Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poem A Day - National Poetry Month

Poetry....hmmmm. Seems to have fallen out of favour with many, since there is now a library of several million (at least) tunes to listen to over the Internet...and you all know how I feel about that. But you may not know how I feel about poetry...and so, you are about to find out. April is National Poetry Month, and I have decided, last year, that there is too much wonderful classic poetry languishing between the covers of books no longer opened. So....every day, here in the month of April, I will be sharing poetry with you, both that of my favorite poets, and my own. Every day a new poem to share, and sometimes one I wrote with a bit of an explanation. This is what many of us did before there were online journals and iPods....we wrote, and read aloud or silently, and shared, the distillations of thought, feeling and language known as poems. And I would like, for just one month, to remember myself, and share with you, how rewarding that was. Maybe you'll feel that way too.

Here is the first poem, for the first day of National Poetry Month. I decided to just let a poet's name roll to the top of my mind, and choose one of that poet's works. And the first name that arrived at the top of the witch-ball was one of my favourites, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Here's a short bio, and one of his most famous poems, which I love. I will admit I think a great deal about why I like Hopkins' work so much, since almost all of it is written from the perspective of a Christian priest in love with Jesus. But there is something about his unique rhythms and eye for surprising detail that simply entrances me. And the fact that he was in love for years with another man also makes him far more approachable. So, with no further ado, here is Hopkins, and his possibly most famous poem, The Windhover;

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Born at Stratford, Essex, England, on July 28, 1844, Gerard Manley Hopkins is regarded as one the Victorian era's greatest poets. He was raised in a prosperous and artistic family. He attended Balliol College, Oxford, in 1863, where he studied Classics.

In 1864, Hopkins first read John Henry Newman's Apologia pro via sua, which discussed the author's reasons for converting to Catholicism. Two years later, Newman himself received Hopkins into the Roman Catholic Church. Hopkins soon decided to become a priest himself, and in 1867 he entered a Jesuit novitiate near London. At that time, he vowed to "write no more...unless it were by the wish of my superiors." Hopkins burnt all of the poetry he had written to date and would not write poems again until 1875. He spent nine years in training at various Jesuit houses throughout England. He was ordained in 1877 and for the next seven years carried his duties teaching and preaching in London, Oxford, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Stonyhurst.

In 1875, Hopkins began to write again after a German ship, the Deutschland, was wrecked during a storm at the mouth of the Thames River. Many of the passengers, including five Franciscan nuns, died. Although conventional in theme, Hopkins poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland" introduced what Hopkins called "sprung rhythm." By not limiting the number of "slack" or unaccented syllables, Hopkins allowed for more flexibility in his lines and created new acoustic possibilities. In 1884, he became a professor of Greek at the Royal University College in Dublin. He died five years later from typhoid fever. Although his poems were never published during his lifetime, his friend poet Robert Bridges edited a volume of Hopkins' Poems that first appeared in 1918.

In addition to developing new rhythmic effects, Hopkins was also very interested in ways of rejuvenating poetic language. He regularly placed familiar words into new and surprising contexts. He also often employed compound and unusual word combinations. As he wrote to in a letter to Burns, "No doubt, my poetry errs on the side of oddness…" Twentieth century poets such as W.H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Charles Wright have enthusiastically turned to his work for its inventiveness and rich aural patterning.

The Windhover - To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The SLOOOOOOW Blog,,,,

I haven't been over here in a while, because I have been dealing with some physical challenges. But today I am moved to post something that has gotten me thinking and somewhat disconcerted. I just heard, on our local news, that Centerville, a city here in Utah, has decided to use Twitter to disperse local information to city residents. So now the town is tweeting, and other municipalities are expected to follow suit in due course. Tweet, tweet, tweet...pfui.

Aye, there's the rub. Twitter is a way of posting tiny little sentence fragments which are totally incomprehensible to anyone except the person who is being addressed. Reading people's "tweets" on my various blogs is the best way I can think of to entice a headache to come roost between my temples and take up residence for the rest of the day. Twitter is quick and short and immediate. And thus it is the new big thing, and thus it is one more thing turning me into the Crotchety Crone I bill myself as in certain other places.


Now we can text while driving while listening to our voicemail on our iPod while looking at the scrolling text of weather and road reports and Amber alerts on the highway monitors, while our PDA sits on the seat next to us scrolling the internet and we have one ear on the music on the radio and half an eye on the drop-down DVD player that has Kung Fu Panda blaring at our overstimulated kids in the back seat, and that doesn't even include the GPS which is talking to us while we skitter down the Internet at 75 MPH. And we wonder why our lives are increasingly shallow, meaningless, useful for nothing more than seeing how much we can get done in the shortest possible amount of time, regardless of the quality of what we are doing.

I am seriously worried here. Twitter is only a symptom, and it isn't the first one. The fact is we are well on the road to obliterating our cultures, our resources, our sanity, our intellect, our environment, and perhaps even our species. And in my opinion a great deal of this is due entirely on our insistence on doing everything less carefully, with more noise, hurry, and attendant chaos and less insistence on slow, quiet, thoughtful words, deeds, and circumstances.

Human beings are mammals, diurnal mammals. Diurnal mammals need to live in their cycles, which include sleep and rest cycles. We need....not just as a lazy convenience, but as an essential of our physical and mental health...the processes which are induced in our minds and bodies by the three gifts of darkness, distance, and silence. We need to think, to take time, to have room to cogitate, to have periods where we are simply sitting and contemplating, with NOTHING on our minds or in our purview except the peace and tranquillity of the quiet mind. Without these things, we fray. We go on rampages. We get sick, and sicker. We get depressed. We pop pills. We drink too much. We abuse each other. And sometimes, we die. And all that is attached to us dies too. And yet we keep on doing it, keep on loading ourselves up with more/faster/shorter/busier/shallower/more frenetic, more careless, more abbreviated, more twittery, more more more....

And in this instance, for sure, less is more. Or, better phrased, more is less. Less thought. Less care. Less time. Less focus. Less inspiration. Less perception. Less life.

For the love of all the gods, people. Slow the fuck down. Slow food. Slow conversations. Slow, leisurely moments of sharing with loved ones. Slow, deliberate and careful cogitation before coming to decisions. Slowly, carefully, deliberately, experience of the immediate moment.

Slow down and enjoy the life you have been given. Too fast and too furious is too damn bad. Why should you twitter your way through life when with some thought, you could sing a full-voiced canticle of joy?

I know you won't listen. You're in a hurry. But that's OK. I won't be following your tweets, either. Because there's no YOU in there any more.

I will be over here under the Bo tree contemplating my navel. Maybe you might like to join me if you ever get the message. And it won't show up on your phone.

Monday, March 2, 2009

And Yet Once More....

I feel as if this woman, a long-time friend and associate, is reading the inside of my own head and speaking my own thoughts better than I can. So, please, listen. And re-post as far and wide as you like:

Adoption Law in Utah
By Dominique Storni
(permission is granted to repost)

Have you ever had one of those fitful nights where you just couldn’t sleep? I’ve just had one of those nights. I came, I tossed and turned, I blogged.

For some reason, the question of adoption weighs heavily on my mind and heavier on my soul. There are children who want a home. They are tired of being shuffled about from place to place while the adoption system fails to grant them their dream of a loving family.

There is one predominant reason why the government agencies continue to fail to provide these children a permanent home with a loving family. That reason, very simply, is that there is a shortage of available homes and a shortage of legally allowed adoption families.

Easy fix, yeah? Hold that thought.

The Director of the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) testified before a House committee (of 1 Democrat and 5 Republicans) that the system is broken. He declared that there are 200 children who need homes and that the state of Utah needs more loving families who are willing and available to adopt.

In spited of this declaration, one Republican member of the committee asked, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

Were they even listening? Obviously not.

Experts testified citing reference after reference after reference of studies showing that adoption should be open to all types of families. The only qualifications found relevant were; could they provide a safe home, could they provide a loving home, could they provide a home where the children could grow up and have a chance to learn to be good members of society.

The opposition holds fast to what they call “the traditional family”. They believe the only valid definition of “family” is where a heterosexual man takes a heterosexual woman and heads the family. This myth, at least in Utah, was begun by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). That church published “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and have disseminated it worldwide as if it were canonized scripture. Many refer to it as THE proclamation on the family.

What they won’t tell you is that nearly half of the families who they claim as members of the Mormon Church do not fall within the boundaries of their definition of what constitutes a family.

Many LDS families are headed by single parent homes, lead by either a single mother or a single father. Some families are headed by unmarried couples. Other families in the LDS church are headed by either single or married grandparents or single or married aunts or uncles who have taken guardianship of children left behind from tragic accidents where parents died, or from circumstances of children being removed from unsafe living environments. There are also many family units who are headed by members who identify as Mormon who also identify as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

These loving groups simply aren’t recognized as families by the Proclamation on the Family.

These family units should be allowed to adopt and love children as much as any other family, however defined.

The opposition to adoption by gay parents presented testimony by representatives of The Sutherland Institute, The Eagle Forum of Utah, and Families Forever. They testified, in their own words, that every credible institution has stated that there is absolutely no difference in children raised in families parented by homosexual or heterosexual parents… “but they’re all wrong”.

Let me repeat that. They testified that every credible agency reports NO difference in children who are reared in gay parented families and straight parented families, “but they’re all wrong”.

They ignore all evidence of psychological research, scientifically based research, and every reputable and respected agency. What do they offer in rebuttal? Documents they themselves wrote. Documents they themselves published. Documents based upon hearsay, innuendo, and made up statements. Documents that every…. again, their words… credible institution, refuses to publish, has continually refuted, and consistently discredits.

