Are Peace Signs The Bomb?

This is my kind of story about the power of peace buttons:

In one North Carolina city, authorities decided it might be too dangerous to give peace a chance.Give peace a chance -- John Lennon quote

News outlets report Interstate 240 in Asheville and a bridge over it were closed for about 10 minutes Thursday while police removed two round button-like objects reading “peace” from underneath the bridge.

About 1 foot (0.3 meters) across, the objects were made of a Styrofoam-like material, painted red and gray, and attached with magnets to the steel beams underneath the bridge on the northbound and southbound spans.

The Citizen-Times quotes Lt. Joseph Sorrells as saying authorities assumed the objects didn’t pose a threat, but they shut down traffic “to err on the side of caution.” He said the objects were harmless.

The road closures caused significant backups on I-240, and a preschool was placed on lockdown.

I have been known and unknown to skulk about in similar such peacemongering activities.  When peace breaks out in such small ways, may we not be so afraid.

Please feel free to browse my many hundreds of peace sign designs, from simple to psychedelic.

POEM: Naught For Prophet Fun Razing

In the crucible
Of the well-heeled
And the, well, heeled
He surrounded himself
With corporate persons
Naught for prophet organizations
Possessed buy a cutting edge currency paper thin
The filing and folding kind
Their foundational hope
Nay only hope
To raze money
Life too be spent
Saving the whirled
From that witch
Is free
From the guilty floating
As the innocent sunk
Of sum cache
Their soul barometer

This poem is my tribute to the nonprofit industrial complex.  A fare characterization of non-prophet organizations is their never having enough, money that is — just, like the rest of our culture.  I have found both the focus and distraction of money in nonprofit ventures as a poor substitute for their supposed liberation from the stock aid of profit.  The noble missions of most nonprofit organizations have become largely moat points collared by the circular nature of rivers of money.  I am a huge fan of Jesus culling out our culture with surgical simplicity: “You can’t serve both God and money.”  More Hunger for Love Appreciation in World Than Bread--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThe notion that money is the root to our salvation is anathema to every high ideal aspired to in faith traditions across time and cultures.  Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately it is very unfashionable to talk with them -- Mother Teresa quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis world has bred, many kneads, in the grand inquisition of the yeast of these. The wretched view of chasing money from mourning to knight gives rise to few.  The many have material needs, indubitably.  Yet as Mother Teresa so aptly noted, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than bread.”  The poor will awe weighs be with us.  As we pour ourselves, in too the world, may we be measured buy such worth sow much more than money.

Where there is no wealth there is no poverty. African Proverb POLITICAL BUTTONIn a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. Confucius quote POLITICAL BUTTONNobody Gets Into Heaven With A Letter Of Reference From The Poor -- Rev. James Forbes. Jr. quote POLITICAL BUTTON

The Comfort Of The Rich Depends Upon An Abundant Supply Of The Poor POLITICAL BUTTONThe rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs. Karl Marx quote POLITICAL BUTTON If You Think that the Poor are Hard to Get Rid of Try the Rich-POLITICAL BUTTON

Please feel free to check out Top Pun’s anti-poverty and economic justice designs.

POEM: Awe Due Consideration

What is good
A bout religion
At best
There is little to say
Giving a fare hearing
More about listening
Too small
Still voices
Respecting only what due
Saving
A few choice words
For those empower
Occupying humanity
Only in sow far
As won for all
Quiet an undertaking
As ambitious silence
And ponderous a void
That vulnerable space
And venerable pace
Between word and deed
Owned by awe
Wear know thinking
Aloud
For awe to consider

This poem is about the confounding truth that the universe of truth is quiet literally beyond words.  Words are representations, symbols of something else, which may allow us to think about something but often are poor vehicles for bringing about the direct experience to which we are referencing.  Even mathematics, considered the purist science, is mirrorly a representation of truth, not truth itself.  Even if a unified theory of mathematics and physics is elucidated, this will give mournfully flimsy assurance in the quest for an enlightened humanity and moral living in everyday life. Perhaps the most grave bias in postmodern existence is mistaking words and science, even the most erudite collections of words and symbols referred to as ideologies, theologies, or bodies of scientific knowledge, as the living truth.  I consider the most profound truths as existing directly through experience, not the recounting of experience or observations.  This is why I consider consciousness as the most fundamental aspect of reality/existence.  I won’t elaborate on that, hear.  It is no accident that I am drawn to poetry in the Siren’s song of the whirled’s parent chaos, and reverent silence in the muse’s presents.  He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words --Elbert Hubbard quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONI save irreverence for my words.  I prefer the metaphor as a vehicle for reflecting upon truth because it has the humble recognition that what it is trying to say is quite literally not what it is literally saying.  This poem picks on religion first and foremost, perhaps paradoxically, because its grand task is most poorly suited for words.  The phase, “shut the hell up,” comes to mine.  I am a big fan of St. Francis’ proposition, “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”  This is close kin to my favorite proposition of Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Both of these quotes lift up action compared to fancy erudition.  Both seek integral and centered being as the pivotal place and space for right action.  St. Francis recognized that speaking, languages of symbols, is a grand gift of humans, but that in many circumstances, a moral economy imbues greater value with scarcity.  While, awe things considered, silence may be the language of God, the awesome need to share our experiences with one another bids us to dare speak, to dare improve upon silence.

FREE DOWNLOADABLE POSTER: Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins

Gandhi does it again with this genius taxonomy of social sins.  Feel free to share widely and/or print out this free downloadable poster:

Gandhi Quote: Seven Social Sins FREE POSTER

This free poster design is based on this Top Pun design, available on buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and of course, a laminated poster:

Gandhi Quote: Seven Social Sins - POLITICAL BUTTON

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can view more great Mohandas K. Gandhi quotes here.

