Liquid Life

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

By the tenderest mercy of our Maker,
dawn from on high will break over us,
to enlighten all who sit in death’s dark shadow,
and guide our feet back to the ways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Living below
the flight path
of an air-freight world hub

invites regular rumbled interruptions
that shred nerves, rattle windows, and interfere
with conversations, as well as household electronics.

In early morning, at eventide
and into dead of night,
our neighborhood is rent with whining turbines

that defy gravity as they strain
to launch or land monstrous metal birds,
miraculously uplifted by invisible airy currents.

In pairs they arrive or depart,
roaring and tearing at the cloudy blue
as speedily they rise or slowly descend.

Low-flying and laden with treasures and trinkets,
they bear necessities,
along with niceties from ports unknown.

Like those harbor docklands of old,
our city is now a sky port
with an army of shippers and handlers

who toil day and night
to manipulate mountains
of the stuff that stuffs our overfilled lives.

And in the frenzied season of buying and gifting,
this frequent freight flying
reaches fevered pace.

The light shines in the darkness,
and darkness did not overcome it.

John1:5

These cold, stark days,
I sit on my porch and skyward stare,
as wordless breath mists chill air.

I wait and I watch
blinking white underbellies, wheels down,
pass low over trees and rooves.

No longer greeted by impatient frustration
and a rumbling undercurrent
of worried resentment,

these days, this rattling roar
resounds like death-defying thunder,
announcing from the heavens that hope is on the wing.

For cargo planes, now turned angelic,
are also pregnant with the possibility
of new liquid life.

In defiance of the typical detritus
of seasonal sentimentality,
these magnificent machines bear life-saving serum in their bellies.

So hope for a great sea change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Seamus Heaney

Each mechanical messenger
I greet like Gabriel or Hermes,
with a hopeful nod and the glimmer of a smile.

I call to mind our fearful, fragmented,
beleaguered human family,
brought low by viral load.

How long-awaited, this clear liquid life,
to shatter the shadow of pandemic
that once again, we might breathe easy.

But not quite yet!
For we are still plagued by pride,
and hubris humiliates us.

Disease also defines us,
as crisis unmasks systemic inequities,
along with vanities and vulnerabilities.

Pandemic pleads for new self-understanding;
a world repatterned around care for creatures
and health care for humankind.

Plague will not leave us
until we refuse to leave
any member of our human family behind.

Historically pandemics have forced humans
to break with the past and imagine their world anew.
This one is no different.
It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Arundhati Roy

May the hope that gilds the horizon
bring enlightenment, chase away cruelty
and heal hearts that mourn the cruel cost of living.

joe

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Being Well

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

A house is divided against itself will not be able to stand.

Mark 3: 25

Each day, in tragic tones,
pandemic exposes a world completely intertwined;
your wellbeing inextricably tied to mine.

Healing cannot be reduced
to mere self-preservation;
saving the strong by abandoning the frail.

For plagues carry
lessons in their lesions
and wisdom within their wounds.

Though forced to isolate and shelter
behind masks and shields,
a disease of the whole human body calls for corporate care.

The miniscule might of viral particles,
like grains of sand in machinery,
arrests and infects our every movement, meeting and market.

Stealing breath from our bodies,
and loved ones from our lives,
plague unmasks inequities and exposes vulnerabilities.

Yet every blight brings unwelcomed blessings.
Pandemic, like climate change, is a natural response
that carries remedies not retribution.

Every crisis intervenes to force a pause,
redirect energy
and rectify behavior.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

Intractable problems
require a totally different tack
than merely attacking symptoms.

The road to restoration
must first arrive at truth
before realizing reconciliation.

Whether we are ready or not,
disease, death and social disintegration
make no accommodation or exception for willful ignorance.

Perhaps humble truth-telling takes hold
with the admission that we cannot return
to mean old ways and wayward means.

A change of direction,
a radical reorientation
is required to achieve the remedy for our “mal-addictions.”

The greatest, most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble …They can never be solved, but only outgrown.

Carl Jung

Global emergencies
present us with the hard reality
that our world house remains deeply divided.

The priceless pearl within COVID’s shell
is the gift of a common cause,
a rallying reason for a whole human response.

Such unifying consciousness lays bare
a truth buried by profiteers and personal prosperity preachers;
that all shall be well only when all the family is made well.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

Abraham Lincoln, 1858

If a tree falls and blocks the trail,
we can expend our energy
hacking at the obstacle, refusing to be redirected.

Or, we can simply forge another path;
choose a new
or long-forgotten way to wellbeing.

In autumnal glory
nature leaves us lessons
about living by letting go.

“Relinquish the old
to make way for the new!”
in golden splendor she schools.

“This way of being
you dearly hold,
for wellness sake, you must let go.”

The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living.

Jean-Pierre DeCassaude

Undoubtedly this involves
a tectonic shift in mindset.
But first, hearts must be made malleable.

We transform transactions into relationships
by naming and claiming
and falling back into an economy of care.

May you tap that well
of great-fullness within
to release a reservoir of resources,

if not for ourselves,
then for the wellbeing of our children
all and every one.

joe

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Cost-Benefit Paralysis

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Love the Holy One wholeheartedly, soulfully, strongly, mindfully;
and your neighbor as dearly as yourself.

Luke 10:27

Seeker,
How do you weigh the cost of living with the price of loving?

Pandemic unmasks,
with the stark reflection of a cracked mirror,
our shared visage, in fragmented distortion.

‘O look, look in the mirror
‘O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

W. H. Auden

As we succumb to the grave demands
and debilitations of protracted isolation,
we weigh the consequences of activities with inaction.

A dangerous calculus, dangled before us,
presents the gruesome false equivalence
between wealth and worth; profit and people.

The vacuum of moral leadership,
abandons us to less-caring calculations
about whom and how many must die for the freedom to sell and buy.

But there is another approach
that invites nations and neighbors to safeguard vulnerability
by sharing from the commons of human and material resource.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart
.

W.H. Auden

Trying times test our humanity as well as our faith.
While we ponder where and when it all might end,
it helps to keep our eyes fixed

on the ubiquitous wounded One;
catalyst of contradiction,
who is both masked and intubated; healer and helped.

This Christ who abides within and in between,
spans the chasm between market and ministry
with compassionate self-giving.

Christ the protester,
wielding a sign.
Christ the policeman, standing in line.

Christ well-remembered,
Christ we’ve forgotten.
Christ you are blessed, and how you are broken!

Christ of compassion,
the ever-forgiver,
peacemaker, cheek-turner, merciful river.

Christ so close,
Christ so dear,
how dare we not see you, when you are so near?

Excerpted from Still In the Storm by Joe Grant

Thus, the fierce love of Maker is expressed
as passionate concern
for the most maligned and mistreated; without exception.

For only the compass of compassion
can reorient us
and chart a course to fuller, wider living.

Discounting, distracting and misdirecting,
either in piety or politics,
devalues dignity in search of justification.

Seeking to be justified by Jesus, the lawyer asked,
‘And who is my neighbor?’

Luke 10:29

Since crisis also presents opportunity, always we must ask:
What is the cost of loving? Who benefits?
Who ends up paying the price for so much suffering?

And carefully we listen
for courageous, radical inclusion,
as we steer clear of amoral profiteering and prophet-less preaching.

The real tragedy would be if we come through the pandemic without changing for the better.
It would be as if all those deaths, all that suffering … would mean nothing.

Ben Okri

Beyond social analysis and moral paralysis,
may we surrender to the humble power of kenosis—
self-outpouring that restores “benefit” from a privilege to making good.

Especially in dark times, even behind closed doors,
we do not scheme
about going back-wards.

We kindle flickering hope
and dream a softer, slower, simpler, gentler,
more generous world into being.

joe

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