This yogi in his dhoti in Benares
stood on one leg.
One outstretched palm kept ice from melting
while the other fried an egg
Wearing nothing but a turban and a mandala
he dwelt in a Frigidaire
eight months chewing a ginseng root.
They don’t need air.
They are not dependent on the variables
that generally maintain us.
They show the autonomic nervous system who is boss.
A yogi can suck water up his anus.
swallow Kleenex and pull it out his nose.
A woman with a yogi for a lover
said he never came too soon,
yet sitting in his lotus with his thoughts on God
could spurt all afternoon.
I never met a lady yogi, but I hear they menstruate
when they please.
A yogi never laughs without deciding,
nor does he sneeze.
He makes his heart beat fast or slow, depending
on mind, not glands.
his hiccups, sweat and pupil sizes
He farts at will and never apologizes.
As a boy I tried to suck my belly under
ribs till I saw my spine.
Though I never tried a rope or cobra, I played
my ocarina for some twine.
I pounded blunt ten penny nails through plywood
and would have lain on it, no doubt,
if I could have got my weight all in one motion
evenly stretched out.
I wiggled my ears and pursed my sphincters,
crossing my eyes.
In school I sat with a stony gaze, engaged
in internal exercise.
But I surrendered as I aged
to the voluntary and involuntary
as discrete domains,
with uncontrollable regret enduring
riot in my veins,
incontinently wishing I could master
that skill or art
that could predict, if not manipulate,
the weather of my heart.
And yet my effort is no more to strengthen,
but to subdue my will,
to go through ego’s mirror and be whole.
Still you may see me sitting very still,
straining to throw off the mind’s control.
[from PUBLIC DOMAIN JUDSON JEROME published by Trunk Press, Hancock, Maryland, 1977.]
HUCKABEE SANDERS - POSTER CHILD FOR SOMETHING EVEN UGLIER THAN RACISM THAT AROSE FROM ANTEBELLUM SOUTH
What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage? My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.
While the institution of forced labor was dismantled after the Civil War, the peculiar mindset that defined reality as whatever the patriarch said it was, regardless of the evidence of one’s own senses, escaped the confines of the South and spread to other areas of white working class America.
It was a worldview built on an invented moral authority. Southern evangelicals had fought the abolitionism of their northern evangelical counterparts by creating a new hermeneutics–Bible literalism. It proclaimed that anything theologians found in the world of 2,000 years ago as having made its way into the Bible could be declared sacrosanct and God-inspired. Critical thinking skills, even personal observation were disdained for the proclamations of the patriarchal leader. In that context, lies were whatever liberals said, and the truth was the patriarch’s mumblings.
White House press secretary, Sarah Huckebee Sanders, thinks of herself as a good Christian because she is faithful to the truths of Donald Trump. If this poison isn’t worse than racism, then it certainly runs a close second.
[Constance Hilliard’s article was reblogged by Daily Kos Liberation League on August 2, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of Daily Kos.]
Before I intimate the declining state of religion in this country, let me say that it is in dismal disarray.
Thousands of churches in America, on any given Sunday morning, have a telling number of empty pews–most of them more than half-empty. An equal number (thousands) of articles have been written, asking, “Why is church membership declining?” That is not my particular concern either.
My interest is in the growing number of agnostics and atheists, in general. I well remember a time in this country when only one atheist’s voice was being heard and who name was well-know–Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair once opined, “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.” The remarkable, but unthinkable truth, is that she was right! Keep this thought in mind.
Before I share statistics, it is important to understand the meaning of the words “atheist” and “agnostic.” According to Dr. Phil Zuckerman, in an October 2015 issue of Psychology Today, “An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God or gods. And agnostic is someone who isn’t sure if there is a God or not, or who doesn’t feel like he or she (or anyone) can have any valid information on the matter, and thus, thinks that it is impossible to say there is a God, or that there isn’t.”
I’ll go with Zuckerman’s definitions, but simplify them by saying that both atheists and agnostics (nonbelievers) simply have no belief in a deity, period. They are neither theists nor polytheists. They are about as willing to talk about God or gods as they are to enter into a passionate, intense discussion of unicorns or leprechauns!
Atheism and agnosticism is growing at breathtaking rates through the world. Just to share some statistics, according to the Oxford Handbook, 41 percent of the people of France (or nearly 20 million) are nonbelievers. Almost one-third of the people of the United Kingdom are nonbelievers. But, wait…
While we may not be surprised that 17 percent of the people of Russia are nonbelievers, it startles us to learn there are a little less than half that number (8 percent) in the United States. The actual number of unbelievers in the United States is 18,625,556. Compare to the population of the State of New York - 19,795,791 (2014)
The rise in numbers of unbelievers in the U.S. is, unquestionably, not due to the efforts of Madalyn Murray O’Hair!
I suspect this statistic is buoyed and burgeoning because the church continues to be unrealistic in its teachings, along with its unrelenting promotion of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. It is growing because of the unremitting hypocrisy between what Christians “say” and what Christians “do.”
The results of the recent election evince the latter. I cannot, in my lifetime, remember so profane and un-Christ-like a candidate as Donald Trump; yet, evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported and voted for him. Go figure!
(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins
[Editor’s Note: Following are personal observations and conclusions I have reached. You may not agree with some or all of them and that’s okay. Think about some of the important observations and conclusions you have come to during your lifetime. Hey, I might not agree with some or all of yours either, but, it’s an informative and fun reflection on your life experiences.]
From infancy I attended Sunday school and church. I went on to college and seminary and was, somewhat simultaneously, a pastor/teacher for 50-plus years. Living life observantly has taught me more about religion, the church and the spiritual life that I could’ve ever absorbed from books. Here are a few serious (and silly) lessons I’ve learned:
♦ Most church signs display either bad spelling, poor grammar or faulty theology. Some, all three!
♦ Churches say they want to grow, but they don’t want to bring in new people with new ideas. They say “We’ve never done it that way before.”
♦ Christians preach generosity and practice frugality.
♦ Faith comes not from knowing; faith comes from not knowing. Faith does not arrive at what we’ll know, but journeys toward what we’ll never know.
♦ In spite of what some Christians believe, not everything in the Bible is demonstrably true.
♦ Atheists spend too much time talking about God. Think about it. Unicorns and trolls don’t exist, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about them.
♦ Don’t count on tomorrow. It might not come.
♦ Everyone knows the “Golden Rule”; almost no one follows it.
♦ If Jesus returns on a Saturday evening, he won’t be in church on Sunday morning.
♦ There’s absolutely no saving grace in years of faithful church attendance.
♦ Love your neighbor, but erect a sturdy fence.
♦ Treat animals like you believe in reincarnation.
♦ In the long run, it IS true that “what goes ’round comes round.’
♦ It is not true that you can’t worship on the golf course or at the seashore as well as you can in church.
♦ Never make change out of the offering plate.
♦ Preachers who cannot properly interpret Shakespeare (17th Century English) shouldn’t be interpreting the King James Version of the Bible.
♦ Christians say heaven is a wonderful place, but they don’t seem overly anxious to go there.
♦ We humans are just discovering what the Creator has known all along.
♦ Just because a creed is old and oft-repeated does not make it true.
♦ The Ten Commandments do NOT need to be displayed; they need to be obeyed.
♦ According to physics, for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction; for every good there is an equal, opposite evil.
♦ The most abhorrent sin is bigotry. Bigotry thrives on a false sense of superiority. Bigotry is a disgusting form of hypocrisy.
♦ If parishioners cannot remember what the morning sermon was about, then the homily was either poorly constructed, feebly delivered or simply not worth remembering!
♦ Humans believe (and live) too many half-truths.
♦ It is better to be wrong and stand corrected than to be corrected and then take a wrong stand.
♦ If you fall for everything, you won’t believe in anything.
♦ The ways we are alike have a difficult time surfacing through the ways we are different.
Sometime, set aside some time to jot down the general, personal, religious/spiritual lessons you have learned in your lifetime, so far. I suspect it will be a longer list than you imagined. According to phrases.org.UK, Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb: “Experience is the best teacher.”
(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins (all rights reserved)
[L. Milton Hankins is a theologian, former pastor, author and columnist and the publisher of Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com). He lives with his wife Deborah and Jose, their three year old chihuahua, in Ashland, Kentucky. This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. Milt’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
A recent op-ed piece by a leader of the United Methodist Church, published in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, urged West Virginia’s U. S. Senators to save Medicaid so that federal funds can continue to help break the grip of the opioid epidemic.
This thoughtful article offers the theological hook–the parable of The Good Samaritan–on which to hang a political imperative to increase access to federal funds for substance abusers to receive care.
Although the story of The Good Samaritan is a good story, another parable–the Prodigal Son–is, in my opinion, more instructional and worthy of being taken into consideration for addressing the current drug problem.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, a young man leaves home and squanders his portion of his inheritance by living a less-than- desirable lifestyle. He eventually finds himself broke, hungry, neglected and living in a pigsty. It is here that he “comes to his senses” and makes a decision to go back home. He then starts walking. As he approaches home, the young man’s father runs down the road to meet his son and hugs him in a welcoming embrace.
The story of The Prodigal Son does not tell us why the young man left home and what motivated him to take a walk on the wild side (I’m sure he had his reasons). The story also does not tell us whether the father knew his son was grubbing around in a pigsty far from home (I think he did, but chose to stay home). But, one thing we know for sure–the squanderer got out of the muck by coming to his senses and beginning the long walk back. His father did not rescue him nor did anyone help him on the way back. The young man made a choice to change and then acted on that choice.
Many substance abusers probably relate more to the young man in the Prodigal Son than to the man beaten by robbers in the Good Samaritan–while one made bad choices, the other had no choice. Many mental health care providers probably relate to the remedy for the young man in the sty more than the care provided to the man found beaten and lying in a ditch. We can pull addicts out of the ditch and take them to a healthy place to recuperate, but they will not walk the road of recovery unless, or until, they make a choice to walk that walk.
Urging senators to allocate more federal funds for treatment through Medicaid presupposes that present Medicaid treatment merits our continued support. That supposition is not supported by what we are finding on the streets. I have a sick feeling Medicaid funds are now, in effect, being used to make cleaner pigsties or to rescue addicts who have not, on their own, “come to their senses.”
We, as a community, cannot beg or bribe addicts with Medicaid treatment to choose a new and better way. Substance abusers have to make that choice to be someone new on their own, and then start living into that new-ness. When they do we, as a community, will celebrate by joyously feasting with them.