Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned

by Jane Tawel

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(Image by Dave Cutler for The Boston Globe, March 2020)

 

 

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Heaven Scorned

By Jane Tawel

August 3, 2020

 

 

 

Introduction: Reading C.S. Lewis and what some call the “Old” Testament (actually the Torah and Tanakh) is not for the faint of worldview. They aren’t for the faint of heart, either, but it is especially our worldviews that seem to have brought us to where and who we are in this particular moment on Planet Earth.  Perhaps if it had been our hearts instead that were leading us, we would not have arrived at this Foucault’s Pendulum swing that may, like a Giant Finger on the World’s Balance, forever still the rotations of our world as we have known it.  And still, those who can, fly off to space for a joyride, or build an empire for king but not kingdom, or insist on being the naked emperor, unmasked but unhumbled; while we let our children die and the wars rage and the planet burn and dry up into a husk of the Eden it was meant to be.  If only we would all stand on the same side of that swinging pendulum and push and pull together to right the balance of this lopsided world. The discouraging beginning of this essay will hopefully resolve itself in the end. But this is our task, is it not?  To look honestly and truthfully within and without at what is wrong, and then do our very best to right the wrongs, become upright ourselves, and then right the off-course ship of this great world?

 

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Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images

 

 

I no longer fear the hell of Mythologies and Scripture.  That hell is reserved only for those who choose it in this very present “now”; and if we are honest, we can see them choose hell for their souls and whatever souls they may desire to pull down with them. There is a “special place” reserved for those who would hurt others for their own gain, and we can see it in the world we live in; we do not have to believe that somehow, some God will either “send” people to that hell or that some God will not send any one to that hell because of some kind of supernatural love.  While love is always a supernatural power, so are hate and greed, and those who choose  hell have every right to live in it, just as those who choose to live in the perfect “heaven” of love have the right to hope for it in Eternity. We see the choices people make and we turn from the knowledge because it is too horrible to see any human being choose to live as a hellish creature, but also it can be too fearful to see the power and might of those who truly choose to live as heavenly ones. So we often turn from the knowledge that we can choose to live  in a “heaven on earth”, an existence without the outcomes and consequences of our fear or anger or hatred or wrongs; we just do not really want to.

 

C.S. Lewis writes much about this choice between living into what I might humorously call,  the now of Nirvana or the presence of Purgatory. In The Great Divorce, a fictional exploration of this idea of our choices in the view of Eternity, Lewis writes:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

 

 

But it is Lewis’ book of essays in The Weight of Glory, that stun us into contemplation on this idea of heaven or hell as our ever present daily choice:  In it, Lewis writes:

 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. … Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (The Weight of Glory, Lewis)

 

 

 

Besides my current “on steroids” fears of super-viruses and super-villains, there are other things to fear in one’s soul in the here and now.  Instead of fearing a future hell, that lake of fire and pit of despair and place of torment, I fear instead that I will continue to exist in the now as nothing more than sinew and bones. I fear a death of becoming nothingness if I have lived a life that is full of the nothingness of the lies of selfish striving, and not the fullness of everything in truly bountiful, beautiful, generous being.

 

I fear that I will continue to think of my life and this world as stuck irrevocably in our human plight since Genesis, and that if I allow it and accept it without a fight, that “since from dust I was created, so to dust I will return” (Genesis 3;19) Oh, to me is there anything more fearful than to contemplate that I am soul-less by choice and that from molecules I was created to live as nothing more than hungry molecules, finally dying to the dust of molecules in death?  I fear to continue living as I far too often have, and far too frequently do. Hell is the idea that I will die and be punished to live in something worse.  But is it not more awful, more tragic, to never choose to live into the idea of being something better? Should we not more truly fear never knowing Heaven now, on  this lovely, lovely Earth that we have been given to share with each other?

 

I fear death, but it is more and more a fear of never truly embracing the mindfulness of living, a kind of living that I have too seldom fully grasped and too seldom fully practiced. How can I fear a permanent end to my mind’s existence, if I have never truly been mindful while alive?  How can I fear the stilling of my beating heart if I have never completely listened to the miraculous beat of that feeling organ, that organ that represents all that which we feel as humans, that life-force pumping away in our bloodstreams and symbolizing all that poets and prophets write of, that lovers dream about, and that mothers teach their babies to accept and expect? How can I be afraid of no longer seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling if I have never enjoyed the  heavenly sensuousness of my God-given senses?  As the Good Teacher said, Oh, what does it profit me if I gain the world but I lose my soul in the process?

 

I do as all others, fear the cessation of what I may call “my soul” and the separation of myself from that “Otherness” which I may call My God.  What has often kept me safe from despair and evil, that “Other Hope”, that Otherness as an “Eternally Existing Life-Force”, is only as real as I make it.  It may finally ebb and never again flow back to the shores of that which I call myself.  And yet, while I fear the cessation, how often as I live– how often do I choose– to stand on the shore and merely watch my life, rather than fling my life into the ebb and flow of this present ocean of existence as Goodness and joy in the journey? How often have I chosen as Lewis warns us against,  to see my neighbor as “mere mortal” and not to see my neighbor as the “holiest of objects ever presented to my senses”?

 

But above, all I often forget all the love. I so easily remember the hurts done to me and the shame in the hurting I have done; harm done to me, and the harm I have participated in, to others and self; the painful silences of loneliness and my own pain-producing silences in the face of wrong and evil. I fear that one day, when my body dies, and everyone’s will, I fear that I will no longer love, nor have love. If Love is the strongest belief of all; the most real thing that exists anywhere in the Universe; the most unerring righteousness of all law and ethical philosophy; the greatest gift as well as The Giver; and if Love is the one thing that will remain forever, being real in an unknowable, mysterious Eternity, even if all else fades away; then all I truly need fear is the end of Love. And since that can never be; my fears are always at the mercy of Love.  My fears can be conquered each day by the grace of my loving actions, by the very real presence of my loving others as I would love myself, and by the faith of my acceptance of a Love that has the power to defeat even the evils of death, and to live forever.

 

Today I can have Heaven on Earth. Today I can live an eternity in this moment in the destination of my choice. Will it be Heaven?  Or Hell? Or will it be mostly the drudgery and soul-less-ness of dust?  We are taught by The Master, to pray that we may have life today “on earth, as it is in a World of Perfection”.  As another favorite guru of mine, Kathryn Schulz wrote, “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t” (Being Wrong, Schulz).

 

Sun over the ocean

“Sun over the ocean” by welcometomyisland is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

All of my fears of the afterlife can be resolved when I put away my fears of tomorrow and live only for this day. But I also must continue to live for the future; not a future that is focused on myself, and the continuation of what I want, but focused on the future of that which is more than me and at the same time, makes me so much more than just a continuation of who I am and what I have today.  I  must choose today, between heaven and hell, but I also must make this day a “heaven on earth”, by not just enjoying for myself what I have, and not just “being all that I can be”, but by living with the knowledge and purpose and desire to create that world we were meant to live in as One. I must imagine a heaven on earth where all have what each needs, and the earth is returned to beauty, cared for as a child cares for an aging parent, with tenderness and love; and a world in which each child is my child, and where there is more than enough to share, and especially enough Love to share. Until every human on earth can live in the freedom and joy of that heavenly vision, then no one will ever truly live in it.

 

 

My soul is secure in The Presence of Goodness that is here and that is now. My soul is at peace in the hope that is alive even in the darkest moments, because hope is not a trophy earned, but a gift freely given. My soul is “in love” with the life that I have today and being “in love” with life makes me full of love to share freely with all others.  My faith is an ocean flowing backwards and forwards in the Time I am allotted, but when I immerse myself in the flow, I am able to get a small, faint glimpse of the Heaven that lies on the Far Shore. It is my choice of where I shall live today, will it be that which is Good and causes good or that which is Suffering and causes suffering?

