Archive for March, 2012

My Favorite Speech at the Reason Rally

Friday, March 30th, 2012

This is the place – clearly – from which the post below was born. I didn’t know who Jamie Kilstein was until this speech – but he’s great!

Stop Thanking God

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I was just reading too many posts on Facebook about this or that survivor. One was of this wonderful woman who had a mastectomy, survived cancer, and is now pregnant. The caption said, God is Good!

And I am not a disbeliever. I don’t fight the notion of a god, though I don’t believe in any supernatural beings, gods included. I have no problem with the idea that there might be, and that that God or those gods might be beyond our comprehension, working in ways beyond our scope of understanding. But everything right here, right now, that I know of, I know of outside of God. I can explain gravity and the moon and the tides and the coloring in my love’s hazel eyes. I don’t need a god for that, and I most certainly don’t need a god to tell me what is right or wrong.

So I have nothing against the idea that God is Good. I take no issue with the possibility that there are aliens from far away planets currently on their way for some chips and a Yankees’ game, either. If those green big-eyed folk are friendly and meaningfully address issues of social inequality and environmental impact, then I’d be fine calling them good, too.

But I’m imagining the doctor who diagnosed the cancer, the anesthesiologist who brought the woman to within an inch of her life and then brought her back, the nurses, and finally the surgeon who cut out a deadly and thoughtless disease – and even if they were all deeply religious, I just don’t see why we’re thanking God first.

When I get good service at dinner, I don’t tip God.

The thing is, I believe that we are given what we have. Not by gods, but by society. Schools, roads, clean air, security, fire protection – I could not have been educated without these things. And I openly accept that when I do good deeds – like founding a school or raising my kids – I am really extending all the good that has been done for me.

But I could have been a banker. I’m Ivy-League, quick with numbers, a quick study, and well-connected. I could have joined the training program at an investment bank, I could have been an analyst or a software developer at a brokerage house. The money would have been better, the work easier, and the life far more luxurious than the one I ended up with. I didn’t end up with it, though. I chose it. And yes, my parents and my dogs and the butterfly in China also played a part in those choices, but I had final say. I could have lived a life devoted entirely to myself or money or any other thing. But I chose to do a bit more for the world.

So did those doctors and nurses.

So no, don’t thank God. Maybe gods and aliens are good, most likely one is a Bronze-aged fairy tale written by some Palestinians a few thousand years ago and the other are probably just like us only greener – but it doesn’t matter. We little specs of carbon and hope down here, we have to choose to be good, and we deserve just a bit of credit.

For B

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Don’t Stay There

You can stay in the lane
For a bit, if it makes sense.
But there’s a car merging in,
And he’s going to want this space
So get out!

Merge out, Brie!
And I fear the shudder
And the tilt
As the car makes a
Jarring turn into the middle lane
And the very real possibility
That she didn’t look
When she looked
To see if the lane was clear.

But there is no shudder.
She stays in the lane,
I press the invisible
Imaginary brake pedal at my feet,
Wondering when she’s going to
Merge left.
Until I realize she’s not
Going anywhere.

So I say,
Why are you still here?
And she responds
That it’s safer in the
Right lane.
That it’s slower and she
Feels more comfortable.

The truck rears a little
As she slams the breaks
Realizing almost too late that the
Car in front was not going that fast.
Then we’re okay for a second.

I want to say
Well, that doesn’t feel
Very safe.
But I think about
What to say so that
She won’t clench her fists
Crush her body
And look vacantly out
For the rest of the
Driving lesson.

So I say
It’s not better
In the right lane.
It seems like it should be,
Since you’re never speeding,
And you’re always closer
To the exit.

But if you stay,
You’ll be stuck here with all
Those who need this space to merge
Into greater things
And worse,
Those who
Never will.

Don’t ever avoid
Pushing a bit harder on the gas.
Don’t dodge
The catching up
Or the moving past.

Sometimes we fear
A high speed death
More than
A slow life.