To Those Who Are at Ease

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.”

— Amos 6:1-7

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

The Least of These My Brothers

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to Me.’

–Matthew 25:34-45

Inequity (Part Three)

There are many strange disparities that entail between the worlds of those who live outdoors and those who do not.   Few, however, cause as much difficulty as the naked fact that people who live outside have no privacy whatsoever.

In fact, the relationship between privacy and freedom is something I hadn’t really examined prior to having lived outdoors.   When I first decided to join an intentional homeless community in Berkeley, a large part of what I was after was freedom.  You see, I was writing a lot of music at the time, and I just felt that in the living situations I was able to afford, I never had enough privacy to be able to focus on it.   What that meant for me was that I was not free.  

I wanted so desperately to be free!  I wanted to be where the musical ideas would flow in an uninterrupted fashion — not in an environment where I was frequently interrupted by roommates or landlords, or by their friends, lovers, and children.  Somehow, the outdoor venues of the San Francisco East Bay provided that freedom for a good year and a half or so, between around April 2011 and October 2012.   I wrote a lot of music then, and I remember how blissful it felt to plug my laptop into an outdoor power outlet on the U.C.Berkeley campus and enjoy an uninterrupted creative flow in the open air.

Of course, that happiness was short-lived.  After a while it became known to the local thieves that I was a scatterbrained O.G. with a laptop – and therefore an easy mark.   I may have had freedom for a while, but I certainly was deluding myself if that freedom could be any substitute for the kind that is found in privacy.  

If those of us who were homeless began to bicker and squabble amongst each other, that bickering and squabbling was made known to whoever was within earshot.   We couldn’t even enjoy a mild debate or political discussion without it becoming privy to whoever happened to pass by.   And if we had to use the bathroom?   Good luck.  

I remember more than once spending over two hours looking for an open bathroom when I had to go No.2.   Finally, I would take matters into my own hands.  But what else could one do?   One does what one must  — of course.   But then, when homeless people are in search of privacy, and perhaps even locating a semblance of same, how do those homeless people appear in the eyes of ubiquitous observers?

“They appear as though they have something to hide.   And who has something to hide?   A criminal!  We better investigate!”

So we would find ourselves, even as we sought out privacy as quietly as possible, being pursued in that very search — by those who suspected us of subterfuge.  The more we sought after privacy, the less private our lives became.   

The fact that homeless people are often in search of privacy in order to conduct normal, routine business that is ordinarily conducted behind closed doors feeds into the criminalization of the homeless.   That there are criminals among the homeless is no secret.  Often criminals duck behind stairwells and into back alleys in order to conduct criminal business.   And they certainly look suspicious when they do.  But what if a couple of non-criminal homeless people need to have a private conversation?   Where do they go?

Chances are, they will go behind that same stairwell, and into that same back alley, where criminals are found engaging in illicit transactions.   Why?   Because there is nowhere else to go.   And any time a homeless person seeks privacy — whether their motives are benign, malicious, or neither — it makes them appear to be criminals with evil intent.  

If I have a personal habit today that one might frown upon — and God knows whether  I do — at least I know that I can go behind closed doors to engage that private practice without concern for onlookers.   When I was homeless, I had no such luxury.   Any peccadillo of mine was made public information, visible to an entire city.   Can you imagine the effect such a phenomenon would have on one’s sense of self, especially when perpetuated over months and years?

It wasn’t until long after I had gotten inside that I began to make sense out of it all.   The bare truth was that the very things I did outdoors that aroused disdain under public scrutiny are those which my observers themselves did, behind closed doors, unabashedly.  If that is not an inequity, I do not know what is.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Justice and Righteousness

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
     Why would you have the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, and not light;
     as if a man fled from a lion,
     and a bear met him;
or went into the house and leaned
          with his hand against the wall,
     and a serpent bit him.
Is not the day of the LORD darkness,
          and not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it?

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
     and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies,
Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings
          and cereal offerings,
     I will not accept them,
and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts
     I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
      to the melody of your harps
      I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
     and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  

–Amos 5:18-24 RSV

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1253

1. Slept about 5 hrs — an hour and a half from 10:30 till midnight, and then another 3 1/2 from 2:30 till 6. Grateful to have fulfilled the requirement.

