A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

POEM: That Wholly Lessen

Kneeling before
Mother
Earth
Shattering
Knews
Buy sum mirror mortals
That scant except abundance
Farced too
Under stand
That wholly lessen
Taut
As awe for one
And won for all
And what too due
To be apprehended
Those borne too big for their breaches
Both yearning their keep
And wanting to cry like a baby
As partially dread
King Solomon’s wisdom
Discerning a real mom
From a ‘mother’ in name only
In every crook and nanny
Of awe that might be
Haunted by possessions
Those who cull out
For halve of everything
As if
Like some indivisible man
In a crowd
Stealing a weigh
Amidst a pound of flash
As a parent
As won
Divided buy too
Is not twice one peace
However disposed
Won is to give
Forbear
Meaning less labor
For priceless heir
And each arrival
Comes a bout
In his stork visit
That universal root
Digs ever deeper
Beyond belief
Yet sum people
Proffer a Roamin’ umpire
A tempting
A scuff-law-less Caesarean delivery
To buy pass
The belly of the best
Dilatorily a void
Mete cleave her
Where even moderation can be excessive
Only too grasp
After brooding over
In a so-so pregnant pause
And sow ill-conceived
Being a touch bankrupt
Morally in half-way hows
That irresistible fix
Working for you
And know won ails
Halve the weigh homme
Leaping twice across the chasm
Returning
To Mother
Earth
Won way or the other
Making a hole world
Of deference

Here is yet another poem about the ongoing crisis of Mother Earth’s destruction.  To portray the half-ass response by so-called developed nations and industrial powers that be, I employ the metaphors of King Solomon’s infamous wisdom in dealing with dispute over motherhood and that of crossing a chasm in two leaps.  To add another metaphor regarding our relationship with Mother Earth, we want to have our cake and eat it too!  In the case of the King Solomon judgment, two mothers living in the same household claimed a baby as their own.  After one of the mothers accidentally smothered her own child while they were sleeping in her bed (by the way, an ancient public health problem that persists today), she claimed the other mother’s baby was her own.  Without enough evidence to make a reasonable determination, King Solomon wisely and shrewdly ordered the baby cut in half, so each mother could have their “fair” share, to determine their reaction.  The true mother insisted the baby be given to the false mother to spare the baby’s life.  The false and jealous mother said go to it.  Of course, this revealed the true mother to which King Solomon ordered the whole baby as hers.  Our greed and jealous protection of our own unjust interests would rather halve the world we live in than deal with a whole new world.  Globalize THIS - ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONAs greed and envy continue unabated, we naively and vainly assume that things will “naturally” work themselves out.  As if the day after we can reassemble two halves of a baby and have a whole baby.  This is akin to jumping a chasm in two leaps.  It don’t work that way!  Our fundamental disrespect for motherhood is a parent to anyone who possesses the wisdom to differentiate between motherhood and smother-hood.  Of course, in the real world, there is no second baby to even attempt to appropriate.  And the chasm is too wide for even a long series of half-ass measures.  I’ll take a flying leap here: we either return to mothering Mother Earth or we will return to Mother Earth, as a specious not suited to evolve any further.

POEM: A Wrench In The Machine

He was having one of those lives
Where he woke up
Only to find himself
A wrench in the machine
Threw and threw
Putting his whole life into question
What kind of tool are you?

This poem was triggered by a recent conversation with my lawyer about a pending criminal mischief charge (for stickering poles downtown Toledo in the criminal justice district with stickers reading “JUSTICE FOR DANNY BROWN .COM”). In this conversation, I used the metaphor of a wrench in the machine. There is a growing realization in my life that jail time is in my destiny. Eugene Debs, perhaps said it best in his statement to the judge prior to his sentencing for resistance, stating:

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. [see full speech here]

Quite a few years ago, I had a dream. In this dream, there was an image that has stuck with me: I was dancing effortlessly amidst the huge, moving cogs and gears of a giant machine. I was unhurt and at peace, even joyful. This image reminds me of the possibility of being at peace in the dance with the machine. Of course, this image does not include the pain and death of being ground up in the machine, a reality every moment. I believe that the best meshing of these two realities is to practice disciplines cultivating joyful dancing as we throw our whole beings into resistance of the machines of death and into the reawakening of the deadened souls who find necessity in siding with death.

