Only god gets to say
Looking in the eye with a little arrogance,
“you’re fired”, while flipping his quarter pounder hair
Like a Big Mac, striking fear through every muscle
On the chin and cheek.
And still there’s something about God
That you just cannot ignore.
Like the mogul heart and boyish twitter account,
A virile potency that shames most men his age,.
The flaming beauty sharing his bed,
An eastern-European accent that makes among
Other things, empires rise and conquer,
And a babyish chubbiness that makes
Plus-size, a little extra chin and muffin top,
And still, an endearment.
And he will always be the great white hope
Of a land that has seen decibels of brays and trumpets
Dividing a patchwork land
Both crying freedom and foul. While the seed
Of Kunta Kinte rises like the tide of the river Gambia
Demanding equality – Martin’s dream
That echoes at best, like the lonely dribble of a basketball
At the hands of a young black man
In a Washington DC court.
And God-haters will line up in the streets
In the name of science and arts
Or for the 14 year old felled by the albino trigger.
They will sing, dance, write and explore
How to make America a bunch of God hating atheists.
Forgetting for a moment that landslides
Of the heart and ballot, were once a story
In the American heartland.
And God will promise little things
How to balance opinions and cheque-books
While the polls see-saw. Storming on
Like a Walmart cart on a Friday night
Opening up like a packet of Lays chips
And watering the flower bed of the American economy
Long before taking time to smell the blooms.
And God is everywhere.
He is on CNN and Fox, on the church nave,
On twitter, in every sensitive issue
That needs some political incorrectness,
– Some long-needed honesty –
On the lips of every refugee and drug mule
And on the long road to recovery
Of mistakes made long ago.
And they say Moby dick was a fat white whale.
So is God. Pequods will rush, Ahabs will roam
And still there’s an ocean that needs
A larger than life. One day they will say
God went through this dust bowl
And made it into a promise land.
And protecting the ten commandments
Of the great American constitution
Will be his greatest redemption.
And there’s something sharp about a God
Who drives the message in like a golf cart.
And knows when to play the trump card.
And heaven is just a little oval office
And command central, from where
He will send angels and thunderbolts
To the great turquoise playing field.
And do wonders with the hearts
That need moving.
And bridge he will, everything symbolic
About America, The tint and the shade
The ghettos and the mansions
The sleeping and the sleepless
While stalemates slowly turn to landslides.
And there’s nothing ironic about
That beautiful autumn day in November
When fate wished America
Transfixation is a pristine mirror.
The glass painted on one side and self reflected on the other
I’m sitting in the front seat of a bus, looking
At the rear view mirror. I know what is chasing me.
The weeds that grow taller than the cultivars.
The predators that run faster than the prey.
You need make a man of yourself
Assembling together course contents
And spelling learning outcomes.
The next generation needs to be molded
A house of bricks, a sapling with fertilizer.
And I look through the hourglass. The little orifice
Keeps getting wider every day, the slope getting steeper.
And I’m trying to make a little fairy tale work.
A little poetic justice, ejected from karma’s womb.
I’m tone deaf, I can’t hear cries of “loser”
Only an anchor that pulls me down, chained around my waist.
I’m sinking in my own dismay.
Perhaps all I’m is an experiment to man
A plan for god and a cart for fate.
I’m a slave of one or the other. Smiles are hard to surface
Laughs are quieter around the Adam’s apple
Need to succeed is the noose around my neck.
And a little wooden chair holds me still.
Four legs and a flat piece of wood
Micheal Phelp’s speedos
And Usain Bolt’s track-shorts
Weighed so little, a few grams at most
But that heart inside the flesh suit
That wobbled and quaked, when they felt the tingling strokes
Or mercurial pace-mongers
Yet rose to the occasion – weighed a lot lot more……
For it takes a million tons of iron and steel
To sculpt a dream – ground from ore, processed with acids
Melted and alloyed and sculpted
Into a recurring thought, seemingly impossible
To abandon -; and that nagging dream
Will shatter the alchemist’s myth into pieces
After all the tonnage of a steel dream
Does transform to an ounce
Of perfect aurum – and that is as good as Midas !
