Tuesday, December 18, 2012



(Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Newtown, CT.)  Perhaps there is no more tragic an event as that which transpired here in this small New England community last Friday.  Twenty innocent children sitting in a kindergarten classroom were viciously murdered as were 6 members of the school staff.  It is an event that is difficult to process; it requires a suspension of reality just to imagine it and who could possibly perpetrate such horror.

President Obama came here last Sunday night to address an auditorium filled with residents of Newtown; the families and friends of those murdered sat among them.  In his remarks President Obama commented that “this is the fourth time since I have been in Office” that he had traveled to speak to a community recently turned upside down in the wake of a mass shooting incident.    It likely will not be the last.

This is not a statement of pessimism or apathy.  It is a simple statement of fact; fact that has been borne out in reality with regularity that begs profound questions of us and elected leaders that are not easily answered.  The torn bodies of those slain had yet to be removed from the scene of the crime before talk of “a national debate” on guns, gun control, assault weapon bans, and similar tougher measures was well underway.  This call for “national debate” we have often heard before with typical knee-jerk regularity.

Yes, there are questions we as a nation must ask ourselves and our legislators on every level will have to address some very specific questions, far more specific then the rubric of “gun control”.  First we have to acknowledge some truths.  We are and have always been a “gun culture”.  More than any other Western nations Americans enjoy owning guns for a variety of reasons.  That this right to bear arms is codified in the Second Amendment to our Constitution gun ownership is not perceived as a privilege but as a right and no one is willing to surrender any aspect of their lives that is a right. 

In the last 4 days since the murderous rampage here at the Sandy Hook Elementary School all the usual talking heads have loudly espoused their well-known and, sometimes, well-worn positions.  With tired predictability the pros and cons in this on-going argument have stated their respective cases.  Their arguments, so familiar and unyielding create a monotonic din that barely registers with us anymore. 

In reality this is not a simple issue.  This is not a black and white examination of gun laws.  It is a far more nuanced set of issues that need to be addressed dispassionately, objectively, and without the ferocity of emotions that are flowing in the wake of the evil visited on this community.  To view it as an “all or nothing” issue is to miss the point; actually such rigidity misses several points.


Let’s face it, we are a violent people.  We are a crude, course, aggressive, society swimming in a culture that awards, rewards and celebrates violence in all its myriad forms.  It permeates every aspect of our culture in all forms of entertainment from movies to computer games.  We talk a good game of in-your-face kick ass but shy away from the truth or try to masquerade it by packaging it in the convoluted divisive disingenuous language of politics.  But the truth, the nasty truth cannot be obscured, hidden, or painted over.  The truth is on display 24/7 from coast to coast in every segment and strata of our diverse and disparate society.

We are Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Cops, Lock-up, truTV, Jackass, reality program addicted voyeurs. We are WWE smack down, body slamming, chair throwing, foul-mouthed buffoons.  We are MMA knock out, choke out, knock your teeth out, tap out, ground and pound, bare-knuckle, street, cage and ‘ghetto’ fighting crowds cheering for blood and guts with gusto equal to Romans at the Coliseum.  We are blindsiding, low-blowing, sucker punching, head banging, gangsta rapping, heavy metal, junkies. We are fast and furious, shock and awe, lock and load, cut and dry, read ‘em and weep and Gung fucking Ho.  With mouths agape, beer in hand with our kids in the other room playing Grand Theft Auto on the latest digital device honing their marksmanship skills and becoming increasingly desensitized, we wait for the next late hit, quarterback sack, crack back, cheap shot, head shot, take him down at the knees, slam dunk, barreling home, bone crunching , brain rattling up the middle image.  Patiently we’ll sit through the mind numbing ovoid hypnosis of a NASCAR race hoping the next turn brings a tire blowing, high speed, fiery, multicar, collision.  Yup, we like our violence and mayhem.

