As if it Matters

(My photo. NewYork skyline in cloud. Lower West Side. September 2018)

I was planning to follow up on a recent post in which I wrote:

“I’m going to be blunt and say that more than a few churches in western societies are not worthy of the name ‘church’. I’m going to be even more blunt and say that the message they have for the world is not a Christian message. Instead it has been domesticated, diluted, compromised, and emasculated to the extent that it now bears little resemblance to the life transforming Gospel of the early church.”

I think that while it is provocative, what I wrote is true, but sadly though, it’s a tough ask to defend it in a short(ish) blog post. Better to focus on a bite sized chunk and leave the rest for another time.

Pretty much of what I am about to write is my personal opinion. My theology is a bit thin, and my academic skills were never much to write home about. Isn’t that what blogs are about though? Personal opinion?

I’ll draw on a wide range of stuff I’ve read and thought about over a long period. I won’t deliberately steal anyone else’s ideas, but neither will I be referencing them properly.

That’s the disclaimer. What could possibly go wrong?

What actually is the Christian message? Does anyone know?

If I were to ask that of passers by in any shopping mall, I would not expect many (any) coherent replies. Mothers would pull their children closer and walk quicker; I might get a few pieces of pithy advice about where I should travel; perhaps a couple of reminders about hypocrites and child abusers in the church. Most people, I suspect, would walk by without changing pace; their eyes fixed on some point in the distance. Sooner or later a nice security person would approach me and invite me to leave quietly.

If I were to ask family or friends, I would expect some embarassed shuffling and evasive replies. The best I could hope for might be something like:

“Do unto others etc.”

The conversation would pause awkwardly, before changing direction. At least I probably wouldn’t be asked to leave (hopefully).

My local woodworking club has a good cross section of people and opinions. I’ve not broached the question there, but I’ve been treated to the wit and wisdom of more than one old timer who has volunteered their disgust and contempt for anything ‘religious’. It seems in this club, at least, it is ok to bag ‘religion’ without holding back, but completely out of order to mention anything positive about it. ‘Keep religion out of the public sphere’ seems to be the watchword here, but not if you are denegrating it.

I guess the club will not be a good place to pursue any survey about the Christian message.

Social media is another impeccable source of information and I’ve done my own informal research on various platforms. I’m not going to release my primary data, but suffice it to say that the bulk of views on the Christian brand name are not all that positive. I’m not hopeful of getting any clearer understanding on social media than that the Christian message is something about following the Ten Commandments – not (I suspect) that many of my research subjects would be able to list more than 3 or 4 of them.

Where to turn then?

Surely my own local Christian congregation would be a fount of information about what the Christian message actually is!

Now, I admit I haven’t done any surveys there. I’m in enough trouble already for asking inconvenient questions and (as I’ve been told) speaking out inappropriately. I have had many, many conversations with other church members though, and inevitably, the Christian message features now and then. Generally, in my experience, church members are not as reticent as the general population seem to be in discussing what the Christian message is. That will surprise no one I guess. They also, in my experience, have a more sophisticated theological vocabulary and a deeper understanding of Christian stuff.

Are you still with me? I know none of this will be a revelation.

Church members (at my local church) will readily talk about things like the undeserved grace and mercy of God in the light of our own brokenness, and the responsibility we all have to love our neighbour and work for peace in our families and neighbourhoods, as the central truths of the Christian message. All of which, in my opinion, are indeed good elements of the Christian message.

The problem, for me, is that actions speak loudly and drown out words, no matter how beautifully those words are expressed. There was a time when the Christian message was powerful and subversive. People who heard it changed their lives around and often lost them, so deeply changed were they. The Christian message made sense to them at the deepest level, in a way that nothing else in their lives ever had done. They turned away from lives of obligation, ritual, power imbalances, materialism, and exploitation, and considered themselves free to be who they were meant to be.

In contrast, in our western culture, we have tamed and emasculated the Christian message. We have made it to serve us and our convenience, and in the process, lost sight of its significance.

Those of us who are regular church attenders console ourselves that we follow Jesus, and many of us make a fair fist of it. We follow the traditions of the church year: Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas. We pray. We sing songs. No one from my local church has lost their life because of their faith, to the best of my knowledge.

