Posts Tagged ‘life and death’

The Beginning and the End

June 15, 2018

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to nurture the notion that mankind was innocent in some presumed condition of noble savagery—or to accept traditional religion that pronounces us guilty of offenses against Nature or against God.

If we are, or were, indeed, noble savages in our beginnings, why should we have taken on the disciplines and restrictions of religion—doctrines that judge us culpable of sin and thus in need of repair, salvation, or some kind of evolving perfection yet to be realized?

Hawaiians, for instance, who were alive here on the island of Kauai (I am wondering, as I write this on Kauai in 2018)—those Hawaiians who lived here in 1778 when Captain James Cook suddenly showed up with his fancy ship and his threatening weaponry, his magical gadgets, highly-trained crew, impressive use of language and documents, his tailored clothing and highly developed European culture—those relatively primitive people who first saw Capt. Cook’s two ships sail up to the mouth of the Waimea River . . .

CaptCook

Why should they have accepted his intrusion into their simple, primitive life?

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that was their question.

Would they go with the “arc of history” or resist it?

Did they eventually accept highly developed European culture to replace their traditional tribal existence? Did they accede to it out of submission, or out of necessity, or out of attraction to the new fancy stuff they saw? Were they conquered? Or were they taken by the hand and brought gently, Christian-like, into 18th-century civilization, and ultimately into 19th, 20th and 21st-century lifestyle?

Look around Hawaii today. What do you think?

They accepted it.

They went with the flow. One thing we know for sure about the so-called primitive Hawaiians of 1778: they knew how to go with the flow. They were here on this remote island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean, long before we technolified haoles were here, and they had arrived here at some earlier time because they knew how to make “the flow” of this life and the Pacific Ocean work for them.

So now, 2018, it is what it is. Hawaii, like every other place in our modern world, is what it is. Some may lament the demise of noble savagery that has been the result of Captain Cook’s intrusion into this paradisical (though deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing) island. Others may celebrate the entrance of the Hawaiians into modern life.

Some may come and some may go.

Captain Cook came. He left and came back again. The beginning of Captain James Cook’s Hawaii experience happened when his crew sailed their two ships to the mouth of the Waimea River— a river that flowed from mile-high Waialeale crater down to sea level at the southwest shore of Kauai.

Waimea1

He died in 1779, shot dead by an Hawaiian on the Big Island of Hawaii, at the other end of this island archipelago. His sudden demise came in the midst of dispute between some of his own crew members and the natives of Hawaii.

Many have lived and died since that time.

Two days ago, up on the other end of Kauai island, the northeast end, at a strand called Larsen’s Beach, we witnessed the life-end of another person, a contemporary. The man was a traveler from Pennsylvania. He had been snorkeling at a reef in unpredictable waters when the Ocean took hold of him.

A little while later, his flippers floated to shore. After we had witnessed a team of chance beach visitors (us), and then a couple of jet-skiing lifeguards from some other nearby beach, and then EMT guys flown in on a “bird,”—after we had witnessed all this collective noble attempt to coax life back into the snorkeler’s breathless lungs and heart, we saw his neon-green flippers float back to shore.

Flipper

Maybe he was going with the flow; maybe he was going against it; maybe he was fighting against the current, or maybe he was just going with that flow of life and death that eventually captures us all.

In my case, that flow will, in the long run, take me to death, and then resurrected life, as was demonstrated by Jesus.

Am I really going with the flow, you may ask, in joining the historical current of the Christian faith into which I was born?

Or am I going against the rational flow by subscribing to such an incredible prospect as life after death?

God only knows.

King of Soul

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March 14, 2017

March 14, 2017

Why the Diagonal, y’all?

TreeDiag

Because it’s the shortest distance

between two

points?

or

because what goes up must come

down?

or

to break up the conformism of these trunkated

lines?

or

because it

snowed?

or

because this old tree was just ready to begin its

fall?

DiagTree

or

because its time had come, y’all?

or

because that’s

all

she wrote

or

maybe it was just the final

call,

from seed to tall

from spring to fall.

It could happen to us

all,

y’all.

From seed to fall,

that’s all?

Prob’ly not,

I do believe.

SeedEating

You?

Glass half-Full

Tear me up.

