I know a gal who doesn’t believe in god. She never has. She went through more than any child should ever have to go through, as many children do. I played her a song about a child who died and the singer asks why wasn’t god watching, why wasn’t god there, for this girl, and the singer imagines the girl, young and full of trust and laughter and playfulness, and she died, she was taken, her body was found beside a highway, and the singer asks why and why and why, and this gal I know who doesn’t believe in god, this gal who has never believed in god, broke down and cried while she listened.

God is such a lovely fantasy. And it seems that most of us look back on moments when we lost our innocence, when parts on the outside and inside of us were broken or taken and at least some part of us wishes that we had been protected from that moment that someone, something, anything, god, whatever, had been there because we were young and we were innocent and we were full of trust and laughter and playfulness and part of us died, and was taken, and we were left behind, alone, undone. It would have been lovely to have been saved from all that. Gods and salvation and happy endings, these are such seductive ideas.


Last night, I sat with Ruby in my arms and played video games with Charlie. At bedtime they sat in my lap while I read a story. I tucked them in and then sat beside Ruby’s bed and rubbed her back until she fell asleep (I always do this, and people always say something like, “oh, that’s so sweet!”, but if I don’t do it, she won’t go to sleep and is constantly in and out of bed). Ruby fell asleep quickly and I stood up and stroked Charlie’s forehead and cheeks (he’s in the top bunk) and ran my fingers through his hair. He rolled over so that he was closer to me and smiled with his eyes closed and then he fell asleep, too.

I’ve given up on trying to sing to them because Ruby always tells me to be quiet and covers her ears. Instead, I tell them that I love them and that they are beautiful and that they are smart and strong and brave and wonderful and make my heart feel so happy—so happy that sometimes it feels like it is going to burst out of my chest. I spend a lot of time telling them that they are good. It may seem like an odd thing to repeat, “you’re such a good girl, you’re such a good boy,” but it took me more than thirty years to shake the sense of guilt that was planted in me as a child and I don’t want them carrying that. Children need to know that they are good.


A couple days ago the CBC was all over a story about how a former high-level manager for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, who was also a director for the British Colombia Youth in Care Network (a foster parent himself) had been arrested for possessing child pornography. I knew this man. During the last year or so of my time working for Covenant House Vancouver (a shelter and residential living program for street-involved youth), he was hired on as an Assistant Program Manager. He was a prick but that’s pretty par for the course when it comes to Senior Managers within the non-profit industrial complex. He was smart and manipulative and was very talented at working people to his side and his advantage. I guess those are skills you want to learn if you’re a Senior Manager or a child pornographer.

I don’t ask why to god about this sort of thing anymore. If there is any god out there, responsible for creating all of this, then all that can be said of us is that we have all been betrayed. We have all been abandoned.


Ni dieu ni maître!” is what Blanqui said and earlier anarchists and socialists and labour movement members agreed with him. They also agreed with him that wealth was not going to be redistributed in the absence of violence directed at the hoarders of wealth. But all of that has mostly been pacified now. Now we have protests full of spiritual-not-religious bourgeoisie eager to point the finger at anyone who breaks a window or tips over a garbage dumpster. Not surprisingly, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


Not that anyone I know has a problem with the idea of a justice and peace and love kind of god. A god who can heal all wounds, wipe away all tears, and make all things new? A god who can bring about shalom? Sure, I’ll take four, please. Oh, wait, this god doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything tangible for anyone around these parts? Oh, wait, “the family that prays together still probably dies in the fire.” No point in waiting around here then, especially given all that other things god is used for. And if that kind of justice and peace and love and healing god shows up? Well, what did Heine say? “Gott wird mir verzeihen – das ist sein Beruf.”

But, wait, who wants to be forgiven by a god who has abandoned us? That seems a little backwards to me. Any god who shows up proclaiming, “I forgive you!” is no better than a parent who abandons her children in the middle of a war zone and then comes back thirty years later saying, “I forgive you!” Fuck that.


Ruby likes me to take her by the hands and spin her around when we dance. I painted her nails for her the other day and she was so excited that she gave me a giant hug – lifting her legs off the floor and kicking them back behind her, like we were in a cheesy movie and I was her long lost father and we finally found each other at a remote airport in Indonesia in the rain. She is most ticklish on her legs just above her knees. Her laughter is pure laughter and when I laugh with her
Isn’t that something, eh?

When I walk down the street with her and Charlie in my arms, or with one on either side of me, holding my hands, I may grumble about how much they weigh, or I may complain about my bad knees (am I eighty already?), or the snow in the air and the ice on the sidewalk, but really in my heart I know that I am the luckiest fellow in the world. And I don’t need a god to know that I am blessed and that each one of us is sacred and that the earth we walk upon is holy ground.

Posted by: Dan | January 21, 2015

Last Friday Charlie Turned Six

Last Friday Charlie turned six. I was going to write my son, Charlie, turned six, and add a bunch of other descriptors – “my beautiful, kind-hearted, hilarious, gentle, innocent…” – but I didn’t know how I would be able to end once I started. Plus, all the words – “beautiful, kind-hearted, hilarious, gentle, innocent…” – seemed to fall far short of actually describing him. Plus, he’s not even really “mine.” How can one person possess another? And how can I ever describe him? How can I ever express what I see when I see him, what I hear when I hear him, what I feel when I hold him and what I feel when he holds me back? My heart aches with love.


In the mornings, when I bundle him up and wrap him up in a blanket and carry him to school, he leans in close to me and whispers in my ear: “Want to know a secret?” “Yes, I do.” “I love you so much.” “I love you so much, too.” And I spin in circles and pretend that the hedge by the sidewalk is his school and pretend to set him down inside of it and we both laugh and when I press him close to me he sighs his happy little sighs.


The night before the birthday party, I put the kids to bed and then stayed up late (10PM is late for me now) blowing up balloons and hanging streamers and sorting treats into gift bags for all the cousins who were coming to celebrate with us. It’ll take me two pay cheques to clear my credit card from this event which, I think, is really what greases the wheels of credit-debt. A lot of us aren’t going into the hole buying things for ourselves. We’re going into the hole buying things for other people because we want them to feel love and joy and excitement and if we just spend enough, we can give these things to them.


Ruby wants it to be her birthday, too. Ruby who is smart and strong and creative and a keen observer of others and… but there I am, doing that futile thing with descriptors again. She still crawls into bed with me most nights. I wrap my arm around her and cuddle her while she sleeps. Sometimes she talks about monsters and I tell her there are no monsters at daddy’s house because all the monsters are afraid of her daddy because her daddy is not afraid of them and her daddy has never encountered a monster he has not vanquished or turned into a friend and she believes me and she falls asleep in my arms and she sleeps peacefully… while I toss and turn as she jabs an elbow into my ribs or a toe into my hip. I am grateful for nights when sleep is lost that way.


One day Ruby, my baby girl Ruby, who also is not a thing to be possessed by me or by anybody else, will be too big and old for all of this. She will grow up. And the world is waiting and daddy’s house is small in comparison to all the places she will go. God, I pray her path is not lined with monsters. I don’t really believe in “God” but I pray to any God and every God for my children because, hey, why not? I would obey every fucked-up rule in every fucked-up sacred book if I thought the gods would then keep my children safe.


Recently, I came across a story told by Jorge Semprún, a Spanish Communist Party member exiled to France and arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. He was sent to Buchenwald were he observed the arrival of a number of Polish Jews. This is Žižek’s paraphrase of Semprún’s story:

[The Polish Jews] had been stacked into the freight trains almost two hundred to a car, travelling for days without food and water in the coldest winter of the war. On arrival, all in the carriage had frozen to death except for fifteen children, kept warm by the others in the center of the bundle of bodies. When the children were emptied from the car the Nazis let their dogs loose on them. Soon only two fleeing children were left.

And here Semprún contines:

The little one began to fall behind, the SS were howling behind them and then the dogs began to howl too, the smell of blood was driving them mad, and then the bigger of the two children slowed his pace to take the hand of the smaller… together they covered a few more yards… til the blows of the clubs felled them and, together they dropped, their faces to the ground, their hands clasped.

I lost my shit when I read this story. I cried, like hard ugly crying, curled up on the bed beside a friend who just held me without saying anything. I see Charlie and Ruby when I think of those children – and that is who those children are – somebody’s Charlie, somebody’s Ruby, somebody’s child, somebody’s love, somebody’s reason for living. And, for the adults who froze on the train, somebody’s reason for dying.

(And what did their dying accomplish? Would it have been better for the children to have frozen to death, instead of watching all their loved ones die and then being torn apart by dogs?)

But for now the monsters Ruby fears are the kind that are under the bed or in the closet, that kind that vanish when her daddy holds her and rubs her back and tells her that he loves her. She doesn’t yet know how monstrous people can be to one another.

And me? What do I know? Well, I sometimes wonder if I’ve ever met a woman who hasn’t experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence at the hands of men so, yeah, there’s that.


But last Friday Charlie turned six. He can read bedtime stories to Ruby and I now – he reads them all by himself, turning the pages and holding them up for us to see the pictures. I had tears of joy in my eyes when he first did this – my son can read, he can read books, what a wonderful gift for him to have received. He might not need them, like I needed them to survive my childhood, but they will always be there for him now. How ‘bout that, eh?

His hands and feet are getting so big. He’s got a whole new repertoire of dance moves and he tells surprising jokes.

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Banana… wait, I mean Orange.” “Orange who?” “ORANGE IN YOUR EYE!” *mad cackling ensues*

He is a sensitive boy who picks up when others are sad. He obeys quickly – unlike Ruby – and sometimes this worries me.


And this is another story about another Charlie and Ruby. An elder I know told me about some of his experiences at a residential school. One day, a young girl at the school had been told to clean the bathroom but one of the toilets had overflowed and the girl did not have the cleaning equipment necessary to deal with the mess. When the supervising nun came around and saw the mess she was furious. The girl tried to explain that she wanted to clean it but lacked the supplies needed. In response, the nun grabbed the little girl, flipped her upside down, and mopped up the shit and piss with the girl’s hair.

That’s just one event of a countless multitude this fellow witnessed, not to mention the countless others that took place in residential schools (and then foster care – as foster care has increasingly been the tool the Canadian State uses to take Indigenous children away from their parents, homes, communities, cultures, values, and languages). Many kids tried to flee the physical and sexual abuse (not to mention death from preventable disease and malnutrition). This often ended disastrously. For example, on New Year’s day in 1937, four Charlies were discovered frozen to death on a lake in thirty below weather. They had fled their school and were trying to make their way home. One of the boys was in summer clothes and had one foot bare. Another boy had running shoes on with no rubbers over top of them. Only one boy had a cap on. They died about half a mile from home, after walking for eight miles. The police report described them as “little tots.” Children who chose to go out into the heart of the winter without winter clothes because that was a better option than staying where they were.


But last Friday Charlie turned six. He’s six years old and I can see his eyes sparkle when he is extra happy or excited. He’s six years old and he never got shipped off to a death camp or froze to death on a train or in the snow trying to find his way home. He never got torn apart by dogs or beaten to death while holding his sister’s hand in the snow. He’s six years old and he loves to be held or just be close to me while we do things. He’s six years old and he never got torn from his home and culture and language and had his hair cut off. He was never made to sleep alone when he was afraid, he never had his hurts ignored or met with more hurt, and he never had his head used as a mop for shit and piss. My people do that to other people and then we circle our wagons around our wealth and privilege and cake and candles and party balloons and kiss our kids good night and go to bed feeling grateful.


Last Friday Charlie turned six. I love you, Charlie. And I love you, Ruby. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Dr. Gerald Horne is a prolific author — he published three(!) books in 2014 alone. He is a professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, an advocate for justice, and the former executive director of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (in the USofA). Last year, I read his book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America, and I thought it was one of the best books I read that year. It helped me to make a lot of sense of why the American revolution always felt different to me than a number of the other revolutions I have studied (essentially, the American revolution was a revolution fought by local elites, whose wealth and power was rooted in stealing land from Indigenous peoples and enslaving Africans; when Britain threatened the American Settlers with the emancipation of the slaves, and also blocked the Settlers from expanding westward — not to mention increasing taxes on imports, especially the importation of slaves, in order to pay for a war Britain had fought to ensure that Spain and France did not overrun the American colonies — the Settler elite revolted). This makes the American revolution a “counter-revolution” and explains much about American revolutionary history up until the present day (remember when Time Magazine named George W. Bush the Person of the Year and branded him, on their cover, as an “American Revolutionary”? That makes sense within the American counter-revolutionary context).

Dr. Horne, despite his busy schedule, was kind enough to briefly respond to a few questions that I sent to him. I want to thank him very much for his willingness to do this and for all that he does. Thank you, Dr. Horne!

(1) I have long been fascinated by revolutionary moments and those people and events which precede them and make revolution not simply imaginable but historically possible. However, I have primarily focused upon moments like Russian, French, and Haitian revolutions. However, the American Revolution hasn’t interested me to nearly the same degree. I think your book helped me to understand why. Rather than referring to this as a genuine revolutionary moment in history, you refer to it as a “counter-revolution.” I think that this is a very critical point. However, you don’t much contrast the history you describe to other revolutions in order to draw out this distinction to readers who may be less familiar with the various moments I have mentioned here. Perhaps you could take a moment to do so? Furthermore, to what other historical events would you compare this “counter-revolution” (the Tea Party comes to mind for me, or the so-called Oath Keepers who showed up in Ferguson – making counter-revolutionary action an ongoing American practice – but perhaps you have some other examples in mind)?

The Haitian Revolution led to the abolition of slavery. The revolt against British Rule in 1776 led to the successful rebels ousting their ‘colonial master’ from leadership of the African Slave Trade—while London moved toward abolition. That is a major theme of the book. I also chide historians in the U.S. who have been quite critical of revolutions globally—Russian, Cuban, French, Chinese, etc.—but have been remarkably quiet about the obvious defects of the so-called ‘Revolution’ that took place here.

When protesters march under the banner ‘Black Lives Matter’, they are providing a direct challenge—and affront—to 1776, which is why there is so much pressure for these protesters to drop this slogan in favor of the more anodyne, ‘All Lives Matter.’

As I note in the book, even—particularly—left wing historians have done a poor job of historicizing and theorizing the depth of conservatism among Euro-Americans generally, the working and middle classes particularly. You have ‘theoreticians’ who claim their reason for being is blocking the rise of fascism in the U.S.—yet have little or nothing to say about the 1991 gubernatorial election in La., where a Euro-American majority voted for a fascist.

