Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Just Heartbroken

That is the truth. I am heartbroken. I have blogged about it. I have sent my e-mails to my congressman and senators and to my president and to my president-elect. I have followed the news about Gaza and I am simply heartbroken.

I have work I need to do. Things I have neglected. Life to live, I suppose. Need to follow Kurt Vonnegut's advice and fart around more.

The late great Kurt Vonnegut in the last book he wrote before he died said that humans didn't like it here very much. I left the book at the office. I am at home now. So I googled the quote. Hoo Haw, I found it on ye olde wikipedia. It is part of a poem by the wise and crotchety Camel smoker:


The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

That is how I feel tonight.

Heartbroken.

Hi Ho.

15 comments:

  1. Yeah, I know what you mean. Here's another quote from Vonnegut:
    "We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard ... and too damn cheap."

    And so it goes.

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  2. For times such as these, we have been taught to pray:

    "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."

    (Or we could go along with Mother Goose:

    For every ailment under the sun
    There is a remedy, or there is none;
    If there be one, try to find it;
    If there be none, never mind it. )

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  3. yep. i'm still following, but have decided to focus on getting baptized on sunday. it's a bit more upbeat.

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  4. Snad--heh.

    Jodie--Can't beat Mother Goose for truth.

    Brooke--Baptized! A dangerous act. I am serious about that. Once you get baptized shit like truth, justice, compassion, peace (Jesus kind of stuff) will make demands on you and gnaw at your conscience 'til your dead.

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  5. John,

    I read your blog occasionally, but I haven't left a comment before. I haven't read Vonnegut's last book, but it certainly sounds like something he'd say. I agree with the sentiment entirely; I have never liked it here. This is one of the primary reasons (although by no means the only one) for my lack of belief in God. God, if He exists, is not, in my view, a generous benefactor - rather more of a jailer.

    Theists (this is not directed at you) often characterize atheists as wanting to enjoy all things in life, licit and illicit, without being held "accountable" by its bestower. However, I can't think of a single thing that Christianity has to say to the atheist who genuinely does not want the "gift" of life - either temporal or eternal. This would be fine, except that Christianity (much like Buddhism) has always purported to be a "theory of everything"; there is, supposedly, nothing about the human condition that stands outside of its purview. It has been my repeated experience that if one doesn't begin from a position of gratitude (or, at least, of feeling fortunate to exist as a conscious entity) representatives from all of the major extant religions are pretty much at a loss for words.

    I'd be interested to hear your opinion, if you have one.

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  6. "It has been my repeated experience that if one doesn't begin from a position of gratitude (or, at least, of feeling fortunate to exist as a conscious entity) representatives from all of the major extant religions are pretty much at a loss for words."

    I can't speak for John, but I would pretty much go along with that.

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  7. Actually, I should qualify that. The Calvinist would say that it's irrelevant as to whether or not I'm grateful for the gift of existence - God is sovereign, He has a right to do whatever He wants to, He's obviously created me for the purpose of damning me eternally, but that doesn't make him a bad guy.

    I know, of course, that you aren't a Calvinist; I just wanted to get it out of the way.

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  8. The Guardian is reporting the following:
    "
    The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon President Bush's doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say."

    Full storee: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/08/barack-obama-gaza-hamas

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  9. If that is the case, John M, it would be a good start down a long, hard road.

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  10. Cipher--

    Thanks for the good questions!

    My religion is pragmatic. It asks the question (without necessarily supplying the answer):

    What does it take to make this existence bearable and perhaps at least at times enjoyable?

    Religion like all great human achievements, is a human achievement.

    Metaphysical propositions such as the existence of "God" leave me flat. I can't know and I don't care to know.

    I do care what various kinds of God-talk do. How can it help (if it can) with the question I mentioned above.

    So what does this statement do for you:

    He's obviously created me for the purpose of damning me eternally, but that doesn't make him a bad guy.

    It doesn't do much for me. Obviously, it is a joke, perhaps a caricature of Calvin's theology. It makes me laugh.

    I don't know what Calvin's theology did for him.

    I have to say, though, when I am disgusted with humanity (as I have been of late) Calvin makes some sense.

    Maybe we are a totally depraved, big freaking mistake!

    But, I am not always that depressed.

    Gratitude is not bad. It can get you through the day. The challenge is to what if there must be a what to be grateful.

    Can you be grateful without an object? I think so. Awe, wonder might be better words for the feeling, as Eric Idle sings in the Galaxy Song,

    ..."remember how amazingly unlikely is your birth."

    Maybe that is gratitude or is equivalent.

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  11. John - "it is dangerous business
    : ). Look what happened to Jesus..." - you know, bonhoeffer says the same thing in cost of discipleship, only the way you put it is a lot more funny. when i read what you wrote i laughed (which i desperately needed). i'm meeting with paul (my (wonderfully liberal) pastor) tomorrow, i'll let him know what you said. i'm excited to finally find a denomination that works for me. i know not all of pcusa is as liberal as you and paul, but that's what i appreciate about it - the diversity. i can fit in and my friend sherri, a bush supporter, also fits in. :)

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  12. i know not all of pcusa is as liberal as you and paul, but that's what i appreciate about it - the diversity. i can fit in and my friend sherri, a bush supporter, also fits in. :)

    That is what I like about it too. Otherwise you are just hanging out with the choir.

    I think it is awesome that you are getting baptized. Remind Paul he is fortunate to have you!

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  13. The challenge is to what if there must be a what to be grateful.

    The Dalai Lama has said that he's able to feel gratitude without an object. I'm not sure he means the same thing that a Westerner means when he uses the term, but I think so highly of him that I take him at his word.

    What did Calvin's theology do for him? The same thing, I imagine, that it does for those who've adopted it since - it allowed him to believe himself saved despite his profound self-loathing. I can understand this, and it wouldn't bother me if it didn't involve, as a consequence, the most appalling selfishness - "It's fine with me if God chooses to damn billions of my fellow human beings. As long as I'm among the elect - that's all that matters." I have an essay that John Piper wrote about twenty years ago, in which he says that if God should choose not to save his (Piper's) children, he's fine with it. (I understand his sons have all followed after him lock-step, so I guess he dodged that bullet!)

    I only brought up Calvin because it occurred to me, after I said that I couldn't think of a Christian response, that the Calvinist position is a Christian response - just not an attractive one.

    I have to say, though, when I am disgusted with humanity (as I have been of late) Calvin makes some sense.

    Maybe we are a totally depraved, big freaking mistake!


    I have a very dim view of human nature. I suppose I agree with them that humanity is inherently depraved - I just don't think it's our fault. Either it's a byproduct of evolution, or, if God exists - it's His fault. Free will is irrelevant; to blame it on us, as Western religions do, is to portray God as being like a parent who allows his kid to play with dynamite. After the child blows himself up, He exclaims, "It wasn't my fault! I didn't light the match!"

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  14. John - "it is dangerous business
    : ). Look what happened to Jesus..." - you know, bonhoeffer says the same thing in cost of discipleship, only the way you put it is a lot more funny.


    I had Bonhoeffer in mind as I said that. "When Christ calls a [wo]man he bids him to come and die."

    Which is the meaning of the spiritual quest!

    Blessings on your journey!

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  15. Cipher,

    I don't go with the depraved thing, except when I am being cynical or flippant.

    We are who and what we are. A product of evolution and we have within us all of those drives and instincts that helped us survive.

    I try to come to terms with them and appreciate them, even as I try not to let them control me to what ability I can do that.

    I suppose that is one role of religion, to ritualize our inherited survival drives so that we don't act on them out at inopportune times!

    Yet our religions have inherited baggage as well, that may have helped in earlier times that don't so well now.

    I wonder if our task (conscious or not) is to select those religious/spiritual traits that will enable us to survive this current crisis.

    As far as "liking it here"--oh--why not? Where else would I be? I would be dead of course and I'll get there eventually, so I might as well make the best of what is here and now!

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