Would Jesus Be a Waterboarder?

Shackles By Mervin Geronimo

How do murder and torture square with a religious point of view?

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, practicing Methodists both, expressed no hesitation recently in curtly dismissing the Senate investigation into the CIA’s torture tactics against suspected terrorists. Cheney called the entire report “a crock,” and Bush praised agents who approved and administered waterboarding and other torture methods as “patriots.”


One cannot read the actual descriptions of what takes place during euphemistically labeled “waterboarding” and “enhanced interrogation techniques” without cringing. To imagine yourself (or perhaps worse, your loved ones) on that table, suffocating, passing in and out of consciousness, or deprived of sleep for a week, hallucinating, is to enter a sort of hell, created and sustained by the darkest impulses and imaginings of human beings.

The God of the Old Testament and the Allah of the Koran exude violence and torture just about anywhere you care to open...

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“I Contain Multitudes”: Carrying on Through Darkness and Light

Letter Gene Han

Forty-five years ago today, I got a “Dear John” letter from my high school heartthrob who had gone away to college. It was my first major heartbreak (there would be others), and as I collapsed onto my bed sobbing while beholding my girlfriend’s sincere but crushing words, my mom hurried into my room and proceeded to pull me close to her as I wept onto her shoulder for a good long while.

Ah, me…

I have always remembered the date because it was one I had marked on my internal calendar many months before. My junior college basketball team was scheduled to play the UCLA freshman team that night at none other than fabled Pauley Pavilion, and if you don’t know anything about basketball, taking the court to play at Pauley against a team with “UCLA” inscribed on their jerseys was akin at the time to having one of your paintings hanging for a day in the Louvre next to a Picasso.

So here I was, ready for the biggest game of my life on the college basketball world’s most compelling stage,...

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Poem From a Marriage’s Demise


The suddenly cavernous closet
sprawls in front of me and stops my breath,
as if a street sweeper has barreled through,
and not knowing me from a leaf from a blouse,
has sucked all into its maw, its dark convulsive dark.

A black stain on the door frame
catches my blurred wetting eye
(her coat? her dress? did she have a black dress?)
and I reach to touch it, curious, my head bumping
the now empty hangers, setting them to swinging.

Their echo crumples me.

Half a wall of racks and a long row of
shelves are mine to launch this new life,
and I should weep for the freedom wrought
by their purchase, which I would,
were the price not so colossal and fierce.

“In my beginning is my end,”
wrote a poet more profound than I;
I trust he had it backwards,
and an endless beginning can yet be mine—and hers, too—
beyond hangers swinging eerily after twenty-seven years.


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Top 10 Lessons I Learned Teaching My Daughter to Drive


So my daughter got her driver’s license today after many months of practice. (You can find reflections on that practice in a post from last March here.) In recent weeks, with the basics well in hand, I have placed a heavy emphasis on the finer points of the enterprise, and, considering all the verve and occasional vituperation of her teenagehood, she has been a rather surprisingly dutiful student.

We might consider these last weeks before Exam Day a kind of Dad’s Finishing School To Become a Truly Excellent Driver (and Person).

The other point sinking in here is more for me than for her: that one never learns anything as well as when one has to teach it. And that learning anything in depth always carries within it the seeds of learning about Much Larger Matters.

So herein are the Top 10 Things Dad Learned (or was at least reminded of again) from all his teaching.

1. Pay close, close attention at all times. (This rule is the foundation of all the other rules...

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Irreplaceable You: The Life-Changing Loss of Our Beloveds

LeafDrop Fredrik Alpstedt

A year ago October, I wrote a post on “Life Changers: The Six Kinds of Experience That Blow Your Mind to Bits.” It included a proviso that the six I mentioned—travel, the arts, love, sex, mood-altering substances and children—were hardly an exhaustive list. Which became clearer almost immediately as I hit the “Publish” button, already regretting I had not made it seven items.

How could I discuss life-altering experiences that shake us to our core without mentioning death?

Don’t worry—I won’t compete here in either length or breadth with the entire libraries devoted to the topic from learned battalions of philosophers, theologians and poets.

I will instead focus on one point only, one that frankly, has been something of a revelation to me over the course of my life. It has both compounded the tragedy of someone close to me dying while also immeasurably increasing my appreciation and gratitude for them and for those with whom I am fortunate to continue sharing this life.


