Third World Souls

You blessed America more than other countries God, but something isn’t right.
We have everything and nothing. We are no longer blessed.

I was never able to totally understand it, then I read about our declining nation.
A writer said it is true we are a first world nation as far as consumer goods
and finance, but we are a third world nation spiritually.

That did it for me.
Now I can proudly say what I have always felt. We have nothing.

I wish a poet from the Mexican jungle would write that in America
they can’t see the jaguar’s eyes flash on a distant mountain because
there are too many lights and everyone is afraid to go outside.

I know there’s a Muslim woman walking with her husband,
each of them all covered, saying to one another,
Americans are lousy lovers. They let it all hang out.
There is no mystery to love there, no understanding
that your long wait for your lover is analogous to
your long wait for God. Your lust for your lover
is only OK if you lust for God.

We need to hear it God. There is no illumination here.

There was in the eighties and nineties when graffiti artists frightened us with their
bold vision, Our country is so ugly we redeem it to the best of our ability. What
are you doing to make yourself bold and illuminating?

We refuse to shine. Our third world souls get darker, uglier, less receptive each

We need more flashing eyes. Help mine to flash again, be a beacon in the night.
Give my nation a vision to turn off street lights, walk in darkness lusting over
stars, laughing when we bump into each other, talking until constellations change.

We are absolutely zilch. God: help us, and me, to step from the depths of our
poverty so our lust for you, ourselves and strangers tramples on our fear.

Copyright © 2023 by David Vaszko

Friday, March 2

Dear Jim,

March came in like a lion. It rained from midnight to 9 am yesterday and the wind blew like hell. When I woke up there was a puddle on the window sill and water on the floor.

I knew it was going to rain after I got to work, so I put a rug and thick towel on the floor beneath the sill. Then I put some buckets to catch the water below the leaking points. Then I took a heavy classy new bath towel that Sis II gave me and that I hadn’t used yet on the sill to absorb the water.

That was a brilliant move. When I got home from work there was no water in the buckets or on the towels on the floor, but the towel on the window sill was soaked.

It’s been a stressful week, more because of the weather than anything else. It’s been very cold and windy. I itched like crazy, but I was pretty good about not scratching. The rain has made me itch less.

This morning I went downtown to a quarterly staff meeting. It was boring. The organization is so full of positive horseshit it makes me ill. I felt like retiring.

Downtown is as ugly and lifeless as ever. I used to think beautiful architecture made cities great, but I don’t think so any more.

A city is great when there are lots of people walking who are too busy to be afraid, or when people are not afraid and so they come out to walk leisurely. Sacramento could build buildings and design neighborhoods to my aesthetic satisfaction, but people would continue to be afraid and lifeless and Sacramento would continue to be soulless.

The other night I listened to a Bishop Sheen program from World War II. I stumbled across his rebroadcasts a few years ago on Catholic Radio.

Mom and aunty always listened to him. Dad remembers him. Do you? Did you listen to him? At the seminary did they make you guys listen to him?

I was impressed by his sense of authority. He definitely was not positive. The current pope is, but I wish he spoke with authority about what is wrong with the West.

Bishop Sheen wasn’t cool. The current pope is. I liked Benedict because he wasn’t cool and didn’t try to be. He was full of love and respect for others, even those he felt were destroying the West.

What I like about the current pope is he loves the great poet from his homeland – José Hernández. Hernández wrote an epic poem through the eyes of the narrator, Martin Fierro. I read the first book in Spanish as best I could. It was incredible.

Fierro is a cowboy on the pampas – Argentina’s Great Plains. He talks of his struggles there, the land, the Indians. Someday I will buy the book, and the Spanish equivalent of the OED, then take my time to gain a better understanding of it.

Anyway. Sheen was speaking about godless modern man. Sheen said that man wants Eternal Life, Truth, and Eternal Love and seeks these as God; therefore God is man’s ultimate end.

He said that the reason ”Christianity does not speak to modern man is because modern man is only part man, a disconnected man.” I agree. People today want to live forever and expect to live until they are ninety. but they are not interested in a transcendent God to live with when they die.

People don’t want Truth to guide them through life. They want facts to build a career, get the prize, and become rich. People want to be able to fuck into their eighties, but they don’t want to feel or cultivate God’s eternal love or eternal mercy.

Sheen is intense. I’ll try to listen to one broadcast a week, but I don’t know if I will be able to. Nobody talks like that anymore.

Or I should say, Catholics don’t talk like that anymore. A lot of times when I am tired of listening to Radio Católica or the Mexican station from The City, I turn the FM dial all the way to the left than back to the right to tune in to public stations.

Every time, the first station I get is a fundamentalist Christian station from Oakland. I’ve always hated the pompous tone of the guy either reading from The Bible or giving a lecture. I’ve said, ”Oh please!” or ”Fuck you asshole!”, then changed the station.

But last week the narrator sounded authoritative to me, not pompous. I listened. He read from Malachi. Here’s the quote I like: ”The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel.”

Yes. Truth is a burden. Honoring God is a burden. Obeying the Ten Commandments is a burden. Loving God every second of every day is a burden, especially nowadays when God is hated every second of every day.

Listening to that guy read in an authoritative tone fit the authoritative tone of The Bible. If a positive reader read that passage, the listener would not feel the seriousness of God’s message and would not feel the heaviness and fear that Jews felt when they heard the word of the Lord to them, God’s chosen and burdened people. Now I understand what professors meant when they said you have to read the classics from the point of view of the Jews, Greeks, or whatever.

For three days I listened to that station and went to its’ website. On the website is a list of songs sung on the station. One of the titles caught me: When I Survey This Wondrous Cross.

It got me thinking of the cross and the crucifix. Which is better? When the Protestants broke from the Catholics, did they reject the crucifix? Is the crucifix too negative, too bloody?

I think with the crucifix the focus is on Jesus’ suffering. With the cross things are more abstract. We are at a crossroads. We have a burden to carry. There is hope. What exactly does one focus on?

So I got to thinking about the cross as something to see from a distance – sitting in the parking lot looking at the cross on the steeple. Or being on a hill in San Francisco seeing the cross on top of a church far away.

The cross is a beacon, a symbol of God’s suffering and our redemption. A crucifix makes Jesus’ suffering real. What did he go through for us?

Remember Mt. Davidson? I wonder how many people have surveyed that wondrous cross. I know liberals hate it. Maybe Catholics hate it too.

I like it. I’ve never meditated on it. But I’m glad it is there saying fuck you to all the godless juvenile artists. The left never sees the cross as a symbol of God’s infinite mercy, but only Western arrogance.

I don’t think you liked it, but we never discussed it. Maybe you thought I didn’t like it, which I didn’t until twenty years ago. I wonder if an artist or progressive ever buys a home because of it’s view of Mt. Davidson.

It’s funny that in a city that so many people come to with so much hope, the great symbol of hope is far removed from the neighborhoods they move to. They think it’s BS anyway.

That’s it for now Jim.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko