Thursday, April 27, 2017

Poems by Diana Washington Valdez

I write poetry in English and Spanish. Here is a recent poem I finished in Spanish about drug cartel hit squads in Juarez, Chihuahua. It is part of a collection of poems associated with Mexico and Spain, some of which were published in literary pubs.

* * *

Copyright © 2017 Diana Washington Valdez

Noche de Sicarios

Van por Juan "El Lukas" Martínez esta vez.

El comando recibió su orden y viene por él;

"Juan nos ha robado la mota y debe pagar

con su vida".

Es cosa de un destino brutal

que Juan "El Lukas" debía haber esperado.

El grupo de hombres fornidos

que forman el comando armado

entran primero a su antro favorito

sobre la Avenida Juárez;

agarran fuerza con sus tragos de whiskey

e inhalando un polvo blanco.

Sus caras sirven de espejo

uno del otro en una hermandad vil.

Salen listos los cinco y abordan

su carreta de la muerte,

rumbo a la Avenida Gómez Morín.

Ahí, en la curva de la calle transitada,

la ruta popular de los destinados a la muerte,

preparan su violenta emboscada.

Es cosa de un destino brutal que Juan "El Lukas"

debía haber esperado.

Por ahí, el blanco dará su último paseo

en una calle de su ciudad natal.

El lugarteniente del cártel, Charly “Bombas",

tiene su cuerpo tapizado de tatuajes.

Los más grandes son de un corazón

con la palabra "Madre".

El otro, es de la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Trae colgado un Rosario que

besa antes de iniciar su obra.

El comando carga Cuernos de Chivo,

una AR-15 y pistola Glock de 9 milímetros.

El “Bombas” grita: "ahí viene

el pinche cabrón de "Lukas".

Empiezan los disparos, balas sin cesar.

Los hombres del comando gritan palabras rudas,

reclamos a un hombre solo y desarmado,

alegando que "Lukas" se buscó

la sentencia del cártel.

El comando, cobrando su victoria,

arranca a toda velocidad para huir

mientras los testigos miran atónitos.

El sombrero norteño de Juan "El Lukas"

cae al explotar su cabeza.

Su camisa almidonada se mancha de tanta sangre

que corre por el piso de su camioneta

y escurre hasta el suelo,

hasta que un charco colorado se va formando

en el pavimento de la calle.

Fue cosa de un destino brutal que

Juan "El Lukas" debía haber esperado.

El comando retorna al mismo antro para celebrar,

mientras que "El Bombas", todavía

con la adrenalina elevada, marca su rifle y

agrega el número 11 a su lista de ejecutados.

Los hombres armados evitan verse

en los ojos uno al otro,

pensando en que habrá un siguiente muertito.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A spiritual crisis can paralyze everything

Candles lighting the dark

A spiritual crisis can paralyze everything

Quote: F. Scott Fitzgerald: In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning.

A dark night every day

Diana Washington Valdez

It is difficult to get back on track with this "memoir" because I am not always sure of whether the past is gone or still present. Our memory records what has already happened, that is certain. But there is another dynamic at work whenever you look back, the effects that the past have on the present and the future.

The term 'dark night of the soul' is described by some as a painful spiritual journey and by others as a spiritual or existential crisis. The best-known expositions of this state can be found in the works of mystics like St. John of the Cross (circa16th Century) and to an extent in the writings of Aristotle. In his book "Siddhartha," German author Herman Hesse deftly and beautifully summarizes spiritual conflict through the lives of his protagonist, Siddhartha, and his friends, family and lover Kamala.

Others across the centuries, different countries and cultures share examples in their literature and oral traditions about a journey that we must undertake alone. The aloneness is at once terrifying and necessary. "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is the title of the 1940 book by American author Carson McCullers as well as the name of a popular 1995 American country music song by Reba McEntire. The title of both serve to illustrate a point. The pilgrim's walk is a lonely one; and, sidetracks can take you on the wrong paths.

One may surmise that a spiritual conflict arises from the battle of the soul that is at war with itself, its destiny or with God. The only way out is to get off the path. But the soul that's hungry won't let you stay in the detour. The Divine will not permit it.

The phenomenon of waking up at three in the morning without apparent reason is universal. I used to wake up constantly at this hour, only to go back to sleep after seeing the time on the clock. It happened so often that my curiosity led me to do some research on this experience.

The explanations varied widely: It was the bewitching hour, when people involved in occult practices carried out their rituals and ceremonies and you were a target or simply got swept up in the fallout; and, at the other end of the explanation spectrum, for those who go to bed at normal night hours it is generally the hour at which the body naturally undergoes several physiological adjustments.

Kamala, the character in the Hesse book "Siddhartha," tends to get short-shrifted in the literary critiques that I'm familiar with. Yet, she is the most important figure in the book after Siddhartha. Kamala represents where most of us want to stay. The known, the comfortable, the understandable.

Symbolically, she also represents the place where the soul cannot advance on its pilgrimage; that place is a docking, a detour. That's not to say that the customary aspirations of humans, which include emotional bonding and having families, are not legitimate ones. They are valid and necessary for humanity to continue. But in that setting, the soul that is hungry for more will always be restless.

Likewise, the hunt for the ideal romantic partner that McEntire sings about is a futile one because the hunter in the song does not realize that the object of her pursuit is a mistaken one to begin with. Hence, the list of lovers can only grow ever longer while the object of the hunt grows ever more elusive. The soul cannot find in that environment what it is really searching for.

