Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating Poetry

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

-- Mark Strand

Friday, September 10, 2010

Note to Self

Dear Rachel:

Why must there be an epic battle for your very soul every time you sit down to write what you like? Why is your very body reluctant to sit down, exhale, pay attention to yourself and this art you want to practice? This is the space you need. Doing this helps you, and that helps your family. Ever since 2000, my dear 43-year-old contrarian, you have used writing to figure out what the hell was happening in your life. You would write the plays and then watch them looking for information about yourself. That is what happens in your art, such as it is, and neglect it at your peril. Yes, you heard me. Shockingly selfish, it seems, I know. It is so selfish that to you that it is terrifying. It calls up all the neural paths that became strong and bright during your adolescence: the heart-stopping thrill of knowingly sinning. It was supposed to be Jesus First, Yourself Last, Others In Between! Very explicit instructions. Every time you put yourself first, let's face it, you really should be doing something else.

So the guilt makes it difficult. Have some compassion for yourself, then, and ease your guilt!

Put that on the list of things to do after you feed, bathe, clothe and put two children to sleep.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burning the Koran/Woe Unto You Lawyers/Christians, Bring It

What I want to know is why moderate Christians aren't giving Terry Jones much more shit.

In the last ten years, Muslim extremism has replaced nuclear holocaust as the greatest political problem facing humans. The question is, how do you communicate and negotiate with people who do not respect or give credence to your own laws, your own statutes and constitution. Someone who truly believes infidels should be slaughtered is not someone interested in the fine points of freedom of speech and rule of law.

Well, many years ago I wrote an article for the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review called Burdens Hard to Bear: A Theology of Human Rights. I wrote the article as an opportunity to think about what Christians like me could do about Christians who were virulently opposed to, say, gay rights. And I conclude pretty quickly - and in a tripped out academic writing style I find very strange - the following: You will fail if you try to convince politically active Christians (people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin now) that the values of democracy - of classical liberalism -- are more important than the tenets of their own religion. I concluded that our only chance to engage with that sector was to argue from within their own traditions, religion and values. Step into the paradigm, boys. That's what I said. In the article I manage to shoehorn in a little Dosteyevsky so it takes a while.

So my conclusion was that the only way to talk to the extreme politically active Christians was to say that the actions they contemplated - banning gay marriage, for instance -- were essentially unchristian. The essence of Christianity, I argued, is that people must be free to choose to follow Jesus, and that choice cannot be inflicted on them by the power of the state.

Another way to look at this conclusion is that I was saying that moderate Christians need to call out idiots like Terry Jones by using the same Bible and the same language and the same Jesus that he is trying to hijack for his own purposes. What Jones wants to do is manifestly unchristian. And some Christians should be telling him that. And if moderate Christians stood up to him and told him that, then that would be a wonderful piece of news for the Muslim world. It would be nice to see something like that on Al Jazeera right about now, wouldn't it?

We are all waiting - especially here in England- for the moderate Muslims to tell the extremists that their agenda is not the agenda of Mohammed. How about encouraging that by doing the same thing to our extremist Christian problem, Terry Jones?

I really wish that Obama with his Christian background had dared to go that far today. Instead, he gave a practical results-oriented argument: if you burn the Quran, Jones, then more people will join Al-Quaeda. I'm not saying he's wrong, I'm saying that Jones doesn't give a shit whether more people join the cause. Hell, that guy would like to bring about some Revelations shit, so he's there, going, "Yeah! Bring it on!". But if Obama, or someone, Joel Osteen or that guy who did the inaugural prayer, or SOMEONE would say that in fact, Christianity demands extreme pacifism (blessed are the peacemakers, turn the other cheek), then maybe Jones would have second thoughts. Go and pray with this guy and see what happens, oh ye who still have faith. All you "prayer warriors", why don't you get on this?

At least if he didn't have second thoughts, you would know he's just a piker and a poser.

And maybe if you did something, you could avoid this horrible flashpoint. Look at how extremists reacted to the Dutch drawings. I'm just saying it could be bad.