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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Sing to me the song of dogs,
The song of hunt, the song of tribe,
Of friendship deep, and fire and snow,
Of heavy breath and blood,
The joy of chase and the pride of kill.
The song of warm places and good things to eat,
Of sharp ears and instinct, of deep and peaceful sleep.
Sing the song of hunger and hurt,
The cold song, the old song,
The fear-song and love-song.
Sing to me the song of birth and death,
And of true bond that lives past death.

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My feet relentlessly attack the pavement
And my aching knees stab in savage dissent.
The cerulean sky is languid, indulgent,
And the early spring air is soft and cool–
Much easier to breathe than the thin, winter cold.
A drum beat–a metronome–pours into my ears.

I struggle to keep up.

Suddenly, the acrid fanfare of the guitar cries
Like the peal of a naked, horny church bell,
And Jim Morrison’s passionate but unintelligible baritone
First barks and then slithers like a black snake
Insidiously into the spinning gears of the polyphonic clockwork.
The delicious, Dionysian danger of the music and the
Perfect pain of running are wrapped up
Into one overwhelming singularity:
It is the universe’s gift to me, and I throw myself into it.

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In many ways, I’m standing at a crossroads, spiritually. I have some ideas about what I think real Christianity is all about, what God wants from me, what I think is important, and what I want from God. I also see several clear paths I could go down, each of which has definite strengths and weaknesses in relation to what I want and what I think God wants, meaning that they all lead somewhere probably pretty good, but I don’t think any of them really leads where I want to go, where I will find Jesus Christ.

I have said in previous posts that I have a hard time really articulating some of these issues because they are in many ways abstract and sometimes ill-defined. It’s not that I have a clear picture in my head that I can’t put words to so much as it is that I have a vague, fuzzy half-picture in my head that if I tried to define it in words, I’d probably get it wrong. Sometimes when I’m talking about religion, faith, and spirituality, I feel more than a little like J. Alfred Prufrock.

Anyway, in the next four posts, I’m going to try to describe the four paths I see, as I see them, and to explain why I simultaneously want to go down each but also fear that none of them leads where I think I will truly encounter Jesus Christ. The four paths are Evangelical Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism.

Also a little warning- like I said in past posts, I’m feeling a bit vulnerable right now and I want to be able to express myself without having to defend myself. I’m interested in comments and feedback, but I imagine I’m going to be a little quicker than usual to delete comments if I feel they are hostile or overly critical. Just a fair warning.

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We watched this at church on Sunday, as kind of the prelude to the sermon. The lady who was speaking asked the congregation to say what they felt about it. One person said she thought is seemed ominous. I said it certainly was uncomfortable, but “ominous” isn’t the word I would necessarily use. It made me think of being on an almost out-of-control rollercoaster. The things of God are a little bit intense, and not everyday- they should leave us unsettled. Aslan is not a tame lion.

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So, my poetry blog isn’t really launching like I thought it would.  I’m badly out of practice, and I’m having a hard time getting started.

On the spiritual/religious/lack-thereof front, I’ve got quite a bit on my mind.  Most of it is still half-formed vague notions, etc.  I’d like to write about them, but in a way I’m reluctant to.  For bad reasons.

One problem I’ve noticed since I started this blog is that I have an unfortunate tendency to seek approbation from random internet people.  I fixate on how many comments I’ve gotten, or how many hits my blog has had in a given day.  Ultimately, it’s a huge distraction from what this blog was really supposed to be about.

It goes even further, though.  In more vulnerable moments, I find myself reluctant to actually articulate what I’m thinking or feeling for fear that the people who were commenting approvedly will start to disapprove.  It’s dumb on the one hand, but at the same time I think it makes sense in a very human way

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Sometimes I actually don’t procrastinate.  I went ahead and started a new blog, called The Sampo.  It’ll be my project for the summer- poetry, mostly. It might not all be good, but I hope to be prolific if not brilliant.  And maybe it will reflect spirituality in a way that this blog just can’t.

I’ll post some stuff there to get it started (old poetry), but don’t expect it to really take off running with new material for a few weeks.  I hope you enjoy, but again, it’ll really be for me anyway.

