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.

POEM: Nothing New Under The Sun

There is nothing new under the sun
Though in the shadows
The same old same old
Is more mournfully familiar
Settling for reality-lite
Too at home with night
Groping with eyes open
Instead of lightly touched
Even with eyes closed seeing
Age-old must
And vexing knot
A bout
Bitter medicine as won’s savor
Know silence
Too be heard
Where the sun don’t shine
As passing vapor
In stubborn renouncing
Not eye
And such fancy
Still too much
To be taken
In completely
The spell overcast
Eclipsing the census
Of awe that counts
More than won could
Ever bask for

This poem weaves the themes of our everyday blindness to deeper realities, the mystical third eye, and gratitude.  Things are not always as they appear.  Things are more than they appear.  Those who round reality down to mere appearance settle for a more finite and uninspiring perspective on reality.  If it isn’t obvious that life is blisteringly miraculous in the sunshine occupying roughly half of our earthly existence, then there is a deeper, ever-present way of seeing that enlightens awe of reality, more than one could ever bask for.  Sadly, many prefer to manage dwelling in the even more roughly half of our earthly existence, darkness, despite its propensity for inducing fear and despair.  This poem plays with these two interwoven aspects of reality, dark and light, mere appearance and meaning full experience.  These dual, and dueling, aspects of reality are not contradictory; rather, they are different levels of reality, one including yet transcending the other.  The prosaic and miraculous are only divorced if our perspective is committed to irreconcilable differences.  The oneness of reality eternally woos us if wowing us is too transparent for our mode of perception.  Nonetheless, the lure of the manageability of the world of mere appearances is powerful, to those limiting themselves to such parochial power.  Unfortunately, those limiting themselves to the scarcity and paucity of the world of mere appearances will feel compelled to compete, even brutally, for control over this lesser realm.  Security and freedom become mortal enemies and even the asleep don’t sleep well.  Those suffering such blindness and obsession insist upon their powerful incites.  The ensuing fetish with control and manipulation extract a brutal price from anyone actually exercising freedom.  More liberal-minded manipulators will insist that you have all kinds of rights but they will get nervous if you actually exercise them!

My experience informs me that peace and freedom can exist together if gratitude is the uniting reality. This gratitude-powered peace is both an internal peace and external peace.  Gratitude-powered people are the least dangerous people in the world; that is, except to those whose job is to convince others of their lack, especially if linked to selling you a product, service, or idea that will make them gain money or status.  If gratitude unites your world view, then you could say that gratitude is your religion, a religion of “Thank God for thanks!”  As you might guess, my worldview is profoundly influenced by grace, a recognition and respect for undeserved gain that overturns a barren capitalistic view that at best can offer a fair and equal exchange, where generosity is a foolish inefficiency and the bounty of life is jacked up to yield the highest price possibly bearable by humanity (or by “the market” if “humanity” doesn’t compute).  The bounty of life becomes fodder of our folly, as “Wanted — dead or alive,” runs roughshod over life itself.  I strongly suspect that the consuming disease of controlling others is a failure to answer the question of how much is enough.  At the heart of this disease is fear and inescapable greed.  I believe that a responsible freedom, a freedom that is informed by gratitude, can operate amidst fear and greed without distorting its own nature and consonance with life, that comes from who knows where, but, as a dyslexic and a mystic, I find naturally super!

POEM: The Awe Might He Acorn

The acorns fall
Like reign
From above
As the mighty yoke is broken
Flailing to grasp the gravity of the situation
Each won
A tiny oak
Tolled by nature
If only
Such nuts
Can hold there ground
And a void
Either being
Squirreled away
As the winter takes root
Or perhaps robin
Their shady future

I wrote this poem amidst writing another poem.  I was reclining on one of the benches outside the Toledo Museum of Art, in the sculpture garden that is their front lawn.  This bench happened to be under a large oak tree.  There was a slow rain of acorns punctuating my experience.  I was hit several times as I interrupted the arc of the acorn-gravity continuum.  The squirrels seemed quite domesticated, likely due to their stomping grounds being traversed by a pedestrian highway populated by humans more civilized than normal.  One squirrel, only half a dozen feet away from me, nibbled on the abundance of freshly fallen acorns, seemingly satisfied with compromising each acorn shell within grasp, taking a quick nibble, and then tossing the acorn aside.  This struck me as being a bit wasteful. Yet, the scarcity of my perspective was in sharp contrast to the overabundance of acorns, of which nature unlikely intended each acorn to become a mighty oak tree.  This situation reminded me of an aphorism: the mighty oak is simply a tiny nut that held its ground.  Of course, in the complexity of nature, perhaps the author of this aphorism might have amended it to include something about that nut avoiding his cranium being crushed by a squirrelly beast.  My daughter has a serious fright about squirrels.  The origins of this fear are unidentifiable.  Perhaps she was an acorn in a previous life and a squirrel nonchalantly crushed her cranium and then casually threw her aside, thinking nothing of her casualty.

