Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Death Sentence

On the news today I saw that Major Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death. One of the guys in the bay mentioned it outloud this morning. He had just read it off his Iphone. I commented, "May God have mercy on his soul."

Another guy said, "Nah. I don't really care."

"I do," responded.

The implication was this guy is a traitor and a murderer of fellow soldiers. He doesn't deserve mercy, so why pray for it?

Well, of course, he doesn't deserve mercy. If he did, he wouldn't need it. The perequisite for needing mercy is that you do not deserve it! That is pretty much the definition of mercy.

But more troubling than that very universal human misunderstanding was the tone that accompanied it. It felt like the soldier was saying that this was a crime that should not be forgiven. He is a traitor. He killed our fellow soldiers. It almost sounded as if that was worse than the killing itself.

Why should we consider treachery a worse crime than murder? On the one hand, it makes the murder impersonal. He wasn't gunning for those particular people, he was striking at a symbol of the country he hated. But honestly, why does that matter? What does it matter why he killed them? Is hating America worthy of the death penalty? Or is it the murder?

Does it ever reeally matter? When someone kills people because they are Christians, or because they are homosexuals, or because they are prostitutes, or because they are black or because they are Muslim, or because they happened to be there, what does that matter? Is murder less murder if you do not particularly hate the group of people that the victim belongs to?

And why should murdering soldiers be worse than killing anyone else? Ostensibly, soldiers signed up willingly, knowing that there was a risk of impersonal death at the hands of someone who hated them simply because they wear an American flag. It is the attitude of flagrant nationalism, the hatred for anyone who hates America that troubles me. The kind of emotion that vents upon unknown, uncounted people in The Middle East, that insists we should turn the whole place into a parking lot for what they have done to our soldiers.

Let them hate America all they want. We must do what is required to protect ourselves, but why should we sink to their level and hate in return? Frankly, nationalism frightens me more than terrorism.

I do not think Maj. Hasan should receive the death penalty. He should be kept in prison and given
every opportunity to repent and make amends. Not because he deserves it, but because I want to see him in Heaven. It is as simple as that.

Friday, August 23, 2013


If poetry is the art of saying
The unsayable;

And if that which is most worth saying
Is least amenable to being said;

Then perhaps poetry is the most necessary of arts.

An education in sheer humanity,
For mere humans and conversation with them,
Silent resonant conversations, when what is hinted,
Is greater than what is said.

The threatening implication buried in innuendo
Is not the less threatening for all that.
Indeed, it is the more insidious
For being hidden,
For being human.

Nothing is more threatening than love
The Eucatastrophe that comes on fiercely
It also comes on slowly,

For fear of blinding sightless eyes,
And deafening the stoppered ears,
The joy is hidden in words
Forever falling short
As words must always do.
Even "I love you," leaves everything unsaid.

Do others often hear
In your words
That which you never meant to say?
I say what I most need to hear,
While he hears what he most needs to say,
And we get on swimmingly.

At my very, very best I can sometimes manage
(For half a minute, perhaps,
Certainly no more)
To share my emptiness.
It is my best quality.
It is, in fact, my only quality.

I have never said what I truly thought
For I do not know what that is.
I have never shared who I truly am
For I do not know who that is.
I have never truly loved,
For, despite my efforts, 
I do not know how.
It is enough to know the One who Truly Is

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Will Lift Up My Eyes

I sing the God of all things green and good,
Great and grand and gorgeous, things of wood
Of living things grown close in brotherhood

Of strength and beauty, of oil, wine and food.

I sing the God of stern and solid stone
Severe, austere and snow-capped, standing alone
 Amid their lesser fellows. Of beam and bone
Of earth on which green living things have grown.

I sing the God of reading, writing; the reign
Of rhythm, rhyme, and rectitude; the wax and wane
Of times and seasons; of wisdom slowly gained
In solitude, in book, in pipe, in rain.

I sing the God of doe and deer, of dove
Direct, diverse, diffuse, below and above
And in, around and through, like hand in glove,
In sunsets, stars and blazing sun in grove
In city, in time alone, in still and move
And in all things, 
                        I sing
                                 The God of Love!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Sufficient Why

We had talked about why the Army simply fails to satisfy, and what was to be done about it. In other words, we had unearthed the fundamental lack of meaning which is at the heart of our, and millions of other peoples' discontent. It was a step in the right direction, but it left something wanting. What good is it, knowing how hungry you are, if you cannot find food?

For this, I turn to Viktor Frankl again, for he says it much more authentically than I can.

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us." 

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."
Viktor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning.