Will I Care? Don’t Talk Like That!

The past happened without me, as will the future.
Beginning on what day will I no longer get out of bed?
Unable to remove the mask and walk away,
to pee or whatever. Will I know anything?
On what day will I no longer want coffee?
I can handle not to have. But not to want?
Does nirvana or moksha reflect happiness or denial?
On what morn I’ll no longer begin a day’s reading?
Is not my quest for knowledge stewed in desire?
To have and to hold, to want and to need. To care?
There’s more I want to know. Will I care? Do I?
Must I stop loving her on that day? As the Jones song goes.
Will my dignity be intact, or will it be the first to go?
Will I die in a puddle of shit? As many would see that as fit.
Will I remember my name, yours, where I am? Will I care?
Is there such a thing as death with dignity? Or do we
just pass on to return life for life? Don’t talk like that?
Away and towards. Turn, turn, turn. Say I love you.

I care.

I do.

Love you.

 

© Bill Reynolds 10/15/2018

Look both ways; to the beginning and toward the end, when gaps no longer matter.

Poetry: May I try?

 

Why can’t I be a poet?
What is that anyway?

The maker of sounds
and finder of words to say.

Poems à la muse must
be creative and see
imaginative ways,
to say,
expressively,
what we,
so capable and specially
can feel,
in a poem’s
certain way.

Poets are
sensitive.
We read (love)
dead poets!

Good at it? Yer a poet.
Writes poetry so well?
Maybe yer the bard
who shows the way.

Poetry is verse.
‘tis a versifier ye are?
Is it not?
How to tell?

Not up to par?
A poetaster you are.
If that’s in me,
a lessor poet’s what I’ll be.

What is inferior?
My poem, or me?
Or is it that my verse
is just too dern terse?

Write a poem of wit
and magic,
or a salty limerick
of some jester’s
funny verse.

Be the bard yer born to be.
Sing like a minstrel
along with me.

Be the poet
and you will see.

© Bill Reynolds 10/8/2018

A note from Johnny Cash.

If yer gunna try, look both ways and mind the gaps.
Let us feel the poems as you write.

Essay: God do what?

While I say I don’t pray, I kind of do – accidentally. A believer might consider my praying to be blasphemy, but so is embracing atheism or agnosticism. As with so many words, blasphemy is only a thing if god exists (like sin), and it is only bad if you happen to believe in god (Satanists not withstanding).
No god = no blasphemy, no sin, no hell – make sense?

I have a few old habits and knee jerk reactions I’ve tried to shed without success. Two phrases I use too often are God damnit! and God bless you. In both cases, I am apparently invoking the supernatural to my wishes. But since intent matters, in the case of god damning, few of us mean it. In the blessing case, it is an old version of universal well-wishing when people coughed or sneezed. It goes back to the bubonic plague days in Europe. How well did that work?

Since I speak fluent profanity, I don’t blurt out the damning one very often. I’ve always been more of an f- or s-word guy. Yet, if someone near me sneezes, I usually have god blessed them before their next breath or sneeze. I’ve been doing that most of my life. When I don’t say something, I feel like an ass. I need to use gesundheit or one of the other secular phrases from around the world, of which there are many. This sounds like fun.

‘Thank you for covering your mouth and I wish you good health. Live long and prosper.’ (Vulcan Salute)

I used to pray often and for many people, but I didn’t pray for everything. I didn’t pray for rain to start or stop, or for any other change to the weather. I never prayed for bad events, personal wealth, or my own health. I don’t know why, but all that seems in bad taste. Likewise, I would never have prayed for anything bad to happen to any other person, unless you count the god-damning of nouns.

I carried a notebook where I kept notes of who to pray for and why. Seriously. People would ask me to pray for them or for some other person. If I didn’t write it down, I’d forget. Weekly, I would go late at night to a chapel room at our church for what is called perpetual adoration, and there I’d pray in the actual presence of the body and blood of JC (Holy Eucharist). That’s why it was there.

God was literally several feet away in a gold sunburst thingy called a monstrance, behind a tiny piece of glass, in the ‘actual’ form of the body and blood of Christ. He and I were alone most of the time. If what the Church proffered was true, I prayed a lot of folks straight to heaven – big IF. That was then. I still carry a notebook, but not for the same reason.

