reLAX, finally

After eight hours of phone calls, 200 bones, and an unpleasant night sleep, I have arrived at my gate at LAX with my boarding pass in my pocket. Because I have only eaten peanuts, carrots and a bowl of cereal today, I decided to buy a dinner/snack at Starbucks. I just spent $10, which is very expensive, but what makes it worse is that I used a gift card that already had about $10 on it! So the total was about $20! Their pre-packaged, high-sodium, less-than-mediocre sandwiches cost $8!

So here I am, in this moment. Eckhart Tolle comes to mind as I try to relax into my peach colored and poorly cushioned chair at the airport. Others are reading magazines, listening to music on headphones, and checking facebook on public laptop ports. The plane leaves in about three hours. I should be in London in about 15 hours. (I have been getting a lot of funny faces from people when I tell them that both my name and destination is London.)

Eckhart Tolle and his Power of Now. I really like him, but I just can’t get overpowered by the now. Maybe it’s my Jewishness which loves to recall the past and my Christianity which keeps me looking towards the future, sometimes with anxiety. In trying to be present to the now, I keep confronting my finitude, which is a difficult thing to confront. (Finitude is a euphemism for stupidity). In misreading my flight itinerary, I forced my friends to drive to LAX three times, I missed the first day of the conference, I lost $200, and I probably lost a year of my life due to my stressful dealings with bureaucratic airlines and travel agents. How do you misread the departure time? How does 8:55 pm turn into 10:20 pm? Finitude. (Stupidity).

It’s very difficult for me when the only scapegoat I have to blame is myself. When I’m in a crappy situation because of my own lack of foresight or common sense, I have a hard time figuring out where to direct my frustration and anger. When directed towards myself, my anger can abuse, insult and paralyze me. I never really hurt myself physically as I know many of my peers and many teens are woefully wont to do. The closest I get to self-destructive behaviour is by engaging in relatively socially acceptable activities like smoking and drinking. But those aren’t healthy ways of dealing with my finitude. So how do I deal with my finitude?

The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is 2 Samuel 11:1-15, commonly known as the story of David and Bathsheba. Here, David shows off his finitude by sleeping with another man’s wife, attempting to cover it up, failing and then planning the murder of the husband, Uriah.

Years ago, I read this passage as I was dealing with a painful and dramatic relationship with a girl who got pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child. I saw this passage through the eyes of Uriah and actually wrote a Psalm from his perspective, countering Psalm 51. I called it Uriah’s Lament and eventually put it to music.

As I was waiting for travel agents and airlines to call me back, I grabbed my guitar and felt invited to play Uriah’s Lament. The song expresses raw and desperate anger towards God and David. It was very cathartic to play. I was very frustrated and angry and was able to express that anger and even direct it towards God. And although God did not make me misread my departure time, I knew that God was ok with me expressing the anger I had for myself completely at him. God can take my anger. I cannot.

Perhaps it sounds silly to sing angry songs at God because of my failure to read my flight itinerary. I guess it is kind of silly. But it works. And it actually draws me closer to God and even deeper into Tolle’s present moment, even into the power of now. And it prevents me from pacifying myself with cigarettes and alcohol (even though a little bottle of Christian Brothers accompanied me as I was making phone calls to the airlines).

I believe the Psalmists of the Old Testament blamed God a lot and the fact that those Psalms remain in the canon shows that God can deal with this. God does not scream back defensively, “It’s not my fault!” God takes it just as Christ took it on the Cross. And God loves me through it. And I believe God prefers we give our anger and violence to him rather than direct it towards others or ourselves.

John Lennon said, “god is a concept by which we measure our pain.” I think there’s some truth to that. However, my faith emboldens me to say, “God is a reality, perhaps the only reality, that can truly handle our pain.”

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