Entries from May 2008 ↓

Linda Ketner For Congress

Pumping gas a few minutes ago and thinking about the earthquakes that continue to rattle China and my own heart.  I was also thinking about the horrible circumstances in Myanmar, made doubly bad by the oppressive dictators that hold that little country.

It occurred to me that although our freedoms are not nearly as constrained as theirs are, there is such an oppressive spirit in our country today, a spirit of meanness and fear and blatant hatred for the poor, the nonwhite, and of course, gay folks.  Linda Ketner’s campaign is doing such a lovely job of transcending all that hatred without being hateful herself.  How tempting it would be to answer every bash with another bash, yet Linda is so light-hearted, funny, and believes so deeply in what Paul called a more excellent way.

At this point, only a few weeks into it, I have no idea if anybody besides my buddy, Beth Sitton, is reading this blog.  I love doing it, and want to do more of it.

Including Barack Obama, Linda Ketner is the most exciting politician I ever known, seen, heard, or read about. I adore her and support her and beg my friends to help her and talk to perfect strangers about her, because she has what Hemingway called, “a built-in crap detector.”  She sifts and finds the heart of the matter.  She is not so much an old-guard liberal, as she is somebody who sees in the clearest possible terms, the need for a government that supports people who can’t support themselves and encourages the creativity and drive of business people at the same time.  She believes in peace, but does not think the United States can be weak in the face of terrorism. In other words, she’s got a lick of sense, and that is so rare in politics these days.

Please go to LindaKetner.com.

A New World Is Born

Wrote this once last night, then lost it.


What if a new world is born with each moment of time, each shift in awareness?  Comedian Steven Wright has earned the title by saying the wildest things.  I laughed so hard when he said, “I walked into my apartment this morning and everything had been replaced by an exact replica.”

Funny, but what if it were true?

What if my typing here has not taken place on a single keyboard, but on 50 or 60 or 10,000 keyboards with each one dying away from instant to instant only to be replaced by an exact replica?  I have now typed the phrase “exact replica” three times.  What if each time were typed on a different keyboard with a different set of fingers, watched by a different set of eyes, and conceptualized by a different brain.  Some ancient scripture claims to make all things new.  Is this brain I am using, these fingers, this keyboard, are they all new?

What about these?

This question came to mind as I was walking down my son Luke’s driveway yesterday about 6 pm.  The world seemed to blink out of existence, only to blink right back.  Ah, thank goodness.  It wasn’t gone for long, but long enough for me to notice.  It came back.  Blink, blink, blink.  Oh, maybe that was it.  I blinked, and during the blink, the world felt as though it disappeared, but it was just caused by that split second my eyes were closed.

But what if?  What if continuity is an illusion, and there really aren’t redwood trees that have stood for 2,000 years, but rather 50 billion redwood trees all occupying the same space, looking like exact replicas of each other blinking in, in, in, in, out, out, out, out throughout the past 2,000 years?  After all, the atoms in the redwood tree are as old as anything and everything else in the universe, right?  With the exception of the atoms that have been split during nuclear reactions, all atomic structure is eternal, right?  Oxygen and hydrogen atoms are as old as the universe, right?  Molecules of water go all the way back, don’t they? Whether the universe started with the big bang or the spoken words of a distant God, the same atoms that were created at creation have been around the whole time.  I may be 54 years old, but every atom in my body is as old as the universe itself.

Or was I just born?  Is this the first sentence written by the me that just came into being?  A brand new world is born.  Happy Birth Moment.



Our Lives Are Not Our Lives

From an email to a friend, Saturday, May 17, 2008, early afternoon.


Being messed up is not my whole story.  In fact, the totality of my story has very little to do with me at all.  This is very complicated, but it is summed up in statements like these: “Except for one trifling exception, the entire universe is comprised of others.”  That’s from a writer named John Holmes. Or there is this statement, “Our lives are not our lives.”  That is mine, and it is the best way I have come up with for talking about all this.  Ego wants us to believe our story, the one perhaps that will be told at our funerals, or after the funeral as people stand around a buffet table or in the graveyard. Ego wants us to believe in the testimonial dinners, the awards, the times our story is told in the newspaper.  But that is not at all who we are.  It is as far from who we are as the east is from the west, to quote the Bible.


We are the daughters and sons of the most high, again quoting the good book.  We are results of millions of years of evolution, to quote brother Darwin.  We are stardust.  We are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden, to quote Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins, whoever wrote that song.  We are more process than we are the result of process.  We are more connection than individual.  This is very important.  You think you are yourself, but I think you are: school teacher, since last Sunday sister and daughter, perhaps of a very tyrannical father, but there a thousand other qualities to your father that made him who he was, many of them very golden and stardusty, political activist (not so much as I thought before last Sunday,) PFLAG activist, walker, talker, empath, on and on, but everything I use to identify you is about my connection to you, not who you really are, which is infinitely more complex and connected than I could ever perceive. I’ve been thinking about this for years, but never written about it this extensively, and as I write, I’m becoming quite excited about it, because the writing is proving true the thoughts I have been thinking for years.