We value our friendships in the church, but are too busy to socialise with others who are lonely. We raise money for the poor, but have no time to spend with the poor. We decry poverty, crime, alienation and injustice, but do little about those things. We struggle to balance the church budget without letting it affect our own holidays, cars and toys. How often do we sacrifice our own comfort and luxuries to help others? When was the last time we church members came together to serve our local community; to argue or demonstrate for an end to things like homelessness, injustice, and the countless ways that people are routinely stripped of their humanity?

We have made Christian faith comfortable. We have domesticated it. We who speak a lot about the Christian message do least about it. Our lives, by and large, are indistinguishable from those of the rest of the population. We do not touch our culture or influence it. Instead we have allowed it to touch and influence us. In return for an easy life, we do not involve ourselves in politics. We are great supporters of the status quo. It’s just that I’m quite doubtful that the status quo was ever on Jesus’ list of priorities.

As a result we have nothing to say of much value to those outside the church, and we should not be surprised that few are listening.

There was a time that the Christian message changed people’s lives. It spoke to the surrounding culture, unsettling it, shaming it, and intriguing it. People were attracted to that message and many embraced it at considerable cost. Today we no longer speak to our society. It is we who are unsettled and ashamed.

The Christian message is still there. It is just as subversive, unsettling and ultimately attractive as it ever was. It speaks to our culture in ways the prevailing powers and idols can never do.

I write the following words with trepidation. Nothing I write will ever do justice to the Christian message, but I felt I should at least try. So many people think they have heard the message, yet they haven’t. So many people think they are living the Christian message, but they aren’t.

No doubt there are things below that should be expressed differently and also no doubt what I write will make me a heretic in someone’s eyes. So be it. Here is my best shot on this January afternoon:

You are not God. The idols in your life are not God. Your wealth, intelligence, power and influence are not God. All attempts to make yourself the centre will ultimately lead you nowhere. You are a created being and therefore have innate inalienable worth. You were created for relationship with God and your fellow creatures. However, although you are created by God, you are also innately flawed by sin.

Jesus Christ is the only way to see and know and experience God. He has transformed creation through his death and resurrection, so even though you are sinful, you are now reconciled with God.

God is not keeping a record of your sins. That is not a license to do what you like, but permission not to be weighed down doing things that you think will earn you favour.

The powers of this world are not in charge. Whether or not they are aware of it, they operate under God’s dominion. You do not need to fear them, even though they can kill you. Death no longer has any power over you, just as it ultimately had no power over Jesus. Jesus shows a new revolutionary way to deal with evil; very different from the way the world teaches us.

You will find your purpose in serving and caring for the rest of creation, rather than yourself. Nothing you have done or can ever do will make you more deserving of God’s love, so do not try to earn it. Live as who you are created to be: a fearless and gentle child of God.

I recommend “Simply Good News” by N.T. Wright if you want to investigate further. It is available on Kindle.

I have written this humbly and with due respect for my fellow church members, many (most) of whom want as I do, to live as if the Christian message matters to them.

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Wood Gallery

The new woodturning year has begun. These pieces are all I have to show for my free time this month. I am improving, and still have all my fingers intact! Quite enjoying it really.

Free form vase. Eucalyptus wood. Partially turned and hand and disc sanded.

Lidded trinket box. Jacaranda wood.

Bowl. Cypress Pine wood. Partially complete.

These are not for sale, but are made for family and friends.

Ineffective, off message, but comfortable

(My photo. Church near Boston Common, USA, September 2018.)

Well, I have a day to myself. What better way to spend it than by writing a blog post that attacks sacred cows of all persuasions, goes to the core of who and what we are as people, is controversial and provocative, and as a result is quite likely to reduce my readership even further?

Just do it, I hear you say?

Ok, I may try that one day, but today I am a little less ambitious.

I ‘ve borrowed and generalised from a website article that gave me ‘aha’ moments. You know those little light bulbs that appear over people’s heads sometimes?

Web post: ‘Dear Church. Here’s why people are really leaving the church’. (Website churchplants.com).

Today I have just one sacred cow to harass. This is the way mainstream churches explain to themselves why their congregations are shrinking. I have no hard data but I’m going to generalise anyway and say almost all the excuses involve factors outside the church. Almost none of them are turned inward. Which is comforting I guess, as you then don’t need to do anything, apart from bemoaning the way the world has changed and feeling aloof from and superior to whatever goes on outside the church door.

