feel better and gives us more JOY.  So ultimately it is self rewarding.   I wonder who planned it that way?
4) I learned an important lesson about "being in the 'hood" (link will come later to that post).  If I choose too, I could wander around my neighborhood, taking it in (ingesting the sights, sounds and experience), keep moving, and find ways that making wherever I am a better place (without pooping or getting arrested).

But to finish our story, I found that I needed to moisten the soil in order for the worm to well, "worm" his way down into my fine, high quality, composted soil where he will be eternally grateful for saving his life. . NOT.
The hose was not connected, and I fruitlessly tried to carry hand-loads of water from the backyard faucet to give him a cool shower.  Didn't work.  Undaunted, your (by now, I hope) hero, (me, in case you forgot) found a water-pistol in his bag of goodies that he had just brought from a Drug Store, the name of which, Wallgreens, will go unmentioned. . . oops, too late.  Now, they don't call me Creativity+ for no good reason.  So applying my creative abilities, I designed a water transportation system consisting of filling up the water pistol and then  walking to the garden to give my squirmy new friend the first shower he probably had in his life.  Or at least his first water-pistol fight.   It was decidedly one-sided, as he was neither capable of carrying a weapon or using one.   After I wet the ground though,  he-and-she (earthworms are hermaphorditic) slowly found his-and-her way home.  If you ever need to relax and slow down, take five minutes and watch one of these amazing creatures dive into Mother Earth, to do their thing.  One final thought (Good God, I hope not):
about the inadequacy of the English language.  The earthworm gave me another
5) insight into God as well as the inadequacy of our language.   Hermaphrodism is the word that comes closest in our language to describe the He and She, Father and Mother aspect of God. However inadequately. We truly need to invent a word that accurately describes God's dual nature.  My thought is that Jesus used the word Father during his time on this 3rd planet from an unremarkable star because He lived in a paternalistic, sexist, male dominated society.  And thus using a female reference (2,000 years ago in Palestine) to God would have made it sound like God was powerless, incapable of ownership, dependent on someone else for livelihood, and weak in general.  Jesus was too smart to say:  Dear Mom, who art in heaven. . at least two millenia ago.  The general underdog nature of women in the ancient world may have been the primary reason that God became a man, and not a woman.  If it had worked out in the vast scheme of things for Jesus to have come to earth in present-day America, perhaps we would be worshiping Josephine.  And our prayer could well be "Our Mother, who art in Heaven".
So if someone wants to get busy and change our perception of God, we had better come up with a new word that embraces all there is about being a man AND a woman, intertwined and complete, because neither sex alone embraces all there is to being either Human or God.  So I'm working and generating and creating a new non-gender dependent word that we can use to re-translate the Bible, to rework our thinking, and to greatly improve our accuracy of the word HIM when we refer to god.  And I'm asking you to remember that Jesus could just as easily been incarnate as a woman, were it not for our massive underestimation of women.
I'm toying with words like:  Hirm (combining Him and Her), Se  (combining She and He). . but maybe you could help.  For now, I'm stuck with "Our Loving Parent, Who art in Heaven" as a fresh start towards un-genderizing God.  I think She would appreciate the change in our interpretation.
After all, our language is the entire source of all our meaning, and where our language and words fail us, we fail to have meanings that are accurate, useful, and True.

TAGS:  humor, story, life, death, garden,hot,dry,salvation,ecology,urban,sidewalk,cement,pavement,worm,earthworm,soil,enrichment, meaning, language,sexism,theology,paternalistic,ancient,God
Filed under:  Theology, Musings, Editorial, Humor, God

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sky Dancing - My goal for Today

My goals for today are:
1)    do something good, no, wonderful for myself.
2)    Do something marvelous and kind for my wife.
3)    Do something that's good for my house
4)    Do at least one thing that's Godly for my Church
5)    Do something good for my neighborhood
That's as far as I think I can get today.

I will write an entry as to what I have accomplished at the end of the day, and post it here.  So come back if you'd care to see how I did with my goals, and what precisely my actions were.

Tomorrow, I'll explain why I've chosen the “order of business” for my daily activities.  The underlying reason for my ordering and choices.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

3 year-old in South St. Louis dies of gunshot.

I live in a very racially diverse area of St. Louis. My neighborhood is one of the top 15 (I have read) places in the USA where people from other countries are re-located to get a good start.

My neighborhood is a mix of African America, Serbian, Bosnian, Russian, Vietnamese, and more recently, Sudanese refugees who have the enormous good fortune to be allowed into a country with as much wealth and opportunity for a better life. People around the world know this. That's WHY we have so many who want to become Americans.

I love my neighborhood, and the diversity it contains.

Today, though, a particularly gruesome and in fact deadly event occurred. You can read the details for yourself by following the link, if you wish.
A three-year old shot himself to death. Here's how close he was to our home, 1/5 of a mile according to Google maps.

Why did this horrible thing happen? Well, let's work backwards and see:
1) Brandon Tate pulled the trigger.
2) Brandon got the gun
3) His mother left the gun within reach of a 3-year old
4) His mother bought the gun because she lives in a dangerous, drug-infested neighborhood.
5) We live in a dangerous, drug-infested neighborhood because people use drugs.
6) People use drugs to escape the horrible, depressing reality of their lives.
7) People sell drugs because they can make a TON of money more than they can working at a fast food restaurant.
8) People want to make more money than they can at a fast food restaurant in order to survive and feed their families.
9) People in my neighborhood often can't get a job because they don't have a decent education, which means they either have to work at menial, low paying jobs, starve, work the welfare system, or constantly look for work and be told they don't have enough education - or whatever excuse companies can use.
9a) alternately they can sell drugs, without much education, with no resume or hiring process, and drive around in great cars.
10) African Americans and others in poor South St. Louis areas don't get a decent education for many reasons, but one of them in my mind is the lack of equality.

We pay lip service to Equality in this country all the time. "All men are created equal" "Equal Rights Amendment", and many more examples too numerous for you to care to read.

In reality, people in poor neighborhoods don't have anything resembling equal opportunity.

Tune in tomorrow or the next visit to read about the lack of equality, it's roots, how embedded it is, and some thoughts about how to at least move in the direction of fulfilling our true values as Americans.