Sunday, March 5, 2017

March 5: Octavia Spencer, Idols, Classic Saint Marty

This afternoon, I went to see a movie with my daughter.  The Shack.  I read the book many years ago, used it in a Sunday school class I used to teach.  It's not the most subtle of stories, but I still found the film incredibly moving.  It reduced me to a puddle of tears quite a few times.  And it helped me revise my image of God.

There are people who have problems with artistic depictions of God, whether in movies or television shows or paintings or statues.  These people object on the grounds that the artists are making idols.  Having grown up in the Catholic faith, I have been exposed to artistic representations of God and Jesus and the Bible my whole life.

Believe or not, I know that God is not the bearded white dude on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  I also know that God is not Octavia Spencer, cooking up biscuits in the kitchen.  But I would also argue that God is Octavia Spencer.  And Sam Worthington.  And Jack Nicholson.  I was taught that everyone is a reflection of God.  Therefore, when I look into the face of Octavia Spencer, I am, in essence, looking into one of the faces of God.

Sorry to get so philosophical on a Sunday evening.  Let me end this discussion by telling you to see The Shack.  It is worth the cry.

Tonight's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired a year ago and deals with a good friend with a big problem . . .

March 5, 2016:  A Pact, Ted, Matthew Gavin Frank, "Antebellum"

The world has signed a pact with the devil; it had to.  It is a covenant to which every thing, even every hydrogen atom, is bound.  The terms are clear:  if you want to live, you have to die; you cannot have mountains and creeks without space, and space is a beauty married to a blind man.  The blind man is Freedom, or Time, and he does not go anywhere without his great dog Death.  The world came into being with the signing of the contract.  A scientist calls it the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  A poet says, "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower / Drives my green age."  This is what we know.  The rest is gravy.

The world is a tough place.  As Dillard says, this little piece of rock we live on signed a deal with the devil.  From the day we are born, we are dying.  Freedom.  Time.  Death.  These are our constant companions.  And in the time we have on this planet, we must struggle, relax, mourn, rejoice.  That's what our green age is all about.

I have a friend right now who is in the struggle phase of his green age.  "Ted" has recently admitted to his physician that he has an addiction to prescription narcotics.  As expected, Ted's doctor will not prescribe Ted any more painkillers, and Ted is hurting, psychologically (mainly) and physically.  He's convinced himself that the only thing that will relieve his condition is a narcotic.

I know that Ted is hurting.  Addiction is a terrible thing.  It's debilitating, affecting work and family and health.  It's something that literally controls every waking moment of every day.  I feel terrible for Ted.  Yet, Ted has taken the first step to recovery:  admitting that he has a problem.  Now, he needs to follow through.  Get the help he needs.

I wish that life wasn't full of struggle.  I wish that Ted didn't have any pain.  That his back didn't hurt.  That he didn't have family problems and finance problems and work problems.  Aside from the back problems, I could be Ted.  We all could be Ted.  That's Dillard's point, I think.  The world is all about entropy, the gradual decline into disorder.  That's Ted's story right now.  That's all our stories.

When you read this post, think about Ted.  About yourself.  About the world.  We've all signed on the dotted line.  I like to think, however, that the contract is with God instead of the devil.  There is the blind man, Freedom or Time, and his faithful dog, Death.  But God sends us other companions, as well.  Joy.  Relaxation.  Surprise.  Love.

Saint Marty and Ted need to party with those dudes a little more, and maybe have a steak dinner every once in a while with Matt Gavin Frank . . .


by:  Matthew Gavin Frank

The tornado inside Adromeda laid seeds
of clover in the sky.  We took the stubble
and dissolved it in the red wine, went into
the basement of the Genome Biology Building
for asylum.

Helene had gone to a funeral that Sunday--
the body of her first lover covered
in tobacco.  She said
that in burial
the screws of the corpse meet a pressure
of any blood not cleaned out,
they shoot into dirt like seeds.  The arms
quickly flare like a chicken's,
and in the downdraft of soil
the teeth clench as if to keep
the earth out.  He was finally rhetorical, she said.

Ernie spat on the floor, unwrapped the stolen corn
from the napkin, saying, "You saw
no such thing, Helene.,"  When I was small,
Helene said, I stood with my father
at Mount Hope Cemetery.  He was fresh
with mind and antebellum.  The crops
were rotting because of the windy season,
we pricked out fingers and let them drip
onto newspaper.  Alice, in a complicated

white dress, with the tornado dropping,
feigned a seizure and wiped
her cheek through the blood.
The rows of clay idols watched

and started to tip in the wind.  Over us,
these shuddering memorials:
A rooster smothering a swallow
and behind us, two dogs

tugging-of-war with a chrysalis,
and an angel cradling a squirrel
between her breasts.  She watched
the rooster tie the swallow in a knot
and in the quake, began
to step over the wind like a plot.

Because I could not stop for Death . . .
A poem of peace for tonight:

Surviving the Bomb

by:  Martin Achatz

At 2 a.m., I wake from dreams, nauseous,
Sweaty as my daughter’s breaking fever,
Convinced I was in Hiroshima just after
Little Boy detonated in resurrection light,
The air, wave after wave of heat, took
Breath and buildings away, left
Skeletons, black fingers pointing
Heavenward, at the ascended Jesus,
At God, accusations blasted into skin,
Kimono flowers, leaves,
Fat keloid blossoms across spine, shoulder.
I rise, stumble to kitchen, sit on floor,
Remind myself of date, year, time.
Over and over.  August 6.  1945.  8:15 a.m.
A prayer.  A chant.  To bring me back.
My fridge.  My table.  My house.
My life.  I swim, kick to surface,
The cells of my body not weak
With charged atom, not in process
Of firestorm, decay.  I breathe
Breaths, hear my son cry out
In his crib.  My son.  My daughter.
My wife.  I remain in darkness, aware
Of winter air on my arms and legs.
Grateful.  I think of how Hiroshima,
One month after, cracked, opened
With goosefoot, morning glories, sesame,
Spanish bayonets and day lilies,
How ash and bones grew green,
Everywhere, grass, bean, weed.
Green, green, green.  Everywhere.  Green.

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