My intellectual effort has led to this: a full explanation of the final book of the Bible, John’s Revelation. I am not capable of a deeper expression of my compelling sorrow and hope.
When all the channels broadcast messages that promise satisfaction but lead only to disappointment and suffering:
- addictive substances
The abused loyalist has no place to turn for truth but inward.
How do I feel?
It is in that moment that the quiet, still voice of the Holy Spirit enters.
If you still seek love, here we are.
All other messages are then recognized as meaningless clamoring for attention from those that have no power other than to steal strength from the weak.
Those that hunger for love follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit because once that assurance is tendered, the greatest desire is to sustain the connection. Each of us walks in the world open to its suffering, and healing enters in our wake because we do not attempt to monopolize its energy.
There is far more power available to us than is necessary to solve the problems we have created. We simply need to accept that we can’t control it – we can only recognize those that wish to share it with us, and so heal us in turn.
The shadow of darkness hangs over this age, but the dawn will dispel it.
I first heard the claims from a Mormon colleague at work. The constellation Virgo was overlapped with some planets creating a configuration of twelve lights in the sky. On Monday night at Bible study the parallels with Revelation 12 (in which the Sacred Mother descends with twelve stars in her tiara) were elaborated further: one of the lights was Jupiter, which exited the constellation on September 23rd, the basis for claims that the seven-year trial of tribulation was now under way. Only one element was missing: the simultaneous descent of the dragon. The claim was that NASA had somehow “blocked out” that part of the sky, hiding one-third of the stars (the dragon’s tail?).
I kept on stating firmly “The stars in Revelation are angels,” but the speaker wouldn’t listen, doggedly pursuing the story, repeating “But there’s more.”
Given this propensity to seek material evidence of God’s forthcoming intervention, I find it wondrous that nobody has linked the first letters of Harvey, Irma and Maria to spell out “HIM.” Santa Maria is also Christ’s virgin mother. Powered by the sun and arriving in hurricane form, she struck Puerto Rico at night – I’d assume hiding a full moon.
For those that followed the video series out at Love Returns, we know that we’re well past Revelation 12, close to the seventh bowl in Revelation 16. I won’t support that claim here, however, for there’s something revealed more directly by the tragedy in Puerto Rico.
Samuel was the first to warn God’s people concerning the limitations of government, and the Resurrection itself must be taken as repudiating all earthly powers.
Puerto Rico is a potent support for the argument that government is destined to betray our hopes. As a center for drug manufacturing, the island had a successful economy until about 2005, when Congress ended tax credits that benefited pharmaceutical companies that manufactured there. Shipping goods from an island nearly 1000 miles from the mainland is expensive, and the factories soon closed, kick-starting Puerto Rico’s descent into poverty.
Maria devastated an island already on the verge of collapse.
Why did Congress end the tax credits? A hurricane is a dramatic event, focusing our awareness of tragedy, but many communities in rural America are facing similar circumstances. Corporate American has off-shored their jobs, and constricting government payrolls are knocking the legs out from under small town economies. Into that misery the pharmaceutical industry is pouring a torrent of opioids.
The anger of rural America delivered the White House into the hands of a petty tyrant. In tweets to his sycophantic chorus, Trump attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, stating that her incompetence was the reason that FEMA hadn’t been able to deliver aid to 3.5 million American citizens facing slow death from thirst, hunger and disease.
Trump’s cruelty was triggered by the words of Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, recorded earlier in the day criticizing the Administration’s characterization of the relief efforts as “wonderful.” Mincing no words, she pointed out that people were dying, and that if an effective response was not mounted immediately, the federal government would find itself presiding over a genocide. Clearly suffering from trauma, Cruz characterized Trump’s attitude as that of one consigning citizens to “die like animals.”
But of course.
It is not government that delivers us dignity. Government is not worthy of our faith. It is only in God that we find the strength to suffer in dignity. Facing death, it is only to the faithful that certainty is given that we possess a spirit intended to receive infinite love.
So, please, Mayor Cruz: don’t pray to government. Pray to Him, for it is the lack of Him that has brought us to this impasse. The physical and social forces that brutalize the poor are huge, and far beyond the capacity of governments to overcome. Security, dignity and grace are found only in God.