Power requires consent. Our consciousness of this helps free us to choose to better align with the forces of life than the forces of death. My unofficial motto is “Screw ’em,” as modeled by the character Col. William Ludlow, played by Anthony Hopkins, in the movie, Legends of the Fall. This may seem unduly negative, or even juvenile, to some; but, the impulse to withdraw consent from unjust authority is divine. While such rebellion may only be a first step, it is a necessary first step to confront the powers that be and to speak truth to power. Either way, without consent, aka complicity, humans cannot multiply their worldly power beyond their own, short, God-given reach. People do bad things, though having their reach limited to a relatively small human scale mitigates the worst of it. When living a human-scale existence we find our kin within grasp — a grasp of hands, minds and hearts. This is enough. To want more, is to trade our humanity for mere stuff. Consent and complicity is required for technologies of death to persist, whether they be armaments or corporations. Let us examine our lives for where they are forged as tools, not as artisans and creators made in the image of God, but as artifacts to be bought and sold. Let us withdraw our consent to such dehumanization and create a joyful dance in which all can freely participate. May you be joyful in your resistance.

POEM: The Death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

He was a Baby with a capital B
A ruler by which so many would be judged
He was unjust
A child of 20
A President for life
A President for death
As so many capriciously dyin’ with a king
An entourage of automatic weapons and complimentary wine
Drunk with power
As a prince of port
Celebrating fear
Of those his pathos cross
In the company of thieves
A bout to meet their maker
In the chaos of Haiti borne
I was just
A child of 10
With a father doc of my own
Standing up like so many others
In a sense wondering
Who had come before me
And what might fallow
Only to depart so quickly
As a pre-mature baby with terminal rashness
Vainly hoping to reach ode age
Goon before we know it
And such is life
I dash to the winnow
Like a babe in the woulds
Mirrorly site seeing
Unschooled in this deathly land escape
As my mother
Without peer
Pulled me to her side
That one side that fits awe
Only hereafter to learn
In do time
With respects
To wrest in peace

I wrote this poem this morning after hearing of the death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, a former president of Haiti, much more aptly described as a brutal dictator.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving there as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  Our family returned to visit Haiti in 1971, soon after “Baby Doc” inherited the family dictatorship from his father, “Papa Doc.” This poem recounts an incident when we were dining in a restaurant in Port-Au-Prince, the capitol of Haiti, when “Baby Doc” came in for a meal.  I was ten years old.  All of the sudden, everyone in the restaurant stood up.  And as is the etiquette in a foreign country, when everybody around you does something, follow suit.  We stood up.  “Baby Doc” and his entourage of guards armed with automatic weapons entered.  The proprietors of the restaurant quickly prepared a few tables for them directly adjacent to our table.  We were mere feet from three tables occupied by the president and his armed guards. Complimentary wine was ordered for all of the restaurant’s guests. Of course, I found all of this quite fascinating.  They ate and left rather quickly, and I scurried to the window to capture yet more of this gawk-worthy event.  My mom quickly and discreetly rounded me back up and pulled my away from the window.  Only later did she share the worry that such behavior could be viewed as suspicious and perhaps dangerous.

The death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was experienced by countless Haitians who were murdered and disappeared.  This morning there were probably relatively few Haitians mourning the death of this one man.  May Haiti continue to recover from the death brought by his reign, among so many other troubles and challenges.  The experiences of myself and my family in Haiti continue to give me a life-long perspective from which to work for justice and wrest in peace.

POEM: Quiet the View

Hope
Was
Present
On the horizon
South
East
West
North
into the fabric of existence
Be not afraid
Weather
Looking up
Looking down
Such peek experiences
Are awe ways just
Round the corner

I haven’t published a poem in a while.  I have been attending to other stuff, such as a couple of family reunions and moving my Mom from out-of-town to really out-of-town.  I have written poems during this time, though most of my poetry and verse has simply returned from whence it came.  I feel that I have irreversibly headed down the path of a poet.  My mind regularly (or irregularly) drifts toward poetry.  Most anything can trigger inspiration.  If poetry where a second language to learn, you might say that I am dreaming in poetry now, as verse becomes second nature.

This poem was written during a break from helping my Mom move.  We were in her 25th story corner apartment in a downtown Detroit coop apartment building.  Of course, she had lived there long enough that there was way more than 25 stories now.  I was enjoying the fabulous panoramic view when this poem sprung from the horizon.

