Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a person to dissolve the psycho-spiritual binds that have connected him with his particular sense of reality, then...well...then...well then all hell breaks lose. It breaks loose and takes root, like some thorn-filled, evil-blown pollen, in the hearts of those of us, for whom, the distinction between Good and Evil is at first absolute, then subjective and finally, absolutely subjective.

There comes a time, in the course of those aforementioned Human Events, often a time of despair or fear or pain, sometimes in a time of joy or reverence, when our individual sense of evil and good is so intensely personalized, so intensely subjectified, that we're forced to reckon with it, identify it, call it what it is, and after that...troublingly, explain it. Why the evil? Why the pain? Why the addiction? Why the loss? Why the fear, the loneliness, the despair, the broken heartedness? Why?

And, often the answer to this asking is an opportunity for the ever-pressing presence of darkness to pulse through the cracks in our inherent optimism and blacken our thinking...which, of course, is the foundation of our reality. we end up like flock of backwards-hat-wearing college sophomores, asking: "Who the hell is in charge?" "Who is holding the rudder?" "What kind of existence is this if, throughout it, our experience is plagued with pain, heartache, injustice, madness--and at the end of it we die?" And, " for life in the next plane, an afterlife...Why? If there's someone in charge, holding the rudder, steering this ship, why are all these bad things happening and why do we have to suffer through this life to get to the good stuff and why does Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian get to be ga-zillionaires while I get to work in the coal mine...and for that matter, why does my sweet, sweet mother get to die, choking on cancer-filled phlegm, while this-or-that child-killer gets to live the life of Riley, writing books, appearing on talk-shows..." AND SO ON....

And some of us remain in that sophomoric malaise all the days of our lives, our brows knitted in consternation and cynicism, even as we breathe our last.

Which sucks. The ultimate heartbreak: No faith. No hope. No truth. Ouch.

In the end, love can/will/does conquer evil. Love conquers fear and pain and addiction and heartache and loneliness and hopelessness...and all that is black. But the battleground remains strewn with the corpses of those whom the darkness has taken—or more accurately, the battleground remains strewn with the corpses of those whose lives have been given to the darkness. I think that’s more accurate: We GIVE our lives to the darkness, it does not TAKE our lives from us. …

Love remains the fundamental creative power of the universe. But not everyone taps into it. This archetypical “LOVE,” not unlike the more earthly, human-to-human, garden variety love, is, by nature, reciprocal and born of intimacy. Real and selfless intimacy. And intimacy, as we know so well, absolutely demands exclusivity. It's not okay in our earthly relationships to be truly intimate with whomever we happen to run into in the grocery store. Indeed, such intimacy, not to be confused with sex, is by it's very nature, impossible.

So, we can choose intimacy. We can choose light and love. What we can't choose is circumstance. So those ready to cry foul, ready to argue that those wrongly accused, those innocents abused, those for whom suffering is an abomination to the concept of justice--I say to them: you are confusing love with circumstance. ...which are only distantly related and absolutely not synonymous.

Every addict, every liar, every killer, rapist, child molester, etc., as well as every innocent victim always has a choice, whatever the circumstance, we all have a choice, up until I stab that vein, tell that lie, pull that trigger, hate that hater, fail to forgive that sinner, dismiss that offender, etc. The compulsion to choose darkness may SEEM irresistible, but that’s a lie. We all know folks who DO resist. We all know folks who DO choose life, light, love...And to pretend our addictions, compulsions, pains, injuries, victimizations are stronger, more important, than the next guy’s…that’s just arrogance.

Fact is, evil, like love, is a choice. Life, or lack thereof, is a mere consequence.


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Less Popular Side of Grace

Grace, as everyone knows, is that "gift received, undeserved." While this understanding is useful, indeed, it is also limiting and, ultimately, deceiving.

Unfortunately, we've come to know grace as something that "blesses" us...and we leave it at that. We're thankful for it, the same way we're thankful for any gift that we receive. Further, we reserve a special kind of thankfulness in cases of grace precisely because we recognize that we don't deserve it, haven't earned it. ...In 21st century American culture (among others), the primary ethos around "receiving gifts" is to have somehow "earned" it. We get gifts at Christmas only if we've been good all year and have made Santa's Good List. ...if we get a lump of coal in our stocking, presumably, we've little creeps. And so on.

So, it is understandable when we receive measures of grace, we feel thankful, forgiven, blessed, etc. Essentially, this dimension of grace, for the receiver of it, is passive. We simply GET it. We simply RECEIVE it--sort of by definition of what have learned grace to be.

But another, critical element of grace is it's transformative nature. That is, Grace not only blesses us, but Transforms us, changes us. Makes us different. But only if we want that. ...But, without the transformational element of grace, grace itself is shortchanged. ...a large piece of the value of a gift received is in the opening of the gift and the USING of the gift, once opened. ...yes, an unopened package under the Christmas tree is still a gift. But the gift, opened and THAT gift has the power transform the receiver of the gift.

In seventh grade, when I received my new, Getzen Eterna (Doc Severenson Model) trumpet, I was very much transformed as a trumpet player. The old, hand-me-down Conn was dented, uninspiring, limiting and just not cool. This new horn was impressive, whacked with potential, intimidatingly shiny (much to the chagrin of Kris Koneitzko) helped me to be a better player because I wanted to play it more, wanted to show it off (along with my High C). It was confidence inducing.

If I'd have left it wrapped up under the tree...well, you get the point.

So...when you identify a bit of grace in your life. Challenge yourself to fully engage it. Change. Transform. Grow. It's why grace is given in the first place.