Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Path


 the path before me
just another open window
just the hungry mouth
of the gaping sky

the path ahead as I escape religion

as I run from the pulpit through the doors

onto the gravel street & straight to

the mountains or the creek


here we go down this path

with a pack of grief & lots of grub

as many snacks as we can pack

into this hobo satchel 


every seeker is a friend to these

tracks these weeds that sky

from the day we are born

until the day we die


I cannot really retrace my steps 

even as I want to reread books

got too many words but 

forgot all the hooks


but the walls of church are

crumbling behind me the death

of god or faith or what I don’t know

because Jesus is still a rebel


to whom I might listen as I listen

to the water keepers & earth defenders

as I listen to the workers organizing &

the junkies getting clean & drunks getting dry


& the people flying signs or trespassing in tents or

writing codes with their misconduct 

to explode the myths with new ones 

we write new stories unravel old fabric to stitch new 


still a devotional distraction & powerless surrender 

to immersion in the radical mystery 

seek to understand new weird things

as much as old weird history   

i am grateful to be lost again

unfound from straightjackets of salvation &

discourses on damnation that defy or deny

this sacred reality of nondual liberation

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

a (post) christian against the cross

 image - Facebook post about nationalist Easter cakes in Russia and Ukraine.
[I have been corresponding via Messenger & following on FB a couple people in Kviv, Ukraine. Via a repost on one of their pages, I saw these Easter cakes. One set of cakes celebrate the Azov batallion, the other the Z army. One nationalism vs another, Ukraine vs Russia. On Easter. Still trying to let all that sink in. But even the folks in Russian & Ukraine posting in reply found humor. The original post said we cannot be brothers, but several in reply said, "Because we are sisters."]



I am in an email back-and-forth with an old friend, who was a mentor when I was younger. In debating the war, I said something about how offensive it is that the Ukrainian government symbol is an Iron Cross. He said it is not an Iron Cross. I don't have permission to show what he said, but here is my reply to his reply.

“Do you think when Jesus comes back, he's really going to want to look at a cross?” - Bill Hicks


Christians, out of anyone, ought to understand what an utterly offensive and problematic symbol the cross is. Some sophisticated theologians grapple with this, sometimes it is called the scandal of the cross. 


If we are to believe any of the legends, the early Christians were an anti-imperial decolonized bunch of mystic misfits. If we are to believe the stories, emperor Constantine corrupted the ragtag religion and marched behind the cross. Constantine believed that God intervened in a military battle to help make him a victor. The cross as a popular Christian symbol is post-Constantine. 


The militaristic or nationalistic use of the cross doesn’t have to be overtly Nazi to be disgusting. See to people who actually love Jesus, not the many many counterfeits (maybe my version is the real counterfeit, who knows) don’t celebrate the cross. If we wear it, it is a solemn subversive dissociative reminder of the imperial tragedy that is central to our religious story.

My radical lineage in the church is inherently pacifist, in some ways also anarchist. From a mystic anarchist perspective, participation in the Beloved Community or “kindom” of God, this membership prohibits allegiance to any flag or participation in any army. 


Our pal Nietzche hated Christians for what he perceived as their/our drugged self-hatred. He compared Christ to the narcotic of drink/alcohol. He went further:

“Christianity has taken the part of all the weak, the low, the botched . . .it has corrupted even the faculties of those natures that are intellectually most vigorous, by representing the highest intellectual values as sinful, as misleading, as full of temptation.”


By contrast, theologian John Caputo embraces what he calls weak theology, the anarchic weakness, the utterly powerless non-coercive power of the cross. Thinking with Caputo, we will take the botched and corrupted weakness heaped on us by the Nietzches of the world, then lean into it. This is why the people I admire in my tradition (Catholic workers and the like) are always hanging around the incarcerated killers, homeless drunks, unsavory hooligans all. 


Last weekend was orthodox Easter, now despite the Pope and me calling for a truce, the war rages on. But that did not stop Ukrianians from having Azov Easter cakes or the Russians from having Z easter cakes. One nationalism against another. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A Rant & Lament for Rev. John Shuck (RIP) & for us All

 


My friend John Shuck died of Covid last year. He was also an outspoken Covid skeptic and anti-mandate anti-mask anti-vaxer. For some folks, that is all you need to know to stop reading now. But for others, perhaps you might join me in this reflective rant and strangely hopeful lament. As much as I want to make a loving tribute to John, his death has occasioned some hard reflections within myself. 


To begin, John and I were not close by any means, but our paths crossed enough and amicably, that I call him friend. On many topics, I initially viewed him as a fellow traveler and kindred soul. When we met, he was a leftist atheist Presbyterian pastor from east Tennessee, who hosted a progressive podcast/talk radio show. Although I never identified as an atheist, I was always intrigued and impressed with atheist Christians, especially in my former PCUSA tradition, where we had a strong commitment to intellectual acuity, inclusion, and social justice.


It was a shared social justice commitment that brought John and I into each other’s orbits, through a small advocacy group called Presbyterian Voices for Justice (PV4J), where I served briefly as our national co-coordinator/chair. Soon after we met, he left a board position with PV4J and moved from east Tennessee to Portland. The west coast seemed like a good fit for him, but I continued to follow him on social media. I don’t have a specific moment when things shifted for him, but I know that he juggled personal and professional concerns with his political presence on social media. 


Once on his radio show, he hosted the authors of The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation, a book that proposed that the “accidental” death of Thomas Merton in 1968 may have been a murder. I found the interview so compelling, that I mentioned this theory in an essay I wrote about MLK and Merton for my fanzine Ordinary Space. One friend, after reading my piece, dismissed the Merton book out-of-hand and warned me to stay away from the conspiracy crowd.


As anyone who is following the arc of America knows, conspiracy theories have spawned more conspiracy theories into a spiral of crazy over the last several years. As our communities have dug themselves into warring culture-war camps, everything gets weaponized. For John Shuck, his passionate interest in the “9-11 truth movement,” for example, probably meant he was poised to get going as a covid skeptic. We are far from a reckoning with what these fractures and their attendant rabbit holes really mean for the long term political reality and consequential emotional tragedy for our families and friends.


Writing about this today requires me to make some confessions. I am at once a hopeless idealist optimist and a contrarian anti-authoritarian leftist. While I do not consider myself a conspiracist, I confess that I have dabbled in conspiracy theories. I do question the “dominant narrative” about certain topics, especially the extrajudicial assassinations of people like MLK or Malcolm X. In that light, I was immediately interested in the claims in the Merton book. 


Now, Covid was a turning point for me, when I realized without regret that for the first long while, I would mask in public, abide by social distancing by seeking a remote work arrangement, and get the vaccine without fear. But that was the first time in my life that I was quick to join the mainstream medical consensus about anything. To be clear, I am not a doctor or an ideological herbalist or naturalist. 


But I  have an anxiety about doctors and medicines and come from a hippy health food culture where I taught myself to chew raw garlic, eat spoonfuls of local honey, drink lots of water, and sip herbal tea for most common ailments. The covid vaccine seemed like a no-brainer for me for public health reasons, but I guess you could say, I had previously traveled in circles that were anti-vax adjacent. 


All this is to say that I should not jump to judgmental conclusions about friends in the “bodily autonomy” crowd when it comes to the Covid vaccine, including and especially in my social media relationship to John Shuck. Because I am already a hypocrite about too many things, and folks like this are probably going to recoil from kneejerk condemnations, maybe instead, maybe folks need prayers and compassion and persuasion from people like me who were previously skeptics, but chose to get the jab. 


Yet sometime in the last year (or so) before his passing, when I stumbled across John’s comments about Covid, I made a Facebook post “warning” folks about his passion against the mandates and masks etc. To be clear, I was pretty dismissive. He was clearly a rightwing wacko of the QAnon school, that is what I was thinking. The purpose of my post was not to call-out John per se, as much as to imply that my friends should block or unfollow him. Such are the emotions on social media and the boundaries we surround ourselves with, in the worlds of Trump and Biden and Qanon and covid.

To illustrate how extreme John Shuck had turned, he had once posted in support of Mt. Juliet hate-preacher Greg Locke, in strange solidarity I suppose, because of how anti-mask Locke was. Strange bedfellows from an atheist antiwar leftist like Shuck, who knows like I do, how hard it is to be on the social justice left in rural Tennessee, but okay.


Even though John died back in October 2021, I only learned about his death this week.  This week, I also have been called by otherwise progressive fellow-travelers a Putin-sympathizing Russian-bot because I oppose spending billions of our dollars and weapons in a blank check of unlimited lethal military aid to Ukraine, in our USA proxy war against Russia, a war that if escalated too far, could result in a full-scale nuclear war. I suspect that if John were still alive, he and I would agree about the human horrors of this useless, suspicious, unnecessary war. 


I could pontificate all day, about all the reasons why some of my neighbors have found what they perceive as solidarity and safe harbor in white Chrisitan nationalism. That somehow this camp also includes conspiracy theories, covid skepticism, and ideas about the “deep state” makes them an odd mix to me. But today, that they perceive of themselves as rebels and the Democrats as “the man” seems like a plausible theory. It is a new strange upside down world where liberals are conservative, and conservatives are radicals. But I will pause that analysis to say something else, which for me makes the main point of this rant and lament. 


