Author Archives: Harry Samuels

About Harry Samuels

Like a Lotus:

Born into the murky, muddy waters
I was, l ived, I breathed

In awe of starry veil above me and the verdant radiance around me
I gazed, I glowed, I gasped

Striken with gale winds
I braced, I fell, I felt

Like a dove He descendeth
He is, He lives, He breathes

Like a lotus summoned by the sun’s rays
I opened, I blossomed, I live

#AnaBlacktivism

Yahweh’s Blue Yonder: Those Deep Sea Blues

Just as important in any movement of social justice is art. I’ve always been fascinated by the role of art and narrative in movements of social justice.

As such, I’ve decided to contribute my own creative writing work into the fray of beings who literally are unable to speak for themeselves.  I was inspired by the documentary, ‘Blackfish’ and the subject is Tilikulm- amongst the most tortured beings held in captivity.

 

So without further ado, I present to you:

‘Those Deep Sea Blues’

Thrilled, wowed amazed…

My eyes, the audience, the world – they gaze…

That majestic tail, that erect fin, the black purity of his skin

[THE PAIN OF LIVING CREATURES]

 SPLASH! The glittering droplets with each crash, glide and flip through the water – gasp!

But should you peak into his eyes, you catch a glimpse of his demise

[ THE PAIN OF LIVING CREATURES]

in his eyes…

the maelstrom of a young man missing his mama

    the anguish of abeing the priviledge porpoise

The thunderous clap, the roaring praise

SPLASH! The beloved creature dives back down into the azure mask, away from the crowd

His deep blue tears mix with the water’s deep blue hues as he steady hums those deep sea blues

Yahweh’s Blue Yonder: Understanding Judaic Roots Helps Us Become Better Stewards!

I recently had been reading a textbook for a class I had taken in college entitled , ‘Environmental Ethics and Policy’ Book – the book is essentially an anthology of many different articles on various aspects of environmental ethics. One of the most interesting entries I have recently discovered is ‘Judaism and the Environment’ . I know that I had stated that I am interested in what Christian ethical standard may exist with regard to the environment- but we shouldn’t supercede our Judaism roots- what sort of precedents for environmental stewardship did YHWH impend upon the ancient Israelites?

Robert Gordis, the author of this section, of course is wise to bring up the issue that many have with ‘Genesis 1:28 – the verse telling mankind to essentially go out and ‘subdue it’ – ‘it’ being the earth. Gordis then states that “it then declared that subduing enemies in war is primarily a male undertaking, the verb ‘subdue’ teaches that the obligation to propagate the human race falls upon the male rather than the female.”

After going through a phew more interpretations as to what the ‘subdue’ might mean from other jewish commentators, Gordis states something quite insightful ‘ These interpretations , however, are phrased in generalities. The true genius of Judaism has always lain in specifics. Thus, there is no passage in the Hebrew Bible ‘ Love your enemies’ – What we do find instead are concrete instructions for dealing with those we dislike. For instance, Proverbs 25:21 commands us: ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink’ – Similarily, Judaism’s teachings about people’s duties and rights vis-a-vis the natural habitat are not to be sought in high-sounding phrases which obligate them to nothing concrete; rather, they will be found in specific areas of Jewish law and practice.”

Two words, he introduces, I think are worth considering- ‘tza’ar ba’alei chayim’ – meaning the ‘pain of living creatures’. The Fourth commandment was to be extended to animals- rest for one’s ox, donkey, and every creature on the Sabbath. The prohibition of a farming having an ox and a donkey yoked together to plow a field- because of the greater strain that would be impounded on the weaker animal- how much more than, could this apply to Tilicom and all the other creatures of SeaWorld…

 

There were laws against slaughtering an sheep or ox with its offspring on the same day, and not the mention the traditional laws of kosher slaughtering which were designed to generate the reverance for life that YHWH desires.

The second Jewish concept? – ‘bal tashchit’- meaning , ‘do not destroy’ . Mr, Golbis goes on to give specific instances of how this would apply in the lives of the Israelites, but it can be summed up by saying ” This principle derives in part from the recognition that what we are wanting to call ‘our’ property is really not our own, but God’s”.

