Bless You?

I think we should be mindful with language, to know what we are saying before we speak. Everybody knows that words are more powerful than sticks and stones despite the schoolyard litany to the contrary. Bones mend, and if you think that words cannot kill you, then the lessons of history have been lost on you.

Leaving aside the deadly uses of language, what do we know about the words we use daily without thinking? Words of greeting: Good Morning, How are you, Have a nice day, Bless you.

Greetings and salutations. Hello and to your health. Friendly, with meaning only so far as to say, I’m not going to pull out a knife and kill you actually or metaphorically, and whether or not we mean to be friendly when we make the greeting is not the point. How often are we thinking about  how much we would like the stranger or friend we are greeting to have a good morning? How would we know what a good morning would look like to them? How often do we really want to hear a report of someone’s condition when we query, how are you? Have a nice day– nice, not spectacular, nice as if that is the best we can hope for or are willing to confer upon another.

Bless you? Ah, now there’s a greeting, a salutation that carries a lot of baggage. This one is doing more than saying, “I’m not going to kill you”. This one is an identifier. It says, “I’m Christian”. The person offering the greeting may indeed want to confer the blessings of God upon the friend or stranger or they may just want to make a statement about their own identity.

I’m thinking there are very many folk out there bringing down the blessings of God upon their fellow human beings who have not really examined the meaning of the word bless.  Lately, I’ve been studying French and reading French news on the net. Lots of these news stories involve, as one would expect, events wherein persons meet with unexpected death or are wounded, injured as a result of some calamity. Tuer, to kill. Mort, death. Blessé, injured. Interesting.

Look up the etymology of  that word, bless and you find that it is sanguine. All about blood and sacrifice. To be blessed is to bleed in the cause of something. A word like this is beautifully ambiguous. To be blessed by God could mean to be wounded by contact and that wound could be the sign of your state of grace. Holy wounds. Like the Moravians who became obssessively focused on the wounds of Jesus. Like stigmata.

But over time, as the experience of being human in the English speaking world  becomes ever more removed from danger, as death withdraws to a safer distance, we lose contact with the sanguine element of blessing.

To invoke blessing becomes less about the blood of Jesus and the life of the spirit and more about removing obstacles that stand between ourselves and what we want. And also about revealing our own sanctimony.  Who stops to consider whether or not the recipient of the invocation has any interest in the blessing? Like a spell being cast, an unsolicited prayer may be perceived as unauthorized interference.

sleeping dogs

“What they say about dogs is that sleeping dogs dream and only sleeping dogs. They lie in their dreams. So people say let sleeping dogs lie. Waking up a dreaming dog is inadvisable. A dog suddenly awakened from dream might do anything.“ — Book of Baba, verse 58

 

Chili’s restaurants are closing all over the country. I read this today. I’ve never been to a Chili’s restaurant. It is probably not such a bad thing that they are closing. Except for the people who work in these restaurants who will be losing their jobs. It is hard for them. As hard as working at a Chili’s is the prospect of losing your job working there at a time when a lot of people are losing their jobs and you don’t really know if you will get another one any time soon. Soon enough to keep you from losing all the things you have. 

 

All the things you have. Every book, every dish, every picture, every blanket, towel, tv, cd, everything. This isn’t a fire. There is time to save everything, but nowhere to take it. No one to take it. Your things are junk on the parking strip next to the dumpster. In the dumpster. Garbage to the landlord who has to dispose of it.

 

It is no consolation at all to the waiter, the cook, the manager, that Chili’s was an expression of mediocrity supporting the conservative traditionalist point of view. Accept this crap; it is good crap. Conformista.

 

Conformista is a Spanish concept. Almost the same as conforming, but we Estados Unidas don’t like to say we conform and we have these little pretend rebellions , which usually involve buying something advertised as rebellious. And the end result is conformance to the whims and wishes of the corporate robber barons. 

 

The Mexicans, on the other hand, do not harbor such illusions, such delusions. Conformista — adapting to what is around you. Making the most of the place you are in. Not kicking against the destroyers. Maybe this is a concept the Spanish were able to sell to the indigenous people and maybe it was easy to hold up the natives to the north as an example. “See what happens when you fight back. You are destroyed. If you don’t want to be destroyed . . . conformista. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead should be translated into Spanish. 

 

Of course, not every Mexican shrugs and accepts. Not every American eats at Chili’s and believes life is good and just. It is hard to fight against the apathy here and I suspect it is just as hard to fight against it in Mexico. Every culture has its dark side, its own paralytic condition.

 

Religion is a part of that paralysis. It is the thing that is slipped between the lips — the body and the blood, communion — with this bread, with this blood is communicated all the tenets of oppression, in the guise of a savior. Each religion has its own sacraments of enslavement.

 

Religion is a closed loop always coming around to its own argument as a justification for what it says is true. ”It is true because I say it is true.“ ”This book (insert Torah, Koran, Bible, Bhagavid Gita, etc, here) is true because it says it is true.“ You cannot doubt it because it says it is the word of God, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Shiva. Every word is true.

 

No its not.

 

Each of these books have some basic truths and each of them have some hideous lies. Each destroys, each is cruel, each is oppressive. Each is a tool of the ones who intend to always be masters by the ”divine right“ of their self-anointing. The king is anointed by God.

 

No he’s not.

 

Put some holy oil on his head and call it good.

 

No its not.

 

If there be God and God is represented by any one of these ”holy“ books, then I put myself outside of the circle. For I am woman, despised of God. The words of these books make a slave of woman, of me, call me whore when men force themselves on me. Say I must not speak in public, must enshroud myself lest my form tempt a man to sin. 

 

What insane world, what mad culture makes a straight line to righteousness through the practice of such evil?

 

Evil it is. No woman should subject herself to that darkness. Every woman who does bears some responsibility for the suffering of future generations of women. Maybe that is the nature of original sin. Allow evil and you visit it upon your sisters. 

 

Oh Eve, what brutality did you fail to protest?

 

god & me

Here is the context. It’s early in the 21st century in a slightly larger than midsized city. A pleasant city as they go in these times. We’re a middle-aged couple, low-income, low-need, intellectuals. Around us the world is changing, rapidly becoming hostile to human life, but as yet we are seeing only the merest edge of the darkness that is sliding toward us. There are movies to take our mind off of doom. We sit in the quiet gloom of theatre dark and forget for a couple of hours about hunger and sorrow. We watch the tragedy of history in order to avoid, momentarily, the cataclysm on our threshold.

And walking home afterword we pass by a church and I begin to think about God. Well, why not? The reader board on the lawn of the church invites me to worship. I think about worship and how alien that is to me. I think that God, if there is a god, doesn’t give a damn about worship. If there is a god, then I am God. If there is a god, then everything is God, and I am God. Worship is a veil between god and God.

We walk into the edge of the urban forest, past maple and cherry, into the oaks, elms, horse chestnuts, and the blooming dogwood going deeper and deeper, the trees arching higher and thicker, their trunks massive, ferns sprout out of moss inches thick. The streetlights are obscured, the sidewalk becomes treacherous terrain.

At some point in the last few years I ceased taking for granted that at Winter’s end Spring would take shape and every year I feel a reprieve has been granted. Leaves as small as my little fingernail, yellow-green, eat sunlight and air and announce the postponement of death for another season.