By Cliff Rivera
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am only for myself, what am I, and if not now, when?”
I’ve been researching the Neo-Monastic movement within Church streams for a season now. I have to have faith in transparent community, like a school of guppies; I really do, no matter how repeatedly burnt I’ll be at the church’s brazen altar. That means Church can be in cafs, cornfields, over 200bpm, in an armored tank, behind bars, straightjacket, Tahiti, brownouts, cyberspace, in Spring Valley, or the valley of Megiddo: depending on the size of the mustard seed in my heart. That means friends would visit me at Fordham University and expound on dead philosophers over stale beer, than simply invoke the name above all names with me:
I’m finding kinship in the company of fast friends more devastatingly profound than blood relatives these last days. My artistic vision owes its transformation to a Y Generation clothed in hacky-sackcloth, concurrently asking the proverbial “Why?” and demanding an unequivocal answer. I’m searching for that little peace of Goshen Shire of mine own to tend with organic gulay. As of now, literary peers have succumb to the rice pressure-cooker and have relocated West, in droves. I don’t blame them for Exodus, since my own work has been unapologetically raw as of late. I’m considering a career in stand-up/sketch comedy kitsch. Seriously.
In other words, I’m plotting my next move.
If I’ve learned anything during my lengthy hustle in the Baghdad City of New York (that’s finding it harder and harder to power nap in Shalom, undisturbed), it’s to never despise your roots. Ever. No matter how much I want to pummel mortality – greeting me every morning in my ailing Abba’s shadow of a stroke-imbued face – I have to remember, then just as suddenly, be moved. The art of leaving behind a legacy, you see. It’s kind of morbid actually, the lifestyle of fleeting promotion – Exobus, that is. It would be so convenient to disseminate a MySpace bulletin about my disappearance, like the campaigns to free Eric Volz and Gilad Shalit. I might do just that: instigate an international incident as a publicity stunt.
Mobility means a revolving door of monikers to keep loves guessing. It’s hitching a ride on the Moishe Mobile and the Relief Bus. It’s creating enigmatic chatter around unsung revolutionaries like James K. Baxter and prodigious, wheelchair-bound Psalmer (whom I tout as the next C.S. Lewis), as well as chronicling the Manilaners of WWII: poetic lives to add to the spectrum conversation at the Last Seder table. It’s bound to lead to genuine relationships. Not to mention hater-mail and a nosedive in readership. Mine haven’t been quite as virulent as fellow Hudyo Pundit, Michelle Malkin; more subversive, if anything. Comes with the Heebrid Hobbit territory. The consequences for social activism – in a lot of Balikbayan cases – is exile, and the longing to return, Christ-like. In Salman Rushdie‘s case, he’s got a fatwa against him that keeps us infidels and our clarion pens in flux.
Which brings us back to square one legos and Logos. Whenever I see a pyramid stack of boxes with Operation Christmas Child plainly advertised in church basement corners, I kinda wince and think, “Wow. Assembly-line evangelism at its best. We Christians sure are efficient at doling out compassion.”
Perhaps it’s high time for Operation C.H.O.P.– chop instead, distributed face to face.
I’m being utterly summer schooled. Consider this an open E-vite to share in the burden of covering ridiculously high diesel, besides the costlier risk of rugged cross bearing, cross-country. It’s not too late to purchase your ticket for the Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois: Heaven on Earth scheduled for June 25-30. I’ll be bringing along my rainbow djembe and claves over to the Cornerstone-House of Prayer, as we mobilize, on our kneecaps, for The Call – Nashville, just a week later on 07.07.07.
I’m reaching the advent era of second comings – and you are not alone.
During an impromptu walk-a-thon with my sister en Kristo Jackie, through suburban minefields, my mind was on the coming Kingdom and to what lengths this latest company of dreamy Anarcho-Samaritans will go to alleviate the suffering of disenfranchised Gringos, eradicate globalization villages, counter-protest oppressive, Holocaust-denying regimes… And the genius of Kathy Griffin in camouflaged cargoes.
The blisters under my feet still sting.
In the spirit of Parkour, we bench-hopped beside the foul Hudson, a story away from urban renaissance. Dusty sandals and feet first into the River. Sweatpants rolled to my knees as pilgrims previewed ceremonial skin cleanser. A corporate sprinkler splash of nations. Clash of cymbals. Shmooz fest. Good to go. My cornrows itch. Does hair grow faster than the Church? The Tappan Zee Bridge loomed like a coliseum demolition. Wimbledon: a lonely mind game mismatch. Yet this crusade was no medieval charade. G-d is Luv.
We are Eaglet feathers protected under divine law. Were assigned to posts, responsible for overseeing this mad dash for manna, for Restoring Eden. Poised, I am eager to partner in the last lap of the Great Commission with passionate Jesus Radicals who desire to consolidate the Messianic flock; who can strategize and break Wonder Bread together; dynamic disciples willing to offer tears and Holy! Holy! Holy! to keep the pyro poi burning. Baruch Atah ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha’olam… This is my prayer this Ahavah Summer. To study the contours of gold that line our home, that need a home, that is home.
Jackie: (musing, as darkness looms.) So, what are you doing to help the Darfur refugees, starving to death in Sudan, Africa? While Invisible Children are being abducted, women raped, communities bombed and forcibly expelled from their homes; families systematically enslaved and murdered by Mooslim militiamen: what are you doing to help the cause of the least of these?
(long beat, seemingly interminable.)
Me: Sadly, I’ve been eating for them.
Clifford Favro Rivera is an activist paytan currently residing in The Shamayim Shire. In addition to Wrecked for the Ordinary, Cliff’s piyyutim have appeared in Sojourners Magazine, Matthew’s House Project, Infuze Magazine , with a forthcoming poem to be published in The Other Journal. His short film, “Comfort Room” starring Austin Williams and featuring the Psalters, is currently in post-production.