America the Ugly

America the Ugly

A Mythical Ode

By Jane Tawel

 

 

 

Well, hey!  How are ya’?

Hey-ya!

Just me here.

 

‘Member how this road used to run straight on through the fields and fields and fields?

And at night the houses looked so lonely you could cry with the windshields keeping time.

And by day there was absolutely no sound at all for miles and miles and miles.

‘Member?

 

You could take this ‘ole turnpike to the next little Edenic town ‘cross the state line, maybe stop for a Dairy Queen cone and sit on the patio out of the summer rain.

 

But ‘til ya’ got there to that one-road town,

the same ‘ole gray road lined with Apple Trees –

That same long road you’ve been riding on all afternoon, Well, hey…

Until you reached Home,

The horizon–like muscles holding up that ole bone of a road– it bled gold and green

Out in all directions no matter which way you turned your head.

 

But straight and straight and straight ahead stretched the long gray plumb line of road.

 

No need to look in your rear view mirror to see it still stretching straight behind

You knew it’d always be there

Left behind with your kids’ singing voices spent on the breeze through the back seat open windows–

A thin stretched out old gray string of a road ready to darn Time.

 

We spent time travelin’

With nothin’ to outrun

Nothin’ to hurry away from or to–

No hurry at all.

 

 

‘Cept if Grandma had the potatoes ready to mash.

You sure as heck best not keep Grandma’s potatoes waitin’.

 

What were they thinking when they thought the gold of short returns held out more than the golden fields we could touch and see and harvest?

 

What were we thinking’ when we sold our birthright for a fast-food stew?

 

‘Member when you went to church to see your friends?  You listened to the Bible and sang some hymns around the organ, every one fitting around the altar nice and snug and the kids fiddling with quiet toys from mommies’ purses and the dads itching in their suits to get back out there, and the sun or the rain beating down – hurry and open the windows or shut them fast. ‘Member?

 

What were they thinking when they built a mall to worship in?

What were we thinkin’ when we thought we’d like to be entertained instead?

 

And now we’re in a God-forsaken, God-damned stew all right.

 

A stew of tract houses behind flimsy gates where there once was a house in need of paint with fences to keep animals in not neighbors out, and walls of corn and cows and alfalfa.  I asked a kid about alfalfa the other day.  He had no idea. He sure as heck knew what a Wall was though. He can’t go to the Mall though any more, his mommy makes him shop online so he won’t get caught in cross fire. At least we can thank the almighty american god, the kid’s freedom is protected– online and in the line of fire.

 

And the houses are so big that a person can rattle around in ‘em nicely all alone. And the fields are all so small that the Company’s big combine gets home in time to watch Ti-Vo.  Dear Oh Dear, John Deere is no more

 

We fill our ever empty spirit-bellies on stews of Walmarts and Nordstroms and Mickey D’s and save up for bigger screens and more thrill rides. We are obese with want.

 

‘Member Flo’s Coffee Shop and Jerry’s Diner?  Where there was just enough space for everyone on Saturday night? ‘Member on the menu how “Specials” used ta’ be Special?  Give me the Manhattan Plate Special with extra gravy.  We thought getting a turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes covered with gravy had to be just a bit better than taking an actual trip to Manhattan, New York!

 

‘Member dinners on Sundays after church, with cousins ‘round the table at home and all the little kids sitting in the kitchen with Aunt Barbara?

 

 

Now I sit at home and click to buy. The clicking never seems to fill my empty gut.

 

The only click I used to hear was my daddy clucking and clicking his teeth to get that swishin’-tailed pony to pull that little cart faster down the road between my house and Grandma’s.

 

Or the quiet clicks of mothers’ tongues to quiet us down so they could hear the preacher.

Or the close clicks of crickets in the summer dusks, singing us forward on the gray road as my family headed home.

 

 

That little road is a major interstate now. And my Grandma and my Daddy are riding a road upstairs with the back road angels.  All the time in Eternity they have now to explore the roads — clicking and clicking and clickety –clacking, riding along with the swooshing angels’ wings soundin’ like that ‘ole pony’s tail.

 

There are no gray roads where I live now. There are only and always lines and lines of tangled threads of cars and cars and cars covering up pavement meant to take you to work and back home to shop some more. Plumb crazy not plumb lined.

 

This Land – This LAND – was our birthright.

