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

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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.

Noche Buena Heist

Hola mi gente,
“Happy Holidays!” for those who don’t. J

The following is fiction. It is based on actual events and is the foundation for one of the stories in my book of short stories I’ll never finish tentatively titled Ataques de Nervios (Nervous Attacks) or 704 E. 5th St. (or some shit like that). However, I have taken huge liberties with parts of the story, the characters, and time line.

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Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
— H.G. Wells, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman

 

It’s so cold she can’t feel her feet. She’s wearing slippers in the midst of a raging Nor’easter. She’s afraid and her threadbare coat can’t protect her from the 40-50 mile per hour winds. It’s the night before Noche Buena and she’s alone, keeping vigil outside a home in a white section of lower Manhattan, but she’s here because her kids are in need… there’s no one around and she despairs. Her hands are numb from the cold and her feet ache.

It seemed as if it were hours ago when ‘Galo left with Gangster with instructions that if she saw anyone, she should whistle. In actuality, only minutes have passed. Now she wonders if she can whistle, her face is frozen, and they’ve been gone so long. What if the police come?

Finally, they come rushing out the building with stuffed pillowcases and as she starts to run with them she falls, she can’t feel her toes. Gangster and ‘Galo pick her up and they make their way hurriedly back to the Puerto Rican section of the Lower East Side, which takes too long and she’s crying, she’s in agony. ‘Galo stops to look at her feet and mutters, “Shit!” under his breath.

They hurry home.

They finally get home and by then, she’s crying in agony. ‘Galo takes off the slippers and thinks she has frostbite. She weeps, but tries to stifle her cries, fearful she’ll awaken the children. Unbeknownst to them, her oldest son, all of five-years-old, watches through a crack in the bedroom doorway. He’s afraid.

They call ‘Galo’s sister, who takes one look at the stuffed pillowcases and looks down at the young mother, as if noting her lack of moral standing. What kind of mother are you? Her looks seems to say. ‘Galo asks her to look at her feet and the sister says it’s not frostbite, but that she should go to the emergency room anyway. The young mother refuses, afraid. Afraid of the consequences of the act she just helped commit and afraid of what they may say about her toes that throb with a dull pain now.

They give ‘Galo’s sister a gold watch from the stolen loot, and she’s delighted. It’s an expensive watch, very pretty. She gives the young mother another look condemnation and admonishes her for behaving in such an un-Christian manner. The young mother says nothing and thanks her for looking after the children.

That Christmas was a good Christmas, or at least the children thought so. There was food, there were gifts under the tree, and the young mother seemed so happy though her children asked when they noticed that she limped a little when she walked. She had a brand new pair of boots, the only concession she made for the oldest will always remember the James Bond attaché case, complete with gadgets and it even shot rubber bullets if you pressed a hidden button. He also got a chemistry set that he used for hours upon hours… She made sure her children got our gifts before ‘Galo and Gangster would leave with the bulk of the loot, returning only when the money was spent on drugs. She didn’t even get herself a decent coat. However, her children got warm coats, gloves, scarves, and long underwear.

Her son never knew why she was crying that wintry night all those years ago. He thought they were fighting. But he was not surprised at her sacrifice — the choices she made so that she could make sure her children were and had what they needed. Somehow she always made it right, even if it meant compromising her values or her reputation. She didn’t care, only her children mattered. Still, she was ashamed and part of the reason why her children had perfect posture is because she taught them to walk tall, with their heads held high. It was the last bastion against the shame — that she made certain her children would walk proudly.

Most importantly, she taught them what really matters.

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

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, please consider helping me out by sharing it, liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter, or even throwing me some money on GoFundMe HERE or via PayPal HERE so I can keep calling it like I see it.

Responding to Fear

Hola mi Gente,
Have you ever felt that someone or some thing, or some situation is just right? Have you ever followed that inner feeling? How was that? Then again, I know many people who had children on account of a “feeling.” LOL!