 

Today I will baptize myself in that river of healing – in that ocean of Love— and from the depths of almost drowning myself in the reality of my fears and hatreds, my hurts and harms, I will arise to that Reality which has no end, on earth, in heaven, or in that which I call my soul.

 

We are taught to pray for a world here and now “as it is everywhere else in the Cosmos – The Heavens” where Love and Light and Holy Joy exist as Reality Eternal.  Heaven is Love and Love is available to all Life. Now. Here. Love is as small as the teardrop on someone’s face that  I can wipe away. Love is as vast as an ocean which may obscure the Vision of The Other Shore, but is full of life and life-giving. And because Love is not a feeling, but an action, and an action that has the power to change even the worst feelings we humans may have – anger, hatred, and even fear –then Love is Heaven Come Down to us.  As long as I can choose to act in the Love of this Moment, then I need have no fear. Love is Eternal, and if I love, so am I.

 

C.S Lewis had much to teach about the Judeo-Christian ideas and the imagined reality of heaven and hell. In his story about people having one last shot at choosing where to spend eternity, he has a prophet say to a seeker,

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”  (The Great Divorce)

 

 

When fear has us quaking or anger has us shaking, we must remember that it can be a God-send – a Heaven-sent, if you will—opportunity to let all that is wrong or broken inside of us, all that is untrue and un-straight, all that is hurting and hurtful – all of that “hell” to be shaken loose to fall away like so much sand in the mighty waves of the ocean.  The Ocean of Love is unshakeable, and it is that which will remain in us and in our world and in our creations and from any of our meager accomplishments and that which will remain forever in those we love, including our very own selves. It is what will remain in earth, and in the heavens. And the reality of the heaven we seek is that heaven that we bring to this day.

 

If hell hath no fury like a heaven it scorns, then it is also true that heaven mocks our fears of death with the strength of Love. That Heaven which is among us, scorns the lies of hell, and scoffs at the weakness of hate. That Heaven is the most powerful thing in existence – Love.

 

All this will pass away, but Love – unshakeable, unerring, unfearful Love – that will forever remain.  May our hearts lead our worldview and our love lead the world.

photo-love-edit

“photo-love-edit” by takemetoklinghovillage is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

“Heaven or Hell?”

 

Hell is always in a hurry.

Hell is wrought with fury;

And the strength of it lies,

In the lies of hell,

 those who choose it, tell.

*

Heaven is now;

For those living in Tao.

Around, within, above,

Forever in those who live Love.

~~ J. Tawel

May your Love, and The Love that can be yours today, dispel all your fears of living in the Heaven of this very moment. Together let us have faith in Love and faith in each other to bring heaven to earth.  ~~ Jane

 

 

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“There is no fear in Love, for Perfect Love, casts out all fear”.  ~~From the Book of I John 4:18

 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

~~ From the Book of Zephaniah 3:17

 

 

“The Kingdom of Heaven is closer than the brow above the eye, but man does not see it.”

Let your love flow outward through the universe. To its height, its depth, its broad extent, a limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, sit or lie down, as long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; your life will bring heaven to earth.”  ~~ Gautama Buddha

 

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”    ~~ Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten One Walks – a poem

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Forgotten One Walks

By Jane Tawel

July 14, 2020

We’ve forgotten The One Who comes and Who goes,

The One Who has places to seed.

We have hidden ourselves

From The One Who once walked

And talked in The Garden with Eve.

 

And when I say, “we”, I really mean I,

For I have boxed up with a bow,

The One Who has elsewhere, His fishies to fry,

And other cosmoses to hoe.

 

But as ever as far and away as The One

Seems to be just to me on this day,

The nearness of All that is faithful and true

Will be close to my heart when I pray.

 

Ah, The Garden, with serpent’s cool lies, has been marred,

And we walk in the heat of the doom,

But The One that created the fields and the stars,

Is as close as the child in this room.

 

Look around at the love that you see in the places,

Look inside at the love you can find in the faces,

Crave your forgiving and for your forgiveness,

Hold in your hands lightly what you think you possess.

Seek what you find, find what you abandon,

Naked and needy, become Second Adam.

 

I don’t walk alone, on this planet bright blue,

I’ve been given a help-meet, and her name is “you”.

We’ve been cloned in the image, the Imago Dei,

And though The One has other places to play,

The Truth is, One’s only one human away.

 

We’ve forgotten The One we’ve cast out to Above,

But One’s only a heartbeat away, when we Love.

And I’ve found that it’s only my heart being hardened,

That prevents The One walking with me in The Garden.

So, today the real question is– do I truly desire,

The kind of relationship that Eve had prior,

To the mistake that she made when she thought it would work,

To believe that obedient love could be shirked,

With The One Who had made human beings co-creators,

In a world meant to grow ever greater and greater?

 

Every day I have failed and I eat from The Tree,

I believe all the lies that this world’s all for me.

But this world is for Us,

And this world is for Tao,

And to walk in The Way of the Here and the Now;

For it’s really not true that The One’s out there waiting,

While this world is destroyed with our greed and our hating.

The One is as close as our enemy’s hand,

Or the hunger and thirst of the neediest man.

The One hasn’t left us. We have asked to take leave.

And our absence from Love causes The One to grieve.

The Spirit, it comes and it goes like the breeze,

But to those who Love others, are given the keys,

To a new Secret Garden where the real work is done,

And we walk in the Light and the Love of The One.

 

Let me open my eyes

And stop searching the skies

For salvation to come far and yon.

Let each sister and brother,

Be First Father and Mother,

and Our Family walk once more with The One.

 

Love keeps us together

“Love keeps us together” by jgwong is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Loss and Love Becoming

By Jane Tawel

Welcome to Happy Town..

“Welcome to Happy Town..” by In Memoriam: Mr. Ducke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Loss and Love Becoming

By Jane Tawel

June 15, 2020

And so, we watch.  And listen.  There is sometimes nothing more. And sometimes the least we can do, is the best we can do.

 

And so, as all things must end, we grasp the final straw of a moment, wishing we could start a new haystack, start all over again, building something permanent, not something so easily burnt-up, burnt-out, smoldering within the hazy, choking smoke of our agonizing defeats.

 

And we look away from the fires, and we do not reach out our hands. These fires do not warm us. We run to the water, knowing that nothing lasts but the ebb and flow of life and death, life and death, life and death… like waves coming to shore but leaving for somewhere unkept.

 

Wishing hard will hurt the heart, but giving up will kill the soul. There can be no end to the mercy we must grant our pain.

 

“Yesterday, I should have done”. “Today, I must”. We tell ourselves tall tales while, Tomorrow beckons like a small flame easily snuffed-out by loss.

 

Each moment can be a new beginning to the hopes nestled in our cherished memories. Each intention falls short unless propped-up by a letting-go of self-containment. There is no joy in the prison of one’s certainty of aloneness nor in the sham of the inevitability of acceptance.

 

We do not long for a god residing somewhere past death, but crawl along the helpless shards of our afflictions for Someone better, Someone bigger, Someone who is not us but is with us. And every loss is a death and every death a loss.

 

And yet…. And yet ….

 

the soul responds to uncertainty with the certainty that death and loss are an illuminating darkness and darkness is what we were created to overcome. We fight the unacceptable with our acceptance that we are broken and with the stubborn wills of our need for wholeness.

 

We have never known wholeness. Its adopted spurious offspring are myths born of the illegitimacy of our need to numb our emotions and quell our rational fears. We claw at the desire to forget, clinging to forgetting like a raft in a hurricane. We remember in a panic and hold-on for dear life, for dear life, for dear life… to that which has almost drowned us and that which has kept us afloat.

 

In the suddenly YES! — we sometimes see fragments of a dappled radiance among divine clues hidden in plain sight in the world’s penumbra. We co-exist with Deity when we, weeping, Yearn.

