After the election I find it difficult to write (just, justly) about (love, loving kindness, grace). Followed, as the election was, by the death of Leonard Cohen whose songs and as described (by those who knew him), whose personal life embodied grace, the task has become more difficult. I have lost my balance. I have fallen into (judgment, in this case, harsh judgment). Beauty seems cut off from the Crown, (Understanding and Wisdom) disconnected from (love and judgment). All balance has left me, I stumble up and down stairs as though falling, red faced, my prophetic legs unstable, my right knee (eternally) in sharp pain, my left leg (splendidly) leaning against a wall.
by Michael Dickel
And if these words confuse you, then they have communicated an aspect of my state, some limbs of the tree that sustains me. I will not explain. These fragments may not hold. I will try to find some pieces of the puzzle and lay them on the floor, without hope of putting the image together again. For the image shatters, overfull of signification. Its pieces slide into sounds, letters, words, phrases, a life sentence of confusion.
We may discern that the tree grows. We may figure out most or all of how it grows. However, ask the tree why it grows and it will simply rustle in the air of your breath.
Under the Palm Tree, Devorah sat in judgment. She was a warrior and a leader, yet her judgment was not harsh. She led because her judgment was seen as righteous and fair. My family name as I was born to it, Dickel, does not transliterate into the Hebrew aleph-bet very well. However, Dekel does work in Hebrew letters, דקל, and is a common enough family name in Hebrew. So when my wife and I registered our marriage in Israel, we changed our family name to Dekel. Dekel means (date) palm. I (am) a palm tree. I cannot explain.
In the 16th C., Moses Cordevero “discovered” or “wrote down” ancient (oral) texts, or simply wrote them as new texts. These are prominent among the received texts, part of the basis of Kabbalah (which means Reception, Received, but idiomatically, Revelation). One book is The Palm Tree of Devorah. At once it seems a text about how to be a good judge, like Devorah, and how to transcend our lives of judgment to obtain a Oneness with Keter, the Crown of Creation. Some excerpts, from Daniel Matt’s book, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (including his notes / commentary after the boldface text):
Your face should always be shining. Welcome each person with a friendly countenance. For with regard to Keter Elyon, the supernal crown, it is said: “In the light of the king’s face is life.” No redness or harsh judgment gains entrance there. So, too, the light of your face should never change; whoever looks at you will find only joy and a friendly expression. Nothing should disturb you. (85 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
“In the light of the king’s face is life.” Proverbs 16:15. CF Mishnah, Avot 1:15: “Welcome each person with a friendly countenance.”
redness The color of harsh judgment. (192)
Your mouth should produce nothing but good. The words you speak should be Torah and an expression of goodwill. Never generate angry or ugly words, curses, or nonsense. Let our mouth resemble the upper mouth, which is never closed, never silent, never withholding the good. Speak positively, always, with benevolent words.
All of these good qualities gather under the banner of humility, each one constituting a limb in Keter above…
It is impossible, of course, to conduct yourself according to these qualities constantly. Accustom yourself to them little by little. The essential quality to attain, the key to them all, is humility, for this is the very first aspect of Keter, under which all of the rest are subsumed. (85–86 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
So should your wisdom be accessible to all. Teach people what will be useful to them, according to each one’s capacity, pouring out to each as much wisdom as you can. Don’t let anything deter you.…Be careful not to give more than the mind of the recipient can hold, to prevent any mishap…
As Binah, Understanding, sweetens all powers of judgment, neutralizing their bitterness, so should you return to God and correct each flaw. If you meditate on returning every day, you stimulate Binah to illuminate each day.… (87 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
power of judgment Hebrew, dinim (דינים), powers of the sefirah of Din, harsh judgment. (192)
Do not say that returning is good only for the holy portion within you; the evil portion, too, is sweetened, in the manner of this quality. Do not think that because you incline toward evil there is no remedy. This is false. If you do well, rooting yourself in Returning, you can ascend there through the goodness rooted there. For the root of every supernal bitterness is sweet; you can enter through this root and make yourself good; your intentional sins turn into merits. The misdeeds you committed have been accusing you from the Left Side. Once you return completely, you raise those deeds and root them above. Those accusers are not annihilated but ameliorated, rooted in holiness. (88 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
the Left Side The demonic dimension, which branches out from the sefirah of Din, harsh judgment, located on the left side of the sefirotic tree. (192)
How should you train yourself in the quality of Hesed, Love? The basic way you enter the mystery of Hesed is by loving God to the extreme, not abandoning devotion for any reason at all, since nothing attracts you in the least, compared to loving God. (88 from Moses Cordevero Tomer Devorah original 16th C., Warsaw: Joel Levensohn 1873)
The sefirot (plural, singular sefirah), according to Jewish Mysticism, could be thought of as a series of vessels through which the energy of Creation / Creator (Keter) flow
from Ayin, אין, Nothingness, through Keter, the Crown (Head) of (Divine) Will
through the Point-Beginning of Wisdom (Hokhmah) and the Palace or Womb of Understanding (Binah)
into the Right Arm of (Hesed) Love (loving kindness, Grace) and the Left Arm of Power-Judgment (Din, Gevurah)
converging into (Tiferet) Beauty-Compassion-Mercy (Heaven, Sun, Harmony, Blessed Holy One)
into the right leg of Eternity-Prophecy (Nezah) and the Left Leg of Splendor-Prophecy (Hod)
converging once again into (Yesod) Foundation-Righteous One-Covenant (Phallus symbolic) and
flowing into the Presence as the Divine Feminine Aspect of God, the Shekhinah, from where it flows into the world / people.
