Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mockingbird Singing for the Blind

I had a rewarding experience resulting from a previous post entitled, Mockingbird Singing, which was poem I had written. During a moment of curiosity I was looking through the tracking paths for my blog and I noticed a hit on this old post. Going back I found the following comment had been left.
Greetings Tony, ... . I work with an agency that produces materials for people who are blind or visually impaired. One of our projects is a small monthly magazine provided in braille and/or 24-font large print. This magazine always has a poetry section, and in recent issues we have been trying to relate the poems to the lead article of the magazine. Since the lead article in April’s issue is about the mockingbird, I was searching the Internet for a poem to go with the article and ran across your blog. I believe your poem would be perfect for our April magazine and hope to use it there. Copyright regulations do give us the legal right to use copyrighted material for special formats used by people who are blind or visually impaired, but I wanted to give you the courtesy to have the ability say “no” if you do not want this poem in the magazine. You can find our web site at Horizons For the Blind. The site is a bit outdated, and we are working on an update soon, but you can learn more about us there.

After verifying that the non-profit was legitimate and exchanging an email with the contact there, I was thrilled and humbled that they thought the poem was worthy of using. I had no reservations about its usage in their publication. Below is the lead-in they sent me.
This month’s poem is not from one of the classic poets, but rather was found on the Internet. Tony Arnold is a business and operations professional who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. The poem below was found on his blog * site. Arnold claims that “All my poetry is based on real things that happen to me or feelings I have …” He claims not to be a poet, nor to read much poetry, but his poem below belies this claim.
* A “Blog” is an Internet diary of sorts where people share their thoughts with others and allow a place for others to comment.

Notice they included a footnote explaining what a blog is. Many of their readers are probably not familiar with blogs because their disability inhibits computer use. This was a reminder of all the small things I take for granted everyday.

This correspondence sure was a pleasant, uplifting surprise. It is also an example of those small occurrances that are considered luck or coincidence, but could easily be a small measure of God's providence. That is, me even seeing the comment left on this 6 week old post. I could easily never have been aware of the request or the poems use.

On the negative side, the whole situation does feed my narcissistic tendencies. :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Apology

I have been blogging for almost 2 years now (March 11, 2005). In that time, I have been spared truly mean-spirited comments or attacks on my thoughts, views, etc.

That changed the other day. During the dialogue on my post A Major Faith Struggle, I made the following comment to one of the participants in the discussion:

One thing you might consider and of which you may be unaware. When you draw discussions in the direction you have, and which you have done before, it quickly moves away from the intent of the original post and you become the focus. I don't think you want to appear narcissistic, but you may want to consider the effect.

The person to whom I addressed this comment responded and did not seem to take offense.

However, someone else left this comment anonymously:

I find it comically unbelievable that Tony would suggest that someone else is narcissistic. Wow. This will now be my new definition of irony.

My first reaction was shame, which then bred a little anger, then settled down pretty quickly into an embarassed hurt. The pain was confounded by the fact that I have no context in which to judge the statement; no identity with which to associate it. What relationship do I have with this person? It is very hard to know how to weigh the comment and its merit.

What hurt the most, besides the validity of writer's accusation, was the underlying venom present in the comment. It seemed so vindictive and I could not get a grasp on why. This confusion was compounded by a follow-up response after I challenged the person to not leave such biting criticism anonymously. I left my email address so that the person could respond discretely and I promised to keep their ID confidential. Here was the response to that challenge:

I WILL do it annonymously. If you don't want annonymous comments, you can remove the ablitity to do so. Otherwise, I will continue lobbing grenades at will.

After stewing on all this, I realized something. Something that made me feel awful. I realized that this comment had to be made by someone I had hurt in some way. A hurt of which I am likely unaware. It obviously wasn't a small slight either. I must have hurt them significantly.

I pray that the following appears sincere and neither narcissistic nor sarcastic, because I intend sincerety. I would prefer to do this in person so as to avoid any misconception, but the anonymity of the comment leaves me no choice but to do it publicly.

So my final response is to offer my sincerest apology for causing such harm. If I ever find out who you are, I will ask for your forgiveness directly. Until then, I hope you will accept my apology in this forum and forgive me.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Major Faith Struggle: Part 2

Thanks to those who commented on my previous post. I found aid in much of the discussion. I thought I would share with you a series of email exchanges that I had with a spiritual mentor when I shared my post with him. I hope you find it as beneficial as I did.
Tony: shared my Faith Struggle post.

Mentor: There is a powerful scene in Elie Wiesel's book Night, which describes his experiences in the Holocaust, in which a beautiful, dear-hearted young boy is hanged, between two older men. As Wiesel stands in the ranks with the other prisoners, all of whom who had been assembled to watch the executions, Wiesel hears a man behind him muttering, "where is God now?" Wiesel says to himself: "He is there, on those gallows." And then, as I recall it, Wiesel says that his faith in the justice of God died with that child. But it is Wiesel's remark that I think is the clue to the meaning of Jesus' execution: God was indeed there on those gallows. God is not removed from the suffering of children, the suffering of the innocent. God is crucified afresh in their suffering. It is one of the most fundamental meanings of Jesus' cross. Peace.

Tony: I am very familiar with the book and that passage. I remember when I first read that part of the book. I was sitting on the balcony of a lodge room around 6:00a at Fall Creek Falls, overlooking the lake as the sun rose, a very stark contrast to the scene in the book, complete peace surrounding me. I read that passage, dropped the book, and cried for several minutes. I just cried.

I agree with you that Christ is crucified anew. That is another hard issue for me. Was not once enough? It hurts me just as much knowing that Christ dies continually due to man's evilness.

I know what I am really struggling with is endurance in dealing with the suffering and evil of this world, and there are some triggers that are far worst for me than other things. I just cannot get the visions of what these children go through out of my heart and my head. And I don't want to ever rid myself of the realization, but the pain is so bad. I cannot imagine how those who are close to a child who has suffered like this feel? I don't think I could bear it if it were my child or a child I was close too. God has had mercy on me.

Yesterday I spent some time contemplating all my emotions and thoughts and listening to God. I have begun to suspect that God is leading me somewhere on this, calling me to something. I don't what it is. Please pray for me on these issues.

Mentor: Blessings on you, Tony.

I think too that such moments can be guiding moments to which we should pay attention.

In my own experience, I have also found that there are certain situations/scenarios/news that I must simply ignore: because contemplating the graphic nature of the horror leads to depression, which means I am even less available to be of service to people around me. So sometimes I simply choose not to read certain stories, etc., and sometimes, even to fast from "the news." "The news" is never new: it is just a continuing account of all the Fallen World. I choose in those times to focus instead on concrete ways I can be of service to the people and community around me. It doesn't seem that our constitution was created to handle the glut of horrors that can be downloaded onto our psyches through mass media; so I've decided I don't have to try to handle that...Peace.

Tony: Excellent advice. I usually do fast from such items, but sometimes I give in and read the details. Maybe those periodic delvings are at God's direction. Thanks so much for the thoughts, they do help.

Peace and Christ's love to you.

"Do not be deceived. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer understanding but still desiring to do our enemy's will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of God seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, yet still obeys God." – Sr. Devil Screwtape in letter to subordinate devil Wormword. The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Major Faith Struggle

I have one area in my faith, in my relationship with God, with which I struggle deeply and painfully. It is the suffering of the unknowing, non-understanding innocent. Specifically, horrendous cruelty and evil inflicted on children. The two links below provide recent, stark examples to what I refer.

You can find similiar reports daily with ease. Millions of similiar incidents and other heinous acts occur across our globe daily.

These reports make me angry. I want justice that includes severe vengeance upon the perpetrators. I want more than earthly justice, I desire immediate spiritual vengeance. I know that this is not right for my heart.

I will be frank that these test my faith more than anything else. I can understand or least rationalize the existing of suffering on this earth. I have found faithful ways to handle suffering and the understanding of suffering. But this type of suffering, the extreme abject evil of these acts darken my heart and my faith.

I do not pretend to understand God's plan or His allowing such malevolence to continue and even to increase. I get angry with God. I pray for understanding. I pray harder that God will protect the children of this world. I cannot get my head and my heart around these issues in a productive way. I physically weep with rage and pain when I read, for example, of a man that killed a 5 year boy by slamming him into a shower wall repeatedly until he died of massive head and internal injuries. The reason for the man's anger? The boy screamed and cried while he was repeatedly raped by the man. A 5 year old little boy! How does anything remotely resembling a human do such a thing?

Dear God, I cannot bear the thoughts I have of the terror this innocent child endured! The pure and innocent have no understanding of evil. They cannot understand the wrong. It seems to me to be a vicious, calculated attack on goodness by some force of evil-- an act meant to slowly destroy us all.

After I delve into my anger for a while, I begin to contemplate how God and Christ must feel watching the most pure forms of evil recur unceasingly minute after minute . How does God endure us, endure this world, watching the destruction and torture of those pure, innocent souls that He not only loves deeper than we can imagine, but which He created? They are a continual recreation of the rejection of Christ and His crucifixion streamed forth in broadband. How does God withhold his wrath and not destroy us all? In these moments, I want Him to do so. I want Him to end it all; to save the innocent that have not yet been harmed. It is during these moments I truly can understand the psalmist who cries out for God's wrath and vengeance upon the unrighteous.

At this point in my Christian immaturity, my method of faith survival is to blindly trust God's plan. I reach a point of shutting off the pain and any thought process, and I just believe that God is with us. I have no illusions that this is a good or proper response. But I cannot give up my faith in God, so I have to shut down the overload to my faith senses. I do not permanently shut them down. I do not ignore. I will revisit the issues and the evilness again when I see another example. But I feel that each unintentional plunge into the pit kills a little part of me.

I beg for insight and help from any that may provide wisdom. And please pray that God ends this evilness. I don't mean to be depressing, but I need a release. I need to be open with this struggle with the naive hope that such openness is a way to fight evil in the Light.

Monday, February 05, 2007

John Remains (or John's Remains)

I find one of the last paragraphs of the Gospel of John (21:22-23) absolutely fascinating, although I don't know what to think about it. I am hoping to get some insightful and interesting commentary from the blog world.

Jesus to Peter concerning John:
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

This passages raises so many interesting questions. Both about Peter's emotions, thoughts, and fears and about the ramifications on John. Concerning John, could this have been a little foreshadowing of the revelation on Patmos (although many scholars believe the John of Revelations was not the apostle John)?

Any comments or insights you may have regarding any of the above, please share.