We reveal ourselves to be that which from whom we most want to blind ourselves. And in our darkest nights, we awaken to a brilliance made porous by our pain. In the dawns of our best loves, we rise with tattered wings made translucent with the practice-flights of time.  Only with holes gaping in our souls, can there be light for the long journey.

 

We are most luminous when we are most changeable. The shadows see our lambent light and flee.

 

We long to look at loss and pain as dross, best left uncovered, undiscovered, unused. But pain is a geode, a hard, dirty clod, formed in fire, hiding its truth deep within.  Our hearts must be broken to find the glory nestled inside of us. The hard things formed in fire, when broken and opened, reveal a crystalline universe of reflective beauty, as substantial as heartache, as durable as hope, as fierce as love, as illuminating as the truth behind a waterfall of tears.

 

Every loss is a piece of the soul’s broken imagination. Each loss awaits the sticky residue of our tears, the paste of our determination, and the glue of our love. We gently hold our sorrow as long as it takes to see where it belongs, before we stick-back into place the broken part, reforming the wholeness within us.

 

The pieces of pain dug out from our depths are laid down, piece by piece, like small tiles, laid next to the bits and chunks of love we have mined- out from the moments of our best selves, and as we lay-down piece by piece of loss and love and love’s losses and losses’ loves next to each other, the mosaic of our life takes its exquisite shape. And it is dangerous and it is awesome to behold.

 

And with all the love and all the loss, we create the kaleidoscope of our celestial luminosity. And this is who we may yet become.

Geode

“Geode” by bobandcarol71661 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

(c) Jane Tawel 2020.

 

 

It’s Not a Good Time – a poem about not going yet

for Raoul and my dearests: J, C, V, & G

It’s Not A Good Time for You to Go

By Jane Tawel

May 10, 2020

*

It’s not a good time for you to go.

I think you’d better wait.

Let’s take this passing nice and slow,

I’m not really ready to call you “late”.

*

I know I bug you—well, you bug me.

But in this moment, let’s both agree

that under the bridge, our woes can flow,

And it’s not the right time for you to go.

*

We rumbled up and rambled round,

We’ve talked both silly and profound.

I’ve whinged, you’ve whined;

We’ve dashed, we’ve dined.

We’ve made it through the ups and downs,

The smiles, the frowns,

The highs, the lows,

The winds wherever they may blow,

And after all that, I’d think you’d know,

That now’s not a great time for you to go.

*

There’s lots of stuff we still should do.

Some of the same, but some will be new.

We still have dreams we must explore,

And purpose and joy to keep looking for.

So, don’t think you can bid me adieu,

I don’t want a future that doesn’t have you.

*

I’m sorry I didn’t always listen or show,

How much you’ve helped me learn and grow.

The bottom line is– I love you so.

So please stay with me. You have to know–

That it’s not a good time for you to go.

*

(c) Jane Tawel

19/365

“19/365” by DurhamDundee is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Vicissitudinal Hopes – a short poem

Vicissitudinal Hopes

A Poem

By Jane Tawel

May 6, 2020

hope_by_burythereckless-d6vz97y

Similarity breeds stagnation.

Longing for variation,

We risk brave adaptation,

and flip-flop dire causations

to beat the slippery slope.

*

Vicissitudes sire transformations.

With some slight alterations,

We make real permutations,

In our most dire situations,

and learn to cope.

*

Since first the World’s foundation,

And each soul’s true gestation,

We always find relation,

To Love and Love’s creations,

So hold fast to hope.

 

Stay brave. Keep loving. Be hopeful.  ~~ Jane

Wanted: New Earth, Please.

Salt of the Earth

“Salt of the Earth” by knowhimonline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Wanted: New Earth, Please.

By Jane Tawel

April 29, 2020

 

The abrupt crash between idealists and opportunists, that has occurred at the intersection of the Corona Virus Pandemic meeting the onrushing onslaught of our climate and planet abuse should wake us all up. It’s rather a shock to me, who grew up in a very different kind of American Christianity, that so many who still claim that faith, are like lazy servants, putting their heads under the covers, and pointing their crooked fingers at PNLU (People NOT Like Us). Like bridesmaids in Jesus’ story who don’t think they have enough oil in their lamps to spread light, or the complacent servant who has told himself convenient falsehoods for so long about his Master that he no longer knows what his real job is, or what The Master is like, we who would claim to have the corner on Religious Truth have gotten used to sleeping-in or taking a break from our labors, hoarding our resources,  and shirking our duty. For more on what our “duty” is, one could start by meditating on Christ’s summation of the commandments of Moses’ YHWH, or conversely, taking to heart the prophets of old who foretold what a real Savior of the whole world would be like.

Crash Landscape

“Crash Landscape” by bikesandwich is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

It is difficult for some of us to do anything more than choose to survive another day, especially for those throughout the world who are suffering in unparalleled ways during this 2020 Plague, with the sure knowledge that more suffering lies ahead. I have been quite ill, probably with the Virus, and because so far, I have survived, I have been granted another chance to stare at my imminent death (everyone’s death, actually, is imminent from birth, if you think of the length of your own life in terms of the life of the world and the planet).  I know I am not alone, in considering this current World-Event, to be much like other catastrophic and reality-bending historical occurrences. And these types of events are for many tragic and sobering, and strangely, for some with “eyes to see and ears to hear”, fortuitously salvific, reviving, and energizing.  Or they can be, if we let the tragedies, uncertainties, and fearfulness at this crossroads we all have arrived at, to become each individual’s and our communal renewed determination to make new and better paths forward to a new way of living into our new lives. This can all seem like a revelatory nightmare if we awake to much healthier and Goodness-oriented physical, relational, planetary, and spiritual realities. We have to stop hoping and dreaming for a better world, we have to make and create a better world.

 

Like lying half asleep, and hearing outside the safety of my own home, an horrific accident, a loud and near car crash, with grinding brakes, blown-out tires, engines exploding, glass and metal smashing into cacophonous, roaring explosion, I have been startled into wakefulness. I have been forced to be more aware of what is “going on out there”, outside of my small reality, the very real clashes and collisions of values, morals, and needs of our human species. And like many other wee warriors in the daily battle to make sense of the world, I have struggled to interpret what is really happening out there. Although the destructive forces of human beings wrecking their very own living space, the Earth, has been a more quiet, less recognized, but more insidious catastrophe; compared to the dropped atom bomb of the Corona Virus, the destruction and dismantling of our planet for personal gain, like an advancing army of drones who wreak havoc across the world, seemingly with a will and mind of their own dronish-selves, has caused  throughout the world, a mindless vacuum of virtue, and a soulless species of what might have once been human beings. But now that people have relegated our culpability to others, and our own responsibility, in the Earth’s destruction to people we can label, “them”; some of us suddenly wake-up in time to understand that “them” is really, in the end “us”. If this Corona Virus lockdown has revealed anything, it has revealed the truth that “we have finally met the enemy, and the enemy is Us”. This quote originally about the War of 1812 was rewritten by the cartoonist, Walt Kelly, and used on the very first Earth Day in 1970 to with tragic irony, describe what humanity had become to itself in terms of how we were treating the Earth. We had become our own worst enemy. Fifty years later, and most of us have not only not learned anything about our own destructive enmity towards the Earth and our species, we have stopped caring.

 

 

One of the things, I have had time to think about during this strange season, is what in the world Jesus meant, when he said a bunch of stuff about God and the Earth, and about human beings and about death and about the future of the world and about His different sort of “Kingdom”. I call that only “One-thing” to think about, because everything, in the end, is part of a Whole, or, it isn’t. We have found during this Corona Virus and the crazy abilities of small cells to defeat our greatest minds, and we have found during the economic depressions and repressions looming once more and throwing off balance some systems that we thought could survive it alone, and we have seen during this time of enforced sheltering in, how the world’s interplanetary eco-systems, and everything including dependent human beings, are connected. None of us can go it alone, and all of us will eventually meet the same fate, and all of us need each other to make things right again, and everyone is connected to everything, and nothing will stand alone for long, and what will be left standing in the end, is up to all of us.