As violent people violence of a sensational nature shouldn’t surprise us.  But we proclaim loudly that it does and that reaction reeks of idiotic shallowness, another defining aspect of our culture today.  We seem to be a very conflicted people, a nation plagued by a strain of chronic hypocrisy, dissonance, and confusion that it is no small wonder we don’t have more intractable issues to confront.   The topic of discussion today is what happened here last Friday.  We talk about it, may argue over it, and try to understand it or even arrive at a conclusion that comports with our personal perspectives.  The gun owners among us can say, “Obviously, he was crazy.  He needed help. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Their anti-gun neighbors or coworkers will argue with equal ardor that “We need to ban all guns.  We must start with assault weapons and get rid of them.  Then we need tougher laws, more laws, more regulation.”  But is it all about guns; is that the essential problem here?


We are also a God-fearing, church attending, generous, charitable, neighborly, stick together people.  We often demonstrate a collective conscience, a shared morality, the ability to accept those others different than ourselves and to extend our largesse far and wide.  We are hardworking, family-centric, community oriented people often finding common ground in matters of justice and equality. 

We tend to view ourselves as good decent people willing to lend a helping hand when called upon.  We do no doubt have our moments.  In the aftermath of natural disaster and large-scale mayhem we are able to demonstrate the best of human nature, a real sense of unity, empathy, and compassion.

It seems that we are able to speak out of both sides of our mouths sometimes appearing to be ailing from some mutant strain of collective schizophrenia.  This dissonance renders us stuck at times; frozen in a moral place that leaves us paralyzed and unable to act towards the greater good.


In 1999 during the impeachment proceedings against then President Bill Clinton in the U.S. Senate, Dale Bumpers, a long time Senate veteran from Arkansas stood in the well of the Senate chamber and eloquently offered a powerful defense of President Clinton.  In his speech Senator Bumpers made the following comment, “When they say it’s not about money, it is about money and, when they say it’s not about sex, it is about sex.”  He spoke the truth.

Now we find ourselves inundated by media coverage of the Sandy Hook massacre (Some of which has clearly been unethical) and the focus is on guns.  To expand Senator Bumpers’ astute observation, “When they say it isn’t about guns; it is about guns” and the inverse corollary, “It isn’t about random, individual madness, but it is.  It’s not about guns.”  

Naturally it took the brutal slaying of 20 kindergarteners to bring to the fore an issue, not quite epidemic but extremely fatal when it flares up; when it periodically erupts in our Country, to focus our attention.   The violence delivered upon the elementary school here strikes particularly close to the heart not only for parents but for most citizens.  The tender age of 20 of those victims as well as the setting in which they were massacred may represent a “tipping point” in the on-going gun debate but, it may actually not have sufficient longevity. 

Too often we’ve seen events, mass casualty, mass fatality events and, in their immediate wake calls to action are heard from all quarters.  But another disturbing collective ailment soon prevails, that being collective short term memory.  We soon grow tired of the news coverage, of seeing the victims’ photos, of listening to survivors accounts on the 24 hour cable newsertainment networks.   Political resolves rapidly fades into just so much political rhetoric.  Our societal recognition of the issue of the day wanes as people drift back to their long held positions and opinions.  Too much happens too often to hold our attention for too long. 

As has been the case after every similar event to that which transpired here last Friday the same questions are asked, the search for motive and understanding are given attention and the need to assign blame locates the usual suspects.  But to what end?  What is it we are trying to understand, what is it we need to have explained, who are we to blame because naturally, their just has to be someone, some force, factor or influence to blame?  The answers to these questions are elusive and far more complex than they appear at first blush.  It is much like trying to identify the cause of a hurricane from one inland puddle of sea water.  It can’t be done.  So, what is essentially a micro issue in each instance can only be tackled by a macro effort.  


Over the last four days the media has saturated us with numbers, statistics and other data, some obtuse, regarding gun ownership, deaths from firearms, and the mandatory pseudo-scientific data that is always hauled out after a “lone gunman, mass fatality event”.  Depending whose data you believe you can find statistics that “prove” your particular point of view whatever that may be.  Aside from the numbers and stats we have a multitude of diverse and often grossly disparate opinions as to causes and solutions.