 

But we thought rich people from fancy schools and other countries had better ideas. We let them snake-like point us in new directions and we traded our compasses for Orwell’s certain Siri-d voice. We trusted in One Nation Under Siri. And all the voices talked so much, we forgot we could be the Quiet Americans. We thought because They said it, they could do…

 

Do what?

 

We somehow began to believe we weren’t already like gods ‘cuz’ we started to feel so god-damned red-necked naked. Do you think I don’t mean literally God-damned? Damned Yankees and Confederates alike?

 

We decided we’d rather be One Nation over God than one under.

Under sounds so ––un-American.

 

What were we thinkin’?

 

Well, the kids all moved away didn’t they?–to buy blu-rays from outer space and to buy people to pick up their dog’s poop.  And when the kids didn’t want them anymore, what could we do with our long roads and wide fields?

 

What do you do when no one wants your hidden treasure in the field? What is a pearl of great price worth in a world economy?

 

My ancestors fought wars that meant something because it was our Land.

But how do you go to war for something you can’t touch? For someone you can’t touch?  How do you go to war for people you don’t know?  How do you go to war because you need the money and it’s your job or, hey, come to think of it — maybe they’ll let you become a citizen of this country that you are bombin’ other nations for. Why isn’t that illegal for an immigrant?

 

It’s war we’re talking about here.

 

Lots of folks want to point out how prejudiced we all were back then and how exclusive and you know, some people were, but do you really honestly think that today behind our walled rich cities with motorized gates that you don’t have to get outta’ the car to open, just give a button a click—behind thick walls with gates that even a Tesla can’t fit through—Land-a-mercy! Do you honestly think that we love each other more? Do you think today with the freedom to say anything about any one we want and with everybody not just keeping black folk out but killing black and brown folk with freedom owned machine guns – do you really think we’ve come further in not hating each other and keeping our heads down? There aren’t enough gated prisons for all the free and incarcerated people in the world  to keep America beautiful.

Land-a-mercy!…..  Well, I guess not even the oath makes sense any more.

 

We used to believe in heaven and hell.  No color code for either.  Now we believe in freedom and grace and we are all secretly filled with politically correct hate and despair.

 

 

And now all my friends have families I don’t know.  Some traded up and some just moved away. And I go to church because I always have but if I don’t show up, well, I guess no one will notice.  I don’t have that much money to give.

 

I work all the time and can’t remember what I spend my money on to make up for all the time I’ve sold.

 

It feels so good to get angry at the tricksters and hustlers who have made America great and only want to make it greater and speak their Barnum and Bailey hype into the arena of our nightly news. We just keep clicking Re-post/ Share while the circus ponies go ‘round and ‘round and the riders throw out cake for us to catch and repost and we don’t read history any more – Marie Who? Was she a Khardashian or an Idol? An American Idol? Sounds like a socialist to me.

And the sky-risers in the deserts babble back and forth while the babbling brooks run dry.

 

When did we put the cart before the horse?

 

Are we the cart and they’re the horse?

Or is it the other way ‘round?

 

When did we stop tending our Eden?

When did we hand over our Souls and our Roads to get paved?

When did we first begin to mask with cement and botox all the naked ruts we want to hide from God’s Eyes and each other’s?

 

‘Member tar stickin’ to your hot bare feet as you skipped home unafraid?

‘Member Grandma’s wrinkly mouthed kisses?

 

Now I can’t find a long straight gray road to save my life.

 

We listen to the talking heads night after night and ask ourselves –Why?

‘Member when sometimes the talkin’ heads were quieted cuz there wasn’t any reception to feed their angry mouths and you had to just sit and listen to the raindrops or the crickets?

Or Each Other?

 

How did we get so ugly, America?

When did we put on these threadbare, gaudy clothes like fig leaves from an ancient world?

 

‘Member when you couldn’t pass someone on the street, even a stranger, without recognizing they were human? Without sayin’ “hey.”? “Hey there.”

 

How did we get so lonely, America?

 

When did The Three of Us become –not enough?

 

We paved our fields.

We computerized our friends.

We went to war.

We put on masks.

We incorporated our churches.

We left each other.

We asked too much.

We asked too little.

We ate The Stew.

We didn’t stop -by.

We didn’t have time.

We became I.

 

We thought the Pearl of America was not as beautiful as the plastic walls around our Apple I-phones.