The sefirot of convergences make up a central column, also.
These all make up a (symbolic) body, Adam (mankind, human) that is gender fluid (womb, phallus, Shekhinah all together). They comprise The Tree of Life. “The tree grows upside down,” its roots in the top, “an image familiar to us from many myths” (Scholem 42). “…Its trunk embraces the central and thereby conciliating forces; while the branches or limbs which grow out of it as various points encompass the contradictory forces of divine activity in Hesed and Din” (Scholem 42). The sefira of Hesed is love. The sefira of Din is judgment.
The sefirot could be a galaxy of stars, if you wish. The flow of this energy is two way. Jacob, when he dreamed of the ladder, saw messengers / angels going up and down the ladder (Gen. 28:12). (Not down and up.) The sefirot can also reveal themselves to our awareness as a ladder. The energy of Creation Returns in emanations toward Creator, Ayin,אין, Nothingness, and flows back down. Messengers going up and down, and up again. Hesed and Din must be in a dynamic balance to reach the convergence that is beauty-compassion-mercy in one direction or the duality (in triadic-balance with Keter) of understanding and wisdom in another.
Perhaps the emanations resemble particles falling into a Black Hole. As they hit the event horizon, they double, one continuing, one reflecting out, but as entangled entities. As below, so above; as above, so below. Perhaps the emanations resemble a Big Bang where time flows in both directions—beginning to end, end to beginning. Probably I don’t understand anything and do not have the wisdom to convey ( nothing(ness) ) אין.
However we might choose or be able to imagine them, the sefirot must be in balance. They are fractal—at all levels of the universe from quantum bits to macrocosmic, identical at all magnifications. They are Chaos. Ordered. Theory. The Shape. Everything.
And the opposite of love is not hate. It is harsh judgment. From harsh judgment flows, from us flows, the demonic dimension. For we are nothing but sefirot, energy, emanations of the Big Bang. For all I know.
A glimpse behind the curtain.
Pay no attention to the man behind the keyboard.
It doesn’t matter which you heard,
the holy or the broken Hallelujah…
It is taught in the Mystery of Mysteries: The king’s head is arranged according to Hesed and Gevurah [another term for the sefiraDin]. Hairs are suspended from his head, waves upon waves, which are all an extension, and which serve to support the upper and lower worlds: princes of princes, masters of truth, masters of balance, masters of howling, masters of screaming, secrets of Torah, cleannesses and uncleannesses—all of them are called “hairs of the king,” that is to say, the extension that proceeds from the holy king, and it all descends from Atika Kadisha [Ancient Holiness].
The forehead of the kin is the visitation of the wicked. When they are called to account because of their deeds, and when their sins are revealed, then is it called “the forehead of the king,” that is to say, Gevurah [Din]. It strengthens itself with its judgments, and extends itself to its extremities.… (Zohar, II, 122b–123a, cited in Scholem 53)
In the next three Sefiroth, we find Hesed (grace or love), Din or Gevurah (severity or judgment), and Rahamim or Tif’ereth (mercy, also known as splendor or beauty), in which the extremes are united and conciliated.Again, it is no coincidence that this sphere is defined by moral forces. (Scholem 42–43)
Hate is not the opposite of love.
Harsh judgment is the opposite of love. Out of the imbalance of harsh judgment (as opposed to judgment per se) and love comes hate. From hate comes the demonic dimension. The demons come from within. This is true for one. It is true for society. It is true of our human world right now, many nationalities, many Nationalisms.
They sit in judgment of us. We sit in judgment of them.
Out of the raised left arm of harsh judgment comes the demonic dimension.
Do not confuse this notion of left or right as anything to do with political camps or spatial dimensions as we know them. They are convenient and familiar shorthand for this side and another side that pull against each other. The image of Adam in the sefirot is a mirror image of the viewer. We see ourselves in everything. The tree is more complex, three dimensional, a series of branchings and series of branchings from those branchings.
The tree is an inadequately simple image because we know it. We see trees. We think we understand.
I don’t understand.
The purpose of all of the rhetoric. The flow of all of the hate. The riling noisy din of social media. Servers flickering. Serving up harsh judgments. All of us. Count me in…I’ll share that meme.
This carries. Comments. Brings. Back. Returns to. A beginning of sorts of bringing. Together or apart, I don’t know.
A furrowed red forehead with notable hair flying loose. “Hairs are suspended from his head, waves upon waves, which are all an extension.” In a weave over skin, the redness spouted its harsh judgments, a forehead extended to the extremities of the. Beast.
We called it hate, but he used harsh judgment of immigrants, of minorities, of liberals, of Hillary Clinton. He called up the judgmental. Yes. KKK. Yes. NAZIs. Yes. Bigots.
But. Also. And. Yes. Us.
Those who cried out against him and his followers. With harsh judgment. In harsh judgment. Becoming harsh. Judgment.
And the social media full of Din, the din, the noise, The Judgment. Without looking with love at the followers and asking, “how can I love them?”
Did you think Judgment Day meant someone else’s judgment? Something else’s Judgment? Perhaps it means the day that harsh judgment won. The election. No matter which person won, harsh. Judgment. Reigned.
I don’t love them. I judge them.
Don’t mistake me for saying we need to accept these harsh judgments of others that cast them as enemies—not immigrants, not those who are not “mainstream,” not those who are not “white,” an empty and meaningless category without inscription, a blank page signifying emptiness.
Please understand that the power (Gevurah) he wielded was not only over his followers. He triggered us. He caused us to judge. We answered. Off balance. We fell. Into hate. Fed by (our own) harsh judgment (of ourselves? our darker reflections? our shadows?). Which fed harsh judgment. The demonic dimension. Our demons.
We became part of the fire storm. Redness. Smoke. Mirrors reflecting our fears of who we really are back at us. And we became what we feared.
As did his supporters. They fell off balance into harsh judgment.
Trump fueled and fanned those flames. But so did all of the detractors on all other sides. A raging firestorm of harsh judgment—of Clinton. Of Obama. Of the Right. Of the Left. Of the alt-Right. Of Progressives. Of Boomers. Of Millennials. Clinton of Trump. (Some) progressives of Clinton. Of media. Media of anyone who sold viewers to their advertisers. Of those who voted for third party candidates. Those who voted for third parties of we who voted in the lie of the two-party system. Of those who didn’t judge. Of those who didn’t vote. Of others who judged.
There is room for judgment, to be sure. But it must be balanced by Hesed—grace and love.
I did not have that balance. I did not see that balance.
If we want to counter the redness of the demon with wild strands of hair, we must not join with “masters of howling, masters of screaming.”
I must find in myself Hesed, (love, loving kindness, grace).
We must find. Hesed. We must spread it outward. Emanate it up. And down. And up. We must remember that the opposite of love is not hate, that hate begets hate but arises from harsh judgments (being judgmental).
We must be less harsh in our judgments and more loving in our responses.
I must be less harsh in my judgments. Of you. Of me.
This is not to go to the other extreme. Hesed out of balance lacks boundaries, leaves us open and vulnerable, without defenses of any kind. Ready to be eaten.
We must judge, but justly, with love. And find solutions for people, not attack people as though they are problems.
We must call out the demonic dimensions with Hesed and send them back into Din. We must call out in love, to balance the mess we are in.
But we must also hold ourselves and others accountable for our (mis)judgments out of feelings of superiority.
We are all human. We all live in the world. We have divine potential, each and every one, even the orange redness with the wild hair.
And we all have demonic potential, each and every one, even the orange redness with the wild hair.
We must judge which is prevalent. With Hesed, love and grace.
And love is not the opposite of hate. But it brings a balance of judgment that leads from hate to beauty-compassion-mercy in one direction and to understanding and wisdom in the other.
Love must balance our judgment and guide our actions. Good must be on our tongues.
