Thursday, May 28, 2009


Revamped a bit-

Are you still lonely?
does your heart still ache
like it did that night
in the garden of your abandonment?

Did you think of Adam and Eve
when you saw your friends
sprawled down and asleep
your coppery red sweat
plaintive words that rang in the heat:
Can’t you stay awake with me?

a mile away
Judas heart beat, beat, beat
the priests played him on puppet strings
and they all danced toward you
hidden in the night
past the houses of those you healed
Judas thought they would fight
they would use their new legs and new sight
to raise an army and win a war

he never saw you on a cross
but on a horse instead
and he didn’t listen
when you said
your kingdom was not here
but the priests kingdom was and is
and their swords were ready
while Peter dreamed dreams of the simple and sweet
and you begged:
if there is any other way…
a soon-to-be Savior that wept

you went to your friends
and woke them up again
another plea
you were lonely and afraid,
-but they were tired Lord, so tired-
so you went back to your grass and tears and knees
your way God, not mine
and then you heard Judas heart
beat, beat, beat
and saw the hell-strings
of the puppet that gave you a kiss on the cheek

and their legs burned as they ran
they were awake and afraid and naked and ashamed
running from the garden like adam and eve

but, oh God! there was no army and
Judas could not live with his lips and
as your mother watched you die
she screamed your cry:
My god, My god, why have you forsaken me?

and then your final words-
They know not what they do
but some of them did, some of them do
are you still lonely, Lord?

because we are still naked and ashamed and running and afraid

we let you save us from hell but
rarely from ourselves
from name brand fig leaves
and chasing after lovers less wild
we are all
sprawled and asleep
we are tired Lord, so tired
of having Judas hearts
in a kingdom of priests
stuck somewhere between eden and gethsemene

people watching

There is a woman sitting across from me in the coffee shop. She sits on the edge of her chair, back straight, purse clutched in her hands. Her skin is dark, toffee colored, and her beautiful braids are gathered and pulled back from her slightly lined face. She is round yet petite, her clothes are designed to hide, not express. But maybe that is her expression: I do not want to be noticed.

But I do notice her. She strikes me because though she is sitting with no one, talking to no one, her face changes expressions rapidly. Her lips twitch slightly and her eyes narrow and brighten. She stares into some far off point across from her.

She is having conversations and I wonder who she is speaking to.

I have sat in this coffee shop before and been haunted by words I have and have not said. I, too, have replayed moments and wished for boldness or gentleness instead of what was burned into my memory.

I put in my ear buds (Thom Yorke) and peek at her from over my book (Emily Dickinson). Her jaw is set, her eyes are bright with tears. She must have gotten to a difficult part. But then she swallows and closes her eyes. A second later her expression is hopeful, her lips forming a most plaintive smile.

This makes me afraid of everyone else and everything they do not say. How funny, our imagination, our ability to fantasize. This person she wants to speak to is not here, but they are, kind of, in her mind. And at her whim they are pleading, or forgiving; kind and apologetic. I wonder what other people have made me say in conversation. We can make people dance like puppets, speak like poets, or act like lovers all day long in our minds. But the longer we stay there, the more harsh the reality of their free will. People are not all poets or lovers and we are not always misunderstood.

She is now nodding wisely and with relief, as though she or her mystery friend has come to some great enlightenment. In the next second however, she must remember the truth of time and consequence, because she is solemn and afraid again.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I would like to take a crack at something. I have been thinking a lot about the basic philosophies of Christianity. The issue of suffering is a huge one. How many times have we heard someone say that they could not believe in God because of suffering in the world? I don't know if there is ever an adequate philosophical response to this question, but I wanted to share some thoughts.

A lot of people blame suffering in the world on God, and conceivably so since he could stop all of it. Makes sense. So what if God took away suffering? What would that look like?

We have to agree that while suffering is universal, the definition of what constitutes as suffering is not.

Picture a room, and in it, we will put those who suffer.:

A woman raped.
A young girl who did not get the lead in the school play.
A wealthy socialite with a chemical peel gone wrong.
A man that loves a woman that does not love him.
A child whose hands have been cut off.
A woman who’s husband was shot in front of her.
A child who did not receive a toy they wanted.
A man who lost his job and has a family to feed.
A man who lost his job, but has no family.

