Sunday Sermon [Redemption Song]

Hola mi Gente,
I usually post this around this time of year… it’s a Thanksgiving tradition of sorts on this blog. Sometimes, when I think this too self-indulgent, or passé (I am a walking cliché, it seems), someone will send me a message usually beginning like so: “I read your blog and I never comment… ” (LOL!) And it never fails, someone will tell me that reading the following helped them, or they shared it with someone they thought it could help. So… here goes.

Redemption Song

C11-713225My life is my message

 

The cliché that life is stranger than fiction is true enough. And believe me: my life has been pretty much strange. Thanksgiving Day has its own personal meaning for me, as I am certain it does for everyone. Actually, Thanksgiving Day has layers of meaning.

On one level, my development as a person of the Puerto Rican diaspora was marked by holidays that were always an opportunity to celebrate our music, our unique forms of dancing, and kinship ties. Therefore, we Puerto Ricans — or at least my family and the community I was raised in — subverted the mythical (actually genocidal) Thanksgiving and give it their own meaning. And as humans, that’s what we do best, we create meaning.

Thanksgiving Day is also now primarily identified as a secular all-inclusive day of expressing appreciation for life and having gratitude for the things we need to live a happy and healthy life. As a Latino, the cultural values of extended family ties and Thanksgiving evoke childhood memories of large (and often hilariously insane) family get-togethers.

However, for me Thanksgiving holds its most significant meaning on a very personal level. You see, it was on this day twenty-seven years ago that I experienced the first of a series of awakenings that would drastically change my life. The exact date is November 26, 1990 and it often happens that it falls on or near Thanksgiving Day. A couple of weeks before that fateful day, on a cold, drizzly November day, I was so overcome with despair that I considered and attempted suicide. It is actually a little funny: As I climbed over the rail on the Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian walk (it’s not easy to jump off that damned bridge), I was so skinny from malnutrition and years of substance abuse that a strong Nor’easter wind knocked me back on my ass to the pedestrian walkway. I saw this inability to take myself off the count as the ultimate failure which gives you an idea of my state of mind at the time.

I walked away from that only to opt for a more torturous suicide: the daily act of chasing that White Lady, Heroin. Ensnared by my warped thinking, I had this fear that I would botch up my own suicide and merely succeed in paralyzing myself, condemning myself to chase drugs from the disadvantage of a wheelchair. In fact, I remember another addict who was in a wheelchair. I decided I would make someone else put myself out of my misery.

And though I speak lightly today of that time, I was so miserable. I do not believe in a God in the traditional Christian/ Judeo sense — an anthropomorphic omnipotent super being. Yet back then I would pray each night that some Higher Power would find it in its mercy to take my life me my sleep. Still, every day I awoke to my pain and despair. I would always wake up sick and broke, but somehow manage to spend $300 by the end of the day, feeding a merciless heroin habit.

If you are wondering, I fed my drug habit by ripping off drug-dealers, never a safe proposition. One day a victim of one of my swindles threatened me with a gun. I grabbed the gun by the barrel, put it to my forehead, and begged him to shoot. All I asked was that he made sure to kill me because, “You would be doing me a favor, motherfucker.” This occurred in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded New York City street. I remember a crowd forming and people screaming; but what I remember most was thinking that this was my way out. “Do it,” I yelled. He pulled the trigger and…

Nothing happened.

I don’t know if the gun jammed or if it wasn’t loaded, whatever the reason, the gun failed to discharge. My would-be “assistant suicider” freaked out, yanked the gun from my hands, and walked away. I called after him, letting him know he could get another chance. That’s how much I wanted to die. And, I thought, I could do nothing right.

That wasn’t the worst of it, my life continued to bottom out until November 26th, 1990 when I experienced an incident so traumatic it would change me and my world in an inexplicable way. Actually, most people would consider the events that transpired on that cold, dreary November day as a defeat. Very simply, after being released from New York City’s infamous jail, Rikers Island, for exactly fourteen days, I was re-arrested. It was also that last day of my active addiction — the last day I took a drug.

I didn’t know it then but it was the beginning of a new life: a life that today is far from perfect, that has suffering, illness, death, and many challenges, but also contains an invincible of joy at its core. This is part of the reason I do the work that I do. I know from personal experience that even the worst of us have the potential to liberate ourselves from socially constructed or self-made prisons. And let me be clear: we’re all “doing time” in some way, we all wear shackles. To a degree, we all enact patterns of behavior or carry the proverbial baggage.