Sometimes the job of a poet is to take seemingly mundane or routine occurrences and infuse them with epic meaning.  While the crushing of one’s cranium by a seemingly harmless squirrel may be an apt definition of epic meaning, I look to more hopeful outcomes.  In this case, it is the off-chance, against-the-odds probability that even one acorn in the season of life survives, even thrives, to become a mighty oak.  From a sheer statistical point of view, this could be viewed as the fodder of a cruel joke.  But, alas, after a dark, cold winter, on occasion, as predictable as rare, the surviving sun teems with such fodder to produce a mighty oak which can outlive even the many seasonings on human life.  Of course, you first have to be a nut to truly believe this.  And if by some miracle you survive, even thrive, you will truly be for the birds…and even overly generous to those cranium-crushing squirrels squandering your babies.

POEM: Until The Banks Overflow

In awe of creation
I am
Not alone
There is just us
Like an ever flowing stream
Until the banks overflow
Into unquenchable cache
And from the breast
Of life
Sucking
I am left
Nothing more
Than write

This short poem, like many of my poems, has dueling parallel narratives.  The first and foremost is the awesomeness of creation.  The overflowing nature of this awesomeness is the abundance upon which life is rooted.  Only when people start hoarding more than they need, banks overflow / Into unquenchable cache, does scarcity rear its ugly head.  This utter misreading of reality leads only to perpetual scarcity, within and without.  Whether experiencing awesome abundance and/or witnessing restless greed, I am often left with only the righting instrument of a poet.  Write on!

POEM: We Won’t Be Food Again

I would rather
Be Job
Less than
Renounce
A living wager
And know place to lie
My head
My heart
Made homeless
In loo of
A fast fooled nation
For going
The beast
Wee
Can due
Hitched to number one
Number too
As on the line
For given debts
In place of
Solemn assemblies
And last riots
As wreck we him
For the masses
Left too
Starve
As a full groan man
Eschewing
A distended belly
And infantile grimace
Dis gorging
To which I object
A single finger
And vomiting
A sour second
Relative to the toil it evacuates
As vying a bowel inconsonance
And those who are but in
Fringe benefits over doo
Be rated by privilege takers
Of a hollowed hire power
Pro claim
There is no Black day for employment
The unanswered trump it
As if
Falling flat to some honky
Reveres discrimination
As dark daze per severe
The fecund material bound
Now a mushrooming clerical class
Beaten too
A bully pulp it    
Copious crumbs and the blest whines
Offering salivation
Like no me
Biblically
Throwing the book at me
Showing me the works
As if in some fooled court
Taking out
On me
Sum type
Of contract
Know labor
No food
Nor time travel to
’79 sense
For every dollared earn
Or as a payday loan
Cash here
Slipping through my fingers
Each day
For another till
My dreams standing still
Idoling money changers
On short order
Cooking the books
Serving as sum batterer
Or fry guy
Who is just
Greased
At the end of the day
Pain
You less
Than what
You learned
With respect to
Meat grate people
Seriously toying
“Be the happy meal”
As if
I whir
To halve a cow
And go to town
Drug by sum ferry tale
A bout
Worshipping some magic beings
Stalking skyward
As some giant rumble
To expose my hide
Wont to grind my bones
For their bred
My blood smelt
As iron away
From their golden cuffs
Razing my shackles once again
I will only ax once
As you know not jack
Weather the heavens fall
Either I am
Udderly fed up
Or my last words herd
Eat me
As I will only be
Food once
It’s just
Awe in a daze work

I wrote this poem today, all in a days work!  This poem was triggered by my experience last night at a community meeting, “Faith Conversations on Income Inequality.”  I was somewhat disappointed that of the two hours, less than 15 minutes was conversation.  The meeting was mostly didactic, with two detailed presentations, a short film well documenting the existence of actual poor working people in our very state of Ohio, and a short small group exercise (where some conversation occurred).

The kicker for the evening was after the meeting when conversing with a woman who I had never met proclaimed the disproportionately too-often cited and familiar, “If a person doesn’t work, then they don’t deserve to eat” (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Of course, the key word and concept in this passage is an unwillingness to work.  I might add dignified and humane work.  Either way, it certainly doesn’t apply to people who can’t find work.  Further, in the previous verse, the apostles speaking about their own self-support when visiting the Thessalonians, say, “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.  This seems to state that they did claim a right to such help (food), but were modeling an additional value of not being a burden on others.  If the apostles accepted help, when they were able to pay their own way, and this caused a burden to another, then they shouldn’t take such a necessary resource from another.  The higher way modeled by the apostles seems more apt as a critique of people unjustly benefiting from paying poverty wages, thus causing a burden to others, than as a critique of food as a human right.  Perhaps a less sophisticated yet more easily understood response to worrying about hungry people getting too much food is Uggghhh!