March 7, 2017

FalnTre3

Tear me up, life,

just tear me up,

stomp on me if you want to

pick me up and throw me ‘cross the world.

I don’t care.

Go on now,

get on with it.

Watch me like a hawk,

and when I’m at my tenderest,

most vulnerable point,

pounce!

Take your best shot!

What you do not see

is the One who died for me.

His sacrifice has made all the difference,

and will yet again

when I rise with Him.

So just get along now.

Go find someone else to pick on.

You think I don’t see you.

But I do.

And I will.

IrisB2

Glass half-Full

A Boomer Looks Back

September 5, 2016

VietMem2

Now that I’ve been growing up for 65 years, I am at last approaching some semblance of adulthood.

During the course of my baby’boomer lifetime, I have seen some changes; some of them I am actually starting to comprehend.

Now I look back on it all and find myself wondering about some things, but quite sure about some other things.

Several years ago, my wife and I spent some vacation time on the island of Maui, in the great state of Hawaii. While driving one afternoon down the western slope of Hale’akala volcano, we happened upon a memorial to a great man named Sun Yat-sen.

In his lifetime, during the early 20th century–1911, Sun lead many of his countrymen in a revolution that deposed the old monarchy of their country–the Chinese Qing dynasty. But before that happened, he had spent some time in Hawaii; that’s why there’s as statue of him there.

At the base of Sun Yat-sen’s memorial a quote from him is carved in the stone, and this is what is said:

LOOK INTO THE NATURE OF THINGS

Ever since I saw that, I have been working that pearl of wisdom into my way of living as much as I can. And this principle of living and learning has been not only a motivation for me toward acquiring useful knowledge, but also a source of great joy and satisfaction.

This principle is expanded in the Proverbs of the Bible: Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it. Proverbs 16:22.

Now this may seem like a philosophical idea, but it is really very productive in the living of real life. Here’s a nuts n’ bolts example:

In 1992, when I was still a young man of 41, working as a carpenter to provide for our three children, and for my wife who had not yet become a nurse, and for our household, I took a job with a construction company remodeling (a refurb job) an old K-Mart. My job was to tear old stuff out from around the inside perimeter of the store and replace it with a newer style of retail display.

I had been visiting K-Marts ever since I was a teenager in the 1960’s. So I had been seeing those retail structures for most of my life. But to look behind the facade, into the structure, and then to reconstruct the structure based on newer, more modern components–this work experience held a strange satisfaction for me, as well as a source of income for a season of our life.

Working on that K-Mart was more than a paycheck; it was a joy to behold as the various phases of reconstruction unfolded beneath my hands and before my eyes.

Look into the nature (or structure) of things!

Many years have passed; now I’m looking back on it all. Part of the outcome from this reflection will be a novel that I am now researching and writing. It is a story that takes place during the time of my youth; it has become a cathartic process for reconciling the difference between what I thought I knew then and what I now know about that turbulent period of my g-generation’s growing up.

Ours was the generation whose maturing was said to be delayed because Dr. Spock wrote a book about child care that–as some have judged it–convinced our mothers to spoil us.

While there may be an element of truth to that judgement, I have noticed in my conversations with some people lately that there is category of folks in our boomer generation who were definitely not spoiled:

Those guys and gals who fulfilled their duty to our country by going to fight the war in Vietnam–they found themselves in a situation where they had to grow up in one hell of a hurry.

What I am seeing now is, in my g-generation, there was a great divide between: Them that went, and them that didn’t.

While I was college freshman in 1969, trying to figure out what life was all about, and marching against the war, those guys who who went to ‘Nam were required–and yeah I say unto thee–forced to figure out how to keep life pumping through their bodies and the bodies of their buddies who fought with them.

Those soldiers who went over there had to grow up a lot quicker than I did.

I did not go to Vietnam. My lottery number in 1970 was 349, so I literally “lucked out” of it.

During that time, a time when I was stepping lightly through ivory-tower lala land, our soldiers on the other side of the world were trudging through jungles, heavy-laden with weapons and survival gear. While I was privileged to be extending my literacy skills,  they were committed to learning how to kill the enemy before he kills “us.”

Now it turns out my research about the ’60’s is swirling around two undeniable maelstroms of socio-political showdown: civil rights and the Vietnam war.