Before I went on vacation, the company owner told me that I was responsible for my own anxiety.
I thought about that while I was on the road on Wednesday. I have several reasons to feel anxiety at work, but late that night, as I struggled to find the peace of sleep, I realized that they were all attempts by others to poison public perception of my conduct.
Putting those anxieties aside, then, what I was left with was this: standing in the door of my colleague’s office, telling him that I despite three books, a web site and three blogs, I have failed to build any interest in the truths that have been entrusted to me. That, and the images of the destruction wrought be hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with the fear that many would believe that God had forgotten them.
And I saw myself going to the camps of the displaced with boxloads of my Love Returns t-shirts for the children. The message was simple: the waters of death and destruction had risen against you to drown your faith, but the waters that Jesus offers are the waters of life. You are not forgotten – you are beloved.
The sermon on the boat in Galilee also came to mind: not from the perspective of Peter, but from the perspective of the fishes that hid from the nets all night until Jesus commanded Peter to let them down again. The vision was of children hiding under blankets in the corner when their parents came to look for them. When the children don’t show, the teacher sends the parents outside. The children remain under the blankets until the teacher goes to the door to tell their parents to “Try again.” Then the little class rushes forward to happily embrace their parents.
With these visions, all the negative thoughts vanished.
But I woke at 5 AM. Entering the town that the retreat I was attending was located at, I drove up Interstate 80 for ninety minutes, past Rocklin and almost to Truckee. Following the directions, I found myself at the supposed destination in the middle of an empty stretch of road. Checking my e-mail notices from the retreat, I learned that it was actually outside Sonora, almost four hours away.
Having left early, I was still going to make the first Thursday session, but I felt foolish and ashamed. I pushed that aside and focused on my good fortune: I was still going to be there early. As I approached Rocklin, I began wondering whether there wasn’t a reason this happened. As I entered Rocklin, I decided to search for some Christian music on the radio, and found AirOne. After a few songs played, a notice came on: AirOne was looking for two big data analysts to work in Rocklin.
Those that have been following this blog will remember that I had been taking courses in this field through eDx last year before I started the video series at Love Returns.
No prize to those that predict that I’ll apply. It’s the only way to clear up my deepest anxieties.
As has become the pattern in Southern California, September has brought triple-digit heat to inland areas. Kevin reports triple-digits in San Jose, but it was Greg’s report that made me pause: triple-digit heat in Berkeley. Berkeley!
Port Hueneme has been spared the worst. I’ve been crediting Hurricane Lidia – though you’d think that overcast would cover more of Southern California. Along with the cool air, we’ve had some fantastic sunsets:
Many will recognize these clouds, of course: warm, humid air condensing as the sun sets, with rain overnight, and possibly thunderstorms.
So I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised this afternoon.
It was hot at 9AM in Oxnard, forcing the passengers under the overpass while waiting for the train to arrive. The bike ride through Santa Barbara to Ecstatic Dance was also sweltering. After the dance, the gentle slope toward the shore was a relief, and after lunch a cool breeze blew in my face as I rode down to the Art Walk.
After a quick stop an John Grandfield’s booth, I found a wonderful surprise at Steve Richardson’s booth. He found inspiration in the legend of the Black Madonna, and I bought two pieces that I’ll write up after he brings them down on Tuesday. While I was talking to Steve, Mandy Starr was packing up her booth, looking at the gray wall heading down from the hills. Steve and I teased her, but she had the right idea.
Guessing that the Art Walk would be rolling up, I rushed down to Neal Crosbie’s booth. I had just arrived when the rain started. It was a downpour reminiscent of a Hawaiian squall. I tried to help Neal keep the water from splashing on his work, and then realized that my bike was getting soaked – along with the backpack in the basket. I had just pulled it under the tarp when the wind hit, the gust blowing over most of the stands.
