politics or love
can make you blind or make you see
make you a slave or make you free
but only one does it all
and it’s giving up your life
for the ones you hate the most
it’s giving them your gown
when they’ve taken your clothes
it’s learning to admit
when you’ve had a hand in setting them up
in knocking them down
love is not against the law
love is not against the law
are we defending life
when we just pick and choose
lives acceptable to lose
and which ones to defend
‘cause you cannot choose your friends
but you choose your enemies
and what if they were one
one and the same
could you find a way
to love them both the same
to give them your name
love is not against the law
love is not against the law
politics or love
I'm just reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, and at the point I just read, Alyosha, who is a novice at a monastery is kneeling listening to one of the Fathers read the gospel over a priest who just died, and he is reading through the passage of the first miracle Jesus performed, turning water into wine. In the passage, Alyosha (nickname for Alexey) is reflecting on the passage and how it is such an un-religious miracle. He is thinking that the family must be very poor, because even at a wedding they don't have wine enough to go around, and that historians have said that the people in that area were very poor. He reflects that Christ takes pleasure in giving those people a simple pleasure, which to them surely seemed more than a simple pleasure, but something to rejoice over. The thought comes to him that he who loves man loves his gladness, and that Christ's first miracle was simply to help man's gladness at a celebration. It's the first time I'd ever really thought about this, but it gladdens my heart that Christ would be concerned even with something so seemingly simple as this. For some reason it makes Christ appear in a very real way as a person who loves humanity, not only generally, but specifically as well. We have such a good God.
Of prayer, of love, and of contact with other worlds
Young man, be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education. Remember too, every day, whenever you can, repeat to yourself, "Lord, have mercy on all who appear before Thee to-day." For every hour and every moment thousands of men leave life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And how many of them depart in solitude, unkown, sad, dejected, that no one mourns for them or even knows whether they have lived or not. And behold, from the other end of the earth perhaps, your prayer for their rest will rise up to God though you knew them not nor they you. How touching it must be to a soul standing in dread before the Lord to feel at that instant that, for him too, there is one to pray, that there is a fellow creature left on earth to love him too. And God will look on you both more graciously, for if you have had so much pity on him, how much more will He have pity Who is infinitely more loving and merciful than you. And He will forgive him for your sake.
Brothers, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don't harass them, don't deprive them of their happiness, don't work against God's intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to the animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you - alas, it is true of almost every one of us! Love children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and as it were to guide us. Woe to him who offends a child! Father Anfim taught me to love children. The kind, silent man used often on our wanderings to spend the farthings given us on sweets and cakes for the children. He could not pass by a child without emotion, that's the nature of the man.
At some thoughts one stands perplexed, especially at the sight of men's sin, and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvellously strong, the strongest of all things and there is nothing else like it.
Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenceless heart. You don't know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, and all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Brothers, love is a teacher; but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labour. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Every one can love occasionally, even the wicked can.
My brother asked the birds to forgive him; that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. It may be senseless to beg forgiveness of the birds, but birds would be happier at your side - a little happier, anyway - and children and all animals, if you yourself were nobler than you are now. It's all like an ocean, I tell you. Then you would pray to the birds too, consumed by an all-embracing love, in a sort of transport, and pray that they too will forgive you your sin. Treasure this ecstasy, however senseless it may seem to men.
My friends, pray to God for gladness. Be glad as children, as the birds of heaven. And let not the sin of men confound you in your doings. Fear not that it will wear away your work and hinder its being accomplished. Do not say, "Sin is mighty, wickedness is mighty, evil environment is mighty, and we are lonely and helpless, and evil environment is wearing us away and hindering our good work from being done." Fly from that dejection, children! There is only one means of salvation, then take yourself and make yourself responsible for all men's sins, that is the truth, you know, friends, for as soon as you sincerely make yourself responsible for everything and for all men, you will see at once that it is really so, and that you are to blame for every one and for all things. But throwing your own indolence and impotence on others you will end by sharing the pride of Satan and murmuring against God.