So, in my project of looking into the nature of things in the 1960’s, I am learning about that war and how it came to be a major American (undeclared) war instead of just a civil war between Vietnamese.

One thing I have found is that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara undertook a similar project in 1965. When he was in the thick of it all–as one of the best and brightest industrial leaders of that age, having been recruited as an insider in the White House, then calling the shots on major events, wielding incredible military power on the other side of the planet, in the heat of the moment and in the fog of war, he found himself wanting to know. . .

how the hell did this happen? how the hell did we get here?

McNamara’s question lead to a .gov-commissioned research project, paid for on our taxpayer dime, and ultimately made public by the primary researcher of that undertaking, a former Marine Lt. Col. named Daniel Ellsberg.

Look deep into it. In Ellsberg’s case he looked deep into 7000 pages of military documentation, starting in the 1940’s and going all the way through Tonkin Gulf in 1964.

Look into the nature of things.

I’ll let you know in another year or two–when the book is done– what my search dredges up from the streets and battlefields of our g-generation’s  search to find meaning and fulfillment, and maybe even a little justice and mercy thrown in.

But one thing I want to say, now, to THEM THAT WENT:

Although things did not turn out the way we had intended, there isn’t much in this life that actually does end up like we thought it would.

You went and did what the USA asked, or compelled you, to do, while many of us were trying to pull you back to stateside.

Thank you for your service. We’ll need many more of your stripe before its all over with.

Glass half-Full

Listen: Boomer’s Choice

The Bookends of Experience

October 31, 2015

As far as East is from the West,

and near to worst as to the best,

I have wandered lonely as a cloud

as we travel from some swaddle to the shroud.

Once we drove a stake in the ground and called it home;

now this morning wakes me here as sun is shone.

DawnWoods

Situated now on continental sunrise heights

while recalling vivid island sunset sights,

and noticing here our stark and spindly leaves, these trees,

I recollect the wide and warm of ocean breeze.

SSetHuna

Experience goes as far as mountains are from sand,

then circles back around to water, air and land.

Sometimes life is hard, you know;

at other times it’s soft as autumn leaves make show.

As days turn dark,

so light doth continually toss out some spark

of hope or happiness or flexibility

that is yet assailed by despair or dearth or rigidity.

Experience comes as vividly as rising sun;

then memory renders it precious when day is done.

Doors of perception

open into windows of reflection

as present slips into the past

and future finds a fleeting foothold fast.

We amble here and there and everywhere;

we ramble now and then without care.

When reality and reflection mingle in the sands of time

imagination splurges into rhythm, sometimes in rhyme

when myself is beached upon the rock of time,

Boone53

and our family finds itself with God and universe in line.

SunsetFam

Glass half-Full

Korea Wall

October 6, 2015

KoreaWall

 

Tim was telling us

about Korea.

On the other side of the world,

these men were passing into eternity

while I was being born.

Here we listen while Tim tells

us about that cold war, which

exploded soon after

the hot war

ended.

They watched silently while

we listened to Time telling us

of life and death on the other

side of the world while

I was being born.

 

Smoke

Opportunity Lost in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

Officer Wilson will have no opportunity to be publicly exonerated.

I have been thinking about him, and the man he shot. Like many Americans, I have been wondering what exactly did happen on that fateful August night when Officer Wilson, in the line of dangerous duty, killed Mike Brown with a gun.

Based on media-driven hearsay, it sounds to me like the young policeman would have had a pretty solid defense of his actions while attempting to enforce the law. I think, as most other white folk probably do, he would have been found not guilty in a court of law.

But who am I to say? Nobody. I’m a thousand miles away, a merely curious news-seeker with no access to the facts.

Since there will be no trial, and hence no public discovery of what actually happened between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, we will never know.

Now this tragic death becomes an open wound in our national conscience; it will not heal.

There will be no sworn testimony from Officer Wilson, nor from any witness, no questioning from a defense attorney, no cross-examination from a prosecutor.

As citizens in a nation of laws, we will never know what evidence and testimony might have been called forth in our Officer’s defense in a court of law.

But we need to know. As a nation at black and white crossroads, we do need to know what happened.

