Friday, March 31, 2017

Movies for Lent

Andrew Greeley believed that God discloses himself to us in the objects and experiences we encounter every day. He saw the artist as a potential creator of sacrament and saw movies as particularly suitable for creating that “sacramental” moment. In The Catholic Myth, Greeley writes, “The most striking image of the womanliness of God in recent years was presented in Bob Fosse's film All That Jazz, a story of Fosse's brush with death during a massive heart attack. . .”

At Greeley’s suggestion (and years after the fact), I decided to watch All that Jazz as a Lenten practice to see for myself how God shows up at the movies. I made a trip to the Homewood Library to find a DVD of the film It is indeed a well-crafted film. We see a life of glitz, glamor, show-biz and sex. In the midst of that life we have those questions of life’s meaning. A Lenny Bruce-type comedian steps in throughout the film with commentary about God and death. Though the film was not the type of movie I am drawn toward, I attended to it as if it were a classroom assignment from “Professor Greeley.” To me, in addition to Greeley’s observation of the archetypal image of “the womanliness of God,” the movie was an effective commentary on what is true in life and relationships and what is mere frivolity. It also demonstrates how the comedian has taken on the role of priest in our modern society.

While I was at the library looking for All that Jazz, I came across a movie I was not aware of called An Unfinished Life. The cover notes sounded appealing, and it starred Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez, so why not give it a try?

I actually found An Unfinished Life to be much more my speed and truly a welcome reflection on life for this Lenten season. Directed by Lasse Hallström, the film is about forgiveness in the wake of unfortunate tragedy and after years of being stuck in a bitter life routine. The movie also takes a unique look at masculine friendship and nurturing in the roles played by Redford and Freeman.

Remember back when Hallmark made really excellent movie specials for television? That is the kind of feel I got from An Unfinished Life. There is beautiful photography, excellent acting, a well-written and moving story line, and ominous encounters with a fearsome bear! What’s not to like? It is the kind of movie that allows you to take stock of life in general and to reflect upon your own life in particular. It does all the right things in cinematic storytelling.

Here are the movie trailers for All that Jazz and An Unfinished Life:


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Tenth Station of the Cross: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Ninth Station of the Cross                                                                      The Eleventh Station of the Cross >

The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal

Juvenile detention center in Florida (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Across the country, school systems are shutting the doors of academic opportunity on students and funneling them into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The combination of overly harsh school policies and an increased role of law enforcement in schools has created a “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which punitive measures such as suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests are increasingly used to deal with student misbehavior, and huge numbers of youth are pushed out of school and into prisons and jails.  

One of the traits of Empire is that it freely discards its citizens without regard to potential or inherent worth. In the African American community there is indeed a "school-to-prison pipeline" pattern that some are trying to address. Unfortunately, the problem is practically invisible to citizens of the Empire.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Ninth Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls a Third Time

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Eighth Station of the Cross                                                                    The Tenth Station of the Cross >

Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time

An aerial view shows people protesting against Amazon deforestation during the 2009 World Social Forum near the mouth of the Amazon River in the city of Belem January 27, 2009.

Humans have been practicing deforestation for thousands of years, since the dawn of agriculture when we discovered we could manage crops to feed increasingly large populations. In recent years, however, deforestation has increased exponentially with increasing encroachment upon the tropical rain forests. We are wanting more forest products and demanding more farmland. We are now facing serious questions of sustainability and climate change. Indigenous peoples are being displaced and we could possibly damage the sacred body of the earth irrevocably. Will we weaken the sacred body to the point of death?


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Seventh Station of the Cross                                                                     The Ninth Station of the Cross >

Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children

Pablo Picaso's "The Weeping Woman"
Throughout the ages, it has been the women who bear so much of the suffering inflicted by Empire. When Jesus spoke to the women in Jerusalem on his way to the cross, he saw their weeping and knew the greater sorrow that they would endure in the years ahead when their children would grow up just to become fodder for the war machine of Empire. Picaso painted “The Weeping Woman” in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. He painted “Guernica” that same year to depict the tragedy and suffering brought on by the casual bombing of Spain by the Nazi war machine. While "Guernica" has come to be a reminder of the tragedy of war, "The Weeping Woman" is a universal image of suffering.