Buddha or Christ-like compassion and coercion are incompatible. Coercion and compassion are incompatible, even without the Buddha or Jesus portion. What the compassion and empathy crowd have to admit is that we can weaponize good will against people we perceive as enemies of the good. 


As much as I am almost always in one and not the other ideological camp, neither my membership in that camp, nor the ideology itself, should be used to demonize or dehumanize the others. It shouldn’t take the death of an anti-vaxer conspiracist that I considered a friend for me to realize and remember that. But here we are.  


No matter how many times we cleanse or question our own motives, authoritarianism can creep in from the left or right. Authoritarianism is toxic and anti-compassion and destructive of voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. Anti-authoritarians who also espouse a Jesus-infused law of love don’t need to become cops in their heads or cops on social media or cops or bullies of any kind.

I was quick to judge John Shuck, as much as some of my fellow lefty Christians were, those of us who knew him before he became conspiracy-obsessed, I am sure. While I don’t condone the shrill outspoken anti-vax crowd around Covid for obvious health reasons, I have to humbly admit that this topic’s weaponization on “both sides” speaks to a deeper fracture in our souls and in our communities. If any of this or this last bit prompts some of my folks to shame or blame me for being soft on conspiracy or anti-vaxers, I can take it. 


As much as I am an abolitionist, feminist, an accomplice to trans and queer friends, an avowed anti-racist, I am also a failure at being a good member of the “liberal” or “progressive” crowd, especially as it partitions itself these days on social media. 


I fear that online trolling and harassment around political minutiae or an aggressive cancel culture are just soft, slippery, and sleazy forms of the carceral mentality that ultimately otherizes every possible “other,” that same mentality at its conclusive terminus places humans in cages, and justifies state sanctioned murder with wars or the death penalty.

[For more about what informs me about these topics, I cannot recommend enough the work of Clementine Morrigan, their fanzines and Instagram feeds, and their podcast F*#(#*g Cancelled.]  


As much as I speak out against anti-blackness and white-supremacy, I also see how banning members of the so-called “far right” from social media or boycotts of people like Joe Rogan are such serious “red herrings” from the authentic struggles to support low wage workers, unionize places like Amazon and Starbucks, to achieve universal healthcare and housing and income, to abolish rent and debt and wars and prisons and police and destroy predatory capitalism forever.

While I might agree with the underlying reasons for countless cancellations and free speech restrictions, they too often come from an emotionally wounded place that fails to rationally consider what history teaches us about how harmful the state and the secret police have always been to all forms of dissent. That is, while I might gleefully or tacitly approve of consequences for people on the far right, it is much more true that these malign and mendacious marginalizations have targeted, imprisoned, cancelled, and even murdered people on the left. 


I have another million reasons to tell you why I don’t care if you sing bad Jesus music on airplanes (to pluck a culture-war non-crisis of this week) or if you hate people that sing bad Jesus music on airplanes. I do care that we all have our basic needs met and foster difficult conversations with friends across the chasms of culture wars. In this season of Easter, in this time of fragile hope and desperation, I recommit myself to be slower to judge others or myself, especially their motives or sincerity and to seek peace and human solidarity that transcends the fractures and ideological divides in our world. 


Just writing these words has made me want to call some friends, long-term friends that I have in my own community that I have stopped talking to because of “politics.” Trying to reconcile those friendships may be frustrating or impossible, but the tug of love and compassion in my heart are real. If I want everyone to be less dogmatic and hateful today about Russians, for example, I need to be less dogmatic and hateful about, gulp-ugh-spit, Republicans. 


Somehow I know that everything I have said here will be seen as too simplistic or too something: naive, idealistic, enabling, soft on my enemies. But somehow, also, I feel a deeper rumble, way deep down, that says I too have been too judgy, too toxic, too harsh, too ideological about too many things and that abiding human empathy, agape love, compassion, mutual aid, and solidarity, these values transcend it all. 

In one of his last blogs before his death, John Shuck wrote this: “These are dangerous times. They do not have to be fearful times. Fears will come up. They will arise. Our old foe, fear, will attack us and want to drive us. Love, Courage, and Joy are stronger than fear, when we give them control and let them drive our beliefs and actions.


Acting from Love, Courage, and Joy will result in actions that reflect our true selves. They will be beautiful actions whether or not they result in outcomes that will be convincing to others. But they will defeat the Monster in that the Monster will not control our true self. When we act from fear, the Monster controls us. When we act from Love, Courage, and Joy, the Monster cannot control us.”

 


Monday, March 28, 2022

Merton, Jesus, War, & More


 Notes from a Zoom To Gather unchurch Sunday thing on 3.27.2022
---
video from the message part of the gathering: https://youtu.be/T2mP0fzGtMk

Hebrews 2 - the Message

Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying,

I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you;

I’ll join them in worship and praise to you.

Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says,

Even I live by placing my trust in God.


Louisville epiphany

It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. … This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. … I have the immense joy of being humyn, a member of a race in which God as Godself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the humyn condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”


My remarks

As you all know, I have been struggling with my faith for at least the last two years. It’s been a season for me of what many call “Deconstruction.” Breaking up with a blowtorch & a chisel every infrastructure of doctrine, staring into the existential abyss looking for a new understanding of God. I have been dabbling in pantheism & animism, reading Rumi every day. As some of you know, I have been attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation here in Cookeville. But I just can’t seem to shake Jesus. 


When we talk about the better world that is possible, the new worlds that is always flowers bursting in the cracked sidewalk, the new world being born in the shell of the old, the old school Christian tendency is to call that real & dreamed, that already & not yet place, they call it the Kingdom of God or the reign of God. 


For years, I have been much more familiar & friendly to MLK’s paraphrase: the Beloved Community, a term Martin actually borrowed from Josiah Royce. So who is Jesus in the Beloved Community. Late last year I wrote a blog that Jesus really isn’t King, & that is a good thing. In the days since, I have started identifying as Christian-adjacent, finally surrendering to the spiritual-but-not-religious trajectory I had already been on for some time; but what is the place for Jesus in my new expansive ecumenical space?

I am not seeking new gods; in fact I am done with Gods altogether, at least in the toxic or coercive or codependent micromanaging authoritarian sense that too many power-hungry preachers & teachers prefer. So I had an epiphany reading Merton’s epiphany!


Jesus is our brother, our sibling, our colleague, our comrade, our fellow traveler & co-conspirator in the subversive nonviolent revolution. No thrones or titles required, only endless banquet tables & a radical redistribution of resources so all are fed. Maybe Jesus as sibling really is the new thing. No oaths or vows or promises required, just a baptism into this merry band of rabble. 


“The free choice of global suicide, made in desperation by the world’s leaders & ratified by the consent & cooperation of all their citizens, would be a moral evil second only to the Crucixion.” - Merton, from “Peace: Christian duties & perspectives”


If I am honest, I don’t think most Christians or churches believe or teach that the Crucifixion was a moral evil. I think too many teach a transactional cross, where a masochistic sadistic caricature of God simultaneously commits suicide & kills God’s son. In all the metrics of atonement theory, the cross is a bet & a bargain, with God, with the devil, with the future of all humanity. 


But what if the cross was just the electric chair of its era. What if the cross is as I have been told by historical theologians more well-read than me, a terminal torture technique to intimidate subversives & seal submission to empire. 


If the cross is an evil of the magnitude that Merton describes, it is recognition of the execution, of the lynching, of the authority-sanctioned brutal killing that crucifixions in the first century are reported to have been. 


For me this last month, the war has been reconverting.


From the whispers on the news of an imminent invasion, to waking up to Putin’s creepy announcement on Thursday, February 24th, to seeing the cruelty & the carnage of a full scale air & ground invasion & the continued human cost as the war enters its second month.


My frail & fragile & probably futile searching for hope, it can grasp for hot takes on hot war & cold war, but might also seek solace outside the steady chatter of the commentariat. 


---

More from Merton

from “Peace: Christian Duties & Perspectives”

Politics pretends to use all this force as its servant, to harness it for social purposes, for the “good of [humanity].” The intention is certainly good. The technological development of power in our time is certainly a challenge, but that does not make it essentially evil. On the contrary, it can be and should be a very great good. In actual fact, however, the furious speed with which our technological world is plunging toward disaster is evidence that no one is any longer fully in control --and this includes the political leaders.

A simple study of the steps which led to the dropping of the first A-bomb on Hiroshima is devastating evidence of the way well-meaning men, the scientists and leaders of a victorious nation, were guided step by step, without realizing it, by the inscrutable yet simple “logic of events” to fire the shot that was to make the cold war inevitable and prepare the way inexorably for World War III. This they did purely and simply because they thought in all sincerity that the bomb was the simplest and most merciful way of ending World II and perhaps all wars, forever.

The tragedy of our time is then not so much the malice of the wicked as the helpful futility even of the best intentions of “the good.” We have war-makers, war criminals, indeed. But we ourselves, in our very best efforts for peace, find ourselves maneuvered unconsciously into positions where we too can act as criminals. For there can be no doubt that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, though not fully deliberate crimes, nevertheless crimes. And who was responsible? No one. Or “history.” We cannot go on playing with nuclear fire and shrugging off the results as history. 

--

It is well understood on both sides that atomic war is purely and simply massive and indiscriminate destruction of targets chosen not for thie military significance alone, but for their importance in a calculated project of terror and annihiliation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Three (anti)war poems penned on the first Ash Wednesday of World War Three

 

Three (anti)war poems
penned on the first 
Ash Wednesday 
of World War Three

1.
I am old enough to remember 
two invasions of Iraq 
1991 & 2003 under two different Bushes 
to be a true peacenik in America
is for nobody to ever have your back

peaceniks 
forever get   
called a coward
a traitor 
a sissy
a punk 
so when I dunk on this topic 

let me clear 
this is not out of fear

I claim no moral position 
not America number one
nor hippy with flowers in a gun 
not making memes of president Zalenskyy
none of this is any fun 

it’s only been a week but I have been floored
by liberals cheering for war
first we saw it on the cable news
commentators drooling like they drunk on booze
come on Biden what you gonna do
liberals cheering for war

maybe liberals cheering for war
never had the FBI come knocking on their door
don’t have neighbors phoning them death threats
for calling out local racists or January 6th attackers
or you know just regular Americans always bragging
about every kind of weapon they own 

doomsday preppers
soldiers of fortune 
trigger-happy ex-cops 
for every man is
his own killing machine
am I the only one triggered by people
in this right-wing fever dream 

I am just one sleepless woke hippy 
trying to stay on the beam
of not drinking the cocktail of revenge
the way you post pictures of civilian soldiers
then tell me you are not just another
liberal cheering for war 

liberals cheering for war
deny there were ever racists in Ukraine
okay then we can also deny that the 
former President’s boy ever did cocaine
but really this poem has nothing to do with blame
yet rather questioning every aspect of this 
ratcheted-up delirious war game 

not cheering for war is also 
not cheering for Putin
some still remember
better red than dead 
or was it dead than red
re-runs of the Day After Tomorrow 
dancing in your head

some of us remember this tape from the 1980s
nuclear bombs would send us all to Hades
but some of you thought the cold war had faded
until we woke up one February day

to learn about tanks & troops & 
again those nukes
autocrats & heroes & kooks 
high time I remember how to pray

2. 
remember how to read multiple sources
not just re-post that old silly picture
of a shirtless dictator who likes to ride horses 
not bragging that the one side of any conflict is

automatically right yet neither diminishing those
who hide in a basement shelter night after night
every human has blood that courses through her veins
every parent of soldiers dead remembers their names

listening to the protesters resisting arrest in the streets of Moscow
listening to a pacifist from Kyiv adding perspective on Democracy Now

mandatory conscription for every man 
don’t worry somebody watching from home
will figure out a way to tell you this
was always part of God’s plan 

understanding why some right-wingers 
who were cheering for Russia are suddenly silent
scratching my head at the left-wingers 
who are tongue-tied to call-out or condemn Russia

everything in life 
is not a hot-take on Twitter 
I know after Covid how much we like 
to sit at our screens & fritter 

But maybe get up for a walk 
Call your mom
Plan a night out dancing
Even if you need to call a babysitter 

don’t put words in my mouth I am not about 
to “blame NATO” but if sensible
foreign-policy wonks with decades of study are saying that 
expanding a military alliance in a time of peace has now 

brought the entire planet to its atomic knees maybe 
we should pause before posting that romantic screed
about a war for democracy itself 
I know you’ve seen that in your feed

war-profiteers & weapons manufacturers 
have something to do with how this thing
magically went from 12 to 30 look 
we are talking about war it is always dirty 

& if the cold war was really over 
why were countries joining in
1999 or 2004 or 2009 or 2017 
& I bet you couldn’t name them all 

if it were on a quiz so 
you better get on Google to start looking 
everyone who left Russia is grateful 
for that flight they were prescient in booking 

see people rarely want to ask why we even have armies
missiles tanks warships military aircraft rockets bombs
say out loud the part about the profits for
Boeing Raytheon or Lockheed Martin

who wants to ask why we even have war
a product where patriarchy meets anxiety in the marketplace of greed
food & housing & clean air & fresh drinking water
even love & art & music these are what we need

why we really need countries 
with all these borders
what kind of scarcity brain 
leads to all these hoarders

technology used to travel 
to distant planets 
or murder absolutely everything even 
if that is not how you planned it

don’t even get me started with
all the End Times branding
if there is an apocalypse fever 
the churches they fanned it 

3.
War is a special
booze for little 
girls or boys 
to learn how to get
high first with sticks
then plastic guns
then video games 

war is supposedly 
a selfless sacrifice to 
give your 
life meaning 
like Jesus but better 

so when the entire
globe is quickly 
careening past the
climate change
point of no return
& it is clear the 
billionaires never
really gave a shit
about ending poverty
or pollution 

admit that war
is a kind of solution
a distraction of action
from all the other inaction

don’t take too much
from this poetic mess

I am just a morning 
writer spitting this desperate
plea decidedly lost 
from membership in 
any faction 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Confessions After Listening To The Conspirituality Podcast

 



[According to their own description, what is the Conspirituality podcast:

“A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon. As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia. Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.”] https://conspirituality.net

Preface

The following attempt at an epic poem comes in response to the mentally shattering experiences I had while listening to the Conspiritualiy podcast, explained above. Though I am now several episodes into my re-acquaintance with this excellent podcast (which started but was abandoned right after 1-6-21), the shaking shock first occurred with episode #86: “Charles Eisenstein, New Age Q.” 

This callout & takedown on Charles Eisenstein was so needed & done with clarity & compassion. 

Eisenstein seems to have some ideas adjacent to thought that I had previously found helpful, such as Zerzan, Sahlins, Daniel Quinn, Graeber, etc, but it is actually something else entirely. Heck, we all like good origin stories.

Just as I have seen Russell Brand completely derailed in the last couple years, as the podcast shows, Eisenstein has fallen into the Q-friendly anti-vax bromance of the too white influencer world. 

Friends, just because we sometimes feel the grumbles of spirit deep within, just because our intuition sometimes feels like a direct line to the divine, let's all always be willing to take a deep breath, to take a step back, to vet our visions with fellow travelers of good conscience. There is no magic pill!

Now as I write, I am listening to podcaster Matthew Remski deconstruct a white slam poet, & I feel a little too seen, perhaps a little bit shamed, but I want to confess this before I confess more, I have been writing poetry stuff like that for 30 years. But I certainly don’t share the Instagram-influencer, well-funded, self-help vibe of the person that Remski exposes.

Since we are all vulnerable, broken, in need of sustenance at this interval of pandemic fatigue &  social unrest, I certainly understand the underlying cravings that prompt people to seek these curated “peak experiences,” pricey they might be. Why not let them do their thing, like you with your books, records, & unquenchable live music habit? 

Beneath it all, I see something vapid & probably worse, the platforming of people who appear to expect their spiritual bypassing to protect them from Covid. The insidious intersection of this drift --from the apparently harmless hobbies of the hot-rich-professionals to something sickening & harmful in its oblivious proximity to the far-right conspiracy crowd. 

I know I need to develop & maintain a personal spiritual practice, communal connections with friends & comrades, & a direct tap to whatever source offers compassion, engaged activism but also detachment, radical empathy, & unconditional love. 

It’s been more than 18 months since I left a job as a rural Presbyterian pastor. Deconstructing from Christianity has been difficult enough, but now I realize that I never properly deconstructed from two decades of neopaganism & new age stuff that immediately preceded my reconversion to Christianity some 13 years ago. Perhaps it’s my jam to move from spiritual bypassing to spiritual bypassing. 

“Trust your feelings” - Obi Wan Kenobi

you are sitting in morning meditation
grateful for the time to breathe but 
fully present to the stinking thinking 
constant thoughts that chase 
your mindfulness deep into the 
nagging annoying unhealthy parts 
of your mind 
you are lost in the 
presence of the 
ever present one 
to keep look look looking 
for what you will never find

you remember the long car ride 
where you could not pay attention
you could not get out 
you had to listen to what seemed 
like days but was probably only 
hours or minutes of a lilting lecture 
about an advanced race of human-like 
extraterrestrials called the Anunnaki 
from Nibiru who are the missing link 
to humanity & our true evolution
but this didn’t end with the long car ride

you remember being handed books
blogs videos & more by one of the 
world’s leading proponents of a
global counter-cultural movement 
that combines New World Order conspiracy 
the truther movement & anti-globalization
with an extraterrestrial conspiracy subculture

you remember the marijuana-induced
freakouts about the light beings that 
lived outside your realm or the real
you recall the deep long listens to 
TOOL albums or Bill Hicks standups or
late sleepless nights listening 
to DIY DVDs you had ordered about
the supposed real story behind 9-11

you even published your own
pro-conspiracy rants in a 
legitimate publication & if you are
completely honest you are still very 
concerned about the deaths
of Martin Luther King 
Thomas Merton
Paul Wellstone to
name just a few

admit it
you have tarried in every variety
of treehugger apocalyptic
accelerationist catastrophist 
green pessimism that you could find

you don’t like modern medicine
you gobble garlic & honey 
whenever you have a cold 
you were anti-vax until this virus
what else do I need to confess

you remember that time 
more than twenty years ago
the student complained that 
you might be a gay lush witch
the letters that were written to the dean
the wording so desperate
the tone so mean

how many doors or portals were
passed through just looking for the real you
from cradle Christian to eclectic pagan
drifting down the theological cafeteria line
a plate heaping with delicacies that 
were once only accessible to royals

yet the alienation & anxiety & addiction
that fueled ever-yet more intense searches
or purges or puck-like urges something
deep down in your bones lacked 
sufficient purchase to keep you on one path
how many days or years did you stay 
you have always had a hard time with math

how many times 
were you sure 
that you saw
god when really 
that was just the moment
when the drugs finally kicked in 

you put your hands in some soil
declared that you were home
even moved into a dome
built by an old man named Owl
but the 13 years there proved for you
something finally unsatisfying or foul

when the contract was signed 
a tenant was evicted which 
you rationalized mainly because 
you learned they were shitting 
in the creek you were not the meek
to inherit this parcel of earth you
just had the downpayment asked

never explained to the seller
a local farmer who had been there
for years what all your dreams
were of decadent festivals on the back 40
when the techno sounds allegedly
carried to the next town over 
every time you tried to park too
many cars on this tight gravel road
named after pumpkins not solar toads

you bought land from somebody
who bought land from somebody
who bought land back then
when they just took the land
had slaves work the land 
it just wasn’t that long ago &
you know what you know

every book you read about 
why the hippies failed was
only part of the story because
some of those hippies were still there
yet within yourself you turned
a blind eye to the rural gentrification
that hip white people with bank 
& gas in the tank can come take
it’s optional if they even give thanks

a fine line between sustainability 
or trashing the land a fine line
between permaculture & a
permanent outpost for 
another version of white culture
don’t pretend it is not true
as you watch the vulture feast on
the remains of a mantra that 
you borrowed from the east 

you are not descended from ascended masters
you are not a shaman or a priest 
you are not part of anything
but a broken lineage
of screaming protest 
on the counterculture sidelines

of what used to be the 
antiauthoritarian left &
yet lest we forget 
from a disillusioned 
modernist
middle class
point of view 

you are nothing but 
poet bum or rubber tramp with 
a mortgage & a pension 
& a Subaru covered in stickers
so you can stand out in any 
traffic jam or parking lot
let me make a list of my 
own limits & imperfections 

the hyper-privileged online
self-appointed prophets
are talking about 
cages for the unvaccinated 
& government conspiracies
& you cannot help but wonder

if he ever worried about the 
government cages that 
already exist for the poor
the black & brown 
the unemployed & the addicted 
or about the military industrial 
war machine
the out of control copaganda
always already aimed at 
communities of color

they are not really
preaching bodily autonomy 
about a poke when they constantly
make an insult out of the word woke

they ran from yoga class to fitness class
to get your meal prep package off the porch
the first world cliches of every meme or joke

they are not autonomous just white
just a new age automaton of bodies
preaching narcissism from the digital 
glorification of blonde & toned & beach-ready
boutique experiences for the spiritually alone  
who must travel to Mexico or other exotic 
locations they learned about on Instagram
while staring into the abyss of their iPhones

you were almost them
admit it 
confess it
say it
own it
before your sobriety or conversion you 
were drunk on climate catastrophe insanities 
dropout escapist post-utopian fantasies
these peak experiences of 
fire festival fever dreams
tripping them dipping 
then into exotic visions in 
a capsule or some fungus 
then the angels 
climbed out of your anus or your navel to
spin you back 
into that magical caravan tent
where you were some kind of 
magical imaginary king
no just take me to the shop 
where I can buy
some more imported hippy bling 

all the feathers & facepaint & feeling your
feelings when the medicine will do
what the medicine will do
but no amount of psilocybin MDMA LSD
the medicine is not you
that was just a cloud not the face
of an old testament prophet in a cloud

remember what they keep teaching you
in those darn twelve step classes
you are not your thoughts
you are not your feelings
it takes a special kind of private
perfect privilege to constantly promote
every minor epiphany to the level
of substack scripture for your subscription base
because you have convinced them
that you are part of the anointed 
carefully called & chosen truth-tellers
when you are just as imperfect as anyone else
crawling around for joy 
pebbles on the ground
of a cave 
just grateful to be breathing
inside your hairless meat costume
of accidental consciousness on this
blue green ball of great mysteries

to be clear 
these people are driving me crazy 
because like them 
I have too much free time
I too have been drunk on
every passing spiritual fashion 
of woo woo
doo doo 
on my shoe shoe 
to share with
you & my crew phew 
to be clear now eww

if I had not had the Conspirituality podcast hosts
to do a close deconstructive reading of 
the latest Eisenstein animated video 
I too might have been swept away again
shared it favorably on my page 
& then what or
what then

because you see 
like many millions of others
I watched the video for the Coronation 
in the spring of 2020 when my intuition tweaked
my feelings were felt like oceans of mountains
of volcanoes of hurricanes of feelings everything

off the charts my dreams & sleep like downloads
from god the whole thing was real for sure

this was earth’s moment 
to wake up 
to shut up 
to shut down 
all the shit 
that is killing us &

yet within a few months 
find us finally living in 
the long-awaited 
carbon-neutral 
fair-trade
free-world 
without child-slavery 
or sex-trafficking
or anything else the highly selective moral compass
of hip white bloggers have deemed really bad this week

why did I order all of his books that day &
from an independent store even 
& not Amazon either
had to wait more than a week for them to arrive
started to read them 
never finished them 
now listening 
to this podcast almost two years later 
I am so glad
I never read them 
now I just moved them to 
the box to take to the used bookstore

because damn this is just some diluted John Zerzan
some warmed up leftovers from Hakim Bey
perhaps a sprinkle of David Graeber but only if 
David Graeber were merely just a smarter version of Joe Rogan 
& spiced generously with a word you stole from Thich Nhat Hanh
may he rest in peace & power

I am sorry I bought your books Charles Eisenstein but
I am not sorry I listened to Conspirituality the other day

now back to 2020 please
keep this clear because 
of the murders of 
Ahmaud Arbery
Breonna Taylor 
& George Floyd 
something snapped 
this pandemic thread
in my sabbath head
 
that it was really only 
just about the climate
just about
you know the wildfires 
extreme ice storms 
the rising polluted sea waters 
& not about the police the cops
who are militarized to the nines
an occupying army for the rich
& not about the poison of the 
prisons in Mississippi where 
the inmates might accidentally
eat a rat that got cooked 
in the cornbread that day

there are more choices between
climat-denier & covid-denier
there are more choices
you can still be a nonviolent anarchist
& not be coerced by some Twitter troll
to apologize for voting for Democrats
to defeat Trump & his citizens army
of red hats like brown shirts with blue flags
declaring fealty to a family name
even though in your regional municipality
he is far from defeated but holding
almost every 
county city or state 
government hostage all set 
to giving more civil rights 
to unborn zygotes than
to women 
immigrants 
blacks 
or queers   
if this is our zeitgeist it is actually
much worse than my worst fears 

so there is not a manual on 
how to follow empathy or solidarity 
or compassion or clarity
or courage into the daily drama 

the beautiful but broken barrage
especially when without church or cadre
you do not have a coherent entourage
with whom to climb the barricades

so you are constantly blogging 
tweeting posting praying playing
now whether I am consulting 

Situationists or Surrealists or Socrates
Buddha or Bonhoeffer or Boxcar Bertha
Jesus Christ or Jack Kerouac or James Cone

we need a forever discerning eye
of fellow travelers & friends 
with ears to the ground with a forward
glance to see past the bend in
this winding dangerous switchback road
that surely looks like our collective end

P.S.
you bounce from spiritual bypassing 
to spiritual bypassing
guru generalists who are really
narcissists don’t care 

they just take the dare
to steal from whatever source is there
that makes them feel of course
to be fair 

there is no perfect perpetuity 
not even that elusive imperfect perfection
not prepackaged poetic tradition
not a thing to calm intrinsic sedition

just because we have made a 
temporary pact with the social
refusing to push it all off the cliff
refusal to murder neighbors in 
the light of day

does not necessarily mean we
have somehow made peace
with the managers with the
planners who themselves don’t
have a plan except their 

escape pods
all these temporary nods to a 
noble egalitarianism are not to
be taken seriously until 
the hostages have been freed

yet some goodness or gratitude
are the total sum of these vast
spiritual travels & incessant dabbling
just don’t claim authenticity that
is not mine or a rigid doctrine 
not validated by love or reality