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For a few days I’ve been thinking about the possibility that there is no God.  For my whole life, I have assumed there was one, but I’ve never experienced him or had any kind of spiritual relationship with him.  So I have no personal basis for claiming that I know or even suspect that there is a deity.  I mean, I’d like there to be one, but that’s not really enough for me.  I’m too skeptical to be satisfied with believing based solely on the desire to believe (sorry, Alma- it’s just not going to happen).

What if there is no God?  What then?  Is there morality without God?  Of course there is.  Morality, to me, is instinctive and universal.  True morality at least.  Every religion teaches respect and kindness towards fellow humans- we don’t need a god to tell us that.  The things that aren’t universal, like whether God forbids the eating of pork or beef, are in my opinion clearly manmade morality.  Arbitrary garbage that has to do with human institutions, not with what’s really right or wrong.

What’s “morally wrong” with coffee?  Nothing; the very idea is preposteroous to everyone but Mormons.  But to them, it’s a moral issue because they believe God commanded it.  This is the kind of thing that I gleefully abandon.  We need God to tell us to not drink coffee, to not eat pork, and to adhere to specific religious observances.  We don’t need God to tell us to not be jerks.  We know to not be jerks on our own, and we manage to do it regardless, even when we’re told to not do it by “God.”

Anyway, I digress.  I don’t feel like  I need God to have morality, and anyway, that’s beside the point.  If there’s no God there’s no God regardless of whether we “need” him for something or not.

So if there is no God, what is there?  I don’t believe that the science we have describes everything, and I don’t believe that the material is all that is.  Maybe that’s ignorant and superstitious of me, but it’s who I am.  Does that mean I believe in spirit, or in mind that is separate from body?  I’m not sure.  Does it mean I believe in magic? Unfortunately, no.  As cool as magic would be, I don’t think it exists (unless you define it so broadly that it can’t help but exist, and then you’re not saying anything useful).  Likewise, in believing that there is something more than the material, I suppose I could formulate what I do believe in and call it “God,” but that would actually only confuse and mislead, since I would be talking about something that is a far cry from what most people mean when they use the term.

I’m not so sure I believe in a distinct divine being  with consciousness and personalty.  I certainly don’t believe in a God with a physical form (of flesh and bone or otherwise).  The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I think I may be comfortable with the idea of no God.  Not because it gives me license to do whatever I want or anything, because like I said, I still believe in morality.

I certainly do not have all the answers, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else does, either, no matter how adamantly they claim to have them.  I believe in mystery.  I believe in the unexplained, and perhaps in the unexplainable.  I believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.  But I don’t know if I believe in God.

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I read this poem on the website of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and it struck me as interesting and significant.

What if
Jesus and Merlin were to meet
At twilight
In the garden, in the grove,
One looking forward to the Skull of Golgatha,
One looking back on the Sacred Head of Bran?

What would they say to one another,
These men, these gods,
Who live in time beyond their lives—
One forward, one retrograde?

“Let this Cup pass from me…” says the one.
“May the earth open and swallow me,
May the sky fall upon me,
May the sea rise and cover me,
May fires consume me…” says the other.

“Take this cup and drink from it…” says the one.
“This is the Cauldron of Inspiration and Wisdom…” says the other.
“Do this in remembrance…” says the one.
“I know the Cup
From which the wave has overflowed.
I know the end of the dawn…” answers the other.

What if they do meet
There in the grove, in the garden,
Two avatars—
One about to ascend,
One about to descend—
Each serving the Chalice in his way?

What if Merlin’s Affallanau and Jesus’ Rood are the same Tree?
One rides it to his destiny,
One sits beneath to prophesy.

What could they give to one another
These prophets circling in their Time-long orbits?
Could Merlin say: “The seed is planted, the tree will grow There is a thorn in Avalon that bears fruit in thy name.”
Would Jesus reply wistfully: “Kiss Nimue for me.
Tell her I love her beauty and her power.”

-RoMa Johnson, 2004

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Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees –
Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

– William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

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