Might I pray in sonnets?

I am religious. I want to be religious, anyways. But I'm not a believer. I get my faith second-hand, in small doses, from other people. It's addictive, and it hurts. It's why I've never posted on Irving's blog, and why I don't lurk there as much as I used to: for all of the countless failings I'm sure he could confess to, he makes it look easy.

It vexes me, because I should have faith.

I'm not sure if I believe in God, al-Lah, HaShem, however you want to try and anthropomorphize it. I can accept the cultural baggage. The problem is the verb. "Believe" is too active. Belief is an assertion. Bearing witness means that you can be cross-examined. Most importantly, belief can be refuted.

But if it was proven conclusively that God doesn't exist, I would still accept.

I accept al-Quds. I accept kami. I accept the Numinous. I have no rational way to prove its existence, but it makes sense that there be a Sacred Thing. And it follows that I acknowledge and respect.

But I don't have any empirical way to prove its existence either. And I am an emotional black box, who panicked when somebody wrote me a letter saying "I like you" because I had no idea how to respond to it. That's why I still lurk on Irving's blog: I'm trying to figure out how to experience faith.

That's the story of my religious life in a nutshell: trying to learn a new sensation because I feel that I would be made qualitatively better for it.

The Sacred is one, undivided, undifferentiated. I'm not sure if omnipotence or omniscience apply to it. I am sure that omnibenevolence does not. Only tangible sapient bodies are subject to moral judgment, and the Sacred is not tangible or embodied. It is not human. It is ahuman. It is Other, and we can't express it as a function of human terms.

(This is why I have problems calling myself Muslim. I accept the oneness of the Sacred. I have no problems with the prophecy of Muhammad. Hell, I can believe that the Qur'an was spoken by Muhammad while he experienced the Sacred. But this happened in human history and it happened in human language. To say that the Sacred has a copy of the original Arabic seems disrespectful.)

Expressions of virtue are a way to experience the Sacred. (Not directly, either. The closest thing I've ever had to an ineffable moment of faith was on the receiving end of an act of mercy.) And that experience is transformative. It changes lives. It changes people. And while it doesn't deserve worship, that experience deserves - and across history, across culture, across religion, receives - respect.

This much I've learned from non-scientific empirical data, a lot of reading, and years of demonstrably unsuccessful attempts at established religious praxes.

Which is, again, part of the problem: I know what I accept. My religious question is what to do about it.

And I've found, this afternoon, that sonnets might help. Not as a religious praxis: I have no desire to be a cloistered sacred poet.

But I find that I sigh a lot when I write sonnets. Not from frustration. Not from despair. But just from saying things that are more important than what I usually say.

Sacred things deserve that kind of respect.

Sonnet #2

That there would come a time might be supposed
When this young manchild ceased at length to care;
His well of hope, like teacher's, welded closed
Before a world that left him in despair,
To sigh like Noah, forehead in his hands,
And no more watch the neighbors or the flood -
Yet still there stirs a heartbeat that demands
That conscience yet receive its dole of blood,
That will hold out for just another day,
That empathy not suffocate and die,
That faith be never lanced and drained away,
That hope not stop to ever wonder why
He midwives for a screaming world unborn
Accepting that all hope may be forlorn.


A chorus without verses

I spent the drive home from Bethel listening, once I95 burned out, to the Christian radio station. They were playing recordings of the National Christian Choir that I refuse to accept as being from this century: it sounded as old and sterile as everything else the station has ever broadcast.

It occurred to me that Christian music doesn't rock very much. Some of it's because, like some political parties I could name, it's set up a situation in which it can only reward mediocrity, and has spent a few decades reaching ever more impressive heights of exactly that.

Eventually, after singing melodies to myself for awhile, I came up with a guitar solo (which I never heard, once, in any megachurch I ever attended, and probably never will.) And then a melody to work with it, and some scat lyrics in pseudo-Middle-Eastern.

Once I sat down to note out the melody in Anvil Studio, I thought that maybe I should write some lyrics for it. So far, I only have a chorus. Given that I didn't have a verse melody, it's all I really need right now.

This is not Christian, because I'm not. It is, however, directed at God, to the extent that any faithless and undifferentiated theist can direct anything at God.

Refrain of "Untitled"

All of my life, I've spent it
Polishing holes in a wall of diamonds,
Just for a chance to pray I not be denied
A chance to
Bury my hands in this garden,
Leave my arms in the distant fires,
Bow down to you, and take a place at your side...


Let me be a friend

I was put in a mood to write by listening to this song, and attempted an image song for a character I've been toying with in my mind. What came out was this, which doesn't really fit her but does stand, I think, on its own merits.

I'd like to add a bridge or two, or perhaps a few variant verses that don't follow the structure of what's already written. Whatever happens to it, though, these three verses will always be in there.

Let Me Be A Friend

There will come a morning
When we sound the drums of war,
The young will die, the old will cry,
And shots will ring once more.
Even knowing this, until
That fateful morning's due,
Let me be of service,
Let me be a friend for you.

There will come an evening
When the stars fall from the skies,
The ground corrodes, the world explodes
And everybody dies.
Even so, for now,
Until the final evening's through
Let me be of service,
Let me be a friend for you.

There will come a nighttime
When the universe grows old;
When light degrades, and all else fades
To stillness, black and cold.
In that endless night, until
The stars light up anew,
Let me be of service,
Let me be a friend for you.


Confessions of a student activist

The time would come, I heard my fellows say,
To rise above the mediocrity;
Though knowing not the hour nor the day
When it would come, I wanted to agree -
To stand against the armies of the night
Whose persecution complex, in this game,
Has long been cultivated that it might
Best keep the Reichstag oiled for the flame.
But I am small, and dare not stand alone,
Nor, when the endgame comes at last, to fold;
No David, I, with sling and well-cast stone,
Nor Robin Hood with bow of burning gold.
What fellowship have I, to help regain
My life lost on the corner of Biscayne?

In case I was wondering...

cash advance


Coming soon to a continuity near you

One of these years, maybe this year, I wanna do Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day. A dystopian one, of course, because dystopians have the most fun.

But I'm not really thinking of the usual post-apocalyptic style of dystopia.

In an homage to Dan Simmons, Bruce Bawer, Bat Ye'or and the entire class of professional prophets of Islamophobia, we're gonna be

Tourists From The Grim Darkness Of The Evil United American Islamofascist Caliphate Of 1930.

(1930 Hijri. That's something like AD 2500 as the kaffirs reckoned such things.)

And I mean we, because the way I'm seeing this I'm gonna need a few lady friends to do this with me.
  • Them: The actual tourists. Wanting to get out of the confines (such as they are? The United American Emirates did have to soak up a lot of unbelievers really quickly, after all, and if Iran and Europe are any indications having an official state religion really helps secularize a society quite a bit) of the mind-numbing boredom that projections of neoconservative utopias will wind up being when the whole wail-and-envy-the-dead part wears off tend to involve. (And presumably burqas. You can't have a proper Evil Islamofascist Caliphate without all the women being forced to wear burqas.) Far too genki and tourist-y for their own good. Which is where I come in.
  • Me: The handler. Grim, frustrated, looking vaguely like a cross between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Uncle Jam Wants You.
    I've commented on this before talking to Engel, but I may as well say it here too: Shi'a fundamentalism would be greatly improved if it took some fashion points from George Clinton. But I digress.
    Bored out of my mind, obviously out of place, and only there because in the grim darkness of the Islamofascist future women can't go outside or do anything without a mahram male. I'm the straight man in all the jokes; the killjoy who tries to make sure they never have any fun (Sisters, it's haram! The pious ancestors never let themselves have fun. It's part of the jihad an-nafs); the enforcer of Islamopatriarchy, who's scandalized by everything they do and writes it all down in his little black book.

Not sure about what exactly we'll do, besides wander around as a group and pose for photographs. I do have one basic vignette worked out, though:
(to a passer-by) "It's so strange, all the signs in English... where I'm from everything's in Arabic."
("Where are you from?") "Milwaukee."
Or something like that.


A belated happy New Year

And may it be better than mine, which has been spent getting a bumper replaced, getting sick, infecting all my friends, and being cut off from my beloved Intarwebz for a week and counting.


The infection of all my friends was worth it, though. I got to make a few new ones (and infect them, too.) And to see Erin again, for the first time in months. I watched the MST3K remix of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the ball drop on Times Square through the pain and fever.

And about a half hour before that, we broke out some bottles and started a few rounds of very geeky toasts.

Not alcohol. Erin's a disgrace to her Irish ancestors, and gets visibly tipsy when she drinks nonalcoholic beverages. But yeah - several bottles of sparkling cider.

To creativity.
To health. (This was mine. It was lame, but appropriately ironic given my infectiousness.)
To Grandfather Nurgle, the Chaos Lord of Plague and Disease. (This was the one that followed me.)
To cat macros.
For the love of God and all that is holy (Adam's toast, prompted by having one of the cloud-guys on my shirt. Not his actual words, but better.)
To geekery.
To our friend, the Weighted Companion Cube.
To cat ears.
To surrealism (Fox's) - we argued back and forth about more or less.
To the two-term limit (Rob's.)
To stability. (Rob's. And mine.)

And, on the way home with Dayquil in my system, one that I said to Fox:

To surrealism and justice.

May your times be interesting and your world be better in the new year.