Monday, April 15, 2019

To Be Or Not

Is that not the proverbial question that Hamlet asked

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

So that is all about living or dying only death is brought by one's own hand.  I do think we have all pondered that question when the darkest nights have become our dawns and I am no less guilty of it.  Mine was walking down a street as I looked at ways to kill oneself with over the counter drugs, such as Advil with other like medications or alcohol to act as a toxic poison.  I thought if I got high enough on Marijuana that I could manage then by finally pulling a Whitney and drowning in the tub.  As I was doing that it was the Gypsy  who walked up to me and said to me that day, "Whatever you are doing please stop." And then I jumped into a new place of worship and ran that for awhile until I decided that while she was cheaper than therapy she was just another port in a storm and like the cards she tossed I chose to toss another and move to Tennessee.  Little did I know how cards like ports were so cavalierly drawn and withdrawn when the holder has so many in their hands and yet they are not open unless like my Gypsy, cash is in the other on offer.

 Life is a river that flows with the currents and while I continue my swimming here in the deep red sea of the Cumberland River in Nashville I wonder what other shores can offer and if there is a dock or pier I can emerge and find respite.  It is not here and it seems that when you are an outsider there is only so long they will allow you stay on board the cruise ship that sails these waters.

This past week the Director of Schools found himself on the other side of the school door and was ceremoniously shown the exit.  Naturally the waters were black and dark and that was the reason that many came to the conclusion he was asked to leave, they failed to note he was leaving with over a quarter of a  million dollars and was so happy to go he chose the Twitter handle "JosephUnchained,"  a note to Django Unchained, a horrifically over the top movie that Quentin Tarantino did as some sort of whitewashing black culture.   I guess he is not racist in the least as the Director seemed to believe all his challengers were,  as anyone daring to question a black man failing at his job is.  And Nashville Schools are awash with many who have tried to navigate said waters only to fail and leave on the next ship out of town so while he may be a "first" he is not the last.    Like Othello his Iago failed him but then this Prince did not suffer the same fate as he sailed away with his hands full.

 I mention the Director as we arrived at the same moment in time and it appears we are leaving in the same time frame.   He was thought of as a Savior in every sense and I arrived as the Carpetbagger with nothing more to offer but thought of one who is here just to take.     I finally gave in  and placidly accepted each slur and derogatory glance and whisper as that that is how it is here.   I did not see behind it darker references to my gender, age or place of birth as I accepted it as the "Nashville Way."  Ah the slings and arrows of God's Army.   For a city of Christians it fails to act in every concept of the word.

This is Nashville,  a city that faces a body of water,  but that turns its back upon it.  And to Nashville the pulpit is their prosperity and to enter the city you must either drown it or brings to the alter the sole matter of import - money.   From fame, from fortune, from greed or from need without money there is no welcome mat to await you when you come to the shore.  That dock or that pier is there for rental, a brief place to refill, refuel and to then leave, ensuring still that an offering on the plate was made but they have no plans on offer  to reciprocate or thank you for your donation.    There are however false smiles, nods of heads and promises that like the Country Music that fills your ears which are nothing more than lies and broken promises.   The smell that dominates the air is not of hot chicken but of desperation and that is what one feels from everyone you pass on the shore.  They are there like you in search of some permanence, a place to rest and a place to be,  but as they find one door another closes and after awhile you jump back in the water just to feel something, to feel clean and pure again.

Water is symbolic of washing away one's sins.  The Baptismal fount that is to clean a baby and anoint it a child of God is to of course introduce said baby to the faith it will practice for life  This idea of holy water as a sacramental for protection against evil is common among Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and varying other Christian faiths that align the shores here in Nashville like fast food restaurants along a highway.  But water has a role in many religions for two reasons:  First, it cleanses and washes away impurity.  It makes something appear clean and new again.  But this is not just physically but spiritually as well.   The second reason is that is the building block of life. For without water there is no life.  Water can create but it can destroy and the very Cumberland of which I swim nearly did to this city a decade ago.  It may be why the city simply ignores the threat and goes on with songs that fill the honky tonks align the street that once became filled with water and not tourists; however, those are the kind of Carpetbaggers they love here.  Come stay and leave your money at the door like sins left at a confessional.

In Christianity there is a story of a flood and about of God's decision to return the Earth to its pre-creation state of watery chaos in which to remake it in a reversal of creation.  In  Zoroatriansim, they  are very specific as they take that same story and believe that it was a threat to the sinful world where there was a need to build a ship  in which to put specimens of all animals, humans and foods in pairs in which to survive the flood and in turn build this new purer better world.  In Nashville where the way of Broad sits it is the King of Churches in which all donations are made of free will and without demand, a street was once a place of sin and now it is salvation for this the city of it. Funny how from sin all is excused when money is on the offer.   And yet all of this could once again be washed away when the river rises to seek its wrath again in the future.  Or is that to clean and to purify?

All stories have a central role and place in all faiths and all of them have stories about the power and significance of water.  From Babies in baskets to save the world to the waters that drown it? Who wrote such stories, how did they come to be so believed?  So many questions, so few to no answers.   No one cares as we only care about those that are own.  Religion is the foundation of confirmation bias and that extends in to all phases of thoughts and beliefs in one's life be they learned from both the informal and formal ways one does learn such things.    Despite all this water we have seen of late there is little good when water arrives without invite and fish like company stink after three days.  So is this for cleansing or for punishment?  Hmm... more questions no answers by either human or spirit.

As a woman I think of how the role of women in the Church have been portrayed and yet even today women cannot enter their homes or places of worship during their menstrual cycle as they are thought of as impure and unclean.  And this crosses faiths and believes in all the texts that preach the dogma, the stories and rules for which the followers interpret and believe as their own.   Funny that in reality and in science (which must be suspended in disbelief in order to believe in this higher power)  blood is not dirty when it comes from the body and yet it is thought of as such when it comes from a women, the same blood that enables life and yet these same people will go out of their way to prevent women from choosing and deciding about their bodies and life.   So who wrote these passages, made this dogma that let women die in isolation when it is a function of life?  The same that believe to take a life for a misdeed, for an infraction, for advocating war and violence to resolve a conflict where more blood is shed.  So is that blood clean and good as it was for the good of all and yet the blood that comes from the source of all life is unclean; and let us not forget when a woman no longer is biologically capable of shedding blood she too is no longer valuable.  Our worth is tied to fertility and it imprisons and isolates us in ways more than that the three stations of the cross we bear. 

 I feel this essay covers many of the issues that surround faith and women and how it lends to the behaviors and attitudes around what it is like to be a woman in the world regardless of faith. And the irony again that here in Tennessee the Domestic Violence numbers are wash upon the shore like plastic bags in the ocean that choke the fish and kill our marine life.  To be or not death is not a choice for those who forget that being a steward of the faith means loving all that lives and breathes, man or beast.  Stewardship is not just an act of benevolence it is an act of Christianity.

As  these shores align with the Churches that mask as lighthouses and they each use their own light in which to signal who is to enter and more importantly to note who is to remain in the water.  For them the water is the life and the blood is of Christ and it is shed with limitations and restrictions and it is there to both give and take.  For those who have little to offer from a life born into circumstances less than those they are deserved of less and the endless beliefs that come from mantras and dogmas are as false as those who wrote them.  And he who accuses excuses as it apples to those that stand outside buildings that help the needy in less Biblical sense shouting profanities and hurling names, as they know they have God's forgiveness regardless of their acts.   

The moral superiority is the act of entitlement that demonstrates itself in the rudeness, the general unkindness, the dismissveness and the odd baiting of you like a fish that they pull ashore and play with only to neither eat nor toss back but just let it flop and die.  Fish another symbol that again represents Christianity is just that a symbol like a tattoo you have but forgot what it meant that drunken night it was permanently affixed to your skin.  And like the original symbol that pagans and Greeks and Romans used it to represent fertility or, more specifically, the female reproductive organs. As once again it is all about water and life and blood and what defines women's worth.    Later the Christians used it as a symbol to message the followers as unlike say, the cross,  it attracted little suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. 

Ah that defines Christianity the persecution complex and nowhere seems to envelop that better than Nashville. The have, the have nots, the racial disparities, the newcomers versus the natives and the seekers of fame and the singers who align the river like choral messengers of a choir to call the congregation into the hall of worship and leave their sins at the door but bring their wallets within. The cry of the battle is the message that defines history and tells the story about those who fought and who one. The arrival of the messenger be that the face of the pulpit or of the politic in the South they are often one in the same. 

In that respect I read a piece in the The New Yorker, Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds, and there is no greater divide in the grand canyon of life that fact versus faith.  Perhaps that is why the population is so resistant to education as facts make one question ones beliefs in search of truths.  I have my truths as we have come to say of late and yes they are yours and yours alone they may not be mine.  But to divide is to conquer and to conquer is to assimilate and in turn be homogeneous as when we are all indistinguishable other than the color of our skin and our gender we can pretend we share a set of values and their is then no threat to the order.  Conformity is like sheep and lets keep the sheep herded.

And that is why I find myself constantly swimming upstream and why the Director of Schools and the Former Slattern/Mayor found themselves pushed back in the water. They did not know their place and when in power, power corrupts absolutely and that flood will come to cleanse you and wash away your sins.  The only problem with some water is that what brings things to the shore has an undercurrent that can pull things away.     The tow is always strong, it is seductive and the choral messenger of the Ocean often has a seductive song.  The idea is to get there without drowning or again to be or not an allow yourself to sleep with the fishes.   Seduction is powerful and sinful and yet without sin we have no life.   Ah to be or not.

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