Safety and Happiness

The rancor within the United States of America, which has been exacerbated these last four years, will only grow if left to the parties with the most political power. Politics is a process of decision-making, not an adjudication of ethics or the approach of justice. All manner of stated values covering actual intentions interact negatively.

Political processes are inherently messy and indispensable. Always there is the need for larger conversations to find the focus and limits of political processes.

When the titles of acts carry more political weight than their content, it is a measure of how vulnerable a common concern is to subversion by a political process (at whatever level— family, community, country, or world-wide body). Examples include: a bill for Blue Skies that encourages pollution or for Healthy Forests that privileges logging companies over Indigenous peoples or environmental standards. These disconnects between appearance and effect constitute a lying to oneself and an inability to honestly broker important differences. The same occurs when checks and balances are abrogated to enforce a single viewpoint, an authoritarian edict.

Tinkering with process is less needed than a review of founding principles and adjustment to process based on a new consensus that will reset the basic tension between intractable polarities.

Though the courts are bound by the limits of law, they do, from time-to-time, look at larger contexts than the letters of the law. This is a time when the whole citizenry needs a return to general principles more than arguing over process details, which are a surrogate for imposing one view or another on everyone.

I continue to think the conversation needed is a rebalancing of what the Declaration of Independence terms “Safety and Happiness” and the Constitution names as “Common Defense and General Welfare.”

Seemingly forever, the tension between these tied-together values has been unbalanced in favor of Safety and Common Defense. This privileging of protective services over securing basic rights for all (human and other-than-human) can be seen and measured in the dollars and cents of a budget.

Bankrupting citizens based on their economic status, false concepts such as race, or traditional limits on gender roles and family models to build the world’s largest nuclear arsenal with no way to deploy it without it boomeranging and destroying the Happiness and General Welfare of the citizens it claims to protect is all out of proportion.

A new Declaration of Interdependence is needed as we have bumped up against the limits of Independence. To be independent of the rest of the world (externally) or one another (internally) is to suffocate our core strength through privation of the many for the sake of extraordinary wealth of a few.

Such a Declaration will not escape the eternal tension between Safety and Welfare. Still, it may reset enough to find our way to rebalance our processes and develop a commitment to honor one another while negotiating differences.

Realistically, it is unlikely that enough people will be able to put down whatever perk they have or imagine they will have in the current political system without a narrowing civil war. Nonetheless, it is only some form of a Jubilee Year or Potlatch that will extend the world past the current rush to Fall over the pressure of my independence trumping yours and the inevitable outcome of greed.


The evening of Thanksgiving brought a reminder that I had not posted a note here. This one will go out tomorrow.

A part of my evening has been editing a next book on Mark (verse by verse comment and a stanza).

Here is a stanza from 10:46 that is ripe for editing:

we arrive footloose and fancy free
free to not claim a right of place
to claim a partner’s place
alongside additional liberators

having arrived ragtag and unnoticed
is not the same as inconsequential
is open to receiving new parts of life
decorating seeming nothingness

we leave slowed by new partners
each looking for a long-goodbye
before settling back to work
with renewed focus and energy

each long-goodbye opening new avenues
to saunter down in exploratory mode
finding here an unnoticed connection
a thanksgiving for ordinary moments

each goodbye opens eyes
we never knew we had it so good
and even better we hear new calls
in unexpected quarters 


While reading Liberating the Politics of Jesus: Renewing Peace Theology through the Wisdom of Women, edited by Darryl Stephens, I was surprised by an image from Toni Morrison I expect I have read but had lost along the way.

Morrison claims the cross was an early and universal symbol, indicating a “standing human figure poised to embrace.”

The reminder came from a chapter in the Liberating book by Linda Gehman Peachey, “Salvation for the Sinned Against.” That chapter referenced a dissertation by Malinda Elizabeth Berry, “The Mark of a Standing Human Figure Poised to Embrace: A Constructive Theology of Social Responsibility, Nonviolence, and Nonconformity.”

In tracking down more about this Mennonite theologian, I thought the conclusion of an article by Berry could give enough-comfort-to-stimulate-courage that would be appreciated by any still reading here.

“Morrison calls us to take another, deeper look at something we have seen countless times and think we understand. Looking deeply into the mystery of this mark, this sigh, this intersection, this crossroad, we have the opportunity to discern the true meaning of formation that both shapes us and prepares us for transformation that reshapes us. The next time you look into, rather than at, a cross, may you see a human figure, alive with the spark of Adonai’s primordial fire and poised to embrace you.”

If you stumble across this in some distant future, it is currently found at The Center for Mennonite Writing, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2011  (

A shift from judgment to embrace is a 1,000 league step. It would be good to do plenty of stretching exercises before attempting this journey as it promises to put all manner of tight muscles unused to such welcoming.

Because . . . But

While doing an editing task, I had to search for all the capital “B”s in a lengthy document. In the process of doing so, I noticed the recurrence of two words that began sentences – “Because” and “But”.

Therein lies a tension between an answer and a response.

“Because” is a word that narrows and concludes. “But” widens and continues.

This is also a tension in politics and religion. “Because” is a word from the Right, Orthodox. “But” leans left and liberationist.

Such an analysis can likely be found in every field of endeavor affected by its reliance upon how the risks and rewards of the past and future are assigned. Readers might check this within the field in which they are most fluent.

Should this appear to be the case, it is one more place where changing one’s usage might move out of habitual use into that of considered communication.

If you find “Because” smoothly rolling off your tongue, there is value in being intentional about shifting toward a recognition that you don’t have everything sewed up and resolved. Consideration of holes being patched over by the temporary scaffolding of “Because” will better serve future discernment.

The same is true for those who continually find only holes in other’s arguments or are firmly grounded in contingencies of the moment. Limiting the number of “But”s will assist a community in taking action.

Appreciation of a firm foundation and being forever traveling is a combination that requires continual care to weed out reactive responses and choosing an appropriate engagement with both.


easy it is
to mistake
a god’s desire
for larger
simultaneous praise
greatest awesomeness

the bestest cathedral
raises its roof
setting a new record
besting a hundred chapels
even more a walk
in a living wood

such is the work
of the people
to worship
a worthy one
and deny the worth
of any other


Religion can be looked at through the lens of an intervention. Wrongness can only be dealt with by a larger rightness superimposing itself. Salvation is dependent upon attending to what is understood to be the rules of the most powerful.

It might seem that this is a setup for humility – “I’ll do the right thing even though it goes against the most surfaced of my desires.” When there is a greater power – whether higher or lower – one must attend and give obeisance.

It is closer to our experience to say that humanity’s narcissism – writ larger or smaller – ends up shifting its humility into pride. As we get our butt kicked by whatever power is currently in the ascendency, we turn to kick the butt of the closest person or group we can ontologically claim is an unmitigated and eternal wrongness worse than anything we have done.

This shift from being wronged (humility) to wronging (pride) can be seen in everyone but ourselves. Nationally, tribally, the outcome is genocide and colonialism. The same dynamic can be seen in the patriarchal story of a boss metaphorically kicking a male employee who goes home and takes it out on wifey, who passes it on to a kiddo who physically kicks the dog.

One way to deal with this is to remodel religions away from interventions to collaboration and partnership. Within Christianity, this moves away from a Jesus sent to intervene, to save little ol’ me and you and all humanity (forgetting the cosmos). It moves toward a Jesus waking up to partner with, to collaborate with those distracted by being dominated and dominating. Partnership opens a next opportunity or step to be real about the mixture of chaotic deep and ordered intersections within and between all that has been, is, and may yet be. In this way, we shift from blame to joy, form more partial to wholer.


parallel lives
in parallel lines
distance themselves
all along
to the point
of dispute
a definition
of parallel

imaginary numbers
have their place
as do
imaginary people

metaphor colliders
may smash
and smash again
imaginary parallels
to no effect
distance remains
characters live
mystery deepens


Empty calories are appropriate for couch-surfing entertainment. They acknowledge an emptiness, not unlike the oblivion of a black hole swallowing anything and everything before it.

Here’s another constant, E2 = S (Empty times Empty equals Sadness). There is nothing already present and nothing on the horizon, much less near to hand. Such sadness is precursor to oblivion seen more clearly in alcohol’s long and universal appeal to numb.

When not used as the only way to ease the pulling of an infected tooth, alcohol and its substitution by other drugs is a sign of needed change, or The Nothing will get you.

Today’s Sunday Service I attended brought a reminder of a book worth regularly revisiting—The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

The sadness of emptiness becomes the addiction leading to oblivion. It can also be seen in the politics of Fascism and its kissing cousin of claiming we can’t know what true—the shame of not claiming to know what we do know.

Merlin (the Magician) confides in Wart (young future king Arthur) that there is a remedy for sadness (emptiness)—learning beyond tests.

Unlike a black hole, learning grounds us by furthering an integration of previously unconnected fragments of life and having something more than economic value to share with others.

Learning brings the honor of knowing more than one’s place in the current economy (familial and social). Learning is the measure of a maturity that trusts both mistakes and emptiness are not the last word. Learning brings an ability to see what an abundance is already available.

If we learn to distrust all facts but our emotions (both hope and fear), we become a black-hole seed planted in the midst of family and culture. Eventually, one is joined to another, and all turns to a whimper.

Listen in to Merlin that you might grow into responsibility.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

Growing Up

the world’s record
largest little boy
grew so tall
by not growing up

everything focused
inward inward
one big inhale
one bag of wind

all nutrition
sucked from the air
only the -isms left
to spill and spew

such style
hair to nest in
but none dared
nestle close

desire ran hot
so much to win
fueled by fire
of firing

only knowing
how to use up
kept him
from growing up