Assuming [neither]climate change nor world war overcomes us all, historians of the future will be—and should be—unsparing in their critique of contemporary U.S. historians; left-wingers generally; and—especially—those who purport to discuss ‘race.’

Read More…

Posted by: Dan | December 4, 2014

Tanya Tagaq


On November 13th, I went to see Tanya Tagaq along with Jean Martin, Jesse Zubot, and Christine Duncan. I was expecting something different than a regular concert or performance. I had no way of anticipating just how different the Event that took place would actually be. It has taken me awhile to be able to try and write about that experience and what was shared and sung and drummed and played and heard and witnessed. Really, the experience was unspeakable… and so some time had to pass before I could pretend to be able to speak or write of it. I have never been hyperbolic about things related to the Arts, in fact I am generally quite skeptical about the transformative power or radical possibilities people like to ascribe to things like music or painting or theatre or literature, but as I have tried to speak of and understand what happened, I would say that it was apolcalyptic in the proper sense of that word. That is to say, it was a rupturous revelation, the in-breaking of a novum into a space that previously could not imagine that newness – and I felt as though I was simultaneously transfixed, transported and transformed. The entire thing felt… holy… prophetic… inspired… (all of which are words I never use, but can’t seem to avoid now) It felt like an encounter with the Unnameable which we often go seeking but which we never find, unless the Unnameable chooses to come and encounter us.

In reflecting on this experience, I hope I am not trying to name the Unnameable. I’m not even convinced that my personal reflections are worth sharing with anybody else – how a Settler reflects upon the activities and voice of an Indigenous woman should be of little importance to anybody and this has been part of the reason why I have been hesitant about writing. So I do want to be clear about that – I am not the voice people should hear – that voice is Tanya’s. Still, I do want to think a little more about these things and I also want to say thank you to Tanya and those who were on stage with her. In what follows, I try to do both. Tanya, Jean, Jesse, and Christine, thank you. I lift my hands to you.
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Dr. Ward Blanton is Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought at the University of Kent. He is one of an increasing number of scholars who are (re)reading Paul in conversation with continental philosophy and social theory. He recently published a book entitled, A Materialism for the Masses: Saint Paul and the Philosophy of Undying Life, where he continues to develop his thinking and reads Paul along with the likes of Freud, Nietzsche, Breton, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Pasolini and others (see here for more about the book). After reading the book, I contacted Ward and asked him if he would be willing to engage in an interview about some of the matters he discussed. What follows, below, is the exchange that we had. Along the way, I discovered that not only is Ward an intelligent fellow (something obvious to anybody familiar with his work), but he is also incredibly passionate and gracious. Thank you, Ward, for your participation in this. I look forward to those things that are to come.

(1A) In your preface, you say that you often feel you are asking only a few fundamental political questions. The questions you then mention, involved the throwing of rocks or organizing groups of rock throwers (xv-xvi). In what follows, you don’t ever explicitly return to this question. David Graeber is a fan of rock throwing (especially organized rock throwing), Chris Hedges thinks the opposite. Jensen, Churchill, and Gelderloos think we should be throwing more than rocks, but Chenoweth, Stephan and Sharp argue that it’s a mistake to throw anything at all. Rock throwing seems a bit complicated but, what I really want to know is: can we start throwing rocks now?

When the time is right for rock throwing no one ever asks permission!

But I think this is a very important question about my book, and about my Paul.
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Posted by: Dan | October 22, 2014

Another Salvation Story

He sees messages from Jesus written on the shampoo bottle a woman left in his shower. His daughter coughs and draws pictures in the mold that grows on the bottom of the drywall. He loves her and she loves him but the social workers are coming, they are coming to take her, they are coming to take her away. They will take her to a new home, a new place, a new family, a new race, where they put locks on the cupboards and the fridge, and where her new brother will touch her in new ways — until he is moved again, to a new home, a new place, to become somebody else’s son, somebody else’s brother, somebody else’s problem.

They say words he cannot comprehend and he asks them to explain:

“Unfit to parent, what does that mean?”

“Best interests of the child, what does that mean?”

“No access, what does that mean?”

He decides that he has died and that is why his daughter is no longer home. He thinks years have passed and she has grown up and moved out and that he is simply a ghost returning to haunt the places he loved because they were places where she used to be. Because he is dead, he buries himself in the leaves at the graveyard and the groundskeepers find him there the next day.

When he is committed to the mental health floor of the hospital he wonders if he is in hell because of all the times his mother told him he was bad and his father told him to sit still and his education assistant told him he was wrong. The shampoo bottles they give him are samples and they are small and blank on all sides. He takes a sharpie from his art therapy group and writes messages to Jesus on them:

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

“The pasta was pretty good tonight.”

“How is my daughter doing back on earth?”