To the Utah legislative body, I ask, do you seek the accolades of men who stand at the bully pulpit of self aggrandizement, self righteousness, and unrighteous dominion? Or do you follow the proclamation of Mormon founder and prophet Joseph Smith, “If there is anything lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things”?

The experts are of good report. The experts’ institutions are praiseworthy. If you seek after these things, you would change adoption law to allow these children to be adopted by ANY family that DCFS clears after their very thorough examination, background check, and approval.

It is no secret that there is a very large majority of Utah legislators who are of LDS background, are active in the Mormon church, and who state emphatically that they follow the dictates of their faith and its leaders.

There is a modern Mormon tenet that started, from my best recollection, with N. Eldon Tanner. He was a Mormon apostle and counselor to the Mormon prophet in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Elder Tanner said, “When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.” This philosophy has disseminated throughout they church and into the local Mormon mythos and practice to include any statement by any church leader.

In other words, if a Mormon Church leader tells you something, do not question it. Follow blindly and you will be blessed.

What does this have to do with adoption law and proposed changes to Utah adoption law?

As with the Common Ground Initiatives, the actual anointed leaders from the Headquarters of the LDS church have refused to speak out either in support of or opposition to the proposed changes to adoption law.

Forgive the following lengthy explanation. I hope it will give you glimpse into the psyche of the average Mormon.

Culturally and ecclesiastically in Mormonism, if the leaders at the Church Headquarters do not make a declaration to follow, or declare a modern revelation has been received, then individual congregational leaders are looked upon for leadership.

The leaders in the Utah Legislature, many of whom are (or have been) also ecclesiastical leaders in their respective Mormon geographically defined congregations, are perceived to be speaking for the Mormon church. Two of those perceived Mormon Church leaders are, Senator Chris Buttars and Senate President Michael Waddoups.

Other perceived leaders of the Mormon faithful are Sutherland Institute’s Paul Mero and LaVar Christensen, and Eagle Forum’s Gayle Ruzicka. They have not been officially recognized by the Mormon hierarchy as speaking for them, but the Mormon hierarchy has not refuted their declarations, either.

Without an official statement from the LDS Church, these people are often seen as speaking for them, whether or not they do because they are learned in crafting statements with words that invoke LDS reference, scripture, and practice. They appear just enough to be speaking for the church, without having to actually be officially recognized as speaking for the church.

Their hate speech, fear tactics, and doomsday prophecies scare the followers, who do not or will not investigate for themselves, into advocating for and voting for the blocking of civil rights to groups of American citizens they deem “other” and “unworthy”. These are the same tactics religious leaders have used throughout history to control and subjugate people perceived or defined as “less than”.

Senator Chris Buttars stated, on film after signing a waiver, that gays are like Muslim terrorists and are the biggest threat to the United States of America. He declared proudly that he will do everything in his power to block any civil rights laws that would protect gays as equal citizens.

Senate President Waddoups said that he’s upset Senator Buttars spoke out because they had a closed-doors agreement that he’d shut up. Senator Waddoups also stated that he and the other Republican Senators agree with what Senator Buttars said, but not with how he said it.

If it walks like a duck, and smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Likewise a bigot.

These senators who state openly that they follow the dictates of their faith ask their constituents to blindly follow their lead. They refuse to listen to reputable and credible institutions and expect their minions to do likewise.

Similar expectations of following blindly happened during another period in history. The governmental leaders of that day passed repressive laws that enslaved many citizens. The religious leaders of that day defined who was sinful and who wasn’t by means of ambiguous, arbitrary, and capricious decrees they canonized as scripture.

There was a teacher sent at that time to teach them correct principles, a better way of life, to tell them they needed to forsake their unfair dictatorial ways, and to love their neighbors. This teacher has been a mentor in my life since earliest recollection. His teachings are pure and simple.

For those not familiar with this spiritual path; I speak of the man called Jesus Christ.

We have also oft heard, “Love the sinner; hate the sin”.

I will hate their sins of darkness, of meeting behind closed doors, of secret combinations, of repressing and subjugating “the least of these”, of speaking untruths and bearing false witness, of failing to represent all people, or refusing to listen to expert testimony and instead pay heed to fear mongering lies.

But I will love those sinners at the Utah State Capitol.

I am moved by Spirit to speak unto these so-called leaders who are self proclaimed defenders of their brand of righteousness and who abuse the slogan, “Pro-Family”. To them, I would speak the words of my childhood teacher. I will use the words of He who has visited me many times as I have sought guidance on my path during this sojourn:

1. “Seek not the praises of men“.
2. “They draw near unto me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me“.
3. “I rebuke you and I call you to repentance“.
4. “In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me“.