No, I am not a religious person. My personal view is that religion is for people who are afraid of hell and spirituality is for those who have already been there. I simply try to be the best person I can be on a daily basis and oftentimes I fall short of the mark. However, my intentions are usually good and my direction somewhat orderly. I try to live a life centered on compassion for others, personal growth, self-actualization, and passion for social change.

On that day, twenty-seven ago, I had no way of knowing of the possibility of life as it has manifested itself for me today. These past few years have been challenging. A lot of that has to do with being unemployed. At one point, I almost lost all my property in storage, my cellphone had been cut off, I was living with my sister… well, you get the idea. Yet, I still managed to maintain some measure of sanity and actually find some serenity. In the midst of all my problems, I never picked up a drug and was even able to find some measure of happiness. It’s a happiness independent of any person, place, or thing. On the surface I can be sad, happy, angry, disappointed, depressed, disgusted — I can be experiencing any number of attachments — but at the center, at the very core of me, there is an invincible joy greater than any drug-induced high I have ever experienced. And believe me, coming from me, that’s saying a lot.

On that day twenty-seven years ago, sitting there in the midst of total failure and utter humiliation, I came undone. And that was a good thing, because in experiencing complete obliteration I became open to something more than my small self. In emptying myself, I came to see that what I perceived as the void was in reality my innate and boundless potential as a human being.

I am genuinely grateful. As I said before, I have experienced sadness, frustration, happiness, love, rejection (the full catastrophe!). I could easily surmise, if I were so disposed, that my life, that life itself, sucks. But that’s a coward’s lie. Life is a gift — probably the most precious of gifts. My life today is like a redemption song — a song of freedom. And at the very least there is nothing worse (or better) than that fateful day twenty-seven years ago. Today I woke up and I am… here… and for that I am most grateful.

May you all have as much to be thankful.

My name is Eddie and I am in recovery from civilization…

Labels: Addiction, Freedom, Hope, Hungry Ghosts, Recovery, Redemption, Self-actualization, Substance Abuse

Excerpt: … after being released from New York City’s infamous penal colony, Rikers Island, for exactly fourteen days, I was re-arrested. It was also that last day of my active addiction — the last day I took a drug.

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Thanksgiving With the Rosarios

Hola mi Gente,
The following is something of an annual tradition here at the [un]Common Sense Blog.

Thanksgiving, for reasons I won’t get into now, is one of my favorite times of the year. Yeah, we should call it Thanks-taking for the crimes against our First Nation brothers and sisters. But Puerto Ricans are the ultimate fusionists and we make everything our own. Thanksgiving in our home was a celebration of our culture — our food, our music, and family ties. I love Thanksgiving most of all because all the great childhood memories.

In any case, I love the ritual of breaking bread together and honoring gratitude — giving thanks. I’ve heard it said gratitude and sadness cannot coexist and that’s been my experience. And right now, I need a lot of gratitude, man. And with that, I offer the following story…

Frankenstein’s Turkey

11-23-16_-thanksgiving-with-the-rosarios-frankensteins-turkey

[Note: an animal was harmed in the making of this post]

 

It really was too much — embarrassing beyond anything. Everybody on that B60 Wilson Bus was staring at us and the best my uncle could do was laugh that fuckin infectious, jolly laugh of his. He thought it was hilarious and, sensing my embarrassment, he laughed harder, causing the other passengers to stare more intently.

There it was again, a movement from the cause of my embarrassment. You see, in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, it wasn’t uncommon to purchase live poultry from el vivero — a marketplace selling live fowl. Usually that entailed picking or asking for a particular chicken and the proprietor would take it out of its cage, go to the back, and “prepare” it for you.

But this was the day before Thanksgiving and my mother had insisted I accompany my uncle to the nearest vivero to buy a live turkey. At the time we were living in the then mostly African American Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York Avenue (right across the street from the back entrance of the Pitkin Theater) and the nearest vivero was a bus ride away. My uncle Onofre, Tío Nofrín as we called him, was already in his cups though it was still early in the day, and he insisted in a live turkey to take home. This was unusual, I thought at the time, because normally we would tell el vivero to prepare the bird for us. But my uncle insisted we take the fucker live, so el vivero, with a look that seemed somewhat peeved, put the turkey in a large brown paper grocery bag, and off we went. No sooner than we sat down on the crowded bus, the turkey, perhaps sensing this wasn’t going to be a good day, began making a fuss and engaged in repeated and often violent attempts to escape the paper bag. This in turn caused all the passengers to stare, which made my already slightly inebriated uncle to laugh out loud.