I’ve often prayed for dead people. That is customary for Catholics. Most Catholic parishes have a Book of the Dead which contains the names of the deceased loved ones we prayed for on All Souls Day (November 1st). It’s called praying for the ‘repose of the soul of’ the people we assumed might be in Purgatory; not in heaven yet. That’s how they say it. The repose part was to get them to heaven. A good thing, right? Just an odd way to say it.

Yep. Praying for other people, especially dead ones, was my favorite. Most of my other praying was reading (often aloud) from prayer books; prayers of adoration, love, or general holy stuff. I had my favorites and I still like what some prayers say. Like this poem by Mary Oliver:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

— From “The summer day”;
New and Selected Poems 1992

I am sure that many protestants thought the real presence deal was bull shit. Maybe they were envious. The last time I prayed and was serious about it was about nine years ago.

When people say they will pray for me, I am unsure how to gratefully and gracefully decline the offer. I was diagnosed with cancer. People unaware of my atheism would offer to pray for me. If I requested a pass, they ignored me. So, I just said thank you and moved on.

Some who know of my unbelief would offer to pray, but then would backtrack. I would thank them and explain I understood the intent. I used to pray. I know why people do it.

 Lori Arnold’s (McFarlane) memoir, The Last Petal Falling, talks of her experience regarding prayer. That helped me realize I should be more diligent to replace prayer with action, honest love, or the offer, how can I help?

I usually don’t care what others do. Read a book, contemplate their navel, drink scotch, listen to disco music, meditate, or pray. I think one of those is wasted time, but that’s for others to decide. It’s not my business. Even if others pray for me. It’s okay. If that’s their thing, have at it. However, there is one well-intended prayer I would adamantly decline, if asked.

I hope no one wastes their time praying that god forces me, or any atheist, back to religion. It’s hard to explain, but that’s insulting. It is asking their god to take away my free will. If someone believes in god, I accept that as their belief and I’m ok with that opinion. May they cheerfully return the acceptance.

This kind of ‘praying’ usually involves more famous atheists. For whatever reason and given all the dumb-shit stuff there is wrong in the world to pray for, or all the people who are in need, especially the children; why so many people find it necessary to pray that an atheist will come to the opposite conclusion is mind boggling. I understand why some may wish and hope for change for loved ones. But it is still wrong.

One of the most prayer-group-prayed-for persons in US history was the late Christopher Hitchens. He was a famous writer and atheist of celebrity status who often debated with religious people. These people needed to find something better to do with their time than to pray for atheists (agnostics, free thinkers, skeptics) to stop believing as we do. It is insulting and demeaning. I will personally never recant my atheism. Never. Ok, if god physically shows up, I will. But not due to prayers.

How would a believer feel if atheists prayed for them to apostatize? What if we asked their god to turn them into atheists? How would that sit? Admittedly, a believer would see it as a damning petition. In a way, when people pray for us to recant, it’s the same thing; that we’re damned to hell simply for what we think.

I have a right to believe what I think truth to be. It’s unnecessary for anyone to respect what I believe (or don’t), but at least in quid pro quo fashion, one should give the nod to my right to believe it. Praying to take away that right, or doing so in the practice of one’s religion, is an attempt to take away an inalienable freedom: my right to think.

Some religious folks have the piety to keep their religion to themselves, but too many don’t. In many cases, that would be against their religion. If they must do something, they should follow the many religious who do something useful. If one knocks on my door, I may ask them to read my tract and come over to my way of thinking. Many do.

Look both ways and allow others the dignity to do the same.
Think. It’s free and helpful if you don’t over do.
Mind the gaps.

Poetry: Soul Satisfied

Prompted by: ‘Smoldering coals of fury with which oppression always fires the soul.’ (1862)

Anger burned like acid surging through his body,
deadly rage ran unfiltered with each breath
as in shame he hid and buried his anger
as it called out for vengeance – for satisfaction.
He felt the scalding physical pain of revenge withheld.

He felt how the inhumanity man can deal to his
fellow man is without comparison.
Only man hates his own. As only man can
kill without reason and crush his kind
without purpose or cause, leaving no real hope.