 

With more than enough time to be restful and perhaps paradoxically, during this period which has turned into a very tiring, and somewhat sleepy time, in some profound ways,  my “eyes”  have been jerked open, and my eyelids which often function as blinders, have been propped wide with the pain of having to look at Really, Real Reality. My vision has been cleared, with the pandemic functioning on one side, as a sharp toothpick propping open one eye, and the planet’s dire condition as a log propping open the other eyelid. In this way, one thing that the wise Teacher said that has taken on new meaning for me is, “why do you try to remove the toothpick in your neighbor’s eye, when you have that giant sequoia tree propping up your own eye, dearie?” The Visine of platitudes won’t get the red out of eyes opened by a frightening pandemic.  Vaccines against our willful blindness won’t save us from eye-popping Truth.

 

This morning I began my day much as usual. First, I pray my “praising psalms”, which are often third-rate words of praise sent out blithely to Someone Out There, thanking Him for all my “stuff” and achievements, otherwise known to some people as “blessings”.  These days, after Someone Out There has wacked me upside the head with thoughts about what’s really going- down in the World, and I have noted another day with an increased heartrate thinking about what happens after the day that I die; my praising prayer is set to the tune of “Being Alive” from the Steven Sondheim prayer book in his musical, “Company”. I am truly finally, just so peachy keen happy to be breathing and aware, that I have to believe there is Someone Out There I should thank for that.

 

Then while waiting for the coffee to brew, this morning as I have had more time to do, now that I’m not rushing off somewhere every morning, I looked outside my back door, while the dog, Daisy, did her nose-led tour of the yard, and I prayed my “help my family and me” prayers.  These prayers are tuneless mewls, and at 5:00 AM are silent for the neighbors’ benefit, done with the sound turned off everywhere but in my own head. Because in fact, the Help Me Prayers, that I pray to God, sound like two feral cats in heat – all screeching desire and mindless animal-need. “Gimmeeee, gimmmeeee, gimmmeeee, helphelphelp!”  Finally, as Daisy saunters in, never having had anywhere to rush off to in the first place, and I give her a treat for not needing toilet paper to do her business. I have that delicious, first sip of the elixir of the gods, laced amply with milk and honey (as all Promised Land drinks should be) and I move on in my habits of seeking spiritual connection or at least a kind of solace. Now, as I think about what is going on in the world outside my kitchen, I begin the final round of my life-long attempt at “thoughts and prayers” to a God Who Hears.  I begin the Cursing Psalms.

 

I confess, I have had many days of speaking cursing psalms to God about people I actually know. Don’t deny it, I may have done it – but you thought it. These days my Cursing Psalms are almost exclusively reserved for the World’s titans of industry and kings of nations – in other words, the Pharaohs, Herods and Pilates of our Times.  I am not often as extremely violent as the Hebrew Cursing Psalmists were, being weak of stomach and low on horror fiction images.  I have a hard time praying, as the ancient Jew did in Psalm 137, that the current political Darth Vaders and religious Sarumans will have their “children’s heads dashed on rocks”. However, I have found a deeply felt connection with the revenge motif in Psalm 109:8 “may his days be few; may another seize his position”.  I mean, c’mon, the cursing prayers in The Bible far outweigh one misinterpreted line by a biblical Paul-wannabe who wants us to “obey un-named authorities” because then we won’t “get in trouble” and we can keep tithing and being taxed.

Darth Vader

“Darth Vader” by s10wen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Like the Psalmist, the prophets, like Jeremiah and Nehemiah, also have quite a lot to say about what they would like Providence to do to the wicked, or to those people who, even if they aren’t downright evil world-players, that God would do to anyone, even the little no-named soldiers and spouses, who are connected in wrong-doings (or by their silence?)  to the “powers of this world”. Cursing prayers were prayed often by saints who saw the harm done by those who instigate or just allow “bad things to happen to good people”, and by those who deny direct involvement but are implicit by their profiteering silence.

 

For any one who is apt to think of this idea as too Old Testament, too “old style God”, best to read the curses of that currently trendy commentator, St. Paul himself, who says of his fellow “Christians” who are foisting their legalism and religious false interpretations on others, “I just wish that those troublemakers, who want to mutilate you by circumcision would emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12). Yowza!  Something for those who want to rush their paying audiences back into death-trap churches and temples and mosques to think about. Or for the Biblically so inclined, read John in Revelations 6:10 or Peter in Acts 8:20. Of course, people today who want to claim some kind of belief in what is called Holy Scripture, or Torah, or the Bible, people who want to claim a kind of belief especially in that human/god we call The Son of God, Jesus, The Christ, have only to look at the words of Christ himself in Matthew 23 about the greedy and proud religious and political leaders of His time, and prophetically of ours. And of all time. To put Jesus’ words into a handy Spark-notes version, Jesus asks for and foretells “Woe”; which means Jesus requests and foretells a litany of bad consequences, for these people who were leaders and authorities in Jesus’ religion and of both of his countries.  Jesus prays they will actually incur and experience a judgement and real future of “great sorrow and distress”. Woe to those humans among us who are enemies to Truth and Love. As I think about these things, I feel a personal type of uncleanness that far surpasses the way I feel having not taken a shower for the past few quarantined days. I still feel a righteous anger looking at the people I want to curse, but I also feel like a leprous dark cloud of disease, in the presence of a Holy God and a Perfect Savior. And all I want to do, is pretend I don’t know what any of it means, and  that I can’t be responsible for the whole world, let alone, somehow judged for my own insignificant actions, and I just want to go back to watching a comedy on Netflix or eating my way through what remains in my freezer.

 

This morning, as I was winding up (or was it winding down?)  my daily devotions of reading The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Bible, and some readings in mildly radical social, theological, prophetic works on spiritual realities, in other words things written by those who have explored Meaning throughout our human history, and people wiser than I who discuss “what in the name of earth and heaven does everything mean? And what is the answer to Why?”; I was once more beginning my rounds of prayers.

 

Let’s try again, I told myself. Okay. First — Praises for a growing understanding of God’s presence in the Universe. Praises for new insights into what it means to follow The Way.  Next– some more conscience-stricken, gentle, humbled “help me” prayers. Prayer asking for the grace and health for me and mine, inside and out, to live through just this one more granted day. Prayers of asking for help that admit that though I do not know what is best for those I love, I will pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and change them in the ways they need to be guided and changed. The Serenity Prayer fits nicely here, the one that Reinhold Niebuhr so beautifully wrote and as it always does, today it moved something in me, when I recited the whole thing, including the hard parts, like the line “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is and not as I would wish it to be”. And because I meant it, it changed something incrementally important in my own heart and soul.

 

Finally,  I was  ready to move on in my prayers to the Cursing Psalms, with the intent of simply asking that those people out there who thought they were too important to wear masks around sick people or too rich to wait in line or too smart to listen to people much smarter than they, or too free to be servants of Christ—that they would all just get the real-life consequences for their choices.  I was just going to pray as the Psalmists and Prophets did, “please just let what they allow to happen which can kill others, what they do without caring who suffers because of it, what they take when they don’t need more instead of giving to those who have so little – please just be fair, God and let those things kill them instead of others; and please, God, harm their lives instead of the lives of the least of us, and just let their hoarded storehouses be taken away from them and distributed to a world in need; and while You are at, get rid of all the nuclear stuff and end the wars and if possible, stop the nasty viruses. Please God, just give enemies what they have worked so hard to deserve.” Woe, woe, woe. And then of course, that “Good Friend Jesus” of mine had to remind me, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that God sent His only son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to die and live again, so we can all be cleansed from unrighteousness, and that what I think in my own heart, is what I really am, whether I act on it or not and that I am to go into every little corner of my own world and speak Good News of light, and hope, and love, and forgiveness, and faith  — and once, more it all became One Thing, all the dots connected to the whole, and the whole thing of both evil and good, sin and righteousness, hate and love, cursing and praise – the whole thing led inexorably, unmovably, unignorably back to Me – the only “dot” that matters, the elephant in the room, the stone around my own neck dragging me down, the one “enemy” that has to lay down her weapons, and give in to The Unsearchable Goodness of A Good, Good God.