I had really hoped for an opportunity to share personal experiences and perspectives on faith and poverty, or income inequality.  For better or worse, I’ve thought about such things my whole life.  Still, I am actually eager to learn more, as I continue on my journey.  The story of dealing with poverty seems to me to be full of good news-bad news.  In my case, the bad news is that technically, I have lived in poverty most of the last decade — technically, meaning that my average income has been under the federal poverty guidelines.  The good news is that I am the wealthiest person I know — of course, I don’t get out much!  Such a conundrum has provided much experience and raw material upon which to meditate regarding what is true wealth.

One main point that I believe could help bring a more balanced perspective in our dealing with poverty is this: from a spiritual perspective, we must give equal time to spiritual poverty.  This is perhaps most succinctly captured by Mother Teresa, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  I see Jesus as quite clearly spelling out the dividing line: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  And, of course, serving God is inextricably linked with serving our neighbors: ” ‘The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.  John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ ” (Luke 3:9-11)

A corollary of this spiritual view of poverty is that we must not stigmatize the poor, or dishonor God’s special relationship with them.  I half-jokingly put this under the moniker of: “You say poverty like it’s a bad thing!”  A couple of generations ago, Latin American theologians developed the concept of God’s “preferential option for the poor.”  In part, this refers to the special relationship that the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized have with God.  Their vulnerability manifest by oppression in the world creates an openness to God’s way.  This openness fosters a greater intimacy, deeper understanding, and easier access to living in harmony with God’s laws (ultimate reality).  Of course, harmony with God’s laws is counter-cultural to the status quo and the powers that be.  Intriguingly though, the oppressed already stare down the brutal realities of the powers that be every day; so, being counter-cultural is much less of a leap “of faith” than those who benefit from the status quo.  This is perhaps the most simple reason why top down change rarely, if ever, benefits the poor more than the rich.  Thus, the poor are already primed to adopt God’s ways, as the world’s ways sure as hell aren’t working for them.  Jesus is a striking example of acting in accordance with this reality.  Jesus spent the vast majority of his time with the dispossessed, and “regular” folks, the 99% if you will.  In a stroke of spiritual genius, Jesus planted his message among people who were both most open to God’s message and had their material interests aligned to move in a direction parallel to God’s ways, including, of course, justice.  No doubt, Jesus played a prophetic role, in directly confronting the powers that be, whether religious, political, or economic elites.  Such confrontations were likely inevitable.  Even so, Jesus brought an unwavering dignity, intimacy, and authority (street cred) to such encounters.  Jesus did not shy from his fully humanizing ways, even in the face of dehumanizing forces.  This was a palpable measure of how Jesus loved his enemies.  This is God’s ways manifest.  The poor have fewer barriers to accessing such ways. Let’s learn from the poor!

I have lived among affluent people of faith most of my life.  For the affluent, the vast majority of us in the so-called developed world, I am convinced that voluntary poverty and simplicity is the most powerful tool to transform our world, God’s creation, into ways friendly to abundant life.  I have drawn this conclusion from my profound failure to convince rich westerners to truly care about the world’s poorest.  I am a formidable debater, both informed and with heart.  Still, the misery of my failure to convince others with words is exceeded only, and greatly, by the misery of the world’s poorest.  I cannot escape the weight of my experience that the affluence of westerners, including myself, and the material conflicts of interest we are embedded in, is the single most important factor preventing such a conversion.  Better aligning our material interests with the poor, through voluntary poverty and simplicity, can unleash a cascading journey where the soul’s force begins to flow more freely, as water invites gravity to do its work — and the most grave law unbroken, that of love.  This poem of mine alludes to the freedom gained by simple living:

Dining with Kings and Queens
Courtly balls
Knightly duels
And priestly indulgences
You can avoid it all
If only you are happy
Eating beans

Probably the greatest illusion humans face is seeing wealth (and its companions, status and power) as an answer to all of their problems.  Surely, people have material needs, and those needs going unmet is a tragedy.  However, once one’s basic material needs are met, wealth becomes a disability to the individual and a disease to society.  There is a great body of psychological and sociological evidence that increasing wealth makes us less compassionate and less generous.  In short, wealth serves as a wedge between people and God.  Science confirms the truth of not being able to serve two masters.  People can, and do, argue about the role of material scarcity in the problems of poverty — just witness political wranglings about budget-busting social programs in the richest nation the world has ever known.  Nonetheless, there is one pervasive and undeniable fact: there is, and has been for at least centuries, enough physical resources to more than meet the material needs of every human on the planet.  In this light, spiritual poverty is exposed.  We can solve material want; we choose not.  It is not a close call!

