May 24, 2010

Celebrate the Sad.

It was an ordinary day when the ordinariness changed
suddenly what was normal became rearranged
and instead of fighting the routine of life
it was for life that that he began to fight

he told them the news and they all began to weep
the reality of the fleetingness in their hearts began to seep
how long will it be? how many months? how many weeks?
but no one knows the response to these questions that they seek
it was God who held the answers, of life's secrets He does keep

how quickly his body changed, when the uninvited guest came to town
invading the body, turning strength upside down
when did the illness come, when did it arrive?
they asked how can we kill it to keep him alive?
but when the talk of cancer began to subside
of intense emotion no one could deny
and each person's heart began to open wide

one tried to take control, another just asked why
one offered a healing touch, others bent their heads to cry
one gazed softly at the ground, one tear fell from the eye
one asked if this was it, did this mean he'd have to die

though pain had existed in relationships past
there is beauty in talks of death, of a reality it casts
light on what matters and how love thrives
forgiving the trespasses and letting bitterness die

so of the messiness of life, the children began to sweep
pushing shallowness aside, the conversations turned deep
they began to share their gratitude, they began to share their thanks
they laughed at the rollercoaster of money in the banks
they reminisced about the good ole times, and of those they had many
of millionaires they'd be if for each smile they got a penny
they barbequed, they watched sports, they gently sipped their beers
or chugged them, either way, good times were always near

he watched them proudly as they grew, playing football in the dirt
sitting in the stands with a baseball hat and a Hawaiian shirt
always rooting from the sidelines for a victorious win
rooting loudly for Jack, Chris, or the twins

and with these memories the flaws that used to cause disdain
became an inside joke, only laughter did remain
because its not worth holding tight to the things in the past
its much better to let the wrongs seep out from clenched grasps
and in the process of letting go, they slowly start to see
the heaviness of that weight, it is now that they are free

so for now, in the present, we will sit and share stories
and wait till tomorrow to express any worries
because this moment is all we have and this is always true
but its only when we see death that we know what we should do

we should drop the trivial to-do's and the meaningless chores
gather with our family and try to love much more
monitor our words so only kindness reigns
express our deepest thanks, gratitude engrained
laugh at each other, occasionally give a roast
then flatter in another breath, raise your glass to toast

celebrate togetherness, celebrate tonight
cry tears of pain and joy, find peace then take the fight
find solace that whatever happens, of joyous company awaits
either family here or family at the pearly gates
the beauty in this battle is that no one has to lose
though the outcome he plays a part, the outcome he cannot choose
the resolution will be determined, through the spirit God moves

so though we do not know the cards that He is dealing
and of endless thoughts and fears is the mind reeling
the beauty is that this pain allows a time of healing
filling up holes with the hearts glue-like sealing
allowing love t0 be the subsisting feeling
gazing to the heavens-the now reachable ceiling
remaining in a time of prayer, continually kneeling

thanking God for the time we all spent together
sighing in thanks that love lasts forever
and there's no such thing as absence when memories remain
never subsiding, they saturate us like falling rain

so we celebrate it all, breathing it all in
gathering round, clutching tight to our kin
knowing that this time is truly a gift
to mend all separateness, no more is there rift
laughing through the tears, crying through the laughs
these moments shall be endless, forever they will last
let us cram it all in, so our cups overflow
drown in love now, for the reasons we know
get high on the present, drunk on this life
continue to battle, fight the fight
and bask in the glory of God's shining light.

May 5, 2010

A Hate Letter

Dear Violence,

I hate you.

I hate how you slowly seep into our lives as a game, convincing us that killing can be fun and that there can be winners when we play you.

I hate how you infiltrate our lives in tv shows, movies, and video games such that we become so familiar with you, we think you're normal. I hate how when I watched actual footage of US soldiers killing two innocent journalists in Iraq, my mind could barely distinguish fact from fiction. I hate that the first time I watched the clip, I felt nothing but numb.

I hate how our country of freedom is founded on you. I hate how we generated land by the genocide of Native Americans. I hate how we proclaimed that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence, but lines later referred to Native Americans as "inhabitants of our Frontiers, merciless Indian Savages." I hate how you justified our enslavement of Africans. I hate how you have convinced us to deny immigrants, claiming that the DNA of America is white, when three hundred years ago America was only indigenous Indian and Mexican.

I hate how you use the sexual organs of men to rape women, penetrating them so deeply that the only thing more torn than their vaginas is their sense of dignity. I hate how you tell women to commit acts of violence on themselves, encouraging us to starve our bodies for beauty, subjugating ourselves to sexual objects, and shaming us to insert silicon and botox into our flesh.

I hate how you pretend to be funny; tell us to laugh at drunken debaucles that lead to fights and screaming, and evade responsibility for the aggression by blaming alcohol. I hate you how hide beneath the guise of racist and homophobic jokes, allowing laughter to subdue indignation.

I hate how you blind us with beauty, such that we think minerals mined by war criminals and clothing made through slave labor are beautiful.

I hate how you cloak yourself in principles like "freedom" and "democracy," and shove the death of innocent masses into the graves of a few terrorists. I hate how you pretend that the violence is contained to a bullet, denying that the death of any human undoubtedly fosters and perpetuates more hatred and violence.