 

Over the years, I have perfected the ability to pray to myself and call it praying to a God. I have honed a sort of sing-song prayer life which is mostly like one person trying to sing a musical-round by oneself. Sometimes, though from the back seat of the Life-Car I am driving, I hear the Holy Spirit pipe-up. So, now and then, when I am praying at God or whining at the world in the Name of God, I let God or Jesus get a line or two in. It can be quite unnerving to suddenly realize that I am finally having an actual dialogue with Otherness. It is quite different than having a monologue with the various personalities that inhabit my mind from day to day.  Back to this morning. Once I recognized my own need for forgiveness and change, I was able to listen to something outside of myself. And this morning was one of those times that prayer suddenly became conversation and not soliloquy.

 

Like a whisper across an ocean, like a butterfly appearing out of a tempestuous tornado, came the words of Jesus: “love your enemies”, and then the footnote –”because they do not live in reality”. In this barely discernable moment, shot like an arrow through the permeable membrane of my brain/heart, The Real World, of life, of myself, of other people, of the planet, and of God, was for a brief, but very sense-able moment, completely seen by something inside me that I can only call “soul-vision”.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

“Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)” by Nga Manu Images NZ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

That moment when The Presence was real, was like looking at one of those ambiguous images that at first look like a vase and then, when you squinch your eyes a certain way, is suddenly revealed to be a woman’s silhouette.  The dire forecast of what I knew would be the consequences of humanity’s actions and inactions was completely turned inside out. Like the Upside Down Kingdom of Christ always does, suddenly the pandemic and all cancers and diseases, and the abusive, greedy, corrosive powers throughout history and currently running the world; and the rot of religious hypocrisies used for personal gain; and the communal ignorant destruction of our planetary home; and all the sins great and small, done and left undone; all of these were for just for an instant revealed as one big smoke-screen, one giant chimera of lies about what was and is and will be in The Kingdom of Meant to Be. My point of view – and it was just a tiny point on a long, long line of crooked and miscalculated points in my own life and worldview—that tiny momentary point was Trued, was like a little creaky craft sailing due North, was the small speck in a traced circle of new life. That moment became, not the end of the line but a chance at beginning all over again.

 

What I connected that little point to, was the small dot in a swirling mass of human life-thought-dots of what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “My Kingdom is not of this World.”  And what true followers of Christ mean when we pray to God the Father, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. On earth. This earth. The one we have almost – but not quite– destroyed.  With these people. The godlike imago Dei in humanity, that we have almost – but not quite – destroyed. His Will be done, not theirs, not ours, not mine. There is a spark of that reality still ember-ing throughout the world.  We just need to stoke it back to life.

Fire

“Fire” by (arteliz) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

We are meant to recognize beyond the pollution and rape of our resources, beyond the racism and violence, beyond the greed and pride, beyond the carelessness and uncaring, that we live in a place like we imagine a heavenly one to be — not somewhere else, but here, available if re-created, restored with the help of other human beings – not some other kind of species, just human ones like us. We are meant to look around and get to work making a reality of our longings for a good, heaven-like place here, now, with normal people, who if we look close enough, reveal themselves as angels, who have abilities for goodness and recreation and healing, miraculous works beyond our wildest dreams. We don’t need “them” to change, we need “Us” to change, and when we all work together for a truthfully Good life, “they” won’t have any choice but to join us.  When in this moment,  we choose God’s Kingdom on earth as His Reality is Everywhere Else, we will live as we were meant to live eternally. Because that is what Jesus Christ did. That is what Jesus Christ does. That is what Jesus Christ will do.

 

Because, thankfully,  other human beings throughout history, have been much more attuned to moments like that butterfly moment of mine this morning, we have the examples of certain people throughout the world’s history who have been able to live lives connecting the dots of a different sort of Kingdom, a different sort of reborn life, a different reality in a world of justice, peace, sharing, health, miracles, love, and care for something bigger and more lasting than temporal and fleeting treasures. It is to my shame, that I so easily focus on those sad, mistaken, misguided ones whose lives are lived in the false doctrines of humanistic, individualistic self-centered Team-Me-ness. Because of some small communities throughout history, and some very special women and men, there have been bold, brave, fantastical, “Heavenly” forays into the enemy camp of the illusory world of false treasures, and there have been brash takeovers of the predatory, prejudiced profiteering of the temporal wannabes, and the building blocks have been laid in the construction of that which is worthwhile because it is eternal. Some of these heroes of the world, and communities of faithfulness to The Way, are in fact, people who have given Jesus Christ the credit for their world-changing vision and actions, and others weren’t and don’t. That, though, in the end, won’t matter one bit, because what any of us really believe, will be revealed when our hearts are laid open to God.

 

This time of a world laid open, like a patient on an operating table whose chest is opened up for the Doctor’s exploratory, surgical intervention, will allow us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to the reality of our actions and the consequences of our choices. It is painful and scary; it is also, the way forward, if we keep our eyes focused on the flickering of a hopeful light at the end of another dark tunnel in our history.

 

We can choose to focus on the crashes and cacophony outside, or we can tune our ears to the calm assurance that is found in the quiet, still voice of The God of Second Chances-Jehovah, and The Creator Who Loves Her Created World – Our Parent, and the Son Who Lived and Died as One With Us- Emmanuel. That God will not leave us alone. But of course, if we keep insisting to have it our way, He will get out of our way.  And despite our Enemy’s best tries, there is A Way, there is The Way, there is only One Way for us to survive, to live, to prevent the death of our planet, and if not our physical, at least prevent our spiritual death. There is One Reality.

This morning, I realized for a small moment, that I should feel sorry for people who live a fiction, a false life, a continual version of themselves as the protagonist of a show that they think of as Real, in the same way they think that what they see on Reality TV is real.  I should feel pity for those who do not live the right kind of life, as I have so often not lived the right kind of life myself. I understood that I am asked to forgive what seems unforgivable, because that is how I am forgiven. This is the miracle of repentance and restoration of my own soul, that by praying for the souls of others, I am healed.

 

I realized that the “biggies” and the movers and shakers of the world are never going to be convinced to give up their “stuff” so that the planet will survive. But I can. I realized some people will never understand how demeaning it is to the very basis of what being human is all about when they care only about themselves. But I can. I realized that the only reason to vent cursing prayers to God, is to cleanse myself from all unrighteousness, so I can finally be still and peaceful and centered enough to hear what God has to say to me.

 

And someday, when the Real Kingdom comes for good, we who have tried to be like Christ, Will Be. When only the little Davids are left, and not the Goliaths; and when only those who care for Creation as their Creator does are left, and when only those who have loved others as Jesus did are left, then they will inherit the New Earth. When we love our neighbor as ourselves and love God with every morsel of our being, every moment of our day, every dot on our life-line, then there will be no more pandemics, no more war, no more sorrow, no more suffering – no more death.  When the world is made right as God intended it to be, then even death will have been conquered.

So, rather than praying for an end to the lives of the bad people and an end to all the bad stuff destroying us, I had best get started on being alive. I had best spend however many moments I have left, becoming one of the Whole, part of the community of good people, and taking care of whatever I have of the stuff that will last.

