Saturday, June 30, 2007

Alter to the Son God

I have just returned home after enjoying the company of church brothers and young men in an annual "Super-Activity" retreat to Lake Powell for almost a week. It is a place I have always wanted to go and experience. I serve as Young Men's President in my ward, and this trip was a culmination of months of planning; it was great fun, lots of bonding moments, very hot, and all worth it.

We camped on the east shore of Warm Creek Bay, and thanks to a rather uncomfortable cot, I was often awake for the morning's very first light. Looking west, I repeatedly watched the face of Castle Rock, a monolythic mound of sandstone shaped somewhat like that island castle in France, light up like a celestial city across the wide calm of blue glass water. A couple days into the trip I hiked up to a sandstone ridge overlooking the camp and the bay for a better view.

The top of the sandstone ridge was fascinating and the stone tended to cleave in rather flat columns of various widths and lengths, but in very regular obtuse and sharp angles. As I was admiring all the beauty around me, I saw a particular shaft of stone that was fairly thick and over three feet long. In a moment of inspiration I knew what I wanted to do: I erected it lengthwise and gathered other stones around its base to secure it from toppling over. It was a symbol to me of the strength of manhood and the creation all around me.

To further make the point, I gathered smaller stones and arranged them on the top head of the tall stone in a deliberate ejaculatory representation. This was an offering of praise from me to my Father above. Then something interesting happened. As I was walking down the hill from the ridge I met another brother who was headed up to the ridge. Suddenly I experienced feelings of shame and embarrassment! I offered to go with him and deftly decoyed him away from my monument.

As I was thinking about this later in the day, I reflected on how we tend to hide the things that are significant and sometimes difficult to us, particularly man to man. And yes, we should make choices and act within the bounds the Lord has set, but should we be so shy about what we're feeling, even if it is out there on the fringes? As I analyzed my discomfort of almost being "discovered," I realized that the fear was mostly that of being mis-interpretted. I was not raising a hedonistic phallus to call the world to pleasure; I was being a man that was simply glad to be a man. Funny how something so simple could be overlooked and then overcome by fear of ridicule by the very brothers I was growing close to at the camp.

The next day I went up to the ridge to tear down my alter. But when I got up there, I just couldn't do it. I felt it best to remove the obvious suggestions that could misrepresent my intentions, and instead made with the round stones a representation of the Sun, with rays projecting from the center. And down at the base of my alter I again made several additions: several sharply triangular stones pointing up representing truth and higher knowledge, a heart-shaped stone I found nearby placed on top of a red womb-shaped stone, and yes, a smaller phallic representation of man's creative ability.

This redesign signified to me putting things in better order: on the top of the stone, an acknowledgement of the source of light in our lives, and below at different levels, the needs of men and women to find happiness and purpose in life.

If and when someone discovers my alter to the Son God, granting the elements do not obliterate its symbolic effects, would it still be mis-interpretted? Probably. But I didn't make my alter for them. I made it for me, to say what I wanted to say to my Father in Heaven. If someone stumbles upon it in the near future and is disgusted by anything about it, that is for them to sort out. I am now comfortable with that and any other outcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Poem: Prairie Wind

The voice begins as a breeze, soft like the flutter
Of flightless wings on chicks, settling among the frail
Willows, gently moving the aching branches of early
Spring in a random harmony of motion. I wait for the
Braille song of the wind to whisper its single melody,
But my wanting ears confound its simple hearing.

Oh, I have desire for wind, the kind that roars into place,
That gives evidence of power. I have heard the wind speak,
Seen it wrestle the branches until I feared for the trees.
But this morning, in the brilliant calm of orange sunrise,
I am blind for sight with sound. The bare black soil lies
Hard and cold, its straight-line furrows windswept.

Beyond my walls, past my silicon panels of perception,
The wind now sails. I watch sparrows sling themselves
To high limbs, never falling to the ground, translated on
Unseen current. If only I could get off the ground,
Believe in the wind enough to grasp its full embrace,
I would let it lift me, beyond the treetops.

Come, the constant wind beckons. Venture outside
Your little box to feel the pull of fresh cool air against
Your face, raising you again in warm tingling sensation.
Let me speak to your horizon of places far away and often
Dreamed of! There I shall give you unspeakable gifts:
Children’s voices ringing like the bells of towers singing.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

What to do with a shovel

Yesterday in another forum I posted a reply to an individual who was expressing concern about the narrow worldview that some LDS people have with regard to religion. I shared an experience that my brother, who is not a member of the Mormon church, related to me a long time ago. This actually happened to him, and I think he was sharing it with me to make a point about my own religious observance. My brother's story and its subtle implications quietly bothered me for years.

My brother worked in a gravel pit, running a rock crusher. At the time he was less than 20 years old, and he was head over heals with a nice girl that was devoutly Southern Baptist. Although my family was never religious, my brother was actually considering going into the Ministry, just to please her. Well, there was a crusty old foreman that was running the operation, and one day after listening to my brother's aspirations, he offered his advice with an object lesson.

The foreman took his shovel and put the spade-end of it right up into my brother's face. "Okay Bob, tell me what you see." My brother's reply was simple, "A shovel." Then the foreman stepped back about ten feet and said, "Now, what do you see?" My brother's answer was more revealing: "Well, I see you and the shovel. I see the gravel pit, the crusher and the front-end loader. I see the river, the trees and the sky. The old foreman replied, "Exactly. Do you get my point?"

My brother said he got the point, and after some consideration he decided the Ministry was not for him. More than that, he decided he had been a little crazy about this girl, and that he'd momentarily lost sight of the real world, and that religion in general was not for him either. He has since lived his adult life fairly void of any religion.

And so I've sometimes asked myself, "Do I have a shovel in my face? Is there more to life than this shovel?"

Here's the answer that I've worked out for myself. Jesus never intended for us to have a shovel in our face. A shovel is a tool that is designed to accomplish work, not obstruct vision. The shovel of religion is best used with a strong arm, a strong back, and a sharp mind that has a purpose in using it. We need to have balance in our lives, and the perspective of others is vital, even enriching. There are lots of ways to use a shovel; in fact, there are many kinds of shovels that do different things. And so it is with religion. The good Lord and Foreman of us all appreciates all his workers, whether or not they own genuine Craftsman® brand shovels.

I believe the 'restored gospel' is all-encompassing of human diversity as well as our individual needs, if we allow it to be by being faithful to the rather simple requests of the commandments the Lord has given us. The fact that our LDS religion actually requires us to walk the talk is indeed one of the key attributes that some in the world are critical of. In the final analysis, if we choose a life of faith, we need to also make the choice to be obedient to the Lord's standards, as described in the scriptures, whether or not we put the shovel to our face or use it at arm's length.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Poem: Gecko

The only reason I see him
Is for silly bobbing up and down
Over the roughness of stone wall;
Otherwise, he would blend in among
The rocks, mortar and twigs of rose bush.

I try clumsily to imagine his beating heart,
His worldview through tiny grey eyes
That drives his simple existence,
Compelling him up and down,
Revealing his very being.

I do not know why I go
Back and forth between two
Rhythms, exposing my humanity
Against a porous terrain of arrogance
Unaware as hot stone, just as unyielding.

Yet my desires that pulse for recognition
Will not be requited in man’s mortar
Connecting pride and willpower,
Rather in my heart’s quiet hum
Must I linger in patience.

There thirst for sweetness
Of rose nectar blooming still
Beyond the wall on living stems;
I shall not want for the narrow view
That blinks and retreats from bright sun.

If I am destined to bobbing up and down
While making the meaning of my life,
I’ll chance to confess a simple view
Clinging to the Rock I’m on, and
Risk loosing my tail for cover.