I’m going to be blunt and say that more than a few churches in western societies are not worthy of the name ‘church’. I’m going to be even more blunt and say that the message they have for the world is not a Christian message. Instead it has been domesticated, diluted, compromised, and emasculated to the extent that it now bears little resemblance to the life transforming Gospel of the early church. (More about this in the next blog).

I should say at this stage that I am not a fundamentalist of any shape or form. Neither am I a bigot, but I do admit to being a hypocrite now and then. I often make compromises for the sake of an easy life. I take my faith seriously though, and am becoming more and more disillusioned by churches that seem more interested in hiding from secular culture than in standing out as beacons of hope.

When I came across the web article ‘Dear Church. Here’s why people are leaving the church’ it struck a resonant chord in me. It skewers the smug arrogance of churches who think it is people outside the church who need to change, rather than churches themselves.

The remaining paragraphs, extracted from the ‘churchplant’ website article, speak to the self referential social clubs many contemporary ‘christian’ churches have allowed themselves to morph into. I really hope they start listening.

“Most of your time, money and energy seems to be about luring people to where you are instead of reaching people where they already are.

We can be entertained anywhere. Until you can give us something more than a Christian-themed performance piece—something that allows us space and breath and conversation and relationship—many of us are going to sleep in and stay away.

Church, we need you to stop being warmongers with the trivial and pacifists in the face of the terrible. Every day we see a world suffocated by poverty, and racism, and violence, and bigotry, and hunger; and in the face of that stuff, you get awfully, frighteningly quiet. We wish you were as courageous in those fights, because then we’d feel like coming alongside you; then we’d feel like going to war with you.

Love seems to be a pretty big deal to you, but we’re not getting that when the rubber meets the road. In fact, more and more, your brand of love seems incredibly selective and decidedly narrow.

It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a “Come as You Are” party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. We see a Jesus in the Bible who hung out with lowlifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea.

From what we know about Jesus, we think he looks like love. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t look much like him.”

Amen to that.

Apologies also (and encouragement) to all churches who are trying to be what they say they are.

Something quite Unexpected

The time Jesus photo bombed the choir when I had no camera handy.

I don’t know if many others in the congregation noticed, but it was perfect. Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols. The choir in fine form. Then with no warning it was there. Everything aligned exactly, and I knew I was caught up in one of those transcendent events that if I’d been looking at my shoes, or some stained glass, or whatever, the moment would have passed by leaving me happily unaware.

The choir was about to launch into “Mary’s Child” (not Mary’s Boy Child that google will direct you to. It’s the lesser known yet far more beautiful song that you can’t find on Apple Music, but that’s another story).

The singers shuffled as the organ cranked up. The congregation swallowed and listened for the intro. Then it happened!

The choir had positioned itself in front of the door way leading out to the baby change rooms. A young mother carrying a tiny baby just needed to get through and she shuffled through the middle of them just as they began to sing. The timing was perfect and the visual effect absolutely stunning and enthralling. The choir carried it off without missing a beat and I’m not sure how many of the congregation noticed anything. I did, and it transformed my experience of this Christmas season. A small miracle for me perhaps? I thought I would share it with you anyway.

Can we listen to the music, you may ask? Maybe hum a few notes or something? It’s a sublime hymn and I would love to share it with you, but alas, even if Apple Music had it on the shelf, copyright would be an issue. My guitar playing is going from strength to strength and I might even have been prepared to play for an audience. But again no, sorry.

You can find it on You Tube if you’re interested. The first line is “Born in the night, Mary’s Child”.

A video of me playing “Mary’s Child”: Now that would have been two miracles in two days!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

Fringe Radical

(A 200 year old pine clinging to the coastline south of Monterey, California. October 2018. My photo)

Relax! No rants, just a dip into autobiography, and a short paddle into philosophy.

I’m feeling more and more these days that I don’t belong.

It’s not always a comfortable feeling. Many of the things I’ve always taken to be true are not fashionable, or even acceptable any more. This may be because, I’m told, I’m old.

The ‘old’ bit could be true. The physical evidence is undeniable and I’ve been around the block a few times. Older people don’t like change it seems, particularly experiments with social change and the like.

Which is interesting, puzzling even, as I think I’m much more radical now than ever I was. Back when, apparently, I should have been tuning in and dropping out or whatever, I was too busy scrambling out of a dysfunctional upbringing. I know, I know. Disturbed kids are rebellious kids. Not this young chap however. I doubled down and studied harder. I tried everything I knew to conform so my parents, and older people in general, would notice and approve of me. All in vain of course. My youth would have been better spent being variously outrageous and troublesome.

