El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Faith and Wisdom (page 1 of 3)

I’m Convinced it’s Personal

Here we are again. The carousel goes round and round. It’s starting to get boring. The right start chanting, “This is your religion of peace?!” The left’s reply, “They want you to be afraid of Muslims. And intermingled there is a chorus of, in no particular order: It’s part of their agenda. They want terror. They want a caliphate. They want to kill infidels. They are poor, disenfranchised, radicalized by individuals with their own agenda. It’s the oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia, desperate to hold onto their fragile claim to power. They hate our freedoms. They are avenging civilian casualties of the bombs of the West. They are protesting Israel. They want to establish an Islamic State. They want the West out of the Mideast.

And the list goes on, but I’m not convinced any of it is correct. In fact, I think it’s personal, deeply individually personal.

Is it any coincidence that more than a fair share of these nutjobs are reformed libertines? Osama Bin Laden was himself a hard partying, drinking, girl crazy young man. I don’t know whether his stash of porn in his compound in Pakistan is propaganda or not, but it fits the narrative of a self-hating, self professed sinner whose turn to Allah, “saved him.”

We’ve heard these stories from friends and relatives too, haven’t we? They went down the wrong path, drugs, sex, booze only to “find” Jesus and become born again. Now they want to push their particular theology down everyone’s throat. I was an evil sinner, corrupted by a world bent on my destruction, and slide toward the eternal abyss.

I have had these people around me my whole life. To them I am an infidel, unsaved, on my way to an eternal damnation, just because I can’t utter the same platitudes they do. Logic does not function with these people, nor does just the faintest of ideas that perhaps possibly there is just a smidgen of room for difference of interpretation of what “following Jesus” means. The Bible is inerrant. It is factual. Written by GOD himself. If you disagree, you have been tainted by evil.

They have similar stories, many of them. They slipped down a path that grew dark. They blamed the society around them. Easy access to drugs, alcohol, girls dressed suggestively, or boys looking so good, giving in to the temptations of the flesh. Shamed, their weaknesses exposed and raw, they sought to cover up in the trappings of religious fundamentalism.

It is also telling how many withdraw from society, homeschooling their children, turning off mass media, limiting contact with those that would corrupt them. Their worldview is limited to the fiery rhetoric from within their Christian 99% white church communities. They don’t want anything to do with society at large, because to them, it is a corrupting influence.

So let’s walk it back a bit. What does a self-hating weak-fleshed young person do when he is confronted with “sin” all around him, an aberrant society that seems to take a special interest in him personally? This society seems, from his point of view, to delight in pushing a “gay agenda” upon him, of rubbing his nose in sexual images, easy booze, legal pot, gender perspectives, political correctness, abortion, war on Christmas, and the continued secularization of America. He falls a couple of times, but his cultural baggage catches up with him and weighs heavily upon his unworthy flesh.

What does this person’s path to redemption look like? Leave society, turn off TV, join a Christian church. If you are a man, you will provide. If you are a woman you will be subservient in all things. This is how you straighten yourself out. It works for some people, I guess.

So here is the final question: What happens when these routes to redemption seem to be blocked, when desperation for one’s eternal soul overwhelms all other concerns?

I am convinced that modern terrorists are each on very personal journeys of redemption made available to them by their faith, lubricated by their self-imposed distance and alienation from the mainstream, and culminating in one final horrific act. The fact that they don’t believe they can knee and pray, seeking peaceful strength in submission to Allah, or say an Our Father, and a couple of Hail Marys to redouble their efforts is a terrible shame.

I said it first

Pope Francis: better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic

Religious or Not, This is a Great Quote

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
― Teresa of Ávila

It really doesn’t matter to what orthodoxy your profess. If you’re not bringing justice, love, and service more fully into this present space in which we exist, I’m of the opinion you’re missing the point. Be the answer to someone’s prayer.

San Francisco cathedral will stop dousing sleeping homeless people with water – The Washington Post

San Francisco cathedral will stop dousing sleeping homeless people with water – The Washington Post.