America is a nation approaching 400 million in population with anywhere between 85 and 300 million “legally purchased, registered” firearms the bulk of which are “long guns”, shot guns and rifles used by hunters, target shooters and other sportsmen.  The Department of Justice and its law enforcement branch the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) track analyze and publish their “official” statistics for all major crime categories annually.  From their ocean of data it appears that in an average year 22,000 Americans are murdered by a person wielding a firearm.  In the never ending quest of the media to hype and exploit each of these horrific events in headlines and the annoying scroll lines that stream across the bottom of the TV screen on virtually every broadcast, we’ve been informed that 32 people a day are shot to death in America.  Or is it 34?  Statistics, particularly government statistics are infinitely malleable and notoriously cooked, crunched, and inaccurate representations of whatever reality they are intended to measure.  But, there can be no doubt that America has a higher percentage per capita of homicides via firearms than any other Western nation.

One veteran NYPD Homicide Detective (speaking not for attribution) expressed his dismay at the frequency of mass fatality shootings recently but also commented that, “I’m frankly surprised it doesn’t happen more often given our open society, population and the number of the violent mentally ill among us who own their own guns or have access to them.”  He continued that it was ironic that there have been lone gunman mass killings in a movie theater in Colorado, a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and several other locations this year while New York City, once the “murder capital” of America, “will have fewer murders this year than suicides.  Our homicide rate is at a 53 year low.  It is amazing.”  When asked what can be attributed to the low homicide rate in NYC he replied that “a number of policies, practices, and aggressive policing have made a big difference but there are other factors at work here.  We have been able to get guns off the street because they are the guns used in most of the City’s homicides.”

Law Enforcement officials across the country say that enforcing existing gun laws is essential while conceding that someone bent on murdering someone or a group of someone’s is typically virtually impossible to identify prior to the commission of a murderous act or rampage.  They unanimously agree that “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines” should be banned completely simply because “they have no place in society.  No hunter needs a semi-automatic, high caliber rifle with a 100 shot clip.” 


In almost every unprecedented murderous act committed in America over the last 3 decades we have been slow to act or we act in ways that follow the path of least resistance usually skirting the true core matter at hand. Members of what would evolve into an organization known as Al Qaeda bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, fifteen students and staff were shot near Jonesboro Arkansas in 1998 and two young boys shot 33 students and staff, killing 12, in Columbine High School in 1999.  After each of these events as the sad history of the intervening years has shown us, there were no real new policies and procedures developed and implemented that addressed the particulars of each of these tragedies.   That seems to be the American way; a short attention span, spineless politicians and a legion of Washington DC lobbyists and special interest groups have thwarted those in a position to enact real practical, sensible change.  Will this be the case now?  Once the last of those pitifully tiny coffins are interred in Newtown Connecticut will we all just move on? 

At the moment it appears that this latest horror, a gunman killing 6 and 7 year old children as they sat at their small desks in a kindergarten classroom, may – just may – generate sufficient motivation, resolve and commitment to mitigating the likelihood of anything like what happened at Sandy Hook elementary from ever happening again.

The least that can be done is to reenact the ban on assault weapons signed into law by President Bill Clinton only left to expire under President George W. Bush.  Security at public facilities of all kinds needs to be improved in a sensible, logical, affordable manner. 

We can talk all we want about guns and mental illness, about estranged, deranged young alienated loners, the  undiagnosed  mentally ill among us, bullying, the NRA, the Second Amendment, rights, privileges, privacy and the random nature of life itself and those would all be conversations torquing the nuts and bolts along the fringe of the real problems that confront us.

Sure, there is plenty of “blame”, for what it’s worth, to go around.  We can blame movies, video games, TV, music, bad parenting, broken families, aimless youth, drugs, sensory overload,inadequate mental health care availability, planetary alignment and all the other hot button “talking points” spinning around the heart of the matter like so much wind-blown snow in a blizzard and most of it would be just so much wasted energy and time.