POEM: Putting The Monet In Monetize

The starving artist
Whose art couldn’t be made
Fast enough
Fore his dealer
Rejecting means
Except as accede
In awe but name groan
Poising as a plant
To the extant one can make cents
Putting the Monet in monetize

This poem goes out for awe of the artists successfully resist compromising their heart in order to achieve commercial success.  Compromising our humanity to monetize our lives seems to be at the core of our capitalist culture.  The stark choices between money and people often appear surreal due to the sheer omnipresence of selling out.  It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society -- Krishnamurti quoteWhen sickness becomes the norm, a healthy path seems insane.   As Krishnamurti so aptly stated, “It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  Art serves a purpose far deeper than “making a living, ” by connecting and re-connecting us to our most primal and highest feelings and aspirations.  Art can serve as an antidote to the societal sickness built on wanton conformity and shallow efficiency. Perhaps fortunately, art is often so undervalued that it serves as a ready vehicle for giving freely, de-linked from monetary ventures.  Perhaps giving freely seems like an un-fiord-able luxury (perhaps privilege is a more apt word), but carving out spaces and places for that which cannot be bought is at the core of a healthy humanity, and hopefully not merely an afterthought.  In perhaps the ultimate irony of artists and their art in a capitalistic culture, the most reliable way to increase the commercial value of your art is to die.  Rather than the death by a thousand compromises suited to most modern jobs, artists may literally need to die to boost the commercial value of their work.  The gods of supply and demand favor dead artists.  Hopefully, artists will be better valued by their enlivening passion instilled in their art rather than the mortifyingly clammy calculus of the marketplace.  Starve the beast, make art; and may you find it full, filling.

POEM: Liberal Mined Violent

Some liberal mined violent
Call up on pacifists
To condemn a brand of violence
To wit
They object
Ultimately subjected
To accost
Without benefit analysis
Coming efface to efface
With realty
And a sorted loved wons
Unwilling to accede where others have flailed
The brand they hide
Singularly fingered
Buy pacifists
Calling a tension two
A third weigh
Of the largesse possible
An unwelcome piece
When wanting more than have
Of everything fourth with
Ironying details
Ever beyond that which is a greed
How to saddle for less
Than being cowed
And truth be tolled
The violent
As a madder of practice
Get their weigh
A tempting feudal steer
Milking it for all a veil
In udder disbelief
As much as we can
Due better
Keeping nothing bottled up
Unleashing everything even remotely herd
Know longer listening
Too the artless
Like sum stock ticker
An engine only for the vain
Abase symbol for awe to hear
As the lover of awe kinds
Relinquishes the bully pulpit
In respect to those assembling
Not dissembling

Pacifists such as myself are sometimes called upon by those who are selectively violent to roundly and reliably condemn some violence that is repugnant to their preferred modes of violence.  PACIFIST - Someone With The Nutty Idea That Killing People Is Bad PEACE BUTTONThis convenient opportunism by “liberal mined” violent can hopefully serve as an opportunity for pacifist to draw connections and expose biased interests in enterprises that vainly wish to promote some kinds of violence and condemn other forms of violence, yet miraculously divorce means and ends and somehow produce a nonviolent state.  The situation that came to mind for me in this poem harkens back to the early 1980’s as a peacemongering student at Hope College.  I was asked by a conservative political science professor to serve as an expert witness in the campus’ mock United Nations proceedings.  Specifically, he was asking me to address violence by Palestinians against Israelis.  Much to his chagrin, I spoke about violence in the Israeli occupation of Palestine proportional to the violence present, that is, overwhelmingly committed by Israel and backed by the political and financial patronage of the United States.

Probably the largest complaint that apologists for violence have against pacifists is that they are “passivists,” complicit and enabling of injustices, specifically, and perhaps presumptuously, injustices that seem only solvable through violence, or at least the right “kind” of violence.  Complicity to violence and injustice is a profoundly true charge to both pacifists and apologists for violence.  Pacifism sets the bar high and regularly fails at fully fulfilling its high calling.  Feel free to contrast this limit of idealism (and its harms?) with the cynical acceptance (realism?) that killing others is necessary for justice (usually just us). If the notion and practice of necessary evil doesn’t make your head explode, it will quite assuredly shrink your heart, particularly if aspiring to follow a God of love.  I see Gandhi’s simple taxonomy of roles in the necessarily epic struggles for justice as insightful. Gandhi spoke of nonviolent “warriors,” violent warriors, and cowards.  I'm not a pacifist. I'm not that brave. Phil Donahue quote PEACE BUTTONHe saw these ordered in terms of moral achievement; the pacifist activist, then soldiers, and lastly, cowards. Of course, poorly performing pacifists can fall into the pit of fear and cowardice, unsuccessfully bridging the gap between talking the talk and walking the walk.  Soldiers have an inherent advantage in that a significant proportion can be expected to face death in combat situations.  This engenders a palpable sense of courage for facing such situations, whether, in fact, these situations are just or not.  Willingly facing being killed or severely harmed is the definition of courage. We can learn a lot from soldiers (not the least of which is that the most vehement anti-war activists are often veterans of military combat, sometimes simply slaughter). Courage is commendable.  Having skin in the game is the necessary good.  Any pacifist worth their salt will embody courage and skin in the game.  Evil, and its even uglier companion, necessary evil, can only thrive amidst cowardice and not having skin in the game.  Without courage, cowardice will rule the day (and night).  Without skin in the game, the privileged will continue to keep their foot on the neck of the disenfranchised, usually through a complex system of subcontracting not requiring their actual foot to do the dirty work.  A cowardly, distracted and narcotized public will earn an assist in maintaining their somewhat more advantageous state in the hierarchy of privilege and disenfranchisement.

Of course, the difference between a pacifist and a soldier is not the willingness to die for a cause, but the (un)willingness to kill for a cause.  The willingness to kill is the preeminent prerequisite of a soldier.  Object of War Not to Die for Your Country But Make Other Bastard Die for His -- General George Patton ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONIn regard to willingly dying and willingly killing, perhaps the infamous WWII General George Patton said it best, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”  Further, in the calculus of soldiering, we must remember that in modern times (the last 100+ years), military combat has frighteningly consistently killed over ten noncombatants/civilians for every soldier killed.  By what stretch of imagination do “realists” consider this courageous and honorable?  The cowardice inherent in the proposition of necessary evil is the root of much evil in this world.  The fantasy of necessary evil is nothing short of an abnegation of responsibility, an idol worship of something other than the free will and moral agency of which we are endowed.