Now that’s the truth!

So I more or less missed the youthful rebellion phase when they tell me I should have thrown away baggage and inhibitions, and found myself. Many of my friends (at least the ‘cooler’ ones) dived into that pool and swam to the other end. Most made it. Some stayed treading water and never actually got out. Me? I dipped my toes in, looked around, and went back to the dressing room.

I was always out of step, at whatever age. Now a card carrying dinosaur, I’m still putting one foot forward when I see everyone around stepping off with the other one. Is it a curse or a blessing to wander down side paths habitually, when I could choose cruise control on a multi lane highway? In my youth it was definitely a curse! The fear of ‘not fitting in’ was immobilising then, and I’m sure little has changed. With age and maturity I’ve come to appreciate being a bit out of step. I’ve become quite good at it, and I sometimes even get to see things others don’t.

I’ve started to understand that being radical is not something that comes gift wrapped with the causes we champion. Calling ourselves an ‘activist’ does not mean we are necessarily ‘radical’ in any way. There are far more conforming activists around than there are radical ones. A radical stands, more or less by definition, on the fringes, or outside the herd altogether.

It is much easier to raise the flag as a conforming activist when all your friends are doing the same, than it is to be a radical one when you are doing it by yourself. The former doesn’t expose you to outrage or exclusion, whereas the latter almost certainly will.

I see a lot of people around me falling in behind fashionable causes that allow them to parade their moral credentials yet cost them nothing. Their causes are possibly noble, but they themselves are not at the vanguard of anything much, as they moo along with the herd.

I’m not at the vanguard of anything much either, but I’m beginning to realise that many of the people I pass in the street these days would label my beliefs and values radical. That’s quite an unsettling insight for someone who has spent a lifetime trying to avoid rebelliousness. The ‘not fitting in’ bit I’m used to. The ‘radical’ bit is novel.

Yes, I am more radical now than at any time in my life. I’ve grown used to not travelling with the herd, and I even sort of like it. Certainly I’m not bothered by what people will think (or what I think they will think). If popular opinion has turned its face from me because I don’t worship at the altars of the various compelling popular social causes, I have no option but to accept that I have become a radical.

I’m getting older, I’m a dinosaur, and maybe I should just shut up, but I’ve never trundled along with the herd without asking awkward questions, and it’s a bit late to start.

So it amuses me now to see how the pattern has reversed itself. People of my age who used to think themselves radical, are now the mainstream and conform themselves to the zeitgeist, insisting that others do too. I’m not sure how many now realise they were always conforming and not the individuals they imagined.

Ever the misfit, I who wanted to conform then, but couldn’t manage it, now find myself still out of step, but now in a gentle radical sort of way.

Some people never learn.

Do Western Christians really need ‘Religious Freedom’?

(Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. My photo. August 2017)

(No. And why its not even important.)

Close the gates! Circle the wagons! The barbarians are coming!

It seems Christians are feeling the pressure. They’re called names; demonised and ostracised on social media; and are living with the repeal of laws and customs that saw Christianity sitting comfortably at the centre of public life for so long. Their beliefs are ridiculed, leaders discredited, traditions trashed, and for good measure, it seems as if the very ground they stand on is being eroded.

I haven’t done any formal opinion surveys but I don’t think I’m too wide of the mark. I am one of them after all.

Many of us have felt intimidated by the in-your-face, raised-middle-finger atheism of Richard Dawkins and his disciples. We’ve recoiled in disgust at the craven responses of our leaders to sexual abuse scandals. Changes to traditional marriage have seen spouses replaced by partners. The concept that life is a sacred gift, once widely held, has largely disappeared from statutes and from public discourse. The transcendental has given way to the utilitarian; the sacred to the profane; self denial to self indulgence, or so it seems.

I could go on ( . . . and on). I really only wanted to illustrate why many Christians might be feeling a little on the outer these days. After a millenium and a half of cosying up to government and the establishment, the Church finds itself, in the space of a couple of generations, no longer listened to, and subject to challenges that would until recently have been unthinkable. The changes are huge, especially for a Church and its people grown fat and comfortable thinking Christianity was synonymous with social conservatism. It was, and is, nothing of the sort of course. The Christian message is deeply subversive and revolutionary.