He felt helpless as despair hardened him.
His broken mind and heart pleaded for him to let loose
the righteous fury growing inside as hours, days,
and years passed in the agony of painful misery,
hatred pounded his chest to be loosed
as his purposeless worthless life festered.

He spoke to his anger about the promise
of a better life, but not for him.
His was to live into his dream
of revenge and retribution with the fury
of the spurned prisoner held within him,
but for not much longer.

Soon he would defeat their world.
Soon he could kill them all,
and his hate would feast on their flesh.
All the pain and suffering would be avenged.
Then he could die in peace,
with honor avenged, pride returned,
his life’s purpose satisfied.

©Bill Reynolds

 

Look both ways, be careful what you wish for, and speak up for the oppressed.
Mind the gaps. Learn where they are.

Un-shunned, But Out

Several people suggested that my experience with religion may have moved me to embrace atheism. I don’t deny the experience. But, religion was not responsible for my conclusion that no gods exist.

I was born not knowing. Somebody told me there was a god and I trusted they knew what they were talking about. As a child, I ‘believed’ in god because I believed who told me. For shorter periods of time I also believed in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. I was also convinced monsters existed even though no one told me they did. I never saw a god, Santa, or the tooth fairy. I was sure I saw the monsters, and some lived under my bed.

I was initially told that all these entities existed except for the monsters, but they were the only ones I reacted to and lost sleep over.

I was emphatically told by my parents that there were no monsters and no ghosts. I was agnostic about the ghosts, having seen Casper cartoons. But no monsters? Bull shit! I knew what I saw was real! I began to have doubts about parental honesty.

Eventually, I unwillingly figured out the deal with Santa and the tooth fairy. I also gave up on the monsters, or perhaps they tired of me. Maybe the tooth fairy turned them into dust bunnies.

I figured out the god thingy last, around age fourteen. I was never dumb enough to tell anyone, even friends, that I no longer was buying the eternal life package. My father was the type of Irish-Catholic coal miner who would have attempted to pound belief into me. Besides, the religion thing worked to my social advantage. I often wonder how many of us practice religion for some social advantage or for financial gain, but don’t buy it either.

When my Catholic parish learned that I was an active participant in the protestant Episcopal church down the street, it pissed them off. That pleased me. If I could in some way return the ‘love,’ my parish seemed to have toward me, I was all for that.

Not so much with my parents, who were more upset. Those poor folks had a real shit-head difficult lad to raise, so church was the least of their concerns. Yet, I heard my mother say, “It may not be Catholic, but at least he has a religion.” I did not. But, if she was accepting, I wasn’t going to change it.

The church down the street was a playground of youthful debauchery. I was one of several Catholic teens (boys and girls) who participated in their youth group. My motivation for participation was likely untoward and had nothing to do with religion or god. That was then.

Now, my overall philosophy is a moving target that even I find difficult to corral and define. So, I stole this idea of a three-legged stool from somewhere. One of the legs of the stool is god, which is why the damn thing keeps falling over. Any god or gods get to share one leg and no more. The leg is there, but it’s symbolic. You could call it atheism, but not exactly.

Religion, which I define as the rules regarding humans dealing with gods, is the second leg of the stool. Religion and god relate but are not the same. The religion leg casts an unfavorable shadow upon the god leg. As splintered and twisted as it is, religion exists.

While the non-existence of god is almost a neutral, unemotional, changeable conclusion that came to me from thoughts; my vehement enmity toward all religion, especially the known ‘organized’ faiths, is unwavering and continues to grow as I age and reflect upon what I see and know. If god were to appear before me right now and provide enough proof to roll any skeptic, I would morph to belief in a New York minute, but I would continue to detest religion.

This is where my atheism gets confused with my religious experience. My bitter feelings about religion stem from experience and knowledge. While I am accepting of religious folks and I extend kindness to most believers (and they to me), what they believe I tolerate but don’t respect.

Religious mumbo-jumbo has nothing to do with whether any gods exist. Yet, I remain open to the tiniest of possibilities that something may change my mind. However, throughout history, nothing has ever happened to any human that would convince me otherwise.

What most people seem to believe about god and how to relate or interact with that god is manmade. However, religion has a lot to do with how people act toward each other. Call it morality. Theoretically, that should be good. Historically and practically, it has been otherwise.