 

I should pray for the enemies of my own silly self, and those enemies of the world, not because I think they will change, but because by praying for them, I will change.  I should love the enemies of God who take His name in vain, and whose pride has led them into a raging current of hypocrisy, because I am also, hypocritical and abusive of God’s intended purposes for this world. Loving doesn’t mean being silent in the face of lies. Loving doesn’t mean not speaking the Truth boldly, even angrily, when we must. Loving does not mean I think there is no such thing as bad people or sin or sinfulness. Loving means I recognize daily that I am part of both the problem and the solution. By loving even those whom I can see for what they sadly actually are, I can see my own egregious sins more frankly. I can repent and change who I am and pray for grace for those people who are yet unchanged, and ask for a bit of God’s grace for me as well. I can focus on the “YET” not the “never”.  I can live as a truly grateful servant of Christ, and as a humble, dependent child of God.

 

In my dialogue of prayer this morning, this is an interpretation of some of what I understood God to be saying.  I let God get in a few words edgewise in my thoughts and prayers this morning, and My Parent-God said something like this:

 

Child, feel pity for those people who are intent on destroying the Earth– they will not inherit it. Remember that only the meek will live to see a restored creation, so be meek and learn with those who are learning how to care for the planet I entrusted your species with. Child, you must try to learn more about caring for your planet, and love those who are too foolish to know that when they die, they will receive only what they have planted- dust. 

 

Child, feel sorrow for those who claim they know my Son, Jesus who stretched out his arms on a cross for the whole world. Feel sorrow for them, for they do not see Him in the outstretched hands of the needy, as Christ commanded them to do. But you, my child, have another day to seek My Kingdom. Remember that only if you begin to love others as you have long loved yourself, will you enter into My Kingdom. Know that only if men and women are poor in spirit, will they have the Kingdom of Heaven forever.

 

Child, you see the Truth when you understand that the world is full of soul-less ones, of zombies, who think they are alive when they are really dead or dying inside.  You too, have spent far too many days, trying to gain the world, and losing your soul.  Be humbled, and be on guard, against the Devil and his hungry wolves who prowl the earth looking for easy prey.  Do not let your heart be hardened against those other people, but love them, not for their sake, but for the sake of the New Earth, and the New Heaven, that I have in store for all those who follow The Way of The Light. To be persecuted for seeking righteousness, is the Way of my Son, and if you die to yourself, my child, you will be resurrected, now, and in the future, to a glorious Reality.

 

Child, you must not despair, but also, you must not hate. Despair and hatred are mere illusions of something, and are in fact, only the absence of something. This reality that is full of fear and suffering, wrongs done and left undone, of anger and violence and disease and, yes even death, are no more real to God, than any evil ever could be. These things, created by us, and not God, have been passing away from God’s Created Universes, since Adam’s Fall. They will pass away from the earth, as blades of grass blown by A Sovereign Wind. All that will remain for those who will inherit a restored and healthy world, in a reborn humanity, and in the Kingdom of Christ, God’s Son, will be all that has ever been truly real. All that will remain will be “faith, hope, and love.” 

 

And, My Child, the most powerful, lasting, eternal, overcoming, over-whelming, greatest thing that will remain – is Love. So, my Child, focus your life on Flourishing in The Way, just as Christ lived out The Way for you. Seek to Love as We Love you.  My foolish Child, so full of self-righteousness and desire — Today, love Me like a small child loves her Mommy. And work harder at loving others, even when they are destructive and evil, because that kind of Love will someday destroy all the evil in the world, even that which is in yourself. Forgive people who are naughty, in the same way you want to be forgiven. And always Remember–  Love Will Win. So, Love other humans, especially the ones that no one else seems to care about, in the same way you love your own children.

 

And then, dear Little One, Leave the rest to Me. I’ve got this. I’ve got you. In fact, I’ve got the whole world in My Hands.

Enthusiasm and Cost - National Center for Fathering

 

And so, my morning has ended with a pause in my cursing of my enemies. And as I try to figure out what loving enemies has to do with the rebirth of our world and the future of our souls, I end my prayers and start my day, by admitting, I have no idea what it all means, but I can trust that  there is a God Who does. And as the Psalmist in Psalm 139 did after he cursed the bad guys, I can pray for God’s help to be one of the good guys:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my concerns.

See if there is any offensive, wicked way in me;

And lead me in The Way that is everlasting.”

Amen.

God holding the world in his hands photos and clip art pictures ...

The River’s Daughter – Thoughts and Poem

The River’s Daughter

By Jane Tawel

April 6, 2020

 

Rain Rain Come Again

“Rain Rain Come Again” by Marvelous Kerala is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

We’ve had some glorious rain these past days – rare here. I think with everyone sheltering in, and perhaps less smog in the sky because of that, the rain has found more room in our skies.  I love rain and will miss it dearly, knowing its season is always quite short where I live.  This is a rather simplistic but heartfelt attempt, once more, to write an ode to a long-time love of mine – Rain.

I have written several poems about rain and this is the second one that owes much and my deepest thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien’s worldview and specifically his character, Goldberry. I am a pathetic writer and imaginer when compared with the great Tolkien, and I would again and again advise people to read his works over and over again as I have done and will continue to do.  But though I may be humbled by comparison, I am eternally grateful for people like Tolkien who have made me, I hope, a much better human being. At a minimum, the works of writers like Tolkien have made me a much more fulfilled and hopeful seeker.

 

 

The River’s Daughter

By Jane Tawel

*

 

I never hated rainy days.

I always dearly loved them.

There was strange joy, being taken away

From sun and waves and friends.

I found friends old and new in books,

While sheltering-in my bed or nook;

And I, with maybe just a cup,

Of something warm, would stay curled up,

My heart fulfilled its deepest longing,

With dribble drops and pitter-patter song-ing.

 

*

 

And some dear days, umbrella-less,

I’d walk outside, quite fella-less,

But nonetheless, romantic joys

Were mine, regardless of no boys.

I’d lift my face to be caressed

By raindrops, which with great finesse,

Would make my yearning skin quite tingle.

And tears and drops would then co- mingle

In rain’s requited passion, joy, and pain,

That I would find, embracing me, while I embraced my rain.

*

My days are long now and nights are restless,

And memories more prone to stress-tests.

I live in seeming endless deserts,

And thirst for rain’s a constant consort.

*

 

My friends are few and treasured,

But they find different pleasures,

And extrovertly walk in droves,

And find their treasures in the troves,

Of sun and heat and bright blue skies.

But though those things may please my eyes,

I still love best mist, fog and grey;

They brighten up my sojourned days.

In rain I find my source of light,

There are no purer, truer sights,

Of what the world can make and hold,

Of growth, and promise, life and soul.

*

I walk in rain alone,

Or worship it at home.

I never feel I’m friendless,

When I can fill my senses,

With all the ways to pray and play,

In cheerful, watery, rainy days.

*

My pulse is quickened by thundering love,

When lightening throbs in temples above;

And though the streams or seas are distant,

My ardor will remain persistent,

For all things water, water, water,

For liquid is my sacred matter.

Ah, when the world has turned aquatic,

The rain holds my life embryotic.

In showery worlds are room after room,

For this child born of Water’s Womb.

*

 

And when the rains have finally ceased,

I’ll be a squatter in sun’s peace.

And in my mind, I’ll float away,

Remembering—dreaming of the day,

That Fortune will return to me,

The place I dearest love to be.

For I, the River’s Daughter,

Am only home, when I’m in water.

10502152_753243838031494_3009644140909250663_n.jpg

My Daughter Clarissa and I –circa 2014

The Return to A Better Normal

The Things We Will Still Do

The Return to a Better Normal

By Jane Tawel

April 4, 2020

The Problem With Being Normal - A Better Way To Health

 

Yes, it is true as perhaps never before in most of our lifetimes, that this is a great time and opportunity to really look more deeply into our beliefs about our lives, our souls, our jobs, and minds, and hearts, and relationships, and communities, and countries and planet.  Not necessarily in that order, but. . .

