So We Believe

Some nights we go to bed sad.
All the lights dim across America,
all the sparklers dipped in a midnight
kind of pain that puts them out.
Then all night it’s cold in the mountains
and across the great desolate land,
a blue wind coming down from high
places, from snow, through aspen
and pine, and it’s hard to sleep.

In the morning there is dove light
again, dishwater clouds.
The traffic moves, dogs bark,
the people rise and fling themselves
into argument – the great debate
of right and wrong – as children
go to school and probably survive.
So we believe there is a God
and it’s not us.

 

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

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Straight Ally

straight ally symbol

“A heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBT social movements, and challenges homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.”

When I was in college in the mid 1980s, I was pre-law. I was put in charge of an internship program that was part of a free legal clinic. I was director with a small staff of interns and one of my duties was to recruit new interns. One day I was talking to one a young woman in my program about groups I could visit on campus, to speak about recruitment. She suggested the Gay and Lesbian Student Union. I said I didn’t know if I would be comfortable with that group. She said, “you don’t have any trouble being comfortable with me.” Yeah, I had no idea. Should I have? She hadn’t told me, but is it something of which I should have been intuitively cognizant? No, but that’s not the best question.

A better question is whether I would have treated her differently if I had known. I hope not and I seriously doubt it, but had just admitted to her that in my own mind, I had an issue with gay and lesbian people. They made me uncomfortable, in some way that I’m not sure I could have qualified.

Society’s attitudes were different then. It was in 1984 and I was only 23. I came from a small town with few, if any openly gay people. The Moral Majority was telling American that gay equaled AIDS, while the Reagan administration was busy not helping. So I was given a teachable moment, from which I took away, at the time, the certainty that I had a lot to learn about people and our lives together. But very little idea where or from whom I would learn it. So I promptly, conveniently, forgot about it.

In my 30s I joined what could unarguably be called one of the most conservative churches on the planet. I don’t mean purblind tight-ass, sanctimonious American conservative. (No offense.) I mean Orthodox Christian, the old church, the old calendar, liturgy in Slavonic. I didn’t go there looking for conservativism. I went looking for communion with God. And nobody there was saying anything political; no preaching against gay marriage or anything. I was just vaguely aware of the church’s stand on such matters, that homosexuality is sin.

The Orthodox Christian Church is beautiful in many ways; mystical, ancient and eastern. Completely insulated from American politics, in my experience. Conservative to the point of believing that righteous government is wielded by a God-anointed Czar. No matter how conservative you think American “Christians,” of the kind that can follow Trump and Pence, can act, they are still very liberal and humanist compared to some people I have met.

There were a few points of doctrine that I had a problem with. I believe that pets go to Heaven. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that sins are acts that separate the sinner from God and arise from our own selfishness, not from states of being. Sins are not acts that piss off other people; nobody has the right to tell you what your sins are. And certainly love can never be a sin. Acts that piss off other people are called pet peeves and crimes, which is why it’s imperative that we prevent tight-ass people from legislating their sins into our criminal legal codes. I believe that whatever your church chooses to practice, the law of the land is equal protection of the law for everyone.

There I was, though, in that beautiful church with those kind and gentle people. In my 30s, my opinion about gay rights was that people should keep their private lives private and stop demanding that the rest of us endorse their proclivities. I think that’s exactly what  I would have said at the time. And of course, I was completely missing the point. I had more learning to do.

When I visited family in San Francisco in the 1990s, someone suggested we go to the annual Pride parade. I recoiled at the idea, partly because I wanted to go to Marin County, enjoy some peace and quiet and relax. There’s a place, or was, in Occidental, that makes some pretty damn fine waffles. Also I was a good Christian with no desire to watch people cavorting in the streets. It seemed to me that sexual and gender identity wasn’t a reason for a demonstration in public. After all, heterosexual people don’t do it. It didn’t occur to me that hetero people should be glad they don’t have a reason to demonstrate.

Two more decades have passed. I’ve made gay friends, transgender friends, I have a transgender loved one, and I have learned that not only was I wrong about LGBTQ people, I was wrong about the culture in which we live. “In the world there is, parallel to the force of death and constraint, an enormous force of persuasion that is called culture.”[i] That culture had persuaded me to think that some of us were normal, others not, and that I was being cool by saying that normal people should tolerate others – live and let live – and the others should fade into the background noise and be tolerated.