Two weeks later another man in art therapy takes a box of crayons and follows him back into his room. When he starts to tell the man about the beautiful pictures his daughter used to make when she was a kid, the man takes that box of crayons and rams it down his throat.


But that is not all. That is not the end.

Because Jesus read the messages he wrote on the shampoo bottles and came down to save him. Bursting into the room, Jesus found him lying on his back with a rainbow of waxy foam and fluid already drying on his lips and mouth and bubbling out of his nose. His bowels have evacuated. Reports suggested that he actually shit himself before he died. Nobody was found to be at fault for this.

Or for anything.

So Jesus went to the gift shop and bought a Teddy Bear. The daughter was in another wing of the hospital where doctors and social workers spoke in hushed tones about reconstructive surgery, D.I.D., and chronic fatigue syndrome. Jesus sat with her awhile but she never said a word. She never even turned her head to look at him. He fiddled with his phone and breathed a secret sigh of relief when the nurse came to tell him visiting hours were over. He left the Teddy Bear on the chair and went back up to Heaven.


And that’s all. That’s the end.

Posted by: Dan | October 4, 2014

The Fable of the Star Thrower

A man was walking on the beach one day and noticed a boy who was reaching down, picking up a starfish and throwing it in the ocean. As he approached, he called out, “Hello! What are you doing?” The boy looked up and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.” “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the man. “The tide stranded them. If I don’t throw them in the water before the sun comes up, they’ll die,” came the answer. “Surely you realize that there are miles of beach, and thousands of starfish. You’ll never throw them all back, there are too many. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy listened politely and then picked up another starfish. As he threw it back into the sea, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

“But, look,” the man said, “don’t you realize that it is not the tide that has stranded the starfish here? That ship you see on the horizon is equipped with a massive pump and it pumps all these starfish onto the beach. Every starfish you throw back, will simply be pumped back here again. Furthermore, the basis of the local economy in our oceanfront town is gathering these starfish and processing them in the plants at the harbour. We convert them into a cracker spread that we export to most of the culinary centres of the world.”

So the boy stopped throwing the starfish back into the ocean. He went home and he built himself a submarine. He packed the submarine with dynamite and, one cloudy night, he rode out beneath the breakers. When he rammed the ship, the explosion tore a hole into the hull the size of a house and it sank quickly, with all hands on board. Forty-seven people died, including the boy, and everyone in the town had to tighten their belts because the processing plants were temporarily closed. A number of kids didn’t get Christmas presents that year and more than one family defaulted on their mortgages. One father committed suicide after the bank took the home away. His partner took the kids, ages 2 and 5, to the local family shelter. Then, the following Spring, a new ship arrived, fresh from the boat docks in Greece, and it could pump out twice as many starfish as the first ship. The processing plants were expanded and the town experienced a new boom. Behind closed doors and far away from the family members of those who had died, more than one person secretly thanked the star throwing boy for what he did and for the bounty he had provided.

As far as anyone can tell, the starfish have not yet expressed any opinion on the matter, although it’s hard to hear what they might be trying to say over the sounds of the washing and sorting and pressing and blending and packaging machines at the plants.

Posted by: Dan | July 14, 2014

Gospel Fragments

Once, while dining with the Pharisees and Tax-Collectors, one of the elders seated at the right hand of the host began to question Jesus about the sayings attributed to him.

“Teacher,” the elder said, “you have told us to love our neighbours and you told us who our neighbours are.  I have heard that you have also told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  But you have not been so clear as to who our enemies are.  Tell me, teacher, who is my enemy, so that I may love him?  Who is the one who persecutes me so that I may pray for him?”

In response to this question, Jesus told the following story:

“Once there was a man whose wife had died and who had been left alone to raise a single daughter.  In order to raise her up and protect her and educate her and put money aside for her dowry, this man worked very long hours doing backbreaking work for a thankless taskmaster.  Yet he always greeted his master respectfully, he smiled and nodded and laughed at his master’s jokes.  He rose when his master rose and only sat when invited to do so.  He never complained when he was beaten.  He didn’t interrupt and he always thanked his master for his pay and for the opportunity to work for him.  Sometimes, when the master patted his shoulder or shook his hand after a job well done, he expressed a particularly great delight.  But the work was hard and he was often weary when he got home.  If his daughter did not have dinner prepared, he would be short-tempered with her.  If his work clothes were not properly washed and laid out in their place early the next morning, he would yell at her.  Sometimes, if he were particularly sore or tired or had been beaten by his master, he would hit his daughter.  This went on for some time until the man became injured at work.  He was unable to fulfill his normal duties and hoped that his years of service would incline the master to give him a different role.  Sadly, this was not the case and the master threw him out.  Unable to find other work, he was reduced to begging.  The little money he was able to raise begging in the streets with his daughter – who now joined him there – was not enough for them to survive and so, weeping a great many tears, he did what many others did before and with and after him.  He sold his daughter into slavery and that was the last he saw of his only child.”

