Black. You probably think it’s weird, but I’m wearing black. Maybe I will every day until it all changes.
Before I tell you about black, today I’m not well…
My nose is raw inside. My throat is all tight. And on Tuesday night I started hearing my heartbeat in my left ear. It pounds in a swooshing pulse, all day and all night.
I googled “heart beat in my ear” and it said I have pulsatile tinnitus.
Worse case: cardiovascular disease.
But it’s probably sinus infection. If it doesn’t get better by tomorrow I might muster up the energy see my doctor.
I was supposed to go yellowtail fishing today with my good friend Chris. I don’t know about you but I just don’t want to do fun stuff when I’m sick.
I want to just do nothing.
I feel bland inside. Kind of dazed. Head in a bubble. A bit depressed.
I worried for a few minutes and thought worse case scenarios.
Then I had this conversation with myself:
Paul: What if there’s something wrong with your heart? Or you have lots of plaque stuck to your arteries? It says it can be a tumor. It says you can have a stroke. Carotid artery disease. Blood vessel disorders.
Paul: Don’t think thoughts like that! That doctor on the Harvard website said it’s probably nothing and if it doesn’t get better in two weeks, see a doctor.
Paul: Don’t be so superstitious — thinking about worse case won’t make worse case happen!
Paul: But you never know and lots of people have heart attacks and strokes and they had warning signs and were stupid to not see a doctor sooner.
Paul (reading askadoctor.com): “Most of the time, pulsatile tinnitus is nothing to worry about. If it doesn’t go away on its own or becomes really bothersome, talk to your doctor.”
One of the two Pauls stops the conversation. Gets out of bed. Looks out the bedroom doors.
Beautiful things are powerful things and those pink flowers pushing pushing pushing every day for weeks toward the sun. They bring me hope. Life brings hope. Growth beings hope.
Take this photo.
Lay back down.
Go on Twitter. And all these people, including our nation’s leader, fighting to keep Confederate flags and statues.
I just don’t get why it’s so imperative to keep these symbols. In Germany, Nazi (white supremacist) icons are illegal.
Confederate symbols on public land endorse a pathetic American movement founded on white supremacy. If our government continues to show respect to the Confederacy, people of color will never feel safe.
Some people argue that it’s to learn about our history. But we have books for that.
We will never solve our community’s problems if an entire group of citizens is alienated or feels targeted for discrimination.
Last Thursday I was in Nevada driving along a rural country road and it was 104 degrees and I had all four windows opened and I don’t usually listen to Johnny Cash but I started thinking of Dad and how he used to play Folsom Prison Blues and Delia and Ring of Fire to us when we were kids.
So I texted him.
Make haste slowly — one of the dozens of the wise and witty sayings I grew up hearing, and still hear.
Man In Black came on.
I never really paid that much attention to that Cash song.
And the wind kept blowing hot and I play that song over and over thinking of African Americans and of Islamophobia. I think, he would have included Muslims in that song if Muslim haters was a big thing in the 1960’s.
As I drank in the lyrics, I didn’t even know what would happen in Charlottesville over the next two days.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town…
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said…
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold..
Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.
Today I woke up hearing my heart pounding in my brain again.
Today I woke up reading about the vibrancy of racism in America.
“Jews will not replace us.”
“Blood and soil.”
Today I woke to wonder why more people aren’t outraged.
So I put on black.
Then I drove to my office.
I have this song on repeat.
Then I read about the terrorist attack that just happened in Barcelona.
I Tweet this.
I pray for the injured and their loved ones. I then try to go back to work.
Might seem foolish to you, but I’m wearing black.
For Heather Heyer, and for those who died in Barcellona.
I don’t want to be political.
I don’t want to argue.
I don’t want to be controversial.
But I have a duty — to stand up for people that are the targets of discrimination, hate, and violence.
I believe everyone has this duty. Whether they are Republican or Democrat, religious or atheist, dark or light or medium skinned, white collar or blue collar.
Democrats or liberals should not have a monopoly on standing up for what is right.
We need to, all of us, speak and scream and write and post and do everything in our power to stop the vision of those who hate people simply because of the color of their skin color, their race, their religion.
I have done my best to use my voice.
During the election, I even lost friends because of saying stuff like this.
For me, standing up for what is right is more important than anything else.
Fellow Christians need to get over the old tale that Jesus was always nice.
He hurt people’s feelings.
He burned bridges.
He wasn’t afraid that people might view him as “mean,” or “angry.”
He didn’t always keep his mouth shut when he got pissed off at religious hypocrisy.
Jesus even got creative in name-calling. Like when he called the haters of his day, the Pharisees, a “Brood of vipers.”
When Jesus saw injustice, he didn’t just pray either. Lots of Christian pastors think the answer is to merely pray for our nation.
Jesus had the guts to denounce evil, especially when done by God talking religious leaders.
Because sometimes love requires fury.
P.S. I have very serious concerns of pastors who will not use the words racism, bigotry, discrimination or prejudice in their sermons. If you’re part of a church where that’s the case, I really encourage you to speak with your pastor. If they are going to use a political word like abortion, there’s no reason they shouldn’t use the word racism.
Do you attend a white moderate church? One where leadership openly speaks of the horrors of homosexuality and abortion, but NEVER racism or xenophobia? If so, please consider the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., given the hate we are seeing in Charlottesville.
Because here’s the thing. We all should be outspoken against evil. Every kind of evil. So when bigots spread hate, whether they are so-called Muslims, so-called Christians — no matter — those of us who believe in liberty and justice for all cannot sit back in silence.
Peace is vital, but progress is more important.
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.'”
Tomorrow at three in the morning I will drive to Death Valley. I will spend 24 hours there.
Here are the reasons I am going:
Because it’s dangerous.
Because I need some danger.
Because I have too much safety.
Because safety is boring.
Because I want to go for a long walk.
Because Death Valley just experienced the hottest month ever recorded, on earth.
Because it will be over 125 degrees, in the sun.
Because those refugees — they live in the desert.
Because I want to know what they feel like.
Because I need to feel what they feel like.
Because I long to thirst.
Because I crave to walk far away from everything and be with my searing, sweaty, self.
Because Jesus understood heat.
So did Aristotle.
Because I desire to feel alone and vulnerable.
Because I wish to talk out loud to myself and to God and know nobody will hear what I have to say. I might even scream. I will probably laugh. I most certainly will cry.
Because the desert is the most austere place you could go.
Because no sounds of cars nor people nor helicopters nor faucets nor music nor television nor clinking dishes nor opinions nor doorbells nor Disneyland fireworks nor sights of tables nor telephone poles nor asphalt nor sprinklers nor coffee cups nor rear view mirrors nor status symbols nor logos nor laptops nor lamps nor chandeliers nor windows nor basketball courts nor buildings nor builders nor those exit signs you see everywhere nor off ramps nor speed bumps nor pillows nor phone chargers.
Because “silence is the scrub brush to the soul.”
Because I won’t be able to misplace anything (except myself).
Because we need periods of time with fewer choices.
Because the only choice I will really have is whether to go back or not.
Because something in me desires moderate amounts of physical pain.
Because I will bring pencil and paper and write.
Because what I write in discomfort is distinct from what I write in in comfort.
Because of refugee children who currently live in the hot deserts of Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon.
Because Lawrence Of Arabia is my favorite film and I want to feel what T.E. Lawrence felt.
Because I’ve wanted to do this for years.
Because hard times come but hard times go.
Because I might be a little weird.