As is oft the case, this poem is about hope.  Hope has always been.  Hope is present now.  Hope is always on the horizon.  Hope is SEWN into the fabric of our existence.  The phrase, “Be not afraid,” has special significance since it is the instruction that Jesus most frequently gave his disciples.  Hope, like many godly things, can be elusive.  Fear seems to be very effective at getting our attention; though much more blunt than the subtleties of hope, faith, and love.  Jesus leverages the palpability of fear to preface his deeper messages.  Fear is a great diagnostic tool to identify our personal blocks to experiencing hope, faith, and love.  If we can’t get past fear, then hope seems…hopeless.  Life inevitably has its ups and downs.  The difficulties in life can mire us in the rough edges of life, those corners that we can’t see around.  May you have the presence to seek peek experiences and find that you round the corner.

POEM: Laundered Hearts

Laundered Hearts

On those journeys
Through dark
Night
Watches
Ending only
With mourning
Broken
Finding yourself
Alone
With a ponderous God
Separating darks and lights
Threatened by grays
Hanging on by hairs and threads
Frayed
Washed out
Left
Only
Facing
The new borne
With blues and pinks
Occasional
Fresh attitudes
So nigh eve
A tough pill to swallow
That great beyond
Slipping passed
The Adam’s apple
Impassable to unknow
So stern the guardin’
Parently
A name
So hollowed
The coming reign
For given trespasses
Daily bred
On earth
As it is in heavin’
Temptations so waited
As lead
Into deliverance
Lying in stork contrast
Crying at the drop
Of a feather
Sticking together
Amidst the tears
In the veil
Throbbing us
Of our temple
Un-till
Our hearts beat back
What mourning brings
Is new dawnings
For those following the light
For light penetrates the dark
And we fear not vice verse
Burnishing us for all time
With laundered hearts

It seems that death and mourning has been on my heart recently.  After a long hospice experience with a friend, I received notice that my Dad’s ex-partner’s Mom just died.  I knew that he had a long slog of it.  My note to him triggered this poem.

Like most of my poems, this poem explores both the dark and light side of our experiences.  Death is an epic theme that frames and molds how we approach life.  Mourning is an essential developmental skill to navigate life.  There is much to mourn in the world — some distant, some nearby.  Eventually, death will close in on us.  None escape.

To bring this poem down to everyday reality, I use the metaphor of laundry.  This can represent the routine tasks that we must continue even if we are in deep mourning.  Sometimes this can reconnect us to our everyday living. “Laundered” can also imply an illegitimate, sleazy, or illegal process, such as in “laundering money.”  Both of these images can converge into being put through the wringer.  The real question is what comes out the other side.  Hopefully, something stronger and deeper, even cleaner, more pure.

I have also built into this poem the contrast, “the stork contrast,” between death and new life, newborns: the blues and pinks.  Those with more life experience know that such youth possesses certain naive qualities as well as a refreshing aspect to life.  Death puts these in sharp contrast.  Hopefully, this stark contrast imbues life with all the more preciousness.  My deepest trust and faith is that life is larger than death, more powerful than death, and even death can strengthen life.  In this poem, this is captured by the allusion to light penetrating dark but dark being unable to dispel light.

When death rubs up to you, may you be burnished, polished, and come out with a cleaner and brighter heart on the other side.

POEM: Tasting God

Tasting God

I almost tasted God
In what turned out
To be
A fine guacamole
A common mistake
Well worth repeating

I find eating guacamole a religious experience.  As family legend has it, when we lived in Haiti when I was a toddler, my Mom found me under the kitchen sink eating rotten avocados.  While in college, I food poisoned myself with a bad batch of guacamole.  This imprinted in me an aversion to avocados which lasted for months.  Fortunately, I have fully recovered — and then perhaps some!  Though I delight in avocados, I rarely buy them.  Mostly because I am cheap, and somewhat poor.  Partly, because I have so many delights in my life where I can access God, many of them sensual.  I suppose if God hid better in my life, I might have to resort to avocados more frequently.  Fortunately, my sweetheart is familiar with this highway to God, and she feeds me avocados with some regularity.  One of her many titles is “Giver of Guacamole,” though in goddess-like ineffableness she seems to resist pet names.