We may scoff at the woman and her chemical peel, but could you blame the child with no hands not understanding why a man who lost his job was in the room with him? Is it ridiculous for the rape victim to roll her eyes at the tearful cries of a man unloved?

The girl that did not get the lead in the school play may feel shame; self hatred; anger; bittnerness- and feel them quite hotly. We can say she is young and immature in what causes her suffering, but it does not change the fact that her response is, indeed, suffering (and also that we are arrogant for believing that our vantage point of what constitutes as suffering is the ultimate authority).

Does the acknowledgement of sex slavery in the world lead you to cry less when someone has broken your heart? Probably not.

So. If God was Good, then there would be no suffering. But that means no suffering, of any kind.

I think a response to this would be the idea that there should not be rape, or AIDS, or cancer or murder, the ‘tragic sufferings’ maybe.

But lets say those things did not exist. But if we could still feel pain, there would simply be different scale of sufferings.

Imagine a world where the only health problems anyone ever had was the common cold. That’s it. No other diseases.

People would say that if there was a God, he would not allow people to have colds. The indignity of nose blowing and the harrowing torture of a sore throat would cause people to question his existence and goodness. People would lose their faith after catching a cold, or perhaps find God in the midst of their sickness, needing Something to comfort them in their distress and anguish.

We think that is silly only because we know the range of suffering pertaining to health. If the range was a cold only, it would be the worst thing in the world. And we would be right back where we started.

Let’s continue with this line of thought.

A world with only colds. No rape or murder, no adultery, or stealing.

So now, in this new world where all extreme suffering is removed- we would have new extreme sufferings.

People would be atheists because they could not believe in a God that allowed broken nails; bad break ups; boring jobs.

Philosophers would write books on the spiritual cruelty of acne and bad hair. They could not accept a God that did not make all of creation aesthetically pleasing. Ugly people means an ugly God.

Again, these things seem petty (maybe) to us only because we understand the spectrum of suffering.

So, all suffering would have to be erased. And not only would God have to take away the things that make us suffer, but he would have to take away our very faculties that process suffering.

We would either all have to get what we want, or not be able to process pain of any kind. One is not possible, because what we want often hurts other people, so two could be the only logical conclusion.

So the following words would be incomprehensible to us: worry; anxiety; pain; fear; abandonment; rejection; neglect; hurt; anguish; misery; annoyance; disturbance; etc.

Without those words, or the ability to understand what they refer to, the following words are also meaningless- happy; joy; love; kindness; forgiveness; gratitude; contentment; ecstatic; delight; acceptance.

Without suffering, of any and all kind, we also would not be happy. We would have no concept of the word.

So I wonder a few things.

I wonder if God has saved us from suffering even more greatly than we can imagine.

The same way we laugh at a world that dismisses God based not getting parking spots or coveted jobs, is there another world that would laugh at our suffering of rape and genocide as petty?

I can think of nothing worse than being strapped to a bed and raped. But I wonder if God’s response to that would be: “There was the possibility of me creating a world where men could literally rip out your essence, eat it, and you would be trapped in their body for the rest of your life.”

Again, ridiculous. As ridiculous as American missionaries explaining video games to south American natives. Just because it is incomprehensible does not mean it could not be true. That would be putting ultimate authority in our cognitive faculties, which is a little arrogant. If God is blamed for all disasters, I wonder if there are disasters he has kept us from?

There is one suffering we know exists, that only one Man felt. When Christ was in the garden, and on the cross, He was completely cut off from God. It hurts when we lose relationships with those we cherish, even if we may have only known the person for a few months.

But what of the pain of losing our spouse of 50 years?

Christ (going on the assumption that he was who he said he was) lost the companionship of God that he had had for all eternity. He felt cosmic abandonment. Intense. Intense enough for him to cry out “Llama sabachthani” My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

When I hear stories of Christian martyrs, it strikes me that they died more bravely and perhaps seemingly more faithful deaths than of Christ. I can only image that Christ’s sufferings went far beyond the physical, into another spiritual realm that I can only think of as science fiction.

But I think we can all admit that at least some of our sufferings have produced good in our life, in the form of character; patience; grace; etc. So if we can see some good coming from suffering and evil, isn’t it possible that God can see good coming out of all?

I suppose I am comforted that the justice I desperately want on this earth is not pointless, it is promised in the form of heaven. That the heaven Christ talks of is not just one of consolation, but of restoration.

Last random thought: maybe we feel pain because God does. Not just Christ, we know he suffered. But God, in the Old Testament, suffered. Pain and suffering exist in God’s realm just as much as this one. God is not separate and detached from our pain, it is found in Him. We are made in his image, and that may be somewhat physical, but it seems primarily emotional to me. God feels hurt; abandonment; rejection; pain. The Christian faith is that of the God Who Suffers. God was so moved by our pain, that he sent Himself to take it on. It did not alleviate all of our pains here on earth, but Christ’s sufferings and his desire to be with us, can help us suffer well and come out of it stronger and wiser. And if our sufferings lead to death- our desire for what we want on earth, is now found in the hope of resurrection and heaven.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

the scientist and the artist

I was praying a few years ago, distressed at my desire to be a writer. I was telling God that there is something so beautiful about creation. That these people and stories exist in my mind, and I see it clearly as though it were on a screen, and I want desperately to show other people what I see… I was half defending myself, half pleading. I think I expected from God what I told myself:

This is impractical Kate, a foolish desire shared by millions of other starving artists…

But instead I thought something else. And the sheer magnitude of this thought, the freedom and delight in it could not have come from me:

You want to be like your Father.

I held my breath like I had just been kissed, and I had, in a way.

God used science as an artistic medium, the way I use a pen, or you use a camera or cloth or a stage. He Created. The quark was his paint and the human his art. I do not believe in the literal garden, but I do believe in a God that created and thought it was Good. And he gave us hands and lips and this ability to make Something from Nothing. And that desire is in us. I understand the desire for food and drink and sex and destruction by evolutionary instinct. But why would evolution give us something with only abstract practicalities? The animal kingdom has no need for art. Why do we? I think the desire to create and see art, the desire for beauty points to something more than eating and sleeping and continuing the species.

The Scientist and the Artist are socially two completely different creatures, but their gifting so similar: revealing to us the things of God. It amazes me that there were paintings in Picasso's head and music in Bach's ears. That my hand can barely hold a pen straight and the most beautiful things can come out of yours.

I am always nervous before I write. The entire process is so inexplicable to me, I am always afraid nothing will happen. But Something happens. Whether I have a muse to lead me there or not, there is Something Else in me, separate from my cognition, a mysterious Well to draw from- and out come words, scenes, life. Sometimes I think my words exist in me, before I think them. That I’m not really creating anything, just writing down what was already there, waiting patiently for me to look. There are poems waiting to be discovered inside of me. There are movie scripts and love letters and the rest of my mothers book, hidden somewhere behind my eyes.

So what is hiding in you?

What does creation look like in you?

Mine looks like a black lake.

This lake holds all of my movies, my T.V shows, maybe a few novels down at the bottom. Whenever I get an idea for a film, it is like looking at a black screen or a rippling lake. And then certain things start to emerge. Flashes of scenes, dialogue, character traits. Then all of a sudden the lake is a movie screen, I can play out scenes in perfect quality. My lake is shimmering with ideas currently. This one came alive today:

I want to write a music video about the creative process in artists. A painter seeing a painting, on the side of a building, the sky, then finally a canvas. A writer who gets a phrase (since we hear only music, I think it would be cool to have him thinking about his poetry- scrawled in his handwriting on the screen) and we see him writing poems, scribbling it out, writing it again. A photographer who sees pictures as they happen- an intimate moment between a father and daughter is slow and sharpened and he captures that moment in his mind if not his lens. Even something as seemingly simple as fashion: a woman who takes in everything everyone is wearing, but certain things stand out, literally. The cut of a dress, a necklace, a way of wearing a scarf. These things are sharper and more in focus and represented into her own clothing choices the next day.

I do want to be like my Father. I want to create and encourage other artists and scientists. This is the closest to God we can get. I believe that God exists outside of time, and so all art has already been seen and created by him first- but I think he gets excited for us, he roots us on. He sees the poetry and the great american novel and trends and pictures inside of us.

What is hiding in you? I'd like to see it, read it, listen to it.

What does the creative process look like to you?