the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Brother Crow

brother crow (a song)
by me, 4/2007

Hello again, Brother Crow
I hear you singing but I don't know
what you are saying to me with your song
but I will follow you on...

I hear you calling me, Brother Crow
through the darkness and through the cold
to a light in the shadows I see you fly
your shape is so strong against the sky...

you fly to the sun, you bring us light
feathers burned to black,  eyes as black as night
your voice is broken, but still so strong
your calling is never wrong…

hello again, brother crow
i hear you calling me, and here i go
to a light in the shadows i see you fly
i never hear you sing in the night…

Are you a healer? Are you a mage?
Do you hold the key to unlock my cage?
Do you foretell sorrow, or promise light?
I never hear you sing in the night.

In the morning you come to me, Brother Crow
Seek me out like sunrise and let me know
This is your message, this is your way,
I am alive another day

The Wind Hides The Place, 2007

the wind hides the place where the chuckwill sings,

hides it among brush and leaf and grass,

hides it in moans from the northern sky

that hides itself in the mountain pass.

I know how to hide, and I often do,

while the wind howls around me like liquid stone,

ignoring me here but to pluck my strings

that are covered – well, hidden - with flesh and bone.

I stand in the brush as it bows its head,

the wind giving aid as it bends to pray.

I feel the touch of that same strong wind

though, unlike the brush, I have little to say.

The chuckwill sings, and I startle its song,

not for long – for the likes of I

have another pass and another place,

so it waits, and it waits, until I go by.

I move fast to something, the pass or the leaf

or the memory of the whispering brush;

but where I am going and where I will be,

the wind and the chuckwill have much more for me.

John Shigley, 2002

How My Spirit Guide Found Me

I have had many people ask me "why do you call yourself Brother Crow?" Truth is, I really don''s just that I say "Brother Crow" many times a day, in greeting to those special beings that manage to fly their way to my path on a regular basis, or wake me with their caw, or get my attention by gathering in a treetop and going at it with dozens of their brethren.

Example: recently, I was on the beach in Boca Grande, on Gasparilla Island, SW Florida. It was beautiful, tranquil, a nearly empty beach, sand sharks and stingrays playing in the shallow water, horseshoe crabs and sand dollars and sand pipers and pelicans dancing around in the gorgeous blue water and bluer sky. It was a near perfect experience...except I was in a bad mood because the waves were low and slow that day, and I like to play in waves. I pretty much had a hissy fit, made everybody with me uncomfortable, and sat in my beach chair and grumbled until I decided to go to the car, get some fruit juice and rum and make me a very strong cocktail and get drunk on the beach. On my way to the car, walking up the boardwalk, a huge black crow flew within inches of me, face level so I could not miss it, and landed on an old docking post about four feet off the path. He stood there and looked right at me. I looked at him. I said "hello brother." He cawed, once.

A light went off in my head. What an ass I had been. I had been selfish, unthinking, insensitive, a prick in every sense of the word. My wife, my daughter and her friend, my son and his friend, were enjoying the beach and water and the beauty of this isolated island - they had said one hundred times if they said it once... "God, this place is incredible. This is my favorite beach ever." And I was pissing on it with my childish attitude.

But Brother Crow made an effort to intersect my path and "caw" me into reality. I shook my head, grinned, and said, "thanks, brother, you're right." He cawed one more time, and flew off.

I don't think I have ever seen crows hanging around beaches. And I certainly had not noticed any that day. Until this one brother flew into my lifepath and helped me make a correction. Amazing but true.

I no longer look for spiritual signs or miracle encounters...I have become too exhausted to do that which I am skeptical about anyway. But this time, a crow flew into my face and my attitude changed because of it.

That is why I call them "Brother Crow." Every day, for the past four years, this kind of thing has happened. They are all around me, at the oddest times, cawing, gathering, waking, cawing. And when I acknowledge them, welcome them, I feel like I am making room for the possibility of mystery in my life. Not divine intervention necessarily - just setting it up so I can be open to looking outside of the established boundaries of reason and culture and adulthood, and perhaps see something new. And act like a better person because of what I see.

That's why I call myself Brother Crow; I want to be open to them, just in case.

I Remember Loving This

I wrote this song/poem in the fall of 2004, on the first trip to the North Georgia mountains made by my family in many years (we had moved to the northeast). I was overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty of this place that I loved...and was torn with regret that I had given up this beauty in order to find my place in the religious system of evangelical christianity. This song/poem helped me find the courage to walk out of the church...I hope it will be a blessing to you.

