Karina Lutz

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Ash Wednesday

“Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood.”
—T.S. Eliot

Mom, you taught me to give up my pillow for Lent.
The crick in my neck a question mark:
why believe we are meant to create new pain to transcend?
So much already braces this world against itself:
children killed by children, torturers
intentional and ignorant, absentee parents,
us prodigal parents, neglectful as we indulge
in our own suffering, and heaping more suffering upon that
in confusion over the glimmer under those bushels:

that to acknowledge pain may redeem us.

To acknowledge, not to create: to choose what is, bearing lightly.
For life is suffering, and life is good.

Today I give up the residual belief
that we need to resist our harmless comforts,
that to be selfless is to take on avoidable suffering,
another bad exegesis of cross to shoulder.

The best things to give up
are what harms us, the bad habits, the addictions,
the beliefs that bind
and blind,
the bushels of stored suffering,
saved for a transformative day,
saved for this transformative season
when sky and earth
grumble towards, burst towards
each other.

So here it is Ash Wednesday, and we are supposed
to make ourselves miserable, yet joy keeps pouring through
at the news you chose to let go
of grasping at pain

My joy pours to you as you choose instead
the creaking open,
the crashing down that is healing,
the splitting open like a fully ripe fruit
that is healing.

The old temple crashes down around us,
as we stand and gaze unhurt
at a splendorous sky uncovered.
May a few pillars remain,
sacred ruins, later to point us back toward this light,

to remind us:
Loss is sometimes good.

Here, love who made me,
rest your head on my pillow.
To give up is not to suffer
if we give up the causes of our suffering.

The test is joy.

“Ash Wednesday” was previously published in Post-Catholic Midrashim (2019: Finishing Line Press).

What a fragile earth it is without a God.
What a violent one it is with one.

Both camps, those who see only one god, far above,
and those who see only earth,
project their particular fragility and wrath.

For Cartesian ecologists earth’s movements are just facts of physics
and all its life is as tenuous as a hypothesis;
nothing like the world of Noah, as he mourned over the side of the ark
(tears abetting the rising sea).

for if God is all-powerful and perfect, and I, the angry sinner,
then these floods, eruptions, and quakes must be
His intent to harm me.

for if a god, with all such contradictions, cannot exist,
and no One holds the intention to keep this ‘delicate’ ecology
together, and we oafish humans keep stomping through, trampling rare species
without feeling a thing through our thick rubber soles,
then earth’s elegant creation is but an exquisite accident,
and our bodies but seashells to be battered empty by sand and rock and wave.

Our own evolution appears as the fatal flaw
to undo all life’s fine balances and adaptations,

as if entropy trumps order every time,
as if order is not the very nature of chaos,
as if there could be no intelligence greater than our own,
no creativity inherent in being…

No doubt Noah did a little science on the sly:
taxonomy a perk of fulfilling the command.
And no doubt an unconscious faith keeps
scientists afloat as they count new species,
still not having found two of everything.

Or our tears would again abet the rising seas.

“What a fragile earth it is without a God./What a violent one it is with one.” was previously published in Post-Catholic Midrashim (2019: Finishing Line Press).

Anticipating the Akedah moment

May I listen for truth
the critical moments between emptiness and idea
between idea and choice
between choice and doing
between doing and continuing to do—
each machination of manifestation
all along the continuum of creation
in awe of the known and the unknown:

Karina Lutz worked as a sustainable energy advocate for three decades, and as an editor, reporter, and magazine publisher. She teaches yoga, sustainability, deep ecology, and writing, and tends a permaculture farm at her intentional community, Listening Tree. Her books, Preliminary Visions and Post-Catholic Midrashim, can be found through https://karinalutz.wordpress.com .

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

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