As a spiritual practice, I find pacifism, ruling out the killing of others, as a profoundly creative practice.  You may be surprised at the depths of creativity accessible by dispatching the human perversion called necessary evil and the barbaric practice of killing others.  Without presupposing limits on human goodness, you can unleash new experiments, pioneer new ground (sometimes observed as common ground), raise the heights to which humans may aspire, and make the world friendlier to love.  Nonviolence is Organized Love -- Joan Baez PEACE QUOTEAs Joan Baez so elegantly and succinctly said, “That’s all nonviolence is — organized love.”  Of course, my paraphrase would be: nonviolence is just, organized love…

 

POEM: Paying In Attention – Owed To Mind Fullness

I under stand
You are on
Some kind of in
Stall meant plan
As long
As you still
Pay attention
In do time
I’ll pay for such in deference
Hopefully not the final time
Having been
Pre-disposed
In the passed
And per severe
Beyond just us
And awe claims
Sow gossamer a ledge
Holy prone
Sacred out of my wits
With that owed time religion
Bard none
U of life
Won
As in daze of your
Still
In the hear and now
As I right
A tone
Sublime volume
For all too here
It is
My willing
As well
For give
The ineffable scene
Wear knot all is destined
And only that be
Which under stood
Hear after
That awe in life
Sir passing the grave
Life meeting its maker
Coming a cross
In attention
Out pacing
Thought fullness
Fated to outstrip
Getting just desserts
And given
The wrest is history
To whatever extant
I am
Sow
Inclined
End lessly
App’ed
Too think
For what is mind
For what is yores
In-during-ly
A where-ness
Bequeathing real eyes

This poem is about mindfulness.  This poem is about acceptance, seeing things as they truly are, with a minimum of preconceived notions.  This poem is about intimacy, vulnerability, living openly and freely in a whirled that often runs one over unconsciously, even at the hands of those with good intents.  More specifically, this poem is informed and inspired by my experiences over recent months as a regular bicyclist, since I became car-less.  It has dawned on me that riding my bike amidst distracted and unaware drivers of huge masses of metal, glass, and plastic — formerly known as cars — is a powerful metaphor for my worldview.  Even if highly aware, the power differential possessed by unaware car drivers reliably results in them imposing the cost of their lack of awareness on those less powerful; in this case, a biker.  They are insulated from the feedback, the costs, of their own mindlessness.  I see such mindless, abusive power differentials wreaking havoc on our world most anywhere I look. Only Thing Necessary for Triumph of Evil is for Good Men to do Nothing -- Edmund Burke quote At best, these mindless abuses of privilege (privilege as being on the stronger side of a power differential) are maladaptive.  At worst, these mindless abuses of privilege are the foundation upon which evil can successfully manipulate the unconscious aspects of humanity to its own ends.  In regard to intimacy, I would say that in the car-bicyclist relationship the car-driver represents the antithesis of vulnerability, literally protected by a huge wall of metal, glass, and plastic.  To which the bicyclist offers their bare skin and an oft-ill-fitting plastic helmet for one’s consciousness-bearing noggin.  You can draw your own particular picture of the implications of this larger dynamic played out in our social and political life together.  In the world of urban cycling, let it suffice to say that good intent is not sufficient.  Most drivers who violate your legal right-of-way are palpably repentant after they realize what they have done.  I take great pride in offering my existence as a biker to drivers to help them learn about the existence of other people who are made vulnerable by their mindlessness.  Still, it is I who pays the greater price for this potential evolutionary relationship.  Thus, this poem.

If I am to be run over and killed by a mindless driver, please read this poem at my funeral, and offer this poem to the manslaughterer.  Similarly, I offer myself up in the path of mindless (and mindful) political forces, in hopes of expanding humanity’s potential for evolution.  If I should be run over and killed by some overtly political force, I am sure their are plenty of my other poems appropriate to be read at my memorial.  In any case, wish me luck — if you believe in such things.

I view consciousness, or mindfulness, as the primary force and indicator of human evolution.  I view most of the bad things in this world as a byproduct of a mindfulness deficiency.  Quantitatively, having no one at the wheel allows many, many bad things to happen.  Qualitatively, having people who are aware of their destructive choices and yet still choose them — one definition of sin — is a scary situation because mindfulness alone is insufficient for self-correction.  This is an active disease of the will.  Still, the passivity of the will, of active mindfulness, carries most of the day in most of our everyday lives.  I see that our lives are lived for us, as passive beings, to a larger degree than we live our lives consciously, mindfully.  The epic showdowns between conscious evil and conscious good make for great, even necessary, storytelling, but does not reflect the less sexy, more mundane bulk of our own struggles for increasing consciousness, the prerequisite for any life truly lived.

In the order of consciousness, self-awareness is a prerequisite for any fruitful other-awareness.  Without self-awareness, we will be mired in unending unconscious, biased projections of our self onto the world of other people and things that make up our shared reality.  My love of science is congruent with a desire to have an accurate understanding of our shared reality.  Still, science falls disturbingly silent in addressing one’s inner life, and the ultimate, inescapable assumptions or projections onto other people.  My working assumptions, based on my experience of my own inner life, is that people want to be accepted for who they are, positively appreciated, and want to contribute to a better world, our shared reality.  I willingly project empathy and lovingkindness into the world, in hopes of a better world for all of us.  If this is not what you want, feel free to let me know.    	 Better To be Slapped With The Truth Than Kissed With A Lie -- Russian ProverbIf I stray from these working assumptions, feel free to gently remind me of my deepest commitments.  If I stand clearly apart from these working assumptions, feel free to tell me like it is in no uncertain terms.  As the Russian proverb goes: “Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.”

