You Dare to Smile

Bent beneath a load of care, you dare to smile a mile wide,

And let nothing get you down, no frown for you, tis true!

And you dance in the rain, prance through big puddles

To muddle things up a bit, then you laugh, split half your side

To abide in your self-made heaven . . . You dare to smile


You Are an Artisan

Sometimes you get hit hard ‘n just feel like crying,
And sometimes even lying in bed hurts your head;
Sometimes you feel like curling up and just dying,
And sighing isn’t enough when you’re truly trying
To do your finest to fight through another life test
When you feel like a unwanted guest in the world
But you stand as tall as you can and give it your all
Even though it seems nobody really understands
And all you get in return are more hard demands
And so you wonder what to do, options too few,
But then you spy pen, pencil, or brush and hush,
For there they all are, instruments for your scars
To turn your pain into some kind of gain yet again
And in turn to bless others and maybe to impress
Something upon their minds and souls to unbind
Them from their own shackles with seeds sown
From your very own life blood . . .
You Are an Artisan

Suffering So Little . . . Really

My body feels like it is surging with electricity,
My lower back racked in continuing spasticity,
My tonicity confused by an inner complexity,
Could it be toxicity that so disturbs my felicity?
So very weary and yet too leery of physicians;
Yet such an awesome autumn day to blossom
In mind and spirit despite the bind of the body;
And shall I complain of pain? There is no gain;
Some whining words will only drive me insane
And nothing change within my physical range;
No, ice is nice on my back and lack of medicine
Is the sad position of many in my ill condition,
And so many in such situations far, far worse!
Oh, and age could account for this awful stage,
But how many more are older and yet bolder
Than I? And with this, shall I die and fly away?
No, no . . . This is not the day; here shall I stay
And make my way as best I can . . . thankfully!

Under Canopy of Heaven

Under the canopy of sky
I dream of seamless days
And nights not corroded
By frightening thoughts
Brought to mind
By relentless responsibilities
And limitations . . .
I’d rather fly without hesitation
To some unknown destination
Of beautiful color
And nothing to bother
Where sisters and brothers
Are free to walk and talk
Without fear,
And old men drink their beer
And health and wealth
Are not uncommon
To folk like me,
Whoever they be . . .
Under the canopy of stars
I see afar some day in some land
Bands of women and men
With hands that give and help
And sands of time mean nothing
But something at which to wonder,
And blunders are excused
With laughter and smiles miles long,
And everyone knows that they belong . . .
Under the canopy of heaven
I leaven my dreams
With treasure troves of love
And arms wide open
That would never harm
Or sound an alarm
At someone in rags who carries old bags;
Oh no,
These arms would weave new clothing
And heave the old for new satchels
With all new within each,
And then these arms
Would make a place at the table
With no bill to pay for the meal . . .
Under the canopy of sky
I dream of seamless days
And nights, flowing one into the other,
Glowing with affection
And no infection of greed or hunger,
And no need for seeds of profit,
For all gain is to simply live life
To the fullest without unnecessary pain
Foisted upon one by another son
Of the same human race;
No, here there is no corruption
Of corporation,
But, rather, corporate cooperation
For the alleviation of suffering
And deprivation . . .
Yes, I do dream all my dreams
Under the great canopy above . . .

Write to Drive Out the Blight

You could lie back down and try to cry away your pain,
But your tears would come in billows to soak your pillow
And not wash away your suffering shuffling your soul
Like strange cards in a puzzling deck, while tightening
Chain around your neck; or you could pop another pill
To still your raging emotions staging Shakespearean
Tragedy in your heart in which you simply have no part;
Or you could hurt yourself, thereby sending away pain
With the gain of even worse pain, but at least it’d be
Something new, true? For a few moments of poisonous
Peace you could slice into your fresh flesh, but would
This last past the night into the light of day, would
You say? Or you could sit at your keyboard and lord
Over the profusion of confusion and psychic occlusion,
And you could spill your agony onto glowing screen
In a thrill of release and concomitant peace, cognizant
That relief will not last forever but in belief that
At least you can create a leitmotif for each and every
Reappearance of this demonically sordid motif; and what
Could constitute a better, more sardonic letter to hell
Than one in which with laughter you determine to kill
Dark spirits with words that will be heard throughout
Numinous realms? It may not be canonic but it makes
Good tonic for the troubled soul, no? And you should
Know it also fills the hole that’s been such troublesome
Bowl of fury causing your spirit such painful hurry
And unnecessary worry; so write!
And write to your heart’s delight!