I don’t know how. I am angry. I am hurting. I am full of harsh judgments. I want to find a balance, though. And I want to remember that
…love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah…
I pick up my guitar and fall as much as sit down. My right knee screams in pain. My left knee sags. My right arm tingles, as fingers pluck the six strings. My left fingers press the notes, jarring my left arm to life as I make the chords: C – Am – C – Am -F – G – C – G – C – F – G -Am – F – G – Em – Am
I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
I’ve read this past week that Leonard Cohen wanted Hallelujah to convey all of the possible moments, good and bad, when praise might come to our lips—the cold, the broken, the holy…
“Rabbi Tarphon taught us that while it is not our responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, we are not free to desist from it either.” —Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman, Alvin & June Perlman Senior Rabbinic Chair, Temple Israel, Minneapolis, MN in a letter to her congregation after the election.
Matt, Daniel C. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. San Francisco: Harper Collins. 1995. Citations from the 1997 Castle Books edition.
I believe in a higher power. I don’t know what this mystical being’s name is: God, Jehovah, Buddha, Elohim, Allah or any of the attributes used to reference this power. I believe in Jesus, Muhammad and Elijah, the prophets sent to enlighten the people. I don’t think if you believe in one you will perish for not believing in the other.
I don’t believe for one to walk with head high among the righteous they must be able to quote the scriptures from any one of the Bible interpretations or from the Torah or Quran. I don’t think the goodness of a person is judged by the faith he can justify but by his behavior.
Yes, we all have our differences, we show concern for those we care for. That is easy, but can you show care for one you think of as your enemy, someone who doesn’t believe in the same God or who doesn’t cover their head or eats the flesh of an animal you believe is unclean? Can you show concern and respect to one whose skin color is different from yours or who speaks a different language, which you might not understand?
Jesus, born a Jew in the Middle East, walked miles in the desert performing acts of kindness for the most unsavory kind. He wanted nothing in return. He didn’t pass a plate for tithes for His Father. He didn’t reject the thief, the prostitute or the lame. He fed the hungry and welcomed all into his fold. What a wonderful man. He was called a king, actually king of the Jews.
The governor, the king, the law-makers were unhappy, afraid of this self-proclaimed leader spreading love and kindness, feeding the hungry, and healing the lame. They felt he had to be stopped. So Jesus was beaten unmercifully, abused and tortured for loving fellow human beings. Then he was executed before his followers to incite fear.
For 2000 years this same tactic has been used from slavery and war and to justify police states. This vicious and brutal behavior is used against other human beings to promote fear above love and compassion.
Greed and inhumanity are the swords that keep the meek quietly accepting the teachings of a God who taught us about unconditional love. Some who are self-righteous in their piety are two-faced and use the name of God to justify abuse and murder.
I believe in loving my fellow human beings. I believe in appreciating what surrounds me: the sun rising, the birds singing, trees blooming, laughter, and the sun setting at the end of each day. Yes the shining moon, twinkling stars, rain, snow … all of that nature offers gives me hope.
I can’t quote the scriptures. I don’t attend a church, but every word I utter is a prayer for a world of harmony. My thoughts for healing, happiness and comfort are my prayers for my family and friends. My every action, my behavior, every act I perform is my scripture.
My temple, my church is in my heart. My fellowship is with each person with whom I communicate. I passionately speak out against injustice and those who are mischief makers.
I believe in spreading love, compassion and happiness but unlike an ostrich I refuse to keep my head stuck in the sand as the mayhem in the world explodes around me.
I try not to promote negativity but it exists. Hiding behind rainbows won’t make the rain stop. I face evil head on and reveal it so that those with goodness can see who the enemy is and stand with me to eliminate or at least decrease its hold on humanity.
My new next-door neighbor is aging and physically challenged, although he’s probably around my age. He walks with a limp, speaks slowly and wears a hearing aid. He gets around our 56-acre property on an electric golf cart. He also wears a camouflage cap, hunts, and works on his prized stock car engine in the garage. I’ve met him on just a few occasions. The last time was during the summer when the Conservation Foundation held a meeting at his home. He told us that his dog, Reggie, was also hard of hearing and was concerned when one of the guests let the dog out in the process of coming in to the meeting.
After a week of settling in to our new home to the south of his, it was time to pay a visit, introduce my partner Steve, and discuss things like garbage pick-up and snow removal. Dave met us at the door and led us to the living room. The dog bed was empty. Dave sat down in his recliner facing the blank TV. An Elton John tune from the 70s played on the radio.
“Where’s Reggie?” I asked.
