Raindrops and a surprise.
As I think about it, I might have been 7. It was the early 70s and I had been reading a Marvel comic featuring the Black Panther. Growing up, I was one of those kids who seemed, to me at the time, to get picked on and ganged up on a bit more than others in the neighborhood, and at school. I wanted to be strong and to make all the things in my life that were a pain disappear. I couldn’t see, as a 2nd grader, that growing up and graduating from the public school machinery would do more to that end than muscles, tech, and at the time, tights.
BP was a strong character. He was a bad ass. And given the bullshit I was going through as a minor, and the fact that there really isn’t a manual to growing up, I wanted to be him.
My mother was in the den watching TV. It was a school night. I walked in and said, “Mama, I’m going to be the Black Panther when I grow up.” She looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Oh no. You’re not going to be a black panther.”
To paraphrase the immortal words of the Captain in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, what we had here was a “failure to communicate.” Mom was talking about the Black Panther Party, which got it’s start right around the same time the character entered the Marvel universe. Politics and war, and most of the other adult goings-on were mostly a blur to me at the time. That childhood ignorance made my mom’s reaction confusing. No one batted an eye at me wanting to be on the Enterprise bridge, fly like Superman, spin webs, or drive the Batmobile. I don’t remember questioning her. It was a little kid’s fantasy. Eventually I grew out of it. It was much later, after I learned a little bit about the party that I understood what my mom was talking about.
According to Wikipedia, the comic book character predates the founding of the party by a few months during the latter half of 1966,
One night a shaman stood in a field, barefoot. The ground was riddled with cracks. He scratched at the dirt a couple of times with the toes of his right foot. A scorpion crawled up from between the cracks in the soil and the shaman grinned as it scurried across his feet. He squatted and placed his left palm in its path. Lifting it, he watched the scorpion’s pincers wave in the air as it sat in his hand, the starlight glinted slightly off its black exoskeleton. He let it go and stood again. The eight stars of Orion’s bow moved into view overhead. He closed his eyes again, and slowed his breathing. His diaphragm expanded as his breathing deepened. The aroma of the air entering his nostrils became heavy, dusty, the scent of an approaching storm. Eyes still closed, he could hear, or thought he could hear, the first drops of water descending through the air, traveling down from thick, dark clouds. They were large drops and they stung a little when they hit his forehead. Lightning danced from cloud to cloud and back. Seconds later its report reached his ears. The rain hit the ground around him like a high-pitched, but muted drumroll. He felt dirt, still dry, fly up from a raindrop and land on his foot. The drops came faster, and he began to feel the dirt moisten. Then mud began to squish up between his toes. There was a second thunderclap, and silence. The shaman opened his eyes. The red star Betelgeuse, which makes up Orion’s right shoulder, was now directly overhead. He began to walk across the dry earth and plant stubble.
Roughly a day later, a half-foot of rain fell on the area.
Most of us don’t have that depth of connection with the water element. Our world is concrete, paved. We spend a chunk of our lives riding, commuting. We schedule things around the weather. Rain is many times an inconvenience. While it’s irrigating fields and our yards it’s making the roads slick. It serves both as a blessing and a danger. We’re not standing on raw land feeling mud squish between our toes. We’re not even standing in our backyards feeling that. We’re driving or riding home in it, probably at night…a thousand things on our minds. In one part of our thoughts we are happy to not have to water our lawns and gardens for a bit. In another part of our thoughts we know we’re going to have to get out in this slop shortly and slosh our way to the door. It’s a borderline love-hate and there’s no escaping it if we continue our urban, rat-racy lives.
I still complain about the rain. I don’t like driving in it, day or night. And living in mild drought areas, when I complain someone is always there to remind me that we ‘need’ the rain. And we do. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over wishing that I didn’t have to get out in it. Maybe the key to that is pausing the rat-race itself. I think what I’ll start doing is to stop and stand in the rain for a couple of minutes before I open my umbrella. I’d rather be on that open field, but until that becomes my reality it’ll have to remain the stuff of vacations. I need to feel the connection to the water, to be happy when it comes, even if the circumstances aren’t what I’d prefer.
…and I probably never really did.
A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast, and the guest talked about not loving people that he didn’t love. At first, and on one level, I found that idea off-putting. As a former Christian I’d been trained over the years that we were to love everyone, unconditionally, and if not, there’d be Hell to pay.
That’s the idea….love one another, or else. How it gets meted out in the lives of individual believers is another topic entirely.
I call that kind of love, loving people under duress. Love is a consensual action. It’s something you cannot command or coerce. And loving out of obedience or under orders, or threats is a form of coercion.
As I thought about it, I realized that the guest on that show is right. People shouldn’t be able to lay claim to our love without our consent. There are people in my life that I want around as long as I live. There are others I really don’t care if I ever see again. Both have been members of churches I’ve attended.
One of the things I started doing when I left the Christian religion is taking back my heart and mind from it…taking back my agency. Love and love commandments are one of those areas.
In churchy circles there are numerous platitudes tossed about. People are always saying things like ‘God bless you,’ ‘I’m praying for you,’ and ‘I love you.’ Then when this last is not enough, some say, ‘I love you with the love of the Lord.’ I don’t talk that kind of language anymore. It’s a cutesy sounding. It makes everything seem warm and fuzzy. It also negates the individual’s ability to love at all.
Humans have loved, feared, hated, envied…they’ve felt things and experienced many emotions long before what we refer to as the Common Era….long before Christianity.
If I love you I’ll tell you. If telling you would make things awkward, I’ll find some way to let you know. It’s between the people. Gods and religions have nothing to do with it.
By @manhasruinedgod on Twitter
A high school football coach should be a hero for a winning season, not for dying protecting children in the line of fire. High school students should be crying over their crush or stressed about Homecoming, not wondering what to wear to their BFF’s funeral.
Go home tonight and hold your guns. Feel the cold metal on your skin and smell the gun powder and oil residue, and know that only in this country, your guns are worth more than the lives of our children.
Their warm hearts are now as cold as the guns you’re clinging to. Your illusion of safety is worth more than the blood being spilled in the hallways of our classrooms.
But let’s not talk about it now, or tomorrow when it happens again. Let these children die because “It’s the price of freedom!” (Bill O’Reilly, 10/17 after Vegas)
They want to restructure our schools into fortresses to prevent this from happening again. Where is the freedom for our children playing behind guard, gates, and guns? Is this what we imagined for our kids? A violent, fearful existence, where they’re not safe anywhere?
There have been 30 mass shootings, 18 of them at schools, all in the first 45 days of this year – this is our reality.
Tonight, look at your guns and remind yourself that it’s worth more THAN a child’s life, and you’re OK with that.