Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MLK Day in Houston

Founder of Sparrow Hawk Village Carol E. Parrish wrote, “Once a healthy and vibrant land, our country needs to be healed of past and present violence.” That, i think, is what Martin Luther King Jr. was all about, and the reason huge crowds come out for parades and such on that day we have set aside to honor King each year. This year my wife and i marched in Houston’s parade with Randa Fox and her Not On Our Watch America Foundation, (NOOW), a Houston based non-profit seeking to put an end to childhood sexual abuse, and to facilitate healing for victims.

Now, i’ve never been around Houston before, let alone gotten out to a parade. I knew next to nothing about MLK Day in Houston before the morning of the 19th of January just passed. The theme of this year’s parade was Unity, i heard, a dearly needed principle following the events of 2014, and the nature of the relationships in the United States in their wake. The notion is somewhat confused by the fact that there were two separate and competing parades in very close proximity here. The MLK Grande Parade said they expected 300,000 people at their event that took place more or less simultaneously with the Black Heritage Society “Original” Parade in we marched. Still, a  huge and comparably sized crowd managed to attend our parade.  We walked around 20 blocks, each fully lined with families and revelers.

With over 2 million residents, Houston is largely hispanic. Blacks and whites share a fairly even share of around half of the overall population, give or take, according to the Houston Planning Department. Ours being the Black Heritage Society Parade may help explain in part why there were virtually no white faces in the crowd. There were a few, to be sure, but i think there were more white participants in the lineup than spectators on the way. This truth, and the nature of the group we marched with gave me a chance to make a couple observations that i may not have had elsewhere. In Colorado Springs, a city with many demographic distortions, we really don’t get much of a handle on the pulse of Black politics. We also attended a march in Colorado Springs following the decision not to prosecute in the Mike Brown case. One came away from that expression with the sense that Black America is angry, and the way it went down in Ferguson afterward seemed to support the perception. Not so in Houston. Though there may well have been anger among the crowds, the expression toward us, politically motivated marchers made up of an unusually pale mix of ethnicities, was very favorable; not one heckler attempted to deride our message of protection  against sexual abuse for children. On the contrary, quite many along the route were vocally supportive.

I also found it heartening that many of the banners and signs in and around the place carried messages of unity. The “amens” we heard and general thumbs up we saw in support of Not On Our Watch America were gratifying and encouraging. Maybe the frogs in the pot are beginning to notice the water has heated to a near-boil. That is, maybe the awful behavior of the police around and about, and the stupid wars, and things like rampant sexual abuse in our casual human trafficking and rape culture have finally become so unbearable that we are willing to come together.

Given that some statistics indicate that nearly 30% of U.S. teens experience sexual abuse, i have to know--have to admit--that more than a few in the crowd of supporters we passed were harboring dark secrets. I myself am sure that business as usual is still untenable. But still the degree of warmth we felt from the crowd truly served to buoy spirits. Our ability to share parade chanting rhythms with the group supporting migrant worker rights behind us did the same. Even the group of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition served to advocate unity by its very existence.

I really hate writing about race. There always seems to be some hidden pitfall that lifts someone’s scales. This event was not about that, though, even if MLK Day can not pass in these times without noticing some racial elements. I’ve never been prone to writing about sexual abuse, either; it really never occurred to me to do so. The more i travel around and interact with folks, though, the more i see that most of the women i know have some story to tell about an uncle or a neighbor, or even parents having committed some heinous act or another. These are separate matters, of course. There likely exists some kind of racial breakdown of instances of sexual abuse. That’s not where the action lies, though. Abuse crosses every line we know, and seems at a glance to be increasing rather than diminishing as one might expect in a supposedly enlightened era, and yet very little discussion takes place in public. Randa’s NOOW is out to change that, in as public a manner possible, and our participation in the parade with its friendly crowd was definitely a step forward. I can’t explain how gratifying it was to be so well received by the Black community of Houston as we helped to publicize such a volatile public issue.

