Poetry: Silence is no Coward

I am strong, but I am tired, Stephen, tired of always having to be the strong one, of always having to do the right thing.” Brenda Joyce, An Impossible Attraction


I’m not always much of anything.
I’ve been an old white man for a long time,
a branded stereotype with good teeth
and a bad attitude,

apparently not supposed to ask for
some things, cuz I am old and white.

It’s okay. Perhaps they’re fucking right.
Equality is in, unless you happen to be
old…
white…
and have what’s left of an old hard on.

Others were (and still are) treated like shit
by white guys. Nazis were, are, white,
male; no fucking idea how old fits.

Some old men are idiots, non-millennial
impotent bastards who hate everyone,
and everything, especially women.
Stereotyped, hairless shit heads
with nothing to do
but make mankind worse.

It’s a tough world, but we can try
to make it better each day.
To make it last.

©Bill Reynolds, 6/13/2019

Look and listen both ways for real equality. At least, don’t be unkind.
Mind the gaps like lifelines with stories to tell.

Poetry: Evil Darkness Denied (NaPoWriMo) Day Thirteen

Today, I wrote a poem about something “mysterious and spooky!” (As the prompt challenge defined it.) I mused the denied duality of human nature as set forth in the classic Jekyll and Hyde, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1886] by Robert Louis Stevenson. My review of the book is here.

***

Not evil I but you
Live with a darkness
of truth denied with
not to Hide mind
what must be true.

Wretched are you
to ask me to see
a truth as part of I.
Created by god
no evil must I be.

False belief is
the sinless soul
of self-righteous evil,
within you disguised
as good and pure.

As Lanyon needed
Jekyll’s truth to see
from Hyde’s reveal,
to accept the two,
both part of you.

There is no light without darkness,
no good without evil,
no truth without lies,
no life without death,
no two without one.

Seek out truth in you,
of more than half,
balance reality or die
from the only good truth
is really a lie.

© Bill Reynolds, 4/13/2019

Look both ways to find evil and good in you. It is your one and only truth.
Mind the gaps of fear and self-deceit, they hide your Hyde.

“O God!” I screamed, and “O God!” again and again; for there before my eyes—pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death—there stood Henry Jekyll!” Dr. Lanyon’s words and recollection serve as the climax of the story. The question of Dr. Jekyll’s relationship to Mr. Hyde is resolved.

 

Poetry: Too Much (NaPoWriMo) Day 4

Today, the challenge was to write my own sad poem. The sonnet form was to help me – its very compactness might compel me to be straightforward, using plain, small words.

My brother had retired from his job in the WTC North Tower, prior to 911. This reflects his return visit story as he told it to me.

Too Much

His world was changed. A forever new game.
A self that was gone, down with the rubble,
Friends dead, enemies too. Some with no name.
Few bodies found. Just tributes to trouble
Stacked like coffins, empty boxes at best.
One year sooner, this burden he’d have born.
Proud monoliths now dust, ashes and death,
Tombs now shrines to hate, religion, and war.

He stopped and looked up at an empty sky,
His identity lived in rejection.
Innocent of deed, so many had died.
He walked in the familiar direction,
Emotions unknown squeezed him to the bone.
His mind now gone. He turned – could not go on.

©Bill Reynolds 4/4/2019

Look both ways, but sometimes, you just cannot. Gaps can be huge.

 

Essay: Shit Happens

  1. My mother said, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”
  2. My wife looked at my adult son and said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  3. The minister looked into the eyes of the congregation and said, “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”

I forget the exact contexts and situations.

To my mom I would say, “You did nothing to deserve cancer; no one does.” While there may be reasons someone gets cancer, it is not punishment for being not good enough or for being bad. However, it is no joke that a lot of people think like this because of religion.

To my wife I say that most things have a cause and effect. Many things happen due to natural causes, environments, and special situations. Some things are random and have disastrous outcomes. Shit happens.

When someone is fired from (or not selected for) a job, and they later get a much better job, that is good fortune probably assisted by the fact that the person is well qualified for both jobs and it is fortunate that they snagged the better one. The opposite also happens. While such a comforting phrase may bring minor, temporary solace; it is not true that everything happens for a (supernatural) reason. A spiritual being causing a temporary problem to bring about a happier or sadder outcome fails any common-sense test.

