Thursday, March 30, 2017

Revisiting Wendell Berry's Poem 'Look Out' in the Shadow of Trump's Regime

I first posted this in 2008. As we face the specter of the Trump regime's rollback of essential environmental protections for the sake of exploiting fossil fuels for sheer greed, it seems just as apropos.

Wendell Berry challenges us to see and enact a different way forward.


This poem by Wendell Berry challenges me on a day like today--the day after the 7th anniversary of 9/11. We have been bombarded with the illusion that we are living in a "Post-9/11 world" that changes all the rules of ethics, rights, neighborliness, and international relations. I, for one, don't buy that line. 


It's an age-old ruse to justify entrenching fear and grabbing power. Berry doesn't by the line, either. The world did not change on 9/11. Neither did the sinfulness or grace-full possibilities of humans. 

"Look Out" is from Berry's collection of poems titled Given (Shoemaker, Hoard, Washington, D.C., 2005). This is what Wendell Berry sees outside his Port Royal, Kentucky farmhouse:


Come to the window, look out, and see
the valley turning green in remembrance
of all springs past and to come, the woods
perfecting with immortal patience
the leaves that are the work of all of time,
the sycamore whose white limbs shed
the history of a man's life with their old bark,
the river quivering under the morning's breath
like the touched skin of a horse, and you will see
also the shadow cast upon it by fire, the war
that lights its way by burning the earth.

Come to your windows, people of the world,
look out at whatever you see wherever you are,
and you will see dancing upon it that shadow.
You will see that your place, wherever it is,
your house, your garden, your shop, your forest, your farm,
bears the shadow of its destruction by war
which is the economy of greed which is plunder
which is the economy of wrath which is fire.

The Lords of War sell the earth to buy fire,
they sell the water and air of life to buy fire.
They are little men grown great by willingness
to drive whatever exists into its perfect absence.
Their intention to destroy any place is solidly founded
upon their willingness to destroy every place.
Every household of the world is at their mercy,
the households of the farmer and the otter and the owl
are at their mercy. They have no mercy.
Having hate, they can have no mercy.
Their greed is the hatred of mercy.
Their pockets jingle with the small change of the poor.
Their power is the willingness to destroy
everything for knowledge which is money
which is power which is victory
which is ashes sown by the wind.

Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.


WHAT DO I SEE? When I look out my window, do I see far enough--deeply enough, broadly enough--to perceive this? And if or when I perceive such, am I caring or daring enough to leave my window and go out and say "no" to the Lords of War--to Money and Fire--and "yes" to life? Or do I just stand and stare, or turn away and hope someone else will take care of it?

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

BENEDICERE


I read this blessing in Sojomail from Sojourners a few years ago. In Latin, benedicere means “to bless."  It’s by Ken Sehested, a North Carolina pastor and stonemason.  Written on New Year’s Day 2005, it launches with a traditional Irish blessing.


I did some MTB riding in Wood County, West
Virginia, early last spring and came upon these
ruins at Volcano.
May your home always be too
small to hold all your friends. 

May your heart remain ever supple,
fearless in the face of threat,
jubilant in the grip of grace. 

May your hands remain open,
caressing, never clinched,
save to pound the doors
of all who barter justice
to the highest bidder. 

May your heroes be earthy,
dusty-shoed and rumpled,
hallowed but unhaloed,
guiding you through seasons
of tremor and travail, apprenticed
to the godly art of giggling
amid haggard news and
portentous circumstance. 

May your hankering be
in rhythm with heaven's,
whose covenant vows a dusty
intersection with our own:
when creation's hope and history rhyme. 

May hosannas lilt from your lungs:
God is not done;
God is not yet done.

All flesh, I am told, will behold;
will surely behold.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Office Beater Bike

I keep this bike in my office in the near-downtown Indianapolis Near Eastside neighborhood called St. Clair Place. It's actually my son Jared's beater bike that I have somewhat permanently borrowed.

This Beater Bike (http://www.beaterbikes.net - no bikes currently in production) is neither fast nor sexy. It's just sturdy and reliable. It's got a functional retro style and 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub. Jared added a cup holder and light brown Schwalbe tires. I outfitted it with cork hand grips (from www.a1cyclery.com; this should be good for a cup of coffee, Chris Wiggins), a bell, and a handy easy on-off pannier/shoulder bag.

It gets me to and from downtown and area meetings pretty well. It keeps me from circling city blocks looking for a vehicle parking space. It prevents me from endlessly feeding parking meters.

Sometimes, I commute the 14 miles from home on my Surly Long Haul Trucker (also via www. A1Cyclery.com), which is just about the perfect commuter bike. When I don't give myself enough time to ride to work (an hour is required) and end up driving my VW Jetta on the Interstate, I use Jared's beater bike to get around during the day.

Think about taking and keeping a bike at your workplace. It opens up lots of options.


John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Friday, March 3, 2017

Too Worldly to Be Holy?

Depictions of 'Secular Saints' by Brother Robert Lentz,
OFM, include this image of '21st-Century Christ.'
Before you pass on Lent again, before you dismiss it as just for people more religious than you—more holy than you: please hear me out.

If you’ve had enough of holiness, if “holy intention” for Lent agitates you, try “wholeness intention.” Leave religion out of it. Give up trying to be “holy.” Instead, ask: what small change could I make for 40 days to grow, to stretch, to love?

“Holy” has become for many of us a foreboding, off-putting word and image. As an alternative, I’ve come to think more in terms of wholeness, completeness, love. This helps me.

I have also begun to reframe “holy” in the context of daily, worldly, secular life. Laying aside halos and frescos and stained glass and liturgical rituals, I imagine “holy” in simpler, more profound daily realities.

“Holy” is the intention of a bruised-hearted person to heal and move forward, to hope and dare to love again.

“Holy” is the crazy thought and fledgling will to seek to find what one’s highest possibilities just might be.

“Holy” is the pause, the recognition, the awe for a sunrise, of a sunset, of a reflection in a puddle, of a neighbor being a neighbor.

“Holy” is the recognition of justice and injustice—and exerting one's capacities to end the latter and lift up the former.

“Holy” is recognition of earth’s abundance, preciousness, and fragility—and acting as a creative steward for its future wellness.

 “Holy” is loving oneself despite what’s been done, what’s been said, what’s not been said. Holy is being gentle with oneself and investing in one’s care.

“Holy” is loving one’s neighbor as oneself—not knowing what’s been done, said, etc. “Holy” is making room, offering support, walking with.

“Holy” is less about luminous halos and stained glass and more about daily grace and helping hands and gentle encouragement.

“Holy” is you as you are, as you were intended to be, as you endeavor yet to become, as you lean forwardly into life with love in your heart.

Give up trying to be “holy.” Leave religion out of it. Instead, ask: what small change could I make for 40 days to grow, to stretch, to love?

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com