The third leg is my spiritual philosophy, which is influenced by the other two legs (no-gods exist, and bad religion). The three legs support the seat, which is my overall philosophy (of life, my world view, reason for…whatever). The analogy isn’t perfect but it works for now.

In a debate Rev Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens once struggled to find disagreement because Sharpton kept trying to debate the existence of god (which he admitted he couldn’t prove) while Hitch pointed to problems with scripture, evil, and religion (Hitch admitted he couldn’t prove the non-existence of god). Two separate topics that influence the third philosophical leg of my metaphorical stool.

Atheism is not a religion, a belief system, a philosophy, or anything other than an acceptance of one’s opinion that god might not exist, or probably doesn’t. Atheists have divergent views as do most human groups. Some atheists are nihilist. Most are not. A few atheists go to church. Most do not. Some atheists make room for unscientific things in their opinions and how they live. Others claim that such opinions are not those of true atheists.

It can be confusing. But can’t the same be said of believers? Since I was a child, I was told that TV preachers were nonsense. I still think so. Many believers agree with me. Many believers reject the idea of a virgin birth, others call that heresy. I could go on about divergent religious beliefs, even within a specific religion such as Roman Catholic, Shiite Muslim, or Mahayana Buddhist. Dare I add Southern Baptist or Mormon? But that’s not my point.

While many atheists say that reading scripture will lead to disbelief, I contend that not believing in god is a rational decision not based on religion, dogma, or scripture, even though any of that will support atheism once the no-gods conclusion is reached.

While I claim to be rationally atheist for logical reasons, I think I’m also intrinsically incapable of believing in god without very concrete proof. No religion or religious person; priest, pedophile, or persecutor drove me away from believing in god. I tried to believe. I just couldn’t. Now, I openly don’t. I’m as pleased with that as believers are who foresee their blissful eternity simply because they believe and nothing more. I’m okay with that.

Look both ways in life. Learn from the past. Plan for the future.
Mind the gaps for denial and confusion.

Poetry: Your Time

Both afraid and unafraid,
full of fury and stunned by fear,
he stood insecure
and timid
with no comfort, spending his day
in worry, fretting and wondering,
‘what will people say?’

From his platform in the sky, he looked down
on the maybes and what ifs,
and he heard the voice ask: ‘why?’
He closed his eyes and softly spoke,
‘I’m afraid!’

The voice was soft and calm,
‘do as you wish,
not as others say,
this is your time,
your day is today.’

He moved closer to the edge.
His body was shaking,
his eyes crying,
his knees buckled as the voice kept saying,

‘to live you must die and die again
as you suffer pain of mind and body,
today is your time, now will never be again.’

As he stepped out from his comfort platform
into the abyss of reality he fell.
His body emptied itself, so sure it was
that he was bound for hell.
Down he went, just falling.
Falling away from and toward. But there was
more the voice had to say.

‘Again and again, for the rest of your life
you must step to the edge and jump
into your strife. Fear is your friend,
but let not worry be your master.
Jump, jump, and jump again.’

© Bill Reynolds 9/13/2018

 

Look both ways, all around, up and down.
Then jump.
Mind the gaps, but deal with them when you live into your question.

Poetry: If

If moments when my eyes saw you looking my way,
when no words are said, if expressions were
simple knowing, then we were of one mind, one heart.
We don’t care what this is, we want it to be among
the destined moments when two people in the universe
(only two) become one and know that deep down
secrets abound as we silently plot our escape,
away from this life and pretense and toward those
forbidden passions that boil up and desire calls us
to the edge of where we want to be within our reality,
but we fear to go. The deepest of truth takes us far
and we feel instantly what we both know as truth. Eyes.
Not words. No promises. No damage. No fright.
Just connection on a level and in a separate place
we never admit to anyone but us, the driving power of it.
Do we dare to say it? Do we admit truth? Do we
acknowledge such universal profundity of two specs of dust?
The hidden and forever forbidden moments of love
that will only be if, and if, and if knowing is truth.

If we look both ways, we will see.
If we mind the gaps, we will feel.
If we know love, we know truth.

 

Bill Reynolds 9/2/2018