 

 

POEM: A Weigh of Death

If you must kill
For your way of life
It is a weigh of death
Knot a way of life

This short poem cuts to the chaste on this anniversary of 9/11, formerly unknown as the anniversary of the U.S.-backed, CIA-directed military coup in 1973 of the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.  Now, back in the good ole USA, the only military coo you will hear is accompanied by the drums of war, playing up the only apparent choices as killing or doing nothing, in order to preserve our so-called “way of life.”  The foundation of this band of brothers (and occasional sisters) is built upon well-remembered dead Americans and easily forgotten non-Americans, the vast majority of whom are civilian noncombatants, possessing no name except collateral damage.  Shame on US for being so blinded in this mirror war and a callous just US.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Check out hundreds of more anti-war quotes and peace quotes.

POEM: Sew Your Frayed

Fear takes you
Too the toil it
For those privy to life
If you have years, listen
Courage makes you
What sow ever the seasoning
Spring dew
Or winter flakes
You knead not be
Scared for life
Weather an incite job
Or out word bound
So telling
Down with that
Quizzical expression
Facing your maker
Sew your frayed
Stranded
Over looking
Needle-less to say
What will
It take
Enough
To send a chill down your spying
Feeling so
Small still
Voice
Which can knot
Be herd
In a big baaaaad whirled
Wear everything
Is holey
Flocked up
As you
Sheepishly secede
Just getting
Threw it
Wandering
If only
Poor Me
Might be
Better off
Dread
Then mined
Racing
As if
Possessed
Yet without
Apprehension
Shuddering your vary life
Frighting fore breath
Too feel the qualm
As dismay
Or may not
Come about
Or in courage found
A future borne
Weather bold over
Or destiny snatched
You will
In deed
Learn
To let go
And discover
Whatever
Attain meant
Having shown up
As fully present
Equal too
The fair and bizaar
Yielding
A candid life, sow sweet
On the up and up

This poem about fear was by request — yesterday.  I thought that it would take a couple of weeks to get to it, but the muse is fickle and demanding.  Thanks to my neighbor’s unduly loud alarm going off AGAIN at 5 AM, I surrendered to wakefulness and wrote this poem.

Fear and worry seldom pay good dividends.  I do find fear to be a great diagnostic tool to identify issues that I need to be aware of and work on.  Fears seem to populate the surface of life, often masking deeper desires.  One of my favorite quotes is by Amela Earhart, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  Our lack of peace is probably directly proportional to our lack of courage.  I cannot tell you what form courage needs to take in your life, but it is the engine of peace.

I often like to boil ideas down to their simplest distillation.  One formula for life that I’ve run across has impressed me with both its brevity and power:  Show up.  Pay attention.  Tell the truth.  Let go of the outcome.  This covers a lot of ground!  May you find wisdom and courage to secure a sweet peace.

POEM: Come Alive

At a party
A stranger
Approaches several guests
With great anticipation
Won by won
Not asking them
The routine inquiry
“What do you do
for a living?”
Instead asking them
“What do you do
that makes you come alive?”
Though it soon becomes clear
There is only one real question
Will they ever be the same?

This poem is inspired by one of my favorite quotes, by Howard Thurman, a theologian and activist: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  This poem uses one of my favorite poetic devices, other than puns of course, the intentionally ambiguous pronoun; specifically, they in the last line.  This can refer to the several guests, or as to whether the answers to the two questions will ever merge into the one same answer.  As you would have rightly suspected, both of these interpretations reinforce one another.  The only use of a pun, twice, in Won by won, is a tip of the hat to another favorite quote of mine, by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  This line infers that change comes about not simply by pondering questions, but my living and modeling the change that we want to see in the world.  The inquiring guest adds their own life to the weight of the question.  In a related quote, by the great Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  The poem is mine.  The quotes driving this commentary are others’.  Of course, plagiarism is the highest form of flattery — a quote attributed to an unknown but highly flattered author.

POEM: Chapter 58 – Isaiah

Chapter 58 – Isaiah

Isaiah was a man
A kind of a man
More generous than his wealth
Untouchable by another’s profits
With a frugality beyond any poverty
He was a gentle man
With a purposefulness typically beyond words
Speaking with a clarity too spirited for some
In jail for disturbing the peace
Though he would have said
“I am disturbing the war”
He was a headstrong man
Though less determined than unshakable
His single-mindedness
Exceeded only by a purity of heart
In that instant where mourning breaks
In the face of a rising dawn
Awaking
Following that first night
With an irrepressible smile
On his face
Realizing he is the freest person
He knows
Simply saying
“I really need to get out more”
Fast becoming hungry
Thirst things thirst
In spite of being
Like naked
For I’s guarded
Surrounded by men of this stripe
Wholly innumerable
Ever-present in the passed
His work was before him
A long line of just us
All the same, some lost
Some merely on their way
To share some food with his mates
Then off to work
For there is
No such thing as
Free room and board
From some anonymous uncle
After all the feds
Reckon the rest
As what will follow
When expecting to be herd
As well as something more

This poem is a tribute and extremely loose paraphrase or interpretation of Isaiah 58 in the Bible.  This Old Testament chapter is a classic among lovers of justice.  In this poem, the title alludes to a chapter in the biography of a man.  This modern-day take is inspired by those faithful and devoted workers for justice who commit civil disobedience in the course of their work for social justice.  The setting is a free man who finds himself in prison.  Barring all irony, he is still free!