To the minister I say that coincidence may not mean exactly what you think it means. According to one (MW) dictionary it relates to coinciding of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have a connection. Better words might be random, arbitrary, pointless, haphazard, or desultory.

Whether one believes in a god or not, and regardless of the influence of any god, those words exist because things and happenings can be random, pointless, and desultory.

I recall reading a poem in Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions by the late Father Benedict Groeschel. The poem of unknown authorship is titled “The Weaving.” The last of three, eight-line stanzas goes,

At last, when life is ended,
With Him I shall abide,
Then I may view the pattern
Upon the upper side;
Then I shall know the reason
Why pain with joy entwined,
Was woven in the fabric
Of life that God designed.

While the poem is beautiful and weaving as a metaphor for a life designed by a god is useful, it also points to the unknown reason for the suffering in life. It implies that we will find no reason until after death, and then only if we are in heaven with the deity who will, presumably, make it all clear. In other words, it makes no sense.

I prefer this outlook from the song “The Sad Café” by the Eagles.

***
Now I look at the years gone by,
And wonder at the powers that be.
I don’t know why fortune smiles on some
And lets the rest go free
***

Shit happens. It’s not our fault. Blame it on whatever imaginary entity you choose. That may be the only reason you ever find.

© Bill Reynolds 1/10/2019

Look both ways for the reasons in life, but don’t accept not knowing—wonder.
Mind the gaps, they are real, but may be overcome with knowledge.

In Defense of Atheists (Part I)

 

Most Christians are wrong about Atheists

About me

I’m atheist. I do not identify as humanist or nihilist. I’m expert in neither, but I agree with some views of both philosophies even though they often conflict. That sometimes makes me of two minds, or maybe three. Click this link for my story if you need to know it, but, ya probably don’t.

Why I am writing this

I decided to post this in two parts to keep them of reasonable length. In this part, I talk about things that believers (I say Christians, because that’s what most Americans are) are wrong about regarding atheists. It’s been said a lot, but not enough. Part II will address some things I think people should know (particularly Christians, but anyone) about atheists. Some atheists read my blog and I hope they will correct my errors or clarify my confusion.

I’ve often read long, esoteric, philosophical explanations about why atheists are bad people. I’m a sensitive man, and they hurt what feelings I still have. Since being atheist is simple (we believe in no gods; done.), those rants are virtually always wrong. They are not attempts to convince me to repent or to believe in god. They simply judge atheists, or atheism, as bad.

Believe to be good

Belief in god makes no one better, and vice versa. But, most believers seem to think it does make them better. Otherwise, why bother with religion? That is to be expected. Conversely, they further seem to think that not believing makes me worse. A lot worse, apparently. Since these folks have no specific atheist behavior to point to, they go off on long, broad-brush, baseless philosophical tirades that can only be explained as being essential to their own personal and spiritual well-being. We all know people who put others down to make themselves feel good.

Atheists are bad

I fully understand the morality issue for some folks. But atheists are as moral as anyone. Yet, these rants are not as simple as holier than thou. Each is judging other people they do not know as evil for having a harmless opinion. Conversely, those who do evil things and repent (or maybe not) are judged to be better than those who simply don’t think gods exist. How is that logical?

Bad to the bone

However, leading the pack of obnoxious nonsensical know-it-alls are the clueless people who seem to know exactly what atheism is, what atheists are up to, and why. They claim to know our thoughts. Yet, for all the animus it generates, atheism is simple. But these self-appointed detractors are not atheist and don’t seem to want to get it right. What they seem to want is to preserve something that disbelief threatens simply by being a conclusion in someone’s mind – a conclusion that can change (as in reverse) in a New York minute, but rarely does.

These holy souls swing at the low-hanging-fruit to bash people for what they believe. This is partly because of what they think (not know) about atheists and atheism. Such assaults are unnecessary, insulting, and vulgar. One Orthodox Christian priest has said that embracing atheism is worse than committing murderer. People believe this crap, especially when it’s said from the pulpit by a “man of god.” That annoys me.