Our country has a lot of baggage. Conquest, genocide, unfounded wars, and, yes, child abuse, both sexual and psychic have all come together to build a national identity that needs care, for sure. It’s lucky for us that we have folks like Martin Luther King Jr., and Randa Fox to help us separate ourselves from some dark history and build a lighter present that is better than tolerable, but full of real living, support for one another, and above all, Love. Sure, things are not perfect yet today, but as one of Randa’s myriad bits of literature points out, if we all work together, as we did in Houston, and keep at it, we can and will make things better.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Orpha

On January 5th of 2015 Orpha Bass passed along to the next world at her brother and my father Ralph’s house in West Virginia.

On the day that Mister Rogers died back in 2003, i shed a tear for my lost innocence. This is a similar day, and Orpha’s passing is a similar milestone. Orpha always seemed a strangely innocent person to me. She was a fixture of my childhood, part of the old generation Bass clan that lived along Rockside Road in Independence, Ohio, that included Dad’s mother Gertrude and her family. My great-grandfather Ulrich had rolled into the United States during the late 1860s, bought a piece of land and established both a farm and one of those Europhile communities that don’t seem to exist so much any longer, at least not out west where i live, now. The family, including Orpha, Grandma Bass, Uncle Paul, Paul’s wife Mary, and Cousin Ray lived together in the old farmhouse. Aunt Ruth and my dad lived away with their respective families. Another Bass sibling, Ruth, and her husband Cifford--Uncle Buddy--were often there during those weekend gatherings with cousins Clifton and Janet. So far as i know, Dad’s generation was born there in that house, Orpha in 1925.

We spent pretty much every weekend there at the farm, living out scenes from Tom Sawyer in the North, (mingled with Kafka), without even knowing it. Orpha, an inveterate and talkative storyteller, would tell us how things were along Rockside back in the days when her dad would send her to the market on State Rd. to bring home beer in buckets. She had to walk slowly on the way back to avoid spilling more than half of the evening’s libations. She told us about the house next door, that had been a schoolhouse for a spell, after Ulrich donated it for that purpose. A family lived there by the time i knew anything about it. She told stories, and kept track of all the names the faces in those old sepia photographs. Those days--my story-forming days--were the days when fantasies were the staple of life, and anything was possible on any Sunday afternoon.

We kids would pass muster at the house and then scatter for the woods, or the barn, or the gully, to pursue some crackpot idea, (often of mine), or another. We started clubs, climbed around in the old barn that my granddad and his dad had built once and then dismantled and moved later, and dug through the ancient artifacts in the two gullies that had been used for dumping since the late 19th century. We smashed stuff for fun that would have made the guys from American Pickers weep. We got lost in the cornfields and the elder children would scare the younger in due course with silly monsters and impossible initiations. Once when i had gotten a little too much of the stress of my youth commingled with boldness engendered by avid reading, (My Side of the Mountain, it was),  i woke my brothers in the middle of the night to grab our haphazardly packed bags and move into the woods behind the farmhouse to live off squirrels and pilfered corn. This never really happened, of course, but that sort of absurdly fantastic planning was the staple of the day.

Our family took a pretty big hit during the late seventies when unpleasant business interests coerced Grandma into selling the farm to an outfit that preferred the standard veneer of asphalt and office buildings to the odd bucolic island that existed at the time there in Independence, just south of Cleveland. Grandma died a year later of what i remain convinced was her broken heart. My brother David spent a lot of time in the hospital around then, i was losing my mind to hormonal floods and a somewhat prescient case of post-industrial malaise, and Mom and Dad were barely holding civil space--for the sake of us kids, of course.

Soon after the loss of the farm and Grandma Bass’s death i left home way too young and soon found that being at odds with much of the world can be costly in various terms, mostly spiritual. When it occurred to me to reconnect with the old world--with my family, i mean--it was gone. The whole family was not really gone, of course, but irretrievably altered; and it may well be that my memories have become buffered and things weren’t as frog-hair-fine as i recall them. The huge Bass clan that collected itself once a year there at the farm may well have harbored tense dynamics unavailable to prepubescent sensibilities.But mom and dad were done by then and the family gatherings just never did come together again the way they had been. Surely few of the clan’s experiences were as dramatic as some of those that our branch--Dad’s branch--lived through. But i don’t know. Much of the crazier stuff we lived through you’ll never know either. To his profound credit, Dad did his best to preserve the Bass part of the thing, and Orpha and Paul ended their journeys at his reproduction of the farm there in West Virginia, more than less unencumbered by the dour nature of the way our society has progressed. 

The days from which i most remember eternally cheerful Orpha were from before all that stuff that broke our family and seems to threaten worse. Mr. Rogers days. Back then we could still collect huge bags of candy and other delicious treats some of them unpackaged from random neighborhood strangers without a whiff of consciousness about Paganism; and so far as i could tell, fourth graders never, ever, plotted to kill teachers with hand sanitizer, (whether the ones the link describes are for real or not).

I recall a day when i was around 8 or so when i wept in my mother’s arms over the pain of “growing up.” I was right about the pain, but it didn’t occur to me then that there would be great value in the years that separate me from that boy, pain and all. I may or may not be a “better” person now than i was back when Orpha helped form all those memories that amount to what perception of nostalgia that i carry with me now, but i am certainly more complete. I know a little more about what it means to be a better person because of the memories she leaves me. When i saw her last, a couple of years ago she was grumpy. I had never seen that from her before and a little sadness came to me, then; even she couldn’t make it through unscathed. But her glorious cheerfulness remains with me, and helps to convince me--i really am convinced--that the world can come out good.

Vaya con Dios, Orpha; and true and genuine apologies to all those who have had to suffer through my presence when i failed to apply the lessons she taught me just by being. May we all learn them.

http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?pid=173772567

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Soul of the God(Esse)s

[From the El Paso County Jail]


Some points are best made acerbically.
I don’t know if this is one of them
But It Is Written
    And there ya go.
    So here ya go.
Friends, this is a thing about
Christianity.
And about God Gods and
   Goddesses. I mean it in
     Spirit and in Truth.
I consider that perhaps
“I am become Death,”
  But Life as well.
      Consider this and weep--
           For Joy:


It’s All a                                                                Cry me a River
Metaphor                                                                and I’ll cry a River
for a Metaphor                                                         too.
  for a Metaphor
     for a Metaphor
For No Thing




Fear, that is, reverence for God, is that font from whence Wisdom derives. Or perhaps the threshold by which She enters one’s being. We know this cannot be “fear” as we imagine it such as anxiety over some worldly matter or a sudden shock to the system when some unexpected event takes place because “perfect love casteth out fear.” [1 Jn 4:18] In fact, we are...

  • Revere: to hold in great regard or religious respect
  • Reverence: veneration [L. venerari: worship]

counseled that we may be untroubled by “sudden fear” in Pr 3:25.

If God really is that angry, jealous, flaming Jonathan Edwards dykehead they warned me about at Agape Force, then to hell with him. Somewhere up in that collection of books and letters called “Bible” that Christians approach with such futility is the key to all this for me: “God is Love,” (“somewhere” being 1Jn 4:8, also). A very limited grasp of and tiny application of reason will show one that from this one can extrapolate: Love is God. I know so many more pagans that grasp this concept than Christians that it’s just stupid. Be that as it may, my vow is this: Whatever other gods may be running around loose in the world, the One that is Love is the One for me. If it turns out in the end that God is not Love, well then--fork God.

“[T]o love mercy and to walk humbly with my God[s]”

Note that in deference to weak spirits i have deleted the various “f-bombs” and such that ordinarily gild my work. Many of these lines are apt to be much funnier if you fill them in with your imagination. Or maybe not; this box may have fixed the troubling humor problem in spades.

Now, i don’t believe the darker potentiality here is true. My entire life has been flavored by a discomfort with Christianity, even when i embraced it in one of its most diseased and virulent forms, which trepidation has been based on a subthreshold sense of a paradox the Christians can’t seem to abandon.

I don’t mean to say that it’s impossible for Love to be angry, (which would render this piece a bit useless), but there exist many Christians--many--that are much like that angry bucker mentioned above. My dear friend Dave Reese, (whom i’ve not seen for some while, now...Hi, Dave!), once told me that he’d be happy to see a rigid theocracy in the United States, with pillories and stocks set up on the lawn at the Pioneer Museum, (housed in a severe old fortress-like invaders’ courthouse building in Colorado Springs, for you far-flung readers).