The only truly obscure reference that I would elucidate springs from the lines: In spite being/Like naked/For I’s guarded.  It’s more easily accessible meaning is a reference to being vulnerable, particularly when at the hands of someone who, like a prison guard, literally oversees your every movement, peering into the bowels of your very being!  The obscurity is in that “Nakedness was taboo in Judaism, and shame fell less on the naked party than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness (Gen 9:20-27).”  In Matthew 5:40, Jesus says, “if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.” The theologian and author Walter Wink explains how Jesus instructed his audience, the poor, how to fight back using creative nonviolence, taking advantage of the cultural fact that viewing nakedness is more shameful than being naked:

“…so the debtor parades his nakedness in prophetic protest against a system that has deliberately rendered him destitute.  Imagine him leaving the court, naked: his friends and neighbors, aghast, inquire what happened.  He explains.  They join his growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade.  The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked.  The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution, and abasement.  This unmasking is not simply punitive, therefore; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his life, what his practices cause, and to repent.
     The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity.  Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning.  By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible.  This message, far from being a counsel to perfection unattainable in this life, is a practical, strategic measure for empowering the oppressed, and it is being lived out all over the world today by powerless people ready to take their history into their own hands.
     Jesus provides here a hint of how to take on the entire system by unmasking its essential cruelty and burlesquing its pretensions to justice.  Here is a poor man who will no longer be treated as a sponge to be squeezed dry by the rich.  He accepts the laws as they stand, pushes them to absurdity, and reveals them for what they have become.  He strips naked, walks out before his fellows, and leaves this creditor, and the whole economic edifice which he represents, stark naked.”

I encourage you read the full article by Walter Wink, Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way, where Dr. Wink outlines three of methods of creative nonviolent disobedience that Jesus taught, from Mathew 5:38-41 (NIV): “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”  One of the truly magnificent revelations in this article is how it illustrates the extent to which Jesus’ teachings are commonly misunderstood; or perhaps more to the point, often understood as the exact opposite of what Jesus meant!

The spirit of Jesus is manifest in the scripture inspiring this poem, Isaiah 58 (NIV).  It is no accident that Jesus quotes Isaiah to kick off his public ministry!  The heading for this chapter is usually rendered, “True Fasting;”

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

New Design Categories

Soon after adding 225 political designs to the Top Pun store, I added subcategories to help people find the designs they most want.  Most important, is the new category of Occupy Wall Street.  Also, I added the political subcategory of Political Quotes which encompasses designs across the primary categories, since most of my designs have a political angle to them.  With new designs, there are now enough political designs for subcategories of  Anti-Death Penalty, Socialism, FOX NEWS Parodies, and Vegetarian-Vegan.

On the peace front, I have added subcategories of  Peace Quotes and Anti-War Quotes.

On the spiritual-religious front I have added subcategories of  Religious Quotes-Sayings and Spiritual Quotes-Sayings.  While these two categories overlap quite a bit, I recognize that the distinction between religious and spiritual is important to many, including myself.  I have also added subcategories of Catholic and 12-Step, but I still need to upload more designs into these categories.

To round out the new categories, I have added some subcategories by graphic element, such as Police, Signs, Street Signs, and Television, TV.

Please enjoy perusing my new designs and subcategories.

Force Attracts Men of Low Morality

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE 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 Quote Buttons.

Albert Einstein is recognized as perhaps one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived regarding physics.  However, few people realize that Albert Einstein was also a great genius of metaphysics, or spiritual physics if you will.  This simple rule that force always attracts men of low morality can be a powerful organizing principle in how we relate to the world.  What if we realized, truly realized, that the world of command-and-control, the world of the military and security apparatuses, did not attract the so-called best and the brightest, but attracts those of low morality.  While Einstein certainly devoted the better part of his life to understanding physics, his number one extracurricular activity was to work for peace and the uplifting of all humanity.  Of course, these types of activities typically don’t make the history books, if for none other than the simple reason that history books only deal with great persons in history with a few paragraphs at most.  However, dealing with issues of morality in our culture seems strangely avoided.  This seems to be entwined with the Western civilization worldview that science is objective and all is science, that is reductionistic science.  We simply don’t know what to do with subjectivity, of which morality is one of the more obvious subjects.  Is it any wonder that Western civilization can be strikingly amoral?  So-called Western civilization has nearly perfected the ability to neuter any productive conversations about subjectivity or morality.  Oddly, this is probably viewed as a highly moral position.  You’ve got to love the irony!  Well, back to Einstein.  I like to think that his commitment and fascination to humanity springs forth from the essential truths that he reflected and meditated upon in physics.  I believe that all things are connected, and that this is a profound truth that underlies both physics and metaphysics.  I would hope that very few would object to the premise that all things are connected, as this is profoundly interwoven in the assumptions of any science.  The problem that many people shy away from, of course, are those connections that could be called subjective between humans and the rest of reality.  In the end, I guess my point is that many would view of what Einstein as a prototypical scientist.  If this view is based in any reality, we should pay attention to the fact that Einstein concerned himself with the nature of humanity that cannot directly be put under the proverbial microscope.  While Einstein is perhaps the best example, and he is the most well-known, there are many examples of theoretical physicists who have  immersed themselves in and accepted a mystical reality that cannot be fully explored with traditional hard science.  Yes, Einstein was a softy – a really smart softly.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Jesus Quote–BUTTON

Blessed Are the Peacemakers--BUTTON

Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9 – Jesus–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 Quote Buttons.

