Last week in Haiti

Last week was the Festival of Our Lady of Carmel, in Haiti, a religious festival extremely important to both the Catholic and Vodou believers of the nation. It stems from a 19th century event where there was supposedly a visitation by the Holy Virgin (or Erzulie, depending on your persuasion, or both, for it seems like a lot of people) at the waterfall in Saut d'Eau (yes, French majors, I know it means 'waterfall'. I didn't name it). Every year now during the festival, people from all over Haiti, and even Haitian expats in places like Miami, make a pilgrimage to the falls, to bathe in the waterfalls. The Guardian has a beautiful multimedia presentation of some shots from this year. It was heart-breaking to me, to read about people, in this year where people are eating dirt cakes, and fighting all the ancient problems of Haiti, spend a weeks worth of wages to make a trip to a waterfall in the middle of nowhere and plead with God for mercy. Heart-breaking, depressing, inspiring, reverence-inducing, hopeful, all at once.

Blogged from: Spiritual cleansing in Haiti | World news | guardian.co.uk

PS - I also, went and transcribed information into the Stub article for Saut d'Eau on Wikipedia. My first ever Wikipedia edit, I feel so growed-up, now!

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Eli, Eli

(beautiful image from here. Strange that a musing on Christ, Faith and Emily Dickinson can be illustrated by a blog on Beat poets.)

Reading about Emily Dickinson brings back all the moments of reading, everywhere, that you have a moment of magic, not in the Disney sense, but in the old ambivalent sense of magic, where something strikes you deep, like an incantation or a word with power seperate from meaning. And, since it's Emily Dickinson, it brings back particularly the bible. There was one line in the New Testament that always had a great personal feeling for me, its in two places, but I won't e'en give verses because anyone who wants to look it up will have no trouble finding it: when Christ is hanging on the cross, and cries out 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?'

I still remember the phrase from my childhood, I don't know why it had so much magic to me then. Maybe it was the ironic power of the moment in the entire crucifixion story, or the feeling of humanity in poor Jesus for a moment, maybe it was because it was in a strange language and sounded eerie when you read it in an anguished voice, I don't know. I remember it, though, like I remember few biblical verses, and it's particularly odd, because it's not one I was ever taught, particularly. I remember reading, it and murmuring it to myself.

I came across it today, in the biography I'm reading, and felt such a pang of sympathy I couldn't help but remember it now. I guess that's why it rubs me strangely now. It's an uncomfortable moment with God, when you think of it, or at least for me. I know many people read the New Testament and feel a special sort of kinship with Jesus Christ, like it's a very humanizing scripture. I never really go that - I always felt, in fact, like the disciples writing the books usually didn't wnat me to get that, but to feel his godliness, since I suppose the assumption was that his humanity was implied by the fact that he lived and died. The New Testament makes me feel as if I am at great distance, it makes me feel as if I could play-act Christ, the way one feels how edifying and terrifying it would be to be a Jew in World War II, or Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings. It's a short hand for courage in suffering, as it were, one that is so used now as to almost feel mythic (or I suppose for many people to actually BE mythic. Except for the Jews in World War II, who certainly weren't a myth). It's an experienced tempered by a feeling that - that isn't me. If I am Galadriel, I will delude myself into keeping the ring, and if I am a Jew, I will not be Elie Weisel, I would beg and plead for my life each moment, double-cross and betray every soul I've ever met. I do not have the courage to raise my chin up and be brave. It's not that I think this courage is foolish, on the contrary, I love these things (as anyone who knows me closer than they'd like will probably attest), it's just that I cannot imagine I would avail myself well in those situations.

And so, since the assumption when I read is that implicitly I am the human one, and the normal one, the feeling is that Christ is neither normal nor human. Which, I suppose is, like I mentioned, more or less true in the narrative, I think. But there's a parallel truth, that others, more sensitive than me, seem to read in the New Testament, one that makes them feel akin. Maybe they are more human or more brave than I, and so they are not to distant from godliness to feel a kinship with it. I don't begrudge them that.

I, I can only feel a kinship with Christ when I feel his psychic, personal, internal pain, and recognize it, and that's only in two places, and this is one (the other is when the fig tree is withered, but that's a whole different story). I can feel being there, and doing something, something so terribly well, and I grew up believing that even Christ worked in faith, not knowledge, I can feel hanging there on that cross, and the sudden confusion, of not being able to believe that all that God has told you is wrong, but of being unable to comprehend how this could positively be right. The conflation of impossible wrongs, that is human to me, but it's not the sort of human that saves your soul, I suppose, I just want to scream at God for being so unkind, for designing a world where this is how things work, and to go take Jesus down and hold him and let him cry. Which, of course, would have probably been kind of awkward at the crucifixion.

Aside from the meaning even, however, it is, like a said, just a powerful set of words. I know (or I think, anyway), Eli just means 'God' in a different language, but *I* only speak English, and I only see the word once, so, to me, it has this unique power, it's a different name. The word God is so muddy so charged, even if you only limit it to, say, how it's used in the bible. I can say God like I'm terrified, like I'm in love, like I'm humble or celebrating my victory, or bold or cowardly, or sad or happy, or hoping the corn grows straight this year. I can say Eli in only one way, and it's such a private, secret way, it's like you're whispering it, it's like when you've grown too old for it, but something hurts so much, that you call out for your mother and call her 'Mommy', and its ridiculously conspicuous and painfully sincere at the same time, and then, afterwards you never say it again, because you're not a child anymore. And it's just such a lyrical cry, rhyme and even a metrical foot, it steps up and down like a cry should. I've tried to write a poem twice and failed from it, but I believe someday, someone will and it will be beautiful, because it practically already is one:

Eli! Eli!
Lama Sabachthani!
Oh, God, Why,
Hast thou forsaken me!