Now, Dave is not a raving lunatic or a constant irritant like many Christians. He’s a gentle, loving family man;  an actual pastor, and a thinking man influenced by crap in the Bible that seems to extol this sort of holy prickery as a virtue. Without even finding it necessary to dig around in “scripture” about the nature of God’s anger, i assert that the initial problem at hand is twofold. Christians in(forking)sist that the Bible is the Truth, the whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth. Bull(shorts). Secondly, Reason, as we understand Her, effective and useful though She may be, is not any better at providing a complete vision of What There Is than the Bible, nor is the Universe subject to Her demands, (again, as we grok). It is impossible for the hare to catch the turtle, after all.

OK, before we continue, let us first establish from your own assertions, dear Christian, that for the sake of discussion here, a priori as you always in(forking)sist, the modern Bible really does represent the sacrosanct and perfect Word of God: A Logos in its own right--the God-breathed eternal and incorruptible Word, as it has been explained to me by intelligent members of your own cult: Jesus, Written. We can defer to the “Authorized” version in case you are one of those sticklers, since i prefer its poetry anyhow.

With that foundation established and held firmly in mind, observe the breakdown to follow where it is amply demonstrated that the Old Testament of the Bible teaches very clearly that some tightly held Christian doctrines of the faith are based on drastic misinterpretation.


[Once again, apologies for the clunky way the blogger works--no footnotes. All these quotes are from https://www.biblegateway.com/ ]

Pr 1:20 Wisdom crieth without;
she uttereth her voice in the streets:
21 she crieth in the chief place of concourse,
in the openings of the gates….

And what pray tell, does She cry?

Pr 1:7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge….

But,

1Jn 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Pr 1:21 [S]he crieth in the chief place of concourse,
in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,
22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?
and the scorners delight in their scorning,
and fools hate knowledge?


1:23 Turn you at my [Wisdom’s] reproof:
behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you,
I will make known my words unto you.

Joel 2:27
And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.     28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh….

Confirmed in NT: Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh….



Pr 1:24 Because I have called, and ye refused;
I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel… “I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.”


Pr 2:6 For the Lord giveth wisdom:
out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.


*Observe at this point that “Wisdom” here is personified as both female and powerful. She possesses attributes and claims prerogatives reserved for God elsewhere in the Bible. The entire collection of Proverbs 1 through 15 is a conversation with Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, with appearances by Discretion, Prudence, and others. These are both mingled and separated at various points in the text. The above verse shows at least Knowledge and Understanding as coming from God’s [The LORD; Tetragrammaton] mouth. That is, these are aspects of the word of God; an expression or embodiment of Logos, or at least some sort of Sister to the Son.

Pr 2:10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul….

We see around and about that this is the behavior of the Holy Spirit, which is called the spirit of Christ, and of Christ, the Logos, as well. Pay attention, now:

Col 2:2 ...that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

...and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
2 Corinthians 1:21-23
21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. [See also Pr 16:3].

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

[T]hat Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that ye, being rooted and grounded in love….

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [This is interesting--what is discernment, really,  but the exercise of wisdom through understanding?].

Pr 2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee….
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.


The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

And later, in case there remains any uncertainty:

Pr 4:5-7  
5 Get wisdom, get understanding:
forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee:
love her, and she shall keep thee.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:
and with all thy getting get understanding.


Pr 2:11
Understanding shall keep thee:

Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

Thou [the LORD] wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

And now I [Jesus] am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Proverbs 3:5
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Note that this does not in any wise suggest that one ought to abandon understanding, which as is on display here in previous proverbs is the Goddess, the Holy Spirit, Whom will enter any soul that reveres God.

To clarify:
Proverbs 16
16 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.
3 Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 4 is so entirely loaded with the Goddesses Wisdom and Understanding, and the rewards of Her [their] pursuit that it verily stands alone in this deliberation. It seems the principal thing, though, is, well, the principal thing.
Pr 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

The attentive reader of scripture will no doubt wonder just how anything can be the principal thing, named with a feminine pronoun, other than the Goddess, both equal and One with any other aspect of Godhead. This entire chapter, with its promises of exaltation and crowns of grace and glory could well have fallen within the New Testament. If not for the Goddesses.

This is classic:

Pr 4:13 Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go:
keep her; for she is thy life.

Acts 17:28 ...for in him [God] we live, and move, and have our being….

Pr 7:4 Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:
5 that they may keep thee….

This may be read in light of Ro 8:15:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Pr 8 is intriguing because of the interaction of pronouns. Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Prudence are each named separately, yet referenced collectively by singular, feminine pronouns. 8:5 reads:

“O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart,” a bit of mingling that further shades the relationship between and among these decisively feminine personifications. Webster, in the cheezy, junior-high school dictionary they provide us at the El Paso County Jail, uses these various words to define each the other, with various shades between them. For example, “prudence” is the cautious application of wisdom and discretion with an eye toward future outcomes.

Perhaps even more telling for the purposes of this particular conversation is the bit between vv. 22 and 30:

22 The Lord possessed me [Wisdom] in the beginning of his way,
before his works of old.
23 I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth;
when there were no fountains abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills was I brought forth:
26 while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,
nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there:
when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
28 when he established the clouds above:
when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
29 when he gave to the sea his decree,
that the waters should not pass his commandment:
when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
30 then I was by him, as one brought up with him:
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him….

Any honest Bible reader will no doubt recognize the similarities this passage bears with the first few chapters of John’s gospel when describing Jesus as Logos. This, one expects, will either tear the scales from his eyes, or cause his head to explode like Michael Ironside in Scanners is after him with a vengeance.

Pr 9:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

And 10:13
In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found….

And so on and so on, to an extent that these appear overall to be inextricably linked, like twins, but remaining in some sense separate and not causative, either of the other, per se. That is, they are a package and neither is primary to the other, just like the so-called Trinity is described.

These passages are so loaded with the feminine aspects of Godhead, associated with traits that are quite specific to later proclamations concerning God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that this short treatment by no means exhausts all the ramifications that develop. I think it’s quite enough for this bit of palaver, though, don’t you? And i haven’t even mentioned Asherah, yet.

We see here that:

  1. There are Goddesses afoot.
  2. At least one of them is Jesus’s sister, or possibly Jesus h(er)imself, as though (s)he were a hermaphrodite or something.
  3. That Christianity, from its mainstream to its headwaters, (excepting rare Gnostic sects), and not just individual bungholes within Christendom, is fundamentally, doctrinally, institutionally wrong, wrong, freaking wrongity, wrong, wrong,  wrong,all the zippity-do-dah-day long.
  4. That almost very nearly all you Christians should repent immediately and start loving everyone, unconditionally, quickly, before the short time we have left runs out.

What all this does is to prove, define, refine, and clarify what I’ve been saying rather less succinctly for some time: That the Bible does not say what Christians say it says, at least not alone; that it is most assuredly not what y’all say it is; and that large swaths of your schtick is fracking evil. I have been nagged by doubts all the while--concerns about my own salvation, really. What if i favor these arguments and perspectives simply because i don’t like to follow the law? What if i’m serving my own flesh? Sometimes these concerns have tendrils of root meandering into truth, as well. But no! This revelation from God(dess)(es) clinches it all. I am not crazy; you are!

I am reborn yet again! Set free by Truth! A child of God for real, which God is no bolt-wielding funknode, but more a Father than i am to ;my own children, and a damn fine Mother, to boot. And more still; brother to my sister the Goddess whom i have always sought, though i knew it not. Abba, Father! Aima, Mother!

I don’t know what to make of this turn of events, exactly. I’m pretty sure, (but not sure at all), that the tide of Christendom will not shift at the word of a stoned house-painter, a repeated failure at business and marriage and the mechanics of living in general; in many eyes a flippiting criminal; but there it is. Come at me. My Siblings the Gods and Goddesses of the Ages, of all Creation and of Whatever There Is Above and Beyond, have my back all day, all night. Argue. Fight. Imprison. Kill. Fick it! You can’t win this; it’s not me.

On the other hand, you could abandon your miserable fight. Come on! Jump in! The Living Water is great! 

Res ipsa loquitur.