There was silence around the table when Jesus finished his story and so he asked a question:

“Tell me, who is the enemy of this man?”

Without hesitation, the elder who had initiated the conversation responded, “Surely the taskmaster is the enemy!  Surely he is the one the man is called to love!”

“Oh, you blind and foolish fellow,” Jesus responded, “no wonder you are seated where you are at this table!  The taskmaster is not the enemy of this man – for he always greeted him as a friend and he always was respectful in his presence and he always showed delight in his company.  No, the man treated the taskmaster as his friend and so he was, regardless of how the taskmaster treated him.  The true enemy – the one the man treated like his enemy – was his daughter.  She was the one he was short with and yelled at and beat and ultimately sold into slavery, regardless of his feelings for her.  Those whom you harm are the enemies you are called to love in deed and in action for love is a doing far more than a feeling.  However, the taskmaster was the one who persecuted the man.  I do not say that it is necessary to love such a person – has he not already been treated as a friend, even by those whom he abuses? – but it may be worthwhile to pray for him.  Perhaps my Father in heaven will hear your prayers and make him into a good master instead of a cruel one or, if that proves to be too difficult, perhaps my Father in heaven will hear your prayers and strike him dead.

Your enemy is not the one who harms you, but the one you harm.  And so I say this: do no harm.  As for the one who persecutes you, leave that one in the hands of God.  Rome crushes you – whom you treat as a friend – and you crush the people – whom you treat as enemies although they are flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood.  You cannot stop Rome but one day Rome will be stopped.  Whether or not you are also stopped at that point will depend on whether or not you have ceased to do violence to those who are less than you.  If you do not learn to actively love your enemies, when judgment falls on Rome, those whom you have treated as enemies may decide to accept that designation and rise up against you.  They will be singing songs of freedom as they beat plowshares into swords and they will cut you down like the harvest and not one of you will be saved.”

When Jesus finished speaking, several of those gathered at the meal decided it was time to get serious about their plot to kill him.

Posted by: Dan | June 21, 2014

A Eulogy

For a few days, there was a pretty terrible smell in the hallway by the elevator near the entrance I use to get in and out of my building.  Then the smell was gone and there was a whole bunch of furniture stacked up by the garbage bins out back.  Apparently the forensics unit had stopped by somewhere in between the disappearance of the smell and the appearance of the furniture but I hadn’t noticed them.  Or maybe I had — I often see the police here, I just don’t pay close enough attention to them to see what units are showing up.  To be honest, I didn’t even notice that the cat who is usually sitting in the window of the apartment by the entrance had vanished.  It was only when a neighbour pointed in the window that I noticed that the cat was gone and the room was half gutted.

They say she killed the cat before she killed herself.

One of my neighbours said that he once found her crying on the front steps of the building.  When he asked her why she was crying she said she was hungry and had no food.  He asked her if she had any parents who might help her out and she had told him that they wouldn’t help her anymore.  They said maybe next month.  They said she had to be more responsible.  He was appalled and put together a big box of food for her.

She wasn’t all that old.  Younger than me by half a dozen years, I reckon.  She wore glasses and had short red curly hair.  I think she had some sort of developmental disability.  She was always friendly with the kids and I.  I know another woman in the building was bullying her.  Everyone else knows this other woman.  Most, except for a few of the hardcore drinkers who are always lounging around out back, avoid this other woman as much as possible.  The last time I spoke with the girl who is said to have killed herself and her cat, she told me that this other woman had threatened her life and told her not to talk with any of the men in the building.  The girl who is said to have killed herself and her cat said that the other woman wanted all the men to herself.

I remember thinking, “Why would anybody want to bully you?  How could anybody feel threatened by you?”  And I felt sad and angry and helpless.

Sometime around the time she stopped being who she had been, sometime around the time she stopped being at all, we were laying in bed, all mixed up together — limbs and heat and breath and thoughts and silences all tangled up together — and I was tracing the lines on your face.  The curve of your brow, the dip of your temple, the line of your jaw, I was tracing you in space, when you asked me to tell you a story.  I didn’t know what story I would tell, I did not know this story until I told it, but this was the story I told:

Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in the forest.  He made a house out of cans he had found but every night the wind would blow the cans down.  They would fall with a crash around him and wake him up and then he would lay in the dark, exposed to the night and its creatures, too scared to move.  He would cry until the sun came up.  When the sun came up, he would set his house of cans back up and then go looking for food.  By the time he came back, the cans would have fallen down again and so he would set them back up in the evening before he fell asleep and before they fell down around him and woke him up and left him crying in the night.  And this went on and on, day after day, night after night.

Some days, he would walk to the road that passed through the woods, and ask the people who traveled on that road to help him or feed him or take him away with them.  But they never seemed to see or hear him.  They passed by him like the wind and he was less than the air the wind passed through.