 

And by “looking more deeply”, I mean, assessing the importance of things we have taken for granted and weighing the consequences of past behaviors and attitudes – behaviors and attitudes we all had a mere couple of months or weeks ago. For most of us, there has been a paradigm shift in thinking about “What do I want for the future?” to “What do I want for Today?” There has for some us perhaps been an opportunity to meditate on the question: “Do I really want to keep my beliefs and actions from Yesterday”? Most of us are at a minimum needing to look at Time in whole new ways, as our Time both contracts and expands in rather mind-bending, choice- assessing, and relationship-shifting ways.  This is something that many of us are finding, would have been a better way to think all along, and so we have a unique opportunity if we survive this latest means to death (there is always some means, don’t forget). We have an opportunity to change the way we think and live, and to determine, “What are the things I want to keep doing”? “What must I really stop doing for the benefit of any of the stated arenas of a life as listed in the first sentence of this essay”?  “How do I want this gift of Today to change the World’s Chance at a Tomorrow?”

 

I like the philosophy that has been going around in various constructs, that as we hope to someday return to normal, we should decide what of “normal” is worth keeping.  So, although I didn’t feel like writing today, I do feel that writing about things and sharing ideas with others, is a normal I want to keep.  Hence, I started a list of things I have been doing while quarantining, and fighting the Corona Virus one immune strengthening regimen and protective action at a time; and a list of a kind of “off the cuff” reassessing of what I would like to change, if I am lucky enough to have a tomorrow to change for. I started thinking about what I want my new “normal” to be more like than my old “normal” was.  I highly recommend you start your own list, much as people used to do with Bucket Lists.  Maybe share your list with people who will stay important to you in tomorrow’s normal, and find out what they hope will change or stay the same for them. May you seek goodness and find love wherever and whatever your normal is today.

 

My “Return to a Better Normal” List

 

  1. I want to continue to be a better “reacher-outer” to friends and family. I want to keep calling, texting, face-timing, emailing them about their health, both physical and spiritual and mental. I want communication to be both more important as well as something that feels normal, not special.  I want to listen more and enjoy more the little stories and shared perspectives.  I want to keep giving advice to people I love and taking advice from them seriously. I also want to stop giving advice, and just “be” with others. I want to just enjoy the presence of another human being in that very moment as the most wonderful miracle of my day.
  2. I want to keep believing that it is important to take care of the animals that we let into our lives. I want to keep spending ridiculous amounts of money for my old dogs’ care until they just can’t go on living their happy little lives.  I want to forgive their incontinence and grumpiness and Daisy’s Sundowner’s barking at all hours of the night and morning, and hope some human will do the same for me when I am like that.  I want to treat the neighborhood cat that comes calling as the majestic beast he considers himself to be, and enjoy his willingness to hang out with me sometimes. I want to really listen without commentary to the songs of birds. I want to mourn the death of every bee and feel anguish at the wild animals displaced from their homes by people’s greed and ignorance. I want to think of the friendly beasts as my brothers and sisters, and regain some sort of native spiritual relationship to their presence on this planet.  And I hope someday, that when I am on my way out, that I will die with the same amount of dignity and love that animals die with, leaving behind as much joy in people’s memories of me, as our animals do for us.
  3. I want to keep listening to music, but I also want to keep making music, even though I am not good at it or famous and never will be. I want to sing and play guitar and piano more often, and be an active participant as well as an appreciative, listening audience. Music feeds. That’s all that needs to be said. We need music like we need food, and listening is nourishing, but creating music is like cooking a homemade dish to enjoy. I don’t need to be a competitive or famous chef to make a meal that I and others enjoy.  I don’t need to be a concert pianist or a rock star to make music that feeds me. I just need to enjoy “eating” it.  This is true for my writing as well. I thrive on reading other’s writing, but I grow from writing myself, not as an ends but as a means.

 

There are many things in the world of art or nature, that you might want to substitute for my thoughts on music and writing. Whatever it is, take time to feed yourself and feed others with those things whenever possible. If you are never going to climb Kilimanjaro but you love hiking or walking, do more of it, for the sheer pleasure of feeding yourself. Nature is Eternity’s Best Artist, after all.

 

If you love museums or movies or plays, imbibe more of them more often, and then find your own way to create. You don’t have to be a great artist to enjoy painting, or quilting, or gardening.  Using our senses to see and taste and hear and touch and move are those things that most deeply feed our souls. Using our abilities to create, no matter how small or humble that creation, is a gift – to ourselves, to others, and somehow, mystically and spiritually, to the Created Universe. Food is meant to help us grow, after all. So dine on what best feeds you and grow by creating it yourself.

  1. I want to stop buying so much stuff. I want to accept that except for food and drink (and of course, now we realize, toilet paper), I have enough stuff to last me three life-times, probably. I want my new normal to see constant shopping, as the raging addiction it has become in America, at least, and in my own life. I want to believe that true simplicity is something I can still accomplish, even though I will never realize my dream of becoming Amish. I want to believe that it is better to “hold things lightly” in my hands. I want to stop grasping so much and so hard, and  walk through the world with open hands and an open heart.
  2. I want to keep focusing on the humanity of anyone who is within six feet of me at any given time. I have long thought it oddly frightening to see people pass within “hello-ing” distance of other people – on a sidewalk, or a grocery aisle – and not even make eye-contact, not say “hi”, not even admit that there is another sacred, valuable, important being right there close by.  To me, that has been one of the most telling indications that we have become zombies. During this quarantine, people have ironically been friendlier and more connected now that we are more aware of the community around us and have more time on our hands to stroll outside with six feet of separation. But there are still people who think that even if you are six feet away, they will still “catch something bad” from you and I have no doubt these kinds of people will, once released from quarantine, continue to wear the Mask of Stranger, and wield the Protective Weapon of Busy with My Cell Phone, and be The Inhuman Zombies who no longer act human except for the fact they can still locomote.  My family laughs at me for being a “stranger- magnet”, and I hope if I survive this illness, that I will continue to be that person who considers another human being important enough to take note of, even if they don’t take any notice of me. I hope I will still find even a stranger within six feet of me,  more valuable than anything but the most important of cell phone calls. I hope I will not give up my humanity, even when we are all back to long lines at stores and jam-packed freeways.
  3. When and if, I get to be one of the privileged ones to return to normal, I hope I will continue to think about dying soon. I hope I will, as the ancient monks used to do, “keep death daily before my eyes”.   Some monks used to have a real human skull kept on a shelf in their bedrooms to remind them that death is only a heartbeat away, and that we are to “die daily” to the bad things and live for Good. Thinking that today is possibly my last, is a good way to embrace life. But I want to embrace a life worth living – more worth living that my life was yesterday.   I want to live for Good. I really want a more normal view of the importance of a life that strives for truth and love in equal parts, that speaks out against injustice, ignorance, and lies, that is kind and forgiving without expecting anything in return, that is spiritual without being proud or hypocritical, and a life in this very moment, that is humbly accepted with joy – a momentary gift that is given, not as something I am owed, but as a great and miraculous gift for this glorious day.
  4. In the new normal, I want to remember this time as the time I learned that you have to care for others if you want to survive. I want my new normal to be putting others before myself. I want to understand that the World’s Great Golden Rule, is exactly that:  a rule. Loving others as I would have others love me, is a rule like sheltering in place, like washing my hands, like coughing into my elbow, like only taking essentials and not hoarding, like taking better care of  first-responders and medical personnel, like caring for the least of the least, like old people, and homeless people, and like giving up something I merely want to do or have, for the good of others, to protect them and care for them, and treat them with the respect for their lives,  hearts, souls, and health, that I would like others to do for me – living into the idea of a perfect world for myself as I do for others.