Poverty worldwide is endemic.  Billions of people live on $2 per day or less.  Those most likely to be the poorest are women and children — so much for family values.  People of color are also at much greater risk.  Those most likely to go hungry are those who grow food, our farmers.  The only way this can happen is to literally steal food from their hands.  The rich claim a hugely disproportional share of the world’s resources, including the productive labors of billions.  All the wile, pawning sham scarcity as an excuse for their hoarding and ravenous ways.  Gandhi captured it well when asked what he thought of Western civilization.  He responded, “I think it would be a great idea.”  I concur.

With untrammeled globalization, poverty can only be adequately viewed as a global problem.  The causes of poverty cannot be isolated within one country.  We, as a world, are in the same boat — though, undoubtedly, there is an increasing chasm between the accommodations of first and third class.  Debt, just as in biblical times, is used to enslave people.  We are told that the world is in great debt, accepting it as gospel truth.  Yet, to whom exactly are we are in debt?  Pay no attention to the money changers behind the curtain.  Exploitation and robbing of natural resources unjustly enriches the wealthier.  Such profitable cleverness is called business.  Meanwhile, non-prophet organizations stand by impotent to counter this unseemly necessity.  And governments suffer from electile dysfunction. The good news is that the cancerous idol of endless economic “growth” may not destroy creation, with such abundance and ingenuity.  Praise be to God!  If only, God forbid, the dream of a worldwide “middle class” can be averted.  Work.  Buy.  Consume.  Die.

Less poetically put, the “powers that be” work on a global scale.  This juggernaut of globalization reduces humans to economic beings in a consumer culture.  People become means to ends, not being of sacred worth and inherent dignity.  To enforce this state of affairs, wars are waged as “needed.”  These wars, unsurprisingly, do not serve the interests of the dispossessed.  This global reality is rooted in a distinct worldview: poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  While a tsunami of rhetoric speaks of jobs, unemployment serves to lower wages, not just of the unfortunate unskilled, but of skilled labor too.  More unemployment is good for (someone else’s) business.  And if you missed that memo, perhaps the desperation of unemployment and wage slavery has you occupied.  Such desperation can serve as a distraction and thwart a healthy, functioning civil society (see electile dysfunction).

There is an African proverb which says: where there is no wealth there is no poverty.  This ancient wisdom emanates from the experience of humans over many generations and cultures that concentrated wealth creates poverty, that is, depends on poverty. There is a powerful illusion that wealth brings wisdom, that the rich must really know something that we don’t.  Well, if they do, it’s most likely occult or a cult.  I cite the incisive lyrics of “If I were a rich man” from the play, Fiddler on the Roof:

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

The truth is much simpler, and more stark: the rich need the poor; the poor don’t need the rich.  For those who might cite the droll biblical retort, “the poor will always be with us,” have you pondered this: if you think the poor are hard to get rid of, try the rich!

The diseased worldview of consumerism and capitalism has at least on Achilles’ heel.  This rests on the utter inability to answer a fundamental question in life: how much is enough?  Capitalism thrives on convincing you that you never have enough, you are perpetually lacking something (which we happen to be selling), and by extension: you are lacking.  This turns the Gospel’s worldview upside down.  The good news is that you are enough; God made you that way.  Return to this truth, and capitalism recedes to a perfunctory process describing the nominal exchange of goods — and the goods are actually good!

The meeting on faith conversations about income inequality focused on the United States.  While poverty extends far beyond, and is rooted in, the larger world, the U.S. can serve as an enlightening case study.  The U.S. just recently observed the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” as declared in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson.  [For poetic versions of lessons learned from the “war on poverty,” see my poems, Hungering for Answers, and War on Poverty]  The “war on poverty” is about the same age as me.  During my lifetime, the U.S. has grown about three times wealthier in material wealth.  Nevertheless, more Americans work, and they work longer hours.  Some gains were made in reducing poverty in the early years.  However, the overall trend since the late 1970’s has been stagnating or declining wages, especially when compared to skyrocketing worker productivity.  Income inequality is higher now in America than in the last hundred years.

For those with biblical commitments, we are long overdue for a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).  The year of Jubilee is a Sabbath of Sabbaths.  It prescribed forgiveness of debt every seven years.  In the fiftieth year — after seven cycles of seven years, not only was all debt forgiven, but all slaves were freed and all land returned to its original owners land.  This is the biblical prescription for preventing large concentrations of wealth and persons from being permanently dispossessed from their land and/or forced into servitude through debt.  Let’s make it so!

