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i will drive this road

until it is a poem

 

taking the back way

i mean the way back way

 

where you can drive thirty five

and stop to piss

 

or look at the sunset

or a tree

 

or the cows

on the hillside

 

or the crows

in the field

 

ohio’s beauties

are humble

 

but plentiful

 

i will listen

to the same music

 

until it is like a ritual

 

always new

but with a familiar frame

 

i will drive down

into the small appalachian outlier

 

the little hollers

and quick streams

 

the trailers perched

on the hills

 

just over the bridge

acres of junked cars

 

disembodied

awaiting redemption

 

then up the rise

on honeytown road

 

the low hills

and small woods

 

then near orrville

the fallow flats

 

fertile looking

even in winter

 

where the thousand acre fields stretch

unto the woodlands

 

and the creek flows

under the ice

 

in the shadow

of bare trees

 

sky golden rose

purple clouds

 

and you can see

for a mile in either direction

 

it is a good place to stop

turn off the engine

 

and pharoah’s magic

 

and stand

in the middle of the bridge

 

and stretch and sigh

and breathe

 

and listen

to the cold water

 

headlights coming

 

get back in

turn the key

 

and up

past the train tracks

 

onto

the county road

 

past the semi trailers

and metal barns

 

then in the marshy plain

south of town

 

a flock of geese

are heading east

 

maybe a half mile

away

 

on a parallel path

 

they are doing

thirty seven

 

i speed up to catch them

and we ride a mile in synch

 

until they veer to the south

 

then i am onto

a higher road

 

pharoah again

 

consoling

and cajoling

 

blue hills

on the horizon

 

beauty broken

by power lines

 

and cell phone

spires

 

driving home

driving home

 

to what

 

may

 

wait

 

i will drive this poem

until i know you

 

taking the back way

i mean the way back way

 

until it is a road

 

we are immortal

we have forever

 

and i

 

i am learning

 

how

 

to

 

 

wait

Everything Is Relative

everything is relative

except the Absolute

Quit Talking

 

 

quit talking

to yourself

out loud

 

or inside your head

 

quit talking

to people

who are not there

 

out loud

 

or inside your head

 

if you must talk

talk to god

 

or speak in poetry

 

out loud

 

or inside your

 

 

head

holy

Greed is Love.

I do not often visit the Acton Institute’s website, but when I do I always find something really really stupid:

The idea that capitalism has anything to do with anything but the love of money, which St Paul says is….  well, you know, is beyond absurd. I could not endure watching more than a few minutes of this but skipping ahead I saw the part about capitalists really trying to make the world a better place and the notion that somehow greed equates Eros…

And to think that there are actonistas who find this inspiring….

And if this does not confirm the proverb ‘Never trust a man in a bowtie’ then I do not know what would.

Midwinter Miscellany

anne freemanBackasswards

I saw in the local paper the other day that the county housing coalition had completed a study that showed that mental illness and substance abuse were the most common causes of poverty.

Really?

Anyone who has felt poverty or known those who are poor knows that poverty is incredibly stressful. The justice system and  the economic system are stacked against you. You suffer stresses that the comfortable, apparently, cannot imagine. It is hard on marriages, hard on families, hard on mental health. Turning for solace in alcohol or painkillers is a natural reaction to hopelessness. Anxiety quickly morphs into psychological trouble.

And for this the poor are scorned and punished.

Unlike the affluent, who are hardly free of mental illness and addiction, there are no resources, no buffer, for society’s castoffs, who are blamed for their pain. I have seen too many pharipronouncements blaming the poor for their problems. If ‘they’ would just form stable marriages, work harder, stay straight, then they would join the successful.

By chance the gospel today in the Byzantine calendar is the story of the pharisee and the publican, a tale that reveals the sin of smugness, the lack of empathy and solidarity with those seen as beneath us.

To scorn the poor is to scorn Christ.

Even the Republicans

But at least there appears to be an emerging consensus that the growing gap between the modern aristocracy and the rest of us is not desirable. When  even the Republicans begin to speak of it as an evil you know there is a problem.

I doubt the proposed solutions will address the root of the evil, which is the capitalist system, based on the economics of the anti-gospel of greed, self-interest and love of money, but any move toward justice and the reexamination of the failed market economics of the neoconservatives and neoliberals is welcome.

Difficult and Spare

Writing has been difficult, as life has been difficult. I got back on the overtime list on the first of January, goaded by necessity, so my ‘spare’ time has been diminished.

And lately life has been relentless.

Words here may be sparse for a while.

Landscape by Anne Freeman

rose

I came across something on the internet today, the fact that a disproportionate number of internet searches for pornography come from Islamic countries, including those with the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law and the most repressive sexual ethos. You may read about it here.

I have long noted the coincidence of terror and sexual frustration. Time after time, from 9/11 on we learn that violent Islamists spend their last hours looking at porn and visiting strip clubs. The Muslim psychiatrist who went on a rampage at Fort Hood,  atypical not only in being middle aged but in having achieved some worldly success, had a long history of sexual frustration, searching in vain for a virtuous Muslim woman even while spending his evenings drinking in strip clubs. This is a pattern that repeats itself time and again.

Lest Christians boast, I recently saw a poll of evangelical protestant men that showed over 60% of them, and 50% of pastors, regularly view porn. I doubt the results would differ much if the poll was answered honestly by conservative Catholics. And I recently saw a glossy Mormon magazine that had no less than three ads for programs freeing men from pornography addictions.

In other words a conservative sexual ethos not only does not immunize one from the attraction to porn, it seems on the face of it to make one more prone to it.

I am not thereby suggesting that the libertines are healthier. Sex is problematic for humans. It is hard to get it right, hard to integrate such a powerful and personal force.

But what I do say is that the way that most people who see the obligation to strive for sexual purity handle sexual temptation is not healthy either. I know that in my long bachelorhood I did it wrong, by repressing it or distracting myself. But such a strategy is like whack-a-mole. It just pops up elsewhere in a less healthy manifestation. I have seen too much in my many years living at the heart and on the margins of the ‘orthodox Catholic’ subculture to think it immune or to think that Catholics, even the ‘real Catholics’ are any more virtuous than anyone else.

The one time in my younger life when I made some progress was when I was preparing to enter the seminary, when I spent two hours a day in prayer and attended Mass daily. Sublimation works a lot better than repression, but it is hard to sustain, especially when one does not have hours a day to spend in silence.

Sex is at the heart of humanity, eros central to our being. It is the one time most humans are able to experience being and bliss, are able, even if just for a little while, to transcend earthly care. And it is the vehicle for the life-giving Trinity to enter into our lives. To co-create with God is a holy thing.

Eros is also highly problematic and troublesome. Repression always causes chaos. But there is a way to embrace sexuality, to glory in it, without inordinate desire, the ‘coveting’ which is one of only two sexual sins forbidden by the Ten Commandments, the other being adultery.

It is possible for a man to see a beautiful and sexually attractive woman as the flower of creation, to thank God for her beauty, to glory in her without sinning.

That is a discipline that is difficult, especially for young men. But if you do not learn it you can get distorted, and the next thing you know you are googling for some twisted and ugly perversion of the sexual urge instead of glorying in the beauty that God made.

For He did make it. TheDouay–Rheims translation of the Bible says that God made us to live in a paradise of pleasure. That is still His will, that humans experience ecstasy, that man and woman unite in bliss.

Problematic, given the mess we are born into, the traumas and guilt laid on us when very young. Everything human is easily distorted, the good things especially. And love and marriage are notoriously difficult.

But grace is poured out even more abundantly than darkness, if we are attuned to it.

Lord have mercy.

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