Not “If You Want It Badly Enough”

I am unsettled and trying to settle.

I mentioned at the beginning of this summer that things were really terrible. They were. They got worse. I jettisoned everything extra out of my life to make time, energy, and to keep emotional reserves to absorb the effects. I was stepping gingerly, breathing lightly, as time unrolled, hoping maybe things were finding a new equilibrium . . . . only for my son-in-law to have a serious accident at work about a month ago.

  • Any exercise routine I had has been gone all summer. Any lunch breaks at work, gone. I even stopped reading my news sources or doing foreign language practice during my 15-minute breaks.
  • On weekends, I stopped attending any of the various worship services, virtually or in person. Things were just too topsy turvy with regard to time demands and I was wondering about just focusing on my daily reflections instead anyway.
  • For two weekends in a row, I worked hard on the backyard . . . and got hit so hard by poison ivy that I am on a prednisone taper and had to take two days off work and I continue to struggle with the reaction. I am just now beginning to cough less from having it in my lungs, too. I am very grateful for the prednisone because the edema has gone down and I no longer have fluid running freely down my arm and from my neck, but, otherwise, prednisone and I are not friends.
  • I am closing in on the one-year anniversary at my new job. With that comes a natural reassessment of whether I have the balance for which I hoped. Given that we have weathered a lot this summer, yes. In light of my original hopes and dreams, though, no.
  • Little 3-year-old E is very very sick with a flaring illness that we do not have a handle on. It is heartbreaking.

That is the setup for the unsettled feelings right now.

  • I need to exercise.
  • I think, for some reason, the communal type of worship is important, either because of community or as part of hallowing the day or marking the week or something. I’m not sure. But, I think there is an unexpected loss there.
  • I am shocked at how quickly I became uninformed when I stopped reading my daily news sources. Shocked, I tell you. That is disconcerting.
  • I don’t want to give up on my other professional goals.
  • I wanted to do some more yardwork today, but I was too afraid. The new addition of coldness finally appropriate for November, wind, not having enough clean clothes that I wanted to use for only the yardwork and then straight to the washing machine, and knowing rain is forecasted in the next day or so was just too much for me to overcome. I did not battle the poison ivy today. I did not visit my new little transplants or care for them. But, I lost time trying to force myself to do it.

In other words, things are out of sorts.

What I want:

  • To figure out a schedule, even with these new parameters of our lives, that allows regular scheduled exercise that I enjoy. I think that is my mental homework for tonight.
  • I guess to add a worship service on the weekend back in? (and keep up my daily sacred time). Or come up with a more formal weekly personal observance?
  • Start reading the news again. Not sure when . . .
  • Start working on my personal professional goals again. Not sure when.

See? That’s the thing. It is not that I am being lazy or just not doing these things. I have no idea how to make this all work. I didn’t even get groceries this weekend and won’t be able to tomorrow, probably, either. I’m just glad the laundry is in the washing machine right now.

This wasn’t supposed to be a complaining post. This was supposed to be a post in which the writing led to answers.

A Good Thing

But, I do have good news. I am near the end of an EMT recert class. (Luckily, I know this stuff well enough that I did almost no reading or studying – just showed up for class, did assignments, took exams.) Usually, you can just keep up with your continuing education, but I was moving between locations and not working in that capacity . . . so the recert class was the best option. I had two things left to do: upload NIMS (National Incident Management System-Incident Command System) certificates and recertify my CPR. NIMS. I took NIMS many many years ago and the last time I tried to download those certificates it was pure hell and never did work. I think one of the classes had updated and my last name had changed and it was sooooo long ago. I was resigned to but dreading just taking them over (and everyone knows how terribly designed those tests are). I did the first class, took the damned test, went to download the certificate . . . and there were all my certificates, sitting there in front of me on the screen, from having taken the courses previously. I kid you not. I about fell out of my chair with happiness. All the certificates are uploaded. CPR class is Thursday. So, that was a good thing that happened today. A very good thing.

Also this week:

When I decided to plant one of the persimmon saplings at the bottom slope of my driveway, I had forgotten that there is a runway of rainwater runoff after storms that travels down that way. We had a big storm recently. I was delighted to see that the natural path swerves around my little tree. I hope it does well in that location.

Trees in early autumn. Large tree has prominent knots on trunk.

The knots and just general character of this big tree caught my eye as I came home from work the other day.

Legion: For We Are Many

[I originally posted a longer version of this review on another blog in June 2017.]

Exploring Moral Injury in Sacred Texts is a compilation of essays written from various perspectives – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and civil. Some of the essays resonated more with me than others, but that is generally to be expected in such a work.

In the Christian Bible, remember the man who lived among the tombs, who gave his name as Legion? Michael Yandell offers a unique but coherent treatment of this story. He imagines a scenario in which this man’s suffering is from moral injury that resulted from his experiences as a soldier and from shouldering the mental/emotional/spiritual burdens of his entire legion. When the man approaches Jesus, he is seeking out a representative of his victims from whom he seeks forgiveness but also interacting with a benevolent religious figure. The healing is neither instantaneous nor completed by the end of the narrative. Rather, he is given work to do within his community to continue the process of healing and reintegration.

My reaction to the essay written from a civil perspective was interesting. I initially recoiled at the term civil religion, even though this is not a new term. If religion is supposed to have some hint of the divine within it, then equating secular activities with the sacred can feel like an affront. But, Daniel C. Maguire makes a powerful case for how the one has been co-opted by the other. He explains the power that is intentionally built by using themes and techniques found in the Bible, in sermons, and in religious music, intensifying national fervor and patriotism. He also notes a troubling result: Our culture is so overwhelmingly patriotic that thoroughly questioning the morality of a specific (or all) military action is immediately interpreted to be at odds with this national moral code of patriotism.

Additional essays I found particularly interesting were:

  • “Division of Spoils after Battle” by Brad E. Kelle, mainly for highlighting the community’s responsibility in sending soldiers into battle.
  • An essay discussing our sacrificial language and imagery by Kelly Denton-Borhaug, including recent literary examples capturing its effect on returning soldiers and on the communities who remain at home.
  • “Peter and Judas: Moral Injury and Repair” [or failure of repair in the case of Judas] by Warren Carter. This is an excellent contrast of outcomes.
  • The story of Aṅgulimāla as told by John M. Thompson, mainly for contrasting the Buddhist focus on “how to respond?” with the Western question of “what is just?”.

I think anyone working with moral injury, particularly moral injury resulting from military service, would find this book thought-provoking.

Does God Kill?

If God is Love, does God kill? Ever?

I was reading 1 Nephi 4. I kept putting it off, but I was working on a project and the only way through it was, well, through it.

I had already decided that the “Spirit” did not tell Nephi to murder Laban in cold blood, no matter what his rationalization might have been for telling himself and us so. But, as I was mulling over this chapter, I noted that Nephi specifically calls forth the story of the Egyptians being drowned in the Red Sea.

Stories like the drowning of the Egyptians . . . or the flood of Noah . . . take the question back further and lay it squarely with God. There are quite a few tidy rationalizations here as well. For drowning everyone but Noah and his family: it was saving future generations from being raised in wickedness and thus having their free agency curtailed by never having the opportunity to be taught righteousness. The Egyptians? Well, we are not to judge–judgment belongs to God. And sometimes that godly judgement is a death penalty.

And so all these stories stay in our “scriptures” and our “sacred texts,” if for no other reason than to teach us that prophets were human, that God uses the imperfect to accomplish God’s perfect will . . . and that God is a jealous God–that we shall have no other gods before the great I Am.

But, I wonder if studying the scriptures and sacred texts as they are currently canonized and enshrined teaches us that, on some level, there is an eventual justification for murder, for killing.

If we fully embrace this concept of God, then, either consciously or subconsciously, people (each of us?) have the foundation to take it to its logical conclusion: If snuffing life is good enough for an omnipotent and omniscient God, then will some believe it is good enough for them in extreme circumstances? If “the Spirit” commands it, demands it? Perhaps they tell themselves their cause warrants violence or “revolution” or violent resistance “if necessary” but, you know, without targeted murder. After all, who is to say when Armageddon (God’s very own bloody war) begins?

It is the subconscious foundation that concerns me.

This is what we have sewn. This is what we reap.

I do not think that God, the God that is the manifestation of Love, kills.

Ever.

I think these are the stories we have told ourselves and turned into the “sacred.”

I think we should stop telling ourselves these stories.

I think what is sacred, what we should study, are the stories that inspire us to be like God, a God that is Love. A God that does not kill.