POEM: War on Poverty

War on Poverty

In our nation’s capital
We are drowning in think tanks
Our chief armament
In the war on poverty
And for all of their business
They have made up their mine
Poverty is not the problem
Poverty is the solution
Yet the war ever undertaking
Congress versus progress
Commander-in-chief of CEOs
Backed by supreme courts and county jailers
Triune bosses super intending won
Until six feet under
With nary a heart
The only pauper resting spot
From their holey canons
Granting fiats where one can scarcely ford
Pronouncing victory
In their own dialectical weigh
Emptying their echo chambers
Buy and buy
Only saying
Let them eat ordnances

This poem is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “War on poverty” declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  Of course, there is war and poverty aplenty still.  Sometime in the 1980s, during the inglorious Reagan regime, I heard a phrase which has stuck with me ever since: Poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  Fortunately, this phrase was uttered as a biting critique of the implicit assumptions of a capitalistic plutocracy.  The war on poverty is about the same age as me. The material wealth in the United States of America has more than tripled during this time.  Further, for at least centuries, there have been enough material resources to meet the basic needs of every human being on this planet.  Answering the question of why there is widespread poverty worldwide and within the fabulously wealthy U.S. is perhaps the most important inquiry humans on this planet can address.  The only real scarcity on this planet is within the human heart.  Talk is cheap, and rhetoric is not very nutritious.  Surely, Man does not live by bread alone.  As surely, Man does not live by focaccia alone.  Mother Theresa perhaps said it best: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

POEM: Lust Potential

Lust Potential

He looked about him
And saw
Their cups were filled
Even overflowing
And still
He mourned
The size of their cups

Years ago, I heard a description of heaven as a place where no matter the size of our cups all that we would know is that our cups are full.  I thought that this was a brilliant and beautiful image of humans resolving their relentless need to be more than who they are now.  This heavenly description illuminated some brilliant facets of human reality: that regardless of our capabilities we can be fulfilled, and that we need not compare our capabilities to others.  Of course, while this is a heavenly scenario, an illuminating ideal, us earthbound folks must grapple with envy, jealousy, and the unquenchable inclination to be more than we are now.  I believe that the first two can be redeemed; the latter I suspect is behind any impetus to even be redeemed!

Envy is the emotion that we feel when we want something that another possesses.  Typically, this is viewed with a negative connotation, a precursor to destructive behavior and relations. Envy lives within a worldview of scarcity, closed-sum thinking, and the fearful consequence which may ensue.  However, it can be viewed as inspirational, a precursor to creative behavior and relations.  Such inspiration can be made possible by living into abundance, where even loss or lack is parlayed into some positive gain, creating room for growth.  Jealousy is the emotion we have when we fear that we may be replaced in the affection of another.  Jealousy is also typically viewed with a negative connotation, living out of a place of insecurity, focusing on what we may lack and what another may want.  Jealousy is simply pre-mourning a potential loss.  And while mourning is a critical human developmental process, attempting to do the work of mourning before an actual loss has several great dangers.  First, the loss may never occur and we end up training for an event that is only in our head — this is needless worry.  Worse yet, such needless worry may actually facilitate our fears coming true, become a self-fulfilling prophecy — or perhaps more aptly, a self-unfulfilling prophecy!  Next, dealing with an imagined loss may have little bearing on what it takes to deal with an actual loss that does occur.  Like envy, jealousy is rooted in fear.  Fear holds us back from deeper and larger realities.  Nonetheless, even fear offers the pregnant possibility revealed in a stark contrast between itself and love.  Redemption is always looming!   Weave only got to hang in there!!  Both envy and jealousy can be wielded as an effective diagnostic tool to identify our fears, thus opening the possibility of testing these fears against the standards of love.  Love manifests itself in many ways.  Love can be the enjoyment and passion aroused by the preferred particularities of our life.  Love can be the filial or brotherly affection we experience with one another.  Love can be the intimate and erotic pleasures of a lover and best friend.  Love can be the unconditional love of God-like proportions, ever wooing us to be better, even more than we are now.  Love can be experiencing unconditional love so that we need not worry about what we have or don’t have, or who we are or aren’t.  Mysteriously and paradoxically, this latter unconditional acceptance seems to be the firmest foundation for change.

I wrote this poem partly because I have a personality where I see everything against a backdrop of perfection, which can drive me to heights of positive aspirations, or reduce me to a mole mourning mountains of loss potential.   I see the aspect of needing to be more than we are as an inescapable facet of being human.  Fortunately, it is not the only facet.  There is the rest.  I can experience awe that life has to offer without adding or subtracting anything.  And by not comparing myself to other, I become incomparable.