This quote from Jesus from Matthew 5:9 is probably one of the most famous and well-known Jesus quotes from the Bible.  Though, however common the phrase blessed are the peacemakers is, you’d be hard-pressed to figure that Christians took this seriously, given how many Christians are in the military, in many a nation (often opposing nations), and how much counsel and comfort is given to those manning, and occasionally womaning, military enterprises.  Of course, many Christians would argue that war-making is a form of peacemaking.  I think that this was a popular argument in 1984.  Or, well, it’s a real job creator for theologians to figure a way out of loving our enemies, and allowing us to kill those that we hate.  This is one of those areas where I find that Christianity gets seriously in the way of following Jesus.  Many people do not realize that in the early Christian church, pacifism was the prevailing norm.  Refusing military conscription was a common form of martyrdom in the early Christian church.  Of course, later, when Christianity cozied up to the state, particularly in the fourth century when Constantine made Christianity the state religion, Christianity mysteriously came up with new ways to justify warring on its enemies.  This co-option into the ways of the world is as common as it is unjustified.  Just reflect on Jesus’ words for a moment.  Really, what blessings do we see reaped by the peacemakers?  In worldly wisdom, these so-called blessings are secondhand fodder for the weak, the lowly pacifist.  I don’t think that it was a mistake that Jesus’ words recorded here as part of the beatitudes, added for emphasis that peacemakers would be called the children of God!  he was trying to make a point!  This is a title reserved for the blessed peacemakers in Jesus’ list of who is blessed.  Most people stop reading the beatitudes soon after this because they are insane enough to suggest that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are also blessed.  I also like to Luke version which mentions as one of the woes as all people speaking well of you, for this is what our ancestors did in speaking of the false prophets.  It seems that a common thread of the many rationalizations I believe stray from Jesus true message concerns avoiding a cost for our actions.  Some days I just wish that we had a courageous Messiah that spoke boldly and prophetically to the powers that be in this world, and they wouldn’t back down, even to the point of death by the cruelest means.  I can tell you one thing: they didn’t need to torture Jesus to get the truth from him.  However, the fact that Jesus was willing to put some skin in the game, all of his skin, speaks truth deeply.  Like they say, talk is cheap.  What would you be willing to sacrifice for peace?  And what blessings would you reap from this?

Risk Taking in War and Peace

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace--PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace–PEACE SIGN 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 Quote Buttons.

This simple peace or antiwar quote challenges our thinking by asking a question about what we are willing to risk or invest in securing peace.  Everyone seems to understand that war is costly.  However, oddly, many people seem to think that peace should just happen.  Though, this might be true, if we just dis-invested from war, but this would involve great risk and sacrifices that I would simply call taking risks to secure peace.  Either way peace takes work!   The status quo, which is solidly in the war camp, is what will continue to happen if we do not change the way we do things.  This involves a cost, a high cost, the cost of war.  This is a choice, just as much as making a conscious choice to take the risks to secure peace.  As quoted elsewhere, war is costly, peace is priceless.  I hope this peace and antiwar quote stimulates some meditation upon what price you are willing to pay help secure peace on this precious planet, for all of its inhabitants human and otherwise.

After Each War Little Less Democracy to Save

After Each War Little Less Democracy to Save–ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTON

After Each War Little Less Democracy to Save--ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTON

After Each War Little Less Democracy to Save–ANTI-WAR QUOTE 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 Anti-War Quote Buttons.

This antiwar quote pretty much speaks for itself.  You can’t create democracy through the barrel of a gun.  The relationship between war and democracy is yet another serious straying from the right relationship between means and ends.  War has the means and war has the ends, but war is profoundly undemocratic, actually anti-democratic.  There is something profoundly contradictory in telling entire nations, entire peoples, that they should be able to participate in democracy, but only if they choose certain things that we like.  Some people may strain to make the connection between war and democracy by claiming that we have to go to war to protect our democracy that is threatened by people, usually much of the way around the world.  If we are forced to kill people halfway around the world to protect our own national interest, then I would posit that such a national interest extends far beyond democracy into imperialism.  If the only way we can have democracy is by preventing democracy by most of the world that I think that we should relinquish any title to being democratic.  War degrades democracy.  I vote for peace.  What do you vote for?

POEM: Getting Your Ducks in a Row

I once put all my ducks in a row
Only then realizing
What am I doing with all these ducks?!

Getting one’s ducks in a row is an idiom or metaphor that most people are familiar with, meaning that we should get our business in order.  The twist in this poem is a reversal of the typical order that my poetry takes.  In this short poem, I take a common phrase that is not intended to be taken literally, and then take it literally.  Predictably, this leads to absurdity, and the ensuing absurd question of what am I doing with all of these ducks.  Of course, the absurd question is actually a question intended to jar one into a realization that getting one’s business in order is not always the most important thing in the world, though it often seems so.

Perhaps ironically, the pervasive idea of getting one’s ducks in a row, getting one’s business in order, can be a stagnant or deadening proposition that actually kills a higher order in our lives.  Life is messy.  Like John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when we’re busy doing other things.”

The question here is not whether one is for order or against order.  The question here is one for a higher order or a lower order.  Increasingly, my experiences in life lead me to believe that one of the most fundamental issues is achieving some clarity about following a higher order over a lower order.  Again, this does not negate the value of lower order stuff, it simply puts it in its proper place, puts it in its proper perspective.  Given that lower order stuff is typically more clear, concrete, and easy to see, it is little surprise that we give an inordinate focus to such things – they capture our attention (and us).  After experiencing many dis-orders in my life, I have come to the realization that the best way to reorder my life around those things which are most important, those higher order things, is to practice simplicity.  What I mean by this is that I need to be aware of those relatively few things in life that are most important to me.  Combined with an actual commitment to these things, then I can use these few important things to better order the many lower things.  More simply put, the higher should lower the order, and a few more important things should order the many less important things.

Another major reason that I see lesser things getting a disproportionate amount of attention versus greater things, is a common confusion regarding what is urgent versus what is important.  Our culture value busyness.  Busyness is seen as an indicator of productivity.  Also, busyness is a way to avoid being seen as engaging in a cardinal sin of our culture, which is laziness.  I think this confusion leads to a systematic bias that often runs over truly important things in our lives.  Given the attachment to busyness, busyness actually becomes a surrogate for urgency.  Thus, the confusion between urgency and importance.