I remember loving this
canopy of stars at night
whisper whoosh of rolling creek
cradling in mountain arms
covering of ancient pine.

Now my world is white and gray
lived within these four square walls
bathed in pale fluorescent light
the hum of ballasts in the air
the tonal center of my life.

the only stars I see are pings of light
reflected off the dangling stones
in ears of women in the choir
creation framed by stucco, white,
stained glass yellowing the sky.

Blue gray carpet at my feet,
not needle brown and lichen green.
How did I travel so off course?
I took a trail I thought I knew
and stumbled to this other place...

where hymns are sung to empty space,
the last remains of what once was grace.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Standing In the Gap

Between everything that exists, there is a gap. Between you and me. Between our planet and the next planet over. Between our galaxy and the next galaxy over. At the microscopic level, between cells. At the subatomic level, between electrons and neutrons and protons...between quarks, strings. Between strings...more strings. Quantum physics has postulated that at the very deepest level of what is, what is is nothing. Or, mass-less - energy that may or may not be conscious, but not matter.

There are gaps in understanding, between what we know and what we say we know, and what we don't know. Or say we don't know. I think even our definition of knowledge has gaps in it.

There is a fundamental truth (and yes, truth has gaps) that I am finally beginning to understand. Nothing touches. People don't can they? The atomic structure of our cells actually slide in between each other as we touch. Vibrations on a quantum string level send forth waves that ultimately end up being a sensation of touch as they are interpreted within the complicated system of organic reality. But we don't really touch. Nothing touches. Atoms don't touch, strings don't touch.

The gap is the essential reality of the universe. Nothing touches. There is emptiness between everything, and within everything. Quantum scientists are hot on the trail of this reality, but Buddhists figured this out centuries ago...I am just now beginning to get it. At the center of everything is emptiness. A gap.

"And the Lord said, I sought for a man to stand in the gap, and I found not one."

The purpose of life, the meaning of everything, the key to existence, is learning to, accept and embrace...emptiness. Standing in the gap. Not necessarily touching anything...God never said anything about touching anything. In fact, he seemed to get pissed off when people touched him. Remember the guy who tried to keep the ark of the covenant from falling to the ground? He touched the ark - which was the symbol of the reality of and presence of God - and god sent his ass to dirttown. Killed him with a bolt of power from the Neumotron.

God does not want you touching anything because you can't. Ultimately, though it feels and seems like touching is isn't. There is a gap.

Emptiness, isolation, and not-touching is the truth at the core of existence. There is more empty space than space filled with anything.

This whole concept can be incredibly empowering. Standing in the gap can help us find the center, in the midst of anything. And in the center, we can discover serenity...and perhaps wisdom.

Perhaps there is no greater wisdom than to understand that emptiness is the center. That if there is power in a particular event - or even thought - that power resides within us. We are the power.

The concept of emptiness also teaches me about the true nature of touch. Throughout life, I have come to see that intimacy is a matter of something other than physical contact. I have known lovers who did not know the other's favorite food; I have known people who were unable to have physical intimacy due to a disease or handicap, and yet lived deep within the reality of their loved one, and were experiencing intimacy beyond what most people ever know.

Knowing that material touch never really happens...and to know that true intimacy is not a matter of physical contact...has helped me to understand that touch is something different. It is mystical, it is found when someone can stand in the gap, experience the serenity of the center...and touch with their hearts, or their minds. I also know that when touch from the gap takes place, then the physical intimacy that follows is both inconsequential and astounding in pleasure!

We must learn to accept that we are standing in a gap, and embrace all that it means. We must let the gap teach us and we must teach ourselves as we stand in the midst of nothing.

When we do this, we discover that the gap is not a lonely fact, it may not be a place at all, but a journey...from one reality to another. That journey can become our definition, a definition that is not static but dynamic, changing constantly, evolving, growing, becoming, expanding.

Perhaps one day, we shall be the ones to fill the gap.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin." [Cardinal Bellarmine, 1615, during the trial of Galileo]

I Had a Dream

I had a dream last night,
Lost in the light of the day,
Until this moment came when
I saw it in another place.
The roaring waves had killed a man,
The people on the beach
Stared with horror-stricken faces
As the newsman did his job.
Last night, I saw those waves,
With my family in a house,
Water rising, water moving,
Rising fear with rising water.
I looked for a way, a door, out,
Anything to flee the water coming.
There was no easy exit,
I knew we had to accept
An end by rising water,
Yet never cease to search
For the door of our escape.
I’m not convinced of prophecy,
But dreams like this unsettle me.
They have within them
Something of a warning
And a hint of truths well hidden.
What is coming, what endangers
My family as we wait?
The waves have always roared,
And families have always died.
And something deep inside
Has always sought a door of leaving.
The people on the west coast,
Who saw the man get killed
By the giant, monster waves,
looked at me and I could see
The same dark, gnawing questions
Burning from their eyes and written on their faces.

I Saw A UFO! Seriously!

This is a true, true story...I swear. It really happened to me. I know some will read it and think I am either lying, or being crazy.

Recently, I was camping with a buddy just north of where the Appalachian Trail crosses Hwy. 75, near Graveyard Fields. It was a somewhat stormy day, but that night the rain stopped and the winds rose and the clouds began to clear. It was beautiful up on the mountain, and the winds were pretty steady as we drifted off to sleep at about 11pm (seriously, bone achingly tired).

Suddenly, like a light switch being turned off, the wind stopped. My buddy and I both noticed it and it woke us up immediately. The silence outside of our tent was eerie and scary...I wondered if maybe another storm had come in as we drifted off to sleep, and we were about to get slammed.

At that moment, a huge light exploded in front of our tent. No noise...just light. It was so bright it blinded us for a moment. We could see the structure through the net of our was a glowing sphere about 15 feet in diameter and at least 20 feet off the ground.

Again, there was no noise. And there was a structure there...and it was higher off the ground than any human could get it. However, I still feared that some drunk redneck was looking for trouble - I was terrified, actually. My buddy was too, and screamed, "I got a gun, get the hell out of here!" (or words to that effect).

Just as suddenly as it came off, the light went out...and the wind started blowing again. We both flew out of the tent, and we sensed movement above our heads. We looked up and saw what looked like a bowling ball faintly glowing and moving up into the sky. It disappeared.

We didn't even say anything to each other...we flew down the trail (my buddy had somehow grabbed a flashlight) and we got in his car, and we drove down into Helen and spent the rest of the night in a parking lot. We actually thought about driving home, but we did not want to leave our gear up there (my pack alone is worth about $400).


It was a life-transforming event for me. For 30 years, I have been obsessed with UFO's, and have studied just about everything written about them. My experience is similar to thousands of other experiences recorded by people for over 3500 years...seriously! In fact, the "kind" of UFO we saw (the bright, glowing sphere that floats silently then moves away at great speed) is the most common kind of UFO encounter. And, amazingly, it is one of the most documented atmospheric occurrences in human history...with incidents noted by individuals, pilots, military and law enforcement officials.

It is an amazing thing to me that - with so many recorded, documented, and investigated incidents - people still feel as if UFO encounters are unreliable and probably the result of an overactive imagination.

I think I know why this is. It is - I THINK - because, even though the record is there, the documentation is overwhelming, and there is even conclusive evidence - it hasn't happened to them. Most people just can't accept the unacceptable or strange or out-of-the-ordinary without personal experience to validate it to them.

But it happened to me...I know it did.

I once was lost, but now am found...was blind but now I see.

OK - all this has a point. Here is the "REVEAL" (if you have read this far)...many who would be the quickest to deny this experience of mine would insist that they have had a personal encounter with the Living God...that they have seen, felt, heard or otherwise encountered him. I could point out numerous, overwhelming and conclusive evidence (or lack of evidence) about the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, or even the existence of Jesus.

But it would not matter. They have experienced God. UFO's are far more documented and have a longer history of recorded interaction with humans than the God of does not matter. They have experienced God.

And I saw a UFO. I seriously did.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Floating In Beauty

"Little round planet in a big universe,
Sometimes it looks blessed, sometimes it looks cursed.
Depends on what you look at, obviously...
But even more it depends on the way that you see."
- Bruce Cockburn
"Child Of The Wind"

After nearly fifty-two years of life, I have finally begun to figure out that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Or perhaps more accurately...the ability to perceive beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty certainly does exist in the universe...or, more accurately, there are orders in the natural world that create something that the human being perceives as beautiful.

But, what the human sees is not as important as how the human sees. What is the mindset behind the observation?

For years, I have tended towards seeing ugliness and horror in the natural world. And certainly, it is there; a brutal, nonpersonal reality permeates our existence...sunsets from an airplane are breathtaking, but you just cannot open the door without other realities of the natural world killing you dead. And horribly. Fire is is also unpersonal, and it kills. Horribly. Beautiful people molest children. Beautiful frogs have skin that produces deadly toxin.

Beauty does not have a morality. And it took me getting rid of God to discover and embrace that reality. I had to see both beauty and horror as amoral realities - in the natural world. My mind simply could not embrace the existence of a good God who had created overwhelming beauty...that could kill you. Others could...through simplistic faith. But I am not wired that way, and it stretched me so thin that I nearly popped.

So - I cast off God, and everything came into focus. I saw beauty all around me...I was floating in it...and I did not have to classify it or justify it as good or bad or right or wrong. It just was. So was horror and heartbreak and tragedy and suffering. But I saw them both - and did not blame God for either one, because God was no longer a factor in my thinking.

I am glad I set myself free from that prison. I am also glad that I let poor old God off that hook. I have yet to figure out what the God thing is all about...and I gladly accept that I probably never will. Mystery is enough without my placing my well thought out doctrine on top of it.

But beauty...somehow, I have found it. God or no God, I am still floating in beauty. Occassionally, I feel something like gratitude towards - ?? Mystery! I know it sounds weird, but I am grateful to me...for allowing myself to see beauty, to recognize that along with horror and wrongness, there is something else. The more I let myself see it, the more I see it. And the more I see it, the more I let myself see it.

And I float in beauty. Understanding nothing, but not really needing to.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Distance Haze - Haunted By God

After sporadically keeping another blog for a couple of years, I am creating a new one here at "Distance Haze." My other blog, "Brother Crow", chronicled my journey away from religion and gave me a place to dump my anger, confusion and occasional rants and raves against society, politics and religion.

That whole time, I realized that something was still aching in my soul. Try as I might, I could not escape a daily internal reality - I was an atheist who still believes in God. I do not like Him, I do not believe in Him (I know, contradiction - first time its ever occurred in the human race, huh?), I will not worship Him, and I certainly will not forgive Him...but I am haunted by Him, and I must process this central core dysfunction of my life so that I can continue to move forward in the living of what I have left.

My dear friend, who I will refer to often as Mylon (because that's his name...really) tells me that I am a deist. I studied deism in seminary, and I think he is probably right...I would say I am a "neo-deist." Kind of like "nudist" - which is apropos, because nakedness is a state of being which implies full vulnerability, intimacy and desire. It is Garden of Eden stuff...the way we were before we became enemies of God. If that ever happened.

I don't know...and that is why I am writing "Distance Haze." I hope to invite others to write on it, too. I want this blog to become something like a forum, a movement. Why? Because I believe (a belief that is stronger than my belief in God) that there are millions of people out there - former Christians (like myself), anxious atheists (like myself), awkward agnostics (like myself) and they want or need a community - even a virtual community - to admit that God haunts them. To admit and discuss why they can't shake the God-thought, and why their souls hunger for the Mystery. They KNOW they will not go to church, or join an organized religion, or quit drinking or smoking or listening to Devil Music. They aren't Republican (which, by the way, appears to have become the number one requirement for becoming a Christian).

They are haunted - by God on the one hand, and by Distance Haze on the other. What is "Distance Haze." Well, it is a term I heard alot when I lived up in Ohio and would visit little towns on the shores of Lake Erie. Thermal inversion layers would form over the shorelines, making the sky very soupy, even on clear days. So, you could rarely see more than a couple of miles clearly, and then distance haze would kick in, and the further you looked, the soupier things became. You have noticed this at the beach, I'm sure. Clear sky, nice breeze from the ocean, but down there, as the beach curves outward in the distance, things become foggy, fuzzy, unfocused, uncertain. Hazy.

Same with this God thing - He is Distant. Regardless of what Christians, or any other religious devotees say...He is God. A personal relationship with Him is a delusion - isn't it? How can we know anything about GOD? Except what religion tells us, or the training of our culture, or ... our hearts? And don't our hearts tell us lots of things, and many of those things are absolutely not true??

Distance Haze. I cannot see God clearly. I cannot know Him well. Or at all. But, I cannot escape the feeling that he is out there, he is something. I can't squirm my way around it...I have to deal with it head on.

So, Distance Haze is where I will do that. I hope you will join me. Maybe, squinting together, we can make out something that we both will say - "what the hell is that???"
seven miles away
the horizon frames the sky;
that assumes there are no hills or trees,
or clouds to mar the clarity of sight –
a bad assumption on this earth,
filled as it is with weather, dirt and life.
seven miles away…
a nothingspace, a flicker and a breath,
the measure of the gap between a birth and death.
that is on the best of days – come humidity or cloud,
when vapor draws around us like a shroud,
and that horizon rushes in,
like dust thrown up before a wind,
it slaps us even as we gaze,
the squinting victims of distance haze.
then the thickening of night,
when distance haze reduces sight
to just beyond the nose, at best…
yet that is when we fools think we are blest -
we cannot see, and so forget.