POEM: Of Cucumbers and Fences

The punk was going to take
My cucumber
From my fence
So I clutched
My trusty shotgun
And I fired a shot
Way over his head
He scattered like so much buckshot
Having triggered his nerves
Like a fresh kill
Whose life would only ebb
A lessen all-too-familiar to mortals
Missing his heart
By a million miles
Would win me no award
As marksmen
Or neighbor
But sure enough
Would secure
My pride and property
For another day
My generosity unknown
For had he asked
A cucumber I’d have given
In unspeakable modesty
I am the grower of cucumbers
As well as
The builder of fences
And if I can’t have your respect
I’ll settle for your fear
Only growing
Outside my fences

This freshly grown poem sprung from a conversation I had yesterday with a new acquaintance in a coffee shop, perhaps appropriately with a poetry reading occurring across the room.  This poem is based on a story told to me by a self-described spawn of an old hillbilly, now serving as a leader of Libertarians.  Early in the conversation, I was threatened to be taken out back and beaten to a pulp, minus some snot.  This is not the first time I have experienced such a first shot over the bow in a conversation with a new Libertarian acquaintance.  As it was a public place and each of us apparently had some modest respect for the law, we could not compare manhoods directly.  He did confess that his threatening manhood was in fact a joke.  I suspect that there was a small truth to this.

While this poem is written in the first person, much like Adam or Cain and Abel, the story is of his proud hillbilly father.  Those who know me would expect that it wasn’t my own story, except inasmuch as it is all of our’s story.  I find the juxtaposition of a prideful swagger all-too-familiar with violence and a genuine down-home generosity as intriguing as it is commonplace.  The true conflict is between pride and generosity — one of which can be defended with violence.  Both the pride of the gardener, with his fence and shotgun, and the punk who dares steal from another’s labor, begs for something more, a deeper generosity.  Sometimes a punk’s taking is innocent, as from a garden meant for all, that garden of eatin’ of which we have all experienced.  Many times a punk’s taking is a lazy pride asserting that all is theirs for the taking, without regard to their neighbors.  Of course, the gardener’s pride can lead him to mistake himself for the Gardener, the giver of all, who possesses a generosity overwhelming any value-added we may contribute by our labor.  The fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, curses us with a fruit of awareness that competes with an all-encompassing awareness of the Gardener.  That competing awareness is the builder of fences, which both cuts ourselves off from the one garden and cuts others off with our fences.  The birth of private property possesses us.  Scarcity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet our profits remain strangely unfulfilling.  We look to grow fears outside our fences faster than thay grow within.  We learn to plunder with ease, not work, generous abundance.  And plucked from the vine such fruit dies.  Many a firstborn son has been planted at the hands of fearful gardeners a tempting to secure puny labors.  Such Abel-bodied young men stand as a testament, a very old testament, to the Cain-do attitude of private profits.  The first fruit is offering your best to God and neighbor.  The only sin: hoarding your first for yourself, and offering only your excess to God and neighbor.  What is it that would steal our hearts?  All fruits, and gardeners for that matter, die; only first fruits are born again and again, turning death into life — an offering Abel to banish fear, and transcend scarcity.  The fence between life and death is only the fence we truly know and fear.  And everyone knows: it takes a thief to know a good fence.  If you should cross a thief, or perhaps two, generously invite them in, or scarce join them.  May there be one fate shared: good for all.

POEM: A Farcical Foundation

A Farcical Foundation

An abundance
Of people
Build
Bank accounts
And resumes
In lieu of a better world
In the face of scarcity
Hoarding ourselves
Leaving our shares as chump change
Our resumes bankrupt
In grate sell deception
Talked into ahead in arrears
Left behind as good as a rite
A pauper wresting place
For a loan and a fraud dwelling
Only in habiting the largesse heart
As a lust resort
Fabricated upon a farcical foundation
Unable to settle what has been billed
Dropping all in loo
Of a better world
Too mulch
To imagine
For those with
The lyin’s share
Only as per jury
Of one’s peers

This poem gets to the heart of the matter.  The great divide in life is between wholehearted living and heartless living, which, of course, is not really living art all.  Choose life, not lifelessness!  As Jesus aptly put it, “You can’t serve both God and money.”  The love of God is the beginning of wisdom.  The love of money is the height of foolishness.  Of course, you only need to worry about this when God and money compete for your allegiance, say, most of the time you are awake! In modern monetized existence, a rather full assessment of what one values can be ascertained by how one spends their money (or not spends as the case may be).  Unfortunately, such an assessment process happens to be accurate precisely because of the great poverty in our lives which focuses on money (not God). A better accounting might include looking at how we spend our time.  Not surprisingly, in a culture which seems only to serve money as its highest value, Western civilization has managed to bastardize the typified 1950’s quest for leisure time by increasing work hours (and decreasing leisure time), even though productivity has grown by multiples.  There is way more money and “stuff” in the world than a few generations ago.  Still, the quality of life for the majority of the world’s population languishes.  As has been true for centuries, if not longer, there has been enough “stuff” to live good lives, except for the stubborn fact that humans have not learned to share well.  When will we accept the sociological and spiritual reality that beyond meeting our basic needs, money contributes little to happiness.  Perhaps more aptly put, if we hoard money for our own use beyond our basic physical needs, we will pay a social, political, and spiritual price for it, which will negate the perceived benefits of hoarding or consuming more.  In choosing disciplined simplicity for ourselves and generosity toward others, we can build more than bank accounts and resumes, and experience the most valuable stuff in life, the stuff that money can’t buy.