It is not about taking “God” out of our schools just as it is not about the “loopholes" in the existing gun laws.  What is at the heart of the matter is who we are and what we are as a people, as a Country, as a culture and society.  There are no easy answers to the questions we’ve yet to formulate but some serious debate needs to occur at every level of government and society.  After some initial debate some answers will emerge but only if there is earnestness and a sense of urgency in the debate process.

Are we as a nation prepared to demonstrate to our fellow citizens and the world who watches America with a fixed stare that we are better than this, that we are capable, willing and eve able to be better than what we are today? 

Time will tell.

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Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2012 © All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 30, 2012


The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, center, was congratulated
by Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.
(Photo courtesy of NY Times)

(Friday November 30, 2012, New York, NY)  Exactly 65 years after the day in 1947 that the United Nations voted for the “Partition Plan”, formally known as United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181: "Plan of Partition with Economic Union" which was intended to release the region known as “The Holy Land” or “Palestine” from the British Mandate that had overseen (effectively governed) the region since the League of Nations adopted the Balfour Declaration that was implemented in 1923, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to officially recognize the State of Palestine. While many regard this as nothing more than a “meaningless, symbolic gesture”, it has a far more profound significance.

Since the time of the initial British Mandate in 1917, neither the Jewish or Palestinian people were pleased with the arrangement and, as the community of sovereign nations has witnessed time and time again, the concept of a “Two State Solution”, one Palestinian, the other Israeli, has remained just that - a concept, a painfully elusive concept that has taken an unknown number of lives, kept the entire Middle East region captive to the perpetual Arab/Israeli conflict in Israel; fomented violence, terrorism, and created a seemingly intractable scenario with Israel keeping the Palestinians under iron-fisted oppression and, arguably “occupation” for generations.  Whether yesterday’s historic vote is just a symbolic gesture or a real, concrete “first step” towards an ultimate mutually agreeable solution remains to be seen.

That this vote occurred so soon after the latest military engagement between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the militant faction, Hamas, who launched long range missiles from their base in The Gaza Strip into Israeli cities, is no coincidence.  That it transpired on the annually observed International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is just that – a coincidence.  It appears that this most recent flare up and violent exchange between IDF and Hamas was the proverbial “tipping point” that prompted the UNGA action. 


Before the existence of any laws made by man there existed a set of natural phenomenon, as immutable and pure as life itself.  It took thousands of years of observation, pondering, calculating and intense study and experimentation until some of these phenomenon could be codified in a body of laws.  The Laws of Nature contain within them the Laws of Physics and Thermodynamics. 

Some of the basic Laws of Physics are familiar.  Those simple statements we may have encountered in a high school science class that inform govern the mechanics and machinations of the known universe from the galactic scale to the sub atomic realm.  Sir Isaac Newton discovered the mathematical symmetry that is requisite of all physical laws  such as, “An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it” and “An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.”  Since the days of Newton a body of laws have been amassed that explain physical phenomenon such as motion, speed, velocity, entropy, energy and a host of related natural activity.

Man began to create, implement and enforce laws of his own construct since the dawn of civilized societies.  There were laws of religion that varied from tribe to tribe and lead to the development of organized religions.  Laws governing society, trade, banking, civil governance and criminality arose as man flourished.  The old Latin document, The Magna Carta, written in 1215, remains the bedrock of civil and criminal law in many western nations to this day.

Laws begot more laws; as societies became increasingly sophisticated and complex still more laws were more written and implemented.  While the Laws of Nature had always existed awaiting discovery, other laws were crafted out of ambiguous and often dubious whims of those in authority.  Some of the recently defined “laws” of Mans creation are informal but ring so true in our lives that we have elevated them into certainty.  Murphy’s Law is an example as is the Law of Unintended Consequences.  It appears whether one accepts that as truisms, one of the Laws of Unintended Consequences was proven in the cavernous UNGA chamber yesterday and Israel was its victim.