He obviously thought it was hilarious, the passengers were alarmed at the tipsy Puerto Rican with a live turkey in a large brown grocery bag, and I wanted to die from embarrassment. You see, part of growing up in a society that sees ones culture as different or alien, is that there’s an internal tension between the very strong pull to assimilate (and escape alienation) and the tug of cultural pride. I was raised to be proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but I decided that I drew the line at live turkeys on the B60 Wilson bus.

My uncle Nofrín, already a happy-type person sober, became even happier the more he drank. And the happier he got, the more he laughed. He had this patented outburst, “Ayyyy Coo-Coo,” an idiomatic expression that didn’t mean anything except that it usually followed a punch line to a joke/ prank or when something outlandish happened. For example, if grandma fell on her culo in front of everyone, you can be sure Tio Nofrín would follow that up with a hearty, “¡Ayyyy Coo-Coo!” and start cracking up. So here I was with Tio Nofrín, wrestling with a live turkey on a crowded New York City bus laughing his ass off and yelling out, “Ayyyy CooCoo!” every time the turkey attempted to break free of the paper grocery bag. Embarrassing.

But I’ve been a little unfair to you, my dear reader, and I need to backtrack just a little at this point because I’ve started this story at the wrong juncture. This particular Thanksgiving actually began with my sister winning a raffle at the local Catholic Church where we took our weekly catechism classes. The prize? She won a large truckload of groceries. We were so happy! The fact was that while I can’t say we never starved, there were times when we were growing up that food was scarce. I guess this is what advocates now call “food insecurity.” I know all about food insecurity. For example, “wish sandwiches” (mayo spread on white bread accompanied by a wish for meat) weren’t uncommon in the Rosario household and it was rare that we had enough capital to do food shopping for a whole week. My mother often had to scrape up dinner on a day-to-day basis. So the prospect of having a whole truckload of groceries was something my siblings and I saw, as Martha Stewart would say, “A good thing.”

My mother is a proud woman. Even as a child, I often marveled at how my mother could walk down the worst ghetto street and still manage to appear regal. To borrow the South African phrase (used in the Paul Simon song), my mother walked as if she had diamonds on the soles of her shoes. She had a way of holding herself, an attitude, so natural it didn’t offend people. People just assumed she was entitled to that regal bearing. She walked straight, with perfect posture, and her manner, though imposing, was unaffected: head held high, her perfectly sculpted nose, and those cheekbones to die for, adding a sublime beauty to that imperial pose. When she barked out an order, people listened and though she was in actuality a petite and small woman, she always seemed taller than her actual size. And while it was true we were poor, my mother would dress us in the best clothes — clothes bought at a fraction of their original price at used clothing stores and Salvation Army centers located near upscale neighborhoods. And she taught us to walk in that same way. In fact, to slouch in front of my mother was sacrilegious.

That’s why, perhaps, when my mother saw all these groceries being carted into our third-floor tenement walk-up, she became enraged thinking it was charity. She managed to insult the priest and was about to order the delivery boys out of her house before we could convince her that my sister had won all that food in a raffle.

So what did my mother do? Did she squirrel away the food, making sure we would have groceries for, like, evah? No! First, she gave away two of the (three) Butterball Turkeys to neighbors in bad straits and then proceeded to call all of our tribe for a big, family Thanksgiving dinner.

And that’s when she charged my uncle and me to “go get a turkey from el vivero. When we finally arrived with the live turkey, a great clamor ensued. First, my mother wanted to know what had gotten into my uncle that he would be crazy enough to bring a live turkey to her house. Her instructions were clear, she enunciated in tones usually reserved for intellects hovering at the idiot level. I feared she would task us with returning the damned thing, but then my grandmother insisted that she could “prepare” the turkey. After all, my grandmother reasoned, she had been raised in small Puerto Rican town, and slaughtering and preparing food wasn’t something foreign to her.

A quick, impromptu family meeting was held in order to decide how to go about preparing the turkey and soon a full-scale heated debate broke out which culminated in my grandmother rushing out, grabbing the poor turkey by the neck, and spinning it violently above her shoulder. According to my grandmother, this was a sure-fire way of killing the turkey, a technique apparently used for generations in Salinas, the town she was born and raised.

Unfortunately for the turkey, this twisting only resulted in a wicked crook in its neck, which became immediately noticeable as soon as my grandmother let go and it started running wildly around the apartment seeking a way out of its predicament. I felt so bad I almost opened the door for it, but the turkey was doomed, and with his neck now at a right angle to its body, I doubt it would’ve been able to exploit an escape opportunity even if it recognized it. At this point, half the family was in determined pursuit of our potential meal and the other, younger half was screaming traumatized. I’m sure some of my cousins still have nightmares of screaming turkeys with crooked necks. The only one who was clearly enjoying himself was Tío Nofrín who was yelling out “¡Ayyyy Coo-Coo!” as he joined in the chase of the wayward turkey.

Eventually, someone caught up to the turkey and it was then decided that the best, most merciful course of action would be to slit its throat, an action that my stepfather, Vincent, promptly committed. However, all this accomplished was that the turkey, resuming its valiant quest for life, ran spraying great splotches of turkey blood everywhere. Eventually, the turkey was finally subdued and apparently murdered and a large pot of water was set to boiling in order to plunge the turkey in for the removal of its feathers. No sooner than the turkey was plunged into the boiling water that it quickly jumped out and again made one last attempt at life. This time, everyone was traumatized, screaming in horror. Finally, my grandmother, clearly upset at losing face when her fool-proof turkey killing technique was shown to be ineffective, grabbed the poor fellow, and with one last pull on its deformed and mutilated neck, finished him off.

Suffice it to say the turkey no longer gave anyone trouble and before you knew it, it was de-feathered and prepared in the pavo-chon Puerto Rican style (a turkey that tastes like a lechon). Soon all the aunts, all high-strung drama queens and creative culinary geniuses, were busy preparing the dishes they were best known for (and getting on each other’s last nerves in the process) and the rest of the family settled in for fun and games.

You have to understand that I come from a family of cheaters. For example, my grandmother, bless her soul, was a notorious card cheat. Mind you, she wasn’t a good or adept card cheat, in fact, she was quite bad at it. But a card cheat she was, and in our family cheating at games is actually allowed. What isn’t allowed is being caught at cheating (the sole exception to this rule being my grandmother). People who marry into our family have a difficult time understanding our ethics, but I assure you we have our moral standards, they’re just somewhat nuanced and, well, “complicated.”

We’re also a family comedians and pranksters and if you happen to commit a gaffe, or do something particularly embarrassing, you will forever be associated with that action/ event. For example, one friend of the family had the tenacity to stick her finger into some food an aunt was preparing and she was quickly chastised with a whack to the head with a large metal ladle. From then on she was known as “La Lambia” — the greedy or starved one. I have an aunt who’s predisposed to exaggeration (actually she’s compulsive liar) and part of “family fun” was asking her questions about events we all knew she would exaggerate and then make fun of her for her exaggerations. One part of the family, my mother’s sister’s brood, were known for their bad tempers and were called the “Pissed Offs.” Another part of the clan was called the “Mini Munchkins” because they were all short.

Individuals were similarly stigmatized. For example, I was affectionately known as mal tiempo. Literally translated as “bad time,” it is a phrase normally used to describe natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

One of my sisters was called “La Princesa” (The Princess) because of her beauty and pretentious airs. Also, if you were an unfortunate victim of an accident, that too was fodder for humor. One cousin, who accidentally shot himself in the foot, was ragged on for that for years. Even something as mundane as taking a shower during family get-togethers was fraught with danger, as a cousin would invariably rush in with a Polaroid camera to snap a picture, or a brother or mother would dump a pail of iced water on an unsuspecting bather.

Suffice it to say that fun and games in my family was in actuality an excuse to engage in all manner boundary trespassing, psychological torment, cheating, hysterical and inappropriate demonstrations of affection and anger, and ridiculing. And you know what? It was hilarious! As long as you weren’t the butt of the joke, of course. And every year, there would be a different theme and a different butt of the holiday joke.

So here it was Thanksgiving Eve and the music was blaring, the home warm with all the cooking, fogging the windows, and you could smell all the great food being prepared. Family members were all engaged in the joyful activities of family holidays when the men decided they would all venture on a “Boy’s Night Out” outing, much to the expressed dissatisfaction of the women. One of my earliest lessons as a young man was that one should never anger the women on my mother’s side of the family, for they are a ferocious group of women-warriors. In any case, the men went out and they took me along with them because they wanted to school me in the ways of men. Going out, for the men, meant going somewhere where there was liquor, loose women, and illegal gambling. Apparently, being man meant being able to hold your liquor, no matter how much of it you imbibed, and demonstrating your virility by flirting with/ picking up women my mother would kill for even thinking of looking at me.

And this particular night, the night before Thanksgiving, there was a lot of gambling going on. At first, my stepfather, Vincent, was making a killing. One thing though, while sober, Vincent was a model of stability, however, once inebriated, he lost all self-control. Instead of quitting while he was ahead, he instead lost all his winnings and his paycheck to boot. This I knew was bad news, but Vincent was beyond listening to my appeals. Eventually, he convinced my uncles to lend him money and in that way help him win his money back, and he went on another winning streak, only to commit the same error, managing to lose the money loaned by my uncles.

It was 5 AM in the morning before the men began to sober up and come to the realization that they would eventually have to go back home to a group of assuredly angry Puerto Rican women waiting for them. So they came up with the following plan: they decided it was best for me to go upstairs first in order to scope out the situation. No sooner that I walked into the apartment that I realized things were worse than even I expected. Most of the women were sitting at the kitchen table silently seething, waiting for the men to return. You could actually see the waves of anger emanating off their bodies, distorting the air like heat waves.

I went back downstairs and dutifully gave my status report and most of the men balked at going upstairs, thinking (quite wisely), discretion was the better part of valor. But Vincent, who seemed to not have sobered, guffawed, got out of the car, and with a swagger announced he would show everyone who wore the pants in his home and proceeded upstairs. I followed, fearing the worst.

There was this long flight of stairs that reached up to a small foyer-like area to our apartment, and it was here where my mother confronted a clearly incoherent and inebriated Vincent. Somehow she surmised he was gambling, had lost his money, and was drunk, and she became so incensed, out of anger she pushed him. Vincent, still drunk from the huge amount of rum he had imbibed, didn’t stand a chance and he went down that long flight of stairs landing in a way that no human body should land, his neck now at an angle eerily similar to the turkey’s neck the day before.

I turned to my mother, said, “You killed him.”

My mother, “I did not!”

Me, “Ma, I saw you push him. Look at him I think his neck is broken.”

My mother, “Don’t you say that! I didn’t push him, he was so drunk. He fell on his own!”

Me, “No he didn’t mom, you pushed him!”

At this point my aunt, the compulsive liar, who up until now had been asleep, appeared out of nowhere and said, “I saw everything and Lydia didn’t push him, he fell!”

Before I could continue, several of her sisters and my grandmother came out and all stated, though not one of them had witnessed anything, that Vincent had fallen of his own accord and they all gave me this look that clearly indicated it was dangerous to persist in this line of reasoning.

By this time I resigned myself to the reality that the whole conversation was a moot point and went downstairs to check on Vincent. I was certain he broke his neck, but no sooner that I called his name that he opened his eyes, smiled, and managed to get up. I guess it’s true that White Jesus loves children and drunks because to this day, I don’t know how he survived that fall.

Right then, I felt rather than saw something fly over my shoulder and land with a loud crash. My mother, in her anger, had thrown the turkey, which had been slowly roasting in a low-heated oven for several hours, down the stairs and it crashed, pan and all, and broke into several large greasy chunks of turkey parts. Thanksgiving, which had begun on such a high note, had now been ruined and we didn’t even have a turkey. My mother and her sisters quickly dressed and left the house, the rest of the men probably getting similar treatment outside.

My sisters, and some of my younger cousins, immediately gathered and started an impromptu choir of wailing and crying because Thanksgiving had devolved into a dysfunctional madness and the turkey had now died — yet again. And I was so upset with Vincent that I told him he was responsible for all the crying and for the ruination of Thanksgiving dinner.

Upon hearing this, Vincent seemed to sober up a little, pulled himself up, said, “I’ll fix this,” and began picking up the pieces of the turkey.

I was beyond shocked, said,

“How the hell are you going to fix this, Vincent, that turkey is done!”

Vincent,

“You’ll see,” he mumbled as I left to go outside for a walk, unable to take it anymore.

When I returned, Vincent and my sisters were busy trying to sew the turkey back together again and it was so funny, I had to laugh and we all started laughing. I mean, this turkey was all discombobulated, legs akimbo, stitched all together like some horror story monstrosity. And true to form, we christened the turkey, “Frankenstein’s Turkey,” and while attempting to put it together, one of my sisters chuckled and intoned, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” and we all started laughing in earnest.

Eventually, when the rest of the family finally returned, my mother saw us all laughing, took one look at the turkey, and she started cracking up. I mean, it was impossible to look at this thing and not laugh. And that’s how we spent that Thanksgiving, eating a horribly tortured and reconstructed turkey. And believe it or not, we often reminisce about that day, thankful that we have these stories to tell. And while we have had “richer” thanksgivings, under better economic conditions, that was still one of the best turkeys we ever had because we had it together.

May you have much to be thankful … Happy Holidays!

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Sunday Sermon: The Rapture

Hola Everybody,
According to some brilliant asshole, the rapture was supposed to be upon us starting yesterday, September 23rd. It seems like the rapture is upon us, proving that conservative, fundamentalist Christians have been right all along. Now, don’t you feel like an idiot for not purchasing this Rapture Survival Backpack© — Ha!

Jesus is Gonna Kick yo Ass

09-29-16_-the-rapture

Quick! Look busy — Jesus is coming.

Every once in a while (in the U.S. that means every day) a religious nut predicts the end times are upon us. Google “rapture” if you want the details. If you’re too lazy, I’ll explain…

Pretend you’re a big time Hollywood executive and I tried to pitch you the following story:

“Okay, let me start with some context. It’s the 21st century, but millions of people still believe in this invisible Super Ghost who lives somewhere way, way up in the sky somewhere. You see, he created everything, sees everything, knows everything, and knows everything that had ever happened and will happen. Think: a divine Big Brother — a huge security camera in the sky.

The people who believe in him think of him as a magic helper who protects, punishes, and watches over them. It’s a take on the Santa Claus thingee: He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake (and engaged in revolutionary activities), and so on.

Yet even though this ghost has, like, all the superpowers of all the superheroes rolled into one, he’s in actuality very insecure. He demands that you follow and pay tribute to him or else you get an eternity burning in a non-stop, super-duper fire, boiling in lava-like shit and being constantly stabbed by devils with pitchforks. Oh yeah! I almost forgot, two thousand years ago he sent his only son (which he conceived by fucking a married virgin) to earth in order to redeem humanity from their wickedness by getting him nailed to a cross (that whole Gospel According to Mel Gibson treatment).

Now, bear with me because this is where the story gets interesting: after two thousand years of watching humanity slaughter itself, getting really fucked up, and having wild orgies, and basically just slacking off, The Son plans to return to earth from outer space. But before he does, he’s going to beam up to Heaven all those people who have continued to have faith in him. Yup, levitate them right out of their clothes, wherever they are — on an airplane, asleep, having sex, on the toilet, and (get this!) from the freaking grave! That’s right, corpses and cadavers blasting out of the ground! Think: Saw meets Night of the Living Dead, with some touches of Superman and Terminator thrown in.

Meanwhile, the people left behind are freaking out. I mean, imagine you’re on an airplane to South Beach for a weekend of debauchery and suddenly the pilot fuckin’ disappears! Flies right by your window!

Dang!

Then you look and you see hundreds of naked people whooshing by (of course, we’ll make them up to be gorgeous-size zero-big-breasted-no ass-having-blonde-white-babes and maybe throw in an old dude just for laughs). And then the plane just nose dives, crashes smack into the side of a mountain. Families are broken up and companies have to close because, like, the entire sales department just flew through the AC vents out the window!

Meanwhile, the people left behind are in a mass panic and MSNBC-CNN-FOX is blaming it on the Muslims and the liberals. The president is pissed because he thinks it’s some secret pentagon weapon he wasn’t informed about. Cut to a religious secretary as she tells him, ‘Mr. President, it’s the Rapture.’ Since he’s secretly a Hitler-loving groupie narcissistic fascist, he’s never heard of the Rapture. The secret service sweeps him away to an undisclosed location where they fill him in on the details.

And this is just the first seven minutes! In the rest of the movie, the people left behind are going to suffer a seven-year nightmare of wars, plagues, attacks from supernatural creatures, asteroid collisions, and rivers of blood… ”

Would you buy a pitch like that? Well, considering the really inferior crap that gets produced these days, maybe a studio would produce such a story. Wait… you mean they made that movie?! Damn! LOL

Seriously, if I insisted that I actually believed the story to be true, most of you would have probably called security and have me kicked to the curb or shot by a posse of Colin Kaepernick-hating cops, right? Right? Right?

As many as a hundred million Americans admit that they believe in this story, which is known as the Rapture, a scene lifted out of the last book of the Bible. Yeah, that part, the crazy, hallucinogenic part. The part with the Apocalypse and its Four Horsemen, the Whore of Babylon, a seven-headed dragon, and crap that looks straight out of a badly crafted segment of Lord of the Rings.

It’s hey-Zeus (!) on steroids come back to kick some major Muslim (and Jewish, Atheist, and Wiccan, and… etc.) ass!

If you’re a Christian and never heard of the Rapture, then shame on you, you didn’t read the Bible all the way through to the end. In any case, this book isn’t for believers of the rapture. It’s for you, Heathen! Unbeliever! Doubter! Satanist! Secular Humanist Socialist liberal! If you’re curious about what 100 million of your neighbors find so compelling about the Rapture, then this book will do the trick. If, on the other hand, you’re the kind of person who values reason rather than myth, then this book will literally make you laugh your ass off.

Quick! Look Busy!