Did ya’ll seriously not run that that by operations first? No? It’s like right there in the company mission statement.

“Love thy neighbor.”

What do you mean, love can have many forms, some of them liquid? Would you like to be doused with water on a cold San Francisco morning? Well, of course you wouldn’t. I know you’re not homeless. What do you mean they shouldn’t be sleeping in doorways? I’ll bet they don’t want to get wet, probably because they don’t have a roof over their head. Instead of sprinklers, I’ll tell you what we should have installed – beds in the community hall. Oh, that’s where you play bingo.

Please come see me in HR, ASAP.

Perfect Heroes

“Hey Daddy, was Jesus perfect?”

“That’s a tough question, Javier. Hmmm, I don’t know how to answer that. I’m going to say no, he wasn’t perfect.”

“Well, some kids in my class say he was perfect, but I don’t think so. He must have made his mommy mad at some point when he was little.”

“Hah, you’re right. I’ll bet he didn’t eat his apples all the time like Asier. You raise an interesting point though, Javier. I actually don’t know if perfect is even a relevant question to ask. What is perfection? Never making a mistake? You can’t be human without learning from making mistakes and learning from them. If perfection is completely living your potential, then he might have been perfect, but still, most people see perfection as just not making any mistakes. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a perfect man. Some say he cheated on his wife. I’m sure he would be the first to tell you that he was a sinner. Does that make him less of a hero? He struggled and sacrificed for us all, but he had his weaknesses. If Jesus was fully human, it would follow that he made some mistakes too, but again, I don’t even think it’s relevant to talk about. Just like Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, it’s not relevant to mention his individual failings. The most important measure of their lives is their heroism.”

“Isn’t it more interesting to talk about heroes than perfect people? Perfection isn’t a goal. Heroism is the goal. Was Jesus perfect, is the wrong question. He was a hero because he made heroic choices in his life. He overcame his weaknesses, his fear, and his doubt to make a heroic choice.”

“So there you go, Javier perfection isn’t the goal of life, heroism is.”

Rockstar

Here’s an interview with a fictitious rockstar you’ll never hear.

Rolling Stone: So, Rob, your shows are legendary.  We know the women throw their underwear on stage, you are a man among men, and that the arena goes insane.  First, where do you get the energy for these performances, and two, what’s the strangest thing someone has thrown on stage?

Rob:  <chuckles>  I appreciate that you like the shows.  They are a blast to put on and the entire team lives for that energy, ya know?  When we’re on the road, prepping, rehearsing; we sometimes don’t eat the way we should.  I know I’m guilty of this.  We have caterers that bring in all sorts of wonderfully prepared dishes, but we just don’t get much.  Frankly, it’s mostly for the crew; we’re just so into the music, man.  We don’t have much time to eat.  Somebody’ll put a bag of Cheetoes and a coke in my hands at some point, and I’ll munch it down.  You know, if I think about it, I don’t know where we get the energy, by all rights we should be zombies.  It’s got to be the adrenaline.

Rolling Stone: Yeah, sure, adrenaline, that’s it.  <snicker>

Rob:  What? <smiles>

Strangest thing thrown on stage?  I can’t recall anything specific, but people throw all kinds of crazy shit up there.  It’s like some sort of old Testament altar for some people; they’ll throw their favorite book, article of clothing, sometimes food (although I don’t know if that’s because they were unhappy with the show), sometimes children’s toys, demo tapes you name it and someone’s thrown it.  People will put envelopes with messages to us, some desirous, others confessions about the strangest things; stuff they wanted to get off their chests. It’s weird. We just kind of take it in. These are people who have poured their hearts into us, our music, and they have this connection that allows them bequeath their guilt, desire, regrets, passions up onto the stage and then leave it.

Rolling Stone:  That’s kinda creepy man.  These people unbalanced or something?