In a disturbingly cyclical pattern Israel has found itself unleashing the full might and fury of those it occupies.  A few crude missiles fired into Israel from Lebanon, The West Bank or Gaza, and hundreds of retaliatory airstrikes from the mighty Israeli Air Force reduce block after block of Palestinian homes and shops to smoldering rubble usually, if not always, claiming the lives of unknown innocent lives of Palestinian men, women, children the elderly and infirm.  The brutal disproportionality of the “Israeli response” is so obvious and grossly inconsistent with International Law that it appears, finally, the world community has mustered the resolve to make a loud and clear statement, “Enough.”  For Israel the Law of Unintended Consequences has boomeranged home. 


Israel is unaccustomed to such a strong rebuke.  They have operated with callous, malicious impunity outside the confines of International Law as the ungrateful beneficiary of the largess, sympathy and inexplicably unshakable allegiance of the United States.  No matter the cause or atrocity, despite all the subsequent UN resolutions passed since Resolution 181, Israel has existed comfortably behind the protection and influence of the United States.    And as every country, politician , world leader, head of state, observer, journalist or intellectual has painfully learned, to cross Israel, to in any way, shape or form criticize the Israeli governments and practices is to not only invite strong often ugly retaliation but also to automatically be branded as “Anti-Semitic.”  The unreasonable, vociferous almost pathological reaction by each and every Israeli Administration is finally becoming apparent for its transparency, disingenuousness, and moral inconsistency.

There is a glaring morbid irony inherent in the Israeli policies and practices towards the Palestinians for the last 65 years.  One could reasonably think that a people that have themselves endured atrocities and genocide on a massive scale would be the most sensitive to the plight of other beleaguered people.  There is no denying that the Jewish people did face virtual extinction during the reign of the Nazi regime from 1939 until the end of World War II in Europe in 1945.  The “Holocaust” remains one of the darkest chapters of pure evil in the annals of history.  Having been the innocent victims of an almost demonically inspired “Final Solution” to eradicate them from the lands within Hitler’s maniacal reach, does not give them license now to occupy, oppress, and hold hostage an equally beleaguered People.  To constantly invoke their tragic history as justification for their aggressive apartheid policies not only diminishes their own painful past but has become irrelevant to the issues that demand resolutions today.  The Jewish state and the Zionist Movement have done more to exploit their own past than any other religion and people. 

Israel has used the brutal episodes in Jewish history as the rationale, the actual reason for their behavior.  Yes, other Middle East countries have, at one time or another, gone to war with Israel, many deny her right to exist to this day.  But, as the years have melded into decades and generations of Palestinians have grown up in deplorable conditions, Israel has become a formidable military power with a nuclear capability which they adamantly refuse to admit to.  They are no longer in any danger of “extinction”; never again will a country of coalition of hostile neighbors decide to square off against the highly trained, superiorly armed IDF.  So pulling out the tattered and torn trump card of the Holocaust is a bogus ploy that most Jews should find offensive if not insulting and demeaning to the relatives they lost to the horrors of notorious places such as Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, and all the other hideous facilities built and operated by the Nazi’s at which they could achieve their diabolical aim.


The world will watch and wait anxiously to see what happens next in that hotly contested, ancient land so infused with history, religions, and far too much spilled blood.  Early indications are that Israel will continue to be belligerently petulant and, as a result of yesterday’s UNGA vote quickly approved the expansion of “settlements” in the West Bank.  Not only is this far removed from any sign of what the community of nations proclaimed loudly and clearly, but also demonstrates their recalcitrance towards conciliation and desire to work in furtherance of their oft stated but never achieved goal of a “Two State Solution.”

But, the world is watching perhaps as never before.  Israel is poised at a junction although she may fail to realize this new harsh fact.  She has choices to make that transcend her domestic politics, shine a new high wattage light on her actions, and place the onus squarely on the shoulders of her leaders.

Perhaps the world will be relieved and pleasantly surprised when Israel matures under the scrutiny of the wider world and takes earnest, tangible efforts in the rocky direction of the long sought Two State Solution.  The world can only watch and pray.  The Palestinians can celebrate again tonight buoyed by the fact that finally the United Nations has heard their anguished cries.  But, time will tell. 



Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2012 © All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



Somebody somewhere asked a question.  There is probably another somebody asking that very same question at this moment.  It is a question asked looking pleadingly into eyes just as lost as those of the asker, just as anguished and puzzled, confused and frightened.

Sometimes the question is asked to walls, floors or ceilings in dimly lit hospital rooms where the measure of a life hanging in the balance is marked by the cadence of the machinery of modern medicine.  The question has been asked angrily looking through tears into a starry night, or humbly in a chapel cast in shadows with the flickering flames of hundreds of votive candles arrayed at the base of statues of unfamiliar saints dancing on cold stone walls, empty wooden pews and what feels like an empty chamber mockingly devoid of any sign of Divinity. The acoustics of an empty place of worship are such that each stifled sob, each muttered prayer, each sniffle and swipe of a tissue to clear tears from the cheeks annoyingly echoes as if the grief that brought the asker to that place is inappropriate. 

It has been asked by a Mom sitting alone on the empty bed where her child once slept; slept before some demonic disease possessed her and took her away.  It has been asked by a Dad pacing in the harsh fluorescent light of an emergency waiting room as his wife fights for life just feet away.  It has been asked while gazing unseeingly at a gravestone marking the small plot of earth where a loved one was interred. 

It is a question as old as mankind, as primal; primitive even, as are the forces of nature that compel it.  It is question that has been asked of every deity, every god or source of worship by people of every race, creed, faith and belief.  It is a universal question but most sincerely asked solitarily. 

It is a question born in that ill-defined yet distinctly human organ where heart and soul share a blood supply; where the arteries coursing with raw, unbridled emotions have been oxygenated with the corpuscles of love so strong, so deep, so elemental that it threatens the life of the asker. 

It is an incongruously simple question, a succinct, almost too small a plea for as answer so large, so beyond reach, so elusive and cruelly unattainable.  It is that one word question that can be asked from the strain of heart clenching, soul wrenching bitterness and despair that is the sole accompanier of death.  It is, of course, “Why”?

*****     *****

This simple question is asked of relatives and friends; of Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Shamans, Pastors, Preachers, doctors, and Mullahs.  But the question being asked of Another, of someone or something that we cannot begin to approach directly in our unvarnished pain, anger and anguish.  The Christian is probably asking it of God or Jesus Christ.  The Jew is posing the question to Yahweh, Jehovah or He who is yet to come.  The Muslim asks Allah, Ahura Mazda or Allah Baha’i.  Hindus may ask Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva.  Others ask it of an Ultimate Reality or a Force, a Life Spirit, Prime Mover, Supreme Being, or Alpha and Omega.  Still there are those who don’t beg the question to a Deity just some ephemeral, ill-defined Higher Power.  The universality of humans innate need to believe in something “Other”, something “Greater”, something responsible for all that there is in the universe is either proof that our brains are merely hardwired for the “concept” of a God or that a Divine Entity does in fact exist.  Either way, we ask the “why?” because there HAS TO BE  a reason, right?  What sadistic cosmic thread could weave such a vicious trail through time and ultimately snag my child, my wife, my husband?   

Our need to know and understand all that transpires in the often jagged contours of our lives is more than a utilitarian artifact of possessing such a sophisticated brain.  Neurons, axons, neurochemicals, synaptic activity and Nano sparks of electricity have allowed us to conquer nature, understand the cosmos, develop civilizations, cultures, societies, art in all its creative forms and live longer than even those just two generations over our shoulder.  The mighty human brain has produced, inspired, made, manufactured, constructed, invented, cured and put us at the apparent apogee of life on Earth.  Yet, for all that, despite all we know and can do we remain insignificant and infantile in our pain and ignorance.

*****     *****

We can be humble in our pain, rendered every state from anger to puzzlement by our ignorance.  All we are left with in our darkest times is the question and, expecting an answer, a moment of clarity that strikes the Soul like a bullet made of the most brilliant diamond and, at some point, begrudgingly, defeated, or just bone weary,  we realize it is not to be. 