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Sunday Sermon [Courage]

Hola Everybody,
Yes, I haven’t written in a while and that includes writing that doesn’t usually appear here (my short stories and nonfiction essays). I have to find my niche in this world… somehow.

Here’s a poem by Anne Sexton that inspired me. They are particularly poignant considering the poet’s own life. The last two years have been challenging for me and I can relate to the words that follow Hope it inspires you as well.

Courage

07-16-17_ Courage_ 001

It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you’ll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you’ll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you’ll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

— Anne Sexton © provided for educational purposes only

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Tags: Poetry, Anne Sexton, Courage, Transformations

Excerpt: Your courage was a small coal/ that you kept swallowing.

Everything is Everything

Hola mi Gente,
Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Hope you have an exciting, fun-filled summer!

Dependent origination is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea, I admit, but there’s something to it… or not. LOL

Dependent Origination

01-03-17_-change-your-day

The fear of letting go prevents you from letting go of the fear of letting go.

 

This is the doctrine at the heart Buddhism. You see, my dear reader, it goes this way: you are an unstable collection of coincidences held together by a desperate and irrational clinging. There is no center — no center at all. Everything depends on everything else, your body depends on the ecology, your thoughts depend on whatever conditioned debris floats in from the media, your emotions are mostly from the reptilian end of your DNA.

Your intellect, dear reader, is a chemical computer that can’t add up a zillionth as fast as a pocket calculator. Even your best side is a superficial piece of social conditioning that will fall apart as soon as your significant other leaves after emptying the money in the bank account, the economy fails and you get the sack, or you get conscripted into some village idiot’s war, or they give you the news about your brain tumor. To name this combination of self-pity, vanity, and despair “self” is not only the height of conceit, it is also proof that we’re a deluded species.

We are in a trance from birth to death. Burst the balloon and what are you left with? Emptiness.

It’s not only us — this radical principle applies to the whole sentient world. While dependent origination is somewhat hard to take (or grasp), it does have a compelling point: stop for a moment, still yourself, listen — in other words, pay attention just a little — and you will find yourself on a planet you no longer recognize. Those needs and fears you thought were the very foundation of your existence turn out to be no more than bugs in your software.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

If I could…

Hola Everybody,
Spring has sprung here in The Center of the Known Universe. Fuck wherever it is you live! LOL

Now [no. 15]

Wendy Whitelaw, Park Avenue, July 1981

Wendy Whitelaw, Park Avenue, July 1981

If I could
I would guarantee you
bright sunny days
and soft, dry breezes
for all your Summers.

If I could
I would give you
clear cold days
and clean snow
for the Winters you love.

And if I could
I would give you Autumn,
dressed to the teeth,
at that precious moment
when you most need change.

But if I want you
to remember me
as I will always remember you,
I will send you,
naked,
unadorned,
Spring.

Edward-Yemil Rosario ©

Sunday Sermon [Redemption Song]

Hola Everybody,
Today’s blog art is by the great Salvador Dali. There’s another Dali work that’s of importance here. Dalí once made a gift to the men’s jail in lieu of a personal appearance there. He was supposed to give an art class to the inmates in 1965 but canceled due to illness. He donated the then new gouache-ink-and-pencil sketch, specifically “For the dining room of the Prisoners Rikers Island,” as he inscribed it. And he sent some encouraging words for the men: “You are artists. Don’t think of your life as finished for you. With art, you have always to feel free.”

It was stolen by correction guards in 2003 and is believed to have been destroyed.

Here’s a photo of the work being presented to then commissioner Anne Kross (seems like she doesn’t  get it):

04-16-17_ Dali-Rikers_ 001

Redemption Song

04-16-17_ Redemption Song

Woman, why are you weeping?
— Jesus to Mary Magdalene (John 20:15)

 

For a long time I refused to go to funerals. I simply wouldn’t go. On one level, I didn’t want to see my loved ones garishly made up lying in some casket. I have seen many, many people leave this existence. Most of the people I was raised with are dead or dying. I grew up in a violent world and quite a few were taken in the prime of their lives — victims of violence, disease, or addiction. On another level, I didn’t want to come face-to-face with death. Especially death warmed over as I used to call funerals in mainstream US culture.

I didn’t like funerals. Didn’t like death… So I never went.

Then one day, I was shopping with a lover and she picked out a dress she loved so much she said, “This is the dress I want to be buried in!” We laughed about it. We, she, was young and beautiful, full of life. She was the Bonnie to my Clyde, committing crimes of life in that devil-may-care way only the foolish and young can justify. We didn’t last long together, less than two months, but we created so much drama in one another lives that we would become forever attached. Years later, after all had been done between us, she died in my presence.