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Thanksgiving Poem


For the Mystery,
the X,
the source of comfort
and question (and cruelty)
and eternal longing and love—


For the leaf flutter,
the ant scurry,
the slant of light on my chair,
this chair, at precisely
5:01 (and 31.6 seconds)
on the afternoon of November 9th,
never seen again through all
the warp and woof of futures unknown—


For these friends
and that food,
the drinks to pair,
the touch of care,
the earth so fair—


For this branch of that tree,
for birds in the air,
a bridge crossing there,
the juice of a pear,
the glint of sun on hair—


For the flesh’s tingle,
for locomotion and
vintner’s potions,
the glory of books,
the gifts of cooks,
all people, this person,
life’s call for immersion—

Thanks, thanks, thanks.

And thanks once more,
It is all in the giving—



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A Meditation on Hope

A Meditation on Hope

My newest crusade is to have the cleanest, most litter-free potter’s field in the world sprawled in front of me on my morning walks through the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, not one candy wrapper, cigarette butt or beer bottle surviving the sweep of my gaze as I traverse its hills and dales.

My eyes are mine sweepers, extending 180 degrees through the harbor, left, right, back, up and forth.

My mission: to find and emerge triumphant over every litter bomb, no matter how tiny it is or clever its attempts to hide behind a bush or under mounds of dead fall leaves.

Out with you and into my bag, pocket or hand, you Doublemint wrapper! Quit your cowering pretension that you’re just another tree twig, you lollipop stick!

I am onto your nefarious ways!

It is good to have a noble purpose in life, and I am surpassingly glad to have found mine.

The modern world can be hell on hope. Bad guys wreaking havoc all over the planet, cynics popping up in their wake like poison mushrooms in the night, ...

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Cries for Freedom: The Berlin Wall and Brittany Maynard

The WallBy GiuseppeBognanni

I don’t believe I know one person in my everyday orbit who has even one shred of doubt that Brittany Maynard wasn’t fully entitled to the self-determination she employed on November 1 as she ended her own life under Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.

At a heartbreaking 29 years old, she was making a clear, rational, and yes, spiritually mature decision to end her life on her own terms, in her own time, before the ravages of the inoperable brain tumor she had endured overcame her ability to make any decisions or make any sense whatsoever.

Let me be clear: I regard human life as a precious gift that we must hold in the tenderest, most exalted esteem. What a kick it is, yes? Inexhaustibly enriching, full of beauty, intrigue, challenge, high humor, endless curiosity and capacity for love, wonder and joy.

Except when it isn’t.

And when confronting the end point of the disease that was soon going to kill Maynard, life was none of those salutary qualities for her, but was instead a reci...

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To Be Young and of Fighting Age: Two Takes on the Vietnam Era

Army Man By Jennifer Tomaloff

As a worship associate in my church, I periodically help produce services, assisting the presiding minister by doing readings and planning various other activities that help shape what takes place in the sanctuary every Sunday. In our congregation, it also involves presenting a personal reflection that is tied to the topic of the service.

At yesterday’s Veteran’s Day service, I reflected on my own experience of grappling with the Selective Service System draft as I came of age in the late 1960s, just in time for the Vietnam era. After I got home, I sent the text to my longtime friend (40 years and counting) Kevin Feldman (nickname “Gar”) with a brief note that said:

Hey Gar,

Does any of this overlap with your experience, or did you 2S all the way and then lottery out of the draft?



What Kevin wrote me back struck me as such a stirring perspective on the times—different and in many ways far more intense than my own; he is three years older than me—that I thought it a wo...

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Notes on the Irrational

BigSurWave ByClintLosee150

I’m so glad I’m rational and even-handed in all matters, able to view life with a cool dispassion that sees things as they truly are.

You too? That’s what I thought!

But all those others—you know, everyone who’s not you and me, with their roiling passions and fears and distempers, their emotional roller coasters, their tendency to be swayed by unconscious motives, ideologies and unmet emotional needs—God save us from them, yes?

Oh wait, the wiseguy Pogo had something to say about that, didn’t he: “We have met the enemy—and he is us.”


Harvesting the fruits of enough introspection and self-knowledge to sidestep the most egregious aspects of irrationality can be a heady but fearsome thing. It’s a lifelong task to step outside yourself, gather feedback from others, behold the mirror of your endowments, your motives, your healed-over scars and still open wounds, not to mention your aging brain.

Merely to think clearly—and to do so consistently, amidst the ceaseless t...

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