And Goodbye

And goodbye; we celebrate the parting,

And togetherness–aye both we share–

And bitterness: the herald of our starting

Life again, again–you here, I there.

 

It seems forever when the gulf looms before us

And years together collapse upon themselves into

Seconds of bitter meaning:

It’s always goodbye.

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Places and Friendships and Goodbyes

I’m a long way from home

And those customs I’ve outgrown.

Each new direction’s pointed toward success

In this foundationless infinite regress.

 

Here alone, I’m feeling

How many times

I’ve said goodbye

To those I’ve loved, the places I’ve known.

 

Guess I’ve done what I had to

Or what seemed to be good moves–

The kind of thing I should be glad to do

But for all those good times and broken loves.

 

How long can I survive

Moving around

Wanting a home

A long-time friend, someone to trust.

When Art Tries to Be Art

When art tries to be art it fails and offends.  Novels should be a good story, film should be good drama, music should be rhythmic and melodious, poetry should be the marriage of sound and sense, paintings should be about space, figure, and form, and beauty is important, as is passion in all this.

I saw a movie that began with a woman walking in a graveyard, in the autumn.  “Here we go,” I thought.  Where could the movie go from there?  As the story progressed, it kept cutting back to the woman walking in the graveyard.  Something about death intruding into a quite ordinary story.  Then there are films with odd camera angles.  An odd camera angle that adds to the dramatic tension works.  But there are too many films that show odd angles for their own sake, under the mistaken assumption that those camera angles make a mediocre movie into art.

I’ve heard musicians who add performance art into their songs, so that they will be artistic.  I saw a singer wrap herself in a blanket with an image of the whole world on it, as she bowed.  I wasn’t sure of her point, but I was sure she was trying to be artistic.

I’ve read poets who use precious words, poetic words, so that they would be making poetry.  One such word is gossamer.

I saw an artwork that was a spiral cut of paper with great works of art reproduced on it.  Something about art being about art.

A good story will be art.  A good poem doesn’t need poetic words to be art.  A riveting movie will be art.  A song that touches the soul and bespeaks humanity’s pain, joy, and passion will be art.  A painting you can’t take your eyes off will be art.  Art doesn’t need to try to be art.

Why I’m Glad I’m Sober

I’ve seen both sides.  I lived a long time drunk or high every day.  And when I wasn’t high I was thinking about getting high.  Here’s the things I did when I was a drunk:

  • get mad so I needed a drink
  • get drunk

Now I live a clean and sober life.  Here’s the things I do, now that I am sober:

  • write music
  • record original music and play with other musicians
  • form healthy relationships
  • play card games with friends
  • volunteer in interfaith functions
  • sit on a faculty committee
  • teach classes at church
  • organize lecture series
  • feel my emotions
  • read philosophy, poetry, and fiction
  • go out on dates without drinking
  • listen to live music and hear it and enjoy it
  • write poetry
  • buy art with the money I don’t spend on drugs
  • enjoy life
  • laugh and cry

There are still struggles in life and hard days.  But, as a musician friend of mine said about the process of recording my original music, “enjoy the process.”

The Trouble with Social Action

Eco-justice is a movement that is growing in popularity and importance.  And there are other justice issues that have already become nearly established.  Some of them would be homelessness, bullying, hunger, domestic violence, LGBT issues, and others.  Social justice organizations have been created to address these issues.  There are homeless shelters, soup kitchens, shelters for abused women, and bullying is a matter of consciousness raising.  Religions as far back as the ’60’s became active in social issues.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one prominent theologian who championed social justice as a religious issue.  Another was Reinhold Niebuhr.  Niebuhr once said that theology should be done with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

But there are problems with religion understood as social justice.  In its history, religion has also been concerned with character development.  Moses, Jesus, Paul, and Mohammed have all taught that a person needs to be moral and good.  For instance, Moses gave us the 10 Commandments, which are all moral rules.  And Jesus and Paul both teach a religion of love.  These teachings are about character virtues, or becoming a good person.

The trouble, then, with religion as social justice is that becoming a morally good person can be forgotten in social action.  One doesn’t need to be loving to be an advocate for ecology.  The worst case view of eco-justice is that a person can be concerned with ecology for selfish reasons.  We save ourselves when we save the environment.  Or we save our children or grand children when we save the environment.  We certainly do need to take dramatic action to save nature, but does doing so make a person loving, and good?  The same can be said for other social programs.  I know many self-righteous Christians who are all in favour of homeless shelters–as long as they aren’t  built in their own neighbourhoods.

A morally good person, a loving person, will care about his or her neighbour.  Such a person will want impoverished and homeless persons to have warm, safe homes and enough to eat.  Such a person will care about God’s created order–Nature.  But social issues will be one action flowing forth from a good-natured heart.  Just as honesty, sincerity, and friendliness will inform their relationships with others.  But the converse may not necessarily be the case.  I’m not sure that social consciousness will render a person loving and morally good.