People have a fucked up knack of dying around me.

When it came time to make preparations, her sister confided in me that she knew what dress to bury her in and when I saw it, it cut me deep because it was that very same dress we picked out that day so many years before. When I told her sister, she smiled because my former partner in crime had told her sister the same thing. I wasn’t planning on attending her funeral, but her sister insisted.

I am not a practicing Christian. I don’t accept Jesus, or anyone else, as my savior, nor do I believe in a literal translation of the Bible, Old or New. However, I do think that some of the teachings attributed to the person called Jesus of Nazareth are sublime. My personal belief, borne of personal experience, is that the core teachings of Jesus were corrupted for personal and political gain. Thomas Jefferson held similar views and he wrote a version of the Gospels, now known as the Jeffersonian Bible. In it, he excised the parts he felt were contradictory to the core message of hope and love of the Nazarene. And believe me, there’s lots of contradiction in the Gospels.

According to people who wrote the story hundreds of years after the fact, when Jesus finds Mary Magdalene crying at the door of the tomb, he says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” As I see it, Jesus wasn’t asking a rhetorical question. He wanted to know why we worry and sob and fret when hope is always present, if we could just tap into it.

For me, Easter is about liberation, and it’s especially meaningful for a person like me who sometimes feels chained to moodiness and negativity too much of the time. The celebration of the resurrection is a chance for us to acknowledge Jesus’ message of hope and in so doing, grab the hope that is already there.

Anyone else notice that of all the people he showed himself to, it was the women first? In fact, of all the women, it wasn’t his mother, but Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appeared first. I don’t take Jesus’ resurrection literally, but there is a message there that resonates with my own life. Jesus’ life, like mine, was a redemption song. And like Jesus, it was the women in my life who tended to me — tended to me through my own passage to a new life. Maybe this is saying something about the Feminine Principle and how far we have moved away from that healing force. For me, this was no accident of the Gospels. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene because she, more than any other disciple, believed in him. All those other bums, betrayed and denied him, didn’t they? LOL

When I cried at my ex-lover’s funeral, it seems as if I cried for all the loved ones I had never said good-bye to — the one’s whose funerals I didn’t attend. It was as if all that loss I was holding on to came out like a river. It was at once one of the saddest and most liberating experiences in my life. I read somewhere the other day that the opposite of loss is finding. It’s a deceptively profound statement.

Grief is what we add on to loss. It is a learned behavior, specific only to some cultures. It is neither unavoidable nor universal. In some cultures, for example, you will never see someone cry at a cremation. Their cultural perspective on death is one of acceptance in a way foreign to Western theories of grief and loss.

Similarly, when Jesus appeared to the disciples he asked, “Why are you troubled?” Jesus says to the disciples in Luke’s gospel when he appears to them after his “resurrection.”

My Buddhist practice has slowly transformed my view of grief — has actually opened the door for me to see that there’s an alternative to grief. It’s not that grief is wrong, only that there’s another possibility. Loss of a loved one can be viewed in another way, a way that avoids the long days of aching, oftentimes crippling grief.

Over the years since my ex-lover’s death, I have attended many funerals and have had two others die in my arms. I sometimes cry at funerals but I understand death differently today. A teacher once explained it to me in simple terms. “Have you ever been to a concert and experience the shouts of ‘more!’ coming from the audience when it came time to end?” he asked. “Usually, the musicians will play one or two encores, but eventually they have to pack up their gear and leave. I’ve experienced this many times and when I’m going home, I usually reflect on how great the music was and how lucky I was to have been there. I never felt grief at the end of a concert.”

And that is exactly how I experience life and death today. I see it as if a magnificent concert had come to an end. I revel in the wonderful performance. I was there shouting loudly, “More!” when it came to end the performance. My loved ones struggled to stay alive a little longer, but eventually they had to let go — they had to pack up their instruments and “go home.” Today, I choose to see instead what magnificent lives my friends and loved ones led. What powerful inspirations they were in my life. Their shining power of example. I reflect mostly how fortunate I was to have been in their lives to witness their glorious and beautiful power. Today, I walk away from funerals feeling a lot like I do after watching a great performance: exhilaration. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Grief is seeing only what has been taken away from you. The celebration of a life is recognizing all that we were blessed with, and expressing that gratitude. When I die (and we all will die sooner or later) I hope this is what people will feel for my own performance and that people will celebrate life and not just mourn my death.

Whatever your belief, this has to be part of the message of the resurrection, whether you understand it as literal or not. That the concerts of our lives continue reverberating and in that way create more life. That our lives are never ended, but live in our deeds and actions… and our memories.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…