THE SEED CATALOG / October, November, December 2005
HOW WELL DO WE WAIT?
Waiting is an inevitable part of life; so HOW we wait determines whether we will have a good time at it or not. We can wait in a mood of resignation, passively, helplessly; we can be resentful and fidgety – or we can regard waiting as an opportunity to practice patience and creativity –but how? I try to “strike a pose,” to posture my wait, not weirdly, but in such a way that I can subtly stretch without seeming to show off any tai chi simulations. If standing or sitting still, I roughly assume a stance based on the famous sculpture, The Thinker, folding my arms, with one hand under the chin, and positioning my knuckles so that the eyes are reflectively focused thereupon, breathing free and easy. It’s very relaxing, if only for a little while.
-- Bill Joyner
I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled! … Do you suppose that I came to bring peace to the world? Not peace, but division … – Luke 12:49
Whoever comes to me cannot be my disciple unless he hates his father and his mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and his sisters, and himself as well. -- Luke 14:26
9/11 and The Big Tent Show
The Abundant Life Tent Meeting occurred recently in Sarasota. Being a huge fan of tents, you might think I would be overjoyed, but I became disenthralled by this kind of tent show a long time ago. As you open the folder that’s in everybody’s mailbox, right at the top, there is a gruesome drawing of the four apocalyptic horsemen, below which is a headline, “U.S. ATTACKED” and a photo of the world trade towers aflame on 9/11. The sermon topics seem rather innocuous (“Peace of Mind – How to Find It”), but the overall intent is clear – to scare the living hell out of anybody gullible enough to go there and to rip off as much of their money as possible by touting “the prosperity gospel,” aka, the more you give to their ministry the more you will be spiritually AND materially blessed – big time! It’s the Divine Lottery: the more you put in the plate the better you’re chances for raking in the goodies; not only the “absolutely free” ticket to glory, prepaid by the blood of the Lamb, but the possibility of immense, unbelievable wealth and prosperity in this world, as well. And remember, if you don’t play you can’t win.
My Own Personal Rant on Iraq, New Orleans and the Whole Human Scene
At first, after Hurricane Katrina blew away New Orleans and vicinity, I thought, “This is not a time for angry rants about who’s to blame. This is a time for sorrow, public sanity and restraint.” The editorial page of The New York Times today, Wednesday, September 7, 2005, and related Op Ed pieces by Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd, convinced me otherwise, their theme being, Let’s Do Play the Blame Game!
The blame for the situation we’re in globally and locally may, in my humble opinion, be justifiably laid at the door of the present US administration, as articles alluded to above clearly document. I did not vote for Bush/Cheney, but I helped them out by not doing nearly enough to support Al Gore and John Kerry. My complicity has been my silence. I can yet see wisdom in some ongoing actions, for instance, facing down Jihadist/Facist terrorists in a place where their Pol Pot potpourri of nihilistic violence is on disgusting display every day. The current administration has, nevertheless, in my view, shot itself in the foot by -- as one official gleefully admitted -- taking “big government” into the bathroom and flushing it down the drain as quickly as possible. Right wing “spin doctors” have provided a steady drumbeat of propaganda to justify an anti-FDR approach to every social need. And much of orientation derives, I believe, from the all-pervasive philosophy of Ann Rynd, who celebrated (in her books, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, et al, and her most revealing title, The Art of Selfishness) a Horatio Alger/Forrest Gump version of reality whereby the people who work hard and look out for themselves make it and the others deservedly do not. In the case of New Orleans, such reasoning gives rise to popular opinions such as, “Most of the people who didn’t leave probably were so used to being on government assistance that they figured they could just stay put and the government would come and rescue them.”
Next year, 2006, we’ll have a chance to vote in another national election, and, along with The Who, I hope we won’t be fooled again!
The Infantile Appeal of Apocalyptic Religion
The Infantile Appeal of Apocalyptic Religion
The verses above, attributed to Jesus, thrilled my heart when I was a somewhat idealistic young man, around 1952. I had just recently been “saved” or “born again” at a big revival meeting, so the idea of radical commitment to a cause greater than my family, myself, and even greater than life itself sounded just fine to me. Those words of Jesus, standing alone and out of context, seem more like a call to war nowadays. Of course, we do want to be fully committed to something worth living or dying for, and here we are being asked, “Do you have the resolve to carry through and achieve what you desire? Do you know how much a vow of discipleship and commitment will cost you?” Within the larger New Testament context, Jesus’ words are decidedly not a call for revolutionary violence, because the struggle to which people are called is assertively beneficent throughout.
Why is there such a perennial fascination with apocalyptic rhetoric and “end of the world” scenarios? I suspect it may have something to do with adolescent idealism, as well as with juvenile nihilism, aided and abetted by the entertainment industry and its tendency to exploit the perverse desire of young men and boys particularly either to blow things up, or to watch things blowing up. I partly educated myself as a boy with the aid of comic books, western movies and adventure stories, all of which involved violent confrontations. From such profane sources, I did learn about nobility, as well, but I was far into adulthood before I got over an early fondness for guns and explosions.
A scene from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN stays with me as a revelation and an epiphany. It is the final scene in which Boris Karloff (the resurrected “monster”), having been repelled by the screams of Elsa Lancaster (the bride), stands with his hand on the destruct lever as the doctors of doom cry out, “Get away from that lever, you’ll blow us all to bits!” To which the monster replies, “We belong dead,” and brings down the castle in one giant blast. I can no longer think about that scene without reflecting upon suicide bombers and other religious fanatics panting for the end of the world. Their fiery visions of Armageddon serve no useful purpose and are, in fact, nothing more than a sick form of nihilism disguised as piety. The dreaded mantra of death cult fanatics is Mohammed Atta’s final message to his fellow 9/11 butchers, “Now we pledge allegiance to death!”
Oh yes, we might believe in the rapture and think, “it’s not going to be my problem anyway, so who cares – the sooner the better!” Could there possibly be a more un-Christian, irresponsible or inhumane attitude? Those who take these biblical myths of the apocalypse so literally and so childishly would do well, I think, to consider the apocalyptic harm that we ourselves are perpetuating against this beautiful world. When we are out of patience with ourselves and with humankind, when we secretly or openly long for the end of the world, we are doing the work of despair, not the work of faith and healing. Hal Lindsey’s best seller THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, with it’s lurid cover drawing of the earth going down in flames, as well as the ridiculous LEFT BEHIND novels of Tim Lahayne and Jerry Jenkins, are nothing more than sensational, fear-soaked evocations of the ever-popular myth of Revelations, which very few can understand or properly interpret, least of all these ill-educated, money grabbing bozo evangelists.
I’ll take my inspiration, instead, from the dominant New Testament revelation of a loving God who cares for his creation and for our planetary home far more than we do. The worst irony of all to me is that the millions upon millions who are avidly absorbing all of this “end time” claptrap are being indoctrinated to disregard human participation in the ecological crisis and to blame it all on God! “This world is not my home,” they say, “I’m just passing through,” and “Only God can destroy the world.” Of course, the TV preachers and the tent show fear mongers can quote the Bible endlessly to justify their version of current events, but how can their message ultimately produce anything but profound existential despair. Unless, of course, one accepts their completely arrogant “one way only to heaven” obsession and settles down to a life of selfish complacency and indifference regarding the ecological deterioration of this world?
-- Bill Joyner (8-31-05)
“One thing’s for sure, there ain’t no cure, if you throw it all away.” -- Bob Dylan
We all dance to a mysterious tune,
intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.
-- Albert Einstein
Like trees and plants and other forms of life,
we emerge from seeds, develop, flourish,
and dissolve, perchance to be reborn.
is hard work,
but when it’s
is most of
About 45 folks have ordered my book THE CELESTIAL CAROUSEL (A Circus of Spiritual Discovery), and I do expect it to be mailed out by the end of this year. It’s a riot of hip drawings, quotations and half-baked, somewhat poetic speculations by myself. $20.00 will cover the postage, the book, and the whole shebang if you’re interested.
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Before I look it up, here are some things I think are meant by the word “catharsis.” I judge it to be something powerful enough to possibly create and/or consolidate radical change, an immediate or delayed reaction perhaps to some “out of the blue” event, ecstatic or traumatic, that shakes and reshapes our thinking and our very being.
I will recount a personal example, avoiding rather important, yet superfluous details. Decades ago, I was seriously aspiring to retrieve some standing in the professional world, an aspiration that was definitively denied after several years of preparation. Following the decisive meeting at which this rejection was formally received, I tried to maintain my composure and more or less staggered into the street to make my way back home. There was no particular hurry about getting there, however, so I stopped at a theatre and saw EMPIRE OF THE SUN, Stephen Spielberg’s movie about an English boy (Christian Bale -- the latest Batman -- in his first role!) separated from his parents in China during WW II. This film, for me at that moment, was a total catharsis. I silently wept through the whole movie, for myself and for the characters in this beautiful, tragic vision.
Grief and regret are never completely easy, nor can anguish be avoided forever -- therefore, the sooner and the more thoroughly we can access and process such emotions, the better.
On WMNF in Tampa (88.5) – or www.wmnf.org -- Tom Henderson has a bluegrass show at 7 P.M. on Monday nights. Last week, he said that his mom used to turn off the music in their house because he was crying, and he would say to her, “That’s the whole idea behind bluegrass music. It makes you cry!” And I thought, yes, it helps you feel what you’re feeling, and, if some such influence gets hold of you, go with it!
n Bill Joyner (7-26-05)
catharsis: “emotional release, purgation”