Other days, when out looking for food, he would discover families of people who did not live in the forest, who had stopped in this or that clearing in order to have a picnic.  Sometimes they would throw scraps to the animals — a piece of fruit for a bird, a nut for a squirrel, bread crumbs for the ants — and he would try to snatch the scraps away.  But the people would throw rocks at him and beat him with sticks.  “This food is for the animals!  It is for the bird, and the squirrel, and the ants!  Go away!”  And he would go away, sore and hungry, and back to his house of fallen cans.

One day, he decided that he would go onto the road and follow it out of the woods.  He walked and he walked and he walked until his feet were sore and blistered from the pavement.  But the woods were still all around him, so he continued walking.  He walked and he walked and he walked until his blisters had burst and his feet were trailing blood.  But the woods were still all around him, so he continued walking.  The sun began to set and the night, along with its creatures, began to awaken and, finally, he was unable to walk anymore.  He could not stand and so he crawled to the side of the road.  He was a long, long way from his house of cans.  But the woods were still all around him.  Night came.  The wind blew.  And he was less than the air the wind passed through.

The End.

Posted by: Dan | April 30, 2014

Love and Death

I recently watched a documentary about a fellow who spends some time with children in an AIDS orphanage in India.  One of the boys becomes very ill.  His body becomes covered in sores and blisters that burst and stay open and seep and make him look like his skin is peeling away from his body.  The doctors say the same thing is happening to the membranes and tissues inside of him as well.  His lips look like God or the devil has taken a potato peeler to them.  A compress is kept over his eyes, blinding him, in order to try and prevent infection from spreading there.  He frequently spits or drools out blood and mucus and, I don’t know, the kind of fluid you think oozes from wounds.

He is in a lot of pain.

His name is Surya.  He is about the same size as Charlie.  Charlie, my son, Charlie, my beloved, Charlie my beautiful one whose hair smells like sunshine.  Charlie who takes me by the hand and looks up into my eyes and tells me that I am beautiful and that I make his heart feel happy and then asks if he can sit on my lap and watch a movie with me.  This Surya, he is also somebody’s son, it’s just his parents died, ya know?  He is also beloved, it’s just that the people who love him aren’t wealthy or influential or connected, see?  And I’m sure his hair also smells like the wind and childhood and earth and the wonder, and when the person who was with him got up to leave and use the bathroom, he also took him by the hand and, speaking for the first time in days, said, “No!”  This Surya, this Charlie, this boy, this beloved child, he said “No!” because he was afraid that he would die in those moments when he was alone.

I watched all of this far away from where Suryas are too numerous to count.  I watched it play out as a movie on a flat screen HDTV.  And I cried awhile, and the gal who was with me, who loves me and whom I love, she cried awhile, too, and we held each other and later that night we made love and then the next morning the alarm went off on my smartphone (which, like most things I own, is made by children like Surya who live and die like Surya) and I went off to work and she went off to school.

And life went on.

And death did, too.


A year ago, I would have laughed at the idea of referring to sex as “making love”.  Who talks that way?  If sex was transcendental, it was simply because the nearly pure physicality of it could permit sad and lonely and broken and lost and angry and weary people — people like me — to momentarily forget all of these things.  In sex, you can lose your self in touching and being touched, in giving and taking, in caressing, and in fucking.  You can give yourself away, you can become absorbed in another — just as another can become absorbed in you — and in that forgetting you can also forget that this life doesn’t seem worth living.  But, hell, all the reasons for dying seem like bullshit, too, and so, in this limbo between the living and the dead, there is, at least, la petite mort.

Funny just how much can change in a year.


In the documentary that featured Surya, the Charlie covered in sores, there was also a young girl who becomes very ill and comatose and is on the verge of dying.  The father eventually tries to rush her to the hospital — he is sitting on the back of a motorbike, holding her in his arms — she is naked but for a blanket — and they get caught on the road waiting for a train to pass at a rail crossing.  She dies then.  We see her die — her head falls back, her mouth open, everything totally limp and the father cannot close her mouth.  He takes her in his arms, the blanket falling from her body and turns and starts walking back into the night with her.  “I am taking her home.”

What was her name?  I don’t remember her name.  But the film makers thought the scene was dramatic enough that they decided to include it twice — once at the beginning, without any subtitles or talking (what better hook for those of us far way watching this movie on HDTVs, right?), and once later one within the context of the story and with a voice over.  I do remember this though: wrapped in a shroud, her body looked tiny, as did the grave they buried her in.  When she was buried, she didn’t look any bigger than my Ruby, my beloved, my beautiful girl who isn’t afraid to say, “No!” to me when I tell her it is bath time, and who asks me to be a monster so she can sit me down and bring me presents in the closet, and who want to hold my head on her stomach when she is falling asleep.  I watched the dad bury this little girl, I watched him weep and hit himself in the forehead when he looked at pictures of her, I watched him love his Ruby and lose her.  Forever and ever and ever.  And this is not uncommon.  To cite just one, from any number of possible examples, around 2000 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhea-related disease.  That’s two thousand Charlies and Rubies every day.  That’s more than one every minute. Gone forever and ever and ever.

Welcome to the world we live in.  Things don’t have to be this way.  We all know that.  It’s just that we haven’t wanted to love one another at least well enough to prevent the needless suffering and dying of children.  And we never will.  Things will always be this way with us.  We know this, too.


Last weekend I went to my father’s wedding.  I missed the first (wasn’t born then) and the second (wasn’t speaking with him then) but I made the third.  It was a small ceremony in an old stone Anglican church with beautiful wood floors, and candles, and stained glass windows, and a pipe organ that I loved as much as all the other parts combined.  Ruby thought we were in a castle, she thought the priest — who was wearing a white robe — was a ghost, and she thought the bride was a princess.  She was pretty excited about the whole thing and stood on the pew the whole time so that she could “see the princess.”  Charlie was a lot less excited about the actually ceremony but he played games on my phone and it kept him still and quiet.

And me?  I don’t know what all I was feeling.  Or maybe I do but I don’t think I can talk about the way it felt without, in that very act of talking (or writing), retroactively changing what happened.  So I’ll say no more about that.

What a mess life is, eh?  How often we hurt when we desire to help, how often we betray when we desire to love, how often we curse when we desire to bless.  It is very hard to know what we are doing, regardless of what our intentions are.

And how often we get bogged down in our own wounds, our own cuts and scars and insecurities, and never see anything beyond ourselves.  Even now — I watched a movie and I feel things about characters therein by comparing them to my own children, whom I will continue to love in practical ways (just as I will continue to ignore or oppress the Suryas and the girls whose names I forget in practical ways), so, really, am I even seeing anything beyond myself here?


After I watched this documentary, I wanted to be more kind.  I wanted to never be angry at another person again.  I just wanted to love… and be loved, too.  I’m weary of anger and frustration and pettiness and violence, violence, violence everywhere.  But, you know, after I went to work the next morning somebody was rude to the fellow who helps me out and makes coffee in the Resource Centre I supervise and so I decided to be rude back to the fellow who disrespected my helper.  I didn’t say anything rude in words — but in my tone and in my body language, I basically told the fellow that he could fuck off and I didn’t give a shit about anything he might have to say about that.  Then, that night, Charlie and Ruby were refusing to go to sleep and I felt frustrated, even after reflecting upon Surya and the girl whose name I forgot, even after thinking how I failed that fellow at my work, even after recognizing these things in the midst of feeling frustrated… I still felt frustrated and, after sternly telling the kids to be quiet and go to bed, I went to another room and dropped a number of whispered eff bombs as I washed the dishes (in an overly aggressive manner… fucking dishes).

Do I ever learn anything at all?  Woe to me if I can watch a documentary like that and go on unchanged and unchanging.



But I will tell you a secret.  A very exciting one.  One wholly unanticipated.  One I stopped believing in a long, long time ago.  Are you ready?  This is the secret:

I have already begun to change.

Ain’t that something?  Because I was dead but I am now alive.  And that breaking process, that slow inexorable shattering that drained me of my insides and filled me up with darkness inside?  It wasn’t the final word.  My pieces are coming together again.  But I am not going back to being who I was before.  I am being made new.  I, too, have experienced the resurrection of the dead.  Here and now, I have been born again — this time from the dead.

This is what love has done with me.  How about that, eh?  I wouldn’t trade this love for anything in the world.  Not that I could trade it even if (for some unimaginably absurd reason) I wanted to do so.  This love after all, is something I am in,  not something I produce.  It is more an event and an environment than a choice.  At least for me.  Perhaps the one who loves me, who introduced me to this love in which we are now situated, perhaps for her it was a choice.  For me it was not.  The dead don’t make choices.  They’re simply dead.  I could not choose myself back alive.  I could not heal myself.  My heart felt as though it had been broken into pieces, and the pieces had been burned, and then the charred remains had been wrapped all around with barbed wire.  But when she first laid her head on my shoulder, when she first held my hand, when she first said to me, “I love you,” everything changed and the wires were cut and the ashes were swept away and the pieces came back together and, just like the motherfucking Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day… and it hasn’t stopped growing since.  I’ve got a long way to go yet, my hair still stinks like the grave and I’m a bit of a mess and sometimes old feelings or reactions still surface, but a resurrection is more like an insurrection than a makeover.  It takes times but, baby, it runs all the way up and all the way down and the fruit that it bears are a lot longer lasting than a tan and botox injections.


And the girl, the Ruby who died?  Her name is Vembadi.  I will not forget it again.  She died but our time with her has not ended.  Because we know her story now.  We are responsible for it and we our responsible for ourselves and how we will live in light of it.

Whether or not this proves to be a responsibility we can handle will be determined, I think, by whether or not we are in love.

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