As a result of our failure to follow through with due process, the severe wound that has been opened up on our national corpus will not heal; it will fester until it boils up with infections of chronic misinformation, severe political manipulation,  unresolved grief and destructive rage.

We have lost an opportunity. The United States of America will have no close-up examination of what routinely happens between a black shoplifter and a white cop on a dark night in a city that keeps no secrets.

The sad consequence of no indictment in Missouri is that police work in our cities will become more difficult, more dangerous, not less.

And Officer Wilson will have no opportunity for public exoneration from his hastily fatal decision on that dark Missouri night.

Show me some due process, and this could turn out differently for our people.

Smoke

Kent State 1970

November 9, 2014

While doing research for the novel I now am writing, King of Soul, I read James A. Michener’s non-fiction book entitled

Kent State: What happened and why.

http://www.amazon.com/Kent-State-What-Happened-Why/dp/0449202739

Toward the end of it, here are some thoughts that came to me:

Oh, the insanity of those days,

shrouded in tear gas haze:

our dutiful young Guards, slogging in sweat-drenched gear,

moved against fellow-students erupting in fear.

They eyed each other across grassy knolls

while the crowd mocks and the clanging bell tolls.

Our ragged nation was ripping apart at the seams,

as confusion conspired to assassinate our dreams.

Sandy and Allison, Bill and Jeff didn’t know;

they never looked back when the bullets laid them low.

The shock and the awe, the plan and its flaw

could offer no reason to explain which law

had judged them worthy of martyrdom, sentenced to death:

a sinnish twist of fate  fired right, but hit on the left.

Things were never the same after that.

The movement waned thin; the bitter got fat;

America was laid low when those four  lives got spent

on that deadly tragic Mayday at Kent.

Smoke

This World

September 13, 2014

There’s something wrong with this world. Can’t you feel it?

Something a little out of whack.

We detect that something is a little out of kilter, maybe a little rotten in Denmark, and Detroit, in Darjeeling, something amiss in Mississippi, Malaysia and Malawi, out of sync in Singapore, Sevastopol, and Sao Paulo, and probably in our own back yard.

Everywhere we look in the world we notice folks, including me and you, who are playing the game without a full deck, making mistakes, screwing up; we see them building cities and societies using resources that are one brick shy of a load, with a screw loose somewhere and trying to put things on the straight and narrow with instruments that are about half a bubble off level.

What’s up with that?

Many moons ago, when men were crawling out of the caves and bushes, when women were roasting critters over fire and worshipping the sun and stars and rocks and trees and bulls and bitches, back in the mists of antiquity when humans hung together in packs and tribes, then in camps, cities and even empires– along came a fellow who marched to a different drummer.

He managed to do–not that he was trying to do so– what a lot of celebs these days spend their whole lives attempting–he made a name for himself. You’ve probably heard of him:

Abraham.

Scads of people throughout history claim kinship or faith with him. Why? What was it he did that was so important?  Well, how about this–history, oral and written, records that he believed God.

Abraham had noticed that, as I mentioned above, something was wrong in this world. So he asked God if there was something he could do about it. God urged him to leave the old world that he had been born into, and emigrate to a new place. So Abraham accepted God’s counsel; he picked up stakes and moved.

Since that time, a lot of people of have, you know, done something like that.

Abraham was an immigrant. He was hoping, I suppose, that he would not be turned back at some border somewhere.

He did manage, thank God, to get settled into a new place, and a lot of things happened after that. His young’uns came along–Isaac, Ismail, and so forth and so on.

By n’ by, a certain strain of his descendant family tree got themselves stuck in a slavery situation.

Then another fellow, Moses, came along and sought God’s counsel. He got the people organized and led them out of slavery. While his people were wandering around in the middle east trying to get it together, Moses inquired further of God, and so God gave him a revelation of what was to be done about the situation.

That situation being this world, which is about half screwed up, and what could the people do about it. They needed some laws and principles to get themselves straightened out and going in the right direction, so God gave them some instructions. Nowadays some folks call it Torah, others call it Pentateuch, or Bible. Some call it myth. I call it part of the Bible.

The short-term outcome of all that was, in the ensuing centuries, Moses’ people founded a kingdom and ran it for a few hundred years; it was supposed to be based on righteousness and justice. But, over time, things did not work as planned, and the kingdom was overcome by others and it all fell apart.