When you go out today, take note of the women you see. Many of them will be silently bearing the sorrow of having lost someone dear to them at the hands of Empire and its war machine. They bear the suffering brought on by lost lives, cripples bodies and shattered minds of their children who grew up to serve their country and were crushed by Empire.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Music: Evacuee (Enya)

[I first posted this Monday Music back in feature in August of 2014. I am re-posting it today because we see the plight of the refugee more than ever today.  ~ CK] 

While leaders and politicians wage war with armies, tanks and drones, citizens who are displaced must bear the sorrow of lost homes, lost loved ones, and separated families. The song is "Evacuee," from the album Shepherd Moons. The words and music are by Eithne Ni Bhraonain, Nicky Ryan and Roma Shane Ryan. It is performed by Eithne Ni Bhraonain (Enya).


Each time on my leaving home
I run back to my mother's arms,
one last hold and then it's over.

Watching me, you know I cry,
you wave a kiss to say goodbye,
Feel the sky fall down upon me!

All I am,
a child with promises
All I have
are miles full of promises of home.

If only I could stay with you,
my train moves on, you're gone from view,
Now I must wait until it's over.

Days will pass, your words to me,
it seems so long; eternity,
but I must wait until it's over.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: The March of the Oligarchs

(Headline from The Guardian)
(Headline from Quartz)

The March of the Oligarchs

When I was a child
I was momentarily confused
The first time my older brother
Brought out his chess set.
The game board
Was exactly like the one we used for checkers,
But the rules were entirely different.
                         -  -  -
Growing up during the Cold War,
We thought the threat
Was coming to an end
When the Berlin Wall fell
And the Soviet Bloc collapsed.
We were giddy
With thoughts of freedom –
Oppression had been lifted;
The “Communist Threat” was fading.

That giddy moment of freedom
Was soon seized by corporations.
They flew under the banner
Of free enterprise,
Thereby flying under the radar
That scans for
Enemies of the state.

Global corporations
Have become the prime movers,
Making governments inconsequential.
Seen as good for the country,
Essential for the economy,
Creator of jobs,
Granter of benefits,
And source of political spending,
Big companies hold Congress hostage.
Legislation may soon bear no more weight
Than nice ideas
Voiced by well-meaning folks
In a Sunday School class.

In today's political arena
The playing field is familiar.
The game board looks the same.
But the rules have changed.

                                               ~ CK

*   *   *

Flynn was paid over $30K for speech
by Russian TV
Manafort worked for Russian billionaire
to advance Putin's interests

"Steve Bannon vows daily fight for 'deconstruction of the administrative state' "
(Headline from The Washington Post)

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation... if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Cherry Trees

with every spring
the blooming of cherry trees
 brings hope to the land


Photo: Cherry Tree Blossoms & Jefferson Memorial
by Cliff at Flickr


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Seventh Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls a Second Time

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Sixth Station of the Cross                                                                         The Eighth Station of the Cross >

Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time

Abandoned gas masks litter the floor

It was April 26, 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred. Pictured above we see the large nuclear power plants standing tall against the sky before the disaster. We also see the sad aftermath of nuclear power gone wrong.  Billed as "safe, clean energy" by the Empire in the U.S., nations of power naturally pursued greater sources of power. Near misses in the U.S. have sent warning signals, but accidents in the former Soviet Union and more recently in Japan have demonstrated how severely we can strike at the sacred body where we live. Empire shows little regard for the sacred body of nature. Under the reign of God which Jesus preached, life will come to all. Under the rule of Empire, however, death is always looming.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sixth Station of the Cross: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Fifth Station of the Cross                                                                       The Seventh Station of the Cross >

Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus

Homeless Jesus sculpture (Photo by Mark Rumsey)

He Died Not Too Far From Here
By Charles Kinnaird

It was my first time to volunteer at the soup kitchen. A lady named Veronica handed me an apron and told me I could work with Fred. “He can show you ‘round this place,” she said.

Fred was an older man, tall and lean with closely cropped hair that was mostly gray. He said he was retired now, but before that he did “just about everything.”