It was a funnel: dirty water came down in sheets. Half of the tarp blew off, and we were both soaked to the skin in ten seconds. I tried to hold the tarp down over the art as Neal loosened the stays. With the art covered, we were left unprotected in the deluge. Two minutes later, the black, foamy water was up to the curb. In retrospect, it was shore water lifted by the funnel and thrown back onto land.
Neal was stranded, his wife having taken the car in to work that afternoon, so I abandoned him to find some cover. While I didn’t see any downed power lines, a number of anchor cables had snapped off the poles. The entire downtown area was without power. This was a typical scene:
I passed one young lady walking in a single sandal. She had been on the beach when the funnel hit, and the second had blown into the harbor. I had word from Steve later that they fished fifty-six people out of the water – I would guess many from overturned boats and kayaks.
When I got back to the train station, I discovered a downed light stanchion and fallen tree over the near tracks. I walked my bike into the stall in the men’s room and wrung out my clothes. My train ticket was soaked with muddy water in the bottom of the bike basket, but fortunately the water had not reached my spare shirt.
The station crew cleared the rail blockage and the north-bound rolled in around 2:45. I biked back to the Art Walk to check on my friends. The oil painters hadn’t lost much, but Ping’s rice-paper water colors were a complete loss from exposure to the filthy water.
Arriving back at the station around 3:30, I looked up the tracks to see the north-bound stalled just outside the station. Blocked by fallen trees, it backed up, and around 4:40 become the south-bound 1790. I don’t know what happened to the north-bound passengers in Santa Barbara, but I arrived back in Oxnard around 6PM.
I’m supposed to be up in Pinecrest for the Soul Play Fall Fest from 9/13 to 9/19. I’m hoping that things will have quieted on the weather front. Greg says that temperatures in Berkeley are supposed to drop back into the 70s by mid-week. But I remember several years back when SoCal had temperatures in the 90’s into December. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but without expectations. Just as long as I don’t find myself driving into a forest fire, I guess that I’ll be all right.
As I progress through the video series at Love Returns, I’m having more and more trouble keeping myself anchored. Time and space, life and death, nature and design: it all winds together more thickly around my mind.
At Dance Tribe on Sunday, I felt disconnected, as though some part of me was missing from the experience – or something else was in control. Half-way through, I focused intently, and found myself thinking about the phytoplankton whose shells are dissolving. While higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide warm the air, causing the most immediate threat to human civilization, they also increase carbolic acid in the oceans. This is bleaching coral reefs and impeding the maturation of phytoplankton.
Phytoplankton are the base of the oceanic food chain, and the greatest source of the oxygen gas that we breathe to fuel our metabolism.
Their message was simple: “We can’t do it any more.”
I fell into a deep-rooted grief that built until I was concerned that it would disrupt the celebration. Taking down my gear from the shelves, I headed for the exit, only to be stopped by these lyrics:
Black lives matter.
Children lives matter.
Police lives matter.
Judge lives matter.
The grief spilled over, then, and I started sobbing, face turned to the heavens. After a time, another man leaned his head into my shoulder. I finally pulled myself together, set my gear down, and went back out on the floor.
It was different. My muscle cells seemed to float as though on an ocean swell. Bones forgotten, it was all about the tissue rising and falling, until I tumbled over onto the floor.
And then the second phase: protective tissues. Lower extremities anchored firmly as though to the ocean floor, my arms and head swayed in the air, fluid, the currents of the air rolling along and around them.
The then the final phase: shells, the calcium accretions that became our bones. Joints and alignments came into focus.
In Psalms, this echo rolls back from the Messiah:
I am less than a worm.
Not less, in that moment, but of and from. They are still inside us, those simple things.
And they are dying.
In the closing circle, we were asked to state our names and offer a word that summarized our experience in the dance. I blurted out my name, but concealed that word that was presented to me.
I hate negative memes. They offend and alienate needlessly. These, then, were the off moments for me during the Woman’s March in Portland: the signs proclaiming “Down with the Patriarchy.”
Really, girls? You expect that your sign is going to have any psychological effect on men that are rewarded by woman that sex them up to go out and rape and pillage on their behalf? Especially when the female instigators get to lurk in the background as MYSTERY, tossing aside men with broken spirits while blaming the victors for the carnage?