Now, actually, there are many things in life that are both urgent and important.  These are the most important things to which we should attend.  However, there are many, many things that seem urgent that are not really that important.  Likewise, there are many things that are very important but do not seem very urgent.  I believe it is in these very important things that do not seem very urgent that we get lost.  The Achilles heel here is that attention to these most important things that don’t seem very urgent, requires a more relaxed perspective, a broader perspective in relation to time.  Most great things in life require a substantial investment of time.  Also, most things worthwhile require some effort on our part.  But let me deal first with the time issue (the most important thing here).  This gets back to the laziness issue.  Our culture reinforces the notion that relaxing our views about urgency is somehow lazy.  If you are not dealing with the commonly accepted stuff that is seen is urgent, then you are viewed as lazy.  This is not necessarily true.  Now, while truly lazy people don’t deal with what’s in front of them, whether it is urgent or not, important or not, to deal with the important but not urgent things requires some way of being that is neither characterized by mere busyness nor laziness.  This is the difficult counter-cultural work of dealing with the most important and often most overlooked stuff in our lives.  It takes a great amount of discipline and work to slough off the avalanche of seemingly urgent stuff in our life in order to attend to the most important things.  In fact, it is this lack of developing such discipline and boundary setting that is the more important and urgent form of laziness to address.

Laziness is definitely an issue.  This gets back to the issue that most things worthwhile in our life require effort on our part.  Being fully human requires a lot of effort.  This reality requires that we overcome a certain lazy inertia in our lives.  The status quo, the way things are, has a certain stability, momentum and inertia to it.

If we keep going the direction we are headed in, we will probably end up where we are going.  However, equally true, the past is the best predictor of the future, but if you use the past to predict the future, you will always be wrong.  Or more eloquently put, by Yogi Berra, “Prediction is very hard, especially when about the future.”  This is because people are not billiard balls.  People are not simply determined being.  People possess freedom.  People are subjects, not objects.  Certainly, as long as people are involved, predicting the future with complete accuracy will be impossible (actually, this is true for so-called “things” as well; this involves a discussion of the inherent probabilities necessary to understand quantum physics, which I will gracefully save for another day).  This is the way it’s supposed to be.  This is not chaos; this is simply uncertainty.  This is the way the universe is ordered.  This is a higher order, not to be subjected to a lower order.  This takes us full circle, back to our zealous clinging to stuff that is more concrete, seemingly certain.  Our felt need to substitute certainty for uncertainty plays neatly into the hands of confusing the urgent and the important.  Life is uncertain.  If life were not uncertain, it would not be life.  If life were not uncertain, then life would simply be a quest of learning everything and then being ordered (notice the use of the passive voice, and the same language that we reject often from the bosses in our lives) by the ultimately determinable (that which can be reduced to certainty).  This would inescapably lead us to our endgame of being all-knowing and totally impotent (not free).  If this strikes you as a concept of God that is rejected by the vast majority of humanity on this planet, then you must be paying attention.  This so-called God that so many people legitimately reject, is not God, but the vain and enslaving-ourselves project of trying to be God ourselves.  Neither can God be reduced to simply “everything.”  God is more than “everything.”  This concept arises out of the paradox of subjectivity and objectivity, the difference between subject and object.  In this case, the difference between people and things, and between God and “everything.”  I hope that I’m not getting too far off course by getting straight to the heart of the matter.  If you want some additional commentary on these matters, and subjects, I would suggest browsing scientific reductionism.

So, now that I have put all of my ducks in order, I can get beyond the whole “duck” thing. In the end, for all this to work well, this means having our lives ordered in a way that is consistent with what we consider to be the most important, then we must actually know what is the most important stuff in our lives.  Do you know what the most important things in your life are?  If so, I would suggest that you make a list of such things, and while doing this may be of the utmost importance, I would recommend that you take your time to get it right.

Now, if you really want to blow your mind, and perhaps blow the lid off your heart, I recommend meditating upon this poem from the Sufi poet Rumi:

A good gauge of spiritual health is to write down
the three things you want most.
If they in any way differ
you are in trouble.

Make Crime Illegal

Make Crime Illegal – FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Make Crime Illegal - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Make Crime Illegal – FUNNY POLITICAL 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 Political Buttons.

This design plays on the absurdities of logic and the confusion of means and ends.  It makes sense to oppose crime in the vast majority of cases.  This is a reasonable foundation for civilization: the rule of law. Of course, there are notable exceptions, namely, unjust laws and the unjust enforcement of laws that cry out for civil disobedience.  No set of laws, no matter how comprehensive or well-thought-out, can fully capture moral or ethical behavior, let alone enforce it.  With a simple proposition of making crime illegal, a simple tautology, being that which crime is commonly understood to be is,in fact, that which is illegal.  The first of my desired effects with this design is to see the foolishness of applying ever-increasing illegality to address crime.  This could be called the fascist solution.  And I want to speak to anti-fascists solutions.  As alluded to earlier with the case of civil disobedience to disobey an unjust law or an unjust application of law, morality and ethics are not equivalent to legality.  Certainly, there are many actions that are legal that are not moral or ethical.  Similarly, there are actions that are moral or ethical which are illegal.  The ultimate difficulty of enforcing moral or ethical behavior through coercion, i.e., law enforcement, forces us to look beyond brute force or even social norms to gain moral or ethical behavior amongst any group of people.  Gandhi button: Be the change you want to see in the worldThus, like many of my designs, the message poses both an answer that may jar some people’s current thinking, as well as a question, a more difficult question, regarding the nature of right behavior and how to create more of it.  One of my favorite quotes along these lines is from Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  In the end, law enforcement reaches a natural limit in controlling others through physical force, coercion, violence.  If we want moral and ethical behavior then we need to model moral and ethical behavior.  Like Gandhi proposed, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And as he lived, “My life is my message.”

No War in Iran – Toledo and Defiance Protests

Top Pun at Toledo "No War in Iran" Protest

Top Pun at Toledo "No War in Iran" Protest

This last weekend I participated in two protests as part of the national Day of Mass Action to Stop War on Iran – February 4, 2012.  On Saturday afternoon, about 15 to 20 people gathered outside the Defiance County Courthouse in Defiance, Ohio.  This anti-war protest was sponsored by the Defiance County Citizens for Change and Occupy Defiance.  It was certainly difficult for me to resist participating in an act of defiance of war in a city literally named Defiance! On Sunday afternoon, about 30-some protesters gathered at the corner of Secor Road and Central Avenue.  This no war in Iran protest was a special edition of the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition’s weekly protests against war has been going on since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.  A call to action and endorsement by Occupy Toledo helped bolster the usual numbers of the unusual suspects.