Culture wields power. Power is inherently paranoid and potentially destructive. “When somebody goes outside the cultural norms, the culture has to protect itself.”[ii] So the LGBTQ movement is cultural self-defense, not an uprising to overthrow the culture norms, though that may be necessary and may come at great cost. None of which would be quite so obvious to me if not for the great homophobic backlash of the Trump de-evolution.

Before Trump made America hate again, civil rights seemed to be improving. Ferguson notwithstanding, I was more relaxed. I didn’t feel like the rights and wellbeing of people I care about were in jeopardy from the society I life in. Things have gone very much awry and as always the issues of civil rights for LGBTQ persons are no less fundamental and compelling than those of persons of color. They are the issues of us all. And I’m forced to admit that my opinion of 20 years ago was really a subtle form of self-righteous apartheid.

A few things are clearer now than they were in the halcyon days of Obama: First, that a reformation is necessary to secure the blessings liberty to those whose civil rights are every bit as morally imperative as those of hetero and gisgender people like me. The reformation must profoundly change this culture. Second, the culture has it coming, by God. Third, people like me have a moral duty to take sides and speak out, and the reformation will go better for everyone if we do. “Normal is just the average of deviance;” it doesn’t exist.[iii] All life is a spectrum, and if people like Trump and Pence, and the alt-right zombie army they’re building are normal, I want no part of their part of the culture.

I’m not suggesting that churches should be required to perform gay weddings. I’m as much for freedom of religion as freedom from religion. I’m saying the right to marry is a civil right and the government should make no law prohibiting its free exercise. I’m saying that no religion or cult should have the power to legislate its creed and impose its beliefs on anyone who doesn’t freely accept that creed. This culture has been poisoned by fear and tied back to to dogmas of fear, prejudice, protectionism, and doublethink. A reformation of compassion and unequivocal inclusion will do us all a world of good.

I said that after college, I had a lot to learn. I think it’s ironic that I learned as much from the people who hate people who are different than from people who in the crosshairs of that hatred. Fascists never seem to realize that hatred and paranoia (homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia) sow the seeds of their own destruction. Even bystanders can watch bullying for just so long. Now I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I knew now what I don’t know yet. “All kinds of sadness I’ve left behind me. Many’s the day when I have done wrong.”[iv] But I know that everyone deserves respect and equality. Our law demands it. And while any person doesn’t have equality, no person who does should go quietly or rest easily.

pooh piglet wind

[i] Albert Camus.

[ii] Robert Pirsig.

[iii] Rita Mae Brown

[iv] Jethro Tull

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Happy Easter

I gave myself a few nice little presents for Easter this year, each one better than the ears off a chocolate bunny. Let me tell you about them because they might inspire similar gifts you could give yourself, and it doesn’t have to be a holiday.

First, I gave myself 30 days off Facebook. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and when I got up this morning and saw atheist trolls bullying Christianity on Easter, I knew it was the perfect day. I’ve always said that the bug that allows Facebook users to see what their friends are “liking” and commenting on elsewhere, even if their friends don’t actually share it, is a bad bug. Well, an old friend of mine was commenting on atheist pages, which caused me to be able to see these horrible things. It was bad. Stupid blasphemy in my feed. The only thing worse is when religious people try to force others to practice their religion.

So I activated an app in my PC that will block me from logging on to Facebook until noon on May 1. And I deleted the app from my phone. I’m out for the first time in 9 years. Feels better already.

Second, I wrote a poem for Easter. Here it is. This poem is for my Mom and Dad.

SUNRISE

The universe is confusing.
I’m trying to see the next right thing
and light goes off on a tangent.
Then there’s paradox: Truth
is always two things or many things
all real, all believable
or nothing all at once.

Why is there so much water
all around and so many things
that can’t breathe it? Why haven’t
dogs learned to talk yet?
What is Time, falling and flowing
and standing in puddles that reflect
the face of an infinite grief?

How could God make something
so soft and weak and full
of wet fragility and selfish hope,
so many of us all alike, then
love each and every one unto
death and into Eternity?

Look, there comes sunrise now
and flowers, spring sempiternal
as the planet spins, dragged
through the void by a star
fleeing everything, bound for nowhere.
We ought to be grateful for the ride,
whatever we are, born on our way
to somewhere else.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Third, I used part of my Easter free time to draw a picture of a tree. I haven’t tried to draw a tree since art class in junior high school, in 1974. But I remember I liked doing it. I remember the art teacher, Mr. Hinton, came to my piano recital. Which was a pretty damn nice thing for a teacher to do in his free time. Nice guy.

It’s a humble tree- it’s bottom-heavy and it needs a lot more leaves – but not terrible for the first try in 44 years. I enjoyed it so I’ll probably do it again and get better at it, right? Just like with writing, practice makes possible. And if at first you don’t succeed, skydiving probably isn’t for you.

Tree 2018-04-01 14.34a

Christ is Risen.

 

Time Passing

What is the poetry of time 
merely passing? What birds 
alight and sing in vain?
Does a face reflect in dusty 
surfaces and will flowers 
find forgiveness in this rain?
We’ll spend the day and time 
will pass and nothing 
in this world will cause us pain.
J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed
Lines written while waiting for a dangerous storm to pass. Fortunately for my little town, the atmospheric river shifted and split, so that the worst cells of heavy rain struck north and south of us. When the river shifted back and took aim at us again, the storm had weakened somewhat and we were spared severe damage, such as occurred nearby on January 9. But the change that was kind to us was less kind north of here, where a 19-year-old woman lost control of her car in the rain and was killed. Truly a terrible loss; I can’t imagine what her family is going through. So while I’m relieved and grateful for a sunny day today, it’s no celebration. 

A Titanic Storm

If your home is in the mandatory evacuation area, which looks to me like more than half of the Carpinteria Valley and most of Montecito, I’m sorry. It has to be terribly stressful to have to pack up and leave your home. Those of us who are not in the red zone will be looking forward to your return. But I have to say this: we who stay behind are not necessarily the lucky ones. Less threatened? Possibly. But we will be riding out a storm like we have never seen in our lifetimes.

The last pineapple express of this magnitude, to my mind, was in the mid-1990s. Some of you can remember the exact year, the Arroyo Paredon flooded the northbound 101 at Padaro and mud covered the freeway south at La Conchita. And that was with healthy hillsides covered with plants and trees.

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s like 1969 either. The Coyote Fire was 5 years earlier and there were no big debris flows in ’69. Just a lot of rain and brushy, unprepared creeks. That’s why they built the flood channels through Carpinteria; to handle water, not debris. I was only 8 but my parents tell me no one at the time mentioned that fire having any relationship to the flood.

So this is unique – historic – to have fire and epic storm so close in time. Am I being dramatic? I guess we’ll know when the sun comes up on Friday.

Stay or go, this is really going to suck. But I have faith we will survive. Pray for us who stay in the ship, and we’ll pray for you in the lifeboats. Godspeed.

evac map 2018.03.19

Hunger

“People are hungry for the imaginative language of poetry and for the authentic voice of one another, the heart-language, because so much of our experience is mediated now by propaganda, by commerce, by social media. We’re being sold to all the time. So we’re hungry for more authentic experience, and that’s what poetry is: It’s idiosyncratic language; it’s weirdness and wildness.”

Sarah Browning 

Poets & Writers interview

An Ugly Word

I think the word ‘blog’ is an ugly word. I just don’t know why people can’t use the word ‘journal.’

Moby

Well, I like that. I’ve never cared for the word “blog,” either. It’s up there with “moist” and
“hangnail” on my list of words unworthy of creative expression on any level. But this website isn’t my journal.

I’ve kept an occasional journal of exceptional events for many years. At some point several years ago, I switched from a fountain pen to a  computer. I’ts just not fun, doesn’t draw me in. I prefer pen and paper now.  I write in it twice a day, since resuming in earnest last fall. Since Halloween I’ve filled a 240 page notebook and half of another. I write about gratitude, my sleep patterns, my sensations of well being (or unwell), about Being and Time and how hell is mostly other people. Present company excepted, of course.

I’m a big old introvert, so writing time also makes me feel recharged.

 We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

— C.S. Lewis

In my journal, I’m trying to hold on to my life: to people I genuinely care about, to frustrations and celebrations and gifts and sorrows and everything that’s draining away. So it goes.

You?

~~~

Wow. I wrote that then told my Echo to play songs by Moby. This is the first one it played. I kid you not. A kindred thinker.