“Reggie died…on the sixth…of September.”
I dropped to my knees on the carpet in front of Dave’s chair so that I could look him in the eye. He looked like he might begin to cry.
“Oh, Dave! I am so sorry!”
Dave began to talk, haltingly at first. He told the story of how he noticed changes in his beloved companion, of decisions he had to make, and how his life had been altered. I listened and kept eye contact. The conversation changed to the present and more mundane matters, and I got up off the floor. Dave asked us to sit down on his couch.
“Don’t worry, I vacuumed the dog hair off the seat already.”
We visited for another half hour. I saw Dave laugh for the first time. And smile, and stretch, and tell jokes. We negotiated an agreement about the garbage, and he recommended a good Toyota mechanic. On the way out, I noticed a paw print plaque on a box with Reggie’s name on it.
“Oh, did you get that from the vet? My daughter got one for our cats when they passed.”
I told him I was sorry again and that we’d be seeing him around.
I have never had a dog.
I don’t remember thinking about dropping to my knees in grief at the news of Reggie’s death. I just did. I needed to look in Dave’s eyes as he spoke. Grief is a familiar friend, even if Dave was not yet.
I have a Bernie bumper sticker on my car.
I don’t know how Dave votes, and I was surprised that Wisconsin went to Trump. Now that I live in a rural community and not in Milwaukee, I see lots of folks who look like Dave.
I am a stranger here.
I work here on behalf of the land. I came to live here so that I can know it better. I am just beginning to know the people who have worked and lived here before me. I don’t know how well I’ll fit in with them, but I am very interested in seeing the adventure unfold.
I want to show loving-kindness wherever I go. This is my opportunity: this place, this day.
(from Wildmind Buddhist Meditation:
Metta is friendliness, consideration, kindness, generosity.
Metta is the basis for compassion. When our Metta meets another’s suffering, then our Metta transforms into compassion.)
I had no idea what to write for this month’s BeZine theme: Metta. Metta is also known as loving-kindness. It’s a practice often found in Buddhism, but also in other religions. It builds empathy and compassion for self, others, and the world around us. I was going to talk about random acts of kindness and senseless beauty, and while it’s a subject I adore, it didn’t seem quite right. As I was thinking about what to write and searching for some inspiration, the perfect story presented itself. I’d like to share it with all of you because to me, it sums up what the idea of loving-kindness is all about. Enjoy, be inspired (and maybe have a kleenex handy 😉 ).
The earth quaked again in Italy and every hope of a normal day, a day without disquiet, went down with the houses and churches. All the State is in a state of emergency. In the chaos and fear and the concrete falling, it’s often difficult to remember our humanity. Some people were wounded. Some died.
Into this chaos and consternation, into this suffering came a group of artists. They decided to make a difference in a rather unique way. Generally donations are of food, money, clothes and other things, gathered and generously sent to people who are living these painful moments. These things are necessary. They address basic material needs, but what about beauty, art, culture and all those goods that help people to feel human? The Mantuan songwriter and balladsinger, Wainer Mazza, along with the Mantuan photographer Gianni Bellesia decided to collect as many works of art as possible to donate to earthquakes victims.
On Saturday, October 29th, artists, writers and songwriters gathered socially to share their interest in culture and tradition. Each participant in that gathering brought paintings and books, and thirty donations were collected from all over the province of Mantua. The hope of Mazza and Bellesia is that more people will donate art to lend beauty to a place destroyed by nature and to help heal the people who lost their homes.
In April next year the first houses will be delivered to Arquata del Tronto and Amatrice people. At the same time the donations will be sent to the mayors of the towns for distribution. This is a wonderful example of charitas (charity), one of the three theological virtues.
The artists and philanthropists involved in the first donation evening were: Kiara Rossato, Wainer Mazza, Alfredo “Fredon” Facchini, Elena Bello, Claudia Vivian, Bianca Maria Solli, Katia Tonini, Bianca Bertazzoni, Alfonso Bertazzoni, Grazia Badari, Mendes Biondo, Elisa Macaluso e Desi Bronzati.
All the stars and planets were aligned…Just after the election I had a birthday, which I share with my binary brother, Lewis. In sixty years we’ve never spent a birthday apart. Like so many of us, he was shocked, saddened, crushed by the election results. There was only one thing to do. We played space age hooky, beamed him out of the office and transported ourselves to the Seattle Center.
Specifically, to the EMP, which is celebrating 50 years of Star Trek.
I hardly remember life before Star Trek. And talk about The Next Generation! My children absorbed Star Trek by osmosis in utero. As I ascended the stairs to the EMP tribute, the Star Trek theme song elicited a visceral response that only gets stronger as I get older. I’ve lived long enough now to see many of these stories played out on my planet in real time.
The Star Trek universe was built upon a future where poverty was eliminated, equality and diversity went hand in hand, and the good of the many took precedence over the few. Humans had learned to cooperate, and put an end to war. All of Earth and the Federation of Planets collaborated on peaceful missions of exploration. What a concept! A bit rosy, but a vision worth striving for.
Lew and I arrived early and shared the floor with only a few others, including a very cute couple in Star Fleet uniforms.
Lew and I shared a womb for nine months, and managed to both fit into a Borg Regeneration Chamber too.
Star Trek had action and adventure, but was also thoughtful and intelligent. Writers could get away with astute critical social commentary, because it was all happening in another universe. Thinly veiled stories posed tough questions about civil rights, social disparity and racism in our own society.
Martin Luther King was marching for basic civil rights and a place at the lunch counter for African Americans when Classic Trek was filmed, featuring a black woman as fourth in command on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
It wasn’t long before a woman would captain the Federation Starship Voyager.
A black man was in command of the space station, Deep Space Nine.
Julian Bashir, whose Arabic name means “bringer of good news,” was the doctor on DS9.
In the original series Lt. Sulu was played by George Takei, who is gay. Fifty years later, in the most recent Star Trek movie, writers gave Sulu a child and a husband, a powerful tribute to the actor who first brought Sulu to life. More importantly, it was an unwavering moral and political statement of inclusiveness that brought tears to my eyes.
For just a little while, it felt good to be in a place of Equal Opportunity bridges, and not walls. Right now we are in the middle of our own episode, so scary it seems like science fiction, with the world we’ve worked so hard to build spinning out of control. The incidence of hate crimes is rising dramatically. Social security is threatened. Fifty years of social progress is at risk as minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and the poor are in danger of being disenfranchised. The environment is on the brink of ruin beyond recovery because in this episode The Almighty Dollar is worshipped at all costs. In this story, we don’t have other worlds to relocate to after we’ve ruined this planet. Too many episodes begin with civilizations that have self-destructed, or are ruled by uncaring masters who live in the clouds in their own decadent paradise, while the workers they exploit to maintain their lifestyle live in a harsh ugly world. You probably saw “Patterns of Force,” the episode pictured below; there are people old enough to have lived through that reality, and who recognize the signs in our country today.
If we wait until the 24th century to be rescued, or for ‘enlightenment’ to kick in, we’re going to find ourselves back in the Dark Ages wondering what happened. Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows how difficult it is to travel back in time to change the future. Star Trek’s writers say, “…start by picking a resolution…then plan each step so it drives the story toward the ending you want…”
Every episode needs conflict to give a story purpose and move the plot forward. Star Trek writers created a terrifying foe called The Borg...”individuals who have been captured and assimilated…and transformed into mindless worker drones…What’s frightening about the Borg is not their violence…They are unhampered by empathy for other beings, believing their way is perfection…The Borg are, in essence, a virus that uses civilizations as its hosts.”
Can you see where our country is headed? We will NOT be assimilated. Our story must end with a world where people of every race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation live and work together, without fear of banishment, punishment or judgement simply for being who they are. Our story must end with respect, inclusivity, and compassion for all. We must do whatever it takes to make it so. The reason Star Trek has become such a lasting legacy is because it is hopeful and empowering and delivers a message we need to hear. The captain’s chair is ready. Let’s take our tall ship, keep an eye on that star to steer her by, and go full speed ahead, warp factor 10. Whatever happens, please remember…Resistance is NOT futile. It is the only way we ever have or ever will make any headway, and it will be a crucial message to the next generation.
As the latest election newscast droned on, the old man sighed and muted the television.
“Y’know, I’ve met a couple of presidents. And some presidential candidates, too,” Grandpa Ed Duryea said to thirteen-year-old Grace one afternoon.
“You did? Which ones?”
“Well, there were Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter back during the Bicentennial. That’s 1976 to you youngsters who may not care that this country has a proud history spanning almost 250 years.”
“I know that,” Grace said with a tiny pout.
“Even met Trump and Hillary Clinton, though neither when they were running for President then,” Ed said.
“Yup. Then there was Rodney Schuyler Beauchamp.”
“Who?” Grace said, her eyes widening.
“You never heard of Rodney Beauchamp?” her Pa said.
“Of course not. Nobody by that name ever ran for president,” Grace said.
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Gracie. And Beauchamp was probably the most presidential man I’ve ever met,” Ed replied. The old man then walked out to the kitchen for another mug of coffee.
“You can’t just leave me hanging here with that bit of information and just walk away, Pa,” Grace said as she followed her grandfather into the kitchen. “Who the heck was Rodney Beauchamp?”
Ed stirred some creamer into his mug of Colombian Suprema. He clinched a larger smile down to his wry grin, the one that Grace knew could bring on a great tale of his reporter days or an even greater lie.
“1970 it was. Rodney lived on a farm with his brother Roland near Mooers Forks, up on the Quebec border. Got tired of all these hippies and privileged draft dodgers running through his place day and night to sneak into Canada,” Ed said, nudging his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“I read about that. Some guys refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War and ran off to Canada. Right?”
“Correct, hon. It was as divisive a time in our history as I’ve seen in my sixty-odd years. Peaceful protest turned into violent police, even military, pushback. Racial strife leading to flaming riots in big cities from coast to coast. And Roland’s orchards and pastures became his own Ground Zero of protest. He was ticked off at the government and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” Pa said.
“So that’s why he decided to run for President?” Grace asked. She rocked her chair closer to her grandfather.
“But you said…”
“I said he was ticked off, but there’s a little more to the story. See, those bachelor farmers don’t have much of a life but cultivating, herding and milking, from before dawn to after sundown. Their pastime is reading their Bibles and the news. In the Beauchamp brothers’ case, that wasn’t just the Adirondack Enterprise, but included the Montreal Gazette…a major newspaper without any biases here in the States.”
“So?” Grace said, blinking.
“So Rodney and Roland looked at the whole American geopolitical scene as world citizens, not just North Country farmboys. And they didn’t take kindly to how we got neck-deep in the Big Muddy of the Mekong with that whole Tonkin Gulf decision letting LBJ essentially declare war, when it’s actually the role of Congress, not the President. They felt the powers that be had ripped and set fire to their Constitution. That and all those boys tearing up their farm on the road to Canada settled Rodney’s decision.”
“To run for President…”
“Actually, to BE President. He figured if the Constitution was no longer the law of this land, he’d make it the law of his own land. So Rodney declared his two hundred acres the sovereign United State of America and himself as its President,” Ed said with that grin again.
“Awww, Pa…” Grace said, pushing her chair back and turning to leave the kitchen.
“After the United State army——Roland——chased off some conscientious interlopers by seasoning their backsides with light shotgun loads and rock salt, the State Police found out there was a new country between the old USA and Canada. Rodney and Roland chased them off, but then US marshals declared war on their United State. They stormed the farmhouse before dawn. Roland was ready, but outgunned. That’s when Rodney declared an armistice. The Feds put Border Patrol officers on Rodney’s boundary with Canada and the influx of ‘undesirable aliens’ coming through Rodney’s United State national cow pasture dropped a trickle,” Ed said.
“Sure, Pa,” Grace called from the living room.
Ed shook his head and recalled the last words he heard Rodney say before they hauled him off to jail and put Roland in the back of the coroner’s station wagon.
“You have no standing in my country. You don’t have jurisdiction to make me do or not do anything. I’m a proud citizen and President of this United State and here, under our constitution, I decide those things. And you can’t stop us. This is just the beginning. Your failed nation no longer has a moral or political center, no rudder. You’re adrift. I don’t think you’ll ever get back to being the real United States anymore,” Rodney Beauchamp said.
“That was one tough old bird,” Ed said under his breath.
He pulled his laptop in front of him and clicked up the New York Times’ site. After reading a few stories there, he visited the Plattsburgh Press-Republican’s site. After ten minutes, he returned to the den where he and Grace had started this history lesson. She had changed the channel from CNN to Fox, which she always laughed at, but her grandfather shook his head at both channels.
“You know, Gracie, not too many days have gone by since they took old Rodney away that I haven’t seen something that made me think he was onto something with that ripped-up Constitution idea. I’ve seen it twisted and folded and sometimes mutilated by the ruling class and the common man alike,” he said, slumping into his leather chair. He knew he couldn’t stand to watch any more election fallout stories. His constitution couldn’t take much more.
“Would you turn on the PBS station, please, Gracie? I think it’s time for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I think I need my sense of right, wrong and the fair treatment of your fellow man…or tiger… reinforced.”
A glance at the online newspaper
and I close that window
but not before several others open in me
and in each one is a different country
The numbers of those dead
would terrify a math book
All I see are1.5 million homeless
800,000 of them, children
Another opens closer to home
where dubious crusades for equality
take place between dogs and men
and where people fall like electrocuted mosquitoes
Smog from their pyres will hang as
torn washing does from choked balconies
till the next festival of communal hatred
repaints the sidewalks red
More windows fly open with alarming alacrity
I reach into me
to pull out a thorn stuck within
A thorn that plugs a hole
through which I see scattered seeds
buried like land mines around me
their distorted shapes deprived of sunlight
“Don’t mingle with him servant’s kid”
“Avoid him drunkards”
“Shoo her away beggars”
“Keep a watch on your shoes buskers”
“Don’t let him touch you lepers”
“Don’t bring her home orphaned”
Don’t fall in love with a child of a different god
These are failed seeds
They might sprout but their tentacles can never grow
the soil being barren,
intrinsically lacking the fecund humus of hatred and irrationality
This soil, prepared with wisdom and watered with care
only the seeds of love
When sorrow cuts your soul like a blazing sword
for your mistakes in life
for hurting words you have thrown about
for all the grief you have given freely to those you love
when will you find a path forward
when will you find yourself again
is there forgivness
and life without guilt.
Every being on earth wants unconditional love
But their egos are like ebony, tough as old larch,
Their resin is a volatile, turpentine; thereof-
Unyielding… nought like a soft dripping, willowy arch.
But there are those the pulp of which, has love in their hearts.
Can paper mache over the cracks—be charitable!
Show some Christian love; they are like the old, ancient guards
Souls, which did pass on through before—unpalatable.
Suffering, themselves, softened, ensuring a balance-
Of compassion & benevolence; that’s absolute.
But for the most part folks, there is this counterbalance
Some middle ground. Most, aren’t made of teak, jute.
These cloths are fibrous, but that’s how we soften to silk
Our own, metal is, planished, our sharpest edges rubbed smooth
By charitable acts, meanness turns to buttermilk
& the milk of human kindness moves on & imbues.
Open, the sea appeared asleep.
Carrying its waves.
A pulse under the muted winter scene.
Throwing a smile on the beach.
A nun-spot on the hot little body.
A color on the broken glass.
A gesture that was once closed.
Lovely as the sea stood up.
Throwing a smile on the beach.
I wanted to remain an object.
But, no, immortality is not mine.
I am too strong to defend myself.
Waiting for punishment.
This and the same happened together.
Silently, I sat in the glass.
Only the spot wandered on the naked scene.
Sounds did not continue.
Only an omitted gesture.
Happiness like an unmoving dancer.
Beatings on naked, bony back.
And the sea will no longer be immortal.
(Translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Martha Satz)
A szó színeváltozása
Nyitottnak látszott, mint aki alszik.
A lüktetést a lehalkított téli táj alatt.
És a tenger mosolyt vetett ki a partra.
Apáca-folt a forró kicsi testen.
Szín az összetört pohárban.
Egy korábban zárt mozdulat.
Szép volt, ahogy felállt.
Hogy a tenger mosolyt vetett ki a partra.
Szerettem volna tárgy maradni.
Nem, nem leszek többé halhatatlan.
Ahhoz erős vagyok, hogy megvédjem magam.
Kérem a büntetésem.
Egyszerre történt az és ugyanaz.
Szótlanul ültem az üvegpohárban.
Csak a folt vándorolt a meztelen tájon.
A hangoknak nem volt folytatása.
Egy kinnfelejtett mozdulat csak.
A boldogság mint mozdulatlan táncos.
Korbácsütések a csupa-csont háton.
A tenger sem lesz többé halhatatlan.
the Christmas tree
at the gates
of this remote place
are others than God
in another country
in another century
no opaline baubles
or streams of
no filigree angels
or silver star
on the top
wrapped in foil
cotton wool snow
the scarceness of branches
in this distant country
where women dress
in waves of colour
I sense her again
of the oven fire
and the basil scent
of her gown
when she stroked
to free me
from the evil eye
She sat on the river bank with
easel, paints and brushes
waiting to capture blushing clouds,
the heather great mountain
brooding over ripe green fields,
and the blues of the river
swirling our secrets to the sea.
She picks up a brush, dips
it into the puddles of colour, water
transferring, creating an image
of the paths we trod as girls
sleeping for our feet to inscribe secrets.
When I came she had framed it
in silver, protected it with glass,
and as we parted gave it to me.
Seated I look up, it hangs at eye level
and I see the home we shared
its life transferred to my foreign wall.