I hate how you create a hierarchy of righteousness, labeling torture against our enemies as necessary, and the torture of others elsewhere as human rights violations; calling the poor who steal as criminals, and the rich who eradicate homes and pension funds as businessmen; calling those who defend their families in the inner cities as gang members and those who defend their country as soldiers.

I hate how you have convinced people that despite everything that our religions preach against, you are moral and for a greater good.

I hate how you manipulate us into believing that through violence we can achieve peace, despite basic logic showing that hate cannot breed love and falsities cannot breed truth.

I hate you so much I will refuse to use you to fight you. I hate you so much that I refuse to hate you. Instead I will deny your power by believing that the assumed powerlessness in nonviolence is power itself. I will strip away your aggression until you are cold and vulnerable, and re-dress you with the warmth of the human spirit. I will slowly starve you out of my life by refusing to feed your lies and then force feed you with love. I will tear down your walls of barbed wire and build bridges across the canyons of separation. Although I will not be active in violence, nor I will be passive in peace.

May 3, 2010

Assholes at the Krishna Concerts

I love chanting. For the past eight years, my main music preference has been that of Krishna Das, a Jew from Long Island who traveled to India to become a Hindu and was forced out of his ashram because his guru decided he needed to share his music with the world. He is, to sum him up, the Bruce Springsteen of chanting.

I've been to three of his concerts, two of which included some of the holiest moments of my life. Intermittent in the holiness, however, are reminders about the unholiness of people--aka there are always assholes at the Krishna concerts.

At my first concert in San Francisco, I was sitting alone in a church pew, squeezed between strangers. (My friends claimed to have other "commitments" that know who you are, ahem Carolyn, Crem, and Per). Despite not knowing anyone, I felt connected to everyone. In fact, I spent the first song completely entranced by the people around me; all of us sitting quietly at first, many with their eyes closed, singing in unison, opening up our hearts, and chanting words in sanskrit that we didn't quite understand, but that we knew were holy hymns.

In front of me sat a large bald man sporting a leather jacket, aggressive jewelry, a couple tattoos, and a goutee. He was really feeling the music. I found the juxtaposition of his physical stature but his quiet chanting beautiful. As he chanted, he slowly lifted up one of his fingers, obviously expressing the "power of one,"and rhythmically pumping his finger to the beat of the "hare krishnas." He had a soft whimsical smile...UNTIL...

the couple next to me started whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears, undoubtedly feeling the love of this "power of one." Suddenly, Mr. "Whimsically Smiling Hells Angel" turned around and barked at the couple, "SHUT THE HELL UP!"

It was awkward. Really awkward. The couple paused in shock. I paused in shock. And then the man turned around, smiled, and started his "one" chant again. Umm..... COMO??!! I felt weird. And distracted. And annoyed. What the HECK?! How DARE HE?!

And then, there was my most recent concert a few weeks ago. I dragged my partner in crime, Alex, to Webster Hall in the East Village. When we arrived, there was a line around the block of people clutching yoga mats and meditation pillows. Everyone was smiling. When we finally got inside, we anxiously searched for a spot to sit down, finding a small place in the back. People were frantically trying to save seats. "You can't save seats!" a 40 year old woman-turned-kindergartner yelled. "Stop pushing me!" another meditator-turned-screamer yelled. Smothered between angry yellers who would soon-to-be-enlightened chanters, six foot one Alex awkwardly sat cross-legged, his knees scrunched to his chest. "Move OVER!" someone yelled out. "SHUT UP, we can't move ANYWHERE" another person yelled. "YOU Shut up!" another person yelled back. Alex looked over at me with a panicked look that expressed claustrophobia and bewilderment. "Hare krishna?" I responded. "I.....think I'm gonna stand," he whispered fearfully. "Good idea," I feverishly agreed as we jumped out of the mob scene, gasping for breath.

Rudeness amidst godliness is not unusual. My mom witnessed it when she was in an ashram in India, noting how yogis would hoard fresh fruit for themselves even if it meant depriving those further back in line. My siblings and I experienced it every Sunday after church when we would inexplicably fight during the 7 minute ride home. I see it every time I walk out of church and watch 300 congregants walk over a homeless person as they rave about the Word of God and the power of loving our neighbors.

It's as if the universe wants to ensure that the second we start to feel like we're righteous and holy, we are reminded of our flawed as to say, "oh yeah? you think you're disciplined in your faith? deal with this asshole!" or "you feel full of God's love? try sharing it with this guy."

These recognized moments of un-enlightenment always seem like buzz kills. But perhaps it is these moments, not the obvious moments of peaceful holiness, that are the true gifts for our faith. They are moments that allow us to practice godliness as opposed to just observing God. They are moments that allow us to practice our faith, as opposed to just reciting our faith. They are moments that remind us that our religiousness is not just a belief, but rather a discipline that must be practiced to be perfected. They are moments that force us to stop patting ourselves on our backs for being "good" and lead us to kick our asses into being better. Perhaps then the holiest experiences are when we stop the chanting and simply send love to the assholes.