Hopefully my readers recognize the Biblical reference. There are two “beasts” in the Book of Revelation. They are nearly identical, differing only in that the first bears the number “666” while the second is colored red and ridden by a woman with MYSTERY blazoned on her brow.
“666” refers to the sixth day of creation that gave rise to the mammals. Not yet fully in control of their primitive urges, they swept across the globe, rising to ecological dominance in every realm except the air. It was only in man that the capacity of rationality rose to a level that would sustain the expression of Unconditional Love. The first beast was almost cast aside by the metal tools created by men, but it survived by entering into our religious experience with the spiritual aid of the serpent – the ghostly residue of the dinosaurs.
The red beast represents sexual control as the strategy for dominance developed by female mammals. In its primitive essence, the most effective literary rendering is the long introduction to Jack London’s White Fang. I read it out of curiosity when it was assigned to my son in middle school, finding it a little odd until I had to bring in a forgotten assignment and saw the sexier eighth grade girls flaunting their tits and asses on the lawn while the drooling boys jockeyed for position.
In Revelation, MYSTERY is destroyed when the red beast turns on her. I believe that bondage is broken when the mammalian females come to realize that MYSTERY does not care for their offspring – that the dominant females of homo sapiens will countenance the destruction of the global climate so long as they can use fossil fuels to maintain their personal comfort.
Trapped in his patriarchic mindset, unfortunately, John was unable to perceive the feminine virtues at work (the common theme in Revelation is that woman corrupt men through fornication). From the masculine side of the process, I am aware that love prevails only when the oppressed believe that they have a choice. This is the liberating power of the resurrection: not even death is a barrier to those that surrender fully to love. With that fear eliminated, masculine violence loses its power as a strategy for social dominance.
So what other choice do women have?
Jesus heralded the transformation of the patriarchy under the guidance of Unconditional Love: the rise of Manarchy, with the capitalization carrying the indications of Genesis. I have been seeking in this life to support a female partnership, a Womanarchy willing to subdue sexuality in the service of Unconditional Love. It is to perceive the womb as the sacred crucible in which spirit is joined to matter, thus the mechanism that can be used to call angels to guide that which is good through the era of duress that Gaia is to suffer.
I see the rising spirit of resistance against death in the hard-hitting political analysis offered in the teen girl magazines, and the strength of the criticism brought by Rachel Maddow and other female commentators. But criticism is not enough: if the joint power of the Patriarchy and Matriarchy is to be broken, woman must turn their powers to the service of Love.
Walk in the woods. Go to the zoo. See what is beautiful and good and offer your inmost self to its service. Give the red beast an alternative. Use your wombs to guide it into Unconditional Love. MYSTERY will not be destroyed, she’ll just become irrelevant.
A friend was offering a sermon on his birthday yesterday, dwelling on the contradiction between his grief over all the things that we are losing in this era, and the joy he finds in seeing his community interacting. When I had the opportunity to speak, I offered:
Grieving is the prequel to the opening of the door of our heart to a spirit that would otherwise be lost.
That opening is not easy, because the expression of Darwinian selfishness has left so many of them traumatized. But once they have settled in to the experience of being cherished, they look back into the world they have departed and reach out to those left behind, giving them assurance, strength and guidance.
“They” are trees, flowers, fish, birds, mice, whales, children: anything living that is being displaced by a disappearing or polluted ecosystem.
Over the years my conscious welcoming has gathered quite an entourage around me. From that community of displaced souls I draw my power, power that is expressed in the t-shirt I started wearing six months ago to dance celebrations. Across the shoulders are a right and left hand framing a head and a heart. The words are:
They just want to be friends.
Please play nicely.
In The Soul Comes First, in assessing the crippling effects of the heresy of Original Sin, I conclude:
The more serious fault […] is the conclusion that Humanity is a flaw in Creation. This is completely in opposition to the actual truth. Humanity is an essential and valued part of Creation, an element that is [be]held with the most tender concern and honored regard in recognition of the difficulty and importance of the work that we must perform, the pain and sacrifice involved in accomplishment of that work, and the joyous consequences of its eventual completion.
When I wandered with the Boy Scouts on backpacking trips, I would feel this shouted at me from the wilderness – the trees, birds and animals begging for relief from drought. When I paused to bless the land, raising my hands to remind the heavens that they suffered, one of the fathers snapped “Would you stop doing that?”
In my dialogs with those of conventional faith – once principally dogmatic Christians, but today including atheists – I am often dismayed by the energy they invest in running from the truth offered in that opening excerpt. I have come to understand that their rejection is rooted in the privilege of flesh that resists the primacy of spirit. For it is the flesh that suffers, and the spirit that reaps the joy.
Even Jesus struggled with that paradox, testifying at Gethsemane:
The sprit is willing, but the flesh is weak. [NIV Matt. 26:41]
This comment, at the end of his long journey of surrender to the limitations of his age, was prefaced by:
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. [NIV Matt. 26:39]
In that moment of weakness, with Simon Peter dosing nearby, I wonder if Jesus heard the echoes of the apostle’s complaint on the lake of Gennesaret. The fisherman, weary from his fruitless night and irked by Jesus’ commandeering of his boat as a podium, grudgingly responds to an encouragement to lower his nets in the deep water:
Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets. [NIV Luke 5:5]
And thus unfolds the little charade that Jesus had organized with the fishes, those quiet denizens of the waters that wait so patiently for us to assume our stewardship of the earth. Recognizing the Man that had come to show us the way, they spent the night lurking in the depths of the lake, teasing the fisherman. When the net enters the water at Jesus’ command, they surged exuberantly upwards, each calling to his fellows: “Come! Leap into the net! Show these fishermen his glory!”
But did Simon follow? No, condemned by religious teaching to believe that the sinner eclipses the saint, Simon falls to his knees and begs:
Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! [NIV Luke 5:8]
This is the second great obstacle to faith: the conviction that we are unworthy to serve love.
Simon Peter, by nature extravagant in all things, expresses this with physical extravagance. Again at the temple, he cannot just deny Jesus once and then depart; he must amplify his shame by lurking in the shadows, watching impotently so that he may deny Jesus twice more. What would have happened if, recalling the fish, he had stepped forward brazenly to cast his arm around Jesus’ shoulders and proclaimed, “Look at the dignity of this man! How could he not be God?”
Instead, Jesus went to the cross, bearing the weight of the dependence of all flesh upon sin, and caught Humanity in the net of his heart. Some still fight to escape that embrace, but I for one hunger for the company of those that leap exuberantly into faith.
I am in the third stage of down-sizing my living space, preparatory to relocation from a 1200 square-foot apartment with attached garage to a 700 square-foot space. Considering the expense of a storage unit, I have steeled myself to discard or donate everything except the bedroom set and my tech tools. I began the final purge and boxing up for the move last night, and stuff that had survived the first two cuts is now either piled up in the garage pending a trip down to Good Will, or sitting in the dumpster.
Strangely, the two collections represent very different aspects of my life.
The primary impetus for down-sizing is that my sons are off to college. I’ve held back their child-hood memorabilia, most of it stored under my bed, which is were it will be again after the move. The rest of me as a father is destined for Good Will, including the power tools that I used in fixing up the house their mother now lives in, the racks that stored their backpacking gear, and the last of the storage bins that held their craft supplies.
In the dumpster lies the record of my intellectual life, starting with the journals I wrote in college that marked the beginning of my attempts to understand the power of love and why it was so hard to transmit it. Also from that era are the remnants of the comic book collection that I accumulated up to the date of my marriage at thirty-five. More significant are the last of the evidence of my investment in Diagrammatic Programming, the systems analysis technology developed by my father who passed away just before New Years.
The furniture and appliances are no loss. But these things hurt somehow.
From the comic collection I did hold back my run of The Puma Blues. It’s been sitting on a wire rack for three months, but made it to my bed last night. My elbow began aching around 9:30, so I decided to turn in. Instead, I ended up propped up by my pillows, trying to decipher the faded scratches of the hand-lettered dialog, while a voice in the back of my head keep on observing “This was the only thing in your comic collection worth keeping.”
Puma Blues, which ran only 24 issues, charts the experience of Gavin, a young man confronted on all sides with the futility of the struggle against death. It was created by two Canadians with deep environmental sensitivities. The artwork lovingly captures the natural world, with a moodiness that sometimes makes it difficult to discern the minutiae of artificial existence.
Set at the turn of the millennia, the ecological context of Gavin’s life is terrifying: global warming, acidification, ozone depletion and nuclear terrorism have brought the natural world to the point of collapse. Strangely, in seeking refuge from hopelessness, Gavin finds himself posted at a nature preserve, monitoring the pH of a lake that is being limed to allow the fish to survive, and thus to support the rest of the ecosystem. But with too much free time on his hands, Gavin is brought to confront a more direct experience of mortality, in the form of videos made by his deceased father that consider darkly the larger question of humanity’s relationship to eternity.
The storyline offers two promises for healing, promises that I regret were barely formulated before the series was dropped. The first is the assertion by Gavin’s father that “rebellion is the beginning of faith.” In the backdrop of Gavin’s life, the rebellion is evident in his rootless refusal to engage society, and it is indeed that rebellion that allows him the opportunity to engage his father’s voice. But from my writings here, it might be gleaned that I believe that the whole of religious experience is a rebellion against our Darwinian programming. In both cases, rebellion manifests as a pig-headed refusal to participate in systems that create death.
This parallel will be offensive to lovers of nature, but I stand by it: while it is fashionable to believe that humanity has disrupted a natural balance, that is only true on the human time-scale. Looking at ecology even on the time-frame of tens of thousands of years, and we see a constant rising and falling of species and ecosystems. There is no stability, and the instability brought by death was the agency of our evolution.
Gavin resists faith, however, even though the second promise for healing is nothing less than an absolute miracle. Symbolically, it reflects the hope of life itself, a hope that it will find some way to outgrow the disasters that humanity is visiting upon it. Along with his environmental monitoring duties, Gavin is occasionally ordered to seek out and “transmute” aerial manta rays. Physiologically, there is no concession in the artwork to biological necessity. The rays sport gills, and flutter their wings gracefully as though under water. But they fly through the air none-the-less. Obviously, the only explanation for their survival is access to some other form of energy, a form that is not channeled by the normal metabolic means.
This is the promise that I offered my sons all through their childhood. While I try not to show it, it hurts now to hear them enthuse about terraforming Mars (to which I think: “Really – invest all that energy so we can move there and screw it up?”) or spread nanoscale sensors all over the Earth (“Disrupting the digestion of the insects and worms just as our plastic refuse does that of the birds and fish?”). I do understand, of course: they must survive in a culture that abases itself before its technological avatars, because they offer the promise of complete control of the world through the use of digital technology.
But the problem, as I see it, is in seeking control.
Here’s an experience: I was working at a climate change modelling institute in 2004, back when the fossil fuel industry really began to push back against the scientific community. The ozone layer was a serious concern: the CFCs used for foam production and refrigeration catalyzed the breakdown of ozone, thereby allowing cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere. While replacements had been found, the chlorine atoms at fault would remain in the atmosphere for decades.
As a physicist, I was mulling one day over the thought that neutrinos from the sun could catalyze electron emission from a neutron in the chlorine nucleus, transforming it into argon, which is chemically inert. Thinking more and more deeply about this, I visualized the neutrino field being emited from the sun, and then honed my attention on the thin shell of the atmosphere. I felt other minds joining mine, and then a frission of energy.
A few weeks later, one of the climate modelers came by after church to say: “We were pretty worried about the ozone layer, but it seems like it wasn’t such a big problem after all.”
And so I find myself a little disjointed today, juxtaposing my promise of hope against the paranoia of Gavin’s father, whose faith manifests as belief in UFOs and the hope that some higher species is standing in the wings to engineer our salvation. Neither my sons nor the authors of Puma Blues seemed ready to proclaim that we are the intervention. We are the tool by which God conquers Darwinian violence.
We just need our rebellion against death to mature into a surrender to love.