Rob: No, I don’t think so, in fact, I don’t think they want anything from us that they are not getting.  There’s the music.  I mean, the smallest amount they paid for the show last night was $75 and it was packed.  There must be something they like, right?  They are yelling and jumping and dancing and their faces are lit up.  It’s infectious, the energy.  But if they are leaving behind something, unburdening themselves, it’s so they can go out without whatever it was.  The demo tape guys, are young musicians looking for validation a break, something.  We listen to most of them, and some are pretty good.  We have even gotten back to a few who knocked our socks off.  But you see it’s not really about the tape, it’s the act of leaving it.  They took the chance, they put themselves out there.  That act, I think, is all it was about.  It’s like the act of leaving a piece of themselves on stage with us, lets them purge it. They’re all confessions, really. It’s like they are saying, here I am, this is me, unadorned, no pretense.  Here are my innermost desires and since they don’t know us personally, they don’t have to worry about being judged.  It’ll never get back to them.  If the demo tape sucked, nobody has to know.  It’s sorta cathartic, i think.  It’s all good, man.  We’re just stoked that they continue to come to the shows and as long as they let us keep doing it, we’re gonna fucking tear the house down.

Rolling Stone: Pulled it together at the end there, didn’tcha?  You’re sort of a rock star philosopher, man.  It seems a bit incongruous to the stomping strutting arrogant rock god we all know and love.  I know you guys got a lot of bad press for some of the demands in your riders.

Rob: <Laughs>  Yeah, sure there’s that. You kinda have to do that, you know.  I’m not naturally a dick in real life.  I swear.  But sometimes for the show you have to act like it.  I totally swear it’s necessary up to a point.  We’re a focal point of male energy, female desire and to create the illusion sometimes you just have to say fuck it. <Interviewer’s aside:  Rob reaches across the table, grabs my bottle of water and pours it down his throat, then tosses it across the room>.  That.  That was a dick move, but you totally want to be me now don’tcha, bro?

Rolling Stone: <laughing>  A little bit.

Rob: There’s a bit of arrogance to being what someone would call a rock god, but I don’t for one second think it’s about me.  I strut, I stomp, I stroke my instrument, I sing, but it’s not about me.  Sure they came to see the band, but we are surrogates or proxies.  Think about it, there’s always some rock god, heartthrob, mega star, diva, whatever.  You think those people created the followers, created the fans created the urges to fucking rock?  Nah.  We’re just like vessels, man.  It’s not about me or the band or even about the music.

Rolling Stone: There’s a first, rockstar says it’s not about the music.  I mean we all know that about Nickleback, but even they wouldn’t say it.

Rob: Haha, touché.  I think you’re misunderstanding.  Yes, the music is important, it’s under its auspices that we come together.  If it was unworthy, they wouldn’t come… but, and here’s a big but, they would still come to someone.  We, the rockstars, are fulfilling a pent up demand.  We didn’t create the demand, the human need.  They wouldn’t be sitting at home if we sucked.  In a more economic sense, they have a set amount of money to spend on food and water, and they choose us.

Rolling Stone: This is turning into either those best or most bizarre interviews we’ve ever done.  So let me get this straight, you’re comparing your music to food and water.  That’s arrogant even for you.  <Snickers>

Rob: FUCKING YEAH!  We rock, now worship at the foot of our awesomeness!  Being a rockstar is partly an act. D’uh. It’s a shared delusion, one into which we both enter willingly.  It’s a collective delusion where the band and I get to feed off the energy of the crowd, to channel it, if you will, and direct it back at the crowd.  The crazier they get, the crazier I get.  We can’t control it, it’s a collective.  We all need to be worshiped a bit and by coming together in these venues, they get to experience that pure energy vicariously.  Hell, I experience it vicariously, even when I am on stage.  Again, the band and I are not the goal, purpose, or end destination of their energy, just the channels for it.  It flows through us, we amp it up, feed it back, and we get more in return.  It’s like fucking drugs, man.  I sometimes think that’s why a lot of rockstar do drugs.  They’re trying to fill the void between gigs.  It’s a real letdown, let me tell you.

