Sunday, December 21, 2008

Doctor My Eyes

In 1972 a young man of 24, who shares John Lennon's birthday, released his initial album entitled Jackson Browne. That year began a 36 year (and counting) career for one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Jackson mixes the poet and the musician to produce a melancholy potion that never ceases to affect me...and amaze me.

His debut release included the top 10 hit, Doctor My Eyes. He asks the question: "was I unwise to leave them open for so long?" He's wondering if "seeing all the evil and the good without hiding" hardened him to the point where he permanently damaged his ability to be sensitive and caring...even to truly see others, or anything.

Like many others, exposure to evil and hardship has seriously messed with me. I've experienced events that people just shouldn't have to experience. Traumas have struck and struck again, violating my little world like angry lightning in a violent storm. And yet I believed again and again (eyes wide open) that the end of all difficulties waited just around the next corner...only to be disillusioned by the next dose of reality. After years of this steady rain of brokenness, I identify with him when he writes/sings that he "cannot see the sky." At least, not without serious effort and focus.

Is there a point where the lost innocence cannot be restored? Where the health or wholeness bus forever struggles to find traction on the slippery slopes of life? I've been asking that very question of my Doctor...let's call him Dr. J. This Dr. J has some serious reputations...almost chameleon-like wearing the millions of different personas projected from the deepest needs/desires of our hearts.

My favorite characteristics center on Dr. J, the carpenter. What does a carpenter do? To name a few things: he restores, repairs, fixes, and creates beautiful and functional new pieces. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate that to my life situation: he restores me/others, repairs me/others, fixes me/others, and creates beautiful and functional new pieces in my/their life...or is that just my deep-seeded neurosis talking...begging?

Last week I took a drive down highway 101. Watching the gentle wine-country hills roll by, I heard Jackson’s voice on the radio. Along with him I requested a response from my doctor to the fear that runs to and fro in my soul - "just say if it's too late for me." I don’t think my life is over, by any means - au contraire. Up for consideration was whether or not I may, in this world, see the sky the way I used to…or smell the roses…or believe against all odds that the carpenter can fix the mess that we’ve made of things, in me or in others.

With a few minutes of Jackson’s help, I’d done it. I had reached the melancholy abyss where many poets (and writers and artists) live and breathe…the place I hate to visit because my own emotional-health bank account can’t pay for the gas to get there and back. And then the miracle happened: my senses resurrected from their death-like despondency. I surveyed the polluted scenery – broken lives, shattered dreams, and the lost innocence. The smell of despair rose from the burning Sterno cans. I heard their cries…and I cried…and the carpenter cried.

Doctor, my eyes…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grinch called - wants Christmas back

Perspective changes everything, don't you think? This morning I read through a couple of my favorite blogs. They talked all about the christmas stuff - gifts and family and parties and food and shopping. Busy, busy, busy. Kind of hard to tell whether they were complaining, bragging, or something else altogether.

Sitting in our "luxury" motel room, trying to understand displacement (physical, emotional, etc.), it occurred to me that I no longer know what christmas should be about or more to the point, how to do it. I do get the whole God-in-the-flesh-saving-the-world thing, but I'm talking about the rest of it, or the living out of it, or receiving of it. The flurry of activities boggle my mind...literally overwhelm me. To be clear, I'm not pronouncing judgment on anything. Just trying to understand it.

Does it seem like christmas and busyness are synonymous? Are we trying to hide from something or hide something in us from us...or others? Maybe the difficult economic times or family dysfunctions or even tragedies that weigh on our hearts and minds. Or is the busyness simply a celebration of all that is good?

On a different note, I do like the goofy Christmas movies about estranged family members who are reunited at the end of the story with the ease of spreading soft butter on hot toast. I watched a really corny one last night about a girl/woman who turns out to be Santa’s daughter. Sort of an interesting situation with several built-in complications, like how does she get close to anyone when she’s not really supposed to let the whole my-dad-is-kris-kringle cat out of the bag. Unfortunately, the storyline suffered from too little imagination and too much formula. Even so, the required and predictable reconciliation scene toward the end of the movie touched me. I love that stuff.

So maybe that’s what christmas is all about. Reconciliation. Something returned to its rightful place. The place it belongs…its home.

In that spirit, maybe the Grinch never stole christmas. Maybe he just wanted it to be his for a change. Maybe it used to be his. Maybe, just maybe, the keys to the christmas house belong to him. Maybe the Grinch alone understands the truth of it all. Maybe he just wanted to be reconciled. Find the place where he belonged…his home.

Starting to feel a bit sorry for him? All I know is: the Grinch called and he wants christmas back. We can hold the keys to the season in our over-booked, super-religious, exhausted, my-way-or-the-highway hands, OR we can have a new set made...just for him. I for one want the Grinch back. I believe there's more to him than we will ever know.

Grinch! Grinch! Grinch!