Monday, March 31, 2014

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Friday, March 28, 2014

Christianity in America

So this week a Christian international aid organization called World Vision surprised and delighted the compassionate among us by announcing that they would hire Christians in same-sex marriages. Over at the OneWheaton group, and all over the world, shoulders of a thousand wounded gay Christians relaxed a little.

The backlash was remarkably fast and cruel. American Christians - the Sadduccees and Pharisees, make no mistake - denounced World Vision for its heretical acceptance of sin. People were exhorted to cease donating to World Vision's work. Billy Graham's son issued a hateful message about LGBT people. World Vision reversed its decision.

OK,this week sucked. It's awful how deeply the American Christians lack basic compassion. My brother, the great gay rights activist David Mariner stepped back and took the whole thing in:

Billy Graham preached a gospel that was big enough for Republicans and Democrats alike. He was as much a spiritual guide to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as he was to Ronald Reagan. This interview, and the disdain Franklin Graham displays both for the office of the President of the United States and the President we have at the moment, is a stunning betrayal of that legacy. To understand why young people are walking away from Christianity, one only has to look at the difference between Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham as he represents himself in this interview. Graham has said that Islam is "a very evil and wicked religion" in 2001. He said that gay and lesbian people "recruit children" in this video. Young people are so much smarter than to accept this bigotry. They've grown up in a more diverse, more accepting world and the reality of their lived experience with friends who are LGBT or friends who are Muslim give them a more informed perspective. Simply put, many young people out there would rather walk away from Christianity all-together than be a part of a club that people like Franklin Graham belong to. One study indicates ONE THIRD OF MILLENIALS THAT LEFT THEIR RELIGION WALKED AWAY BECAUSE OF ANTI-GAY Policies.

I have disassociated myself from mainstream religion for thirteen years. But I still think Billy Graham himself was a great man of God. He didn't see anyone as his enemy, and it made him more Christlike than, well, everyone who takes it upon themselves to condemn World Vision. There was a statesman quality you could respect with Graham, there was a decency. There wasn't this creepy malice his son brings.

I am fortunate to be married to a man who has no time for religion at all. Discussing these things with him gives me such wonderful perspective. We were just talking about this week, this amazing week, this tumultuous life-changing week, and he shook his head because he just can't believe the lack of compassion inherent in homophobia. To him it is obvious that the Christian religion requires compassion and the condemnation of World Vision - homophobia - comes from a place without compassion.  Not to say, of course, that LGBT people deserve some extra compassion because they are problematic. NOOOOOOOO. To say instead that they deserve the same compassion we all deserve. The same rights.

But they don't get it. Not from the church. These bozos are supposed to be following Jesus! Jesus who preferred lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors (morally the worst, obviously) - preferred the people condemned by society. That's who he wanted to be with.  The religious and political institutions of the time were not to be trusted, those who called themselves righteous never ever were. The fabric of the goodness of Jesus was peacemaking and love, and sitting next to his mother at a wedding and making sure the wine didn't run out. Christianity is not about judging the actions of others and having enemies. It is about radical acceptance and inclusiveness. It is about not having any enemies. It is about healing the enemies you have wounded. It is about respecting the dictates of each person's own soul. Even if that bastard asks for your coat too.

So after a week like this I actually think that maybe I still am a Christian. Because I feel like I deserve that title more than Franklin Graham ever will. You see, just a few weeks ago I got into it with a bunch of Evangelical Christians on LinkedIn. I know what you are thinking - who gets into a heated discussion on Linked In? But someone in the Wheaton Alumni group condemned some students who had a demonstration after a chapel message from a woman who says she used to be a lesbian but now is a good obedient Christian wife. The kids just wanted to say that there were other stories, there were other ways to negotiate being LGBT and being a Christian. But this alumni wanted to condemn any other story but his own rigid intepretation of the scriptures. And it was the Pharisees and Sadduccees all over again, puffed up with their scriptural accuracy and blameless lives, utterly lacking in any love. "Woe unto you lawyers for you lay upon the people burdens hard to bear, and you lift not a finger to aid them".  Luke 11:46. This particular kind of arrogance causes Christian gay youth extreme self-hatred and awful suffering and is in my view a terrible thing.

Yet you know we will see more. And we will see women's access to birth control and abortion eroded, and we will see creepy "purity" balls where girls pledge their virginity to their heavenly father, and we will see that the old white men want their control, they want their institutions, they want to be in charge more than they want to follow Jesus. Christians who turn people away with hate instead of welcoming them with love do not, perhaps, deserve the title.

For The Good Of The Play

So this week I worked with a professional actor and a professional director on this show I'm writing that's going to Edinburgh called Bill Clinton Hercules.

I've been a lawyer for 21 years. Judicial clerk, litigation associate, lots of trial experience, then in-house with a start-up, that was sold to a big incumbent telecom company in Europe, for which I have written contracts and negotiated agreements for the last decade. Girl, I've been around the block.

Professionalism in law really requires putting yourself in service to a client. Making what they want happen, and figuring out how to explain it to them.

My professional stint in the arts this week was decidedly minor but completely lovely. The Junction in Cambridge is really undergoing some marvelous changes and one is a program where local artists present their work called View from the 'Bridge (no one in Cambridge calls it the 'Bridge but theatre must seem cool to young people to survive so whatever).

We picked fifteen minutes from the middle to present. It covered John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Yitzhak Rabin, Negotiation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in 95, Rabin's assasination, the Iowa caucus in 2008 when Hilary came in third to Obama and Edwards - a result that ultimately cost her the nomination, a fabled conversation between Clinton and Ted Kennedy after the caucus, a trashed hotel room, and Bearded Hippy Bill protesting the Vietnam war.

