Waiting in the Wilderness: This Quintessence of Dust

What a piece of work is a man!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
~ William Shakespeare in Hamlet’s monologue 

God –
the God who made the dust,
who made the stars,
who made the elements of which we are composed –
that same God chooses from the beginning to make his dwelling among us,

to live for all time like us,
as a servant of the soil.
I am the dust of the earth,
but God declares that he is not too good,
not too proud,
for my dustiness.
~Daniel Stulac from
 Plough Quarterly No. 4: Earth

What I know for sure is this:
We come from mystery and we return to mystery.
I arrived here with no bad memories of wherever I’d come from,
so I have no good reason to fear the place to which I’ll return.
And I know this, too:

Standing closer to the reality of death awakens my awe at the gift of life.
~Parker Palmer “On the Brink of Everything

This dust left of man:
earth, air, water and fire
prove inadequate
to quell the significance
of how, in the beginning,
this dust became us, and
how, forevermore,
this is the dust we leave behind.

Only now,
the transcendent hope
of eternal life restored by faith
can breathe glory
into us,
the plainest of ash.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of usAll around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in you

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new,
You are making me new
You make me new,
You are making me new
(Making me new)

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new,
You are making me new
You make me new,
You are making me new

Songwriters: Lisa Gungor / Michael Gungor

Rotten to the Core

applehole

appleeat

wormhole

First I shake the whole Apple tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.
~Martin Luther

Any election cycle in a free country is indeed a free-for-all, with the loudest and brashest citizens shouting their personal opinions far and wide. This election season has been particularly noxious, with the presidential candidates and their followers talking over and above each other until no one bothers to listen.

Since this time around I have no candidate, my voice is meager in comparison. Some would say I have no say since I refuse to partake of rotten apples.

Yet on election day, each citizen, even the smallest and meekest, has the opportunity to express themselves, quietly and alone in a pas-de-deux between them and their personal ballot.  Their vote, whether checking a box next to a candidate name, or writing in an alternative, is just as significant.

With each news cycle, each debate, each Tweet, we just want to see this election over and done with.  We have shaken the electoral apple tree so hard that all the ripe and bitter and rotten fruit has fallen to the ground.  We then must cope with whatever harvest we reap with our votes.

Rarely do we find near-perfect fruit; this year it is already rotted on the branch, tainted from the start.

Some citizens vote along party lines only; the quality of the candidate is immaterial as long as they have the right party affiliation.  Other citizens turn over every leaf in detailed scrutiny of each candidate’s history and qualifications and vote character over platform.  This year there are citizens like myself who see nothing in the current candidates for president but worm holes leading to a fermented core of character rot.

Rotten to the core doesn’t even make edible applesauce.  It is good for nothing but the compost pile in the hope that the fertilizer of today it will somehow yield better fruit tomorrow.

In my opinion, this time around there is no candidate worthy to lead a country founded on the principles of equality for all individuals as well as preventing the tyranny of government in the personal lives of citizens. The candidates have fostered a confused and too-angry citizenry, divided and divisive, shaking our shared tree for all its worth to see what’s in it for us, thus threatening the life of the tree itself.

The moral foundation of our country is mocked by these deeply flawed individuals who believe they deserve to be in the Oval Office despite their dark personal histories, statements and actions.  This election has become all about them and what they want, not about the integrity our country desperately needs in its leaders.

So I pray for a day when we can set differences aside and raise up leaders who can as well. We must work together to care for the tree that bears the fruit needed for our children’s future. Let’s bury this year’s rot around the roots, water it generously and prune the old dead useless stuff away.  The branches will be stronger, the blossoms hearty and ready for pollination (if there are any bees left), and the resulting fruit more palatable.

Perhaps next time around the worms won’t win.

That’ll be the day.

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.  ~Clarence Darrow

appledelicate

appledew2

 

A Paucity of Civility

Cartoon by Bennett

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will,  ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.”
― Ted Koppel

This week started out ordinary enough but took a quick turn when I got a message from the media director at my university that a 14 month old opinion article I’d written for the student newspaper and posted on www.kevinmd.com where I’m a regular contributor was suddenly being quoted on the Huffington Post and other websites.   Within hours, over a dozen media websites were quoting “A War on Pubic Hair”

The original article was written as one in a series of opinion pieces on medical issues pertinent to college students requested by the student newspaper.  I wrote it in spring 2011 after draining my umpteenth staph bacteria genital abscess due to the increasingly common practice of cosmetic removal of pubic hair.   I felt the students needed to understand the hazards of what they were doing and hoped I could spare the next patient from experiencing an infection so painful and potentially serious.

So this week it goes viral, over a year later, all in a matter of hours.  I was being quoted as if I had just been interviewed by these news agencies, which I had not, and they began feeding wrong information to each other:  I was identified as “a leading British physician” since the first media report originated in the U.K.   One British site actually asked permission to reprint the original article, which I appreciated so that my words could not be taken out of context, but they attached a photo of me to the article lifted from my family picture on my personal blog.

Soon my personal cell phone started to ring in the middle of the night and my email in-box filled up–messages from Europe, South America and all over the U.S. came in with requests for interviews, wanting me to elaborate in more detail on my very “provocative” point of view.  I said no to every one of them even though some are respectable agencies, like the BBC, because I’ve said all I have to say on this particular subject.  I do not want my long career to be reduced to my defense of pubic hair.   Indeed I can hold my head up and be proud to tell my grandchildren someday that I actually turned down the Playboy Channel.

The online comments on the articles rapidly reproduced themselves, numbering now in the thousands,  with many hostile to my perspective and saying so in the most inflammatory way possible, citing my age, my looks and obvious lack of sex appeal as showing I lacked credibility in this subject.  I dared to question the point of a multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry spawned by the multi-billion dollar porn industry, and no one was going to let me get away with it unscathed.

The internet has made it too easy for human beings to lack accountability for their words and actions by allowing anonymous comments on media websites and blogs.   It is easy to attack, lie, threaten, and bully when it is only words on a screen directed at someone you don’t know and will never meet.   Decency and civility are lost forever when the standards for moral and ethical behavior disappear in a fog of pixels and bytes.

Now after 48 hours it seems to have mostly blown over, though my name on Google will never look the same again.    It will take some time and distance for me to consider whether I did the right thing writing about a medical issue no one else would touch.   If it convinces someone to put away the razor, stop the waxing, and respect their body as nature intended it to be,  maybe I did.

Ask me in a year or so.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
Albert Einstein