“I come down here every Saturday morning and I help ‘em set things up,” Fred told me as he handed me a wash rag to wipe down the tables.  “You know, most folks will wipe down the tables after everybody gets done eatin’, but I like to wipe ‘em down before they get here, too. That way they know we’re thinkin’ about ‘em. They know they’re  comin’ to a place prepared just for them.”

“How long have you been doing this?” I asked.

“It’s been a few years now. Been more than a minute, I’ll say that. And I’ll tell you why I do this, though I don’t know how you might take it.” Fred paused and took a deep breath, “You see, I heard all my life about how Jesus died for my sins. Then I come to find out he died not too far from here – and I’ve got Veronica to thank for tellin’ me that.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I just looked at Fred in anticipation of what he might say next. He looked at me with a side glance and wry smile, then he tilted his head back and laughed.

He then continued, “I can tell you don’t know what in the world this old man’s talkin’ about, but I’ll tell you what happened. Now you don’t know Veronica, but Veronica loves to cook – that’s what she does. She cooks up yonder at the school house for the kids then she comes over here on Saturday and cooks for these folks that are down and out right now.

“Well, this one Saturday morning she come up here and found this man lyin’ on the sidewalk up against the wall. She told me she didn’t know if he was asleep or dead, but she called out to him.  He stirred just a little bit so she got down closer. That man was all dirty and had scratches and scabs all over his face. She didn’t know if he had fallen or if somebody beat up on him, but he was so weak and tired. She ran inside and got the preacher, ‘We got to help this man,’ she said. She grabbed a towel and a wash cloth out of the charity closet, got a bowl of water and went out there to see if she could wash off his face.

“And this is the way she told it to me – she said when she knelt down to wash that man’s face, somethin’ told her this might’ve been somebody important. Now I won’t lie to you,” Fred continued, “I’d have probably said he was just some bum who’d been drinkin’ and bein’ no count all his life, but Veronica said somethin’ told her different.

“Well, Veronica and the preacher brought this man inside so they could get him somethin’ to eat and drink, but when they helped him on in, that’s when she knew he was too sick for them to do much for him. And that’s when they called 911.

“When the ambulance came, they got this man loaded up and Veronica told the preacher she had to go with him to the hospital. She told the ambulance drivers she was gonna ride up there in the ambulance, and she just hopped on in. Veronica says she still don’t know why she done it, but it was like somethin’ told her to go on with them to the hospital. And she stayed up there ‘til the doctors came around and saw the man. She told ‘em she didn’t know who he was, but she just found him out on the sidewalk by the soup kitchen. Then they told her that they were gonna get him into a room, so she came on back. She called the preacher to come pick her up so she could get on with her cookin’.

“Well, that was the first time she seen this man. The next day was Sunday and she decided she would go back up to the hospital to see how he was. She got up there and saw he was still real sick, but he just barely opened his eyes and saw her. Then he just barely smiled, and he just barely opened his mouth and spoke to her just one time. He said, ‘I remember you – you’re just like an angel to me, and I don’t know why. I feel like I’m just one of the least of these and you don’t even know me, but you come to help me out.’

“Now that’s when Veronica said it happened. She said it was when he said ‘I’m the least of these,’ it just hit her like a lightnin’ bolt. This is how she told it to me, she said, ‘I felt this electricity just come though me and it was like Jesus was sayin’ you done it do me – and all I could do was cry.’ She said she had to leave out from there because she wasn’t doing nothn’ but cryin’ and shakin’.

“So that was the second time she seen him,” Fred said, “and it turned out there would not be no third time. When she went up to the hospital the next day after work, they told her he had passed – there wasn’t really anything they could do, you know. Well Veronica – she was still kinda tearful then, but she said she was somehow feelin’ stronger inside.  It was after all that happened that she came and told me the whole story, what I told to you just now, and this is how she started it off:

Next time you hear somebody say Jesus died for your sins, you tell ‘em, No, he died not too far from here. And not only that, you tell ‘em he’s dyin’ somewhere every day, and if you look around you might see where he’s dyin’. And if you see he’s dyin’, feed him if you can, give him some medicine if you can, but if you can’t do nothin’ but wipe his face, then you just wipe his face, because Jesus is dyin’ somewhere, and he’s dyin’ not too far from here.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Music: Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show

An early television appearance by Frank Zappa in The Steve Allen Show. Steve Allen was one of th e pioneers of television. He created The Tonight Show and was probably one of the most intellectual and well-read entertainers of the day, as well as being a true humanitarian.

Here, Frank Zappa demonstrated how to turn the bicycle into a musical instrument and plugs his new record. Allen has a hilarious time and likens the young Zappa's efforts to the new atonal music that was coming on the scene in academic circles.

(When you hit the "play" button below, you will be directed to watch the video on YouTube. Just follow the link and you'll be able to watch it)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Dealer of the White House

(Shutterstock photo)

Dealer of the White House
(To the tune of “Master of the House” from Les Misérables)

Dealer of the White House
Believe me, I can charm
Ready with a handshake
(If you're not like Mom*).
Tweeting out the tales
Making quite a stir
Voters seem to like a little flying fur.
Glad to do a friend a favor,
Putin says I’m really smart.
I can bring it all together,
Everything except a little heart.

Dealer of the White House
Herder of the cats
Signing orders everywhere
For this and that.
Rallying the base
(It’s really kind of fun)
While I take away the safety net from everyone.
Tell the crowd I’m gonna fix things,
Make ‘em think they’ve got a friend
Tell ‘em anything they like
But you know I’m gonna fleece ‘em in the end.

Yes I’m the Dealer of the White House,
Best there’s ever been.
Got a crazy plan
To really do us in.
Tweak a little here
Take a little there
Making sure the corporations get their share.
Take away the arts and learning
Build a lot of bombs and walls
You can make the country great
Or you can prop it up before it falls.

Yeah, you can make the country great
Or you can prop it up before it falls!

                                                        ~ CK

President Trump meets with German Chancellor Merkel in the Oval Office
  Friday, March 17, 2017.(AP photo by Evan Vucci )

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation... if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Sunlit Sky

a world divided
may just be a sunlit sky
from two points of view


Photo by Malcolm Marler


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Fifth Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

                                 [The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Fourth Station of the Cross                                                                                The Sixth Station of the Cross >

Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross

A wood engraving of handcuffed and shackled slaves passing the U.S. Capitol

According to tradition, Simon of Cyrene was a black man ordered by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. In the United States, our own Empire was built in large part upon the backs of African slaves, forced to carry the burden inflicted by Empire. It is a blight we cannot erase, but slavery has been a common tool of Empire throughout the ages.  

Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while in office. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves - named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry and Daniel -- all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and U.S. Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week -- even in the hot and humid Washington summers. (From "Slaves Built the White House and Capitol" at Afrocentric Culture by Design)

We still struggle to overcome the inertia of slavery as we wrestle and argue over voting rights, racial profiling, and prejudicial hiring practices.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fourth Station of the Cross: Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Third Station of the Cross                                                                            The Fifth Station of the Cross >

Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief

A woman cries after her son was killed in an air strike in Basra

When a nation increases its strength and influence to the point that  it becomes Empire, the primary concern becomes to preserve its own power and influence.  In Matthew 25, Jesus said that the true measure of a nation is in how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable within its borders. Empire, on the other hand, often relies only upon one tool – military power – to solve any problem. As such, the loss of innocent lives becomes collateral damage which, to Empire, is only to be expected.

When collateral damage has no face that Empire can recognize, then many mothers will weep in the wake of military campaigns, air strikes, and drone attacks done in the name of establishing freedom and security.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Music: Forever Young

Peter, Paul & Mary, the folk trio that emerged from the folk scene of the 1960s, recorded many albums. My three favorite albums of theirs span their career. the first is their live Peter Paul & Mary In Concert double album released in 1964. It offers a wonderful taste of the folk music scene and they include their hit by the up and coming young artist, Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind."

Their Reunion album in 1978 is, just as the title states, their first venture coming back together after having disbanded.It is a real musical treat, hearing the group as they have matured and reflected upon what it means to live in the world, dream the dream and fight the good fight. The selection here is another Dylan song, "Forever Young."

The third of my favorite PP&M albums is Life Lines, released in 1995. It continues in the tradition of celebrating the vigor of life committed to serving the common good, celebrating live lived on this planet, and affirming the beauties of humanity.

For now, enjoy "Forever Young" from Reunion.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Ale for What Ails Ye

Tidal Marsh on San Francisco Bay (CBS photo)

Ale for What Ails Ye

Shakespeare’s Falstaff
Extolled the virtues of sack
Even as he joined the fight
Upon Henry the Fifth’s noble call to arms.
Moreover, the Bard oft spoke
Of merriment and ale.

The psalmist sang
In sacred text
That God gave us wine
To make the heart rejoice.

Partaking of the vine
And passing the brew –
A time-honored practice
Going back to antiquity.
Egyptian hieroglyph
And Sumerian cuneiform
Record the practice
Of fermentation.

One might say
That alcoholic beverage
Is the mark of civilization.
Or, one might also say
That as soon as people learned
To live in large communities,
They needed some way
To tolerate
Life in such close proximity.
Thus wine and ale
Smoothed the rough edges.

The dark side came
When English employers
Paid workers in gin, 
And colonizers gave firewater
To indigenous tribes.
Liquor became the co-conspirator
In the exploitation of people
On two continents.

Yet the altered state
Continues to have appeal
As heads-of-state
Conspire to wreck
The natural state
While calling into question
Our human fate.

We raise a glass
To celebrate 
The things that remain;
To tolerate
The troubled times;
To smooth the rough edges 
And for the glory of ancient Sumer.

                                                     ~ CK

Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham, AL (Photo by Bryan Richards)

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation. I may not post a poem each week, but if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.

I hope my efforts will not be polemical, but will rather be a true expression of what is. My goal will be to speak to our experiences of what we see and feel in our community and national life. Hopefully that poetic chronicle will depict the joys, sorrows, celebrations and uncertainties that come forth in our common struggle for a more perfect union.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Northern Lights

trees stand quietly
under the clear northern skies
earthly light dances


Photo: Aurora Borealis by Skeeze courtesy of Pizabay


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Third Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls the First time

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The Second Station of the Cross                                                                           The Fourth Station of the Cross > 

Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross

“It is hard to make a desert in a place that receives sixty inches of rain each year. But after decades of copper mining, all that remained of the old hardwood forests in the Ducktown Mining District of the Southern Appalachian Mountains was a fifty-square mile barren expanse of heavily gullied red hills–a landscape created by sulfur dioxide smoke from copper smelting and destructive logging practices. In Ducktown Smoke, Duncan Maysilles examines this environmental disaster, one of the worst the South has experienced, and its impact on environmental law and Appalachian conservation.”

Relatively early in our nation's entering into the Industrial Age, we saw the sheer havoc and destruction that industry can have on the landscape. The copper industry did much to build the country and move it into the modern age, but Empire often moves with callous disregard for the environment that should nurture all of its inhabitants.

Copper smelting—the process of separating copper from rock—is credited with doing most of the environmental damage in the Ducktown Basin in the 19th century. The process required wood to fuel the smelters, and there was no wood left in the area by 1876. Logs were floated down the Ocoee River from Fannin County, Ga., and about 50 square miles within the Ducktown Basin had been stripped of vegetation by 1878.

Ducktown was an early example of the Empire's crucifixion of the environment. Unfortunately there is still resistance from corporations to make any changes in their practices which continue to pollute, continue to contribute to climate change, and continue to bring damage to the sacred body of the earth, our only habitation.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Second Station of the Cross: Jesus Takes Up His Cross

[The following is from a series first posted during Lent in 2015.]

< The First Station of the Cross                                                                        The Third Station of the Cross >

Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross

© AFP Immigrant workers harvest grapes in California's Napa Valley

"We do rely on a foreign workforce. We really have an issue in terms of attracting domestic workers. They typically don't want to work in agriculture. It's out in the elements, it can be a hard job"

Many of us live in comfort in the Empire, taking our bounty for granted. It is a bounty that is largely dependent upon the work of immigrant laborers who are poorly paid, lacking in many services such as housing and healthcare, living in substandard conditions. We in turn denigrate the illegal immigrants upon whom we rely for the food and wine on our tables. Undocumented immigrants willingly take up the burden while Empire enjoys the bounty.


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