The thing about Clinton is that his life is so huge and amazing there is a lot to cover. We also cover Milosevic, the war in Kosovo, government shut downs, Newt Gingrich, Leon Panetta, Alan Greenspan, Clinton's favorite play The Cure At Troy by Seamus Heaney, Hillary and of course Monica.

It's a big overwhelming thing to write. However, it is possible. With a huge professional adjustment on my part. Now I serve the play, which means I serve myself and my vision. I am so uncomfortable with this degree of selfishness, but this is what must be done. The weird and wonderful thing though is this: to be a professional playwright, I have to put my life and my happiness first and foremost. It feels heretical just to write but I've been trying it on and the interesting thing is I think this equips me more rather than less to serve the needs of others.

So basically if I can trust myself and be nice to myself, then this whole thing might work out. It seems to be going very well. I still suck at not berating myself. When I tune in to my own interior dialogue I am shocked to see that I am always calling myself a moron, deeply shaming myself over things that are really not my fault - I am so mean. But I'm learning to shake it off for the good of the play.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Damn Murdoch to Hell

I'm one of the odd revolutionaries, really, because of how much I love consumer goods like Champagne and Prosecco. I used to wander into the Occupy London Economics Group discussions at Tent City University in 2011, just a few times. Enough to feel the need to mention that if production of Champagne was in any way jeopardized by this revolution, I was out.

And one thing I love is content. American content. Jon Stewart, The Simpsons, Futurama, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Girls. The latest movies with aging Will Smiths and Tom Cruises looking increasingly haggard when faced with explosions. I love them! I even have more good feelings than bad feelings about Jennifer Aniston rom-coms. Don't mess with television. My first heaven was HBO at the house where I was babysitting, stumbling on Nightshift and squirming with delight at how marvelous it was. When a show is on that I can catch every week, it gives me great happiness. The anticipation, the viewing, the discussions. Fantasy Island, Superfriends, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Greatest American Hero, LA Law, Ally McBeal, Melrose Place (respect)  Friends, Will & Grace, Scrubs.

My kids and I these days watch about one Simpsons and one Modern family a day together and I love it. If you are worried about your children and screens, sit your ass down and find a way to enjoy the screens with them. You could probably do with some relaxation. Watching television is fun! And I find out a lot about my kids discussing TV shows. We really enjoy picking what we will watch. And - this is where Sky comes in -- we love to see what movie will premiere on Fridays that we can watch during pizza night.

The content is sublime, but the market underneath is seedy and monopolistic and very depressing. I recently streamlined/upgraded our tv situation. I received notice that cathode ray tube televisions were seriously dorky. I actually received the notice in 2008 but I couldn't bring myself to upgrade.

It's like upgrading the house, which we are doing. It is expensive and time-consuming and seems symptomatic of a prevalent and destructive cultural drive toward pure consumerism at the expense of civic virtue. It's this kind of crap that really goes on in my brain and I can't put a stop to it. Luckily my great friend J told me to either fix my house or STOP COMPLAINING. Thank God for her. It was an easy choice.

So like the house, we upgraded the television. But of course content provision is a consumer service. And the painful inefficiencies of any kind of consumer service in the UK are rife and unstoppable. The process was protracted, difficult, fraught and filled with unexpected problems. I realize this is a huge first world problem, but the middle class problems matter. A monopoly controls the content I want to see. I have no choice but to buy their equipment, install their broadband, switch to their landline service in order to view their content.  Plus I have to subject myself to endless interactions to secure my rationed portion.

Installation and difficulties (my broadband shut down for five days for no reason anyone could see) were dehumanizing. This is because like in many other customer service areas, as much work as possible is being shunted onto the consumer. They make our lives harder and charge us more money for it.

And the "they" turns out to be an obscenely rich individual who bribes police officers, buys politicians, thwarts truth and is super creepy. Hence the title.

I didn't ever imagine that I would be an activist, especially an activist who said things like Damn Murdoch To Hell! But it turns out I am! Another way I would alienate people at Occupy - besides defending Champagne - was to suggest burning Tony Blair in effigy. This made more peaceful people uncomfortable. I guess I am the person who wants peace, but strong communication. Tony Blair is with and of Murdoch, blinded by money, a traitor to the people who elected him and made his wealth possible.  Somebody has to damn them. We can't sit around doing nothing. Except some well-deserved time off to watch television.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bill Clinton Hercules

So this play I am writing (tentatively) called Bill Clinton Hercules is going to the Fringe! Great luck!!!  It only took twelve years of concerted effort.

Bill Clinton Hercules is a one-man biopic performed as a fantasy TED Talk about Clinton’s favourite play, Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney but is really a study of his heart and the future betrayal of Hillary.   

The play will be performed by Kansas City actor and artistic director Bob Paisley and directed by my ace in the hole in this operation, Guy Masterson.

Guy asked me to write the play when he found out that I had lived in Washington and was one (of many) lawyers representing Clinton in  Jones v Clinton. I then informed him that of course everything interesting I knew was privileged and couldn’t be put into a play. Fortunately it was too late for him to back out.  

The Fringe is the largest arts festival in Europe. It takes place in Edinburgh, in Scotland, about a 4 hour train journey (extremely pleasant) from London or Cambridge. It runs August 1 -25 this year. You will be able to buy tickets and get more information at the EdFringe and Assembly websites:

Way before August, in fact, two weeks from Monday, we have a trial run in Cambridge. We were lucky enough to be selected to perform an excerpt at The Junction in a few weeks. It’s a schoolnight and a Monday which is hardly ideal and the excerpt will only be ten minutes, there will be other local artists presenting their work. It would be great if you wanted to come. Please consider yourself invited.  

Tickets are £5. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Place Where We Are Right

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right

Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right

Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves

Dig up the world

Like a mole, a plow.

And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.