Both days were beautiful February days thanks to global climate change.  In an unrelated observations, there were large numbers of internal combustion vehicles passing by at both locations.  There was an overwhelming friendliness to our antiwar message, maintaining a very positive ratio of at least 10 to 1 of honks for peace versus middle fingers and angry screams out of the window.  Of course, there were plenty of blank stares and averted gazes amongst the silent majority.  Hopefully, those people who were not even looking outside the car window, busily texting, were telling their friends and enemies to come down and join the protest.  I would note that this is a big change from the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003 when the NWOPC weekly protests began.  At that time, with the run-up to the Iraq war and the shock and awe beginning of the so-called war, the American people seemed patriotically supportive or oblivious to our wars and their implications.  At these weekly protests, at the beginning of the Iraq war, there were a large number of motorists hurling angry epitaphs at us for protesting the war.

You Can No More Win a War Than You Can Win an EarthquakeA few days before the Iraq war started, a couple dozen or so of us were arrested protesting in front of the Toledo U.S. Army recruitment center.  Eight or nine of us went on trial a few weeks later, and during jury selection I was amazed to witness that the majority of jurors could not even state an opinion regarding the war.  Obviously, most Toledoans, probably fairly representative of Americans, were either not paying attention and/or didn’t really care.  I hope that today, after a decade of drumming up and fighting what is openly billed as an endless war against terrorism, that the American people are beginning to realize that the so-called new war against terrorism is really just the same old war that has been fought since the beginning of humankind, or human unkind as the case may be!  One of my favorite quotes shown in the peace sign design to the right, demonstrates the futility of war: “You can no more win a war than win an earthquake!” May we truly take this to heart and not fight merely to end a particular war but to end war itself.

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTON

Maybe Theres a Reason Its Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTONMaybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY 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 Anti-Homophobia Buttons.

I like this design for many reasons.  First, it uses a pun that maximizes the meaning of both meanings.  By utilizing the ancient phrase “straight to hell”, it captures both the clarity of judgment and the eternal significance or importance of such a judgment.  Of course, then comes the pun!  The pun on “straight” is not actually made clear until the new phrase “gay to hell” is read.  Then, the full force of the pun on “straight” takes effect!  Since anti-gay judgmentalism is so deeply rooted in religious bigotry, a complete reversal of this judgment upon the judgmental homophobe is particularly delicious.  I humbly submit that this is more than enough to classify this design as an instant classic.  Nonetheless, there is more than one layer to this hell.  Using the freshly minted phrase, “gay to hell”, or more specifically, “NOT gay to hell”, besides laying waste to the classic ‘straight to hell’ phrase, offers a couple more layers to reflect upon.  Most people recognize the pun on gay, meaning both homosexual or queer in contemporary usage, and meaning happy in more colloquial usage.  This play on words has been used in many ways and it is quite familiar.  Juxtaposing “gay”, eliciting both of these meanings, with the concept of hell, can pose some interesting reflections and can get pretty deep pretty fast.  The most obvious meaning is supposed to be the simple assertion that being gay has nothing to do with going to hell, and, in fact, the commonly accepted homophobia in our society puts us at risk for damnation.  The secondary and tertiary meanings get more complicated with the relationship of happiness to hell.  Evil people are often portrayed as miserly and unhappy people.  People who take the time and effort to align themselves with the good are generally understood to experience joy and happiness, at least for those of us who see reality as beneficent.  I think that when gays truly accept the reality for who they are, there is very often a playful joy that is manifest.  This is true in the arts, heavily populated by queers, and generally correlated with flamboyancy.  Joy is Most Infallible Sign Presence of God--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONPlus, there is a much more bearable lightness of being represented by joy as opposed to the connotations of happiness with moral goodness and right behavior.  It is this playful and more bearable lightness of being that I can identify with and by which I even consider myself “queer” as a straight man who happens to be funny (what could be more queer!).  There is a quote that I can really relate to: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” which is one of the quotes I have on a peace sign design.  What could be more of the opposite of hell than the presence of God!  I suspect that it’s more likely that moral goodness and right behavior emanates from deeply experienced joy than the other way around.  While this may be viewed as a radical and mystical concept, that is simply because it is a radical and mystical concept.  However, it’s not completely incomprehensible.  To truly be in the presence of God is a joyful experience.  To be in the presence of God greatly increases our probability of behaving in sync with the nature of God, and honoring the joy that comes from experiencing that nature.  On the other hand, the conventional wisdom of the world is usually reduced to the notion that if we argue about what is morally good and what is right behavior that all will be well.  Unfortunately, this plays into our ungodly nature; that would be when we live out of fear and focus on controlling others.  Religion has led the way in oppressing and repressing sex and sexuality.  Sex and sexuality are very powerful realities in our lives.  Sex and sexuality requires a mature level of respect and responsibility.  Healthy sex and sexuality is not simple or easy.  This is probably exactly the reason why religion has been so concerned, quite appropriately, with sex and sexuality.  Nonetheless, fear and our desire to control one another has seriously polluted religion’s ability to effectively deal with sex and sexuality.  While I’m a big fan of the social Gospel, which implies a responsibility for one another, the good news that is the Gospel, is predicated upon our own healing and achieving some balance in her own life so that we can be healthy enough to help others.  We can’t give people something that we don’t have.  Yet, perhaps mysteriously, we can be more together than we can alone; thus, we must recognize the reality that we are social creatures in the same boat together, and some isolated piety disconnected from the real needs of others is of little value to God or others.  Hey, I told you that there were a lot of layers and that it would get pretty deep.  In the end, in regard to this design, I think it puts right side up something that religion has gotten upside down for so long, and the irony is that religion at its best is supposed to turn things right side up.  Let’s make it so.  Amen!

P.S. in case there is any confusion, I don’t believe in hell, at least not in any way that construes God as wanting to hurt people.