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How to determine if an email ought to be forwarded

Posted as a public service.
Authorship unknown, but I found it here.

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Needing to be Seen.

Sometimes, you will see someonel do a thing, not because it needs to be done, but because they need someone to see them do it, you know? I know I've done that before. I used to think that was sort of... laughable. Pitiful. Probably because its easy to think it is when you are doing it, and because its easy to laugh at somenoe's needs outside you when you can't or won't do anything about it anyway.

Anyway, I don't think I feel that way, anymore. Anyway, not in all cases.

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Hurrah for $4 a gallon gas! No, really...

Time Magazine published an article, here, that I found really interesting today - in the grand tradition of people finding things interesting, it's because it's what I thought anyway: $4 gas is not necessarily a bad thing.
Yeah, sure, I know, my budget is hurting too. I'm with you on that one. It's not a FUN change. But, it's a good change, a change that, in the long run, is very healthy for our country, I believe, despite the politics saying otherwise. I won't go on to just repeat what was in the article I cited - it's a fun little read, even if it's a bit light on actual data. I suppose what touches me on a more philosophical level is just that... well, America is much prettier when it struggles. I was thinking of this earlier today, because I've been thinking about Emma Goldman, an old favorite idea of a person for me. When Emma was alive, I don't know that I AGREED with her, at all, but I really feel like I believe SHE agreed with herself, anyway. Anarchists, Socialists, Unionists, all of the movements for social change really, today, feel very shallow, very raise-the-fist-and-look-cool-in-college. Very Bourgeois ;). In Emma's days, this was not so, because there was a NEED for change, there was a hunger in the American people for a change of the class system then.
Well, I don't believe that oil prices will bring about the rise of the proles, or anything (although the idea is interesting...), but I do believe that for America to be heroic, now, in the struggles we fight (returning to a basic respect for the earth, for instance, or facing up to the responsibilities that come with power) it must feel some pain, it must have some gentle prod. And really, I know, it's hard, it is, but $4 gas is a pretty gentle prod. Put it in perspective, we are all still eating, movie theaters and beer companies are not going out of business, it's not like we're eating dirt cakes. We're just having some visibile evidence that this gas thing ain't gonna hold out forever, you know? And it's that whisper in our ear that can make us heroic, that can spur us to do great things, like the generation of World War II, or the Apollo project, or even the Revolutionary War. After all - folks didn't just sign the Declaration because they liked the idea of it - they were economically inclined to do it.

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Wading Grief

'Power is only Pain --
Stranded, thro' Discipline,'
Emily Dickinson, #252

I'm in the middle of Cynthia Wolff's biography of Emily Dickinson, and it's amazing what a bit of Dickinson will do for you. The older I get, (and I'm only 28, after all) the more I realize how much I don't know, will never understand, all the thing Emily Dickinson can tell you.

Now, mind you, that's not neccesarily to say that I believe Ms. Wolff does either - her interpretation of Emily Dickinson has a definite late 20th century Academic filter applied, and while I've never met her, I can't imagine even Ms Wolff would deny that. Reading this book has mostly shown me all the htings that Emily CAN say, if you NEED her to say it.

I was struck particularly by 'I can wade Grief--', poem #252 in the standard numbering of Dickinson poems. I don't even know if I thoguht too hard about this poem when I was younger, but if I did, I know exactly what I read from it, and I just didn't completely understand. The one comment I can applaud Ms Wolff for on this was her pointing out that the meter staggers, like one beneath great weight, or in great pain - read it out loud, you will hear the stuttering steps, the pauses for breath, the triumphant gritting of teeth. It made me understand in a way that I can't quite express (being as I'm not Emily Dickinson!), how tied together 'power' and 'pain' are. When Emily Dickinson takes on pain that she can avoid, it's not just some sort of masochistic self-punishment, it's a sort of divine vision, that responsibility needs power to fulfill, that we should never be content with leaving pain aside. It is not a matter of keeping pain at a minimum, but it's, instead, an art of living all that must be lived to live the life you want, and sometimes, that means pain, and sometimes that means pleasure, but all of it means beauty - the life of a poet is too much to contain in the box of happy feelings, it has to be bigger than that, that's why golden ages always need to melt into silver, that's why spirits consent to be born to the world. It's not masochism, it's an absence of even the slightest trace of hedonism.

Anyway, babble-babble-babble. It's pretty irrelevant, really, as I have no courage of conviction, so the whole story is about someone else. But if you cannot be beautiful, its comforting to see beautiful things.

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Viral Memory Game

That sounds technical doesn't it? I was pulled in through my unbelievably stunning wife. Here's the rules:

1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together or with my family. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. If you don't want to play on your blog, or if you don't have a blog, I'll leave my memory of you in my comments.

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Not too crotchety...

So it turns out I'm not old. In the midst of trying to wash dishes, today, there was a knock on our door. I dutifully went to answer it, and there was a salesperson. His first comment:

"Hi, are either of your parents home?"

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