We all have our roles, you know?  Some of us are builders, thinkers, and creators.  And some of us are clerics.  Not gods, but clerics.  We are channels and facilitators for spiritual energy not recipients of it.  We’re not rock gods, dude, we’re fucking rock priests!

<flips over coffee table and struts out>

A Cool Sip of Satisfying

Laura and I talk a lot about marriage, fidelity, and love.  Sometimes I am scared of what I don’t know I don’t know.  So we talk, put it all on the table.  Are we crazy?  What are we feeling, thinking?  Should we be flipping out because we’re in our forties?

I have said it before, but it is distressing to us that many within our various circles have decided to call it quits with their spouses.  It’s like magic – hit your forties and bam, people start to think.  I don’t know what they think, but I know what thoughts consume us.  And we talk about it.

We constantly ask ourselves if even the questions we are asking are right?  What should we be thinking about as our lives near a midpoint (statistically speaking)?  Are we worried that we didn’t get to do the things we wanted?  We don’t have all the things we wanted or needed?  Is our house sufficiently comfortable?  Do we have lots of friends, nice cars, well paying meaningful employment?  Should we have dated more?  Did we miss out not having sexual conquests, sowing our wild oats?  Girlfriends?  Boyfriends?  Enough travel?  Who did we become?  Did we become what we dreamed?  I My, we, our, mine?

We do ask those questions.  I can imagine so many couples ask themselves, is this all?  I want more, I dreamed of more, but right now it’s too much work.  I want to start over.  You’re not doing it for me.  Laura and I do conclude that most of the things we thought we wanted when we younger have not happened.  Life is not ideal, we are not particularly successful by objective standards, I guess.  We have four beautiful kids whom we adore, but our lives are not champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  Money is tight, old friends are scattered over the globe, new ones are hard to come by.  Professionally we struggle for relevance.

I work in technology.  If you want to know what that means, consider the downfall of Myspace?  That happens to people too, to anyone who stops swimming for even a second.  The current will wash you away and no one will care.  The river don’t care, man, not one bit.

Laura struggles with being a woman working in a Latin culture, one in which women are secretaries, little girls to fetch the coffee, not capable of making important decisions.  A smart competent woman is paired with a rising male star only so that she will assist him and he may shine.  It happens over and over and over.  Most of them haven’t the drive, smarts, and wisdom she holds in her little finger – but because she is a woman, she gets a pat on the head.  Oh, isn’t it cute, the little girl has an opinion.

We are no strangers to difficulties, marital and otherwise.

Couples counselors will say that you have to work for what you want, that you have to put in effort.  That a good marriage takes work, sweat, and you will reap the rewards.  You will get what you want, but you have to work for it.  Sure, so people go to counseling and work on the externals; communicating wants and needs better.  Go on dates, and try to rekindle the new relationship energy.  There are lots of things, but all too often the problems in our families and in our relationships reflect our values in society.  Life is to be experienced.  Life is about what I get out of it.

I’d like to turn that on its head.  Life isn’t about me, it’s about you.  It’s not about filling your cup, but emptying it, pouring it out to those in need.  When we think of life as things to experience, things to consume, things to smell, things to imbibe, things to sex, things to use, we are pouring them down a bottomless chute.  All things that I collect for myself are transient, fleeting, will corrode, have no lasting effect, and will be forgotten along with our worm ridden carcasses.

When we choose to take from this world and stuff it in our maw, we will never be satisfied and the world will be poorer for it.

If, however, you choose to pour yourself out, to empty your cup, to leave it all in the ring, when the end comes you will have enriched the world, touched those around you, left a legacy to your life here among the living.  The saying, you can’t take it with you is true for everything, even experiences.

The best and most lasting thing you can leave behind is love.

What I Choose Every Day

I have written and erased this post a bunch of times. Too preachy?  Too self indulgent.  Poorly written? – Maybe one or all of the above.  In any case, I feel like I need to get it down and just throw it out there, let the universe have it, if it cares.

My pastor said something a while back that stuck with me, “Show me the God you believe in and I will tell you who you are.”  That’s pretty radical, if you think about it.  The God in whom you believe really is more about you than him/her.  The traits with which you identify, amplify, and espouse, really tell us about you, not some mythological character.  If you believe in a condemning, vengeful, short tempered god, guess what?  That’s you.  If your God is merciful and loving, the same.

When I was young, the angry god who would send people to Hell just didn’t jive with me.  There was never any doubt, even before I had any sense of theology, we’re talking like second grade, that there was something flawed about this god.  The idea of original sin, an angry spiteful god who would punish us for misdeeds never made sense to me naturally.  Like a good Catholic, though, I kept my more radical thoughts to myself.

Recently, the Internet has given voice to a growing movement of Atheists, emboldened by the ability to connect anonymously, they have found new solidarity from the daily pressures to nod and remain silent while the shrill voices of Christian dogma swirl around them.  To say you are an Atheist is nearly a death sentence in many circles, so they have found respite online.  While rational and cathartic, I have noticed some things that trouble me in the same way as those shrill angry vengeful self-professed christians.

On the one hand you have: god cares and has a hand in our daily lives.  He punishes the wicked and rewards the just.   He’s out there waving his magic shillelagh always on notice to smite the wicked.

On the other hand you have: the universe doesn’t care.  It’s not that the universe is capricious, though.  The universe simply cannot be appealed to.  We may prostrate ourselves to it, but there is nothing.  There is nothing to care.  Even an indifferent universe would seem a conscious choice.  No, there just is simply nothing that may care about you and your needs and your life and your little petty issues.  Nothing.

The universe is cold and does not feel your pain.

So I say to you, my fellow, do not tell me the universe does not feel, because I feel.  I feel your pain.  I care about you.   The universe is not indifferent, because I am not indifferent.  I know that I make a conscious choice to love.  It is not always easy, and I fail frequently, but I try to point my bow into the wind toward what I believe is my God, a god of love.  We may fail.  We may despair.  We may feel alone.  We may want to judge.  We may wish to punish, but if we do not have love for our fellows, we are lost, and surely god is dead.  You see, he’s not out there apart from us.

It is not magic, it is faithfulness.  Faithfulness to what, you ask?  Be faithful to love, my brothers and sisters.  Be faithful to each other.

Eggs Don’t Matter

Aggressive ‘helicopter’ parents force egg hunt cancellation

Uncle said it best, “Jaaackieeee, EGGS DON’T MATTER!” [1]

It’s a perfect metaphor for what is wrong with our results-driven society where we claw and scrape and push and shove and lie and cheat to get what is ours.  Why do you want it?  Because others have it?  It is a gluttonous age when we have more than we have ever had, but are more worried than ever of going without.  When will we learn that these things don’t matter?

Whatever you believe, the message of this Easter season, the message of Jesus, is that these things don’t matter.  Practically nothing matters.  Even your life is transient, fleeting, superfluous.

What does matter is seeing others as yourself.  The achievement of one is an achievement of all.  The failure of one is a failure of all.  We are all in it together, pulling together, sharing, caring, and loving.  There is no “us vs. them,” because there is no “them.”  There is only we.

What I would have liked for this Easter season egg hunt with the grabbing and clawing and selfishness, would have been for those who had claimed an egg to have shared with those that had none, that everybody would have seen the pain of a child who had none and said, there but for the grace of God go I.

These eggs are meaningless, valueless, if they do not represent the gift of love that I give to you, my neighbor.

Mother Teresa Missed Out on a Lot of Joy

Jesus: Mother Teresa was a great lady. She was a great and wonderful person. I say this because it makes me sad to see she was not happy.

I guess I knew it. I’d heard her cries in the darkness. She was tortured.

She was tortured by what though? What was it that was eating her up inside?

Host: Audience? I see that Jesus is pausing for us to ponder his question. What do you say, audience? What was Mother Teresa tortured by?

*audience member struggles to his feet*

Yes, you, hold on, here I come.

Audience Member: *out of breath* Yes, I think she was tortured by her doubt. She had lost her belief and was trying to gain it back.

Jesus: Well, that’s what she writes in her letters. But let me ask you… *smiles* because I like asking these questions. In what had she lost her faith? What was this "belief" she was trying to get back? Belief in what?

Audience Member: Ummm

Host: Let’s ask someone else. You there –

Audience Member 2: *grabbing microphone* I, um, think she had lost her faith in you? She wasn’t sure if she believed in God? Maybe she lost her belief in prayer? Maybe Satan had gotten to her.

Jesus: Maybe we’re getting closer, but we’re still a long way off. Let me do my best to answer this question. From what I can tell, all Mother Teresa lost was her belief in orthodoxy. Since orthodoxy was the foundation of her spiritual life, she found that when she lost her way with regard to the objectification of her faith as put forth by the Catholic Church… sure enough, she lost her faith, her belief in the way. It all got tossed by the wayside because she had never stripped it down enough to recognize it in its nakedness.

Orthodoxy is like paint. Sometimes it’s pretty, serves a function and works well enough. But sometimes it covers up some deep rust, scars in the structure and foundations. When we can’t strip away the paint and check out the undercarriage, give it some maintenance, we’re doomed to catastrophic failure. ‘Cause paint, although nice, doesn’t keep the ship from sinking.

I like to be certain about the root of things.

You like to be certain, right?

Audience: *in unison* Yes Lord!

Jesus: *laughing* That just reminded me of a movie. Sorry *stifles guffaw*. Where were we?

Certainty.

An older priest went on a sabbatical to spend some time with the Missionaries of Charity. He had been in a spiritual crisis, and upon meeting Mother Teresa, asked her to pray for his clarity. She laughed at him and walked away, refusing with a flip of her hand. Baffled and confused, the priest asked her why? Why wouldn’t she pray for him. He sought clarity.

I know what she thought. She thought to herself, "clarity is a pipe dream, honey. There is no clarity. Don’t you think if anybody had clarity, I’d have it? Clarity is something I’ve sought my whole life. And it has eluded me."

That is just so sad, my friends. You complicate everything. You complicate and sour those very things that should bring you joy. You codify and organize and arrange – until you’re left with these tasteless, joyless morsels. Ughggg who can eat that stuff.

God = Love

Equal as in the same. What is love, but empathy, caring. Love is not mimickry. Love is not rules. Love is not "going through the motions" out of stubborn devotion, out of some misguided duty to ME. Men, how would it make you feel if you found out your wives were faking orgasms?

Not too good, huh.

Well, I don’t feel very good when you do the same. Do you bear the stench of the homeless old man, because he is Jesus, putting up with him for your chits in heaven. Slog your way through the unpleasantness to get to the creamy filling.

*sarcasm* Lovely.

Personally, it doesn’t do a thing for me, and it shouldn’t for you either. It’s a waste. It wastes my time, and it wastes yours.

Love is empathy. Empathy is projecting yourselves, getting outside of your mortal shell and into the hearts of others. I don’t want you to help the dirty, miserable, craven, pathetic, misguided, or criminal. I want you to LOVE them. What does love mean. Love compels you to help them.  You should be passionate about that.  Love is acceptance. Love doesn’t judge. Love isn’t proud. Love doesn’t despair. Love is a force multiplier. Love is infectious. Love is sincere. Love is binding.

In that connection, that connection of love, within its tendrils as they intertwine amongst you all, between rich and poor, between self-righteous and humble, between the smug and the doubtful is where I dwell.

Let me tell you what you will do, people. Here it is. You will do this because it will make you happy. It will bring you joy.

Connect with each other. Reach out to your enemies and love them, especially those that would hurt you, fear you. Love them more, because they need it. Love them not as a sacrifice, but as a joy. Don’t worry about the outcome. Outcomes will take care of themselves and beside you don’t love for the outcome of it, do you?

And if you’re looking for me, know that I am Love, that it is in your true and sincere devotion to one another that I exist.

And if you fake it, it doesn’t work.

I will still love you though.

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