I have always loved you with an undying love;
You’ve responded only with laxity and apathy.
I have cared, pulling you back from the snare;
You’ve never showed gratitude in your attitude.
I have always encouraged you and nourished you;
You’ve responded by starving me of affection.
I have always given my best through every test;
You’ve turned away and burned in sordid lies.
I have always treasured you with happy pleasure;
You’ve taken me for granted, enchanted by self.
Now I am tired and weary, leery of giving more
For I am sore afflicted and conflicted in soul.
And what will you do now but to go on your way
Without one word to say? But is this the day
When I must sigh and forever say goodbye?
Or will God turn your heart of stone to flesh,
And make an altogether new beginning…


Trail of Tears Left Behind

old manSome of us live and leave behind a trail of tears,
No matter how much we love those near and dear;
We struggle forward, but onward on downward slope
With no hope of upward climb to hear the chime
Of love, peace, and life-success to cease the pain
And break the chain that binds us down, and blinds
Us to any hope, so we no longer have desire to cope.

“Best Daddy in the World” now putrefies with lies
Told by vipers, soul-snipers, and dæmonic pipers;
And all memory of affection, protection, direction
And every expression of love flies out the window
As morbid deception conquers truth ~ no conception
Of reality ~ and we are left bereft of any reason
To live, to strive to thrive; we have been deprived.

Once father and mother, but don’t bother; it’s over!
Rules change and so has the game; it’s not the same;
Nobody quite understands the deep pain of betrayal
Nor comprehends the acid rain of simple endurance;
Ball and chain drags you further into black moraine;
Grave ready, soul steady, your heart already buried;
Apple of God’s eye? Rotten now and long forgotten.

lonely-manOr is there another turning on this burning journey?
Or yet another tourney in the flurry and hellish fury
Of this existence called life; reason for persistence
In moving on yet further to perjure oneself in torture,
Or make fine departure like arrow from skilled archer?
Will there yet be another chance to dance in delight
Through the day and night in sight of heavenly angels?

Some of us live and leave behind a trail of tears,
No matter how much we love those near and dear…
As they turn away, say no word to hear, no smile
For the miles they now leave between their life
And yours, despite tears cried and all you’ve tried,
Prayers you’ve prayed, and the pain you cannot hide;
All seems at an end … but is there another bend
In the road that still lies ahead, still to be tread?


Mind Melanoma: Love-Fooled Again

mind melanoma,
sick in the soul,
blown apart in the heart;
I can never fill the hole.


fooled again, and everything now fades
and wastes away into nothing…

and dark is the light,
and the day like night,
and laughter sorrow,
no hope for tomorrow.

yours was a dangerous dream;
you brought me haunted nights,
but was I ere born to be so torn?
and left to die in your swirling lights?

fooled again, and everything now dulls
and washes away into nothing…

and the air is thick,
and the soul is sick,
and love veiled malice,
my heart defiled chalice.

no new day springs
with healing wings;
no chimes sound, no wedding rings;
only poison and the death you bring.

fooled again, and everything flies on
and dies away into nothing…

and cold is the blood,
and tears like a flood,
and every word vain,
nothing more made plain…

except that I was fooled again;
you were no more than the shadow
of my dreams with no heart to win;
I was but peering from my soul’s broken window.