 

We were hungry and we didn’t want to wait for the harvest this time – the harvest of our fields, the harvest of our studies, the harvest of our children, the harvest of our hard work, the harvest of our learning, the harvest of our own hands, the harvest of our hearts, the harvest of our souls . . . . .

 

And we saw the Stew of Immediate Gratification and just like the First People everywhere from the time God started Time on this earth, the time from Adam and Eve, from the beginning of  Peoples Everywhere, from the Time of kingdoms upon kingdoms stretching back to Eden. . . . We wrapped a snake around our dollar sign and called our country, “god”.

 

And we stopped and veered from the straight gray road we were created to travel by. And that pathetic meek ‘ole naked gray road become Ugly in our eyes. And we forgot that no matter our culture or creed– that narrow path we were created to travel by, One Under God – that route ordained with room and time for all, was Our Inheritance. And we sold it for a time-share in Maui.

 

 

 

We thought we knew the difference between Good and Evil and we couldn’t – we wouldn’t –stop after the first intoxicating bite.

 

We took out second-mortgages on the Garden.

 

We sold our Birthright.

 

We left the Long Straight Road.

 

 

And in our own eyes, our nakedness became Ugly, America.

We looked at each other and were ashamed.

So we hid.

 

We left the Land

And the road filled up behind us

And we lost our way Home.

30f7abe9f4b48e470d7d3e4f472a5d53

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fishing For Food for Thought

Fishing for Food for Thought

“Catch and Release”

by Jane Tawel

October 1, 2016

1kpekwf4ts-18

So, the problem is I have long had this idea that you are supposed to analyze things and figure stuff out and think critically about things.  I believe as many others do that this makes one smarter and wiser. The PROBLEM is, that some times when you apply this thoughtful principle to thinking about other people, you end up becoming not a critical thinker but a critical human. The definition of “critical” when used for valuable thinking is thinking that uses careful reflection for analysis.  The definition of “critical” when applied to another person is to judge severely and often too readily.  Jesus advises us not to judge people but to wisely use our judgement to think critically and grow in wisdom.   But when thinking about “stuff” becomes an inability to let go of negative thoughts about others, then we are not critically thinking, we are thinking critical thoughts. We are criticizing, not analyzing. Our “thoughtfulness” becomes “thoughtlessness”.   The mind ever so sneakily shifts from analyzing in order to understand to condemning to bolster pride.  Suddenly one might realize that she has actually stopped thinking and without realizing it she is instead feeling. Feeling is always “suspect” in terms of navigational reliability, whether you are madly in love or so angry you can’t see straight. We use metaphors to imply that the Heart always needs the Mind and the Will to moor its reckless meanderings. The Bible and all great poets from Shakespeare to Eminem write about the tricky Heart and how it masquerades as a thinking organ.  Our current rich First World View seems to honor the heart i.e. feelings i.e. myself over the mind, the will, the seat of reason.  And when the mind is stimulated to thought by a negative emotion—large or small — then the analytical, rational, “need-to-understand” part of a human begins to deteriorate. Much like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the obsession begins to take over the person, and “my Precious”, unseats the image of God in me. This is the judgement  that is sin not wisdom. Whenever we sin, our God-image created ability to do and will, and willfully be creative is replaced with an image that is sickly, obsessive, and less than human (or hobbit)-like. Our stature shrinks and we become fixated and obsessed with one thought – holding on to the precious “fishy”.

 

So lately, I’ve tried to apply a fishing metaphor to my problem because I’m weary of:

  1. Feeling negative, grumpy or irritable so much
  2. Feeling helpless to change another person or the situation
  3. Feeling guilty for doing the wrong thing (God calls it sin and we should feel guilty until forgiven — but it’s tiring)
  4. Feeling like I just don’t have time to waste obsessing about negative things or negative people. (Although I believe in eternity, my current lap around the track is more rapidly nearing the Finish Line  each day.)

 

But!!! (she says in her defense) –I still feel like I have to figure out what is going on – even if only so I can stop doing all of the above.  I still feel that if I can just understand, comprehend, assess, analyze, think it through — then I can either avoid the feeling, avoid thinking about the situation, or avoid the person. Maybe.

 

SO………

 

I have come up with a new fishing hole so to speak.  I have determined I will allow the thought, I’ll look at it, do some figuring over it and then as soon as I have analyzed it, I will not think about it anymore. My new brilliant, copyrighted program is called…..