But there is an answer.  It is not the answer we seek, we need to make the wretchedly pointless somehow more acceptable but, it is an answer.  It comes from within the Articles of Faith.  Faith, that other mysterious phenomenon, that hybrid core between superstition and Belief the circuitry of which we seem to be born with.  But Faith is not just another defining attribute of the human brain; it is not just one more capacity of our large frontal lobes nor is it knowledge acquired as are the stale facts of history.  It transcends knowledge as it does doubt.  It provides solace and comfort while requiring the expenditure of what may be just vapors of fuel in the tanks of emotional reserve.  Faith.

Perhaps we’ll lose some here; maybe this is the juncture that separates some of us from others.  Just as it has been said that “There are no atheists in foxholes”, that folks look for Divine Intervention in times of peril than so too is it that there are few atheists in mourning.  No.  Despite the fact that they may have adhered to and professed allegiance to an atheistic or agnostic practical worldview for most of their lives, when death visits and takes what is theirs they find faith as something to which their anger can be directed.  They ask the question as does everyone at some time or another but they ask it mockingly, snidely, with a sneer cursing a God they’d never believed in or cared to.  That is a lonely place.  As the old Jesuit axiom advises, “It’s better to believe than not.  If there is no God, well, nothing has really been lost.  But, if there is a God and you did not believe, you might wind up wishing you had.”    This may sound like a cheap advertisement for some cheap generic faith; maybe that is really all that is needed.  After all, who doesn’t want their Sunday’s free for leisure, to conduct their lives as they see fit, to be intellectually superior to those who may be foolish enough to have Faith and, ^^^gulp^^^ actually believe there is something more to all of this, that our lives are not for naught, that there is so much more than meets the eye or can be grasped by the mind?

 Faith: the belief in the unseen, the unknown, the unknowable.  Faith that someone or something is watching, listening and caring about us.  Faith demands reciprocity.  If we believe that God watches over us and hears our prayers, then we must behave in accordance with a certain set of principles be they codified in the Torah, Koran or Bible or any similar sacred text.  We are supposed to worship and honor our Creator, get in good favor with Him or Her so, when we find ourselves in times of trouble we can kneel before our God and ask a favor, ask for forgiveness, mercy, relief from pain or anything else we deem worthy of Divine Intervention.  Faith, despite its reciprocal component is essentially a one way street, an “all or nothing” proposition.  Since faith is blind, we have no way of “knowing” in temporal or conclusive terms that God exists, we just have to believe.  That’s it, no ifs, ands or buts.  Faith can be our anchor in a roiling sea or a bastard notion we care not to associate with all the time, if ever. 

*****     *****

Faith has a counterpart, of a sort, a force as intangible yet felt when present; a pull akin to gravity that bonds people immutably.  That force is Love.  Love, in a manner is Faith personified.  We’re talking that strain of Love that cannot be defined or constrained within the confining boundaries of romance.  No; we address the Love that allows another, with ease and peace, to sacrifice their own life for one they love.  It is the Love a Mother has for a child, a child for one he or she trusts, for a person whose absence would ever so slightly alter the axis and orbital tilt of our world.

Many, many years ago while the first Irish-Catholic President was residing in the White House a young boy asked his Dad a question.  These were the days when Cops directed traffic in dress blues donning white gloves at the intersections in front of Catholic churches throughout the Boroughs on Sunday mornings.  The young boy held his Dad’s hand, both of them freshly bathed and scrubbed and wearing their Sunday best.  They were both hungry from having fasted since going to Confession the night before and abstaining with the intent of receiving Holy Communion the next morning at Mass.