Responding to Fear

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Nothing in life is to be feared; it only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
— Marie Curie

 

A shadow is created by blocking, deflecting, or otherwise obstructing light. Wherever fear comes into existence, it lives, grows, and remains a part of us by embedding itself between the light of creative vision and our intuition. It is the shadow, not a lack of ability, that is the biggest obstacle we face today as a global community. The shadow, as I see it, is the space between what we want and what we get. It’s the distance between who we are and who we are meant to be, with the biggest, deepest, and widest gap occurring between the present crisis and our vision.

Look around at what has so many of us mesmerized: paranoia, worry, doubt, disease. They cast a spell on almost every aspect of our lives. Fear prevents us from seeing or feeling clearly. It blocks the natural flow of our creative energy and hampers our ability to be radically innovative. We seem to be caught in a collective state of generalized anxiety that makes solutions impossible or paralyzes their implementation. When we do manage to get started, it is fear that often calls us back at the first sign of disappointment or problem. Fear, as a friend likes to say, keeps us “stuck on stupid” as in the example of the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. It stunts our growth and suffocates our awakening, causing us to repeat painful and habitual patterns of behavior and making us lose sight of our vision (or uncommon sense). In order for us to envision and create a greater society we must get past this fearful landscape.

Historically, creative people have often felt separated from their communities. It’s as if their ability to see clearly between what is and what could be serves to stigmatize them. Innovators are often ridiculed, their ideas and insights too far ahead of the curve of conventional wisdom. This isolation strikes fear within us: we fear that if we express our ideas, or rock the boat a little, or act on them, others will ridicule us. Shit, we are in the midst of an election cycle predicated on fear. The truth is that our visionary thinking is the only thing that will save us. But people are afraid to follow their own ideas. They’re sure they will be perceived as crazy, or radical, or — gasp! — outside of the political norm.

We are defeated not by our uniqueness, but by our fear of the unusual, the new, the strange. We live in a society obsessed by numbers and norms, with its averages, means, and medians spurring us to believe in something called “normal,” which has little to do with being real. The idea of “average” or “typical behavior” is nothing more than a mathematical conceit.

Similarly, we fear information that challenges our ingrained worldview. Most of the resistance we see today is really about killing the messenger than a defense of reason. Those frantically screaming against health care as a human right, or decrying free education, or those who have made it their business to discredit all forms of science, are protecting hidden agendas composed of fear and loathing.

We fear losing as self-doubt zeroes in on the space between our potential and insecurity. We’re not thin enough, smart enough, or committed. As a nation too many focus on what we can’t do, rather than what we’re capable of. We’re too late with too little. Such doubts and fears make us hesitate at a moment in time in which we can ill afford to hesitate. Others fear innovative ideas succeeding and taking hold because it means their worldview was wrong — fear of success. Many fear death, or loss of control. Whatever the case, it’s fear-based living at a time of crisis.

A sure recipe for catastrophe.

The people who insist that true innovation cannot be implemented demonstrate a complacency that’s both ignorant and disempowering. Awakening to our full potential is not a spectator sport. If we’re going to respond the challenges we face, we must act and act thoughtfully with foresight. Whenever a group tries something different, there’s an initial period of turbulence. Many people, fearful of new ways, mistake the turbulence for change itself and decide they would rather go back to the “good old days.” In this way, we dismiss the world of potential and vision for a past that never existed.

If we allow ourselves to be led by a creative vision, we will never lose. We can let go of right and wrong, winning and losing, approval and disapproval. Right now, we are on the cusp of a new world emerging and behind us an old world imploding upon itself. The only rational response to fear is to fully embrace this new world. Our potential can only be realized by working collectively. This new world has been on the cusp for a long time and it has nothing to do with some bullshit calendar and everything to do with being awake, and we have heard it speaking all our lives.

Stop the fear, motherfuckers.

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

I am the Warrior

Hola mi Gente,
I am conflicted about having to be inside a jail for eight hours a day, five days a week. If you’re not vigilant, being inside a jail that much can suck the soul out of you…

The Awakened Warrior

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Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
— Marie Curie

 

I sold my son on education using the archetype of the Scholar-Warrior. After watching an old Bruce Lee movie, he wanted to learn the martial arts. Having studied Lee’s original art, Wing Chun, myself, I made a pact with him. We would both study with a master if he took the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Of course, I made the whole thing up. LOL

Actually, there are precedents for the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Throughout history and across many cultures, scholar-warriors weren’t just fighters; they were often learned men and women who were versed in a wide range of disciplines. They were familiar with poetry and the healing arts, for example. They were protectors not destroyers.

We live in a different age, of course, but I would submit that the times we live in are screaming for more Scholar-Warriors to come forth. We cannot count on our leaders and government to be brave on our behalf; they are beholden to legal fictions (aka Corporations) endowed with the rights of personage. I would say that a failure of courage all around is at the root of most our problems today. Doing the right thing is a reward itself. Scholar-Warriors do not look for credit…

The word courage comes from the French coeur, meaning “heart.” Courage is a power that comes from the integration of the heart and brain. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the word for barbarians and was used by the Romans to describe the daring of the “wild people.”

For me, courage is the willingness to embrace challenge. Courage isn’t a single trait so much as a combination of a range of qualities: willingness, persistence, intent, valor. Real courage faces reality head on and when change is called for, accepts the need. It also calls for intelligence in that it calculates whether the means justifies the ends.

The irony is that seemingly unremarkable individuals commit some of the most courageous acts. Julia Butterfly Hill was only twenty-three when she climbed 180 feet into an ancient redwood. She lived in the tree for two years, saving it from destruction and in the process inspiring a generation of environmental activists.

I tried to teach my son that within each of us there lies a sleeping scholar-warrior and that part of our life’s purpose is to awaken that warrior. Sometimes it takes an extreme situation for the inner warrior to emerge. Many of the heroes we celebrate were initially reluctant everyday people taken by surprise.

I had a friend, Freddie (who has since passed away), who with no thought to his own safety acted on a situation. It was late at night and he was on his way to the corner bodega when he came upon a rape in progress. Without hesitation he tried to save the young woman. The cowards turned on him, beating him so badly that, among other serious injuries, they broke his eye socket, causing him to lose sight in that eye. Freddie was one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and when asked, he said he wasn’t a hero. For him, he was just doing what needed to be done.

I don’t consider myself a hero. I am just a son of the human species who was taught that an injustice to one person is an injustice to all. If I am a scholar-warrior at all, I am a warrior for Truth.

Today, we’re at the political mercy of a relatively small group of bullies. This is how I view most of what goes under both political parties in America today. Much of what they do is based in fear and loathing. A woman once spit at me because she didn’t see me as a human being but as a receptacle for everything she hated. To her I was a thing; I was the “other.” Her fear and ignorance compelled her to see me as a scapegoat for all her frustrations. Bullies bully because they are rarely confronted, growing bolder with time. Push back against a bully, and his or her fear stands exposed. A scholar-warrior can stand up to them.

Lucky Babcock is an example of a spontaneous scholar-warrior. One day she was minding her own business looking out her window when she saw a man throw a woman to the ground and rip her blouse off. Lucky, then sixty-six years old, grabbed her cane and raced down two flights of iron stairs. “I felt like I was flying. I put my hands on the rails and just threw myself down four steps at a time.” She used her cane as a club and drove the man off.

Compassion is a powerful motivator. Scholar-warriors develop a thirst for compassion. The compassionate are the true protectors of the earth, moved enough to take a principled stand to wage war against injustice.

A newspaper editor in Uruguay who agreed to a duel with an irate police inspector announced he would turn up without a weapon. He was challenged after his newspaper reported the officer was involved in transporting contraband. “I am not going to bear arms against another human being,” he stated. He stood convention on its head and as a result, he gained the support of the press, many politicians, and much of the public. The exposure resulted in a power shift that saw a new party formed and a new president elected.

I could tell the stories of countless reluctant scholar-warriors who almost never get any coverage, but they all seem to share the same quality of people who simply did what needed to be done.

If everybody who cared actually participated, the world would change. But we can’t count on other people — only ourselves. If we each do our part, who knows? But if we don’t, I think we know what will happen — it’s happening now. I’ll tell you today what I tried to teach my son not too long ago. The task of the scholar-warrior is to persist in the face of the greatest opposition. Even if our efforts turn out to be for nothing at one level, our actions still create ripples of effect. Courage isn’t risking ourselves for what we believe in, my friends. Courage is letting go of the belief that there’s something to risk.

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