This Great Golden Rule is meant to be a rule, like our communal rules for survival during this pandemic. I wish that religious people had been living according to The Great Rule, but now we may understand that the Great, True Rules of all Beliefs, All Peoples, and for Eternity are not rules for religious reasons. Just like rules during a pandemic cross all political and religious barriers and lines, so must I believe that the rule of “Loving God and Loving Others as I would be Loved” are not held uniquely by any belief system but by a Reality that crosses all Time, all History, all Space, all peoples –All . We are not following rules right now for our own selfish gain,  but for survival reasons. And that is what the new normal must realize– that  true, even sacrificial, loving is necessary for the survival of the planet, for the survival of our very lives, and, if one does believe in a spiritual world,  for the survival of our very human souls.

 

  1. I want my new normal to be as slowed down as these quarantined days and I want the world’s children and this young generation to realize they can – must!—slow down. There is nothing worth more than this very day and this very day is all there is. I hope the metaphoric treadmills across this nation will stay as still as the gym treadmills have been during our stay at home times. I hope this time of enforced slow-down, will make a new generation (and my old one) realize that we have been speeding our lives along to no purpose; we have allowed ourselves to work too much and take play too seriously. We have forgotten how to live as we work ourselves to zombie-like existence.  I hope when we all return to normal, that we won’t allow power and money and fear to keep telling us how we have to live to get ahead. I hope we will value much more the people and professions that truly add value to all of our lives.  I hope resistance will be the new norm, and that by resisting together, we may find rest together.
  2. There is actually a town I used to live near, called Normal, Illinois. I want to think of the future as a place as real as that city of Normal in that Midwestern State.  I want to think of Normal, America (or whatever country one finds oneself in) as a place that we will make better, clean up, care for, think of as our home that we share with others. I want to make a home in Normal, The World, and help others realize it can no longer be a place where living as a loner is accepted, or where being an individualist, while it may take you far in terms of money and position, will not protect you from pandemics, from loneliness, from unhappiness or despair, and will not protect a single human being from the inevitability of death. I want Normal, The World, to be a place where we love our community and realize how much we all need each other.  I want the tombstones in Normal, to all have this epitaph: “We Cared for Each Other. We Put Love First. We Live-On Forever Because We Loved.”

 

Seeing the future as a real place is a little like people used to see Heaven or Shangri-la.  I say used to, because now people see Heaven as a reward for certain beliefs, rather than a place we are meant to work for.  I want to believe that this Earth is also meant to be, as the prophets say, “The Kingdom of God” and I am meant to work for it, in it, and for all those here, now as if they too, are meant to be in a different kind of Kingdom, a different kind of Normal.

 

If we can learn anything from this pandemic, shouldn’t we learn that we are all connected, all in this together, all worthy of life and love and all a part of making the world a better place?  And most importantly, can we not at least remember what is truly better – what we truly need for a better world, what we need to start doing? Can remembering what was good and best about this difficult time, not help us take that good and best into a new normal? Can keeping the new normal of our sheltering, quarantined days, please help us create a New Normal that, with a bit of imagination and individual sacrifice for communal survival, can be a Real Place? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to walk out of these dark days into A Kingdom of Heaven here, among us, a new normal of love and light and kindness and hope and joy and sharing and peace?

 

My List of Items Today for a Better Normal:

Joy in the Journey.

Gratitude.

Care-full-ness.

Giving-heart.

Hope.

Resistance.

Simplicity.

Truth.

Love.

 

What will be my new Normal if we survive?

love

 

And now, for the closing “ditty” to lighten your load perhaps.

 

I’ve found myself uprooted,

Cuz going out’s been booted,

Not to the curb exactly,

But since matter-of-factly,

We have to shelter in,

If Life is going to win,

Rather than think this strange,

We must decide to change.

 

Let’s buckle up and live right,

And let this dark, sad night,

Help us to stop our moping,

And get-on some group hoping.

 

It hasn’t been too easy,

And most of us feel queasy,

From fear and boring pursuits,

But let’s put down some deep roots.

Let’s plant seeds in our souls and hearts,

And make some headway, or a start,

In caring for each other,

And for the Earth, Our Mother.

 

And while we talk morality,

Is that the same normalcy,

We really want to have again,

For future X, Y and Z Gens?

 

This is it —  our only time.

So please forgive this silly rhyme,

But please find ways among these days,

To toss the bad, and keep the good always.

And may your best loves guide you,

And when I hope you’ve got through,

I’ll see you on the other side of sorrow,

To make together, a better Tomorrow.

Stay strong. Stay sane. Seek love and joy. Seek change. Be healthy and hopeful. And care for others in the way you would like the future world to care for you.

With Love, From, Never Exactly Normal Jane

 

 

 

 

And Now, Love — a short love poem

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Raoul and Jane, circa 2018

 

And Now, Love

By Jane Tawel

March 30, 2020

For Raoul

 

*

And now, Love, we wind down,

As Memory’s lane leads on,

 of shared passion and old fuss.

There is no longer need;

But mere desire, hotter than mere lust.

*

Once, Love, we shall again

Be true to greater selves than them;

And we will paint woods green, and dance,

Finding sun and making rain,

Imagination spooning romance.

*

Ah, Love, Tomorrow never comes

Divorced as it must be from Life.

Your face, your hands, your touch,

All elemental to my Why;

To our wed meaning, you are much to much.

*

And Now, Love, we re-learn, re-grow.

We find our way, anew.

And Now, Love, we may finally know,

That you are all to me, and I, to you.

What If We Discover How To Live?

Abandoned Shelter

“Abandoned Shelter” by carva822 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

What If We Discover How to Live?

By Jane Tawel

March 24, 2020

*

What if we discover

that this is how we were meant to live?

What if by sheltering from the world,

We find shelter in each other?

*

What if we discover

That this is how we save the planet?

Not by using, craving, hoarding, earning, making, shipping, storing

more and more and more and more and more and more,

But by simply doing less?

*

What if we discover

That life is more entertaining when lived,

Than when watched?

That love is more meaningful when given,

Than when received?

What if we learn that

Hope is more fierce than fear ever could be?

That waiting and watching are more pleasant than grasping and greeding?

That Good will conquer both ignorance and evil if we believe it can?

What if we learn our best lesson

While school is out?

*

But….

What if

We never discover anything

more lasting

Than this unsettling moment?

What if we return to what we were

Before?

What if we go backwards,

Again,

Not forwards,

For once?

What if we forget–

And by forgetting

Lose all?

*

What if we find

we really would still rather discover far-off places,

than seek the places close to heart and home?

What if we keep gaining the world

And losing our souls?

What if some of us still believe that

 tax shelters and oil

Are more important than birds and bees?

What if we continue to worship

At the trough, like sheep,

believing the world’s money players will save us

While we cheer from the sidelines?

What if we still believe that morality is

A problem for them, not us?

What if our convenience and comfort

are still more important than our existence?

And what if we discover

that we liked things just fine–

Before we thought we might have to die for them?

What if we never learn that we’ve been dying for them all along?

*

What if we discover too late that

we have already abandoned

the shelter of each other?

 

*

But what if we can finally, truly, earnestly, humbly learn

like a eureka,

like an epiphany,

like a salvation —

That every day always has had

Always will have

Always

holds a choice

Between death and life?

*

What if the only questions we should have asked are:

What are we dying for?

What will we live for?

*

What if we discover that it was actually quite practical —

(Not esoteric at all)

To believe:

That the meek will inherit the earth–

Because they were the only ones who learned how to care for it?

That the last among us–

will be the honored ones

 because they were the first responders?

What if we discover that the least will be the greatest–

Because they learned how to survive and still love

 with so little?

*

And what if we discover

 that the only thing that matters

In the end–

When the clock stops for each of us—

As it will

As it surely will–

The only thing we have ever needed to learn—

Is what to do with love?

*

What if we discover that—

In the shelter of each other,

We will live?

*

Please enjoy this video of the beautiful song by Jars of Clay, entitled “Shelter”.               May you be bound to hope today.– Jane