2. Ran only 2 miles at a snail’s pace, neither for speed, distance, or tempo. It was a good warm-up for the Big Five tomorrow morning, hopefully combining all three.

3. Very nice talk with my friend Holly last night. She’s doing well, house-sitting in Grass Valley on a large acreage with swimming pool.

4. Sold another $45 worth of Abandon albums on Bandcamp yesterday, in addition to the $30 I made in hard copy CD sales. So, a $75 day yesterday, once all proceeds manifest.

5. Saw an amazingly gorgeous sunset walking home from the cafe last night. I took it to mean that the sun is setting beautifully on a newly completed stage of my life.

6. Set up Discord to chat with Emily, and fixed Google Hangouts. Had a great talk with my daughter on Hangouts & squared some things away.

7. Remembered something about the psychic stage where I get onto the massive creative roll (which I call “Stage Three.”)  It’s not good to let the high creative flow be interrupted, because it can transform the passion to total frustration and irritation, if not outright outrage. Next time I’ll remember.

8. The September Street Spirit is the best since Alastair took over, and my column the best of the three.   Expect a pertinent blog post on Thursday.

9. Looking forward to good work on the 4th draft today and to playing piano at 4pm at the hospital.

10. The upstairs section of the cafe, where nobody from next door is likely to find me, and the Muses hover almost visibly over my comfortable creative chair.  God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1214

1. Slept well from about 10pm till 6:30. First woke at 2:30, used sleep aid of choice, woke fairly solid.

2. Rode 9.5 miles into the nearest town West and stopped at the foot of the six mile weaving country bike trail. Easy ride and didn’t seem that long, checked on GoogleMaps from where I live, the way I rode. Rode 9.5 miles back this morning, very pleasant both ways.

3. Spent my first night outdoors and outside of present-day city limits in over three years. Stripped myself of phone and Internet, camped out in the wilds, and thought things through.

4. Was able to help a homeless guy with a ten dollar bill. It was interesting because I’d bought some food with a twenty dollar bill and the cashier commented how it came out to exactly 10.00. I said: “There’ll be a use for that ten dollar bill!” The homeless cat appeared in the morning, and it’ll come back around.

5. At the doctor yesterday, my weight was down one lb. (from 205 to 204), pulse 56, bp 116/78. Nothing else was decided other than to maintain the status quo for now.

6. Woke this morning having a hard time believing I did 15 quick push-ups the morning before yesterday. Nothing’s sore yet. Well, I’m probably in better shape than I thought. I feel lighter than 204, it’s misleading due to somatotype. Thankful for being in good shape, and usually vigorous. In fact, the recent exercise, including running and lots more walking, has seemed to have soothed my spirit.

7. Though I’d felt emotionally compelled to depart from my geographical community indefinitely, I realized during a single night outside the city limits that the best thing to do would be to make the most of it and return home in the morning, where I had left cell phone charger, prescription medication, and all kinds of other responsibilities. I was easily able to rationalize the mini-vacation on the basis of health and sanity, but not so much on the basis of finances, until I remembered that a coming paycheck from Berkeleyside will pretty much cover the costs. (Pretty much).

8. Alastair had me sign a consent form to publish my previously published articles along with future articles of my consent in any of 200 other INSP guild newspapers. (It’s still not syndication, as there is no pay for these reprints, only exposure. It’s just a heck of a lot of exposure.)

9. Phone conversations with my daughter, Danielle, Kent, Nick, Holly, and other good friends have been precious lately. Looking forward to catching up with my friend Alex today. Also very thankful for the brothers and sisters at my church and for their ongoing tolerance of my every peccadillo. Thankful for support from other Artists and Writers as well as spiritually principled and disciplined individuals. God has blessed me with good support and fellowship, not to be taken for granted.

10. I re-outlined the Last Scene last night according to what we learned in rehearsals, and also adjusted my attitude toward the impending script and vocal score revisions. This was unsurprisingly timed with running into Dave, who reassured me of his same commitment, only he can’t commit to an exact date. I’ll return the commitment and do what I’m supposed to do. Thankful for this ongoing opportunity. Don’t give up the ship.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.