The moon draws the wild out of my veins,
up to the surface of my skin
where it sits like vapor and makes me
mad, sad, alive like the open spaces.
I become like a hollow sound;
the wind with its ceaseless asking,
the aching in my breast, the wide and sleepless moon.
Once there was a little girl,
all black and white and gray.
Her mother brushed her faded curls
and sent her out to play.
Once there was a lullaby,
but no one knew the tune.
It wandered halfway 'round the world
and floated to the moon.
Once there was a dancing shoe
that somehow lost its left.
A right alone can never dance,
and it remained bereft.
Once there was a summer day
without a summer sky;
the little girl, with china face,
looked up and asked it, "why?"
The answer was a dancing shoe
that twirls across the moon
forever, to a lullaby
that hasn't any tune.
It is often considered to be a mark of great faith and bravery to place one's trust and allegiance in an ethereal Higher Power,
and to reach for them and believe that they will make things better through their power, or through attracting their good graces with
obedience or compliance.
I sometimes find it difficult to understand. Where is the courage in placing my faith in gods? Gods are all-powerful, untouchable, infallible. Gods have might beyond imagining; wisdom we, by most accounts, aren't capable of comprehending; and the experience of immortal eternity by which to govern their flawless actions from an all-seeing perch somewhere in the fathomless skies.
I might call it understandable to hitch one's wagon to the sure bet, but I wouldn't call it courageous. And I wouldn't think it takes any tremendous leaps of faith and trust.
Far braver, to my mind, if perhaps more foolhardy, to place one's faith in one's fellow humankind-- in the fallible, gullible creatures who suffer along with us as equal prisoners on the same rock hurling through space, our co-stewards of a fragile and beautiful ecosystem that nurtures and sustains every living thing. Whether or not celestial omnipotence created or steers this breathing planet (and who am I, to say that it does or doesn't?), it is we who are here on it, and we whose privilege it is to live to die.
Because that is so. All of us who share the burden of mysterious Life will die. We are the function of a breath, and what we are can only last us until the next. One day, a heartbeat from now in the grand scheme of things, the Thing that moves my meat will leave it, and on that day what happens next will be a mystery, and will be important only to me. But whatever I left behind me? That will have the potential to benefit, or harm, everyone who ever came into contact with me, and maybe even to leave its mark on them into the future. And it is for this reason that I feel all this focus on death and the immortal soul; on living longer for the sake of it out of some sense that our bodies belong to anyone or anything but the ooze from which they crawled, naked and gasping; on the thought that to suffer and cause suffering will result in some sort of everlasting fever dream of paradise for those who bled reddest; is not just ignorantly misguided, but also painfully and wickedly selfish.
I am not the property nor puppet of the gods. If I belong to anyone, it is to the pool of beautiful, terrible misfits amongst whom I swim, who stretch behind me for generations and, should we keep our wits about us, ahead for generations more. Not because they are perfect and I am safe with them. Not because their power will carry, save, or reward me. Not even because it's the clever or obvious thing to do, but because it's the only thing to do, because my personal immortality is meaningless to me weighed against the immortality of the world living on after me. All the living I can no longer do (or must now do differently, depending on interpretation), those who remain must do in my stead, and if none of that living was eased by my actions while I was here to clear that path to the future for them, then what good my eternal continuance?
I know many horrific things humans have wrought and I can imagine many more, and even more terrible things than the worst I can imagine have no doubt been done beyond the boundaries of what I see and know. We may not yet have the ability to move the stars, but we can cause suffering untold on those whose difference from us under a microscope takes hundreds of collective years of research to detect. Nothing the Devil nor any agents of darkness has ever offered to do to me has frightened or sickened me as that which was done by those who have faces and hearts and hands like mine. How then, can I place my trust in a race that can't be trusted, or have faith in the goodness of something that is neither divine nor even necessarily benign?
Because they are here, and I am here, and we are here together. Because love is wise enough to look forward, and brave enough to have faith even where there is fear. I am with them, so I am for them. Unlike gods, I can hold them accountable for the horrible things they do or allow, and unlike gods, I can forgive them.
Our fellow beings struggle in the dust and we look to the heavens and ask our gods to help them. Whether our gods are here or not, we could stand here and argue all day while the suffering rages on. But what is unarguable is that you are here, and I am here, and as no god has, as yet, offered their cosmic hand to the hypothetical person who has fallen into a ditch, perhaps it is best if we offer ours, whether or not invisible judges are watching.
Prayers and positive thinking are wonderful things but they work best when they inspire action. If you thought every terrible thing but never did it, I'd be the first to vote you deserved no Hell, and on the same vein, if you thought every good thing but never had a kind word to say, I would not be first in line to offer you Heaven.
For those who hate in the name of gods or think that any of the myriad forms of love or joy or happiness in this world, or those easing of the pain in others, constitutes some manner of blasphemy or threat to the next, I pity you deeply. That we live to die is a gift, not a curse, but you are filled with so much fear that you can think only of postponing the inevitable, or of prizing your end itself above anything you could do to earn it. The Enemy you seek so earnestly for, and find everywhere you turn, was never really in any of the places you found it. It was behind your eyes the whole time, lodged in your heart, and that is why you see it all around you. No person in this world ever need look further for Evil than their own mirror, and that is the only place we should seek to drive it out from.
Far better to move toward. To join, to ease, to heal, to sing, to move with purpose an joy and to create with others, for each other. We write and read in endless books and poems, we croon ballads of sorrow, we rage at pulpits, we bloody swords, we vote and write letters and cry in corners and all for the question: where do we turn?
I'm not anybody of any particular consequence, but the answer is obvious to me: to each other. Where else is there to turn?
I will not tell you your god, or a god or gods, is not here. I don't know. I can't know, in fact, because that is not for me, or you, to know. And honestly? I don't care. What I do know, and what I care about, is that I am here, and you are here. I can see you and touch you, and you me, and just on the sheer power of the fact that I know I could harm you, is it not then my responsibility not to? I cannot do a god any harm, so I feel no particular responsibility to them.
If it is true that there is no pain in the heavens then neither is there any compassion in them, for there is no need for it. It may not be wise to put my faith in it, but I would call it brave. And I would argue that here among the dust of the earth, where we are powerless to offer each other divine grace but have every capacity to treat one another with respect and compassion, it's the latter we're much more in need of.
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