 

The Catch and Release Program

Or

“Throw the Small Fish Back In”

 

I’m going to “Catch and Release” all my little criticizing negative thoughts.  I will still reel in the fishy – that’s unavoidable — but I won’t make it my “precious”.  I won’t bash the fishey’s head, scale it, (do you know how much wasted effort goes into scaling small fish?!)  and take it home with me; there’s just not enough flesh there.  AND –anything too small, too insignificant, too unnourishing to keep, to digest, to “ingest” to make me a more wholesome, nourished human being – any thing too petty, scrappy, silly, tiny, or obsessively consuming — I will THROW OUT.  I will release these small fry ideas back into the shallow waters where they belong. I will quickly reject the negative “guppies” and “minnows”.  I’ll make sure that what I keep –and keep thinking about –are important things—things meant for some growth, either on my part or for someone’s else benefit. And ultimately I will try my best to keep thoughts only fit for the Kingdom. The King of that Kingdom, Jesus, was a great one for guiding His disciples into where to cast our nets for fruitful fishing.

 

Catch… but Release.

 

BUT …here’s the “Catch”. I am one of those disciples that it seems more often than not  keeps fishing out of the wrong side of the boat.  Here are the catches that keep me from being a “fisher of lives”.

 

 

Catch #1:  I’m a keeper. A hoarder, perhaps. Small thoughts store themselves in the corner of my head and I fear letting even one go or I might miss something. I still keep blurry photographs because it hurts me to throw them away. This is like hanging on to memories of bad stuff.

I need to release these remembered unourishing fishies to The Past.

 

Catch #2:  I’m not completely sure I am truly seeing the right “size” of the fish. My mind’s eye is not 20/20. Maybe I could skin it, bone it and cook it.  Maybe it’s not as small as I’m making out. I’m a worrier that I’ll miss something.

I need to release worry fishies to The Future and “let tomorrow take care of its own problems”.

 

Catch #3:  I keep catching the same darn fish.  The little boogers keep grabbing my mind’s line every time I throw it back in the big lake of thoughts.  Same darn little fish.

I need to release obsessive “take up too much of the net” fishies to The Present and to anticipate with hope great things happening – Big Kingdom Fish in my net. I must practice sitting still and praying patiently– in the very moment in which I live– waiting in peaceful stillness for the Big Ones to bite the Hook of Hope.

 

One question I’m left with – how small can I make BIG things? Or rather what seemingly, apparently BIG things could actually be “small fry”? If I put on Kingdom glasses, how would the World’s BIG things look? I mean really, don’t I pretty much blow many things out of all proportion in terms of fretting, getting angry or irritable, or just obsessively thinking about them?  That is– if I believe that the bible’s worldview is true?  If I believe that as Christ tells us, the fish are really all on the other side of the boat?

 

There are indeed big things that we are commanded to either mourn for or fight against or both. There is evil still and monsters in the sea. But in Christ’s Upside Down Kingdom, even those big things in this world are a bit like the monster fish in the fairy tales or “tall tale” stories, where the fish  gets bigger and bigger in the fisherman’s imagination and finally all the fish, even the minnows, are shark size.  Even large problems – newspaper problems, political problems,  pain problems – in the Kingdom Life of Christ the King– truthfully — aren’t they really smaller than they appear?  Just like the ads warn us: “Items in this picture may seem larger than they are in real life.”  Items in this World’s picture definitely appear larger to us  than they appear to God and to us if we live within God’s Real Kingdom Life. Life fishing with Jesus, Life with The Fisher of Men, Life walking on the water out of the boat towards Jesus, make even the sharks not quite so very large. And without doubt, make it imperative to get the guppies out of our nets so there is room for the souls of our fellow humans.

 

So I hope that maybe today I will not worry that I am not smart enough, analytical enough, worldly enough, right enough to figure out all the fish in the sea.  I will also not obsess about the “ones that got away”.  I will focus on the fish God puts in my net. There are plenty there for me and if they are wholesome, good, nourishing thoughts, then there is plenty there to share. All the rest that I catch, I will quickly release.

God provides an abundance of good fish for His children. And God “loves to give His children good things”. We just have to keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his commands to know where to cast our nets.

And Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of souls”. Matt. 4:19

3d25b370b600c7b4d561557c01fc5ca7