Of the pride of Satan what I think is this: it is hard for us on earth to comprehend it, and therefore it is so easy to fall into error and to share it, even imagining that we are doing something grand and fine. Indeed many of the strongest feelings and movements of our nature we cannot comprehend on earth. Let not that be a stumbling-block, and think not that it may serve as a justification to you for anything. For the Eternal Judge asks of you what you can comprehend and not what you cannot. You will know that yourself hereafter, for you will behold all things truly then and will not dispute them. On earth, indeed, we are as it were astray, and if it were not for the precious image of Christ before us, we should be undone and altogether lost, as was the human race before the flood. Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystic sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. That is why the philosophers say that we cannot apprehend the reality of things on earth.
God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew up and everything came up that could come up, but what grows lives and is alive only through the feeling of its contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, the heavenly growth will die away in you. then you will be indifferent to life and even grow to hate it. that's what I think.
why is it so hard for me to believe that someone might love me as much as I love them? why do I have such easy doubt? why is it that even though it rationally seems to be so, that I still have this nagging voice in the back of my head saying "no, people don't love like that, do they?" why can't it be more natural to assume people love than to assume that they don't?
maybe because we just don't get involved in each other's lives enough to really know. because this doubt doesn't exist with regard to Patrina. maybe we just need both time and depth in order to experience someone's consistent love and to become confident of it.
the following passage is between a woman of society and an elder in a monastery, and begins with the woman talking to the elder.
"Oh, how thankful I am to you! You see, I shut my eyes and ask myself if every one has faith, where did it come from? And then they do say that it all comes from terror at the menacing phenomena of nature, and that none of it's real. And I say to myself, 'What if I've been believing all my life, and when I come to die there's nothing but the burdocks growing on my grave?' as I read in some author. It's awful! How - how can I get back my faith? But I only believed when I was a little child, mechanically, without thinking of anything. How, how is one to prove it? I have come now to lay my soul before you and to ask you about it. If I let this chance slip, no one all my life will answer me. How can I prove it? How can I convince myself? Oh, how unhappy I am! I stand and look about me and see that scarcely any one else cares; no one troubles his head about it, and I'm the only one who can't stand it. It's deadly - deadly!"
"No doubt. But there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it."
"By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbour actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain."
"In active love? There's another question - and such a question! You see, I so love humanity that - would you believe it? - I often dream of forsaking all that I have, leaving Lise, and becoming a sister of mercy. I close my eyes and think and dream, and at that moment I feel full of strength to overcome all obstacles. No wounds, no festering sores could at that moment frighten me. I would bind them up and wash them with my own hands. I would nurse the afflicted. I would be ready to kiss such wounds."
"It is much, and well that your mind is full of such dreams and not others. Sometime, unawares, you may do a good deed in reality."
"Yes. But could I endure such a life for long?" the lady went on fervently, almost frantically. "That's the chief question - that's my most agonising question. I shut my eyes and ask myself, 'Would you persevere long on that path? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not meet you with gratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing or remarking your chartiable services, began abusing you and rudely commanding you, and complaining to the superior authorities of you (which often happens when people are in great suffering) - what then? Would you persevere in your love, or not?' And do you know, I came with horror to the conclusion that, if anything could dissipate my love to humanity, it would be ingratitude. In short, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment at once - that is, praise, and the repayment of love with love. Otherwise I am incapable of loving any one."
She was in a very paroxysm of self-castigation, and, concluding, she looked with defiant resolution at the elder.
"It's just the same story as a doctor once told me," observed the elder. "He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. 'I love humanity,' he said, 'but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,' he said, 'I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with any one for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as any one is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he's too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.'"
"But what's to be done? What can one do in such a case? Must one despair?"
"No. It is enough that you are distressed at it. Do what you can, and it will be reckoned unto you. Much is done already in you since you can so deeply and sincerely know yourself. If you have been talking to me so sincerely, simply to gain approbation for your frankness, as you did from me just now, then of course you will not attain to anything in the achievement of real love; it will all get no further than dreams, and your whole life will slip away like a phantom. In that case you will naturally cease to think of the future life too, and will of yourself grow calmer after a fashion in the end."
"You have crushed me! Only now, as you speak, I understand that I was really only seeking your approbation for my sincerity when I told you I could not endure ingratitude. You have revealed me to myself. You have seen through me and explained me to myself!"
"Are you speaking the truth? Well, now, after such a confession, I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love. Don't be frightened overmuch even at your evil actions. I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting further from your goal instead of nearer to it - at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you. Forgive me for not being able to stay longer with you. They are waiting for me. Good-bye."