Save Me Sweet Selene

When primordial man walked hand in hand with Gaia’s daughter ‘cross paradisiacal land,
Peace reigned in heaven above, and in hearts of love, blessed by the Rhean angelic dove.
But jealousy led foolish man to raise defiant hand against the life-giving celestial band,
And all the cosmos writhed in pain, cursed by death insane, and never Paradise to regain.
And now we hear the screams of hate that never abate in all our foolish fancies we relate;
In battles we fight with all our might because we are right, and ever-pure love out of sight.

Ah! Mighty Selene, lift me from the pits of hell; wake me up from this imprisoning spell!
I would fly me high into the heavens above for no other reason than your own pure love!

With collected reason, all quite out of season, plan we to move forward with no cohesion.
Our world is turning, society still burning ‘cause no one is learning; souls keep churning.
Never an appeal is made to the sacred seal for what we might learn and then finally heal.
Ever death bent we are greatly too spent to now repent of our own selfish, hellish torment.
Mop up our blood and give us no grave; we are outcast and forgotten, with no one to save.
We erase our past now – we have no name – and unburden our shoulders from any blame.

Selene! Selene! Chase away shades of despair, and kindly free me from this earthen snare!
Give me your sweet peace with open hands, and keep me safely from time’s burning sands!

Spread your wings for me to taste what ambrosia brings;
And from your womb my life rebirth far above this earth.


Collected Thoughts on God, Pain, Suffering and Evil

The Catechism of the Catholic Church admits the obvious, that is, “‘we walk by faith, not by sight;’ we perceive God as ‘in a mirror, dimly’ and only ‘in part.’ Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often liven in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.” (The United States Catholic Conference 1997, 51.164)

What is the answer, though, if there even is one? Why does God allow evil, pain and suffering? British philosopher Richard Swinburne offers the answer “that God cannot give us” the penultimate good “in full measure without allowing much evil on the way.” (Swinburne 2010, 85) His basic argument seems to run thus: God could have created the world without the possibility of pain and suffering, but this would exclude creatures – humans – with authentically free will/choice. Indeed, in employing “the free-will defense,” Swinburne argues “that it is a great good that humans have a certain sort of free will; which I shall call free and responsible choice, but that, if they do, then necessarily there will be the natural possibility of moral evil. (By the ‘natural possibility’ I mean that it will not be determined in advance whether or not the evil will occur.)” (Swinburne 2010, 86) To push his point further, this eminent philosopher of religion insists, “It is not logically possible – that is, it would be self-contradictory to suppose – that God could give us such free will and yet ensure that we always use it in the right way.” (Swinburne 2010, 86) In fact, Swinburne counts it as “good that the free choices of humans should include genuine responsibility for other humans,” however, this “necessarily involves the opportunity to benefit or harm them.” (Swinburne 2010, 87; Cf. also Kolakowski 2013, 162)

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz argued by deduction both the necessary existence of God and the perfect goodness of this God, thereby concluding that “God must have created the best world that is logically conceivable, and that this is the world we inhabit.” (Kolakowski 2013, 162) Of course, this does not directly, specifically address “natural evils” or disasters, which leave in their wake an immense amount of pain and suffering, seemingly so senseless. Are all natural disasters, or “evils,” senseless? The Cardinal Schönborn argues, no:

As powerful as the force of the movement of the continental plates was in 2004, a force that produced the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the planet earth, our home in the universe, was hardly affected… Dreadful as were the consequences of the tsunami unleashed by the submarine earthquake, the occurrence of earthquakes is merely the reverse side of something that is an essential condition of life on our planet. Without plate tectonics, the mobility of the plates that form the earth’s crust, there would be no life upon earth. (Schonborn 2007, 100)

Then, too, we must ask, are natural disasters/catastrophes strictly speaking “evil?” If not strictly speaking “evil,” then the teaching of the Church (despite the findings of science), at least infers these catastrophes are the result of human sin:

In creating man and woman God had given them a special participation in his own divine life in holiness and justice. In the plan of God they would not have had to suffer or die. Furthermore, a perfect harmony held sway within the human person, a harmony between creature and Creator, between man and woman, as well as between the first human couple and all of creation. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2006, 25.72)

Indeed, again the teaching of the Church would seem to point to sinful humanity as primarily to blame:

In consequence of original sin human nature, without being totally corrupted, is wounded in its natural powers. It is subject to ignorance, to suffering, and to the dominion of death and is inclined toward sin. This is called concupiscence. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2006, 26-27.77; cf. also the Epistle to the Romans 8.22-24)

Though it may sound rather callous, Swinburne puts something of a positive spin on the presence of what he refers to as “natural evil.” In his estimation, it is precisely the unwelcome occurrences of drought, various disasters, illness and whatnot that gives to humanity the opportunity to rise from good to better to best, as it were:

… Just imagine all the suffering of mind and body caused by disease, earthquake, and accident unpreventable by humans removed at a stroke from our society. No sickness, no bereavement in consequence of the untimely death of the young. Many of us would then have such an easy life that we simply would not have much opportunity to show courage or, indeed, manifest much in the way of goodness at all. We need those insidious processes of decay and dissolution which money and strength cannot ward off for long to give us the opportunities, so easy otherwise to avoid, to become heroes. (Swinburne 2010, 96)

This seems, however, to militate against God’s intentions in creation.

But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate. How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you. (Wisdom 11.23-25, NABRE)

And also, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” (Wisdom 1.13, NABRE) Furthermore, we are told explicitly by the Apostle St. Paul in his First Epistle to Timothy that “everything created by God is good…” (I Timothy 4.4a, NABRE) Are we missing something here? Perhaps rushing over the words too quickly? So, God does indeed love all that he has created. Does this necessarily negate the probability of the eventual presence of evil, pain, and suffering? And though God does not “rejoice” in the destruction of the living, does God somehow supersede that feeling with, one might say, an objective realization that ultimately good will overcome evil, life will spring forth from death as ultimately manifested in the resurrection of Christ, or to put it, perhaps, more mythoi-artistically, that the majestic Phoenix will rise from the ashes and fly again? Is this the via necessaria to the best of all probable worlds? Possibly.

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu of South Africa certainly knows much about pain and suffering, specifically from the gross, immoral injustice of apartheid. He played an important role in both the overthrow of that horrid regime as well as the peaceful transition to new government and authentic justice. The Reverend Tutu, then, is an authority worthy of hearing on the subject, and he possesses and boldly expresses optimism, and even (humble) triumphalism, where seemingly senseless pain and suffering are concerned:

There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now – in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally… Indeed, God is transforming the world now – through us – because God loves us…

This is a moral universe, which means that, despite all the evidence that seems to be to the contrary, there is no way that evil and injustice and oppression and lies can have the last word. God is a God who cares about right and wrong. God cares about justice and injustice. God is in charge. That is what upheld the morale of our people, to know that in the end good will prevail. It was these higher laws that convinced me that our peaceful struggle would topple the immoral laws of apartheid. (Tutu 2010, 148-149)

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna echoes the same conviction when he declares, “Evil is great, it is dreadful, and it cannot be explained away. Yet good is nonetheless always greater and more powerful – of this we may be convinced with absolute certainty. Evil, in all its forms, is always a lack of good, a defect, which may be great and frightful, yet is ultimately never greater than the good of which it is a distorted or deprived form.” (Schonborn 2007, 102)

Marine Geophysicist Robert White shares much the same sentiment, especially in his work as one of the leading scientists of the world. A Geology graduate of the University of Cambridge, he was awarded his PhD in Marine Geophysics in 1977. In 1989, White was appointed to the Chair of Geophysics at Cambridge. He was subsequently elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994 and, with Denis Alexander, co-founded the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, in 2006. For White, his faith is fundamentally pivotal in both his overall perspective as well as his practical work, and what should be, in his estimation, the practical work of all Christians.

First off, in an honest appraisal of pain and suffering caused by often unpredictable and seemingly meaningless disasters, Robert White rejects the description of “natural,” pointing out rather bluntly that “God is sovereign over all of the cosmos, including what we call ‘nature,’ so there should be no sense in which a massive earthquake, tsunami, flood or volcanic eruption is outside God’s purview.” Still, these (and many other similar) events cause great devastation, including great loss of life. White, nevertheless, steers toward hope guided by his faith, pointing out that “while the secular world wrings its hands about the problems and consequences of natural disasters … Christianity brings a radical new approach.” (White 2009, 154-155) This radical new approach includes a number of important points:

  1. There is God, who is Creator and Superintendent over the whole of the created order.
  2. Everything ultimately belongs to this God, so that “the resources of this Earth are only on loan,” as it were; consequently…
  3. We have an obligation to rightly make use of the resources we have been given, and importantly
  4. We have an obligation one to another, which includes continuing study and research in the various sciences with the double-goal in view of properly caring for this world and better helping humanity, specifically in alleviating pain and suffering.

“It is a profoundly Christian response to be prepared to give up some of our privileges for the sake of others, modelling in a small way Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us. Christians should care for the stranger and the foreigner even if they live out of sight on the other side of the world.” (White 2009, 155)

In the course of such self-sacrificial serving within the awareness of the sovereign-but-imminent Creator God, there have been those who have, shall we say, “risen above” or “by-passed” the pain and suffering of this world by way of an ever-deepening, personal experience of the divine and the world itself. As the 20th century Polish philosopher, Leszek Kołakowski shares in one of his essays, “Some pantheists and some mystics live lives so immersed in the divine environment that evil is unnoticeable in their universe. The light of God penetrates everything; there is no reason to complain and no point in complaining, for the world is full of joy and ‘whatever is of God, is God,’ as Eckhart says. Or, in the words of the seventeenth-century French mystic Louis Chardon, ‘God in the sky is more my sky than the sky itself; in the sun He is more my light than the sun, in the air He is more the air than the air I breathe.’” (Kolakowski 2013, 167)

Of course, this via vitæ may be understandably out of reach for the common man and woman, but perhaps equally as profound, is what Richard Swinburne refers to as “compensation in the form of happiness after death to the victims whose sufferings make possible the goods” (Swinburne 2010, 98) that issue forth in a world where pain and suffering are necessary in order to progress beyond mere, mundane existence to, or toward, what is optimally the best. White posits the same idea with, perhaps, a bit more polish in contrasting the futility of secular humanist naturalism with “the assurance that sin and injustice have already been dealt with for all time on the cross, and (thus) the certain hope for the future (is) that in due course the whole cosmos will be renewed in the new heavens and new earth.” (White 2009, 155)

In the end, perhaps, it is this hope founded upon faith – at least within the Abrahamic religions – that offers the necessary terminus to the evils, pain and suffering of this life in this world. Without this terminus, one might justly wonder if any other answer or point of explanation could possibly make any real difference at all, no matter how reasonable or sensible-sounding.


Kolakowski, Leszek. 2013. Is God Happy? Selected Essays. Translated by Agnieska Kolakowska. New York: Basic Books.

Schonborn, Christoph Cardinal. 2007. Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith. Edited by Hubert Philip Weber. Translated by Henry Taylor. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Swinburne, Richard. 2010. Is There A God? Revised Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The United States Catholic Conference. 1997. Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications From The Edito Typica. New York: Doubleday.

Tutu, Desmond. 2010. “God Believes In Us.” In Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith, edited by Francis Collins. New York: HarperOne.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2006. Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington, D. C.: USCCB.

White, Robert. 2009. “Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Other Catastophes.” In Real Scientists, Real Faith, edited by R. J. Berry. Oxford: Monarch Books.