When I was in Divinity School, my preaching professor admitted, “It’s hard to choose which issue of justice is most important. Race? sexual equality? poverty? refugees?” He had sat through all our sermons, all our worries, and it’s true they were all over the map. In the face of so much injustice, we were tempted to despair.
“For me,” he said, “the main thing is creation care. That’s what it all has to come back to. If the world isn’t here anymore, in just a few generations…then what’s it all for?”
His words came to mind when I read this blurb just before Election Day:
I’m almost a single-issue voter. I’m not, but my thinking about … elected officials and what their purposes are begins and ends with how they approach health care. My thinking certainly visits all the other issues along the way … but number one among all the issues for me is health care. My reason for that is that I believe that you can’t really effect* positive change in any other area if your body (or your child’s body, or your partner’s body) is sick or not working. Nor can you effect change if you’re struggling to pay for – or even get – vital medicine for yourself or a family member. Nor, again, can you effect change in areas you care about if you’re in significant debt for medical care you’ve already received. You can even have a hard time effecting change in the political issues you care about if you merely live with the specter of not being able to access or pay for medical care for yourself or your family.
I think both men make a good point. Maybe I’d give a slight edge to Rob Delaney, over my preaching professor, because it’s true that we can’t advocate for environmental justice if our ill bodies are draining away all our advocating energy. Plus my prof said it’s basically too late anyway.
* Delaney is an intelligent man who can properly use “effect” as a verb.
Most people can’t; please don’t attempt it.
Recently I was reminded I will one day die.
I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.
The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.
I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.
Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.
The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.
– Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them
prompt from my online writing course:
Describe a place that was meaningful for you, positive or negative. It could be a positive emotion or a negative emotion that you have for the place. Rules:
- No dialogue.
- No describing emotions.
- No backstory.
A thin mattress, set on a thin metal frame, served as the living room couch. A lockable metal trunk, forest green, served as a bench. Inside were bags of flour, and inside those were tiny lines that crawled.
A dusty metal bookshelf stood in the corner, with used books: a Wendell Berry novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and a small meditation on how to practice lovingkindness. Guides to “Scorpions and Spiders of the Sub-Sahara,” with their real-life photographs, were not displayed with spines out. They hid in the box a pocket-sized Bible came in.
Some doors were missing doorknobs; loops of yarn were tied to the holes. The toilet, too, was missing its knob; there was yarn in the tank, looped around the handle. The shower head emitted a thin stream of cold water, though in the baked month of January, the water was lukewarm.
Flip-flops stayed at either entrance to the flat. The floors, gritty before and after each mopping, smelled like lemon. Sometimes the toilet tank was filled with the cloudy water leftover from mopping or washing clothes, so when you flushed the toilet, it smelled like diluted cleaning solution. A trail of chalky sediment lined the bright blue plastic bucket after each pour.
In the kitchen, a trash bag hung over a pipe on the wall, and a calendar hung above that. The calendar was peppered with brown spots from the brown bugs that congregated around the trash bag. Spots freckled the shelves of canned goods, too.
Taped to the cement of the walls were handwritten excerpts from Psalm 42:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
The lettering was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, rainbow.
Dear friend and talented songwriter Momma Molasses let us crash her gig the other night. One of her newest songs is all about audience participation:
The church bells rang, and two voices sang.
Old sorrows became a dream.
All the wrong I’ve done…is forgiven,
and I don’t regret one thing.
Won’t you sing with me, my darling?
Won’t you sing with me someday?
Won’t you sing with me, my darling?
Won’t you sing with me always?
Take 17 morning minutes to listen to one of these episodes, and watch the rest of the day transform.
Most recent fave: “You Are Chosen For His Plan,” 10/14/18.
The Journal of the Compressed Arts has a strange genre called “triptych,” where you write a piece in a center column, then arrange facts on either side. The columns speak to each other across the lines, but the real story is in the center.
Click here for my first fiction attempt at a triptych. Thanks to the Journal for publishing it.