Monday, April 15, 2013

Life with the Sons of Bitches


It always takes me by surprise. After scoring several crowd-cheering 100-yard return touchdowns, I’m back to Charlie Brown kicking the football while Lucy snatches it away. The law of compensation says—“For each foot you ascend, there will be an equal and compensating foot (or hundred yards) of descent.” You’d think by now, I’d just prepare for its coming, keep on eye out and say with a twinkle in my eye, “Where are you hiding, you bastard?! Where are you going to jump out from now?” And yet, each time it surprises me. Oh well.

How many pearls do you throw before swine before having the good sense to just let them roll around in the mud while you attend to more important matters? How much of your lifetime of crafted faith in human potential and transformation do you keep investing in folks before you understand that they ain’t never gonna change? How much “good intentions” do you keep assuming before you realize that crafty people are actively working to do you harm out of their own fear and cramped hearts? When do you finally say, like poet Stephen Dunn, “I’ve had it with all stingy-hearted sons of bitches” and finally mean it? When do you refuse those “defiling and disfiguring shapes that the mirror of malicious eyes casts upon your eye” (Yeats). These have been the questions haunting me at 2 a.m. as I deal with the next round of outrage that has come my way.

I’ll spare the details both because no one really wants to pick up another’s dirty laundry and because the greater point a writer is always aiming for is not mere personal complaint, but exposition of a universal occurrence. Who amongst us has not feeled wronged, misunderstood, betrayed, libeled and how do we react? Should we ultimately be thankful because this grist for the mill grinds the flour of one’s vision yet finer and truer? Shall we be compassionate that some are so fearful that they feel threatened by a quality of truth that you speak, live and embody? Shall we swallow the bitter pill of power mishandled and keep our eyes on the prize of the important work? All of the above?

I’m going to begin my day here with a little Scarlatti therapy on the piano, the maddening chaos of incomprehensible decisions transformed to the beauty of pattern and the pattern of beauty. Sing a little blues, hug a few trees, ride out to the ocean and let the pounding of waves wash away the debris and hope to return to this public journal yet more committed, yet more clear, yet more compassionate and yet more determined to use my voice to not only speak on behalf of beauty, but also to “undo the folded lie” (W.H. Auden), to not only clothe the children in the fabric of their own astounding splendor, but to note when the Emperor has no clothes, to not only lead the school ceremonies on those courageous souls who spoke out against injustice at their own peril, but to put myself on the line when injustice steps through our own school gates. To turn the white heat of anger and the cold blue of exile toward greater compassion, in the style of Wendell Berry:

“ ‘Treat your worst enemies  as if they could become your best friends.’…
   Tough, but ‘All right,” our Mary said, ‘We’ll be nice to the sons of bitches.’”

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