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Category: Language

Writing a Poem

When writing a poem, I often begin by looking for an image, a starting point.

Black sandals on the floor.
A Bible stacked atop a Book of Mormon.
So many books.
Three piles and a stand with lamp.
A glass of water half full.
A blue ballpoint pen.
Leather shoelaces in plastic, purchased at WinCo at least a year ago.

The neighbor dog barks in the night as the crickets at my window hold their breath, stop singing, wait. I wonder if it’s raining. The crickets return to rubbing a stuttering tune, squeaky at the start of summer as if they’ve yet to find a voice.

Still, it could be worse. I stop listening as a moth flutters up from beneath my bed, blunders into a bookcase, slowly circles, searching for the light.

She’ll burn soon enough.
I’m betting dead by morning.

The fan in the kitchen window blusters its importance, pushes against the heat, escorts night-cooled breezes through darkened rooms.

As we sleep.
The cricket weeps,
“Sleep sleep sleep sleep
arreeep
sleep sleep.”

While the moth bounces against the bare bulb, drowning in the light.

The neighbor dog barks in the night as the crickets at my window hold their breath, stop singing, wait. I wonder if it’s raining.

What’s a Pacifist?

006

Growing up Quaker, I’ve always thought of myself as a pacifist. But a question posed fairly recently by a friend of mine made me consider what this actually means.

The question: “On a scale of 1-10, how pacifist are you?”

Many of the respondents answered as if pacifism is actually a form of passivism or simple conflict avoidance, considering only how much they support or don’t support forms of violence (as if religious faith is little more than sacred consumerism in which we can boycott ideas we don’t like and lavish attention or money on those that we do).

But I’m convinced that pacifism is really about taking action, putting an end to violence or, even better, working to replace violence as an option with creative and constructive solutions (both socially and politically, privately and publicly, personally and culturally, locally and globally).

Considering my definition of true pacifism, I had to admit that I don’t rate much better than a 5 in spite of what I claim to believe. After all, action (or, as is more often the case, inaction) speaks for itself.

Truthfully, it’s hard to care about anything that isn’t a clear and present danger. I’m ashamed to admit that huge but subtle problems (like global warming) or faraway conflicts (like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) fly right under the radar of my daily life.

After all, action (or, as is more often the case, inaction) speaks for itself.

What Literature Does

002

People often ask why anyone (I think they mean me) would teach English. They imply that nothing could be less useful in the real world. I disagree.

Here’s my philosophy of literature:

Literature is not practical. It doesn’t tell you how to repair a computer, build a bookcase, or change a tire. What it does do, however, is far more powerful. Literature takes you out of yourself, provides transcendent experiences that give a taste of what might be. And it takes you into yourself, helps you to process the events of your own life, to produce your own narratives.

I believe in the notion that literature — our attempts to make sense of the world through story — is a form of truth-seeking and truth-telling that draws us ever closer to relationship with each other, with creation, with our Creator. We find in story — all stories — attempts to answer these questions: Who are we? Why are we here? How ought we to live? And we find in each story reflections of the STORY: relationship, rejection, redemption, and reunion.

Who are we? Why are we here? How ought we to live?

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