Life inside the music box ain't easy.
The mallets hit, the gears are always turning
and everyone inside the mechanism
is yearning to get out.
And sing another melody completely
So different from the one they're always singing
I close my eyes and think that i have found me
but then i feel mortality surround me.
I want to sing another melody
so different from the one I always sing
But when I do the dishes
I run the water very very very hot
and then I fill the sink to the top with bubbles of soap
and then I set all the bottle caps I own afloat
and it's the greatest voyage in the history of plastic
and then I slip my hands in and start to make waves
and then I dip my tongue in and take a taste
it tastes like soap but it doesn't really taste like soap
and then I lower in my whole mouth and take a gulp
and start to feel mortality surround me
I close my eyes and think I have found me
but life inside the music box ain't easy
the mallets hit, the gears are always turning
and everyone inside the mechanism
to get out
and sing another melody completely
to get out
to get out
to get out
By a mad miracle I go intact
Among the common rout
Thronging sidewalk, street,
And bickering shops;
Nobody blinks a lid, gapes,
Or cries that this raw flesh
Reeks of the butcher's cleaver,
Its heart and guts hung hooked
And bloodied as a cow's split frame
Parceled out by white-jacketed assassins.
Oh no, for I strut it clever
As a greenly escaped idiot,
Buying wine, bread,
Yellow-casqued chrysanthemums -
Arming myself with the most reasonable items
To ward off, at all cost, suspicions
Roused by thorned hands, feet, head
And that great wound
From the flayed side.
Even as my each mangled nerve-end
Trills its hurt out
Above pitch of pedestrian ear,
So, perhaps I, knelled dumb by your absence,
Alone can hear
Sun's parched scream,
Every downfall and crash
Of gutted star,
And, more daft than any goose,
This cracked world's incessant gabble and hiss.
maybe we're wrong that the best way to live life is to be intentional with people, to spend a lot of effort investing in them and trying to be a part of their lives. maybe the best thing in life is to find the one person you really understand and who really understands you (in my case, Trina) and focus everything on them, giving everyone else the absolute minimal necessary investment and involvement. sometimes that option sounds much more appealing, and less exhausting. maybe the world is just too far gone, and people too deeply injured to be able to desire deep connection with more than one person. who knows. i certainly don't. well, on we go...
everything seems a little bit off today... i kind of feel in a bubble like Trina and I are stuck inside and we can't touch anything outside... or that somehow everything outside has begun operating by different rules or something. weird day...
The photographic chamber of the eye
records bare painted walls, while an electric light
flays the chromium nerves of plumbing raw;
such poverty assaults the ego; caught
naked in the merely actual room,
the stranger in the lavatory mirror
puts on a public grin, repeats our name
but scrupulously reflects the usual terror.
Just how guilty are we when the ceiling
reveals no cracks that can be decoded? when washbowl
maintains it has no more holy calling
than physical ablution, and the towel
dryly disclaims that fierce troll faces lurk
in its explicit folds? or when the window,
blind with steam, will not admit the dark
which shrouds our prospects in ambiguous shadow?
Twenty years ago, the familiar tub
bred an ample batch of omens; but now
water faucets spawn no danger; each crab
and octopus - scrabbling just beyond the view,
waiting for some accidental break
in ritual, to strike - is definitely gone;
the authentic sea denies them and will pluck
fantastic flesh down to the honest bone.
We take the plunge; under water our limbs
waver, faintly green, shuddering away
from the genuine color of skin; can our dreams
ever blur the intransigent lines which draw
the shape that shuts us in? absolute fact
intrudes even when the revolted eye
is closed; the tub exists behind our back:
its glittering surfaces are blank and true.
Yet always the ridiculous nude flanks urge
the fabrication of some cloth to cover
such starkness; accuracy must not stalk at large:
each day demands we create our whole world over,
disguising the constant horror in a coat
of many-colored fictions; we mask our past
in the green of eden, pretend future's shining fruit
can sprout from the navel of this present waste.
In this particular tub, two knees jut up
like icebergs, while minute brown hairs rise
on arms and legs in a fringe of kelp; green soap
navigates the tidal slosh of seas
breaking on legendary beaches; in faith
we shall board our imagined ship and wildly sail
among sacred islands of the mad till death
shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real.