BP Tar Sands Refinery Expansion – PEOPLE’S HEARING Testimony

Below is my testimony at the PEOPLE’S HEARING to respond to the Ohio EPA’s sham public hearing on BP-Husky’ Draft Air Pollution Permit as part of their Oregon Ohio refinery re-tooling to process oil tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet.  This People’s Hearing was sponsored by the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy.  I was speaking on behalf of Occupy Toledo and planetary citizens everywhere:

Welcome to Oregon, Ohio — now with 50% less stench!

My name is Dan Rutt.  I am a long-time resident of Toledo, a citizen of Ohio and these United States of America.  However, I have an over-arching allegiance; that allegiance is to our planet, which sustains our life and the life of all living beings from all nations and ecosystems.  I am a planetary citizen.  I am calling on all planetary citizens to rise above lesser allegiances and protect our planet from British Petroleum and other transnational corporations who stand against the interests of humanity and life on our planet.

I am standing outside the formal EPA hearing, so we the people can have our own hearing, a people’s hearing, that is not limited to narrow, technical matters, while BP and others are literally mining our planet in order to burn it.  BP wants to re-tool their refining to process tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet, the bottom of the barrel.  This is exactly the wrong direction we should be headed.  Spending billions on an infrastructure to process the most polluting, least economically viable and least sustainable fossil fuel will only lock us onto the wrong path for years — years that we and our planet cannot afford.  We need to switch to safe and renewable energy NOW — not next year, not next decade, not next generation, but TODAY, June 5th, 2013!

How about investing billions of dollars to switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy?  Where is your plan for that BP?

Unfortunately, the Ohio EPA is powerless to stop BP from destroying Mother Earth.  The EPA may be able to regulate the lethal injection of Mother Earth while BP euthanizes her.  But I am here to say, that that is not good enough!  Merely deciding how we are going to destroy the planet is insanity of the highest order.  We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels or we will become fossils ourselves.  BP is a pusher, profiting from this deadly addiction, and should be treated as such. 

Real people suffer environmental destruction while corporate persons like BP are insulated from their crimes.   Three years ago, BP caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.  This was not an “accident.”  It was a criminal act.  Now, they want us to entrust Mother Earth to them, again.  As the U.S. Department of Justice put it, “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”  BP has pled guilty of felony manslaughter, environmental crimes, and obstruction of Congress.  While no BP executives have gone to jail, planetary citizens resist their criminal behavior and fuelish business practices and these planetary citizens go to jail.

Inside, there will be a parade of people on the payroll of British Petroleum, some literally on the payroll, some just hoping to get some of the economic scraps from refining our planet into money.  This is on the heels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, which in 2010 cited Oregon’s BP-Husky refinery for 62 safety violations and fined the company nearly $3 million for “exposing workers to a variety of hazards.”  Then, this year, on March 10th, the BP-Husky refinery malfunctioned and released extremely dangerous hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide pollution into the air.

Should we trust BP?  Is BP a good corporate citizen?  In the years leading up to the BP gulf oil spill, on about an annual basis, BP pled guilty to criminal acts, each time saying that they were going to change their ways.  Mother Earth is a battered women, BP is a batterer, and it’s time to end the cycle of criminal abuse.  Buying her flowers and offering her gushing words have not stopped BP’s gushing oil in the past.  We don’t want your sweet talk.  We want you to stop raping the earth!

The only real question here today is whether or not we can avoid the Native American prophecy that “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

BP will you fundamentally change your fossilized business practices and switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy? 

I have in my hands 38 pages of documents from Ohio EPA regarding the draft Air Pollution Permit-to-Install for BP-Husky Refining, Limited Liability Corporation, with an accent on the “Limited Liability”!  I have a Bachelor’s Degree in biology, a Master’s Degree in Public Health; I’ve even had a graduate level course in environmental genetic toxicology.  I’ve spent years working in and with government bureaucracies.  How can one adequately address the issues raised in a few minutes?  What I conclude from this draft permit and tonight’s so-called public hearing is that they are a smokescreen.  Buried in this smokescreen of technocratic minutiae is our planet being buried; or perhaps more accurately: unburied and burned — literally, the cremation of our planet.  This Ohio EPA sham hearing today is lethal to democracy, thwarting the larger will of the people, as it stands by, impotent to protect our environment, the very environment it is sworn to protect.  Meanwhile, BP and others are destroying our planet.