So ‘Is Religious Freedom Necessary?’

It depends on where you’re coming from. So maybe I can cut to the chase by just say in plain words what I think most Christians mean when they talk about it?

I think they mean ‘leave us alone in peace to continue as we’ve always done’.

I have a problem with this. I think it is lazy and misconceived. It may be attractive to people, like me, who have grown used to a comfortable religious observance that doesn’t challenge the status quo, mainly because it has arisen from within that status quo! Comfortable and secure it may have been, but it is no longer reality for western Christians, and has never been reality for our sisters and brothers in non western countries.

Crying out for legal protection in the current circumstances is pathetic. It is born of a sense of entitlement and betrays a perverted view of Christian faith; one that is domesticated, diluted, and stunted. One that has ceded its authority and is willing to live on the coat tails of the secular state’s benevolence, because it has forgotten its real reason for being.

I don’t think Christians should be asking for religious freedom. Still less should they be asking for it on the terms the secular authorities are willing to grant it. We answer to a higher authority and do not need secular permission to be who we are. We are called to be salt and light in the world, not to conform ourselves to the world.

Just do it.

Christians managed to change the world and turn it on its head very effectively in the early years of the Church by remaining outside the status quo, on the fringes of society. The early church had no privileges extended to it and certainly did not rely on the state for its existence. Why does it think it needs these things today?

Early Christians just went out and did it, sucessfully, in the face of violent and cruel repression. They would laugh at what we think are our problems.

Christian agitation for religious freedom laws is, in my opinion, a reaction to having had the lolly jar taken away. We have grown fat and comfortable in a privileged position for so long. We are Christ followers. As we go about our Lord’s work, we do not need anyone’s permission, or laws drafted to protect our status. Secular laws and privileges are a distraction. They are not and never will be the main game for Christians. It’s time we remembered that.

Is there an Alternative?

We could decide to try being seriously radical and live what we say we believe.

We could try being living examples of Christian love in the world, rather than crying for special laws in a vain attempt to protect the unearned privileges we have become all too accustomed to.

Wouldn’t that be good news to our sisters and brothers who live without hope and love?

(Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. My photo. August 2017)

Running on Empty

(Dawn at Grand Canyon. Arizona, U.S.A. September 2018. My photo)

I have been a church attender for the past 24 years. That may be about to change.

Overall, it’s been a positive experience, attending church. There is something about regular church attendance. It’s brought me many friends and the company of people I am at ease with. It’s also over the years brought me spiritual growth and a degree of maturity.

In my teens and twenties I flirted with religion on and off – but mostly off. I danced around on the periphery of Christian youth groups, charismatic renewal gatherings, and even attended a local church for a short while. Most of that earlier life I was aware of a spiritual dimension in a detached sense. There were times when I wasn’t taking much notice, but now and again I experienced it powerfully and intimately. After major personal upheavals I came back into the fold as a regular church goer at the tender age of 41.

The years before I came back to ‘religion’ were a mix of highs and lows; chasing mirages and pointless ambitions. In contrast, the 24 years since have been kinder ones mostly, even if I am becoming less and less inspired by weekly worship and more and more troubled by the attitudes I encounter in my church.

It’s been tempting to compare my church attending period with that which preceeded it, and to draw the conclusion that ‘religion’ has been the saving grace of my life. I might have expressed it that way once, and there is more than a grain of truth in it, but now I think that would be to confuse religion with faith; and to misunderstand both.

The Christian religion has been, and continues to be for me, a vehicle helping me to understand things, and get to places I might never have gone, let alone known they existed. With the emphasis on the word ‘religion’, I recognise it has been a means to help me get there, rather than being the destination itself.

(Fashion inspired by Catholicism at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. My photo)

Religion is, at its heart, about power and control. It concerns itself with who is an insider and who is not; with positions and titles; and with budgets and business plans. It is a hollow shell when it neglects its central reason for being.

I no longer consider ‘religion’ the saving grace of my life. Instead, I realise with a humbling clarity that it is the person of Jesus Christ who has been that saving grace.

As a result of recent experiences, I have a strong sense of calling to be a truth teller. ‘The truth’ is a theme that continues to tug at me these days. I do not mean that I want to go out and proclaim the truth of the Gospel on street corners. We introverts find that very unappealing. I am talking about Christian authenticity, and the mess Christian communities get themselves into when they lose focus on that.