In capturing Tilikulm, putting him in captivity, torturing him ( literally!) and using him for our own gain, we are clearly in severe violation of ”tza’ar ba’alei chayim'”- what greater pain could you cause to a living creature than to steal it from its family, starve it when it doesn’t perform what you want-  ( mind you, it was not permitted to place a muzzle upon an ox, so it could not eat any grain during the threshing period), and allow fellow captives to attack it( YES, this goes on!).  We have put a tremendous yolk upon dear Tilikulm and other captives of SeaWorld ( just to name one corner of the animal captivity industry) – more than any of the ox or donkies to roam the earth- we are destroying what YHWH has created- in many ways, we are acknowledging the splendor of the sea by creating a whole theme park based off of this aesthetic, the aesthetic of the big blue yonder- we want it so much that we think through our control, we can create the environment for it without ever having to be vulnerable enough to see it for ourselves in the wild.

Something’s up when we can spill oil in the oceans via oil rigs, overexploit fisheries, yet ‘love’ the ocean so gosh dang much, we create Sea World. This is hypocrisy.. this is double-facedness, this is lukewarm-ness… this is poor stewardship, the minute we cease to respect the natural , cosmic order of life, we cause pain, and interefere with God’s partnership as co-stewards of our big blue gem- Earth.

Bal Tashchit… until next time…

Myths, Tropes, and Narrative: The Signifigance of Story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been captivated by the art of story-telling. I’ve been known to have quite a vivid imagination ( I guess I still do…?) as a child and would funnel this creative energy to conjurring some of the most bizarre, outlandish, yet charming stories for my friends, family and classmates.

But children are not the only one’s who tell stories, however. I would argue that the act of story-telling has been embedded in the consciousness and minds of human kind since the earliest civilizations. From the elders to the griots (story-tellers/historians of the Malian kingdom) and everything from then on, human civilizations have been founded upon story. The Christian faith is about one grand story of a peculiar people, the Israelites, through whom a peculiar God would show Himself to the world, all leading up to the redemptive narrative of the Logos, Christ- the compelling story of the vulnerable shepherd God-in-flesh.

Story informs our cultural heritage, our faith, and our history. The Ancient Egyptians and the cosmic gods of Ra, Osiris, and Horus- the gods that walked the lands of the eternal sands… ANd what a clash it was between these gods- this story, this narrative of the celestial gods who roamed the lands and justified the predominance of Egypt over Israel. The clash of the God and narrative of the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the Gods and narrative of Potiphar..

The Greco-Roman myths. Their myths so strong we see the names of their gods in modern cosmology- Jupiter, Mars,Neptune; the Pelopponesian, Hellenic wars inspired by the mythicized masculinities of Hercules and Oddysseus…

The myths crafted by the enlightenment thinkers- the fetishizing of certainty and control, the ‘invisible hand’ motif, whose authors-  Locke and Smith would become the new Gospel – the nexus of this new story that would provide the backdrop for the protagonists- the white, shiny, beautifuls ones- the heroes, the expeditionists, the “captains”, the businessmen,manifesters of their own ‘destiny’, the explorers, the racists, the rapists, the pillagers. And it’s this story that would inform and have pre=emption over all other stories. What more is colonialism is this anyways? – the erasure of pages of a people’s story,narrative,identity, and copy and pasting another, “more glorious” one- in aggression.

Yes, indeed, stories are not just little bedtime tales for children , they are full fully grown adults as well, and one could say all the world is one big clash of stories…the struggle for self-acceptance, development and thriving is the legitimizing of your story- the story of a people,attempting to create what was erased through colonialism, what was erased through their own words being subverted for one more dominant.

The clash of the storyline as a black man as worthy to be loved, masculine by nature of being created as a man( not being swagged out or violent) vs. the story-line of the black man being the ‘wild young buck’ whose hypersexuality is something to be feared by white women and and whose criminality knows no bounds , thus justifying their murder at the hands of a militarized police troop.

Which one will win?: the story of a black female as a dignified, loved being created in the Imago Dei, or the storyline that places them as “loud, ghetto and ratchet“- or maybe sexually deviant, Jezebels?

The negative tropes and stereotypes against POC – the story fo white supremacy- are lies. A lie is, afterall, a false account- it is a story that’s not true- a bad story. We’re told in Scripture that Satan is the Father of lies. These toxic tales.

Why does everyone ‘love a good underdog’ story? The  stories of rags to riches, the triumphing of the oppressed? They represent the greatest hope of humanity- everyone finds they don’t fit into the dominant story of society, or do not like their role, they know it’s a lie.

And what Christ’s atonement represent for the oppressed is that their story, ultimately cannot be erased – rather, it can be brought back to life.  This newness of life is a newness of story- a new sort of presiding myth that is benevolent to all mankind.