The boy had been troubled throughout most of the previous week.  Every morning as he and his siblings dressed for school the old Zenith radio broadcast the NYC on-air institution with the host John Gambling, known as “Rambling with Gambling” on WOR-AM.  This was the same station that would air “Bob and Ray” on Friday evenings.
The young boy was curious why all the songs he heard playing through the static and city noise in the street below all seemed to be about love.  So, with the gentle familiar scents of Aqua Velva and an El Producto cigar wafting by the boy’s nose, he stood with his Dad waiting to cross the street and asked, “Dad, why are so many songs about love?”  His Dad paused just long enough for a puff on that fragrant cigar and replied, “Because that is all there really is.  That is the most important thing in our lives.”

So two of the most essential human elements, a pair of forces that defy logic and reason and have both a “blind” feature to them is what we are left with when we ask the question. 

There is an answer but no one really wants to hear it.  It seems far too perverse, cruel, even, for the answer to be so trite.  The answer coming from the Great Beyond, from that omnipotent Prime Mover is “Why not?”  That is it, that’s all He’s got to say about it.  After all, as so many of us grew up being taught, He has a Plan, a Divine Plan for each of us and a Big Picture we are each a part of but we are not allowed to know the particulars.  Yes, we are actors in in a millennia long running drama, part tragedy, part comedy, often absurd, ironic, frustrating and quite apparently without rhyme or reason.  Faith requires us to believe this; not just give lip service to it but to believe it in our hearts, even when they are fractured by grief, cold with bitterness, and beating with a subdued fury at the unfairness of it all. 

Faith is the only force in the universe that permits that almost insulting, callous answer to make sense.  Well, maybe not sense.  But, Faith puts the question in perspective after whatever heartache that drew the “why” question from the hollows of our bleeding souls cast us adrift into an abyss of insufferable pain where there exists no light or perspective.

Faith can serve as a rudder for the Soul and Love a rudder for the Heart, that metaphorical but oh so real heart not that pulsating lump of myocardial tissue.  The Soul is also a metaphoric designation for our essence or spirit, that which makes us “us”.  Metaphors aside, the inability to anatomically locate our Heart and Soul is no more proof that they don’t exist as is the absence of evidence proof of evidence of absence.  We all acknowledge, at least on some level, that there is something more to us, in us than the complex and wondrous collection of cells, organs, systems and the magic of life they orchestrate collectively. Some, reluctant to even consider the notion of Heart and Soul are likely to ascribe all things “humans” as products of the Mind; another of these intangible constituent elements.  The brain/mind conundrum is as old as science, religion and philosophy yet still remains a tantalizingly elusive as yet unanswerable not amicable to yielding it secrets to modern medical science despite the monumental multidisciplinary studies.

But, we digress.  That is alright.  We’re discussing some pretty heady stuff here and if we find ourselves wandering off on tangents or walking around in metaphysical circles, so be it.  Actually, it could really be no other way.  Faith, Love, Soul, Heart; mind/brain:  Why and why not?  Still we are not too far afield from where we began.   After all, we began with somebody asking a question and come across a few of our own.  It is human nature to be inquisitive, to seek understanding, explanation, to know.  And now we find that two of the primal forces that guide our lives, Faith and Love pose more questions than answers; that our Heart and Soul are part of this mystical nexus where raw emotion become infused with the oxygen of passion, the basest of feelings exchange the spiritual detritus of sorrow and loss with the corpuscles carrying gracious solace and perhaps acceptance. 

Just as the physiologic processes silently at work conducting all the arduous metabolic activity, the myriad gaseous and chemical exchanges, the host of specialized organs functioning in concert to keep us alive and well do so to maintain the state of homeostasis so too that nexus of Faith and Love, Heart and Soul engage in their own complex dynamic towards the goal of achieving another homeostatic condition; one where we haven’t the burden of a troubled mind, heavy heart, and soul sickness that makes us cry out in anger and in pain, “Why”? 

Why not?

For all the misery and sorrow that can accompany a life it would all be for naught, it would be absolute cosmic cruelty if not for Faith and Love.  Our pain would not be searing if not for Love, our cries not simply lost in the howling tempest of grief and despair if not for Faith. Faith and Love are worth it all and without them we are truly as fragile tumbleweeds exposed to the whims of the wind.

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