Anybody who lives or passes through Oregon, Ohio, knows that BP doesn’t pass the stink test.  You don’t need a doctoral degree to know that our fossil fuels addiction threatens our planet and the life it sustains.  We can’t depend on British Petroleum or other fossilized corporations to protect our planet.  We can’t depend on politicians or bureaucrats to protect our planet.  If the planet is to be saved, then it depends on you and me, we the people.  Thank you for coming out to this people’s hearing.  Thank you for listening.

I will now conclude by reading a poem, entitled, O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth

NOTE: There were an estimate 18 to 18,000 people at the People’s Hearing.  THANKS to all who showed up!

Here is the testimony of Kristina Moazed, Chair, Western Lake Erie Sierra Club:

The proposal that BP has revealed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and to us, the public, has been improperly piecemealed and made to appear as if it will be just fine for this refinery to accept tar sands.
We must begin at the very source of these oil bearing sands. Canada’s government, and the province of Alberta are massively destroying Alberta’s pristine, northern ancient forests, poisoning the water sources of their native wildlife, and natives and other Albertans for one generation’s profit and greed. The desecration of this form of extraction is seriously forever.

   >  This permitting decision is being made in ignorance of recognized scientific principles that do predict increasingly worse consequences of global warming.

   >  The decision to go forward with tar sands as a source of petroleum rejects the scientifically-grounded conclusion that to even begin to slow down the global warming and that our over-use of fossil fuels has put into motion, we must keep as much of the remaining carbon fuels as possible in the ground: they must never be extracted and burned!

   >  There is no consideration in this decision process of public health effects on human populations in our Toledo-Oregon-Lake Erie shore region as a consequence of the higher volumes of known carcinogenic and other pollutants which will be emitted!

    >  There is no consideration given to otheralternate mitigation activities, such as the building and promotion of mass transit, which would consume less petroleum, create far more permanent jobs, and cause much less pollution than perpetuating North America’s one-car, one-driver folly.

    >  There is no certainty that high volumes of petroleum coke will actually be generated by the proposed altered refinement process.   And if it is, that coke will not be sheltered from the elements and will accumulate less than a mile from Lake Erie and one of its estuaries.
Have any emergency plans been put in place in case of explosion or fire while processing these dirty bitumen fuels so close to our source of drinking water?
Have possible impacts to tourism and the maritime and fishing industries been considered?
I’m sure if we contact the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the birding crowd will have plenty of objections to the increased pollution in and desecration of the surrounding habitat!

Just one example of tar sands refining immediately to our north, in Detroit will give us an example of what happens. Emissions of sulfur dioxide did decrease, but emissions of hydrogen sulfide increased as they do everywhere bitumen is refined. Hydrogen sulfide is known for its rotten egg odor and is potentially fatal in sufficient concentrations. Residents near this Marathon Refinery in Detroit participated in Air Sampling which was overseen by Global Community Monitor, an environmental group based in California. In 2010 they found high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide near the refinery. IN one case, more than 20 chemicals, including benzene were detected in a resident’s basement. An EPA investigation traced the contamination to Marathon’s dumping of wastewater into the city sewer system! “We were shocked to learn they did not have their own discharge pipe into a body of water like, I believe, every other refinery in the United States ,” said Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor’s executive director. How convenient that the BP Refinery is right on the shore of Lake Erie! I think we will need to watch their discharges very carefully!

   >  These production changes are being undertaken by a global corporation which has seriously poisoned the Gulf of Mexico through crass, careless and dangerous negligence and deliberately ignoring safety regulations causing the oil spill in 2010, and its still incomplete remediation.
Now that we know BP has gamed the regulators and the public into bring tar sands cracking here to Oregon, Ohio, exactly what basis is there for any trust that consideration of public health and avoidance of environmental destruction hold any priority for BP?

We must promote green, renewable and sustainable energy! We must conserve and become more efficient our usage!

THANKS Kristina!

POEM: O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

This poem has emanated from my musings about the oil tar sands in Canada.  The extraction of these oil tar sands, in some of the most pristine parts of North America, is the largest single scarring of Mother Earth ever undertaken by human-unkind.  It seems that our oil addiction has us scraping the last drops of oil from the planet, squandering nature’s wealth — our children’s children’s inheritance — and polluting Mother Earth which sustains our very life.  Greed is the most dangerous enemy of sharing a planet together.  I hope that people from locales all over the earth rise up and protect Mother Earth from the many assaults on her.  As for my Toledo friends, you can check out and join Occupy Toledo’s resistance to oil tar sands being processed here at the BP refinery.  Think globally, act locally — that’s local, not loco!

O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth