Theology, or: Perspective

My 2nd Clogyrnach

A narrative poem

My God's far beyond my beyond
But to his presence I respond
Oft He shows His love
Light streams from above
My beloved
I'm so fond

He drops flakes of manna for me
Showering generosity
Towards them I swim
Towards the Great Rim
My tears brim
So meekly

He defies imagination
Gills quiver with adoration
He knows ev'rything
Accepts all I bring
My Sea King
You're the One

d’Verse

Poetics: Exploring the Narrative Voice

This poem is my response to the most recent d’Verse prompt, which encourages us to write a poem in the voice of a fictional character. It can be any character you like, and you can introduce it in your own voice if you choose, but the main body of the poem must be in the voice of your character. If you wish, you can write a dramatic monologue; or create a spirit voice through whom your poem speaks. The choice is yours: experiment with fiction in your poetry.

Impersonal, or: God

First matters too much, I -  
Second, too intimate, 
    You - 
Third
like the rest, 
        that 
    aged bearded Jew -
like those before, doesn't even
like all that are
like him in
        that 
    way including -
no - just
he, him, third 
person is impersonal 
        enough for -
    for - description

Right, God? Right?
        Right? All just -
    just - characters 
in 
Your play - second -
Your mind - intimate -
Your imagination 
so why -
        why - why - make it
    personal? why
        make it
    first
person? He - 
him - different only
    insofar as every person 
is
different only
    from every other

Make it 
        matter
    Make it 
        matter 
all just - 
he's just -
      - matter
Right, God? 
    Right? Right? Like
all the rest,
        that
    aged bearded Jew -
Graying, withering, wondering
        whether words fray too 
        like the sinews of his - His -
        Torah
    for he is matter 
    for unto matter
        he shall return
like those before 
like all that are
like Him

d’Verse

‘Open link night’

For the most recent ‘open link night’ I have decided to share a poem that I wrote nearly one year ago (in early June), not longer after I created this blog. In general, I don’t feel particularly comfortable writing free verse, and this was one of my earliest attempts at it.

Poison words, or: Wake up kiss

A ‘Magnetic Poem’ tanka

Wanna try? Click here.

but my god decayed
into warm liquid fish eyes
broken lips smoking
breathed poison words over me
melting into wake up kiss

Notes

  • For this poem, I decided to make use of the ‘Poet Set’ on the Magnetic Poetry website for the second time;
  • This poem was, in part, inspired by my personal descent into religious skepticism, which I spent many years trying to avoid;
  • I once again opted for a tanka, rather than a haiku;
    • The extra two lines (14 syllables) provide a greater challenge, as well as a larger canvas;
    • I’ve really taken to writing magnetic tankas;
  • I searched for and found the featured image only after I had written the entire tanka;
    • I really wanted to find a free use image of a pile of fish eyes, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t.

Monotheists? Not more moral.

Intro: Monotheism v. polytheism

Rather recently, I heard a young rabbi, a friend of mine, discussing monotheism with one of his Talmud students. She had been troubled by the line of religious reasoning that he’d espoused to the class; and she challenged him on the supposedly unique righteousness of monotheism.

His responses to her, I believe, were fairly reasonable.


Monotheism & me

The only concept of a supernatural being that I can wrap my mind or heart around is a single, omnipotent, and unknowable one. The existence of a creator of the universe is more plausible to me than a ‘Big Bang’, but I also put a very heavy emphasis on this being’s unknowable nature, far, far, far beyond possible human comprehension and our senses.

To be fair, I was born and raised a Jew, and my monotheistic beliefs (which are not entirely mainstream within the traditional Jewish community because I don’t much believe in a God who cares about anyone or involves himself in the lives of human beings) are clearly a product of my heritage and upbringing. If I had been born and raised elsewhere (India, for example), I very likely would have come to believe in polytheism. Still, this is where I stand.

Incidentally, this happens to be one challenge I have come to for those of any Abrahamic faith – why would God only be motivated to share Ultimate Truth (and therefore: Salvation) with a limited number of human beings in only one corner of the world? No answer to this question that I have come across has satisfied me.


Two arguments for pure monotheism

The young rabbi made several arguments for monotheism over polytheism, two of which especially resonate with me:

  1. Monotheism encourages personal responsibility because there is only one Divine address to which one can address one’s grievances and desires. If prayer and penitence do not bring the desired results, one can then only find solutions on one’s own;
  2. Pure monotheism rejects all images of God, whereas the majority of gods of polytheistic faiths have bodies that resemble those of human beings. In this way, polytheistic faiths encourage, albeit perhaps unintentionally, the worship of humankind itself.

These arguments, as I noted, work for me… but only intellectually and theoretically.

Why?


Monotheism in the real world

All of this theory utterly falls apart when I consider the behavior of human beings around the globe throughout all of history. Are polytheists more or less moral because of their beliefs? Are monotheists? Are atheists? Simply – no. No, not at all.

In fact, that’s not even to mention those people of all faiths who act horribly and evilly towards others. Anyone of any faith can perpetrate evil.

These have been my observations over the course of my four decades, and I consider myself a fairly well informed and well read person. Human beings have been arguing over and killing one another over faith for thousands of years, but ~ ultimately? What’s the point? What difference does it make in the real world? Who can truly claim that their chosen faith produces kinder, better people or a kinder, better world?

Thus, while I view existence through a strictly monotheistic lens, and while I can make some logical and reasonable arguments to support my faith perspective, none of that is to say that my beliefs are better than anybody else’s – neither I nor any other person who shares my religious views is inherently better than any other human being; and I wouldn’t necessarily assume that anyone who shares my monotheistic views is moral, kind, or just. Some are; others, unfortunately, are not.


And… then there’s professional monotheism

Disappointingly, I have found that I must always take everything that any religious leader espouses with several grains of salt.

This particular young rabbi, before he joined the clergy, was simply my friend; and he used to speak with others about his own deep doubts in his faith convictions (which he had been raised into, for his extended family is all Orthodox, and his father too is an Orthodox rabbi). He used to struggle with whether Judaism was indeed the Truest faith. He used to be forthcoming about doubting his connection to God and wonder about whether God was listening to him at all. This struggle of his over his religious views was profoundly compelling to me – it was relatable – it drew me… and I felt that it fed our friendship.

Then my friend became a rabbi and decided, it seems, that it was incumbent upon him to promote traditional Jewish monotheism as the most moral faith, regardless of the evidence…

And, ever since then, I have been finding it increasingly difficult to speak with him about matters of faith at all 😞

What you do, or: Don’t do

‘The Art of Being Human’

a d’Verse poetics prompt

EPIGRAPH:

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), ‘Hamlet’
This being human is poetry ~
 
              No.

This being, human, is defined, defied ~ by lines imaginary;
knowing he doesn't know his worth ~ knowing leaves him weary;

This, being human, is, primarily ~ his greatest aspiration;
aspiring, perhaps, to believe he is ~ some greater being's creation;

This, being, Human, is merely what ~ has been bestowed upon you;
You're born, you die, and in between ~ being human's what we all do

The prompt

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘The Art of Being Human’ prompt.

The challenge is to write a metaphor poem that starts with the words ‘This being human is’, which comes to us from Rumi’s poem ‘The Guest House’, which you may read below.

In truth, my poem is not a metaphor, but this is what came to me. At first, I was thinking of writing something like ‘being human is a poem’ and then exploring the similarities between the two, but that’s simply not where my heart and mind wanted to go this morning.


‘The guest house’ by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.​ 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 

​Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

​Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Possibility

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, which is precisely why I cannot call myself an atheist. It is why I occasionally recite the appropriate Jewish blessings before eating and am jealous of those who believe in supernatural forces that imbue their lives with purpose. It is why, in part, I was driven to recite the Orphan’s Kaddish daily during the year following Papa’s death. After all, who the heck knows? I sure don’t.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being, but I wish I could know the unknowable truth, one way or another. Is the universe ordered? Do our lives have meaning? Is suffering purposeful? I have not personally experienced anything to suggest that any of these possibilities are true; but would that they were…


d’Verse

It’s prosery time at d’Verse. The rules are simple:

  1. Use an assigned line in the body of your prose. You may change the punctuation and capitalization, but you are not allowed to insert any words within the line itself. You can add words at the beginning and/or at the end of the line; but the line itself must remain intact.
  2. Your prose can be either flash fiction, nonfiction, or creative nonfiction. YOU CAN NOT WRITE A POEM for this prompt. AND, your prose should be no longer than 144 words, sans title. It does not have to be exactly 144 words. But it can be no longer than 144 words.

The assigned line was:

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012), ‘Possibilities’

A quick note:

Usually I respond to d’Verse prosery prompts with pieces of fiction, but the assigned line from Szymborska’s poem spoke directly to my heart, and I had been wanting to write a short piece like this regardless.