A Terrible Thing

“When you surround the enemy Always allow them an escape route. They must see that there is an alternative to death.”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It is a terrible thing when you present a people with one option – die.

If a people is left with a choice like this you can be sure they will choose the manner of their death and it will not be easy on the oppressor.

You can also be sure that even the perception that there is no alternative but death is the same to the oppressed as the reality.

If a people choose to fight and kill against all odds as if they have no alternative one must ask if they have been put into this position…it is not a choice in their minds…the only choice, as has been said, is the manner of their death.

What drives a people with an outrageous force to torment a people with a fraction of their strength? There is less logic here than in the response of the doomed. One could say that paranoia and a kind of terrible institutional insanity created by a past too horrific to remember might be at play.

Nevertheless it is surely an evil thing to seek the destruction of another.

smaller

so many shades and shadows
of people past and passed to miss;
so many lights of now gone lives
just shadows now on this Christmas.

and so yes my heart is larger
for having had them sail with me;
still i feel quite a but smaller
i am faithless when i cannot see.

now in the growing cacophony of light,
in the crowd of voices singing squalor;
i cannot but feel lost sometimes,
i cannot but feel smaller.

Israel? Palestine?

My social media feeds these days filled with two kinds of horror.

I see pictures of bleeding, injured and dead Palestinians and I see pictures of bombed synagogues in Europe and burning Israeli flags.

Rockets from Gaza, Artillery from Israel, the extremes of hate and violence are breathtakingly sad regardless of where you land on the spectrum.

People calling for death on both sides. Violent protests everywhere.

In the midst of all of this complex violence, hatred,  and rhetoric one thing is certain – violence is not going to resolve the issue. Violence on the part of those who hold power and violence on the part of the oppressed will only serve to further to conflict.

It is interesting how when a circumstance as complex as Israel-Palestine is met with calls for non-violent action the responses become radically simple –

“Should we do nothing while we are attacked?” by which is meant “should we not meet violence with violence and power with power?” and not “nothing”.

How can I even begin to answer? I, a person who lives outside of the conflict? Any suggestion I give will no doubt be met with spoken and unspoken responses of “You have no right to an opinion? You have not lived what we live?” and this is true…but it does not negate the truth of a statement, and that statement is:

Violence met with violence solves nothing. It never has. It never will.

But is this true? What about WW2? The Allies met the Axis countries violence with violence to the point of ending the war. Are there not times when violence should be met with violence toward a just end? This is the question that Augustine and others have attempted to answer.

The greatest frustration I have seen is there are no simple answers. Every answer is met with a “yes but…” response which negates the answer in the first place.

This is frustrating because people are literally dying in this conflict and have been dying for decades while politicians and power brokers argue back and forth about a solution.

The recent American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has caused frustration because it signifies that the U.S. is not interested in the pre-1967 war U.N. designed boundaries which set Jerusalem apart from both Israel and Palestine.

It suggests that Palestinians must accept the current reality given the decades long presence of Israels Supreme Court and the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Israel responds in part by saying “well perhaps if Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon had not attacked Israel in 1967 in what is now known variously as the Six-Day War or the Arab-Israeli War then we could have avoided the current circumstances. As it stands these territories are our rightful spoils of war.”

Palestine on the other hand points to brutal, apartheid-like treatment of Gaza and the West Bank as evidence of oppression designed to strangle and ultimately destroy Palestinians and the idea of Palestine to which Israel responds “stop sending rockets, suicide bombers and violent attackers into Israel and we can talk” to which Palestine responds stop building settlements on Palestinian land…to which Israel responds “we need these to guarantee the peace and security of Israel” to which Palestine responds…and forever onward it goes with no end in sight and the beginnings increasingly lost to the past and muddied with present obfuscation by all parties.

In the mean time Palestinians are dying. Israelis are dying. Jews are being subjected to increased antisemitism globally. Palestinians are being subjected to increased racism globally.

In my own simple mind the original U.N. boundary plan for a two-state solution is still the best option…but what do I know…it’s complicated.

hurt

i don’t,
i don’t,
i don’t know why,
but my heart aches
when your heart aches
and i want to stop the pain
but i know i don’t know how
and still i feel the beats deeper,
they echo in my cavern chest
like shadows of my own
flickering in,
flickering out,
burning outlines of the hurt
behind my closed eyes.

Chests of Bone and Sinew

where,
o where do you keep your heart
my dear?

where is it contained?

in small and distant places?
fractured, scattered to the winds
and around the world?

is it in chests
of bone and sinew
beating alongside others
as mine is?

is it buried beneath this scabbed earth,
safe entombed in granite
and far from prying eyes…
away from pain…away from love
and numb with the cold?

can you hear it beat,
and if you can
is it a beat out of time
or in line with the grand chorus?

no matter love –
no matter where you keep your heart
be it near or be it far;
let it be in keeping with
the brilliance of who you are

To Go Into the Desert

What does it mean to find yourself in the desert? What does it mean to have been there so long you do not recall if you were cast into it, led into it or walked out into it voluntarily…and maybe you don’t care anymore.

Maybe you were born in the desert and raised on the glorious mythology of the golden oasis only to learn that the oasis was crowded and made poisonous with the filth of too many seeking after too much…and so you left.

Maybe the desert is where you belong…maybe it is where you and others want to you to be…maybe all three.

The desert is a place where God needs to provide. There is no way through the desert without God. No survival without God. Whether you are there for six months or 40 years is entirely up to you.

I confess I prefer the desert to the oasis. I prefer the silence to the noise and isolation to the crowd.

How does one reconcile this to a theology of community? What does the desert have to do with community? Is one desert bound also ex communio?

I confess I cannot answer these questions…not to any level of satisfaction.

Sometimes I miss the oasis but really it is not the oasis I miss so much as the pedestal and so perhaps the desert is the best place for me. It is not community so much as it is the mountaintop I miss. To visit the burning bush and return with the voice of God and the tablets…the whole thing reeks of presumption and ego.

The mistake of the Accuser, that Satan, in leading Christ to the desert was in thinking that in the middle of the waste the need would be so great that Jesus would crumble and bow down. The mistake was the failure to recognize that it is in the dry places that God provides water and in the lonely places that God provides community and in the hot places that God causes the shade tree to rise up and offer comfort.

The mistake is to believe that the desert is absent of God when in fact the spirit of God hovers and moves as the breeze through the barrenness seeking opportunity to bring life.

It is from out of the desert that voices pregnant with having met God come and faces glowing with having seen God come, to bring with them a wisdom that is not their own.

I live in the desert for now. I love the desert for now. I will remain in the desert for now.

such a song

beauty turns to horror
when the song becomes the scream
and the throat begins to bleed;

so much for the joy;
it was injected into our veins,
and burned into our brains,
and now we are blind with stupidity,
and now we are blind with rage.

weren’t meant for better things?
maybe were meant for nothing,
maybe we weren’t meant at all.