This poem plays with the experiencing of God as a sensual experience.  The almost tasted God suggests that it may be close to experiencing God, but perhaps not directly.  Of course, the “turned out to be” could mean that the mistake was in the almost.  Either way, the experience is well worth repeating; and if there is some mistake involved, the sheer gloriousness of a fine guacamole should amply cover any falling short.

POEM: Mother-Father of Invention

Necessity is the mother of invention
The father is wholly
Less certain
Until paternity is decided
I’ll consider other innovative bastards my brothers

POEM: Unfed Just Desserts

Poets are born, die, crushed by writer’s block or a cruel world, and are reborn again and again.  The world can be a desert at times, sometimes worse.  Yet, as a child, an infant in the arms of a mysterious universe that somehow cares for us, we are fed.  We launch ships and create beauty that remains largely unseen.  But, like the macaroni art that only a mother could love, we return to our source, a home, even if a home to no other; and we take a place of honor, as a sentinel on a doorway to that place where Mom’s food is stored.

Unfed Just Desserts

When I find myself
Unfed
I play
The child
Imaginary
Tea
Set
Against
Me
Still
Un-made
Fore
Solid food
Not with standing
In a world of
Make believe
Partial to
Anew born
Who finds their nourishment
Spewed about
Much to the dismay
Of those with
More mature tongues
And ingenious mines
No amount of trains or planes
Could carry the sustenance
I re-choir
Though utterly captivated
My self
I let out a powerful wail
Enough blubber
To endow
A thousand poor SOBs
Any mother knows what I’m talking about!
And I am herd
As I
Go on
Strike
An umbilical chord
Sending me to my womb
Wear a dinner awaits
Unserved in any dining room
Just desserts

POEM: A Mother’s Nature

This poem did not exist a few hours ago.  I was interrupted by a thought (captured in the first few lines) and I took the time to jot them down.  Seconds turned to hours as the muse is a taskmaster second to none!  The harm we are doing to our planet haunts me.  Meditating upon the good nature of a higher power helps center me while on a planet where cynicism flows freely.  I am powerless over the creative powers.  This is a good thing!  I stand in awe.  I will stand to protect our planet.  Enjoy!

A Mother’s Nature

Mother Nature is relentless
Like our best dreams
Unlike the monster one step behind us
And gaining
She will do us no harm
Patiently waiting
For her children to return
To the home she has fashioned
Never out of style
Yet oft forgotten
Too few admitting to such a hospitality
Taking the mantle of patients
Picturing her children’s development
Framed by her own love
Razed buy edifice complexes
No matter how
She made them field
And forced unmatched
Given freely verses
Accrued credo
Never to retreat
With receding heir lines
Lured into orphanages
Buy counterfeit presents
That no’s no currency
Now
Giving no quarter to a homme-less mom
A mirror sham to couch their shame
Forging the future
A bode
Swayed by unnatural winds
A backwards whirled
A lost race
Imitating won another
They could get no flatter
In the crush of by-gone dates
Rapt over and over
For what they ware
Gripped by un-void-able cells
Phony sustenance
Quiet a pare
The elusive wons and zeroes
Forming a mock 10
Sow quickly barren
Fake breasts
Seduced into beating
A psycho-path to
Unending litter
Mine-ing anything and everything
That would
Make steal
Throbbing from a mother’s chest
Hearts trumped
Up on false charges
Beating the rap
A single ruse
On Mother’s Day know less!
As she goes
About her business
Miss taken
Scores of prodigal children
A fatherless brood
Ever digging that irony
Any bogus meddle will doo
Pinned to their empty chests
Never wandering up ponder
All is dwell that ends dwell
Wee awe
End up
In hour
Birth place
Returning too
One’s native
Land
Taken
In
Buy
Mother Nature
By awe accounts
Receivable
How can it be
That she is
Unscarred
By us?
There is no sphere
Like hers

POLITICAL CARTOON: Comedian Jesus – HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Jesus Wishes Happy Mother’s Day

Jesus Cartoon: Comedian Jesus -  HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Comedian Jesus, like the rest of us, has a mom.  Of course, Jesus, being perfect, would never forget to wish his mother a happy Mother’s Day.  However, Jesus has an advantage of being a perfect child.  Not everybody has a great relationship with their mother.  Nonetheless, Jesus is a patient and understanding son, indulging his mother’s occasional insecurities or whining.  Still, this is no great accomplishment for the Son of God.  The greater difficulty comes in exactly how to celebrate Father’s Day; having two daddies can present some complications.  We’ll just have to see how comedian Jesus deals with that!