It occurs to me that so much of the spiritual desert in which the Christian church has found itself, has been caused by its failure, institutional and local, to provide authentic leadership; to name and face the truth. We have mired ourselves in platitudes, rather than engage with the Gospel. We worship tradition, and have opted for comfort rather than confrontation. We have sacrificed truth to protect reputations, and sometimes egos. We also do not like our truth tellers.

The collective leadership of my institutional church appears more interested in maintaining the status quo than in being bearers of good news. My own congregation puts far more energy into fund raising and balancing its budget than into being the hands and feet of Jesus. I am deeply disappointed by and disillusioned with what passes for pastoral leadership at all levels in my church. Leaders often are timid, lack passion and authenticity, and are ineffectual.

That, in a kernel, is why I am no longer a guaranteed regular church attender.

I look forward to my imperfect church demonstrating that reputation and power of themselves mean nothing. I would like to see its leaders actually lead. Now that would impress me!

I still have my faith, and haven’t given up on organized religion; just tired of egos and reputations taking precedence over authenticity . . . really tired of it.

In Jesus’ own words, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Poems New and Recycled

(Scottsdale, Arizona. September 2018. My photo)

Apologies for the versing. The software won’t let me insert paragraph breaks for some reason.

After the Funeral

Samurai or butterfly?

Razor edged, transient,

enduring, fleeting.

Impermanent.

Stuttering fingers of flame;

flashes of colour over grey.

Shopping Centre orchids to bloom once and only;

delicate, temporary, wonder patterns

always, we’ll be.

Tomorrow, yesterday’s love.

We don’t ask why.

Should you?

Should I?

. . . Maybe.

(Southport, Queensland. October 2018. My photo)

Summer Storm

Hot day. Bright sun. Saturated, lifeless air.

Sweat oozes and trickles, even in the shade.

Eyes scan upwards and hope for relief

which mercifully appears on cue.

The clear blue of a summer sky gone in minutes;

clouds building as they move in from the west.

Light suddenly softer,

shadows fade and colours bloom

Heads turn to the sky and nod.

Dark, deepening cloud banks boil

above the summer heat.

Close the doors and windows.

Stand and watch the gathering storm.

Childhood returns

as zephyrs twirl leaves and cool your face.

Temperatures plummet.

Half forgotten memories emerge

of faces pressed to windows,

little bodies shivering but safe as bright flashes

announce booming smashing thunder crashes.

You expect the noise but always jump, just a little;

as you did when you were five.

The first few raindrops are released

from ominously pregnant clouds

and they begin to tap tentatively,

experimentally even, increasing in tempo and confidence.

Rain begins to rattle on a sloping metal roof.

A flash is followed closely by an enormous bang

and you think ‘that was close’.

Too soon, the sound of the rain softens,

and allows you to hear downpipes run.

The thunder claps become distant rumbles;

like the victory roars of a departing giant,

gone on to other battles over the horizon.

The sound of car tyres on wet bitumen,

retreating raindrops,

chirping birds,

announce the obvious:

Life resumes.

(Haight Ashbury district, San Francisco September 2018. My photo)

Mingle

Somehow different, not sure why;

just don’t get it.

small talk looks so easy,

natural as the day

for them;

an unclimbable cliff for me.

social chit chat;

guts twist at the prospect

of drinks at 6:

stand awkward

eyes darting

dry mouth.

small talk exhausted in two or three sentences.

look around

seek an avenue of escape;

and scurry to a corner

where I can pretend

not to be isolate.

people in circles excluding me

backs of heads

everywhere nodding and shaking,

lips smiling and moving;

complicit in a secret

I cannot be part of.

I have come to seek and save the lost, you said.

Dear Lord, you must have seen me

standing there with desperate eyes.

(Boston waterfront. September 2018. My photo)

Dysfunction Named

The problem unspoken

remains unbroken.

What mustn’t be uttered

tiptoes and flutters

behind closed shutters.

Rules are changed,

deflecting blame.

We step aside

for someone else to name

the obscenity behind the game.

From selective blindness

we limp to paralysis,

papering veneer

and hiding substance

in euphemism and lie.

The truth too hard,

too raw to face;

we trade it for a quiet space;

but the elephant remains

in such a stubborn tiny room.

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