A little white church by the coast
Seemingly with brined walls
Tasting of sea-salt
The type that cassocked men
Devour tequilas with, licking the wall cover
To counter the bitter taste
Of faith going south
And those empty naves
And pews were now filled with night owls
And caterpillars, even the scavenging crows
And the faith that grew
Like an empowered fungus, was now shrinking
In to a single cell of yeast
And that diorama
Of a vast universe of one moon
And many stars – the catholic faith
Was now a meaningless hall
A naked sky of abject darkness
Yet in those same cracked walls
And misplaced tiles, lies the echo of prayer
Of a single soul, the music of his whispers
And the harmony of hail marys
Jumpstarting the soul
With a vivacious strain of hope
And hope they say
Lives in broken bread and spilled wine
Nourishes with a bite and inebriates with a sip
When that intruder inside
That smallest of chambers
Sneaks out and enlivens
Bones and muscles
And they say
That is a small edition
From an amphitheater
Of one martyr to a ghost town
Where the fragrance of souls
And stubs of candles still hover
Like alien space crafts
UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects
Seemingly there is no glory in church
In a rundown colonial edifice
Cracks emerging like in the bastion of faith
Plastered by story-telling
Visibly this too is a parable
That what is unscientific and unempirical
Is short of gasoline or jet fuel
Which nevertheless exists
In stellar places and galactic clouds
Faith is like that….
Its bigger than you and me
And that little white church
After all when the conscience expands
Exponentially and bursts
With no prejudice or motive
That is where faith can be found
And that bed of fecund soil
Is where the big white church
Will always be……
I remember a long time ago, while playing one-to-one basketball with a priest, I asked him, how can a catholic scientist like me, choose between evolution and creationism. To which he answered saying, even for evolution to happen, there should be some minimal level of life available on earth, and that was god’s doing – the basis for natural selection (and evolution) to grow into this tree of life carried forth on Gaia’s shoulders.
Of course, for me, there is a fragile place where I belong in the creationism against evolution argument. I believe both ends of the story, I’m truly a Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde in terms of being a creationist in church and a Darwin at university and that goes for my hybrid nature of wanting to have both faith and empiricism in my life. I want to belong in both places, on the pews of a church and on classrooms of my university.
Still there are many models to life. Creationism, which is knows as theistic evolution, believes in one supreme god, who made life possible by the intelligent molding of apically-working models capable of self-sufficiency and even flourishing in pursuits of intelligence, love and self-actualization. That supreme species we know very well as the humans, who, although, having a rather similar DNA imprint compared to other primates, has evolved higher order function, civilization, eudemonic pursuits, intelligence, cooperative evolution, social behavior as well cultivating the arts and sciences (which are rather absent in other great apes, lesser apes and old world and new world monkeys). Creationism is synonymous with an intelligent creator, who just like a watchmaker, made a beautiful time-vessel, to enrich and diversify further, and to become more and more complex, as individuals as well as cooperative pursuits such as technology, even our quests of an idyllic shrine called love. Importantly, a watch or mother earth, will keep on ticking, unless the man who wears or lives on it, decides that Armageddon is in his plausible distance. Still the foundation of mother earth and its complexity, in its entirety, was made by an almighty god.
On the other hand, deistic evolution, is more like what the priest told me, a non-interfering god, who made a simple life form, on which Darwinian evolution built a super mass of miniature life forms living on top of Gaia. The invention of complexity and diversity in this case was done by the undying opus of time, with many minor players such as abiotic interferences, geographic isolation, niche demands, sporadic changes and the timelessness of irradiance, all took their toll in this edition of evolution. Evolution after all, just like God, was intelligent, but slow, after all God was a simple potter, who used morsels of divine clay to sculpt bacterial Adam and Eve and the petri-dish of Eden, where-as evolution was a dragged out process tinkering DNA for nature-selected accidental survivors.
Then of course there is the view of Intelligent Design, when mother earth is a smorgasbord of some complex dishes intelligently cooked and some other dishes that have been carelessly dished up by the cooking-hand, AKA evolution. This is the merger of evolution and creationism, where God is called intelligent, due to his magical wand and evolution is called a moron due to its lesser level of complexity and for being like a snail in her implementation. After all evolution, did not happen in a week, unlike the beautiful event of creation, when the first couple was only put in the kiln on the seventh day. Still, evolution may be accidental and may be dependent on substitutions which are rather ‘natural’ in their changing patterns at the molecular level, yet, the capacity of that molecular event to resonate to the functional level, and make that species, one for survival, is truly an ingenious event of biology. So in my opinion, God or Evolution have Einsteinian IQs, it’s just that one is a bit slow in her worth ethic, while the pinnacle of perfection (god) as kindly put forward by St Thomas Aquinas, in his five proofs of god, is simply near perfect in work ethic too.