Example, if I were in the room with your children, your ex-husband, your brother, some of your former students, and other folks from church, we might begin to put together a collage.  We might use 5×7 cards and write notes about our impressions, stories we remember (vote for Jim Rex,) even photographs and video.  But even if we ordered out for food and sleeping bags and gave days and days to the project, it would still be terribly incomplete.  You might enjoy it for a while, but pretty soon you would say, “What is the point of all this?  None of this is me.  I’m much more than all this, but also not nearly important enough to be worth all this work. Everybody go back to doing whatever you were doing before this started, and I’ll try to clean up this mess.”  You would say that, because you are a delightfully nice person, and not a raging egotist, but a raging egotist might let it go on for weeks and weeks, yet even the most egotistical of us all would eventually see that we are not the sum of every impression, every photograph, even memory, every story (and God, do I love stories!) every event, every award, every traffic ticket. There is something about us that is more.  And there is something about us that doesn’t matter.  


As I’ve already said, the something more is our connection to everything. For the Christian, it is a connection to God.  For many other faiths, it is a connection to God.  For the Buddhist it is oneness with everything, and I have experienced that, and it is fantastic, better than any drug, drunk, kiss, or dance, although the dancing does get close.  Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” really got me with this notion, but so did Byron Katie’s “A Thousand Names for Joy.”  Here is the essence of who we are, connection, not separation, oneness, not manyness, on and on.  It is ironic that at funerals, we often talk at length about the separateness, but the dying person experiences (and I am quite deeply convinced of this,) oneness, connection.


And the part that doesn’t matter is that we struggle so to get it right, so that we don’t choke on the bile of regret when we come to the end of our lives, and lo and behold, it turns out that we did the best we could do, and the oneness at the center of everything was doing so much better with our goofy mistakes than we ever could have done with our brilliant hopes and dreams.  


Wow, I’m not sure I ever even thought that thought, much less wrote it down.  Yowzer. Okay.  I’m copying this so I can keep it.  It may end up being the first chapter of that book, and it may just end up on my web site. Thanks for being there last night.  You truly are wonderful, even if I identify more with your oneness than I do your separateness.  Hope that’s okay with you.


Actually I hope to identify with the oneness of my friend, more than the separateness, and I have the same hope with Dick Cheney.  It is just so much harder with Cheney.


Eckhart Tolle deals with this stuff at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPg9DnMP2D4

Letter to Pat Hunt

My cousin, Pat Hunt, who is a brilliant writer and preacher asked me what resonates for me about Dorothy Day.

This is what i wrote back:

What resonates for me about Dorothy Day is a poster I saw on the wall of a coffee house in San Francisco. It was probably not a good idea to send me to San Francisco.  As long as you keep me down on the farm, I really can keep that bad little radical boy under control, but put me in San Francisco, which voted 80 percent for John Kerry, and I start to notice posters on walls.  She is looking up at a policeman getting ready to arrest her.  The angle of the photo is across this cop’s hip, his pistol being far larger in the photo than she is.  She has a defiant look on her face and under the photo are the words, “Most of our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”

That rocketed into my heart.  King, Gahdhi, “Imagine the poorest person you have ever known and then ask yourself if the next thing you about to do will benefit that person,” Jesus, Berrigan, Tolstoy, Thoreau, you know that crowd and all they stood for and fought for and how modern times feel like all has been for nothing.  We would so much rather have an Ipod than a solution for civil war in Congo or transitional housing for prisoners in this country.

Sometimes I just feel insane.  Earl Crow, who taught me about Berrigan and Jesus and Gandhi in undergraduate school, used to say to me, “Jobe, you’re just a chronic malcontent.”  Daddy was always amazed at my verbal brickbats against, “this filthy rotten system,” and I told him one time, “You’re the one who read me the Bible.”  He said, “Yeah, but we never figured you’d take it so seriously.”
I love Unitarians because they help me laugh and that relieves the tension.  But a mom in Union County killed her kids and herself two days ago, and I know somebody could have been there with a word, a meal, a walk around the block, and that would not have had to happen.

First Blog – May 5 – 5:43 pm

Physically tired, needing to mow grass (remembering Anne Tyler saying you will never have a clean house, get the ironing done, all that stuff, if you are going to write. So, there’s three hours of sunlight left to mow grass.)

Shocked, grief stricken, horrified at the racism being thrown at Obama. Word from the campaign is that they were called n-lovers and worse in Pennsylvania, piles of campaign signs were burned. We need to talk to each other. I need to find people to sit and talk with. How can we confront this? How do we have a conversation?