A few centuries after that, but in the same place, Jesus came along.

Now the main deal with Jesus is his Resurrection, and our resurrection, which accompanies his if we are willing to go with him. Either you believe it, or you don’t. As for me and my house, I do believe that he was was raised from being dead after being crucified to atone for all the bad stuff that makes this world, including me, wrong.

But of course that’s not the end of it all.

A few more centuries rolled by. Mohammed came along and noticed the same thing that I alluded to above–there’s something wrong with the world. He claimed to have a revelation from God of what’s to be done to get this crooked ole world straightened out.

Now the thing about Mohammed is: although he was a genius in religion, politics, and military strategy, he was a mere human like you and me. And so all the carefully-crafted constructs of his legacy later degenerated into more of the same-old same-old dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest manipulations of selfish lecherous ego-driven men , like everything else in this damned world.

There is no fixing this world. The Jews have been trying to fix life for thousands of years. Now the Muslims are taking their shot at it. Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Shintos, God bless ’em all for trying, but  none of it works for getting this earth and its people corrected. The world just continues to get worse and worse, and the stakes higher and higher, like carbon emitted and rising to entrap the atmosphere, while human compulsions descend lower and lower, like carbon emitted and accumulating in the tombs of our ancestors and ultimately in our own graves.

But each one of us faces death alone; the wicked world that hath confounded me, stumbled you, for lo these many years– it does not die with us. It just keeps going on and on and on in all its incendiary dysfunction.

When it gets right down to it, each man, each woman, must decide what is to be done about his/her own life, and what role he/she will attempt within the revolving restrictions of the great mandala. As for me–I’m going with the one Creator who, allowing himself to be crucified at the hands of this world’s dysfunction, has already conquered and surpassed the death that awaits us all.

my song about it

Smoke

On the Trail

June 8, 2013

My almost-62 years of this life have yielded a precious array of experiences. I praise the Lord for all of  them.

One in particular that I remember was, as it turned out, a life-threatening little jaunt through the Utah desert with my son, Micah.

What he did on the trail in a moment of quick judgement that dusty day– back in ’05 I believe it was– probably saved my life.

We were out in the middle of nowhere where the  scrubby country was dry and the sun was high, packing into an overnight camping adventure somewhere west of Moab and east of Cedar City. Maybe it was going in, or maybe it was going out, I don’t remember– We were hiking along a trail out in the flat parts, before or after visiting the gorgeous sandstone artistry of God that had been sculpted out of red rock many an eon ago by some ancient swirl of flood or receding inland sea or some such force of nature but that was then and this is now and its dry as a yucca bone out there in this particular geologic age.

I can hear well enough, but not as keenly as my young son, and by n’ by as we were progressin along he heard something that compelled his young whippersnappin mind to jerk into action and arrest my development, very suddenly, along the trail.

I was trekkin along as contentedly as you please, probably whistling’ Grofe’s On the Trail melody from the Grand Canyon Suite, although we were many a mile from that landmark. (The Grand Canyon leg of my life’s journey would come a year or two later on a little jaunt out West with my daughter, Kim.)

But there I was trekking right along on the trail in the middle of nowhere, Utah, when suddenly my forward progress was arrested abruptly by a force of nature that Newton might call the inertia of jerk, or– your son grabbing your pack-straps from behind and jerkin it hard so that dad couldn’t take another step forward because right there in the middle of the trail. . .

rattlesnake!

I’m blessed to be alive,  I tell ya. No tellin how quickly I might have expired that day, with the breath of life wispin out of me for the last time if Micah hadn’t heard that critter when I didn’t, and jerked me back into this present life instead of kingdom come!

Btw, that Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe, composed in 1931,(you’ve heard it in some old western or cartoon movie somewhere) that I was probably whistling when this near-death episode happened out there in Utah–it can be heard here— one of the greatest musical expressions that God ever laid on the mind and hand of man, or back of burro beast. Give it a listen. You can almost hear the trail-donkeys a brayin’ in that middle movement–the one called “On the Trail”.

I wish I had had one of them trail donkeys that day; I would have been a little further off the ground. But I guess it doesn’t matter ’cause my boy saved me anyway from certain death out in the middle of nowhere. Thank you, Jesus!

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress