Sunday, January 25, 2009


I recently watched an incredibly fascinating online video that speaks with great clarity and eloquence about the issues of consumption and justice and sustainability inherent in our current economic model and American/world lifestyle.

The video is and I would really recommend it to anyone who has ever purchased anything.

Every part of it was eye-opening, but there was one quote that just rocked me to the core. The video explained how we have become a nation of consumers, starting in the 50s, we determined to become a people who got all our identity from consuming. They quoted an economist, Victor Lebeau, who articulated this vision before it came about so perfectly....

He said, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption of goods our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction in consumption."

Just reread that quote a couple of times, please, and ponder it. Give some thought to this culture we find ourselves in. This quote seems to me to very much sum up what is true in our culture.
It's incredible to me that this was articulated with such prescience--- and now... how we entertain ourselves, how we think about our time, how we think about our community relationships, how we think about our church, how we think about where we live, our jobs, our relationships-- all of these have become twisted and affected deeply by our identity as consumers and addiction to consumption.

I'm still stuck on the fact that people planned this for us. It didn't just happen. It was intentional. I feel like I am seeing something almost as diabolical as some of the quotes and stated intentions of Hilter and Stalin here. I have this sense that there was real demonic power involved.

I don't want to say this to be over emotional, reactive, and overly excited. But when I read that quote it was like a little epiphany for me.

I hear the words of Jesus in gentle, loving, and diametric opposition== "I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." and I want desperately to join in with Paul in warfare against these demonic plans that have brought God's beloved people into such bondage that we have found our spiritual, ritualistic and ego worth only in consumption.

These words ring in my mind... "We destroy arguments and every pround obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God. And we take every thought captive to obey Christ."

I want to join in a warfare for a new word about our culture...

that we will not be first consumers but rather first, in submission to Christ, creators and redemption lovers and justice-bringers and light-bearers and joy revelers....

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Universe Next Door

I just completed a read of the book, The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire. It's a "catalog" of different worldviews, from the perspective of the theistic (and evangelical Christian) worldview.

I was surprised, a bit, by how fascinating and helpful and new the information in this book was to me. It's very well-written, and fairly indepth in an overview sort of way.

What surprised me most was how many thoughts, questions and "worldview" issues I had. I had thought I was struggling with questions so unique and personal. But many times what I thought I was original and exceptional in my doubts and internal struggles was mostly, perhaps entirely, influenced by a conflicting worldview and system of thought. This was very good to realize because and examine. Over and over I found, with some embarrassment and much relief, that all that seemed so convincing and brave and compelling in the shadows--so much of existentialism or eastern philosophies or even post-modernism--became much less attractive under scrutiny.

When I started to examine these stances and their conclusions--realizing they weren't in any way unique or special to me-- then I could see their inherent problems, inconsistencies, and realize again and again that I choose faith in Christ, and faith in a transcendent, personal God as the way most consistent and fulfilling and truth affirming.

I also could see more clearly what was influencing the viewpoints of my friends and colleagues. This is helpful, so that once again I can be aware of how that attracts me and also, so that, by God's grace, I can be of some service to them in perhaps scrutinizing their own worldviews, if that is of interest to them.

The writer was very artistically aware--he quoted poetry throughout. This appealed to me, of course. One thing he said about the nihilistic worldview really stood out:

"The twist is this: (he's speaking about how many artists with a nilistic viewpoint have tried to express nihilism in their art). To the extent that these art works display the human implication of a nihilistic view, they are not nihilistic; to the extent they themselves are meaningless, they are not art works.

Art is nothing if not formal, that is, endowed with structure by the artist. But structure itself implies meaning. So to the extent that an art work has structure, it has meaning and thus is not nihilistic."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

In which I share some more poems published and muse a bit on the label "religious..."

I had some more poetry published in the Sacramento Poetry Center's publication, Poetry Now. This is a very small, local publication, but it's still a little charge to see my poems in print. You can download a copy by following this link:

Both of the poems published here have a little bit of a Christian worldview expressed, which is to be expected (hopefully, though, sometimes-- usually between 5-9 p.m-- there's not much Christian worldview being expressed by me at all).

They wouldn't qualify as devotional reading or Bible study material, still, you can see if you read the poems that I mention the Bible in one and prayer in another. And like I said, it's somewhat to be expected. I honestly think about the Bible a lot and I think about prayer too. (Do I follow the Bible consistently? do I pray more than I talk about praying? These are different questions.)

The other night at poetry workshop I brought in a poem that talked about an experience at a Communion service in extremely Christian terms, and it also described the Resurrection of Christ.

No getting around it, the point of view in that poem was Christian. Which is admittedly a relief to me.

So, why did I rankle when one of my fellow poets labelled it a religious poem?

He was very honest in saying that some of the poem was more accessible to him than other parts, and the part that was less accessible was the stanza imagining the ressurrection. I think he very generously and fairly owned his own cultural bias against religion was making it harder for him to appreciate the poem.

Still the whole experience frustrated and annoyed me. I'm not sure all the reasons why, but I think most of them are not so good.

C.S. Lewis's fiction is religious fiction, so is Flannery O'Connor's. Hopkins and Herbert wrote religious poetry, didn't they? Michealangelo painted religious art. Handel's Messiah is a religious piece of music. I would be over the moon, ego-filled, out of touch with reality and dangerously giddy with pride if I ever thought my art deserved to be compared to these artists--still, they are evidence that religious content does not mean unartistic or less artistically excellent.

I'll probably explore this a lot more later. I have to go wash dishes now.
Right now where I'm at is that I am going to have to make peace with the fact that my poetry is going to be called "religious" poetry by almost everyone who reads it. At least, everyone who is not immersed in my worldview.
Latero and with much affection,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A late Epiphany

Talking to Valerie reminded me that I had long intended to post this poem for Epiphany when it came and there it was gone so quickly. Epiphany really comes much faster than Christmas...

I very much love the idea of thinking of Epiphany as the revelation of Christ to the whole world. But I don't have much sense of how to think about it or enter into it...

Here's this wonderful T. S. Eliot poem.

With affection, Jenny

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Blogging idea

I recently started reading the funny, lively blog of another mom and fellow Oakhillian --

She's very gifted as writer and in many other capacities, and she has a wonderfully fun voice, and I enjoy getting to know her just a little bit in this way. She recently completed a year of blogging every single day--365 entries.

My thought, after the initial--no thank you, I resist obligations of all sorts-- was that this small discipline would help a person get the writing juices flowing. It would be like journalling, in a way, with the added ingredient of a possible audience.

Jennifer said as much--that her writing voice was strengthened and developed through the experience, which she also said she didn't intend to repeat.

I won't be writing here every day, but perhaps I will treat it a bit more like a writing journal or writing prompter spot-- I would also like to encourage other writers to find "tricks"--places, audiences, disciplines, classes, exercises, groups, etc. to get them writing.

Let me know if you are trying any this year.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

For your present-- here's a poem by Richard Wilbur --Love Calls us to the Things of This World--

This poem is (in part) about waking up-- that slow, wonderful and reluctant way we enter another morning--

The first line --

"The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn. "

Here we are waking into another year-- enjoy the poetry.