I have my limited personal experience, but surveys I’ve read indicated that people trust atheists (I assume ones they don’t know) about the same as convicted rapists and murderers. In some states, it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office, even if democratically elected. While such laws are not enforceable, they remain on the books. Very few outspoken atheists hold elected office – none nationally. So, why the need to pile-on with the endless “they are bad, bad, bad?”

The essay

Recently, I read a post by someone who insisted that all atheists are nihilist. Following several of my objecting comments, he stood firm with his accusation. In the essay he further insinuated that any social justice work done by atheists is a ruse, insincere, and as doomed as a “utopia” (his word). Now, that shit hurts. I can’t imagine how he connected nihilism to utopia (dystopia perhaps?). This, they will say they’re not, but they are argument is worthless. Do all Christians play with snakes or drink poison to prove the strength of their faith? Of course not. Nor do all atheists agree with nihilist philosophies. It’s difficult enough without someone making stuff up.

Look both ways: either there is a god or there are not gods.
Consider all the gaps and mind them well.

A2Z Challenge: R is for Rakshasa

Rakshasa is from Hindu mythology and was later incorporated into Buddhism. Rakshasas are also called maneaters, females are called rakshasi.

Rakshasas were created from the breath of Brahma when he was asleep at the end of the Satya Yuga. As soon as they were created, they were so filled with bloodlust that they started eating Brahma himself. Brahma shouted “Rakshama!”, Sanskrit for “protect me!”. The god Vishnu came to his aid and banished all Rakshasas to Earth. Thanks, Vish, like we needed them.

Rakshasas are ugly, fierce-looking, and big. Most have two fangs protruding from the top of their mouths with claw-like fingernails. They are mean, growling, and cannibals that smell human flesh.

The most ferocious have flaming red eyes and hair, and they drink blood from human skulls. They can fly, disappear, and have other magical powers.

Rakshasas may be either good or evil. As warriors they fought alongside armies of both good and evil. This sounds very human to me. Do we not see each other like this?

In D&D, rakshasa are evil outsiders now native to the Material Plane. They are powerful magic users that, although they disdain physical fighting as ignoble, can be dangerous in close combat against player characters.

Look both ways changing realms.
Be mindful of the many gaps.

Click here for A2Z page

 

A to Z Challenge — G is for Grendel

Taken from the epic and ancient poem Beowulf, Grendel, the first and most terrifying monster in English literature, is said to be a direct descendant of Cain, the first biblical murderer. This poetic story of unknown authorship barely survived the atrocious monastic destruction perpetrated by Henry VIII in England. One copy of the poem survived, and it had to be patched up in a few places. But we do have it.

 

Beowulf may be the oldest example of English (nothing we might recognize) language literature. Dating back to about 700 to 1000 AD, it deals with life and culture around the sixth century. The story is set during a time and in a place when battle, conquest, and death were honored descriptions of what life was like.

The protagonist is Beowulf, a young, strong, and powerful warrior who eventually becomes a king. Unlike the average leader of the time, Beowulf seemed to care about his people and introduced leadership with compassion as opposed to fear and dread. Beowulf must defeat three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

A mead hall

The story tells us that Grendel had been attacking and killing Danes every night for 12 years. Beowulf comes to the aid of the Dane king whose mead hall had been under nightly attack by the monster.

If Beowulf was to fight Grendel to the death on Grendel’s terms, it would be unarmed and (presumably) naked. Since Grendel used no weapons, Beowulf chose the same. Grendel had done a lot of damage and killed many of the king’s mead hall drinkers in his years of harassment. In the poem, Grendel is presented as an evil that must be stopped and Beowulf is the man to do it.

Flash forward a thousand years or so, and in an interesting twist, another side of the story is told in the 1971 book by John Gardner, titled, Grendel. In this frequently banned book, Grendel tells his side of the story. This is a retelling of Beowulf that follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic.

I have always felt that there are at least two sides to every story, but one must wonder what the Danes were thinking when they returned to the mead hall every night for 12 years, there to drink and sleep, only to be attacked by the monster. With so many being killed during so many attacks, the Danes must have been close to decimated before Beowulf made his mark.

Open the window and look both ways, the monster approaches.
Mind the gaps as you escape his anger and his vengeance.