Then to the most accepted of them all ‘Evolution’, the Darwinian type, which is based on a species adaption to a niche environment and their selection by nature. This is any science student’s mantra for the beautifully landscaped and species-rich world we live in. Of course there will always be the battle of theologians who believe in the creationist model with the many Darwin K9s who will always growl at the crucifixes nailed on human minds.
What I wish to draw here though is not the argument of evolution against creationism but how the first life form came about, irrespective of whether you are a believer of deistic evolution or abiogenesis. Abiogenesis, says that, simple inorganic and organic molecules (gases or dissolved gases), in a primordial soup or due to abiotic stresses, came up with the primary genetic molecules – RNA – which due to their unstable nature, became DNA with time. DNA became the architect of evolution by her susceptibility and willingness to change according to the times. I believe once again that abiogenesis can divide the theologians and the scientists, for the two factions will, just like the creationism versus evolution argument, throw spit and knives, at the dilemma of a simpleton god who made a simple life form (deistic evolution) or abiogenesis, when inanimate molecules evolved by simple collision into building blocks of life. The real argument rests here and not on the complexity of humans and their only origins. History conveniently omits the importance of the first event of life, repeatedly molesting Darwin’s theories and highlighting theologians who speak on natural theology and the wondrous God, who sculpted life from his own bare hands.
I’m an RNA biologist and that is what my qualifications say. So how can I oppose abiogenesis which constructed the first RNA molecule, the prelude to all life forms. I’m also a lifelong catholic, who believes to a certain degree on creationism – after all, the complexities of the human heart and mind and the diversities of life, essentially makes me a slave of god. Still I have Spartacus’s blood boiling inside of me thanks to 5 years in grad school and 4 years studying for a basic degree. I will always be a student of science, now and forever, who will try to break free of chains holding me to the church.
Still, whenever I find myself basking in freedom, I always have that sense of being lost, after all, although I maybe, in education, a Darwin’s terrier, I will always be the church’s Doberman. I’m not a bisexual, but I guess there is something beautiful in bisexuality – when you want to make love from both sides, to God’s ingenuity and evolution’s industriousness, the light in front and the dark matter behind. Sometimes, it is not about taking sides, it is only about being in the middle and not making sense, after all life, is simply too heavy for the human temple. No human mind is Atlas, just Achilles, with the knotty story of how life originated, piercing the muscles on his Talus bone. We are not perfect scientists or flawless theologians, we are only men colossally limited by intelligence, searching in the dark for a firefly, to understand the blinding sun.
Being a catholic in this day and age can be a tricky thing, especially when you are a warm blooded male, as I’ve read many a time on many catholic fora, after all, it is said that the man armed with testosterone, is unable to keep his ammunition inside his pants. This is conditional Catholicism, that frowns upon celibacy and venerates sex to the point of over-glorification, contemporary to the widespread belief that man (and to a lesser extent, the woman) are sexual players and predators during their summer and only when they have practiced their suave and svelte moves on the opposite gender do they finally surrender to one being for the rest of their lives. This is both the mantra and the motto of an adult, catholic or otherwise. Catholics too fall under the same umbrella, after all, very few 18-40 age group lay men and women who go to church, practice celibacy as a mainstream way of living.
For me, being a catholic, means that sexual discipline is an important endeavor in life. Sexual discipline is intimately linked to the true romantic in me, who believes that only when love bangs you at the door knob, would you open your door to sexual activity and being catholic ensured that love was never enough and that marriage would be the only sacrament worthy of sex, in my “in other ways” fulfilled life. After all, by the age of 30, I had almost completed a PhD, had many a friend from many eras of life, had practiced my wanderlust in the new and the old world and had many prospectively beautiful women, who could have easily fallen for me, if I had presented the right words, in the right sequence, at the right minute. I was complete in more ways than one, and I had an almighty god who looked upon me in grace and helped me along, not necessarily answering all my prayers (if so I would have been married to a lass fluent in French) but giving me enough compensation for the negatives that I have endured in life.
Being catholic meant I also had to be charitable in my unfolding life. Although I was no charity worker, I had a soft spot for some areas of charity, namely chastity and mental health, two areas of importance to me. I have been charitable monetarily during my time in Australia and the Philippines, funding the construction of a school in the Philippines (a project that was brought to my attention by a tall catholic girl) and I had sent some money to appeals from the Bam Earthquake, Nargis Cyclone and a similar typhoon that devastated the Philippines. Although these are mere breadcrumbs to what charity workers and priests and nuns do, I was doing this while pursuing a Ph.D. and working for the development of food security, which were equally important goals in my career. So, I had only been charitable in sporadic bouts and not being consistent in my donor power, after all, there would have been more events that needed my attention and I would have turned a blind eye to them. Still charity is an important element and a mainstay in Catholicism for any practitioner.
I strongly believe in the power of catholic living, and setting an example by our actions and not by our words. Teaching is a vocation that I believe can have a lot of positive impact on a student’s life and now as a lecturer in university, I am doing my level best to blaze the flame of learning inside each and every student and inspire them for their future lives. I am very much discouraged to hear sermons who base the catholic faith on forgiveness – although divine and beautiful, softening the basis of forgiveness diminishes the magnitude of sin and contrarily makes the righteous, a prude or like the elder brother of the prodigal son. Grace is a beautiful deed, but grace when given freely and abundantly, makes the sinner more at ease with his or her lifestyle choices. This divides the church, the holy and the unholy, the traditional and the liberal, the deep-rooted and the progressive, after all it is sin and forgiveness that divides the catholic church more than same-sex marriages, the celibacy of priests, the patriarchy etc. After all, some people do not want to sin and others are of the opinion that sinning is human imperfection that can coalesce with absolution, in the hands of god. Yes, god is forgiving, but not for repeated offenders in the absence of true penance.
The next dimension is the overly female-friendliness of the catholic church. More and more men are staying away from the church due to the child-sex scandals that have rocked the catholic churches especially in Ireland and parts of the USA. Men are now staying away and most of the roles in the catholic churches are filled with females due to the uneasiness of males to walk in to church due to the legacies of a few “bad apples” among the clergy. Until recently I have stayed on with the church, although since I married an atheist, I have chosen to stay away and only go to church sporadically to reinforce my belief to god and my commitment to the church. The church may be a hen house but there is obviously room for some combs in there, to ruffle some feathers and maybe even make an unholy match.
I remember talking to a priest at the seminary and telling him how I would love to open up priesthood for females and giving priests the opportunity for the sacrament of marriage if that is their calling, on an option basis. These sort of issues will divide the church even more and although merely a conversation, I still believe that some reform is needed for the church to be more applicable in the 21st century and further. Still, the foundationary basis of the catholic church – charity, fellowship, marriage, humility, discipline and love, should not be ignored at whatever cost. After all, these are the cornerstones and the hallmarks of Catholicism.
There’s a poem by T.S. Eliot which calls the Church a Hippopotamus, an ugly creature that is becoming less and less significant in time. Yes, the church is big, has that water hole attitude – after all without the congregation there is no church, plus, wine is at the center of all celebrations – and it is after all a water hog, who will eat anything that the times throw in. This should not be the ethos of the church. The church is the spiritual lighthouse that guides the catholic soul away from tempests of sin to the arms of goodness and benevolence. There are timely actions which are needed – like making amends for all the scandals – but the church should always be rooted to the traditions of Jesus, who showed us the power of inclusiveness and the beauty of charity. Hippopotamus means “water horse”, and the church too is a horse that will run its course to time, where the only membership requirement is being a human being, to be given a baptism of water and entry to her sacraments. The church has always been inclusive, and will continue do so. Hippos may have reduced in number with time, but they are far from extinction.
God is like Prometheus, who brought fire to this world and gave it to mankind, and asked them to use it practically yet with freewill. That fire – the source of warm-bloodedness – will always be the basis of the paradox living inside a catholic – the war inside and the peace above.