So, until next Sunday, with the next edition of Comedian Jesus, Doctor Jesus, CEO Jesus, General Jesus, Country Club Jesus, etc., let me know what you think.

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture) FUNNY PEACE DESIGN

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)--FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Buttons.

This funny peace design includes many of the signature elements of my designs.  Of course, as a total peacenik, a peace dove carrying an olive branch, a classic peace sign, is the centerpiece of this design.  The sky in the background offers a little bit of realism into simple clip-art design.  The dove sets up the visual pun which can only be understood in conjunction with the text.  The “Look Ma, No Arms!” presents itself with a childlike innocence, calling attention to itself with a demanding affection.  The pun on “arms” hopefully draws the stark contrast between a simple interaction between mother and child and a call for disarmament.  This design captures well both of the playfulness and the seriousness that I value greatly, and fits well into my mission to provide serious, funny, seriously funny designs.  Enjoy!

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto by Top Pun

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto

“Some claim that puns are the lowest form of comedy. Dan, rather, says, “Guns are the lowest form of community.” Choose your weepin’! I prefer to hit ’em in the groan. Though puns and untrained minds can produce a “Not see,” puns and arms go hand in hand when used as a righting instrument. Mixing puns with peacework puts you in the dis’armament business; and though rhyme doesn’t pay, the prophets are good. With puns, and sharing a little peace of mine, we can realize that one side fits all. In truth, it’s guns that have too “meanings” for the price of won. Sometimes it takes everything we’ve got to see the blight (as they say, “sinner takes all”). While some may feel it’s an impossible play on wars (a mortality play for sure), all it takes is a sick sense (no relation to paranormal parents). Let’s have some serious fun (a free for all). Justice is no yoke. Think good that the pun is mightier than the sword!”

I wrote this manifesto early on in my career as Top Pun.  I have been a terrible punster as long as I can remember, and I have been interested in a wide range of social justice issues since I was a young adult.  I remember that my parents, recognizing my propensity towards puns, gave me a dictionary of puns as a present one year for my birthday.  In this pun dictionary, it was stated that there are an infinite number of puns.  At first, and actually for a very long time, I thought that this could not be possible.  Now, after cementing my vocation as the best punster for peace in the English-speaking world, I have little difficulty recognizing that there aren’t infinite number of puns.  I am a little surprised that this “Puns Not Guns” manifesto has held up so well for me over the years. I think that maybe I’m onto something with this punning thing.

As you can tell from the manifesto, much of my early inspiration comes from involvement in the peace movement.  Nonviolence seems to be the thread that ties together all of the many issues that I’m interested in.  Of course, perhaps conveniently, I define nonviolence very broadly (that’s non-broadly if you’re a woman).  Actually, while my first foray into nonviolence was in the late 70s when my mom took me to a peace conference at our church, Central United Methodist Church in Detroit.  This is the most salient event that I can identify as far as my consciousness raising around peace issues.  Back to the whole issue of nonviolence, I defined world hunger and extreme poverty as violence.  World hunger has continued to be the defining issue for me in relation to the world.  The interface between great affluence and extreme poverty has always challenged and perplexed me.  It is very difficult for me to reconcile these cruel and destructive differences in a world with so much.  The fact that such issues are deep and central to me really comes as no surprise.  In fact, I was literally born into it.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  My father was a physician at the time, and my mother was a nurse at the time.  Mennonites have a tradition of encouraging their young folks after high school or college to perform some service to others.  Also, while I have been a lifelong United Methodist, I come from a very long line of Mennonites.  This Mennonite influence has been very strong, with predictable outcomes, in the sense, that peace and justice and simple living are powerful themes in my life.  Little did I realize early in my life that I was a good candidate for being a hippie.  My parents never really spoke that much about their experiences in Haiti, and when they did speak of their experiences in Haiti, they spoke rather nonchalantly.  Perhaps paradoxically, this more casual exceptions of what is hardly typical service, instilled in me that such commitment and service should be normal; and for me it was normal.

View Top Pun’s PUNS DESIGNS