There is a song that fits so well in this discussion: "Is that all there is?" which was made famous by Peggy Lee in 1969. This is the refrain from the haunting melody:

"Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is"

Indeed, if the object of the soul at the end of its quest is not God, and certainly if God does not exist, then the logical conclusions must be nihilism, there is no meaning to life and we need not pretend otherwise, and hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure without restraint because the basis for a moral code is missing.

Job, the principal character in the Old Testament book, who is portrayed as a man of great faith, also reached a point during which he had to wrestle with suffering and the issue of philosophical aloneness. Left to wonder whether God had abandoned him, during his dark night of the soul, Job exclaimed, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him."

Another example in the Bible that illustrates the personal battle that must take place in order to get past dead center is the story of Jacob in Genesis, when the Jewish patriarch wrestles with an "angel" and is renamed Israel: The angel tells Jacob "you have struggled with God and with humans."

Beforehand, the self-centered Jacob had been the ultimate manipulator, conniving and depending on his wits to make his way in the world. He was the lonely hunter pursuing the wrong things. Some would say that Jacob literally won the fight against the divine force, but what really happened is that something inside of Jacob that drove his entire life up to then died. It had to so he could finally truly live. Some, with their lives, will attempt to postpone or bypass such an undertaking, and will continue to walk in circles (that's how it feels).

I, too, have entered such a period, suddenly and unexpectedly. It involves an emotional exorcism that is painful and ongoing and so much more. I know the end from the beginning. Yes, I truly know how it will end for myself. I don't know what the rest of the process will include or how long it will last or what will be left untorched. The wrestling began about two months ago, heightened by the deaths of friends and an intense awareness of my own mortality.

The details of this kind of journey are different for everyone, so there is no point in baring them here. It will remain in the background. I am sharing what I can in case it will help anyone else out there. It is likely there will be updates in this chapter. The rest of the memoir, dealing with more earthly matters, will go on sporadically.

My best to everyone in your own life's journey.

[1] Herman Hesse book

[2] Carson McCullers book

[3] St. John of the Cross

[4] Peggy Lee sings

[5] Reba McEntire sings

[6] Job: 23:3 English Standard Version.

[7] Genesis: 32:22-32 New International Version.

Diana Washington Valdez is a member of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ).

Posted by J.J. Schwartz at 1:41 PM

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: Carson McCullers, Dark Night of the Soul, Herman Hesse, International Association of Religion Journalists, Peggy Lee, Philosophy, Reba McEntire, Religion, Siddhartha

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The real UFO scare

My UFO scare, Part I

I met an interesting resident of El Paso, Texas, who wanted to share her experiences with me about alleged unidentified flying objects and alien abduction. After hearing some preliminary details about her encounters of the third kind dating back to childhood, I hesitated.

I’ve personally never seen any evidence of the existence of aliens from outer space. I’ve read plenty of articles and books, and like countless others, viewed numerous documentaries and movies about the phenomenon.

One of my favorite Hollywood movies centered on the topic is “Encounters of the Third Kind,” a 1977 release starring Richard Dreyfuss. The scene with him and the mashed potatoes is hilarious. I’m also a huge fan of “The X-Files” movies and television series with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, a made for TV match if there ever was one.

My reluctance to meet with this woman did not stem from my desire to scoff at these things. Friends and I have kicked around the UFO question for years. Are they real? What would we do if we encountered something strange like this? Why do so many people believe in what they claim to have experienced.

 As a journalist, I was reluctant to tread into something that would ultimately harm my professional reputation. Of course, it would not be the first time I was tempted to take a risk that might hurt in the end. It would be like writing about ghosts and things of that nature.

But even that was not the reason for my not wanting to meet with this woman. She was thoroughly convinced about what supposedly had happened to her in South El Paso over the course of several years. Her earliest recollection of allegedly being abducted by aliens and medically observed for this dated back to her childhood. She also believed the aliens had inserted an implant in her body to keep track of her. And, she had witnesses – other children – from the old neighborhood that “saw” her taken away.

She was active in the Mutual UFO Network MUFON, and spoke at forums and conferences about her experiences, and was supportive of others with similar claims.

Finally, I set a date to hear her out in greater detail. I grew more nervous as the day approached. I discussed my qualms about this with friends.

When we met, she showed me her album containing a feature news article about her experiences, which I believe the former El Paso Herald-Post had published. She also had drawings in which she described the beings that took her by force, along with the craft. Her story was typical of what other “abductees” have related, including medical-like procedures on her body. She also claimed that the aliens communicated telepathically.

At some point, she said, after rumors regarding the UFO’s began swirling through the neighborhood, the military sent doctors to examine her and the other children that alleged the alien encounters. The visitations in the low-income neighborhood had occurred decades ago. My source said that in the end, the doctors scolded the children and asked their families to stop spreading the UFO rumors.

The source said she was convinced about what happened to her, and I was convinced that she was convinced. I tried not to judge her but I couldn’t validate her story objectively. But, that wasn’t why I hesitated to meet with her in the first place. I’ve been in many scary situations and meetings which posed potential safety threats.

I’d met sources, including corrupt Mexican cops, after midnight in Juarez, Mexico, during my research into the drug cartels and other matters. Etc. This was different though. What if on the off chance this was real? The truth is that in my mind, on the possibility that her story was real, by associating with her, I could become a target for the aliens or government operatives or whatever they are, and maybe later begin to experience the bright lights and rattling at home that some have reported; or, maybe get whisked away along with her by a flying saucer. The fear, the trepidation, over this was real: it is the fear of the unknown. I could deal with the known far more easily. This was much harder to process.

I can report now that after listening to her fascinating story, nothing happened. No little grey men showed up in my life, and the source went on with her life and I went on with mine.

(In the next installment on the same subject I will share another interesting experience that took place in the newsroom.)